February 24, 2007

Thermal image: Althouse at Stella's.

Althouse at Stella's

ADDED: A description of Stella's (which I'm reading the next day):
The coffee house ... was opened in the early 1990s. It had an old European feel to it and quickly became the home to brooding writers, cynics, Marxist revivalists, and all other manner of people looking for a dark and smokey place in which to waste away the hours of their lives.

Yes, it's an unusually dark café. When I walked in, I said "Oh, it's the beatnik kind."

Will sensitivity about racism turn racism into a taboo subject?

I don't know what really happened here, but it's been on my mind. Now, I read this. What is going on? I should think that people who care about race would want to open up the discussion, but reactions like these are teaching the lesson that it's risky to bring the subject up at all.

ADDED: I've fixed the links. The first link is supposed to go to a post of mine from yesterday, about an incident at my law school. The second link is about an incident at Duke. There is an eerie similarity between the two stories. Please take the time to read the links and the links within the links to get what I'm trying to say here.

"Who appointed Diane Keaton to the position of National Commissioner for Aging Female Sexuality?"

Oscar asks. One of the commenters theorizes: "Maybe her appeal is that she's as sexy now as she was in 1970s, even if she's never been all that sexy."

The literature professor with the nerve to lecture about books he's only skimmed...

... is selling a lot of copies of "How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read."
“I am surprised because I hadn’t imagined how guilty nonreaders feel,” [Pierre] Bayard, 52, said in an interview. “With this book, they can shake off their guilt without psychoanalysis, so it’s much cheaper.”

Mr. Bayard reassures them that there is no obligation to read, and confesses to lecturing students on books that he has either not read or has merely skimmed. And he recalls passionate exchanges with people who also have not read the book under discussion.

He further cites writers like Montaigne, who could not remember what he read, and Paul Valéry, who found ways of praising authors whose books he had never opened. Mr. Bayard finds characters in novels by Graham Greene, David Lodge and others who cheerfully question the need to read at all. And he refuses to be intimidated by Proust or Joyce.

Having demonstrated that non-readers are in good company, Mr. Bayard then offers tips on how to cover up ignorance of a “must-read” book....

... Mr. Bayard’s most daring suggestion is that nonreaders should talk about themselves, using the pretext of the book without dwelling on its contents. In this way, he said, they are forced to tap their imagination and, in effect, invent their own book.
How bloggerly!

Well... hmmm... I haven't read Bayard's book, so let me say that this makes me think about devising a set of tips for teaching law school without reading the cases. (Me, I feel compelled to reread the cases I teach right before each class, so that there are some cases that I've read closely more than 40 times. Did you know that it's emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is?)

I know one lawprof who's proud of the time -- like, the one time -- that he got to the end of the cases he'd prepared and used the Socratic method to teach the next case, which he'd never read. It went quite well, he says.

Theoretically, it could work especially well, because your actual need to figure out what happened in the case and why it's in the book would drive your questions. But the guilt!

I admit it.

I'm in Ithaca.


I'm here to see the law school show tonight. Unlike NYU (where I went to law school) and Wisconsin, they don't take a comedy sketch approach. It's a music talent show.

The flight out was fine (including the craziness of writing for a deadline and having repeatedly to shut down the laptop for take-offs and landings). It's so much nicer to travel when there aren't any delays. I'd forgotten!

Driving an unfamiliar car around a strange city after a long day is kind of not that fun, but we managed to get out and around and have some dinner at the Lost Dog Café and drinks and dessert at (I think the name was something like) Marguerite's.

Can anyone suggest a good scenic route around the Ithaca countryside?

"Giant rats roam free!"

A PR nightmare for Taco Bell.

I love the person-on-the-street interviews: "I won't eat here again." Good call!

Babies watch television!

Oh, noooooo!

Be sure to watch the video at the link, it's a masterpiece of editing. They savaged this poor mother, purely with her own self-congratulatory words and some pix of her innocent babe.

Let's get some expert opinion about the scourge of television:
"We're in the midst of a huge national experiment on the next generation of children," said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatric researcher at the University of Washington. "We don't know the effects and we're letting them watch."
Oh, please! Tiny kids have been watching TV for over half a century. Here's one of mine circa 1983:

Have values changed? I started watching TV in the 1950s, and my parents never said one negative thing about it. We watched hours of TV every day, including the worst possible crap -- unimaginably bad stuff -- just because there was nothing else on. We'd sit and watch the test pattern:

Our hearts lifted when the sermonette (or whatever it was) finally came on.

The main difference is that they now have super-simple DVDs to give a kid -- in the words of the mother on that video -- "the developmental tools to help her with her development."

I'm mainly concerned about the loss of randomness. These days, they subject kids to things that purport to be scientifically designed to structure their minds properly. That's the "a huge national experiment on the next generation." When are we going to see a class action blaming these things for causing autism or some such disorder?

Kos "is waging a war for ideological purity."

The New Republic, doing badly, cuts back to bi-weekly publication, and the editor Franklin Foer whines about Kos.

"I was so enthralled with the line, I didn't see the ball mark."

"I knew if I hit it left-center, the match would be over. It's my fault for not paying attention to detail."

Yes, but I do love your detail in reflecting on what happened.

February 23, 2007

"Rudy & Mitt Hem & Haw on Abortion."

My Saturday NYT column is up! (TimesSelect link.)

Subversive thought cascade unleashed by David Geffen.

Bill Kristol says:
Hillary Clinton was cruising along, raising big money, triangulating on Iraq, rounding up supporters who felt they had little choice but to sign on. And then Geffen spoke up. Suddenly Democrats all over the country may be thinking to themselves, "Well, what about that? Why exactly do we have to be for Hillary anyway? Shouldn't we consider some alternatives?"

Once unleashed, this series of thoughts is subversive. So much of the Hillary Clinton candidacy depends on an aura of inevitability, supported by oodles of money and a fear of retribution if you're not on board. But what if she's not inevitable? And what if the retribution isn't so all-powerful?


I note that Kristol calls Maureen Dowd "the New York Times gossip columnist."

Is Randy Barnett giving me the finger?

And, since I can't see it, why am I giving him the stinkeye?

The image survives -- courtesy of David Lat -- but the context is lost in the dustbin of history.

And what am I so tickled about here?

I'm pretty sure it was when Jack Balkin tossed me that quote for the banner. (See above: "legal scholarship as performance art," context here.)

"We have to be very careful. We want professors to speak with what they see as their truths."

Says UW Professor Donald Downs, who is a strong voice for free speech here on campus. "We're here to push the envelope. … Academic freedom has to be very strong and vibrant."

ADDED: Speaking of context, consider the academic freedom case of Kevin Barrett, whom the university supported last fall, as he turned part of his course on Islam into a study of the theory -- which he believes -- that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.

Do you care who got cut from "American Idol" last night?

Ack! Never wear a target on your shirt, maybe is the lesson here. And please don't pose like that! Don't aim that thing at us when you're wearing a target on your shirt. So much for Rudy Cardenas. Amy Krebs, Nicole Tranquillo -- who were you, even? We forget. Paul Kim, you made yourself memorable, but a little too memorably annoying perhaps, what with the bare feet and the grumpy attitude.

But a few interesting things happened. The formidable Chris Sligh humbled himself, apologizing for smart-mouthing Simon -- apparently because he figured out that AI voters punish kids for being disrespectful.

And, we learn, that Sanjaya Malakar is a big fan favorite. They tease us, like maybe he's in the bottom two, but they reveal he was in the top four. It was believable that he'd be in the bottom two, because he gave a startlingly weak performance. He's the only one who was told how high he placed, so something distinctive is going on with him. It's not easy to guess what it is. America fell in love with the 17-year-old sweetheart.

And we found out which celebrities are going to appear on the show this season. The one that gave me a tiny thrill: Peter Noone! Others I can remember without looking it up: Jon Bon Jovi, Diana Ross, Jennifer Lopez, Tony Bennett.

"I think there is an ethical line crossed when someone is actually being paid to sound like they're not being paid."

From an article about political campaigns infiltrating the comments sections of blogs. It shows the high standards of blogging, doesn't it? In normal life, there are plenty of places where you're paid for sounding like you're not being paid.

"I find myself, even while strongly disagreeing with them, stimulated by the ideas of David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Ann Althouse, George Will..."

Hey, that grouping -- in an essay by Alan Wolfe in The New Republic -- surprised me!

"You will soon be more aware of your growing awareness."

That's a Chinese cookie fortune I got yesterday... that by its own force immediately came true. Ever get one like that?

"Every Case Gets the Judge That It Deserves."

David Lat says that about the Anna Nicole Smith case. Wouldn't it be weird if that were a general principle.

ADDED: Judge Larry Seidlin's wife doesn't quite say he was auditioning for his own reality show.
"People who know him, and people who meet him on the street all say the same thing, 'You should have your own television show,'" Seidlin's wife, Belinda, said Thursday night....

As he read his ruling Thursday — giving custody of Smith's body to a court-appointed guardian for her 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn — he wept.

Earlier in the week-long hearing, Seidlin told one high-strung blonde lawyer that she was beautiful, and took cell phone calls from his wife. He shared his morning exercise routine with the courtroom and the cameras....

At one point, referring to a dress being made for Smith's burial, Seidlin's face soured as he expressed his general discomfort over funeral details.

"This is the one area I always ran away from — the death," Seidlin said.

It prompted amused attorney Stephen Tunstall to note wryly, "But you're a probate judge," referring to the type of judge whose job is to deal with wills.

"I don't think him to be crazy at all,'' said Belinda Seidlin. "I find him to be brilliant, and that's tough to say when you're married to someone for a long time."

February 22, 2007

Lieberman has his way with the Democrats.

How delicious and apt:
Lieberman says leaving the Democratic Party is a "very remote possibility." But even that slight ambiguity — and all his cross-aisle flirtation — has proved more than enough to position Lieberman as the Senate's one-man tipping point. If he were to jump ship, the ensuing shift of power to Republicans would scramble the politics of the war in Iraq, undercut the Democrats' national agenda and potentially weaken their hopes for the White House in 2008. Those stakes are high enough to give Lieberman leverage with both parties no matter how slim the chance of his crossing the aisle. Which means Senate leaders aren't worrying only about whether Joe Lieberman will switch parties. They're wondering what, if anything, he plans to do with the power that comes from keeping that possibility alive.
UPDATE: Lieberman's been reminded that he repeatedly assured voters that he'd stay with the Democrats, and maybe now he's back in his cage.

The crying, melodramatic judge in the Anna Nicole case.

I find him quite bizarre. Too much self-expression!

Is "Bullies" an offensive team name?

"Anti-bullying advocates" are up in arms about the Syracuse Bullies, a new ABA team.
People who run anti-bullying programs are crying foul over the Bullies name. They say when children attend the games, they'll get the wrong idea that bullies are cool.

I just have one thing to say: Let's not be L-seven.

"The Nazi hunter's ultimate prize."

It's art. Not saying it's good. Just pointing at it.

Covering "American Idol" the lazy way again.

Here's Jacob of TWOP mini-recapping last night's show, which featured the "girls" and was much better the Tuesday's "boy" show. Notably, he does not think Lakisha was the best:
Lakisha Jones, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going": Yes, it was wonderful, yes I believe it, but Simon's tongue bath is doing her no favors.
And I'm sick of that song, which seems to have supernatural power to make people think the singer is brilliant. I've seen it done too many times lately. It's a huge cliché. Maybe once, back in the days of Frenchie Davis, it was surprising to hear the fat woman demand love so forthrightly. But now, I'm feeling pushed around. You don't like people telling you what to do? But here you are telling us what to do! Rather hypocritical, isn't it? I'll love who I damn well please... and it won't be based on histrionic songifying.

What Jacob likes:
Leslie Hunt's "Natural Woman" rocked out, like I was sure it would. She's so weird and neat, but I think she'll be okay.
Yeah, why didn't the judges like her more? I think it's something about the way she looks... like the sort of actress who'd be in a commercial for some mindnumbingly ordinary household product.
Jordin Sparks proved once again with "Give Me One Reason" that she's one to watch this year.
I like her too.
Stephanie Edwards started the night with "How Come You Don't Call Me?" and sang in a frenetic manner, like Fantasia without the scary aspects of Fantasia -- and I'm not just saying that because of the hair, she's an original.
She annoyed me. I guess I just can't stand that style of singing. I was sure they were going to say she was "all over the place." But they ended up saying somebody else was "all over the place." You know, on every show, somebody has to be the one who is "all over the place."
Melinda Doolittle sang Aretha's "Since You've Been Gone," and proved to be maybe the most likeable person ever to perform on this show.
Yeah, she was good. And likeable. You could get sick of that.

I think my favorite was Sabrina Sloan. Jacob put her in the middle group:
Sabrina Sloan still looks like a visiting cast member from Rome and sang a very determined "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You," which usually sounds the same all the time.
Hmmm.... maybe I mostly think she looks really cool.

As for the bad ones. You can go read Jacob for that. I'll just say that Antonella Barba really was disgusting, trying (and failing) to be so damned irresistible singing those horrible words:
Lying close to you feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wondering if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes
And thank God we're together
I just want to stay with you in this moment forever
Forever and ever
This song goes on and on about how the guy -- it's a guy's song -- is just going to stay up the whole damned night, because -- so he says -- he's just got to look at her as much as possible. It's like he's stalking a girl who's already sleeping with him. If he really likes her so much, he should get some sleep, because what kind of a companion is he going to be the next day, when she's actually conscious? I'm very suspicious of this character. I get the impression he doesn't like her all that much, since he's so deeply engrossed with her personality-less sleeping body. Stop the maudlin "eye" kissing -- it's really eyelids -- and get some sleep or you are going to be hell to live with.

ADDED: Princess Midwest is nicely bitchy about the show. (A taste: "Her and her buddy were such bitches during Hollywood Weak, I’m not sure what it’s gonna take for me to get behind her. And she kind of looks like Denise Richards, who is a heinous bitch. She’s also no Steven Tyler.")

"Everybody in politics lies, but [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”

That's just one of the mean things David Geffen said, as quoted by Maureen Dowd (TimesSelect) and being talked about everywhere. More from the mogul:
“Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together.

“Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I’m tired of hearing James Carville on television.”
The guy can really string thoughts together, can't he? If you are actually worried about the war and polarizing people, why is Obama the solution? He's way on one side, where Hillary is in the middle. You really think generic, banal inspirationalism is going to paper over all the differences?

Here's the story on the two candidates squabbling about those terrible things Geffen said. And Bill Richardson gets some coverage:
...Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, said Mr. Obama should denounce Mr. Geffen’s remarks. “If we’re going to win, we have to be positive,” Mr. Richardson said. “I think these name-callings are not good.”

"That's what we do in WI; beer, cheese, Harleys, serial killers, and crazy."

You might want to keep the volume turned down when you're watching porn in Oconomowoc, lest your neighbor burst through the door with his sword extended. And that's not some cute way of referring to a penis.

"President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant."

So the Daily News wrote back in January:
Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.

"The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

"The danger is they're reading Americans' mail," she said.

"You have to be concerned," agreed a career senior U.S. official who reviewed the legal underpinnings of Bush's claim. "It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we've ever known."

A top Senate Intelligence Committee aide promised, "It's something we're going to look into."

Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval.
What's really going on here? My colleague Anuj Desai has a spiffy little article explaining the law, where a lot hangs on the way the words "letter" and "mail" don't mean the same thing:
I conclude that the statutory prohibition on mail opening only applies to mail matter that falls into the category of “letter” - which, roughly speaking, is defined as a “message” or “communication” or “correspondence.” The prohibition on mail opening thus does not apply to mail matter other than “correspondence,” such as bombs, anthrax or any ordinary good. The statute bars the opening of letters without a warrant, subject to only one relevant exception: the “physical searches” provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”). The government may not open letters without either a warrant or following the procedures set forth in FISA. There is no “exigent circumstances” exception for letters, though the government may temporarily detain a letter for the purpose of obtaining a warrant.

On the other hand, the government may open other mail matter without a warrant subject only to the strictures of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment does contain an “exigent circumstances” exception to the ordinary rule that a warrant is required. Thus, scenarios that might involve hazardous materials such as anthrax or a ticking time bomb would in many circumstances fall into this exception.
You can download the paper here.

February 21, 2007

It's me and Jim Pinkerton on Bloggingheads.TV!

Enough with the Eric Alterman on Bloggingheads. My diavlog is up now. I'm gabbing with the estimable Jim Pinkerton. Topics (with times):
Iraq inspires Arab romanticism (as Isaiah Berlin predicted and Doug Feith didn't) (07:13) McCain is yesterday, Hagel is today. Giuliani tomorrow? (07:57) Romney's ecumenical appeal (02:18) Justice Kennedy begs for love and money (09:33) Britney shaves head, Anna Nicole completes career (09:22) Why Edmund Burke would like "American Idol" (04:56) What do women want? Not Bloggingheads.tv? (13:07)

"Ann Althouse Defends Scott Turow's Honor."

Writes David Lat, who wishes I'd been more catty in that NYT column -- and attracts a first comment from a pseudonymous former student of mine who meows that I made him unhappy.

Why aren't we paying much attention to the most qualified Democratic candidate in the race?

Matt Yglesias wonders (via Memeorandum):
[Bill Richardson is] the popular, second-term governor of a swing state -- you know, the sort of person who back in the day used to win presidential elections. And it's not as if Richardson isn't getting attention because the field is crowded with popular second-term governors of swing states. No. We're too excited about the first-term senator from Illinois whose only competitive election in the past was against Bobby Rush -- and who lost. Or that vice presidential nominee from a losing ticket....

The point about Richardson is that in many respects he's exactly the sort of person -- a popular governor -- who was taken seriously as a presidential contender in the very recent past. The list is long and familiar -- Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. The difference is that Richardson is also super-experienced.

In retrospect, however, Bush was less the last of the governor presidents than a transition to the new era in which, to be president, you need to be a famous celebrity. Mayors of New York City are always famous, because the people who run the media live in New York. Hence, Rudy Giuliani is a serious candidate... Barack Obama has an extremely interesting personal story and was one of the only Democratic successes in 2004, so he became famous and now he's a serious candidate. John Edwards got famous running on a national ticket, so he's a serious candidate. Hillary Clinton's husband used to be president (you may have heard), so she's famous and she's a serious candidate....
So, let's pay some attention to Bill Richardson!

Ezra Klein responds to Matt:
... I attended a small policy breakfast with Richardson and found him very underwhelming. He talked of tax cuts and making Democrats "the party of space." His is a resume without -- at least thus far -- an inspiring vision or a clear ideology, and it's worth saying that pure technocrats rarely win national elections. The hunger for celebrity is unfair, but the appetite for inspiration isn't necessarily off-base.
Where does the bogus lure of celebrity end and real inspiration begin? In any case, I keep my distance from all politicians and don't look for them for any sort of inspiration. I know it's a stodgy device to drag out a dictionary definition, but let's look at what "inspiration" means:
1a. Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity. b. The condition of being so stimulated. 2. An agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention. 3. Something, such as a sudden creative act or idea, that is inspired. 4. The quality of inspiring or exalting: a painting full of inspiration. 5. Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the mind and soul of humankind. 6. The act of drawing in, especially the inhalation of air into the lungs.
It seems too spiritual to me. I just want to vote for the most competent person and let him do his job well.

"American Idol" -- the guys.

I didn't blog about "American Idol" last night. You may have noticed. I did watch it though. It was just too boring and bland for me to feel like writing about it. Twelve guys, and they all blended together into a meaningless blur.

By waiting until morning, I have the Television Without Pity mini-recap to point to and quote, and that spares me the frustration of trying to describe something featureless. Well, the recapper -- Joe R-- finds a few things, like:
Chris Sligh rocks out on some song nobody on Earth has ever heard before, particularly Simon, which of course is why he criticizes it. Here's where Ryan really flips his lid, though, as he goads Chris into some backtalk, which references Il Divo and Teletubbies and actually seems to throw Simon off for a few moments. Which is scary as hell, in a "the pilot's dead, who can fly this plane?!" way. Not good times for anyone involved.
I rather liked Simon last night, except when he went into that long self-justification about how he's not rude, he's a truth teller. The thing about him is that he doesn't lie, he will not tell a lie, he is not a liar.

I don't think I'm going to make it through this season. I really just don't care, and, strangely, never have! I don't like the music. They rarely do a song I like.
Sundance continues to take the express train to suck-town, singing "Knights in White Satin" without a single note in tune.
"Knights in White Satin" is the sort of thing that someone might sing impressively, but that I utterly despise. Yeah, "I love you, I love you, I love you." I get it. Very impressive concoction of lyrics there. But can you give me a clue why the knights are in white satin? I picture knights in armor, so... are these satin undies, or what? Hey, wait, it's "Nights in White Satin"!

I do sort of like "Rock With You" and "Careless Whisper," which were sung last night, but they were sung in that way that makes you marvel at how excellent the singing was on the original recordings and how clearly you can still hear Michael Jackson and George Michael in your head... if these clowns would just shut up.

Eric Alterman thinks there should be a "blogging council" to condemn bloggers who go wrong.

Alterman is talking with Mark Schmitt on the new Bloggingheads. They've just discussed the problem the Edwards campaign had with the bloggers it hired. (Eric says, and I agree, "You can't credibly blog for a campaign.... You can have a campaign blog as long as it's not a real blog.") And they're fretting about the way bloggers can damage a campaign by floating a rumor. Then Eric comes out with:
"I think it would be valuable if we had... uh... I mean, there's some sense where blogs correct themselves if you read enough of them, but I still I think it would be good if we had some sort of, you know, blogging -- you know -- council, where we could condemn people. Sort of... responsible body. You could still blog if you want. Nobody's going to stop you. But we're going to... everybody's gonna know that you're not to be trusted... unless you can sort of apologize or answer for yourself."
Alterman's affect is so flat that you can't detect if perhaps he's joking. In any case, I'm sure he doesn't think it is too likely to happen. But I was put off by the mindset he revealed. He'd like a blacklist. Anyway, if there were such a list, it wouldn't be the case that "everybody's gonna know" anything. We'd just be forced to blog about the damned council and what's wrong with it. It could never be neutral. Why do I feel so sure I'd be condemned by a council appointed by Alterman? Also in this Bloggingheads segment, Alterman complains that bloggers mix too much about their personal lives into their political opinions, as if they think the personal information bolsters the argument: "Tom Paine didn't say 'Common Sense' is a good idea because I'm such a hip guy." But of course, Tom Paine would have blogged, and he probably would have come across as a cool guy, and we would perceive that as bolstering his argument. Eric is especially perturbed by Andrew Sullivan's personal revelations, notably his description of curling up with his boyfriend in bed on Valentine's Day. I can't find that post on Sullivan's blog, and I looked through the archive of that week, which didn't seem too personal at all. In fact, it has an extraordinary variety of posts on many subjects that are not Sullivan's personal life. In the course of expressing his hostility toward personal blogging, Alterman lets us know that he went to a "dirty movie." Then it turns out it was the surrealist classic "Exterminating Angel," directed by Luis Bunuel and screened at Lincoln Center. This reminds me of the time my friend ridiculed the hell out of me for saying I was just doing some light reading, and then had to confess that the book was "The Clouds" by Aristophanes. [CORRECTION: Joseph Angier points out in the comments that the movie playing at Lincoln Center was "'Exterminating Angels' - which is some kind of new French arthouse quasi-porno film that screened as part of a Film Society of Lincoln Center festival last week." And I do hear Eric say the "s" in the recording. My point still stands though, because we're talking about a very classy, arty film.] ADDED: A commenter points me to Andrew Sullivan's Valentine's Day column. It reads in full:
We watched "Basic Instinct" last night with a bottle of champagne and freshly-made brownies. I'd never seen it before. It was washed down by a HD Sunrise Earth special on Machu Picchu. Life is good when you're in love and have a widescreen television.
Here's what Alterman said:
Too many bloggers feel that their private lives are intrinsically interesting. And maybe they are. But in a very unhealthy way. In a very Us Magazine, not even a People way. In an Us Magazine way. And I think that interferes with the quality of ... the ability of one to make one's argument on the quality of one's argument.... And I think too much blogging is taken over with too much cuteness, too much personality, and not enough of the quality of the argument.... Getting off the topic of silliness, like Andy, Andy, curling up... I just noticed this because last week he wrote about Valentine's Day, how happy he was to be curling up in bed with his boyfriend to watch a DVD. I'm like: Why do I have to read this?
I didn't find the post because I used the search terms "bed," "boyfriend," and "curl," none of which appears in the post Alterman referred to. Would Alterman's council condemn me if I wrote that I detect a whiff of homophobia? IN THE COMMENTS: Snarky, but true, from Undertoad:
[I]t's no surprise that Alterman doesn't like bloggers to show their personality. Because he loses in that category.
Beware bloggers of ill motive and shoddy skill. You are being watched. And for the glory of all the blogosphere and the citizens therein, you shall be brought to the scouring light of truth by this Council.
Look out!

February 20, 2007

The punitive damages case.

Philip Morris USA v. Williams, the new Supreme Court case on punitive damages and due process looks very important. Here's Linda Greenhouse:
In the majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court said the [$79.5 million punitive damages award] could not stand because the jury in the case was not instructed that it could punish Philip Morris only for the harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers whose cases were not before it.

States must ''provide assurances that juries are not asking the wrong question ... seeking, not simply to determine reprehensibility, but also to punish for harm caused strangers,'' Breyer said....

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, joined with Breyer.

Dissenting were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas.
An interesting split. The liberal and conservative extremes form the dissent, and the two new justices are in the more centrist majority.

Did you know that the word "prostitute" appears on my vita?

I'm reminded of this strange fact by this post over at Instapundit:
IS P.M.S. A TOOL FOR PERPETUATING MALE SUPERIORITY? The article, by my colleague Becky Jacobs, looks the use of PMS as a defense by female defendants, and in employment-discrimination and disability claims, and suggests that this tends to reinforce stereotypes, and is harmful to women even if it benefits individual defendants or complainants. Plus, a citation to Ann Althouse!

The citation is to an article I wrote called “The Lying Woman, The Devious Prostitute, and Other Stories from the Evidence Casebook” (88 Northwestern Law Review 914 (1994)). Of course, I list all my articles on my vita, so the word "prostitute" is there. So is "harlots." (From "Beyond King Solomon’s Harlots: Women in Evidence," 65 Southern California Law Review 1265 (1992).)

Hillary's strange way of opposing the South Carolina flag.

Speaking yesterday:
"I think about how many South Carolinians have served in our military and who are serving today under our flag and I believe that we should have one flag that we all pay honor to, as I know that most people in South Carolina do every single day"...
Huh? That would be an argument against all state flags!

It seems she's trying so hard to say just the right thing and please everyone that she ends up saying something weird.

IN THE COMMENTS: George thinks Clinton's triangulation is brilliant:
I'm a Southerner, and Sen. Clinton's approach to this issue is the first I've seen by a non-Southern politician that will actually appeal to the tender egos of middle-aged Southern men.

Sen. Clinton's approach is extremely clever. In fact, it is brilliant. It appeals directly to the patriotism of Southerners in time of war by asking them to put the present and future needs of the country ahead of what's long past.

What is more charming than artists drawing sculptures?



At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, Sunday.

Reversed trends.

Stephanie Coontz neatly sums up an old theory:
The main reason that educated and high-achieving women have trouble finding or keeping mates, according to observers past and present, is that they won't play dumb enough to assuage a man's ego or act submissive enough to put up with unfair treatment.
And notes the new trend:
[C]ollege graduates and high-earning women are now more likely to marry than women with less education and lower earnings....

The same holds for high-earning women....

[C]ollege-educated couples have lower divorce rates than any other educational group....

Educated men and women are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce than others. And guess what? They have better sex lives, too.
Much more at the link. (Via A&L Daily.)

February 19, 2007

A stray devil.


13th century stained glass from the Bourges cathedral in France. Seen yesterday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"Trump's Hair on the Line at Wrestlemania."

I don't even know what the damned article is about. I just like the headline.


Oh, now I've read it. Looks like Trump is into celebritney.

"I had to set aside that obsolescent hippie balkiness..."

It's Column #2 in my NYT gig. This one's about some things said by the author of "Paper Chase" and my own experience as a law student and law professor. You'll probably experience this one as exceedingly conservative! 

AND: Here's the full text of Column #1, as it goes to syndication.

A day with a deadline.

Sorry for the light blogging today. I had a late night of traveling...

Ooh! Someone just rang my doorbell! Tomorrow is a little primary here in Wisconsin. I don't answer the door....

After a late night of traveling, I was distracted today by a class -- no, that's not a distraction, that's my primary responsibility -- and my second NYT column. So blogging was light. Soon enough the column will be up and we can talk about that.

Meanwhile, I'm eating pasta, drinking two glasses of red wine, and watching an old episode of "Survivor."

It's a slow day here on Althouse, but... tomorrow... tomorrow!... is going to be grand.

Am I supposed to find this funny?

I do.

"Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much."

"It sounded medical and secret, but also important." Oh, yes, it's important enough to make the school librarians want to exclude the book that won the Newbery Medal. "The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, begins with the young heroine overhearing someone talking about where a rattlesnake bit a dog.
Reached at her home in Los Angeles, Ms. Patron said she was stunned by the objections. The story of the rattlesnake bite, she said, was based on a true incident involving a friend’s dog.

And one of the themes of the book is that Lucky is preparing herself to be a grown-up, Ms. Patron said. Learning about language and body parts, then, is very important to her.

“The word is just so delicious,” Ms. Patron said. “The sound of the word to Lucky is so evocative. It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word.”
"Scrotum" is a strange and funny word. It is oddly similar to "sputum." Why not invite readers -- the book is aimed at 9 to 12 year olds -- into the mysteries of words... and genitalia? If it's done well enough to win the Newbery Prize, isn't it awful for the librarians to object?
“This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind,” Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango, Colo., wrote on LM_Net, a mailing list that reaches more than 16,000 school librarians. “How very sad.”
It seems way off the mark to compare this to what Howard Stern does, but that teacher's remark can make sense. The point is there are limits that are understood or assumed in broadcast radio and in children's literature, and one way to operate is to do things that make people notice where the line is and to divide them up about why it should be there. I can see feeling hostile to a children's author who uses this technique to get attention.

Did she?

Just because in real life the snake bit the dog on the scrotum doesn't mean the writer has to keep that fact the same. If the point is a poisonous snake has bitten a dog, it could just as well be on the nose. But if the point is that a young girl hears something strange that she can only struggle to understand, that touches off imaginative thinking about all the unknown words and body parts, well, then, it really must be "scrotum."

So it doesn't seem to be a dispute about a single word, in which case, this is not about whether prudish librarians are taking something out of context. Of course, I have not read the book, and I assume it's extremely good, since it won the Newbery Award. Much as I want to support the author, I think we should also resist disparaging the librarians.

Conversations with cabdrivers.

1. New York City. Sunday, noon. The ride starts at 55 Church Street. The cabdriver asked me where I was from, so I asked him where he was from. He said Pakistan, then rushed to say that he's all American now, here for 20 years. Where in Pakistan? Lahore. I ask what I always ask about cities I don't know: Is the architecture beautiful? He talks about how the city has changed so much in the last ten years, something about all the new and not very good buildings that have detracted from the beauty of the old. It used to be so clean. He used to know every tree, which ones were good for climbing, and where the bird's nests were.

2. Madison. Sunday, midnight. The ride starts at the airport. I say I was happy to see cabs waiting at the airport so late at night, and he explains how the company monitors the websites and knows when there are planes coming in. I say my plane was late because a plane in Cleveland skidded off the runway in the ice and snow. Talking about the weather, he says he finally bought some "choppers," which I learn is the name for a type of heavy mitten. Around here they make them out of deerskin. But out in the west, maybe elkskin. "Choppers," weird. I never heard that term before. I guess they're for chopping wood. Yeah.

February 18, 2007

Woman and sculpture.

A sexual relationship:


Sitting at the counter, having an encounter...

I'm blogging from LaGuardia airport, waiting for the day's one nonstop flight from NYC to Madison. This morning, I tossed my bags in a cab and made it uptown to the Metropolitan Museum where I took a hundred photographs and then got in line at the restaurant to order up my one meal of the day.

I got to jump the line by agreeing to take a seat at the counter. I was going to write some notes for my Tuesday column, but the woman on the next stool struck up a conversation. It turns out she's an artist, Lynn Pulsifer. Check out her awesome pastels:

She leaves. I do my notes. I drink a lot of black coffee, then collect my things to go. Working my way to the exit, I go in an exhibit the back way. Wow! What is this? I'm blown away! It's "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s." No photos from me. You can't do photography at a current exhibition, which is an acceptable rule. It would have been annoying. The show was really crowded. (Tomorrow's the last day.)

Here are some images on the Met's website. I especially loved Otto Dix:

The intense caricatures sealed themselves onto my retinas so that when I started looking around at the people in the gallery, they seemed all to have the look of the decadent Germans in the pictures.

I absolutely must buy the catalogue:

High on art, manic, I traipse through the museum store and find myself spending $300 on two scarves. The chartreuse one with photo-realistic, pop art flowers called out to me. Then another, pale gold and dripping with glass beads, cried that it needed me too.

Now, I'm at the airport. There's WiFi. I'm not manic anymore, but I feel great. Soon I'll be on the plane. Deprived of access, I'm going to type out two or three column ideas I have and see which one tells me it wants to be the Tuesday.

ARGGHHH: It's quarter to 10 and I'm still at the airport. Yes, the flight is non-stop, but so far it's also been non-start. I'm just glad there's been WiFi, electrical outlets, and consistent reason to believe that we will make it home tonight.

MORE: We were waiting for a plane and a crew that needed to go through the Cleveland airport, where this happened:
A commuter plane carrying more than 70 people ran off the end of a snowy runway and pierced a fence after landing at the Cleveland airport Sunday, officials said. No injuries were reported.

The plane came to a stop more than 150 feet past the end of the runway, said Thonnia Lee, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines Inc. The engines were partially buried in snow and the tip of the plane's nose was resting on a roadway the airport uses to get to perimeter buildings...

The airport was closed for about an hour and a half and some planes were diverted to other cities....

How can you purport to hope to be a pop star if you don't already have the lyrics to "Be My Baby" etched on your heart?

For some reason I can't quite understand, Jeremy is running elaborate descriptions of "American Idol" episodes.




Don't do it, Hillary.

Don't listen to him. I want to be able to love you, and I think there are a lot of people in my part of the electorate.

Listening to the lefty bloggers won't get you far. You know what happened to Edwards after he embraced them:
A new Zogby poll of 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers found Clinton tied with Edwards with 24 percent, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with 18 percent. A month ago, Edwards was at 27 percent, Obama at 17 percent and Clinton at 16 percent.

ADDED: People are reading way too much into my offhanded use of the word "love." I never really "love" politicians. "Accept" would have been a better term.

The Althouse blog meet-up!

I need to do a post to say we had a little Althouse blog reader meet-up here at the Liquid Assets bar at the Millenium Hotel last night. I think there were about ten of us, and the time flew. I was amazed when I looked at my cell phone and saw that it was after 8. We'd started at 5 -- the idea being: drinks. Now, I'm thinking that everyone sitting there starving and wondering when Althouse was going to let them go! We wolfed down a number of goldfish. Everyone was very nice and fun to hang around with in person. If anti-Althousiana types where there, they did a fine job of hiding it. Thanks for coming!

(And don't correct my spelling!)

ADDED: The goldfish have landed. Photo by Palladian, who also caught the red shoes the angels wanna wear.

MORE: Melinda describes what we talked about. I really can't figure out how we managed to talk so long without anyone insisting on dinner!

The best reason for a woman to shave her head.

The best reason for a woman to shave her head is to prove that she is beautiful. Everything about your head -- including your face -- is so exposed -- exposed to our judgment. Natalie Portman proved her excellence. So did Demi Moore. Britney too.

Don't think that's why they do it? Think again.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some folks say Demi and Natalie shaved their heads because a movie role demanded. They have it backwards. Both actresses -- I'm willing to bet -- chose the role because it would require them to shave their head and they wanted the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone how amazingly beautiful they are.

The Museum of Modern Art is very sexy.

Men encounter women all the time. Some women overwhelm the men:


If the man firmly stands his ground, he may feel he's found a way to deal with the threat of the women who would destroy him:


Or feign your interest in the art:


That man is not looking at a painting.

"Like other debt bloggers, Tricia believes the exposure gives her the discipline to reduce her debt."

She said she never discussed her debt with family or friends. “You don’t want them to know,” she said. “Our parents hope for the best for us, and it’s hard to let them know we’re struggling. And with friends, you don’t want them to think less of you. And when you go out with friends you don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that, I don’t have the money.’ ”

Keeping the blog, she said, has made her conscious of her spending. Though most of her readers are strangers, she worries about letting them down.

“I know that if I use my credit card, I’ll have to go on there and say I used it. I’ll have to fess up. I’ve been wanting one of those L.C.D. TVs for quite a while now, but every time I see them, I think about having to come on the blog and say I bought it. Because we don’t need it, we have a TV, but it’s still a temptation that’s there. And I’m sure if I wasn’t blogging we’d already have it.”
Harnessing the power of the blog, telling the world what you can't tell your friends, changing your life, showing people a way to live... I approve!

Genitalia marginalia.

We were just talking about how people in 1824 saw the double entendre in that line -- "it is intercourse" -- in Gibbons v. Ogden. I ended that post saying, "We forget that people in the past were always talking about sex," and linking to an article about all the sexual double entendre in Shakespeare:
'The plays are absolutely packed with filth,' said academic Héloïse Sénéchal. 'I've found more than a hundred terms for vagina alone.'...

She claims that previous editions of Shakespeare have been too prudish, and that by using computer techniques she has uncovered unrecognised double entendres. These were aimed at the working classes who crowded into the Globe in London for their fill of bawdy entertainment. Sénéchal has identified seemingly innocuous words such as carrot, pencil and horn as terms for penis, while she pinpoints pie, fruit dish and 'buggle boe' as references to the vagina.
My colleague Karl Shoemaker, upon reading my post -- no pun intended! -- wanted me to see something that he found while reading 13th century plea rolls in London. So it's much older than Shakespeare and in the law context. Here's a photograph -- Karl had his student assistant take it -- of a corner of a document:

Genitalia marginalia

The words -- "ores itaunt le ad misyre/et itaunt le ad Gerardare" -- are law French. Karl's translation: "And thus Gerard to my Messire/And thus my Lord to Gerard." You can see the drawings at the end of each line, completing the thoughts -- rebus style.

The genitalia marginalia is a penis rebus.