June 9, 2007

Was I a decent docent?

My 2 hours are up. I've been saying things like: "This is the Fred B. Jones Gatehouse, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1901 for Fred B. Jones, who was in the business of making brass fittings for Pullman cars. Fred B. Jones, a bachelor, loved to give big parties, and this house was for the caretaker, but also for the overflow of party guests."

Was I a decent docent?

I'm taking a moment, resting by the stonework walls, thinking about whether I'd been too critical of the owners who replaced two windows with a set of double doors onto the terrace and whether I'd been too law professor-y questioning people about whether Frank Lloyd Wright would approve of the way the new owners have set the dining table at an angle and painted a Robert Frost quote above the fireplace like that:

The living room of the Fred B. Jones Gatehouse

ADDED: I was at the Gatehouse, which is about 1200 square feet. But Fred himself stayed in this beautiful house (when he came to Delavan on vacation).

Fred B. Jones House in Delavan, Wisconsin

It's quite magnificent inside, but I wasn't allowed to take pictures. I'll just show you the door:

Fred B. Jones House in Delavan, Wisconsin

Wide, no? Mr. Jones was a very fat man. He gave great parties, back in the early 1900s. What kind of parties? Who were the guests? He was a "bachelor"? I ask the docent at the main house whether Jones was gay. He says they didn't talk about it that way back then, so we don't know. I said but this is the way we talk about it now. If they say someone in the past was a "bachelor," what we say now is: Was he gay? I was trying to get the answer because I was about to start my docenting, and I figured if I say he was a bachelor, people are going to ask me if he was gay. But it turns out, no one does.

Don't you love the stonework?


That's from the Boathouse. Destroyed by arson in 1979, but rebuilt according to Wright's plan:

Fred B. Jones Boathouse in Delavan, Wisconsin

Everyone was saying, I want to live out here:

The Fred B. Jones Boathouse

It's all open air, and it must get awfully cold in the winter. But the feeling of the place was so beautiful, that you still wanted to commit to living here, under this roof, with no walls, reveling in the breeze from Lake Delavan.

"We are not always in agreement with University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School Professor Ann Althouse, the Internet uber-blogger."

The Cap Times has an editorial...
The idea came from a reader...
They link to my blog, but not to the post, which begins: "John IMs me that question from his bar review class in Ithaca." I don't actually have readers in classes everywhere IMing me. John is my son.


Because lolcats are too shallow for you: philolsophers. Via Language Log, which is trying to figure it all out:
Anthropologists are going to ask, why did people way back in the early 21st century find these mangled and misspelled captions so funny? U can haz undRstand lolcats?...

...Why did the bar girls who told us these jokes fall about laughing at them? They admitted it made no sense. The line about soap and radio was just some sort of internal private lolcat for them. Until today I never knew why, but now I do, because after I posted the first version of this it was only an hour before a Language Log reader pointed me to the Wikipedia article...
So let's check the Wikipedia article. Well, that explains "no soap, radio." Wikipedia explains lolcats here: ".... See also: cuteness."

SEE ALSO: This one. This too. And this.

Nina's in Norway.

With pics.

"Sopranos" predictions galore.

Collected here. I think it's pretty clear that in the last episdode, the key secondary character -- aside from Tony and Carmela -- has got to be Meadow. She's the one they've been holding in reserve all season. They've played the AJ card and all the other cards. It's gotta be a Meadowdrama tomorrow.


You don't have to understand French to understand this:

Make up your own translation.

(Via Metafilter.)

Who's the richest Supreme Court Justice?

Hint: He's also the one who is least likely to take advantage of offers to travel somewhere to teach or give a speech, which is to say he never does.

"My kids need incentives to do really well, and they're not privy to some of the finer things that other kids are."

Said a middle school teacher in the South Bronx, who supports Mayor Bloomberg's plan to pay cash rewards to students for getting good grades. (Note that it's privately raised money, not tax money.)

Do you approve of using cash incentives to get kids to work? Does it teach them the wrong thing -- merging grade grubbing with money grubbing -- or exactly the right thing? Isn't it absurd that we expect kids to study for the sheer love of learning or to achieve goals that are very far in the future when most of us don't behave like that -- and we're adults, with better impulse control?

Cash incentives for studying have at least three distinct benefits: 1. Kids learn the material they've been motivated to study, 2. Kids learn the life lesson that by doing good work you can get money, and 3. Once they have money, kids have a chance to learn how to handle money sensibly. Re #3:
Maryann Manzolillo of Intermediate School 162 in the Bronx said she would put the incentives in school-based bank accounts, then use them to teach kids about managing money.
Re #1:
Now, she said, attendance is low on interim-testing days. "Children say, 'Oh, it's a practice test. It doesn't count,'" she said. "Money makes everything really count."

Some teachers and parents yesterday applauded the idea of motivating kids, but others, including Tina Pack, a mother of eight who lives in public housing on the upper East Side, had reservations.

"In my mind, kids will cram to do better on a test, but what knowledge will they gain?" she said. "I never say if you get an A on a test I'll give you a reward.... What if maybe you're working really hard and you get a B? I'm trying to reward the learning."
Of course, I wish Ms. Pack well as she does what she thinks is best trying to raise 8 children. I hope she is able to motivate all those kids to study effectively and to learn in some deep way that transcends grade grubbing. But I have some issues with her statement.

First, the word "cram." People who want to excuse the failure to study are always using the word "cram" to characterize what other people do. They're just cramming, so it's not real learning. They'll learn just what they need for the test, for only as long as they need it for the test, and then it will all be forgotten. But does this attitude lead to a better way of studying or just hopelessness about ever learning anything?

It's just a reality that we forget much of what we learn (or store it in a way that leaves us incapable of retrieving it at will). I used to study for exams in law school to the point where I could mentally visualize my entire outline and find whatever I needed to write my answers. It might be handy if I could still refer to those outlines in my head, but if I had the chance to magically cause all the notes I ever studied to become mentally visible like a law school outline on the day of an exam, I would decline. If I had that power, I would not be a human being, as I understand what it means to be human.

Studying for exams is worthwhile, and the failure to remember everything doesn't mean you "crammed" just for the sake of the test. You went through a process that transformed your mind and part of the transformation is moving beyond the point where the information is fully readable.

Second, Ms. Pack worries about paying kids based on the result rather than the effort: "What if maybe you're working really hard and you get a B?" She then says "I'm trying to reward the learning," which suggests that the results of the test are less indicative of learning than the effort you put in. But people often work very hard at something and do it poorly. And, similarly, you might find an efficient way to get something done well in very little time. Why teach kids that the ideal is to slog away laboriously? A test is a good way to check how effectively you are working. The time you spent leaning over the book is not.

Now, obviously, there's the problem of some kids having more aptitude. Bob reads something once and can ace the test and get $10, while Joe has to go over and over it to ace the test and get his $10. Or maybe he'll only get a B and $5. Well, there's a lesson in that, but do you think it's a lesson we should protect children from learning? Maybe not. If Joe and Bob played a sport, and Bob had greater aptitude, wouldn't we think it was good if Joe saw that and felt motivated to train very hard so next time he could win -- or just make a better showing for himself?

Kids know there are different aptitudes. Efforts to hide this are ineffective and patronizing. Offering cash prizes for achievement can be a way to externalize and thus make less of a big deal out of these differences. It might be better if academic work felt more like a sport.

June 8, 2007


Today was an incredibly busy day, beginning with that 8 a.m. "Week in Review." Around 1, I went in to the law school to record an episode of BloggingheadsTV, and I had a nice encounter with an individual who was turning a humble whiteboard into a work of art:

Dots on the whiteboard

My questions -- are you a pointillist? and do you like Seurat? -- did not get much of an answer, but nonetheless... who will dare erase the whiteboard?

So... on to the Bloggingheads. It's not up yet. But I'll just tantalize you with my notes, which I drew on during the hour+ that we recorded:



I hope I'm a decent docent.

I've never been a docent before. I've gone on a lot of architectural tours, and I was going to go on this one anyway, but somehow, I ended up getting to be a docent... at a little place called Penwern AKA the Fred B. Jones Gatehouse. Frank Lloyd Wright 1901-03. Me, a docent. I'll still do the whole tour, and I'll only be there for a 2-your slot. But I feel really awed by it. Frank Lloyd Wright!
Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view.
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you

"Mom, Mom, Mom.... It's not right."

Paris Hilton sent back to jail.

ADDED: Some description from the Daily News:
Dressed in a gray sweatshirt over slacks, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, and wearing no makeup, the spoiled 26-year-old bawled throughout the hearing. She dabbed her eyes, wiped her nose on her sleeve, and her body shook constantly. Several times she turned to look at her parents, who were seated behind her in the courtroom....

"The defendant is remanded to county jail to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence," he said. "This order is forthwith."

That's when Hilton started screaming.
She's certainly figured out how to maximize the publicity value of going to jail. Didn't Paris Hilton originally find her way into the national consciousness by somehow become the victim of supposedly unintentional publicity?

MORE: The NYT -- which really is classier than the Daily News -- gives us not only more law but more politics. Excerpt:
“She’s a pawn in a turf fight right now,” said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles. “It backfired against her because she’s a celebrity. She got a harsher sentence because she was a celebrity. And then when her lawyer found a way out of jail, there was too much public attention for it to sit well with the court.”

The struggle between the judge and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, incited indignation far beyond the attention normally paid to a minor criminal matter.

Judicial and police officials here said they were inundated with calls from outraged residents and curious news media outlets from around the country and beyond. The Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, decried Ms. Hilton’s release as an example of “double standards,” saying consideration was given to a pampered rich girl that would never have been accorded an average inmate.

Even the presidential candidate John Edwards found himself drawn into the debate. When asked about Ms. Hilton’s release on Thursday he said, “Without regard to Paris Hilton, we have two Americas and I think what’s important is, it’s obvious that the problem exists.”
"Pawn in a turf fight" is not a mixed metaphor as long as you consider chess a turf fight... which it kind of is. As for John Edwards... ask him a question and he's got an answer: two Americas.

Ryan Grim live-chats his way through the big dustup he started by asking me about my "biggest dustup."

You know... all that Clinton-lunching-with-the-feminist-bloggers stuff. Excerpt:

12:12 PM kentucky: I don't understand why Jessica is so defensive about what you said in your profile of Ann Althouse. I personally don't think her chest was the focal point of the photo, but you, as a young man, are welcome to that opinion. So why does holding that opinion mean that you think she was flaunting her secuality [sic], or however she described it?

Ryan Grim: I bought Valenti’s book the other day and am about halfway through it. The title, Full Frontal Feminism, is an obvious play on Full Frontal Nudity, a porn term that let’s folks know how much they’re about to see. And then there’s the cover, splashed with a nude woman’s midsection. And then there’s the content: a steady theme of the book is sexuality, getting into specifics like oral sex and masturbation.

On the Colbert Report the other night, she said, "Nothing says feminism like a naked woman's body." Okay, fine.

I don’t care one way or the other what Valenti writes about. But to pick that subject matter and then object to me saying that she’s “not shy with her body” strikes me as a double standard. A woman can talk about sexuality but a man can’t then say that she’s comfortable doing what she’s doing? And why would anybody object to that characterization? What’s wrong with not being shy?

Thanks to several women who have discussed that very question to me, I now (think I) know why she objects to that. When she says “everyone knows” what I meant, she’s saying that I was using coded language to call her a ‘slut.’

Now, if you take the line I wrote completely out of context, I can agree that such an interpretation is possible, though it’s a stretch. But I can also say that that interpretation couldn’t be farther from the truth. What purpose on Earth would it serve either me or the story to call someone I never met a slut?

Not only wasn't intended to be offensive, the line wasn’t even remotely intended as a criticism. What could possibly be wrong with not being shy about one’s body? A lot of people aren’t and, I would think, that’s a trait shared by mature individuals.
I think there's something really incoherent about the Third Wave/pro-sex feminists. They continually use sexuality for self-promotion, but if you want to examine issues of sexuality from any dimension other than the one they control, they slam you as a misogynist or some such thing. You know, my biggest problem with them is that they are boring. There's no possibility of an interesting discussion about anything.

This adds to my sense that they are incoherent. They don't want to engage, because they can't deal with the flaws that can be pointed out by anyone who is not fully submissive to their ideological discipline. Note that Ryan invited Jessica Valenti to interact with him in the chat, and she wouldn't do it. She just insisted on an apology and a retraction. Even when you're sure you're right, why don't you like discussion, debate, and analysis? How utterly tedious... and suspicious.

ADDED: Bad link fixed.

Fill up with a big, gelatinous blob.

And lose weight.

ADDED: Wouldn't it be waaaaaay easier to just drink a large glass of water (or 2 or 3) before meals?

"Reminds me of those radical feminists who insist that their reasons for censoring pornography are completely different from Pat Robertson's."

"No they're not." Says Mickey Kaus, debunking "Bogus Meme #2" about the collapse of the immigration bill.

On the radio.

On momentarily, as indicated here.

UPDATE: You can stream the show at the archive here. (The 8 a.m. show.) It starts off a little slow -- about the G8 conference -- and gets really heated up midway about Iraq. I say some kind of mean things about Tommy Thompson. And we end by talking about "The Price Is Right."

"I couldn’t take the personal interaction of people walking in my house and making nasty comments."

That's how one Madison home seller justified paying a realtor's commission, but traditionally people have accepted the argument that the realtor will get you a higher price, and you'll actually come out ahead. But there's a front-page NYT article reporting on a new study, based on house sales in Madison, showing that the for-sale-by-owner -- FSBO, pronounced FIZZ-bo -- approach puts the seller ahead.

Now, Madison is kind of special:
FSBOMadison.com, the subject of a January 2006 article in The New York Times, charges $150 for an ad on the site and a yard sign. Taking advantage of antiestablishment sentiment in Madison, which has a highly educated and liberal population, it quickly grabbed a market share of roughly 20 percent. That made it among the most successful challengers in the country to real estate agent domination of home sales.

That scale, along with the cooperation of the site’s owners and of the local Realtor group, made the economists’ study possible. “We don’t have national data,” Mr. Nevo, one of the authors, said. “FSBOMadison is unique.”
So Madison is special -- don't we know? -- because of FSBOMadison.com and because of our "highly educates and liberal" "antiestablishment" culture. Does that make us resist professional help and think we can do better? Personally, I just can't picture myself interacting with all manner of strangers and ushering them around my house.

Can we get creative with the debate format?

A couple days back, my son John IM'd me -- from his bar review class -- a question he had about the presidential debates. Why do they keep the Democrats and the Republicans separated? After I gave my instant reaction -- because we're at the stage where people need to pick one from each group and because the top candidates wouldn't agree -- I made a post about it to see what people would say.

One of our regular commenters XWL said he'd written something along those lines a few weeks ago:
[I]nvite four candidates from each party to bi-weekly debates....

Have each candidate be the "host" for ten minutes at a time, asking questions to the four opposing party candidates. Have a moderator ensure that they don't use their time to ask 9 minute questions full of their own campaign talking points, but instead reward candidates for engaging the other side directly....

By forcing the two sides together as early as possible, that would change the tone of these debates from monologue to dialogue. It would be up to each candidate to decide whether that dialogue should be shrill, informative, cooperative, or combative. This would give the primary voters real information on how these folks would perform come general election time, and it would generate far more interest amongst that big group of independents who sit these things out till the last minute usually.
XWL has another post today, and he notes that Patrick Ruffini just wrote:
With candidates trying to shore up their general election creds, who will be the first to challenge a debate across party lines this year? ... It would be a risky move, and a gutsy one. Think of the huge earned media moment it would be, giving us the excitement of a general election slapdown a year early. It would be a make or break moment for a candidate a few points back looking to roll the dice. If you were looking to mess with the other party's frontrunner by elevating a top-tier challenger, this would do it. And it would teach the voters vastly more about those candidates than the current debates joint appearances can.
That seems to make it pretty obvious that frontrunners won't do it.

XWL has another idea: Have the candidates "send their 'policy experts' and 'advisers' out into the internet to have debates with each other."
When we pick a President we aren't just picking a single person, we are picking a team, and I want to know as soon as possible what the make up of that team will look like. A Bloggingheads type format would be perfect, with dingalinks, and a relatively unstructured time frame. Would Clinton have beaten Bush in 1992 if we had known it would have been a bunch of dweeby munchkins, a few crusty Carter leftovers, and heavily favoring academic over real world folks? Likewise, in 2000 if folks had known Bush was skipping past his father, and even Reagan to pick folks with experience in the Nixon and Ford years, would Gore have won more than the popular vote (although in this scenario I think he would have had a stable of far lefty policy wonks that would make Hillary look like Ayn Rand, so he probably would have lost resoundingly, even against the Bush/Ford/Nixon team).

Could any of the Republicans get Colin Powell to speak on their behalf? Would Clinton be crazy enough to dust off Albright? Does anyone know who Obama's people are or what his cabinet would look like? Does McCain have any friends (aside from a few in the media)? Would Rudy look past the five boroughs for advisers?
Any more creative ideas out there... and good arguments for getting the candidates to submit to them?

June 7, 2007

What killed the Senate immigration bill?

Jack Hawkins says he has the inside story.

And here's the NYT report:
The outcome, which followed an outpouring of criticism of the measure from core Republican voters and from liberal Democrats as well, was a significant setback for the president. It came mainly at the hands of members of his own party after he championed the proposal in the hope of claiming it as a major domestic policy achievement in the last months of his administration.
We're down to the "last months" already?

Radio alert.

I'm going to be on "Week in Review" at 8 AM, Central Time, tomorrow. You'll be able to live-stream it here, and there will be an archived version that I'll link to later. This is the show where we go over the week's news stories, with commentators from different sides of the political spectrum, and me counting as the conservative -- as I am, by Madison standards. It's a call-in show, so think up a question and call in.

UPDATE: You can stream the show at the archive here. (The 8 a.m. show.)

How hail 4+" in diameter caused me to see 18 films.

So I was just hanging around at home, trying to get some reading done, and I see reports predicting hailstorms -- hail 4 1/2 inches in diameter -- baseball size! I have never seen anything close to baseball-sized hail. And I don't keep my car in a garage. So I pack up my things and drive to the mall where there's a covered garage and a café with WiFi.

That was over 5 hours ago.

At the café, I ran into a friend and had a long conversation, then drank coffee and got absorbed into the laptop for who knows how much reading and writing. Still, no storm. It was after 5, so I moved upstairs to the Bistro, drank some wine, ate a salad and continued to fool around with the computer. Still no storm, but the scary baseball-hail was still predicted. It was nearly 7, so I paid the check and went downstairs to the theater.

Surely, the length of a movie will give the hail time enough to come through. I bought a ticket for "Paris, je t'aime," which is 18 short films -- all set in Paris -- from 18 directors. I emerged from the theater 2 hours later, hoping to see piles of hail-baseballs outside, telling me it's okay to go home. But, no, nothing seems to have happened. So I'm sitting in the café again, writing this, wondering if I can leave. Has the hail passed us by?

So let me while away a few more minutes and say the film anthology was swell. The films were so short that I didn't get too impatient -- my usual problem. If anything seemed not so good, it would go away very soon. And all the films were pretty good. The only one I disliked was the vampire thing with Elijah Wood, and even that was bad in an absurd enough way to put up with. My favorite was "Tuileries," which starred Steve Buscemi and was directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Just a little scene in the subway, with an American tourist who reads in his guidebook, after staring at a reproduction of the "Mona Lisa" that in Paris, you shouldn't make eye contact with people. Then he makes eye contact with a woman, etc. etc.

Various French and American stars show up for their short sequence. Juliette Binoche is very touching. She encounters Willem DaFoe, who's a dream-cowboy. Ben Gazzara has a turn with Gena Rowlands -- they're in a restaurant, and the waiter is Gérard Depardieu. Who is this Margo Martindale? She appears in a very affecting film, the last one, directed by Alexander Payne, who, in an earlier sequence, played Oscar Wilde, suddenly appearing next to his grave in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.

Still, no baseball hail. The hell with it. (The hail with it.) I can't stay here forever. I'm taking my

ADDED: ... chances. (Somehow, I neglected to finish that sentence. Failed to write "chances." Fortunately, I made it home alive. Or that would have been freaky. For you.)

UPDATE: "Severe Storm a Non-event in Madison."

Hostile as I am to hosta....

This kind pleases me:


Who are you people?

Here are lots of graphs showing the results of that BlogAds survey so many of you were kind enough to slog through.

"Yes, biologically sometimes, I have felt it ... but in the meantime when I see the trouble married people have, I think maybe I am lucky."

Says the Dalai Lama -- the "it" being sexual desire:
"When you analyse the face or body, which is beautiful for two days, after 10 years it's more difficult.

"It can eventually create a lot of unhappiness - that's nature."

So that incredibly shallow thing you're not supposed to say? What if, in fact, it's really deep?
The Dalai Lama said as a celibate monk he sublimated physical desire through "training of the mind" and intense analytical meditation.

True happiness, he said, came through peace of mind, altruism and compassion.

It's only not shallow if you think such things along with celibacy and lots of analysis.

"Feminist Blogosphere Politics."

That's the topic for a live chat by Ryan Grim, who stirred things up in that Politico profile of me. You can submit questions here now. He'll respond tomorrow at noon.

UPDATE: Read the chat here.



Found down by the Limnology building.

And speaking of water... I like the way the top of the flower looks like one of those photographs of a drop of water. I wonder how hard it is to get a capture like that.

Paris Hilton out of jail.

After only 3 days. Some "medical" problem. They won't tell us what it is. Maybe all the other prisoners would fake it.

ADDED: Nicole Richie can stop praying now.

MORE: TMZ says the "medical" problem was an impending nervous breakdown. Is everyone going to fake that now? There's a poll over there, and 93% of the readers are not believing it.

When men "leer" at their own wives...

... at what point do we have a problem with it? Dr. Helen scoffs at at the people who complain about the way Fred Thompson looks at his voluptuous wife:
[T]here are many ... women who feel that unless one is Bill Clinton or the object of their own lecherous desires (of course, for these women, their own desire is called empowerment--not lechery!), a regular joe has no right to look at a woman--not even in pictures--with desire in his heart. In their eagar quest to control men's sexual rights, some "feminist" women (and other prudish ones too!) go to extremes to shame, expose or intimidate men who let their lust for women dare come to the surface. ...

[M]en have a right to sexual expression just as women do and leering or even an interest in porn is not a crime--but if some women have their way, it soon may be. So, I say to you men out there who believe in your right to sexual freedom, stand up for your right to leer--or it may soon be a thing of the past.
Well, now this goes beyond the problem of men leering at their own wives, and it also leans heavily on the idea of rights. If we're talking rights, surely, we've also got a right to express contempt for men who boorishly exhibit their sexual feelings in public. People need to learn manners -- even if bad manners aren't a crime. The word "leer" is useful: It lets you know there's a line you will be judged by. Learn where it is or suffer the consequences -- which don't include prison, just contempt and rejection... unless you've got a special way about you, which you probably don't if you're reading this and not off somewhere enjoying the benefits of flouting society's norms.

This connects for me to the discussion going on over in the comments to my profile at Politico, which refers to a line I crossed, not in person, but in writing, saying something that many people would think but not say looking at a picture of a woman. One commenter brings up the old line: If women knew what men were thinking, they'd never stop slapping us. I'm not a man. I don't know. But I've heard. It seems to me that you may have the right to leer, but as with many other rights, you'd better be careful how and when you choose to exercise it, if you want to get along well in life. Go ahead and cross a line -- I did -- but know what you're doing and do it for a good reason. (I did.)

But back to Fred Thompson. He's leering at his own wife. Does that make it okay? Well, there are lots of things you can do with your wife that people don't want to see in public. But what are people seeing with Fred Thompson? He doesn't stare at her breasts, does he? More likely, you're staring at her breasts, and then you're looking at him -- egad! he's older! -- and you're projecting your own feelings on to his face -- including, perhaps, the feeling that you don't want him to be President. You can still insult him. Go ahead! Just know what you're doing.

"The imprint of seams and zips and buttons will, with time, fade..."

"... the smarting humiliation that sensible women (yes, including me) actually wore this garment outside, in public, will take a lot longer to recover from."

Good riddance to the "hideous" garment that had "the cheek to tell you what your body shape needs to be in order to wear it."

"American life was becoming so surreal, so stupefying, so maddening, that it had ceased to be a manageable subject for novelists..."

So thought Philip Roth in 1960 -- as reported in a 1997 NYT review of "American Pastoral." (TimesSelect link.)
He argued that real life, the life out of newspaper headlines, was outdoing the imagination of novelists, and that fiction writers were in fact abandoning the effort to grapple with ''the grander social and political phenomena of our times'' and were turning instead ''to the construction of wholly imaginary worlds, and to a celebration of the self.''

These remarks -- made even before John F. Kennedy's assassination and the social upheavals of the 60's magnified the surreal quotient of American life -- help illuminate what Tom Wolfe identified (with considerable self-serving hyperbole) in the late 80's as a retreat from realism. They also help explain the direction that Mr. Roth's own fiction has taken over the last three and a half decades, his long obsession with alter egos and mirror games and the transactions between life and art.

"The remark that angered Philip the most was when people said, 'Well, I wouldn’t live here.'"

"He’d say: 'I don’t understand. Who asked them?' He was very annoyed by that."

People who don't live in the Glass House should STFU -- according to the architect, Philip Johnson who liked it just fine.

Great long article -- with pictures -- at the link, with lots of tales told by various folk, like Fran Liebowitz for that one. And this one, by the artist David Salle:
I remember coming with a friend for lunch, and David took her coat but didn’t do anything with her handbag, which she set down on the kitchen counter. And Philip said, “You can’t put that there!” She was taken aback. Someone came and put it in the closet.

June 6, 2007

The "familiar essay."

Listen! She says something in there about blogging that I really identify with.

ADDED: I meant for you to click the "listen" button at the link.

Danger and refuge.


Danger!! Worms!!


Flowerpot nestly in a tree hollow

Winner? Romney! Loser... McCain.

"I love that dial stuff!"

ADDED: Via The Corner.

Celebrate pink.


Really. Celebrate pink.

Macho Pope.

This just happened:
A man tried to jump into Pope Benedict XVI's uncovered popemobile as the pontiff began his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square and was wrestled to the ground by security officers.

The pope was not hurt and didn't even appear to notice that the man had jumped over the protective barricade in the square and toward the white popemobile as it drove by with the pope waving to the audience.

At least eight security officers who were trailing the popemobile grabbed the man and wrestled him to the ground. The pope didn't even look back.
The assailant "was wearing a pink T-shirt and dark shorts, a beige baseball cap and sunglasses." That says a lot.

"Why don't they put all the candidates in one debate instead of separating Democrats and Republicans?"

John IMs me that question from his bar review class in Ithaca. More IMishness:
whoever wins is EVENTUALLY going to be pitted against someone from the opposite party....

shouldn't we want to see what they seem like in contrast with their eventual opponent?...

we're having all these 1.5- and 2-hour debates with 8 or 10 people. Why not have a couple 2-hour debates with 18 people each?...

I hope the argument is not: "we'd lose track of the candidates." I don't think most people who are watching the segregated debates can keep track of who Hunter, Gilmore, or Dodd are!...

It would lead to more disputes between individual candidates (say, Edwards and McCain get into a squabble, or whatever), which is always the thing that gets the most media attention, because it's the most memorable and makes the candidates stand out.

And the objection can't be: "They're never done it like that before." We've never been in this situation (open field for both parties in presidential primary) in the TV era.

And don't just give a knee-jerk no, no, we can't do that. Open your mind to a new possibility.

ADDED: The candidates could agree to do this if they wanted. I wonder in whose interest it would be to show their stuff head-to-head with a potential opponent. I'll bet Hillary does not want to be seen debating with Giuliani until it's too late for Democrats to back out. Maybe some of the minor characters to bring some excitement by matching up with guys from the other side. Have Dodd and Kucinich debate Paul and Tancredo, for example. No one cares about them now, but put all four together, and it's an exciting new show.

"I heard nothing about the environment for all our lives and now this. I wish she would at least take back her own name."

The Boston Herald has this about the Larry David-Laurie David breakup:
Back in 2004, Larry David, a career crank, told The Atlantic scribe Eric Alterman in an article about Hollywood fund-raising: “I heard nothing about the environment for all our lives and now this. I wish she would at least take back her own name.”

A joke? Maybe not!

Of course, the “Seinfeld” creator and his tree-hugging spouse haven’t exactly been hailed as consummate conservationists on the Vineyard.

The Chilmark town fathers were miffed in 2005 when the Tinseltown twosome made many posh improvements to their property without getting required permits. (They built a BBQ pit and elevated stage too close to the oh-so-dear wetlands).

And Laurie David, whom some say is the inspiration for Susie, the potty-mouthed wife of Larry’s agent on “Curb,” was once labeled a “Gulfstream liberal” for her own brand of do-as-I-say-not-as-I do activism.
Oh, she's Susie? I love Susie... as a character... on a show....

Anyway... all that hypocrisy... it's funny! Now, will Larry will be able to talk about how funny it is?

Let's get some more from that Eric Alterman piece in The Atlantic:
[Laurie] David's combination of moxie and money has made her the It Girl of Hollywood progressive politics. She invited John McCain to dinner so that she could try to talk him into switching to the Democratic Party. (She failed.) John Edwards, a guest early in his presidential candidacy, was interrogated on his so-so environmental record. And then there are the fundraisers. In March the Davids hosted 200 people at a $1,000-a-plate party for Barbara Boxer, California's junior senator, who is up for re-election this fall. Larry David says that he forgot about the Boxer event, only to come home and see "all these cars parked." "Next thing I knew," he says, "Bill Clinton was showing up. I'm proud of my wife and I do support her, but there are other houses out here. Sometimes I think she thinks this is the only house in L.A. But what do you want me do? Stay up in my room? I do roll my eyes a lot.["]...

Talking to me in his office over salad and CNN, Larry David admitted that if he were married to someone else, "chances are [the NRDC] would never have seen a nickel from me." Playing to type, he went on, "Personally, I would give money away to people, because then I could get the personal satisfaction of playing the benefactor and have the obligation for the rest of my life. I would enjoy that."
It always sounds like a joke, right? Who knows how much he means it? I think maybe he means it a lot. Living in that milieu has to be stifling, if you're a great humorist like Larry. Not that there isn't comic material, but that you can't use it. If you're in the milieu, catering to a wife who's totally into the politics of it, maybe you'll be allowed to use your comic gifts to attack the other side. But all your raw material, the people who are crowding into your house, is off limits. Or nearly off limits. I could see Larry having his own misanthropic character say terrible things about them in a way that lets us know he the one who's terrible. But now! Now, the possibilities are endless. I want to hear him bitch about how Bill Clinton won't get out of his house.

So anyway... Eric Alterman... anything new about the arrest? (His description of the arrest has a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" flavor to it, doesn't it?)

"Vang Pao... is a freedom fighter who will tower over any courtroom into which he is brought."

The NY Sun has an editorial on the arrest of Vang Pao:
We could barely believe our eyes. Vang Pao and the others arrested, according to the AP, were picked up during a sweep by more than 200 federal, state, and local agents. The news wire quoted a criminal complaint as saying the authorities acted because weapons shipments were set to begin this month to areas in Thailand along the Laotian border. The AP quoted Hmong leaders in Thailand as saying they found the charges unbelievable. "I don't believe Gen. Vang Pao planned to cause trouble in Laos. I think the charges are meant by rival Hmong in the United States to smear him," the AP quoted Ming Wui, a Hmong Christian minister in Thailand's Phetchabun province, as saying.

Federal prosecutors are quoted by the AP as saying, "We're looking at conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time." Our instinct is that Mr. Bush will want to take a break between the Prague Conference and the G-8 summit and order up some adult supervision of whatever his justice department is doing in California. Or just exercise his unfettered pardon authority to nip this case in the bud. The only faction who have conspired to mass murder in Laos in our time are the communists, against whom Vang Pao has been our most reliable and inspiring ally. He is a freedom fighter who will tower over any courtroom into which he is brought.
I'm following this story because of the controversy in Madison over naming an elementary school after the man. Here's my post on the subject from yesterday (noting that "oddly, Madison is the leading edge in appreciating anti-Communist military action"). Here's today's local news coverage of that story:
[School board president Arlene] Silveira and board member Carol Carstensen said Tuesday that the board should reverse its April 9 decision to name the school in honor of former Gen. Vang Pao, who was among 10 people charged Monday in California with plotting a violent takeover of Laos' communist government.
I'm glad to see that Silveira has backed away from her original statement "Obviously if there is something that is negative and we would like to have a discussion, what we will do is have a reconsideration," which I mocked yesterday.
Board members Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak agreed the board needs to discuss the name of the school but said it's too early to say whether Vang Pao's name should be removed....

All four board members on Tuesday stressed a desire to show sensitivity to members of the Hmong community, who nominated Vang Pao's name for the school, while also taking the right stand for the community as a whole.
Seriously, how can you name an elementary school after a man who is under indictment? Even those who idolize the man should reject it, because it invites attacks on their hero.
Complicating that task is the history of America's withdrawal from the Vietnam War, after Vang Pao led his forces in a covert CIA-backed war on communists in Laos.

Many Hmong fled to Thailand and eventually the United States, but thousands are said to remain stranded in Laos where they remain subject to rape, killing and torture at the hands of the communist government — the regime Vang Pao is accused of attempting to overthrow.

Prosecutors called Vang Pao the mastermind of the plot, which involved raising money to recruit a mercenary force and equipping a small army to pull off a coordinated set of attacks with anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers and C-4 explosives. One prosecutor called it "conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time."

An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives secretly recorded a Feb. 7 luncheon meeting with Vang Pao, former California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Ulrich Jack and others at a Thai restaurant a few blocks from California's Capitol in Sacramento, according to the agent's affidavit. They then walked to a recreational vehicle parked nearby to examine machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines and other weapons, the agent wrote.

Hmong leaders had agreed to buy $9.8 million worth of military weapons, Jack said in a recorded conversation, with much of the money coming from immigrants throughout the United States, the affidavit states.

Contrast that to the Sun's quotation of "Hmong leaders in Thailand" saying "I don't believe Gen. Vang Pao planned to cause trouble in Laos." Does the Sun really think individuals who do what is charged in the indictment should be labeled "freedom fighters" and given presidential pardons?

UPDATE: More here on the reaction in the Hmong community:
[S]ome in [Madison's] Hmong community -- especially elders -- feel betrayed by Vang Pao's arrest, according to Koua Vang, the executive director of United Refugee Services in Madison.

"It was the U.S. government that came to Laos and said 'Help fight the Communists,'" Koua Vang said in an interview Tuesday. "Now they say continuing to fight the Communists is wrong. People are sad, they feel they are being betrayed."

Another source in the Hmong community -- a middle-aged man who in recent years has cautioned other Hmong about donating money to Vang Pao -- estimates that 90 to 95 percent of Hmong families support Vang Pao.

The source, who requested anonymity because the situation in the community is tense, said that many Madison Hmong, particularly the veterans and the elderly, consider it an honor to support Vang Pao and to give money to his organizations.....

In his years in America, Vang Pao took on mythic proportions as a godfather of sorts whose connections to the government paved the way for the eventual arrival of thousands of Hmong to the United States and whose continuing influence inspired the Hmong to prosper....

Koua Vang speculated that Vang Pao's arrest may buttress his support among younger Hmong who may not carry personal memories of all he has done for the community.

"The older people knew, but the young will understand he is truly committed to fighting the Communists, he did not give up fighting for freedom. Now it is open record," Vang said.
AND: Here's more on the role of former state senator Gary George:
[The San Francisco Chronicle] reported that George was "suspected of conspiring to violate the (federal) Neutrality Act and conspiring to kill or injure people in a foreign country," according to a report by an undercover agent included as part of the affidavit....

George wooed the Hmong community in Wisconsin while he was a state senator.

In 2003, he cast the deciding vote for the state budget only after demanding -- and getting -- a $3 million state grant for a planned Hmong cultural center in Milwaukee in George's district. In a rare move, the budget deal specified exactly where the center would be built and barred the state from considering other sites or supervising the construction or bidding process.

That plan was later vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle, who argued that the proposal had not gone through the proper approval process for major state projects.

George's former aide, Locha Thao, was one of 10 people charged with trying to overthrow the Laotian government.

June 5, 2007

Another debate tonight? Okay, I guess I'm simulblogging again...

This is getting bizarre! Are people really watching? Anyway... I'm going to watch. I'll try to pay more attention tonight, now that "The Sopranos" aren't on.

(It's on CNN, at what I like to call 6 Central Time.)

UPDATE #1: Introductions. "My name is Thompson. Tommy. I'm the candidate, not the actor." Giuliani says he believes in the New Hampshire slogan "Live Free or Die." Huckabee says he's from Hope: "Give us one more chance."

UPDATE #2: The first question goes to Romney. Was it a mistake to invade Iraq? Romney resists the hypothetical (and twice calls it a "null set"). He won't assume a world where we know what we didn't know. Giuliani goes right for it: it would still be "absolutely right" to remove Saddam -- "it's part of the war on terror." McCain gets a different question: Did he read the National Intelligence Estimate. He clearly states that he did not (but read other documents and knew what the situation was). He goes back to the other question voluntarily and says the decision was right.

UPDATE #3: McCain is asked what he will do if General Petraeus reports in September that the surge is failing. There is no option to bring the troops home. Al Qaeda will follow us, and there will be chaos. He attacks Hillary Clinton for saying this is George Bush's war. Wars belong to the whole nation, and it is we who lose, and we cannot. Wolf Blitzer brings him back to the question asked. We'll have to examine the options then, he says, but Brownback's proposal -- to divide Iraq into three ethnic regions -- isn't physically possible. We have to go on, even if the surge hasn't worked. Tommy gets the question now. He speaks forcibly and says we should force the Iraqi government to vote whether they want us to stay or go.

UPDATE #4: The question is Iran. Is it acceptable to talk to them? This is a boring question, so Blitzer spices it up by asking if it's okay to nuke them. When the question gets to Giuliani, it's all about: Can we nuke them? Giuliani: "You can't rule out anything." The Democrats are living in the last century. Iran could hand nukes over to terrorists. "This war is not a bumper sticker," he says, referencing Edwards's remark in the last Democratic debate. "This war is a real war." Romney: He wants to "move the world of Islam... toward modernity." He says a lot of other things, speaking quickly, and it's too scattershot. He sounds nervous and a little desperate for some reason. In the background, we see Giuliani, looking rock hard.

UPDATE #5: Immigration. Giuliani says the current proposal "has no unifying purpose." We need a way to identify everyone who's here from a foreign country. Credit card companies handle more information that this. He's cut off. On to Romney, who says we should enforce the immigration laws, but the proposal would let all the illegal aliens stay here for the rest of their lives. It's not fair to put all those people at the front of the line. So what does McCain say? "Rudy, you just described our legislation." He ends by saying he'd love to hear it if anyone has a better idea, and the audience goes into an uproar and half the guys on the stage seem to want to jump in. Various proposals flow in, mainly about enforcing the law we do have.

UPDATE #6: Incredible! Giuliani is asked about the Catholic bishop's remark that his position on abortion is like Pontius Pilate's washing his hands of the crucifixion, and Giuliani's answer is buzzed out as lightening outside the hall affects the microphone. He jokes that for someone who's gone to Catholic school "it's very frightening." As he tries to restate his position, the buzzing continues to interrupt him. Yikes. Huckabee is asked about his belief in creationism, and he does an amazing job of turning it into the question of whether he believes in God and passionately affirms that he does. Blitzer follows up with the question whether he believes in the literal creation story in the Bible. He says he doesn't know, but he does know that God created us. Brownback is asked where he stands on evolution, and he makes a similar move. McCain is asked whether children should be taught creationism. He says he'd leave it up to the local government, then jumps on the Huckabee train and says there is a God who created us and loves us. Romney's asked to talk about being a Mormon. He stresses the beliefs that are shared with other Christians.

UPDATE #7: Global warming. Blah, blah... Gays in the military. "This is not a good time to deal with disruptive issues like this," says Giuliani. Romney: Don't ask, don't tell is working; don't change it during wartime. McCain: "The policy is working." Our military is the best, so don't change it.

UPDATE #8: How would you use George W. Bush in your administration? Tommy would send him out to talk to kids. Brownback would ask him what he wants to do... and thinks he'd want to bow out the way his father did (and unlike Bill Clinton). Ron Paul Tancredo says that Karl Rove told him to stay away from the White House so he'd tell George Bush the same thing.

UPDATE #9: Should the President pardon Scooter Libby? Giuliani says the sentence was "grossly excessive," and this argues in favor of pardon. He adds weight to his answer by saying he's prosecuted over 5,000 cases. Romney and Brownback stress that there was no underlying crime about which Libby committed perjury. Tommy Thompson compares what happened to Libby to what happened to Bill Clinton for committing perjury. Clinton just lost his law license. Well, he got impeached! He was tried in the Senate and he prevailed. The difference from Libby is that when Libby went to trial, he lost. Anyway, the support for pardoning Libby is so pervasive here, that I suppose we should assume that in the end, if the appeals fail, Bush will pardon Libby.

UPDATE #10: Now, after a break, the candidates are sitting in red chairs, and the questions are from the audience. The first question comes from a woman whose brother was killed in Iraq. She mainly expresses the devastation her family is feeling. McCain's response is what you would expect, but he says it well and sincerely: She should feel proud of his sacrifice. The second question is also about Iraq. How will we keep Iraq from ending up with another dictator? Ron Paul says give them "an incentive," essentially, by leaving them to do the work of securing the country themselves. Whoa! Giuliani gets out of his chair and walks forward and talks directly to various audience members. We have to "take on the responsibility of nation building." Overthrowing Saddam was a brilliant military success, and now we must accept the responsibility that this incurred. He brings up the earlier question about General Petraeus and the surge, but just to insinuate that the news media will play up the report if it's negative and bury it if it's positive.

UPDATE #11: A question about conservatism. Gilmore answers. Like Giuliani, he gets up out of his chair. I guess they all will now. No, Tancredo stays seated. Thompson leans toward him and glares. Now, a man asks about prescription drugs. Giuliani hops up to denounce the Democrats as offering "socialized medicine." He tells us all about his health insurance plan, under which you'd buy your own insurance with the help of tax benefits and not rely on government or your employer. The the free market will solve the problem of overpriced drugs. Another question about health insurance: Would you accept a single-payer plan? Thompson is roused. This is the question for him. He wants to transform the whole system into a "wellness" and "prevention" system. He's stressing educating people about smoking and obesity.

UPDATE #12: What's the most important moral challenge? Giuliani says we need to share American ideals with the world (that is, he makes this another anti-terrorism question). Ron Paul says it's our acceptance of preemptive war. For Brownback, it's the need to be pro-life. Blitzer butts in with the question whether he could support Giuliani. He says he will support his party's nominee.

UPDATE #13. A question about campaign advertisements in the Spanish language. Is it somehow inconsistent with a tough immigration position? Tancredo thinks it's absolutely wrong... and he's all passionate about it. A question about how each candidate is different from Bush. McCain: "Spending, spending, spending.... We've got to stop the earmarking." Giuliani: Accountability. Measure success, the way he did in New York. Romney says: "It's going from small bore to large bore." Everyone still tuned in now makes a wisecrack about how he's a large bore. Either that or they're all: What's with the null set and the small bore/large bore? He says weird things! Brownback is going to end deaths by cancer. (Yeah, that horrible Bush with his cancer death!) Hmmm... Duncan Hunter. This is the first time I'm noticing him. But I didn't notice what he said.

Now, we get a question of what it means to be an American. Tancredo makes it into another immigration question. He uses the phrase "enough is enough," and I'm thinking, yeah, enough with the immigration questions tonight. Another question about what Republicans need to do to win. I'm about to burn out. This 2-hour format is a pain. But my mood is lifted a bit when Giuliani says: "Ma'am, the way to do it is to nominate me."

Ah! The end at last! Am I the only one still watching?

I love Larry David and can't stand Laurie David...

... but it really seems wrong to approve of the breakup of a marriage. And yet... wouldn't Larry?

IN THE COMMENTS: Saul writes:

I don't know enough about Laurie David to form a real negative opinion (just saw her on tv during the Sheryl Crow tour). However, Larry is very much the true life version of George, and so he probably is not suited for marriage.

Maybe this will help his show.

The show -- "Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- is so much about Larry's attempt to fit in a marriage and his wife's tireless efforts to make him fit that it's hard to see how it could be the same show. Of course, we can't lose Cheryl Hines -- she's the crucial second character. But he could get a whole season out of them breaking up. And whatever happens in the plot of the show, the writer's life experience should affect the tone and the humor. For example, he could keep the couple together, but present a much darker, crueler perspective on marriage. The two could come to despise each other and even cross a new line and wrong each other. As the show has been, the marriage anchors everything. We are periodically reassured that Larry must be basically good, because his wife cares about him and he listens to her. He argues, but in the end he does what he is told. What if that fell apart?

The most popular TV show among readers of this blog.

Guess what it is? (Based on the Blogads survey, the results of which I'll be able to display next week.) It's not something I blog about. In fact, I don't watch it.

Make me fries!

Potato wave!

Via Andrew Sullivan.

A profile.

Politico did this profile of me.

A rose.

Pink rose

Words inside words.

Have you ever suddenly noticed a word inside another word? Computer words searches make this a more frequent occurrence. I just noticed the familiar word inside "chemotherapy."


... is part of remembering.

ADDED: In the comments, Galvanized says:
How cool -- so the human brain defragments itself. Cognition is so interesting! I think that this is why a prof once told me that actually making lists and actually marking off obsolete items is important, as a visual boost to jog the brain to drop old items from memory. I believe that it works, too, since list-makers seem to be more together than the rest of us.

This reminds me of one of my favorite vids of animated poetry by poet Billy Collins:

More on the new Hillary books.

The NYT has reviews of the two new Hillary books: Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge" and Jeff Gersh and Don Van Natta Jr.'s "Her Way." Michiko Kakutani reviews only the Bernstein book (because the authors of the other book are or were employed by the Times), and outside reviewer Robert Dallek reviews both books. Let's look at the Dallek review first. Here's what he says about the Gersh/Van Natta:
The book’s greatest flaw is its flogging of all the Clinton scandals, not simply because they are so familiar and ultimately came to so little, but also because they give us insufficient clues to what sort of president Mrs. Clinton might be....

Should Hillary Clinton’s personal limitations — her inclination to shade the truth in the service of her ambition, what former Senator Bill Bradley called her “arrogance,” “disdain,” and “hypocrisy” — disqualify her for the presidency?

It is surely preferable to have our most upright citizens sitting in the White House, but history repeatedly shows that presidents with character flaws have not necessarily been less competent leaders, especially in times of crisis, than those with a stronger moral compass....
Oh, fine then. Character... big deal!

About the Bernstein book, Dallek says:
Mr. Bernstein is... hyperbolic about Mrs. Clinton’s influence and importance. President Bill Clinton survived “in office due principally to the actions of his wife, just as their tangled relationship,” he writes, “was central to his being impeached in the first place.”

Mr. Bernstein adds: “The impeachment of the president was a direct reflection of the choices she had made, the compromises she had accepted, however reluctantly, and the enmity engendered by their grand designs, successes and failures.”
Kakutani writes:
Mr. Bernstein’s overall take on Mrs. Clinton [is] that her “experiential openness” gave her a “capacity for personal growth and change”....

[T]his volume does not really appraise Mrs. Clinton’s record as a senator from New York and sheds no new light on her stance on the Iraq war or her current campaign for the White House....

“With the notable exception of her husband’s libidinous carelessness,” Mr. Bernstein asserts, “the most egregious errors, strategic and tactical” of [Bill Clinton's] presidency, particularly in its stumbling first year, are “traceable to Hillary,” including, in large measure, the inept staffing of the White House, the disastrous serial search for an attorney general, the Travel Office brouhaha, Whitewater and the alienation of key senators and members of Congress.
Kakutani notes that the book is really long and that Bernstein spent 8 years writing it and seems rather defensive about spending so much time on it. Are readers going to put up with this? Aside from the health care fiasco, the Clinton Era events that involve Hillary really don't need to be remembered in detail. The Gersh/Van Natta book looks like a better read, perhaps.

Let the "fleeting expletives" fly -- says Second Circuit.

The NYT reports:
The decision, by a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, was a sharp rebuke for the F.C.C. and for the Bush administration. For the four television networks that filed the lawsuit — Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC — it was a major victory in a legal and cultural battle that they are waging with the commission and its supporters.

Under President Bush, the F.C.C. has expanded its indecency rules, taking a much harder line on obscenities uttered on broadcast television and radio. While the judges sent the case back to the commission to rewrite its indecency policy, it said that it was “doubtful” that the agency would be able to “adequately respond to the constitutional and statutory challenges raised by the networks.”
It all started with Bono:
Beginning with the F.C.C.’s indecency finding in a case against NBC for a vulgarity uttered by the U2 singer Bono during the Golden Globes awards ceremony in 2003, President Bush’s Republican and Democratic appointees to the commission have imposed a tougher policy by punishing any station that broadcast a fleeting expletive....

Reversing decades of a more lenient policy, the commission had found that the mere utterance of certain words implied that sexual or excretory acts were carried out and therefore violated the indecency rules.

But the judges said vulgar words are just as often used out of frustration or excitement, and not to convey any broader obscene meaning. “In recent times even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

Adopting an argument made by lawyers for NBC, the judges then cited examples in which Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had used the same language that would be penalized under the policy. Mr. Bush was caught on videotape last July using a common vulgarity that the commission finds objectionable in a conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Three years ago, Mr. Cheney was widely reported to have muttered an angry obscene version of “get lost” to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the United States Senate.
Yeah, stick it to Bush and Cheney.

I love the way the NYT seems enthused about this new liberation in media but still can't print "Go f*ck yourself." (Me neither, but I'm only using the asterisk out of fear of what filters might do to me.)
“We find that the F.C.C.’s new policy regarding ‘fleeting expletives’ fails to provide a reasoned analysis justifying its departure from the agency’s established practice,” said the panel.
So this is not a First Amendment decision, though the majority does say “We question whether the F.C.C.’s indecency test can survive First Amendment scrutiny.” The court is finding fault with the process of developing the new policy. In dissent, Judge Pierre Leval stressed the "the deference courts must give to the reasoning of a duly authorized administrative agency": "The commission’s position is not irrational; it is not arbitrary and capricious.”
The case involved findings that the networks had violated the indecency rules for comments by Cher and Nicole Richie on the Billboard Music Awards, the use of expletives by the character Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue” and a comment on “The Early Show” by a contestant from CBS’s reality show “Survivor.”
So Bono opened the door and now every nitwit celebrity and reality show half-celebrity will be saying "f*ck" on the slightest provocation. The networks say it's up to you to decide what shows to watch, so... good luck figuring out what to let your kids watch.

"We take consolation in the fact that the team was on a mission to help another."

A very sad plane crash:
No one was believed to have survived the crash of a small plane that was carrying a six-member organ transplant team and their cargo of donor organs, authorities said Tuesday.
Searchers found human remains during a search in Lake Michigan, about six miles northeast of Milwaukee, a Coast Guard official said Tuesday.

The team's lifesaving mission — carrying unspecified organs from Milwaukee for transplant to a patient in Michigan — was cut short Monday when the Cessna Citation went down in 57-degree water shortly after the pilot signaled an emergency....

The university identified those aboard the plane as: Dr. Martinus "Martin" Spoor, a cardiac surgeon who had been on the faculty since 2003; Dr. David Ashburn, a physician-in-training in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery; Richard Chenault II, a transplant donation specialist with the university transplant program; Richard Lapensee, a transplant donation specialist with the university transplant program; and pilots Dennis Hoyes and Bill Serra.

Madison names an elementary school after Hmong military leader Vang Pao -- and now there are federal criminal charges against him.

The decision to name the school after this individual was controversial, but surely, now, the School Board will reopen the matter. From the Capital Times:
After learning of the charges late Monday, School Board President Arlene Silveira issued a statement saying the board will reconsider the name if the federal investigation uncovers damaging information about Vang Pao.
So, he's charged with federal crimes -- but it may not involve anything new. In other words, the School Board has already sorted through material that may be all the substance there is to the federal criminal charges. It seems to me that that Silveira's statement itself shows something is terribly wrong here. What an embarrassing admission coming from our school board president!
"Obviously if there is something that is negative and we would like to have a discussion, what we will do is have a reconsideration," she said.
If there is something that is negative!
Silveira said the School Board will begin to investigate the "nature of the charges" today and then determine the next steps it will take.

Several dozen people were at the meeting to protest the school's name -- most showing up without knowing of the charges against Vang Pao. Many held signs declaring Vang Pao was a "war criminal" and a "killer."...

UW-Madison history professor Alfred McCoy and others have long alleged that Vang Pao presided over drug running and summary executions while working with the CIA on the so-called secret war against communists in Laos during the Vietnam War. Many Hmong and other researchers deny the allegations.
Here's the AP article about the federal criminal case:
Authorities acted because weapons shipments were set to begin this month to areas in Thailand along the Laotian border, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. The buildup was in preparation for a coordinated set of mercenary attacks that investigators said were designed to kill communist officials and reduce government buildings to rubble, the complaint said....

"We're looking at conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Twiss said in federal court Monday.

He said thousands of coconspirators remain at large, many in other countries. Prosecutors said they believe all the leaders of the plot are in custody.

Vang Pao, now 77, led CIA-backed Hmong forces in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s as a general in the Royal Army of Laos. He emigrated to the U.S. about 1975 and has been credited by thousands of Hmong refugees with helping them build new lives in the U.S....

"No matter how strongly held their beliefs, citizens of the United States cannot become involved in a plot to overthrow a sovereign government with which the United States is at peace," Drew Parenti, FBI special agent in charge of the Sacramento region...

The defendants acted through the Lao liberation movement known as Neo Hom, led in the U.S. by Vang Pao. It conducted extensive fundraising, directed surveillance operations and organized a force of insurgent troops within Laos, according to the complaint.
Back to the Cap Times piece:
Cher Peng Her, who spoke in defense of naming the school after Vang Pao, said later that even if the charges against Vang Pao turn out to be true, Vang Pao is simply defending his own people from a Laotian government that has sanctioned the killings, rapes and persecution of Hmong.

Her said President Bush used similar rationale for overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "Should we bring charges against our president for doing exactly what Vang Pao is alleged?" Her asked.

Joua Vang said Vang has fought communists for decades "for U.S., and the U.S. is charging him? For what reason? I don't see that it's right."
So, now, oddly, Madison is the leading edge in appreciating anti-Communist military action. How could that happen? Well, you know damned well how it happened. What a strange place this is!

ADDED: Lots of links and background on the story here.

June 4, 2007

Lake Mendota, yesterday.

There were a lot of sailboats...


A lone heron, out there...


That red-winged blackbird, nesting in the willow...

Red-winged blackbird

The fishing guy went in knee deep...


And the poor chipmunk -- no, it's not dead -- but its chipmunky way of darting across the bike path seems to have been unlucky this time....



... jelly beans.

Water lilies.

Water lilies

Water lilies

Water lilies

"The image of Alterman in handcuffs is not only funny, it is, on a conceptual level, just."

Ooh! Dennis Perrin is exulting in the Alterman arrest:
... I must confess that reading about Eric Alterman's brush with the law in New Hampshire gave me a happy jolt this morning, for the image of Alterman in handcuffs is not only funny, it is, on a conceptual level, just. This guy is one of the biggest pricks in American political journalism, a classic liberal elitist devoted to the US corporate state, and a firm believer in the "gatekeeper" role of what passes for intellectual culture in this country. And, naturally, Alterman considers himself one of the gatekeepers....
"Ever since the beginning of blogging-time, I have worried -- in public and on blogging panels -- about the loss of the media's gatekeeper function . . . Particularly when the media profess to strive toward objectivity, punditry/gatekeepers play a crucial role. My problem with the punditocracy has never been that they are pundits, but that they are so incompetent at the job they do."
Right. What we need are "competent" gatekeepers to make sure that the rabble know their place. And Alterman is more than willing to help keep this arrangement in place.

Sadly, Alterman got off easy, with not so much as a single baton strike to the gut, or a brief shot of pepper spray in the face.
Yikes. I had something to say about the Alterman arrest in my 7:15 post, and I considered going into my extraneous antagonism to Alterman, but decided to leave it at just a reaction to his presentation of the incident. But now that Dennis has raised the larger question, let me remind you of this post of mine, attacking Alterman for saying we need "some sort of, you know, blogging -- you know -- council, where we could condemn people." And this one. And this NYT column I wrote (free IHT reprint), where I said I "rankled" at his "impulse to control." So I've got to agree with Dennis that there's some poetic justice when the wannabe gatekeeper gets ousted.

Four new Supreme Court opinions.

Howard Bashman has the links. I'll update soon with more detail.

UPDATE #1: Erickson v. Pardus is a per curiam opinion that rejects the too-strict pleading requirements the Sixth Tenth Circuit imposed on a pro se prisoner who alleged that depriving him of his hepatitis medication constituted cruel and unusual punishment. "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.' Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only '"give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'"

UPDATE #2: Sole v. Wyner is a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, about what it means to be a "prevailing party" -- entitled to attorneys' fees -- in a §1983 civil rights case. The Court decided that winning a preliminary injunction is not enough if you go on to lose the case on the merits. The plaintiff, by the way, was fighting for the right to protest the war with a giant peace sign composed of naked people.

UPDATE #3: Uttecht v. Brown is a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Kennedy, with a dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens and joined by Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer and a dissenting opinion written by Justice Breyer and joined by Souter. This case concerns the degree of deference that is owed to a trial judge's decisions about when a juror should be excused based on an inability to follow instructions about the application of the death penalty. An excerpt from Stevens's opinion:
Today, the Court has fundamentally redefined — or maybe just misunderstood — the meaning of “substantially impaired,” and, in doing so, has gotten it horribly backwards. It appears to be under the impression that trial courts should be encouraging the inclusion of jurors who will impose the death penalty rather than only ensuring the exclusion of those who say that, in all circumstances, they cannot....

Judge Kozinski’s opinion for the Court of Appeals in this case is solidly grounded on the entire line of our cases recognizing the basic distinction dramatically illustrated by Justice Powell’s opinion in Darden and by Justice Rehnquist’s statement in Lockhart. He surely was entitled to assume that the law had not changed so dramatically in the years following his service as a law clerk to Chief Justice Burger that a majority of the present Court would not even mention that basic distinction, and would uphold the disqualification of a juror whose only failing was to harbor some slight reservation in imposing the most severe of sanctions.
I don't remember ever seeing the fact that a judge was a Supreme Court clerk used to bolster his opinion. Apparently, you're "entitled to assume" some things. I think that whole paragraph, the last paragraph of the Stevens dissent, is just screaming look at all the conservatives who agree with me. I've got Burger and Rehnquist and Powell... and Kozinski, who practically counts as a Supreme Court justice.

UPDATE #4: Safeco Insurance v. Burr is a case about the Fair Credit Reporting Act that I'm going to leave for someone else to untangle. My reticence and my use of the word "untangle" is based on this:
Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy and Breyer, JJ., joined, in which Scalia, J., joined as to all but footnotes 11 and 15, in which Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined as to all but Part III–A, and in which Stevens and Ginsburg, JJ., joined as to Parts I, II, III–A, and IV–B. Stevens, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Ginsburg, J., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which Alito, J., joined.
On the bright side: No one dissented.

Will the legislature cut back on affirmative action in the University of Wisconsin System?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Affirmative action in the University of Wisconsin System and state contracting would be abolished or significantly scaled back under legislative proposals to be taken up today by a committee of state lawmakers and citizens.

One measure would draft a constitutional amendment that would prohibit state agencies and public universities from granting preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin....

Other proposals, crafted by Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), chairman of the Special Committee on Affirmative Action, would:

• Require racial or ethnic minorities applying to the UW System or state contracting agencies to prove they are at least 25% that race or ethnicity to receive preferential consideration.

• Require racial or ethnic minorities applying to the UW System to demonstrate "knowledge or experience" of their racial or ethnic group to receive preferential consideration. If applicable, the applicant would have to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English.

• Prohibit the UW System from considering the race or ethnicity of an applicant unless the applicant proves that his or her family makes less than 400% of the federal poverty level ($80,000 for a family of four)....

David Giroux, a spokesman for the UW System, said there was a "compelling need for diversity" in public universities and that it would be a shame for the Legislature to move against affirmative action, which he described as a "divisive issue."

"Diversity benefits all students, improving the quality of their education and their prospects for career success," he said.

Grothman disagreed.

"I think it's racist to imply that I'm going to learn something from you because your great-great-grandparents came from someplace else," he said. "Unless you literally grow up in another country, you're an American just like everyone else. You follow the Packers, eat McDonald's, and share the same tastes as everyone else."
(Do some people figuratively grow up in another country? Apparently, yes.)

I understand Grothman's point, that diversity-based admissions ought to connect to some real diversity that the student will bring to the classroom. But isn't his solution worse than the problem he cites? We're going to ask students to prove what percent of a race they are? That's really ugly, worse than abolishing affirmative action altogether I would think.

"The White House is developing a short list of possible Supreme Court nominees..."

Writes Jan Crawford Greenburg:
The White House is not expecting a retirement, but it wants to be ready if a surprise announcement occurs, sources said.

It's widely considered that the most likely candidates for retirement are liberal Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although both have said emphatically that they do not plan to step down....

[A]dvisers are focusing on possible nominees who are believed to be solid judicial conservatives and would galvanize the base at a time when Bush desperately needs its support....

Leading Senate Democrats are already warning against solidly conservative nominees, and that could make confirmation difficult in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Still, some of Bush's political advisers believe he would be better off tapping a strong conservative who would rally the base -- especially a nominee with a compelling life story who would be difficult for moderate Senate Democrats to oppose.
So there don't seem to be retirements in the offing this year, and I hope there are none. If there are, however, it will be an exciting political spectacle that I assume will be primarily about the 2008 election. As Greenburg indicates, the obvious strategic move for Bush is to defy what will be the Democrats' demand that he pick a centrist, and the key is to do it with a nominee that will make the Democrats look terrible opposing her (or him). Of course, we've already gone through this routine with Roberts and Alito, but that was: 1. before the Democrats got the majority in the Senate, 2. when the previous election was a positive one for Bush, 3. not on the eve of an election, 4. (assuming one of the liberal justices retires) not as likely to upset the balance on the Court, 5. not after 2 consecutive conservative appointments.

White shoes = death.

Just one of the many insights from Alan Sepinwall in his spoiler-filled account of the penultimate episode of "The Sopranos." And here's the Television Without Pity recaplet. I'll write something about this extremely eventful episode after I watch it a second time. I always need that second watch, which, to me, proves the greatness of the show -- because I need it and care enough to do it.

ADDED CONFESSION: The main reason I have to watch the show a second time to understand it is that the first time around, I cannot get over the feeling that nothing is happening and nothing will happen. I know, rationally, this is wrong, but it is a deep-seated feeling that I can only overcome by watching the show and see that things happen. This is the main reason I avoid TV dramas and rarely go to the movies. I've had this feeling for the longest time, and I know it's ridiculous! You know how scenes always begin as if things are going to go along in a routine, normal way? Of course, it's done and I know it's done to make it more exciting when unusual or violent things happen. Yet, on an emotional level, I fall for it so deeply that I get bored and inattentive.

Eric Alterman tries to talk his way out of getting arrested for criminal trespass...

... fails and keeps talking in self-justifying email to various bloggers. At the scene of the New Hampshire debate, there was some confusion about where he, as a journalist, was supposed to wait and...
A guy came over and asked me who I was and I told him I was a colmunist for The Nation and he told me I had to leave. I thought he was kind of rude, so I asked him his name, thinking it might go into Altercation the next day. He refused to answer me I asked again. He refused again. But I was following him out when he went to get a cop. The cop told me to leave the room and I did. We left the room, past where the people were handing out badges to go into the reception and I figured the entire drama was over. But the cop kept yelling at me to leave. I didn't understand. I thought I had left. I asked him to stop yelling, I had left. He kept telling me to leave. In retrospect, I guess he was kicking me out of the building and I didn't understand, but it was really mystifying and annoying and I told him I wanted to speak to his commanding officer. We went over to the commanding officer and I, calmly and politely, sought to explain that I didn't know why this cop was continuing to hassle me. The first cop kept interrupting me as I tried to explain myself and finally I turned around and said, "Can I please finish a sentence here?" That's when the first cop decided to arrest me. He handcuffed me behind my back and took me outside.... Anyway, I never refused to leave and the only time I raised my voice was when the first cop would not let me explain what I had thought was a massive misunderstanding to his commanding officer.
"I never refused to leave" seems to mean "I never said I was never going to leave." Can it possibly be the generally applicable rule that a person can stay put and discuss -- however politely -- whether the demand to leave makes sense? Missing from the account is whether Alterman was asked to show his press ID. Anyone could claim to be a columnist (or "colmunist") from The Nation, and the police had the responsibility to secure a building where the presidential candidates were going to appear. This is a serious matter. I can't understand why Alterman would want to make this difficult work any harder for them, and a display of belligerence would, I think, from their perspective, make him look more suspicious. Here's the New Hampshire statute:
I. A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place.... III. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor if:... (b) The person knowingly enters or remains:.. (2) In any place in defiance of an order to leave or not to enter which was personally communicated to him by the owner or other authorized person....
ADDED: More here.