September 15, 2007

The Homesick Vlog.

Watching the Badgers.

The Badgers won today, and that "extended the nation's longest active winning streak to 12." You couldn't watch the game on regular TV, but it was on satellite TV, and State Street Brats was more popular than ever, with its 2 outdoor TVs:


Not only was the outdoor seating area filled, but guys were sitting on a wall on the other side of the walk. They'd brought their own food and accepted the distant view.

I want to vlog again!

I haven't vlogged in weeks because my MacBook stopped seeing its own built-in camera, but, back in Madison, I made an appointment at the Apple Store and got the connections tightened up or whatever. Now, it's working again. But what to vlog about?

UPDATE: I just caused the iSight camera to malfunction again, so let me explain what happened in case anyone is Googling for an answer to why their Apple computer comes to falsely believe there is no camera attached. (What follows is boring if you don't have the problem.) I tried to upload to YouTube a video I'd recorded using QuickTime Pro and had not saved. I didn't mention above that when I got to the Apple Store and wanted to demonstrate to the Genius Bar guy that my iSight camera didn't work, suddenly it was working again. So when it stopped working later today, I was: 1. incredibly annoyed, and 2. able to remember the sequence of events and therefore to get to a solution. The thing I'd done before going to the Apple Store was upload a couple videos that I'd taken on my digital camera (a separate camera, not the built-in). So I uploaded a video I'd taken on my digital camera, hoping that would make the built-in camera work again. And it did!

So, look, I have discovered a problem and a solution that Apple itself doesn't seem to know about yet. Uploading a video made in the computer without first saving it causes the problem, and uploading a video made in an external camera solves it. I have no idea why, but if you have the problem, try my solution.

Man with pies.


Insane corn tablecloth.




Why is the onion vinegar pink?

Vegetable bondage.



"Stop bitching and start a revolution."

Washington views.

"'Atlas Shrugged' is a celebration of life and happiness."

"Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should."

So wrote Alan Greenspan in a letter to the editor of the NYT in 1957, the year the book was published and denounced by the newspaper as "written out of hate."

Why Jane Fonda is to blame for global warming.


Which would you prefer to be public: your salary or your course evaluations?

Asks Jeremy Freese, who's just moved from UW-Madison, where your salary is public information, to Northwestern where "anybody with domain access can read all your evaluations from students. In fact, when students are registering for courses, there is a link to a course's previous evaluations right next to the link where they would sign up for it."

It's kind of cold...


But it's not that cold.

I'm seeing lots of guys in shorts.

And beehive hats:


We're circling the Capitol Square at the Dane County Farmers' Market:


Gotta get some flowers:


The Gourds Must Be Crazy/The Farmers Must Look Like Movie Stars.

Two videos from the Dane County Farmers' Market:

In the second video, that's: Early Settlers Flower Farm.

"Rice and Bean (yes, hilarious)..."

What's going on here? (Via Memeorandum.)

"Giuliani paid the going rate for a full-page standby ad in the Times: $65,000."

So, either the fuss over the "General Betray Us" ad was always a fake, or the NYT has readjusted things to nullify the controversy. I think it was always a fake.


The temperature -- here in Madison -- on the second to the last Saturday of summer. Wear your winter jacket to the Farmer's Market this morning. And think about football.

September 14, 2007

"I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me."

"That white round thing without any holes … have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I’ve never tasted it." --Alfred Hitchcock

Today's radio show.

Archived here. Lots of talk about Iraq, Bush, and Petraeus. A bit about Fred Thompson and the "imbecilic" Wisconsin budget stalemate.

The Erwin Chemerinsky mystery, part 2.

(Part 1 is here.)

Michael Drake speaks:
The decision was mine and mine alone. It was not based on pressure from donors, politicians or the University of California Board of Regents. It was a culmination of discussions -- with many people over a period of time -- that convinced me that Professor Chemerinsky and I would not be able to partner effectively to build a world-class law school at UC Irvine. That is my overarching priority.

My decision was absolutely not based on Professor Chemerinsky's place on the political spectrum, which is, in fact, quite similar to my own.

Nor was this a matter of academic freedom. UC Irvine -- and I personally -- staunchly support and defend freedom of speech and the expression of a wide range of viewpoints on our campus; nowhere is this more important than at a public university. There are individuals with political views far more liberal than Professor Chemerinsky's or mine who conduct research, teach and serve in senior administrative positions at UC Irvine....

I am confident that our search process will ultimately result in the appointment of a founding dean who will work with my colleagues and me to build the world-class law school that we envision for UC Irvine.
What bureaucratic drivel! Glad you're so convinced and confident about absolutely everything. We're not.

UPDATE: The L.A. Times reports on the furor at UCI:
The search for Chemerinsky took nine months before a formal agreement was reached, and search committee members said they would now probably start again from scratch...

Although Drake has denied that he took action under pressure from conservatives, [psychology professor Elizabeth F. ] Loftus said Thursday that the chancellor told the [dean search] committee during an emergency meeting Wednesday night that he was forced to make the decision by outside forces whom he did not name. A second member of the committee confirmed Loftus' account to The Times but asked to remain anonymous.

"I asked whether it was one or two voices or an avalanche, and the answer is that it was an avalanche," Loftus said. "But we are not supposed to capitulate to that in the world of academic freedom."
And here's lawprof Jack Balkin:
This is a disgraceful way to treat Erwin Chemerinsky, a very fine legal scholar. It is bad enough that Drake fired him in what can only be described as an act of cowardice. Now he must go on an extended public relations campaign lying about why he did so and further impugning Chemerinsky in the process. One suspects that the next person whose job is on the line will be Drake himself.
Can anyone explain why Drake should not resign? After nine months of searching for a dean and recruiting a man who is highly respected throughout the law school community, he turned around and fired him in a way that has undercut the whole project of founding a law school at UCI.

Worse than living with a lobotomy.

Living with the knowledge that your parents procured a lobotomy for you.

A morning coffeehouse.

I'm in the Wisconsin Public Radio studios, waiting to go on the Week In Review show (as mentioned here). So don't expect much blogging from me in the next hour. If you want more Althouse, listen to the live stream of the show that begins in about 15 minutes, but if you want a place to converse with Althouse readers, please use this post.

Bush "talked about 'success,' not victory" and seems to "have changed the dynamic in Congress."

David Sanger on Bush's speech:
On Thursday night, he talked about “success,” not victory, and suggested that the road ahead would be inching, province-by-province progress that would ultimately allow the United States to focus on training Iraqi units, pursuing Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and containing Iran....

“He wanted to frame this week about a choice,” said Peter Feaver, a former senior official on the National Security Council who helped draft the troop increase strategy and has returned to teach at Duke University. “One choice is a withdrawal driven by progress on the ground, and it will be slower than you want. Or you can have withdrawals based on partisan politics, and the results will be faster, but the consequences more dire.”

In framing the debate that way, Mr. Bush appears, at least for now, to have changed the dynamic in Congress. Democrats like the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who a few weeks ago was dismissing plans for gradual drawdowns as “weak tea,” are now talking about trying to legislate slower timetables.

ADDED: Here's the NYT editorial on the speech:
[H]is only real plan is to confuse enough Americans and cow enough members of Congress to let him muddle along and saddle his successor with this war that should never have been started.

AND: Compare the Washington Post:
Mr. Bush's plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It's not necessary to believe the president's promise that U.S. troops will "return on success" in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: "Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse."

September 13, 2007

Radio alert.

Back in Madison, I'm going to be on "Week in Review" again tomorrow. We're on at 8 AM, Central Time. It's the Wisconsin Public Radio show where we go over the week's news stories, and I'm the conservative. On the left this time is Peg Lautenschlauger, who was the state Attorney General as is now a lawyer at Lawton & Cates.

Go here to listen on-line live. You can call in.

I'll put up the link for the streamable audio after the show.

ADDED: Listen to the archived show here.

Bush's speech.

Watch it. Talk about it.

ADDED: The content was good, but Bush was stiff and distant. He really just isn't very good at reading a speech. He doesn't reach out to us and convince us, even when he has excellent material. Senator Jack Reed, for the Democrats, was entirely numb, and that annoying electronic buzz in the background pushed it over the line to utterly unwatchable.

Everybody's a winner when Kathy Griffin makes Jesus jokes.

Every time I look at a cable news channel, I'm seeing this story about Kathy Griffin and her Jesus jokes.
Comic Kathy Griffin's "offensive" remarks about Jesus at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be cut from a pre-taped telecast of the show, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said on Tuesday.

Griffin made the provocative comment on Saturday night as she took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium to collect her Emmy for best reality program for her Bravo channel show "My Life on the D-List."

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. "Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Asked about her speech backstage a short time later, an unrepentant Griffin added, "I hope I offended some people. I didn't want to win the Emmy for nothing."

The speech drew fire from a leading Roman Catholic group, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which condemned Griffin's remarks as "obscene and blasphemous."

"It is a sure bet that if Griffin had said, 'Suck it, Muhammad,' there would have been a very different reaction," Catholic league president Bill Donohue said in a statement posted on the group's Web site. He called on TV academy president Dick Askin to denounce Griffin's "hate speech" and on Griffin to apologize.
So the religious folk can get a lot of airtime railing about the blasphemy. The cable news shows have an easy-to-grasp controversy to do many segments about (always with the replay of the video -- like this). Anybody who has any chance of liking Kathy Griffin gets to see some funny material to laugh about -- and I mean both Griffin's routine and the fulminating religionists. And Griffin -- the biggest winner -- gets mega-publicity and a rich gold mine of material to use on her "D-List" show and in many future stand-up routines.

And sensible onlookers get the chance to make the sensible observation that Griffin was obviously making fun of the celebrities who are silly and self-absorbed enough to talk as if Jesus puts his energies into rigging the Hollywood awards.

ADDED: I forgot to mention all the bloggers and blog commenters who get to say she wouldn't dare say that about Muhammad, etc., etc. Which gives me the chance to say:

1. Hollywood celebrities never thank Muhammad when they win an award.

2. Christians should feel good that people think Jesus can take a joke.

(And I know "suck it" is rude, but it is exactly the opposite of "thank you.")

Loving/hating your own fat.

Love yourself or hate yourself. It's your choice.

(Sorry, but I just can't stop reading the Daily Mail!)

If only they could surgically implant acting ability.

You have to be a better actress before you can play the Hollywood-is-ageist-and-sexist card. You were once the beautiful young actress who displaced older, better actresses. Who cares if you can preserve your youth and beauty? There are always new beautiful women. You only have an argument for prolonging your career if you're actually a terrific actress. You're not. So get out of the way and give other women a chance. You already got more than you deserve.

"Seven years, three months, two weeks, three days - that's how long I've been celibate."

"So could dating 14 men in 14 days change all that?" I'll bet it won't change that, but it will generate raw material for a comical article about how crappy men are.

"Important neutral Republicans decreed privately that [Fred Thompson's campaign] had crashed and burned on takeoff."

Writes Robert Novak:
Failure to use the past six months to craft an inspirational, exciting campaign can be partly explained by the exclusionist attitude of the old friends and political professionals in possession of Thompson's candidacy.
Novak blames Mary Matalin, whom he calls "a Washington insider who does not espouse the socially conservative views Thompson is expected to project by those Republicans in search of a nominee." It sounds like Novak has a lot of old friends himself, and they are being excluded from the campaign they want in on. And Novak seems to think that the Thompson campaign is trying to keep the candidate from looking too conservative. So Novak is on the attack because he wants his friends to get jobs and he wants Thompson to be quite conservative. I expected Thompson to make a showier start, but that doesn't mean his approach isn't a deliberate strategy that will ultimately play out well. And I'll like it if Thompson isn't too conservative, just like I like it that Clinton isn't too liberal.

More Novak:
Thompson's great asset remains the collective glass jaw of his opponents. Giuliani is not only a social liberal in a socially conservative party but is burdened with a life story that makes Democrats tremble with anticipation. Romney, who has transformed himself from liberal to conservative on social issues, seems to many Republicans to be a multimillionaire investment banker willing to make any deal (though his biggest problem with evangelicals and strict Catholics is his Mormon faith). McCain seemed his old feisty self in the New Hampshire debate, but on Sunday he came across as melancholy on ABC's "This Week." So there is still a void. But can Thompson fill it?
Perhaps he is filling it, just by not being any of those things. Why then should he be any more specific or exciting than he's been? It's worked well so far. It's possible that he knows what he is doing.

Why does teaching in New York put me here today in Madison?


Because it's Rosh Hashanah for everybody!

"Hip is an attitude marked by louche self-satisfaction, superiority and exclusivity."

"It is rarely an expression of bold ideas and challenges. Hip starts out enticing and desirable, but it soon just becomes an aggravation." Writes Robin Givhan. She's talking about fashion, but the subject of "hipness" goes beyond fashion.

And do click on the link, because there is a photo of a shoe there that is really upsetting me. It's ugly, weird, and dangerous.

The Erwin Chemerinsky mystery.

LA Times columnist Dana Parsons says:
... I'm not going to pretend to have penetrated in the last 24 hours the mystery of why UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake tore up the contract Tuesday that he offered Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky a month ago to become the first dean of UCI's law school.

But make no mistake: There is a mystery to be solved. And the answer goes far, far beyond Drake's statement Wednesday that he has "come to the very difficult conclusion that Professor Chemerinsky is not the right fit for the dean's position at UC Irvine at this time."

Who got to Drake, who's been chancellor since mid-2005, and told him that Chemerinsky, a well-known constitutional scholar and acknowledged liberal commentator, isn't the guy for UCI?...

Did a deep-pocketed cadre of conservative donors put the heat on Drake to rescind the offer?

Or did the impetus for the Dump Chemerinsky movement originate with the UC system's Board of Regents, which would have to approve the contract?...

You may think I'm avoiding the obvious, but I'm not: Yes, I know conservative Orange County businessman Donald Bren has pledged $20 million to the new law school and will have his name on it....

Could be, but it's almost inconceivable to me that UCI would offer Chemerinsky -- or anyone -- the job without, if only as a courtesy, telling the man the school is named after....
With a mystery to be solved, the bad press for the nascent law school will rage on and on.

And there is another mystery. The school had a huge interest in an amicable separation with Chemerinsky. Could those who are acting for the school have failed to perceive that there would be devastating bad press? The school has trumpeted its ambitions to become a top tier school. I have to assume they tried to avoid an ugly public breakup. Unless they are shockingly incompetent, there must have been an attempt to reach an agreement with Chemerinsky to create a public appearance that would flatter both him and the new law school. They could have papered over the discord with a nice statement that Chemerinsky wished UCI well but had come to appreciate the depth of family's attachment to Duke and that UCI regretfully accepted that decision and remains convinced that he would have made a wonderful dean. So why did the nastiness boil over where we could see it?

I mean, look at the original press report, based on Chemerinsky's version of the events:
In a showdown over academic freedom, a prominent legal scholar said Wednesday that the University of California, Irvine's chancellor had succumbed to conservative political pressure in rescinding his contract to head the university's new law school, a charge the chancellor vehemently denied.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a well-known liberal expert on constitutional law, said he had signed a contract Sept. 4, only to be told Tuesday by Chancellor Michael V. Drake that he was voiding their deal because Chemerinsky was too liberal and the university had underestimated "conservatives out to get me."
Chemerinsky came away from the experience ready to attack. Why? Is it possible that Drake wanted this? Notice it's not the "conservatives" -- whoever they are -- who are saying political things about Chemerinsky. It's Drake, making assertions about unnamed individuals who are interfering with Drake's preferences. I feel sure that Chemerinsky would not misquote Drake. If there were nothing more from Drake, I would suspect that he and Chemerinsky were working together for a more independent UCI law school.

Later Wednesday, however, Drake said there had been no outside pressure and that he had decided to reject Chemerinsky, now of Duke University and formerly of the University of Southern California, because he felt the law professor's commentaries were "polarizing" and would not serve the interests of California's first new public law school in 40 years....

Drake said he worried that the controversy had the potential to harm the university's reputation. "It was the most difficult decision of my career," he said in an emotional interview, his voice at times quivering.
He sounds quite pathetic.
Chemerinsky and Drake agreed the new dean's dismissal was motivated in part by an Aug. 16 opinion article in the Los Angeles Times, the same day the job offer was made. In it, Chemerinsky asserted that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was "about to adopt an unnecessary and mean-spirited regulation that will make it harder for those on death row to have their cases reviewed in federal court."

But Drake and Chemerinsky split sharply on what role the article played in the decision to fire the incoming dean and whether academic freedom was at stake.

"Shouldn't we as academics be able to stand up for people on death row?" Chemerinsky said.

Drake said "we had talked to him in June about writing op-ed pieces and that he would have to focus on things like legal education in this new role, and then here comes another political piece. It wasn't the subject, it was its existence. What he said doesn't matter."
Another political piece! The procedures leading up to the imposition of the death penalty are a quintessential legal issue. "What he said doesn't matter." Who believes that?

September 12, 2007

About the Irvine law school.

Not ready for prime time!

Sex day.

In Russia.
The governor of Ulyanovsk region in Russia is offering prizes to couples who have babies in exactly nine months - on Russia's national day on 12 June.

Sergei Morozov wants couples to take the day off work to have sex. If a baby is born on national day, they will receive cars, TVs or other prizes....

Demographers estimate that Russia could lose 40 million people - almost a third of its current population - by the middle of the century.

A combination of falling birth rates, emigration and an ailing health care system has led to the decline.

President Vladimir Putin has introduced a scheme to encourage more children.

Women who have a second or third child are eligible to receive $9,000 which can be used to pay for education or home purchases.
Got to have population. At some point, the government must offer incentives. No American in her right mind would produce a child for $9,000, but if $9,000 is a workable incentive in Russia, then the number will be $9,000.

If you are currently disinclined to have a child -- or another child -- and capable of producing one -- what would the government have to offer you to change your mind?

And as for calling it "sex day": That sounds amusing, but the days are long gone when the sex urge led to the population in modern countries. If the problem was that couples were just disinclined to have sex, incentives like a day off from work would work for most people -- assuming they've got a relationship.

This reminds me that I've been meaning to talk about the discussion I had with Moxie on that radio show a few weeks ago. Moxie is a very attractive woman in her 30s who is openly celibate (and proud of it). Imagine if this caught on -- or if this is more pervasive than you think -- and the government wanted to change that.

And by the way, what do you think of Moxie's notion of celibacy pride? I don't think it's like gay pride, because there's nothing that you want to do that you need to change anyone's mind about. Or is there?

"Unfortunately, Thompson's dialogue so far consists of folksy platitudes and broad pronouncements, unobjectionable yet unenlightening."

Writes Ruth Marcus.

Is Fred a fizzle?

MEANWHILE: McCain moves nearly even with Thompson in this poll. Has Thompson's entering the race boosted McCain? Why would that be? Because Thompson, the reality, doesn't compare with Thompson, the repository of all your hopes and dreams?

"Gen. Andrew Jackson probably would have responded to these reflections on his honor with a series of duels."

"Gen. Petraeus, in the manner of the modern Army, patiently answered with a series of facts and charts showing military progress in Iraq that seemed unimaginable even six months ago."

Writes Michael Gerson.

I don't know about you, but I cannot bear the personal attacks on Petraeus. Argue with him on what his report means, find the holes in the statistics, cross-examine him, but respect him.

"Brad knows there are times he should just be quiet and look pretty."

Said Angelina Jolie:
"I won't talk to Brad about [money] because you know how he is financially, which is stupid," she said. "Someone has to make the big decisions, though. He'll put money into things — but it's bizarre! It doesn't always make sense to me."

She added: "The reality is, we're not a company together. Things should be separate. I think you know I make my own financial decisions. Brad knows there are times he should just be quiet and look pretty."
To tell you the truth, I can't even remember if Pitt and Jolie are married. (I'm trying to figure out if the post gets the "marriage" tag.) So why am I fascinated by this quote?

It's that it's a case of the woman appropriating old-fashioned male chauvinist pig rhetoric, and probably assuming that it's charming or humorous to do it. If this were a video clip, we'd see her mesmerizing face and it probably would become brilliantly charming and hilarious, but we're reading it on the page.

It must be hard, when you're devastatingly beautiful, to learn to say things that look good on the page. When you're speaking to people, they are responding to your fabulous presence. You don't get accurate feedback about what you've said. This is why ugly people have more hope of becoming great wits, and the beautiful people do better delivering scripted lines.

September 11, 2007

9/11 memorial lights.

Memorial lights at the WTC site, 9/11/2007

"It is your duty to join the caravan (of martyrs) until the sufficiency is complete and the march to aid the High and Omnipotent continues."

Osama bin Laden is giving more advice to the "young men among the youth of Islam."

Why not live instead? It's a rather wonderful alternative to death. The caravan of life includes music:

"I suspect that [John Roberts'] Senate testimony was actually a coded script for the continuing subversion of the American constitution."

Ronald Dworkin is suspecting away in the NYRB (via How Appealing). It's a "revolution"! "Bush appointed two ultra-right-wing Supreme Court justices...."! With Scalia and Thomas they form "an unbreakable phalanx bent on remaking constitutional law"!

Hmmm. How can 4 Supreme Court justices be an unbreakable phalanx? Isn't the phalanx broken by the mere whim of Anthony Kennedy? Some phalanx!

By the way, a phalanx is "ancient Greek formation of infantry":
The soldiers were arrayed in rows (8 or 16), with arms at the ready, making a solid block that could sweep bristling through the more dispersed ranks of the enemy. Originally employed by the Spartans, it was developed by Epaminondas of Thebes (d. 362 B.C.). Use of the phalanx reached its apex when Philip II and Alexander the Great used the great Macedonian phalanx (16 deep and armed with the sarissa, a spear c.13 ft/4 m long) to conquer all Greece and the Middle East. Later, the Macedonian phalanx deteriorated and had few Macedonians in it; it was defeated in several battles with the Romans who conquered (168 B.C.) the Macedonians at Pydna. Thereafter the phalanx was obsolete. Because it lacked tactical flexilibity [sic], the phalanx was a better defensive than offensive formation.
Anyway, Dworkin, armed not with a sarissa but with a sharpened quill pen dipped in his deep well of purple ink, anguishes over the approaching ultra-right-wing phalanx.

The phalanx is attacking doctrines. Doctrines aimed at all sorts of things: "reducing racial isolation and division, recapturing democracy from big money, establishing reasonable dimensions for freedom of conscience and speech, protecting a woman's right to abortion while recognizing social concerns about how that right is exercised, and establishing a criminal process that is fair as well as effective."

Don't worry. In Dworkinworld, when doctrines -- liberal doctrines -- are "aimed" they shoot goodness. The reduction, recapture, protection, and establishment of good things for us. But look out! The ultra-right-wing phalanx is on the march, "proceeding with breathtaking impatience," "Jacobin in its disdain for tradition and precedent," "guided by no judicial or political principle at all."

Go read the article and see if you think he supports his view. He discusses a few cases from last Term: the school integration case, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," the campaign finance case, etc. With each, he expresses strong support for the dissenting position and strains to show that the conservative majority is not just wrong, but outside of any respectable form of constitutional analysis. He stresses the "virtue" of "integrity" in constitutional analysis, and the ultra-right-wing phalanx (of course) doesn't have it.

Take Hein v. Freedom From Religion, the case in which the Court said that a taxpayer lacked standing to raise an Establishment Clause challenge to spending on White House conferences that helped religious groups apply for federal grants (part of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative). Long ago, in Flast, the Supreme Court devised a doctrine that makes it possible for taxpayers to assert Establishment Clause claims, and this doctrine is noticeably out of synch with the rest of standing doctrine. Ordinarily, taxpayers can't sue over the way the federal government spends tax money. In Hein, the Court faced a new situation -- executive spending rather than statutory law -- and the question was whether to treat it in accord with the general standing doctrine or to include it in the Flast doctrine. I won't further expand this post with more of my own analysis -- which is already set out back here -- or more of Dworkin's -- which you can also read. My point is: You can rail about the incoherence of Alito's decision. The dissenting liberal justices did, and so did Justice Scalia (joined by Thomas) in a [phalanx-breaking] concurring opinion that said Flast should be overruled. But that incoherence comes from an attempt to respect and work with precedent rather than to go back and build clear doctrine from the constitutional text. It doesn't seem quite fair to criticize that as lacking "integrity," especially in a big attack about how the phalanx is overruling things. Dworkin seems to realize he's being incoherent here, because he takes the trouble to assert that "[i]n effect, the majority overruled Flast in pretending to distinguish it." But no, what Alito did (joined by Roberts and Kennedy) was to make a great effort to preserve Flast.
In their Senate confirmation hearings Roberts and Alito both declared their reverence for precedent; they might be reluctant openly to admit that they deceived the Senate and the people. It is therefore not absurd to suppose that this series of odd decisions covertly overruling important precedents is part of a strategy to create the right conditions for overruling them explicitly later.
And another not absurd thing to suppose is that they testified honestly. But go ahead, smear their honor. You believe they are ultra-right wingers, and you are Ronald Dworkin, writing in The New York Review of Books, so you might as well suppose and suspect up a storm.

Lower Manhattan, seen from the harbor.

Lower Manhattan, viewed from the south

A view from the south, photographed on a clear day, last Saturday, from a boat called Miss Liberty.

We mourn the missing towers and the human beings who died there 6 years ago today.

"Fancy Fred, Five O'clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred and Trial Lawyer Fred."

Just a little website japery, but -- oh, no! -- it's traceable to a Mitt Romney adviser!
Nowhere on the [Phoney Fred] site was any indication of who was responsible for it. But a series of inquiries led to "Under the Power Lines," the Web site of the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, Romney's lead consultant in South Carolina. Tompkins did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Late yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Thompson called on Romney to fire Tompkins.

"There is no room in our party for this kind of smut. As the top executive of his own campaign, Governor Romney should take full responsibility for this type of high-tech gutter politics and issue an immediate apology," said spokesman Todd Harris. "If this is true, Governor Romney should exercise some of his much-touted executive acumen and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage."
Smut? I guess Thompson really is more conservative than Romney. The Thompson folk think mockery and satire is smut? But it is undignified... and thus better left to independent blogger types.
In 2000, it was in South Carolina that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran into an organized effort to sully his character and spread rumors, including that he had once fathered an illegitimate black child. At the time, candidate George W. Bush was desperate to stop a surging McCain, who was coming off a stunning upset in the New Hampshire primary. Tompkins was the chief strategist for Bush in South Carolina at the time, though Bush campaign officials have always denied that the campaign was responsible for the attacks.
Imagine if that 2000 crap had been done on the internet and left a trail back to Bush. It would -- I think -- have ruined Bush.

But I don't think it's right to compare Phoney Fred to the scurrilous campaign against McCain unless you can point to some lies.
Before it vanished, the front page of the Web site featured a picture of Thompson depicted in a frilly outfit more befitting a Gilbert and Sullivan production than a presidential candidate.

Under the heading "Playboy Fred," the site asked the provocative question: "Once a Pro-Choice Skirt Chaser, Now Standard Bearer of the Religious Right?"
That's just humor, fact, and opinion, isn't it? "Skirt Chaser" isn't a lie. The man was once single and interested in dating women. So what? It's not the same as what was said about McCain, which was: 1. a lie and 2. intended to stir up racism. Calling Thompson a "skirt chaser" is supposed to make him look less conservative than Romney, who married his high-school sweetheart and has never divorced, and the hope is that Romney's strong family image will help him with some voters. But hoping to appeal to voters who care about families is scarcely the same as trying to leverage racism.

A side note on spelling:
Phony is the usual American spelling (the plural is phonies), phoney a fading variant (and the usual British spelling).
I don't think the Phoney Fred folks chose the fading, British spelling to convey some meaning about Fred Thompson. I think they just weren't up on good spelling and the "-ney" ending looked right because they'd been staring at their candidate's name so long.

"I high-mindedly declined the Chardonnay-Clay Body Wrap: it savored too much of yet another method of taking in booze, through the pores."

Christopher Hitchens reports on his luxury spa experience. With gruesome pictures of the man who admits that, naked, he looks, from the front, like "a condom hastily stuffed with an old sock" and, from the side, like "an avocado pear and, on certain mornings, an avocado pear that retains nothing of nutritious value but its tinge of alligator green."

He reflects on "self-improvement" in the cliff-hanger ending of what is part 1 of his spa saga:
I ... had to admit what I have long secretly known, which is that I positively like stress, arrange to inflict it on myself, and sheer awkwardly away from anybody who tries to promise me a more soothed or relaxed existence. Bad habits have brought me this far: why change such a tried-and-true formula?

I also take the view that it's a mistake to try to look younger than one is, and that the face in particular ought to be the register of a properly lived life.

At dawn on September 11, 2007, the fog hides the absence of the Twin Towers.

September 11, 2007

September 11, 2007

September 11, 2007

A September 11th memorial.

"The Sphere"

This sculpture was intended by the artist Fritz Koenig to represent world peace. Koenig called it "Gro├če Kugelkaryatide" -- or "Great Spherical Caryatid" -- but it's known as The Sphere. It stood for 3 decades in the plaza between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and on September 11, 2001, it survived the destruction of the towers. Showing its unrepaired damage, it now stands as a memorial to those who died 6 years ago.

I had not gone looking for this monument. I barely remembered it and didn't know it it had been installed in Battery Park, next to an eternal flame, pending the completion of the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site. I came upon it by accident, after a trip with two visiting family members to another monument about freedom.

Statue of Liberty

September 10, 2007

On the evening of September 10th, there is a mournful glow in lower Manhattan.

Lower Manhattan, September 10, 2007

The low cloud cover keeps the memorial lights from projecting up into the sky and the glow spreads out horizontally.

As I stand on my balcony to record the image, I think of the people -- I don't know who they were -- who lived in this apartment in 2001. They must have stood here on the morning of the 11th and gazed on the incomprehensible sight.

(I did not adjust the color in this photograph. I only turned up the contrast and the sharpness a little. The intense warmth of the color -- that is there.)

"Only the moron dead-enders who still believe Iraq had anything to do with 9-11 continue to support the war."

Kos asserts, based on a survey that shows 33% of Americans believe "Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."
Not surprisingly, this [percentage] correlates very closely to support for the war. In other words, only the moron dead-enders who still believe Iraq had anything to do with 9-11 continue to support the war. If they insist on clinging to the fiction of Saddam's involvement, they ain't gonna change their minds on the war itself. All rational human beings have concluded it's time to get the heck out.
Yes, you are the rational one, comforting yourself with made-up ideas that everyone who doesn't agree with you must be irrational. But I don't think Saddam was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks, and I support the war. I'm sure General Petraeus doesn't think Saddam was personally involved, and Petaeus -- who knows a bit more than you -- supports the war. I think there are many others.

And then there are plenty of ill-informed people, and my guess is that a lot of them are against the war because they've gotten the feeling things aren't going well and notice that opposing the war seems to be what people are doing these days. I don't think they're "morons," but many of them are probably of below-average intelligence, and I'll bet quite of few of them heard the Saddam question and bumbled into a "yes" answer.

And why are lefties so illiberal about the less-smart and less well-educated citizens? [ADDED: I'm not saying all lefties do this, but that the ones who do are betraying their values.] Aren't these the people you act like you care about when you propound your various policies? Why are you calling people "morons"? Do you not concern yourself with mentally retarded persons and their families? I'm too politically correct to call you a "moron," but I will say that your reasoning is off and your self-flattery is embarrassing as you lazily conclude that the same 33% of Americans believe each of the things that you do not.

Catholics are "easily the most positive of Christian denominations" when it comes to gay marriage.

Asserts Andrew Sullivan (a Catholic).
42 percent in favor, 48 percent against in the new Pew poll (compared with 14 percent in favor and 81 percent against among white evangelicals). While that cannot please the Vatican, it reflects my own experience of tolerance, acceptance and a commitment to social justice in the pews.
But click over to the survey he cites. There aren't even any results for Protestant denominations! Protestants are just divided into "evangelicals" and "mainline." I'll wager that Episcopalians -- who are a denomination -- are more pro gay marriage than Catholics. But even if you count "mainline" as a denomination, look at the numbers. The mainliners are more in favor of gay marriage than Catholics. Sullivan's bias is really showing here.

Sullivan is also writing about that brain science article we've been talking about here today. He's not at all critical of the study's methodology or conclusions. It's just a springboard for congratulating himself again:
[R]espondents who had described themselves as liberals showed "significantly greater conflict-related neural activity" when the hypothetical situation called for an unscheduled break in routine.

Conservatives, however, were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits "despite signals that this ... should be changed."
And smart conservatives, recognizing their own flaws, can learn from liberal adaptivity.
Maybe he's not referring to himself there.... but it sure sounds like it to me. [ADDED FOR CLARITY: That is, he is the "smart conservative" who has learned from liberals.] Anyway, why not say that smart liberals can recognize their flaws and learn from conservatives? [ADDED: That is, there are problems with both the tendency to bend and the tendency not to bend, and whichever tendency you have, you would do well to become aware of and smart about.] And why doesn't Sullivan notice that his penchant for asserting that his side is best evinces the very flaw he ought to be correcting for if he thinks he's smart (and I think we know he does)?

"It's bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that's all."

Said Jane Wyman about Ronald Reagan:
"It's not because I'm bitter or because I don't agree with him politically. I've always been a registered Republican. But it's bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that's all. Also, I don't know a damn thing about politics."
He didn't talk about her either:
In Reagan's autobiography "An American Life," the index shows only one mention of Wyman, and it runs for only two sentences. "That same year I made the Knute Rockne movie, I married Jane Wyman, another contract player at Warners," Reagan wrote. "Our marriage produced two wonderful children, Maureen and Michael, but it didn't work out, and in 1948 we were divorced."
Good taste! Who remembers that anymore?

This was sweet:
A few days after Reagan died on June 5, 2004, Wyman broke her silence, saying: "America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man."
A fine first wife and a fine actress, Jane Wyman died at home at the age of 93.

On hold.

I've been on hold with American Airlines for 1 hour and 11 minutes.....

ADDED: 1 hour and 44 minutes.... I've got patience.... Probably calling on Monday morning was a bad idea.... Still... 1 hour and 46 minutes... that's crazy....

FINAL OUTCOME: After 2 and a half hours on hold, I had to hang up to do a meeting!

THEN: I called back around 5 and got through in less than 10 minutes. Something weird must have happened this morning, including my own failure to give up and try again again later. American Airlines does not suck.

AND: I'm told there was something weird this morning. A commenter to this post says: "My wife is a ticket agent for AA at DFW airport and had to work 3 hours O/T today because of monsoon-like storms that started at dawn and lasted until noon. When they have that number of flights being cancelled they press reservations into service to get thousands of people rebooked. Needless to say she was whipped when she got home."

The Giant Inflatable Rat.

So there was this Giant Inflatable Rat....

The Giant Inflatable Rat

... at the corner of Clinton and Remsen Montague Streets. So I grab a quick (and distorted) picture with my iPhone.

I arrive at my office and Google "giant inflatable rat" for all the Giant Inflatable Rat information I need (like what's that rash on his belly?). I see there's a Flickr group: "The Rat Patrol." I join the group, I upload the picture, etc. etc.

I hope you appreciate my efforts keeping you abreast of what going on here in Brooklyn. Seems to be some labor dispute.
You've seen it around: a giant creature with menacing buckteeth, long claws, and red, beady eyes. It's a regular at union protests and strikes, wherever there's labor tension. If the Rat could speak, it would get right to the point: "So I moved your #@!% cheese. You wanna do something about it?"...

Twelve years ago, Mike O'Connor, owner of Big Sky Balloons & Searchlights in Plainfield, Illinois, created the first rat at the request of a union member in nearby Chicago. Said the union man of O'Connor's first sketch: "It's not mean enough." O'Connor added bigger fangs and a pink belly with "festering nipples." "I love it," the man said. So did other unions. Today, Big Sky sells between 100 and 200 rats a year--even though it is a nonunion shop itself....

Does the Rat work? "Usually, employers go bonkers when they see it across from their property," says Randy Mayhew, organizing director of Laborers International Union of North America, which employs about 20 rats. "It's an effective piece of street theater," says Peter Jones, executive director of the Labor Heritage Foundation.

Festering nipples, eh? That's what it takes to make management cringe. Festering nipples.

"There are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style."

Some scientists did a study that, they say, reveals there's a "right wing brain" and a "left wing brain":
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M....

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.
Do you find yourself blocking the distracting information that is this study? You may be a conservative.

IN THE COMMENTS: I love this response from Pogo:
"conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. "

Read: Liberals are good people. Conservatives are stupid, unable to tell one letter from another.

Or: Liberals have no standards, and can be made to believe anything at all, no matter how ridiciulous.

... Conservatives quickly discover how to avoid time-wasting. Recognizing the preponderance of Ms over Ws, vote M. Spending valuable thought on being precise aboout M vs W is a waste of your time. The more crucuial question is: when the incentive to be right is correct, who is more accurate? For example, why spend effort on trivial matter whose consequences of being wrong are zero?

I read the study. In contrast to their interpretation, it tells me that liberals easily do what they're told. Conservatives resist.
Another issue I see now is: Which students volunteer to do psychological tests? It may be that liberal students want to help further science and conservative students are showing up for the cash. The conservative finds the most efficient way to get what he wants, which is the cash. Why bother getting the answers right? Also, there is the matter of which students self-identify as "conservative" -- especially among the students who chose to attend New York University and UCLA, where the study was done. These may be very usual people. Meanwhile, most students call themselves "liberal" at these places -- I assume. You may not be comparing the brains of conservatives and liberals, but of oddball outsiders and average kids.

ADDED: A neuroscientist trashes the study:
... 91% of the variance in accuracy was attributable to factors other than political orientation. Moreover, they do not present a figure of this data as they did for their other results. When a correlation is this small (.30), it can be heavily influenced by the performance of a very small number of subjects who may be outliers.

A related point on the possibility of a small number of subjects influencing the data. They don't report the numbers of subjects who were liberal versus conservatives but perusal of one of their figures indicates that they had a grand total of 7 subjects who were on the conservative side of '0'. This is totally inadequate for any behavioral study. They also don't report the gender breakdown of the subjects by political orientation. There is strong bias to females in the study (63%) but, as you know, there is a very strong likelihood that the males were over-represented among the conservative participants (this is not reported). This may sound like a trivial factor but it is not. I can tell you from my own experiences in testing university students in dozens of studies on cognitive abilities that the typical university male could not give a crap about how they perform in psychology lab experiments. This is a critical factor if there is a tendency for the conservatives in their study to also be males.

Petraeus wants 6 more months.

General Petraeus reports to Congress today.
Here's a poll showing Americans trust the military commanders much more than either the President or Congress to deal with the war:
Only 5 percent of Americans — a strikingly low number for a sitting president’s handling of such a dominant issue — said they most trusted the Bush administration to resolve the war, the poll found. Asked to choose among the administration, Congress and military commanders, 21 percent said they would most trust Congress and 68 percent expressed most trust in military commanders.
I don't think that disparity between the President and Congress means people side more with Congress than the President, because those who side with the President are probably much more likely to put the military first when given those three choices. The President himself continually expresses trust in the military commanders.
Some Democrats took issue with the characterization of General Petraeus as operating free of influence from the administration, suggesting that they would like to diminish his credibility heading into days of intense sparring over how much more time Mr. Bush’s strategy for Iraq should be given.

“I don’t think he’s an independent evaluator,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
If so, then the poll demonstrates extremely strong public trust in the President. (Note: I said if.)

Read on in the linked article, and you'll see that Americans also support troop withdrawals and think the war isn't worth fighting. That's what they say when they are asked what they would do if they had to trust themselves with the war. But do people have a confidence in those opinions about military strategy that displaces the 68% trust in the military leadership?

UPDATE: Mike Nizza offers these bullet points on the opening statement:
  • Overall Assessment: “The military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met.”
  • Most Important Development: The rejection of Al Qaeda by Sunni tribes in Anbar province. Other areas are following suit, he adds.
  • End of Surge: The troop levels in Iraq can return to pre-surge levels by the Summer of 2008, he said. “However, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time,” he added.
  • Violence: A slew of charts reports that violence is dropping in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. The general says the number of attacks and deaths would be lower without Al Qaeda in Iraq’s attacks. One chart shows that two provinces have seen increasing violence during the surge.
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq: The deals with Sunnis in Anbar province and operations against leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq have left the group “off balance,” but not defeated, he asserted.
  • Iran: The general said there is evidence that the Iranian government is using its Al Quds force to help spur the insurgency in Iraq, a charge that the U.S. military has leveled before. The aim, he said, was to create a friendly organization in Iraq as Iran has in Lebanon with Hezbollah.

"You could tell by the expression on her face. Instead of just blocking everybody out and doing her thing, you could tell she was thinking about it."

Poor, humiliated Britney Spears. She didn't sound bad, because it's an excellent recording, but she made almost no effort to move her lips in the general area of the lyrics. And all those gyrating dancers around her only made her look more unsteady and confused. The choreographer's exaggerated expressions of sexuality -- the undulating torso and the overarched back -- expressed only: oh, I have to do another one of these things.

Watch the nightmarish scene here. And note the looks on the faces of the stars in the audience. The men all look stunned and sad and seem to feel sorry for her or embarrassed to watch. The women, on the other hand... I'm seeing exultation as their competitor falls.

The worst thing seems to be that Britney's own people sent her out there in a bra-and-panties outfit that is begging the entire world to call her fat -- when she could so easily have been encased in dark spandex that would make you look mean-spirited for talking about her weight.

Or was that the Britney equivalent of Elvis Presley's Vegas outfit? Why was that jumpsuit white? Were they trying to make him look like a beached whale? Perhaps there is some level of stardom where you don't try to disguise your flaws, you're just out there saying That's The Way It Is. I'm showing you my flobby belly because It's Britney, Bitch.

AND: Did I say Britney was fat? No! Reread if you think I did.

September 9, 2007

"Very dull... a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions."

"Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely, I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it."

"Rudy Giuliani wouldn’t stand much chance in a squishy election."

But if it's going to be a crunchy election, look out.
Squishy elections, like the one in 2000, are ones where the candidates attempt to blur the differences among them on major issues and run, instead, on more ethereal attributes like character and authenticity, the kind of traits best demonstrated by sipping beers or emoting on “Oprah.” Rudy Giuliani wouldn’t stand much chance in a squishy election. But 2008... may be a crunchy year, where the nominees of both parties present sharp contrasts on hard philosophical questions, starting with how to view the threat of Islamic terrorism and what course to take in Iraq. And Giuliani is well positioned for such debate, having defined himself, in the public mind, as the unflinching foe of a radical and dangerous ideology.

Souvenir shop politics.

Biding my time while my guests looked for T-shirts and statuettes, I tried to understand the politics of the place:



Fire David Brooks!

I'm still puzzling over the relevance of my "Flak" post to this angry Kos campaign.

This weekend, rather than politics...

I've been keeping up with a 7-year-old (and his dad, my nephew Cliff)...

Mason and a NY Public Library lion

Mason and me and the Statue of Liberty's nose Mason

Mason and Cliff at Grand Central Station

Some perspectives on liberty.



Where we were last night.