September 22, 2007

"I'll take care of John Roberts"/"You just leave John Roberts to me."

In "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin tells the same anecdote twice, with different quotes.

Page 301:
O'Connor loved Roberts... [S]he thought that Roberts's good looks and charisma projected exactly the right image.... But O'Connor was hardly, as some thought, a starstruck schoolgirl. At a meeting to plan a conference she was hosting, someone wondered if the chief justice might be asked to attend. With icy confidence, O'Connor said, "I'll take care of John Roberts."
Page 326:
In September 2006, [Sandra Day O'Connor] sponsored, organized, and hosted a conference at Georgetown University Law Center on judicial independence.... O'Connor's self-confidence was intact. At a planning meeting for the Georgetown event, several people wondered whether the new chief justice might attend. "You just leave John Roberts to me," O'Connor promised, and the new chief dutifully paid homage.
Well, maybe she said both things, but I have to doubt that Toobin meant to use that anecdote twice and think that if anyone had noticed they wouldn't leave it with two quotes. And I think it's fair to suspect that Toobin assembles material into quotes that are not really quotes.

He also -- and this is characteristic of the entire book -- takes little details and uses them to make statements about the psychology of the Justices. At least in this case, he doesn't slip up and use the statement (whatever its exact words) to demonstrate two different things. The meaning of the shred of evidence is the same on both pages. It shows self-confidence.

But really, even to use this anecdote once is pretty weak. Naturally, if O'Connor is involved in planning a conference, she's in the best position to invite Supreme Court Justices, and if "someone" or "several people" mentioned inviting Roberts, she should be the one to do it. How much confidence -- icy or toasty warm -- would that take? Or is it something about the precise words? Whatever the precise words were....

I'm down under your bridge, stealing your photo ops.




I don't know what the model is complaining about to the photographer, because I've got the earbuds in. ("If I could open my arms/And span the length of the isle of Manhattan/I'd bring it to where you are/Making a lake of the East River and Hudson...")

Another model at rest:


And back in action:


Oh, it's grueling, posing.

IN THE COMMENTS: John Stodder said:
Quite a study in blue, that last shot. Does the photographer's assistant know that his goofy sneakers match the model's blouse?

No comment on the guys' shorts? Those blue ones really make your photo.
I'm glad you appreciate the blue-osity of Photo 4. It seems that blue is the hip color in DUMBO.

ron st.amant -- catching the blues -- said: "What in blue hell are those women in white doing??" Okay, you pushed me over the line. Here's the -- somewhat shaky -- video:

Which Justices talked to Toobin? O’Connor, Breyer and Kennedy.

So speculates David Margolick. Jeffrey Toobin doesn't say, in his book "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court," but Margolick finds the clues in the text:
First there’s Stephen Breyer, with what Toobin calls his “gregarious good nature.” Odds are he spoke, a fair amount. Then Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “frail” and “shy” and, Toobin says, with only marginal influence on her colleagues. Maybe, but she’d have said precious little. Clarence Thomas, we learn, had gotten old and fat since his famously bloody confirmation battle. No way. David Souter “detested Washington” and “cared little what others thought of him.” Probably not, but he’s quirky enough to have tossed off a tidbit or two. Then Anthony Kennedy, far more worldly and influential than the “conventional, even boring” burgher he first appeared to be. Almost certainly yes.

Antonin Scalia looked “lost and lonely” that day: absolutely not. Then Sandra Day O’Connor, about to entrust her seat to President George W. Bush, whom she considered “arrogant, lawless, incompetent and extreme.” Her fingerprints — or voice prints — practically leap off the page: how else could Toobin write something so incendiary so confidently? And finally there’s John Paul Stevens, “respected by his colleagues, if not really known to them.” Highly unlikely.

Reading Toobin’s smart and entertaining book, these hunches quickly solidify. Sprinkled throughout are quotes, facts, anecdotes, insights and interior monologues that could only have come from particular justices — most conspicuously, O’Connor, Breyer and Kennedy — along with flattering adjectives about each. Toobin, of course, never names names.
It must be irritating to the nontalkers that some talk and get good press out of it. Except it didn't work for Kennedy. Maybe there are some "flattering adjectives" about him in there, but the overall picture is quite negative. He comes across as grandiose and vain.

Fireworks celebrating... I don't know...

Last night, I heard what sounded like fireworks, and it really was fireworks.


I don't know what the occasion was, but it was a very mellow pleasure to be curled up in bed reading, to hear the muffled sounds, to get up to investigate, and to observe the distant show.

"He didn't want to get rid of prostitution entirely, since it is part of the area's history and a major tourist draw for the city."

He, being the mayor of Amsterdam.

"What The Hell Happened in Jena? I haven't commented because, frankly, I am still unsure of all the details of the case..."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, expressing my thoughts exactly. I keep reading the news stories and intending to blog, but each time I end up searching in vain for the facts I need to understand it enough to begin to write about it. The reporting on this story is atrocious. It's all updates with no background. So, I'm wondering not only what happened in Jena, but why is the press reporting it this way?

Sullivan links to Megan McArdle's summary of the Wikipedia article on the subject, which she understands is "pretty authoritative." It's pathetic that we're reduced to going to Wikipedia because the mainstream news of a current event is too skimpy.

September 21, 2007

"'Now, where’s Mandela?' Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."

We all know President Bush could speak more clearly, but, really, you have to will yourself into idiocy not to understand what he means here.

MORE: James Taranto reams Reuters for the willful idiocy.

"It simply seemed depressing, oppressive and hopeless. It seemed like a relic from the past, a buried memory."

Judith Warner rewatches "Thelma and Louise," which was screened as part of film series chosen by various politicians.
Previous choices, by male lawmakers, have included “The Candidate,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Dave.” But [Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jane Harmon], the cheery Maine Republican and tough-as-nails California Democrat, who have worked together on intelligence and homeland security legislation, broke the mold with their choice of the dystopic female buddy movie.

They wanted, they said, to showcase their against-the-odds, across-the-aisle friendship.
Bizarre. Had they seen the movie?
[I]n 1991 it was altogether understandable that a movie about sexual violence would be turned into a fable about women’s general social and political progress.
I remember that time so well.
It made perfect sense then to conflate sexual violence – in all its verbal, psychic, physical and political forms — with sexual politics. That year, the William Kennedy Smith rape case went to trial, belittling and publicly humiliating the victim; Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas and emerged besmirched while he reigned victorious; and Roe v. Wade seemed destined for extinction.

All the talk, nationally, was of sexual harassment, date rape and crimes against women generally...

The memory of that fear and anger and outrage – the sense of its momentous, transformative power – might have lasted longer had the “Thelma and Louise” moment not been followed, soon after, by a repudiation of “victim feminism” that was widespread and totalizing and highly welcome in the larger culture. It’s easy to forget now how vital and urgent the new focus on date rape and sexual harassment seemed, for a brief moment, back then. And yet it was, truly, transformative; the world of “Thelma and Louise,” I think it’s fair now to say, is not the one that we inhabit psychologically or physically today.

Date rape is no longer a contentious concept; it’s a known reality. Rape victims are no longer so thoughtlessly named and shamed by the media as was William Kennedy Smith’s accuser. Rape itself is down – its incidence having dropped 75 percent since the early 1990s, according to the Department of Justice.

These are profound and meaningful changes, and we should celebrate them — and revel in “Thelma and Louise”’s passage into history.
Oh, isn't that lovely! Well, Judith Warner's cheery recounting of history has a gigantic glaring omission! What happened was that the Democratic President Bill Clinton got into trouble for sexual harassment, and those who had worked so hard for so many years to bring the subject of sexual violence and sexual harassment to the front of the national consciousness did a turnaround to preserve partisan power. That's why the subject changed, not because the crime statistics improved. There are various problems with "victim feminism," but you've got to face up to the part of your repudiation of it that is about contempt for Paula Jones and interest in preserving the Clinton presidency.

Songs I don't want to be free of.

Getting into the elevator at the law school yesterday, I was taking out my earbuds so I could talk to a student. He asked me what I was listening to, and I just said "the same old songs." It was too embarrassing to say -- yet somehow I'm writing it here -- "Bennie and the Jets." You know, iTunes keeps a record of what you've listened to the most. It says something about you. What's yours? Tell me yours and what it says about you. And you can see what mine is and speculate wildly about what it means about me:

The video, I haven't seen in decades, but I saw it a few times when I was a teenager, so take that into account.

"From a grouchy pol slip-sliding into irrelevancy to the Republican presidential candidate introduced as America’s mayor..."

Michael Powell on Rudy Giuliani:
... Mr. Giuliani was led through a basement and out onto Church Street, his head and shoulders dusted white with ash. He walked north into the surreal brightness of that day, comforting a police officer and dragooning reporters....

That walk north, the spareness of his words and his passion became the founding stones in the reconstruction of the mayor’s reputation, transforming him from a grouchy pol slip-sliding into irrelevancy to the Republican presidential candidate introduced as America’s mayor. The former mayor has made this day the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, aware that millions of Americans hold that heroic view in their collective mind’s eye.

Political leadership is an uncertain alchemy, an admixture of the symbolic and substantive and the visceral. In times of consuming trauma, psychologists and historians say, a leader must speak with a trusted voice and sketch honestly the painful steps to safety. A leader must weave a narrative of shared loss while acknowledging consuming anger.

All this Mr. Giuliani accomplished, mourning the dead, comforting the grieving and cheering the living even as the police and the National Guard moved in. His critics have lambasted the rescue failures at ground zero and argued that his inattention before 9/11 cost lives.

But his performance shone brighter for the implicit comparison with President George W. Bush, who initially appeared — fairly or not — frozen in his chair, listening to second graders read as a nation came under attack.
Do we have an irrational attachment to Giuliani? Is he satisfying psychological needs that we ought to start examining objectively?

September 20, 2007

A "(nearly) silent steward of judicial tradition" or "a robed crusader for the rule of law."

What's the difference, really, when we are talking about Supreme Court Justices? In his book "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin uses those words to depict a sharp contrast between Justice Souter and Justice Kennedy, respectively. (Page 52.) But we are talking about people who mainly write judicial opinions, and both men write lengthy opinons that purport to interpret the law.

Toobin portrays Kennedy as a publicity hog -- he "relished his public role and sought out the opinions that would make the newspaper." Moreover, unlike Souter, who always used a fountain pen, he typed "furiously" at his computer. (We're not told the speed at which Souter moves the fountain pen, which makes me think it's probably pretty fast.)

Kennedy "always labored most closely on the sections of opinions that might be quoted in the New York Times." Says who? Of course, we can easily think up a sentence that looks labored over and naturally got quoted by Linda Greenhouse, but does that mean he writes what he writes out of inappropriate personal vanity?

We're told Kennedy "liked to talk... of great 'teaching cases,' that is, opinions that instructed law students on timeless principles." Now, wait a minute. I've used the expression "great teaching case" for years and heard it used even longer, and I don't think it means cases that "instruct students on timeless principles." A great teaching case is a case that has various elements that, taken together, make it work well in the classroom. It's a law professor concept, and -- as Toobin notes on the same page -- Kennedy kept up teaching law school in his summers, both as a Court of Appeals judge and as a Supreme Court Justice. So I assume he's talking about the same thing I understand.

A great teaching case will generally have crisp, exciting facts that engage the students, good arguments on both sides based on text or case law or policy that stimulate classroom debate, a memorable resolution of a significant issue, maybe a vivid dissenting opinion, and lots of room to speculate about the political dynamics underlying the case, the real world impact, and the way the new doctrine will play out in different fact patterns. It doesn't mean the judge dictated some high-level abstractions.

Souter, good. Kennedy, bad.

What is the most famous line in an opinion by Justice O'Connor?

Just cross-checking something.

ADDED: According to Jeffrey Toobin (in "The Nine"), it's "The Roe framework, then, is clearly on a collision course with itself" (from Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983)).

A lower Manhattan trilogy.

I feel that these 3 photographs go together:

Art... Underwear...

Man with a tiny dog

Distorted Howie


Ironically attacking his own reputation, Dan Rather sues CBS for ruining his reputation.

What a mind-boggling legal theory! Dan Rather's reputation had to do with the appearance that he was vouching for the stories he read on the air, that he was taking personal responsibility for their truth. He's suing CBS for allowing him to report a phony story:
By his own rendering, Mr. Rather was little more than a narrator of the disputed broadcast, which was shown on Sept. 8, 2004, on the midweek edition of “60 Minutes” and which purported to offer new evidence of preferential treatment given to Mr. Bush when he was a lieutenant in the Air National Guard.

Instead of directly vetting the script he would read for the Guard segment, Mr. Rather says, he acceded to pressure from Mr. Heyward to focus instead on his reporting from Florida on Hurricane Frances, and on Bill Clinton’s heart surgery.

Mr. Rather says in the filing that he allowed himself to be reduced to little more than a patsy in the furor that followed, after CBS concluded that the report had been based on documents that could not be authenticated.
So, his own actions, as he describes them, warrant the diminishment of his reputation. In which case, in asserting the basis for his lawsuit, he's diminishing his own reputation. Why then is he filing the lawsuit? You may say: for $70 million. But he has to win the lawsuit to get the money. And he has to pay his lawyers out of that recovery. Very expensive lawyers, too. Sullivan & Cromwell. (I used to work there.) And he's already dumped a lot of his own money into investigating the matter.

So, if it's not about getting money, what's it about? Well, there's this:
“I’d like to know what really happened,” he said, his eyes red and watering. “Let’s get under oath. Let’s get e-mails. Let’s get who said what to whom, when and for what purpose.”
Who, what, when, and why... I get it. It's like reporting. Except you use the judicial process to force people to talk to you and produce documents.

(Hilarious photograph at the link.)

ADDED: A lawyer from Sullivan & Cromwell is quoted in the linked article, but that firm doesn't represent Rather. His lawyers are Sonnenshein Nath & Rosenthal, and here's the complaint -- courtesy of Beldar, who's writing about that case. On one point, he says:
.... I'm sorry, but that's so badly wrong as a matter of law that every one of the Sonnenschien lawyers whose name appears on this complaint ought to be sanctioned for making it...
[I]fCBS has the guts to fight it — and that is an open question — CBS will win it. You can bet the ranch on it.

September 19, 2007

At the New York Sun... and that scoop about Ahmadinejad's visit to Ground Zero.

Today, I paid a visit to The New York Sun. It's in a great old building on 105 Chambers Street, the Cary Building, which I was told was the oldest cast iron building in the city.

At the New York Sun

Whether it's actually the oldest or not, I don't know, but it's a landmark, built in 1857. And the look of the place is so distinctive....

At the New York Sun

... that just as I was trying to ask if the place has been used as a movie set, my host was going on about the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" and working his way toward telling me that this is the desk where Anne Hathaway sits at the end of the movie:

At the New York Sun

Okay, take a picture of me in the Devil Wears Prada memorial chair (with Joe Goldstein, the Sun's legal reporter):

At the New York Sun

It was fun sitting in on some newspaper meetings. There was a lot of excitement today over the scoop that Iranian President Ahmadinejad plans to visit Ground Zero -- a visit to be facilitated by Mayor Bloomberg. Here's the story:
President Bush, moving quickly to respond to news that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has asked to visit ground zero, had a spokesman issue a statement aimed at Mayor Bloomberg that said – in so many words -- deal with it.

"This is a matter for the City of New York resolve," a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, Gordon Johndroe, said. He added pointedly: "It seems odd that the president of a country that is a state sponsor of terror would visit ground zero."

The White House comment came as news of the proposed visit was being greeted with astonishment and outrage by New Yorkers on both sides of the political spectrum, and also presidential candidates, including Governor Romney and Senator Thompson.

UPDATE: The linked news story has been updated to show that the city is rejecting the Ahmadinejad visit to Ground Zero.

"I usually wear the 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB t-shirt Alex Jones gave me when I go through airport security."

9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett finally gets the security confrontation he'd longed for, and not that much happens.
Then the lead agent pulled himself together. “Is this your?” he said, brandishing a beat-up spiral notebook. I admitted that it was.

“Do you know where we got it?”

“I must have forgotten it on the plane when I got off last Friday.”

“Why is there Arabic writing in it?”

I explained that I had grabbed an old notebook as I left the house with the intention of writing my New York speech on the plane. The old notebook happened to be one I had used during Arabic classes a decade ago....

I sheepishly remembered that it included some bizarre little cartoons I had drawn, along with a draft of an unfinished play about the death of Vincent Van Gogh, A Murder of Crows. An extract.....

[Extract excised for your comfort.]

After remarking on the suspicious stuff in the notebook, the agent changed tack. Gruffly, he announced that he was disturbed by some of my internet essays. I explained that I was just doing my patriotic duty to expose the 9/11 coup d'etat and re-establish constitutional rule. He asked whether I flew around the country saying these things. I said yes. He asked if anyone accompanied me on my travels. I said no, I usually travel alone to speaking engagements. He asked me where I had been staying in New York. I told him I stayed with fellow 9/11 activists. He said “We know you were at St. Mark's church.” Then he asked me point-blank: “Are you a terrorist?”

My response: “To answer that, we have to agree first on what terrorism is.....”
If he really thought the government was so evil that it committed the 9/11 attacks, would he play the smartass during a security check? Here's my conspiracy theory: the 9/11 conspiracy theory is a conspiracy to gain publicity.

ADDED: You have to suspect that he purposely chose that particular notebook and deliberately left it on the earlier flight so he could get the government to pay more attention to him. What do you have to do around here to get the government to oppress you? He must be so jealous of Andrew Meyer. That's all you have to do to be the center of attention?

"It is an iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded."

The tasing of Andrew Meyer unleashes the mind of Naomi Wolf:
Today's news shows a recognizable shock moment in the annals of a closing society. A very ordinary-looking American student....
Ordinary-looking? What difference does that make? Shouldn't we feel better when what looks like an over-intense police response is applied to the sort of person that we usually suspect gets all the privileges?
It is an iconic turning point...
It's not enough to be just iconic or just a turning point anymore. It's a turning point among turning points. Few turning points reach icon status. But this -- this is that turning point.
... and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.
Actually, it won't. (I can see into the future at least as well as Wolf.)
This violence against a student is different from violence against protesters in the anti-war movement of 30 years ago because of the power the president has now to imprison innocent U.S. citizens for months in isolation.
What was the war in 1977? I am getting all mixed up now. So, let's see. Police employed by the University of Florida apply force to a student who physically fights them, and it has something to do with the President's use of detention in the war on terror. Oh, the Wolf mind is aswirl with notions.
...That taser was directed at the body of a young man, but it is we ourselves, and our Constitution, who received the full force of the shock.
Actually, we didn't and it didn't. And Meyer will have the opportunity to sue the police, relying on the Constitution. So the Constitution is still there. And it's not obvious that he'll win.
There is a chapter in my new book, The End of America, entitled "Recast Criticism as 'Espionage' and Dissent as 'Treason,'" that conveys why this moment is the horrific harbinger it is.
So the tasing of Andrew Meyer is a harbinger -- a horrific harbinger -- it predicts something in the future, and your book -- written before the tasing -- itself predicted this prediction? Wolf's fortune-telling powers astound.
I argue that....
Blah blah blah... buy my book.
...strategists using historical models to close down an open society start by using force on 'undesirables,' 'aliens,' 'enemies of the state,' and those considered by mainstream civil society to be untouchable; in other times they were, of course, Jews, Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals.
Bush is Hitler. If you haven't caught on by now, Andrew Meyer will finally make you see.
Then, once society has been acculturated to that use of force, the 'blurring of the line' begins and the parameters of criminalized speech are extended -- the definition of 'terrorist' expanded -- and the use of force begins to be deployed in HIGHLY VISIBLE, STRATEGIC and VISUALLY SHOCKING WAYS against people that others see and identify with as ordinary citizens.
Oh, yeah. That's happened. That's why they -- who? -- "strategists"? -- or, well, at least the university police -- are moving in on the very ordinary-looking people now.

Long rave about Nazis cut.
We have to understand what time it is. When the state starts to hurt people for asking questions...
Does any rational person think Meyer was tased for "asking questions"?
... we can no longer operate on the leisurely time of a strong democracy -- the 'Oh gosh how awful!' kind of time. It is time to take to the streets. It is time to confront those committing crimes against the Constitution.
It's time to stop using the word "time" in every sentence.
The window has now dropped several precipitous inches and once it is closed there is no opening it without great and sorrowful upheaval.
Yeah, I have a window like that. Try some WD-40.
... I was scared when I wrote The End of America....
Scared and out of my mind.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade provides the lyrics:
Campus police and Bushhitler coming
We're finally on our own
This summer we felt the horrific harbinger
One tased in Florida

Gotta get down to it
Shutting our microphones down
Shoulda been done long ago

What if you knew him and
found him tased on the ground?
How can you run
when you know it's an iconic turning point?

"He wouldn't come near me. He was utterly repulsed by it."

Said Cate Blanchett about how her husband reacted to her when she was in costume for her role as Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There":
Actress CATE BLANCHETT terrified her husband while filming BOB DYLAN biopic I'M NOT THERE - because he was "repulsed" at the sight of her disguised as a man. The Elizabeth star appears in drag in the new movie - for which she was named best actress at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month (Sep07) - but her spouse Andrew Upton hated seeing his usually feminine wife in character as the male singer/songwriter. She says, "He wouldn't come near me. He was utterly repulsed by it." And Blanchett admits she was prepared to go to great lengths to portray a man. She explains, "My friend put a sock down my pants and that kind of helped my walk."
My reactions:

1. What kind of repressed, no-fun husband is terrified and repulsed to see his wife in men's clothing? Even if he is into her femininity, disguising it should be intriguing. Is he horrified -- rather than fascinated -- by this:

2. But wait. Was he repulsed because she was dressed as "a man" or because she was dressed as the man who is Bob Dylan?

3. About that sock.... This puts a whole new interpretation on the title of one of my favorite songs "Walk Like a Man." I went over to YouTube to get a video of The Four Seasons -- you know I love them -- performing the original version. It's not there. It's just pure serendipity that when you search for "Walk Like a Man" on YouTube, you get this:

The news is a freak show.

We've got O.J. back in the news. Pushing him out of the headlines is upstart Taser-boy Andrew Meyer. Phil Spector is rearing his ugly head again as jurors cannot make up their minds about whether he's a murderer. Pictures of those 3 characters dominate the front page of The Drudge Report right now, with one more right in the middle: Hillary. This is what we are paying attention to now. Oh, we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. The presidential candidates have been in the news too long. Are we really supposed to stop everything and study the provisions of Hillary's health care plan? Would we be more virtuous if we did?

Speaking of upstart Taser-boy Andrew Meyer, how many Americans do you think would agree to get tased if it would get them the attention it got him? By chance, I was just listing to #340 of "This American Life," called "The Devil in Me." In Act One:
Sam Slaven is an Iraq War veteran who came home from the War plagued by feelings of hate and anger toward Muslims. TAL producer Lisa Pollak tells the story of the unusual action Sam took to change himself, and the Muslim students who helped him do it.
There's a scene in there where American soldiers in Iraq are tasing each other for fun. You can hear them screaming and laughing in the audio. So, if guys with nothing else to do submit to the Taser for fun....

ADDED: "I'm a total boy, aren't I?"

UPDATE: Once there was a poll following "So, if guys with nothing else to do submit to the Taser for fun...." but it no longer displays, and I have no way to restore the content.

What "broadly respected civic virtue" can we name our school after?

The elementary school in Madison was going to be named after the Hmong hero Vang Pao, but then the feds arrested him (for plotting to overthrow the government of Laos). So now there's a new school-naming policy:
...Madison schools may be named after prominent local, regional or national figures who are dead, for a locally significant geographical site, for a place of local significance or for an idea or concept that represents a broadly respected civic virtue.
I'm fascinated by the category "an idea or concept that represents a broadly respected civic virtue." First, I love the idea of naming schools after abstractions instead of honoring individual persons. Virtues can't get besmirched by arrest or embarrassing disclosures. Even if you only pick dead persons, new information can emerge about them too.

But virtues can fall in and out of favor. We see that the policy requires the virtue to be "broadly respected," and what is broadly respected today may be scorned tomorrow. And what is the breadth of the broad respect required? Madison? The United States? The world? I'm picturing Diversity Elementary School -- if it's Madison.

September 18, 2007

Jeffrey Toobin on the 3 most important revelations in his new book "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court."

"[A]t descending levels of specificity."

Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
-- that's the subtitle -- so this better be pretty revealing.
The theme of the book – not exactly a revelation, I suppose – is the growth of the conservative movement and its effect on the Court.
Right: That is in no way a revelation.
I start with the birth of the Federalist Society shortly after President Reagan’s election and show how young conservatives like John Roberts and Samuel Alito were drawn to Washington and flourished there. To see that story spelled out over twenty-five years was – to me, anyway – a revelation.
That's not inside the Supreme Court either. (Where, I've heard tell, it's a secret world.)
Second, the book contains the first detailed, behind-the-scenes reconstruction of what happened at the Court during Bush v. Gore – a case which obsesses and fascinates me. As time passes, I believe the significance of the case cannot be overstated.
Hey, I feel like I already read that book by Jeffrey Toobin. It looked like this. How can this possibly be the "first" anything about Bush v. Gore? Specify a revelation. Jeffrey Toobin has realized, with the passage of time, that the case is really, really, incredibly important, even more important than the last time he wrote a book about it. That may be a revelation, but it's a revelation about the inside of Jeffrey Toobin's head, not the inside of the Supreme Court.

Where's my Secret World?
Third, I disclose that David Souter nearly resigned in protest over Bush v. Gore. That story, in one way, illustrates the magnitude of the case.
That's it! That is the nugget from the inner sanctum. David Souter nearly resigned. Because if he had actually resigned, it wouldn't have been a secret. Good thing he thought twice and kept his seat, because otherwise there wouldn't have been any news from the Secret World.

But wait. Toobin had "interviews with the justices themselves" -- the dust jacket says. Asked about that, he says he won't say how many of the justices he interviewed. And he says some of the law clerks told him to go to hell. So that's something from the Secret World. Attempts by Toobin to gain access are met with curses.

And he did talk to Sandra Day O'Connor, albeit from outside the Secret World. Per Toobin, she's "appalled" at the Roberts Court.


.... in Brooklyn. It was nice getting a dose of Madison, and Brooklyn is looking quite lovely today.

"What have I done? What I have I done? Get away from me. Get off of me! What did I do? ... Help me! Help."

A student talks too long and too passionately at the open mike at a Kerry speech:
A minute or so into what became a combative diatribe, [Andrew] Meyer's microphone was turned off and officers began trying to physically remove him from the auditorium. Meyer flailed his arms, yelling as police tried to restrain him.

He was then pushed to the ground by six officers, at which point Meyer yelled, "What have I done? What I have I done? Get away from me. Get off of me! What did I do? ... Help me! Help."

Police threatened to user a Taser on Meyer if he did not "comply," but he continued to resist being handcuffed. He was then Tased, which prompted him to scream and writhe in pain on the floor of the auditorium.
The crime is "disrupting a public event."

Video (via Michelle Malkin):

ADDED: To my eye, Meyer is acting like a Yippie of old. I wonder how that made John Kerry feel. Why didn't he intervene in some creative way? Who's fighting and what for? What most distinguishes this incident from a Vietnam era scene is that the young people don't turn on the police and chant "pigs!"

"I've never liked Barry Manilow's music, but I've seen him on talk shows and think he is a really nice person."

I said back here. But now here he is backing out of an appearance on "The View" because he thinks Elisabeth Hasselbeck is "dangerous and offensive." Now, that's incredibly lame. I don't care, because I don't like his music, and I think the music is lame too, so it all makes sense to me. If he hadn't said mean things about Hasselbeck, I would have understood his backing out as not wanting to undercut his extreme niceness image. He doesn't want to be the guy he would look like if he got into a political debate with her. But he insulted her publicly, so that undercut his extreme niceness image. Stupid. That was the only thing I liked about him.

"They've got to know they will have to stop sooner or later. What good does it do dragging out the death of a mistake?"

I wrote back in 2005 shortly after TimesSelect began. Also:
It's awfully perverse to play up your influential opinion-leaders by making it harder for them to actually get into the interplay of opinion in the blogosphere.
Finally, it's over. Great. Too bad it took so long. The freedom to link to everything over at the NYT... how strange! I wonder how that will go. I have to get over the inhibition I've felt all these years, skimming the Times and deciding what to read based in part on whether I could easily blog about it.

"He likens the mind’s subterranean moral machinery to an elephant, and conscious moral reasoning to a small rider on the elephant’s back."

How morality may have evolved:
In... "The Happiness Hypothesis," Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at the University of Virginia, has been constructing a broad evolutionary view of morality.... driven by two separate mental systems, one ancient and one modern, though the mind is scarcely aware of the difference. The ancient system, which he calls moral intuition, is based on the emotion-laden moral behaviors that evolved before the development of language. The modern system — he calls it moral judgment — came after language, when people became able to articulate why something was right or wrong.

The emotional responses of moral intuition occur instantaneously — they are primitive gut reactions that evolved to generate split-second decisions and enhance survival in a dangerous world. Moral judgment, on the other hand, comes later, as the conscious mind develops a plausible rationalization for the decision already arrived at through moral intuition.
Read the whole thing. And take the tests. I did. The tests compare your answers to the answers of political conservatives and liberals, and, for me, supported my belief that I am in the middle. (I'm not sure whether my test results were classified as conservative or liberal. You're asked several questions in the beginning, about social issues, economics, and national security. Since I go left, middle, and right, respectively, on those questions, I don't know where my answers counted.)

September 17, 2007

"He knows enough to know he's not descended from apes!"

A clash between religionists and UW students today. In the beginning, you see the boy holding a sign and some students questioning why that boy is not in school today. Then, watch for the old preacher switcheroo, and the weird transition from the subject of evolution to the subject of homosexuality. This is 3 minutes and 44 seconds of pure campus confrontation.


"Subsequent to a sex scandal in a Minneapolis airport water closet for men...."

I love getting my American news filtered through India!
AS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY recovers from the Craig scandal, which forced the Idaho Senator Craig to resign (subsequent to a sex scandal in a Minneapolis airport water closet for men), a US tabloid has published more news which could damage the Republican Party even after Bush leaves office.

A US tabloid called “Globe” has published the news that First Lady Laura Bush is writing her divorce diaries about life in Washington. It has been reported that Laura Bush is unhappy with George Bush returning to drinking and spending more time with Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

According to the Globe, Laura Bush did not accompany her husband even to the APEC Summit in Australia because of her marital discord with George Bush. George Bush loves secrecy and has even asked members of his government not to write about their times in the Bush administration.

It appears that Bush is afraid that his reputation will be further damaged if there are further revelations of what happened inside the White House. The Republican Party has indeed suffered heavily in its so called “Annus Horribilis ” with Karl Rove imitating a rapper, Craig and his water closet, Giuliani dressed as a woman and now the Bush marital crisis.
It's so freaky!

Doubling Up Day.

Hey, I just noticed that after blogging about Erwin Chemerinsky, Sally Field, and Larry Craig this morning, I proceeded to put up posts about Erwin Chemerinsky and Larry Craig this afternoon. What's going on here today? There's only one way to set things right. Here you go:

"We believe the sting operation used to apprehend Mr. Craig was unconstitutional."

"The statute the government is relying upon makes it a crime to use certain offensive words.... To be able to solicit sex in private, in public spaces, for instance, is constitutionally protected speech."

The ACLU backs Larry Craig.

UC Irvine unfires Chemerinsky.

Desperately trying to restore the reputation of the unborn law school.

"People have been going inside, taking pictures of the stall, taking pictures outside the bathroom door."

The Larry Craig toilet stall -- a Minnesota tourist attraction.

Censoring Sally Field?

Watch Sally Field accept her Emmy, and then read how Crooks and Liars transcribes her speech:
"Surely this [award] belongs to all the mothers of the world. May they be seen, may their work be valued and raised. Especially to the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm’s way, and from war. I am proud to be one of those women. If mothers ruled the world, there would be no…."
The screen goes dark and we don't hear her say “…god-damned wars in the first place.”

I have a problem with that transcription. It leaves out a big gap where the audience is applauding and she's telling them to give her time to finish, then dithering about how she's forgotten memorized lines. The music comes up and she's obviously gone overtime. Then she gets out the last part.

Now, maybe she was cut off by Fox because she made that mild anti-war statement, but don't stack the deck. Don't doctor the quote.

It looks to me as though she was censored for saying "god-damned" and going way too long, but maybe she was censored for stating a political view the network disapproves of. I doubt it. For one thing, Fox only hurts itself by demonstrating bias, especially when it lashes out at a beloved actress. And those who support the war are used to statements like Field's and tend, I think, to see that as already expressive of a certain harmless naivety.

I'm thinking Field knew exactly what she was doing. She had her whole speech memorized, and I don't think she suddenly became flustered and couldn't get out her lines. She's very professional, and this was part of a professional routine. I suspect that she deliberately dragged out her speech so that Fox would need to cut her off and the claim of censorship could be made. Oooh! Evil Fox! Boycott them!

Nicely played, Sally. The wily old actress wins again.

Hey, you mediocre law students. You think you're worth Erwin Chemerinsky's "enormous talent and energy"?

Lawprof Michael Dorf is writing about the UC Irvine/Erwin Chemerinsky affair. (Via TaxProf.) He's saying that it wouldn't really have been worth it for Chemerinsky to devote his "enormous talent and energy" to transforming legal education at a school that wasn't already top tier:
Even solid but middling-ranked law schools can have at best a marginal impact on the course of legal education as a whole because no matter what they do to improve the actual outcomes for their students, they won't attract the very best students---and I doubt that, on average, an excellent innovative education for a mediocre student will produce better lawyers than a pretty good traditional education for excellent students. This explains why Yale Law grads---many of whom learn virtually no law at all while in law school---prove to be excellent lawyers; they have the credentials coming in.
That first sentence is a strange conglomeration of ideas: 1. Students who don't win admission to top tier schools are "mediocre." 2. It's not worth much to transform legal education at one school unless you can affect "the course of legal education as a whole." 3. A top legal educator ought to want to develop new teaching methods on the students who would be the most effective learners under any teaching method. 4. A law professor ought to want to produce the "best lawyers," so, naturally, starting with the "best students" is preferable.

I have a few reactions: 1. Students who don't get into top tier schools don't deserve to be called "mediocre." 2. If you want to test the effectiveness of new methods, what can you prove if you start with students who will do well following any method? 3. If you are truly interested in teaching methodology, you should want to have the greatest effect on the students you reach, not simply to be able to point to successful graduates who began law school so far advanced that they would have done well even if they hadn't been taught anything. 4. Law professors ought to know when they have snobby, elitist opinions and to make some effort to hide it.

UPDATE: Dorf responds to my comments here. He says I "accuse[d him] of being an elitist snob." Well, now, I only insinuated that he might have "snobby, elitist opinions" (and not enough sense to hide it). But, okay, I guess that is basically accusing him of being an elitist snob. I was trying to be a little polite about about it. I believe Dorf concedes that he is elitist. He then addresses what he calls an "objection" of mine, which he restates as: "Why should someone have to have an impact on legal education as a whole rather than just one institution to want to lead that institution?" This wasn't so much an objection as an observation that he had made this point. So his response here isn't very interesting to me. Obviously, having a bigger impact is having a bigger impact. He says nothing about what I thought was the most interesting part of what I had to say:
[He assumed:] 3. A top legal educator ought to want to develop new teaching methods on the students who would be the most effective learners under any teaching method. 4. A law professor ought to want to produce the "best lawyers," so, naturally, starting with the "best students" is preferable....

[I observed:] 3. If you are truly interested in teaching methodology, you should want to have the greatest effect on the students you reach, not simply to be able to point to successful graduates who began law school so far advanced that they would have done well even if they hadn't been taught anything.

I'd like to see Dorf address that.

I should also note this exchange in the comments to his original post:

At 1:22 PM, Legal said…

Michael: I admire your willingness to stick to your guns here. But I think you'll have to yield on one point: it is not true that major academic movements all began at elite schools. How do you account for law and society, which began at -- Wisconsin?

At 2:26 PM, Michael C. Dorf said…

In response to "legal," I concede that law & society originated at Wisconsin. So if it counts as a "major" scholarly movement, then I concede the point, although I'd also note that Wisconsin is one of the country's top public universities.
Wisconsin is also the place of origin for Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory. And let me register my irritation at "Wisconsin is one of the country's top public universities." I would like to see specific recognition of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

ADDED: I'm just focusing on "if it counts as a 'major' scholarly movement." If! Really! Explain "if."

September 16, 2007

O.J.'s arrest.

After an armed robbery of sports memorabilia that he says belongs to him. Was this a cry for attention... or for the punishment he knows he deserves?

One of the items he sought to repossess is a picture of himself with J. Edgar Hoover.


My last 2 posts are about the tone of other people's posts. And even that first post of the day today is about tone, though unlike the other 2 posts, it doesn't use the word "tone." It must be me... the way I'm seeing things today. I don't know why. I went out for a long walk with my camera, and this -- you figure out what it says about me -- is the one thing that spoke to me:

I don't get the point or the tone of this.

From Andrew Sullivan. That looks like racism -- really old-fashioned racism. If you think you've found a serious economic study that has some connection to present day policy, add some substance to the post and justify bringing up this disturbing subject. This is not material for a silly post put up for laughs and what seems to be a triumphant reference to an earlier assertion. What's going on here?

ADDED: And I'm not asking for an explanation of the humor in the video. I'm asking how Sullivan could think the news of a study that appears to support a racist stereotype should be met with a blog post like that featuring a comic video. The tone seems all wrong to me.

"So here’s the rule. You never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever."

"You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don’t. Do. It."

Jane Hamsher adopts a scary, weird tone of voice and tells Elizabeth Edwards what to do. She'd better show some respect for MoveOn.
They're out there on the left so you can look “moderate.” They’re saying what needs to be said, opening the conversation up so John Edwards isn’t considered the left-wing fringe loon that nobody should listen to.
Which seems like it should be exactly the reason why John Edwards needs to make his independence from them clear, but according to Hamsher's tirade, this is why Edwards can never criticize the netroots. Well, this is Hamsher jockeying for netroots power.
[W]e’re not very happy when the people we defend turn around and start kicking them...

We love you. We want to love you.

Knock it off.
I'm sure she realizes that since Edwards is using them because they are useful that he will only use them to the extent they are useful. He wants power, not true love. And so does she, obviously.

"Seems like most weddings I go to these days prominently include a vaguely guilty shout-out from the happy couple..."

"... to all their gay friends who can't get married."

So, it seems that in Madison, when man-and-woman couples throw a wedding these days, they feel the need to weave in a gay rights theme. (And an environmental theme.)
The ceremony itself included a bit of activism. A nice touch was the wedding band made from the recycled gold of an old computer. A better touch was the announcement that the civil part of the their marriage was done in Minnesota in opposition to the recently passed Wisconsin initiative that gay couples should not marry, even though this couple was not gay.
Go that couple one better and just send out an announcement saying that if everyone were to travel here and consume the traditional foods and drinks, it would burn an estimated X amount of fossil fuel, thus contributing to the impending calamity of global warming, and moreover, making a show of getting married is an inappropriate affront to gay people, and therefore, the couple is planning to walk to city hall to tie the know with as little fuss as is legally possible. We welcome your company if and only if you can walk there too. And please don't send presents. Just send us an ecard with a message of good wishes -- keep it low key out of respect for the gay -- and a calculation of the amount of fossil fuel left unburned by the nonconsumption and nonshipping of whatever item you'd have chosen.