June 14, 2008

Enter the herb garden.



The place with the gazing globe and the pyramid trellis has changed from 2 days ago:


"Garden closed due to high water."

Garden closed

It's storming again now. Too much water!

But it was completely sunny when I stopped by the garden with my fisheye lens earlier today.

"A man in the audience yelled, 'I can't take it anymore!' No one shushed him."

Just how bad is "The Happening" — the new M. Night Shyamalan movie? (Not the 1960s movie with the Supremes theme song.) James Kirchick says it's even worse than you think. (Spoilers.) The movie has a "morally appalling premise: that the mere existence of the human race is a cause for great shame." Nature somehow sends a message to everyone to commit suicide:
Shyamalan leaves little to the imagination in depicting man's nature-inflicted suicide. We see a woman stab herself in the neck with a hair pin. A man runs himself over with a lawnmower. On can't help but leave the theater thinking that Shyamalan derives a sick, masochistic pleasure in showing the deaths of all his bit characters, hopeless rubes are these human beings. They drove their SUVs for too long and had a big carbon footprint and now they're go.
Ugh! Obscene.
Is it real?
Is it fake?
Is this game of life a mistake?

ADDED: The 60s movie "The Happening" came out in 1967. And here's a Life magazine cover from that year:

Happenings quickly got tiresome and before long, no one would say the word. Somehow, later we got performance art... and a movie called "The Happening" that seems to have no idea that the word once meant performance art.

People keep telling me to read this article...

... but every time I look at it, I get sidetracked and I'm just: no, no, no, no, no, no.

"I got a hard time from all sorts of blogs ... who said I looked like Urkel."

Triumph! Barack Obama knows and cares what bloggers say about his clothes!

"Goodbye, metabolic. Let’s get our checkups together. Go! Go! Go! Goodbye, metabolic. Don’t wait till you get sick. No! No! No!"

Fighting metabo in Japan.

"Farmers hate rules, any rule that controls their land. They hate to have new people making decisions."

When Madison types buy up a lot of land in the surrounding farm land, what happens to local government?
"They're the NIMBYs and CAVEs — Not In My Backyarders and Citizens Against Virtually Everything," [says a Cross Plains farmer Jerome Esser]. "This town was great before they came. Now the newcomers want many of the things changed that made it great.".

The new arrivals buy up land "that our forefathers cleared for farmland," then plant trees and treat it like a city backyard....

[A retired research psychologist who moved to Cross Plains in the mid-'60s, Bob] Bowman says the real debate isn't between old and new so much as a "difference in ideology" between opposing factions. He says the town of Cross Plains is under growing pressure from "pro-rail, anti-development, Progressive Dane liberals." And while liberalism is supposed to be about freedom, "liberals in Madison are arguing now for regimentation over classical 'free to disagree' tradition."

Did the Boumediene case make the Supreme Court a big campaign issue overnight?

Linda Greenhouse notes that some people think so:
[T]he prospect of using the decision as a rallying point seemed to occur to many conservatives simultaneously. The ruling has “teed up the Supreme Court issue nicely for the G.O.P.,” Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, a group that advocates for Republican judicial nominees, wrote on his blog. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page quoted Justice Robert H. Jackson’s famous observation that the Constitution is not a suicide pact and added, with reference to the author of Thursday’s majority opinion, “About Anthony Kennedy’s Constitution, we’re not so sure.”

On the other end of the spectrum, liberals warned that the vision of civil liberties embraced by the court’s narrow majority — security requires “fidelity to freedom’s first principles,” Justice Kennedy wrote — was hanging by a thread. “One more Bush justice on the court and the decision would likely have gone the other way,” said Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way. Senator Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, praised the decision as “an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law.”

So what was that thing Ezra Klein feels so bad about?

Here he is feeling bad. Here's the thing.

By the way, remember the AutoAdmit lawsuit? If you think those Yale law students ought to be able to sue the on-line idiots for saying what they did about them, don't you also have to believe Tim Russert had a cause of action against Ezra Klein? 

ADDED: In the mindset of the AutoAdmit plaintiffs, what Ezra twittered was a rape threat.

"But I can't think of any time in my life when I've felt so awful about the death of a single individual I've never met."

Jac has a nice, long post explaining why Tim Russert meant so much to him.
I ... had to watch ["Meet the Press"]. Every Sunday. He just made the news seem so much more serious, even momentous, than anyone else did.

Above all, he forced our leaders to explain themselves -- to answer the tough questions that everyone was raising about them.

And he did this with everyone, never seeming to discriminate based on party or ideology. I remember when John Edwards had a disastrous performance on Meet the Press in the 2004 race -- many commentators saw it as a major obstacle to him in trying to win the Democratic nomination. And I remember seeing him interview John McCain back in 2006, when he was just a "probable presidential candidate" .... Without being unfair, and even though he gave McCain ample time to defend himself, Russert left no doubt that McCain had shifted far to the right of his maverick/centrist past in preparation for the Republican primaries. At the end of the interview, McCain acknowledged his discomfort: "I haven’t had so much fun since my last interrogation."
Much more at the link.

June 13, 2008



So this is Russert's last interview? Who is the last person he names?

It is Joe Biden:
Msnbc: Who do you have coming up on Meet the Press?

Russert: We’re going to talk big issues with a debate: Obama vs. McCain. Joe Biden will represent Barack Obama; Lindsey Graham will represent John McCain.

Msnbc: Do you think Lindsey Graham might be on the ticket with John McCain?

Russert: I think he’s on the list. South Carolina is a solid state, but McCain really likes his passion and his ability to be on the attack against the Democrats on these foreign policy issues. I think Biden is someone who’s very much on Obama’s list because of his wealth of foreign policy experience, his knowledge of the Iran and the Iraq. It’ll be interesting. They’re both coming into the studio. It could be an vice presidential audition. A Meet the Press audition, coming your way Sunday, on Meet the Press!
Meet the Press! But it was not to be Meet the Press for him. It was to be: Meet your Maker. Ah, Tim Russert. I'm going to miss that guy so much. I almost want Barack Obama to pick Joe Biden... and John McCain to pick Lindsey Graham... as a tribute to our great journalist Tim.

Kozinski recuses himself.

In the obscenity trial.
"In light of the public controversy surrounding my involvement in this case, I have concluded that there is a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial."
And he's asked for an investigation of himself.

I read this all as taking a stand for free speech.

Matthew Yglesias might want to chide his commenters.

Matt writes: "Shocking news that Tim Russert has died of a heart attack at the young age of 58." And his commenters act like jackasses. The second post is by "Dick Cheney":
Damn. That was the one non-Fox show where I could control the message.
And it's downhill from there:
i say good riddance.
he was the best example of the worst of journalism today.
we should not forget his role in helping get this war started.
after all, cheney went on his show because he knew that he would be able to "control" the message.
he was a fraud and a hypocrite and the world will be better off with him gone.
the only people who will miss him will be the republican politicians who knew they could go on his show and lie with impunity.
Posted by frankie d | June 13, 2008 4:22 PM

So now people feel the need to say what a great guy he was? Now I hope we can get someone that will ask real questions and not just gotcha's.
Posted by rob | June 13, 2008 4:24 PM...

so all of a sudden we are supposed to forget about all of the outrageously harmful things people like russert do?
if he had practiced his craft of journalism, there is a very good chance that we would have never gotten involved in such a harmful war.
if people like condi rice and cheney did not feel that they could go on his show and lie through their teeth about matters of life and death, it is very possible that they would have never felt comfortable lying, continually to the american people.
if he had actually been the "tough questioner" he supposedly was, perhaps he would have actually torn cheney's smug assurances about the coming war to shreds and the administration would not have taken us to war and wasted thousands of american lives and hundreds of thousands of iraqi lives.
he'll have to deal with his complicity in his own terms, but i have no qualms about pointing out a bunch of inconvenient truths.
if pointing this out makes me a dick and less than a class act, i wear that proudly.
Posted by frankie d | June 13, 2008 4:40 PM

Good to know I'm not the only one Sam. Seemed like a decent enough guy. This really is going to ruin my R. Kelly, "not guilty" party tonight.
Posted by laborlibert | June 13, 2008 4:40 PM...
This push-back sort of restores my faith:
Might the D in Frankie D stand for dipshit? You sound like AJ on the last season of the Sopranos.
Posted by laborlibert | June 13, 2008 4:51 PM
Oh, those last 2 comments were by the same guy!

The horrible virulence is back:
... Russert loved life you say? What a sick thing to say when you have read the kind of qualms that have been raised about Russert's moral shortcomings on this thread.
What about those million dead Iraqis? I bet they loved their lives too until they were ended by unsought and unjustified violence -- as opposed to gluttony.
Posted by The Fool | June 13, 2008 6:34 PM

ADDED: I see that not long ago, Matt wrote a little article trashing Russert:
So Meet the Press thrives, delighting precisely the sort of person who doesn't realize that a hardball is a kind of ball whereas a curveball is a kind of pitch.

Actually, the balls Russert favors may be hard, but the pitches he throws aren't curveballs, which go someplace useful. They're sillyballs, which go somewhere pointless. Russert has created a strike zone of his own where toughness meets irrelevance....

Russert's goal isn't to inform his audience. He's there to "make news"—to get his guest to say something embarrassing that lands in the next day's papers or on the NBC Nightly News. The politicians, in turn, go on the show determined not to make news. And why do they bother? Because... it's a rite of passage, and any politician too chicken to play Russert's inane games would never garner the respect of the political class.

"Tim Russert Is Dead of a Heart Attack, His Family Says."

That is the headline at the NYT.

I'm genuinely shocked. That's terribly sad.

ADDED: I can't imagine following American political news without Russert. He had such a distinctive touch — especially in presenting the presidential campaigns. It hardly seems right to keep watching the 2008 race without him watching it alongside us. He made it feel so immediate and alive. Death makes things like elections seem small, and yet, it feels really sad that he didn't get to see who won.

AND: The tributes on TV, on all the channels, are inspiring. What a great man. One thing that keeps coming up is that he went to law school. He was one of those people — an interesting crowd — who left the law but brought something of the law to another field. Asking those questions the way he did — there was some law in that.

"This was a private file server, like a private room, hacked by a litigant with a vendetta."

Lessig thinks that accessing Judge Kozinski's on-line porn stash was an invasion of privacy "perfectly" analogous to entering his house through a badly locked window and looking through his belongings:
The site was not "on the web" in the sense of a site open and inviting anyone to come in. It had a robots.txt file to indicate its contents were not to be indexed. That someone got in is testimony to the fact that security -- everywhere -- is imperfect....
In the comments, after a challenge — "I'm sorry, but there's no way that typing a URL into a web browser is analogous to jiggling a lock for 30 seconds" — Lessig backs away from the idea that the analogy is perfect:
I don't accept that this is a "public place" just because the public can easily get to it. But I'm also not arguing that someone should be treated as a trespasser because he or she wanders through a directory structure. My only point is that it was plain beyond doubt that this was not intended as a public place where anyone was invited to come and browse. Norms of privacy should therefore apply.
Another commenter — James Nightshade — pushes back:
Robots.txt is a voluntary access control mechanism, but it does not prevent resources from being "on the Web" in any sense. The document describing the robots.txt standard refers specifically to web robots. Robots.txt was not intended to apply to interactive web browsers. It is roughly analogous to a sign one might find beside a residential street: "No trucks except for deliveries." The street is still a part of the road network, even if some vehicles are asked not to visit.

Another example is the form I'm typing this into. It has an accompanying CAPTCHA form to identify robotic spam submissions. Blocking these robots doesn't effectively take the submission form off the Web. If one wants to avoid public access to a Web resource, there are access control mechanisms which can do that. Passwords are one example; robots.txt is not an example.
I'm not buying the analogy, but I get it that Lessig is trying to promote privacy on the web. Or not on the web. Whatever. I have a lot of trouble seeing what the "disgruntled litigant" did as "hacking" or trespassing.

Seems to me, when you're on line, you can poke around as much as you want and look at anything you can click to. Isn't that what most of us think? That's how we behave on line. In the physical world, we know we can't just go anywhere we can physically get to. Forget badly locked window. We won't even pull open an unlocked screen door to a house. I was going to say a "private building," which assumed the answer to the question about privacy, but that ordinary usage — public/building — shows that we have a deeply embedded expectation about privacy.

But Lessig's idea about privacy on the web is something I'd never even heard of. Lessig, of course, knows that. He prefaces his analogy with: "Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let's translate all this a bit." Are we just at the beginning of forming our expectations of privacy on line, or have we already decided we are free to look wherever we can go?

IN THE COMMENTS: MCG notes: "Alex Kozinski provided public links into his "stuff/" directory in the past." He points to this email Kozinski sent for publication on a high-profile blog. Kozinski thus eagerly invited the whole world into his back pages.

Kuato in the political context.

I had to break this one out into a separate post:

"Temporary ban has been lifted due to fantastic photo."

Good call!

There are many things to talk about at the link, but I want to say something about those baby holders, the ones that face the baby forward, so that it protrudes off the chest like a vestigial conjoined twin. Think: Kuato:

Wait. I have a comment I want to make, but looking for some Kuato video, I discovered a whole Kuato genre. There's this. And this. You get the idea. But back to babies...


But I want to protect babies. I feel the instinctive need to protect babies. Even when they remind me of Kuato. Every time I see someone carrying their baby like that I worry about them falling. Adults don't fall that often, but we do trip now and then. Maybe once a year. And sometimes an idiot runs square into us or flings open a door when we're traipsing by. The baby's entire face is exposed! I'm sorry. I don't like thinking about this, but how can you walk around like that and not worry about accidents?

Now, apparently, men prefer the facing forward baby carrier. Why is that? Does it seem too intimate having the baby's body in that position? Are men more into exploration and discovery? Which position does the baby prefer? Of course, the baby has no basis for visualizing the grownup taking a header.

I'm not saying the government should take your baby away, but could you please stop carrying it like that?

"But the Canadian who speaks with the usual Canadian circumspection and courtesy will... escape unscathed from the Commission’s thought police."

Lawprof Rick Hills is guessing that it might work out just fine for Canada to subordinate free speech rights.

And Mark Steyn should be pleased at all the great free publicity he's getting, per Hills. Because don't you love it when you are unjustly prosecuted? You get to be a big celebrity!

Hills thinks it's "hard to believe that any substantial publisher (e.g., a university, a newspaper, a major publishing house) would be 'chilled' by 100k in attorneys’ fees into caving to an unjust cease-and-desist order."

No, that's not sarcasm. I went back and checked. Apparently, the publishers that count are the ones with lots of extra money lying around to shovel over to lawyers. They probably only publish writers who find it pretty easy to reframe their sentences with appropriate politeness.

As for the kind of low-class people who don't know how or lack the temperament to say it nicely or have ideas that aren't very nice... well, who needs them? And they don't live in Canada anyway, probably. Or something like that.

June 12, 2008

Fresh. Defined.


Beautiful decline.


"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

The AP reports:
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.
Justice Kennedy writes for the 5-4 majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, for dissenting, accepted the government's "generous set of procedural protections."

UPDATE: Orin Kerr says it's exactly what he expected and what "you could see coming from miles (or in this case, years) away."

"What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins."

"Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

The NYT quotes Mark Steyn in an article that emphasizes the unique strength of the American law of free speech:
“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,”[said Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists.] “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”...

A 1990 decision from the Canadian Supreme Court, for instance, upheld the criminal conviction of James Keegstra for “unlawfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group by communicating anti-Semitic statements.” Mr. Keegstra, a teacher, had told his students that Jews were “money loving,” “power hungry” and “treacherous.”

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Brian Dickson said there was an issue “crucial to the disposition of this appeal: the relationship between Canadian and American approaches to the constitutional protection of free expression, most notably in the realm of hate propaganda.”

Chief Justice Dickson said “there is much to be learned from First Amendment jurisprudence.” But he concluded that “the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and, most importantly, the special role given equality and multiculturalism in the Canadian Constitution necessitate a departure from the view, reasonably prevalent in America at present, that the suppression of hate propaganda is incompatible with the guarantee of free expression.”

"When [my hip] popped back in, I was standing up trying to pull bricks off the kids..."

A vivid, articulate account of the tornado that hit the Boy Scout camp. What an impressive 15-year-old.

Please. No more...

... Gore.

June 11, 2008

"I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."


ADDED: Bainbridge asks some questions that indicate that he finds this rather funny. I don't. But I have to agree with some of these questions:
Who stashes their porn on the internet? Other than porn stars?

Kozinski long has been regarded as one of the smartest guys on the federal bench. Do we need to rethink that?
IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says:
One would think that so notoriously tech-savvy a judge would be more conversant with the technology - and more careful.
One could deduce that he wanted to be caught ... or got a thrill from risking getting caught. You know, it might be tiresome for a certain sort of person to be a judge. There you are, for life. Well set up, but restricted, restrained, forced to be sober — forbidden to be fully expressive. Oddly, I had a conversation with Alex Kozinski about exactly this subject 20 years ago. Kozinski was only 35 years old when he was appointed, and that was 23 years ago.

ADDED: Patterico says he has the images referred to in the linked article, obtained from the L.A. Times reporter. If you go here, you will be able to read detailed descriptions and click on links to see the images. I clicked on all the links except the one that would have required watching a video. I wonder why the L.A. Times published this article. Why humiliate this man? (I am reminded of this story of unnecessary humiliation from a couple months ago.) What made it news? Is the porn collection of every public figure newsworthy? Or is it special treatment for conservative judges? (I'm thinking of this precedent.)

These are pictures of naked people, all of them funny or interesting in some way, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look at them and to show them to other adults. The photograph of the women painted as cows is just silly — nothing to be horrified by. Yes, you can see genitalia in these pictures. It's extremely common to want to look at genitalia. It doesn't do anything for me, but I understand the strong interest many men have in such views — repetitive and predictable though they are. (The transvestite slide show is a little unpredictable, but within an utterly predictable range.)

Now, it should be noted that Kozinski is currently serving as the trial judge in an obscenity case, so there is a special motivation here. One might object to the prosecution of Ira Isaacs. Maybe the government shouldn't be prosecuting such cases, and one might think that it is hypocritical or at least relevant that the judge in the case has his own pornography. I think that is absurd. The judge doesn't make the decision to prosecute, and the sort of material at issue in an obscenity case is quite extreme — far beyond the sort of pictures that we ought to assume many judges and jurors possess.
[Kozinski's] involvement in the case may be a stroke of luck for Isaacs. That is because Kozinski is seen as a staunch defender of free speech. When he learned that there were filters banning pornography and other materials from computers in the appeals court's Pasadena offices, he led a successful effort to have the filters removed....

Isaacs said he would testify as his own expert witness at trial and planned to lecture jurors on how perceptions of art have changed over the years. There was a time, he said, when the works of authors James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence were called obscene.

The point, Isaacs said, "is do we really want to throw artists in jail in America?"...

[The Obscenity Prosecution Task Force] has won convictions in more than a dozen cases, the vast majority resulting from plea bargains....

[Isaacs] said that prosecutors have made several overtures inviting him to take a plea in the case, but that he has refused every time....

"If I get convicted and go to prison now," Isaacs said, "I go as an artist."
I'd like to know what set of events led to the L.A. Times article.

Does the prosecution or the defense have more to gain from the revelation?

AND: The NYT offers more background:
In a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Kozinski ... said the Web site was meant to be private and that several people had contributed to it. “There is a ton of stuff on there,” Judge Kozinski said. “It’s not a porn site. There’s some funny stuff on there.”

Judge Kozinski said his son, Yale, maintained the site, which had the domain name of kozinski.com. Yale Kozinski, a film editor, confirmed that, as do Internet registry records for the site.

“This server is my private Web server,” Yale Kozinski said. “It’s owned by me. The domain is registered to me. The people who have access to put files up there are friends and family.” Among other things, he said, the site contained family photos and a collection of the judge’s articles.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Judge Kozinski had conceded posting some of the offensive materials. In interviews on Wednesday, neither Judge Kozinski nor his son could say who posted what, and Judge Kozinski said he might have uploaded some materials by mistake.

The site was never meant to be public, Yale Kozinski said. “The fact that it was publicly accessible actually is my fault, too,” he said. “I made a mistake in configuring it.”

Judge Kozinski said he was only moderately contrite.

“I guess I should be more careful about access and all,” he said. “I didn’t put anything on there I think would be embarrassing.”
Oh, well, if he doesn't think it's embarrassing, then maybe I shouldn't be critical of the press for publicly humiliating him.

UPDATE: How Appealing has info on the tipster, Cyrus Sanai, who emails (boldface added):
I discovered this information on Xmas Eve, 2007. * * * * I immediately downloaded so much material that his internet provider cut him off. When the site went back up, Judge Kozinski had removed some of the biggest video files. * * * * I pitched it to the Daily Journal, the Recorder, the LA Times and the WSJ through end of January 2008. I was interested in his site because of my renewed misconduct complaint against Judge Kozinski...

The LA Times reporter I contacted, Henry Weinstein (who extensively covered the Manuel Real stuff) said he would get to it, then he took the buyout. I contacted Scott Glover, the reporter on the obscenity trial, last Sunday, June 8, 2008. He knew nothing about my prior contact with the LA Times; but that institution is in disarray because of the well-covered restructuring. Therefore, it would not be fair to say that the LA Times "held it". The institutional knowledge of my prior contact disappeared * * * *
The NY Sun has this:
The judge's trouble with Mr. Sanai began in 2005, when the attorney wrote an article with examples of 9th Circuit judges allegedly ignoring circuit precedents. Judge Kozinski wrote a rebuttal that noted Mr. Sanai's personal stake in one of the disputed issues. The attorney, who had a motion pending in that case, filed a complaint alleging that the judge broke rules barring judges from commenting or lobbying on pending cases. The complaint was dismissed, but Mr. Sanai refiled it after the judge re-posted the article on the same site with the explicit photos.
Here's some analysis of the L.A. Times's journalism standards, from the Carnegie Reporting Program:
The key question is whether it would have been a story if Kozinski weren't presiding over an obscenity trial at the time...

I say yes. Kozinski is a high-ranking judge whose court hears more obscenity cases than the current one. Controversy over the line between erotica and obscenity is legal news, and Kozinski's misfortune provides a teaching moment to explore the current state of the law. Kozinski has a track record as a critic of government intrusion into personal use of the Internet. Publishing a story without the trial as a news hook would be extremely uncomfortable, but I would have green-lighted it and placed the revelations in the context of Kozinski's disputes with Sanai and over Internet use. As for the Times, there should be no question that it did the right thing under the circumstances.

AND: I got some of those links from Above the Law, which has lots of good discussion in the comments.

A political dialogue.

From the Woody Allen movie "Melinda and Melinda." Hobie (Will Ferrell) is nervous about having a relationship with a woman he knows is a conservative:
Hobie: I think it'd be only fair to tell you. I'm a liberal.

Stacey: Oh. Are you talking politically, or in the bedroom?

Hobie: I was talking politically. In the bedroom, I'm a left-wing liberal.

Stacey: In the bedroom, I'm a radical.

Hobie: Look, can I level with you? In the last few months of my marriage, I really didn't sleep with my wife. We weren't sleeping at all. I'm a little out of practice. So, you know, I'm a little out of practice. Politically speaking, I'm ready for a little affirmative action.

Stacey: What do you say we blow this joint and go back to your place?

Hobie: My place? Yes, by all means. It would be great. So you're not going to hold the fact that we have conflicting viewpoints on the direction America should take against me? I mean, I'd hate to get all worked up and find we differ on tax cuts.



In bloom.




Who are the Obamacons?

Should conservatives support Barack Obama?
[T]hose of us on the right who pay attention to think tanks, blogs, and little magazines have watched Obama compile a coterie drawn from the movement's most stalwart and impressive thinkers. It's a group that will no doubt grow even larger in the coming months.

The largest group of Obamacons hail from the libertarian wing of the movement....

In nearly every quarter of the movement, you can find conservatives irate over the Iraq war--a war they believe transgresses core principles. And it's this frustration with the war--and McCain's pronouncements about victory at any cost--that has led many conservatives into Obama's arms...

[Some conservatives are] impressed by Obama's rhetorical acumen....

But, if you're looking for the least likely pool of Obamacons, it would be the supply-siders....

ADDED: Here's a set of links backing up the quoted Bruce Barrett article.

"Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known."

Is McCain's own website encouraging spamming and trolling? Look at all the links in the sidebar menus. (Actually, I can't get the "liberal" blogroll to appear.)

Wired reports:
The strategy reinforces the central role that blogs have come to play in shaping and framing the issues in the 2008 presidential election. The question is whether sending supporters to do grassroots lobbying in the comments section of activist blogs like DailyKos, whose membership is dedicated to defeating the Republicans in the general election, will really benefit McCain's campaign.

"I find it hilarious that McCain's campaign thinks that some astroturf copy-and-paste comments would do anything more than spark some vicious mocking," says Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos, which is currently highlighted as one of three "featured blogs" on McCain's site.

On Memorial Day weekend for example, someone named "Jerry A" posted a news story in an open thread on DailyKos about McCain inviting Barack Obama to visit "post surge" Iraq. At the time, Republicans had launched a publicity campaign criticizing Obama for formulating Iraq policy without having visited the country for two years.

Four minutes later, "Cultural Worker" responded: "Thank you for sharing McCain's talking points of the day. Again."
So what is the problem, really? I don't think it's wrong to encourage your supporters to participate in the comments sections of a wide range of blogs. What's bad is to send out hordes of people who don't know how or don't care to become part of the comment community they enter. That is destructive to the blogs, and it doesn't help the candidate.

Of course, some blogs will reject commenters whose opinions don't conform to the blogger's opinion. If you know that, and you keep writing, you're just a troll. But even on blogs like this one, where you can have any opinion, you can be a troll if you repeatedly drop talking points and fail to interact with other people.

ADDED: And then there's the "genius commenter" invading McCain's own site.

"Operation Lets Muslim Women Reclaim Virginity"/"Surgery Offers Muslim Women Illusion of Virginity."

The NYT rewrote that headline. I'm still trying to figure out why they wrote it the way they originally did, with the word "reclaim," indicating that hymen repair surgery would actually make the woman a virgin again (as opposed to assist her in perpetuating a fraud). All I can say is that the first headline fits the way the article — written by Elaine Sciolino and Souad Mekhennet — mainly takes the point of view of the women who are intent on deceit as they enter marriage.

The notion seems to be that it's bad for a man or his family to want the bride to be a virgin and that therefore she is entitled to use trickery. I can think of some situations in which such trickery is justified, but these are European women who chose to use their freedom to have sex before marriage and who are now free to find a husband who does not demand virginity.

The article also talks about the recent French case were a court annulled a marriage after it was discovered tha the wife had falsely claimed to be a virgin. I like Eugene Volokh's discussion of the case:
[P]eople are entitled to choose their spouses based on any reason at all, and to my knowledge French law allows them to agree to divorce based on any reason at all (again, at least if both agree). Saying that they may also annul the marriage based on any misrepresentation that they saw as material strikes me as no different: It's an accommodation of people's choices about whom to have a tremendously important relationship with, and we should generally accommodate those choices even when we think they are partly unwise — I say partly because while the insistence on virginity strikes me as unsound, the concern about the lie strikes me as much more proper — or reinforce unsound community attitudes.

"Luddites, paternalistic, or, worse, boring instructors who blame the Internet for their pedagogical shortcomings" ... lawprofs who ban laptops.

The Chronicle of Higher Education addresses the subject. (With some quotes from me.)

Their comment section is over here. I like the second one, from "Wilford Brimley":
You young whippersnappers with your newfangled folding computers—what a waste of time reading that facebook. Why, in my day we didn’t have such nonsensical tomfoolery, we couldn’t count but to 20 cause that’s all the fingers and toes we had. And the only people surfin was them pretty boys in Californy. Ahhh, flibbity gibbit.
The article ends with a quote from Harvard Business School prof John Deighton: "Ultimately the only way to ensure that a class member is not on the Web is to conduct an engaging class." That reminds me of one of the things I said that was not used: Make understanding of what was said in class crucial to doing well on the exam. Students are not motivated only by what happens to interest them.

ADDED: Law students deprived of laptops can't surf the web — or, wait, actually they can — but what are you going to do about jurors doing sudoku? Call a mistrial?

June 10, 2008



It's peony season here now. Such luscious flowers!


Such a fragile life span...

The 14 millionth visitor.

Who was it? Such vague information. No city, no state. Just Blackberry... like the name of a place on a law school exam.

Or is it somewhere near Witchita, Kansas?

Ah, well, thanks to everyone who is reading. Do you have any idea how much it means to me?


Blue flower

Blue flower

"From arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style."

That's an observation about the way using a typewriter changed Friedrich Nietzsche's writing — and perhaps also his thinking. He himself said: "our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." So what is the computer — with access to Google — doing to our minds?

Hey, I asked the question. Pointed at something and asked a question. What more do you want? An aphorism? That would be carrying on to excess, I think.

Don't be gloomy!


Is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity?

What does it mean that this article — about married couples forcing themselves to have sex every day — has been #1 on the NYT most-emailed list for days?

It should be noted that both couples — the "Bible-studying steak-eating Republicans from Charlotte, N.C." and the "backpacking multigrain northerners" from Boulder — both had not so much an idea for their marriage as an idea for a book. And it was a good idea, if getting publicity is the key to book sales. But would you want to read either book? I mean, even if you think that entering a pact like this would resexualize your marriage, don't you already have enough information to go ahead and try it? Do you actually want to read the way the Mullers and the Browns describe their repeated, self-forced sex? It's notoriously hard to write about sex. (Check out the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.) So the chance that these dreary people have written anything worth reading is low. But book projects and PR will go on and on, even if sex does not.

Oh! I have a new entry for John Steele's contest! Marital sex is to sex as....

Back to the main topic: Is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity? Should individuals with low desire just force themselves? Should they make contracts with partners and bind themselves to have sex whether they want it or not?

Did the Mullers or the Browns ever arrive at any interesting philosophical thoughts about love and free will? Or is it just cutesy, modestly dirty, and tripping gabbily toward the happy ending where they are tired of doing it every day but pleased with their improved relationship and more-than-once-a-month sex life?

Dark thoughts.

Oh... I'm mulling things over now....

Dark thoughts

"She said the words, but she didn't endorse Obama."

I nearly got my head bitten off for suggesting as much myself, but now I see that I'm not the only one. That quote is from Rush Limbaugh, said on Monday's show:
... [W]hen Mrs. Clinton was talking about herself, she was radiant, buoyant. She was gesticulating. She was smiling. When it came time to mention, not endorse, mention Obama, she read. There was no gesticulation. There was no animation. There weren't any smiles. A couple of smiles here and there, sort of like a McCain teleprompter smile it didn't fit when she did it.
A McCain teleprompter smile... ha ha... so that's why he bursts into those odd smiles when he does?
[I]n that audience we had true believers. She mentioned Obama's name 15 times. She knew that every time she mentioned Obama's name because of the nature of that crowd that there were going to be people in there that would boo, and there were. And the boos were even audible to me and I am deaf.
Please don't think someone else is writing Rush's monologues!
Now, if you are Mrs. Clinton and you are serious about unifying the party and bringing the party together and you know that your crowd's not happy about what you're going to do, that you're going to quit and they don't like Obama, you only mention his name once or twice, not 15 times. She gave that crowd 15 opportunities to boo Barak Obama. And they did.
So saying his name a lot is the secret code that she's not really quitting?
I'm sitting there watching this and there's simply no way that this was a genuine -- she said the words, but she's looking down as she reads them, and then looks up at the audience in sort of a joker kind of smile kind of permanently on the face, an inanimate smile. I was watching this, and I'm listening to the Drive-Bys, particularly on NBC, and they're just having orgasms. "Oh, this is great, this is wonderful. The party is coming together," and all of this and all of that. And I'm saying, "You guys are so blind and so susceptible to the conventional wisdom. We're talking about a Clinton here. The Clintons don't go away." You'd have to show them a cross at sunup two inches from their eyes and even then they wouldn't go away....

She didn't release her delegates. Hold onto them, hells bells. And she can go out and she can raise money. She has to retire her debt and so forth. She can do that up till the convention. She held on to her delegates, meaning if Obama slips and falls....
I do think he's right. She's in sleep mode and can be reactivated the moment Obama slips too far. The Clintons are watching and waiting.

The last paragraph of a famous book sprang to my mind:
And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.
(Albert Camus, The Plague.)

Was Justice Scalia smoking cigarettes with Sarah Jessica Parker?

The Legal Times gets the story straight:
... Justice Scalia did not need a cigarette. But when Parker asked for a light for hers, he provided it (as any Old World-style gentleman like Scalia would, we might add).
And he did not rush over to her and gush about how much he loved "Sex and the City" and was psyched about seeing the movie. You hear? There was no rush and gush.

My beloved commenters, you know what you need to do. Write your own Nino & SJP dialogue.

ADDED: So far, Bob is winning.

Everyone's talking about Ashley Dupre's tattoo that reads, in faux Latin: "tutela valui."

Dupre was Eliot Spitzer's favorite prostitute, so people want to understand the words. But like those ridiculous Chinese characters fools have permanently inked on their carcasses, Dupre's tattoo botches the language. The Daily News delves into scholarly interpretation of the whore's bikini line:
Tutela, which is related to tutor, has to do with a protector or guardian. Valui appears to be a past form of the word strong.

"So I guess you would say it means, 'I have a strong patron' or 'I have a strong keeper,'" said Doug Machle, assistant to the chairman in the classics department at the University of Washington.

"Or, actually, it's more like, 'My guardian was strong.'"...

Daniel Nodes, a classics professor at Ave Maria University in Florida, translated it as "I've been well and remain that way because I have protection."

Mark Buchan, a classics professor at Columbia, took a different tack, musing that it could mean "safe haven."
The Columbia professor gives Ashley credit — even as she tattoos herself with bad Latin — for seeing herself (or her body part) as the strong one and having a sense of humor about sex.

UPDATE: Jim Davila says the prostitute is getting a bum rap.

"When asked if this was the end of the town, Village President Larry McCarn just stared ahead. 'It could be,' he answered."

Remember this picture from last month?

Gays Mills, Wisconsin

That's the Kickapoo River as it flow through Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

Gays Mills, Wisconsin

Photographed during apple blossom time.

Today, this news:
For nearly a year, this tiny southwestern Wisconsin village has struggled to survive after a devastating flood. New rising waters may have sealed its fate.

Flash floods inundated the town of 625 over the weekend, just 10 months after residents worked to rebuild their homes and businesses.

The swollen Kickapoo River spilled over its banks again and engulfed nearly the entire town Monday morning, forcing about 150 people to evacuate. By evening, the village was reduced to a grid of canals with cars submerged up to their windows and parking lots looking like lakes, just as it was in August....

[R]esidents stood on the edge of their ruined town, so close to finally turning the corner before this latest flood.

"I can't believe this is happening again," said Liz Klekamp, 23....
Very sad for the beautiful little town nestled in the river valley.

AND: Elsewhere in Wisconsin: "The lake is gone." The 267-acre Lake Delton drained:
The dam itself held, but a section of shoreline did not, washing out Highway A and creating a 400- to 500-foot wide outlet to the Wisconsin River, 700 feet away. A swirling chocolate malt of angry liquid escaped through the gap, spreading into the marsh and carrying houses, trees and an upside-down pontoon boat with it.

A swirling chocolate malt of angry liquid...

June 9, 2008

Count the birds.

1. For beginners:


2. Advanced:

Count the birds



I was out walking in the botanical garden today. Took over 100 pictures, limiting myself to this lens, which I'm still trying to get the hang of.

Hey, that looks better than the Kindle!

But it's only $100. And it's a laptop. For poor kids all over the world. Nice! Mike Elgan said it's showing us the future of laptops — it's what we'll all want in 5 years:

"Poor kids will probably get it before you do, but mark my words, the all-screen clamshell laptop will eventually trickle up to business travelers, road warriors and digital nomads of all stripes."

"Wilma Flintstone pearls"/"gobstopper fake pearls."

Can you out-write WaPo/NYT fashion writers Robin Givhan/Guy Trebay?

I did not have sexual relations with that man, Mr. Clinton.

Gina Gershon denies the rumor.

Or is Huckabee a better VP candidate?

He saves lives!

"Sarah Palin is walking, talking, governing proof that feminism, motherhood, and conservatism aren't inconsistent."

Beldar loves (potential VP pick) Sarah Palin.



Q&A How can McCain SIMULTANEOUSLY attract both Hillary AND Bob Barr voters?

Answer: PALIN Veep!”

"Outsider art" gets counted as a thesis at the ultimate insider place: Harvard Law School.

Is this the education you want your lawyer to have? It's lawyerly: looking for loopholes.

IN THE COMMENTS: George underlines a point I only suggested:
It's not Outsider Art.

To be an Outsider Artist, you must possess some combination of the following:

a) an affinity for religious vision(s), especially if they involve Jesus, the Rapture, blood, tree roots, and devils;
b) no formal art training;
c) a grave illness/accident (ideally involving paralysis or loss of a limb;
d) alcoholism;
e) be from the South;
f) have little or no education and absolutely no law degree (unless thereafter you are forcibly imprisoned in a mental institution for 50 years and upon your death the bulk of your work (paper clip lint sculptures) is burned by insensitive orderlies);
g) be white or preferably black and lived a life of isolation from modernity;
h) be willing to do what gallery owners and auctioneers tell you to do;
i) concoct the most positively lurid depictions of sexual organs and acts;
j) wear clothes you have painted;
k) build electromagnetic energy devices and concrete statues in and around your polka-dotted shotgun shack;
l) invent a name for yourself; and
m) be mentally ill or at least seem that way to white-wine sipping Yuppies from Connecticut and Atlanta.

Well delineated, George. And now it occurs to me that law schools might want to enhance diversity by admitting Outsider Law Students.

The E. Clarke and Julie Arnold House and the Richard C. and Berenice Smith House — by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Visited last Saturday on the "Wright & Like" 2008 tour.

E. Clarke and Julie Arnold House

That's the E. Clarke and Julie Arnold House in Columbus, Wisconsin, visited at around 11 a.m., when it was a nice, sunny day. This house is composed with lots of diamond shapes.

Later in the day, after spending 2 hours as a docent at the Dr. Maurice and Mrs. Margaret Greenberg House, I hurried down the wooded path as a thunderstorm was about to hit. Secure from electrocution in my car, I enjoyed the fireworks over the rolling Wisconsin farmland. I did wonder about the strength of the wind, which seemed intent on running me off the road. And when I switched from satellite to land radio, after I got out of the really windy area, I was scared retrospectively by the reports of tornadoes. I got a little lost — finding myself on Country Road Z — which was not in my print-out directions from Google, and decided I'd better just try to keep my bearings and head for home. But then I found a road that was on the print-out and the route started to make sense, so I got to the Richard C. and Berenice Smith House in Jefferson, Wisconsin:

The Richard C. and Berenice Smith House

It's more interesting from the other side, because it's built around a really large oak tree — a 300-year sort of thing. The red concrete floors — which look just like the driveway seen in my photo — extend throughout the house. After all the rain, those floors were quite wet inside, a classic Frank Lloyd Wright feature (leakiness). It was, to my eye, an unpleasant design. Too many angles. Zig-zags everywhere. But maybe I could settle in and get used to it. The interior walls were all stone, and they zig-zagged around that noble tree. The whole house honored a tree. And the tree deserved it.

"In praise of CO2."

The pro-global warming view.

"At Off the Bus, because they're not part of the professional gaggle, they can come up with their own views of what's happening..."

About that blogger who got Bill Clinton to call Todd Purdum a "scumbag"... and 2,500 other blogger-reporters boosted by Huffington Post.
Mayhill Fowler says she never planned to ask Bill Clinton the question that unleashed a decidedly unpresidential tirade....

Fowler had her tape recorder going when [Barack Obama] made his ill-fated remarks about frustrated small-town residents turning to guns, God or anti-immigrant sentiments....

Mary Katherine Ham, a conservative blogger, says that while she would insist on identifying herself, "politicians need to learn that anyone can break news, and citizens who run into you -- even if you're not writing for the Huffington Post -- can post it anywhere."

In an e-mail, Fowler says she has come to realize that her presence "flummoxes some longtime journalists -- because suddenly here I am, unpaid but as a consequence with much more freedom to find out what's going on out there, and writing for a new and encroaching media that is a Wild Wild West of lawlessness."
A Wild Wild West of lawlessness — otherwise know as a marketplace of ideas.

What is American about American art? John Updike says it's lininess.

The liney/painterly dichotomy persists to this day, and in the century since [Winslow] Homer's last works it has taken many forms. The dry, burnished literalism of Grant Wood and Charles Sheeler followed the ebullient impressionism of Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase. Thomas Eakins is liney, John Singer Sargent is not; Andrew Wyeth is liney and Edward Hopper not. Among the Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock achieves his signature effects with a welter of lines, and Mark Rothko achieves his by blurring all edges. Among Pop artists, Roy Lichtenstein takes the comic-strip lines and Benday to a majestic scale, while Andy Warhol remains a colorist above all. All, it might be said, employ highly personal techniques to confront the viewer with something vitally actual, beyond illusion.

Two centuries after Jonathan Edwards sought a link with the divine in the beautiful clarity of things, William Carlos Williams wrote, in introducing his long poem Paterson, that "for the poet there are no ideas but in things." No ideas but in things. The American artist, first born into a continent without museums and art schools, took Nature as his only instructor, and things as his principle study. A bias toward the empirical, toward the evidential object in the numinous fullness of its being, leads to a certain lininess, as the artist intently maps the visible in a New World that feels surrounded by chaos and emptiness.
From the same issue of NYRB, the theme of perception, order, and chaos continues:
In fact, "external reality" is a construction of the brain. Our senses are confronted by a chaotic, constantly changing world that has no labels, and the brain must make sense of that chaos. It is the brain's correlations of sensory information that create the knowledge we have about our surroundings, such as the sounds of words and music, the images we see in paintings and photographs, the colors we perceive: "perception is not merely a reflection of immediate input," Edelman and Tononi write, "but involves a construction or a comparison by the brain."
Draw lines.

"It'll be dispirited. It'll be spirited. Because there are stark differences. I'm a proud, conservative, liberal Republican. Conservative Republican."

It's pretty easy to remember who said that, but isn't it fun — or frightening — to relive that moment? Jac has collected 77 choice moments from the '08 presidential race, mostly with video links, and presented in a way that tests you to remember or guess who said what. It's great fun going through this list of 33 items (and the original list of 44 items). My favorites on the new list:
53. "I can't make her younger.... There's lots of things I can't do."

63. "Thanks for the question, you little jerk."


The slippery slope of medicinal marijuana.

When California voted for Proposition 215, they were picturing terribly ill patients and modest houseplants, but, of course, it doesn't stop there. The NYT reports:
[P]atients need a prescription to acquire medicinal marijuana, but the law gave little guidance as to how people were to acquire it. That gave rise to some patients with marijuana prescriptions growing their own in limited quantities, the opening of clubs to make it available and growers going large scale to keep those outlets supplied.

In turn, that led to the kind of worries that have bubbled up in Arcata, home of Humboldt State University, where town elders say roughly one in five homes are “indoor grows,” with rooms or even entire structures converted into marijuana greenhouses.

That shift in cultivation, caused in part by record-breaking seizures by drug agents of plants grown outdoors, has been blamed for a housing shortage for Humboldt students, residential fires and the powerful — and distracting — smell of the plant in some neighborhoods during harvest....

In May, Arcata declared a moratorium on clubs to allow the city council time to address the problem. Los Angeles, which has more than 180 registered marijuana clubs, the most of any city, also declared a moratorium last year.

“There were a handful initially and then all the sudden, they started to sprout up all over,” said Dennis Zine, a member of the Los Angeles City Council. “We had marijuana facilities next to high schools and there were high school kids going over there and there was a lot of abuse taking place.”
If you make an exception in the law that bans something many people want to do — and do even when it is illegal — that exception is going to be exploited. But here, it seems, you have activity far beyond the original exception and a drastic failure of law enforcement. If the law isn't enforced, it's no wonder more and more people flow into the activity.

It's a good time to look back on Justice Scalia's concurring opinion in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), which upheld the application of the federal Controlled Substances Act to the activity the California law attempted to legalize. (Federal power, based on the Commerce Clause, depended, to put it simply, on the effect on interstate commerce.)
Drugs like marijuana are fungible commodities. ... [M]arijuana that is grown at home and possessed for personal use is never more than an instant from the interstate market–and this is so whether or not the possession is for medicinal use or lawful use under the laws of a particular State. Congress need not accept on faith that state law will be effective in maintaining a strict division between a lawful market for “medical” marijuana and the more general marijuana market. “To impose on [Congress] the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control, which another government may furnish or withhold, would render its course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create a dependence on other governments, which might disappoint its most important designs, and is incompatible with the language of the constitution.”
The Court was asked to "accept on faith" that California would enforce the line drawn by its law. Here's Justice O'Connor evincing the requested credulity (boldface added):
Both federal and state legislation–including the CSA itself, the California Compassionate Use Act, and other state medical marijuana legislation–recognize that medical and nonmedical (i.e., recreational) uses of drugs are realistically distinct and can be segregated, and regulate them differently....

There is simply no evidence that homegrown medicinal marijuana users constitute, in the aggregate, a sizable enough class to have a discernable, let alone substantial, impact on the national illicit drug market–or otherwise to threaten the CSA regime. Explicit evidence is helpful when substantial effect is not “visible to the naked eye.” And here, in part because common sense suggests that medical marijuana users may be limited in number and that California’s Compassionate Use Act and similar state legislation may well isolate activities relating to medicinal marijuana from the illicit market, the effect of those activities on interstate drug traffic is not self-evidently substantial....

The Government has not overcome empirical doubt that the number of Californians engaged in personal cultivation, possession, and use of medical marijuana, or the amount of marijuana they produce, is enough to threaten the federal regime. Nor has it shown that Compassionate Use Act marijuana users have been or are realistically likely to be responsible for the drug’s seeping into the market in a significant way.... The Court ... says that the California statute might be vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous physicians, that Compassionate Use Act patients may overproduce, and that the history of the narcotics trade shows the difficulty of cordoning off any drug use from the rest of the market. These arguments are plausible; if borne out in fact they could justify prosecuting Compassionate Use Act patients under the federal CSA. But, without substantiation, they add little to the CSA’s conclusory statements about diversion, essentiality, and market effect.
If confronted with the evidence described in the article, would O'Connor concede she got it wrong? Probably not. She said she was talking about medicinal users who grow their own marijuana. The growers described in the article are clearly growing for others and engaged in commercial operations.

The real problem is the lack of law enforcement. Since the Court upheld federal power, why isn't it used here? According to the NYT article:
In Arcata, a 29-year-old man, who asked that his name not to be used for fear of arrest, said that he earned about $25,000 every three months from selling marijuana grown in a back room to club owners from Southern California.

But others in Arcata are less welcoming. Kevin L. Hoover, the editor of the local newspaper, The Eye, has made a practice of confronting people he believes are growing marijuana. Their houses are easy to spot, he said — covered windows, tall fences, cars coming and going late at night. “Sometimes the whine of fans,” he said.
Since it would be so easy to arrest these people, why are they not more afraid? Where is the enforcement? The NYT writes:
Also complicating law enforcement’s job is that marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, which has been increasingly aggressive about prosecuting club owners they feel have crossed the line into commercial drug dealing.
Why does this complicate local law enforcement? It seems to be that both state and federal law enforcement should target the same large-scale operations. The feds could go after the terribly sick patients with houseplants, but why would they, when there are all these far less sympathetic growers to prosecute?
Among those recently convicted in California include a doctor and his wife from Cool who were given five years each in March for conspiracy to sell marijuana and growing more than 100 plants; a club owner from Bakersfield who pleaded guilty in March to possession of 40 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute; and Luke Scarmazzo, a 28-year-old club owner and aspiring rapper who faces 20 years to life in prison after a conviction last month for running a multimillion-dollar club in Modesto that the government called a criminal enterprise.
How many are being prosecuted? Much as I like colorful details in news articles, I would sacrifice the knowledge that Scarmazzo is an aspiring rapper in exchange for some some comprehensive statistics about law enforcement.

June 8, 2008

"Get your ya-yas out."

Says Barack Obama:

"That's an old 60s expression."

Yeah, it is:

ADDED: You can debate about what ya-yas are. (Everyone who's read the David Sedaris book "Naked" should know Greeks use it to refer to grandma.) But in rock and roll history, there's something that pre-dates the Rolling Stones album. It's Lee Dorsey's song "Ya Ya" ("Oh, well, I'm sitting here la la, waiting for my ya ya"). I think it's just pure serendipity that Lee Dorsey also has this — a song called "Yes We Can," with surprisingly Obama-appropriate lyrics.

IN THE COMMENTS: Kirk Parker asks:
Do we also get to Kick Out The Jams?
If you do, please do it this way — not this way. And it's NSFW to do it this way or this way.

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank in Columbus, Wisconsin.

This was the one Louis H. Sullivan building on the "Wright & Like" tour this year. Here's the view from the interior balcony, which is a little museum:

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

I was thinking: They should do a movie here. In fact, the moviemakers for Johnny Depp's "Public Enemies" came to Columbus to scout out this location, but they ended up picking the bank across the street! Huh? How can there possibly be a better bank across the street? Well, there isn't. But the movie makers rejected this location, the bank manager told me, because there wasn't enough space for the equipment. He was glad, he said, because you don't want your bank used as a set for a robbery scene.

Let's get a clear look at those windows.

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

I love the colors.

Seen from the outside:

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

That's the side of the building, with just a taste of the elaborate terra cotta decoration. Go around to the front to see the shameless grandeur bestowed on small-town Wisconsin banking:

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

The architect wants you to know his name:

The Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

"The Couch"? Is that a place where you can go swingin' on the flippity flop?

Glenn Reynolds writes:
IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN ACCURATE, but it was smart! Allison Glock's New York Times piece on Knoxville contained this introduction: "KNOXVILLE is often called 'the couch' by the people who live there. It’s a place too unassuming to shout about but too comfortable to leave." That's a nice intro, but nobody in Knoxville can remember ever hearing it called "the couch." But thanks to that bit, Glock's story is the most-blogged item in the Times at the moment. My advice to travel writers -- always open your point with a minor error that's sure to get under local bloggers' skins, and watch your traffic and rankings soar!
Oh, if only we could have been blogging back in 1992, when the New York Times published the ludicrous "Grunge: A Success Story," by Rick Marin:

All subcultures speak in code; grunge is no exception. Megan Jasper, a 25-year-old sales representative at Caroline Records in Seattle, provided this lexicon of grunge speak, coming soon to a high school or mall near you:

WACK SLACKS: Old ripped jeans

FUZZ: Heavy wool sweaters

PLATS: Platform shoes

KICKERS: Heavy boots


BOUND-AND-HAGGED: Staying home on Friday or Saturday night

SCORE: Great



DISH: Desirable guy


LAMESTAIN: Uncool person

TOM-TOM CLUB: Uncool outsiders

ROCK ON: A happy goodbye
Of course, Megan Jasper was just horsing around — she made the whole thing up — and the New York Times fell for it. You'd think, after all the embarrassment, they'd be really careful about reporting slang.

CORRECTION: (Just when I'm pointing out mistakes!) I've corrected the spelling of Marin's name.

"This is why I've often said that legal ethics is to actual ethics as Madison, Wisconsin is to James Madison..."

"... the former is vaguely inspired by the idea of the latter."

Sasha Volokh disses Madison in the comments to a Volokh Conspiracy post by Judge Paul Cassell.

The post is about whether it's ethical for a judge to perform a marriage ceremony for the defendant he's just sentenced. Lawprof Stephen Gillers had said "It would show very poor judgment for the court to perform this ceremony or even to entertain the possibility. He should have shot this down as soon as they asked. He's not there to perform weddings; he's there to send a man to jail" and "I suspect that in 232 years of American history, it's never happened that a [federal] judge has performed a marriage ceremony for a defendant awaiting sentencing in a serious felony case in his own court."

But Cassell himself had performed such a marriage. He says: "I thought it was important to honor the request for the defendant for the service because I thought it would improve his prospects for rehabilitation if he knew he had lovely wife willing to wait for him." But he concedes that it might be a ploy for leniency or inadvisable for some other reason. (Gillers was commenting on a child pornography case where the 42-year-old defendant was marrying a 21-year-old.) In classic judicial fashion, Cassell thinks the matter can be trusted to the discretion of the trial judge.

So that's the post. It's interesting.

But what's with dissing Madison? If we could reanimate James Madison and show him this place, would he really have such a problem with us?


Several other commenters at VC bring up "The African Queen." I couldn't find a YouTube clip for the glorious scene they were referring to, but I did run across the trailer, which might make you want to rewatch the whole movie to get to the part the commenters were talking about. (Not sure what they meant to prove there, as the ethics are demonstrated by a Nazi.)

AND: Thanks to commenter Bearbee, here's that marriage scene (a big spoiler if you haven't seen the movie):

AND: Just watched the clip. "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser William II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution." So those weren't Nazis. The movie takes place in 1914, at the outset of WWI. Sorry for the vague memory. So Rosie's dress wasn't all that old-fashioned. Note too that it's the ship captain who performs the marriage (and gives the sentence), not a judge.

MORE: In the comments, Sasha denies that he dissed Madison, I argue with him, and he responds. Also, Sasha's analogy inspires a contest.

AND: Eugene enters the fray.

What did Bob Dylan say about Barack Obama — and what did he mean?

At the end of Alan Jackson's interview with Bob Dylan:
My time with Dylan is up and we stand in preparation for my leaving the room. As a last aside, I ask for his take on the US political situation in the run-up to November's presidential election.

“Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval,” he says. “Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up...Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.” He offers a parting handshake. “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future,” he notes as the door closes between us.
I've been listening to the words of Bob Dylan, taking them seriously, and trying to interpret them since the 1960s, so I'm ready to analyze this. In typical Dylan style, it's enigmatic. Let's study it line by line.

“Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval. Poverty is demoralising."

This is a broad statement about the problems and the mood in the country, with a focus on one thing: poverty. Poverty has not been a central issue in the campaign. Except for John Edwards, the candidates are careful to talk about economics in terms of the middle class and families.

Then there's the notion that poverty is demoralizing, which leads, somewhat mysteriously, to thoughts about virtue: "You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor." And the virtue is purity. Purity! What candidate has spoken about purity?

I'm seeing a swirl of left- and right-wing thoughts here. Conservatives care about individuals taking responsibility for themselves. They stress personal initiative and — particularly if they are social conservations — "virtue." "Purity" may seem to refer to the sexual virtues. To go from purity to poverty is easy for the poet. The words loosely rhyme. Maybe Dylan is bullshitting and stalling for time. (You can sing the previous 2 sentences in your imitation Dylan voice.)

But a conservative might tie purity to poverty: If you abstain from sex until you can marry and form a stable family, you will probably not be poor — if you take personal initiative and work hard. But the left-wing theme is there too. What if people can't do that because the poverty has demoralized them? There's sympathy and not judgment for the people who haven't followed the prescription for avoiding poverty.

This prelude ends with his naming one candidate, Barack Obama: "But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up...Barack Obama."

"But we've got this guy out there now" is funny. Barack Obama is supremely famous at this point, but Dylan talks about him as though he's just appeared on the horizon: "this guy out there now." I think talking like that is being cagey and distancing himself from the subject of politics. But "this guy" is "redefining the nature of politics." Dylan doesn't like politics, perhaps, and wouldn't it be cool if some guy changed what politics are? Yet "redefining the nature of politics from the ground up" is a hack phrase — something the politicians themselves would say. I sense that he's putting up a wall, being vague and unrevealing.

"He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out."

He repeats the redefinition idea, then reverts to the most noncommittal statement possible. We'll see what happens.

"Am I hopeful?"

I can't tell whether the interviewer pushed him with a question here. If not, then Dylan recognized the necessity of asking this. You can "redefine" something, but does anything change in the real world? And "so we'll have to see how things play out" was specifically declining to express either optimism or pessimism.

"Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to."

He goes with the optimism. Not too much, though. An optimist would say "Yes, I'm hopeful that things will change." The "might" is the tinge of pessimism. And then there's the added "Some things are going to have to." Which things? And if they "have to," what does any particular politician have to do with it? Again, it's enigmatic, noncommittal — we'll have to see how things play out.

He "offers a parting handshake." He doesn't really want to talk about this. He shuts the door on his interlocutor, with one last point: "You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future."

Why talk about the past here? "Some things" must change, he just said, but then he feels the need to bring up the past, to tell us to value the past and keep what is good. That's a conservative impulse — though not terribly conservative. He's only advising us to take "the best" from the past, while a hardcore conservative would want to keep as much tradition as possible and would believe that good naturally inheres in tradition. And yet, Dylan advises us to leave "the worst" behind, which would mean that we could continue with everything but what is shown to be actively bad — and that is what a hardcore conservative would say.

Finally, "go forward into the future." That is the most banal statement in the world. It's a ridiculous hack phrase, and maybe he meant it as a joke — because he is ousting the reporter from the room. "Go forward into the future" = Now, get out of here. But "go forward into the future" is the language of progressivism. He's swirling those left and right statements together, being enigmatic and cagey. It's a way that works for him, making him sound wise, funny, different — Dylanesque.


The subject of Dylan and Barack Obama came up in the comments on the Hillary post yesterday, when L.E. Lee wrote:
I was even more surprised that Bob Dylan said that he supports Barack Obama this past week. I do not remember Dylan ever endorsing a candidate for political office before.
Then Meade said:
L.E.Lee, It's widely known that, like Hillary was, Bob Dylan was a supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Lee had trouble believing that, and Meade told him to look it up. It's in Dylan's book "Chronicles." This was a cue to me, because I blogged "Chronicles" chapter by chapter in 2004 — click the "Dylan's Chronicles" label — and I knew I had something on Goldwater. Yes, here:
Dylan's favorite politician: Barry Goldwater. P. 283.

Why: "[he] reminded me of Tom Mix."

Bob Dylan song that mentions Goldwater: "I Shall Be Free, No. 10."
Now, I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want ev'rybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy!
I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
A Bob Dylan political opinion: "I wasn't that comfortable with all the psycho polemic babble. It wasn't my particular feast of food. Even the current news made me nervous. I liked the old news better." P. 283.
So, what does all this add to the analysis of his "endorsement" of Barrack Obama? I think we can say that door-closing Dylan is not that comfortable with talk about politics. In the book, that statement "I liked the old news better" got him to talking about his interest in reading history. His love of Barry Goldwater had something to do with style and cowboys. Here's Tom Mix. I can see the Goldwater resemblance. But why would Dylan say he liked Goldwater and give that as the reason? He's playing with us, hiding again, letting us know he's different from other people — he thinks with a poet's logic. Ordinary political people bother him. (So a politician who could "redefine" politics might appeal to him in a special way.)

And what do we make of the reference to Goldwater in "I Shall Be Free No. 10"? Read the lyrics. It begins:
I'm just average, common too
I'm just like him, the same as you
I'm everybody's brother and son
I ain't different from anyone
It ain't no use a-talking to me
It's just the same as talking to you.
So he's playing a character. Obviously, not Bob Dylan, who's very different from us and whom there is use in talking to, because it's not at all the same as talking to yourself. The "I" here is a comical everyman — the ultimate conformist. But then the lyrics proceed in lots of different directions, and sometimes the "I" is Dylan, but I think the Goldwater verse is not Dylan. It's a hypocritical liberal whom Dylan mocks. The liberal wants freedom for all, but is ready to discriminate against the conservative: "I want ev'rybody to be free/But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater/Move in next door and marry my daughter/You must think I'm crazy!"

To use "all the farms in Cuba" as the thing of great value to the character speaking these lines is to suggest that the liberal is really a Communist and to show an even darker side to his desire to repress the conservative. It's also part of the silliness and nonsense of this song, which shifts all over the place, changing points of view and flipping around absurdly.

That's just something he figured out how to do to keep us guessing what he's really talking about.
Now you're probably wondering by now
Just what this song is all about...
So if you're probably wondering by now just what his "endorsement" of Barack Obama is all about... it's nothing. It's something he said over in Denmark.