December 6, 2008

Martha "Sunny" von Bulow has died -- after 28 years in a coma.

Her husband Claus von Bulow was accused of trying to kill her. Their story was depicted in the movie (and book) "Reversal of Fortune." A clip:

That's Jeremy Irons as von Bulow. The lawyer -- Alan Dershowitz -- is played by Ron Silver. (Unconscious, on the bathroom floor, playing Sunny, is Glenn Close.)

Von Bulow was convicted, and Dershowitiz won the appeal that got him a new trial. He was then acquitted. Where is he now?
Claus von Bulow is living in London, "mostly taking care of his grandchildren," said Alan Dershowitz, the defense lawyer who won his acquittal at the second trial.

"It's a sad ending to a sad tragedy that some people tried to turn into a crime," Dershowitz said. "I hope this finally will put to an end to this terrible tragedy."...

Claus von Bulow's main accusers were his wife's children by a previous marriage, Princess Annie Laurie von Auersperg Kniessl and Prince Alexander von Auersperg. They renewed the charges against their stepfather in a civil lawsuit a month after his acquittal.

Two years later, Claus von Bulow agreed to give up any claims to his wife's estimated $25 million-to-$40 million fortune and to the $120,000-a-year income of a trust she set up for him. He also agreed to divorce her, leave the country and never profit from their story.

"Imagine an America with no more Corvettes! No more Caddies, Trans Ams, Camaros or Mustangs."

"No Ford or Chevy pick up trucks; no Jeeps or Suburbans. Not one PT Cruiser. All gone, our shared national automotive legacy and collective memories stretching back a century, and millions of jobs, all looted by ultra-conservatives eager to punish generations of American workers for the sin of not voting for the GOP in acceptable numbers. Gone forever. In their place will be rice burning Nissons [sic] and Toyotas, maybe the occasional German model. Models that legions of newly unemployed Americans, standing on the precipe [sic] of Bush's Depression, will never be able to afford." 

IN THE COMMENTS:1jpb said...
Who cares about the iconic appeal? Losing Duesenberg and Packard (the early Packards, like mine) that was the loss of icons.
Don't get me started. My family's tragedy was the death of Pierce-Arrow!

"Some bands are reluctant to admit that they take things from other artists... We're shameless in that respect. We don't mind telling."

Coldplay openly admits ripping off Kate Bush:

I think that is admissible evidence in this new lawsuit by Joe Satriani, who says Coldplay ripped off his song. Here's a good (and blessedly short) video comparison of the 2 songs:

I can't cite cases, but there's got to be a rule that melodies that generic can be copied with impunity. Isn't it about what you'd sing off the top of your head if you whimsically decided -- instead of speaking -- to sing the next few things you had to say.

Satriani's song is insipidly titled "If I Could Fly," which sounds like the title of every horrible "American Idol" finale song. There are about 10 reasons why I hope he loses this lawsuit, and not one of them has to do with Coldplay being any good.

"Barbie has finally kicked her rival Bratz doll to the curb."

The legal battle the Daily News (predictably) calls a "catfight."

Feel free to discuss the legal issues:
Mattel claimed the sassy Bratz dolls were the brainchild of one of its own designers, before he went to work for the rival and gave the upstart its signature toy....

Earlier this year, a jury awarded Mattel $10 million for copyright infringement and $90 million for breach of contract after members agreed that Bratz designer Carter Bryant had developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel.

Mattel subsequently requested that MGA be banned from making and selling the Bratz dolls, and Federal Judge Stephen Larson made it happen Thursday.

"Mattel has established its exclusive rights to the Bratz drawings, and the court has found that hundreds of the MGA parties' products, including all the currently available core female fashion dolls Mattel was able to locate in the marketplace, infringe those rights," Larson said.
And the dire commercial consequences: "MGA must immediately stop making all 40 dolls in the line and has until after the holiday season to remove them from store shelves." Presumably, there will be some sort of settlement that will allow the dolls to continue to be made, with Mattel raking in much of the money.

But law and commerce are not everything.

Let's talk about aesthetics. There's a lot of talk about the difference between Bratz and Barbie, but look at the picture of "Chat Divas Barbie" at the link. Not only does Barbie now look about 13 years old, she's got her mouth open in the can't-stop-talking position. I have never even accepted Barbie smiling. To me, Barbie has always been this face:


She doesn't smile. She's not a child. She's a glamorous, sophisticated woman. She's not an empty-headed chatterbox. She's a deep mystery. What are her thoughts? She will not tell you.

"She tried to 'catch people's eyes, but every person I walked by was listening to music.'"

Here's a story about a 14-year-old girl who, fortunately, saved herself from a kidnapper. But she went through a terrifying experience that could have ended a lot sooner if people on the street were more attentive to their environment instead of off in their own private iPod space.
Cops said it appeared that the man had randomly approached the teen as she walked into the lobby of the W. 180th St. building. The victim said her kidnapper dragged her outside by the arm, where he hailed a livery cab on Broadway. On the way, she said, she tried to "catch people's eyes, but every person I walked by was listening to music."

"I kept asking him, 'Why are you doing this? Where are you taking me?'" she said, sitting safely between her parents in their apartment.
We should be safe when the streets are crowded with people. That is the community that should be protecting us. But are all those people really there, or somewhere else? We're all abstracted.

In "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," Jane Jacobs writes:
Some of the safest sidewalks in New York City... at any time of day or night, are those along which poor people or minority groups live....

[T]he public peace -- the sidewalk and street peace -- of cities is not kept primarily by police, necessary as police are. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves... No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down.

Even atheists should object to Freedom From Religion's sign that sneers religion only "hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

I said that back in December 2004 about the sign in the Wisconsin Capitol. Here's my old post and here's the picture I took of the sign:

An identical sign is causing a stir now in the state of Washington. Here's Bill O'Reilly getting steamed up about it.

Another December, another battle in the "War on Christmas." I think the sensible people don't want to fight about religion, but there are always extremists -- pro-religion and anti-religion -- who seek glory in the fighting. Tolerance and peace is the better path. Please take it.

The dumbest Americans: "those born from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s."

WaPo reports:
Compared with every other birth cohort, they have performed the worst on standardized exams, acquired the fewest educational degrees and been the least attracted to professional careers....

Early Xers are the least bookish CEOs and legislators the United States has seen in a long while. They prefer sound bites over seminars, video clips over articles, street smarts over lofty diplomas. They are impatient with syntax and punctuation and citations -- and all the other brainy stuff they were never taught.
Is that dumb or a different way of being smart?

IN THE COMMENTS: Jeff with one 'f' said...
Talk about moving the goalposts. The last I heard the Baby Boom was defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. Now this clown wants to cut the generation in half to make the Xers look bad? Please.
We talked about that back here when the subject was whether Barack Obama, born in 1961, counted as a Boomer. [DATE CORRECTED.] I say he is not. To be a Boomer, you need to have grown up in the post-war afterglow, when parents and communities were psyched about living a normal, conventional family life. You have to have seen what the world was like before the Civil Rights Movement, before the Kennedy Assassination, before Vietnam. If you experienced the Beatles when you were a teenager, you're a Boomer. If you had disco, you're not.

AND: Palladian said...
"Is that dumb or a different way of being smart?"

It's called the influence of the Sixties, man! Even though the Boomers caused the Sixties, they were lucky enough to have had a pre-Sixties education and exposure to pre-Sixties culture. Not so for the poor younger folks, whose brains were permanently damaged by firsthand exposure to the catastrophe of the Age of Aquarius.
I too suspect that the dumbness attributed to the X-ers was produced by the culture of the previous 2 generations. It's not just the Boomers. We were sucking up that culture and promoting it, imbuing it with the power of the young, but people like John Lennon and Bob Dylan were not themselves Boomers. They were born in 1940 and 1941, respectively. Timothy Leary was born in 1920. Allen Ginsberg was born in 1926. Abbie Hoffman was born in 1936.

What am I trying to say? We didn't start the fire.

December 5, 2008

So Caroline Kennedy wants the Hillary Clinton Senate seat?

Then step aside everyone.

ADDED: The odds.

"A British woman woke up from a nap to find her parrot having sex with her hat."

"Jackie Lucking, 40, had worn the haute couture bonnet of colored feathers to a christening service, after which she fell asleep. When she awoke, she found that her parrot, Shrek, had gorged himself on nine of Lucking’s stimulant-based diet pills and was attempting congress with the hat. 'He turned into a maniac,' says Lucking. "It’s disgusting.'"

The perils of hands-on classroom activities.

WCBS-tv reports:
[A] Rockland County teacher [is] under fire for binding the hands of black students and having them sit under a desk during a lesson on slavery....

In a social studies class at Haverstraw Middle School, teacher Eileen Bernstein chose Gaby [Shand] and another girl for a demonstration of conditions on ships that carried slaves out of Africa....

Wilbur Aldridge, the regional NAACP director, went with the Shands Thursday to meet Bernstein.

"She said she apologized for causing any problems for the child, but she was not apologizing for using that simulation during the class," Aldridge said.

But Principal Avis Shelby apologized, calling the slave ship demonstration a "bad decision."
Emily Bazelon and I were just talking about the perils of hands-on classroom activities on Bloggingheads, and I suggested a return to good old-fashioned book-learning:

Barack Obama's chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau (on the left).

(Via WaPo.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Joan said...
Typical frat-boy-type tomfoolery.

Am I supposed to be offended? I laughed. It's just a goof.

I'm really starting to love Hillary, though. The response from her camp:

Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.

"Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he said in an e-mail.

Pitch perfect.

Yeah, excellent use of the word "bonhomie."

This could be a real turning point in feminist attitude. I did think we were supposed to get mad....

Wanna not?

"I'm a man without conviction."

Sang Boy George in "Karma Chameleon." As Sonicfrog notes, Boy George is not a man without conviction anymore.

"I can't tell the difference between Whizzo Butter and a dead crab."

This came up...

... back here (where we talking about the contrived outrage over the "Whooper Virgins" taste test).

Of course, it was our wonderful Bissage again.

Surely, you can tell the difference between Bissage...

... and Quayle...
I hate [when people say something is just so wrong on so many levels that they can't even begin to explain why] because people that say that all the time always try to imply that they deal with multitudes of levels all the time.

But seriously – how many levels are there?

Two? Maybe three, tops?

I actually know a guy that commonly dealt with five levels, but he was from Bayonne, New Jersey.

But this idea that there are so many levels is pure post-modern, crit-studies rubbish.

It is all an urban myth that has its origins in a particular budget fight in the humanities department of an well-known Ivy League University.
... and Chip Ahoy...
The contrived outrage is ridiculous on so many levels I must put down my game of multi-dimensional chess and set aside my 3-D puzzle for the moment and stop multi-tasking this four-course luncheon while responding to this blog entry while doing laundry while simultaneously playing with my puppy to respond to this while keeping open ten other windows and holding three conversations through instant messaging and solving this crossword puzzle.

1) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the psychological level

2) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the political level

3) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the sociological level

4) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the economic level

4) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the international level

5) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the sexual level

6) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the contrivance level

"Apparently living as a man was stressful enough to induce a nervous breakdown."

"I can understand that," Glenn Reynolds jokes.

From the book's Amazon page:
Norah Vincent’s New York Times bestselling book, Self-Made Man, ended on a harrowing note. Suffering from severe depression after her eighteen months living disguised as a man, Vincent felt she was a danger to herself. On the advice of her psychologist she committed herself to a mental institution. Out of this raw and overwhelming experience came the idea for her next book [Voluntary Madness]. She decided to get healthy and to study the effect of treatment on the depressed and insane “in the bin,” as she calls it.
I haven't read "Self-Made Man," but I have never understood how it was supposed to represent the actual experience of being a man, when it also involved the disturbing and weird experience of misrepresenting yourself to everyone.

O.J. Simpson gets at least 15 years in prison.

He said he was "stupid" and "sorry" and "didn't know [he] was doing anything illegal," that he thought he "was confronting friends" and "retrieving [his] things." But it will be at least 15 years for the 61-year-old football great.

Here he is in happier times.

"One toke over the line."

Orin Kerr -- for some reason -- is looking for the cheesiest Lawrence Welk clip on YouTube. He challenges his readers with a truly profoundly cheesy video -- which you can see over there -- and then a reader comes up with this:

The original version of the song was by Brewer & Shipley, and here you can see them playing it live -- and talking about that Lawrence Welk version (as well as how they got on Spiro Agnew's enemies list (or something)):

Everyone knew this was a drug song, and it's impossible to believe that the people on the Welk show didn't know. Welk says -- with a "straight" face -- "there you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale" -- Jesus and Mary do appear prominently in the song -- but there is a limit to how dumb functioning human beings can be. The show was populated by musicians. They may have been sublimely square musicians, but they were musicians.

Well, yeah, I guess it was a tortuous act.

Lori Drew took a devious, circuitous path using MySpace to... oh, you mean tortious....

"Maybe Palin had an anomalous pregnancy that showed far, far less than her previous ones..."

"... one that went from close to nothing to a serious bump in two weeks. Maybe the angle in the photo is misleading, and leaning toward us her pregnancy is concealed. Maybe her fifth labor really did take 26 hours combined via a speaking engagement (as amniotic fluid was leaking) and an 11 hour airplane flight (when a birth could have begun at any moment at extreme risk to the child), and maybe the bizarre and, to my mind, incredible stories she has told about the pregnancy and labor are true (there is still a chance they are). But if all these things are true, the Palin camp has had months to provide what would be instantly available records to dismiss all and every 'insane' blog speculation about this. And yet none came - on or off the record."

Andrew Sullivan is still on the case. Why?
Maybe I am crazy to even wonder. Or maybe we have witnessed one of the biggest frauds in American political history and the biggest failures among the American media in a very, very long time.

All I know is: the media refuses to ask and doesn't want to know and failed to demand medical records. All I know is that some journalists - like the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz - even tried to discredit the integrity of bloggers for asking. And yet in the campaign, the pregnancy and baby were offered at every moment as a reason to vote for Palin.
At every moment? Come on. The baby was used against her more than it was used for her. Much more. She was criticized for thinking she could properly attend to a "special needs" baby and take on a job with heavy responsibilities.
If the Bridge To Nowhere is worth checking out, why aren't the pregnancy's bizarre details?
Because the Bridge to Nowhere involved public, government actions, and the pregnancy was something happening inside her body as a result of purely private behavior.
Without the Down Syndrome pregnancy, Palin would not have had the rock-star appeal to the pro-life base that contributed to her selection.
Oh, yes, she would have.
She made it a political issue by holding up the baby at the convention.
All the candidates display their children at the convention, and the public normally keeps a respectful distance. We note that they are sweet and cute and we move on to matters of public concern.
I do not know the truth and have never claimed that Palin is lying. I have always stated that bringing a baby with Down Syndrome into the world is a noble and beautiful thing. I have simply asked, given the implausible, if possible, circumstances, that a person running for vice-president provide some basic evidence for a very strange and unclear story. For a photograph of Palin pregnant with one of her previous children, [follow the link]. Compare and contrast. Remember that, as a general rule, pregnant mothers show more with each successive pregnancy...
Oh, for God's sake, stop obsessing over that woman's belly!

Does the 6-year-old boy want to be seen reading "Freakonomics" (the book) on Freakonomics (the blog)?

It is a cute picture, especially if you love kids reading, but:
My husband is K.C. and the kids are Jacob (10) and Jared (6). We live in Connecticut, and K.C. commutes into New York City to work as a portfolio manager. I am a stay-at-home mom with a medical degree.

A few months ago, I thought Jacob would like reading Freakonomics, which he thoroughly enjoyed. After he finished that, I thought he might also like Malcolm Gladwell, so he is now in the midst of Blink.

Our copy of Freakonomics was lying around the house, so Jared started to get interested as well...

I have to share a funny story with you. When I told/asked Jacob about being included in your blog, at first he seemed pleased, but then a slight cloud passed over his face, and he said, “Well, I don’t want to be recognized …” Whereupon my husband reassured him that he would not be followed by paparazzi.
First commenter, one "sunshine" says:
Weird, a child asked not to have his photo put up on a highly-read Web page and both the parent and the editor refused to honor his request. Nonconsensual blogging. This concern may seem like a trivial joke, but look for this issue to increase in coming years.
Is sunshine's criticism apt? Or can we see from the context that the child imagined that once his photograph appeared on a popular blog, strangers would accost him in the street?

And more generally, I do wonder about putting pictures of children up on line. People love to see pictures of kids. It's a nice, happy part of life to see children. Yet some people seem to think that children should not be seen -- that it's dangerous for their children to be visible at all.

On the subject of children reading: I can see why "Freakonomics" and "Blink" make excellent reading for the young. We're so intent on foisting fiction on children, but there is a lot of nonfiction out their to stir their thinking.

Babu Sassi, the man who lives in his crane, at the top of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building, and hasn't been down to the ground for over a year.

BLDGblog is entranced:
Whether or not this is even true – after all, I never think truth is the point in stories like this – 1) the idea of appropriating a construction crane as a new form of domestic space – a kind of parasitic sub-structure attached to the very thing it's helped to construct (perhaps raising the question: what is the ontology of construction cranes?) – is totally awesome; 2) further, the idea that crane operators are subject to these sorts of urban rumors and speculations brings me back to the idea that there might be a burgeoning comparative literature of mega-construction sites taking shape today, with this particular case representing a strong subgenre: mythic construction worker stories, John Henry-esque figures who single-handedly assemble whole floors of Dubai skyscrapers at midnight, with a cigarette in one hand and a hammer in the other (or so the myths go), as a kind of oral history of the global construction trade; and, finally, 3) there should be some kind of TV show – or a book, or a magazine interview series – similar to Dirty Jobs in which you go around visiting people who live in absurd places – like construction cranes atop the Burj Dubai, or extremely distant lighthouses, or remote drawbridge operation rooms on the south Chinese coast, or the janitorial supply chambers of inner London high-rises – in order to capture what could be called the new infrastructural domesticity: people who go to sleep at night, and brush their teeth, and shave, and change clothes, and shower, inside jungle radar towers for the French foreign legion, or up above the train tracks of Grand Central Station because their shift starts at 3am and they have to stay close to the job.
This is, of course, a wonderful subject for movies and books. Perhaps you can help me think of some. I thought first of one of my favorite movies, the one where Shirley Temple lives in a lighthouse. Then I thought of "Bartleby the Scrivener" -- spoiler alert:
Upon more closely examining the place, I surmised that for an indefinite period Bartleby must have ate, dressed, and slept in my office, and that too without plate, mirror, or bed. The cushioned seat of a ricketty old sofa in one corner bore the faint impress of a lean, reclining form. Rolled away under his desk, I found a blanket; under the empty grate, a blacking box and brush; on a chair, a tin basin, with soap and a ragged towel; in a newspaper a few crumbs of ginger-nuts and a morsel of cheese. Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous—a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!

"For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods, it was as if for the first time."

Henry Gustav Molaison -- victim of an experimental brain operation -- dead at 82.
His amnesia did not damage his intellect or radically change his personality. But he could not hold a job and lived, more so than any mystic, in the moment....
He became an extremely useful subject for experiments relating to memory. Through him, scientists discovered the difference between "declarative memory" and "motor learning."
[Molaison] sensed from all the scientists, students and researchers parading through his life that he was contributing to a larger endeavor, though he was uncertain about the details...

He was ... a self-conscious presence, as open to a good joke and as sensitive as anyone in the room. Once, a researcher visiting with Dr. Milner and H. M. turned to her and remarked how interesting a case this patient was.

“H. M. was standing right there,” Dr. Milner said, “and he kind of colored — blushed, you know — and mumbled how he didn’t think he was that interesting, and moved away.”

"Start on clavicle. Remove middle third. Control and divide subsc art and vein."

"Divide large nerve trunks around these as prox as poses. Then come onto chest wall immed anterior and divide Pec maj origin from remaining clav. Divide pec minor insertion and (very imp) divide origin and get deep to serrates anterior. Your hand sweeps behind scapula. Divide all muscles attached to scapula. Stop muscle bleeding with count suture. Easy! Good luck. Meirion"

Ravaging "The Whopper Virgins."

Here's an ad from a Burger King campaign that's causing outrage:

Now, I have a problem with this that is entirely different from the outrage I'm reading about. My problem is the use of sexual innuendo: "virgins," especially in connection with an encounter with a "Whopper." Don't tell me "Whopper" isn't a sexual reference. Yes, a "whopper" is also a lie, but I have seen novelty underpants stamped with the Burger King logo and the slogan "Home of the Whopper." Even if it wasn't the original intention behind the name, the association is easily enough made that you don't want to stimulate it with the word "virgin" -- unless you actually do want people to think about your product that way. You may say that's crazy -- that would be disgusting! But creating associations between food and sex is extremely common -- all that orgasmic groaning and grimacing over food in ads -- and people eagerly scarf down far more obviously phallic foods than hamburgers all the time -- such as the hamburger's classic competition, the hot dog.

But that's my problem. The problem other people are having with the ad campaign goes like this:
"It's outrageous," Sharon Akabas of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, told the New York Daily News. "What's next? Are we going to start taking guns out to some of these remote places and ask them which one they like better?"

Marilyn Borchardt, development director for Food First, called the campaign insensitive.

"The ad's not even acknowledging that there's even hunger in any of these places," she told the Daily News.

The campaign has also stirred up a welter of online commentary. Brian Morrissey, writing on, likens the campaign to colonialism and declares it "embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world."

"It doesn't get much more offensive than this," noted The Inquisitor blog. "If visiting poor people in remote locations, some who would be at best surviving on below poverty levels and throwing a burger in their faces isn't bad enough, it gets better, because they also ask the Whopper Virgins to compare the taste of the Whopper to a McDonalds Big Mac as well.

"It's hard to place exactly where this begins on the level of wrongness."
I hate when people say something is just so wrong on so many levels that they can't even begin to explain why. Make the effort!

1. Is it wrong because some people in the world are poor and hungry? Is everyone who isn't us part of one big undifferentiated mass? If the commercial showed hungry, poverty stricken individuals, there would indeed be something offensive about offering a few of them big hamburgers and expecting them to report an opinion about which of the 2 relatively similar objects was marginally better, but the people in the commercial don't look food deprived or oppressed. They are just ordinary people from some specific, relatively isolated location.

2. Is it wrong because we shouldn't be intruding on -- colonizing! -- foreign cultures with our food? Presumably, those who have this problem would not have a problem with a commercial showing an American midwesterner or American rural southerner -- we don't call them "peasants" -- eating, say, Thai food or Indian food for the first time. Isn't it hypocritical and paternalistic to think it's wrong show some non-American trying our food for the first time?

3. Is it wrong because hamburgers are bad -- like guns! -- and we shouldn't be spreading them around the world? A hamburger is nothing more than a sandwich -- some meat and a few assorted trimmings between 2 slices of bread. There are plenty of things to worry about in this world. Do not fear the sandwich.


I got to that article today via Copious Dissent, via Conservative Grapevine. But I read about it yesterday on Rachel Lucas. Rachel said:
Do you ever find yourself reading an article, and you get pissed off at the subject of the article, like this is so stupid, but then wham, then you get to the part where a critic of the subject says something even more stupid about the original stupidity? And you can’t decide who is the most stupid...

December 4, 2008



"If you didn't know this was a Bible..."

"... you might think The Book was a 'goth' magazine, or perhaps something you'd find in a doctor's office. The front cover is a close-up of a translucent green eye, caked with black makeup and staring eerily from the page. On the back is a photo of a faceless figure wearing a black hooded sweat shirt."

French secularism wins out over Muslim students' demand to wear headscarves.

In the European human rights court.

Is Justice Alito harboring a grudge against Joe Biden?

AP seems to think so, in this report on a speech he gave last night at a dinner celebrating the anniversary of the "conservative" American Spectator magazine:
Alito made several joking references to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden... including Biden's withdrawal from the 1988 presidential campaign over plagiarizing parts of a speech from a British politician.

"To coin a phrase, in the spirit of the vice president-elect, you can't always get what you want, but you get what you need," Alito said, an imperfect rendering of a Rolling Stones lyric.

Then, he added, "Did someone say that before?"

A bit later in his talk... Alito said he was about to quote liberally from a magazine article. "In the spirit of the vice president-elect, I want to honor the copyright laws," Alito said.
AP surmises that he's still pissed about questions Biden asked at Alito's confirmation hearings.

In case you've forgotten, here's how Biden acted back then:
"I understand, Judge, I am the only one standing between you and lunch, so I'll try to make this painless," he began, with some promise.

Mr. Biden then dived into a soliloquy on Judge Alito's failure to recuse himself from cases involving the Vanguard mutual fund company, which managed the judge's investments. After 2 minutes 50 seconds - short for the senator - Mr. Biden did appear to veer toward a question, but abandoned it to cite Judge Alito's membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group. Mr. Biden discoursed on that for a moment, then interrupted himself with an aside about his son who "ended up going to that other university, the University of Pennsylvania."

Judge Alito, who had been sitting without expression through Mr. Biden's musings, interrupted the senator midword, got out three sentences, then settled in for nearly 26 minutes more of Mr. Biden, with the senator doing most of the talking. With less than a minute to spare, Mr. Biden concluded, thanked Judge Alito for "being responsive," then said to Mr. Specter that "I want to note that for maybe the first time in history, Biden is 40 seconds under his time."
But I don't think it's necessary to infer that Alito's still pissed about that and getting back at the garrulous old VP-elect. We all make fun of Biden whenever we feel like it.

Bush and Obama -- they dress alike.

Take the test. You'll fail, I bet.

2 Madison fights: the mattress-on-car prank and the "Get a light" bike rage.

1. "Police said the victim was punched multiple times in the head after he asked a group of young people about the damage to his parked car after the car's antenna was broken, thanks to the mattress being tossed on the car's roof."

2. "Two bicyclists came up behind [Colin O'Brien, 51], with one saying they were going to pass him on the left. As they passed, O'Brien said, "Get a light." ... [Dustin Dunlavy, 28] apparently then tried to run O'Brien off the road.... The pair followed O'Brien to his home... Dunlavy still was upset and clamped his hands around O'Brien's head, according to a police report. The report added that he twisted O'Brien to the ground and kicked him in the ribs, but Dunlavy denied doing so when he was arrested.... When asked why he didn't just ride away after the 'get a light' comment, Dunlavy apparently told police he felt extremely insulted by the statement."

I have never understood how the immense, ultra-glamorous Overture Center fit Madison.

Now, there are huge financial problems, and big cut-backs have been announced. I know these are economic hard times, but how was this immense architectural monument ever deemed viable in our small city? I often wander in there, looking for something to buy tickets to, and the offerings are nowhere near commensurate with the ambitious size of the place. So, they're cutting back jobs and shows, but they can't shrink the building -- which never seemed to offer more than we were already getting at the much smaller arts center we already had.

Here's the PDF of the announcement.
The approved budget includes deep cuts to administrative costs....

Overture Center leadership will host a series of ‘‘community conversations’’ at various places around Dane County through the spring, inviting people to share their thoughts regarding Overture Center’s future.
You know what that means. They want us taxpayers to pay for the insane hubris that made them take over an entire city block and build it up with extra theaters and giant expanses of glass and marble.

"Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family, perfect."

What Gov. Ed Rendell said about Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Okay, now, how bad is this? Rendell's getting ripped for being a big old sexist, but does he deserve it?

He was caught speaking casually, using the jocose expression "no life," which may not be as insulting as it sounds to some people. I don't think he meant anything like: She's not much of a woman (or human being) because she has no husband or children/she must be emotionally unfulfilled/cold/stunted.

I hear this as: She will be able to give absolutely the entirety of her attention and energy to a job that truly requires it.

Now, this may upset some people who want to believe that everyone has to live a life in which work is leavened and enriched with time in the warm embrace of a family. What's worse is the idea that a job requires all of a person's attention, so that anyone with a family is disqualified. And of course, there's one terrible implication: That men can have a family and a highly demanding job, but women cannot.

Did Rendell's statement contain that terrible implication? Perhaps! I do get a little whiff of: Normally, you don't send a woman to do a man's job, but that doesn't apply to Janet Napolitano. It's not that she has "no life," but that she has no female life. She can run with the men. I hear a bit of that.

But perhaps Rendell meant to boost opinion of Napolitano, to rebuff accusations that her lack of a family would make the job too tough for her. Remember when Laura Bush said this about Condoleezza Rice?
"Dr. Rice, who I think would be a really good candidate (for President), is not interested. Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job."
It could be that Rendell knew the way not having a family is used against women and he wanted to get out in front of that criticism to help Napolitano. There's sexism in that, but it's not Rendell's sexism. He's proactively defending her from attacks. Now, I might concede that it's better feminism to behave as if sexism does not exist, and maybe Rendell's proactive defense against sexism unwittingly promotes it in some ways, but I'm inclined to give him a pass.

Hip to prank calls, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hangs up on Barack Obama twice.

Good for her! You can't just call people and say you're Barack Obama, even if you're Barack Obama.

It was only a few weeks ago that everyone was laughing at Sarah Palin for talking to a Nicholas Sarkozy impersonator -- and here's that Slate "Explainer" piece -- a propos of the Palin humiliation -- explaining how world leaders actually make phone calls. It's some sort of my-people-call-your-people dance -- but what's to stop pranksters from learning the steps?

After Ros-Lehtinen's first hang up, Rahm Emanuel called and said:
"Ileana, I cannot believe you hung up on the President-Elect," Emanuel said.
She hung up. Good! I approve. Emanuel sounded like a jackass -- like a prankster.
A short time later, Ros-Lehtinen received an urgent call from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who informed her that she indeed hung up on Obama.

So, Obama tried again and this time he was successful. (Phew!)

"It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me," Obama said. Ros Lehtinen responded by telling Obama that radio stations in South Florida always make these sorts of jokes. Obama said similar pranksters reside in Chi-town.

"You are either very gracious to reach out in such a bipartisan manner or had run out of folks to call if you are truly calling me and Saturday Night Live could use a good Obama impersonator like you," Ros-Lehtinen joked with the president-elect.
Joked? Or was she still trying to ensure that she would not suffer a Palinesque public humiliation.

"These people are idiots!"

Second -- and entirely apt -- comment on an article the Houston Chronicle obviously meant as a heart-warming, triumph-of-the-feline-spirit, little-girl-cuddly tale of fuzzy-wuzzy love and indomitable outdoorsiness.

Can Plaxico Burress be a constitutional hero, vindicating gun rights?

David B. Kopel -- of the Cato Institute -- thinks the NYC gun law is unconstitutional -- and the case of the famous football star, facing ruin, is just the place to prove it.

Kopel concedes that Burress was an idiot to carry a gun in a sweatpants waistband (from which it slipped, so he grabbed it, pulling the trigger and shooting himself in the leg). But he moves on to his big point, using the Supreme Court's new Second Amendment decision -- District of Columbia v. Heller -- against NYC's "draconian" gun laws.
The Heller decision did not say that requiring a license to carry a gun was unconstitutional. But in New York State, nonresidents cannot even apply for the licenses to possess or carry a handgun. Unlike most other states, New York refuses to honor carry permits issued by sister states. Most observers believe that the Supreme Court will eventually make state and local governments obey the Second Amendment. If it does, New York's discrimination against nonresidents will probably be ruled unconstitutional.

"What's a little matter like the Constitution among friends?"

The Emoluments Clause.

It's strange the way we feel we can ignore -- or massage away -- words of the Constitution that don't seem to serve the purpose for which they were written.

But since it is the way we are, I would like to encourage Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for President.

AND: Lawprof Larry Tribe is giving massages over here:
My recent book, "The Invisible Constitution" (Oxford University Press 2008), argues that much of what we both do and should regard as the United States Constitution is neither expressed by, nor plausibly inferable from, the document's text. The book develops six models -- geometric, geodesic, global, geological, gravitational, and gyroscopic....

Study abroad -- it's much more popular with female students than male students.

“Initially the problem was perceived to be curricular, meaning the curriculum of study abroad was likely to be in the humanities, social sciences, with a strong language dimension. To the degree that women were more likely to study in those areas, and the curriculum of study abroad was in those areas, it meant men that were studying more in science and business and technologies didn’t have the curriculum overseas,” said [William Hoffa, an independent practitioner in study abroad]. He continued, however, that while there’s likely still a bias toward the humanities and social sciences in study abroad, “The curriculum of study abroad is actually pretty much across the spectrum these days.”
Even if the courses are offered, it must be that some areas of study are more usefully studied abroad, beginning with the obvious, foreign language. Then, there's also the fact that women outnumber men in colleges these days. And once study abroad is perceived as something women do, men may avoid it. You might say men ought to do it, since they'd be able to form more relationships with women, but the numbers are also in their favor at home, and maybe they don't want to compete with -- or deal with -- foreign men.
Among the many conventional wisdom-type explanations pervading in the study abroad field: differing maturity and risk-taking levels among 18- to 21-year-old men and women; a sense that females, concerned about safety, are more inclined to attend a college-sanctioned study abroad program than travel on their own...
Ah, interesting. Study abroad as the safe alternative to freestyle travel? Do women travel on their own less often? Maybe women are just more interesting in traveling. Maybe women are less interested in staying at home. Why assume women are more risk-averse? Maybe men like the home territory better.
“The further from the sort of comfort-zone area [outside Western Europe, for instance]... the more likely that females will be in that program,” said Michael Vande Berg, vice president for academic affairs at the Council on International Educational Exchange. In a research project that spanned 61 study abroad programs and about 1,300 students, Vande Berg has found differing outcomes among the men and women who do choose to study abroad. For instance, on a test of intercultural development, females on average start higher, with a score of 97.19 on a pre-test. They finish at 100.94. By contrast, and of concern, males actually lose ground from pre-test to post-test, their average scores dropping from 94.31 to 93.81.
Hmmm. I wonder what "a test of intercultural development" is? Are we looking at whether students change their beliefs?
“Sort of the nicest thing you can say about the males is that difference, going mathematically from the first test to the second test, is not significantly different. That is, the good thing you can say about males is they’re not learning anything interculturally,” said Vande Berg, who has argued the need for targeted mentoring and intervention to improve students’ learning outcomes abroad.
What? Difference... is not significantly different? Not learning anything is good? Could he say that in a way that makes sense? Perhaps he's afraid of offending. It could be that he means: The males have a strong sense of personal identity and a mature set of beliefs that are not unsettled by exposure to other cultures. But that would make women look worse then men, and researchers are not allowed to say that.
Tying his findings on gendered outcomes to the participation trends, Vande Berg asked, “What is it that students expect study abroad to be? Is it the case that male students are expecting study abroad to be a different experience than female students? And if so, are those expectations getting in the way of learning where the male students are concerned?”
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Whenever a study shows a gender difference, whatever is true of the female is good.

And isn't it ironic that, with all of this interest in appreciating cultural diversity, the researchers don't simply appreciate gender difference? Why is it something to change? Some people like one thing and some like another. Why is that a problem?

December 3, 2008

"Proof that Ann Althouse has never dined chez nikkibong."

Bloggingheads commenter nikkibong finds an apt snippet:

Wish fulfilled.

Back here, I had this picture:


Bissage said:
That’s a nice, strong dominant leader your neighbor’s got going there.

I just consulted the Magic 8-Ball (arborist’s edition) and it said, “Split crotch unlikely.”

And that’s a fine prognosis!
I said:
Actually, it breaks up into three parts just above the top of what you see in the photo. I've often looked at that spot and thought: 1. You could sit there, 2. It would be scary. 3. Even if I wanted to sit there, it would be hard to get there. 4. No matter how long I live and how many times I look at that spot, I will never sit there.
Chip Ahoy responds: "Alternate reality. Ann in a tree."

IN THE COMMENTS: peter hoh said...
Maybe you can ask to have your ashes deposited in that spot.
Christopher Althouse Cohen said...
If you truly wanted to sit there that badly, you could find a way to sit there.
Hey, I said wish fulfilled. Yeah, maybe I could find a way to have myself hoisted up there -- about 4 stories high -- and maybe I can be overcome with vertigo and tumble out and you could have my lifeless body transmogrified into a pile of white grit which you get somebody to pile up there in the tree-crotch for the squirrels to rake their claws through. But as I said: wish fulfilled.

The first victim of global warming.

There now, it's extinct! The white possum of the Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia. Aren't you ashamed? Gone, gone, gone forever. Never to return. Because you drove a car, you heated a house, you breathed, you bastard.

"9-year-old kid writes a book on how to talk to girls."

"People freak out, treat it like an actual book."

Mary Elizabeth Althouse, a 12-year-old girl in 1917.

Paintdancer reads an old diary -- "the daily writings of 12 year old Mary Elizabeth Althouse, daughter of Elmer and Margaret Althouse of Sellersville, Pa." -- her husband bought for 50¢ at a garage sale:
I found it utterly amazing that she invariably ended up in bed at around 11:30PM or 12 AM every night after a day that was chock full of activities that didn’t include TV, the Internet, movies, organized team sports for girls, or visits to the King of Prussia mall! I’d certainly have thought that kids back then were in bed by 8 o’clock out of sheer boredom!

Mary warmed my heart because she seemed to have been an old-fashioned girl much like another Mary I knew all too well- very studious, musical and creative.

Her time was totally filled with school, studies, music lessons, church activities, tatting, embroidering, painting, drawing, a scrapbook, a stamp collection, crocheting, making a pocketbook for mama, candy for friends and playing rook with her brother Sam when he came home from his college (Cornell?) in Ithaca....

This child was obviously from a somewhat privileged family, since the family’s frequent jaunts to the theatre in Philadelphia and shopping outings to Allentown were unusual in an era where auto trips were likely a luxury. Yet, beyond those hints of a refined lifestyle, there was much within the scope of her daily activities that painted a picture of a child who was not merely cultured and well-educated, but who also had to contribute to household chores that included lawn mowing, flower planting, ironing clothes and baking goodies for the preacher’s new tenants, as well as going with mama to visit the sick and elderly.

This demonstrated to me that a privileged child need not be just an entitled child, as much of today’s affluent kids seem to be.

I also observed that Mary wrote almost nothing about her own feelings, thoughts and opinions. Her entry on Thursday, January 4th, 1917 surprised me:
Fair weather today. Went to school. Took my music lesson after school. Mrs. Krug was here for supper. Cousin Helen’s baby suffocated. Spent the evening at home, crocheting and studying. Retired at half past ten.
How strange that she didn’t comment about her feelings regarding the death of the baby! Was it because a woman’s thoughts and opinions meant so little in those days? She recorded the ritualistic performance of her daily mundane feminine tasks of sewing, tatting, baking, etc. with a conscientiousness that would be unusual in a twelve-year-old today. Yet she failed to express one iota of sadness or concern about her second cousin’s untimely death! Why???????????
ADDED: Playing rook? Ah!
Rook is a trick-taking game, usually played with a specialized deck of cards. Sometimes referred to as "Christian cards" or "missionary poker," Rook playing cards were introduced sometime in the 20th century....

The Rook deck consists of 57 cards: a blue Rook Bird card, similar to a joker, and 56 cards divided into four suits, or colors. Each suit—black, red, yellow, and green—is made up of cards numbered 1 through 14.
AND: The brief entry about the smothered baby reminds me of this passage in Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates" (which, btw, I highly recommend -- especially the audio version):
[John Winthrop's] earliest American journal entries are understandably brief. "Monday we kept a court," reads one. "My son, Henry Winthrop, was drowned at Salem," says another.

"'Concessions, I used to cringe at that word. But now, why hide it? That’s what we did.'"

"At a news conference in Detroit, the U.A.W.’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, said that his members were willing to sacrifice job security provisions and financing for retiree health care to keep the two most troubled car companies of the Big Three, General Motors and Chrysler, out of bankruptcy."

Meanwhile, in the Senate, the votes aren't there to help.

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

"Now get thee hence and clean thine selves up. And your little sheep too."

(Linked from.)

Jack Black as Jesus.

Mocking the conservatives. And much more, in "Prop 8: The Musical."

It's me and Emily Bazelon -- on the new Bloggingheads!

They've called this one "Playground Edition" -- because all the topics involve children -- also law, Lori Drew, suicide, dressing like stereotypical Indians, book-learning, and the Pledge of Allegiance:

"10 things you're not supposed to point out."

Am I not supposed to point out this list?

"Your pea soup doubles as a salt quarry. Your hamachi sashimi comes with two incongruously gargantuan bread sticks..."

"... which Babe Ruth could have used to hit homers. The mussels in your seafood platter don’t taste right. A pork chop with a hot-cool chili glaze requires the incisors of a jungle cat."

A very bad review, for the Mercer Kitchen, from Frank Bruni. (I ate there once myself. It was bad.)

The review is from a couple years ago. I was drawn to it today after reading "Brad Pitt's Mustache Eating Dinner?" Well, that's from a few weeks ago, so I have to confess to Googling Brad Pitt's mustache after seeing this picture of him, in which he looks like someone who should not be walking with that woman.

Madison, right now.


"Everybody is disadvantaged by bankruptcy, including our economy, so that’s not an option."

Says Nancy Pelosi.

So bankruptcy is an unthinkably bad process -- yet it is the process that Congress designed.

"In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol," sniffs Harry Reid.

He's glad they've opened the $621 million Capitol Visitors Center to subject the rabble to air-conditioning before they get anywhere near the elite.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lawgiver said...
And that's not all. "We have many bathrooms here, as you can see," Reid continued. "Souvenirs are available."

Souvenirs in the bathroom? Eeeewwww.

I wonder what a Congressional turd costs now days?
And I've heard -- Harry told me -- it doesn't stink.

About that time the ABA Journal called me "right-leaning, at a minimum."

I highlighted that characterization in this post the other day, and I got some comments like this:
Verso said...

Only the ABA would call this place "right leaning."

LOL! I hate to break it to you, but EVERYBODY calls "this place" right leaning. The only people who deny it are Althouse herself, and her loyal conservative followers.

Why is this so hard to accept?...
I just want to clear up a misconception, because I'm starting to see it jump into the comments in other posts. I'm not upset by or trying to control people who call me right-leaning/right-winger/conservative. There's nothing for me to do, nothing for me to deny or accept. I'm just saying what I have to say at any given moment, which is sometimes to note what other people say about me and sometimes to express amusement at all the liberal things I can say and still be considered a right-winger. And let me say now that one thing I love about being a right-winger in the sense that I'm said to be a right-winger is this amazingly wide range of freedom of opinion it provides. There is no such liberation for the lefty.

"Kate Winslet's very naked performance was denied a spot on Mr. Skin's Top Celebrity Nude Scenes of 2008."

Defamer asks: "Could this be an Oscar precursor?
Poor Harvey Weinstein just can't catch a break for The Reader.
I read "The Reader." Eh. I also read Mr. Skin's list and it's pretty funny. You can get an idea what his standards are. Maybe Kate's scenes weren't brightly lit enough. All females though, which reduced the competition.

Too bad for Kate. Will she ever win an Oscar?

"Those who hated India, those who sought to ruin it, would need to ruin Bombay."

Wrote Salman Rushdie wrote, in The Moor's Last Sigh, Christopher Hitchens tells us:
[H]e was alluding to the Hindu chauvinists who had tried to exert their own monopoly in the city and who had forcibly renamed it—after a Hindu goddess—Mumbai. We all now collude with this, in the same way that most newspapers and TV stations do the Burmese junta's work for it by using the fake name Myanmar. (Bombay's hospital and stock exchange, both targets of terrorists, are still called by their right name by most people, just as Bollywood retains its "B.")
Andrew Sullivan resolves to write "Bombay" from now on.

I'll change my "Mumbai" tag to "Bombay." (My "Burma" tag was always "Burma.")

ADDED: From Hitchens's book "God Is Not Great":
Bombay... used to be considered a pearl of the Orient, with its necklace of lights along the corniche and its magnificent British Raj architecture. It was one of India's most diverse and plural cities, and its many layers of texture have been cleverly explored by Salman Rushdie... and in the films of Mira Nair. It is true that there had been intercommunal fighting there, during the time in 1947-1948 when the grand historic movement for an Indian self-government was being ruined by Muslim demands for a separate state and by the fact that the Congress Party was led by a pious Hindu. But probably as many people took refuge in Bombay during that moment of religious bloodlust as were driven or fled from it. A form of cultural coexistence resumed, as often happens when cities are exposed to the sea and to influences from outside. Parsis -- former Zoroastrians who had been persecuted in Persia -- were a prominent minority, and the city was also host to a historically significant community of Jews. But that was not enough to content Mr. Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena Hindu nationalist movement, who in the 1990s decided that Bombay should be run by and for his coreligionists, and who loosed a tide of goons and thugs onto the streets. Just to show he could do it, he ordered the city renamed as "Mumbai"....

"Obama has packed his staff with so-called 'Third Culture Kids' —people who grew up outside the U.S."

"[T]he classic profile of a 'TCK' is someone with a global perspective who is socially adaptable and intellectually flexible. He or she is quick to think outside the box and can appreciate and reconcile different points of view.... 'Third Culture Kids' share certain emotional and psychological traits that may exert great influence in the new administration. But TCKs can also feel rootless and detached. The great challenge for maturing Third Culture Kids is to forge a sense of personal and cultural identity from the various environments to which they been exposed."

"It takes a little more than 10 minutes... for the justices ... to tell the ... lawyer that they had no idea why they agreed to hear this case."

Dahlia Lithwick describes the horribly awkward oral argument in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee.

"Vagal superstars."

"I would guarantee Barack Obama is off the charts. Just bring him to my lab."

Tim Russert to be replace by David Gregory.

Assuming you loved Russert's MTP, do you have much interest in Gregory's?

Answer only if you watched Russert's MTP: What do you think of David Gregory as the new face of MTP?
Okay. I'll give him a chance.
Terrible. free polls

"Yeah, it's been a little slower than usual. I’m taking a semi-vacation from blogging this week."

Writes Glenn Reynolds in his 27th post of the day.

Your assignment: Make up parallel concessions attributed to notable characters in various fields of endeavor.

"I can't have a high-minded lawyer ... I want a son-of-a-b----."

Newly released Nixon tapes to kick around.


With a hat tip to our wonderful Bissage.

And as long as we're lol-ing, let me acknowledge the much-emailed "vortex kitteh"…

... which was nicely animated by our wonderful Chip Ahoy:

The Mumbai terrorists, pumped up on steroids and cocaine.

"This explains why they managed to battle the commandos for over 50 hours with no food or sleep."

They also, apparently, took LSD, and it's hard to see how that could have helped.

5 minutes -- "not a second more, not a second less" -- with Rufus Wainwright.

"Somewhere where there's silence would be good." = Why he'd like being an artist if he wasn't a musician.

"Isn't gay marriage kind of the death penalty?" = What Boy George said to him when they were discussing gay marriage and the death penalty.

"One of those titanic moments." = The election of Barack Obama (presumably "titanic," large, not "Titanic," shipwreck).

"I'm writing an opera in French"... He is, and he's a native French (and English) speaker, a consequence of Canadianness.

"Best longshoreman ever."

(Via Bloggingheads.)

December 2, 2008

Saxby Chambliss has won.

The Democrats cannot reach 60 in the Senate. So can Al Franken stop trying to steal the election in Minnesota?

"Substitute any intransitive verb for 'blog,' and you have some pretty good life advice."

Says Gordon Smith, quoting me... and setting up what I think is a nice challenge to think of some intransitive verbs to create advice that Gordon might not rubber-stamp.

Is Obama hoping Bush will pardon all those war-on-terror officials lefties are hoping to see prosecuted?

Eric Posner thinks so. Why?
1. The legal cases are not strong...

2. The incentives for future lawyers and agents will be bad....

3. A trial would put the match to the powder keg of the culture wars and explode Obama’s stated aspiration to lead in a bipartisan, middle-of-the-road way....
So, if Obama wants pardons, should Bush withhold them?

About those pardons...
Obama wants them, and Bush should withhold them.
Obama doesn't want them, but Bush should grant them.
Win-win: Obama wants them, and Bush should want to give them.
Obama doesn't want them, and Bush should withhold them. free polls

I love love love love the idea of Bill Clinton getting Hillary's Senate seat.

Please, Mr. Governor. Please make it Bill!

Why do I love this idea so much?

1. She wanted his old job, but he'd be getting her old job. I love the narrative arc.

2. I love the idea of a former President going on to another government position -- instead of going about giving speeches or attempting to perform good deeds or playing the elder statesman role. Get back in there and do something.

3. It would be so entertaining having Bill in there mixing it up with the other Senators. Will his narcissism allow him to submit to it? Come on! Show us how your brilliant skills can transform the Senate.

4. It would be nice to have a Senator who you absolutely know isn't dreaming of becoming President.

"Trust me; I was so for this woman going away for twenty years," said the jury forewoman in the Lori Drew case.

Wired reports:
[Valentina] Kunasz said despite all the debate outside the courtroom about the prosecution's use of an anti-hacking statute to charge Drew for violating a web site's terms of service, jurors never considered whether the statute was appropriate. However, she said she agrees with the idea that users who violate a web site's terms of service should be prosecuted.

"The thing that really bothered me was that (Drew's) attorney kept claiming that nobody reads the terms of service," she said. "I always read the terms of service. . . . If you choose to be lazy and not go though that entire agreement or contract of agreement then absolutely you should be held liable."

Should they be punished with a federal prison sentence?

"I guess that's an option for debate," Kunasz said. "When it's gross circumstances of someone killing themselves. . . . "
Should it be considered a serious, federal crime to violate a website's terms of service? Remember when a blogger set up a Facebook page using my name? That violated Facebook's Terms of Use. ("[Y]ou agree not to use the Service or the Site to... impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity....") The blogger in question appeared in the comments to my post and confessed and bragged about his behavior. (I've preserved all his comments in case he now thinks it's worth his trouble to delete them.)

Now, I pursued the remedy I cared about: I got Facebook to delete the page. But imagine if some federal prosecutor went after him. It would be utterly abusive, in my view, and a violation of freedom of speech, but how is it different from what happened to Lori Drew?

I expect you to say that the blogger's hoax didn't cause a death. Okay, then let's make it a hypothetical: His taunting is severe and it drives me to commit suicide.

But he right answer is that Lori Drew's case was different because she was accused of using the website in order to obtain information about Megan Meier:
Drew... was convicted of helping create a fake MySpace account for a non-existent 16-year-old boy named "Josh Evans" to woo Megan and determine if Megan was spreading rumors about Drew's then-13-year-old daughter Sarah. According to testimony during the trial, Ashley Grills a then-18-year-old employee of Drew, created the "Josh Evans" account with Drew's approval and conducted most of the communication between "Josh" and Megan.
The federal statute used by the prosecutor -- 18 U.S.C. § 1030 -- is about unauthorized access of a computer and obtaining information.

Plaxico Burress's "lifetime of pampering may end with 3-1/2 of the hardest years around."

Michael Daly wants to make Burress "a poster boy for doing hard time." Why not just make him an example of famous people getting equal treatment under the law?

Bonus questions:

1. Do you think the expression "poster boy" should be avoided when writing about an African American man?

2. Do you think "[a] Giants football player can be forgiven a certain amount of confusion regarding state lines"?

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage said...
If Mr. Burress is going to be on a poster, it should be an lolplaxico:


December 1, 2008

The ABA Journal profiles me (among others).

It's part of the 100 best law blogs. Here's the profile:
While many others in the legal profession have entered the blogosphere afraid to bring too much of themselves into the open, Althouse opened the book on herself.

Her blog is as quirky and provocative as it is substantive....

Her posts on the 2008 election are right-leaning, at a minimum, and she’s faced plenty of heat for those opinions on and off her blog. But to Althouse this is only more invigorating.

“Even when people get mad at me, call me a fool and slander me, I love being one of the characters on the Internet stage,” she says.
There's a little interview with me and a photo at the link.

"Right-leaning, at a minimum"? Especially the part when I voted for Obama.

ADDED: Please note that there are 2 links up there. The second link is to my profile. And at the first link, in case you didn't notice, there is an opportunity to vote for this blog.

Military robots -- "autonomous systems" -- might be better than human beings with their terrible emotions.

The Telegraph reports.
Pentagon chiefs are concerned by studies of combat stress in Iraq that show high proportions of frontline troops supporting torture and retribution against enemy combatants.

Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech university, who is working on software for the US Army has written a report which concludes robots, while not "perfectly ethical in the battlefield" can "perform more ethically than human soldiers."

He says that robots "do not need to protect themselves" and "they can be designed without emotions that cloud their judgment or result in anger and frustration with ongoing battlefield events."
Isn't emotional response also needed to make sound ethical decisions? Emotion may lead us astray, but doesn't it also let us know what is right?

And shouldn't religious people object to the notion that machines can behave more ethically than human beings? You have to believe that God has no effect on people.

"Breaking News: The U.S. entered a recession in December 2007."

Hot -- yet year-old -- news.

"I think most people voted for Barack Obama because they decided they wanted him to be in their living room for the next 4 years explaining policy."

President Bush says something apt about the election. He also admits: "I think it was a repudiation of Republicans, and I'm sure some people voted for Barack Obama because of me."

Put me in the category of Obama voters who wanted him -- and not McCain -- in my living room for the next 4 years explaining policy. Actually, that sounds hilariously boring, Obama going on and on in his professorial way, but that's okay. We could use something mellow and soothing. Not too soothing, but fluid, coherent, and confidence inspiring.

Obama gets the "big, rambunctious dog" he wanted.

Ha ha.

"The terrorists were watching CNN and they came down from where they were in a lift after hearing about us on television."

Idiocy crosses the line into evil.

"CNN has received no complaint from any individual regarding our coverage and their safety. We take such matters very seriously. We are not aware of the allegedly compromising broadcast, but even in the absence of key details such as when and where, we will continue to check."

Is the f-word indecent or just coarse and unmannerly?

It makes a difference, according to Jeffrey Rosen, talking about the Supreme Court's pending "fleeting expletives" case. (The question is what can the FCC do to broadcasters if Cher suddenly says "People have been telling me I'm on the way out every year, right? So fuck 'em" and so forth.)
At the Supreme Court argument, Justice Antonin Scalia lamented the "coarsening of manners," adding, "I am not persuaded by the argument that people are more accustomed to hearing these words than they were in the past." I share Scalia's concerns about the coarsening of public manners on television, but he is willfully denying the evidence that most Americans no longer view fleeting expletives as indecent. The Supreme Court has said that the FCC can only ban epithets that are considered genuinely offensive by contemporary community standards. For that reason, the justices should strike down the Bush FCC's fleeting expletive policy, and, if they don't, the Obama FCC should repeal it. But this suggests a real problem--the vulgarization of culture--without a clear legal, political, or even technological solution.
I originally wrote out "fuck" in the post title, but then I changed it.... if that means anything. I doubt if my sensibilities here are much more probative of what "people" are accustomed to hearing these days than Scalia's.

November 30, 2008

"People who use heroin, they have the image of losers. They have the image of... junkies."

It's not fashionable anymore to be a heroin addict, so why not dispense it, legally, at a clinic?

"Another distinctly less sexy possibility is that I have never much liked sex because, when all is said and done, there’s not much to like."

"I mean, really: What is the big deal? Especially when it’s with the same person, over and over again; from an evolutionary standpoint, that simply couldn’t be right. I, for one, have always become bored of sex within the first six months of meeting a man, the act paling for me just as the sun pales at the approach of winter, and as predictably, too."

It's official: Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State.

Per Politico:
Obama’s transition team gave the green light to Clinton’s nomination after lawyers worked out a remarkable agreement addressing potential conflicts of interest for former President Bill Clinton, who has extensive financial ties abroad.

Most remarkably, the former president agreed to release the long-secret list of 208,000 donors to his presidential library and foundation. As one of nine concessions, he has promised to put out the list by the end of the year.

"Right now, we're trusting Google because it's good, but of course, we run the risk that the day will come when Google goes bad."

"Under pressure to fight terrorism or to pacify repressive governments, Google could track everything we’ve searched for, everything we’re writing on gmail, everything we’re writing on Google docs, to figure out who we are and what we do. It would make the Internet a much scarier place for free expression."

"The gloom that has fallen over the book publishing industry is different from the mood in, say, home building."

"At least people know we’ll always need houses."

"Do you think Palin has ruined Alaska as a symbol of the untrammeled frontier for future filmmakers and novelists?"

"No. Hopefully, she fades from memory quickly."

Hope won the election, it's true, but that is one hope that will not be fulfilled.

IN THE COMMENTS: Dust Bunny Queen:
I don't get the connection between Sarah Palin, Alaska as an "untrammeled frontier" (whatever that means?) and making a film about a woman and her dog.

Seriously, these people -- the interviewer and interviewee -- are deranged and irrelevant. They wouldn't recognize an untrammeled frontier since I doubt they are ever more than 15 minutes from a Starbucks.
Don't understand what "untrammeled frontier" means? What is a "trammel," anyway?
1. A shackle used to teach a horse to amble.

2. Something that restricts activity, expression, or progress; a restraint.

3. A vertically set fishing net of three layers, consisting of a finely meshed net between two nets of coarse mesh. 4. An instrument for describing ellipses.

5. An instrument for gauging and adjusting parts of a machine; a tram.

6. An arrangement of links and a hook in a fireplace for raising and lowering a kettle.
Now, what are we supposed to picture being done to a frontier?

"Would you like to enjoy the kind of physical relaxation and peace of mind that result from looking like the biggest dork on the planet?"

Then you might like #12 of Dave Barry's great bad gift ideas.

"I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."

The Rev. George M. Docherty -- who died on Thanksgiving, at the age of 97 -- sermonized about the Pledge of Allegiance:
[He] was summoned from his native Scotland in 1950 to become pastor of the historic church in downtown Washington, which Abraham Lincoln attended when he was president in the 1860s. Each year on the Sunday closest to Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, the church had a special service that was traditionally attended by the president.

On Feb. 7, 1954, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower sitting in Lincoln's pew, Rev. Docherty urged that the pledge to the flag be amended, saying, "To omit the words 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life."

He borrowed the phrase from the Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln said, "this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom."

Rev. Docherty's inspiration for the sermon came from his son's schoolroom experience of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. When Rev. Docherty realized that it had no reference to God, he later said, "I had found my sermon."

Without mentioning a deity, Rev. Docherty said, the pledge could just as easily apply to the communist Soviet Union: "I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."...

But in 1954, with Eisenhower in the congregation and the threat of communism in the air, Rev. Docherty's message immediately resounded on Capitol Hill. Bills were introduced in Congress that week, and Eisenhower signed the "under God" act into law within four months....

"An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms," he said in his sermon. "If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life."
Those words may grate on some liberals' ears. Remember the oral argument in the Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the Pledge?
Michael A. Newdow stood before the justices of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, pointed to one of the courtroom's two American flags and declared: ''I am an atheist. I don't believe in God.''...

Earlier, Dr. Newdow responded to Justice Stephen G. Breyer's suggestion that ''under God'' had acquired such a broad meaning and ''civic context'' that ''it's meant to include virtually everybody, and the few whom it doesn't include don't have to take the pledge.''

''I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' '' Dr. Newdow replied. ''I deny the existence of God.'' He added, ''Government needs to stay out of this business altogether.''...

[The 9th Circuit court] ruled last year that the addition of ''under God'' turned the pledge into a ''profession of religious belief'' and made it constitutionally unsuitable for daily recitation in the public schools. Congress added the phrase at the height of the cold war in an effort to distinguish the American system from ''Godless Communism.''
But Docherty was no arch conservative. From the first link:
During his 26 years as pastor, he became better known for his liberal social activism than for his quest to alter the Pledge of Allegiance. He promoted racial equality and led outreach efforts to feed and educate the city's hungry and poor. His church was often a staging point for civil rights and antiwar demonstrations, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached from its pulpit. Rev. Docherty was with King on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

The video that helped put a man in prison for 22 years for running a stop sign.

[VIDEO REMOVED. Available at the link.]

Is it fair?
The increasingly sophisticated multimedia presentations depict victims from cradle to grave, often with soft music in the background, tugging on the heartstrings of jurors. Defense lawyers say the videos are highly prejudicial and have sought to have them banned.

But the Supreme Court this month declined to hear challenges to two such videos, including one of Sara Weir, a dark-eyed 19-year-old who was raped and murdered in 1993. The video contains more than 90 photos of Weir and is set to the haunting tones of Enya.
(We discussed the cert. denials here.)
Prosecutors vigorously defend the videos, which are presented as part of "victim impact evidence" in death penalty and non-capital homicides and are usually put together by families, sometimes with help from law enforcement or funeral homes. With defendants able to present extensive "mitigating evidence," prosecutors say multimedia is often the best way to document the life that was extinguished and the pain of those left behind.

"You're talking about 20 minutes that actually lets the jury see these people walking and breathing and moving," said Matt Murphy, an Orange County, Calif., prosecutor.... "I can see why these videos drive defense lawyers crazy because they actually balance things out"....

Evan Young, the lawyer who failed to persuade the Supreme Court to take up the Weir video challenge, said she thinks they tilt the scales against defendants. "Without limits on the use of this technology," she wrote in her brief, "capital trials become theatrical venues, and the determination whether a defendant receives a death sentence turns on the skill of a videographer."
But of course there is a limit:
Until the early 1990s, victims and family members rarely testified about the impact of a crime, having been held back by a series of Supreme Court rulings that said such testimony would violate the defendant's constitutional rights. A 1991 Supreme Court decision reversed the prohibition, a key milestone for advocates who say victims have historically felt marginalized by the criminal justice system.

Writing for a 6 to 3 majority, then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said prosecutors could balance the virtually unlimited defense mitigation evidence by offering "a quick glimpse of the life" of the victim. But the court laid out little specific guidance beyond saying that victim impact evidence must not be "unduly prejudicial."
So the question is whether the Supreme Court should set more detailed rules. Was that video about Jesse Heller too much? If you say yes, do you think that the Supreme Court can come up with constitutional law specifying how many photographs or how many minutes of photographs are "unduly prejudicial"? Should it be said that the Constitution forbids pop songs?