May 15, 2010

Hey! Business Insider used my picture without attribution!

Look here! Scroll down. 


That is a picture of me working on my last law school exam. I've blogged about it before. My son John scanned it and uploaded it on his Flickr site here.

Studying for last law school exam

It has a Creative Commons license, reserving some rights, and there should be attribution to the photographer, Richard Lawrence Cohen, who was, back then, my husband.

That's not the first time I've seen the picture used like that. It's interesting to me that people see it as a generic hard-working student, since of course I see myself as completely specific. I had a Federal Courts exam to write, and I had a newborn baby a few feet away in our studio apartment. That baby, John, is now 29 years old.

Things I wrote about movies in 1999.

Ha. This is fun for me to read. 5 years before I started blogging, I wrote up some opinions about movies in IMDB, under the pen name Alizaria. (It's still my Metafilter nickname.) I haven't read these in a decade, so I'm going to kind of blog them right now — mainly for my own amusement, but come in and talk about these things if you want.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
I hated this movie, 19 December 1999

I have in the past loved Tim Burton. I loved Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and even Mars Attacks. But I hate this movie. The costume drama scenes in the beginning were the sort of poorly done, stodgy things that used to plague historical drama 25 years ago. Then there were all the head-cutting scenes, which just left me cold, and that's the sort of thing that ought to mean something, I would think. Yes, there were some nice bare trees and foggy evenings and the horseman jumping out of the tree was a nice special effect, but on the whole the movie was just boring and pointless.
I didn't admit that I slept through parts of this movie. It was literally "Sleepy Hollow" for me. I was beginning a period of my life when I changed from loving movies — going out to the movies more than once a week — to near-complete indifference. I can barely force myself to go out to the movies 5 times a year, and I watch a movie on TV maybe once a month.
Dogma (1999)
0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
This movie is terrible!, 24 November 1999

Where are the positive reviews coming from? This movie is terrible! The acting was incredibly wooden, like an underrehearsed skit that went on for 2 hours intercut with idiotic scenes of carnage. How many times did 5 or 6 characters just sit around explaining elaborate supernatural rules to each other? That might have been funny if the script were well written and if Selma Hayek could act just a little, but it wasn't. And poor Ben Affleck, trying to act up a storm: was this supposed to be dramatic? It was just out of place and dumb. And Alanis Morrisette as God might have been funny if all the reviews hadn't revealed this plot point and if George Burns hadn't already milked the joke of an unlikely pop celebrity as God years ago. I was horribly bored at this movie and may have set a record for times I looked at my watch. Thinking a comedy should be about 90 minutes, I went nuts waiting for this ponderous two hours to end.
Ha ha. I like the way 0 out of 5 people find my review useful. On IMDB, "useful" tends to mean "liked it as much as I did."
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Focus on Catherine Keener, 22 November 1999

Well, first of course this a very interesting and original film with lots of laughs and many memorable images. And Cameron Diaz allowed herself to look unrecognizable and homely as anything. Yay, Cameron! But let me focus on the wonderful Catherine Keener, whom I adore from "Living in Oblivion" (not to mention the Seinfeld where she paints Kramer's picture). I'm so glad she has a really popular movie to record her greatness for all posterity. The role is perfect for her: so many cutting remarks, said with a smile.

Back to the film. Interesting inquiry into sexuality: what if you love the personality but are not attracted to their body? That's the basic question, which perhaps the writer struggled with in his own life. If only I could be inside the body of someone sexually attractive (like John Malkovich!!), I could then have sex with all the people I find attractive. Actually, this may be where the story went downhill for some people and got quite dark. I can see many people had trouble with Cameron in a cage.... As well you should! If that weren't upsetting, then there'd be a problem....
It's a bloggy question: Do you ever think I wish I could be inside someone else's body, so you could have sex with someone who doesn't find you physically attractive? Or have you ever wished someone you really like as a person could be inside the body of someone you find physically attractive so you would be able/willing to have sex with him/her? 
Festen (1998)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
The Promised Profound Experience Didn't Happen to Me, 21 November 1999

I saw this movie at a university screening room after an elaborate intro by the movie's producer, who explained all about Dogma 95, which I was quite interested in and excited about. But the film seemed to be pretty much of an exercise in following their little rules, which results in a movie that left me longing for the artistry of real cinematography. The producer described the Dogmatists [as] wanting to strip away the pretensions of big expensive films, and that is something I appreciate. But I want to see the actors faces. Take a film like Crumb, really low budget, but you see everything. Celebration didn't seem to really care about its characters or story which I found incredibly trite and unbelievable. I was told I'd be profoundly moved and that people all over the world were really moved by this film, but I just did not believe in the story at all. It was quite a crude effort at writing a family story with a big secret, which reminded me a bit of Sam Shepard plays from the 70s. Big weird family with a horrible secret to be discovered. Or to go way back, Eugene O'Neill. But those family stories are so far better written than Celebration--it is just nothing as a story. And the wearing effect of the visual quality as the movie gets literally darker and grainier as it goes along reminded me of experiences I've had in bad theaters where I've had to complain about the lighting. I like the idea of stripping away pretense and making movie making possible without enlisting the approval of big companies, but I assume in the future it can be made to look better and that the writing will really count and the acting will be good. There was one fine actor in the movie, the father, who was in Bergman's Cries and Whispers, and I started thinking about Bergman, who had very beautiful cinematography: it's not something to be scorned.
I used to suffer for things that people made me think were real art. Now, I protect myself. What am I missing? I blame "Festen."
American Beauty (1999)
Every performance: perfect!, 24 October 1999

Well, it looks like nearly everyone truly loves this movie, and so do I.

A lot of movies that are artistic and admirable still don't really grip you all they way through, but this one did for me. When I saw it a second time, I still felt completely involved at every moment. There was always an image on screen worth looking at, even studying, for all the details of the composition: the composed squares of windows at night and camera viewfinder and so on. There was attention to this. Every performance was just perfect.

Annette Benning was hilarious and really perfect. So funny and moving even as she played the type of character who isn't usually sympathized with. You know it really does ruin the mood if the guy attempting to have sex with you is holding a beer bottle slantwise near the upholstery that you've struggled to buy and maintain. That's why Spacey sounds trite, as one commenter commented, when he rants to her about caring about things. Hey, remember that scene begins with him playing with his new toy and pleased at having bought a new car. You aren't supposed to actually buy his throwback to the sixties mentality: he's just discovered his inner teenager there. Enough has been said about Spacey.

I just want to identify the two actors I'd nominate for their supporting roles. First, Chris Cooper. The long wet closeup is a great sustained performance that feels completely real and unbearably painful. Just to think of it now gives me chills.

Second, Mena Suvari. She is absolutely perfect in this role, funny, moving. I didn't notice how great she was the first time I saw the movie, because she was such a type until toward the end, but the second time I noticed all the perfect detail in this performance. I also saw her in a TV interview: she looked nothing like the character in the movie.

Anyway, I would have said I'd like to see these four actors sweep the acting Oscars except that I'm still trying to deal with the immense awe inspired by Ving Rhames in Bringing Out the Dead.
No one admits to liking this film anymore. You're supposed to hate it. Sorry. I loved it at the time, and I'm not going to censor this. The movie got overpraised, I guess — won a lot of awards — and there was backlash. Also, it had an embarrassingly badly done gay theme.
Lolita (1962)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
second only to "Dr. Strangelove", 7 August 1999

I saw this film when I was in college, and what I remember is walking home after the film, talking about it with my friends and suddenly bursting out crying and being unable to stop. What triggered this was the thought "he really loved her." I give credit to James Mason for that (James, sublime in the bathtub scene). These days, I watch the film again every few years, and though I've never gotten back that original reaction, I love it (with the exception of the business with the folding bed--it's just too tedious, however metaphorical). Peter Sellers ("right in the boxing glove") is constantly hilarious, the clown who drops in from time to time hardly dominates the movie as so many people say. Sue Lyon is also perfect in her role (too bad if she's older than in the book--the book has an entirely different tone). She is complex, not the innocent victim: what could be more boring than a film about an innocent victim? Shelley Winters (who is really quite attractive but willing to make herself ridiculous and gloriously annoying) could not be funnier. One of my favorite films of all time: second only to "Dr. Strangelove" among Kubrick's films. (PS. I hated "Eyes Wide Shut.")
This is the only review of an old film in the bunch. I just get a kick out of watching this movie. So rewatchable.  I love it.

I can see, reading my old reviews, how much I used to care about the actors. I was so interested in how they did their work. Today, I'm just not interested in actors. I don't want to look at them. They've gotten so fake. And it's not just all the plastic surgery. I wonder if I'm sorry I lost interest in movies. Maybe I'd like them if I didn't have other things I want to do with my time. And I'm so impatient. I can't commit 2 hours to sitting in the dark, in the grip of some director's sense of how much time to take telling me a story. I can't wait while an actor speaks slowly and pauses and grimaces to try to make me feel that the words of a script are actually being manufactured inside his cranium. I have thoughts of my own.

At the gardens today — a little boy in a suit and a grown man in shorts.

DSC09892 copy


The Best Illusions of the Year.

These are fantastic optical illusions. Be sure to at least watch the full video of the winning illusion before proceeding to make jokes about Barack Obama or whatever.

"Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted..."

"... when she cruised into Sydney Harbour in her pink, 34-foot (10-meter) yacht to a rock star welcome of thousands. She successfully maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot (12-meter) waves and seven knockdowns during the 23,000 nautical mile journey that critics thought she wouldn't survive. After standing on land for the first time in 210 days, the teen said she's eager to learn how to drive a car, to eat fresh fruit and salad after months of packaged meals, get a full night's sleep instead of catnaps and shake off her sea legs with a long walk on the beach."

Jessica is 16.

So now there's this theory that the iPad is going to cause insomnia but the Kindle will not.

This is a big, long article in CNN that doesn't seem have much science to it.  Theoretically, the light emanating from electronic screens is different from the light from a lamp that bounces off a paper book or a nonglowing screen like the Kindle. Much is made of blueness.

Justice Kennedy: "I don't swing around the cases. They swing around me. My jurisprudence is quite consistent."

Another funny thing he said yesterday: "An activist court is a court that makes a decision you don't like."

IN THE COMMENTS: Danielle says: "I can't imagine him not deciding that he is his own frame of reference. Didn't Souter say something similar about how the court moved to the right, not that he moved to the left?" I seem to remember Justice Stevens saying it too. And Justice O'Connor. Don't they all? It seems like laughable vanity, but it's also probably exactly what we think they should think: That they are playing it straight, doing it right, saying what the law is. It's probably somewhere on the continuum between laughable vanity and doing the right thing... pretty much like everything else we human beings do.

Dangerously contagious writing.

What writers should a good writer avoid getting tainted by?

The list discussed at the link is all about protecting the delicate sensibilities of novelists. To write, you need a good "ear." (Sorry, that's a metaphor. And a penchant for metaphors is something you might pick up from reading "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy.) The problem with reading is that it puts some author's way of saying things in the place in your mind that would otherwise be occupied by the way real human beings speak.

I think you can immunize yourself from the disease of overly influential writers by getting out there in the world listening to people and doing some talking yourself. Have conversations. Listen to other people and watch how they interact with you when you speak. Develop your voice in real life. Even if you don't end up with a good ear and an original writing style, you will have lived and you'll have your friends. Maybe even some stories to tell.

So put down that book...

... and go parading before it's too late.

And stop looking so scornful, it's twisting your face.

"'Halogen, your explanation makes perfect sense.'/'The 'Arabic is the default language when Google gets confused' thing rings true for me.'"

"The title of this post rags on Tea Partiers, but commenters here are displaying a free-wheeling intuitive style of thinking that is actually the mode used in coming up with conspiracy theories. Where are you getting this feeling of "perfect sense" and what kind of truth bell have you got in your head and when does it ring? When you hear what you want to hear?"

I comment — as Alizaria — on that AskMetafiter post I blogged about yesterday.

ADDED: Speaking of creepy things in Arabic-looking writing, look at this Google search that brought someone to my blog today.

"An obscure assistant professor teaching in a middling university writes an opinion piece comparing the Tea Party movement to the John Birch Society..."

"... indeed, even to the Ku Klux Klan — and Politico Arena asks us to take it seriously for comment?!"

Cato via Instapundit. I'd already seen that piece — "Tea party: Dark side of conservatism" —  but I hadn't blogged it because I didn't want to impinge on my good mood to take the trouble to summon up the degree of contempt it would have required. The writer, Charles Postel, an assistant professor of history at San Francisco State University, wields 19th-century history for the purpose of demonstrating that the Tea Party is racist, and says things like "The tea party leaders disavow any racist appeals from their ranks. But historically, whether it was the JBS or Goldwater, the radical right has often had a soft spot for bigots." So, in other words, the Tea Party must be prejudiced about people like this because he's prejudiced about people like that. All purveyed under the banner of academic expertise.

We found morels.

We looked the hard way yesterday... and the easy way today:


At the Dane County Farmers Market:


Where they'll sell you the supplies to grow your own...


... mushrooms. But not morel mushrooms, which is what we buy:


And on to other things... curds perhaps....


Now, we're home, I'm blogging the morels, and Meade is getting some of them ready to fry into the morning eggs.... mmmmm.


See the jeans on that guy in the last photograph? That's what, chez Meadhouse, we call Randy Normal Jeans.

May 14, 2010

At the Country Store Café...


... either there's no smoking or pets are allowed.

"Kennedy for President."

The bumper sticker, seen today:


Here are some pictures of the big BP oil spill the size of Maryland, and it looks...

... like nothing. Which is pretty terrible, because people are going to get tired of it. And maybe people will get tired of all the many things we're asked to feel so bad about that we can't see.

Why is there Arabic writing on the Google map of Montgomery, Alabama...

... just above the Lagoon Park Golf Course. And why does it disappear when you try to zoom in?

"With two dogs in the yard..."

"... life used to be so hard... now everything is easy 'cause of you..."

It's "Our House," the Helen Reddy version.

ADDED: I can't assume you know the lyrics to the songs I know, can I? The point of this post is that Helen Reddy changed the cats to dogs. I can't even begin to hope that you share my sense of humor about that unless you realize that happened.

"This is about whether we're going to get big things done. I wasn't sent here to do school uniforms."

"My name is Barack Hussein Obama and I'm sitting here. So yeah, I'm feeling pretty lucky."

Things Obama said last summer when Rahm Emanuel was begging him not to go for extensive health care reform.

"Our President Will Put Us in DEBT Beyond Our Wildest NIGHTMARE!"

A sign...



... seen today by the side of U.S. 12 near Sauk City, Wisconsin.

Why do polls show more Americans calling themselves "pro-life" without a corresponding increase in the belief that abortion is morally wrong?

Gallup's hypothesis is that "increased political polarization... particularly since Barack Obama took office" has made more people want to adopt the label "pro-life."

Now, I think that "pro-life" means an opposition to the legal right to access to abortion, and that one's position on the legal question can and should be distinguished from one's conclusion about morality. We can support individual liberty to do a lot of things that we think are morally wrong — lying to friends, cheating on your spouse, destroying useful possessions instead of giving them to charity, etc. etc. But that insight isn't helpful in explaining the discrepancy Gallup identifies. Although I can see why more people could come to believe that abortion is morally wrong without wanting to deprive women of control of their own bodies, the trend in the polls goes in the opposite direction. The moral opinion is stable, even as more people are saying they are pro-life.

It would be good if the poll had a question asking people to pick one of these 4 categories:
1. abortion is morally wrong and should be banned or severely restricted
2. abortion is not morally wrong and should not be banned or severely restricted
3. abortion is morally wrong but it should be not be banned or severely restricted
4. abortion is not morally wrong but it should be banned or severely restricted
I'm saying I understand — and I personally agree with — #3. And I don't think the poll shows an increase in #3. I think #4 is the strangest idea, and the Gallup results look as though it is the increasing category. Since that is unlikely, I'm inclined to accept Gallup's hypothesis that the label "pro-life" has become more popular — at least when answering questions asked by pollsters. Are there also more out-and-proud pro-lifers these days?

It's the hotly anticipated Glenn Greenwald vs. Lawrence Lessig showdown!

The 2 have been fighting harshly in writing — see the "links mentioned" here — and now we can see them battle it out in real time:

ADDED: You can skip the first 9 minutes unless you want to hear: 1. 2 men murmur about civility or 2. Lessig's paper-shuffling that sounds like buildings being demolished.

Read Elena Kagan's college thesis and decide if she's "an open and avowed socialist"...

... which is what Erick Erickson has concluded.

ADDED: I've read the last few pages of the thesis, and a key sentence, at page 130, is: "The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America." Does that sentence imply that its author is included in the "those who... still wish to change America"? Does it imply that socialism is required in order to "change America"?

However you answer those questions, remember that the paper was written 20 30 years ago, when Kagan was a college student. Not only is it likely that she has changed since she was in her early 20s, but it is also nearly a certainty that she wrote to obtain the favor of her teachers in the Princeton University History Department. I think there is a lot more evidence that Kagan knows how to please and win the favor of those with the power to advance her career than that Kagan is a socialist. I'm just going to guess — correct me if I'm wrong — that in 1981, Princeton students were able to discern that their history professors liked socialism.

The Nation: "Elena Kagan should be borked."

In the special Kagan meaning of "bork":
In what is by now an oft-quoted snippet from one of her law review articles, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan castigated the confirmation hearings of Justices Souter, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer as a "vapid and hollow charade."...

What is less remarked upon is that in her article Kagan proposed a model for a more vigorous and candid confirmation hearing—that of Judge Robert Bork. The process worked in that instance, she argued, not because of the particular result but because the hearings "presented to the public a serious discussion of the meaning of the Constitution, the role of the Court, and the views of the nominee; that discussion at once educated the public and allowed it to determine whether the nominee would move the Court in the proper direction." In both popular and right-wing parlance, "borking" now means to vilify and defame a nominee in order to block his appointment, but Kagan's description is in fact a far more accurate account of what happened—senators rigorously probed and considered Bork's legal opinions and voted accordingly. So it is with this understanding that we propose, in the spirit of democratic deliberation of which she so eloquently wrote, that Elena Kagan should be borked.
But this kind of borking is impossible unless the nominee wants it. It doesn't matter what questions the Senators come up with or how pushy and repetitive they are about asking them, the "vapid and hollow charade" can be kept up by the nominee until the clock runs out. The only reason the Bork hearings proceeded the way they did was because Bork chose to engage in legal debate with the Senators. He obviously believed in his ability to explain his ideas in a superior fashion, but he wasn't quite as smart as he needed to be about how it all looked to the people watching it on television, and he gave his enemies the ammunition they needed to bring him down.

Since Bork, all the nominees have adopted the same self-protective stance that Kagan criticized in her article. What would motivate Kagan to do anything other than that? I have 3 thoughts.

1. Kagan wrote a law review article criticizing the vapid self-protective approach to the hearings. She has a little incentive to avoid hypocrisy. A little.

2. She might really care about the criticism she once penned and want to set a new example of how a nominee can be forthright and expressive without losing, like Bork.

3. Unlike the nominees who adopted the self-protective strategy to deprive the President's opponents of the ammunition to shoot them down, Kagan could be pushed by Democratic Senators. That's what The Nation wants to see. It will be interesting if Democrats try to extract assurances of liberalism from Kagan, but why would Kagan want to give them that. Whatever might work for her with them will work against her with others — and with the American people who are consuming tidbits on TV and on line. I, for one, will review every word of the transcripts looking for interesting things to highlight. It's risky to give out any good material, but I hope she does. I don't think she will.

Bottom line: Expect another vapid and hollow charade.

NYT headline "U.S. Said to Allow Drilling Without Needed Permits."

Do you notice anything missing from that headline and from the text of the article?

Clue: The cited practice has been going on since January 2009.

A cool German car commercial.

I was looking for video of Woody Guthrie's "Car Song," because it was running through my head along with thoughts of buying a new car, and I ended up at this Audi commercial. I don't think we're going to buy another Audi — and no way are we getting rid of the TT — but we're thinking of getting a German car. This one. Opinions?

CORRECTION: The commercial is in Dutch. Lawyeristic defense: It's still a German car. Who knows which adjectives modify which words? In the same vein: Is it a cool commercial, a cool car, or a cool German?

May 13, 2010

Don't be irritating while I'm caffeinating.

Come on, café people. Fix your wobbly tables.

(The main thing is: I'm learning iMovie. That was: My Very First Voiceover. Look out, dear friends. Now that I can voiceover, I might be saying anything about anything.)

Cracks patched...


... in a Wisconsin parking lot.

"In Kagan, it seems to me we have reached a new level of utter blankness."

Says Andrew Sullivan:
Her entire career has been about never taking a stand on anything of any substance - free coffee for students! - while networking in a way to neutralize any conceivable opposition. And she is walking back from her earlier demands for more clarity and transparency in Senate confirmation hearings. Josh notes that liberals are worried about an Obama Souter.
Souter was the old level of utter blankness.
I just don't believe that Obama is that prone to risk.
That should mean that Obama secretly knows what she's about and is hiding it from us. But that wouldn't make Kagan an "Obama Souter." Souter was appointed by a President — George H.W. Bush — who thought he was getting something quite different. Here's a New York Times article from the time of the Souter nomination (before his ascension to the Supreme Court):
John H. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, said today that he had assured President Bush that David H. Souter would uphold conservative values on the Supreme Court.... 
''I was looking for someone who would be a strict constructionist, consistent with basic conservative attitudes, and that's what I got,'' the chief of staff said in an interview. ''I was able to tell the President that I was sure he would do the same thing when he encountered Federal questions....

The chief of staff's comments were designed to advance the overall White House strategy of seeking to convince conservatives that Judge Souter was their kind of man, who could be trusted to vote ''right'' on the big issues, without getting him involved in fierce debates about abortion or flag burning or other contentious specifics.

In being unusually candid about the details in the selection process, Mr. Sununu was carrying out his role as Mr. Bush's primary liaison to the right wing of the Republican Party and to the ideological groups that support Mr. Bush but are nervous about the commitment to their issues.
Back to Sullivan:
I predict that if confirmed, [Elena Kagan is] much more likely to surprise on the left than on the right...
That would be Souterific.

Is Hillary setting herself up for a 2012 challenge to Barack Obama?

"There is a subtle distancing going on...."

Without makeup — "I feel vulnerable."

"It doesn't matter what an animal does, or where it does it, it will be deemed fair game for the documentary."

"Human notions of privacy which rest on ideas of location or activity are ignored in terms of animals."

An academic agonizes.

Imagine the roles reversed. The animals somehow take over and they are making David Attenborough-style videos about human beings.... Well, picture this, but with people:

BoingBoing embeds a shark versus octopus video...

... and the commenters would like to see the scriptwriter and the voiceover actor thrown into the tank for the next meal.

Laura Bush supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

"10 Simpsons Fan Art Pictures Where They Don’t Look Like The Simpsons."

Ha ha.

"But the sort of bisexual erasure that takes place when we say 'X can't be lesbian, she's dated men' (or 'X can't be gay, he's dated women') strikes me as pretty unsound..."

"... and not fair to a group that makes up a pretty big chunk of the non-straight population."

Says Eugene Volokh.

And there are also all those non-bisexual gay individuals who dated members of the opposite sex before they became convinced of their homosexuality or even after. People who are not sexually interested in each other may go out together to keep each other company as friends, to deflect rumors that they are homosexual, or for any number of other reasons.

"We are not very judgmental people, generally, and probably these kids are having a blast dancing their scary little hearts out."

Gawker primed me to disapprove of this video with young girls dancing to "Single Ladies," but I thought they were just fine and even kind of great.
Isn't there a song that is not about, you know, marriage, that they could dance to?
Pro-marriage is a bad message for young girls? When did that happen? When I was a kid, in the 1950s, we played "house," in which you pretended to be a married woman. With children, of course. Adults loved to give us baby dolls to play with. Imagine that. It was all perfectly okay. As for the costumes the girls are wearing in that video — again, in the 1950s "dress up" was a perfectly conventional and encouraged form of play. When did that become wrong?

If you don't think girls should dance like Beyonce in "Single Ladies," you shouldn't let them see the video at all. When I was a kid, I learned to dance listening to "The Mexican Hat Dance." I think I'd be a lot better off or at least a lot better dancer if I could have learned how to dance from "Single Ladies."

"Elena Kagan's nomination couldn't come at a worse time for Arlen Specter."

"Unlike his fellow Democrats, he's been unable to fawn over President Obama's Supreme Court pick, or push Republicans to grant her swift confirmation. That's because, just last year, Specter voted against confirming Kagan as Solicitor General...when he was a member of the GOP."

And there's only 1 week left before the primary. His challenger Joe Sestak has closed in on Specter and is running this ad:

Ouch. I'm assuming ouch — from the perspective of Democratic primary voters. For me, when George W. Bush popped up, I felt... Oh! It doesn't matter what I felt. The point is GWB is the bogeyman for true-blue Democrats.

I'm in the NYT.


"The welfare state is today's equivalent of the gold standard."

Robert Saumuelson explains.

"It may seem to a non-parent that this is mean-spirited and bitter."

"And perhaps some of the entries are. But a lot of them are just honest and good-natured venting, and also pretty hilarious shots of what massive damage kids can cause."

Remember that behind ever "hilarious shot" is a parent who decided that the first thing to do is — not to comfort, not to discipline, not to flush the Desitin out of their eyes — but to reach for a camera and take some pictures.

Is "Shit My Kids Ruined" a bad website?
Yes, because parents need to focus on being present in real life with their kids.
Yes, because it exacerbates hostility toward children.
No, because it can help a parent transcend anger by recognizing the humor and shared experience.
No, because it's a good warning or dose of reality to people who haven't had children yet. free polls

May 12, 2010

At the Water Tree Nightclub...


... let the conversation flow.

Pew: "Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them."

"Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally."

I wonder what those percentages would be if the President and the political elite had not pressured us to think the Arizona law was outrageously racist.

Things to learn in the Summer of '10.

  1. Photoshop.
  2. iMovie.
  3. Corel Painter Sketch Pad with Intuos4.
  4. How to tear myself away from the computer...
  5. ...

"Public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people."

So reads the text of the new Arizona law expressing a strong and controversial opinion about what is commonly known as "ethnic studies."
The law prohibits the teaching of any classes that promote “the overthrow of the United States government,” “resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Is it odd or obvious that this is controversial?

"I'd love to enter politics. I will one day. I'd adore to be Prime Minister. And, yes, I believe very strongly in fascism."

"The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air at the moment is to speed up the progress of a right-wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible. People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership. A liberal wastes time saying, 'Well, now, what ideas have you got?' Show them what to do, for God's sake. If you don't, nothing will get done. I can't stand people just hanging about. Television is the most fascist, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars."

So said David Bowie in his 1976 interview (with Cameron Crowe) for Playboy.

How Jerry Weintraub solved the problem of 5,000 unsold tickets to an Elvis concert.

And the one thing Elvis could not tolerate was playing to an empty seat.

(Via Deadline Hollywood.)

"Then Lee's beautiful voice attempts not to be incredibly dorky singing the incredibly dorky song about Chris O'Donnell's plastic nipples."

"This song, have you heard it?... It is one of the most mystifying songs in the history of words."

Yeah, the original "Kiss From a Rose" is from "Batman Forever." I'd forgotten that. Last night, on "American Idol," the theme was songs from movies, and with one exception — "Mrs. Robinson" — I had no feeling for what the movie supposedly was. I'd completely lost track of "Kiss From a Rose" being Batman-related. Anyway, Lee Dewyze did that song last night and it seemed pretty bad to me.

Andrew Sullivan on Elena Kagan's "emotional orientation" — emotional orientation?

Apparently, there's a new euphemism. I hadn't seen this one before, and I haven't heard the argument for why it's a good one. Is it something like the way we started saying "gender" instead of "sex"? Maybe "sex" is something that people are supposed to keep quiet, and that makes it hard to insist that talking publicly about someone's sexual orientation is appropriate and important. But there are problems with the term "emotional orientation." It suggests that all of your emotions are centered around your sexual preference. Perhaps the term is intended to convey an argument that if you are gay and not open about it, your public persona is shallow and false.

Anyway, Sullivan says:
There are three possibilities, it seems to me, behind the kerfuffle over Elena Kagan's emotional orientation. The first is that her orientation is heterosexual and she is merely a dedicated career person who never had time for a date. The second is that she is lesbian, and she remains in a glass closet, and the Obamaites, revealing their usual tone-deafness on gay issues, never asked and blundered into this. The third is that she is a highly cautious political lesbian who has drawn a line around her real life in order to prevent her orientation being used against her - especially by the Christianist right.
He suspects it's the third and that Obama knows it and is going along with the cautious approach to forestall criticism from the right. Sullivan thinks that Obama doesn't mind "provok[ing] an outing from his 'left'" because then "senators [could] rally around the closet their generation cherishes and defend a person from 'charges' that invade her 'privacy.'"

Note the use of quotes— "left," "charges," "privacy." If it's not sexual orientation but emotional orientation, the revelation is not really an invasion of privacy? "Left" is in quotes, I think, because Sullivan is in the category of persons who are being provoked yet he still styles himself as a conservative.

If the left/"left" outs Kagan...
The president can say, appealing to the middle, that he respects privacy and has reluctantly allowed Kagan to come out under despicable pressure from people like me. 
Allowed Kagan to come out... Obama hasn't been keeping her in.
Then he dares the Christianist right to vote against her merely because she is a discreet lesbian. And so his jujitsu becomes a triumph for gay rights, and his nominee, who I suspect is far more left-liberal than anyone now believes, helps shape the court for a generation.
I'm not sure what he means to conclude here. The post is titled "The Kagan Rope-A-Dope?" and ends, after the part quoted just above with "Where's that rope again?" If you perceive that someone is playing Rope-A-Dope with you, you should choose not to take a shot at them when they are in that position. (The image is of a boxer leaning against the ropes looking easy to hit but in fact tricking his opponent to wear himself out taking harmless shots.) So why what does "Where's that rope again?" mean?

Is Sullivan saying he sees why he shouldn't try to out Kagan, because he doesn't want her — he thinks she's a big lefty! — on the Court? Or is he saying he should try to out her, because it would be "a triumph for gay rights"? If it's the latter, then he doesn't understand the term Rope-A-Dope and he's not even trying to maintain his conservative credentials.

He's looking for the rope — Where's that rope again? — but what is he planning to do with it? Maybe he intends to be the one playing Rope-A-Dope, and he's inviting people to take energy-expending shots at him. I'm not sure how that would work.

"Kagan is so Manhattan, Scalia is so Queens, Ginsburg is so Brooklyn and Sotomayor is so Bronx."

When Kagan is confirmed, there will be 4 Justices from New York City — but they're not all from the same place. Each is from a different borough, and that makes them, in fact, very different. Immense diversity.

Was the Wall Street Journal trying to make Elena Kagan look gay?

"A spokeswoman for the Wall Street Journal said today its cover art was not intended as innuendo about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's sexual orientation after the paper's front-page use of an image of Kagan playing softball provoked a mixture of irritation and amusement from gay and lesbian advocates."

Ha ha. This takes me back to 2005, when John Roberts was nominated and I wrote that the New York Times used photographs (and other material) to try to create the impression that John Roberts is gay:
Just look at the series of photographs they chose: young John in plaid pants, young John with his boys' school pals, young John in a wrestling suit with his fellow wrestlers, John with footballers, and -- the final pic -- John smiling in an all-male wedding photograph. The article also says Roberts married his wife when both were in their forties and that that their children were adopted.
There was a huge discussion on the internet at the time, much of it focused on the question whether plaid pants suggest gayness.

Whatever it means for a man, here's Gawker laying out "The Case that Kagan Is a Lesbian":
The haircut...
She's never been married...
She's opposed to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"...
She played softball...
She wears plaid: Okay, since we're digging out the circumstantial evidence, there is a picture of Kagan from 1977 where she is wearing a plaid, flannel shirt. Sorry, but, like softball, flannel=lesbian.
The mayor of Gaytown has endorsed her...
She's never denied the rumor...
Obama digs lesbian judges...
The gay establishment is suspiciously quiet...
CBS News reported it...
So, do newspapers use photographs and other signals to create the impression that a public figure is gay? I certainly think so. I think it matters mainly because of the way it creates the impression that the newspaper is not journalistically...  straight.

May 11, 2010

“Professor Kagan, honestly I didn’t get to all of the reading for today’s class. Sadly, I think I need to pass on this one.”

Elie Mystal shares an old classroom transcript:
PROFESSOR KAGAN: Well, Mr. Mystal, did you manage to remember your casebook?
1L ELIE: Yes. But like I said, I didn’t …
PROFESSOR KAGAN: Do you think you could be bothered to OPEN your casebook?
1L ELIE: (I have a bad feeling about this.) Yes. Abso…
PROFESSOR KAGAN: Please turn to page [whatever]… Now read.
1L ELIE: (Reading silently.)
1L ELIE: (Channeling Nathan Jessup: I’m not an idiot, I don’t need to read aloud like I’m a five year old.) Umm … Okay. (Much reading aloud.)
PROFESSOR KAGAN: Now, can you explain to me what you just read?
1L ELIE: (I can’t even remember what I blathered.)
PROFESSOR KAGAN: Mr. Mystal, open to page [same page as before], and TRY AGAIN!

At that point I just kind of had a disassociative break. My mouth kept moving, but my mind went into some kind of fetal position. Please stop hitting me, Professor Kagan.

Kagan hated unprepared students, but she reserved her harshest ire for people who showed up to her class late. She’d essentially stop the class, literally — she’d stop talking in mid-sentence. Then she’d wait impatiently for the student to assume their seat. And then make some caustic remark about the importance of timeliness.
That takes guts. I salute her! I wish I had the nerve to do things like that. I don't even like to call on people. I either rely on volunteers or call on students and add "sorry to bother you" or something like that (which I mean humorously, but only semi-humorously). And yet Kagan is the one who acquired  the reputation for the high social IQ. Awesome!

Sarah Palin's new book: "America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and ..."

Test you Palinosity by filling in the blank. Meade couldn't do it. Not in 4 attempts.

Answer: Here.

At the Chili Café...

... don't overcook the garlic!

"Hey?! That old man looks like John McCain."

McCain puts a tough-on-illegal-immigration ad on YouTube... and the comments are pretty funny.

David Brooks calls Elena Kagan an "Organization Kid" and — developing the evidence — happens to reveal what the issue is.

David Brooks, in Brooksian fashion, has a pet sociological category that will be the theme of his column:
About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.

If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.
Does Kagan fit that description (and, if she does, is that bad)?
[She] is apparently prudential, deliberate and cautious.
There's that word "prudential" again. It's a very common word used in talking about judges, by the way. It corresponds to judicial restraint and the avoidance of things that might be called activism.
She does not seem to be one who leaps into a fray when the consequences might be unpredictable. “She was one of the most strategic people I’ve ever met, and that’s true across lots of aspects of her life,” John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor, told The Times. “She is very effective at playing her cards in every setting I’ve seen.”
This is a fine quality for a judge!
Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the highly influential SCOTUSblog, has described Kagan as “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful. I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade.”
Again, isn't that just what we want — a judge who doesn't inject personal convictions into legal analysis? Well, some people want judges who have the right personal preferences and appropriate the power of their position to put them into action. And, realistically, someone who wanted to be that kind of judge would probably need to be extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful not to let it show until they'd acquired a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

So, there's the Kagan puzzle. I don't think it's so much whether she fits this sociological category — Organization Kid — that fascinates Brooks. I think it's whether deep down she's judicious or political: Is she really someone who works through legal problems without personal preferences? Or is she a big politico — who, once she gets into that robe, will wreak her will on us?

"Q. How can I get Neil Gaiman to make an appearance at my school/convention/event?"

Contact Lisa Bransdorf at the Greater Talent Network. Tell her you want Neil to appear somewhere. Have her tell you how much it costs. Have her say it again in case you misheard it the first time. Tell her you could get Bill Clinton for that money. Have her tell you that you couldn't even get ten minutes of Bill Clinton for that money but it's true, he's not cheap.

On the other hand, I'm really busy, and I ought to be writing, so pricing appearances somewhere between ridiculously high and obscenely high helps to discourage most of the people who want me to come and talk to them. Which I could make a full time profession, if I didn't say 'no' a lot.
The fee is $45,000.

Neil Gaiman is...
a douchebag.
an artist.
a rational participant in economic reality. free polls

"And here I was needing to anesthetize like never before."

Said Robert Downey, Jr.:
The wife has moved out, the kid's gone, my life is a fucking babyshambles, and I suddenly make the neuropathic connection that there's nowhere the coke can be but the garbage, and I fucking dig in the thing and there it is, and it's so fucking pure and so clean and there I am, in my own kitchen, cooking up some rock — no Vicodin, no Valium, nothing to take the edge off, barely a trace of fucking Absolut Citron left in the fridge, and I just go, 'This is as good as it gets right now.' I just go, 'Bam!,' triumph of the spirit. And the next thing that happens, I'm in custody within two weeks for even stranger reasons, and the phone rings, and it's the phenom's son and he goes, 'Hey, dude, do you have any more of that opium?' I, of course, told him it was opium. Never call it heroin, it's very taboo. But this stuff, this Mexican sludge, just grabbed you by the fucking heartstrings and tore me apart. All those years of snorting coke, and then I accidentally get involved in heroin after smoking crack for the first time. It finally tied my shoelaces together. Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeful state is intervention.
Tie your shoelaces separately.

"The majority of Chatroulette users are male and under thirty-five, and many of them are trolling for girls, so they 'next' each other at barbaric rates."

"When you do decide to stop and engage, things can get a little awkward. On one of my first Chatrouletting attempts, I found myself talking to a man from Lyons, who had muted the sound. We watched each other typing and reacting to the words that scrolled next to our images, co-stars in a postmodern silent film.... Striking up a conversation with the person next to you on the subway is risky, and potentially time-consuming. On Chatroulette you can always just disappear."

"Ms. Angell committed suicide, her father, the author Roger Angell, said."

I don't know if I've ever seen an obituary that presented suicide so directly.

I'd never heard of Callie Angell, but I am intrigued by the idea of devoting one's mind to the study of the films of Andy Warhol and the nature of a mind that ultimately arrives at the decision to commit suicide.

I have read many articles by Roger Angell — the pieces on baseball that appeared in The New Yorker were quite wonderful. I'm sorry for him now.

From the daughter's obituary, I see that Roger Angell's stepfather was E. B. White, and that the dead woman was, in her time, close to White. Perhaps he read "Charlotte's Web" to her. From the obit:
"She untangled this web of films and revealed how they were a vital part in Andy Warhol’s life as an artist..."
This web... Who can untangle the reasons for suicide?

There is nothing in the article about a terrible physical illness. There is no reference to chronic depression. I assume Roger Angell, the brilliant writer, chose to present the news so starkly. But why? Why wouldn't you soften the news of your daughter's death?

Baseball, Warhol, children's books... there are always things to be seen and loved.

"Is Professor Althouse really goth?"

Siouxsie Law examines the evidence — and offers "to fly out to Madison to help" me if I "ever want[] a goth makeover."

Well, I think goths may be dangerous... so how about some Photoshopping from a safe distance?

"So Kagan... is a successful scholar whose interests have extended beyond scholarship, to government service and to educational institution-building."

Eugene Volokh defends Kagan as a legal scholar.
The [First Amendment] articles attack difficult and important problems (Private Speech, Public Purpose, for instance, tries to come up with a broad theory to explain much of free speech law). They seriously but calmly criticize the arguments on both sides, and give both sides credit where credit is due. For instance, I particularly liked Kagan’s treatment of both the Scalia R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul majority and the Stevens concurrence, in her Changing Faces of First Amendment Neutrality article.

As importantly, the articles go behind glib generalizations and formalistic distinctions and deal with the actual reality on the ground, such as the actual likely effects of speech restrictions, and of First Amendment doctrine. (I’m a big believer in formalism in the sense of a preference for rules over standards; but I share many people’s disapproval of formalistic arguments in the fashioning of rules, when those arguments ignore real-world distinctions and effects, and obscure the important policy questions rather than revealing them.) This is legal scholarship as it should be, and as it too rarely is.
And what kind of free speech opinions can we expect Justice Kagan to write:
My guess is that the likeliest bet would be to say that a Justice Kagan would be roughly where Justice Ginsburg is — generally pretty speech-protective, but probably with some exceptions in those areas where the liberal Justices on the Court have taken a more speech-restrictive view, chiefly expensive speech related to campaigns and religious speech in generally available government subsidies.

Emily Bazelon talks with me on Bloggingheads — about the Kagan nomination.

The topics the bhtv editors identify are:
The enigma of Elena Kagan
Will she be able to win over the court’s conservatives?
The Supreme Court as “women’s work”
Six Catholics, three Jews, zero Protestants
Ann defends Kagan on military recruiting
Predictions for the confirmation hearings
But there's much more. Try it. Only 20 minutes.

May 10, 2010

In the Kagan-free zone...


... change the subject. You can talk about anything except Elena Kagan.

How good will Elena Kagan be at influencing the other Justices on the Suprme Court?

Today, I listened again to Elena Kagan’s oral argument in Citizens United v. FEC. I was just trying to get a feeling for the quality of her mind, and I was struck by how badly it went. I dug up a Salon article from a few weeks ago: "On the Supreme Court, not a lot of respect for Elena Kagan: The solicitor general's appearances before the high court have been marked by unusually brusque treatment" by James Doty. He looked to her 5 oral arguments as SG as evidence of "whether Kagan would be an effective liberal on the court," what sort of power she might have over Anthony Kennedy, whose vote tends to determine outcomes as he shifts from the Court's liberal 4 to the conservative 4, and whether she could provide an effective counterweight to the Court's strong conservatives.
When [Citizens United] was argued in September 2009, a modest defeat was still well within the realm of possibility, provided that Kagan could secure Kennedy’s vote. But she seemed oddly unconcerned with addressing his qualms. At one point, Kennedy asked Kagan to address a particular issue, which she had labeled "point two" in her opening remarks:
Kennedy: In the course of this argument, have you covered point two? ... I would like to know what it is.

Kagan: I very much appreciate that, Justice Kennedy. I think I did cover point two.
She quickly moved on. Four months later, Kennedy wrote a 5-4 opinion that handed Kagan and the U.S. government a sweeping defeat.

In subsequent arguments, Kagan has proven no more adept at assuaging Kennedy’s anxieties. In a recent case, Kennedy’s question about a particular piece of legal precedent was met with, "I -- I am not familiar with that case." In another argument, Kennedy suggested that Kagan was dodging the crux of his hypothetical: "No, no, no. That makes ... my hypo too easy for you." And in yet another case, Kagan was unable to muster a coherent response to Kennedy’s request for case law supporting the government’s position.
It seems that Kagan has been very good at influencing professors and that Obama read that (and his own direct contact with her) to mean that she'll be good at influencing Supreme Court Justices. That may be a poor inference. I think a law school dean is engaged in more of a social enterprise in bringing groups of people together. But the Justices — as the oral argument shows — deal in much more technical legal arguments. They may bend liberal or conservative, but the arguments need to be there. Justice Kennedy isn't there to be sweet-talked and smiled at. He's quite serious in mulling over the details. He's not movable because he's weak or wishy-washy. He'd be affronted, I would think, to know that anyone thought of him that way. I think he sees himself and wants to be seen as carefully thinking through the issues in a highly respectable judicial way.

"Was it a mistake for Elena Kagan when she was Dean of the Harvard Law School to oppose allowing the U.S. military to recruit law students because of the Pentagon's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy?"

Wolf Blitzer asked on "The Situation Room" today:
AXELROD: Well, that's not -- that's not exactly what happened. The fact is that there was recruitment on the Harvard campus at the time that she was there. She maintained the policy that existed before she came there -- not allowing the career placement office ts -- to -- to host that. Because there was a policy relative to discrimination. When the law was passed and upheld banning that, then she changed the policy.

So she -- she tried to conform to the policy of the school, and the law. And yes, she expressed herself on the law. But she's always been very hospitable to military recruitment and to young people campus who wanted to serve their country. In fact, the irony of this discussion, Wolf, is her objection to the Don't Ask/Don't Tell law was she wanted everyone who wanted to serve their country -- every young person -- every young person who wants to serve the country to have that opportunity.

BLITZER: Because Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee -- he's concerned. He says this is a significant issue he wants to discuss with her -- especially her -- her comments back in 2003 that the Pentagon's policy, in her words, was "A profound wrong. A moral injustice of the first order."

AXELROD: Well, again, I think her concern was that every young American who wants to serve their country should have that opportunity. But Senator Sessions should and will have that opportunity to discuss it with her. And I hope that he also talks to the young men and women from Harvard who have served in the military who -- who -- who came into contact with -- with Dean Kagan when she was there, and who got her full support. Because she is -- she -- she was very close to veterans on campus. And they were very supportive of her.

"A couple of times when she was so focused on her work, she would park her car and leave it running overnight. She just forgot to turn it off."

Said Lawrence Lessig, about Elena Kagan, with whom he taught at the University of Chicago Law School.

What would this world be like if we were all utterly hard-working and focused? Fortunately, most of us are infinitely distractable and intermittently lazy.
As a scholar, Ms. Kagan’s interests were narrow, somewhat technical, and steered clear of ideology. She was interested in questions like when the government could limit free speech. “This is not a subject about which there is any ideological slant,” [lawprof Geoff] Stone said. “It’s an intellectual puzzle.”
She was granted tenure in 1995, despite the reservations of some colleagues who thought she had not published enough. 
Isn't it strange that she's said to be so ambitious and hardworking, yet she didn't produce scholarship? That worked out well for her, though. For Obama too!

"Why would you kill someone over toothpaste?"

"Why would you even chase them, and how is this not murder — it doesn't make sense.... They've taken away my kids' pops, and you don't do that."

"The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America."

Wrote Elena Kagan in here college thesis "To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933." In it, she thanked her brother whose "involvement in radical causes... led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas."
In 153 pages, the paper examines why, despite the rise of the labor movement, the Socialist Party lost political traction in the United States — a loss that she attributed to fissures and feuding within the movement. “,” she wrote.

If that sounds like a defense of socialism, [Prof. Sean Wilentz, her senior thesis adviser] insists that is not the case.

“She was interested in it,” he said. “To study something is not to endorse it.”
Kagan and Obama have a real affinity...
One thing was unusual about Ms. Kagan: she smoked cigarettes. One old friend, Margaret Raymond, said Ms. Kagan was the only girl she knew who smoked in high school....
No wonder Obama feels comfortable with her.

"Is Obama actually going to use a Supreme Court nominee to advance the cause of the closet...?"

Asks Andrew Sullivan.
[T]his is preposterous — a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort.... [Obama has] told us that one of his criteria for a Supreme Court Justice is knowing what it feels like to be on the wrong side of legal discrimination. Well: does he view Kagan's possible life-experience as a gay woman relevant to this? Did Obama even ask about it? Are we ever going to know one way or the other? Does she have a spouse? Is this spouse going to be forced into the background in a way no heterosexual spouse ever would be?

I predict that it will soon and permanently become the norm for females to outnumber males on the Supreme Court.

With Elena Kagan, we will have 3 women on the Supreme Court. 3 out of 9. It will need to go all the way to 5 in order to mirror the population (which is slightly more than half women). Some people might think women are well-represented if there are only 2 or 3 and that there is no need to reach population-proportion or that Supreme Court appointments shouldn't have to do with representing various groups. But that not what my prediction is about.

I think Presidents will continue to appoint women to the Supreme Court because they will want to make a show of appointing women to high positions, but they don't particularly want to depend closely on women in their immediate sphere of action. A Supreme Court appointment is extraordinarily high-profile, but once the appointment is made, the individual is off in separate sphere, disconnected from the important work of the presidency.

Of course, a Supreme Court opinion may have a big effect on a President's power — Truman's seizure of the steel mills, Clinton's line item veto, Nixon's audiotapes, etc. etc. But that's all the more reason why a President should want to stock the Court with highly competent women who have worked relatively closely with him. Not only does he deflect attention from the way he's kept women out of his closest inner circle, he gets a Court that understands and sympathizes with presidential power.

There are also huge numbers of women going to law school these days and acquiring brilliant credentials. A President who wants to look as though he respects and values women can easily find many women to appoint to the federal courts and there will always be great candidates for elevation to the Supreme Court. I'm seeing a dynamic that will concentrate women in the judiciary. I'm not saying this is good feminism. I intend this post as feminist critique.

Elena Kagan said "There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage," but does that mean that, as a Supreme Court Justice, she won't find that right?

That's my short answer to William A. Jacobson, who says that Elena Kagan is committed to rejecting the existence of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He writes:
In the course of her nomination for Solicitor General, Kagan filled out questionnaires on a variety of issues. While she bobbed and weaved on many issues, with standard invocations of the need to follow precedent and enforce presumptively valid statutes, on the issue of same-sex marriage Kagan was unequivocal.

In response to a question from Sen. John Cornyn (at page 28 of her Senate Judiciary Questionnaire), Kagan stated flat out that there was no constitutional right for same sex couples to marry (emphasis mine):
1. As Solicitor General, you would be charged with defending the Defense of Marriage Act. That law, as you may know, was enacted by overwhelming majorities of both houses of Congress (85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House) in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton.

a. Given your rhetoric about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy—you called it “a profound wrong—a moral injustice of the first order”—let me ask this basic question: Do you believe that there is a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage?

Answer: There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

b. Have you ever expressed your opinion whether the federal Constitution should be read to confer a right to same-sex marriage? If so, please provide details.

Answer: I do not recall ever expressing an opinion on this question.
This doesn't mean that Kagan opposes gay marriage. But she clearly believes it is a matter for the political process, not a constitutional right.
When Bill Clinton famously said "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," he had a point. He made a legalistic distinction between his statement and lying. That first sentence sounded so absurd that we barely listen to the next part, which was:
"If ... 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."
So back to that Kagan questionnaire. The question was phrased in the present tense. At the time Kagan answered the question, the Supreme Court had not yet said there was such a right, so she could say there is no right, in a narrow sense.

Now, you might think that if a person is ever going to find a right in the Constitution, it must be that the right is already there. But that is a view of the Constitution that fits with a strong commitment to sticking to the original meaning of the text, and I don't think Kagan is on record or will ever be the sort of judge who says that constitutional rights are only what they were at the time the text was written. If the meaning of rights can grow or evolve or change over time, then one could say "There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage" one day and, later, say that there is.

The path to finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is a very easy one at this point in the development of the case law. It is mainly a prudential, political attitude that will keep the Court from finding it now. Knowing the strength of popular opinion and fearing political retaliation against the judiciary, the Court might nevertheless say that there is no right to same-sex marriage. Indeed, there's some reason to think that Justice Kagan will refrain from seeing the right that is so easily visible up there on the path the case law has already opened up. As Justice Scalia wrote, dissenting in Lawrence v. Texas:
Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct....

One of the benefits of leaving regulation of this matter to the people rather than to the courts is that the people, unlike judges, need not carry things to their logical conclusion. The people may feel that their disapprobation of homosexual conduct is strong enough to disallow homosexual marriage, but not strong enough to criminalize private homosexual acts–and may legislate accordingly. The Court today pretends that it possesses a similar freedom of action... Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct... and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case “does not involve” the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.
So maybe Elena Kagan will "pretend" — to use Justice Scalia's word — that she has the freedom to draw the kind of line that — as Justice Scalia insists — only legislatures should be drawing. If she does, it will be out of a sensitivity to politics — an awareness of the vulnerability of courts and a preference for the resolution of difficult social issues through the processes of democracy. But the case law is there, the path is open, and on that path, as Justice Scalia complained, the right to same-sex marriage is quite apparent.

The iconic Lena Horne.

"Lena Horne, who was the first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio and who went on to achieve international fame as a singer, died on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. She was 92 and lived in Manhattan."

May 9, 2010

Let's take a closer look at that Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

Chip Ahoy animates my photograph.

"President Barack Obama will nominate U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan..."

"... NBC News’ Pete Williams reported late Sunday night."

"This is a symbol that the tea party movement and the broader limited-government agenda is huge."

"It's the center of American politics. It's everything that we've been saying it is. It's not just a protest movement; it's a political force."

The shocking defeat of a long-term senator — Sen. Robert F. Bennett — for the Republican Party nomination in Utah.

The response from Timothy M. Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee:
"That the Tea Party would consider Bob Bennett -- one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate -- too liberal just goes to show how extreme the Tea Party is. This is just the latest battle in the corrosive Republican intra-party civil war . . . If there was any question before, there should now be no doubt that the Republican leadership has handed the reins to the Tea Party."
He sounds upset.

Obama diverts himself and tells us to quit diverting ourselves.

1. "With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," he said today.

2. He's golfing again. He knows how to do that. Is it empowering? Is it emancipating?

Yes. He'd like to lay down a lot of rules that only apply to other people.
Yes. He thinks what he likes is worthwhile, but what he doesn't care about seems like a waste.
No. Golf is outdoor exercise, quite unlike the various high tech screens people fiddle with.
No. Unlike the people he's scolding,he doesn't need another "tool of empowerment." free polls

A dangerous tulip.


And, again, happy Mother's Day to all you mothers.



And happy Mother's Day to all you mothers.

The amount of Neanderthal DNA we have is the equivalent of one totally Neanderthal great-great-great grandparent.

Observes anthropologist John Hawks (who writes "Neandertal," which I presume is the official academic spelling). Hawks also has a lot more detail, written comprehensibly, so check it out, if you want to understand how the news about Neanderthals was discovered and what it means. Excerpt:
Does this mean that Neandertals belong in our species, Homo sapiens?


Interbreeding with fertile offspring in nature. That's the biological species concept.

Now, some paleontologists might still disagree -- maintaining that species are units that can be distinguished morphologically, or by one or more derived features, or any number of other definitions. That's fine with me, as long as they're clear. But understand: It does define all non-Africans today as an interspecific hybrid population.

So maybe they want to rethink that one?
That makes me want to go back to the poll we did on Friday and think about what that means. The 4% of you who were disturbed at the idea of not being fully human can take comfort in the notion that Neanderthals were fully human. (If you are 100% African, you don't have to deal with this issue.) The 21% of us who thought it was thrilling to have some Neanderthal are perhaps less thrilled. But 75% percent of us didn't care one way or the other. Now, there's even more reason for there to not be a difference.

"What objections could there possibly be to this large-scale atomic harbor-blasting project?"

That was a question asked in the 1950s, when nuclear scientists were hot to apply their expertise to peacetime projects. David Roberts reminds us of that insanity in the context of reviewing Jeff Goodell's new book "How to Cool the Planet" — which has some geo-engineering ideas to sell:
Geo-engineering ideas are all over the map, and quite a few are just wacky -- say, shooting a nuke at the moon to kick up a cloud of sun-blocking dust -- but two basic ideas are being taken seriously.
The first is what the British Royal Society has termed "solar radiation management," sometimes known as "solar shielding" ... [by] shooting sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere to imitate the shading effect of a volcanic explosion... [or] brightening the tops of clouds to make them more reflective, thus deflecting more sun, which can allegedly be done by injecting them with super-fine water droplets...

The other frequently discussed form of geoengineering... is pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air...
Are these really like those crazy nuke things from the 50s? I'd worry about over-cooling by accident. How could one possibly set the right temperature? And if we could, maybe it would only get worse:
If humanity takes control of the climate, do its existing inequities become a collective moral responsibility? After all, even the pre-industrial climate was, in some sense, unfair -- some areas too hot, too arid, too wet, or too cold, life harder for some than for others. Do we try to restore an old climate or create a new one, and who decides which is better? If history is any guide, it will be the wealthy with their hands on the levers. Climate imperialism, anyone?
We could have all sorts of fights in the atmosphere, a dramatically huge version of the squabbles people who live in the same house when one after another adjusts the thermostat.

"Cool. Next, a shower head that pulses out the morning's headlines for you during your daily ablutions."

"I am less worried about getting headlines in my shower than the subtle dermal-pressure loyalty conditioning. The aromatherapy mind control in my shampoo is bad enough...."

The USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals... at the Capitol Square in Madison.

Congratulations to Joshua Carter of Midwestern State University, Robert Bush of Marian College, and Wisconsin's own Matthew Brandt of Lindenwood University — first, second, and third in a field of 122 cyclists who circled the square for an hour last night.

I got a pic at the start:


And a bit of vid in motion:

Still pics in motion — almost see-through:


Don't Tread on Me!