December 11, 2010

At the Deep Gray Café...


... can you stay up long enough to make this a real day?

"Who was your Elizabeth Edwards?"

"The goddess of frumpy wives and older mothers? The cancer patient who would not be defined by her disease? The noble, betrayed wife? The political operative whose complicity in covering up her husband’s infidelity could have cost the Democratic Party the presidency?"

Asks Jan Hoffman, in the NYT, on the day of Elizabeth Edwards's funeral.

Why did the Madison, Wisconsin arts center remove a photograph from its display "Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives Through the Lens"?

It's not like the HIV-themed, ants-on-Jesus video recently removed from the Smithsonian Institution's "Difference and Desire" show. Here in Madison, the sensitivities are quite different:
... "Stripped" features a nude male model seated in a chair with a handful of pill bottles covering his lap. Only his chest, arms and thighs are shown....

Thousands of school- and preschool-aged children walk through the hallway known as the Playhouse Gallery each week on their way to Overture shows, and officials were concerned that "a little kid could connect sickness with genitals" by looking at "Stripped," [Overture spokesman Rob] Chappell said.

Two other black and white photos by Oren — one portraying a nude male torso embraced by four male arms and the other showing a nude male covered by a pile of books — remain on the gallery's walls.

"It's the sickness attached to the genitals that we decided could be misinterpreted by a little kid," Chappell said. "It was never the topic that was an issue. We don't see any reason to shield kids from the fact that HIV exists, or that people with HIV are normal people and can express themselves through photography or any other way."
We don't want children to connect sickness with genitals.


Shop the right way, through the Althouse portal:

IN THE COMMENTS: Emil exclaims: "Capitalist pig!" Well, yeah. I'm thinking, here, here's a slingshot flying pig With Oink Sound and a pig-faced silicone pot holder and a pig-shaped tabletop mini-vacuum cleaner and pig corn-on-the-cob holders and a pig-shaped cutting board and a pan for making pig-faced pancakes and kissing pigs salt & pepper shakers and a pig-headed kitchen timer.

This year, everybody's getting pig gifts! Pig Christmas!

Scary — our theme of the day.

What's the scariest thing on the blog so far today?
Someone said "Fuck the President."
Clinton attempted to take over the presidency.
Clinton, lured by the imprecation "Fuck the President," attempted to take over the presidency.
"High-speed" rail.
Ethnic stereotypes from 1973.
Sarah Palin!
Sarah Palin mocking men as "limp" and "impotent."
Women who restrict men to 3 words.
Ron Paul!
The witch in "Snow White." free polls

With the arrest of Professor David Epstein for incest, let's revisit the praise for the 1997 father-daughter incest memoir "The Kiss."

I've already started the conversation here about David Epstein. (I show you that Justice Scalia has explained the law on the subject: A father has a constitutional right to have sexual intercourse with his adult, consenting daughter.) I know most of the commentary around the web amounts to little more than ugh. (Come on, people. Hasn't the Supreme Court taught you by now that your disgust is not a proper foundation for law?) Now, let's move this conversation forward. There was a time, it was during the Clinton administration, 1997, when a golden literary light shone on the subject of incest. There was a "beautifully written memoir" by Kathryn Harrison that everyone was talking about:
Her narrative is spare and stark, written in a present tense that perfectly conveys how her experience happened ''out of time as well as out of place.'' ''We meet at airports,'' she begins, plunging the reader straight into the hell of the incestuous affair. ''We meet in cities where we've never been before. We meet where no one will recognize us. . . . these nowheres and notimes are the only home we have.''

Then she goes back to the start of her experience, when she first meets her estranged father as an adult. ''My father looks at me, then, as no one has ever looked at me before.'' Having not seen her since 10 years earlier, when she was 10, he is enthralled by her resemblance to him. When she drives him to the airport, he kisses her goodbye and ''pushes his tongue deep into my mouth: wet, insistent, exploring, then withdrawn.''

She writes: ''In years to come, I'll think of the kiss as a kind of transforming sting, like that of a scorpion: a narcotic that spreads from my mouth to my brain. The kiss is the point at which I begin, slowly, inexorably, to fall asleep, to surrender volition, to become paralyzed. It's the drug my father administers in order that he might consume me. That I might desire to be consumed.''
"The Kiss" — makes a great Christmas gift for Dad.

Muttering "Fuck the President" — "was just expressing frustration from a very frustrated Member.”

 According to the Democratic congresswoman who was interrupted by those words.

I  love when a "frustrated Member" calls out for fucking.

And isn't it interesting that when the call went out to "fuck the President," Bill Clinton popped right up as the apparent President?

And we know all about his frustrated member. What?! Not fair to dredge up the ancient history of the Clinton impeachment? The NYT just dragged Richard Nixon's rotting corpse across the stage.

Quick! Look! Over there! It's Nixon!!!!!

Well, now you know Obama's really in trouble. The corpse of Richard Nixon is being dragged across the stage one more time.
Richard M. Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans in a series of extended conversations with top aides and his personal secretary, recorded in the Oval Office 16 months before he resigned as president.
Disparaging Remarks! Made in 1973!! America! Wake up!!! The GOP will destroy us!
“The Jews have certain traits,” [Nixon] said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”

...“The Italians, of course, those people course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off.

A moment later, Nixon returned to Jews: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
Apparently, these are newly released recordings — 265 more hours of Nixon talk — but it sounds like stuff we've heard a thousand times before.  But what a lovely distraction for us on this wintry weekend, when we might otherwise be wondering who, among the living, doesn't have his head screwed on tight.

Girl talk — Barbara Walters refers to Sarah Palin's "considerable weight"...

... and Sarah Palin calls the GOP — "these boys" — "silly." And "impotent and limp."

And I love when Walters gives Todd a chance to speak, limits him to 3 words, then scolds him for saying more than 3 words.

Ron Paul, pro-Wikileaks.

"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen..."

... and what role has Bill Clinton taken on in the big fairy tale?

Look out, Barack Obama! Don't take the apple! It's poison!

"The Ohio and Wisconsin projects aren't even worthy of being called high-speed rail, as Wisconsin's average speed was projected to be just 59 mph..."

"... and Ohio's an even more lethargic 38.5 mph. ... New transportation technologies are successful when they are faster, more convenient, and less expensive than the technologies they replace. High-speed rail is slower than flying, less convenient than driving, and at least five times more expensive than either one. It is only feasible with heavy taxpayer subsidies and even then it will only serve a tiny portion of the nation's population."

Randal O'Toole at Cato.

More opinion collected here.

December 10, 2010

Good night.


Keep the blog fires burning.

A Columbia professor is arrested for incest — but isn't there a constitutional right to incest between consenting adults?

Here's the news about the professor, David Epstein, who is accused of having a sexual relationship with his 24-year-old daughter. Now, let's read Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (the case that found a substantive due process right to engage in sodomy). Justice Scalia quotes the majority opinion (and adds italics):
“[W]e think that our laws and traditions in the past half century are of most relevance here. These references show an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.”
Scalia then writes (and I'm adding the boldface):
Apart from the fact that such an “emerging awareness” does not establish a “fundamental right,” the statement is factually false. States continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes by adults “in matters pertaining to sex”: prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, and child pornography. Sodomy laws, too, have been enforced “in the past half century,” in which there have been 134 reported cases involving prosecutions for consensual, adult, homosexual sodomy..... In relying, for evidence of an “emerging recognition,” upon the American Law Institute’s 1955 recommendation not to criminalize “‘consensual sexual relations conducted in private,’ ” the Court ignores the fact that this recommendation was “a point of resistance in most of the states that considered adopting the Model Penal Code.”....

The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are “immoral and unacceptable”... the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity. Bowers held that this was a legitimate state interest. The Court today reaches the opposite conclusion. The Texas statute, it says, “furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual” ... The Court embraces instead Justice Stevens’ declaration in his Bowers dissent, that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation. If, as the Court asserts, the promotion of majoritarian sexual morality is not even a legitimate state interest, none of the above-mentioned laws can survive rational-basis review.
Of course, the Court did assert that in Lawrence, so according to Justice Scalia, under the existing precedent, consensual adult incest cannot survive rational-basis review.

Somehow, Bill Clinton is now President!

ADDED: "Please go." What a line!

AND: In defense of Obama, Clinton can be a windbag.

With Mr. Obama standing largely silently at his side, Mr. Clinton took over the lectern to lend his backing to the tax compromise the White House reached this week with Republicans. And then Mr. Clinton went on, for half an hour, answering questions and holding forth on topics from triangulation to Haiti to the mortgage crisis and the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Even after the 44th president excused himself and left the room, the 42nd went on. On cable TV, Mr. Clinton’s presence in front of the blue backdrop with the White House logo was familiar, as were the wagging finger and the occasional bitten lip.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama turned up suddenly after meeting privately together for almost 90 minutes in the Oval Office. With no warning to Mr. Obama’s aides, the two men wandered through the nearly deserted West Wing — most staff members were at a holiday party — and tried to get into the briefing room but found the door locked. Only after they finally encountered Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, were arrangements made to turn on the lights and microphone and assemble the press corps.
Why did Obama leave himself vulnerable to this grotesque upstaging, and why did Clinton do it? Was Clinton unaware of how this looked? Was Obama? Maybe Obama realized he'd made a mistake sharing the stage with Clinton without any ground rules, and walking out on Clinton was the best idea he had at that point. And maybe Clinton decided to deliberately show off the way a real President talks to the press because he actually wants to weaken Obama and create an opening for Hillary to challenge him in 2012.

Late autumn sunset.


"Would I Get In Trouble If I Blogged That?"

That's an idea for the name for a new blog that I came up with after I said "Would I get in trouble if I blogged that?" in reference to an idea for the name of a new blog that I was going to blog about. The answer to the question was: yes.

Don't try to drag it out of me! ← another good name for a blog.

Homophone phone message.

I got a phone message from someone who identified himself as someone I had talked about on an episode of Bloggingheads. What I heard: "You disgust me." What I figured out, on relistening: "You discussed me."

A racial incident in Milwaukee.

Involving a 100-year-old woman who was working as a Wal-Mart greeter and used the provocative epithet "you people."

"I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year."

Liu and spouse have a fifth rate social life.

"Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010..."

"... and House Democrats don't have a clue that he did."

Well, maybe they do and they just don't like him getting all the winner's glory. What about them? After playing him for the last 2 years, they can't like seeing him pull away from their pack in a victory sprint toward 2012. He only has to win the country. They have to win their districts — their politically gerrymandered districts.

Oh, the violent ideation of the lefties!

It's so hypocritical!

They need to restore sanity again.

The most annoying blogger.

I'm being polled about — among other things — who is the most annoying blogger. That's a good thing, right?

The rent-a-Christmas-tree business.

A live, potted tree is delivered to your house and, later, removed, to be kept, potted, on a lot, and tagged with your name, so you can be sure to get the same tree year after year.

We're told this arrangement appeals to "eco-minded consumers seek a natural tree without the possible guilt of dumping it curbside later." But — hello! — trucks have to drive around delivering and picking up these things, and growing them and preserving them in pots takes some doing. Possible guilt. What nonsense! Why not buy a cut tree and have it ground up into mulch in the end?

But "eco-minded consumers" are people with money to spend on their own good feelings about themselves. It doesn't matter what's really "green," only what they think is green. These people pay $100 a year for the scrawny tree. And how does said tree feel? Permanently pot-bound.

Here's a clue: Buy a nice artificial tree. It's totally eco-friendly, in an honest and non-self-indulgent way. You'll save hours of trouble every year. I wouldn't have done this myself. I thought you had to buy a real tree. Oh, the many years when I put up the real tree — often by myself, which is not easy — and once I got a husband who could help me, he — my horticulturist husband — pushed me into getting an artificial tree!

You can have your possible guilt. I've got my possible irony.

December 9, 2010

"In this case, guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours."

But where was Jim Morrison's cock that night, lo, all these many years ago?

Are you on Team Chaucer or Team Shakespeare?

"Who 'Invented' More New Words?"

"Invent" is in quotes because all we know is the first recorded use of each word, so the fact that Chaucer has more than Shakespeare isn't as interesting as who has the best words. I'm tempted to go on Team Shakespeare because I like immediacy, laughable, obscene, generous, radiance, tranquil, and useful. But I'm going with Team Chaucer, because, in addition to quantity, he's got accident, Martian, princess, superstitious, vacation, vulgar, snort, universe, theater, scissors, perpendicular, village, wildness, outrageous, femininity, dishonest, and galaxy. No, it's not really fair. Chaucer got there first, and snagged many useful words (though not useful, the word).


Bonus Althouse info: The first house I ever lived in was on Chaucer Drive.

"The nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail projects that newly elected governors in Ohio and Wisconsin rejected..."

"... has been redirected to other states, with New York receiving up to $7.3 million of the amount. The money was redistributed to states in proportion to their initial high-speed rail awards...."

Wisconsin and Ohio... such important swing states in the upcoming 2012 elections.

Did it not occur to them to not spend the money? Why the insatiable urge to spend? My mother used to say, "That money is burning a hole in your pocket." But that can't be what's going on here, because they don't have any money.

"Figures like Rush Limbaugh and to a much lesser extent, bloggers like Kos and Glenn Reynolds, are powerful because they represent a movement and ideology."

"They are the leaders of a team. Ann Althouse doesn't represent anything but herself."

True! There is no Team Althouse.
The Daily Cardinal came up with a list of the top 10 most influential figures in Madison....

Number 10 was absurd. Ann Althouse? There's a difference between being big and being influential. She might have been noticeable enough for Isthmus to run a cover story about her, but...
Ha. This is written by Jack Craver, who wrote that cover story in the Isthmus. He insulted me in the article, portraying me as an egotist, and he's doing it again here as he says I "don't represent anything but [my]self." His problem is that, as a lefty, he doesn't get individualism. It's not egoistic to write, representing myself. Who am I to represent if not myself? I am myself! The writing isn't egotistical. It's honest and expressive. People read what I write because I'm a specific person, and you can tell. It's influential to the extent that other people, as individuals, identify with what I've written or have their own thoughts inspired by it or feel like coming in here to talk with other people because a post set up an interesting conversation. If that's influential, maybe it's because there are a lot of individuals like me who enjoy free speaking and don't want to be led.

"How to get a workplace spouse to fill in the gaps in your marriage."

Penelope Trunk talks about why you might want to develop a relationship like this — not for sex! — and gives 5 rules:
1. Identify a relationship with a high chance for success....

2. Talk about a taboo topic.

Once a girl starts talking about sex, then the boy starts talking about sex....

3. Blur the normal boundaries between co-workers....

4. Ask for what you want....

5. Find a good balance between the official relationship and the unofficial relationship....
I smell trouble. Lots of trouble. Whatever happened to friends? Trunk tells us she has a husband who wants sex but is "sick of talking" to her. She wants someone to talk to and asserts that "when workplace spouse relationships do cross the line into the sex department, the relationship goes bad." But you can't neatly control relationships, and they do "go bad" — in many unpredictable ways.

"Approval By Numbers: How Obama Compares To Past Presidents."

A chart graphing the popularity of 11 Presidents over a 2-year time line.

Click forward to see individual comparisons, such as Bush 43 and Obama. The closest similarity is to Jimmy Carter.

"My husband is my guardian angel."

"He's stuck by me through everything. Most men would have left a long time ago and who could blame them but Myron is a living saint."

What is the symbiotic relationship between a person who is too obese to get out of bed and the person who brings her the food that is keeping her that big?

(To maintain a weight of 700 pounds you need to eat 8400 calories a day. )

"Her smash-mouthed assault on His deity, sovereignty and infallibility brought more GodSmacks upon her..."

If you're trying to fathom the twisted reasoning behind picketing Elizabeth Edwards' funeral (by the Westboro Baptist Church), the hateful text is here.

"Palin is still talking about how much she loves C. S. Lewis."

"What is up with this? Chunky Bobo is always talking about C. S. Lewis too. Is he the new Edmund Burke? I read a bunch of C. S. Lewis books when I was a kid and I don’t see what makes them so conservative, aside from all the Jeebus stuff."

Sayeth DougJ. For a couple of seconds, I was all "who's Chunky Bobo?" but I figured it out.


Here's there underlying story about Palin. (She's on Barbara Walters' "10 Most Fascinating People of 2010." Ah, but how influential is she in Madison ?)

Here's a really nice — giftable — book collecting the works of C.S. Lewis. And here's a "daily readings" collection. And here's "The Portable Edmund Burke."

"Senate Democrats cancel vote on DREAM Act, meaning the immigration measure is likely dead for the year."

More CNN breaking news.

The imMEADEate reaction: "Oh, they're just stabbing Obama in the back."

"Putting the cheese in machismo."

Have you ever said something you thought was witty — I just said "putting the cheese in machismo" (a propos of this) — and your audience is about to give you credit, because they've never heard it before, but you have to Google to see if you really are the first, and of course, you're not the first?

(Once I post this, I'll be first on the list, in all likelihood, but at the time I'm writing this, there were 6 hits. So that makes my wisecrack pretty original. I predicted there'd be 20,000 hits, so the Googling was mildly rewarding.)

"Defying President Obama, House Democrats vote not to bring up tax deal he negotiated with GOP in its current form."

CNN Breaking News.

Meade, immediately: "Oh, man! That's going to make bleeding-heart moderates like you like him even more."

Immediate Althouse: "Obama is being thrust into the arms of the onrushing GOP!"

Meade: "In the same way that H.W. befriended Bill Clinton, W is going to befriend Obama. You'll see them playing golf together. Maybe even mountain biking."

"George Will is like a twelve-year-old girl for Mike Pence. Maybe they should have a sleepover, and George can braid Mike's hair."

From the Daily Kos "Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up."

Bonus cultural reference material:
Jerry: "Elaine, I really don't pay much attention to men`s faces."

Elaine: "You can't find beauty in a man?"

Jerry: "No... I find them repugnant and unappealing."

Kramer (entering): "Hey!"

Jerry (pointing at Kramer): "To wit."

Kramer: "What?"

Jerry: "No, Elaine and I were just discussing whether I could admit a man is attractive."

Kramer: "Hmm. Oh, yeah. I'll tell you who is an attractive man: George Will."

Jerry: "Really!"

Kramer: "Yeah! He has clean looks, scrubbed and shampooed and...."

Elaine: "He's smart...."

Kramer: "No, no I don't find him all that bright."

"They were trying to show that my intention was to get Pigford defunded."

"And, I had never heard of Pigford, so for the last four and half months, all I’ve been doing is eating, breathing, sleeping Pigford, researching Pigford, finding whistleblowers who are hiding in plain sight who have been wanting to tell the story of how this was rigged."

"Outside Madison's city limits... Althouse is largely known as the smugly inscrutable blogger with a platinum bob."

From a piece in The Daily Cardinal identifying me as the 10th "most influential figure" in Madison.

Is Althouse smugly inscrutable?
She's inscrutable but not smugly so. But she is smug nonetheless.
She's inscrutably smug.
She's inscrutable but not smug.
She's smug but not inscrutable. free polls

I couldn't find a list of the top 10, but you can see them all at this search. The mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, is #1. Barry Alvarez is #3....

December 8, 2010

It's the Obama I voted for: Obama the Pragmatist.

Now, Rush Limbaugh was talking about how "the media is just beside itself over how pathetic [Obama's] performance was yesterday" in the news conference about the tax compromise. And Rush is saying that Obama "knows full well that he had a meltdown yesterday."

Here's the video:

Rush says he can tell that Obama...
... has been festering, this has been effervescing inside him, that he's unappreciated, that he did something nobody else has done, and they wanted it for a hundred years, and by golly he got it.  He didn't get everything he wanted, he got 99%, and they don't appreciate me,...

So he's essentially telling them, look, I gotta back off on some of this stuff if we're to get anything done.  And that infuriated 'em even more because the question was, "Where you gonna go to the mat, what are your core values?" And he withered.  He caved.  And that made them even angrier.  I know it's hard to comprehend.  But these people on the left, they are truly enraged.  It is a lifestyle.  They are never happy.  I looked at the comments on the Daily Kos website, they are hilarious.  But they're real.  And it went on for ten pages.  I mean they are just fit to be tied because Obama is not what they thought he was....
I must say... I watched that video clip earlier today, and I liked the Obama I saw there. You could say he's beaten down, but there's fire there. It's the fire of pragmatism. I see a sensible and strong man. I never believed in Obama the Messiah, and I fretted about the signs that he was a left-wing ideologue. But when it came down to a decision between Obama and McCain, in the midst of a terrible economic crisis, I put my trust in Obama. I said:
I worry about what awful innovations the new President will concoct in league with the Democratic Congress, but at this point, I'm more worried about McCain than Obama. 
I thought that Obama would have some independence from the Democrats in Congress and that he'd use his common sense and pragmatism to work out some solutions. The more he departs from left-wing ideology and struggles to get to good solutions, the more I like him.

When I watch that video, I don't see a melt-down at all. I see Obama coming into his own at last. I see the Obama I voted for.

"The caribou that waited too pliantly in the cross hairs is doomed to become stew for Palin and an allegory for politics."

"The elegant animal standing above the fray, dithering rather than charging at his foes or outmaneuvering them, is Obambi. Even with a rifle aimed at him, he’s trying to be the most reasonable mammal in the scene, mammalian bipartisan, and rise above what he sees as empty distinctions between the species so that we can all unite at a higher level of being."

That's Maureen Dowd. She's going there. Into the realm of violent metaphor, visualizing shooting the President. It's an amusing riff, but it's an image I would self-censor.

In any event, I agree with a lot of her mockery of "Sarah Palin's Alaska":
Sarah checked her freezer at home before she flew 600 miles to the Arctic, trying to justify her contention that she needs to hunt to eat. Wasn’t it already stocked with those halibuts she clubbed and gutted in an earlier show?

“My dad has taught me that if you want to have wild, organic, healthy food,” she pontificated, “you’re gonna go out there and hunt yourself and fish yourself and you’re gonna fill up your freezer.”
For the price of all that plane-flying, couldn't you just mail-order a freezer-full of meat?

"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Wednesday unleashed a blunt and stinging critique of the federal government’s handing of the economic recovery..."

"... saying that lawmakers from both parties have 'abdicated their responsibility' in favor of partisan bickering... In a long and sweeping speech..."

I guess if it was long, it was written before yesterday's news of the big, bipartisan tax compromise. Poor Bloomie! The wind taken out of his sails just as he's launching his campaign armada.
The speech, far-reaching in scope and language, and delivered with much fanfare along the Brooklyn waterfront, instantly intensified speculation about the mayor’s political ambitions...
Delivered with much fanfare along the waterfront.... I'm trying to picture that delivery along the waterfront... with fanfare....

"You have a steady diet of borderline cases. Is this bending up your mind?"

"Is this having the effect of dulling your sensitivity to the 7 major values of certainty in law? If you’re getting accustomed to life on the borderlines — that's what you're in, life on the borderlines — could that have a prejudicial effect on the general standards that you have with regard to what the law is like? And you just take for granted that the law will be open-ended, spongey, discretion-ridden? Some of you do think there’s value to predictability, determinativeness. There are probably not just 3 ways in which it’s valuable, but probably about 15."

Said the eminent, venerable law professor Robert Summers, according to the verbatim notes of a student in his Contracts class at Cornell Law School. Summers recommended that students try to write everything down, and the student, my son John, followed the recommendation. At the link, you'll find much more about Summers — the ideal of the Socratic law professor, who taught his last class on December 1st.

Professor Summers taught law for 50 years. That's about twice as long as I've taught law, and I see myself as well past the middle of my teaching days. I encountered Professor Summers when I interviewed at Cornell — it was my first law school interview — in the fall of 1983. He went on an oddly long rant about how awful it was to have to grade exams.

If I had a transcript of that now, I'm sure I would see that it was hilarious, but at the time, I was terrified, and I furiously racked my brain to think of some interview-appropriate response. Perhaps if I'd been less tightly wound that day and laughed instead of looking however I looked — mystified? blank? clock-watch-y? — I'd have ended up at Cornell.

But I ended up at Wisconsin. And I'm pleased that my son John grew up in Wisconsin and that he ended up at Cornell — with the presence of mind and the sense of humor to appreciate the great Professor Summers.

John says:
... Summers took the Socratic method to the extreme. He rarely made any direct statement about anything, almost always preferring to ask questions instead.

He mockingly voiced the way he thought students would react:
Isn’t it a pity that you need to analyze cases? You can’t just go around with your mouth open waiting for a spoon that will feed it to you in one big, luscious bite! Students should sue. The teachers should just give you the law.
For me, that is a luscious bite of incentive to keep trying to find the wit and the nerve to go for the Socratic ideal. What if I took a secret vow to teach speaking only in questions? How long would it take the students to notice? And by notice, I mean, notice that I'm using the technique of only asking question, not notice that I am really, really annoying.

Summers talking about another lawprof:
MacNeil was a whale of a law professor! Never uttered a declarative sentence! Never uttered a declarative sentence! Not in 35 years! Best law professor we've ever had! Now he's retired. What a mistake that was. What a mistake that was.

"Men tend to behave better when they're married..."

"... both because marriage likely helps improve their behavior, and nicer men are more likely to be married in the first place, a new study reports."

Via Instapundit.

The last couple of days, I've been preoccupied with the Prop 8 case, where the key question is: What is the government's interest in restricting marriage to opposite sex couples? The pro-Prop 8 side focused entirely — and oddly — on the fact that only opposite-sex couples make babies accidentally. If accidental babies are the problem, why express any negativity toward same-sex couples? They'll only get babies if they make a deliberate decision to have them.

But this study suggests another reason for the special treatment of opposite sex couples. Society extracts better behavior from men by encouraging them to pair up with women. Women are the tamers of men. Don't waste women on other women. The social order wants to maximize the use of women for the fixing of men. And if men pair with men, all hell will break loose. Double the chaos of men roaming solo. With synergy, even more than double.

I spent all day Monday watching the oral argument in the 9th Circuit, and much of yesterday, reading, talking, and writing about it. That would have been way more entertaining if the pro-Prop 8 lawyers had contended that there is a legitimate government interest in controlling men by yoking them to women.

It's funny the way people are trying to spin the tax deal, now, before the vote.

There's this from Ezra Klein:
If you look at the numbers alone, the tax cut deal looks to have robbed Republicans blind. The GOP got around $95 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans and $30 billion in estate tax cuts. Democrats got $120 billion in payroll-tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and education tax credits), $56 billion in unemployment insurance, and, depending on how you count it, about $180 billion (two-year cost) or $30 billion (10-year cost) in new tax incentives for businesses to invest....

.... Much of what the Obama administration wanted was not that noxious to conservatives. They were tax cuts, many of them for businesses. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had previously proposed both a payroll tax cut for 2011 and the tax breaks for business investment. Republicans have frequently said that they don't even oppose unemployment insurance.
I elided 4 paragraphs for humorous effect.  The "numbers alone" skew heavily toward the Democrats only because Klein limited the Republican side to "tax cuts for the rich." He also says:
Conservatives saw the extension of the tax cuts as an important pivot point in American politics -- full stop. As my colleague Jennifer Rubin puts it, Republicans "won the philosophical point (tax hikes impede economic growth)..." The Obama administration didn't see the tax cuts as a philosophical point....
Well, that's convenient.

Greg Sargent says:
... Obama's strategy going forward will be to position himself as Washington's lone resident adult in a town full of squabbling children on right and left, and at his presser just now, Obama offered a surprisingly stern, and even angry, rebuke to his liberal critics....
This is a good stance to take for 2012. At that point, we'll see how well the tax cuts worked. If the economy improves, Obama can take credit and warn us against giving too much power to Republicans because they will overdo tax cutting for the rich instead of taking the intelligently balanced approach he brokered. If things go badly, he can say the Republicans got some power in 2010 and forced a compromise that demonstrated that their ideology is wrong.

Meanwhile, both Jim DeMint and Mary Landrieu are lambasting the deal. Landrieu says she's "going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of" tax cuts for the rich. DeMint says:
"I’m glad the President recognizes that tax increases hurt the economy.... [b]ut ... most of us who ran this election said we were not going to vote for anything that increased the deficit.... I don’t want to second-guess my leadership, but frankly, I think we need to come away with a lot better than this. We cannot increase the deficit, or keep increasing deficit spending.."
And I'll just end this patchwork post with Rush Limbaugh....
My take is, taken by itself in its own universe, yeah, okay, pretty good.  I like the fact the left hates Obama. I like the fact they're mad at him right now.  I like the fact that nobody's taxes are going up.  But placed in the context of the shellacking and of this huge election victory, it's not nearly what we coulda gotten....
ADDED: My post title is "It's funny the way people are trying to spin the tax deal, now, before the vote." Once the legislation is passed, I assume people will say different things. Extreme claims of victory can't be made now if what you want is to get the legislation passed. And, too, different things will be said about this when 2012 rolls around.

If you're thinking of saying something about Elizabeth Edwards in the comments to the previous post....

... you need to put it here instead.

ADDED: Let me front-page something Clyde said in the comments to yesterday's post noting the death of Elizabeth Edwards:
This is probably an inappropriate question, but if as some have speculated, she knew the end was near and stopped taking the drugs: Did she decide to check out in December before the Death Tax kicks back in in 2011? Dying before January would be very lucrative for heirs, as opposed to hanging on until January 1st and having her estate get slammed with a 55% tax (or I think 35% if the deal Obama made with the Republicans goes through)...
AND: Irene said:
Rich people like Elizabeth Edwards plan for death, and their lawyers draft dispositions that minimize the impact of the estate tax. She knew she was dying, and she probably had a plan that gave a good chunk to charity. She also had plenty of warning since her initial diagnosis, and she could take advantage of making lifetime gifts to her children.

If she didn't plan, then everything passes to John Edwards without any tax implications. They're still married, and there is an unlimited marital deduction for spouses.
I didn't realize they were still married. Did they stay married as a tax-planning scheme?

"An unspeakable tragedy..."

30 years ago....

December 7, 2010

At the Tree Crutch Café...


... we all need someone we can lean on.

"There’s just too much Muslim influence, all this Shariah law..."

"We’re conservative here, old and cantankerous."

Here, being Oklahoma, which just passed the "Save Our State Amendment."

"I’ve said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts."

"I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed."

Hey, Obama? Can I get the keys to the car so I can drive it somewhere where I won't have to listen to your metaphors?

"When Mr. Miller informs you that he’s going to burn the California and American flags onstage... you know he’s not going to do it."

"And if he did, would anyone mind? Flag burning was much, ahem, hotter during the George H. W. Bush administration, when Tim Miller was known as one of the N.E.A. Four..."

Ah, it's late in human history to be a performance artist. But one must soldier on.

I talk about the appellate argument in the Prop 8 case with Emily Bazelon.

The argument in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took place yesterday, and Emily and I gabbed about it this morning for Bloggingheads.

Elizabeth Edwards, who struggled with cancer, marriage, and the quest for power...

... has died, at the age of 61.

Did you remember that she graduated from law school? She was one of the new sort of political wives, who had independent career aspirations yet choose to move into a man's shadow.

Does Katrina vanden Heuvel have a Joe Biden sock-puppet?

Memeorandum — a fabulously useful starting point for blog-reading — automatically aggregates items based on a secret algorithm.

At the top, right now, is this:

Look closer:

I clicked, because I wanted to see what Joe Biden had to say under the snazzy headline "Obama: On the way to a failed presidency?" The link goes to a Washington Post column with that headline — but it's by Katrina vanden Heuvel ("editor and publisher of the Nation" who "writes a weekly online column for The Post").

Can anyone explain why the automatic aggregator Memeorandum would have picked up that column and attached Biden's name to it? I'm guessing the answer is pretty boring: "Joe Biden" appears in a line above the column, near the top of the page, that begins "Hot Topics." That does give rise to a new puzzle: What's hot about Biden? Clicking on his name, I see that he "heads to the Hill to talk taxes" today.  Sizzling!


Here are 200 $5 MP3 albums. 100 regular albums and — look for the additional link at the link — 100 Christmas albums.

I was just thinking about the way I don't really listen to whole albums anymore. Back when we had vinyl LPs, we consumed music in whole-album form, with the tracks in proper order. I think in the last 10 years, I've only really internalized one whole album. (This one.)

And I just realized this morning that the album that had the most effect on the structure of my brain and my life is this one. That opening track and that closing track — in particular and taken together — send a message about what sort of relationships are desirable. You have no idea how much that shaped my thinking about what I wanted and should (or could) ask for in life. The argument against the traditional was phenomenally mind-bending.

Kathy Griffin joked that Bristol Palin is fat.

"She's the only contestant in the history of ['Dancing With The Stars'] to actually gain weight... She's like the white 'Precious.'"

Griffin, who just turned 50, was showing off her super-thin body in a bikini on stage. But check the rear view...

... always check the rear view, ladies.

Joe Blow wins the thread!

Do you like it when a commenter says that so-and-so "wins the thread"?
Yes, it's snappy and adorable. If you disagree, disagree!
No. It's irritating to appoint oneself as the arbiter of the quality of comments!
No. It annoys me to have the thread characterized as a competition.
Yes. Other commenters will up their game if they get the feeling it's a competition. free polls

But Christopher Hitchens was talking about the document leakage, and Assange has turned himself in over the... semen leakage.

Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens posted "Turn Yourself In, Julian Assange," and today, Assange has turned himself in.

ADDED: He warned us that he was going to release his code if people rubbed him the wrong way. His DNA code.

"[I]t’s important to counter the 'haha sex by surprise those crazy Swedes' media narrative..."

"... with the fact that actually, non-consensual sex is assault and should be recognized as such by law. Consenting to one kind of sexual act doesn’t mean that you consent to anything else your partner wants to do; if it’s agreed that the only kind of sex we’re having is with a condom, then it does remove an element of consent to have sex without a condom with only one partner’s knowledge. To use another example, if you and your partner agree that you can penetrate her, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she has the green light to penetrate you whenever and however."

Feministe wants to talk about that "sex by surprise" charge against Julian Assange.

December 6, 2010

"People my age don’t want to put hats and scarves on in their homes..."

Old people in Britain are cold.

Ironically, I read that while wearing mittens. I've been trying to warm up my hands for the last hour. It's not really a big deal. I keep the thermostat at 62°. I could turn it up, but I don't. It may be true that as you get older, the cold gets to you, and I feel sorry for people who don't have the option to turn up the heat. I think that wears on you psychologically. But, really, it's healthy to keep the air you breathe cool. It's also good for the environment not to burn more fuel for heat. Shouldn't it be normal to warm up your extremities with sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves, and even mittens? Why is there some idea that if you are getting old, you shouldn't have to use clothing to warm yourself?

So... Gingrich?

He's saying signs point to him, but check out this picture. I'm scared!

The collar flip.

It's real.

Don't forget!

You can show your love for the Althouse blog by starting your shopping searches here:

You'll pay no more for your purchases, and I'll get a cut of the price, which I will appreciate fondly as encouragement to keep up my daily writing for you, dear readers.

Elizabeth Edwards is dying.

And she says a few words via Facebook:
She did not mention Mr. Edwards in her message on Monday.

“There are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human,” Mrs. Edwards wrote. “But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
She did not apologize to us for participating in the deceit perpetrated by John Edwards, which skewed the 2008 Democratic primaries.

ADDED: Death don't have no mercy.

The oral argument in the 9th Circuit in the Prop 8 case is about to begin.

The case is Perry v. Schwarzenegger. You can watch live on C-SPAN. I'll update with comments soon.

UPDATE: You can read some details about the case here. I'll have some of my own impressions in a little while.

UPDATE 2: You can watch the whole oral argument here. The first hour of the argument dealt with the threshold question of standing. California Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown were the original defendants in the case, and they have opted not to appeal. Proponents of Prop 8 (which banned same-sex marriage) need a way to intervene using some other party with a personal stake in the outcome or the decision of the district judge, finding Prop 8 unconstitutional, will be the final word on the subject.

It seems as though there should be appellate review, but the constitutional limits on federal court jurisdiction don't depend on how important it is for an issue to be heard. There are technical requirements, and it seems as though the plaintiffs' lawyers did a clever job of setting things up so a district court decision in their favor would be insulated from appellate review. But listening to the oral argument, I got the impression the judges thought it was too clever.

In the second hour, the substantive question boiled down to whether there was a rational basis for excluding gay people from marriage. The pro-Prop 8 side rested heavily on the fact that only heterosexual couples produce babies accidentally. But that has so little to do with the value of excluding gay people from the status of marriage. It's hard even to understand why reserving marriage to heterosexuals would make them do a better job of deploying their reproductive powers. Why should gay people, who aren't even the problem, bear the burden?

The Supreme Court takes a global warming case....

... with Justice Sonia Sotomayor recusing herself. American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut involves the use of a common law theory of nuisance:
[Five companies] that were claimed to be the largest sources of greenhouse gases — four electric power companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority — were sued by eight states, New York City, and three land conservation groups...

Calling the potential impact of the nuisance theory “staggering,” the companies’ petition said that virtually every entity and industry in the world can be found to be partly responsible for some emissions of carbon dioxide, so they are potentially liable to be sued in climate changed nuisance lawsuits.
When it comes to carbon dioxide, we're all a damned nuisance.

The Supreme Court will decide if Wal-Mart can be sued by a class of 500,000 female employees claiming discrimination.

SCOTUSblog reports on Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes:
The first question will be whether, under Federal court Rule 23, a lawsuit may seek a money verdict — in this case, a claim for back pay — when the class was created under a provision that limits remedies to corrective court orders, not money.   Besides agreeing to hear that, the Court told the parties to file briefs and prepare to argue on a second question — whether the class was a proper one, under Rule 23, when it was cleared to go forward under Rule 23(b)(2)....

Wal-Mart’s petition had raised a second question that embraced the broader argument that no class should have been approved at all, since the claims made by the women employees were so disparate and so diffuse that they really had nothing in common, and that, as a result, Wal-Mart would not have been able to mount a defense to such claims....

The class approved in this case is the largest ever certified in a job bias context, but is also among the largest of any class certified in any case in federal courts....

The sex discrimination class-action case against Wal-Mart was actually started more than nine years ago as a race bias case involving a single company employee — Betty Dukes, a black woman who is a “greeter” at the company’s store in Pittsburg, Calif.  It later became a class-action lawsuit with six original plaintiffs, including Dukes, contending that the company has engaged in pay and promotion discrimination against women throughout the chain.
MORE: Adam Liptak and Steven Greenhouse have this:
Wal-Mart, which says its policies expressly bar discrimination and promote diversity, said the plaintiffs, who worked in 3,400 stores in 170 job classifications, cannot possibly have enough in common to make class-action treatment appropriate. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has granted review in this important case,” Wal-Mart said in a brief statement. “The current confusion in class-action law is harmful for everyone — employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes and the civil justice system. These are exceedingly important issues that reach far beyond this particular case.”...

Brad Seligman, the main lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Monday that plaintiffs welcomed the court’s review of the limited issue and were confident that the justices would rule in their favor. “Wal-Mart has thrown up an extraordinarily broad number of issues, many of which, if the court seriously entertained, could very severely undermine many civil rights class actions,” Mr. Seligman said.
The decision in the 9th Circuit was written by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins — who, incidentally, is one of the judges in the Prop 8 case. (I spent what seems like the entire day listening to the oral argument in that case.)
[W]riting for the majority, [Hawkins] said the company’s policies and treatment of women were similar enough that a single lawsuit was both efficient and appropriate....

[Dissenting, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote:] “Maybe there’d be no difference between 500 employees and 500,000 employees if they all had similar jobs, worked at the same half-billion square foot store and were supervised by the same managers”....

“They have little in common but their sex and this lawsuit,” Judge Kozinski concluded.

"A majority of Muslims around the world welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries' political life..."

A new Pew poll:
According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of poll respondents in those countries reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad....

December 5, 2010

Christmas trains.

At Olbrich Gardens, here in Madison.

Jeff Probst accuses 2 contestants of breaching the implied "Survivor" contract.

Okay... but, of course, there is a written contract. What's in it? The idea of an implied contract is nothing but a figure of speech for Jeff here as he's exacting what is probably the only power he has to impose a penalty: bad-mouthing the quitters.

At the Clarity Café...


... you can sharpen your perceptions...


... or melt into bliss.

ADDED: Enlargements: #1 and #2.

The Wikileaks Doomsday Machine.

"Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted 'poison pill' cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay."


The high-speed rail boondoggle at its worst — in California.

Via Instapundit, Reason has the nauseating details:
The California High Speed Rail Authority is committed to breaking ground on a leg of the train that will serve passengers between the unincorporated town of Borden and the half-incarcerated town of Corcoran.
Whether you call it the train from nowhere or the train to nowhere, nobody will be riding it even when it’s done. That’s not libertarian cant: The actual plan for the $4.15 billion leg is that upon completion it will sit idle until other sections of track are completed.
$4.15 billion!
Background: The CHSRA needs to break ground by September 2012 or lose $2.25 billion in federal funds. The U.S. Department of Transportation has for reasons of its own favored the sparsely populated Central Valley for this first leg of the thinly imagined high speed rail project. 
Reasons of its own? Can we get an investigation?

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, we just elected a new governor whose central election promise was to say no to $810 million connect Madison and Milwaukee by high-speed rail:
Scott Walker has made no secret of his aversion to high-speed trains, but before he goes any further with his plans to derail the planned Milwaukee-Madison line, Walker might consider some earlier chapters in Wisconsin's transportation history. They indicate that the governor-elect could be putting his state in reverse.

As long as there has been a Wisconsin, residents have labored mightily to establish connections with each other and with the world beyond the state's borders. Although disputes often arose in working out the details, the general trend was unmistakable....
Connections! We're all about relationships among people.
The idea seems oddly nostalgic at first - why build passenger trains in the 21st century? - but it actually fits an emerging settlement pattern. Not in my lifetime but perhaps in my grandchildren's, and for better or worse, an interconnected megalopolis will sprawl from Benton Harbor, Mich., to Minneapolis-St. Paul. As the empty spaces fill in, there will be a demand for some form of transport that's faster than cars but has more frequent stops (and fewer exasperating waits) than airplanes.
The columnist — John Gurda in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — is imagining a megalopolis in the future and telling us what people then will want. But people don't even want trains now. We drive cars. Or we take planes. There's also the bus. True, a bus doesn't go at a speed in between the speed of a car and a plane, but come on. Pick one. Road or air.

But, anyway, we have a nice train in Madison:

A train and a Christmas tree in the Wisconsin State Capitol.

"The Stones carry no Woodstockesque, antibusiness baggage."

Why the Rolling Stones are able to make so much money.
Not everyone, of course, is enchanted by Jagger’s business smarts. There are those who see the Stones’ transformation into a brand as an affront to the very spirit of rock ’n’ roll, a betrayal of the lawless, piratical impulse that once made them great. Such romantics are inclined to question whether a song like “Street Fighting Man”(“Hey! Said my name is called disturbance/I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants”) can still be plausibly sung by an elderly knight who does sponsorship and licensing deals with Microsoft and Sprint.
These "romantics" just need to perceive the romanticism of capitalism. Capitalism could say "my name is called disturbance" — creative destruction and all — don't you think?  By the way, Mick Jagger studied at the London School of Economics.

Speaking of romance, Jagger addresses the subject of marriage:
“I don’t really subscribe to a completely normal view of what relationships should be... I have a bit more of a bohemian view. To be honest, I don’t really think much of marriage. I’m not saying it’s not a wonderful thing and people shouldn’t do it, but it’s not for me. And not for quite a few other people too, it would appear... I just think it’s perhaps not quite what it’s cracked up to be. I know it’s an elaborate fantasy.”

"She’s like the ominous blob in the horror films: the more you shoot at it, the bigger and stronger it becomes."

If a conservative columnist had come up with that image to describe a liberal politician, liberals would gasp and scold about the violence seething in the conservative brain.

But this is the liberal NYT columnist Charles Blow, complaining about how attacks on Sarah Palin aren't doing what they're supposed to do. His idea is lefties need to stop talking about her:
People on the left seem to need her, to bash her, because she is, in three words, the way the left likes to see the right: hollow, dim and mean. But since she’s feeding on the negativity, I suggest three other words: get over it.
So the reason for calling off the attacks is that they're not working. Whatever happened to the "restore sanity" movement that briefly bubbled up — the idea that civility was a free-standing value? I assume the idea that moderate discourse is an end in itself was always only a pose. That is, the idea that civility was an end was a means to an end. When that end wasn't achieved — liberals lost the elections — the means was abandoned. Attacks flared. But attacks failed. At least Blow isn't pretending to believe in civility as an end in itself.

Did CNN turn off Sarah's music?

Because that wouldn't be cool if they did that.

"These Iowa people, got my back."