Sunday, November 5, 2006

Posing with the suicide bomber.

People keep sending me this picture of University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann standing next to a student dressed as a suicide bomber at a Halloween party. (She's dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch.) As you know, I hold people to account for the way they pose at festive events. But I am not going to slam Gutmann for this. Her mistake, only really visible in retrospect, was giving a costume party for students. The lesson of this incident is utterly clear: University administrators must never, never, never have a costume party ever again.

Once students are there and in costume, how could she single out one student to snub? If she had had time to think about it -- and now she says she didn't -- she might have considered that the young man would turn out to be a naive foreign student who meant well and was trying to get in the spirit of America's Halloween. Aren't you supposed to dress as someone evil?

By the way, it is exactly this sort of tolerance and unwillingness to offend a foreigner that Sasha Baron Cohen exploits in the big new hit comedy movie "Borat," which is apparently the funniest movie ever made or the greatest comedy of all time or something.

Bonus discussion question: How will "Borat" affect the election?

ADDED: Eugene Volokh defends Gutmann. (Evil characters for Halloween are the norm!) Glenn Reynolds responds. (Bet she wouldn't have posed with someone dressed as a Klansman!) Eugene responds to Glenn. Glenn "remain[s] skeptical." This interchange, which I read after I posted my observations, brings up the question whether university administrators are politically slanted in their tolerance. More important, I think if a student had arrived dressed as a Klansman, many guests at the party would have reacted vociferously. That student would never have reached the point where he could pose with the president. So what is notable in the Gutmann incident is not so much that she posed with the student, but that other party-goers accepted him into the group without protest. That says something about the political climate at the university.

A Harvard Law School seminar: "What to Wear in Winter Climates."

The seminar, requested by a student from Southern California, drew 62 participants, including students from Iran and India. Hot cider, hot chocolate, and snowflake cookies were served.
At the same link: Middlebury College, with funding from two anonymous donors, is naming a professorship for Chief Justice Rehnquist. There's some controversy over this, naturally:
"After all of Middlebury's talk of wanting to be more friendly and more aware of the needs and rights of minority rights, naming this chair was a big step backward, said Tamara Vatnick , a senior and co president of the Open Queer Alliance, one of several student groups that has protested. Rehnquist, while on the court, opposed affirmative action and supported the dismantling of school desegregation orders.

President Ronald D. Liebowitz defended the professorship, funded by two anonymous donors, saying, "As a jurist, he was conservative, and his politics are not my politics, perhaps, but we are recognizing his great service."
And those great donors.

"People danced and cheered on the street."

Saddam Hussein receives the death sentence.
For many Iraqis, the verdicts represented a moment of triumph and catharsis after decades of suffering under Mr. Hussein's tyrannical rule.

In spite of an intense security clampdown that barred vehicles and pedestrians from the street, public celebration erupted around Iraq. People danced and cheered on the street, sounded car horns and fired guns into the air, a standard gesture of celebration here. Iraqi and American security forces were bracing for a violent reaction among Mr. Hussein's armed supporters, who constitute a significant corps within the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. Iraq's security forces were put on high alert beginning Saturday night and an American fighter plane continuously circled high above the city.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Touring the suite.

I give you a look at the scene of the interviews.

"You don't think my fat ass makes my fat ass look fat, do ya?"

Are you watching the new Roseanne Barr special on HBO?

UPDATE: Now, she's saying, "Bush blows! Bush f**king blows. I hate Bush. I hate Bush. I hate Bush," etc., with a big cheer from the audience. She says she's glad everyone agrees now, because they didn't use to.

"Hair barred from internationals."

Another incomprehensible -- to me! -- headline.

The rule against photographing the Prime Minister's profile.

Some high level vanity from Poland:
Polish press photographers were briefly barred from taking pictures of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, left, from the side. The rule was published by the Polish government’s press office, the newspaper Nowy Dziennik reported. There was simply no need to photograph Mr. Kaczynski’s profile, a government spokesman, Jan Dziedziczak, said, rejecting assumptions that full-face pictures might be better at hiding the prime minister’s double chin. Photographers at a news conference called by the prime minister on Thursday were forced to obey the pronouncement, and outrage quickly followed. The rule was rescinded yesterday, reportedly on the order of Mr. Kaczynski.


I normally resist the routine pedantry of pointing out the misusage of the word "literally." But this one's a lulu:
Anyone who had been diligently paying down a mortgage and others who had just sat back and watched their home appreciate in value were able to refinance and take out the difference between the value of the home and what was still owed, known as equity. Not only did they remove the increased equity in the home as cash, most people were paying lower monthly payments.

“People have literally picked up their house at the foundations and shook it upside down like a piggy bank,” said Ed Smith, chief executive of the Plaza Financial Group, a mortgage brokerage firm in La Mesa, Calif., near San Diego.


I don't know about you, but I'm in Detroit. But for $8, I'm able to get WiFi, so I'm happy enough. Time to catch up on all the email and to see what's bloggable.

Making the economy an issue.

The NYT reports:
Republicans seized on a drop in the unemployment rate to assert on Friday that tax cuts were invigorating the economy, highlighting just four days before the election an issue that party strategists are counting on to offset bad news about the war.
It's a last-minute issue, but it should have been a big issue all along.

Christopher Hitchens on botched-joke-o-gate.

(Or whatever it's called.) In the WSJ:
Regrettable though it might be for the United States military to become an untouchable "third rail" in American politics, there can be little sympathy for someone who keeps on brushing against that rail just to see what will happen. One could have assumed that Sen. John Kerry, who has reason enough to wake up whimpering and biting his knuckles when he reflects on past embarrassments, had learned this lesson. He's almost spoiled for choice in the matter--from the cringe-making "reporting for duty" to the sickly discovery that he had been part of a "band of brothers" rather than a bunch of killers, to the phantom "Christmas in Cambodia."

Yet of all the days that he might want to have back and do over again, last week's clumsy appearance in Pasadena must be the most whimper-inducing of all.

The senator's labored defense of himself is so lame that it has to be true.
Oh, why is Hitchens being so charitable to Kerry?!

Anyway, read the whole thing. He talks of the email he's gotten from soldiers in Iraq:
Many of my respondents agreed that his words may not have meant or intended quite what they first seemed to mean, but they also felt that the klutziness was Freudian, so to speak, in that the senator's patrician contempt for grunts and dogfaces was bound to come out sooner or later.

One thing I already knew is confirmed--there is a very great deal of class resentment in these United States. Another thing I wasn't so sure of is also confirmed--James Webb in Virginia is right to stress the huge rage felt by those of Scots-Irish provenance who feel that they have born the heat and burden of the day in America's wars, and been rewarded with disdain.
Those of Scots-Irish provenance.

Anyway, Hitchens has a proposal to deal with the race-class problem he perceives:
Sen. Kerry and his party should publicly demand that the U.S. military be allowed to recruit openly on elite campuses. And the supposed reason for the ban on ROTC--the continuing refusal of the armed services to admit known homosexuals--should be dispelled at a stroke by a presidential order rescinding the Clintonian nonsense of "don't ask/don't tell."

Washington, Day 2.

Hi, kids. Sorry for the light blogging yesterday. I was -- in my role as chair of the Appointments Committee -- conducting interviews from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Once again, I'm up early, alone in the cavernous suite at the Marriott Wardman Park, and later to be joined by five committee members and a stream of lawprof candidates. We rearranged the furniture yesterday so there are five armchairs and a sofa around a coffee table. We've got a nice high-backed, striped chair for the candidate and mostly dark blue, nondescript chairs for the committee. Today, we only go until 12:30. My colleagues arrive in 15 minutes, but I'll see if I can get some substantive posts up before then so you can have something to mull over and chat about.

(I've got some photographs of the set-up here, but I'll have to show you the pictures later, because I've forgotten the cord that connects the camera to the computer.)

Friday, November 3, 2006

"Can I ask you what your favorite commandment is?

"Really? That's my least favorite commandment!"

Part 2:

(Via Metafilter.)

"Ms. Forsman, can I ask you a personal question? Were you a moot court finalist?"

That's something Justice Stevens actually said during oral argument yesterday. When the lawyer, Franny Forsman, said "no," he commented [referring to a moot court he attended at her law school a while back]: "It was an awfully good moot court."

Presumably, that means: You do realize that you are bound to lose, don't you?