Sunday, July 31, 2005

"What are you, some redneck blogger pig?"

Claire just said that on "Six Feet Under" -- to her new boyfriend, who defended the war in Iraq.

UPDATE: Come into the comments to discuss the episode. If you haven't seen it, watch out for spoilers inside.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's a nascent Television Without Pity forum thread for Ted, the guy Claire asked the quoted question. It begins:
Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. One HBO show had to have an out & proud Republican.

MORE: The Ted thread isn't there anymore, but it's nice to know that Ted went on to be a very important character, who was always respected by the show's writers.

Visions from the Land of Mu.

Visit the home of Eddie Owens Martin:
Entering the seven-acre property, off a wooded, rural road, is surreal — it's as if you've walked onto an abandoned stage set for a sci-fi movie or some clown cult's hideout.

The main house and five other structures are painted in bright colors, with patterns reminiscent of a Hindu temple, or perhaps what a stoned Southerner would think a Hindu temple might look like. On walls, posts and free-standing statues, Martin depicted alien creatures that look like extras from a David Bowie music video.

The creatures — which Martin said were from Mu — have long, tendrous hair, almond eyes and knowing expressions. Virtually every part of the property is covered with wild patterns and images of strange beings — so much so that it is jarring to come across anything normal, like a refrigerator or table. Even the bathroom has odd designs on the walls.
I love stuff like this.

Structuring the facts -- isn't that the lawyerly approach?

Here's an article by law school memoirist Alex Wellen about gaming the U.S. News & World Report ranking system:
As part of its methodology, U.S. News factors in how much a law school spends per student. But just how those costs are calculated has become a matter of considerable discussion, both in legal education circles and at the American Bar Association.

Consider library costs at the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign. Like all law schools, Illinois pays a flat rate for unlimited access to LexisNexis and Westlaw's comprehensive online legal databases. Law students troll them for hours, downloading and printing reams of case law. To build user loyalty, the two suppliers charge institutions a total of $75,000 to $100,000 a year, far below per-use rates.

But in what it calls a longstanding practice, Illinois has calculated a fair market value for these online legal resources and submitted that number to U.S. News. For this year's rankings, the school put that figure at $8.78 million, more than 80 times what LexisNexis and Westlaw actually charge. This inflated expense accounted for 28 percent of the law school's total expenditures on students, according to confidential data filed with U.S. News and the bar association and provided to The New York Times by legal educators who are critical of rankings and concerned about the accurate reporting of data.

These student expenditures affect only 1.5 percent of a school's U.S. News ranking, but this is a competition where fractions of a point matter. In this year's survey, the magazine ranked Illinois No. 26 of 179 accredited law schools.
Oh, but surely it ought to count for something that these law schools know how to structure the facts to present a strong case to U.S. News.

How about this strategy:
At New York University, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, for example, the law schools accept a large number of second-year transfer students, some with LSAT scores and undergraduate G.P.A.'s below those accepted in their first year. "Transfer is almost solely on first-year performance," says Edward Tom, director of law admissions at Berkeley.

Professor Stake of Indiana observes: "It works to schools' U.S. News advantage to do this - to close their doors to first-year students, in turn raising the school's LSAT's and grades, and then open their doors to the second-year program to raise revenue."
And then there's the way some law schools hire their own graduates for short-term legal research positions to make a nice showing on the percentage of graduates with employment upon graduation -- not to mention the way the schools justify this behavior:
"The general attempt by the law schools to make sure that their students get jobs is a good thing," [Professor Stake of Indiana] says.

Northwestern University has also hired graduates for short internships. "I don't think it's unethical if you're giving some value to your students," says David Van Zandt, its law dean.
There, now, I hope I didn't make you hate lawyers any more than you already do.

"The asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman."

Don't miss the hilarious Joe Queenan review of Edward Klein's book "The Truth About Hillary." I'll just list my favorite phrases:
"Waterworld'' stinks, but it does not reek

short-haired women from the sapphic charnel house Wellesley College

Geraldo Rivera's sublimely vile autobiography, ''Exposing Myself"

only about the 16th sleaziest book I have ever read

referred to by classmates as ''Sister Frigidaire"

the asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman

manipulative pinkos who were playing for the other team

commie gangsters associated with mobbed-up trade unions

"Conservative Rigor"?

The NYT has a front-page piece today on the new Supreme Court nominee with a headline that really struck me: "Supreme Court Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor." My instinctive response: Conservatives need to worry about whether this "conservative rigor" -- presumably, some sort of meticulous attention to precise, detailed analysis -- is going to produce the outcomes they like. There's absolutely no reason to think that a rigorous methodological style reliably produces outcomes political conservatives like. Judges can make a huge show of rigor and still come out with liberal decisions. David Souter does it all the time.

But let's look at the article:
"John's conservatism was in fact a sign of intellectual courage, coming out of Harvard and being surrounded by law clerks from mainly liberal, East Coast, Ivy institutions," said John A. Siliciano, a law professor at Cornell who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the same time.

His was "a very solid, rigorous, coherent view of very important social questions," Professor Siliciano said, "about the relations between courts and legislatures, about the relationship between the federal government and the state, between the public sphere and the private."

Yes, and what was that view?
"John certainly was in sync with his justice," said Paul M. Smith, who clerked for Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and is now a lawyer in Washington who frequently appears before the Supreme Court.

Got any details? Does that even mean anything more than that he dutifully did the assigned work or got along personally with Rehnquist?
[A]s far as Supreme Court terms go, Mr. Roberts served during a relatively routine one that included important cases on the First Amendment, federalism and sex discrimination, and ended with a notable affirmation of executive power.
That notable case was Dames & Moore v. Regan, which, the Times writes, "took an exceptionally deferential view of executive power." Hmm, yeah, but it also did what had to be done, from a completely pragmatic perspective (that is, leave in place the deal Jimmy Carter made with Iran to get the hostages released). It was virtually a unanimous decision, with only Jusice Powell partially dissenting. All the liberal justices joined Rehnquist's opinion. It is notable that Judge Roberts recently "accept[ed] the Bush administration's position that it could block claims against Iraq from American soldiers who had been tortured there during the Persian Gulf war," but it's not particularly interesting that he cited Dames & Moore. It's the standard precedent, not some special case he'd be especially attuned to because of his clerkship with Rehnquist.

Let's continue:
Few if any of the memorandums found so far from Mr. Roberts's clerkship shed much light on his political leanings. They are, if anything, concise and reliant on procedural points. ...

Most justices hired clerks who shared their views. But the Rehnquist clerks did not wear their politics on their sleeves, said Robert B. Knauss, a Los Angeles lawyer who also clerked for the justice that year.

"Frankly, the people that did were the liberal clerks, who were more out there, more aggressive, more, frankly, intolerant," Mr. Knauss said. "There were a few that were pretty aggressive that would try to come into the chambers and lobby you."
So this impression those other clerks expressed: where did it come from? What substance did it have? Was it mostly an inference based on their own aggressively liberal views? Where is this "conservative rigor" -- and what is it?

There are also the memos Roberts wrote as a clerk, which are available because Justice Blackmun allowed his papers to go public. But the Times finds nothing of substance worth mentioning: "Roberts's memorandums stand out as terse, lucid and even elegant." So, he's good on style. (And, really, why wouldn't everyone who gets a Supreme Court clerkship have a "terse, lucid and even elegant" writing style?)

Friends, despite the headline, there is absolutely nothing in this article that supports the prediction that Judge Roberts has a strong conservative political perspective on the substance of legal issues.

Pajamas Media vs. BlogAds -- the blogger's perspective.

Let's assume you're a reasonably successful blogger who would like to make money from the writing you put into your blog. You currently have BlogAds, which advertisers buy by the week, month, or quarter. So you must continually attract new advertisers, but you are also always free to adjust your prices. Thus, if you're getting a lot of advertisers and the number of visitors to your blog is increasing, you can raise your prices. If traffic flags or advertisers lose interest, you can lower your prices. You also have the power to accept or reject each ad, so no ad that you don't like ever appears on your blog.

Now, you're presented with an offer from Pajamas Media, and to accept the offer, you will need to give up the top four slots in your sidebar, displacing BlogAds. You are offered a set price to sign on for a year (or 18 months). You will no longer have to worry about attracting new advertisers: the company has taken on the risk. They will find the advertisers and place the ads on your blog for you. You will no longer be able to reject ads, and the ads are likely to come from advertisers of bigger commercial products rather than the kind of products that have been using BlogAds.

Should you switch to Pajamas Media? I can't answer that question for you, and not just because I'm not your lawyer. I don't know enough about you. I can't look into your heart. With Pajamas Media, they've promised to pay a set amount money, so you won't have to worry about continually attracting advertisers. BlogAds will put pressure on you to continue to write the kind of blog that people will want to visit, but it lets you increase your income if your traffic increases and allows you to continue to control how your blog looks. With BlogAds, you're an independent entrepreneur, with Pajamas, you're more like an employee (with a one-year contract).

Who would do best with the Pajamas deal? A blogger with peak traffic now, who is going into a period of decline, who sees himself tailing off, is looking for a mellow way to extract cash from the value he's already created, and who doesn't care so much about what the blog actually looks like or what products he's displaying. Perhaps Pajamas offered this blogger an amount equal to what he made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had already started to decline: he might want to lock in at that level and relax.

Who would do best with BlogAds? A blogger who predicts increased traffic in the future, who doesn't mind or enjoys the ongoing incentive to keep up or improve the quality of his writing, who wants to be in a position to benefit if the blog becomes more attractive to advertisers, and who wants to control which ads appear on the blog. If this blogger received a Pajamas offer equal to the amount he'd made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had been on the increase, so that the offer was only one third of his current BlogAds rate of income, he'd probably puzzle over how Pajamas could possibly believe they'd made a decent offer.

Which company, Pajamas or BlogAds, has the better business model? Pajamas is positioning itself to pitch to big advertisers of the sort that now advertise in mainstream media. They will aggregate the visitors of many blogs and present that attractive, large number to advertisers. But they are trusting that the bloggers, once signed on and entitled to set payments, will keep up the good work and continue to draw visitors, even though the bloggers who took the deal will be the kind of people who saw advantage to themselves in a deal like that. BlogAds might be overshadowed by Pajamas if enough bloggers take that deal, but it will still have the kind of advertisers it's had all along, who are working on a style of advertising designed for the blog environment. And it will have the advantage of keeping the bloggers who cared the most about the content of their blogs and who chose to retain the risk of their own future success.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson counts "three inaccuracies" in this post: "1) bloggers who sign up with us do have veto power over ads we place on their sites, 2) we have two plans so that people who want to continue using Blogads can do so, and 3) bloggers do not give up visual control over their sites, any more than with Blogads." Okay, I made a scrupulous effort to get the facts straight based on reading the email Pajamas Media sent me, so if I've gotten anything wrong we need to consider whether their email conveyed the information properly. If I'm going to yoke myself to an operation for a year, I need to believe they are competent, and the first evidence of their competence is the quality of the email they sent me!

Let's look at it, and you see if you can find any reference to the veto power the blogger has over the ads, Johnson's point #1. And see if you can figure out what point #3 is supposed to mean that doesn't repeat point #1. As to point #2, I didn't state anything inaccurately about that. The fact is: even the basic plan requires you to give the top four slots to Pajamas. Your BlogAds will be underneath all of their stuff, unless you clutter your blog with a second sidebar. In either case, your BlogAds are displaced and clearly will have to sell for less.[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Free Will emails and correctly points out that both a second sidebar and putting BlogAds lower in the single sidebar violates the BlogAds terms of agreement. See Rules 4.4 and 4.6.]

Here's the email:
Dear Pajamas Media Blogger Colleague:
Don't bother addressing me by name.
As we said in previous email to you, the most important goal of Pajamas Media is to extend the power and influence of weblogs. We intend to do this by formalizing the voice of bloggers as Senior and Affiliated Contributors to a Pajamas Media-led electronic media. (The name is currently being researched.)
Are you going to pitch to the advertisers in language this exciting?
We wanted to thank you for your interest in joining Pajamas Media and invite you to work with our new initiative as an “Affiliated Contributor.” We have structured two different levels or options – a Standard and a more Basic Affiliated Contributor. Under each model you would be paid an amount of money for us to link and leverage your content as well as to utilize your advertising space.
First, let’s take a look at the affiliation side of the relationship:

If you elect to be a Standard Affiliated Contributor:
  • We will work together to do a profile of you and your blog
  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog
  • We are able to use occasional content on the “common” areas of our site.
  • You limit your content on RSS feeds to title and or summary – but not whole story
So you "are able" to do some things. You're phrasing what I'm giving you as if you are offering to do something, but you're not actually promising to do it.
If you elect to be a Basic Affiliated Contributor:

  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog

In other words, I'll get to be on your blogroll?

Of course we also want to ensure there is an economic aspect to the relationship that works for you – so now let’s take a look at the advertising side of the two options:

As an Affiliated Contributor, you will be offered guaranteed payments!

Don’t blink twice. You are going to be paid to blog!

I'm supposed to somehow be amazed that I could make money blogging? But I have BlogAds already, and the amount you are about to offer me is far less than I'm currently making with BlogAds. What is amazing me is that you're writing to me as if I'm a babe-in-the-woods.

Earning Levels for Standard or Basic Affiliations

Your blog name is: Ann Althouse

The following is a personalized offer, based on your estimated traffic.

Standard -- [amount deleted, mostly out of embarrassment!] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for six quarters. Plus a signing bonus of [amount deleted] payable as quickly as possible after your site is “ad ready” for a total of [amount deleted]. You will receive this if you reserve all available ad space for Pajamas for a period of 18 months.

Basic -- [amount deleted] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for a period of 12 months. This will be paid if you reserve your Top Four ad spaces on the right or left hand column for Pajamas Media, and do not wish to display the more extensive ads referred to above.

So the Standard plan, the one that has them making some kind of attempt to promote my blog through their portal, requires me to oust BlogAds altogether, and the Basic plan forces me to give them the top four slots in the sidebar. My post is absolutely accurate with respect to the displacement of BlogAds. Yes, I realize I can still have them, if I take the Basic plan and put them under all this new material. But who's going to buy them down there -- especially with all the new commercial ads that are going to change the tone of the blog? [IMPORTANT UPDATE: As noted above, displaying BlogAds this way would actually violate the BlogAds terms of agreement.]
Summary

So there you have the plan – two options involving different degrees of content affiliation, different terms, different ad spaces, and different payment levels and mechanisms. In short – you can choose how closely you would like to be affiliated with our new journey!

Journey? Is there anything less hip than calling something a "journey"? Where exactly are we going? I'm picturing a primrose path.
The following chart sets forth the primary differences between the levels:
I'm not preserving the chart form, but all the content is here:
Content

Profile of you on the Portal
Standard--YES Basic--No

Directory link from the Pajamas Portal to your Weblog
Standard--YES Basic--YES

The use of content from your Blog on the Portal “Common Areas”
Standard-- YES Basic--No


Advertising

Pajamas has exclusive ad space on all pages (home, comment, etc) including IAB Ad Units
Standard--YES Basic--No

Pajamas has top FOUR spaces on right or left column
Standard--YES Basic--YES

All ads will comply with BAS Standard developed by Advisors. (see below)
Standard--YES Basic--YES

Pajamas gets full use of RSS feeds.
Standard--YES Basic--YES


Term

Term of Agreement
Standard--18 months Basic--12 months

Did you see anything there about a power to veto ads? How about in this next part?
Because we are concerned about the quality of the advertising we place on your blog, all ads will be required to comply with our Blog Ad Standards (BAS), which will be determined by our advisory board, made up of fellow bloggers. Because technology and the marketplace keep changing, we will keep changing the BAS to ensure that all ads placed through this plan are blog-appropriate.
So some board of advisors is making judgments about the ads, with whatever standards they come up with. Where's the part about me deciding? Did I miss something?
Our rough schedule is to start some preliminary advertisements in mid-August, with late September as our grand opening. However, you will receive your full payment for the 4th quarter of 2005 (Oct 1 – Dec 31) regardless of whether we are placing ads by then or not.

How do I Sign Up?

You simply click on this link which will take you to our website:

[URL deleted.]

There you may select either the Standard or Basic plan, and you may be asked to input some additional information. You will receive your contract, with instructions for signing on, by email within 5 business days of sending in your information. You are not obligated to anything until you send back the agreement.
I clicked on the link and got to a page with the choice between Standard and Basic. There was no more information there -- certainly nothing about an ad veto power. I didn't proceed any futher, so I didn't get a copy of the contract to peruse. Perhaps the elusive veto power is in there. Any inaccuracies for failure to guess what's in that part of the Pajamas Media reading material are regrettable, but scarcely my fault. The offer I received was far too terrible to accept with or without that veto power, but a competent business ought to forefront the positive aspects of a deal. It's normally the negatives that you'd squirrel away in the fine print. And you want to be my advertising agent?

So that’s it for now. If you have any questions, please contact

info@pajamasmedia.com.

Best wishes,
The Pajamas Media Team

I only have one question: how could you possibly think you've made me an offer I could accept?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots of hot discussion in the comments. Check it out. But the main thing I'm updating to say is that Ace of Spades -- whose traffic level is very similar to mine -- has the same complaint about the offer I have.

FURTHER UPDATE: Charles Johnson is in fact wrong that the blogger can continue using BlogAds, and I was also wrong to think that putting BlogAds lower or in a second column was acceptable: these ways this way of displaying BlogAds are is not merely undesirable, they it violates the terms of the BlogAds agreement: Rules 4.4 and 4.6.

MORE: Sorry, I was wrong to think the second column approach was forbidden.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just noticed the line "Your blog name is: Ann Althouse." My blog name isn't Ann Althouse! So they don't even get the name of my blog right. I'm guessing they made the email weirdly impersonal because they were worried about not giving off a sufficiently professional aura. But that writing quirk is, in fact, amateurish.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Nothing we're doing is evil."

How do you like that as a statement intended as reassuring? Does it hit you in an "I'm not a crook" way?

The children's book that reached you.

RLC is asking his readers what their favorite book was when they were a kid. Richard describes loving the Rick Brant Science Adventure series, which I'd never heard of. In the future, when someone asks this question, maybe everyone will say Harry Potter.

But let me say that I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family series of books. Here's the School Library Journal description of the books:
Five young sisters experience life in New York's Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century in this reading of Sydney Taylor's story (Follett, 1951). The close-knit group encounters everyday realities such as boring chores, missing library books, and trips to the Rivington Street market, as well as those details which bring the early 1900's to life--scarlet fever, peddlers, and bathing at Coney Island. Woven into the story are the traditions and holidays of the Jewish religion. The girls celebrate the Sabbath with Hebrew prayers, and dress up for Purim so they can deliver baskets to friends and relatives.
I read a description like that years after I read and loved the books, and I was surprised to see that the family was Jewish. Somehow, reading those books when I was very young, I had formed no idea of the characters as being Jewish. But apparently the books are loaded with descriptions of Jewish rituals. Yet I'm sure I read every word. How could I have missed that?

When I was very young, as I remember, I felt that the world was full of things I didn't understand. I allowed all this mysterious information to flow around me, and I was quite reticent about asking any adults to explain anything. It's not that I thought the adults didn't know the answers, but that I thought they'd scoff of me for not knowing such a thing already. Getting older, instead of causing me to realize that I really should ask for answers, increased my feeling that it was embarrassing not to know already, and at that point I put more effort into trying to find out answers for myself.

But back in my youngest days, I appreciated the aspects of things I could understand and let many things go right past me. So I had no idea the All-of-a-Kind Family followed a different religion from mine. The details of the rituals were different, but so was life at the turn-of-the-century and in the Lower East Side of New York City. (I lived in suburbia, in Delaware.) What I loved was the eventful life of a beautiful family with five daughters and good parents.

UPDATE: Actually the title in the series I remember the most is "All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown," in which, I see, the family moves to the Bronx. Don't you think it's a little strange that I went on to marry a Jewish boy from the Bronx (that is, RLC, my ex-husband)?

A man and his brain tumor.

With impressive good humor, he makes a Flickr photoset. (Via Popdex.)

"The problem with ears is obviously that you have hair ... but with imaging technology we should be able to solve that."

You can try to hide your ears, but they'll still be watching them.

Life in old comment threads.

I get email whenever anyone posts a comment here, so I'm aware when there's action in an old comment thread. There's little chance that regular readers will check back to this old post about "out asexuals" without my pointing to it. I notice from my Site Meter records that that post gets more visitors than just about any old post on this blog. Anyway, if you're interested in the topic, especially long comments by professed asexuals, you might want to go over there.

Great milestones of stagecraft.

From a review of "Saint Frances of Hollywood," a play about the actress Frances Farmer:
The spare production consists only of a white oval platform bookended by two revolving white walls. Ms. Ireland is on stage for nearly every scene and spends an inordinate amount of time disrobing down to her chemise. (In one brief scene she actually takes off her clothes at one end of the stage, puts them back on, then walks over to the other end and takes them off again.)

How do you like those pajamas?

Did you get your offer from Pajamas Media yet? Are you going to put on the pajamas -- take a flat fee to commit the top four spots on your sidebar for a whole year? I thought Pajamas implied a bloggy freedom, different from a corporate, mainstream mentality. Are we supposed to marry Pajamas and give up on Henry Copeland's delightful BlogAds, which has been beautifully designed with a feeling for the spirit of blogging? Ah, I don't like pajamas anyway. I want to blog naked. With Henry.

UPDATE: I have more to say on the comparison between Pajamas Media and BlogAds here.

AND: Welcome Instapundit readers. Please read my newer post, linked in the update: I've got much more concrete analysis there.

Roberts and (just the right amount of) religion.

Peter Steinfels has a piece about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and religion:
Consider what are already becoming routine descriptions - that Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, are devout Catholics but don't wear their faith on their sleeves; that Judge Roberts hews to his religion but keeps it separate from his legal judgments; that the couple's faith, as one priest who knows them put it, "would affect their personal lives, but they are very professional in their work."
It seems we want our public figures to have some religion but not too much.

"Explornography."

John Tierney uses that word -- which I can't remember having seen before -- in his NYT op-ed today. Is that just a Tierney word, a coinage he's pushing? I see The Atlantic had a piece back in 1998, in its "Wordwatch" column that tracks new words and usages:
explornography noun,a consuming fascination with famous and, especially, dangerous explorations -- for example, Richard Byrd's expeditions to Antarctica -- that may include a desire to retrace such trips in person: "We had been seduced by an odd modern phenomenon, the glorification of exploration at a time when the entire planet has been mapped. The Age of Exploration has been succeeded by the Age of Explornography" (New York Times Magazine).

BACKGROUND: Soft-core explornographers are content to experience super-dangerous adventure travel vicariously, a thrill easily had through books and films. Hard-core explornographers -- a group whose number has been rising sharply in recent years -- spend vast sums on gear, guides, training, and whatever else is needed to undertake such expeditions themselves. These explornographers are, typically, outdoorsy amateurs, many of whom live and work in urban settings. A good proportion are women, and the average age of hard-core explornographers of both sexes is about fifty.
But a little more reseach shows that quote in The Atlantic was written by John Tierney, back in the July 26, 1998 issue of the NYT Magazine, in an article called "Going Where A Lot of Other Dudes With Really Great Equipment Have Gone Before." That's his quote in The Atlantic definition. In the NYT Magazine, he went on:
Like pornography, explornography provides vicarious thrills -- the titillation of exploring without the risk of actually having to venture into terra incognita. In its classic hard-core form, explornography is the depiction of genuine voyages of discovery, trips to uncharted regions where there was no way to summon help when disaster struck. Today's audiences are going back to the old texts, and there has been a recent rash of books and movies about Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, Richard Evelyn Byrd, Lewis and Clark, Stanley and Livingstone and Heinrich Harrer (the explorer portrayed by Brad Pitt in "Seven Years in Tibet"). Connoisseurs have been especially gratified by the revival of Ernest Shackleton, the explorer who never reached his goals but always produced splendid stories. Like many explornography addicts, I first got hooked on "Endurance," Alfred Lansing's book about the 1914 Shackleton expedition, which was marooned in the Antarctic. Originally published in 1959, "Endurance" resurfaced this year on best-seller lists; Tristar is about to make a big-budget film of the adventure.

But the old stories are not enough to satisfy demand. The explornography industry needs fresh material to fill magazines like Outside and Men's Journal, to make programs for the Discovery Channel and the Outdoor Life Network, to sell outdoor gear and adventure-travel packages. Today's soft-core explornographers, like pornographers who shoot erotic scenes in which no sex actually takes place, have the skills and technology -- minicams, satellite linkups, Web pages -- to wring drama from voyages of nondiscovery. Mount Everest, which has been climbed hundreds of times, is a bigger media star than ever. The new film about Everest is setting box-office records at IMAX theaters; Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" has spent more than a year on best-seller lists.
Today's Tierney column is about the "Marsonauts" who are engaged in an earth-based simulation of Mars travel:
They live in a round "habitation module" that's 27 feet in diameter, sized to fit atop existing rockets, with a lab on one floor and the crew quarters above it.

The Marsonauts are sticklers for staying "in sim," simulating every inconvenience they can imagine on Mars. No venturing outside the Hab without at least half an hour of preparation: putting on a spacesuit and helmet, wiring a radio, and going through five minutes of decompression in the airlock. No removing a glove to dig for a fossil. No food or bathroom breaks in the field -- ["a huge meteor crater" on "a desolate island in the Canadian high Arctic"].

They have their own jargon ("HabCom, EVA11 is ready to begin its egress de-co") and their own bureaucracy. Reports are filed nightly to Mission Support and the Remote Science Team, a group of researchers on three continents who are referred to as "the scientists back on Earth." There's even a Martian tricolor - a red, green and blue flag flapping above the Hab to symbolize their plans to "terraform" Mars into a green planet with liquid water and a breathable atmosphere.

I know this all sounds silly. I arrived sympathetic to the Marsonauts' cause, but ready to write a wryly detached column on an amusing bunch of zealots. Their fantasy sounded like a futurist version of explornography: the simulation of exploration by people trekking through terra cognita on adventure vacations.

But the Marsonauts are really figuring out how to explore the unknown, how to look for life in a place worth risking lives to reach. By the second day here, I was caught up in the sim, too. As we returned to our home on the edge of the crater, the white Hab up on the rocky brown ridge looked like a spaceship on Mars, and the sight was a bigger thrill than anything that's lifted off from Cape Canaveral in a long time.
Meanwhile, in real life, we're left watching the space shuttle missions, where nothing new is being explored. The current news of the Discovery mission is all about the potential for another accident, the strangely extreme damage that a bit of falling foam debris can cause. And Tierney's point is, if we really are going to risk lives and go into space, we ought to get out where we can find something new. I'm sure I'm not discovering anything new in seeing the irony of calling the shuttle "Discovery."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Unintentional theme day.

I see it was an unintended theme day here on the Althouse blog. All about people looking foolish by wearing bad clothes, too little clothes, or no clothes. Those are just the articles that reached out to me today. Pure chance? Maybe not. Maybe something about me was attuned to what people are wearing for some reason. But I can't think why. Maybe getting too little sleep last night is making superficial things seem important today.

"Why dress in 'ho gear' and risk being treated like a hooker?"

Oh, come on. You're not going to blog every single essay Robin Givhan writes, are you?

Well, I don't know, maybe I should. You know she does ask some pretty tantalizing questions:
If clothes function as semiotics, where does the power lie -- with the sender or the receiver? And what happens when the sender is purposefully offering up misinformation?

Yeah, you find those questions tantalizing?

Uh, no, I guess not. Now that you mention it.

Against anti-lookism.

Here's a piece -- via Memeorandum -- saying we shouldn't make witty observations about the way public figures look. It's too mean, like some Mean Girl seventh graders who would deserve a scolding.
While healthy civic discourse involves disagreement on issues of policy, too often people are prone to bully and harass their opponents with attacks on physical appearances when they are unable to articulate a valid and logical opposing argument....

The fact that women fought for many years to be taken seriously in the arenas of government and public policy makes the "lookism" attacks on successful women reveal a deep double standard -- not of men against women, but of women against their own gender.

Where are the feminists? Their silence speaks volumes about their convictions and partisan leanings. After all, it is mainly conservative women who have been the victims of this sort of media slashing. Sad to say, with few exceptions, the circling vultures are left-leaning women.

Has our culture become so shallow, and our sensibilities so numb, that we will accept from adults the sort of vicious behavior that we would never accept from our children?
Where are the feminists? Well, this feminist says women will do better when they value humor and free expression and when they show they can take the same shots men take. We make fun of the way male public figures look all the time. Bush looks like a chimp, Kerry like a horse. If a woman wants to be a powerful political figure, she needs to be up to the full package of ridicule that comes with the territory. I don't see how it helps the cause of women to be known as oversensitive prigs who want to spoil the fun and enforce a smothering, boring niceness on everyone.

Bonus opinion: Making fun of a woman's makeup is not the same as making fun of the size of her nose or the texture of her hair. It's making fun of her judgment. And that's actually relevant to the question whether she should be trusted with political power.

"We find a naked body every bit as beautiful as a clothed one. If they came only out of lust, we have to accept that. We stand for the truth."

A "prestigious" museum in Vienna gets the attention of the Washington Post with a nudity gimmick: They're letting you in free if you take off all your clothes (or wear a swimsuit). Do they lose money this way? I would think it's quite the opposite. Those let in free are putting on a display for the paying patrons. Unlike the regular artists, the nudies draw no pay. And then there's all that extra publicity.
Most of those who showed up in little or no attire Friday opted for swimsuits, but a few hardy souls dared to bare more. Among them was Bettina Huth of Stuttgart, Germany, who roamed the exhibition wearing only sandals and a black bikini bottom.

Although she used a program at one point to shield herself from a phalanx of TV cameras, Huth, 52, said she didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

"I go into the steam bath every week, so I'm used to being naked," she said. "I think there's a double morality, especially in America. We lived in California for two years, and I found it strange that my children had to cover themselves up at the beach when they were only 3 or 4 years old. That's ridiculous."
Oh, yeah, those terrible Americans. What hypocrites!

I'm amused by the way nudists flatter themselves, always claiming to be especially honest. But then they always say things that sound so disingenuous, that they are just being natural and why is everyone making such a fuss?

Yesterday's tablescapes.

Afternoon:

Yesterday's tablescapes

Evening:

Yesterday's tablescapes

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thanks to everyone for reading!

Remember that post about a week ago titled "Goal I'm almost ashamed to admit" that said "I started to write a post with that title, but realized I was too ashamed to admit it." I'll tell you what the goal is now, because I'm about to hit it tonight.

Back in January, I had been hoping to get to 1 million visitors to this blog within one year of starting. But I didn't get there until January 31st, and the anniversary date was January 14th. But then I formed the goal of getting to 2 million within 6 months of getting to 1 million, which would be July 31st. So look at the Site Meter: it should reach 2 million tonight, 3 days early.

Thanks to everyone for reading!

UPDATE: The 2 million mark was hit sometime during dinner last night. I was rude enough to check the Site Meter and refresh a few times to see the zeroes click over. Perhaps half of my dinner companions found this at least somewhat amusing and probably one or two of my companions found it a tad more unpleasant than a moderately awkward pause in a conversation. And I survived to tell the tale.

Electronic junk.

It's a lovely day here in Madison, and I'd like to go out and take a walk and stop into a café for a little while to work on a writing project, but I can't leave the house, because the refrigerator repair guy is coming "in the afternoon." I can work on my project at home, but there are distractions, like the way something in the comments to that last post sent me looking for my Amsterdam sketchbooks. There are so many places to look in this giant house, and I didn't find the notebooks, but I kept running across ridiculous, unbroken but unusable old electronic things, and that made me want to take this photograph:

electronic junk

Do you know what these two things are?

electronic junk

Are they relic-y enough to be collectible?

"The most awesome B-list cast ever."

Such is the claim -- and it's got to be untrue -- that Entertainment Weekly makes for the case of the new "Poseidon Adventure" film:
Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Josh Lucas (don't flame me; he's not A-list yet), Emmy Rossum, Andre Braugher (as the captain), Jacinda Barrett, Mia Maestro, Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under), and now, EW reports in next week's issue: Fergie! The Black Eyed Peas chanteuse is not only one of the passengers on the doomed ocean liner, but she's also contributing to the soundtrack three tunes she co-composed with John Legend and fellow Pea will.i.am.
Come on, commenters, name some movies with more awesome B-list casts. I mean, just to start off with the obvious, there's the original "Poseidon Adventure" cast:
Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Carol Lynley (of "Harlow" and "Bunny Lake is Missing")
Roddy McDowall ("Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil's pawn.")
Stella Stevens (Appassionata Von Climax!)
Shelley Winters
Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe!)
Pamela Sue Martin
Even more stunning is the cast of "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure":
Michael Caine
Sally Field
Telly Savalas
Peter Boyle
Jack Warden
Shirley Knight
Shirley Jones
Karl Malden
Slim Pickens
Veronica Hamel (Admit it: you were in love with Joyce Davenport!)
Angela Cartwright
Mark Harmon
(How many Oscars does that group have, by the way?)

"Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps."

That's what Alec Guinness thought of the "Star Wars" script -- quoted in this NYT review of a new biography of the actor.

Another tidbit: he turned down "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and said "Do you think my varicose veins would show through the fishnet stockings?"

Much more seriously:
As the letters and diaries make abundantly clear, Guinness, although he enjoyed the friendship of glamorous women, was attracted throughout his life to young men, whom he often hired as dressers or assistants.

Mr. Guinness fought his impulses, first by marrying the very appealing Merula Salaman, a promising actress who abandoned her career under pressure from her husband, and later by embracing the Roman Catholic Church. He lived a secretive, closeted life, tormented by illicit desires and guilt at what he called, in one diary entry, "the sordidness of much of my past." It was not only onstage that profound emotions stirred under a cool, unruffled surface. The theater, he once wrote, saved him from "a very bad suicidal tendency."
So sad!

Searching for suicide bombers.

Here's a NYT op-ed that makes a compelling argument for a very specific kind of profiling:
[C]ommuters need to be most aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water. Law enforcement knows this, and so should you. According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises United States border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise." Suspects may have been seen "praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs."
The op-ed writer, Paul Sperry, says that once you're on the train and see someone like this, it will be too late. It's necessary for the police to stop the man from boarding the train.

Currently, the official search procedure is to randomly select one person out of five -- the old as well as the young, females as much as males. Actually, I find it hard to believe that they aren't also noticing men with recently shaved beards and smelling of flower water. But isn't it better not to mention they are?

"The much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial."

Orin Kerr has a nice description, based on this book, of what really happened at the Scopes trial -- and the activities leading up to the trial and the appeal that followed it. The legal technicalities of the case, which Kerr focuses on, are rather different from the mythical version of the case you probably have in your mind.

My post title is from a Scalia dissent from a cert. denial, in a case called Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education v. Freiler, where the court below found an Establishment Clause violation in a school board resolution that required teachers to preface their teaching of evolution with this statement:
“It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.

“It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion or maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion.”

Scalia ended his dissent this way:
In Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), we invalidated a statute that forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools; in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), we invalidated a statute that required the teaching of creationism whenever evolution was also taught; today we permit a Court of Appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further. We stand by in silence while a deeply divided Fifth Circuit bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution–including, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creation–are worthy of their consideration.
Perhaps more interesting than the story of what really happened at the Scopes trial is the story of how the legend of the trial became embedded in American culture and affected what happened in later cases and how many of us have thought about the Establishment Clause. The picture of a noble science teacher persecuted by a bunch of rubes is a vivid one that we respond to strongly -- and our picture is the one from that movie, isn't it?

You know, there's even a legend about "Inherit the Wind" -- that it's an excellent movie. I tried watching it recently and couldn't force myself through the thing. Look how it has an 8.0 rating on IMDB. I find it hard to believe that score was produced by people with a real memory of watching the movie as opposed to an imprint of its reputation on their minds.

The myth of the Scopes trial is animated by a love of science, of basing knowledge on a study of evidence and sound inference. Ironically.

UPDATE: Edited to indicate that the book itself follows the subsequent effect of the case.

How many other things like this are a complete waste of money?

You can stop eating that purple coneflower now, echinacea dupes.

"Unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and 'ums.'"

What are we looking for in a podcast? The NYT writes:
But the real fun is finding the homemade ones, the amateur attempts made in somebody's basement with a laptop and a microphone. These can be unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and "ums," but that's their charm. Podcasts, in other words, are the audio version of blogs - the Web logs, or daily text postings, that made up last year's hot dinnertime conversation.
Yeah, sure, it's the charming, fumbling writing style of blogs that we like so much. It seems to me that what we like about blogs is the pithy writing style -- how they cut right to the quick and tell the truth. By the same token, I think what we want in a podcast is to hear some people who are really good at talking, saying interesting things and saying them well. In other words, podcasting, like blogging, shouldn't be an amateurish, relaxed step down from MSM, but a freer, sharper alternative.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"I've looked at the facts and come to my own conclusions."

Sounds like a good attitude for someone going into law, doesn't it? Actually, it's Seamus Farrow -- link via JD2B -- the 16-year old son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, talking about how he decided against having an ongoing relationship with his father. (I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind, and examining my life and trying to figure out where did the screwup come, you know.) But in fact he is going to law school, to Yale Law School, this fall. He's 16. As Woody Allen once said "I still can't get my mind around that."

Narm!

I see someone Googled here searching for "narm." People just can't get "narm" out of their heads:
NARM! Is already spazzing its way into my personal lexicon. In describing a fairly rough practical joke, I said "My god, I thought he was gonna NARM! out on us right there." And the person I was talking to totally got it. SFU fans, we are legion.

Should -- can? -- the Senators make Judge Roberts critique old cases?

Lawprof Vik Amar thinks so.

Wasn't the failure to do precisely that the reason Senator Schumer voted against Roberts' appointment to the Court of Appeals? Here's what Schumer says:
I voted against him for one simple reason: And that is he really didn't answer the questions that I and others posed to him fully and some he just refused to answer.

I asked him, for instance, his views of a previous case, Morrison, which involved the great reinterpretation of the commerce clause and cutback on the Violence Against Women Act, and he said he wouldn't answer it.

I asked him, for instance to name three cases that he disagreed with, already settled cases in the Supreme Court; he wouldn't answer that. I asked him what cases he considered activist and he picked an 1899 case from the California State Supreme Court. This is not being fully candid with the committee in letting us explore somebody's views. He did answer some questions. But in too many he did not. And that's why I voted no.
Amar's proposal is limited to one of the things Schumer wanted and didn't get out of Roberts: the Senator names a case and challenges the nominee to analyze it. Unless the cases are identified in advance, it would be reckless to undertake a critique on the fly. But Roberts is quite likely, even then, to say that nothing can compare to the way you would study the questions in making a real decision. So I think it's a pipedream, but I did enjoy Amar's list of cases he'd like Roberts to have a go at:
GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER [the University of Michigan affirmative action case]

STENBERG v. CARHART [the "partial-birth abortion" case]

ATKINS v. VIRGINIA [banning the execution of the mentally retarded]

McCREARY COUNTY v. A.C.L.U [finding that a particular courthouse display of the 10 Commandments violated the Establishment Clause]

SEMINOLE TRIBE v. FLORIDA [finding Congress lacks the power under the Commerce Clause to abrogate state sovereign immunity]
Those bracketed descriptions are mine, by the way. Legal types might enjoy comparing my little descriptions to Amar's -- particularly the one for Seminole.

Oh, it would be an "intellectual feast" indeed if the Senators could get Roberts to do this. But can you imagine how they'd twist his answers and bounce political arguments off them? They'd appeal to the home audience, who could in no way follow the legal difficulties of these issues. The foolhardiness of playing into that would be so great that we ought to question Roberts' judgement if he does. But, you say, he's a smart guy. He's a brilliant litigator. He could do it. That's what Bork thought when he answered questions like that.

Please, go here, begin reading at the star and read a page and a half -- a brilliant description of Joe Biden triumphing over Robert Bork. Isn't Chuck Schumer itching all over for a moment like that?

You'd better learn how to answer this question right.

For, lo, the pitfalls are many. The question is: “Do I look fat?”

"Listening" and "wanting to learn more" is not enough, not even close.

Anne Applebaum does not think Karen Hughes is at all up to the job that was just handed to her:
Her formal title is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.

Presumably, President Bush selected Hughes for this task because she was very good at running his election campaigns. And indeed, in the testimony she gave last week to a nearly empty room, she sounded like she was still running an election campaign. Like Hillary Clinton, she said she wanted people around the world to know that she would be "listening" to them: "I want to learn more about you and your lives, what you believe, what you fear, what you dream, what you value most." Like Jesse Jackson, she deployed alliteration, alluding to the four "E's": "engagement, exchanges, education and empowerment."
Much more is needed, Applebaum writes:
[W]e need to monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam, and we need to help the moderates win. This means making sure that counter-arguments are heard whenever and wherever Muslim clerics and intellectuals are talking, despite the impact of Saudi money.

The United States has engaged in a project like this once before. In the 1950s and '60s, the West European left was also bitterly divided, with social democrats on one side and pro-Soviet communists on the other. We backed the social democrats. CIA money was used, for example, to found Encounter, a small but influential magazine whose editors promoted not just pro-Americanism but also the principles of democracy and capitalism, largely through allowing both sides to argue their cases.

Read the whole thing!

The euphemisms and abuses of old age.

The Boston Globe has a story headlined "Rehnquist surrendering his golden years to court":
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist left the hospital July 14 and issued a firm statement: ''I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement."

The next morning, he climbed into his wheelchair and, with considerable assistance, made his way to his Supreme Court office.

At 80, Rehnquist is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. He has trouble walking and talking. Like all cancer patients, Rehnquist has the right to look forward to a full recovery. At the same time, he should acknowledge that almost anyone else his age, suffering from his disabilities, would be retired.

Can we stop and think before indulging in the euphemism "golden years"? At some point, you're not going to seem polite, you're going to seem sarcastic.

But let's read on. This is an article about Justices staying too long on the Court, and, as you may remember, I'm promoting less polite discussion of the problem of life tenured judges clinging to power. The Boston Globe is duly impolite:
In recent decades, Supreme Court retirements have played out like lab experiments, testing whether people in powerful jobs would retire if they did not have to. The answer, in most cases, has been no.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. remains the role model for all modern justices in legal thinking. Alas, he may also be the role model for never acknowledging the need to retire. Historians still recount how Holmes, at 91, slept through arguments using a stack of law books as a pillow.

Justice William O. Douglas, a passionate liberal, suffered a severe stroke in 1974, his 35th year on the court. But Douglas was determined not to give President Ford, a Republican who had led an attempt to impeach Douglas, the satisfaction of choosing his replacement. According to ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court," by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, Douglas allowed himself to be wheeled to the bench in a state of near-total incapacity, while aides struggled to mask the smell of his incontinence bag....

Since most of the court's work takes place behind closed doors, and each justice has a team of clerks, the public rarely sees the full effects of a justice's infirmities. ...

[Thurgood] Marshall and Douglas considered themselves heroes for serving so long rather than have a conservative replace them. But each had a chance to leave gracefully, at a normal retirement age, and have a Democratic president appoint his successor. Instead, they opted to keep hearing cases into their old age.

Rehnquist, too, could retire and have a president of his party appoint a like-minded successor. But he has been on the court so long, he probably doubts it could function without him.
Those who believe they are indispensible, who occupy a position where they purport to be beyond politics, yet manipulate the politics of the next appointment -- these are the people we are forced to trust with the nation's most profound questions of power and freedom.

"Tattoos remind you of death."

CNN reports:
Tattoos of mermaids and roses, cherubs bearing crimson hearts, Lenin's head and the trademarked pattern of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton stand out against bright pink skin soaking in the sun outside Beijing.

This living gallery of skin art is not on display for a tattooists' convention or a Harley-Davidson fan club meeting. It is an everyday sight in Chenjiatuo village and is borne on the flesh of some unlikely subjects -- big, fat pigs.

The idea was cooked up by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, who has hired a small staff of local farmers and tattoo artists to raise some 20 sows and use them as canvases for skin art at his rustic China base, Art Farm.

"I decided to do something in China first, and I realized tattooing pigs would be a good introduction to the country. It's low-tech," Delvoye, 40, told Reuters.

The pigs get sedatives before they go under the needle and are carefully raised until their natural deaths, normally well past the six-month mark when farm pigs are slaughtered.

Collectors can buy the pigs live and pay for their keep as "foster parents" or simply purchase their tattoo-festooned skins for display after the pigs pass.

"The Art Farm is a real enterprise and by selling, eventually, the skins, the whole thing gets financed and I can go on," said Delvoye, who has pushed other artistic boundaries with previous works.

Mortality is a primary theme in the porky "paintings".

"Tattoos remind you of death. It's leaving something permanent on something non-permanent," he said. "Even when tattooing flowers, there is a morbid side to the activity."

I agree: tattoos do remind you of death. When I see someone with a tattoo, I usually think: you're going to have that as part of your body until the day you die. And then you're going to have that on your body in your grave. You and that tattoo are in a death grip.

But aside from tattoos generally, this story raises some other questions. First, there's the whole placement of Lenin's head amidst mermaids, roses, cherubs, and crimson hearts. But maybe all these things, like tattoos themselves, remind you of death.

Then there's the paired image of Harley-Davidson conventioneers and big, fat pigs. Stereotyping the rider of the beautiful motorcycle again. Stereotyping the pig too.

And then there's the question whether we're outraged about the use of pigs or about going to rural China to do the project. And if we're outraged about both, which is worse? Maybe it's kind of a positive thing, though, both for the pigs and the villagers.

Surely, the villagers must be getting some laughs -- perhaps at the expense of Westerners generally. Maybe we Westerners should be irked that some egoistic artist is making us look ridiculous.

For the pigs, it's a nice life. They get to take sedatives, so they probably enjoy the tattooing experience. Then, they are "raised carefully" until they die a natural death. Think of the pig alternatives. These pigs are living like kings!

And what of the rich folk with tattooed pig skins hanging on their walls? I think the final artwork might look quite nice, and they're not exploiting poor Chinese any more than you are when you buy cheap leather shoes made in China. In fact, it's less exploitative, and the Chinese are learning tattooing skills. Maybe they will emigrate here and tattoo your ass for you as a memento mori.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Boy that's like the worst thing in my mind. It's unbelievable that people would do something like that."

"They can't defend themselves, and it's like hurting a child."

"The most beautiful highway in America."

What is it? Is it this?

"Romney, like all Mormon politicians, usually tries to walk a thin line."

Gordon Smith analyzes Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations.

Diving for the light.

Another on-stage rock death. Goodbye to Patrick Sherry. May the arms of Johnny Ace, Tiny Tim, and Dimebag Darrell reach out to pull you into the glorious musical afterworld.

"The artist disconsolately conceded yesterday...."

Speaking of water-based art in the UK, remember that guy with the running tap? He's turned it off:
A water company has given notice to a work of art which has already shed enough water to sprinkle half the lawns in Surrey.

The artist disconsolately conceded yesterday that his installation, The Running Tap, has probably run its course after pouring an estimated 800,000 litres (1.4m pints) down the drain during one of the worst droughts in the south-east in decades.

"Well that's it, isn't it?" Mark McGowan said miserably....

Who drank that £42,500 bottle of water?

That bottle of melted ice from the Antarctic was on a damned plinth so it was pretty obvious it was art!

UPDATE (Backdate?): One of the commenters was reminded of something that had crossed my mind too: that time a janitor threw out a trash bag that was actually part of an art exhibit:
A bag of rubbish that was part of a Tate Britain work of art has been accidentally thrown away by a cleaner.

The bag filled with discarded paper and cardboard was part of a work by Gustav Metzger, said to demonstrate the "finite existence" of art....

The bag was part of Metzger's Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art, a copy of a piece he produced in 1960...

Metzger, a German artist who lives in east London, invented "auto-destructive" art in 1959.

The work also features an "acid painting" - nylon covered in acid which slowly destroys it to illustrate the transient nature of paintings, sculptures and other artworks....

It is not the first time such a mistake has been made. In 2001 a cleaner at a London's Eyestorm Gallery gallery cleared away an installation by artist Damien Hirst, having mistaken it for a pile of rubbish.

The collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was said to represent the chaos of an artist's studio.

And in the 1980s the work of Joseph Beuys, which featured a very dirty bath, was scrubbed clean by a gallery worker in Germany.

I can't help suspecting that these are, if not deliberate publicity stunts, hoped for or welcomed opportunities for press coverage.

Did Jon Stewart do a lame interview with Rick Santorum?

Here's a New Republic piece about "The Daily Show," especially the interview Jon Stewart did with Rick Santorum last night (which I just watched):
With most political guests, Stewart sticks to harmless questions and gentle quips, and he seems unable to pursue an argument. Rarely have such flaws been more pronounced than last night, when Senator Rick Santorum appeared on the set.

It should have been great. Santorum, on the show to promote his new book It Takes a Family, isn't shy about sharing his views. He has blamed Boston's political liberalism for the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal; he has compared homosexuality to "man on dog"; and he has equated Democratic attempts to preserve the filibuster to "Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'" Surely with material like this, Stewart could get a spirited debate going. Yet the only solid part of the interview was the start:

STEWART: [People] felt that we would not agree on a lot of things, so I'd like to start off on some common ground. I will throw the first salvo: I believe sir, that ice cream is a delicious treat. But too much, sir, will spoil the appetite. Your move, sir.

SANTORUM: I uh ... I would agree with that.

After that it was all downhill. Stewart simply began to think out loud...

Read the whole thing, which recounts the interview in detail and is very critical of Stewart. But I thought it was a decent interview. It was not the equivalent of the suck-up interview Stewart did with John Kerry during the campaign. Everyone knows how much Stewart disagrees with Santorum. The "Daily Show" audience booed last Thursday when Santorum was announced as the Monday guest. I felt that Stewart was trying to demostrate that a person that far from him politically could sit down at his table and be treated with respect.

Stewart made his points subtly, in the middle of the mushy niceness. Santorum kept talking about the "ideal" of the man-and-woman-with-children family, and Stewart accepted that ideal but asked why not include other people in that positive model even if it's a step away from ideal. He noted when Santorum equated heterosexuality with virtue and got Santorum to back away from that equation a tad.

I think Stewart was trying to make a connection and a lot of the blather was the kind of small talk that establishes that one can talk. It drew the audience in, and it drew Santorum into a relaxed dialogue. (Did you see Santorum smiling about Victoria's Secret?)

Sure, Stewart could have shredded him with harsh questions, but that's not the only way to talk about politics.

What subjects are you interested in that I don't blog about?

And are there things that I don't blog about that you'd like to read about here? Basically, I'm seeking reader feedback to help me answer someone else's question, but I'm also generally interested in the answer myself.

MORE: People keep answering the second question and not the first. Seriously, my reason for this post is that I'm filling out a survey and one of the questions is about the interests of my readers! I can't just presume you must be interested in whatever I'm interested in. Presumably, there are big areas of interest that I don't touch on. That's what I'm trying to get. I'm not looking for new ideas of things to blog about and not setting out to revamp this blog or anything like that. I should never have thrown in that second question. I'm doing to do some striking to make this clear.

Monkey in the Middle.

What's in the monkey's mind when he looks in a mirror? Higher minds -- human beings, great apes, dolphins -- figure out, when they are looking in a mirror, that they are seeing themselves. Other animals, it's long been thought, think they're seeing a stranger. But a new study shows that the monkey occupies a middle position, where it doesn't see itself, but it doesn't see a stranger either. The monkey sees a "Puzzling Other."

And there's a sex difference. The males are disturbed by the Puzzling Other. The females try to flirt.

P.S. Did you use to play "Monkey in the Middle"? That was a very common kid's game when I was growing up. I suppose it would be considered too mean today. But it was a pretty fun game for three kids to play with just one small rubber ball. (There was also a similar game called "keep away.")

Getting worked up about Roberts, religion, and recusal.

Yesterday, there was a widely noted article about a statement made by Judge Roberts that some people interpreted to mean he'd said his religion would require him to recuse himself in abortion cases.

News reports today have people who heard the statement saying that he didn't really mean he'd have to recuse himself, which doesn't surprise me, since the misunderstanding was already apparent (to me) in yesterday's report.

"Does that mean we can take credit for ruining the Kerry-Edwards ticket, too?"

Wonkette weighs in on Plaidgate.

"N.Y.U. has an extraordinary and unique role in American legal education."

Jeffrey Toobin quotes NYU lawprof Sylvia Law saying:
“N.Y.U. has an extraordinary and unique role in American legal education,” Law said recently in her office, which is decorated with samples from her collection of homemade quilts. “We’ve been ahead of everyone in welcoming women and blacks to law schools and to the profession.”
Everyone? Here are the University of Wisconsin Law School's milestones:
1st African-American student, Charles Noland, 1875
1st Woman graduate, Belle Case LaFollette, 1885
1st African-American graduate, William Green, 1892
So would you please take that back, Professor Law?

ADDED: Nothing against N.Y.U. School of Law. It's my alma mater. I owe those folks a lot. They let me in, despite my appallingly inadequate background.

An end to "The War on Terror."

The term, that is.
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.
It did? Because of the word "war"? So now we're supposed to switch to "global struggle"? Please. "Global struggle against violent extremism" is the new term? It's just a verbose translation.

Will it make some people feel better about the Administration's efforts? I see they are also trying to make moms feel better about boot camp. Is there some new Director of Soothed Feelings?

IN THE COMMENTS: The connotations of "struggle" are weighed.

The most beautiful skyscaper ever?

I say it is. The brilliant Santiago Calatrava has proposed a swirled point for Chicago -- to be the tallest building in America: the Fordham Spire. It's a residential building and, being very skinny, it will have full-floor units. Don't you want to live there? It would really be worth scraping together the $5 million it would take. How truly dramatic!

Donald Trump, who scaled back his own plan for a 150-story Chicago tower to a mere 90 stories after 9/11, is saying "Nobody in his right mind would build a building of that height in today's horrible world" and "I don't think this is a real project ... It's a total charade." Ha! Jealous!

Build it!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Roberts and the Solomon Amendment case.

Jeffrey Toobin has a big piece in the new New Yorker about the Solomon Amendment case, FAIR v. Rumsfeld. He speculates about how John Roberts might view it:
Even though the FAIR case is rooted in the law schools’ attempt to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the case is not, strictly speaking, about gay rights. It is, rather, a First Amendment case, about whether the Solomon Amendment impinges on the right to freedom of speech at universities, and whether the government has the right to use the leverage of federal aid to insist that the military be treated like other employers....

Most observers regard the legal arguments of both sides in FAIR as at least plausible, but most of the current Justices would probably want to defer to the needs of the military. Roberts’s history suggests that he would do the same; the concept of judicial restraint means a reluctance to invalidate the actions of the other branches of government....

Is Roberts committed to some sort of across-the-board judicial restraint, such that he'd be unsympathic to First Amendment arguments raised against the government? Here's Toobin's evidence that he is:
Roberts believes in the concept of judicial restraint. In a recent opinion in the D.C. Circuit, he chided his conservative brethren in a case about the regulation of raw materials used in making drugs, admonishing them, in Justice Felix Frankfurter’s words, “to observe the wise limitations on our function and to confine ourselves to deciding only what is necessary to the disposition of the immediate case.” In an answer to the senators about his judicial role models, he wrote, “I admire the judicial restraint of Holmes and Brandeis, the intellectual rigor of Frankfurter, the common sense and pragmatism of Jackson, the vision of John Marshall.”
That first part is about deciding questions on narrow grounds rather than enunciating broad rules, which is not relevant to which way he'll decide the FAIR case, only to how he'd frame the holding.

The list of favorite judges means something more, but Holmes and Brandeis don't represent judicial restraint across-the-board. Holmes is the key figure in the development of free speech rights against government. (And Brandeis joined him.) What Roberts served up is a list of luminaries there, standing for different things, with only Holmes and Brandeis representing restraint. Others he admires for other things -- intellectual rigor, pragmatism, the vision thing. Who's to know what this amorphous tribute means about how Roberts will actually decide cases?

I'm rather thinking Toobin had a big piece on the FAIR case ready to go, and he tacked on this speculation about Roberts. Good enough. But it doesn't take us very far. Still, the piece is well worth reading for an explanation of the FAIR case, especially the litigation strategies of the parties.

Did Judge Roberts just commit to recusing himself in abortion cases?

No, and here's why.

Lawprof Jonathan Turley notes that Roberts was caught off-guard by a question from Senator Durbin about what he would do if "if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral":
Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself...

Roberts could now face difficult questions of fitness raised not only by the Senate but by his possible colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court (and a devout Catholic). Last year, Scalia chastised Catholic judges who balk at imposing the death penalty — another immoral act according to the church: "The choice for a judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty."
I'm deeply impressed that Roberts answered the question and intrigued by its substance. I'd love to have a transcript of what went through his mind during that "long pause" before his answer. I would bet money that he thought about that Scalia speech about Catholic judges and the death penalty.

Let's look at a key part of that speech:
Capital cases are much different from the other life-and-death issues that my Court sometimes faces: abortion, for example, or legalized suicide. There it is not the state of which I am, in a sense, the last instrument that is decreeing death, but rather private individuals whom the state has decided not to restrain.

One may argue, as many do, that the society has a moral obligation to restrain them. That moral obligation may weigh heavily upon the voter and upon the legislator who enacts the laws, but a judge, I think, bears no moral guilt for the laws society has failed to enact.

My difficulty with Roe v. Wade is a legal rather than a moral one. I do not believe – and no one believed for 200 years – that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. And if a state were to permit abortion on demand, I would and could in good conscience vote against an attempt to invalidate that law, for the same reason that I vote against invalidation of laws that contradict Roe v. Wade; namely, simply because the Constitution gives the federal government and, hence, me no power over the matter.

With the death penalty, on the other hand, I am part of the criminal law machinery that imposes death, which extends from the indictment to the jury conviction to rejection of the last appeal. I am aware of the ethical principle that one can give material cooperation to the immoral act of another when the evil that would attend failure to cooperate is even greater: for example, helping a burglar to tie up a householder where the alternative is that the burglar will kill the householder.

I doubt whether that doctrine is even applicable to the trial judges and jurors, who must themselves determine that the death sentence will be imposed. It seems to me those individuals are not merely engaged in material cooperation with someone else’s action, but are themselves decreeing, on behalf of the state, death.

The same is true of appellate judges. In those states where they are charged with re-weighing the mitigating and aggravating factors and determining de novo whether the death penalty should be imposed, they are themselves decreeing death, whereas in the case of the federal system, the appellate judge merely determines that the sentence pronounced by the trial court is in accordance with law, perhaps the principle of material cooperation could be applied. But as I have said, that principle demands that the good deriving from the cooperation exceed the evil which is assisted. I find it hard to see how any appellate judge could find this condition to be met unless he believes retaining his seat on the bench, rather than resigning, is somehow essential to preservation of the society, which is of course absurd. As Charles de Gaulle is reported to have remarked when his aides told him he could not resign as president of France because he was the indispensable man: “Mon ami, the cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”

I pause at this point to call attention to the fact that, in my view, the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty. He has, after all, taken an oath to apply those laws, and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own. Of course, if he feels strongly enough, he can go beyond mere resignation and lead a political campaign to abolish the death penalty, and if that fails, lead a revolution. But rewrite the laws he cannot do....

This dilemma, of course, need not be faced by proponents of the living Constitution who believe that it means what it ought to mean. If the death penalty is immoral, then it is surely unconstitutional, and one can continue to sit while nullifying the death penalty. You can see why the living Constitution has such attraction for us judges.

It is a matter of great consequence to me, therefore, whether the death penalty is morally acceptable, and I want to say a few words about why I believe it is....
I think Roberts, during the pause, thought this through and fixed on the key point, which was Scalia's point: a ruling in favor of abortion rights is not an immoral ruling, even if abortions are immoral. It is only if he becomes "part of the machinery" -- as is the case with the death penalty -- that the immoral act of another is the judge's own immorality.

Thus, Roberts' answer will not mean that he will need to recuse himself in abortion cases.

Want to listen to Roberts' oral arguments before the Supreme Court?

Here they are!

"He later bought an electric saw, a bow saw and dust sheets, chopped the body into nine pieces and hid them in the fridge freezer in the kitchen."

And exactly why was he sentenced to five years? "Two years for the manslaughter and three years for preventing the burial." Seriously!

What becomes of a person who listens to "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" while waiting on hold too long?

I have visions of many things ... I can't stand this pain much longer ... Cold and alone/No comfort in sight/Hoping and praying for someone to care...

"UnSouterble."

Amba coins a word.

Let's try shaming first.

John Fund has a Wall Street Journal editorial arguing for term limits for Supreme Court Justices:
A seat on the high court is now so powerful and so heady that many justices stay long past their prime. Legal scholars have concluded that half of the last 10 retirees have been too feeble or inattentive to fully participate in the work of the court.

The secrecy that shrouds the high court can also allow someone to turn his chamber into a nursing home, as William O. Douglas did in the 1970s. He was so determined to hang on until a new president could appoint someone philosophically compatible with him that he refused to leave after an incapacitating stroke. This is not only irresponsible, but for, say, a liberal justice hanging on through a series of Republican presidents, it is directly at odds with the preferences of the electorate. In Douglas's case, his colleagues were so concerned that they informally agreed that during the last year of his service none of the court's decisions would be valid if his was the deciding vote. They finally pressured him to resign in 1975. A weakened Thurgood Marshall often looked to his fellow octogenarian William Brennan on how to vote because he no longer could hear well enough to understand the arguments other justices made during their conferences.
Fund makes a strong argument. (Read the whole thing.) But he does not address how term limits would affect presidential campaigns. We'd know which Justices were slated to leave in the upcoming presidential term. As it is now, we just engage in a guessing game, saying things that are often ridiculously off-base. (In the 2000 campaign we were told the next President would probably get three appointments, but in fact, he got zero.) Maybe the people voting for President should know which Justices are coming up for replacement. And there is something unseemly about the Justices -- supposedly aloof from politics -- timing their retirements to try to control the ideology of the next occupant of their seat.

But I still resist changing the Constitution, and even if I didn't, I'm realistic enough to know how incredibly difficult it is to amend. A more moderate approach, which I want to recommend, is shaming.

While we do criticize Justices for their opinions, we hold back from criticizing them for clinging to their seats too long. I think we may be observing the general social norm that frowns on age discrimination and accommodates disability. But maybe we ought to set aside that generality and get specific about Supreme Court Justices: they wield immense power and they cling to it. Why don't we talk about that? Why don't we shame them for staying too long?

We don't spare the criticism for other persons who tighten their grip on power. Before we try to amend the Constitution, let's try shaming. I think the Justices are vulnerable to our criticism. Much as they may love their power, they must also love our good opinion. They must want to be remembered as great Justices. But insulated on the Court, surrounded by respectful admirers -- should I say sycophants? -- they may need to hear stronger voices from the rest of us. Why don't we put aside our stock politeness and say more clearly and more often that it is wrong to hold your seats too long and wrong to let too many years pass without giving the President a chance to appoint someone new.

I'll leave you with this passage from Bill Maher's book "New Rules":
New Rule

Just because you have a job for life doesn't mean you have to do it for life. It's well and proper that we venerate our elders -- but give it a freakin' rest....

Now, I know it must be hard to give up your job when your job is literally sitting on a throne, or being on a "supreme" court, or keeping women out of the priesthood to make room for the gays -- but at some point it starts to look like you think of yourself as indispensible, and no one is indispensible, including you, the late Mr. Infallible...

[T]here's a reason that names like Cary Grant, Joe DiMaggio, and Johnny Carson inspire a special kind of awe: They all did something that made them more beloved than anyone else -- they left before we got sick of them.

Petite scandalette or nothing at all?

Are we so starved for a scandal that we're biting at anything? Or does Judge Roberts' professed inability to remember that he was on the Federalist Society steering committee in 1997-1998 actually matter?