Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A cool new restaurant in Madison, specializing in small plates. A tiny coq au vin in a crepe. A little risotto. A cold (!) omelette. A trio of tiny soups. It's very dark in here, and very stylish:



Your humble blogger:


The oral argument in the abortion case.

David Stout reports:
Justice Souter challenged [New Hampshire attorney general, Kelly Ayotte's] assertion that a doctor who performed an emergency abortion would be "constitutionally protected" from prosecution or civil liability. "What do you mean when you say it would be constitutionally protected?" asked Justice Souter, who is from New Hampshire....

Ms. Ayotte did not budge, asserting at one point that even in the most dire emergencies, and when a judge might not be available to authorize an abortion in the absence of a parent, the doctor would be protected. When a parent is not available to give permission, the state law at issue empowers a judge to grant emergency approval.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the Bush administration on behalf of the New Hampshire law, said critics of the New Hampshire statute had focused on "a one in a thousand" circumstance in which a teen-ager might need an abortion quickly, and that the entire statute should not be undone.

"And the real question for you is, faced with that kind of case, do you invalidate one thousand applications of the statute, noting that 999 of them are constitutional?" Mr. Clement asked rhetorically.

But Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which challenged the law, said that even a minor delay can be disastrous. "As the nation's leading medical authorities have explained, delaying appropriate care for even a very short period can be catastrophic and puts the teen at risk of liver damage, kidney damage, stroke and infertility," she said.

Ms. Dalven met with some skepticism when she said that the provision for a judge's order can be a dangerous obstacle. "Once a minor arrives in the emergency room, it is too late for her to go to court," she said.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered what would happen if the state created "a special office, open 24 hours a day" to field just such emergencies: " 'This is the abortion judge.' It takes 30 seconds to place a phone call."...

The New Hampshire bill's sponsors successfully fought against a health exception on the grounds that it would give doctors too big a loophole to avoid parental involvement in decisions about ending pregnancies. Justice Breyer acknowledged that point in passing, noting that "lots of people think 'health exception' is a way of getting abortion on demand."
Scalia's hypothetical may be interesting, but the state hasn't set things up like that, and the doctor is obviously in a better position to make the call. Even if we were assured there would always be an "abortion judge" by the phone, you'd still have to explain the condition which would presumably take some time. Why should someone have to endure the "risk of liver damage, kidney damage, stroke and infertility" for the time it takes to do that, especially considering that the doctor is the one with the medical understanding of the situation?

And what does Ayotte's assertion about 1000 applications of the statute mean? That every 1000 times it's imposed, one unfortunate woman suffers a serious injury? Why is that acceptable?

UPDATE: Listen to the whole oral argument here or download here.

Do you buy Christmas presents for yourself?

I'd heard some women do that. (Maybe men do it too.) Now, advertisers are openly encouraging the behavior with copy like this:
"Because I've been an exceptionally good girl, I deserve sweet nothings from Dolce & Gabbana Intimates to make my husband forget he's an accountant... and a tartine from SnAKS to fuel my shopping spree, a dress that's the height of chic from Elie Tahari and some flat boots from Jimmy Choo to keep me grounded, anything Marni and something Versace and divine peau de soie pumps from Roger Vivier that I can't get anywhere else."
That might seem laughably over-the-top, but it's beautifully written to reach out and grab a woman's deep longing. It's a nice touch that the ad-character has a husband, but he's such a nonentity -- an accountant! -- that women with no men (to buy them presents) can fully identify.

And have you heard of the Right-Hand Ring campaign?
The marketing campaign has successfully appealed to women with female-empowerment pitches like: "Your left hand says you're taken. Your right hand says you can take over."
Buy yourself a diamond ring. (I Freudian-slip-typed "diamond wring.") How do you palm that off as not pathetic? Well, have you seen the ads? They're mesmerizing.

"Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: 'He's my son. It's my war. It's my country.'"

Sad that you can't get to Maureen Dowd's column? She's Dowding it up big time today. (TimesSelect link.)

By the way, in the paper version of the Times, the word "my" is italicized all three times in the quote. In the online version, there are no italics. That's bugging me.

"Finish" is an exquisite word choice.

"Finish the war" means something different from "end the war," right? Or will it mean whatever you need it to mean, later?

Just a thought about a very carefully crafted quote from Hillary Clinton:
"We must set reasonable goals to finish what we started and successfully turn over Iraqi security to Iraqis."

UPDATE: "Complete" is the word choice of President Bush, in today's speech on the war. Speaking of the troops fighting in Iraq, he says we must "complete their mission." "Mission" is a much stronger expression than Senator Clinton's "what we started." Do you think we should complete our mission or finish what we started? Or do you think they're the same thing? I don't.

Unintended comedy, economic news reporting division.

The NYT just needs to bring us down, for some reason. All the economic news is good, but Vikas Bajaj, on the front page of the paper today, searches desperately for the bad. Check out the first few lines:
Gasoline is cheaper than it was before Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans. Consumer confidence jumped last month and new home sales hit a record. The stock market has been rising. Even the nation's beleaguered factories appear to be headed for a happy holiday season.

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.

But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

Consumer confidence is bouncing back from what was arguably some of its worst readings in years. Gasoline prices-the national average is now $2.15, according to the Energy Information Administration- have fallen because higher prices tamped down demand and supplies in the Gulf Coast have been slowly restored. The latest read on home sales, released today, contradicts virtually every other recent measure of housing activity that generally indicate a slowdown. And yes, manufacturers' fortunes are on the mend, but few besides airplane makers are celebrating.

It all means that the economy is likely to end the year with a splash, but that does not mean the broad economic picture next year will be even better.

How can anyone read that and not laugh?

"You think loners are weird? I think couples a weird."

Says a loner to Nina, provoking her to consider appreciating loner-tude... rather skeptically it seems to me. Is there a he's-just-not-that-into-you subtext here?

"Isn’t it the right of citizens of the state to answer this question?"

Yesterday there was a long, crowded hearing at the Wisconsin Capitol. The subject: a resolution to amend the state constitution to preclude gay marriage. Voters would make the final call next November.

"Does your emphasis on authority give any substance to the claim ... that conservatism is repressive and dictatorial?"

Marking the 25th anniversary of "The Meaning of Conservatism," Right Reason interviews Roger Scruton.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Not 35 million, 77 million.

A death toll, reestimated. (Via No Speed Bumps.)

Live-blogging the Alito panel.

Readers were hoping for a podcast of the big panel we had tonight at the Law School about the Alito nomination, but I couldn't make that happen. Fortunately, Steve S was there to live-blog!
Schweber is leery of radicals....

"I kind of like radicals," says Downs.....

Sharpless makes a joke - "I'm not a lawyer!" Then he goes on a bit of a rant....

It comes to Althouse... If you read her blog, you probably know what she'll say....
Read the whole thing. Lots more at the link.

He doesn't include the thing I found most interesting. UW lawprof Linda Greene, who was Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s, implied that the Harriet Miers nomination was set up to fail. She said it was a "signal that something was amiss" when Miers turned in an incomplete questionnaire to the committee, given the "intellectual talent that normally flocks to a nominee." Yeah, why didn't people nail that thing for her?

Anyway, the panel was sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society -- who seem to have a very nice working relationship here -- and they did a great job. Big crowd too!

"An unremarkable use" of the spending power or "a core violation of the First Amendment"?

Yale lawprof William Eskridge and George Mason Dean Daniel Polsby are debating about the Solomon Amendment case -- FAIR v. Rumsfeld -- which raises the question whether the federal government can require universities, as a condition of receiving federal funds, to give military recruiters the same access given to other employers. The Supreme Court is hearing argument in the case next week. Polsby says it's "an unremarkable use of Congress’s Spending Power, while Eskridge sees "a core violation of the First Amendment."

"The reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing."

The Christian Science Monitor has a big article on Pajamas Media:
Though Pajamas Media is bringing even more attention - and possibly a new revenue model - to blogging, the reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing. One site,, is collecting guesses as to how many weeks or months Pajamas Media will last before it folds.

"If you say [something] is going to be great for months, and you announce it with a big gala bash, you're asking people to look at it," says Ann Althouse, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and a well-known blogger (althouse.blogspot. com). The nature of bloggers "is to mock and pick at things," she says, "that's sort of to be expected." But the Pajamas Media site hasn't helped itself, she says. It's been bland.

Mr. Simon urges patience and promises that the best is yet to come. "I don't think the site is going to seem the same to you in three weeks," he says. "We're learning. We are a work in progress. We are new media in the most extreme sense."

UPDATE: Daniel Solove responds to the article:
Pajamas Media seems like a corporate wrapping around the blogosphere. It has too much of a corporate structure and neglects one of the key elements of the blogosphere -- the unexpected way various blogs gain attention from the ground up. Blogging is a bottom-up grass-roots kind of practice, not a top-down enterprise.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. This is key. The great power -- the great beauty -- of blogging is the natural formation of connections among individuals. (Much more at the link. Go there.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View responds to the article. I like the way he makes his argument initially just by boldfacing some of the language in the article. He's got some laugh-out-links and a profoundly true link at "This is blogging." Hey, I was so there last February! MORE: here.

IN THE COMMENTS: I have cause to say: "I'm thinking of 'The Producers.'" And Jim makes a sublime wisecrack:
Best quote from the article: Simon wants The Entity's site "to be the place for breaking Internet opinion." And here we have the one objective that's actually been met, since they seem to be breaking it right and left.

"I am happy to let everyone sort themselves into whatever Nozickian communities they want."

Says Andy Morriss, taking issue with my criticism of the plan to wrest Ave Maria, a nicely established new law school, from its current place in Ann Arbor, Michigan and strand it in a cloistered enclave in rural Florida. Latching onto my word "creepy," he writes:
The very idea of a university, however, is to some extent a place where people are to a degree sheltered from the "real world" to allow them to focus on learning. What's particularly creepy about people wanting to be in an environment free from pornography, etc.? This doesn't strike me as any different from, say, people at a law school in a rural town touting the atmosphere available from rural living. Given UPS, the internet,, Netflix, and so on, I don't think "Ave Maria town" is likely to be particularly more closed off from the "real world" than most small towns in rural areas are today. What will be different is that it will be a community that shares values, Catholic values as it turns out, and that, in turn, strikes me as sounding a bit like what you might find in a monastic community.
But Morriss is missing one huge thing. There is an existing community of scholars in Ann Arbor that is not volunteering to move. They like it where they are, in a lively university town, where they've established lives for themselves and contributed to the building of an institution. (Don't believe me? Ask them!) The move is to be imposed, top-down, by one man who happens to have the money. There's nothing Nozickian about that.

Thanks to Juan Non-Volokh for linking to the Morriss piece and for quoting from an article and a letter in the WSJ.

Senate Democrates have "rebuffed, rebuked and rejected" civil rights and women's groups opposed to Roberts and Alito.

Says AP's David Espo:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, underscored their political objectives recently to ... representatives of groups opposed to Alito's nomination.

In a private session, Reid and Schumer urged the groups to show restraint when lobbying Democrats from states that Bush won in 2004 - senators from Nebraska, Arkansas, the Dakotas and elsewhere who probably will be the most tempted to support the appointment. Officials who described the session did so on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the conversation.

Reid, in his first year as party leader, first angered groups opposed to Bush's court nominees last spring. Hoping to head off a showdown over appeals court nominees, he privately told Republicans he would allow confirmation for a few of the appointments that Democrats had long blocked.

[Nan Aron, president of the Alliance For Justice,] made her disagreement plain. "We don't want a deal. We have worked too hard, since we see these nominees as really extreme," she said at the time.
I think it's easy to predict that Alito will be confirmed. I hope the Senate Democrats are smart enough to use the confirmation process to win respect for the liberal version of constitutional interpretation, rather than to portray law as a political struggle and Alito as a candidate they must defeat.

"I'd probably call it an afterthought. It was, 'Oh yeah, by the way, you don't have to do it.' "

Such was the attention to the subject of abstinence in sex education in one Wisconsin high school, as described by a current UW student. Now, a bill requiring a stronger abstinence message is about to pass the legislature here. (What the governor will do is another matter.)
The bill ... would require school districts that offer sex education programs to "present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior" for unmarried students....

The current state law simply lists more than a dozen topics that districts "may include" in their sex education instruction but does not stress one as more important than others. The word "abstinence" does not appear, although "discouragement of adolescent sexual activity" is one of the topics districts can choose to include.
Should the legislature be requiring all the schools in the state to push abstinence as "the preferred choice of behavior"? The culture varies from place to place around the state, so I don't like a statewide requirement that goes this far, even though I think it's important for young people to hear a strong presentation of the case for abstinence. Shouldn't local school districts decide this one rather than posturing state legislators ?

Alito panel.

Here at the law school tonight, the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society are hosting a panel discusion about the Alito nomination. Room 3250, 7 p.m. I'll be participating, along with Professors Church, Greene, Downs, Schweber, and Sharpless. It should be pretty lively!

UPDATE: Notes on the panel are here.

"UK scientists have identified the part of the brain that determines whether a person perceives themselves as fat."

Would that be the part connected to the eyeballs? Oh, I'm just being mean, and this is the second post today about fat people. (Althouse is obsessed!) Actually, it's a pretty interesting study.

And did you know that "people who suffer from migraine with aura can sometimes experience a phenomenon called the 'Alice in Wonderland syndrome', where they feel that various body parts are shrinking"?

Ah, that calls for another link back to an old, related post: "My scotoma."

Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Miles Davis, Blondie.

The new inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do you approve?

Note that Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd got rejected the first seven times they were eligible, and the Sex Pistols got rejected four times.
"It's about time," Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward told Reuters, adding that he had long ago given up on getting inducted.

"What bothered me was not necessarily that Black Sabbath was being passed over but that hard rock and heavy metal was being passed over ... Bands that created heavy metal music or brought it into the foreground ought to have gone into the hall of fame some time ago, quite honestly."
The injustice!

Related post: I visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'll bet Lynyrd Skynyrd was helped by the very nice presentation they were given on "American Idol" this past season -- backing Bo Bice.

IN THE COMMENTS: There's some questioning of why Miles Davis belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All I can say is: I saw him open for Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Fillmore East in 1970.

Abortion case to be argued tomorrow.

Linda Greenhouse writes about Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:
When the Supreme Court meets on Wednesday to hear its first abortion case in five years, the topic will be familiar: a requirement that doctors notify a pregnant teenager's parent before performing an abortion....

[O]f the 43 states with parental-involvement statutes, New Hampshire is one of only five that do not also provide an exception for non-life-threatening medical emergencies, and it was on this basis that two lower federal courts declared the law unconstitutional....

Waiting in the wings, as the justices surely know, is another, perhaps even more highly charged abortion case. The Bush administration recently filed an appeal in defense of the federal ban on the procedure that abortion opponents have labeled "partial birth abortion," and the court must decide shortly whether to hear it.

CORRECTION: "Today" in the title corrected to "tomorrow." It is not Wednesday!

"'The Wall' is where you don't want to put any more in your mouth."

Said Ian Hickman, who competes in eating contests. You have to train for these things!
First he'll fill up on liquids. Then "I'll practice eating hot dogs when I'm full. The contest is going to be won not by someone who's hungry but by someone who's able to eat when they're full."
Others rely on "guzzling large volumes of water or chowing down low-calorie foods, such as cabbage, in the weeks leading up to an event."

And note that the best contestants these days are not fat!
"About eight out of the top 10 are svelte, athletic," said an eater who goes by the name "Crazy Legs" Conti, who stands 6-foot-3, weighs 210 pounds, and runs marathons. [Sonya Thomas, 5' 5" and 98 pounds] beat him handily last month at a Buffalo wing contest in Bethesda.

He and others buy into what they call the belt-of-fat theory, which supposes that abdominal fat inhibits the stomach from ballooning. "A thinner person has much more room for expansion. An eater like myself, unfortunately, is struggling to catch up," Conti said.
Funny. I like watching a good eating contest. But maybe you think these displays are immoral or obscene. If your reason for objecting to these contests is that the food could have been used to feed someone who is hungry, should you not regard every fat person as embodying the same immorality?

Too many opinions, too few cases -- can't the Supreme Court do better?

Jason Mazzone draws attention to the Supreme Court's glaring problem:
Last term, the Supreme Court issued opinions in just 74 cases. That’s pretty pathetic. It means there are many areas of the law that are unsettled or unreviewed; many important issues in which the Supreme Court could helpfully weigh in but it doesn’t; many issues that, once decided, will not reach the Court again for decades, if ever.

A low number of cases does not, however, mean light reading. Many of these 74 cases produced multiple opinions by sub-groups of justices. It’s not hard to see why this is true. Divide 74 up among nine justices and 30-plus law clerks and the temptation to write separately is irresistible.

Most of the 74 opinions are also lengthy and convoluted, larded with unnecessary detail and footnotes, and containing inappropriate swipes at the work of the other justices.
Oh, don't I know this! Trying to teach constitutional law cases to law students, I sometimes feel I need to defend myself from their hostility by stating the obvious: I didn't write these cases! Or: I'm really sorry but this happens to be the Supreme Court case on the subject.

Like me, Mazzone looks to the new Chief Justice to whip the Court's work product into shape:
My advice for Chief Justice John G. Roberts: double the number of cases the Court decides (it decided 123 the term Roberts clerked for Rehnquist), halve the length of opinions, make unanimity the goal, and discourage separate concurrences.
Mazzone doesn't mention the other change in the offing and the effect it will have on the problems he describes. Justice O'Connor is leaving, and Justice O'Connor was frequently the one who insisted on carving out a middle path between two crisper opinions. Take away Justice O'Connor and replace her with someone who will commit to plainly stated doctrine, and you may not need all that much of the new Chief's charismatic powers to turn things around.

But will we be happy with the new set of problems that replaces the old? Hazy, blabby cases are a pain, but clear doctrine -- quite a shock after all these years -- might hurt a lot more. And it's going to hurt some of us a lot more than others, which explains the hand-wringing over the impending confirmation of Samuel Alito.

Four truths about Bob Woodward.

Her unique personal situation enables Nora Ephron to discern:
Truth #1: Bob is not a liar. ...

Truth #2: Bob has always had trouble seeing the forest for the trees. That’s why people love to talk to him; he almost never puts the pieces together in a way that hurts his sources....

Truth #3: Bob is not to be confused with other reporters.... He knows everything. What’s more, he has no idea what it adds up to. How could he possibly keep anyone, much less his editor, in the loop?...

Truth #4: If you don’t talk to Woodward, you’ll be sorry. I mention this not because it’s precisely true (look at me), but because it’s an operating truth in official Washington....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unintentional humor: "My Best Friend's Wedding."

We're watching "My Best Friend's Wedding," which looks beautiful on HDTV, on Showtime, right now. And we just dissolved into hysterical laughter. Here's Julia Roberts, served an elegant dinner in a lovely restaurant, sitting across the table from Rupert Everett -- he's gay! -- and we hear her cell phone ring, she pulls it out, and the thing is as large as a man's shoe!

In the next scene, she's at home, and her phone rings. Chris says: "Her home phone is smaller than her cell phone." And we laugh a lot all over again.


Me: This is a pretty good comedy.

Chris: Do you remember totally hating this movie?

Me: What'd I say?

Chris: I think you said there were too many closeups.

Me: (laughs.)


Chris: These actresses [Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz], if you saw them in real life, they wouldn't be that attractive.

Me: But the thing is, their face, their whole body sends out so much personality.

Later (as Julia Roberts sets up Cameron Diaz for humiliation in the karaoke bar):

Me: She's really evil.

Chris: That's what people don't like about it.

Me: I like that about her!

That's why it's a cool comedy. Julia's bad!

"He did the worst thing an elected official can do."

"He enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there."

"Who’s the real whore here?"

Steve H. is talking about me. In a good way.

MORE: There's a Wikipedia entry for Pajamas Media, now, and not only am I discussed under the heading "Feuds and Flamewars," but the expression "Berkeley house whore" appears.

AND: "Will they succeed? Who cares." Dan from Madison weighs in.

In Dubai: compulsory hormone injections for gay men.

Andrew Sullivan links to this disturbing news report from Dubai:
The Interior Ministry said police raided a hotel chalet earlier this month and arrested 22 men from the Emirates as they celebrated the mass wedding ceremony - one of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals here.

The men are likely to be tried under Muslim law on charges related to adultery and prostitution, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Issam Azouri.

Outward homosexual behaviour is banned in the United Arab Emirates and the gay group wedding has alarmed leaders of this once-isolated Muslim country as it grapples with a sweeping influx of western residents and culture.....

The arrested men have been questioned by police and were undergoing psychological evaluations on Saturday. Azouri said the Interior Ministry's department of social support would try to direct the men away from homosexual behaviour, including treatment with male hormones.

"Because they've put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies," he said.

Tim Blair quits Pajamas Media!

You knew someone would be the first to jump ship. Did you think it would be Tim?

TO BE CLEAR: Blair has withdrawn from the Editorial Board. His blog is still listed as one of the member blogs. I don't know what the contractual details are here, but based on the offer I saw, the member bloggers had to commit themselves for 18 months.

Scientists say "romantic love" lasts one year.

Face reality. You are just some chemicals:
The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love.

Researchers said raised levels of a protein was linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence experienced at the start of a relationship.

But after studying people in long and short relationships and single people, they found the levels receded in time.

The team analysed alterations in proteins known as neurotrophins in the bloodstreams of men and women aged 18 to 31, the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal reported.

They looked at 58 people who had recently started a relationship and compared the protein levels in the same number of people in long-term relationships and single people.

In those who had just started a relationship, levels of a protein called nerve growth factors, which causes tell-tale signs such as sweaty palms and the butterflies, were significantly higher.

Of the 39 people who were still in the same new relationship after a year, the levels of NGF had been reduced to normal levels.
Now, stop being so damned sentimental.

"And, man, I was gratified when the fab chicks screamed."

Janet Maslin writes about -- sorry, he's an old Althouse favorite -- Donovan:
In his prime, the astral singer-songwriter Donovan appeared to take a serene view of show business and its cutthroat ways. Not anymore. Nowadays, Donovan would like you to know that he never received proper credit for Flower Power, World Music, New Age Music, the boxed-set album package, using LSD and the lyric "Love, Love, Love" before the Beatles did and playing folk-rock five months before Bob Dylan wielded an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
He deserves this credit too, Maslin says. Donovan states his claims in a book:
"The Autobiography of Donovan" is a very strange book (what else?) that revisits the fertile, trippy 60's, the elaborately constructed aura of Donovan's beatitude, the wild incongruities of that era's popular culture (when the guest list for one Donovan party included Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante and the Doors) and the lingo that has become so quaint. "And, man, I was gratified when the fab chicks screamed," he writes in all seriousness about appearing on his first television show....

"The constant gibes in the British press about my love of beauty has long left a false impression of my work," he maintains. "I was mocked as a simpleton when I sang of birds and bees and flowers like a child." He was also mocked for being wild about saffron, but it turns out that he loves saffron monks' robes and saffron cake with raisins. In any case, this book is where the mockery ends. And the last laugh begins.
Okay, that explains the saffron, but what about "I'm just mad about fourteen/She's just mad about me"? On "Donovan in Concert" he sings "Mellow Yellow" with the variation: "I'm just mad about fourteen-year-old girls. They're mad about me." Aw, they're just all the young girls in the audience, the fab chicks who screamed. I was one of them.

"More people seem to be interested in movie grosses than in the movies."

Mark Steyn writes. Yes, it's strange, isn't it? Maybe the reason for the box office slump is that all the talk about box office makes movies seem like devices for taking our money. From early childhood, Americans learn to detect and resist such devices. The box office slump is testament to how savvy we are.

Remember when intelligent adults thought engaging with the films of the day was an essential part of life?

What can you infer from a single incident?

Crooked Timber is talking about the Madison incident involving third grade teachers assigning their students to write letters calling for withdrawal from Iraq. It's a good discussion, even though they say this about me:
Ann Althouse, oddly, uses the case as a reason to suspect that the District does not have its act together—an odd conclusion to draw from a single instance in which it does the right thing effectively and immediately.
Here's what I said:
The project was cancelled -- school district policy prohibits teachers from presenting controversial issues with bias and promoting their personal political views.

I wonder how well that policy is enforced. That a group of five teachers thought this was an acceptable assignment suggests that it's hardly enforced at all.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue." I love that. It's so it depends on what the meaning of controversial is. Community standards seem to apply to that. And we're all here in Madison, Wisconsin.
What can you infer from a single incident? In this case, you have five teachers who got together and planned something without anyone figuring out what the problem was and one of them continuing to assert that it is not a controversial issue. How did these teachers arrive at such a mindset? From living and working in a particular environment, I would assume. Oh, but the system "does the right thing effectively and immediately," Crooked Timber says. Not really. The response only came because parents got mad. If a letter describing the assignment had not been sent to the parents, would anything have happened? What evidence do we have that the school district's policy has any mechanism of enforcement? I think the fact that the teachers thought what they were doing is fine strongly suggests that the policy is not ingrained in the practice of teaching in the district.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"It's like having a bum living in your house."

Larry David (in tonight's episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm") saying what it's like to have a dog.

I also liked his contempt for campfire-roasted marshmallows: "Why don't you reduce all your foods to cinders?"

Audible Althouse, #23.

Finally, the podcast is back. #23 has: the Thanksgiving squirrel, the Thanksgiving salmon, bedbugs, metaphorical vermin, the dog-eat-dog world of blogs, schoolteachers who get too political, and crazy architectural and lifestyle fantasies brought on by winning the lottery or taking LSD. 44 minutes.

IN THE COMMENTS: I apologize for coughing into the microphone.

"See, here's what I don't understand...."

I was just scanning the Pajamas Media discussion boards and ran across this comment:
I *very* much agree that the site needs to be bloggier. The ad revenue is supposed to mostly come from the associated blogs, not the portal, with the portal's role being to boost traffic to the blogs, give people an easy starting point, and provide some original reporting, etc., that will encourage people to go there and encourage bloggers to do more original reporting.

That means that the portal needs to be interesting, and to change a lot. Right now it's neither.
I thought: Wow, that's about the smartest, clearest thing I've read here yet. Who said that? Then I see, it was Glenn Reynolds. Okay. Well, see? That was a blind reading test.

A few posts down Cal lays down the harshest critique I've seen yet:
See, here's what I don't understand: why are these discussions even necessary? Why is Glenn saying (to paraphrase) "hey, great idea, I'm passing this on to the others!"?

What was Glenn doing for the past 8 months or so, exactly, as part of the editorial board? More to the point, what was anyone involved with this absurd enterprise doing all this time?

This isn't a bootstrap organization. It's not something that was cobbled together and thrown open to the public for feedback. This was a venture with 3.5 MILLION dollars in funding.

Where did that money go? Apparently, it was all spent on a blowout opening bash. It clearly hasn't gone to technicians who could quickly respond to the most basic requests for change. Nor has it gone to any more advanced development work--at least none that's readily apparent. Just as obviously, it wasn't spent on competent legal or marketing advice.

When the only evident sign of investment is in the party you throw to announce an organization with an illegal name offering a service that no one understands and that you yourself aren't entirely able to define, you've got a real problem.

So here's a suggestion for PJM/OSM board members and executives alike: Stop asking people what you should do. You convinced a number of fools to invest 3.5 million--or should I say MILLION--dollars in you. They thought you knew what to do. If you don't know what to do, then accept the harsh truth that your only real ability is lies in convincing fools to give you money. Use some of that money to hire people who actually know what to do, then use some more money to hire people who can actually do it. Then get the hell out of their way.
Almost three fifteen hours later, there is no response yet to Cal's devastating words. Shouldn't someone who cares about the operation say something in its defense? What if the folks Cal calls the "fools" are reading the discussion board? The silence over there is really uncomfortable.

IN THE COMMENTS: It's noted that Glenn Reynolds has now responded to Cal, but only minimally, to distance himself from what has gone on there. Per Glenn:
"The Editorial Advisory Board met for the first time the day after the launch. I'm guessing that the site design, etc., was seen by someone as a business decision, rather than editorial, but they didn't involve us. As for the rest, well, perhaps you should just watch the site evolve and see how it does."

I express sympathy.

Steve H. drops by to tell us about this post of his:
I learned something really funny about Pajamas Media yesterday. A source claiming to have inside information says they've actually raised SEVEN million in venture capital. Again, I have to ask, where did it go?

UPDATE: Moxie and Jay Currie have some thoughts on all this.

War poll: "55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale."

WaPo reports:
The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush's Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster.

Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."
Not really surprising, is it? I think most Americans are not hotly partisan and are pretty sick of people who are.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of discussion, including this from DrillSGT:
As a Vietnam Vet (enlisted), subsequently a Regular Army Officer, and the Husband of a currently serving National Guard officer I can anecdotally state with near certainty that US public opinion belittling the hard work and sacrifices of soldiers in a combat zone and hearing their elected officials say things like "Bush Lied, soldiers died" and Democrat John Kerry accusing President Bush of sending U.S. troops to the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" has a strong negative impact. It initially impacts the families at home. They get a constant stream of comments and it eats at their morale. That in turn bleeds over to the soldiers in the war zone. Unlike my war, soldiers in Iraq have access to real time MSM and can see that the MSM ignores all the successes and finds fault in every opportunity.

It hurts. It hurts. An average American understands what "support the Troops" means. Beyond Lieberman and a few other dems, the average American recognizes that Dean, the DNC and much of the minority leadership are rooting for a defeat in Iraq because it will hurt Bush. That sickens the average American.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Readers give DrillSGT a hard time for the quote I front-paged, and he reframes it. This post is certainly getting a lot of comments. I don't post very much on the war in Iraq, though the large number of comments a post like this gets shows me how very much people want to talk about it. I'd just like to say that I never write about things like whether we had enough troops when we started or how many troops should be brought home now. How could I possibly have a valid opinion here? I'm not a military strategist, and I don't have the inside information the people who are conducting the war have. My posts tend to be about political strategies and rhetoric about the war. As to the actual war, it seems pretty obvious to me that we must win. But it would be bizarre for me to act as though I knew how to do that.

"Put on this wig and believe."

A photographer spends six years finding 1,431 persons to put on a big, curly, black wig and pose:
"The wig was perfect because it was a blank slate," Kenneth Solomon said. "The variable was their face, their expression, their interpretation of 'Put on this wig and believe.' "
Too bad the mosaic of tiny photos at the NYT link isn't clickable for enlargements. The impact of the mosaic is nice, what with the thematic unity provided by the wig, but we can't see enough of the varied expressions that the wig set off. Is it supposed to say something about race? You really can't tell from the article.

For something much more substantive on the subject of race, here's a NYT review (by Slate's Dana Stevens) of biographies of two black actors, who found success in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s.

About "Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood" by Jill Watts:
Her trademark screen attitude of comic insolence reached its peak in "Alice Adams" (1935), when, playing Katharine Hepburn's family maid, Malena, she all but slammed down the plates in front of her white employers while resentfully chomping on a piece of gum.

Watts's sympathetic biography makes much of these moments of Trojan-horse resistance, linking McDaniel's finely calibrated defiance with modern notions in race theory: by infusing her body language with hostility or a parodic compliance, Watts argues, McDaniel was "signifying," deliberately turning racist tropes against themselves.
About Mel Watkins's "Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry":
He was reviled in the African-American press (and soon after, in the culture at large) as a racist caricature, the "subservient, dim-witted, craven, eye-rolling" Negro. By the 1960's, his name had become an epithet, like "Uncle Tom."

In a 1968 CBS special entitled "Of Black America," a young comic named Bill Cosby proclaimed that "the tradition of the lazy, stupid, crap-shooter, chicken-stealing idiot was popularized by an actor named Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry." The outraged Fetchit, then 66, movingly responded during a press conference: "They're making me a villain," but "if it wasn't for me there wouldn't be no Sidney Poitier or Bill Cosby or any of them."

The LSD-inspired Beatles theme park that might have been.

The Jane and Michael Stern review Bob Spitz's new book "The Beatles." They like it a lot. I've picked out this detail to get some conversation going:
Spitz leads readers on a dizzying ride through the 1960's, taking in the band's musical and financial high points, way-out mystical adventuring, struggles over the Yoko Ono issue and what he calls their "course of reckless hedonism." That course included John's making a deal with LSD-maker Stanley Owsley to pay for a lifetime supply of the hallucinogen. On one occasion, under its influence, they all went to the Aegean Sea to purchase a cluster of islands where they planned to build four houses connected by tunnels, with the land between the homes filled with meditation posts, painting and recording studios, a go-cart track, and a landing strip. When the acid wore off, they got bored and abandoned the idea . . . but bought the islands anyway.
What a nice theme park that would be today if only they'd followed through! What drug-influenced notion did you abandon when you straightened out that you now think would have been quite cool?

Editing "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever" for 1991 sensibilities.

Here's a Flickr set detailing the differences between "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever," 1963 edition, and "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever," 1991 edition. (Via Drawn!) It's not just political correctness either (e.g., lightening the fur on the animal driving in a car stopped by a police officer, making the police officer female). It's also a softening of the tone. "He comes promptly when he is called to breakfast," becomes "He goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast." Think about what a change like that meant to the editors. Telling children what to do and expecting them not to balk? How retrograde!

The set makes nice use of the "add a note" function in Flickr. The comments are good too. The photographer is Kokogiak.

Stories of surviving the tsunami.

An eight-part article in the NYT Magazine. Sample:
At first, [Sambiyo] thought a ghost might be luring him into the slough. For the past hour, he had been picking up the dead, and the ghoulish task had the effect of a nightmare. Bodies suddenly stared up at him from the water; they hung from trees like branches of flesh. Sambiyo was glad to have his AK-101 hanging from the shoulder of his wet brown uniform. "Brother, please help me," this raspy female voice kept calling. Reluctantly, he waded into the dark water, using his hands to shove aside debris and casting his eyes about in search of the supernatural. As he got close to the woman, he could see only her face and her hair, and they were mottled with mud. He ventured closer, and when he was within a few feet, he realized she was naked.

"But you have no clothes on," he protested.

"It's O.K.," Maisara pleaded. "Just help me."
Vivid fact: "A cubic yard of water - barely enough to surround two people seated with their legs crossed - weighs nearly a ton." Description of what it was like to be slammed by tons of water:
It seemed muddy and sulfurous. It spun her and jerked her. She couldn't see. As she struggled for breath, she gulped some, and it tasted salty and foul. Her arms were useless. Objects struck her, and she felt cut, poked and punched. Something smacked her left eye. Then she stopped, her body upside down, pinned against something flat that she took to be a wall. A car - or what seemed a car - pushed against her and then slid away. Finally, the wall broke apart, and the water pitched her to the surface. She gulped for air. She saw the car, some floating trees, nothing else.

Then there was another wave. And this time it knocked her out.
Much, much more at the link.

"My biggest goal and biggest ambition in life was to be a great conversationalist."

Says Isaac Mizrahi. "I care about clothes and design, but more than anything I care about being this unscripted personality."

I loved his old talk show on Oxygen, and he's got a new talk show on the Style network. I think he really gets how to do TV talk:
"One of the things that I'm very hellbent on doing is not pre-interviewing the hell out of subjects," he said. "On a lot of shows you can feel that the guest is being set up to tell the cute story. I'm like, 'Let's not and say we did.'"

Yeah, don't you hate the way Letterman and Leno bring on actors and actresses who plug in a scripted story? They play the role of an actor on a talk show, being spontaneous and charming the host. What a horror!

Ah! Sex and chess, the eternal subject.

I'm just trying to picture the guys who are thrilled by the idea of a World Chess Beauty Contest.

Found via the NYT, which has a giant article about attractive women who play in chess tournaments. The Times also points to the "Internet Chess Club" -- which makes me want to say "demented and sad, but social" (or demented and sad and not even social). It quotes a female chess player: "a large percentage of the comments [there] are about how hot the women are."

The Times tackles the issue of what to do when a male player accuses his female opponent of using her good looks to "distract" him:
"She was distracting... But there was nothing I could do. It was the beginning of April, right after spring break, and she was dressed appropriately for the time of year. It wasn't anything against the law. I told the guy, 'You are going to have to call upon yourself to overcome the distraction.' He ended up losing the game anyway, but I am not sure that was from being distracted."
I don't play chess, and I've never watched a chess tournament, but I've seen some film clips and photos of grand players, and I imagine that the physical presence of the opponent always has an unnerving effect of some sort. And isn't each player aware of the things about him that are a bit disconcerting, such as very large size, audible breathing, or nervous ticcing? And then there's the subtle question of whether a player is doing it on purpose. It must be distracting just to get sucked into thinking about whether your opponent is doing it on purpose.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

"Metcalf died in 2003 at age 45 while living in a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate built in Corbin, Kentucky."

The fate of a powerball winner. Now, Metcalf's ex-wife -- they separated on hitting the lottery -- has been found lying dead in her house by the Ohio River, her corpse undiscovered for days. She'd been keeping to herself since last December, when a dead man "was found in her 5,000-square-foot, custom-built geodesic dome house."

So, do you think you would have done better if you'd won $65 million? You think you wouldn't have built a geodesic dome or a replica of Mount Vernon?

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers identify the house they would build a replica of if they had the money.

"That new mattress delivered from a reputable department store, which kindly hauled away your old one? "

"It may have spent all day in a truck wedged against an old mattress collected from a customer with a bedbug problem."

"Anyone who stays in a hotel, rich or poor, can bring them home in a suitcase... Some of the best hotels in New York have them."


Breakthrough of the week.

When I see someone's talking about me on another blog, I don't click over and read. This is life in the blogosphere. At some point, you become a target. To go on, to do this thing, you have to accept that they are talking about you over there, but that there is no profit in knowing what they are saying.

Tedious seasonal news reports.

I have a rule: I change the channel/click the mouse when I see the word "tryptophan."

"The Apprentice."

Spoilers follow, of course!

So, our dear boy Adam is gone, and for the first time no white male makes it to the final episode. No white male makes it to the semi-final. Adam was always at a disadvantage, being so terribly young (22), and he should feel great that he made it as far as he did. I think he knew that. In his taxicab confession, he presented his resume for all his future contacts. Smart! They should all do that, rather than rip the other contestants.

Adam remained, every step of the way, a decent, diligent, good kid. And wasn't it cool of him that he didn't make that boring? We felt for the kid. In the clip show that aired on Wednesday, we saw extra footage from the show where they did the education program about sex in the workplace. The expert they brought in to help them asked "Who here has had sex?" He thought that, of course, everyone would raise their hand and then they'd laugh, and it would be an ice breaker. But Adam couldn't raise his hand. Who in the history of the world has had his virginity exposed so blatantly, to so many people? But Adam kept his nerve. He stood up for himself. He's a great guy.

A toast to Adam!

But this week's task? It was a great task. You have all this advertising wrapping, and you're supposed to find something interesting to wrap. But the winner would be chosen by the number of people who call a phone number for a free sample, not by executives judging the quality of the advertising, presenting a new brand to consumers who would pay money for the product. The product was perfume, named after a star, Shania Twain. Having an army of temps with sandwichboards and megaphones was a horrible association for a perfume. But the contestants were right to ignore that, and ignore the creative task of finding something cool to wrap. They concentrated on how they were to be judged: by the number of phone calls. I cringed at the hucksters on the street, who had a negative impact on the brand. It's perfume! The quintessential luxury item. They were hawking it like a strip club!

I loved the way Rebecca and Randal pulled together and won. And I loved the way Trump did something new, sending Alla back to safety and pitting Felica and Adam against each other to debate for their lives. Both of them did a fine job. Never on the show have I seen such an even match. The editors let them have it out for a good, long time. Imagine if job interviews were like that and you had to go head-to-head with one other candidate, pitching yourself as the better of the two!

"Poverty and Prostitution."

The NYT profiles Massoud Dehnamaki, whom it calls "Iran's Michael Moore":
Reformists and conservatives alike harshly criticized Mr. Dehnamaki for making the first movie, "Poverty and Prostitution." Conservatives were furious that one of their own had not only highlighted an un-Islamic social pathology but seemed to sympathize with the prostitutes. Reformists believed he deliberately exaggerated the problem to make a case against easing Islamic law....

In the movie, Mr. Dehnamaki interviews more than a dozen prostitutes and many of their customers. All the women tell the same story of poverty and the need to provide for their families.

"We are two sisters working, and we can hardly earn enough to buy food and pay our rent," says a sobbing woman, whose face was covered to hide her identity.

"I sometimes dream of having chicken, or good food, at least once a week," she goes on, wiping away tears. "I have worked at homes where they had so much money that they threw food in the garbage. I always envy people who can eat well."

A woman clad in the traditional head-to-toe chador, who introduces herself as the mother of the two sisters, says she has thought of killing herself and her daughters several times because of the hardship of their lives but she could not find the courage....

Mr. Dehnamaki, 36, believes Iran needs to modernize, within the confines of a strict Islam, but not Taliban-style.

"If we are against the Islam that the Taliban introduced, we must be able to offer a good model of the Islam that we believe is the source of compassion and kindness," he said. "But it has to be according to the needs of today so that it would be acceptable to our youth."
Much more at the link. Very compelling. Did they have to drag in Michael Moore, though?

"Salmon, lentils, rice with almonds and a salad of parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and bulgur wheat."

What the war protesters ate for Thanksgiving dinner to express something or other. Get it? They built a stone (concrete?) monument to themselves too.

UPDATE: Dr. Helen contemplates the dubious connection between food and virtue.

Fiber, function, flexibility, freedom, fashion.

In 1924, the Englishman George Mallory and Andrew (Sandy) Irvine died trying to climb Mount Everest. A photograph taken at base camp showed them dressed in "English gentleman's attire of plus fours and tweed jackets":

Now, Graham Hoyland, the great nephew of a member of the expedition's members, wants to climb Everest wearing the clothes they wore. He says it's not as ridiculous as it seems because, in fact, as the recently recovered bodies revealed, the men wore a lot of layers:
"The typical myth of Mallory was that he was under-equipped and amateurish," said Mary Rose, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University in the UK, who was inspired by the discovery of Mallory's body to attempt a recreation of his wardrobe.

In fact, she said: "We've found that he understood his clothing probably better than modern climbers.

"It was quite an advanced system; the silk gave wind-proofing, and the silk and woollen layers moved off each other so it was quite easy to climb."...

"I guess I will find it much easier to move across the terrain, but I imagine the wind will be really cutting," [Hoyland] said.
Cool project. It reminds me of efforts to recreate the shoes of the 5,300-year-old Iceman:
"These shoes are very comfortable. They are perfectly able to protect your feet against hard terrain, against hot temperatures, against cold temperatures," [said Petr Hlavacek, a Czech shoe expert who has created replicas]....

Despite their flimsy leather soles, the shoes offer a good grip and superb shock absorption, and are blister-free, Hlavacek said.

It's like going barefoot, "only better," he said. "In the Oetzi shoes, you feel something like freedom, flexibility."...

[The shoes were tested by Vaclav Patek, a Czech mountaineer ... who owns a firm that makes mountaineering shoes for extreme terrain, has climbed all of Europe's tallest mountains. "I daresay I would manage to climb them all in the Oetzi shoes," he said.

The love of natural fibers. That was a major 1970s cultural trend. Now it's an area of scientific study, but will the fashion trend ever come around again? I remember the reaction to the first wave of polyester clothing, when lots of people made a big point of wearing only natural fibers. Somehow we slid back into polyester (renamed "microfiber") and lost that well-cultivated aversion to the artificial. There are all sorts of high tech fabrics now, and we don't ever bother to shun them. We don't ever talk about the importance of layers anymore.

Now, there's a fashion trend that's got to revive at some point:

The perils of trying to cheer Germans up about Germany.

The slogan you dream up -- "Du Bist Deutschland -- You Are Germany" -- turns out to be a slogan the Nazis used. You spend $34 million designing a self-esteem campaign, because studies show Germans are among the gloomiest people in the world, very pessimistic about the economy, and then some historian digs up a photograph from a Nazi convention with a banner that has your slogan and an image of Adolf Hitler. Suggestion for a new slogan: Fortunately, Our Problem Is the Economy!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Did you read great books this year?

The NYT chooses 100 notable books for 2005. Can you recommend any of these? I've only read "Freakonomics" and parts of "Becoming Justice Blackmun."

I wonder if I would be a better person if the time I've spent reading various things on the web had been devoted to these books. How could I have spent a year reading so intensely, without reading books?

Miss Penitentiary.

Just something they do in Brazil.

"I feel my blog evolving."

"I’m not sure how it’s evolving, and I’m interested to find out." Beautiful. As ever. No one else ever wrote two sentences that made tears run down my face.

In the blogosphere, there are artists. There are many different individuals. But among them, there are the artists.

Before you link to a blog... you look around a while to make sure there isn't a post that depicts an act of violence against you?

Me neither.

Ever link to a blog, maybe even a few times, and then later discover a post that depicts an act of violence against you?

Well, I have.

Fending off rabid attack poodles.

I really appreciate these two comments from Wombat Rampant. First:
I don't think I'll be dropping by the OSM portal much because I think Steven den Beste and Ann Althouse are correct in their criticisms of the business model and the way Simon and Johnson have handled things, i.e. poorly.
And second:
Ann Althouse is getting shot up from the right and the left these days, which unfortunately seems to be the fate of moderates in these polarized times. The Pajamas Media/OSM/Pajamas Media folks seem to have gone into hypersensitive rabid attack poodle mode ever since Professor A criticized them for things they themselves are trying to fix now; the latest blowup seems to be over her fairly mild criticism (if you can even call it that) of PM's Thanksgiving Parade liveblogging and related tightening of comment policing on the Professor's blog.

As for the yahoos at Daily Kos, sounds like the same hypocrisy on a different day as they defend their right to be as racist and sexist as they wanna be, because it's all just funny masks they wear in the comment section as a big inside joke. Ann exposes the stupidity of that argument, and ruminates that the Democrats went a long way towards killing off honest feminism in the Clinton years. All that's left are the "bitches" now, if you'll forgive my use of GULAG thieves' slang.
Thanks. A while back, instead of the quotes you now see in my banner, I had a description that began "Politics and the aversion to politics." I really am blogging as someone with a distaste for politics, someone who is put off by hot partisan passion. Most people who don't like partisan politics and who find themselves close to the political center aren't going to want to deal with the usual ugliness of the blogosphere. Why do I? I have my reasons.


I wish our teachers would (educate/indoctrinate) our children.

The news from Bennington, Vermont:
A high school teacher is facing questions from administrators after giving a vocabulary quiz that included digs at President Bush and the extreme right.

Bret Chenkin, a social studies and English teacher at Mount Anthony Union High School, said he gave the quiz to his students several months ago. The quiz asked students to pick the proper words to complete sentences.

One example: "I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes." "Coherent" is the right answer.

Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to whomever complained about the quiz and any students who might be concerned.
Pop grammar quiz: Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to (whoever, whomever) complained about the quiz and any students who might be concerned.

Back to the article:
Chenkin, 36, a teacher for seven years, said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students as a way of prompting debate, but said the quizzes are being taken out of context.

"The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek." But he said he would change his teaching methods if some are concerned.

"I'll put in both sides," he said. "Especially if it's going to cause a lot of grief."
Chenkin's attempt at a defense is way better than we saw from the Madison, Wisconsin third grade teachers earlier this week ("I don't see it as a controversial issue"). And it's notable that he's teaching older students. I'd like to know more about the whole context. What were the other sentences on the test? What is the rest of the class time like? Do students comfortably debate with him and take different opinions? I like seeing his willingness to change and include divergent viewpoints, but it sounds as though he's only doing that to keep people from giving him "grief." He should want to do it as a matter of being a good educator.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Steven Bainbridge weigh in on this story.

No more Madonna and Child Christmas stamps?

Darleen discovers.
To know my mom is to know that she has never indulged in cutesy stuff. Every year she always selects the Christmas stamp that features a classic painting of Madonna and Child. She asks if they have any classic Christmas stamps and the man pulls out a couple of sheets of last year's Madonna and Child. Mom notices he doesn't seem happy and he says to her, "These are all I have and they'll be the last you ever see." Mom asks, "What do you mean?" He explains the USPS will not be issuing any more "religious" stamps.
After all these years of having a choice between the religious-themed and the non-religious-theme seasonal stamps, now all must choose the Santas and snowmen. So ends an American tradition that meant a lot to a lot of people. What was the point? No one had to pick the Madonna stamps. The Post Office makes millions off of people sending out Christmas cards. I think many people preferred the Madonna stamps because they reproduced beautiful works of art, from the grand historical tradition of depicting the Madonna and Child. The notion that the religious side of Christmas is something only Christians appreciate is actually quite wrong. I'll bet there are plenty of non-believers who prefer the religious imagery to the commercial-secular things that lack a beautiful art tradition. Leonardo da Vinci did not paint snowmen and Santas.

UPDATE: The commenters question Darleen's postal clerk and dig up some links. So I wouldn't take that story to mean that the Post Office has abandoned the stamps. I've added a question mark to the post title. Let my post serve the purpose of making part of the argument for retaining the stamps, for those who are feeling Newdowish about them. There's a lot of discussion about whether government should be issuing Madonna stamps, and I think it's still an interesting question, whether the policy has been changed or not.

IN THE COMMENTS: Darleen comes by and says:
I did offer my mom's story as an anecdote about what she was told, unsolicitied, over the counter, at her local PO. Not just about the stamps but about the "Happy Holiday" greeting in lieu of "Merry Christmas".

Via phone to USPS customer service I was unable to get a definitive answer on whether or not there WILL be religious stamps offered in the future.

A 2006 Madonna and Child design was presented in August to reporters at a Stamp show I have been unable to get a confirmation that the USPS is actually going to issue it next year.

The Pajamas Media Discussion Board.

Here. Set up by Laurence Simon, whose nerve I've recently praised. Now everyone can blogjam about the Pajamas Entity.

UPDATE: Over on the discussion board, someone named Louis Sifer writes "Honestly, I think Lou Minatti is Ann Althouse. Honest. It's my honest opinion. I detect the same writing style." What do you think are the chances that I would want to hide my writing under a pseudonym, and then what do you think are the chances that I'd come up with the name "Lou Minatti"? Now, I'm just giggling over the keyboard, which you might picture me doing a lot, but, in fact, I hardly ever do. But this Lou Minatti character seems pretty smart. The thread is limited to constructive criticism for Pajamas, and he's got:
Anyway, they need to turn it off. Now. Just shut it off.

Then sit down and ask what it is they're trying to do. Why not ask us, the readers? I can't recall anyone (Charles, Roger, Glenn) asking us for our ideas. It's their money of course, but it's like they just assumed that they would know what we wanted to look at.

Is PJM a blog aggregator? A competitor to Huffington? What is it? To this day I still do not know what PJM is, and I still haven't bookmarked it because it's guilty of the worst sin of all - there's nothing interesting to read there!

They need to get a clear idea of what they are. Until then, they are wasting time and money.
Ooh, I think Althouse adopted an unlikely pseudonym so she could make it look like someone else agreed with her and then link to "him" back on her blog. And she's probably also that Louis Sifer character too, using "him" to make the whole thing about her. She's an attention whore. Yeah, Louis Sifer, Lou Minatti -- I detect the same pseudonym-inventing style! Lou... Louis... her dad's name is probably Lou. Get the fedora'd detectives on this, quick!

Althouse-o-phobia seeps in the collective mind of the Pajama Entity, where the horrifying words echo:
They need to turn it off. Now. Just shut it off.

"Admission and Exclusion" at elite universities.

Michiko Kakutani reviews "The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton," by Berkeley sociology professor Jerome Karabel. Here's some fascinating historical information about the origins of the nuanced admissions procedures we academics hold so dear:
Mr. Karabel writes that until the 1920's, Harvard, Yale and Princeton, "like the most prestigious universities of other nations," admitted students "almost entirely on the basis of academic criteria." Applicants "were required to take an examination, and those who passed were admitted." Though the exams exhibited a distinct class bias (Latin and Greek, after all, were not taught at most public schools), he says that "the system was meritocratic in an elemental way: if you met the academic requirements, you were admitted, regardless of social background."

This all changed after World War I, he argues, as it became "clear that a system of selection focused solely on scholastic performance would lead to the admission of increasing numbers of Jewish students, most of them of eastern European background." This development, he notes, occurred "in the midst of one of the most reactionary moments in American history," when "the nationwide movement to restrict immigration was gaining momentum" and anti-Semitism was on the rise, and the Big Three administrators began to worry that "the presence of 'too many' Jews would in fact lead to the departure of Gentiles." Their conclusion, in Mr. Karabel's words: "given the dependence of the Big Three on the Protestant upper class for both material resources and social prestige, the 'Jewish problem' was genuine, and the defense of institutional interests required a solution that would prevent 'WASP flight.' "

The solution they devised was an admissions system that allowed the schools, as Mr. Karabel puts it, "to accept - and to reject - whomever they desired." Instead of objective academic criteria, there would be a new emphasis on the intangibles of "character" - on qualities like "manliness," "personality" and "leadership." Many features of college admissions that students know today - including the widespread use of interviews and photos; the reliance on personal letters of recommendation; and the emphasis on extracurricular activities - have roots, Mr. Karabel says, in this period.
Later, universities changed the goals of admissions, Karabel writes, in part because discriminating against women and minorities went out of style and in part because large amounts of money from the foundations and the federal government freed them from needing to cater so much to the preferences of alumni donors. Karabel characterizes these changes as self-interested: the Big Three wanted "to preserve and, when possible, to enhance their position in a highly stratified system of higher education." They were "often deeply conservative" and "intensely preoccupied with maintaining their close ties to the privileged."

You just can't win with these sociology professors. Try to adopt an enlightened policy, and they'll find a way to demonstrate that you did it for your own good. Well, maybe you did.

Kazakhstan versus Borat.

Has there ever been a funnier idea for a lawsuit than Kazakhstan suing Sacha Baron Cohen for playing the character Borat?
Responding in character as Borat, Cohen, who is Jewish, said: ``I like to state, I have no connection with Mr Cohen and fully support my government's position to sue this Jew.''

``Since 2003 ... Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world,'' he said on his website,

``Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hat and age of consent has been raised to eight years old.''
I love Borat's website. Very retro-web.

Are you nostalgic for old-fashioned web design? Or is it still so horrible that it isn't funny yet? You know the day will come when big corporations will tap this look to create that rebellious, indie feel that's so sought after.

UPDATE, December 14, 2005: Kazakhstan asserts its power over the "kz":
Yesterday, the government-appointed organization that regulates Web sites ending in the .kz domain name for Kazakhstan confirmed that Mr. Cohen's site had been suspended. Nurlan Isin, president of the Association of Kazakh IT Companies, said: "We've done this so he can't badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name. He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains."

Surprise! Nixon had qualms about mass nuclear destruction.

The NYT reports:
Widely considered a military hawk, President Richard M. Nixon fretted privately over the notion of any no-holds-barred nuclear war, newly released documents from his time at the White House reveal.

The recently declassified papers, from the first days of the Nixon presidency in 1969 until the end of 1974, show that Nixon wanted an alternative to the option of full-scale nuclear war - a plan for a gentler war, one that could ultimately vanquish the Soviet Union while avoiding the worst-case situation.

The papers provided a glimpse behind the scenes at efforts to find choices other than "the horror option," as the national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, called the worst-case scripts for all-out nuclear war that were then in place.
It would be surprising if Nixon didn't have qualms. It's a long crazy step from "military hawk" to feeling at ease with the prospect of killing millions of human beings.
The documents reveal Mr. Kissinger's chilling insight that government budget-crunchers would prefer complete nuclear warfare because it was already planned for and would be cheaper than recasting American capabilities to permit limited strikes.

"They believe in assured destruction because it guarantees the smallest expenditure," he said in August 1973 at a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room. "To have the only option that of killing 80 million people is the height of immorality."
This is what is shocking.

"Unprepared? Been There, Done That."

Michael Brown is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"They have no idea what they want to be or why they exist."

Concludes Jeff Jarvis upon reading the self-criticism session over at Pajamas Media. The Pajamas insiders are openly discussing their problems. Everyone admits the site is boring, skimpy, corporate-looking, and lacking bloggishness. Tammy Bruce writes about wanting to capture a "feel and structure" that's "smart but revolutionary, rebellious." Hmmm....What's more corporate than trying to think up ways to express rebelliousness?

By the way, what do you think of the new Pajamas logo? It's a bathrobe -- with emanations.

Anyone still want to accuse me of being too critical of Pajamas? The insiders are now saying many of the same things openly on the blog -- partly, probably, in an effort to convey that rebel spirit they need to mask the corporateness. It would be interesting to know what criticisms they are hurling about in private. You can look at their comments and try to figure out what they are not talking about -- the lack of advertising for one thing.

Anyway, here's another Pajamas post for you all. I didn't want to have to do it, but the self-criticism session is too big to ignore.

UPDATE: Steven Bainbridge looks at the Pajamas "blogjam" and says "at the risk of descending to a level of crudeness to which this blog rarely goes, the only phrase that comes to mind is 'circle jerk.'" Well, at the risk of descending to a level of crudeness to which this blog rarely goes, Bainbridge is giving me ideas for another joke like the one found here, which sent those Pajama entity boys into a tizzy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jarvis's post included the line "Finish this sentence in no more than 10 words: Pajamas Media is _________________." Some wags are filling in that blank:
Right Thoughts: Pajamas Media is (run and topped by) an elitist group of uberbloggers who couldn’t care less about the health of the blogosphere at large as long as they get their names in the paper and get to spend that venture capital money.

Laurence Simon: My sneaky answer is "Pajamas Media probably won't be sending it's members more checks.", but based on the lack of two-way communication by the management and editorial board with the member bloggers, I get the distinct feeling who cares what I think.
(Simon is one of the insiders, so let's admire his nerve, breaking the code of silence.)

MORE: Aaron on the logo: "Ann, those aren’t emanations. That’s stink."

AND MORE: Lots more from Laurence Simon here:
There is zero communication with the member sites right now... Right now, things feel elitist in nature, and this blogjam just reinforces the views of the members I've chatted with privately that we're being kept at arms length. That builds up resentment and frustration at the silence.

More as I comb through my notes and work up constructive criticism of it. I have some really bad memories of, Starwave, Jamie Barton, ESPN, DIG, and iXL that takes a while to boil out all the bad blood so I can examine the rotten, putrid flesh underneath clinically and dispassionately for enlightenment with regards to this current fiasco.

I'm sorely tempted to throw up a PHP bulletin board and send out invitations myself. Unlike certain people, I don't believe you need an or domain name to quick-and-dirty build these tools when there's an emergency. Sitting around and waiting for the "proper" tools to be supplied to you when disaster is crashing all around is reminiscent of the appearance-obsessive, press-fearing superficial Michael Brown of FEMA.
Like my hat? I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?

YET MORE: The Pyjamas Media logo is much nicer. I love the way they kept the "stink" marks.

AND: Nice spoof of the hand-wringing blogjam.

A movie and a new policy.

What movie did we watch for Thanksgiving? "Boogie Nights." Appropriate? No. But we just felt like watching it. What a great film!

Checking in on the blog, I face up to the problem of the degradation of the comments caused by an influx of several categories of new readers. I realize I've got to be more vigilant and less tolerant, because the decline in quality is affecting our regular readers. Newcomers are welcome to participate, but I've got to uphold some standards or the comments will lose their value for everyone.

In particular, I'm not going to accept repetitious arguments, abusive language, and overblown accusations -- which seem to have become the style in the last few days. This is my place. I like debate and am ready to read criticism, but what has been going on lately has crossed the line, and I'm adopting a new, more activist form of supervision.

I will delete comments that offend my standards, and I will turn off comments on posts where the conversation is played out to the point where it is attracting too many deletable posts. You're welcome to practice your free speech on your own blogs. I intend to keep a civil dialogue on mine.

"The M&Ms float crashed. Oh the humanity! As God is my witness, I thought M&Ms could fly."

That's the reaction in the Pajamas Media live blogging when a Thanksgiving Parade balloon crashes and falls, along with a streetlight into a crowd. Here's an MSM report of the incident, quoting a spectator saying "It happened so fast. I said, 'Oh, my God!' It dropped like a rock." Also: "A 26-year-old woman and 11-year-old girl were apparently hurt by the debris."

Do our intrepid bloggers right themselves? Scroll at the first link to see how they carry on joking about the accident:
"Are we liveblogging someone's death? Because I didn't sign on to do parade snuff."

"Ed, you're thinking of skittles. Skittles have superpowers that M&M's do not. It's a generational thing."

I was at the parade in 1969, when Bullwinkle deflated all over a bystanders near the Ansonia Hotel, who moved inside en masse and started Plato's Retreat.
UPDATE: I've closed the comments on this post, based on my new, more vigorous policy announced here. For readers who may not know, the many references to "Jeff" in these comments are to the commenter Protein Wisdom, who is Jeff Goldstein, one of the participants in the live-blogging criticized in this post.

Is Pajamas Media too much like MSM? Well, one way in which it's different, to be sure, is that when you do a blog post, say, criticizing Dan Rather, he doesn't come over and yell at you in the comments! I think it's damned strange that you have what is supposed to be a business, with $3.5 million in financing, where the insiders behave like this. All I did was quote four things that they said and write "Yikes," and Goldstein comes over and rants in my comments -- on Thanksgiving! -- until I'm finally driven to close them down and announce a new comments policy to protect my space from being deluged by ugliness. He's also writing on his own blog, denouncing me as "absolutely despicable." For saying "Yikes" at those jokes made when a large object falls on a crowd? A little thin-skinned, Jeff?

And what about this character, another PJM insider? He writes about my post, saying I'd "lost my mind" and titling the post "Ann Althouse's Integrity"? All for a little old "Yikes"! Oh, I see, he was over here commenting and I deleted his comment. Yeah, because it was too abusive. Now, on his own blog, he's calling me "a liar ... spreading malicious untruths." Where's the lie? He thinks it's a lie to have written about the accident in this post when I wasn't watching the parade on television!

Let the historians of blogging judge who's lost their mind. I'd like to know which insiders are embarrassed to be yoked to folks who are harassing me this way just for criticizing them a little. How bizarrely unprofessional! And, worse, how hostile to the spirit of blogging, which they so desperately want and need to recover!

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
I think the 2 posts you describe in the update make it clear that these are not just people who are criticizing your blog because they happen not to like the things you say; it's a smear campaign (which means you're certainly entitled to delete ALL of their comments). A normal person would never say that you were lying in your post about the parade. So many of the recent criticisms of you from people who defend Pajamas Media are essentially saying: "You're criticizing them too much." (Weird attitude for bloggers to have!)


YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View notes that Pajamas could have foreseen that the wind that day would pose problems for the balloons and could have mobilized to provide the citizen journalism they've been talking about:
With just a very little bit of research into what turned out to be an important subtext of this particular parade, PJM might have been in a position to put something rather substantive out within minutes of the accident, offering readers something they likely wouldn't have gotten from the MSM on line for an hour.

News is rarely, if ever that which is expected - it's the unexpected which makes headlines. If we as bloggers want to move into an increasingly significant role as reporters, we're going to have to learn to be better prepared in certain cases.
That's a very sharp and constructive criticism. What does Dan get for it? Jeff Goldstein shows up in the comments and goes after him until Dan actually rewrites his post to "correct the emphasis."

MORE: Baldilocks doesn't understand why I wrote in the comments here that Jeff Goldstein acted as though been given "the assignment to be my personal Baldilocks." I explain over in her comments section.

AND: Was lighting into me for this post behavior befitting the insiders to a major business undertaking? Of course not. What would a media organization that was actually ready for prime time have done? They should have added a note at the end of their live-blogging that said something like:
Live-blogging is part of the great fun of blogging, but it poses risks too. Our live-bloggers didn't see much of the mishap with the balloon as they were watching the televised parade, and unfortunately, their comments carried on in the joking spirit of the live-blog. Afterwards, they saw the news reports, and their hearts went out to the young woman and the girl who got hurt. Looking back, some of those jokes seem pretty insensitive. But we took the risk of live-blogging, and we're going to keep taking risks in the grand tradition of blogging. We knew we'd step on some toes along the way, but we never meant to be mean to the nice people who go to parades.

Then Althouse would have amended her post and said Nice save by Pajamas!

Instead, I've got to say not ready for prime time.

ALSO: I'm going to allow new comments, but I will monitor actively. I will delete posts with hatred, abuse, shouting, personal attacks, repetition, and perseverating demands for apologies and retractions. You can debate and disagree, but you must try to engage with some of the issues on a rational, intelligent level, in the tradition of Althouse blog comments. If you're not familiar with my place, read some of the comments in other posts and get a feeling for the kind of community you are entering. The regulars who hang out here have created an environment that's different from a lot of places where you may be used to commenting. I will not allow you to spoil it for us.

"We have a tight community with a private language, and Althouse ... doesn't get that."

So says a commenter, over at Kos, who thinks he's explaining that I was unfair to the commenters over at Eschaton. Hello? They were attacking me. You're right that I'm not a member of the community, and I don't know their "private language," but since I could see you were talking about me, I thought I'd read some of what you were saying. I got about 100 comments into a series of 800+ comments and most of what I read looked like rank sexism. And no one stood up to say anything about it. All this in a post reacting to my complaint that Democrats don't seem to care about feminism. You folks looked awful. Your defense is, we're all insiders who share a private language?

You're talking on the web, in front of the whole world. You purport to be liberals, the people who usually tend to claim they are the ones who will protect the interests of women. But you present an ugly, degraded face to the world. Then you say, oh, this isn't my real face. This is a funny mask I wear and you just don't get it. Brilliant politics, folks.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, feminists within liberal groups would give you hell if you talked about women like that. Saying you're joking, ironic, or speaking a private language would only earn you the next slam. That kind of feminism died in the Clinton Era.