Friday, June 30, 2006

Audible Althouse #56.

Oh, yes. Audible Althouse is a podcast about the odd last few days on a blog called Althouse. And I do mean odd. Because it's a Friday podcast. A Friday, I tell you. Not a Sunday.

Why do we do the things we do? Astrology. Training a person like training an animal. Caring so much about whether people to listen to you 100% that you don't notice what an honor it is that they listen to you at all.

Here's the podcast page. Here's the place to live-stream. And you know damned well you should be subscribing:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"Why don't they impeach the m*****f***** already?"

I need a new blog photo -- and just generally a photo to send to various places when they ask me for a photo. I enlisted a colleague of mine who's a terrific, artistic photographer. He was trying to make me laugh, mostly telling old jokes. That post title is the one thing he said that really made me laugh.

"I knew he loved Elvis.I didn't realize how much he loved Elvis."

Said President Bush, who thought up the idea of taking Junishiro Koizumi to Graceland:
Mr. Koizumi, whose penchant for belting out Elvis on a karaoke machine is well known, couldn't resist trying out his moves on Mr. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush as the three of them made their way through the manse, escorted by none other than Priscilla Presley, Elvis's former wife, and Lisa Marie, his daughter.

"Looove mee tenderrrrr," the prime minister crooned, as Mr. Bush, not one for letting loose in public, cracked up. When Lisa Marie Presley showed the prime minister her father's trademark sunglasses, he promptly donned them and thrust his hips and arms forward, an earnest imitation of a classic Elvis stage move.

ADDED: Video.

The Black Factory truck.


Encountered outside the humanities building:

What is it? Check their website. Off in the distance, Music Hall:

Let's go:

The bridge from Bascom to Library Mall.

The deLatification of Wonkette.

David Lat is deWonkettifying himself to go work with Elizabeth Spiers on a new law blogging project. Great! I love Elizabeth Spiers. I was addicted to Gawker back in the Elizabeth Spiers days. Gook luck everyone!

"Is blogging jazz?"

Amba asks.

"I think he was awe-struck that the court would rule for him, and give a little man like him an equal chance."

"Where he's from, that is not true." Says the lawyer for Salim Hamdan.

"The Court is giving the administration a mulligan."

Writes Randy Barnett about Hamdan. "But the do-over will be much more difficult than the initial shot would have been. It did not have to be this way." He identifies two "colossal errors" that the Bush Administration made. He also links to Jack Balkin's Hamdan post, elegantly titled "Hamdan as a Democracy-Forcing Decision."

Hamdan as the new Kelo.

Ronald A. Cass paints Hamdan as the new Kelo. That should be hard to do, since Kelo was about deferring to government and putting a low value on individual rights, and Hamdan seems to be the opposite. But a lawyer can always say why two things are alike (and also why two things are different). I've read the piece, and all I can see is that the word Kelo seems to be a cue to stir up anger at the Supreme Court.



The phony laptops-in-the-classroom problem, continued. has a piece. (I'm quoted at the end.) Why all the articles on this subject? I keep getting phoned up for quotes.

Well, something seemed to be happening at Harvard -- rumors of a ban -- and you know how reporters act when something happens at Harvard.

Is there anything new to say on this old issue?

A student is quoted complaining about the problem of the "angry typist" -- which is a slightly amusing way to refer to someone who bangs the keyboard too much. I used to hear more talk of the horrible sound of typing a few years back. Deal with it, folks. You're living in the world. Why not complain that you can sometimes hear people breathe? Angry breathers. Personally, I find the snapping of ring binders pretty annoying -- are they expressing hostility? -- but it's never occurred to me to ban them.

The fact is people are used to writing on laptops, and laptops are quite ordinary tools now. All the age-old complaints about how students don't pay perfect attention or don't behave perfectly well are being restated in terms of a bogus laptop problem.

IM-ing is just the new note passing or whispering. Playing a computer game is the new doodling. Surfing the internet is the new... Oh, who even says "surfing the internet" anymore? It's just reading and looking at pictures. You think everyone's looking down at the screen? In law school classes, everyone was always looking down. It was an effort not to get called on. They looked at their books and their note pads. These problems are as old as school....

A law professor stands in front of a group of students. Maybe he's lecturing about the grand values of individual liberty embodied in the Constitution and maybe he's waxing eloquent -- he thinks -- about how repressive, arrogant government authorites subordinate those values in blind pursuit of their own goals. But the students are not fully engaged. They're off in their own lives, reading messages from friends, planning what they'll do when class is over, reading things that interest them, blogging. What can the professor do? If his idea for a solution is to ban the laptops in the hope of making the students pay attention, I hope he at least perceives the irony. Let me force you to listen to me talk about liberty.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"A rush of generalized nostalgia, a soft-centered melancholy."

Holland Cotter opines on Edward Hopper:
To me he's a period illustrator with something extra. Like most effective graphic design, his pictures grab the eye, spark an emotion and get into your system, all in a flash. But too often the first look is the best look, and the first emotion — with Hopper, a rush of generalized nostalgia, a soft-centered melancholy — the only one. It's an experience; it's not nothing. I just wish it were more.

That's a well-inserted dagger.

Supreme Court invalidates Guantanamo military commissions.

SCOTUSblog reports:
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Congress did not take away the Court's authority to rule on the military commissions' validity, and then went ahead to rule that President Bush did not have authority to set up the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and found the "military commissions" illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. The vote was 5-3, with the Chief Justice not taking part.

I don't have the text of the opinions yet. I'll have more soon.

UPDATE: Here's the opinion. Here's a good summary in the Washington Post. I found this especially interesting:
For the first time in his 15-year tenure on the court, Thomas took the unusual step of reading part of his dissenting opinion from the bench. The court's willingness "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous," he said.
And let me just say something about the interpretation of the jurisdiction statute. I know a lot of readers are finding Justice Scalia's interpretation persuasive:
In a dissenting opinion, Scalia pointed to congressional enactment on Dec. 30, 2005, of the Detainee Treatment Act, which provides that as of that date, "no court, justice or judge" shall have jurisdiction to consider an application by a Guantanamo detainee for habeas corpus, challenging his detention.
But the majority's straining to read the DTA to preserve jurisdiction does not at all surprise me (a federal jurisdiction scholar). It is standard practice for the Court to read statutes that purport to cut back jurisdiction in a way that is defensive of the role of the judiciary. Justice Stevens's opinion discusses some of those cases. He doesn't even reach the question of whether the Constitution permits the cut back. This is an issue that he avoids -- in the style of many other cases.
In a concurring opinion, Breyer strongly disputed the dissenters' assertion that today's ruling would, as Thomas wrote, "sorely hamper the president's ability to defeat a new and deadly enemy."

"The Court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check,' Breyer wrote. "Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary."
And he'd better get crashingly clear statutory language.

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says Thomas had read dissents from the bench before. He cites Stenberg v. Carhart, the "partial birth" abortion case. I looked up news reports of the time and found this in the Washington Post, June 29, 2000, Pg. 9A ("Abortion debate will continue to rage," by Joan Biskupic):
The sensitivity of the abortion issue was evident in the court's outpouring of opinions in the Nebraska case, Stenberg vs. Carhart. Of the nine justices, only David Souter did not write an opinion. Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas were moved to read portions of their angry dissents in the Nebraska and Colorado cases from the mahogany bench.
It's strange for the WaPo to have made that mistake today. You'd think you'd definitely check before saying something happened "[f]or the first time."

AFTERTHOUGHT: It will be interesting to see how Hamdan plays out in the political arena. The case invites more legislation, and members of both parties have got to be furiously cooking up proposals. I suspect that those who are most disappointed by the outcome of the case have the most political advantage looking toward the next few months.

The judge and his...

... penis pump. Oh, no! Now, he's on trial facing up to 40 years in prison, and the jurors keep laughing.
A man who once served as a juror in Thompson's court testified that he never saw the device, but figured out what it was based on movies he had seen.

The comment sent sidelong glances through the courtroom.

"It sounded like a penis pump to me," Daniel Greenwood testified. He said he had seen such devices in "Austin Powers" and "Dead Man on Campus."

Dr. S. Edward Dakil, a urologist called as an expert witness, ... defended use of the device after defense attorney Clark Brewster said it was an out-of-date treatment for erectile dysfunction.

"I still use those," Dakil testified.

Brewster paused.

"Not you, personally?" he asked.

"No," Dakil responded as jurors laughed. "I recommend those as a urologist."

ADDED: Don't you think it helps the defense that the jurors keep cracking up? If you were the defendant's lawyer would you have a strategy to get them laughing? If you were the judge -- the judge-judge, not the defendant-judge -- would you suspect there was a strategy to make the jurors laugh? Would you do something about it?

UPDATE: Despite the hilarity, the jury convicted the judge (and recommended a one year sentence on each of the four counts).

15 years!

A harsh sentence for Katrina looters.

"Alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
The nation's top party school could get a sobering jolt from a change in state law that puts alcohol on a par with date-rape drugs as an aggravating factor in certain sexual assaults....

Wisconsin had been the only state to exclude alcohol as a potential legal intoxicant in rape cases before the law change...

And while prosecutors say it is likely to be used only rarely - in cases in which victims don't pass out but are so impaired by alcohol they are "unable to appraise their own conduct," as one advocate put it - the change was heralded by experts who work with assault survivors.

"Alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug, and we've felt strongly that our statutes should reflect that reality," said Jill Groblewski, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault....

Under state law, having sexual contact with a person incapable of consent because they are under the influence of an intoxicant is defined as second- degree sexual assault. The offense is a Class C felony punishable by a fine up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of up to 25 years.

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard... stressed that the somewhat lower bar on consent standards for victims does not extend to perpetrators, who can be charged for crimes whether they have been drinking or not.

"Alcohol is not an excuse," he said. "It's our job to help jurors understand that people who want to commit sexual assault many times are going to take unfair advantage to get what they want."...

UW-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling ... praised the change in the law, calling it "recognition that just because someone has used alcohol doesn't mean they are any less a victim/survivor."

That Texas redistricting case.

Here's Linda Greenhouse's report on the Texas redistricting case:
With only Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining both parts of the decision, the court looked in two directions..., rejecting the statewide gerrymandering claim brought by Democrats and other plaintiffs while accepting the Voting Rights Act challenge in southwestern Texas, brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The case produced six separate opinions, a total of 123 pages.
That's half of the reason why I did not read and summarize the case for you when it came out yesterday. It's not just that the case is long and fractured. It's that it fails to do anything to clear up the utterly confused standard to be applied in claims of unconstitutional gerrymandering and adds nothing new to the analysis of whether courts should entirely refuse to entertain such claims (by applying the so-called "political question doctrine"). I note that the two new Justices offer nothing new. Here's Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justice Alito:
... I agree with the determination that appellants have not provided “a reliable standard for identifying unconstitutional political gerrymanders.” The question whether any such standard exists — that is, whether a challenge to a political gerrymander presents a justiciable case or controversy—has not been argued in these cases. I therefore take no position on that question, which has divided the Court, see Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U. S. 267 (2004)...
I'll be interested when they do take a position on this issue (which I tormented my students with on the last conlaw exam). Roberts and Alito replaced two Justices who agreed with Thomas and Scalia that political gerrymandering is not justiciable, and Justice Kennedy is holding down a middle position that is keeping the law in this area exceedingly unclear. The outcome in the new case is important, and it affects significant political interests. But as an expression of law it is highly unsatisfying.

"What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage."

That's the title of a "Modern Love" essay by Amy Sutherland that has sat at the top of the NYT "Most E-Mailed" list all week. I skipped over it on Sunday -- just not in the mood for "Modern Love" -- but its staying power on the "Most E-Mailed" list is truly impressive, so I'm at long last compelled. Let's begin:
As I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me, irritated. "Have you seen my keys?" he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favorite human's upset.

In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband with bromides like, "Don't worry, they'll turn up." But that only made him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor nervous dog.

Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don't turn around. I don't say a word. I'm using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer....

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.
Read the whole thing. It's not obnoxious, as you might jump to think. The author was writing a book about animal training and got the idea to use the techniques on her husband. At some point, she tells him what she's been doing and he's amused. Later, he uses it on her and she notices and is amused.

Why is this article so emailed? It's funny and well-written, full of detail about animal training and human behavior, including a precise description of a husband who's a distinct individual but who also seems a lot like someone we know or are. And it's got a specific idea that you either feel you can use or want to launch into criticizing.

Thinking back on why I rejected this article reflexively last Sunday, I can see that it made me think of a 50s housewife, the kind who would inspire what was once a trite wisecrack: "She's got him well trained." But I liked the piece a lot and am grateful for the "Most E-Mailed" list, which is a good backup to my ordinary instincts on what to read and what not to read as I flip through the New York Times each morning. (And, yes, I expect comments telling me I shouldn't read the NYT at all. I got email yesterday providing me with a list of NYT "media Business Units" and telling me that "[a]ll of these should be in the cross hairs of any boycott.")

I do wonder about the good of the techniques described in the essay. One is "least reinforcing syndrome (L. R. S.)":
When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.
My mother did something like this -- not that she picked it up from dolphin trainers. I think it allowed us to think that some bad things we did passed unnoticed and caused no pain. Much later, I realized how deluded it was to think she lacked normal perceptions and feelings. Of course she saw and of course we hurt her.

But I take it the animal trainer uses multiple techniques and remains ever focused on the goal of producing the desired behavior. If ignoring wrong behavior did not eradicate it, the animal trainer would try something else.

Is it wrong to treat a person as an animal to be trained? Perhaps a better question is whether it is wrong to blunder along doing things that encourage your loved ones in their bad behavior. The image of the "full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor nervous dog" really struck me. It may take more wit and nerve than you have to turn down that role if you've got a fired-up, scenery-chewing emoter in your house insisting that you co-star.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"So now, I'm going to make like a divorce and split."

Said Bob Dylan, at the end of his "Theme Time Radio Hour." After last week's marriage theme, this week's theme was divorce. If you guess that he played a lot of country songs, you are right. He certainly did, beginning with the first song you think of if you try to think of a divorce song. And speaking of country, to listen to the show, I got into my car with the satellite radio, and drove out into the country, out to the back roads somewhere near Cross Plains. It looked a little something like this:

Country road

Country road

UPDATE: The baseball episode of "Theme Time Radio Hour" has been added to the Baseball Hall of Fame Library archive.

Job title: Blog Advisor!

Peter Daou signs off over at Salon, as he leaves to serve Hillary Clinton as "a blog advisor to facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots." Take note, bloggers! That's a new job description, and you qualify! Blog Advisor, facilitating and expanding relationships with the netroots.

Is it too late to complain about the word "netroots"? It should be two words. I'm seeing troots too much. Or could we just shorten it to troots, which is cute? Cute troots.

Wait. Back to the subject. I keep meaning to quote some of Daou's statement, but it's boring me terribly for some reason. Does something happen to a blogger when he goes on the payroll of a politician? Don't you read bloggers because they're independent? Once they're bound to a specific candidate, what the hell are they?

They are Blog Advisor, facilitating and expanding relationships with the netroots. But we bloggers are prickly, feisty characters. You can't facilitate and expand with me.

Okay, focus:
The past few months have been a challenging period in the growth of the blogosphere, with the YearlyKos convention marking the “arrival” of the blogs as a political force (at least in the eyes of many mainstream reporters and political operatives). But YearlyKos has also touched off a series of harsh attacks against the netroots and specifically Daily Kos and its founder Markos Moulitsas. As blog influence continues to grow, we can expect more intense fire directed at the blogosphere by those who have a vested interest in undermining it.

One of the standard practices of blog detractors is to use the comments of the anonymous few to tarnish the genuine passion and sincerity of the many millions who log on to express their views and to connect with other denizens of the Internet. The “angry left” is a stereotype used to pigeonhole left-leaning bloggers, but the truth is that far from being a bastion of ideological rigidity, the blog world is a hard-hitting and free-wheeling discussion among Americans of all political stripes. These attacks won’t weaken the community; on the contrary, this nascent power base is only beginning to make its presence felt. It will reach fuller potential with the participation of Democratic leaders and responsible reporters.
That's turgid and in need of translation. I'm thinking it's a rephrasing of his pitch to the Clinton campaign about why they need him. Kos and his ilk are a threat, storming the gates, and they need someone who can deal with them, talk to them, tame them.

IN THE COMMENTS: They're playing with the "troots." Example: The troots? You can't handle the troots!

MORE: Amba makes a key point: "'Troots' would be a construction exactly analogous to 'blog' (ne-troots, we-blog)." I kept trying to think of other examples of forming a word like that, and the only thing I could think of was "shrooms."

Bush and Koizumi will make a pilgrimmage to Graceland.

It's immensely charming, isn't it? Japanese Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi is a huge Elvis fan and our President -- whose predecessor was much more Elvis-y -- will humor his guest with a trip to the American shrine.

Rewatching movies.

Slate asked several directors and critics to name the movies they've rewatched the most. Spike Lee names "Election." He's watched it more than 40 times. Excellent choice. I've rewatched that one a few times. Nowhere near 40 though. [CORRECTION: Slate's layout confused me. Spike Lee names "West Side Story," with zero commentary, and the next guy, Adam McKay, a director I'd never heard of, names "Election."]

Lots of other interesting choices -- along with some crushingly boring ones. I mean, even if your true answer is "Citizen Kane," please spare me. I wrote that before reading through the whole list and getting to Dana Stevens, who begins: "Leaving out the movies everyone's seen countless times (The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life)...." I suspect most of the answers followed that rule without saying it.

I love this subject of what you want to rewatch. To watch something the first time is to respond to some mysterious mix of your own imagination and the various things you've heard. Maybe something about a poster or some feeling about a movie star pulls you in. Then you find out if it was what you thought it would be or if you're surprised in a good way. But rewatching a movie, you know basically what's there, and you're making a choice to relive what you know or you have a sense that there are places in there where new things can be found. It's a richer, deeper experience. Oh, that reminds me of what Andre says about marriage -- as opposed to an affair -- at the end of my most rewatched movie, "My Dinner With Andre."

ADDED: Neo NeoCon responds.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Where should we eat lunch?

On the terrace of the University Club, with the profs?

University Club terrace

Or should we just get something from one of the food carts?

Library Mall

Either way will be swell. There's never been a lovelier day ... here in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Ever since the Boy Scouts first taught me how to care for our flag over 40 years ago, it has always held a special place in my heart."

Blecch! I got a call to do a radio show on the flag issue just now, and I had to say I haven't been paying any attention to that nonsense. I notice it and just think ugh, they're doing that again.

UPDATE: Okay, that's over. Thanks to whoever came close to voting the wrong way but managed to keep their wits about them. I was looking the other way, waiting for it to end. Oh, at one point -- a couple points -- I put on C-Span2 and caught some bits of speeches. Everyone was just talking about how some brave man served in the military, either trying to make it seem as though caring about veterans demanded a yes vote or laboriously pointing out how you could care about veterans and still not want to amend the Constitution. What an embarrassment! Shameful.

The past is in front of us, the future behind us.

Here's a Science Times piece about a language, Aymara, that -- uniquely -- visualizes the future in back and the past in front:
[T]he Aymara call the future qhipa pacha/timpu, meaning back or behind time, and the past nayra pacha/timpu, meaning front time. And they gesture ahead of them when remembering things past, and backward when talking about the future.

These are not mere mannerisms, the researchers argue; they are windows into the minds of Aymara speakers, who have a conception of future and past that is different from just about everyone else's.

The authors say the Aymara speakers see the difference between what is known and not known as paramount, and what is known is what you see in front of you, with your own eyes.

The past is known, so it lies ahead of you. (Nayra, or "past," literally means eye and sight, as well as front.) The future is unknown, so it lies behind you, where you can't see.
That makes so much sense that you may wonder why no other languages took this attitude. But the obvious answer is that we see ourselves moving into the future, and when walking, you look where you're going. People who sit around reflecting on the past and not expecting much change in the future might naturally put the abstraction of time into the spatial metaphor chosen by the Aymara. But, I'm thinking, the people who survived and procreated and expanded geographically were the ones who visualized themselves walking into the future.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some informed, intense discussion of whether East Asian languages share the the quality the linked article says is unique to Aymara.

"Nothing is of so much importance and of so much use to a young man entering life as to be well criticized by women."

That's a quote from Benjamin Disraeli, "man of fashion, satiric novelist, twice Prime Minister, and the dominant figure of the Conservative Party in Britain from 1846 until his death, in 1881." Adam Gopnik has a good piece about him in The New Yorker. Don't you love quotes like that? Startling, chewable, likeable even without the ring of truth.

A week without TV.

If I'd done it on purpose, I could feel morally superior, but I find I've just stopped watching TV because nothing seems to be any good anymore. I wish something like would happen with food. It would be a cool diet.

Hillary hires a blogger.

The NYT reports:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has hired Peter Daou, one of the most prominent political bloggers in the nation, to help disseminate her message in a forum that has not always been that hospitable to her....

The Clinton camp is clearly counting on Mr. Daou, who directed blog outreach and online rapid response for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, to help improve Mrs. Clinton's image among liberal bloggers, who are fast becoming a constituency in their own right and may thus play a significant role in selecting the Democratic Party's nominee for president.
Nowadays, you have to hire a blogger to fend off the bloggers. This blogging game is playing out nicely.

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds collects links -- including to this post -- on the blogging conspiracy theme. I especially enjoyed BloggingHeads. What makes the Wright/Kaus split screen so fascinating? It's that they don't have that look people get on TV. Especially Kaus. I love the way -- in the beginning -- he's just sticking his tongue halfway out as he's concentrating on Wright's intense discussion of the Kosola time line. Is he intentionally acting like a guy who doesn't know anyone's looking at him or is he just a guy who isn't thinking about how anyone's looking at him?

[Correction made: The word "don't" was missing in the added paragraph. I hope that was obvious. Sorry.]

"Why is [Scalia] blogging his concurrence....?"

Read Dahlia Lithwick's write-up of yesterday's death penalty case, Kansas v. Marsh, in which the court upholds a state law that requires the death penalty when the jury weighs the aggravating and mitigating factors and finds them in equipoise. In Lithwick's words "the tie goes to the hangman."

Let's concentrate on what she has to say about Scalia:
[T]he real wackiness today comes with Justice Antonin Scalia's concurrence, which is nominally about the case but is actually a full-bore global assault on any claim ever made anywhere about the execution or exoneration of an innocent defendant. Nobody is immune to Scalia's nail-spitting this morning: He attacks the 1987 study cited by Souter whose "obsolescence began at the moment of publication"; the "exonerees" who are "paraded by various professors" (from whom else could the word professors be a slur?); and the dissent, which merely "parrots articles or reports that support its attack on the American criminal justice system."...

Why is he blogging his concurrence, rather than taking a step back and actually writing it with some reasoned regard for the arguments on the other side?...

[Scalia] ... paint[s] the law as this dispassionate machine, into which you enter the legal facts and then download the correct answers. This is not a "moral" process, they say. This is a coolly rational process that works best when meddlesome supreme court judges leave it alone. But then the force of his argument rests wholly on his increasingly hysterical cataloging of the crimes of the so-called "innocent" exonerees. He isn't dispassionate here; he's hardly even rational at points. How can he assert that death isn't different, when it clearly drives him to the brink of insanity?
I don't agree that the originalist approach to interpretation is inconsistent with forceful, vivid writing. Lithwick disapproves of the interpretive methodology and that motivates her to portray it as mechanical and inhuman -- the judge as a big computer. Then, she demands consistency within her image and criticizes Scalia for inconsistency. He's not allowed to seem human, because he claimed to be a machine!

But I must say that I do love the notion that to show one's human feeling is to sound like a blogger.

Anyway, what's this about "various professors" with their "parade" of "exonorees"? Let's go to the Scaliatext. He's responding to the dissent, which relies at one point on "a handful of studies that bemoan the alleged prevalence of wrongful death sentences."
One study (by Lanier and Acker) is quoted by the dissent as claiming that “ ‘more than 110’ death row prisoners have been released since 1973 upon findings that they were innocent of the crimes charged, and ‘hundreds of additional wrongful convictions in potentially capital cases have been documented over the past century.’ ” Post, at 8 (opinion of Souter, J.). For the first point, Lanier and Acker cite the work of the Death Penalty Information Center (more about that below) and an article in a law review jointly authored by Radelet, Lofquist, and Bedau (two professors of sociology and a professor of philosophy). For the second point, they cite only a 1987 article by Bedau and Radelet. See Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases, 40 Stan. L. Rev. 21. In the very same paragraph which the dissent quotes, Lanier and Acker also refer to that 1987 article as “hav[ing] identified 23 individuals who, in their judgment, were convicted and executed in this country during the 20th century notwithstanding their innocence.” Lanier & Acker, Capital Punishment, the Moratorium Movement, and Empirical Questions, 10 Psychology, Public Policy & Law 577, 593 (2004). This 1987 article has been highly influential in the abolitionist world. Hundreds of academic articles, including those relied on by today’s dissent, have cited it. It also makes its appearance in judicial decisions—cited recently in a six-judge dissent in House v. Bell, 386 F. 3d 668, 708 (CA6 2004) (en banc) (Merritt, J., dissenting), for the proposition that “the system is allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.” The article therefore warrants some further observations.

The 1987 article’s obsolescence began at the moment of publication. The most recent executions it considered were in 1984, 1964, and 1951; the rest predate the Allied victory in World War II. (Two of the supposed innocents are Sacco and Vanzetti.) Bedau & Radelet, supra, at 73. Even if the innocence claims made in this study were true, all except (perhaps) the 1984 example would cast no light upon the functioning of our current system of capital adjudication. The legal community’s general attitude toward criminal defendants, the legal protections States afford, the constitutional guarantees this Court enforces, and the scope of federal habeas review, are all vastly different from what they were in 1961. So are the scientific means of establishing guilt, and hence innocence—which are now so striking in their operation and effect that they are the subject of more than one popular TV series. (One of these new means, of course, is DNA testing—which the dissent seems to think is primarily a way to identify defendants erroneously convicted, rather than a highly effective way to avoid conviction of the innocent.)

But their current relevance aside, this study’s conclusions are unverified. And if the support for its most significant conclusion—the execution of 23 innocents in the 20th century—is any indication of its accuracy, neither it, nor any study so careless as to rely upon it, is worthy of credence. The only execution of an innocent man it alleges to have occurred after the restoration of the death penalty in 1976—the Florida execution of James Adams in 1984—is the easiest case to verify. As evidence of Adams’ innocence, it describes a hair that could not have been his as being “clutched in the victim’s hand,” Bedau & Radelet, supra, at 91. The hair was not in the victim’s hand; “[i]t was a remnant of a sweeping of the ambulance and so could have come from another source.” Markman & Cassell, Protecting the Innocent: A Response to the Bedau-Radelet Study, 41 Stan. L. Rev. 121, 131 (1988). The study also claims that a witness who “heard a voice inside the victim’s home at the time of the crime” testified that the “voice was a woman’s,” Bedau & Radelet, supra, at 91. The witness’s actual testimony was that the voice, which said “ ‘ “In the name of God, don’t do it” ’ ” (and was hence unlikely to have been the voice of anyone but the male victim), “ ‘sounded “kind of like a woman’s voice, kind of like strangling or something U .” ’ ” Markman & Cassell, Protecting the Innocent, at 130. Bedau and Radelet failed to mention that upon arrest on the afternoon of the murder Adams was found with some $200 in his pocket—one bill of which “was stained with type O blood. When Adams was asked about the blood on the money, he said that it came from a cut on his finger. His blood was type AB, however, while the victim’s was type O.” Id., at 132. Among the other unmentioned, incriminating details: that the victim’s eyeglasses were found in Adams’ car, along with jewelry belonging to the victim, and clothing of Adams’ stained with type O blood. Ibid. This is just a sample of the evidence arrayed against this “innocent.” See id., at 128–133, 148–150.

Critics have questioned the study’s findings with regard to all its other cases of execution of alleged innocents for which “appellate opinions U set forth the facts proved at trial in detail sufficient to permit a neutral observer to assess the validity of the authors’ conclusions.” Id., at 134. (For the rest, there was not “a reasonably complete account of the facts U [sic] readily available,” id., at 145.) As to those cases, the only readily verifiable ones, the authors of the 1987 study later acknowledged, “We agree with our critics that we have not ‘proved’ these executed defendants to be innocent; we never claimed that we had.” Bedau & Radelet, The Myth of Infallibility: A Reply to Markman and Cassell, 41 Stan. L. Rev. 161, 164 (1988). One would have hoped that this disclaimer of the study’s most striking conclusion, if not the study’s dubious methodology, would have prevented it from being cited as authority in the pages of the United States Reports. But alas, it is too late for that. Although today’s dissent relies on the study only indirectly, the two dissenters who were on the Court in January 1993 have already embraced it. “One impressive study,” they noted (referring to the 1987 study), “has concluded that 23 innocent people have been executed in the United States in this century, including one as recently as 1984.” Herrera v. Collins, 506 U. S. 390, 430, n. 1 (1993) (Blackmun, J., joined by Stevens and Souter, JJ., dissenting).

Remarkably avoiding any claim of erroneous executions, the dissent focuses on the large numbers of non-executed “exonerees” paraded by various professors. It speaks as though exoneration came about through the operation of some outside force to correct the mistakes of our legal system, rather than as a consequence of the functioning of our legal system. Reversal of an erroneous conviction on appeal or on habeas, or the pardoning of an innocent condemnee through executive clemency, demonstrates not the failure of the system but its success. Those devices are part and parcel of the multiple assurances that are applied before a death sentence is carried out.
Sorry to print such a long passage, but this is what Lithwick decried as his "increasingly hysterical cataloging of the crimes of the so-called 'innocent' exonerees." Remember, she said "He isn't dispassionate here; he's hardly even rational at points" and that the death penalty "clearly drives him to the brink of insanity." Does Scalia deserve that?

I could ask why is Lithwick blogging her criticism, but the question answers itself: She's writing for Slate, and Slate readers are sure to love a "Scalia's ca-ray-zee" rant. Are they going to check the Scaliatext or go about their busy lives feeling one notch more certain that Scalia's a wacko?

Monday, June 26, 2006

"I was always brutally teased for being George Harrison's son."

"That was from the age of about four or five, before I even knew who he was. And for seven years people would follow me about school singing 'Yellow Submarine'. I still can't listen to that song to this day." -- Dhani Harrison.

Let's say it again: Alito is not "Scalito."

The decision in Gonzalez-Lopez, just handed down, is no surprise. Justice Scalia joined the liberals -- Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer -- which is what I thought would happen after reading about the oral argument. Remember? Scalia will make my list of quotes of the year with his "I don't want a 'competent' lawyer. I want a lawyer to get me off. I want a lawyer to invent the Twinkie defense. I want to win."

In written form, that notion of what the right to counsel is looks like this:
[The Sixth Amendment] commands, not that a trial be fair, but that a particular guarantee of fairness be provided—to wit, that the accused be defended by the counsel he believes to be best. “The Constitution guarantees a fair trial through the Due Process Clauses, but it defines the basic elements of a fair trial largely through the several provisions of the Sixth Amendment , including the Counsel Clause.” Strickland, supra, at 684–685. In sum, the right at stake here is the right to counsel of choice, not the right to a fair trial; and that right was violated because the deprivation of counsel was erroneous. No additional showing of prejudice is required to make the violation “complete.”

Alito pens the dissent (and is joined by the Chief and Justices Kennedy and Thomas):
The majority states that the Sixth Amendment protects “the right of a defendant who does not require appointed counsel to choose who will represent him.”What the Sixth Amendment actually protects, however, is the right to have the assistance that the defendant’s counsel of choice is able to provide. It follows that if the erroneous disqualification of a defendant’s counsel of choice does not impair the assistance that a defendant receives at trial, there is no violation of the Sixth Amendment.

In those italics, I hear Scalia being scolded: I thought you were the big textualist. The word "assistance" or one of its variants appears 19 times in Alito's (relatively short) opinion. The count for Scalia (whose opinion is slightly longer): 8.

5 new Supreme Court cases.

SCOTUSblog has a preliminary account.

ADDED: The campaign finance cases -- both called Randall v. Sorrell -- lack a majority opinion. The Court strikes down a Vermont law that imposes limits on what candidates may spend and what individuals, organizations, and political parties may contribute to candidates.

Justice Breyer writes the main opinion, joined only by the Chief and Alito:
Well-established precedent makes clear that the expenditure limits violate the First Amendment. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 54–58 (1976) (per curiam). The contribution limits are unconstitutional because in their specific details (involving low maximum levels and other restrictions) they fail to satisfy the First Amendment’s requirement of careful tailoring. That is to say, they impose burdens upon First Amendment interests that (when viewed in light of the statute’s legitimate objectives) are disproportionately severe.
Overruling Buckley is considered and rejected, applying the standard test for whether there is "special justification" to overcome stare decisis:
Subsequent case law has not made Buckley a legal anomaly or otherwise undermined its basic legal principles. We cannot find in the respondents’ claims any demonstration that circumstances have changed so radically as to undermine Buckley’s critical factual assumptions. The respondents have not shown, for example, any dramatic increase in corruption or its appearance in Vermont; nor have they shown that expenditure limits are the only way to attack that problem. At the same time, Buckley has promoted considerable reliance. Congress and state legislatures have used Buckley when drafting campaign finance laws. And, as we have said, this Court has followed Buckley, upholding and applying its reasoning in later cases. Overruling Buckley now would dramatically undermine this reliance on our settled precedent.
Alito writes separately to say the issue of overruling Buckley should not have been reached.

Kennedy provides the fourth vote for the outcome, writing:
Viewed within the legal universe we have ratified and helped create, the result the plurality reaches is correct; given my own skepticism regarding that system and its operation, however, it seems to me appropriate to concur only in the judgment.
The fifth and sixth votes come from Thomas and Scalia. Thomas writes:
I continue to believe that Buckley provides insufficient protection to political speech, the core of the First Amendment. The illegitimacy of Buckley is further underscored by the continuing inability of the Court (and the plurality here) to apply Buckley in a coherent and principled fashion. As a result, stare decisis should pose no bar to overruling Buckley and replacing it with a standard faithful to the First Amendment. Accordingly, I concur only in the judgment.
Justice Souter has a dissent that Stevens and Ginberg join, and Stevens also writes a separate dissent. According to Souter, the limits on contributions were constitutional because they were not "depressed to the level of political inaudibility." (An odd locution.) As for the expenditure limits, there should be "further enquiry into their fit with the problem of fundraising demands on candidates."

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."

Wrote Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, quoted by foodie Kelly Alexander in TNR. She's riffing on a cookbook -- published two years ago -- that collects various recipes from politicians, and she purports to be especially stunned that Dick Cheney served up a dopey chicken casserole recipe.

Someone's writing a cookbook collecting recipes from bloggers. I got a request to contribute that I'm told many prominent bloggers have already responded to. So I guess we'll be seeing a book that will give us the opportunity to blab about what these characters are.

But, presumably, Brillat-Savarin wanted to know what people actually ate, not what they'd want displayed next to their name in a cookbook. We need to reframe the quote: Tell me what you want me to think you eat and I will tell you what you want me to think you are. Or maybe: If you want to tell me what you supposedly eat and I will know that you care what I think you are.

"Better for me to grab an hour in which to sit looking at the garden and sipping rooibos tea..."

(My ex) Richard decides to cut way back on blogging... on the occasion of (my son) Chris saying he's up and quitting altogether. My other son, John, comments at Chris's post, saying why he's always known better than to blog: "I'm sure you're better off spending that time living -- in the nonblogosphere."

(Rooibos tea?)

"A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an 'intellectual' -- find out how he feels about astrology."

So wrote Robert Heinlein. RedState mobilizes the quote in the context of excoriating beseiged blogger Jerome Armstrong. Commenters on my various "Kosola" posts keep pushing me to talk about the astrology angle, so I'll just say this. I don't think writing about astrology means you're nutty, though it's great material for people to use if they want to portray you as nutty. While I think it's perfectly idiotic to actually believe in astrology, I think many people are either playing with it -- using it to stimulate thinking about themselves and their relationships -- or trying to make money off of the people who enjoy fooling around with it. I'm assuming Jerome is the kind of guy who falls in the latter category.

But how big is the third category -- those people who actually believe? Once, quite a while back, I had a long conversation with a man whom I was considering going out with, when he brought up the topic of astrology, which caused me to instantly write him off as someone I couldn't take seriously. (I admit I was looking for an out, and that was convenient.) I told this little anecdote a friend, a law professor, who burst right out with the statement: "I believe in astrology." I then told the anecdote, with the new coda, to another friend, also a law professor, and I got the same response: "I believe in astrology." These people were not joking -- unless their humor was very, very dry, and they were both also sadistic enough to leave me wandering through the rest of my life with diminished faith in the strength of the human mind.


The people of Aracataca, the hometown of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had a vote on whether to change the town's name to Macondo, the name of the town in the nobelist's "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Ninety-three percent of the votes were yes, so the measure failed.
''The problem here is that people long ago grew accustomed to receiving money and gifts in exchange for votes."

"There are two major narratives in the world, the narrative of fundamentalism and the narrative of consumerism."

Do you watch that PBS show "Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason"? Edward Rothstein -- paid by the NYT to subject himself to such ordeals -- is "agnostic — perhaps, even atheist — about whether this group of novelists and artists can provide profound insight on such an urgent subject." Go read the whole thing. I just want to excerpt this adorable fragment:
[Novelist Mary] Gordon suggests that "there are two major narratives in the world, the narrative of fundamentalism and the narrative of consumerism." Given her own religious faith, she explains, she is much more comfortable imagining the inner life of a suicide bomber "than I am of Donald Trump"; she finds the terrorist mind, with its belief in eternal truth, "much more comprehensible."

Ms. Gordon says that whenever she sees people driving Hummers, "I want to just drive them off the road" — or worse. She could "go out on quite a spree," she says. What stops her from becoming a roadside bomber fighting for eternal truth, she explains, is her Christian belief that these "greedy" materialists "are sacred and valuable in the eyes of God."
Well, come on. The mind of Donald Trump -- that's a very special object of contemplation. Who can fathom it?

But it's scary to think of novelists with murderous thoughts restrained only by their religious faith. I guess if there are "two major narratives," she herself is subscribed to the fundamentalist one, and we're just lucky she's locked onto a religious belief that includes nonviolence and all that love -- that love for all the greedy bastards in this damned world.

Renegade publisher.

A great obit. Read it.

"Scalia twisted my words."

The Supreme Court doesn't cite too many scholarly works, so it's a thrill when one of yours is cited -- at least until you see your piece has been forever inscribed in the annals in support of a proposition that's exactly the opposite of what you meant to say.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr has at the censorious scholar. "Scalia agrees with and cites Walker’s descriptive argument but then disagrees with Walker’s normative views." That's the risk a scholar takes, of course. You can still be mad about it, you can probably get a spot on an op-ed page where you can vent.

Why not keep track of whether every child in the country is eating enough vegetables?

That's what they mean to do in England and Wales. In fact, the new database will track all sorts of "concerns" and developmental targets, with doctors, teachers, and police compelled to submit information and investigations triggered by various warning signals:
Child care academics, practitioners and policy experts attending a conference at the London School of Economics will express concern about how the system will work.

Dr Eileen Munro, of the LSE, said that if a child caused concern by failing to make progress towards state targets, detailed information would be gathered. That would include subjective judgments such as "Is the parent providing a positive role model?", as well as sensitive information such as a parent's mental health.

"They include consuming five portions of fruit and veg a day, which I am baffled how they will measure," she said. "The country is moving from 'parents are free to bring children up as they think best as long as they are not abusive or neglectful' to a more coercive 'parents must bring children up to conform to the state's views of what is best'."
I'm sure they mean well, and I'm sure many parents really can't be trusted with their own children, and it's terrible for a child to be isolated in a home that falls short of minimal standards. In fact, the whole idea of children being left in the care of the individuals who happen to have them is quite disturbing. But this cure is so invasive and oppressive. Imagine having to fret about the government's rules every time you feed your kids. Imagine not having any creative role in thinking about how to bring up your children. In your intimate family life, you'd feel like an employee of the state. To have a child would be like accepting a permanent job working for the government. And to be a child! When your parents tell you eat your vegetables, your parents will be begging you to eat your vegetables lest they become the subject of a government investigation. The child gains a powerful new weapon. I won't eat that broccoli! And you are in so much trouble, old man.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Audible Althouse #55.

The new podcast. Streamable here -- no iPod needed. But the sane thing to do is subscribe:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

This is a podcast about insanity -- about breaks with reality. Craziness and things that seem like craziness. A cat suddenly bites. Timothy Leary takes drugs and floats downstream. A man has a flips out and strips off his clothes. A blogger gets some power and either gets nutty or inspires others to portray him as nutty. And two men climb an icy mountain and touch the void.

In the Heights.

Here are some exterior views from yesterday's architecture tour of University Heights.

First, the Sigma Phi House (you remember the interiors):

University Heights

Second, the Airplane House:

University Heights

University Heights

Third, a pretty cool red house across from the Airplane House:

University Heights

Joe Lieberman's website.

Go and click on the "get involved" button. Notice anything? It really is quite pathetic. (Via Kos.)

Do you recognize these faces?

Have you seen the movie? Quite a trip! It's what "I Shouldn't Be Alive" would be with a larger budget and the most harrowing, amazing tale to tell.

Why is Althouse blogging at 5 a.m.?

It's a day about 5.

I'm waiting for my 5 millionth visitor today.

Newsweek goes after Kos but if he says they do, he's paranoid.

Newsweek has a big article on Kos that starts off looking like a puff piece. He's listening to hummingbirds and finally getting that flat-screen TV. But, make no mistake, it's quite hard on him. He "picked a rough time" to crash the gates of the Democratic Party:
[T]he Democrats lost the week in the war over the war, and Moulitsas — who chats with Senate leadership aides several times a week and has brainstormed with Democratic operatives about the fall campaign —could no longer just criticize from the outside. Indeed, the Democrats' failed Iraq strategy — stand together, talk tough and make plans to leave —lined up exactly with the prescriptions found on Daily Kos.

Moulitsas is also learning another downside of membership in the elite: the bigger the liberal sniper gets, the more incoming fire he faces. The talk of the blogosphere last week was "Kosola"— allegations that Moulitsas wrote favorably about candidates with whom he or his close friend and coauthor Jerome Armstrong had financial relationships. Moulitsas swore the charges were baseless (Armstrong, too, has denied impropriety), but they clearly got under his skin. When The New Republic's Web site published an e-mail from Moulitsas to a group of friendly activists urging them not to talk about Kosola and thus "starve it of oxygen," Moulitsas went berserk in a blog posting, accusing the venerable liberal journal of treason. By the weekend, Moulitsas's allies were sending each other e-mails infected with the paranoia of revolutionaries who've gained power too fast: How should they deal with traitors? How much openness could they handle? Which fellow travelers could they really trust?...

[S]ome Dems fear that Moulitsas's popularity will pull the party so far to the left that it won't be able to win the general election in 2008. "It's a little bit like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' with these guys," said an aide to a Democratic presidential candidate who asked not to be identified while the boss was angling for Moulitsas's support. "You like what they're saying when they're coming in, but you don't know what they're going to do once you let them into your house." Newt Gingrich, who wins points even from liberal bloggers for his political acumen, marvels at the Democrats' embrace of the blogosphere: "Candidates out there run a risk of resembling the people they're trying to appeal to," he tells NEWSWEEK. "I think the Republican Party has few allies more effective than the Daily Kos."...

The pressure on Moulitsas — to be consistent, to be pragmatic, to win — will only grow as the fall elections approach. Already, the strain of the spotlight is beginning to show in his growing belligerence and paranoia. When Kosola broke, Moulitsas e-mailed fellow progressive activists, wondering who might be shopping the story. "I've gotten reliable tips that Hillary's operation has been digging around my past (something I confronted them about, btw, and never got a denial), and you know the Lieberman/DLC/TNR camp is digging as well," he wrote, referring to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and The New Republic.
Kos's writing style -- which has obviously served him well as a blogger up to this point -- sounds angry and crazed to the outsider. It's easy to get him to react with "belligerence and paranoia," and the more successful he is, the more Democrats are motivated to marginalize and disqualify him. Those he's accused of "digging around in my past" have denied that they're doing it, but, really, why wouldn't they be doing it? And why wouldn't part of their strategy be to make him think that they are so they can lure him into displaying more of that "belligerence and paranoia"?

So I assume there is a conspiracy and a strategy to investigate Kos. And it's so easy to do because it can succeed even if it fails to turn anything up, because it will provoke him, and when he reacts, they'll all say he's paranoid, belligerent. Escort that man back outside the gate.

But why is Althouse saying all this? Is she trying to stoke his paranoia and lead him into the very pitfall she's identified? Is she nonpartisan and just calling them as she sees them? Or is she just saying that because she knows that's the kind of assertion that Kos folk are least likely to believe? And is that one more reason to suspect there's a big plot? Look at that line she boldfaced up there. There's a Republican plot and a Democratic plot all converging on poor Mr. Moulitsas.

And if he exhibits these suspicions, he's going to look crazy. And you know what they do to you once they have the material to make you look ca-ray-zee.

"Islam's Ann Coulter."

An op-ed (by a rabbi) about Wafa Sultan (whom we talked about a few months ago, when she made a big splash):
As I experienced the fervor sparked by Sultan's anti-Muslim tirade and stoked by a roomful of apparently unsuspecting Jews, I thought: What if down the street there was a roomful of Muslims listening to a self-loathing Jew, cheering her on as she spoke of the evils inherent in the Torah, in which it is commanded that a child must be stoned to death if he insults his parents, in which Israelites are ordered by God to conquer cities and, in so doing, to kill all women and children — and this imagined Jew completely ignored all of what Judaism teaches afterward?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream."

Luc Sante reviews Robert Greenfield's new biography of Timothy Leary:
He was initially known as an expert on personality assessment, but, while on a sojourn in Mexico the following year, he was introduced to psilocybin mushrooms, and the experience was so transformative that psychedelics promptly became the central force in his life, his research and his teaching....

It wasn't long before any pretense to scientific detachment fell away and controlled experiments were chucked in favor of missionary zeal and contempt for all mundane exigencies. Chaotic tripping parties ensued, involving students, under "spiritual" or "philosophical" pretexts.
Teachers involving their students in spiritual exercises? Now, that is outrageous. But he lost his position as a Harvard professor soon enough.
[T]he psychedelic caravan picked up the Hitchcock siblings, Peggy, Billy and Tommy, heirs to the Mellon fortune, and through them acquired the use of a fabulous rambling house and huge estate in Millbrook, N.Y. This became the headquarters of Leary and gang for the better part of five years, a period filled with endless parties, epiphanies and breakdowns, emotional dramas of all sizes.... It was also at Millbrook that Leary, [Richard] Alpert and Ralph Metzner wrote "The Psychedelic Experience" (1964), which contained the injunction to "turn off your mind, relax, float downstream," appropriated two years later by John Lennon for "Tomorrow Never Knows," the last song on "Revolver."...

[H]e had no interest in politics. He called student activists "young men with menopausal minds" and suggested that LSD could stand for "Let the State Disintegrate." But by 1968, his slogans were so poised between derangement and Madison Avenue that they could pass for visionary; "Everyone should start their own nation," he uttered, just days after Martin Luther King's assassination. It was awfully hard to tell charlatans from prophets at the time, and besides, the denatured, anti-intellectual language that dominated discourse then (and is still with us, in a New Age guise) had been rolling off Leary's tongue since before he had ingested a single microgram of lysergic acid: people engaged in emotional "games"; all the world's bad stuff was a "system"; the state of being clued-in was "consciousness," and so on.
Oh, that's painful to read! We Baby Boomers were steeped in this stuff -- whether we took LSD or not. I think it had much more impact than the SDS material that also soddened my generation.

Read the whole review. The plot of Leary's life is convoluted. At one point, he's in Algiers, in the care of Eldridge Cleaver. ("It was a new experience for me to be dependent on a strong, variable, sexually restless, charismatic leader who was insanely erratic. I usually played that role myself.") But it's this that makes me want to read the book:
[T]he book provides a crash course in several aspects of 60's culture: its often gaseous rhetoric, its reliance on mahatmas and soothsayers, its endless bail-fund benefits and sometimes dubious appeals to conscience, its thriving population of informers, its contribution to the well-being of lawyers, its candyland expectations and obstinate denials of reality, its fatal avoidance of critical thinking, its squalid death by its own hand. That still leaves many meritorious elements largely outside Leary's sphere: civil rights, the antiwar movement, music and art, the impulse toward communitarianism, to name a few. In part because of Leary, however, ideals and delusions were encouraged to interbreed, their living progeny being avid consumerism and toothless dissent.
Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream....

Inside the Sigma Phi House.

Hey, it's another architectural tour. Yes, it's a frat house -- an inhabited frat house -- but the place was designed by Louis Sullivan. (It's also only two blocks from where I live.)

The main sitting room:

The Sigma Phi House

The dining room:

The Sigma Phi House

The porch swing:

The Sigma Phi House

A light fixture:

The Sigma Phi House

A fireplace:

The Sigma Phi House

The whole photoset.

5 million!

The Site Meter is getting awfully close to 5 million. That's pretty cool. But I'm not offering a prize for the 5 millionth visitor, nor am I starting a fan club.

"The car has broke down. The chicks have buttoned up their shirts and put their guns away. The midget has gone home."

It's Aaron Spelling Tribute Day over at Faster Than the World.
Next time you make a reference to Tattoo yelling at some plane, think of this man. For he was the one who put that reference in your mind. Hats off to Aaron Spelling today and flags at half mast. Our leader of campy TV and cleavage has died. No more car chases. No more gun toting chicks with their tits hanging out. No more midget asking if he was doing "ok" to his boss.
UPDATE: Quote edited to match editing at the link.

How I know that crossword solvers google.

I'm getting an immense amount of action on this old post, as the NYT puzzle from May 13th appears in other papers today. Funny that it's all about feeling "unbearably unhappy."

UPDATE: I should fish for future traffic: Neroli oil source! 1953 Eartha Kitt hit! "Diamonds Are Forever" soundtrack! Featured performer in Berlioz's "Harold in Italy"! Women's rights pioneer! Composer of about 600 sonatas! A wind killed her! I answer all in the comments.

"Pesto bong?"

Incomprehensible wedding gifts. My prediction, based on personal experience: The day will come when you'll want to sell your oversized residence and go live in a practical smaller space. All that stuff you've got tucked away in your vast storage/display space will go right into trash bags. You'll take one second to decide whether to save or toss each item, and anything you can't understand will be instant garbage, and you'll wonder why you failed to take out the trash for a quarter of a century.

"And so I know now I'm on a different plane."

Byron York quotes Markos Moulitsas. Mickey Kaus piles on (amusingly). But let's look at the quote:
This week has been a very interesting week for me. And I know I have sort of arrived in a scary way, because now I'm not being attacked for what I've said and done. People are making stuff up about me now. They're inventing things. And so I know now I'm on a different plane.
This does have an awfully strange kooky tone to it. I'm on a different plane... No one I think is in my tree... Amerika hates her crazies.
But this is the world we live in. There are people who have a vested interest in the status quo. There are people who don't want to see things change because they're not used to things changing. They know the world. It's comfortable. It's cozy. If they read the media, the media's not going to tell them what we're all about. Howard Dean thought we were all young. I'm not sure where he got that, because he should have known better. Hillary Clinton came up and she quoted the netroots based on something a conservative said. They need to live it for themselves. They need to become part of it, because this is an integral part of American politics now, and that's not going to change.
We are forces of chaos and anarchy/Everything they say we are we are/And we are very/Proud of ourselves....
And the beauty of it is at the end of the day, they can take me down. They can take Jerome Armstrong down. They can take down Atrios. They can take down any of the so-called leaders in the movement and it doesn't matter, because this is not a leaderless movement. I used to say this was a leaderless movement, and I was wrong. It's not a leaderless movement; it's a everybody-who's-part-of-it-is-a-leader. And so you can take any single individual down, and it will continue to live on.
A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then... Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.
I write in our book, I write, basically, the establishment Democrats have three choices. One, they can join us, and a lot of people have, people like Simon Rosenberg. They can get out of the way. Or we're going to roll them. Because quite frankly we're tired of losing, and we're not going to do that anymore. And so there is a lot of energy, there's a lot of passion out in the rest of the country and we're going to be working hard with those who want to work with us to take this country forward to what it really needs to be, not what it has become.
Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don't stand in the doorway/Don't block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled/There's a battle outside/And it is ragin'.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of stuff, but my LOL favorite is -- re "And so I know now I'm on a different plane":
Are there any motherf***ing snakes on that plane?
AND ELSEWHERE: Rand Simberg felt a similar vibe.

Michael Jackson onstage with Bob Dylan?

That's the rumor. Jackson is said to be in Kilkenny, Ireland, ready to do a cameo performance at Bob Dylan's concert there tonight. If the man is physically and mentally strong enough to appear on a stage, maybe he can find his way back to the artistically productive life he once had.


"...hardly bombers." I love Daily News headlines, but, really, what's the suggestion here? That because these guys were such idiots to have gotten caught so early in their plot that they would never have done much harm? Al Qaeda are a bunch of boobs if you look back far enough into the past. The familar videos of them training on monkeybars or spouting kooky religious theories would be hilarious if they'd never killed anyone.

IN THE COMMENTS: PatCA has this:
In 1993 when I read about the goofballs who bombed the WTC, who were so dumb they wrote the correct names and addresses on the van rental, I just laughed! Talk about dumb. I mean, really, what a bunch of idiots! We went to their apartment, arrested them right away and put them in prison. HAHAHAHAHA. Piece of cake, this jihad BS.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I'll make nice to the kitty cats today.

I've been a little hard on the kitties lately -- with good reason. But it's Friday, and what the hell.

Here I am, somewhere in the distant past. The place -- you can read it on the milk box. The decade -- well, we all had milk boxes then.

Me with an unknown cat

More recently, I actually owned a cat. Here's little Chris holding it.

Chris and Ramona

Hey, do you think that cat is one of these?

"Americans have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago."

USAToday reports:
In 1985, the average American had three people in whom to confide matters that were important to them, says a study in today's American Sociological Review. In 2004, that number dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants at all....

The study finds fewer contacts are from clubs and neighbors; people are relying more on family, a phenomenon documented in the 2000 book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, a Harvard public policy professor.

The percentage of people who confide only in family increased from 57% to 80%, and the number who depend totally on a spouse is up from 5% to 9%, the study found.
I'm surprised the number who confide only in family is so high, but then why is the number who confide only in their spouse so low? I guess that 80% who confide only in family confide in more than one person, often including a spouse. You can't tell from those statistics what percent of individuals don't confide in their spouses or who confide in only one family member other than a spouse. What percent of Americans confide only in their mothers? More than 9%?
Why people have fewer close friends is unclear, Putnam says. "This is a mystery like Murder on the Orient Express, in which there are multiple culprits."

The chief suspects: More people live in the suburbs and spend more time at work, Putnam says, leaving less time to socialize or join groups.

Also, people have more entertainment tools such as TV, iPods and computers, so they can stay home and tune out.
Yes, what about those blogger characters who confide in the whole world? That's not me. But I'm just saying...

A question I have about the statistics -- and I've only read the news report, not the underlying scholarly article -- is whether the idea of what it means to confide in or rely on someone has changed over time. "The study is based on surveys of 1,531 people in 1985 and 1,467 in 2004," and I'm sure that basically the same questions were asked. But people may think about the questions differently now than they did then. And what it means to be close to other people may have changed. For example, you might be more likely to have someone to talk to about your sex life but less likely to have someone to take you to the doctor. Maybe we've come to accept more professional help for certain kind of problems that we used to rely on friends to help us with.

1985, the year of the original survey, was also the year that "Dionne and Friends" had a big hit with the song "That's What Friends Are For." The recording was made to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and that expressed the notion that "What Friends Are For" is to help you when you're sick and you need comforting and -- let's be frank -- money. But what friends are for is open to question and redefinition. It would be a different sort of study that examined what it means to have friends. You might feel that you have several friends that you can talk to about your deep feelings and aspirations but still think there is no way you'd ever ask them for money or to do your errands when you're in the hospital. That's what family are for.

"A 58-year-old, slump-shouldered Queens genius."

Meet Steven Finkelstein, "an unlikely 'Casanova' who used the smarty-pants club Mensa to meet women and bully them into giving him free digs." Is that a crime? And if he's so smart how come he's going to prison for it? And aren't the Mensa women supposed to be smart too?

Anyway, I love the writing in The Daily News. "The smarty-pants club Mensa" -- that kills me.

"Perhaps it's time to rethink the whole 'law school as default' mentality that infects so many otherwise sane young minds."

Says Cameron Stracher in a piece in Opinion Journal. Smart young people who want to do well but can't figure out exactly what they want to do often go to law school. The theory is they'll at least be progressing toward a real career. Is this such a bad idea? Well, it's very expensive! And it's a lot of work. And if you don't have focused goals, you're quite likely to find yourself bumbling along with the crowd into a job you don't like at all. And having spent all that money and done all that work, you're also going to find it hard to say no to that job. This is all very conventional wisdom among people who have already gone to law school. What does Stracher have to add? Some sobering statistics about how much money law grads actually make and what kinds of jobs they end up in after the all-too-likely law firm phase.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A potato update.


A cat update.

You know, some folks like cats beyond all reason. Me, I was bitten by one yesterday. Readers said we want a photograph. I thought they meant of the wound on my arm. No, they meant:

That's my garden, by the way. My vines, her province.

"Jacob Weisberg is engaging in cynical manipulation of regional and class prejudice in order to enrich himself."

Language Log looks at "Bushisms." The linguistic expertise is appreciated -- go over there and read why it's "regional and class prejudice" -- but keep reading for the economic analysis: lists 17 Bushisms products, including at least five book-length collections, yearly quote-a-day calendars, and various special editions ("The Deluxe Election Edition", etc.). Stacks of Bushism-objects for sale are prominently displayed in most bookstores that I visit. This is not a flash in the publishing pan -- it's been going on for almost six years. Maybe someone who knows the publishing industry better than I do can estimate what Weisberg's royalty payments from this enterprise are like, but I'm pretty confident that they're in the same range as what he makes at his day job as editor of Slate. (I'm assuming that the royalties go to Weisberg as author, and not to Slate as the magazine where the Bushisms were originally published -- the copyright pages read "Copyright 200X by Jacob Weisberg")....

[I]sn't there something wrong when a magazine editor, whose job is making judgments about what is and is not worthy of publication, makes much of his income from re-publication of collections of a feature whose instances are so often so spectacularly superfluous? Does anyone think that Jacob Weisberg would consider very many of these "Bushisms" worth the space in his (excellent) magazine and the attention of his readers (which include me), if he wasn't making money from George W. Bushisms, Still More George W. Bushisms, ..., George W. Bushisms V, Bushisms 2006 Day to Day Calendar, etc.; and if he didn't foresee the need to fill the pages of George W. Bushisms VI, the Bushisms 2008 Day to Day Calendar, and on and on? and if he didn't have a personal financial motivation for keeping the Bushisms brand and the Bushisms product line in the public eye?
These are very challenging questions for Weisberg!

"G.O.P. Decides to Embrace War as Issue."

What a strange turnaround!
Just a few weeks ago, some Republicans were openly fretting about the war in Iraq and its effect on their re-election prospects, with particularly vulnerable lawmakers worried that its growing unpopularity was becoming a drag on their campaigns.

But there was little sign of such nervousness on Wednesday as Republican after Republican took to the Senate floor to offer an unambiguous embrace of the Iraq war and to portray Democrats as advocates of an overly hasty withdrawal that would have grave consequences for the security of the United States. Like their counterparts in the House last week, they accused Democrats of espousing "retreat and defeatism."
How did that happen? Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney write:
[P]eople who attended a series of high-level meetings this month between White House and Congressional officials say President Bush's aides argued that it could be a politically fatal mistake for Republicans to walk away from the war in an election year.

White House officials including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, outlined ways in which Republican lawmakers could speak more forcefully about the war. Participants also included Mr. Bush's top political and communications advisers: his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove; his political director, Sara Taylor; and the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett. Mr. Rove is newly freed from the threat of indictment in the C.I.A. leak case, and leaders of both parties see his reinvigorated hand in the strategy.

The meetings were followed by the distribution of a 74-page briefing book to Congressional offices from the Pentagon to provide ammunition for what White House officials say will be a central line of attack against Democrats from now through the midterm elections: that the withdrawal being advocated by Democrats would mean thousands of troops would have died for nothing, would give extremists a launching pad from which to build an Islamo-fascist empire and would hand the United States its must humiliating defeat since Vietnam.

Republicans say the cumulative effect would be to send a message of weakness to the world at a time of new threats from Iran and North Korea and would leave enemies controlling Iraq's vast oil reserves, the third largest in the world. (The book, including a chapter entitled "Rapid Response" with answers to frequent Democratic charges, was sent via e-mail to Republican lawmakers but, in an apparent mistake, also to some Democrats.)
Great strategy... except that last part. (Email is always breaking loose.) And let me say that it's not just a good political strategy, it's actually the correct analysis of the war.
A senior adviser to Mr. Bush said the White House had concluded that it was better to plunge aggressively into the debate on Iraq than to let Democrats play upon clear, public misgivings about the war. "This is going to be a big issue in this election," said the adviser, who was granted anonymity in exchange for agreeing to describe strategic considerations about the war. "Better to shape and fight it — as good and strongly as you can — than to try to run away from it."
Interesting the way the attitude toward political strategy resembles the attitude toward fighting the war itself. It seems to reinforce the impression that the Republicans are the ones to trust on national security. And, apparently, this impression was clear enough that it shocked the Democrats out of a position that they thought was great.

So, that email escaping into Democratic hands... was that an accident? The Democrat who got the the email was Nancy Pelosi.

What Senators do for fun.

In an interview with GQ, Russ Feingold talks about Hillary Clinton, whom he traveled to Iraq with (along with John McCain):
What was it like traveling with Hillary?

It was a blast.

(That would be your question too, right?)
It was a great group. First of all, to be able to sit there and watch Hillary Clinton and John McCain just shoot the breeze? I mean, I felt like, whatever I had to do to get here? It was worth it.
Still not clear why it was "a blast."
Did they like each other, Hillary and McCain?

I think so. Absolutely. She was fun. She’s got a great sense of humor.
This is like trying to talk to your kids about how school was today. Short answers. No details.
Tell me how. Give me an example.
Yeah, please.
She likes to laugh. If somebody says something outrageous, she pursues it and makes them defend it. Or she can give them a hard time, which I really enjoy. I remember one night she said, “That’s enough work—let’s hear some good stories.” I can’t give you all the details. [smiles]
So I guess I just have to construct my own picture here. Somebody says something, and she makes them defend it. And Russ is looking on having a grand time. Well, I guess the somebody is McCain. And the "something outrageous" is some Republican idea that liberals don't like. And old Hillary "pursues it," just keeps questioning the old guy. Hilarious. What Senators do for fun.
Did she pack more than everybody else?

What’s that?

Did she pack more than everybody else?

[laughs] That would be a dangerous area for me to get into, because I may pack a little more than I should.

So you pack like a girl?

There would be those who would say that. And it would not be the easiest thing to deny.
Hey, it's GQ.
Let’s talk about this twice-divorced thing.


How much of a political liability do you think it will be?

I have no idea. If it is, so be it. That’s up to the people to decide.
What can he say? It is what it is. Which is, obviously a big political liability.
What’s it like to be a single senator?

It’s new to me. You sort of end up working a whole lot. There’s a tendency to let the time get filled up. So I’ve been very careful—

So you’ve become less social?

No, probably more social, in the sense that because you don’t have a spouse—see, when you’re married, you really feel an obligation to spend all that available time with your spouse if you can. I’m able to spend more time with more people now. I’m reconnecting with a lot of people and old friends.


Um, that’s, uh, classified?

Are there women throwing themselves at you?

I certainly wouldn’t say that. [smiles] I’m not gonna say that.

You know, there’ve been some legendary single senators.

Yeah, I know. I’m not aspiring to be in that hall of fame.
You're not going to get anything good out of him on questions like that, but his initial response was telling. He just plunges himself into work. Or is that what he's always done -- which could explain two divorces. Note how he reacted to the question "So you’ve become less social?" I think that was purely political. His answer to the previous question may have been quite honest. That "less social" question, though, set off an alarm and he rushed to protect himself. No way does he want to be perceived as a reclusive loner. Obviously, he's got to put a lot of thought into how to present himself with questions like this if he's going to run for President.