Thursday, August 31, 2006

How do you feel about a woman President?

I mean, really. Deep down inside. Don't lie.

UPDATE: A FOX News poll shows 51% of Americans think Hillary Clinton is prepared to be President. That's 75% of Democrats, 24% of Republicans, and 50% of independents. But who knows what that says about whether people think a woman can be President? I never feel that anyone is ready to be President. Every single time a new person is designated to become President, I've found it incomprehensible that that person could be President. This is a feeling I've had nine times.

Not quite fall semester.

What are you going to do on the last day in August, here in Madison, Wisconsin?

Get started on the reading out at the end of a pier, with Lake Mendota lapping up all around you and sailboats bobbing in the distance.

Campus, pre-semester

Work on that garden.

Allen Centennial Garden

Catch up on your sleep.

Campus, pre-semester

Choose a path.

Campus, pre-semester

Turn over a new leaf.

Allen Centennial Garden


Allen Centennial Garden

A restaurant question.

Ever go to a restaurant and know that something is wrong with the food -- for example, that it was cooked in rancid oil -- but you eat it anyway, as if you had a second brain controlling your actions that did not know what your real brain knew? And then afterwards, you wonder why in hell you do things like that?

ADDED: I should say, the restaurant in question was not the place I featured in a post yesterday. And if you're a Madison restauranteur wondering if I'm talking about you, don't check your credit card receipts. I was there today, but I paid cash.

Where are all the student war protests?

Andrew Rosenthal asks:
Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson — in so many ways a powerful, progressive president — out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush — in so many ways a weak, regressive president — was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.

There was a brief burst of protest when America first invaded Iraq. But if there is a college movement against the war, it’s hiding pretty well. Vietnam never had the moral clarity that the 9/11 attacks provided to this generation’s war. But in Iraq that proved to be a false clarity, and a majority of Americans now say they oppose the war and no longer trust Mr. Bush’s leadership of it.
I've long wondered about this. I was a student on the University of Michigan campus from 1969 to 1973, and I've been here at the University of Wisconsin campus throughout the present era, so I have lots of strong first-hand perceptions. The atmosphere now is completely different. I walk through the main crossroads of campus -- the Library Mall -- nearly every day, and I see virtually no anti-war activity. I see some environmental efforts, as individuals with clipboards ask me if I "have a minute for the environment." (What kind of clod says "no"? You don't have one minute? No!)

By contrast, I saw 20,000 people gather in the Library Mall a few days after 9/11 for a memorial, and 800 people showed up this past weekend to demonstrate against an irrelevant bunch of fools who called themselves Nazis. But efforts to get an in-person anti-war demonstration going around here are amazingly unsuccessful. Here's a wan little display I photographed last November. If there were more things going on, I would photograph them, I assure you. I'm not seeing student speakers in the Mall trying to assemble an audience. Occasionally, some group tries to get something going with sidewalk chalkings and some music on the Mall, but students walk past, going about their own business. I am not seeing the outward expression anger and outrage among the students.

Rosenthal points to polls that indicate indicate that a majority of Americans oppose the war and don't trust Bush, but mere opposition doesn't necessarily translate into the kind of anger and outrage that we felt on campus in the Vietnam days. These polls may express a sad disappointment that things didn't turn out better or simply a statement of belief that we are not winning.

IN THE COMMENTS: As I expected -- it was in the Rosenthal piece too -- many say that the draft made the difference, but a set of multiple causes is developed in the comments.

It's interesting to see how many people think that today's would-be demonstrators are substituting internet activities. (That makes it so easy for people who want to ignore them to ignore them.)

I think a key point is that in the Vietnam era, young people romanticized the enemy and even imagined that its ideology might be an improvement on our bad old materialistic society. Communism seemed to fit with the Age of Aquarius. But Islamofascism is alien to American youth culture. I don't think many kids today are going around thinking: Would it really be so bad if the other side won?

Another good point is that a peace demonstration in the Vietnam era had big social and sexual benefits. It was fun and -- commenters keep saying -- a great place to meet women who had joined the sexual revolution. Going to a peace rally requires more anger and grim determination.

Hurricane John.

They're just getting around to the name "John" after all these years?

Trump fired Carolyn Kepcher!

Oh no!
"She became a prima donna," said one insider. "Being on 'The Apprentice' went to her head. She was no longer focused on business. She was giving speeches for $25,000 and doing endorsements."...

"George has been around a long time. He's seen everything. He didn't get excited even when women on the street started screaming when they saw him on his way to work," said one source. "But Carolyn took it very seriously. She thought she was a freaking movie star."...

"Trump told her what she had to do was take some time off and spend it with her family, and then get another job," said an insider. "They have a great relationship."
Well, really, why should Carolyn have to be bothered with running Trump National Golf Club? That was the job you know. And she may not be a freaking movie star, but she's a freaking TV star. On the other hand, how many tough blondes does Trump need on the show? He's got Ivanka, and much as we "Apprentice" fans love Carolyn, we also love Ivanka.

Meanwhile, Carolyn has her book, "Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from 'The Apprentice's' Straight Shooter," and her speaking tours, and plenty of money. It's just beneath her to be running a golf course. Though it is kind of embarrassing to get kicked off the show. I've got to think making room for Ivanka was part of it.

"This week, he's Satan. He's trying to scare away as many people as he can while also encouraging them. He's hard-core."

That would be UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone at UW Marching Band boot camp (as described by a young tuba player):
It was day two of band boot camp - a four-day endurance test that will forever bond the 280 students who get picked for the UW Marching Band. It's a sweaty, stressful rite of passage, designed to cull the weak from the herd.

"Some people will walk off the field in the first 10 minutes," said Chris Hanson, 22, a senior tuba player. "The next day, only about 70 percent of the freshmen come back."...

Anyone with high school band experience can take part in the four-day tryout. Each freshman gets an audition with eckrone and endures five hours of marching drills and two hours of music rehearsals daily.

About half of the 160 freshmen will end up in the band.
Very nice. I've been listening to these guys practice -- and play in the stadium -- through the open windows of my house for more than 20 years.

The politics of campaign finance law.

Mark Green, the Republican candidate for governor has to somehow divest his campaign of $468,000:
The state Elections Board today ordered Mark Green to divest his campaign of any contributions from PACs that were not registered in Wisconsin when the donations were made....

The board, on a 5-2 vote, gave Green 10 days to comply with its order....

"The State Elections Board confirmed today what we knew all along – that it was wrong for Congressman Mark Green to violate state law and transfer his dirty $1.3 million to use in his bid for Governor," [Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Joe] Wineke said. "There is no doubt that Green’s transfer violates Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws – and the State Elections Board confirmed that once again today."

Since Green converted the funds, the Elections Board has passed a rule to prohibit future transfers from federal accounts to state funds.
Any campaign finance experts out there who can explain this? Did the Board get it right?

Here's Green's statement:
Today's decision is emblematic of the corruption that has invaded state government under Jim Doyle. Under Jim Doyle government decisions are made to benefit his campaign interests - while the taxpayers get the short end of the stick.

Jim Doyle's allies on the State Election Board defied their own attorney's legal advice, state law and basic principles of fairness in their effort to help the struggling campaign of Governor Doyle. The Election's Board action is literally trying to change 25 years of rules two months before Election Day - to affect only Mark Green....
Doyle's statement:
Congressman Green has been caught violating Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. He should own up to it, and he should do exactly what the State Elections Board has instructed him to do – which is to get rid of this dirty money.

What this ruling shows is that Congressman Green will do just about anything to further his personal ambition, even violating the letter and the spirit of our campaign finance laws.
So now this becomes a campaign issue, with both sides spinning it, and what citizen understands campaign finance law enough to do anything but respond instinctively as each candidate tries to make the other guy look dirty?

IN THE COMMENTS: Icepick says, "Ugh. Why is it that everytime we get more 'Campaign Finance Reform', the more corrupt everyone involved looks?"

Making Pinocchio, Huckleberry Finn, and Heidi into Muslims

In Turkey, they're giving schoolkids a book full of Western stories touched up to make characters like Pinocchio, Huckleberry Finn, and Heidi into Muslims. (Via Memeorandum.) I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a traditional story from one culture and rewriting it putting the characters into a different culture. It can be confusing and bad art if you just slap on a few details and don't change the whole context, but there's a long tradition of passing around folk tales.

The bigger problem is bringing religion into government-run schools. Turkey "has been a strongly secular state since the 1920s." But before you get upset about depicting Heidi praying to Allah, you should consider whether you accept American public schools giving kids the Heidi story without expunging her praying. (I'm assuming Heidi prays in the original.) Should religion be censored from works of fiction used in public schools in the United States? If you think not, will you argue that the rule should be different in Turkey, because the state has a historical tradition and a real threat to ward off?

Complaining about the "diversity dogmatists."

Jeff Jacoby has a column in the Boston Globe railing about the way "diversity dogmatists" have imposed requirement on school textbooks to depict disabled children and children of different races and ethnic groups (and have also banned some stereotypical images like Asians in glasses and Mexicans in sombreros).
By reducing "diversity" to something as shallow and meaningless as appearance, they reinforce the most dehumanizing stereotypes of all -- those that treat people first and foremost as members of racial, ethnic, or social groups. Far from acknowledging the genuine complexity and variety of human life, the diversity dogmatists deny it. Is it any wonder that their methods so often lead to unhappy and unhealthy results?
I think Jacoby is overdoing it here. I don't know why textbooks need to have so many illustrations and photographs in them in the first place, but that's a different issue. If you are going to fill up the pages with pictures of kids instead of useful information and analysis, you might as well display diversity and of course you should avoid the stereotypes.

When I went to school, we were constantly looking at pictures of Dick, Jane, Sally, and Mother and Father, and they were all white and complete stereotypes of the blandest possible middle class American life. The diversity pictures of today are just a variation on the idea well-meaning adults have that they must feed inoffensive pablum to kids. I don't see how it's unhealthy in the way Jacoby is talking about though. We're talking about pictures. Of course, they're going to show what things look like on the surface.

There is another, more serious matter that Jacoby touches on, which is the manipulation of the text to favor "diversity" stories:
[W]hen reality conflicts with political correctness, reality gets the boot.

So, on occasion, does historical perspective, as for example when a McGraw-Hill US history text devoted a profile and photograph to Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot -- but neglected even to mention Wilbur and Orville Wright. "A company spokesman," the Journal reports dryly, "said the brothers had been left out inadvertently."
I'm taking that phrase "on occasion" to mean Jacoby didn't encounter enough of this sort of thing to highlight in his column. (Note what he does highlight: the terribly unshocking news that the children photographed in wheelchairs are often models who aren't -- as Jacoby politically incorrectly puts it -- "confined to wheelchairs.") There's nothing wrong with finding some heroines and heroes to offer some special inspiration to some children. But you can't do it too much or it's just obvious propaganda that isn't even going to work. It's fine to get out the message to young kids that, for example, a black woman can be a pilot.

When I went to school there was nothing like that. In fact, I was never given a shred of information that women could do anything not traditionally female. I can tell you horror stories, like the way my trigonometry teacher advised me not to take calculus because it's "for engineers" -- without the slightest acknowledgement that I might consider becoming an engineer (and I was the best student in her class).

But a textbook shouldn't be stuffed with inspirational material. It should make the subject itself an inspiration. Showing me a woman pilot is one thing, but making aviation fascinating is much more effective (and educational). Seeing a lady in a lab coat smiling at a test tube might tip you off that a woman can be a scientist, but the textbook ought to engage students to read and understand the science itself. A kid ought to decide to become a scientist out of real interest in science, not because she has become enamored of the image of herself as a scientist.

If you want to talk about happiness -- few things can make you as happy as genuine, deep interest in your work. Quit luring us into the shallow, narcissistic existence where we only think about how we look doing something. Make us see what is so intrinsically compelling about the work .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Project Runway."

The challenge -- designing a "jet set" outfit for yourself -- was rather unfair, since the men got stuck designing men's clothes, and the designers all specialize in women's clothes. And the challenge was also a little boring. The most interesting thing was the ongoing tension from last week's show, where Jeffrey had to design for Angela's mother, who was whiny and had a bad figure (and may have been trying to make Jeffrey lose). Jeffrey took to taunting Angela, trying to rattle her. In the end, Angela lost -- deservedly -- and said that she'd learned that you have to know who you are and not let anyone rattle you. I don't know if Jeffrey succeeded in rattling her, but the plane ride to Paris succeeded in wrinkling the knickers she'd sewn for herself, and making clothes that travel well was part of the challenge.

Maybe I'm the only one, but I find myself rooting for that little asshole Jeffrey. He made an outfit he kept telling us was rock and roll, and it did look pretty cool, even after the long plane ride.

Laura, we've learned, is pregnant, and she was wearing 4 inch heels on the runway. The designers were told they had one hour to pack and get to the airport, and they needed to fly in the outfits they had on. Later, we see her in Paris, still in those 4 inch heels. I really did not enjoy seeing them stress out and physically challenge a pregnant woman like that.

Vincent, who started off the season seeming too crazy to be on the show, ended up making the sanest thing. Acually, I thought he'd lose because it was so plain. But it went through the travel part of the challenge quite well.

Kayne... they must love Kayne... because his outfit was really tacky. They kept saying it was going to be too Liberace, but then in the end, they just said it was Elvis. So that was an accomplishment, right?

Reflections at Fresco.

Long shadows at 5 o'clock on Block 200. I'm looking down from high atop MMoCA:

At Fresco

The students are back in Madison, and nearly everyone on State Street is young and beautiful.

I'm up in the restaurant, Fresco, at one of the indoor tables, taking photos through the window reflections...

At Fresco

At Fresco


At Fresco

Above the Law.

David Lat -- late of UnderneathTheir Robes, later of Wonkette -- is back, with a new blog project called Above the Law. And he thinks I'm a machine.

A throbbing artery gave Warren Jeffs away!

That and the salad eating.

"Warned not to 'bland down'" Katie Couric "to the level of Condoleezza Rice at a G8 summit."

Styling for serious sincerity without crossing the line into seriosity. It's quite the challenge. But why pick on Condi? She's fashion perfect!

On starting early.

You wake up and look at the clock and see it's really early. What's the earliest you're willing to interpret as time to get up as opposed to feeling that you really must get back to sleep? Maybe you factor in how long you've just slept. It seems to make sense to say if I've slept at least 5 hours, no time is too early. But, personally, I'd always drawn a line at 4 a.m. Today, though, I got up at 3. That seemed ridiculous, but I was utterly awake. It annoyed me at first, because I had one key project I needed to finish today, and I was afraid of hitting the wall. As it turned out, I was focusing really clearly on the project in those pre-dawn hours, made a breakthrough I couldn't even think of yesterday, and got the whole thing done by 7 a.m.

So that just goes to show... something... But what?

That found time is especially productive? That the pre-dawn hours have some magic? That a whole day can be cleared for some use other than the one you had planned if you only get up earlier? That ambiguities between day and night should be resolved in favor of day?

Or are you thinking how you hate morning people?

The accomplished task was finishing the syllabus for my Religion and the Constitution class, which begins next Tuesday. Yes, we do start late here. Labor Day weekend is big in Wisconsin, which, you may not know, regards itself as a resort state. But the students are already coming back for the pre-semester activities. Yesterday was the first day that the law school was full of students again, which really is a very nice feeling. Another thing that makes me feel great every fall is the UW Marching Band practicing off in the distance, which I can hear from my house. Not at the moment, however, of course. It's still early.

Small additional task done: culling the blogroll. I took some defunct blogs off the list. Some of these were among my very favorite blogs, but I don't want to send readers over to inactive blogs. Don't take it personally! Let me know if you gear up again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"The Constitution can be interpreted in a way that, you know, protects civil liberties adequately but doesn't cripple our counterterrorist effort."

I'm listening to the interview with Judge Posner on the Glenn & Helen Show podcast. He's got a new book, "Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency." Advocating the "flexible" interpretation of the Constitution, he says (in the interview):
I think if judges were more knowledgeable about the terrorist threat, they would see how the Constitution can be interpreted in a way that, you know, protects civil liberties adequately but doesn't cripple our counterterrorist effort.
Of course, there's a lot of flexibility in putting it that way, using "adequately" and "cripple."

The key problem for Judge Posner is the " imbalance" in what our "generalist" judges know:
The judges think they know lot about civil liberties, and they don't know anything about terrorism, so when they're confronted with a civil liberties issue involving terrorism, they're much more likely to give weight to the civil liberties concerns, because that's what they know about than the terrorist concerns, which they don't know about.
Some judges, he notes, will deal with their lack of knowledge by deferring to what the government wants to do, but most don't.

There's lots more in the interview. Go listen.

IN THE COMMENTS: JohnF writes (aptly!):
The podcast Ann links to is absolutely terrific. It's pretty much all Posner. I think summarizing it cannot do it justice, but here are some of the points he makes, in addition to the ones Ann quotes:

1. There are two prevalent metaphors for dealing with the terror threat -- all out war (the WWII metaphor) or police action (the crime metaphor). However, unlike WWII, we can't always tell who the enemy is; and our criminal justice system is designed not to prevent all crime, but to control it to acceptable levels. We need an approach gauged to prevention.

2. The worst thing that could happen to civil liberties is another attack. Many civil libertarians lose sight of this.

3. Many civil libertarians are in denial. They must diminish the severity of the threat in order to be convincing that the government needn't be as active as it is trying to be.

4. People never had the degree of privacy they have now (he gives telegraphs and party telephone lines as examples). Moreover, people today give up their privacy routinely and often in trivial circumstances. Whenever you order from Amazon, you are aware a database is being tweaked about you; all your emails from your employer are totally open to his inspection, etc. A small reduction now is not a big price to pay.

5. His suggestion: (a) liberal government surveillance for national security, (b) no use of anything discovered during the surveillance for any purpose (i.e. prosecution) beyond national security, and (c) careful records kept of the surveillance that would be reviewed by some one, e.g., some Congressional committee, to insure the surveillance was being done for national security purposes. He recognizes that there could be abuses, but believes they would be minor.

In all, it was a fascinating talk, with very engaging discussions of some foreign approaches to security, some English history, and a brief discussion of current events in terrorism, from Heathrow to Judge Taylor.

Free and legal music downloads.

Isn't this where we will have to end up? The solution is to make the money through advertising, the same solution that we've already arrived at to support giving text away for nothing.
In spite of iTunes' popularity, a report released last month by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries revealed that there are still roughly 40 illegal downloads for every legal one as consumers continue to flock to peer-to-peer networks.

"Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling," said Robin Kent, who is SpiralFrog's chief executive and the former head of the Universal McCann advertising agency. "SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site."

Customers will be able to download an unlimited number of Universal songs to their computer and one other device. They will not be able to transfer those songs onto a compact disc, and they must visit the site at least once a month to maintain access to their music

“They teach poor women how to humble themselves in front of their husbands... but they’re teaching upper-class women how to influence politics."

The NYT has a front-page article about women's prayer groups in Syria.
The girls at the madrasa say that by plunging more deeply into their faith, they learn to understand their rights within Islam....

“People mistake tradition for religion,” [16-year-old tutor Enas al-Kaldi] said. “Men are always saying, ‘Women can’t do that because of religion,’ when in fact it is only tradition. It’s important for us to study so that we will know the difference.”

Poison and fiction.

Michiko Kakutani reviews Jonathan Franzen's new memoir -- "The Discomfort Zone" -- and seems rather horrified to gaze upon the character that is the novelist. Me, I'm extremely fascinated, especially by what most upsets Kakutani, his "doomed marriage":
[H]e describes the judgmental outlook that he and his wife shared for many years: “Deploring other people — their lack of perfection — had always been our sport.”

... Mr. Franzen writes that he and his wife “lived on our own little planet,” spending “superhuman amounts of time by ourselves.” He fills his journals with transcripts of fights they’ve had, and writes that they both “reacted to minor fights at breakfast by lying facedown on the floor of our respective rooms for hours at a time, waiting for acknowledgment of our pain.” “I wrote poisonous jeremiads to family members who I felt had slighted my wife,” he adds, while “she presented me with handwritten fifteen-and twenty page analyses of our condition; I was putting away a bottle of Maalox every week.”
Kakutani can't figure out why anyone would want to consume what the author himself acknowledges to be poison. Maybe you prefer the nature of the novelist to be processed into a work of fiction. You prefer poison cooked up into something more delectable, like "The Corrections." I prefer to see that the poison is poison.

The crime of bad housekeeping.

The conviction of Judith Scruggs -- whose son killed himself -- was overturned yesterday. The charge was putting her child at risk by creating an unhealthy and unsafe home, and the evidence was entirely about her housekeeping:
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that prosecutors could not point to “objective standards for determining the point at which housekeeping becomes so poor that an ordinary person should know that it poses an unacceptable risk to the mental health of a child.”
This case is confusing to us, I think, because the boy suffered so much from bullying at school and because we may feel that it is too cruel to go after her when she has already been punished by the loss of her child.

But isn't bad housekeeping a crime at some point when you are taking care of children?

The conservative case against Giuliani.

John Hawkins, worried about the progress Rudy Giuliani is making toward the presidency, spells out the reasons a conservative should oppose him. I expect this to be a list of reasons why I should prefer him. Let's me check it out.

Trying to scare me with this picture?

Sorry! It doesn't work. Rudy's "soft on gay marriage"? Amongst conservatives, that means he's not sufficiently against it. I know plenty of people who might use that expression to mean he's not sufficently in favor of it. I like a candidate in the middle on this issue.

What's the rest of Hawkins's case against Giuliani? He's "strongly pro-abortion." Now, now, nobody's "pro-abortion." It really is a matter of believing the government should stay out of the individual's life when it comes to the decision whether to go through a pregnancy. "Pro-choice" may be a euphemism, but it expresses something important. A non-euphemistic way to put it: pro abortion rights.

Hawkins faults Giuliani for accepting some gun control and for taking a moderate position on immigration. These aren't my issues. I see other people getting fired up or manipulated over them. I just want sensible people to make sophisticated policy decisions.

Hawkins raises the question of the nasty divorce, and I agree that looks bad. It would be better to have someone who's squeaky clean, but I don't think it should be disqualifying, because you will exclude too many of the vigorous, virile men if you get too prissy here.

Finally, Hawkins argues the electability point:
[A]s a candidate, he offers almost nothing to social conservatives, without whom a victory for George Bush in 2004 wouldn't have been possible. If the choice in 2008 comes down to a Democrat and a pro-abortion, soft on gay marriage, left-of-center candidate on social issues -- like Rudy -- you can be sure that millions of "moral values voters" will simply stay home and cost the GOP the election.

The other issue is in the South. George Bush swept every Southern state in 2000 and 2004, which is quite an impressive feat when you consider that the Democrats had Southerner Al Gore at the top of the ticket in 2000 and John Edwards as the veep in 2004. Unfortunately, a pro-abortion, soft on gay marriage, pro-gun control RINO from New York City just isn't going to be able to repeat that performance. Even against a carpetbagger like Hillary Clinton, it's entirely likely that you'll see at least 2 or 3 states in the South turn from red to blue if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee.

Also, the reason why George Bush's approval numbers have been mired in the high thirties/low forties of late is because he has lost a significant amount of Republican support, primarily because his domestic policies aren't considered conservative enough. Since that's the case, running a candidate who is several steps to Bush's left on domestic policy certainly doesn't seem like a great way to unite the base again.
This makes sense, undeniably. But what about the potential to appeal to people like me who are in the middle? What I like about Giuliani is his ability to embody the strong national security position and to argue for it in clear, persuasive terms, without bringing along that social conservative baggage. All those people who vote for Democrats, are they doing it because they are into the party and all it seems to stand for? Or are they put off by the social conservatives on the other side? The social conservatives like Hawkins want Republicans to be afraid to find out.

IN THE COMMENTS: Paul A'Barge writes:
I'm not in the middle. I'm so far to the right, I have a neck ache from trying to see what the DIMocRATs are up to. And, I'd vote for Rudy in a nanosecond.

Rudy has heart and he has a pair.

As a country, we can figure out the abortion, gay, and immigration thing. But, we can't survive without someone who gives at least enough of a fig to be willing to slaughter our enemies.

Rudy turned down that money from that Saudi monster. To me, he beats even GWB on security.

Bring it on, Rudy. I'm there for you!
That's important. I voted for Bush because of national security even though he didn't satisfy me on the social issues. I'm glad to see it works the other way around.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Barbie is a very proper lady and she is not happy about being portrayed as something that she isn't."

"We are going to sue and we hope that this teaches people a lesson. Also, Barbie is 46 years old, she should be respected!" So said a spokesperson for Mattel, explaining why it's threatening to sue the Brazilian artist Karin Schwarz for her exhibit of photos depicting Barbie as a lesbian.

Isn't the whole point of a doll that you impose your imagination on it and play out the fantasies that are in your mind? It's inherent in the nature of dolls. How can Mattel now claim that Barbie somehow comes with restrictions? Or are they saying, do what you want in private, but don't display photographs recording how you chose to play with your dolls?

Go to Flickr and search for the tag "Barbie doll." Are you going to sue all these photographers? I'd link to some that I find especially delightful, but I'm afraid it might upset the photographer, so you'll have to explore over there on your own.

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers recommend other artistic works that use Barbie. And Michael Farris says:
This is fairly insane. Barbie and her friends have been used in sex role playing games by kids since they were invented.

What other earthly purpose does Barbie serve if not to fuel kids (half-baked and usually horribly, horribly wrong) ideas about sex?
Elizabeth says: "My childhood Barbies were oh so lesbian."

A man in shorts.

Reading Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons," I was amused to run across this description of a man wearing shorts. (At page 99.)
All that elegance was what made the personage of Dr. Lewin seem so curious. Last week, when the class first met, he had worn a plaid cotton shirt and pants -- nothing remarkable about that. The shirt had had long sleeves, and the pants had been long pants. But this morning he had on a short-sleeved shirt that showed too much of his skinny, hairy arms, and denim shorts that showed too much of this gnarly, hairy legs. He looked for all the world like a seven-year-old who at the touch of a wand had become old, tall, bald on top, and hairy everywhere else, an ossified seven-year-old, a pair of eyeglasses with lenses thick as ice pushed up to the summit of his forehead -- unaccountably addressing thirty college students, at Dupont, no less.

"I have no idea why they like bikes so much. Perhaps the structure reminds them of a tree with thin branches? I don't know."

Larverna! The caterpillars! In Sweden. Scroll through the pictures. Very dramatic and disturbing... but artistic.

We've just spent two weeks watching a kook who figured out a new way to be famous.

The DNA doesn't match in the Jon Benet Ramsey case.

UPDATE: Charges dropped. Why didn't they test the DNA before they went public with the story?

"It was sort of surreal... I've had to pinch myself to say, 'Yeah, you're really here. You're on the Supreme Court. This is really happening.'"

Says Samuel Alito in this long interview. (Via Howard Bashman.)

About the confirmation process:
Self-doubt, he said, was a constant companion. Asked if he ever questioned himself and his pursuit of the high court seat during that period, he replied: "Like every day."
He compares his work on the Supreme Court to his earlier work as a circuit judge:
The intellectual work before the high court is "innovative," he said. There are nine jurists, which makes it harder to build consensus than with the three-judge panels he is accustomed to. On the circuit court, arguments are often made about multiple legal issues and how the law is applied to the circumstances of the case. The high court spends more of its energy on big ideas. All of the cases involve tough legal questions.

"The difference is that in court of appeals the typical case would involve usually a number of issues, maybe three, four, five or 10 issues," he said. "When a case comes to us on the Supreme Court and we take it, we take it to resolve usually one legal issue -- sometimes there are two. But most of them involve a single legal issue so everything is focused on that."
His living arrangements:
From the time of his nomination until the court's summer recess, Alito stayed mostly in Washington, D.C. His family stayed mostly in New Jersey. On weekends he would often drive north to their West Caldwell home, which they plan to keep for now.

With his family in New Jersey, Alito devoted himself to the court.

"I ended up working until 11 o'clock, midnight most nights. I had a little apartment just a couple blocks from the court so I would go home and come back. I really had nothing else to do," he said.
Don't you like to think of the Justices adopting a monk-style life? Or does that worry you?
Writing opinions, he said, demanded a new level of concentration.

"You really are the final step, and what you write will be interpreted and interpreted. And so you have to make a special effort to be very precise," Alito said.
Mmmm... yes. Reminds me of some of those things we were talking about here last week. You really do have to do that hard work of fitting all the texts and cases together. You've got to prove it to us, in writing, that you've gone through the process that makes the power you've wielded not abusive.
While he finds the work enjoyable, and in some ways almost like being a professor....
Which is the ultimate in pleasure... at least for legal nerds.
The first weeks were hard, he says -- especially since he kept getting lost.

"The Supreme Court building is one of the most confusing buildings I have ever been in. ... I didn't know where anything was, how to get in or how to get out," he said.

And just asking a question has proved to be its own adventure. To question lawyers during arguments, the justices must flick a switch to activate their microphone.

"You have to be very quick on the draw," said Alito. "I like to let a lawyer at least finish a sentence. So I'm waiting for a period to ask a question, but if you do that, there's more of a chance that everybody else is going to come in."
About that ideological divide:
The justice said in his day-to-day work at the court, he gives little thought to the ideological divide among the justices. It is only to be expected, he said, that the court will have disagreements, since the cases it decides are the most controversial in the land.
"I just work on each case, and that's basically it. Obviously, there are certain cases where you see a division ... but very often that is not the case," he said.

"You get used to the fact that you're not always going to agree on things and sometimes it's frustrating -- particularly if it is something where you feel you're right and you can't understand why anyone would disagree with you," he said. "I don't think it's personal. We just don't always see things the same way."

With all of the public focus on the ideology of the court, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that attention focuses on only a few of the cases the justices decide, he said.

"We decide maybe 80, 90 cases a term, and the public focuses generally at the end of the term on maybe 10 cases. The others generally don't have that sort of division," Alito said.
Scalia made fun of his robe!
He's been wearing the same old robe since he joined the circuit court. On one of his first days, Justice Antonin Scalia joked with him about a purple swatch on the back. Defending her new colleague, Ginsburg piped up that Alito could wear whatever he wanted.
I love the high school vibe to that. I'm picturing Ginsburg played by Gilda Radner, Steve Martin as Scalia, and Bill Murray as Alito, in one of those high school nerd sketches from the old days of "Saturday Night Live."

There are also a couple of interesting quotes from his wife, Martha-Ann Alito. How she's felt since the swearing-in: "It was all very, not dream-like, it just seemed the right thing was happening to me." And, about the attacks on her husband during the confirmation hearings: "The way the world is these days, Sam is by far not even close to being an imminent threat to civil liberties." An interesting locution, don't you think? It's actually not very consoling!

You like to think it's perfectly possible to live to be 120.

Don't you? But the oldest person in the world just died, and she was only 116. The new oldest person is also 116, and you've got to go all the way down to 114 to get to the oldest man. How many people do you think there still are who came from the 19th century? Not too many! But you're saying, surely, there will be many medical advances, so that by the time I get up there, reaching 120 will be quite common, probably even 130 or 140. Admit it! That's what you were thinking!

"What if 8/27 had happened?"

Niall Ferguson asks how the response to "8/27" -- the liquid bomb plot -- would have differed from the response to 9/11:
From an American vantage point, a successful terrorist plot launched from Heathrow would have been doubly Britain's fault. Its proximate cause would have been a lapse in British security. Its root cause would have been the infiltration of British society by radical Islamism.

As details emerged about the perpetrators, Americans' worst suspicions about Britain would have been confirmed. It has been clear for a while that Britain's Muslim communities are proving fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist extremists, and that it is the disaffected sons and grandsons of Pakistani immigrants who are most susceptible.

Perhaps even more troubling, it has been evident since the arrest of attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid that ordinary British dropouts can also be lured, via religious conversion, into the terrorist network.

"I'm really disappointed that the clock doesn't read '9:11.'"

Oooohh... that illustration.... we're still cringing over here....

"The intimacy only belongs to me."

Natascha Kampusch will not reveal the whole story of her 8 years of captivity:
[Wolfgang] Priklopil "was not my lord, although he wanted to be - I was just as strong", she [said]....

"To give you a metaphor - he carried me in his arms but also trampled me underfoot."

[S]he said she did not feel that Priklopil had robbed her of her childhood....

She is reported to have wept inconsolably when she was told the man she had to call "master" was dead.
Perhaps it is prurient of us even to want to know the details, once we know this much.

"The trouble with Elvis was that he had very little to say; he was mainly concerned about sounding polite."

So you wouldn't want to read a big book of Elvis interviews, quips Louis Menand, who's saying a big book of Dylan interviews isn't much better:
Dylan is rarely concerned about sounding polite, and he says things, but he sometimes makes them up. He also contradicts himself, answers questions with questions, rambles, gets hostile, goes laconic, and generally bewilders. What makes it truly frustrating is that, somewhere in the stream of inconsequence and obstreperousness, there are usually a few nuggets of gold. The nuggets make interviewers think that the other stuff must be a put-on, that Dylan could speak with the tongue of angels all the time if he wanted to, and this makes them press harder, hoping that the next question will break through the misdirection and resistance, and the man in front of them will turn into “Bob Dylan.” Since there is nothing Dylan likes less than being mistaken for “Bob Dylan” — “If I wasn’t Bob Dylan, I’d probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers,” he once said — this is not a productive interview dynamic.
(Yeah, 2 of 3 posts so far this morning are about Bob Dylan. I can't help what washes up with the tide any given morning.)

Making Saddam watch the "South Park" movie.

Yahoo News reports that Matt Stone -- one of the two "South Park" creators -- says that marines guarding Saddam Hussein have forced him to watch their movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," which depicts Saddam in hell having a sexual relationship with Satan.

Stone might just be joking, but let's assume he's not. Shouldn't we be treating prisoners with more respect? Stone is obviously pleased about it. GOP Vixen seems to think it's just fine.

Let me add that I love the movie. And I've always assumed the Saddam watched the movie himself on his own in the days before we invaded.

But showing it to him now is just an attempt to annoy and humiliate him. We should be above that.

IN THE COMMENTS: "Are you seriously joking Ms. Althouse?" I'd rename my blog that if I could start all over again.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dylan videos.

Google video has just added some great Bob Dylan videos, including outtakes from D.A. Pennbaker's "Don't Look Back," a 1969 duet with Johnny Cash, and a rousing 1975 concert video of "Isis." Very impressive!

ADDED: There's also some of that 2004 "60 Minutes" interview, which I blogged about at the time, here.

TiVo-blogging the Emmys.

The Emmy show gets off to a spectacularly bad beginning with a prerecorded comedy sketch. We see Conan O'Brien on a plane, asked by a flight attendant if he's nervous, and he says, "What could possibly go wrong?" There's an explosion that rocks the plane, and then there's a cut to a beach, with Conan crawling out of the surf and the plane, in the background, sinking into the ocean. The folks on the laugh track are yukking it up. That would have been pushing it, considering the recent foiled terrorist plot, but with a plane crash in the news today -- 49 people were killed -- it's just atrocious. Don't they have the sense to pull it? The message is, we've got this preprogrammed, and there's nobody here with a brain.

Well, they worked so hard on it. It's a play on "Lost," and Conan finds a hatch. Descending, he's in the set of "The Office." This leads into a "24" sequence. Am I forgiving them? No! He encounters "House," then he enters the "South Park" trapped-in-a-closet closet. And then on to a "Dateline" exposé about child predators.

Man, they put a lot of effort into this. They should have thought of the air crash problem when they planned it.

Okay, Althouse. Settle down. Your censoriousness will only drive readers away.

Conan paces back and forth on the stage, spitting out his monologue jokes, interspersed with shots of the audience, seemingly enjoying it. There's lots of actress flesh on view, and it jiggles as they applaud the jokes. Whatever happened to anorexia? Everyone looks plump tonight. Are the jokes any good? He hands out rules for acceptance speeches. Sample: "Anyone who makes a heavy-handed political comment tonight will be forced to make out with Al Gore in a Prius."

He does a parody of "Trouble" (from "The Music Man"). It's about how bad NBC ratings are. Why should we care? Get to the awards! It's like they're desperate to prove to us that they're putting on a show. And it's a show on NBC. And if this is your idea of a show, well, maybe you deserve your bad ratings. Go cry about it in private somewhere.

One of the first presenters is Ellen Pompeo, wearing a long dark blue dress that she's clutching together with her hand at the right buttock. Is she just holding it up so she won't trip? No, she's at the mike, and she's still keeping her grip! Must be a wardrobe malfunction. The award is Best Supporting Actress. Megan Mullally wins. Doesn't she always win? She's in dark blue too. Sort of a bathrobe-like thing. She incites us to be all emotional about the end of "Will and Grace." Sorry. I don't care.

In the next presenter set, we've got Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and she's wearing a white dress that has a sparkly black "H" superimposed around the breasts. The award is Best Supporting Actor. The clip of William Shatner makes me laugh out loud so I switch my loyalty t0 him from Michael Imperioli. Alan Alda wins, and he's the only one not there. That's so wrong.

Dragging things out, Conan has a comedy bit about how the show won't go over three hours. They've got Bob Newhart sealed in a tube with only three hours of air. He's about 80 years old, so threatening to kill him is a little disturbing. But it's nice to see Bob again, albeit entubed.

Martin and Charlie Sheen. They awkwardly read the cue cards. Best Supporting Actress again? Oh, now it's in a drama. Sorry, those previous awards were limited to comedies. Emmys, I see, follow the Golden Globe, not the Oscars, approach. Blythe Danner wins. She's all actressily effusive, like it's not memorized. And her dress is yards of teal-colored fabric that looks like it was draped together in a 1-day challenge by the losing contestant on "Project Runway."

Supporting Actor in a Comedy. Oh, I see the previous supporting actor award was for the drama actor. They are not doing this in an orderly way. I will catch on. As you can see, I'm not a regular Emmy viewer. The winner is Jeremy Piven.

Oh, Heidi Klum is giving an award. Variety, Music or Comedy Series. "The Daily Show" beats "The Colbert Report" (and Conan O'Brien).

Ooh, Simon Cowell, with the neck of his shirt all open revealing his furry chest. It's a tribute to Dick Clark and "Bandstand." You know, I watched that show, even as far back as the 1950s. I remember seeing "Little" Stevie Wonder on the show doing "Fingertips" on his 13th birthday. I remember when the kids who danced on the show were celebrities, written about in the teen magazines. It was once necessary when talking about Dick Clark to make a joke about how he looked forever young. But that's not the way it is anymore. He looks very old. He can't walk out, and, recovering from a stroke, he can't speak clearly, and his voice is very deep. He introduces Barry Manilow who comes out dancing -- and he has hip problems -- and demonstrates that the "Bandstand" theme song has lyrics.

Variety or Musical Performance is the next award. Manilow is one of the nominees. And he wins! Beating Stephen Colbert and David Letterman.

Guest Actor? Oh, come on. Too many categories. But they speed through this, and I'm glad to see Patricia Clarkson won for "Six Feet Under." I'm skipping some of these awards. I'd be crazy not to.

Conan does a routine on TiVo fastforwarding using TiVo fastforwarding, which I discover while fastforwarding on TiVo. So it's double fastforwarded. That was freaky.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Tony Shaloub. Doesn't he always win? I don't watch his show, so I was rooting for Steve Carell or Larry David, whose shows I do watch.

Candice Bergen is stuffed into a white shirt and teal-colored skirt and held together with a big bulky leather and metal belt. She says something about TV not being a vast wasteland, and it just draws more attention to her vast waist land. She's introducing a tribute to Aaron Spelling. He was, apparently, a veritable god.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert present the Reality show award, and Colbert throws a tantrum about losing to Barry Manilow. "Singing and dancing is not performing!" "The Amazing Race" wins. I've watched that a couple times. Don't enjoy it. Travel travails. Ugh! I wanted "Project Runway" to win. Did you notice they spotlighted Andrae in the little clip. What happened to Andrae?

In Memoriam: Shelley Winters. Don Knotts. Richard Pryor.

I love the look on Annette Bening's face when Helen Mirren beats her for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. [ADDED: It's the look of no reaction at all, except that in that frozen expanse, there is an expression.] And I love the way Mirren says, "My great triumph is not falling ass over tit as I came up those stairs." It's all British, so it's not rude, right? Ahhss.

Lead Actress in a Drama. Ah, here's a big category. Mariska Hargitay wins. Another show I don't watch.... so I have no opinion.

Actress in a Comedy. Okay. This is actually the only thing I care about. I want Lisa Kudrow to win for "The Comeback." Not that I think she will. Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins. She's all weepy, like she can barely get through it.

Actor in a Drama. Kiefer Sutherland. He's the opposite of Julia. He's all calm and mature. Dignified.

Bob Newhart is released from his tube to do the award for Best Comedy Series. He's bizarrely short standing next to Conan O'Brien. "The Office" wins. That makes sense.

Annette Bening does the Drama Series award. I only watch "The Sopranos," but I don't think it should win. It wasn't that good this year. "24" wins.

And that's it for a night at the Emmys!

Aw, the cute puppy.

Brown dog

Brown dog

Just an old, old stuffed animal that resides chez Althouse.

Defending against the Nazis in Madison.

What would you do if some neo-Nazis were demonstrating in your city? Go shopping and hope that they'd play to an empty house? That's what I did, but 800 of my fellow citizens made the scene. Number of Nazis: 64. Number of police: 300. They were ready for action:

That's from Uncle Jimbo, who has more video and commentary here.

The buzzword of the year -- I've never seen it before.


There's a co-buzzword -- "truthiness" -- which I do know, but I don't like the phenomenon of co-buzzwords. If you're going to have a Buzzword of the Year, pick a damned buzzword! Don't hedge. We want a winner, not a tie.

He's reached his goal (and become the devil?).

So Anthony Rickey signs off. Scroll down for advice to law student bloggers and some links to new 1L blogs.

Are you an incoming 1L? Are you going to blog? Are you or have you been a law student blogger? Do you read law student blogs? What do you think of the whole project of law student blogging? Is there always new material, or has the law student story been told?

Sorry for all the questions to law students, but that is my job, you know.

Beneficence, Oprah-style.

Oprah Winfrey builds a $40 million school for poor girls in South Africa, then goes there and interviews the applicants, and to let them know if they got in, sets up a classically Oprah-esque scene of mass emotion. Don't miss the video.

The Plame leak "came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone."

Writes Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, revealing that the source was Richard Armitage.
...Armitage was a member of the administration's small moderate wing. Along with his boss and good friend, [Secretary of State Colin] Powell, he had deep misgivings about President George W. Bush's march to war. A barrel-chested Vietnam vet who had volunteered for combat, Armitage at times expressed disdain for Dick Cheney and other administration war hawks who had never served in the military. Armitage routinely returned from White House meetings shaking his head at the armchair warriors. "One day," says Powell's former chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, "we were walking into his office and Rich turned to me and said, 'Larry, these guys never heard a bullet go by their ears in anger ... None of them ever served. They're a bunch of jerks'."

But officials at the White House also told reporters about Wilson's wife in an effort to discredit Wilson for his public attacks on Bush's handling of Iraq intelligence. Karl Rove confirmed to Novak that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and days later offered the same information to Time reporter Matt Cooper. The inquiry into the case led to the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Armitage himself was aggressively investigated by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, but was never charged. Fitzgerald found no evidence that Armitage knew of Plame's covert CIA status when he talked to Novak and Woodward.
It will be interesting to see how the bloggers who were hot for blood over Plamegate will respond to this news. You can watch for who links to the Newsweek story at Memeorandum, here. TalkLeft tries to keep hope alive:
I suspect Cheney is still in his cross-hairs. And Ari Fleischer is a key witness against Libby. Somehow, I suspect Ari Fleishcher has given more to Fitzgerald than we know.
Liberal Values finds the silver lining: "Maybe this will put an end to all those conservative blogs which are spreading preposterous claims that it was Joe Wilson himself who revealed his wife’s identity." Yeah, put an end to all those conservative blogs.

Can you never back off and say that your side overdid it? It would improve your credibility you know.

"There were times when I thought I was dead. And now, I'm not."

Says Fox correspondent Steve Centanni, just released from captivity along with cameraman Olaf Wiig. In a telephone interview, he tells of his ordeal in detail, including being "forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint." [ADDED: Go here for the interview if you have low-speed access.]

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The diary of Natascha Kampusch.

The Austrian girl held captive for 8 years, since the age of 10, kept a diary. Will she publish it? Imagine the rich offers she is hearing now and how strange it must be to have everyone lavishing attention on her after all these years of isolation. I wonder if, as she wrote those pages, she pictured a book that one day millions would read and if that made her feel she was not alone. The police officer who first interviewed her said she was amazed by her "intelligence, her vocabulary." Thinking of the girl's suffering, I feel heartened by the idea that she used her time -- deprived of schooling and stimulation -- to reach inside herself and discover a writer.

I knew the animals were laughing at us.

But I didn't know they were trying to get us to smile for the camera. (Via Metafilter.)

Friday night and the new "Real Time with Bill Maher."

Did you watch Episode 1 of the new season of "Real Time with Bill Maher" last night? I hope you didn't, because it was Friday night, and it would probably be good if you had something more exciting to do, though perhaps you had to work or participate in an argument or drink yourself into a stupor or rob a restaurant like Honey Bunny and Pumpkin:
Nobody ever robs restaurants. Bars, liquor stores, gas stations... you get your head blown off sticking up one of them. Restaurants on the other hand, you catch with their pants down. They're not expecting to get robbed. Not as expectant anyway.
But who am I to pry into your Friday night? I watched the show, mostly because I saw that Markos Moulitsas and Christopher Hitchens were going to be on -- and they're two characters I follow, more or less, not to the point where I think about what they'd do on a Friday night if they weren't doing "Real Time with Bill Maher." But they were there, Hitchens looking unusually healthy. Markos, perky as ever, with those big eyes and that turn-the-world-on-with-your smile.

Bill did his typical monologue, each joke beginning with the recitation of a recent news story and then swooping down for a low punchline. One punchline, about Mark John Karr -- he's so hilarious -- made me laugh, but I can't remember it this morning.

Then he interviewed Spike Lee, who was there -- on a video screen -- to promote his documentary "When the Levees Broke." But Lee wasn't into the promotion enough to pump any energy into the segment. Maher shifted from the subject of Lee's movies to the topic of a recent Bob Herbert column -- TimeSelect link -- and quoted the line "If white people were doing to black people what black people are doing to black people, there would be rioting from coast to coast." (The column was about Juan Williams's new book "Enough." And I wish the Times would make it available now for open linking.) Spike Lee acted like he couldn't understand what Herbert was talking about. Maher got stern and said he knew what it meant, and Lee murmured his way to the finish line.

Next up was Elvis Costello, who had something to promote, I think. And it was his birthday, which is such a less interesting fact than people seem to realize. We were supposed to care that he took time from his birthday -- like it matters when you've had 52 of them and when he was only on a video screen. For some reason, Maher went into a riff about how there's never been a whiff of scandal about Elvis Costello and his name is as pure as the driven snow or some such nonsense. Elvis opted neither to agree or disagree, and I made a mental note to Google later, because I thought there was something. Yeah. This:
In March 1979, Costello capped off this productive period in his extra-artistic life by getting himself into a scrap with Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame) and Bonnie Bramlett (a minor singer from the '60s) in a hotel bar in Ohio. Again motivated by an unclear principle, he did his best to offend them, finally resorting to a burst of profanity and bigotry, capped with the assertion that Ray Charles was a "blind, ignorant n*****."

There's no evidence that Costello was a racist -- he'd been active in Rock Against Racism before it was fashionable and was too smart in any event to let it show if he was -- but he was being as stupid, reckless and out of control as any of the broken-down '60s stars his energy, brains and invective were supposed to be an antidote for. In any event, Bramlett industriously publicized the exchange and Costello tried to explain and apologize. He took his lumps in a months-long transatlantic brouhaha; to this day some serious critics hold him in contempt.
In any event, Costello showed all signs of being more boring than Spike Lee so I muted the sound and finished the Friday crossword.

I unmuted when the panel came out. It was Christopher Hitchens, Senator Max Cleland, and Vali Nasr (a scholar who's written this book -- "The Shia Revival"). Maher framed a question about Iraq in terms of how finally, after all these years, even the idiots have figured out that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism. He cited a poll that showed only 1% of Brits thought it did. The other guests went along with the demonstration of how everybody knows this is true, and you, the HBO subscriber, were supposed to get the point that you're going to be an object of horrible mockery if you don't get in line. It was Hitchens's turn, and he called himself one of "the elite," because he was in that 1%, and proceeded to explain why. When the audience booed, he gave them the finger and said "F**k you." Then, when Maher tried to recentralize his point that everyone knows Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism and the audience cheered, Hitchens turned on the audience and abused them again. He abused Maher too, for leading the herd along and building himself up with their cheap support, and then he praised Maher for not letting Spike Lee wriggle out of the question he damned well understood. Hitchens knows how to do TV. [ADDED: Video!]

Maher had a comic bit set up where he had various products that you can't take on a plane anymore, like a bottle of "Jihad, Your Hair Smells Terrific" and "Behead and Shoulders." There were about ten of these things, and the funniest part of it really was how much it cracked up Senator Cleland. In case you're wondering if the format has changed, Maher also did his "New Rules" routine.

And somewhere in the middle of that, they video-screened Markos Moulitsas, who lacked any edge or ennui or signs of age or anything but the positive energy of a guy doing an interview for college admission. He believes in his blog project and it's all for the good, bringing people together, la, la, la. Maher has no material to make this interesting, so he resorts to a discussion of the word "blog." He doesn't like it. That's so 2004, Bill. Ending the interview, Maher says, "Goodbye, Carlos." Carlos. Come on. If it was Carlos, it would be The DailyLos. Ah, well, I'm sure Markos found a way to take a cloudy night and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"The idea is unlikely to appeal to traditionalists who believe dogs should be walked...."

Yeah. Really.

ADDED: The first comment is laugh-out-loud funny. And I'd just like to say that worse than not letting your dog walk is not letting your child walk. There are way too many children stuffed into strollers for the convenience of an adult and left with little to do but learn indolence and to grow fat.

The economics of fat.

Are we fat because we're prosperous? I've been assuming the "obesity epidemic" -- hmmm, what if it were contagious? -- is mostly a result of affluence. It's easy to get food, and we can relax a lot physically. We don't have to exercise to get our food, and we have lots of time sitting around not only not exercising but in a good position to eat the food that's always available. It's totally normal, under the circumstances, to get fat. You have to fight nature to avoid getting fat. Anyway, that's my casual observation.

At the link, economist Darius Lakdawalla debates the question with public policy professor Carol Graham. A key issue is why poor people are fatter than rich people.
Graham: While it is extremely difficult to precisely isolate the effects of norms and expectations versus those of cheap food and sedentary lifestyles, it seems very plausible that differences in the former set of factors play some role in explaining differences in incidence. Our research suggests that stigma against obesity is much lower in some racial, socioeconomic, and professional groups than others, and that accords with the higher obesity rates among those groups. It also suggests that obese people are less likely to experience mobility into higher status professions where obesity is rarer....

[I]ncentives explain the variation between rich and poor at least as well as social norms. The seminal work of Michael Grossman, in 1972, argued that richer and more educated people have higher demands for health, because they stand to lose morein the way of lifetime income if they die young. Dr. Graham's examples make this point as well. For instance, she cites recent work by Jay Bhattacharya and Kate Bundorf that shows "discrimination against overweight and obese individuals is higher in higher status professions." In fact, Bhattacharya and Bundorf argue that people with health insurance face a larger wage penalty if they are obese, because their employers end up paying for their higher medical costs. They rely on incentives, not social norms, in explaining the phenomena they observe. Incentives also have several important practical advantages over social norms. Norms-based theories always involve a "chicken-and-egg" type problem. Are people fatter because it is more acceptable to be fat, or did it become more acceptable when more people got fat? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is often difficult to act on a theory of social norms, because policymakers can change incentives much more easily than social norms.

Not seeing the new posts?

I know some readers come to the blog and don't see the new posts -- at least not unless they hit "reload." This happens to me too when I use Firefox. I can't think of anything I can do about it other than to let you know there are new posts here every day, so if you're not seeing them, hit reload.

UPDATE: I believe I've solved the problem, based on a clue given in the comments by P. Froward.

The 7th Circuit does not appreciate the State of Wisconsin's tone.

The Seventh Circuit has a new opinion today -- Toeller v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections (PDF) -- dealing with an issue we talked about at the time of the Alito hearings: whether the Family and Medical Leave Act is capable of abrogating sovereign immunity with respect to leave taken for self-care (as opposed to the care of others, which the Supreme Court dealt with in Hibbs). The question is the scope of Congress's power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is limited to remedying the violation of a Fourteenth Amendment right. The self-care provisions don't relate to sex discrimination the way the family care provisions do, which is the basis for distinguishing Hibbs. This isn't about whether the FMLA is constitutional, because it's supported by the commerce power, only about whether Congress can subject the states to suits by individuals for retrospective relief. Like then-Judge Alito, the court upholds state immunity.

But what's really notable is footnote 1, which follows a long paragraph summarizing the relevant Supreme Court cases:
These cases, taken as a whole, demonstrate that the Court has taken care to draw important, and sometimes subtle, constitutional lines in this area. Both for that reason, and for reasons requiring basic courtesy to the courts, we find much of the rhetoric in WDOC’s brief to be entirely out of line. It is not up to Attorney General Peggy A. Lautenschlager or Assistant Attorney General Richard B. Moriarty to accuse Justices of the Supreme Court of making “remarkably intransigent statements,” or to use a disrespectful tone in criticizing dissenting Justices merely for the fact that they wrote a dissent, or to opine about “polarizing declarations.” The tradition of writing dissenting opinions has existed in the United States Supreme Court since the beginning of the Republic, and every Justice on the Court avails himself or herself of that privilege when he or she deems it appropriate. Counsel’s brief is also less than helpful where it draws bizarre analogies to opinions about the current presence of American troops in Iraq, which has absolutely nothing to do with this case. We trust that the State of Wisconsin will adopt a more appropriate tone in future briefs filed with this court.
I haven't seen the brief, but that's really harsh!

Peg Lautenschlager, you should know, is running for reelection right now, with the primary on September 12th:
A WISC-TV poll showed incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager faces high unfavorable ratings but challengers have even higher "no opinion" ratings.

Thirty-four percent of those surveyed also have "no opinion" of Lautenschlager, despite her four years in office. Thirty-four percent view her as favorable, and 32 percent rate her as unfavorable. University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin believes the high negative rating is due to her drunken-driving conviction.

Lautenschlager faces a Democratic primary challenge from Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. And despite a reasonable showing in a crowded primary for governor four years ago, two-thirds of those surveyed have no opinion on the challenger.

The situation is even worse for the Republicans. Seventy-six percent of those polled don't know Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, and 89 percent don't know former U.S. Attorney J.B. Van Hollen.

The poll was sponsored by WISC-TV and conducted from Aug. 14 though 16 by the firm Research 2000. Six hundred likely voters were selected at random and questioned over the phone.
So we haven't been paying much attention, and now along comes this juicy nugget of a footnote.

Can you do much with this politically? I think you can. People normally don't have much to go on when they think about how the attorney general's work is done. Thus, they revert to interesting but not all that relevant material: the drunk driving conviction. And now here's a hot, pithy paragraph that is precisely about how she does her work representing the people of Wisconsin, and it comes from the 7th Circuit, whose opinion of her work couldn't be more important.

Let's see how effectively Lautenschlager's opponents exploit this -- as well they should!

IN THE COMMENTS: I love this one from J:
...I think your respect for and deference to the court is exponentially higher than that of the general public. Not being a lawyer myself, my understanding of your excerpt is that she basically said the court was full of it, and they're hitting back here.

"It is not up to Attorney General Peggy A. Lautenschlager or Assistant Attorney General Richard B. Moriarty to accuse Justices of the Supreme Court of making 'remarkably intransigent statements,' or to use a disrespectful tone in criticizing dissenting Justices merely for the fact that they wrote a dissent, or to opine about 'polarizing declarations.'"

Actually, anyone who wants to can do those things (watch ANY episode of "The O'Reilly Factor", f'rinstance). Yes, I recognize that it might be considered inappropriate in this context, and I have no problem at all with the court hitting back, but this "it's not up to", along with the final sentence -- "We trust that the State of Wisconsin will adopt a more appropriate tone in future briefs filed with this court" -- sound almost comically arrogant to me. The effect of bringing this up might be the opposite of what you expect.
Well, perhaps the court wasn't so much slamming the attorney general as signalling deference to the Supreme Court. And not just signalling, but hamming it up big time. In any case, if the judges are arrogant, the lawyer has to account for that in writing a brief. The 7th Circuit isn't an Al Pacino movie.
Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!

You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he'd like to do it again! It's just a show! It's a show! It's "Let's Make A Deal"! "Let's Make A Deal"! Hey Frank, you wanna "Make A Deal"? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, 3 weeks probation?


You, you sonofabitch, you! You're supposed to STAND for somethin'! You're supposed to protect people! But instead you rape and murder them! You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement.
Brilliant! We love it! But we're not electing him attorney general.

JohnR did a nice job of finding the references in the brief (which you can read here):
Here are the context and the quotes referred to in footnote 1:

First: "intransigent statements." The Appellant is going on about what you can or can't rely on from a Supreme Court decision where, as in Hibbs, there are many viewpoints expressed by the Justices in what is called a "splintered opinion." In describing what the Appellant referred to as an "analytical abyss" involving Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence between Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens on the one hand, and the rest of the Court on the other, the Appellant said, " Indeed, Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens even refused to recognize the Seminole Tribe line of decisions as a legitimate subject of discussion, much less precedental. The depth and permanency of this gulf was openly declared through the remarkably intransigent statements made in Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents...." (Appellant's Brief at 17....)

Second: "polarizing declarations." The Appellant is continuing to discuss the divide in the Court over Kimel, and quoted Justice O'Connor in that case saying, "...dissenters' refusal to accept the validity and natural import of ... [cite omitted]... makes it difficult to engage in meaningful debate...." The brief gives some more details, and then says (page 18), "These polarizing declarations startled many seasoned Court watchers [cites omitted].

Third: Iraq. The brief (page 19): “Given those ‘steadfast’ positions [cite omitted], was there a detectable meeting of the minds between either Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter or Stevens on the one hand and Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O’Connor, on the other…? By analogy, if the current administration were to decide, sometime in 2006, to withdraw all American troops from Iraq, and that decision was supported by persons who were always unalterably opposed to the Iraq invasion, the administration and its opponents would hardly have reached a consensus on their rationales on how the United States should handle Iraq simply because both sides agreed with the ultimate result.”

My take, for what it is worth, is that this section of the brief should have been in some form of commentary rather than in something for a court. It is too gossipy and unlawyerly. At the same time, the writing is hardly offensive, and appears actually to be a fair description of the strength of the Justices’ opinions referred to, however inappropriate it may be to find this in a brief. I think the 7th Circuit’s footnote was an overreaction. Though I must say the Iraq thing was not the best analogy the State might have used.
I found another analogy, which I think is definitely the sort of thing that is going to make a real-world judge roll his or her eyes. In support of the assertion that the Justices in Hibbs had "two mutually exclusive analytical and philosophical cosmologies":
[N]ative American tribes and federal officials indisputably entererd into various treaties over many years, but each side unquestionably did so based on widely different cosmologies. [Citations omitted.] While treaties were the result, the divergent reasons each side entered those treaties would preclude any conclusion that there were controlling rationales that both sides actually adopted.
That's something you might expatiate about in a law school seminar, but it's not going to play with a judge who is likely to see that as embarrassingly pedantic and a waste of time. And it's weirdly political, suggesting that the writer wanted to take the time to air an irrelevant grievance. I'm thinking footnote 1 is the tip of an iceberg of ridicule that took place in chambers.

Midwestern weather nightmare never ends.

You may have noticed that the new BloggingHeads episode is called "Tornado Watch Edition." You can see me reacting to the insane Wisconsin weather. For a journalistic view of the weather we've been experiencing out here in the upper middle United States, read this.

That was yesterday. Today, I keep wanting to leave the house, and it will be looking like a nice day, then, 5 minutes later, it's all dark and vicious and the idea of leaving the house is lunacy. Then, it's a nice day again, and I start collecting myself to venture forth, and it goes all bad again.

Internet service deals.

Okay, picture this. You move to a new city, and you want to set up internet service in your apartment. The most reputable seeming service provider is outrageously expensive, and you go on-line and find a lot of alternatives, but some of them seem vaguely scammy. How would you home in on the right choice?

It's a new Bloggingheads, with me and Matthew Yglesias!

Here it is. Topics and times:
Sloppy cases make bad law (09:13)

Pluto gets the ax (04:48)

Have Democrats lost the stem cell issue? (04:56)

Racists on a plane... (11:02)

...and on reality TV (04:09)

Are beauty pagents worse than dolls? (05:37)

Madrassas in America (06:22)

Joe Lieberman becomes a Republican (05:31)

Why we love "Project Runway."

Entertainment Weekly has a big cover story on "Project Runway." I'm thinking you might need to subscribe to actually go to it. They try to puzzle out why the show is so great, why lots of people who weren't already interested in sewing or fashion love it so much. They come up with five reasons:
1. It never should have worked in the first place....
But the producers gave it a chance anyway on the condition it didn't end up being "people in black, talking about designing a gown with, you know, a birdcage and a clock woven into someone's Marie Antoinette wig."
2. It features the smartest, most creative challenges on TV....

3. The judges reward actual talent....
As the guy with the tattoo on his neck, Jeffrey Sebelia, puts it ''We're not eating cow's balls or having to survive in the jungle with one book of matches and a bottle of water.'' Exactly! Yeah, there's no career in "cow" ball eating. Aw, leave our darling tattoo boy alone! It's not that it's hard to tell a cow from a bull, but it's funny to act like you don't give a damn.

EW probes into the question whether the producers pick the winners and whether the choice has to do with the entertainment value of characters like Santino and Vincent. Nina Garcia assures us that she'd "mutiny" if the producers pushed her around.
4. The contestants aren't pathetic, fame-seeking narcissists.
Except the ones who are. The work is too hard and specialized to bring in lightweights.
5. Tim Gunn makes it work.
Of course, Tim Gunn. (Here's Project Rungay's tribute to him.) We like those other regulars too, though, don't we? Aren't you a Nina Garcia fan? And what about Heidi? I was asked if I liked her. I said I didn't know, but she was just such a part of the show -- like Ryan Seacrest on "American Idol" -- that I just don't like to think of the show without her. I want to hear her piercing voice to announce the next loser. It seems like it has to be.

Possible topic for the comments: personages on TV that you're not sure are all that good, but epitomize the show in some way that makes you completely attached to them.

Predicting "a favorable hearing" for argument against racial balancing in schools.

David Savage writes about the school integration case that's pending in the Supreme Court. Parents have challenged programs that take accound of race and exclude some white children in the pursuit of racial balance, and the administration has just filed its briefs siding with the parents:
[Solicitor General Paul] Clement urged the high court to resolve a lingering dispute over the meaning of the court's landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. That 1954 ruling struck down racial segregation laws that prevailed in the South and parts of the Midwest and declared that segregated schools were "inherently unequal."...

"The promise of this court's landmark Brown (decision) was to 'effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system,' " he wrote. "The United States remains deeply committed to that objective. But once the effects of past de jure (legal) segregation have been remedied, the path forward does not involve new instances of de jure discrimination."

His argument is likely to get a favorable hearing from Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues.

"It's a sordid business, this divvying us up by race," Roberts commented in June when the court ruled on a voting rights dispute from Texas. The court majority said Texas had violated the Voting Rights Act by shifting Latino voters out of a congressional district where they were nearing a majority, but Roberts expressed his dismay with the law's focus on the race and ethnicity of the voters.

The voting rights case is different -- importantly so, I think -- because it saw federal law mandating what Roberts called a "sordid business" and overriding a choice made at the state level. In the racial balancing case, local government has chosen that "sordid business" for itself, and the question is whether federal law should override it. Other conservative values -- federalism and judicial restraint -- therefore come into play. It's not just conservative versus liberal here. There is a complexity to the conservative side of the argument that ought to be recognized.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why do judges make it easier for their critics?

The NYT has an editorial about the controversy that has boiled up connecting Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to the ACLU, the party she summarily handed a victory to in ACLU v. NSA.
[I]t would have been prudent for her to disclose any activity that might conceivably raise questions about her ability to be impartial. Regrettably, it was left to a conservative group, Judicial Watch, to point out her role as a trustee to a foundation that had given grants to a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, a plaintiff in the case....

Judge Taylor’s role at a grant-making foundation whose list of beneficiaries includes groups that regularly litigate in the courts is still disquieting — and, even worse, it is not all that unusual for a member of the judiciary. The most important lesson here may be the wisdom of re-examining the sort of outside activities that are appropriate for sitting federal judges.
I don't understand why judges don't steer clear of anything that can be used against them like this. Well, to dredge up yesterday's paper -- the one with my op-ed in it -- I don't understand why judges don't swaddle their opinions -- whether result-oriented or not -- in very professional, neutral-sounding verbiage. Why make it easier for your critics?

"We apologise for hiding part of a beautiful image of a mother-to-be."

Japanese censors back away from their initial view that a poster of naked, pregnant Britney Spears is "overly stimulating." You can't be attacking motherhood.

Will the breakthrough in stem cell research resolve the political dispute?

Here's news of an advance in stem cell research which threatens to destroy the political issue elaborately built on the old technology that required the destruction of an embryo. How inconvenient for politicians who face the fall election season who've made this their issue. I wonder if they can let it go, or if they'll find a way to say the problem remains.

On one side, you have social conservatives who are trying to point up their dedication to the pro-life set of values. On the other side, you have those who oppose pro-lifers and have -- quite sensibly -- seen a big opportunity to amass public support by emphasizing the very widespread interest in finding cures for various diseases.

Consider the Wisconsin governor's race between the Republican challenger Mark Green and Governor Jim Doyle. Doyle must be upset to see this new research reported now. Look at this article from a month ago:
If Gov. Jim Doyle and Democrats have their way, the biggest issue in the campaign against Republican Mark Green will be smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

With the hope of attracting undecided voters and driving a wedge into Green's support, Doyle has launched a relentless effort to paint Green as an opponent of stem cell research, which is seen as holding the promise of treatments for a host of debilitating diseases....

In general, analysts see little risk for Doyle in pushing the issue, and potentially a high reward. Doyle already is unlikely to win the votes of those who oppose abortion - the same voters who raise the gravest concerns about embryonic stem cell research....

The Doyle campaign has created a steering committee of nationally known stem cell advocates, hired a full-time stem cell coordinator (an unheard of position for a campaign) and worked to build a network of people for whom the issue hits home.
Will Doyle let go of the issue now? Look how organized he is around the issue and how niftily it works for him. (It's certainly been working on me.) And he's got a special team of advisors on this issue. Don't you think they're brainstorming right now about how to keep the controversy going?

If they try to explain away the new research, they need to be careful not to ruin what is most appealing about their position: a strong support for science. If they overreach now, their position will look a lot more like political posturing than it did before, and, as that month-old article shows, it already was starting to look that way.

UPDATE: And the FDA just approved the over-the-counter "morning-after" pill. In other science news, less likely to affect elections, Pluto is so not a planet... despite all your affection.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's worse, being boring or being a jerk?

Did you agree with the outcome tonight on "Project Runway"? I was going to do a very detailed post on tonight's show, like last week, but then my TiVo "season pass" failed to perceive that this was a "first run," and I only noticed about 20 minutes into the show when I sat down to watch. Then, during the critique part in the end, we got a tornado warning here in Madison, Wisconsin, which not only introduced a warning text crawl across the top of the screen, but also knocked out the audio. So I'll have to catch the full show later.

Anyway, it was fun to jump in and have to get the hang of what was happening -- the models were mothers or sisters of the designers, and nobody had his own mother/sister so there was a conflict of interest where each model had a motive to sandbag her designer. Angela's mom was not happy with Jeffrey -- the guy with a tattoo on his neck -- and Jeffrey was not disposed to put up with it. Angela's mom got all weepy and Angela got super-protective, and it was a bit of a scam. But Jeffrey stood his jerky ground and made what he thought was right, which was -- quite independently of Angela's mom's opinion -- crap. Very amusing!

But then in the end, it wasn't just Jeffrey with a problem. It was Robert, who had opted for the standard, desperate strategy for draping a fat woman: a huge poncho-like nonjacket. In red, the color she wanted. And the biggest problem is that Robert has been boring before. His boringness was the culmination of weeks of boredom. Of course, Jeffrey's jerkiness was nothing new, and this week was a real spike in his trend. But which tendency would you cut -- the boring or the jerky? I think they made the right choice.

But you might ask, did I make the right choice hanging around upstairs during a tornado warning, when I could have been holing up down in the basement?

UPDATE, on seeing the whole show: Well, I see they drew lots to choose the models (with last week's winner, Michael, getting the first pick). It was a little awful watching them pick, because it was so obvious that they were picking in order of weight. Michael immediately snagged the thinnest (and youngest) one. After each selection, it was more and more obvious that everyone was saying to the unchosen ones "You're fat!" Then those women had to work with the designer they had to know would have shunned them if they'd gotten an earlier choice.

But no one forced these women to go on the show. They had to know -- and I suspect the producers elaborately explained it to them -- that they would be seen as a special challenge and everyone would be inspecting them and talking about their size. But they might very well have reasoned it through and seen how they could help their son/brother. Since you couldn't pick your own family member, a difficult model would hurt a competitor the model had a interest in defeating.

Angela's mom seemed to know that. In the original consultation with Jeffrey -- who only had her as a model because he got last choice (no choice) -- Angela's mom told him two colors she liked. Shopping, he decided he needed a better color match and went with light blue, which upset her rather bizarrely. He dealt with it badly, and both the mom and Angela exploited his emotional weakness by acting all emotional, in a much warmer way, which made him look monstrous... just by chance. I love when Angela and her mom are behind the screen and Angela is all you have a right to say you're not happy.

Meanwhile, all the other designers displayed a nice bond with their models -- though Robert's distaste for his large-sized model showed when she wasn't around. So Jeffrey, you were outplayed. And you should see how much you were helped by your own mom, who -- by being nicely normal -- humanized you.