Saturday, September 30, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pissy.

Chessy.

Foley.

Folly.

"You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism."

Said President Bush today. "If that ever becomes the mind-set of the policymakers in Washington, it means we'll go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked -- and then respond."

I caught a glimpse of this on the TV -- I was in that restaurant and didn't hear the audio -- and I was stunned by how rejuvenated the President looked. Reading the text now, I'm thinking these congressional victories have transformed him.

The restaurant where I had a very late lunch alone...

... looks so lonely in the photographs.

Old Fashioned restaurant

Old Fashioned restaurant

Old Fashioned restaurant

ADDED: That ketchup and mustard, it's ironic, right? No one actually needs to squirt such mass quantities of ketchup and -- especially -- mustard on their food. Paired up like that, those two bottles symbolize the couples that should be sitting at the tables but are not. The designer of this retro restaurant -- he is taunting me!

Yes, it was a tad ridiculous to pay $8 million for it...

... but now it isn't even it anymore. You've just constructed a replica of it... and therefore: a monument to your folly.
It was a delicate undertaking, one that required rubberized protective jumpsuits, long tables of medical equipment and more than 224 gallons of formaldehyde. The goal: to replace the decaying tiger shark that floats in one of Mr. Hirst’s best-known works of Conceptual art, “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.”...

[A]s a result of inadequate preservation efforts, time was not kind to the original, which slowly decomposed until its form changed, its skin grew deeply wrinkled, and the solution in the tank turned murky....

Mr. Hirst acknowledges that once the shark is replaced, art historians will argue that the piece cannot be considered the same artwork.
Yes, exactly.
“It’s a big dilemma,’’ he said. “Artists and conservators have different opinions about what’s important: the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a Conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It’s the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come.’’
People have often asked me how I could go from art school to law school, art being so far removed from law, so very unlike it. But, no, it's not, is it? Original intention. What a wonderful phrase for finessing your interpretation! And may I suggest to Mr. Hirst the notion of a living artwork? Now, that could get you everything you ever want.

It's 1962, Barbie is dressed for a specific event.

What is it? (There is an official correct answer.)

Barbie

Barbie

ADDED: There's also the "official" Althouse blog answer (I've decided).

Distinguished Lecture Series?

Laurie David? It's nice to tell people to use reuseable shopping bags and drive hybrid cars and things like that, but why is the university presenting this as a distinguished lecture? Are there no scholars around to do lectures anymore? Or is Hollywood the source of distinction these days?

"They can crack down on the parties all they want, but it's not going to stop us."

Underage drinking in Madison. The quote is from a 19-year-old UW student. I think a lot of the ugliness described in the article is caused by the too-high drinking age. It's ridiculous that college students aren't allowed to go to a bar or drink at parties, but the dangerous, excessive drinking is another matter entirely.

"We're back to America. We're a melting pot... I love it."

That's the line the "Survivor" editors chose to feature as the segregated teams were integrated in the third episode of the season. So much for the big publicity stunt that got me. It was like some gruesome oversized octopus that slithers its tentacles around your torso and attaches its suckers all over. Speaking of suckers...

Blah! Of course, the pro-integration message is a good one -- it's thoroughly well-scrubbed and wholesome -- but the occasion for saying it was manufactured and the quote itself was extracted from raw footage that no doubt included a lot of grousing and teasing and who knows what. Plus, it came from Parvati, who annoyed the hell out of me last night as she talked to the camera, confessing her scheme of manipulating all the guys on her team with her laughably unsubtle flirting... or as they say over on Television Without Pity, "swooning over the three slabs of hetero manmeat."

Indeed, the fuss about racial difference is over. It never amounted to much, and surely, if anything ugly happened, judicious editing would have kept it from us viewers. And now we can see that it's sex difference that really dominates, not just with Parvati's embarrassing flirting, but with the total capitulation of all the women in the physical challenge. The game consisted of walking in knee-deep water while carrying a 15-pound bag. You could drop out, but only by handing off your bag to one of your teammates. The women all caved right in and left the men holding the bags. Despite the entertainment value of roped-together slabs of hetero manmeat trudging through water, it was pretty disturbing to see the physical disparity depicted so obviously face-slammingly.

Blogging about not blogging about the detainees bill.

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, where commenters had complained about the lack of posts about the detainees bill, Orin Kerr and Ilya Somin have blogged about why they haven't blogged. This is one of the biggest problems for a law blogger. Because you are writing every day about things that happen to be in the news, readers assume that if something in the news is important enough, failure to blog about it means you don't care or you're some kind of fraud. This thinking is magnified when you're a law professor and the news story has legal significance. Yet this may be precisely why you don't blog about it. Unless you have an automatic ideological position -- as many political bloggers do -- you can't just pop out a post. You could put a small block of time into crafting a more thoughtful post, but that would only give it the aura of a legal opinion and you don't want that. Given the complexity of the text under discussion and the legal issues it generates, it is quite resistant to serious blogging by a law professor. Failure to blog should therefore be read as a sign of the law professor's distance from partisanship. It is not that we don't recognize the importance of the matter. It's that we do.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Walking home...

I talk on the phone the whole way and the walk goes quickly. In what seems like just a few minutes, I find myself at the entry to the Heights.

Church silhouette

A chorus in the filmosphere: We hate Bush.

That's how I read the first paragraph of this Manohla Dargis movie review:
Is there something in the air, say, the stench of death and decline of empire, to have inspired the recent spate of films about imperial power? Fashionistas of course are already worshiping at the altar of “Marie Antoinette,” with its title bubblehead and hollow charms, while Forest Whitaker devotees are savoring the outré venality of Idi Amin in the rather too enthusiastically entertaining “Last King of Scotland.” Those who think more crowned heads should have rolled in the 18th century, in the meantime, can cozy up to “The Queen,” a sublimely nimble evisceration of that cult of celebrity known as the British royal family.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some purport not to get my point. George, however, does:
You could take the critic's lede sentence and rewrite it as:

"Is there something in the air, say, the manly odor of courage, to have inspired the recent spate of films about staying the course?"

Then you could mention The Guardian, the Kevin Costner Coast Guard movie, Flyboys about WWI aviators, Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima flick, and the three or four recent football movies.

"Space smells like a 'burned almond cookie.'"

Space blogger.
One night, [Anousheh Ansari] discovered her toes were bruised from gripping bars along the walls of the space station. She informed readers that she uses her big toe to hold herself in one place....
That's a news story about the blog. Here's the blog. Excerpt:
I looked out the window a lot and thought to myself, “I don’t know when I will see this view again.” I tried to play some of my favorite songs. This morning at breakfast I played “Only if you want to” by Enya. It energized me. Throughout the day I kept whistling “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “My Favorite Things.”

I tried to focus on the positives… Tomorrow I will see my Husband after a long time… I miss him so much. It has been a hard six months for both of us… He is my soul mate. We had been inseparable up until this trip… He has been trying to be the strong tough guy who is the anchor of my life… but I know inside he has been burning up....

My trip is coming to an end but my dreams have just started....

Live long, prosper and be happy my friends…

8 things I did during a phone interview about women political bloggers.

1. Put on my contact lenses.

2. Put on makeup.

3. Flat-ironed my hair.

4. Finished getting dressed (including pants).

5. Checked that the last morning blogpost had published properly.

6. Walked about a mile and a third down to the lake path and in to campus.

7. Admired the clouds.

8. Photographed them.

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

ADDED: Arty photojournalist is horning in on my cloud-ography concept.

"If you think you've been wronged, it shouldn't take 100 years to investigate the conduct...."

Said Judge Richard Posner at oral argument in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today in the slavery reparations lawsuit.

"What Do Patricia Dunn and Jeanine Pirro Share in Common?"

Three things!!!

Posts about pants.

I just realized I put up two posts about pants this morning! Uh-oh, now it's three. Cue the Althouse-is-obsessed-with-the-body fiends:

Althouse doesn't seem to be able to deal with the fact that men have legs! Remember how she went insane over the weekend when Bill Clinton showed one inch of shin? I can't believe that woman is a law professor. She probably went to law school because she was thought "legal" meant having to do with legs.

"Fornication pants."

That's a term coined in the 1830s by Brigham Young, who was appalled by pants with buttons visible on the fly. The reminder that pants can be taken off might inflame the passions, because otherwise, you could just forget that clothes are not permanently connected to the body.

Most of the linked article is not fashion, religion, and history. It's present day opinion about blue jeans, like:
I’m especially confused by a style I have lately seen with alarming frequency: the fronts of the legs are light and the inner thighs tinted much darker, giving the wearer not the intended lean-thighed look, but the appearance of someone who is blissfully unaware that she has lost control of her bladder.

"Orphans of the Pacific, you really are orphans now. How will you get home now that all your ships are lost?"

For saying that on the radio in 1944, Iva Toguri D’Aquino -- Tokyo Rose -- was convicted of treason. She died on Tuesday, at the age of 90. Read the whole obituary, here.

And -- to digress -- read this long Q&A with the NYT obituary editor, Bill McDonald. It's quite fascinating. Excerpt:
Q. Goodness. The Obituary Editor. What do people say when they meet you and you tell them your job?...

A. A range of responses. Sometimes it's "Oh, that's, um (long pause) interesting," accompanied by an anxious expression, as if I were wearing a black hood and cape. Others — usually among our millions of devoted readers — will say, "Cool!"
Personally, I think the obituaries are cool. Life stories, told when the story is complete, with each day's selection determined by fate (and editorial judgment).

So, for example, today we see Tokyo Rose along with Edward Albert, the son of Eddie Albert, who played the blind guy in "Butterflies Are Free." And speaking of fate, I see he was exactly my age, which is the sort of thing you notice when you read the obituaries.

Also on the obit page today: "Itsy-Bitsy Bikini, Big Mistake." The Times confesses that it erroneously reported that the man who co-wrote "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" had died.

There's something so assorted about the assortment of things on the obituary page. Something that I like about it is also what I like about blogging.

Musharref on "The Daily Show."

Did you see Pervez Musharraf do an interview with Jon Stewart the other day? Beautifully done. Loved the Twinkie. And Musharraf was awfully cool -- serious and funny, solid but not stuffy.

"Voters now confront a Republican Party that understands the breadth of the threat but has bungled the central campaign..."

"... and a Democratic Party that is quick to criticize but lacks an understanding of the jihadists and a strategy for confronting them," writes David Brooks, aptly.
Worse, more and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can’t seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn’t somehow responsible for. Others think the entire threat has been exaggerated by Karl Rove for the sake of political scaremongering.
If you have TimesSelect, you can read the whole thing. But it's not as though there's an answer to all this.

"My legs would make you ashamed to be a woman."

That's what some reader informed me back in the comments to this old post. I'm trying to get my mind around the idea that the legs of some freakishly storkish man -- he says he's 6'4" and 190 pounds -- would make me ashamed to be a woman.

Anyway, it's fall now. Time for everyone who made the error of wearing shorts to stop for at least 7 months, unless you're playing a sport that requires them or you're somewhere on the globe far from here.

"Our avant-gardist artistic establishment... prefers to exercise its anti-bourgeois animus within the coddled purlieus of bourgeois security."

Brilliant New Criterion editor Roger Kimball writes about the horrendous Hans Neuenfels production of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo":
Mr. Neuenfels's version is Modern German--i.e., gratuitously offensive. It is more Neuenfels than Mozart. Instead of appearing as the harbinger of peace, Idomeneo ends the opera parading the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. How do you spell "anachronistic balderdash"?

Poor Mozart. Mr. Neuenfels is one of those directors more interested in nurturing his own pathologies than in offering a faithful presentation of the geniuses with whose work he has been entrusted.
The production -- which has already been seen, back in 2003 -- seems to be a desecration of Mozart and quite hostile to three religions -- four if anyone's still into Poseidon -- but Deutsche Oper has cancelled the production specifically out of concern for how it will affect Muslims.
There is a certain irony in all this. Our avant-gardist artistic establishment preens itself on being "transgressive," "challenging," "provocative," etc. But it prefers to exercise its anti-bourgeois animus within the coddled purlieus of bourgeois security. It has discovered that there is a big difference between exhibiting photographs of Christ on the cross in a bottle of urine or Madonna having herself "crucified" on her current concert tour and poking fun at Muhammad. The former earns you the delicious obloquy of the Catholic establishment while shoring up your credentials as a brave artistic and moral pioneer. The latter sends murderous hordes into the streets looking for something, or someone, to destroy.

There are plenty of good reasons to refrain from gratuitously insulting other people's religions. For one thing, it is bad manners. One should respect what is respectable in the habits, mores and beliefs of other people.

But this does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be blackmailed by militant fanatics who shelter under the authority of religion and employ the freedoms of Western democracy to attack and undermine those very freedoms.
This is a complex problem. Neuenfels's production takes the easy faux-daring route of "Piss Christ" and the Madonna crucifixion, but at least he had the nerve to hit all religions equality, and not to single out one religion. Perhaps he did that because it wouldn't have made any sense to go after the conventional target of Christianity when it's an opera about the Trojan War. It doesn't make all that much sense to drag Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad into that setting either, but bringing them all in to join their super best friend Poseidon made some kind of crazy sense.

Now that some Muslims have made it painfully obvious that religion-taunting is not an easy game anymore, abandoning it expresses fear, not respect for religion. And continuing to disrespect the religions that don't lash back only highlights that cowardice. Poor transgressive rebel artists! How are they to shock the middle class anymore?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Project Runway."

Michael, who we all think is the nicest contestant, says "I'm going to kill you." Wow. Michael. But he had his reason. Uli got to pick her model before he did, and she took his Nasri. His unniceness is understandable. Nasri is the one model who has stood out all season. (She's the only one whose name I learned.) Her eye is all puffed up today for some reason, but still... She's Nasri. And Uli took her from Michael... our sweetheart... the kindest, gentlest fashion designer ever. Bad Uli. "You have to grab everything which maybe makes your outfit more stunning on the runway," she explains.

The challenge is... anything. And write three words. "Tell a story." "Show your point of view." The usual clichés.

Tension! Michael's stuck. But Uli's relaxed. She's going to be flowy. Laura draws precisely what she wants. Jeffrey's going bizarro, doing the opposite of what they expect. It will be "romantic." The sketch looks awful.

Finally, Michael gets an idea, but he's shot down soon enough by Tim, who says, "You can't just make a pretty dress." But he's hard on them all. To Uli: "Don't. Bore. Nina."

Uli's is the best, and not just because of Nasri. She's completely remade it after the first day. Now, it's not flowy at all. It's short, with a high neck band, and a thin slit down the center. Laura comes in second. Then it seems that either Jeffrey or Michael will go, and both deserve to go based on that challenge. Then, for some crazy reason, they decide to keep them both and eliminate no one. Considering the hard choice that was made cutting the fourth place person in the previous two seasons, it's outrageous that they refused to decide between Jeffrey and Michael when neither had a good claim on the third spot. And Michael's three words were just awful: Sexiness, sensuality, sultry. The all mean the same thing. They all begin with "s." Really, it was Michael who deserved to leave, but Jeffrey was pretty bad too, so they kept them both. Wrong!

It was a cool and -- for me -- not hectic morning.

So that made it a good day to walk to work. (How fortunate I feel to have a job where I have to pause and think whether I want to write "walk to work" or "walk to school.") Along the way, the sky changed, so I got out my camera and took some shots at the peak of Observatory Drive:

University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

Including this one of the observatory:

University of Wisconsin

It was still rather sunny on Bascom Mall when I arrived at my destination:

University of Wisconsin

There is the Beloved Donor Law School Building in the lower right quadrant of that last picture, and I was ensconced in the faculty library there, looking out on the mall when the storm hit. There were even doughnuts left over from this morning's Coffee and Doughnuts presentation. I'll have the glazed. And this coffee. And hours to go before I have to talk about Burnham v. Superior Court. Bliss!

NYT thinks Bush's release of NIE report was politically motivated.

The NYT, under fire for publishing leaked classified information, has this editorial about Bush's release of more of the document that was partially leaked and inaccurately characterized:
It’s hard to think of a president and an administration more devoted to secrecy than President Bush and his team. Except, that is, when it suits Mr. Bush politically to give the public a glimpse of the secrets. And so, yesterday, he ordered the declassification of a fraction of a report by United States intelligence agencies on the global terrorist threat.
Unless you acknowledge the suspicion that you chose to publish a distorted snippet of what was in this report because you wanted to help the Democrats in the fall election, I've got to laugh. And of course, I expect a torrent of comments asking me why I'm still reading the New York Times.

A big WaPo story on the sexy T-shirts teenagers wear.

Come on, should this be a long news story? It's all padded out with phrases that are printed on T-shirts, and surely you get the point after, oh, the fourth one. Or are you telling me it's a serious issue because school officials have to wonder and fret about what, oh, what to do about it?
"We try not to make a huge deal out of it, but we also want to be protecting the school environment," said Rick Mondloch, an associate principal at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County, who recently ordered a "Pimps" shirt turned inside out. "These shirts are more risque than they were even five years ago and probably a little more blunt, so you have to be attuned to it."

Robynne Prince, an assistant principal at Eleanor Roosevelt, said: "If there are shirts with obvious sexual connotations, then we know exactly what we're going to do, but there are some students who push the envelope."
Oh, spare me. Why is anyone paid to spend time on this problem? Ban all shirts with any message and move on to trying to do something to educate students. Prince's comment is especially laughable, because it highlights the challenge for those who manufacture those T-shirts teenagers buy: Figure out phrases with sexual connotations that won't be obvious to people who aren't teenagers.

Should I resolve never to answer a telephone survey again?

I'm on the do-not-call list, and when I get a call that slips through one of the loopholes, I usually cut it right off. We do not accept phone solicitations. That's a stock phrase at my end. We do not accept computer-dialed calls at this number. That's what I say when I answer and there's a lag in the response time. But I am sometimes willing to respond to a survey. After last night, however, I think I'm going to add a new stock phrase: We don't do surveys.

I agreed to do a survey, even though I didn't recognize the name of the organization or ask any questions about it. I answered a few questions: how likely am I to vote, my opinion of George Bush, my opinion of Jim Doyle, my opinion of Mark Green (Doyle's Republican challenger in the Wisconsin governor's race). On the latter two questions, I wanted an answer right in the middle, but I couldn't get any closer to the middle than "slightly favorable" or "slightly unfavorable." I said I needed a middle choice. The next question was something like: "Do you think Jim Doyle fights for the middle class?" Now, I think that's a bogus question. Instead of saying, I'm not taking this survey, I once again say I need a choice in the middle. At that point, my questioner says "Thank you for your participation" and rejects me!

On reflection, I assume it was a Doyle campaign operation, seeking to identify voters to prompt to vote on election day. I think it's a fraud to purport to be a survey when that is not your real purpose, and rejecting me before I got it together to reject them irks me so much, I feel like holding it against Doyle. [NOTE: Based on the comments, I believe the call was tied to the Green campaign, so I feel like holding it against Green.]

I don't like to ruin things for the legitimate surveys out there, but I feel ripped off. Should I refuse all surveys in the future or just resolve to be aggressive at that outset and interrogate the telephoner about the nature of the survey? That's a lot of trouble. A phone call disturbs me at home. Why should I permit it to make further inroads into my serenity by dragging me into the role of suspicious interrogator?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The day I almost called 911 from a stairwell.

So I put the finishing touches on my notes for a noon hour talk to the Dane County Bar Association and finished my preparation for my two hour 1:20 class and got in the car and drove over to the Monona Hilton where I drove down and down to the lowest level of the garage and parked the car. I took the elevator up with plenty of time to get to the banquet room, settled in, ate some chicken, and took note of the fact that the microphone wasn't working, so I'd have to put some serious energy into projecting my voice to the crowd of 100 lawyers and a few judges. I talked for 55 minutes about the highlights of the last term of the U.S. Supreme Court and left quickly knowing I had 25 minutes to get back to the Law School for my 1:20 class.

The first elevator doesn't want to go anywhere. It keeps chiming and reopening its doors. I get out and get in another elevator, which takes me down to the ground floor but doesn't go all the way down to the lowest level of the parking garage. Is there a stairway? A woman says she knows where there's a stairway, over here, and she's leading me out of the hotel and over to the Madison Club next door. I keep hesitating and saying oh, I don't think I should go that way, but she's sure of it, and I'm still hesitating, so she introduces herself, and I realize she's a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, and now I'm willing to go along. I get in the elevator with her, and say I need B1. She pushes a button and the door opens on B4. I can make if from there, surely.

Now I'm out in the stairwell alone, and I assume B1 is up from B4, even though I should remember I'm at the lowest level of the garage. Mistakenly, I run up the stairs. The door -- into the club -- is locked. I look up and see there is no higher door. I run down and find other locked doors. I'm worried about missing class and fighting the thought that I might need to call 911 to get out of the stairwell. I retrace my steps back to the elevator and eventually find a way out of the building and back to the hotel, back to the original elevator bank, and down to my car.

I'm driving like mad, trying to get to class on time. The 60s channel plays Three Dog Night -- "Mama Told Me Not to Come." Oh, yeah, I was just blogging about Three Dog Night the other day. It seems like good luck.

I make it back to my regular parking garage and run to the Law School building and enter by the door next to my classroom, where I arrive exactly on time, but without my books and notes. I tell my ridiculous story and say I need three minutes, rush upstairs for the book and the notes and a cup of coffee and rush back down, breathless, for two straight hours of teaching, including the least teachable Establishment Clause case. (Mitchell v. Helms... ugh!)

Just a crazy lawprof day.

"It will stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq..."

President Bush says about releasing more of the National Intelligence Estimate that was partially leaked the other day. I can't believe the politics and speculation will stop but it's good to have more of the document, here. Excerpt:
United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement — which includes al-Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts....
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups...
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
• The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
So the NIE underscores the importance of victory in Iraq.

Hey, I'm on BloggingHeads.tv!

Watch me with Newsday's Jim Pinkerton, talking on the split-screen. Topics (and times):
Jim McGreevey and the Church of Oprah (06:10)

Bill Clinton and the vast right-wing conspiracy (13:02)

Bill is to Hillary as Chavez is to Ahmadinejad? (05:11)

Leaking just enough intelligence about the effect of the war (12:15)

Did the Pope bumble into the clash of civilizations? (04:49)

Did Bush? (11:30)

Ann brings out the dead bodies (09:46)


ADDED: If you want just the audio, go here.

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda."

Condoleezza Rice responds to the substance of Bill Clinton's FOX News Sunday remarks. That link is to the NY Post article. The NYT report is, by contrast, very minimal, but it does include a line about what she thought of his hot-headed style, as she diplomatically steps back from the invitation to come out and call Clinton a liar: ''No, I'm just saying that, look, there was a lot of passion in that interview.''

Tierney on the “Beyond Bias and Barriers" report.

John Tierney is shocked -- TimesSelect link -- by how "cynical" it was for the National Academy of Sciences to publish its "political tract" about discrimination against female scientists and engineers. There was, he notes, only one man on the 18-person committee, and "he was already on record agreeing with the report’s pre-ordained conclusion: academia must stop favoring male scientists and engineers."

He mocks Donna Shalala (the committee chair) for beginning the report with the story of how she was denied tenure three decades ago and then burying the news that women in science and engineering today are just as likely to get tenure as men.
You can get a sense of its spirit of inquiry from “findings” like this one: “The academic success of girls now equals or exceeds that of boys at the high school and college levels, rendering moot all discussions of the biological and social factors that once produced sex differences in achievement at these levels.”

It may seem moot to the Shalala committee, composed mainly of university administrators and scientists who don’t study sex differences (or are hostile to the idea that they exist). But it’s not moot to the scientists who’ve documented persistent differences.

I consulted half a dozen of these experts about the report, and they all dismissed it as a triumph of politics over science. It’s classic rent-seeking by a special-interest group that stands to get more money and jobs if the recommendations are adopted.

“I am embarrassed,” said Linda Gottfredson of the University of Delaware, “that this female-dominated panel of scientists would ignore decades of scientific evidence to justify an already disproved conclusion, namely, that the sexes do not differ in career-relevant interests and abilities.”
There's a really obvious joke -- just asking to be made -- attributing the lack of scientific rigor to the fact that the panel had so many women on it. But that's just a bad joke. The serious point is that it never was a scientific project. That they let that show is also a joke, but a good one. It saves us the trouble of taking the report seriously, which really isn't a joke at all. There may very well be a real problem in the way women are treated in science and engineering, and they've just encouraged us to shrug it off.

"How can law both benefit from, and constrain, a power that is fundamentally lawless?"

Yale Law Journal has a new symposium issue on executive power. (The quote above is from the introduction (PDF). ) I don't have the time right now to scan the articles and say anything more, but feel free to do that in the comments.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"What's human sacrifice... if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?"

Mad Mel. Not just for right-wingers anymore.

"[ticked]."

WaPo quotes me, and cleans it up!

"Cyberculture was to be the fulfillment of counterculture."

Edward Rothstein writes about Fred Turner's book “From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism":
Ultimately, of course, such fulfillment was not to be had. But the consequences of the association were profound. One reason for the heady pace of innovation during the 90’s is that the motivation was never purely abstract, but was often accompanied by utopian passions. Software development occurred not just in the private realm, but also among collaborative communities that objected to corporate ownership. Even today’s Wikipedia — the online encyclopedia continuously being written by its users — can be traced to these ideas....

[S]o messianic were expectations, that many failed to see that cyberspace was not really a different realm from the hard-wired world of ordinary experience....
No, no, don't say it. I'm still trying to find counterculture fulfillment!

The "bipartisan love-in" Bill Clinton's "been engaged in over the last several years has resulted in jack-squat."

Says Arianna Huffington interposing deep thoughts for what might otherwise be "popping champagne corks" after Clinton's performance on "Fox New Sunday."

Huh?

Okay, I've got my bearings. You see, Clinton fans thought Clinton ruled. He stuck it to Fox News, you know. They're celebrating. And Arianna's the nerd at the party who wants everyone to sit down and have a serious conversation about what it all means. She begins with the assumption that Bill's been in a "bipartisan love-in," which I take to mean that he's been circumspect and presidential.
I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power.
Isn't it disturbing to picture Clinton watching himself on TV over and over again and becoming more and more convinced that he played it just right? Arianna assumes he lacks the intellectual complexity to see in it what people who aren't predisposed to love him find offputting, even shocking. He'd just replay and replay and chortle I rule.

Now that I've seen the reaction on the left, I'm convinced that Clinton went on the show planning to act the way he did. It wasn't Chris Wallace's specific question that set him off. He decided in advance to go on Fox News and unleash an attack on Fox News as soon as when he saw an opening. But he jumped too eagerly at what wasn't really an opening and he jumped weirdly. That he thought he was doing well suggests that he has surrounded himself with people who are pulling him out of the calm, rational center -- what Arianna mocks as a "bipartisan love-in."

But this country is full of people who aren't hotly partisan, who are put off by that strong stuff, and who need to see a demonstration of calm rationality. Now his over-the-top performance is being praised by those people who crowd around him -- that's the real love-in -- and he may succumb to their fawning inducements to hardcore partisanship.

And where is Hillary in all of this? Will she fall into the open arms of the hot partisans too? I'd like to think she's less susceptible to seduction. But it won't help in the long run if her husband inanely cozies up to the kind of people who watched him on Fox News and thought he was just great.

"We must recommit to victory in Afghanistan."

Concludes John Kerry in a WSJ op-ed. Great. Commitment to victory. Does he have anything to say about victory in Iraq?
...the disastrous diversion in Iraq has allowed these radicals the chance to rise again....

Somehow, we ended up with seven times more troops in Iraq--which even the administration now admits had nothing to do with 9/11--than in Afghanistan, where the killers still roam free....

[T]his administration has appropriated nearly four times more in reconstruction funds for Iraq than Afghanistan...

Last year we gave Pakistan only $300 million in economic support, about what we spend in a day in Iraq....
Is commitment to victory in Afghanistan more believable if it comes with commitment to victory in Iraq or if it's presented as an alternative to victory in Iraq?

"I can honestly tell you he never got tired of playing that song."

Danny Flores, RIP. He played the saxophone on the 1957 number 1 hit "Tequila!" You know the lyrics to that song, I bet. Or should I say lyric. And that was Flores growling it.

Don't you just want to get up on the table and dance?

AND: If you're thinking of doing the Pee Wee dance to "Tequila!" and putting on YouTube, you won't be the first.

“I just follow my own common sense... And the hell with the law.”

New York's town and village courts.
Nearly three-quarters of the judges are not lawyers, and many — truck drivers, sewer workers or laborers — have scant grasp of the most basic legal principles. Some never got through high school, and at least one went no further than grade school.

The NYT has done an extensive study of these obscure characters.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Audible Althouse #66.

This podcast has a morbid theme! Yet somehow I fall prey to hysterical laughter at one point. You've been warned.

Stream it right through your computer here. But the hysterical and morbid alike fall prey to a subscription on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out.

Here's "One":

Unplayable 45

This is a perfect example of a song I was embarrassed to like back when it was a big hit but that I'm not the slightest bit embarrassed by today. If you Google "embarrass," the first thing that comes up is Embarrass, Minnesota. I guess I like that.

I don't have much to say about Three Dog Night. Their name is a reference to sleeping with dogs to keep warm. The colder it is, the more dogs you need, so a really cold night is a three dog night, like maybe lots of nights in Embarrass, Minnesota, which I see calls itself "The Cold Spot," and highlights the record low temperatures (-57!).

You could make other band names using the Three Dog Night format -- just an idea for the comments. You know, like: Two Coffee Morning or Ten Blogpost Day. I never bought an album by Three Dog Night. In fact, this single was probably my brother's. Anyway, "One" was written by Harry Nilsson.
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one
And I do have an album by Harry Nilsson, the one most people who have one Harry Nilsson album have: "Nilsson Schmilsson." ("She put the lime in the coconut....")

UPDATE: Don't confuse this "One" with other "Ones." There's:
Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

That's not Harry's song. He also didn't write:
One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
It's one love

But the song Aimee Mann sings on the "Magnolia" soundtrack: that is the right "One."

I don't usually talk about golf, but...

My nephew Cliff Kresge just won the Oregon Classic on the Nationwide Tour.

Are we safer?

We've heard that question a lot over the past few years. Now:
An intelligence assessment that the war in Iraq increased Islamic radicalism, worsening the terror threat, set off a sharp debate today among American political officials over credit and blame for the war and the broader fight against terrorism....

The new intelligence report, the National Intelligence Estimate, implicitly questioned assertions from Bush administration officials that the United States is now safer from terrorism than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, if not yet entirely safe, and that it would be less so under Democratic leadership.

Comments? You know you have to face up to this.

Clinton on "Fox News Sunday."

You read the transcript yesterday. You saw the clip. Now, you've seen the whole interview. Impressions?

Knowing he was going to get mad, I watched him carefully before he got mad. He had a very relaxed and jovial manner as he mused about his new life of philanthropy. Then Chris Wallace changed the subject and asked this:
When we announced that you were going to be on fox news Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President. There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called the Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole... And after the attack, the book says, Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20 20.... [T]he question is why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?
Now, Clinton has an answer to this question, and he could have just given it. But he aggressively inserts challenging complaints about Fox News.
I want to talk about the context of which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…

So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me.
What Wallace asked just doesn't seem to be enough of a "hit job" to justify attacking the interviewer like that. For people who hate Fox News already, it might make sense, but he's on Fox News, being seen by the regular Fox News viewers. How is it a good strategy to rant on the assumption everyone knows Fox News is unfair? He gets irked at Chris Wallace in a personal way: "And you’ve got that little smirk on your face and you think you’re so clever." I hadn't been planning to think about Richard Nixon, but I got a Nixon vibe from this. He lets it show that he thinks about how his enemies are persecuting him.

Clinton leans way forward into Wallace's space. He even jabs him in the knee a few times with his finger. Meanwhile, he seems unaware of his own ungainly body. He's gotten quite fat, and his suits -- which he keeps buttoned -- don't fit him properly anymore. He's sitting with his feet apart and planted on the floor, and the pantlegs get hiked way up so that a wide band of white leg shows above each sock.

In the second half of the interview, he gets back to his original relaxed, jovial style. Pants still hiked up though. Wallace ends the interview, saying "Mr. President, thank you for one of the more unusual interviews." They shake hands, and Clinton, says "Thanks." There's just a glimmer of an expression on his face that seems to say uh-oh, I might have exposed myself out there.

Islamic fascists? Evildoers?

Sheryl Gay Stolberg has a nice essay in the Week in Review about the struggle to figure out what to call the enemy in the war on terrorism (or is it the war on terror?):
[The term "Islamic fascists"] turned up in one of the president’s speeches last year, and resurfaced in August when British authorities foiled a plot to blow up airliners headed for the United States. It was, Mr. Bush said then, “a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”

By Labor Day, Islamic fascists and Islamo-fascism were the hot new conservative buzzwords.

And then, just as suddenly, they were gone — at least from the president’s lips.

“The debate that we wanted to launch was about an ideological struggle against an enemy that has very specific plans, ambitions and aspirations, much like movements of the past, like fascism and Nazism,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president. Addressing the term Islamic fascists, Mr. Bartlett said, “I’m sure he’ll use it again.”

But it seems unlikely Mr. Bush will use it again, given the outcry it provoked....

David Frum, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush, said the president turned to “evildoers” right after Sept. 11, 2001, in part because it translated well in Arabic and in part because it appeared in Psalm 27, which Mr. Frum says is one of the president’s favorite psalms. (“When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh.”)

But evildoers has a kind of comic-book sound, and in any event, Mr. Frum says, it isn’t specific enough.
Well, some of it is delivery. I'll bet Ronald Reagan could have sold "evildoers." But really, when did the Biblical start sounding comic-book-y?

Let's consult this article from yesterday's NYT: "Religion and Comic Books: Where Did Superman’s Theology Come From?"
[Peter] Parker had been walking home after competing in a wrestling match, vain in the aftermath of his victory, and as a robber dashed past him, he did nothing. That same robber proceeded to attack and kill Parker’s uncle.

Coming upon the scene, the nephew was struck by such guilt and remorse that he resolved to spend the rest of his life fighting crime.

As any fan of comic books, including Rabbi [Simcha] Weinstein, would recognize, Peter Parker is Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and drawn initially by Jack Kirby and then Steve Ditko. Parker’s moment of moral awakening occurred in the first issue of the Spider-Man strip, published in 1962 and discovered by Rabbi Weinstein during his own boyhood in the early 80’s.

Something else that Rabbi Weinstein came to learn much more recently was that Lee and Kirby were Jewish — born Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg, respectively. So it seemed to the rabbi no accident that their comic resonated with a quintessentially Jewish theological theme....

“... I knew the writers were Jewish. That’s a historical fact. And when I bought all the comics, and gave them my rabbi’s reading, I saw something there. Judaism is filled with superheroes and villains — Samson, Pharaoh. And it’s a religion rich in storytelling and in themes of being moral, ethical, spiritual.”
So the Biblical seems comic-book-y because comic books drew from the Bible. Does that mean we can't take "evildoers" seriously?

Weinstein, by the way, has a whole book on the subject: “Up, Up and Oy Vey!” Here's his website, where he calls himself the "Comic Book Rabbi" and writes about "Jewperheroes."

Imaginative filmmaking about living public figures.

Two weeks ago we were talking -- and talking -- about whether it was wrong for filmmakers -- in "The Path to 9/11" -- to make up scenes and dialogue depicting real public figures engaged in historical events. Here's another example of that sort of thing:
In Stephen Frears’s new movie, “The Queen,” Elizabeth II is shown driving a Range Rover at her family’s remote Scottish retreat, trapped in an unpleasant conversation with her eldest son, Prince Charles.

The subject is Diana, Princess of Wales, whose death that week has sent Britain into a convulsion of collective grief (not shared by the royal family). When an emotionally confused Charles begins to babble about what a good mother Diana was — physically affectionate, full of love — it is clear what he is really saying: “You never hugged me as a child.”

That’s it for him. Abruptly the queen gets out of the car and opens the back door, liberating a passel of eager dogs. Her voice lifts. “Walkies!” she trills.

The situation is of course imagined, the pair played by actors (Helen Mirren as the queen, Alex Jennings as Charles), the dialogue wholly made up and the filmmaker’s undertaking a daring one.
Imagine Queen Elizabeth demanding that the movie be yanked -- britted? -- the way Clinton did about "The Path to 9/11."

Languedoc.

Nina returns for the harvest. Seriously, if you are into wine or France, you need to hang out over on Nina's blog. Even if you abstain from wine and hate France, you might want to go there just because the colors purple and green are beautiful:

"The Netroots Hit Their Limits."

Says Time Magazine:
Moderate Democrats say it with remorse, conservatives with glee, but the conventional wisdom is bipartisan: progressive bloggers are pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left that it will have no chance of capturing the presidency in 2008.

Or maybe the Netroots aren't all that. Make no mistake, these online activists are having a profound impact on the Democrats and on politics in general. But the phenomenon is in its infancy.
But, according to the article, the total number of readers of these blogs is perhaps only about enough to elect a governor in California (if they were all in California), and the total amount of money they've raised in the last year is less than the amount you need to run for Congress in a single district.
No one recognizes the Netroots' limits more than the activists themselves, which is why they are changing their tactics. First of all, they're becoming pragmatic about policy goals.
They're laying off some topics, like gay marriage, and supporting some centrists.
What's more, the Netroots are, paradoxically, attempting to maximize their effectiveness by going off-line.
There's still, fortunately, the need to get out and interact with people in the real world... or at least to run TV ads and make phone calls. How horrific it would be if the strange folk who furiously type away on computer keyboards all day were calling the shots!

Now we know it's a publicity stunt.

Oprah's suing him for running an Oprah for President website, and Patrick Crowe continues to push for Oprah for President. And don't give me that oh, he's a retired math teacher crap. He's selling a book.
Patrick Crowe says he is having a blast promoting talk-show icon Oprah Winfrey for president. Winfrey's lawyers are not.

Crowe has been unofficially campaigning for the first lady of daytime TV for years. The Kansas City man's Web site comes complete with a campaign song and volunteer sign-up. He also sells "Oprah for President" T-shirts.
Please note. I'm not saying Oprah should win. (Her claims are based on copyright and trademark law.) I think there should be plenty of room for people to make websites and write books about public figures. I'm just saying that the guy is obviously not just some character who wants Oprah Winfrey to be President:
"It has become increasingly serious to me," Crowe, who opposes the Bush administration and its foreign policy, told The Kansas City Star for a story Friday. "I know Oprah can do better than that."
Mmm-hmmm. You figured out a way to get attention for your anti-Bush opinions in this noisy world of opinion.

Anyway, would Oprah be a good President? I think she's too litigious.

"I'd like to go back and do the impeachment again."

Says Henry Hyde, who prosecuted Clinton and has had time to reflect on what went wrong:
"I was soft on the treatment we received from the Senate. We couldn't produce a witness without their permission. I should have had the president come in and testify. And if the Senate wouldn't let me, I should have gone before the body and Chief Justice Rehnquist and made a motion. That would have dramatized that the Senate was not letting us try our case. A lot of things could have been done differently."
Oh, yes. It's a shame no one gets much practice at this, isn't it?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Copy editors do the line editing and Dummifying."

"It’s a word we use to talk about how to make text comply with our style guide.... We address the reader as you — you can, next you do this — we don’t talk about we... We try to be funny, or at least lighthearted.... We don’t use future tense, we don’t use passive voice, we don’t have long chapters. A 26-page chapter is getting pretty long.”

Yeah. I agree. Keep it short. But write a lot: There are over 1,000 "For Dummies" titles, with 200 new ones coming out every year, and a list of "For Dummies" things that could be written that's too long ever to get through.

CORRECTION: 1,000, not 1,500 titles.

"Do you really think that's the place for a thousand words of pitchfork-waving, tax-cut-hating, populist agit-prop?"

Howard Dean is asked by Kevin Drum, who reminds him "Dude. You were writing in the fucking Wall Street Journal." Quite aside from what one ought to say in the Wall Street Journal, Drum is anguished that the Dems seem to be turning away from the idea of making national security their central issue. Liberal bloggers seem to be freaking out about it.

The notion that it's wrong to celebrate birthdays.

I'm interested in the notion that it is wrong to celebrate birthdays. Some religions proscribe the celebration of birthdays. Do you know which ones and why? If you had to develop the argument that it is wrong to celebrate birthdays, what would you say? Have you ever encountered an argument between religious sects or between individuals about the propriety of celebrating birthdays? What was the nature of the argument?

Clinton, he's red-faced and angry.

Bill Clinton has been injecting himself into the news a lot lately, and it inevitably gives his critics a new opportunity to go through the case against him. Criticisms that would seem stale and be ignored suddenly get the spotlight. (But some Clinton critics are tired of raking over the past.) Anyway, everyone's waiting to see the hot interview with Chris Wallace that airs tomorrow. Here's the transcript.

Clinton is trying to present himself as a wise and kindly philanthropist these days. From the beginning of the transcript, before Chris Wallace asks him about bin Laden:
So what you can do as a former president, you don’t have as wide a range of powers so you have to concentrate on fewer things. But you are less at the mercy of …events. If I say look we’re going to work on economic empowerment of poor people, on fighting aids and other diseases, on trying to bridge the religious and political differences between people and on trying to avoid the worst calamities of climate change and try to revitalize the economy in the process, I can actually do that. Because tomorrow when I get up and there’s a bad headline in the papers, it’s President Bush’s responsibility and not mine. That’s the joy of being a former potus. And it is true that if you live long enough and have discipline in the way you do it — like this [Clinton Global Initiative] — you might be able to effect as many lives as you did when president.
He said almost those exact words to the same question-prompt when he was on "The Daily Show" this week. He wants to be the mellow, above-the-fray ex-president, but he really can't control the presentation. And now that he's shown how raw and angry he is about the criticisms, it's not going to get any easier.

Actually, I don't mind seeing him angry. He should be angry about this. I'd like to think that when he was in office he had this kind of edge and was not good-natured and relaxed. Of course, he's pissed at his critics, and it's fine for him to be the kind of guy who gets pissed. That doesn't mean his critics aren't right about a lot of things, but there's nothing really wrong with him getting angry like this. I assume a good part of it is that he's angry at himself for the opportunities he can now see he missed.

It's just unusual, as Chris Wallace says at the end of the interview, for anyone -- anyone important -- to act like that on TV.

UPDATE: I'm just watching Chris Wallace on FoxNews talking about the interview. He says, "I've been in the business a long time, and I've never seen anything quite like this, certainly not involving a President or former President." He notes that this is the first time Clinton has given FoxNews a one-on-one interview and that it was subject to the requirement that half of it be about the CGI. After talking about the CGI, Wallace introduced the subject of going after bin Laden, which, Wallace says, you'd think he'd be prepared to talk about, but: "He went off." Wallace, "mindful of the 15 minute rule," tried to bring him back to the subject of the CGI, but he wanted to go into Somalia and the USS Cole. Brian Wilson, who's interviewing Wallace, says that the short clip from the interview reminded him of Clinton's oft-seen, finger-wagging about "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Wallace responds that he didn't think he was badgering or baiting Clinton, but "he just seemed set off," perhaps because of the "Path to 9/11" documentary. "He just feels ill-used on the issue of how much he did to go after the war on terror, and he lets it all spill out on 'FoxNews Sunday."

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've changed the link for the transcript to the official Fox News transcript. And I wrote about watching the interview here.

"Saudi security services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead."

According to a leaked French intelligence document:
"The chief of al-Qaida was a victim of a severe typhoid crisis while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006," the document says. His geographic isolation meant that medical assistance was impossible, the French report said, adding that his lower limbs were allegedly paralyzed.

Typhoid.
You will probably be given an antibiotic to treat the disease. Three commonly prescribed antibiotics are ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and ciprofloxacin. Persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days, and deaths rarely occur. However, persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20% may die from complications of the infection.
How hard would it have been to get him antibiotics?

If it's true that bin Laden has died of typhoid -- and I hope it is -- he joins this list of illustrious men felled by the tiny bacterium: Alexander the Great, Pericles, William the Conqueror, Franz Schubert, William Shakespeare.

ADDED: How long will it take before people start saying this is a scheme to help Republicans in the coming election?

UPDATE: "Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had no evidence that Osama bin Laden had died...."

"What has this social experiment taught us? All races hate fat musicians."

Oh, you're just including "musicians" to keep from facing the reality of prejudice against the fat. How unsettling that must be to the folks at home watching the show. We've seen two episodes the new racially divided season of "Survivor," and each time the losing team has ousted the fat guy. Oh, all right, the fat musician guy. And in the case of the second ousted fat musician, Billy, the team deliberately lost so they could rid themselves of him as soon as possible. They weren't just ready to vote him off if they lost, they despised him so much they planned to lose and dawdled through the contest as they made sure even the slowest team got way ahead.

What was the point of staying on to watch the tribal council? (And, I've got to say, I feel silly typing out "tribal council," just as I'd feel silly typing out the tribe names and even the word "tribe," but, whatever....) Actually, the rest of the show turned out to be quite fun. Yul, exiled, read his clue and deftly discerned exactly where to dig for the idol. (And I feel silly typing "idol.") And then at the council, where the outcome was obvious, we're all surprised -- and dissolved in hilarity -- when Billy announces that he's found love, with a woman on another team, whom he delusionally believes is in love with him.

I haven't been watching "Survivor" over the years, so I didn't know whether it had been established in the past that throwing a challenge is an effective strategy. Tung Yin seems to think it's better to keep your bad tribe member around so you'll have him to eliminate when someone must be eliminated, but it made some sense to me. Billy was getting on everyone's nerves and ruining the team spirit. They need to cohere and figure out how to work together. You have to overcome a big dysfunction, and then he'll be gone and there you are, evolved into a style of doing things that was adapted to a problem that doesn't exist anymore.

Anyway, each of the four teams began with three women and two men. [CORRECTION: Actually, only the blacks and whites had three women and two men.] Each losing team got rid of one of the men. We've focused on the racial division, but there's something interesting about the gender division. Not only was each team structured with women outnumbering men, but, I suspect, each team was given one man who was supposed to present special problems. Two teams got a fat guy, and not just a fat guy, but a fat guy who was much less athletic and energetic than everyone else. The other two teams don't have a fat guy, but they have a guy who was probably intended to make it hard for the team to form a solid group. On the Asian team, Cao Boi is not just older, but he's seems wacky. His real identity group, he tells us, is hippies. But his skill at curing headaches by smooshing your head about and leaving a red mark between the eyes is helpful. On the white team, it's less obvious that there's an odd man out, since all the tribe members seem rather lame and since the odd one is -- unlike the other team's odd man -- quite good looking. (It's Adam, the guy who doesn't think a floor is worth the bother.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

And we will know you by your font.

Wow. Howard Bashman figures out that Richard Posner wrote the per curiam opinion in a case by knowing his propensity to use the Book Antiqua font. That's the coolest nerdy law thing ever.

Another Unplayable 45, this time: vlogged!

Oh, my friends, are you in for a treat. Today's Unplayable 45 is vlogged.

Unplayable 45

And what a very vloggy vlog it is:



Some links to help you with that vlog. Here are the lyrics to "Here Comes the Night." And here are the lyrics to "Brown Eyed Girl," the song that came on the 60s channel as I emerged from the parking garage this evening and made contact once again with the satellite. Here's the episode of BloggingHeads.tv with David Corn and Byron York arguing about "Hubris" that somehow has something to do with this. And here you can find and explanation of what "snowball sampling" is. Hey, it all fits together in the vlog.

Anyway, back to the 45. Since I can't play it, I wanted to buy it on iTunes to relive the experience of listening to it, but all they had was a karaoke version of the Them recording. That was disappointing but enough to make me remember why I liked this enough to buy it. The guitar hook is quite profound. But I remember regretting spending my money on this, because I didn't like the sound of Van Morrison's voice. I never learned to like it later. I don't doubt that he's an excellent singer. There's just a tone to it that I find unappealing.

And I especially didn't like it back when I was a teenager. He sounded too much like an adult, like those soul singers with their heavy voices who were always singing about way too serious adult relationships. The ultimate example of a song of that kind for me was Percy Sledge singing "When a Man Loves a Woman." I could tell it was good, but I could not identify with what was going on there, with people deeply emotionally distraught about love problems. The adult quality was -- judged by the hippie ethic of my generation -- square. Love, love, love -- it should bring joy and universal good will -- none of this grasping and suffering.

Mad Cat.

Mad Cat
Just a Madison building that amuses me.

Biting.

Have you been reading the Time.com blog Political Bite, which is "hosted" by Ana Marie Cox (formerly of Wonkette)? Well, go read it now, because I just wrote something for it: here.

Hello, Sausalito.

Home of the 6 millionth visitor to this blog. You arrived on the Electoral College post from an unknown URL. Whoever you are, thanks for clicking the first digit over to 6. Onward to 7.

The compromise on the detainee legislation.

It's not easy to evaluate the compromise on the detainee legislation. You've certainly got to look beyond the President's conspicuous concession to see what was really decided. Marty Lederman offers this:
The fine and careful folks over at Human Rights First are painting it as a significant victory for McCain, going so far as to argue that "the language in today’s agreement makes clear that ‘alternative interrogation procedures’ such as stress positions, induced hypothermia and waterboarding are not only prohibited by the treaty, they are war crimes." I would really like this to be true. But, as of now, at least, I don't quite see it. And, what's far more important, obviously the Administration doesn't see it that way, either....

[T]he more serious problem is not so much the delegation of some unreviewable interpretive authority to the President (troubling though that is), but instead that the legislation itself would define "cruel treatment" far too narrowly, so as apparently to exclude the CIA's "alternative" techniques, no matter how cruel they are in fact. I hear word that Senator McCain thinks the bill's definition of "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 covers the "alternative" CIA techniques. I hope he can make that interpretation stick somehow, but on my quick [first two] readings of the language, it still seems to me as if it's carefully crafted to exclude the CIA techniques. See, most importantly, the limiting language defining "serious physical pain or suffering," which is carefully drafted to exclude the CIA techniques such as Cold Cell and Long Time Standing....

[The legislation] would preclude courts altogether from ever interpreting the Geneva Conventions -- any part of them -- by providing that "no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories."...

If I'm right, and if this is enacted, the only hope would be the prospect of the Supreme Court holding that both the habeas cut-off, and the "no person may invoke Geneva" provision, are unconstitutional.
Much more at the link, with lots of updates incorporating new arguments. Read it.

It's important to analyze the text of the legislation closely and to understand the relevant case law (about, for example, Congress's power to limit judicial review). Plenty of people have lots of different motivations to make claims about this compromise. Don't let yourself be spun.

Is the depiction of crucifixion offensive?

Some people are taking great offense:
Anatomist Gunther von Hagens will use a real body to show how people died when crucified in the 90-minute film....

Although Channel 4 insists the body will not represent Christ specifically, a memo leaked to the Evening Standard states that it would indeed portray Jesus....

Director Stephen Green said: "This sounds gratuitously offensive and blasphemous. It could well be we would want to take some action against it."
I don't quite understand. Museums and churches are full of graphic depictions of the crucifixion. Many sculptors and painters have for centures wielded their skills to demonstrate the extent of Christ's suffering. Some of these images are as graphic as the artists could make them. Isn't it way too late to call this gratuitously offensive and blasphemous?

UPDATE: Here's my old post favorably reviewing the von Hagens exhibit of plasticinated corpses, "Body Worlds 2," which I saw in Cleveland last year.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's von Hagens's response to critics:
Though Dr. von Hagens declines to participate in nearly all the proposals sent his way, he enjoys engaging in intellectual discourse with the creative protagonists of these ventures. Such was the nature of his discussions with Nick Curwin, producer of Firefly Films and a collaborator on several previous projects.

As an anatomist inspired by the Renaissance, Dr. von Hagens is fascinated by the curious alliance between the Church and anatomists from the 1500s, and interested in expanding the boundaries of discussion about anatomy. Thus, he welcomed the lively exchange with Mr. Curwin about anatomy, anatomists, religion, death, God, and most interestingly, crucifixion's place in history and anatomy, and the crucifixion experiments of Pierre Barbet and Frederick Zugibe.

What followed was an extended hypothetical discussion about a hypothetical program showing the most common method of execution practiced by the Romans, which, according to historical records, claimed the lives of as many as 2000 people a day. While Dr. von Hagens enjoyed the sparkling dialogue and banter about the filmic possibilities of such an endeavor, he did not at any time agree to participate in staging a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, nor is he planning to do so in the future.
Okay, so you're not "staging a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ." It might help to say what you are doing.

A fantasy scenario of trying Bin Laden.

Lawrence Wright, author of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," was asked by a "member of the intelligence community" to use his screenwriter skills to concoct a futurist scenario of what we would do if we caught Osama bin Laden. That got him thinking, and he wrote this op-ed:
First, don’t kill him....

And, please, don’t send him to Guantánamo or torture him in an undisclosed location.....

But don’t bring him to the United States to answer for his crimes, at least not at the beginning....

We should, instead, offer him to the authorities in Kenya, where, on Aug. 7, 1998, a Qaeda suicide bomber murdered 213 people in the attack on the American Embassy....

Then take him to Tanzania, where on the same August morning Al Qaeda hit another American Embassy, killing 11 people, most of them Muslims. ...

Thus exposed as a mass murderer of Africans who had no part in his quarrel with America, Mr. bin Laden would be ready to stand trial for the bombing of the American destroyer Cole and, of course, 9/11. By treating him as a criminal defendant instead of a enemy combatant, we could underline the differences between a civil society and the Taliban-like rule he seeks to impose on Muslim countries and eventually the entire world.

Mr. bin Laden could go on to many other venues to answer for his crimes — Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid, London, Islamabad — but in my opinion there is an obvious last stop on his tour of justice: his homeland, Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of his countrymen and expatriate workers have died at the hands of Al Qaeda. There he would be tried in a Shariah court, the only law he would ever recognize.

If he were found guilty, he would be taken to a park in the middle of downtown Riyadh known as “Chop Chop Square.” There, the executioner would greet him with his long, heavy sword at his side. It is a Saudi tradition that the executioner personally beseeches the audience, composed of the victims of the condemned man’s crimes, to forgive the condemned. If they cannot, the executioner will carry out his task. After that, Osama bin Laden’s body would be taken to an unmarked tomb in a Wahhabi graveyard, as he would have wanted.
I don't quite understand this scenario. Why would he proceed past the death penalty as a consequence of the first trial? And what makes you so sure the Saudi "audience" wouldn't forgive him? And wouldn't his followers all along be figuring out their own strategy, pursuing their own ends, as their leader held the public spotlight? Wright is so focused on how to use the symbolism of trial to convey the right message to the world, which is fine as far as it goes. But he seems seduced by his own idealism and hope. I'd like to see a second scenario, where idealistic officials embrace the Wright plan, and everything that can go wrong does. Now what?

"When people complain that it’s an end run, I just tell them, 'Hey, an end run is a legal play in football.'"

So says John R. Koza, a computer scientist who thinks he's devised way to bypass the Electoral College by statutes. But law isn't football, and judges like to see things for what they really are, especially when legislators openly admit to illegitimate ends and devious means. The Electoral College is a structural safeguard, built into the Constitution. If you want that changed, you need to change the Constitution.

Should you want the Electoral College abolished? One way to think about it might be to look at who supports reform right now:
[California Republican assemblyman Chuck] DeVore said, “I just took a look at who was behind the movement, and they were left-wing partisans.”

Dr. Koza acknowledged that he had been a Democratic elector, twice, and his living room is festooned with photographs of him beside former Vice President Al. Gore and former President Bill Clinton.
His living room? I'm sorry. I can't accept the judgment of someone who has a lot of pictures of himself with politicians in his living room.

It is -- I hope you see why -- utterly foolish to think that because Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, he would have won the election if only we had had a system of election by popular vote in place at the time. Many people in safe states don't bother to vote, and the campaign would have been entirely different if the goal had been to win the popular vote.

The popular vote in 2000 probably favored Gore -- we don't know for sure because there were no recounts in states with safe margins -- but there is no reason to conclude that because of that, in future elections, the Democrat would do better if the method of election were by popular vote. Candidates and issues would be chosen in a completely different way. If the Democrats are now good at "winning" by a set of rules that don't apply, that may simply mean that the Republicans are better at focusing on the rules that do apply and functioning effectively in the real world. Why wouldn't you expect the Republicans to focus on whatever new rules actually apply and to adjust their behavior to keep winning?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Don't you have anything from the 80s in that stack of unplayable 45s you won't throw out?

Why yes I do:

Unplayable 45

And I will stand by this recording as one of the best pop singles ever. Nice video too. And it holds up over time so much better than that other song + video we enjoyed so much in the summer of 1984, when we moved to Madison, Wisconsin and got MTV for the first time: "The War Song." ("War war is stupid and people are stupid/And love means nothing in some strange quarters" -- remember that?)

But "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"... what a brilliant song! You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.

And for all you B-side fans, wondering what's on the B-side. It's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Instrumental)."

The right to die, not just for the terminally ill anymore.

Why not for people who just don't want to live anymore, for whatever reason they find sufficient in their own scheme of thought?
Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, the Zurich-based organisation that has helped 54 Britons to die, revealed yesterday that his group was seeking to overturn the Swiss law that allows them to assist only people with a terminal illness.

In his first visit to the country since setting up Dignitas, the lawyer blamed religion for stigmatising suicide, attacking this “stupid ecclesiastical superstition” and said that he believed assisted suicide should be open to everyone.

“We should see in principle suicide as a marvellous possibility given to human beings because they have a conscience . . . If you accept the idea of personal autonomy, you can’t make conditions that only terminally ill people should have this right,” he told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

“We should accept generally the right of a human being to say, ‘Right, I would like to end my life’, without any pre-condition, as long as this person has capacity of discernment.”

"I think it is extremely important to defend the autonomy of art, and of literature."

Said the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, who was charged with the crime of insulting Turkishness, for things the characters said in her novel, "The Bastard Of Istanbul." The news today is that she has been acquitted.

It's a very limited defense -- isn't it? -- to say: I didn't express the opinion myself. Don't hold me responsible for what my fictional characters say. It reminds me of the Pope's it's-a-quote defense. You wrote those characters. You chose that quote. It means something. It's crafty. You get to say something and deny that you've said it. It drives your opponents crazy. The thing you are saying enrages them, and the crafty way you found to say it further enrages them, which allows you to say they lack basic comprehension skills, which further enrages them. A strong thinker and writer understands this dynamic.

I hasten to say that whether a literary device is used or a statement is made directly, there shouldn't crimes like "insulting Turkishness" and people shouldn't become violent over the expression of ideas. But this notion that writers who use indirection have no connection to their statements is not credible.

"There may come a time when a lass needs a lawyer..."

Don't you wish you ended up with $15 million worth of jewelry to auction off when the relationship crashed?
Ms. Barkin said the marriage was founded on genuine affection. “I loved Ronald Perelman,’’ she said. “I can say that unequivocally.’’ Mr. Perelman, she suggested, had struck a cooler bargain.

In his mind, she said, “I was an accessory, being accessorized, the perfect one — age-appropriate, the mother of two children, successful in her own right.’’
Yes, well, apparently, she acquired some accessories too.

Get that ice, or else no dice.

ADDED: "I was an accessory, being accessorized." That really is a clever phrase, isn't it? Those accessories she acquired? They weren't really for her. They were add-ons to his accessory, that is, her. So he was really buying them for himself, like you might buy outfits for your Barbie doll. They aren't really for Barbie, they're for you. And I love the idea that she just happened to fall in love with a billionaire, while he was materialistic one. She had beauty and he had money. Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? But, go ahead. Re-tell what is an old, old story. Try to make it new. And congratulations for getting the ice and getting a sympathetic write-up in the NYT.

Madonna's new look.

I'm getting a lot of traffic to this post from last year about "Madonna's new look." I'm sure it's because people are Googling "Madonna's new look" because she has a new new look. I love the new cut. It's something you could move about wearing in the real world, not like the hairstyle it replaced, the retro Valerie Cherish thing that would require you to have Mickey scampering after you everywhere, touching it up constantly.

As for the new color. Use your judgment. Doing the roots every week could get expensive... and boring.

"This should be an industry of beauty and luxury, not famished-looking people that look pale and sick.”

Said David Bonnouvrier (who runs a top modeling agency). There's a lot of talk about too-thin models lately, with calls to ban models who fall outside the World Health Organizations definition of normal. There are concerns that the models are damaging their own health and that they are inspiring other women to take up health-impairing practices. I note that articles on this subject, like the linked one, always include a photograph of a super-thin models who has freakishly shaped legs.

But I'm especially interested in Bonnouvier's statement. The fashion industry invites us to indulge ourselves and spend large sums of money on beautiful clothing. But it also constantly shapes and reshapes what is seen as beautiful. If this wasn't changed all the time, we wouldn't need to buy so many new clothes. The industry must be about changing our perceptions of what clothes are beautiful, and along with that comes the ability to change what we think about how the models look. Hair, makeup, facial features, body shapes -- these are all part of fashion and all part of the idea of the beautiful that the fashion industry shapes. Most of the criticism of the ultra-thin models says that it is evil for the industry to convince us that something unhealthy is beautiful. But this kind of chiding can make thinness seem rebellious and transgressive, and that will stimulate some thinsuasts.

So let me focus on this idea that to be thin is not luxurious. It doesn't fit with the invitation to self-indulgence. We're asked to love pleasure and to deny pleasure. The very thin woman embodies extreme self-denial, discipline, and abstemiousness. If we really believed in the values her thin-seeking behavior represented, we would become skinflints about spending money on luxuries. We'd become clothing minimalists. That would not be in the interest of the fashion industry.

Instead of looking at these models and trying to think up a very extreme, rigid diet for your nutrition, why not think up an extreme, rigid diet for your wardrobe? There's much less suffering involved, and you will save time and money.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"I'm in the middle without any plans..."

"I'm a boy and I'm a man..." I've chosen "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper as today's Unplayable 45 I Won't Throw Out:

Unplayable 45

Wow! Is that in bad condition! It even has paint on it.

What got me thinking about this one is that Bob Dylan ended this week's "Theme Time Radio Hour" with an Alice Cooper song. The theme today was school and the song was "School's Out" -- get it? -- because it was the end of the show. Lyrics: "School's out for summer/School's out forever/School's been blown to pieces." That doesn't resonate well these days, does it?
"Fantasy used to be a lot more effective than reality," said Alice Cooper...

Now "you cannot shock an audience anymore. Audiences are shocked - and I'm shocked - by CNN. When you're seeing a real guy getting his real head cut off by real terrorists on television, and then you see Alice Cooper get his head cut off in a guillotine that's an obvious trick, well, it's not very shocking."...

Thirty-four years and the Columbine shooting later, Cooper stills fends off accusations that his music, and the music of other artists such as Marilyn Manson (who counts Cooper as a big influence), is somehow responsible for the actions of disturbed teenagers.

"I think any time that you're a personality that goes against the grain, you're an easy target," Cooper said. "If I wrote a song that said, 'Go out and buy yourselves some guns and go to your school and go kill everybody that you don't like and it'll be OK,' well, yeah, I think I'm responsible if somebody does that. But if I say, 'School's out,' I don't think that 99.9999 percent of the people will go, 'Yeah, school's out; I hated school, too; (I'm going to kill someone).' "

But, as Cooper acknowledged, "you're always going to have that 1 millionth of a percent that goes, 'Yeah, I know what I'll do ...' That person's going to do something horrible no matter what they hear."

Though he might have strong opinions, you won't hear Cooper giving his political views in his lyrics. For Cooper, rock 'n' roll and politics were never meant to be bedfellows.

"You won't find any political songs, excepted for 'Elected,' which is a satire, on my records. You're never going to find me promoting this candidate over that candidate because I'm sitting there going, 'Why should people who like my music ... vote for the guy I'm voting for?' " Cooper said. "Asking me who to vote for is like asking the guy who makes your pizza who to vote for."
I don't know. He sounds pretty sensible. Maybe we should consult him about who to vote for. Back in 2004, we got a glimpse of his political opinion:
Alice Cooper, a shock rocker back in the old days and now a fan of President Bush, says rock stars who've jumped on the John Kerry bandwagon -- Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen among them -- are treasonous morons.

"To me, that's treason. I call it treason against rock-and-roll, because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics," the 56-year-old [said]....

"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal." (We think he meant watching C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," or maybe he meant perusing the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, but either way you get the idea.)

"Besides, when I read the list of people who are supporting Kerry, if I wasn't already a Bush supporter, I would have immediately switched. Linda Ronstadt? Don Henley? Geez, that's a good reason right there to vote for Bush."
Back to "Eighteen." Why is there only one "t" in the word "eighteen"? Why have I never noticed that before? Anyway, I kind of doubt that I bought this 45. I think it's probably my brother's. He's three years younger than I am, and he liked a lot of things that I and my friends looked down on -- notably Grand Funk Railroad (they were an American band) and Emerson Lake & Palmer (yikes, that is one retro website). Looking for some links about Alice Cooper the first thing I hit in Google is my own old post. At some point in a blogger's life, searching for something in Google is like wracking your own brain for memories, except that it's easier, and you can cut and paste:
[I]t's pretty random that I even went to see Alice Cooper at all. It was a long, long time ago, by the way. It was back when "I'm Eighteen" was a hit (1971). I'm not even sure if "School's Out" was out yet (1972). It was the summer of either 1971 or 1972, in an obscure part of southern New Jersey, and my younger brother wanted to go to the concert. Even though I thought it was embarrassing to go to an Alice Cooper concert--people my age (20 at the time) considered him a joke--I loved the single "I'm Eighteen," so I went. There was an elaborate stage show, which I can't remember anything about. I do remember, I think, that at one point he stripped off a layer of his costume and had on a skin-tight gold lamé body suit, and that was the sort of thing that just wasn't done at the time by anybody my friends would respect. In fact, I remember Iggy Stooge performing on campus (at the University of Michigan) in 1969 or 1970 and everyone shaking their heads and expressing pity for this late-stage has-been who was taking off his shirt, writhing on the ground, and suddenly stooping to the pathetic ploy of renaming himself Iggy Pop. How astounded we would have been if we could have known that 35 years later these two would still be around and would be respected and that Iggy would still look good with his shirt off.

...One of the reasons we thought Alice Cooper was a joke was because he was seen as a Frank Zappa side project, a Zappa prank. The album I listened to every day back then was "The Mothers Live at the Fillmore East," which includes some comical references to Alice Cooper:
Well, it gets me so hot
I could scream
ALICE COOPER, ALICE COOPER! WAAAAH!
ALICE COOPER, ALICE COOPER! WAAAAH!
You can read all the lyrics here. [Not for the faint-hearted.] I still love that album! People who love the song "Happy Together" but don't know "Live at the Fillmore East" are missing a key perspective.
Sorry about calling the song "I'm Eighteen." It's just "Eighteen," you can clearly see from the record label. Anyway, I'm embarrassed that I was embarrassed to go see Alice Cooper back then.