Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween... DIY.

Homemade costumes are absolutely dominant once again this year in Madison, Wisconsin. No one thus far has turned up in a store-bought packaged costume. I just had a group of girls who were the characters from the game Candyland. Before that were two boys. One was "a blue screen" -- do you know what that is? yeah! The other was Gordon Freeman -- "a research scientist." I'll have to look that up.

Kerry.

The John Kerry "stuck in Iraq" story is dominating the news today. It's rather unfair to the Democrats who are actually running in the election. I'd love to hear the behind-the-scenes cursing he so richly deserves. (And let me add that Kerry is outrageously lying when he says he wasn't referring to the troops. This is only prolonging his time in the spotlight, when he should get out of the way and let actual candidates speak.)

"If my dad married a man, who would be my mom?"

Here's an ad supporting the anti-same-sex marriage amendment.



I suspect it will be quite effective for some people. My question is whether it's actively unfair. Queerty is especially offended by this ad because "it exploits children to spread a political message and then it portrays said children as easily confounded ninnies."

"We have acquired this responsibility..."

Christopher Hitchens on Iraq:
[T]he many disappointments and crimes and blunders... do not relieve us of a responsibility that is either insufficiently stressed or else passed over entirely: What is to become, in the event of a withdrawal, of the many Arab and Kurdish Iraqis who do want to live in a secular and democratic and federal country? We have acquired this responsibility not since 2003, or in the sideshow debate over prewar propaganda, but over decades of intervention in Iraq's affairs, starting with the 1968 Baathist coup endorsed by the CIA, stretching through Jimmy Carter's unforgivable permission for Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, continuing through the decades of genocide in Kurdistan and the uneasy compromise that ended the Kuwait war, and extending through 12 years of sanctions and half-measures, including the "no-fly" zones and the Iraq Liberation Act, which passed the Senate without a dissenting vote. It is not a responsibility from which we can walk away when, or if, it seems to suit us.

Why the antagonism toward Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

She won the "Least Favorite Justice" poll with 40 percent of the vote. I understand that who linked had a lot to do with whether a liberal or a conservative won. Clarence Thomas would have won if more liberal blogs had linked to the poll, and the question would be why Thomas and not Scalia. So the question is, out of the liberal choices, was was Ginsburg such a clear "least favorite"? David Lat asks:
[W]hy not Justice Souter, who "betrayed" the conservatives who put him on the Court? Or Justice Stevens, another Republican appointee who didn't turn out as expected -- and who refuses to step down from the Court, despite his advancing age? Or Justice Kennedy, the fickle swing voter, who could give the conservatives real control, if only he fell into line?
It's damned hard to think of a reason other than sexism.

IN THE COMMENTS: The strongest argument that it's not sexism seems to be that Ginsburg is easy to recognize as one of the liberals. So if you want to vote against a liberal, you know you're achieving that by picking her. If you try to go for one the men... they look too much alike... you might goof up.

Which Supreme Court Justice went on a nude cruise?

The Chief Justice has launched an investigation to get to the... uh... to figure out exactly which Justice that San Francisco Chronicle travel article was referring to.
[Spuds Hilton, the author of the article] said in an interview that while he has no clue as to the identity of the alleged nude judge, "the whole idea of sailing the seven seas naked makes the mind race. When you hear that a member of the highest court in a country the size of Canada may be lounging by the pool buck-naked, daiquiri in hand, you know that people will be interested.

"The owner of the travel company said that nudity is the great equalizer," Mr. Hilton added. "I guess that makes sense -- no power suits, no uniforms, no $600 pumps and, apparently, no judge's robes."
Here in the U.S., the justices are always blabbing about "judicial modesty," but who know what kinds of vacations they take?

Anyway, a naked cruise? It's just so perfectly awful, combining the horrors described in two of my favorite essays, "Naked," by David Sedaris and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," by David Foster Wallace. And then add Supreme Court Justices for a truly dreadful, nightmare vacation.

“All they want is sweets... They’re not scaring you, or singing to you, or charming you — they’re just grabbing it and going to the next house..."

Halloween's not making sense to the British.
“Trick or treat? I don’t know about you, but my answer to this question, if I’m honest, would be unprintable in a family newspaper,” the critic A. N. Wilson wrote recently in The Daily Mail. “Let’s say it’s stronger than ‘push off.’ Yet the little beggars will soon be round, banging and ringing at our doors with this irritating refrain.”

Mr. Wilson blamed “the kitsch hotchpotch known as American Gothic.”

Hugh O’Donnell, a professor of language and popular culture at Glasgow Caledonian University, said in an interview that “the main complaint is that it’s just fun without any meaning behind it.”

“It’s no longer got any relationship to anything — not the old Celtic idea of the living and the dead, or the Christian tradition of Allhallows Eve,” said Mr. O’Donnell....

Mr. O’Donnell said that when he was a boy in Scotland, he and his friends regularly went door to door, playing out an old Celtic tradition.

“It was called guising,” he explained. “You put an old sheet over your head and went to all the houses in the village, and you always had to do something, like sing a song or tell a joke.” The children did not receive candy then — just apples and, maybe, peanuts, he said....
I was going to laugh at them for being cranky and dense, but O'Donnell changed my mind. In a place where there was once a more mysterious and entrancing tradition, it's got to feel empty and sad to be subjected to a thin tradition from another place.

Inborn morality.

Does this idea bother you?
Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, ... propose[s] that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, “Moral Minds” (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.

People are generally unaware of this process because the mind is adept at coming up with plausible rationalizations for why it arrived at a decision generated subconsciously....

Both atheists and people belonging to a wide range of faiths make the same moral judgments, Dr. Hauser writes, implying “that the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine.” Dr. Hauser argues that the moral grammar operates in much the same way as the universal grammar proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky as the innate neural machinery for language. The universal grammar is a system of rules for generating syntax and vocabulary but does not specify any particular language. That is supplied by the culture in which a child grows up.
If this idea bothers you, is it because you want to be proud of your own morality or because it undermines religion? But maybe your need to feel proud of your morality and your sense that God is involved in the process of making you moral are just more things that evolution wired into your brain.

IN THE COMMENTS: This passage from the writings of St. Paul is found relevant and discussed;
(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

Romans 2:14-15 (New International Version)

"Michigan is ground zero in the national debate on the meaning of equal opportunity."

A ballot initiative in Michigan:
The ballot initiative, Proposition 2, which would amend Michigan’s Constitution to bar public institutions from considering race or sex in public education, employment or contracting, has drawn wide opposition from the state’s civic establishment, including business and labor, the Democratic governor and her Republican challenger. But polls show voters are split, with significant numbers undecided or refusing to say where they stand....
If larger numbers than usual are resisting expressing opinion here, I suspect these are people who support the initiative but fear being considered racist.
For the University of Michigan, the proposition would require broader changes than the Supreme Court did; it ruled in [Jennifer] Gratz’s case and a companion case that while the consideration of race as part of the law school’s admissions policy was constitutional, a formula giving extra points to minority undergraduate applicants was not....

“The entire elite establishment is all lined up on the other side of this issue,” Ms. Gratz said, “but the mainstream, normal, everyday people who go to work every day think their husbands, their wives, their kids, should be treated equally by our government, and should not be judged on race or sex.”

"The Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses."

Hardcore rhetoric from George Bush.

Dick Cheney is somewhat more elegant about it: "It's my belief that [the insurgents are] very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled... [They believe] they can break the will of the American people," and "that's what they're trying to do."

Josh Marshall reads
the linked article and comments: "Get ready for the fangs and knives... The desperation will be ferocious. Imagine everything from the last six years rolled into one toxic week. An electoral gauntlet of hacking knives and fire. But, then, where did one party rule ever end serenely?"

A gauntlet of hacking knives and fire? That's one crazy image. Like something out of "Edward Scissorhands" or maybe "Yellow Submarine" -- remember The Dreadful Flying Glove?



Ah, but wait. Only conservative usage writers insist on the gauntlet/gantlet distinction, and since Marshall's no conservative, he's allowed to stir up distracting glove imagery as he makes his point that the President is getting really, really desperate.

Everyone knows Bush speaks inelegantly. Is he charged up as the election nears? I hope so. He should be. Imagine what people like Marshall would say if he seemed ennervated and resigned. And it's not as if we aren't going to see Democrats reveal their sharp edges this week. Fangs, knives, fiery gloves, what have you. And it's not as if Democrats aren't going drop their guard and let a blunt phrase slip out.

UPDATE: If you listened to the audio at that last link, there's more commentary here, here, and here. It really is amazing how politically inept John Kerry is.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"E-lection Nite Blog Party."

So what do you think of this?
[CNN] plans to host more than two dozen bloggers from across the political spectrum — including sites like RedState and Daily Kos — at a Washington Internet lounge where they can monitor the election returns on a slew of flat-screen televisions. (Each blogger will get his or her own monitor, which can be tuned to any channel.) There will be free wireless access — and plenty of food and beverages, natch.

CNN Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton have been assigned to cover the gathering and provide regular updates on the air about the topics that are generating the most chatter.

"Bloggers are leading the conversation," said David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief. "You could argue that most of the political dialogue in this country is happening online, so if you don't incorporate that into your coverage, you're missing a major element."

Subscribers to CNN Pipeline, the network's broadband service, will be able to monitor the happenings at the blog party through one of the online channels, which will be dedicated exclusively to footage from the event.
Would you like to have your humble blogger blog the election returns not from my personal TV lounge but from CNN's Washington Internet lounge in some sort of a party atmosphere with two dozen other bloggers (each of whose party mood is going to depend on what shows up on that a slew of flat-screen televisions)?

Early sunset.

Dusk sky

"Karl Rove, somewhere inside that massive brain of his..."

"... has figured out the political landscape more clearly than the entire collection of conventional-wisdom pundits and pollsters in the entire city of Washington."

Obsessing about Rove:
Is Rove just acting cocky as a way of lifting GOP morale, or does he really believe it? And, if the latter, is he deluding himself, or does he once again know something that Democrats do not?
We're in this crazy period where we're analyzing what happened in the election that hasn't happened yet, and part of the craziness is the gripping fear that Karl actually knows.

Making fun of Bush for saying "the Google"...

... while using the term "internet blogs." Time for NPR to catch some mockery from this weblogger on the internet web.

If Democrats win the House with candidates who seem more like Republicans...

... what will happen to the party?
Democratic officials said they did not set out with the intention of finding moderates to run. Instead, as they searched for candidates with the greatest possibility of winning against Republicans, they said, they wound up with a number who reflected more moderate views....

Collectively, the group could tilt the balance of power within the party, which has been struggling to define itself in recent elections. The candidates cover the spectrum on political issues; some are fiscally conservative and moderate or liberal on social issues, some are the reverse. They could influence negotiations with Republicans on a variety of issues, including Social Security and stem cell research....

The centrist movement was embodied by former President Bill Clinton, who rose to prominence through the Democratic Leadership Council, which embraced a so-called third way of politics and eschewed what it saw as outdated liberalism.

Yet since Mr. Clinton left office, Democrats have seemed to drift back in the direction of their liberal identity, nominating two presidential contenders who were seen as less committed to the moderate cause.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I'd like to see the Democratic Party become centrist. If they win because they found moderates to run in key districts, I think they'll have a special obligation to please people like me. I'm going to hold them to the bargain.

UPDATE: The liberal bloggers' response to the linked article is pretty funny. TAPPED whines that the NYT isn't helping them enough. Matthew Yglesias is similiarly irked. The NYT was supposed to be on our side! How embarrassing. First, you try to blow the credibility of the newspaper that really does usually help you. Second, you show your disrespect for professional journalism. Third, you reveal how far to the left you are if the NYT isn't liberal enough for you. Absurd!

"Go ahead, put marks on me. That's what I want. Go ahead."

More news in the Duke lacrosse team rape case.

Is blackface humor acceptable?

Some people think so.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mid-fall, UW Law School.

I never seem to get any good shots of the Law School. But I kind of like this one from yesterday, with one bare tree and one showy one.

Bascom Mall

"What Tennesseans will get will be a Jesus-loving..."

Jesus-loving! I've never heard a candidate promise to be Jesus-loving. Wow! That's just not the way people talk in politics. But calm down. It was the Democrat, Harold Ford... on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace (who seemed to have a smirk on his face). Let's get the whole quote:
What Tennesseans will get will be a Jesus-loving, gun-supporting believer that families should come first, that taxes should be lower and America should be strong. When Tennesseans send us to the Senate, that's what they'll get in my votes and that's what they'll get in the kind of leadership that we have not had in the Senate over the last six years.

I know there's going to be an effort to scare people, but you cannot scare people to be inspired. You cannot scare people to do good and important things. I say to the national Republican Party, that message has run out of gas here in Tennessee. We know we are better than that as a country, and Tennesseans are ready to vote for something better and stronger and more positive than that.
Speaking of scaring people, I'm still laughing about the "TV Funhouse" cartoon on SNL last night. It spoofed the scary Republican ads. In one, kids are trick-or-treating, and at the door is a pregnant woman; we see her belly burst open -- in the style of the movie "Alien" -- and out pops Hillary Clinton, who croaks: "Here kids, have some condoms and abortion pills."

But, anyway, back to Harold Ford, that "Jesus-loving" response came after Wallace asked a great question:
Congressman, as we've said, you vote pretty conservative for a Democrat, but the fact is that if you win and if you're part of a Democratic takeover of the Senate, that means that ... Harry Reid, ... becomes the Senate majority leader, Ted Kennedy becomes a committee chair, so does Joe Biden. Doesn't a Ford victory as part of a Democratic takeover, doesn't that end up helping liberals?
I'm not surprised he flipped into Jesus! guns! mode.

UPDATE: More religion from Ford here: "Republicans fear the Lord; he said Democrats fear AND love the Lord." Via Instapundit, who thinks Ford needs a good night's sleep. I feel a little sorry for Ford -- and for other Democrats -- not because they don't get enough sleep, but because it seems unfair that religion works as well as it does for Republicans. But you can't turn things around by just proclaiming that it's not right. And bragging about your own religious piety is not a good way to impress religious people... and it's really off-putting to people who are wary of religion in politics.

The right to silently protest a speaker.

On Friday, I wrote about the UW-Oshkosh police throwing students out of a lecture for standing and turning their backs to a speaker -- who happened to be UW's own 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Kevin Barrett. I also raised this question with the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, and UW polisci prof Donald Downs -- president of the group -- wrote this (and wanted me to copy it here):
The key point is to balance the rights of the protesters with the rights of the speaker and the audience. Protesters have a right to make their views known, but they must not infringe the rights of the speaker and the audiences. So the following questions are relevant:

1) Were the protesteros actually disrupting others' views?

2) If so, HOW LONG did they obstruct the view? A symbolic gesture to turn the back that prevented people in the audience from seeing the speaker is fine, so long as the act is short and does not block views for a meaningful period of time (a couple of minutes, max, it would seem to me);

3) how did the police react? Did they make an attempt to talk with the protesters, and did the protesters make any attempt to make it clear that they were not trying to disrupt the audience's view? This is a factual call about which we lack evidence;

4) how have similar speech actions been treated by authorities in the past? This is Ann's key question. Ann's question has validity because in my entire time at Madison, I have never witnessed a conservative group attempting to disrupt a speaker, only leftist groups opposed to the speaker. In no case has the leftist group ever been punished or even spoken to by the administration. In some cases, it was evident who was doing the disruption, as in the Ward Connerly disruption in 1998. But we still need to know the facts in the case at hand. What we want in these encounters is even-handedness (viewpoint neutrality) on the part of authorities, plain and simple.

Street scene with smashed head.

Street scene with smashed head

Did you get trashed last night at Freakfest?

New morning light.

I'm enjoying the new infusion of light into the morning. This was yesterday, when midday looked like late afternoon:

Bascom Mall

''The military was forced to pay a human cost for the country's caution..."

"... and then paid again with its prestige when some labeled the inevitable results of such limited activity 'military incompetence.' '' said Jim Webb, the Virginia Senate candidate.

But he didn't say that recently. That's a quote from a fascinating February 28, 1988 article that I found in the NYT archive. (You'll need TimesSelect for access.) Webb was Secretary of the Navy at the time.

I was looking for some more detail about what he'd said about women in the military and found it:
But Webb shattered his welcome at Annapolis in 1979 with a scathing article for Washingtonian magazine. Entitled ''Women Can't Fight,'' it was a traditionalist's diatribe against the admission three years earlier of women into the academy. The piece took a tone that could only offend women; he called Bancroft Hall, the school's single, mammoth dormitory, housing 300 women and 4,000 men, ''a horny woman's dream.''

''There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat,'' he wrote. ''And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation.''

Webb's second novel, ''A Sense of Honor,'' set at Annapolis, stirred up more turmoil. It decried the Naval Academy's emasculation and defended the old style of masculine indoctrination and hazing that Webb and his classmates had known....

Webb's views on women came up in his confirmation hearings for the reserve affairs position, and, during his tenure as secretary, the Navy has been harshly criticized by Pentagon review boards for pervasive patterns of sexual harassment and discrimination.
But perhaps more significant than that is his thinking about the use of military force:
["Fields of Fire"] is so intensely personal that one can't help but turn to it for an exegesis of its author. What emerges is a portrait of a man who views all military missions through the prism of Vietnam.

Without question, this is the case when Webb considers the Persian Gulf. For him, the frigates and destroyers in the Gulf sometimes resemble the tanks and foot soldiers that slogged into ambush in rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam. ''It is something that I think about all the time in the Persian Gulf,'' he said recently, ''where we are dangled around like a target before the next step.''...

The problem he recalled from Vietnam was that American forces were not given free rein to fight a war. ''The military was forced to pay a human cost for the country's caution,'' said Webb, ''and then paid again with its prestige when some labeled the inevitable results of such limited activity 'military incompetence.' '' Once again, in the Gulf, more than geopolitical interest was at stake. It was the prestige of the military. It was also youthful lives and limbs.

''I have really been struggling with this,'' Webb said one evening last fall. He was nursing a beer in a darkened Virginia restaurant near the Pentagon. ''The danger,'' he said, ''is that we commit our forces in an operational environment, and then become paralyzed by the political debate that follows.'' When the first oil tanker under escort hit a mine in July, Webb escalated his activities. In a set of memorandums to then Defense Secretary Weinberger, Webb called into question some of the fundamental premises of the Reagan Administration's Gulf policy....

Vietnam was not the only historical analogy he saw. He was also troubled by the parallels to Beirut - where he had worked as a journalist in October 1983, winning an Emmy award for ''The MacNeil/Lehrer Report'' on his coverage of the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks there.

''In Vietnam, the problem was not setting clear enough goals, so that we could shape our policy in the early years, and know where we were going,'' said Webb. ''In Beirut, it was injecting a military force and then paralyzing it. You just couldn't change anything because the debate was so strong at the top.''
The danger is that we commit our forces in an operational environment, and then become paralyzed by the political debate that follows.

Webb is clearly a very smart guy with a lot of nerve and many years of experience thinking about the right questions.

"It's an alternative food source."

..."And not because it doesn't taste great."

..."Again, sustenance, that's the key."

"We wanted to see a capacity for growth and change in Mr. Lieberman."

The NYT endorses Ned Lamont.

"People just assume you’re a Democrat, and turn and look at you and say, 'Can you believe what this nut in the White House is doing?'"

"And then you can say, 'I voted for him twice,' or you can nod and move along."

Here's an article about how people have trouble talking or even thinking about politics without getting mad at anybody on the other side.
Jim Coffman, 40, a Democrat in Chicago, said he and his wife have not pursued a friendship with another couple whose three children are the same ages as theirs after seeing photographs of President Bush on the other couple’s refrigerator. He said they have discussed with other friends “being so amazed that we could have so much in common, and yet be so diametrically opposed” when it comes to politics.
Photographs of President Bush on the refrigerator? Well, I'd wonder about anybody who had a picture of any politician on the refrigerator....

But, anyway, it's a long American tradition to fight about politics and to view people on the other side as depraved. I think the greatest danger is that the people who are passionate about politics make a lot of other people not want to talk or even think about politics at all. Saying anything might make people not like you. That's enough to make most people avoid the subject... or to play the chameleon and seem to have whatever political opinions the other people have. Maybe you don't even know what you really think.

And why not worry about all the other things that will make people cross you off their list? Maybe the cute animal picture on your refrigerator will cause that otherwise compatible couple to deem you unworthy. You're probably wearing the wrong shoes and listening to the wrong music. And remember that time I made an allusion to a movie and you said you hated it? There are so many pitfalls!

"Small crowds of hostile attendees briefly chanted and taunted police..."

But other than that, Madison's "Freakfest" seems to have gone well:
By 2:05 a.m. post-daylight saving time on Sunday, State Street was clear of Halloween revelers, and police didn't need to use riot gear or pepper spray to do it. Soon after the staged event was over, and again when the bars closed an hour or so later, people for the most part simply left....

There were hints throughout the night that the event might end well, with the crowd never building to the maximum 80,000 attendees.

For most of the night it was still possible to walk comfortably on State Street without getting poked by pitchfork-wielding devils or whacked by the sticks of the guys dressed as the Duke University lacrosse team....

"I think everyone just wants to see no trouble this year," said [Jesse] Holst, who was wearing camouflage plants and a referee's shirt. He said he was a civil war referee.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Harsh shadows.

On a sunny, mid-fall day:

Bascom Mall

Do you think we can predict what's going to happen in the election...

... by looking how certain movies are doing this weekend?
Newmarket's very controversial Death of a President (91 theaters) did only $.06 mil Friday with a pathetic per screen average of $673 for should be a $0.21 weekend. The Weinstein Company's Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing (4 theaters) took in $0.01 mil Friday and a disappointing $2,867 per screen average for what should be a $.04 mil weekend.

Fall.

Bleak:

Fall

But that was yesterday.

Fall

Today... I need to get out.

"In one semifamous cleanliness lapse in the 1992 presidential campaign..."

"Bill Clinton, who had just shaken dozens of hands at a tavern in Boston, was handed a pie but no fork on his way to the car. The ravenous Mr. Clinton promptly devoured it using his unwashed hand. He eventually became a serious user of hand wipes and lotions at the urging of his doctor, an aide said."

Mmm... pie!

That's from an article in today's NYT about how all the politicians use Purell. I checked to see if Barack Obama was mentioned. Answer: yes:
“Good stuff, keeps you from getting colds,” Mr. Bush raved about hand sanitizer to Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, at a White House encounter early last year.

Mr. Obama, who recounts the episode in his new book, says that after rubbing a blob of it on his own hands, the president offered him some, which he accepted (“not wanting to appear unhygienic.”)

Mr. Obama has since started carrying Purell in his traveling bag, a spokesman said.

Why did I check? Because it was quite recently that the NYT published a review of Obama's book that I thought wafted the suggestion that Bush was a racist for using Purell after shaking Obama's hand.

Anyway, as long as I've mentioned pie... I thought this was cool.

"I commend Oprah Winfrey for the very fair and balanced treatment she gave O'Reilly..."

Says Lorie Byrd.

I saw the show (only because I hastily set up a season pass for "Oprah" so I wouldn't miss... Madonna!). It was extremely well-done, with strong participation from audience members. Oprah was gracious to Bill O'Reilly, but still asked hard questions. O'Reilly complimented her for being nice while doing a show with someone she clearly disagrees with. Not like that jerk David Letterman who -- here's the clip -- went on and on about how O'Reilly wouldn't bow down to the moral superiority of Cindy Sheehan.

Oprah's website has lots of coverage of the show:
In his latest number one bestseller, Culture Warrior, Bill warns that America is in the midst of what he calls a vicious culture war between two factions.

Oprah: What is the war?

Bill: The war is between traditionalists like me, and I believe you, too, by the way, who think the country is noble. America's a noble nation.
I like the slickly inclusionary "I believe you, too."

Here's a good example of O'Reilly in full-out stream-of-consciousness mode -- with Oprah getting in one exquisitely specific line:
Bill: You know, we have our military fighting for our country overseas. We at home have to fight for our country. Do you want to be Denmark? Do you want to be Holland? That's what the S-Ps [secular-progressives] want. Anything goes: euthanasia, legalized narcotics, unfettered abortion, on and on and on and on. Look, when you and I were growing up, what kind of music did we listen to?

Oprah: I listened to The Temptations. …

Bill: What are the kids listening to now? Ho's. Glocks. Drugs. We've come a long way, haven't we? … These are the kids at 9, 10 …They know all about it. There's no more Temptations. They're obsolete. How about movies? What did we go to see? We went to see The Blob. Steve McQueen running around going, "There's the blob." We had a lot of laughs. Popcorn. Now they have a chainsaw guy cutting off people's arms. That's what kids are seeing. Oh, we've come a long way, haven't we? This country is under siege.
Oh, no! There's the blob!

ADDED: I'm just checking out the Letterman appearance. Before bringing out O'Reilly, Letterman had a chat with Paul:
It occurred to me: I know very little about anything. I mean, it's not like you have to have a license to run one of these shows. But then when a guy like Bill O'Reilly comes on... I ... I believe he probably doesn't know what he's talking about either. So.. it's just... when you get right down to it, it's a couple of dumb guys out here... just yakkin'.
AND: Dave was prickly but O'Reilly did a good job of going back to humor and Dave would come back too. They kept taking breaks to say they really are good friends, but you could also see Dave -- like a lot of people -- is quite upset about the war. It's appropriate to show real anger there. It's a war. It's no joke. I thought the two of them did a decent job. I liked when Dave said he hadn't read the book, but "What's it about? Sailing?" (You have to see the jacket photo to get the laugh.)

(I note that the show I'm watching from last night is not the same one O'Reilly was talking about on "Oprah," shown in the linked clip.)

"If you want to read about attitudes toward females..."

So it's finally arrived! The day when we scour the files of political candidates for evidence about their attitudes toward females! And may the least sexist candidate win!

In one corner, we have a man who has written novels -- gasp! novels! -- that lack any strong female characters! In the other, we have a man who has a sister who's written a memoir -- oh, no! a memoir! get me Oprah! -- in which she tattles that he pulled her hair!
In its latest attack, the [George] Allen camp takes particular issue with the portrayal of women in [Jim] Webb’s novels, saying female characters are consistently “servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these.”
And:
Mr. Webb ... attacked Mr. Allen personally. “You ought to read what George Allen’s sister wrote about him if you want to read about attitudes toward females,” he said, alluding to an autobiography by Jennifer Allen in which she describes her brother as a bully who once dragged her upstairs by her hair because she had defied her father at bedtime.
Oh, come on, Althouse. Get the story straight! It's not a memoir, it's an autobiography. And he didn't just pull her hair, he dragged her up the stairs by her hair -- the caveman! -- because she defied her father -- the patriarch!

Well, who is this Jennifer Allen character that she merits an "autobiography"? It looks like a memoir to me. She tells the story of growing up with that patriarch, who was a "legendary" football coach and, apparently, a mean daddy. Too bad Amazon doesn't have a search-inside-the-book function for that one, because we could find all the references to brother George and quote them -- in or out of context, as suits our fancy.

But come on, let's not stop with Webb and Allen. It's time to dig in. I want to know about all the male candidates. Who respects women more?

And all you guys who are hoping to make it in politics, who are burnishing your credentials right now? Better make sure you show nothing but respect from now on. Better go crawling on your knees to any woman you ever disrespected, lest she dash off a memoir. Bonus political tip: Hire a ghostwriter to write a novel full of upright, feisty females.

ADDED: From Maureen Dowd's TimesSelect column:
Mr. Allen’s younger sister, Jennifer, wrote a memoir in which she described her brother pulling a Michael Jackson and dangling her over a railing at Niagara Falls, and slamming a pool cue against her boyfriend’s head. (She later said the pool-cue story was a joke, calling the book a novelization of the past.)
So it's that kind of memoir.

"When it's done right, it's a controlled maneuver, and it stops the car."

The new high-speed case chase:
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether police officers can be sued for intentionally ramming a fleeing car during a high-speed chase, causing the death or injury of the driver....

[A police officer] rammed the rear of the speeding vehicle, sending it out of control and over an embankment. The driver, 19-year-old Victor Harris, survived but was rendered a quadriplegic.

He sued, and both a federal judge and the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta agreed that an officer who used "deadly force" by ramming his car into another vehicle could be held liable for the damage he caused. ...

When trying to stop a fleeing car, police officers try to drive alongside and then nudge the rear to the right so that the car spins out. This is known as PIT, for Pursuit Intervention Technique.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Architecture or nature?

Take your pick.

Architecture or nature?

It's just a matter of taste.

Steve Irwin mockery.

Were you upset by the little Steve Irwin thing on "South Park"? Satan is giving a Halloween party, and he confronts a guy who appears to be dressed as Steve Irwin. Picture at the link -- he's walking around with the stingray stuck in his bloody chest. Satan tells him it's too soon. When it turns out it really is the dead Steve Irwin, Satan throws him out for not wearing a costume.

Dressing as Steve Irwin for Halloween actually is a pretty clever idea, and it raises the interesting question why some evil/horrible things are considered good for costumes when others aren't. We all know you can't dress as Hitler, for example, even though, in general, evil imagery is encouraged.

Hitler, by the way, appears in the new "South Park." Not as a costume, as a dead guy. And he does have a costume. He's the "Can you hear me now?" guy, with a cell phone. Don't you hate that guy?

Also pushing the evil/funny envelope: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer did an extended Three Stooges routine that was quite brilliant.

"In few places is the power of global climate change celebrated as it is in Wisconsin..."

It's the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Bestial.

Sometimes, on an impulse, I set up a Google alert for a word that strikes me for some reason or another. I'm looking for some random input, just to shake things loose. The other day -- I can't remember why -- I set up the word "bestial." This word drags in the weirdest stuff, mostly garbage, but today, it brought this.

Reading movie and TV recaps instead of watching movies and TV.

How widespread is this trend? In two days, I encountered two individuals who said they derived their movie and TV entertainment from reading recaps and skipping the viewing experience altogether. Both mentioned The Movie Spoiler for movie summaries, which I hadn't heard of before. For TV, the obvious choice is Television Without Pity, which I've been reading for years, but I wasn't reading recaps of shows I didn't watch (and it never occurred to me to just say "twop.")

I like this idea of substituting the recap. I love reading things on line. (I mean, I'm severely addicted to reading things on line. Last night, I curled up in bed at 7:30 to read a book, but along with the book I brought my laptop. I thought I'd click around on the laptop for a few minutes and then get to the book. At 11, I was still on the laptop!) Lately, I haven't felt like watching TV. It's not as though I'm trying to practice some new austerity. I just haven't been enjoying the TV-viewing feeling too much lately. Reading TV recaps might nicely replace the relaxing, easy experience that once was TV. But if everyone only reads about TV and doesn't watch it, why do we even need the shows?

Somebody needs to start a website for smart, funny recaps of TV shows and movies that don't exist.

Have you been having trouble seeing new posts to this blog?

I had that problem myself in Firefox, and it's corrected in this new update. For some reason, the "check for updates" function in Firefox was not showing that this new version is available. It is! Update! And see the constant refreshment of Althouse!

CORRECTION: It's Firefox, not Foxfire. I wonder how many other syllables I've been reversing without putting myself in a position to attract corrections. Foxfire is bioluminescent fungus, you know.

MOREOVER: In the episode of "Lassie" that first aired on October 26, 1958, "Timmy and Boomer hunt foxfire to smear on their faces and become trapped in an abandoned house in the woods that is scheduled for demolition." Reason for wanting to smear luminescent fungus on their faces: to scare the girls out of kissing them at Martha Tyson's Halloween party.

After the radio show...

I cross the pedestrian bridge over University Avenue...

University Avenue, fall morning

... and pass through the inhumane architecture of the Humanities Building...

The inhumane Humanities Building

... into the welcome space of Library Mall:

Early morning, campus

Radio.

I'm on Week in Review, starting in a few minutes, and, nicely, I'm able to get on the WiFi today. We'll see if being able to look things up on the fly makes things better and whether I'm tempted to blog as I go. The show will be up for streaming here later this morning.

ADDED: First subject: Rush Limbaugh on Michael J. Fox's political ad and the stem cell research issue. Second: That anti-Harold Ford ad. Third: The New Jersey marriage decision.

AND: Iraq.

MORE: Here's some background on that "Injun time" story I didn't know anything about.

"Canada can take care of North Korea. They’re not busy."

Let's talk about the part of the anti-Harold Ford ad that's not about the Playboy lady. Canada's upset!

"After we clean the world of the White House first..."

That's when Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly, the most prominent Muslim cleric in Australia, said he would step down. Reuters paraphrases the quote above as a statement that "he would not go until the White House was cleaned out." Somebody needs to learn how to read. Those words aren't a mere wish to see President Bush out of the White House. They state a desire to rid the world of the White House. The place in need of "cleaning" is not the White House, but the world. The uncleanliness is not the President in the White House, but the White House in the world.

The demands that Hilaly step down follow his horrible statements about women and rape: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem."

Spot the free speech issue.

Kevin Barrett, the UW's part-time lecturer who thinks the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh yesterday (at the invitation of the College Greens):
Members of the UWO branch of College Republicans picketed outside the union, and several made their way to the lecture as well. Shortly after Barrett took the podium, UWO Police were forced to take action when dissenting students stood up and turned their backs to Barrett mid-lecture. The officers received applause as they escorted students out of the room.

One of the student demonstrators outside was UWO fifth-year senior Erin Kisley, who said that while she believes in academic freedom, Barrett is stepping over a thin red line.

“I don’t want my student activity fees to be funding him to come here,” Kisley said. “I think his teaching is wrong. I believe in freedom of speech, but as an education major, I also believe that you should be teaching facts instead of your own opinions.”

Andrew Sabais, Chair of College Greens and UWO senior said many people view Barrett’s presence at the university as an “embarrassment,” but disagrees with Kisley.

“Tonight there is a big embarrassment for this university, and that is the College Republicans demonstrating outside against free speech,” Sabais said.
Hmmm... Were they demonstrating against free speech or exercising free speech? The opinion that Barrett doesn't deserve to be a featured speaker at UWO is a perfectly good one. The only serious free speech question here is whether the students who stood up and turned their backs on the speaker should have been thrown out!

The student journalist who wrote the linked article says "UWO Police were forced to take action when dissenting students stood up and turned their backs to Barrett mid-lecture." What "forced" the police to "take action" against the students, who had chosen a peaceful, quiet form of protest?

ADDED: If Barrett had been a little sharper, he would have called on the police to leave the students alone. After all, he presents himself as very skeptical of government authority and concerned about free speech.

"Will the idealistic Coyote take up his father’s whip to exploit the leadership-hungry clowns?"

The Broadway show that asks that question gets the terrible review you knew it would get when you watched the clip yesterday. Ben Brantley on "The Times They Are A-Changing," (Twyla Tharp's thuddingly literal depiction of Bob Dylan songs):
Ms. Tharp turns lyrics’ metaphors not only into flesh but also into flashlights, jump-ropes, stuffed animals and new brooms that sweep clean. (If there was a kitchen sink onstage, I missed it, which isn’t to say it wasn’t there.) Props rule in this magic kingdom, along with charadelike annotations of images.

Just mention, say, Cinderella in “Desolation Row,” and there she is, center stage. When the same song refers to Dr. Filth, there he is performing surgery....

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Radio alert.

I'll be on the "Week in Review" show on Wisconsin Public Radio Friday morning at 8 Central Time. It will be streamable here later in the morning. I wonder what news stories people will want to talk about. The election, I assume. Gay marriage. Iraq. Stem cells (and how mean Rush Limbaugh was to Michael J. Fox).

"Whatever short-term political gain there is [for Democrats], it can only have a negative impact on gay men."

Camille Paglia on the Mark Foley scandal:
When a moralistic, buttoned-up Republican like Foley is revealed to have a secret, seamy gay life, it simply casts all gay men under a shadow and makes people distrust them. Why don't the Democratic strategists see this?.......

The Foley scandal exploded without any proof of a documented sex act -- unlike the case of the late congressman Gerry Studds, who had sex with a page and who was literally applauded by fellow Democrats when they refused to vote for his censure. In the Foley case, there was far more ambiguous evidence -- suggestive e-mails and instant messages... What does it mean for Democrats to be agitating over Web communications, which in my view fall under the province of free speech? It's a civil liberties issue. We can say that what Foley was doing was utterly inappropriate, professionally irresponsible, and in bad taste, but why were liberals fomenting a scandal day after day after day over words being used? And why didn't Democrats notice that they were drifting into an area which has been the province of the right wing -- that is, the attempt to gain authoritarian control over interpersonal communications on the Web?....

And with the Democrats' record of sex scandals, what the hell were they thinking of? For heaven's sake, after we just got through the whole Clinton maelstrom! What Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was far worse than any evidence I've seen thus far about what Foley did with these pages.... There was a time when feminists were arguing, in regard to sexual harassment in the workplace, that any gross disparity in power cannot possibly produce informed consent. All of a sudden, all of that was abandoned for partisan reasons in the Clinton case.
Well ranted.

Lots more at the link (on many subjects).

UPDATE: Paglia's statement about Studds is incorrect, as a commenter pointed out. Studds was censured, with only 3 Democrats voting against it. As for the Democrats' attitude at the time, here's the 1983 NYT article:
... Mr. Studds walked to the well, where he stood facing the Speaker with his back to the other members as the censure was read. He appeared grim but stoic as he turned without a word and sat down in the front row where colleagues from Massachusetts shook his hand....

The emotional debate echoed with appeals for morality and mercy. Supporters of the milder penalty argued that the two members had suffered irreparable harm already, and did not merit further humiliation.

''They must live with their shame, their actions indelibly recorded on this nation's history,'' said Representative Louis Stokes, the Ohio Democrat who heads the Ethics Committee....

''The idea of a reprimand was not strong enough for the American people,'' said Representative Bill Alexander, Democrat of Arkansas. ''After all, these guys molested minors. I was out in my district over the weekend and I was overwhelmed. The reaction was brutal.''

Some lawmakers who supported the milder penalty were bitter at the House action. Later, one California Democrat called the vote ''disgusting'' and said the representatives were ''trying to show how pure they are.'' Another West Coast Democrat added that a vote for the harsher penalty would be ''easier to explain'' to constituents.

Judging a candidate by his fiction writing.

George Allen attacks Jim Webb for the tawdriness in his novels. The stuff is rather awful, but it does seem lame to go after fiction. Politicians who dabble in fiction writing usually throw in sex scenes, and these things nearly always look ridiculous out of context. But do the desire to write a sex scene and the failure to do a very good job of it say anything about a person's competence as a legislator? Maybe there's a shred of information in there with all the salaciousness. And it does provide the occasion to remind us of other bad sex written by politicians, like that dreadful thing Scooter Libby wrote about bears.

ADDED: Jim Webb's writing career is clearly more substantial than the usual "[p]oliticians who dabble in fiction writing." And the line involving the father and son -- shown out of context at the link -- is not part of a sexually titillating scene as I discovered by going to Amazon and use the search-inside-the-book function to see the line in context. Click on the comments for more discussion.

UPDATE: Webb explains the scene:
"It's not a sexual act," Webb told [radio host Mark] Plotkin regarding the "Lost Soldiers" excerpt. "I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist."

"The duty of a writer is to illuminate his surroundings," he added.

Coincidentally, a Cambodian woman in Las Vegas is facing sexual assault charges for performing a similar act on her young son, according to an Oct. 14 report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The article quotes an office manager for the Cambodian Association of America, who described the act as a sign of respect or love.

"It's an exception," Thira Srey told the Review-Journal of the practice. According to the report, the act is usually performed by a mother or caretaker on a child who is one year old or younger. In Webb's novel, the child is four years old.

Who's your least favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Well, the poll to choose your favorite Supreme Court Justice is over, and -- of course! -- Scalia won. He won by a lot. He inspires people to be fans. He embodies a distinct position. Whether you want that in a judge is a separate question. Coming in last is Alito. Who would vote for Alito when there's Scalia? Just people who like their judges earnest and nondescript. They may be quite right!

Anyway, that's so last week. The new poll is for least favorite Supreme Court Justice. Go over there and vote, then come back and read the rest of this post. I don't want to bias you with what I'm about to say.

Okay. Welcome back. Now, let me say it: Scalia should win this poll too, and for exactly the same reason he won the first one! I expect Kennedy to get a lot of votes, since he's a big source of frustration for a lot of people. Pick a side! Quit hogging the middle! Power monger! That's not my opinion. The italics indicate the voice of some imaginary person I'm just making up for your amusement.

Now, I'll look at the poll results. Oh, should I vote? Sorry, I can't. I have a love/hate relationship with the whole cast of characters. I was able to pick my favorite. (And why did none of you try to guess which one it is? Is it too obvious?) But I'm not going to single out one person to pick on.

Ouch. We have a clear leader at this point. (Spoiler alert!) It's Thomas. Why is it Thomas and not Scalia? My theory: He doesn't put himself in front of the camera and humanize himself. Or is it racism? Scalia and Thomas together get over half the votes. Conservatism makes people mad, I think.

"The center of political gravity will shift."

David Brooks is making predictions again:
In the liberal era, the urban Northeast dominated the landscape. In the conservative era, it was in the South and in bedroom communities like those in Southern California. In the coming era, the center of gravity will move to the West and the Midwestern plains, and to the pragmatic, untethered office park suburbs sprouting up there.
(TimesSelect link.)

Is something going to happen out here in the Midwest? I sure hope so.

"It is the most ridiculous contract in the world. It's just crazy."

That would be marriage, according to Simon Cowell.
"Without any legal advice you sign this binding contract and you are not sure where you are going to be in 10 years' time."
There's a lot of talk these days about all the legal benefits of marriage, but very little talk of all the disadvantages. When you get married, you don't want some damned lawyer bringing you down. You want to be surrounded by well-wishers in fancy clothes, celebrating you. Later, if things go wrong, as they do half the time, you'll have your lawyer, and he'll explain the shocking and drastic extent to which you invited the government into your personal life.

"They're freaking jungle-drums... It's racist -- it tries to conjure up deep, dark African moods. Yeah, it's overtly racial."

I was one of the people who thought that anti-Harold Ford TV ad was meant to stir up racial feelings, but I think the complaints about this new radio ad are ridiculous. There's a complete mismatch between the criticism and the actual drums in the ad.

It's terrible to use racism in politics, but who's doing it more? Are Corker supporters trying to make people feel a racist antagonism toward Ford, or are Ford supporters trying to make people think Corker is a racist? Both things are wrong, and both sides should be careful to avoid even the appearance that they are doing anything like this. But at some point claiming you've perceived racism makes you look dishonest or paranoid... mostly dishonest.

"Dems Dodge Big Gay Bullet?"

Says ... asks ... Mickey Kaus:
It seems to me the New Jersey Supreme Court has -- perhaps non-accidentally -- denied Republicans the powerful base-mobilizing weapon that a ruling mandating gay marriage would have given them. Sure, New Jersey proponents of gay marriage have been more or less invited to return to court if the legislature doesn't call the equal package of rights it grants gay couples "marriage." But by kicking the nomenclature question to the legislature, and giving them 180 days to resolve it, the New Jersey justices avoided having the state instantly become, in AP's pre-anticipatory words, "the nation's gay wedding chapel."
That is, we don't have the instant spectacle of people suddenly going to New Jersey to get married. (Going to New Jersey to get married sounds like the least cutting-edge thing in the world to do, doesn't it? But throw in the gay and nothing's boring.)

The first link in Mickey's quote is to Dale Carpenter's analysis of the New Jersey court's decision. Carpenter doesn't see much of a way for the New Jersey court, once it's stepped onto this particular slippery slope, to keep from going all the way to a right to same-sex marriage:
[H]aving started down the path to full equality for gay individuals and couples through a variety of state statutes and judicial decisions, the state could not give any good reason why it should continue to differentiate. For example, the court noted, the state has adopted a domestic partnership system that gives gay couples a list of rights also given to married couples. But yet the domestic partnership system does not extend other rights of married couples to these same-sex couples. What’s the basis for granting a select list of the rights but not the others?...

It is difficult to understand how withholding the remaining “rights and benefits” from committed same-sex couples is compatible with a “reasonable conception of basic human dignity and autonomy” [recognized in the state domestic partnership law]. There is no rational basis for, on the one hand, giving gays and lesbians full civil rights in their status as individuals, and, on the other, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they follow the inclination of their sexual orientation and enter into committed same-sex relationships....

The state had nothing left in defense of the rights gap except an unadorned “tradition” that the state itself had steadily undermined in its public policy....

Seen in this light, the New Jersey court’s quotation from Justice Brandeis’ famous dissenting opinion praising the states as “laboratories” to “try novel social and economic experiments” is a bit ironic. The New Jersey court now holds that once the state substantially experiments with gay equality it must go all the way, ending the experiment.
So the court shifts the attention back to the legislature. If the legislature doesn't choose full-scale marriage, things will go back to the court, and I think you know what to predict. The court has at least slowed down the process and involved the legislature, giving people a chance to respond -- adapt? -- to the change the court has set in motion. Mickey Kaus suggests that the court's motivation was not quite that kind of interest in the political process, but a politically engaged concern about how the opinion would affect the next election.

As it is, what the court did is complicated enough to mute the effect. And there are no exciting pictures to show on the news and splatter on YouTube.

"None greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee."

Danny Harold Rolling, who murdered five college students, sang a hymn as he received his lethal injection.

"A conservative gets up early to be productive, driven by the pure instinct to be self sustaining...."

"... A liberal thinks they can sleep in, and someone will cover their lame ass.” So said Ted Nugent, who came to Madison, Wisconsin last night.
UW senior James Sands said the strong-willed speaker made several inappropriate comments.

“I think he’s a moron — he’s a raging idiot,” he said. “He just likes to do it for the publicity.”...

Clearly expressing his Republican leanings, Nugent riled up the crowd with conservative credo....

“When I see a beggar on the street, I say, ‘Hey asshole, there’s a help-wanted sign right over there!’” he said.

The already rowdy crowd at the theater erupted when a member of the audience criticized Nugent’s non-involvement in the Vietnam War.

Nugent ended the prolonged verbal exchange between the two with the short demand, “Eat shit and die.”..

Nugent praised political activism with his unique brand of lobbying.

“It’s time to break out the crowbar of independence and bop some politicians on the head.”
Apparently, no one stormed the stage or started a fistfight. I'm glad there was good security, no violence, but still some rowdiness. "Where's the raucous activity?" I asked last week, inveighing against campus politeness. It's great that the kids let go the disrespect in the theater of free speech on campus.



CORRECTION: That's Ted Nugent, not Todd Rundgren. I've mixed those two guys up for decades, ever since the 70s... when I hated a lot of the music.

ADDED: Now that I've got the names straight... my blog search should work better. Before I was all why is no one blogging about the big "God, Guns, and Rock, & Roll" speech last night? Ah, no, actually I still can't find anything. Doesn't anybody blog anymore??

MORE: Rising Jurist was there -- unlike me -- and has this. Excerpt:
It wasn't anywhere near the fracas that The Badger Herald is reporting. Nugent was overwhelmingly applauded and cheered for his ultra-conservative commentary. Save the occasional heckler—"More money for corporations!"—and foolish question-askers, it was an Uncle Ted lovefest.

"Running with Scissors."

I love the book, so I'm interested -- warily -- in the movie. But I'm incredibly annoyed at the poster. It depicts scissors, running. Has any movie poster (or book jacket) ever illustrated the title in a more idiotically literal fashion? Plus, it bothers me that the hand isn't wearing pants... especially considering the worst thing that happens in the story... which the trailer -- available at the link -- does not give you a clue about. The trailer systematically introduces us to a series of actors and tantalizes us about the sort of character each plays. Then, in the end you see that Joseph Fiennes is in the movie too. But you were never shown anything about what his character -- Neil Bookman -- does. If you happen to know, you should agree with me that that hand, running in little boy's shoes, should be wearing pants.

"A fresh exploration of the timeless tale of a young man's coming of age."

The musical "The Times They Are A-Changin’" opens tonight. Here's a look at how the Broadway folk are interpreting Bob Dylan songs. Even if you're already convinced that there's no way the show could be any good, watching that clip, you'll still wonder if it can really be that bad... can this really be the show? Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey Supreme Court finds right to same-sex unions.

Here's the news story. The urgent subject now is: How will this affect the election? I assume most people will say this helps the Republicans. Is that so and if so, how much will it help and where exactly? Clearly, it goes beyond New Jersey, because it lights a fire under social conservatives and those who worry about overactive judges. Please opine away in the comments, and I'll come back and say more later when I have some more time.

CORRECTED TITLE: Sorry for the rushed title earlier. I shouldn't have said "marriage," but "unions." I'll read the case and have more later. It's been a busy day...

MORE: Here's the PDF of opinion. Here's the NYT article:
“There has been a developing understanding that discrimination against gays and lesbians is no longer acceptable in this state,” [the judges] wrote.

But the justices wrote that their mission in this case was a narrow one.

“At this point, the Court does not consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but only whether those couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples,” the court wrote.

“Cast in that light, the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.”...

But the court ... said that denying same sex couples “the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose.”
I'm not hot to stir up this issue. I personally support gay marriage, and I hope Wisconsin voters vote "no" on the amendment that's on the ballot here. But I have to say that I don't think the New Jersey court's carefulness about the limited step it's taking "at this point" will undercut the amendment proponents and others who want to get voters excited about judges who get out in front of what the majority wants.

Stem cell politics in a YouTube world.

I hate the way the stem cell research issue is used to manipulate voters' minds, and the Michael J. Fox ad is just one more thing. But I've got to jump in and talk about the reaction to it:
Republican strategists who saw how quickly the commercial was downloaded, e-mailed and reshown on news broadcasts certainly thought so. Rush Limbaugh rushed in to discredit Mr. Fox, though he mostly hurt himself. Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, told his listeners that the actor either “didn’t take his medication or was acting.” Mr. Limbaugh later apologized for accusing Mr. Fox of exaggerating his symptoms, but said that “Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democrat politician.”

Republicans cobbled together a response ad that did not mention Mr. Fox but attacked the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. It included testimonials by the actress Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” At least in the advance version shown on YouTube last night, Mr. Caviezel’s introduction seemed either garbled or to be in Aramaic.
Wheeling out Jesus, mumbling in Aramaic, is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in a political ad. And accusing Michael J. Fox of hamming it up, looking extra-sick, is mindbogglingly stupid.

I think there are going to be a lot more attempts to produce the kinds of ads that push the envelope and make everyone want to watch on YouTube. But that's going to mean there will be all sorts of mistakes and lapses for us to talk about for days. It's great blog fodder, but I'm afraid we're going to get terribly distracted by these things. And we're only just getting started.

Encouraging experimentation with single-sex public schools.

The federal government is changing the rules about permitting single-sex education:
Two years in the making, the new rules, announced Tuesday by the Education Department, will allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes as long as enrollment is voluntary. School districts that go that route must also make coeducational schools and classes of “substantially equal” quality available for members of the excluded sex....

While the move was sought by some conservatives and urban educators, and had backing from both sides of the political aisle, a number of civil rights and women’s rights groups condemned the change.

“It really is a serious green light from the Department of Education to re-instituting official discrimination in schools around the country,” said Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center....

To open schools exclusively for boys or girls, a district has until now had to show a “compelling reason,” for example, that it was acting to remedy past discrimination....

Although the research is mixed, some studies suggest low-income children in urban schools learn better when separated from the opposite sex. Concerns about boys’ performance in secondary education has also driven some of the interest same-sex education.
Even if you don't think single-sex education is good, don't you still want to allow parents to choose if for their kids, at least for a while as an experiment to produce evidence about whether it's good? Or do you think the new rules violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act?
“Segregation is totally unacceptable in the context of race,” [said Nancy Zirkin, vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella organization representing about 200 civil rights groups.] “Why in the world in the context of gender would it be acceptable?”

The American Civil Liberties Union signaled it might consider going to court. “We are certainly in many states looking at schools that are segregating students by sex and considering whether any of them are ripe for a challenge,” said Emily Martin, deputy director of the Women’s Rights Project at the A.C.L.U..

"He missed the state of the union address one year."

Chief Justice John Roberts said about his predecessor William Rehnquist. "When asked why, he said it conflicted with a water color class at the YMCA he had signed up for."

Roberts was giving a speech at Middlebury College. One student said: "The thing I was intrigued by was not necessarily what he said, but how he said it. Questions I assumed he would say he could not answer, he would find a way to answer." Well, he's got a way with words... and knows how to frame answers to difficult questions.

"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice."

The WaPo article about Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic candidate for Senator in Tennessee, focuses on racial issues. The second paragraph is one of those ordinary citizen quotes that is presented so that it seems to represent how a lot of people think:
"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," [jobless 57-year-old John] Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."
The article also makes it look as though the Republicans are deliberately trying to stimulate racial prejudice to help their candidate:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee ridicules Ford's expensive tastes on a "Fancy Ford" Web site, and the Republican National Committee is airing a controversial new ad that features a scantily clad blonde who says she met Ford at a Playboy party. "Harold, call me!" the woman chirps.
I've seen the ad and consider it shameful.
The state Democratic Party is working particularly hard to rally black voters. State party officials believe African Americans could push Ford over the top if they turn out in large numbers. ... Ford has tethered himself to Rep. Lincoln Davis, a popular two-term Democrat from a rural, white central Tennessee district and the chairman of Ford's campaign.

Davis said he polled his district in July and found Ford trailing 49 percent to 35 percent. "I didn't even tell his campaign," Davis acknowledged.

New numbers came back a few weeks ago showing Ford ahead 49 percent to 39 percent. "He's a rock star, a superstar," Davis said. "And if he wins my district, he's the next senator from Tennessee."
The article notes that Ford would be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Things that affect a boy's mind.

A divorced man has won a lawsuit that he brought to prevent his 9-year-old son from getting circumcised:
The couple's 2003 divorce decree gave the father the right to be consulted before the boy underwent any "extraordinary" non-emergency procedure.

The father said he believed surgical removal of the boy's foreskin could cause long-term physical and psychological harm. The child's mother wanted the procedure to prevent recurring infections. She testified that the boy had suffered five bouts of painful inflammation and had begged her to help him.
Oh, yeah, and having your father enlist the power of the state to assert dominion over your penis -- that's not going to affect your mind.

Here's another article. Things are a bit more complicated. The judge, Circuit Court Judge Jordan Kaplan said, analyzed the medical evidence and seems to have decided based on an insufficient showing of physical benefit in the boy's particular condition. Moreover, the boy had his own lawyer, and the lawyer recommended that decision. And then there's this:
The eight-month dispute took some nasty turns. [The mother's lawyer] charged that the father did not care about the boy's health but feared his ex-wife and her new husband were trying to convert the boy to Judaism.

The father's attorneys hinted that the mother's aim was to spite her ex-husband and please her current husband, who is Jewish.

The boy's stepfather and stepbrother are both circumcised, while the biological parents are Catholic immigrants from Eastern European countries where circumcision is rare.

But Kaplan said he did not address "issues of ethnicity or religious beliefs relative to circumcision" because the parents did not raise them in their legal pleadings.
So what seems most important is excluded from the judge's view because neither parent wants to get into that. The poor kid! Not only are his parents divorced and still fighting, they're fighting over his penis! There's nothing the judge can do about that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"It seems to me the reporting on that case was a lot clearer than the opinions."

You don't like my writing. Fine! I don't like your writing. Dahlia Lithwick talks back to Antonin Scalia.

Howard Dean declines the "gladiatorial contest."

Analyze the stuttering stumbling at the end of the quote:



I detect dissimulation.

ADDED: I've been reading old blog posts -- reminiscing?? -- and I happened to run across what I think is my first post about Howard Dean. Writing the morning after his famous scream, I was entirely sympathetic to him.

"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."

So said Justice Scalia.

Let's talk about English usage!

It would be better to say "not everything that is stupid is unconstitutional." "Everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional" can be read to mean that every stupid thing is constitutional, when plenty of stupid things are unconstitutional. I know there's some argument over whether this should actually be considered a usage error. The argument that it's not usually brings up Shakespeare's "All that glisters is not gold." Why didn't he write "Not all that glisters is gold"?

Here's a discussion of the usage dispute:
"All ... not" can... be condemned on the grounds of potential ambiguity. When I proposed the sentence "All the people who used the bathtub did not clean it afterwards" as ambiguous, many people vigorously disputed that it was ambiguous. But they were about evenly split on what it did mean!... "Not all the people who used the bathtub cleaned it afterwards" (or, if the other meaning is intended, "None of the people who used the bathtub cleaned it afterwards") is free of this ambiguity....

Fowler quoted a correspondent who urged him to prescribe "not all", and commented: "This gentleman has logic on his side, logic has time on its side, and probably the only thing needed for his gratification is that he should live long enough."
So, forget about this particular language nicety, I'd say. I'm rather glad to myself, since I was personally needled for years by someone who was inordinately vigilant on this usage point.

Not every ambiguous phase is a usage error/every ambiguous phrase is not a usage error.

How can the doctors say your illness is only in your head...

... if stuff that looks "like large flecks of black pepper" is coming out of your skin?

Does the President go on the "internets"?

Yes! He likes Google Earth:
“I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes."
But -- unlike the rest of us -- the President must stay away from email:
“I don’t e-mail, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive e-mails because there’s no telling what somebody’s e-mail would show up as a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, ‘Well, I didn’t read the e-mail.’ ‘But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about e-mailing.”
But everyone gets off the hook for not reading email, don't they? I get so much email, and so much of it is from lists and mass mailings that it's really easy for me to miss things. Plus, I have a powerful spam filter and a big junk folder... There's always an excuse for not reading email.

ADDED: Here's the video, with Bush saying: "One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps." Okay, all you comedians. Not only will you have to keep calling the internet "the internets." You'll have to start calling Google "the Google."

Who's your favorite Supreme Court justice?

ATL is taking a poll. I forgot to guess who I thought would win before I looked at the results... at which point it seemed obvious. It's interesting how evenly spread the vote is, though, with the highest only getting 19%, and 6 of the 9 getting between 10 and 20%. Do you think most lawprofs have a favorite Supreme Court justice? I think they may but that it's not someone currently on the Court. My favorite justices tend to be favorites because I enjoy presenting their points of view in the classroom or because I like their writing style, not because I think they are getting more things right than the others.

ATL is also talking about reviving the term "Scalito," using it not in the original sense of mocking Alito as a Scalia clone, but to refer to the two as a pair when they make a joint appearance -- the way one refers to celebrity couples like Brangelina and Bennifer. (The first comment over there tries to make nicknames out of other judicial pairs.) Anyway, this Scalito entity appeared at a National Italian American Foundation the other day. Scalia talked about judicial independence and said: "You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing." And Alito seemed to have a problem with people writing about judges on the internet:
"This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this. This is available to the world. ... It changes what it means to be a judge. It certainly changes the attractiveness of a judicial career."
Hey, it's not my job to make your job feel cushy!

"A whirling dust plume filled with asbestos, benzene, dioxin and other hazards."

The dust from the falling World Trade Center towers: What damage did it inflict?

Disenfranchisement/fraud.

Democrat/Republican. Pick your side on the voter I.D. issue.

Stay the course!

Don't you have to stay the course about staying the course? The WaPo has what should become a classic in the annals of political rhetoric:
President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.

Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.

"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.

"We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.

"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June....

"What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration," Snow said yesterday....

Bush used "stay the course" until recent weeks when it became clear that it was becoming a political problem. "The characterization of, you know, 'it's stay the course' is about a quarter right," Bush complained at an Oct. 11 news conference. " 'Stay the course' means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is: Don't do what you're doing if it's not working -- change. 'Stay the course' also means don't leave before the job is done."

By last week, it was no longer a quarter right. "Listen, we've never been stay the course, George," he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. "We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics. Constantly."

Snow said Bush dropped the phrase "because it left the wrong impression about what was going on. And it allowed critics to say, 'Well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is,' when, in fact, it's just the opposite."

Monday, October 23, 2006

I can't seem to watch television anymore.

And my cable bill is over $130 a month. Is that better or worse than the fact that I'm paying $37 a month for my land line phone, which is used almost only to receive automated political ads -- "Hi, this is Kathleen Turner..." -- and efforts to get me to submit to a political poll -- "We don't do those," I hear myself saying these days?

"We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll."

"Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer." Sandy West, a Runaway, dead at 47.

Stanley Fish to professors: "Do your job."

It's not about free speech. (And his speech isn't free either: you need TimesSelect to read it.)

So, do your job... and make sure you understand what your job is. What is your job? Per Fish, two things:
1) to introduce students to materials they didn’t know a whole lot about, and 2) to equip them with the skills that will enable them, first, to analyze and evaluate those materials and, second, to perform independent research, should they choose to do so, after the semester is over. That’s it. That’s the job....

There is an obvious objection to what I have just said. Any course of instruction, especially in the social sciences and humanities, will touch on deep moral and political issues. The materials students are asked to read will be fraught with them. Wouldn’t it be impossible to avoid discussing these issues without trivializing and impoverishing the classroom experience? No, it’s easy. You don’t have to ignore or ban moral and political questions. What you have to do is regard them as objects of study rather than as alternatives you and your students might take a stand on.

That is, instead of asking questions like “What should be done?” or “Who is in the right?” you ask, “What are the origins of this controversy?” or “What relationship does it have to controversies taking place in other areas of inquiry?” or “What is the structure of argument on both sides?” I have coined an ugly word for this way of turning politically charged matters into the stuff of academic investigation. The word is academicize. To academicize a topic is to detach it from the context of its real-world urgency, where there is a decision to be made, and re-insert it into a context of an academic urgency, where there is an analysis to be performed.
Should you do that? Can you do that?

I've been through this before with Fish (who's said this before). A key problem with it for me is that here his idea contradicts our longstanding policy, which we call the Wisconsin Idea.

"From that moment on, he began to try to understand it by painting himself."

A painter responds to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer’s affects the right parietal lobe in particular, which is important for visualizing something internally and then putting it onto a canvas,” [neurologist Bruce] Miller said. “The art becomes more abstract, the images are blurrier and vague, more surrealistic. Sometimes there’s use of beautiful, subtle color.”
The artist, William Utermohlen, when he had his wits about him, steered clear of the modern styles of his contemporaries. ("Everybody was doing Abstract Expressionist, and there he was, solemnly drawing the figure.") Now, disease draws him into forms of expression he shunned.

But what do you think of the implication that modern art has something in common with the diseased mind? This resonates horribly with the Nazis' condemnation of "degenerate art." I don't know why the linked article -- in the NYT -- doesn't deal with this disturbing problem.

Democrats = net neutrality?

How close is this connection? I'd like to know.

"Good DAY, Althouse!"

You know, I forgot why I don't like Jeff Goldstein... oooohhh... wait... it's coming back to me... something about balloons... and M&Ms....

But this cracked me up.

(Key reference material here.)

The legal strategy of that expansive, ambitious defendant, Google.

The NYT has a terrific article about Google's approach to the law. It expects and perhaps even wants to be sued, and it will fight for new rules of law that fit with the new reality it has already created.
[P]otential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.

“I think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.

“The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”...

Professor Zittrain of Oxford said Google’s corporate mantra — “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” — gives some insight into its approach.

“They actually see that as Promethean,” Mr. Zittrain said. “They think of it as bringing fire to humankind. And it may even cause them to be bolder than other companies.”...

“We’ve got a formidable legal team, but obviously it’s nowhere near the unlimited resources of Google,” said David A. Milman, the chief executive of Rescuecom, a nationwide computer repair company that sued Google on trademark infringement grounds similar to Geico’s — and quickly lost. The company said that it would appeal the decision.

“People say you can’t fight the government,” Mr. Milman said. “Google, in this case, is very similar to the government. They’re the government of the Internet.”

This will be very exciting. I wish Google well!