August 7, 2004

Now I'm never going to Iqaluit.

I'm having none of it until they rehire Polar Penny! (Via Metafilter.) Here's the blog.

August 6, 2004

A cipher who went to Vietnam.

Our local public sociologist Jeremy is taking me to task for raising the indelicate question of whether John Kerry is really as smart as he's made out to be. He doesn't like "the quasi-snobbery of putting so much stock in law school rankings," but the point is not that the law schools really belong where they are in the rankings, but that people hoping to trade on their credentials rationally choose the highest ranked school they can get into unless they have another factor governing their decisions.

Going to Boston College Law School is simply an item of evidence that is part of analyzing how smart Kerry is. In Kerry's particular case, it raises the inference--for reasons detailed in my earlier posts--that his undergraduate record and his LSAT weren't very good, which is evidence that he isn't as smart as he's been made out to be. We do need the President to be reasonably smart, and Kerry has been widely touted as much smarter than Bush. Thus, this is a fair issue. My point is not at all about the quality of the education provided at his law school, as I noted earlier. There's nothing snobby about this line of reasoning, really. It is just a matter of rational inference from the known data points. I can see why fear of being perceived as a snob might have motivated me not to bring this up, but that just means I'm reckless.

Jeremy also considers it snobbish to use someone's academic record as a basis for judging them when they have a work history that can provide an alternate basis for judgment. I disagree. First, if I were hiring a lawyer in a law firm or appointing a new lawprof, I would expect the résumé to include academic credentials, even if they had had some other jobs. Why should voters expect less? Second, I have questions about Kerry's work history. So he got himself elected Senator, and like many incumbents, he's gotten reelected many times. That's just not enough to inspire confidence. He hasn't been relying on his Senate record to show why he should be President. If you're concerned about going too far back in time for credentials, as Jeremy is, why aren't you dismissing Kerry's own heavy reliance on his military service? That predates law school.

In any case, my questions about Kerry's intelligence do not arise solely from my inference that he had a poor academic record and low standardized test scores. My questions are also based on his exasperatingly convoluted and unclear manner of speaking. This has been excused as a propensity for "nuance" and "complexity," but could also be caused by a lack of mental capacity. It could also be willful evasion. I'd really like to know. I'm not that focused on getting Kerry's transcripts and test scores (though we have such things for Bush, and we had them for Gore--Bush's were superior, you remember). I'm concerned about Kerry's abilities. I'm happy to get information from other sources. But I've been listening to him talk for a long, long time, and I'm not impressed at all. And I'm sure not impressed by the mere fact of someone managing to hold a Senate seat for a long time!

I realize people who truly despise Bush don't care about any of this. The fact is Kerry's the candidate, so there's nothing more to say. Unite behind him, whoever he is. It's too late now. And please don't say anything bad about him. Shhhh! But that doesn't work for people, like myself, who don't despise Bush. I am actually trying to assess Kerry! Where is the material? It certainly wasn't presented in the convention last week, and Kerry's speeches and interviews are not exactly brimming with information. I've been looking for an answer to what he plans to do in Iraq for a long time--here's an old post--and I still can't figure him out. It seems to me we're being asked to make a cipher President. A cipher who went to Vietnam. And isn't Bush. Is that enough? If you hate Bush, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" It isn't enough for me.

UPDATE: I've fixed the bad link to Jeremy's post. And he responds here. I won't repeat arguments I've already made. I will say law firms do ask for your LSAT scores, and many employers these days actually do want to know your SAT scores. Jeremy's right that Gore's SAT scores were higher than Bush's, but Bush's academic record was much better. Gore's was quite embarrassingly bad, especially when he went to divinity school. This article gives the details and asks whether which of two job candidates you would hire if one had fine test scores and a terrible academic record and the other had lower test scores but a respectable academic record.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just wanted to quote this email I just got: "The Thief in Chief a/k/a our moronic leader will lose...what sad news for you, you dumbass grad student."

Mistaken hawk.

My falcon turned out to be a hawk.

NOTE: That's not my photograph of the hawk that lives in my yard. I didn't get a clear photo yet. This photo is from here, and the photographer is Greg Vogel.

Readers respond re: "Is Kerry a war hero?"

Yesterday, I wrote that I didn't think much of the new assertions that Kerry was not a war hero on the theory that if the assertions were true they would probably have come out back in the early 70s when Kerry was a prominent anti-war activist.

Several people wrote in to call attention to the episode of "The Dick Cavett Show," where another Vietnam Vet, John O'Neill, debated with John Kerry and strongly opposed him. I watched this show back in March when it was on C-Span (and took two photos), and O'Neill was not raising questions about Kerry's medals or heroism. The debate was about whether the war was wrong and whether war crimes were being committed.

The best point raised in the email was that Kerry was not claiming heroism back in the 70s. He was expressing shame about what he had done as he criticized the tactics used in the war. So the occasion calling for a response actually did not exist. Only the new version of the story, used in the Presidential campaign, paints him as a hero and motivates his opponents to respond with information they kept silent about before. Of course, his political opponents are also motivated to attack him.

Another good point readers made was that it would have been very hard for a vet who wanted to discredit Kerry to get media attention in the early 1970s. If the media were anti-war--and I believe they were--they would have been eager to give a forum to the thoughtful, articulate vet who was saying how terrible things were in Vietnam. As one emailer wrote: "People (most people) WANTED to believe Kerry and his ilk--they were the glamorous ones."

Then there's the notion [ADDED: emailed by Buddy Larsen] that the accusers in question would not, when they were young, have been the sort of people who would come forward (though, as older men, faced with Kerry's new presentation as a hero, they are behaving differently):
[T]here was a distinct inward-turning of many, many of the cohort in the 70s. The idea of going public for any reason would have been alien to these guys, and the idea of organizing to do so, with the aim of straightening out some part of an entirely bent universe, doesn't fit with these type guys, in that time.
Another emailer notes the difficulty, especially for a young person (especially if they were still in Vietnam), to find a way to make his voice heard. Kerry, as a young man, was an extraordinarily capable when it came to moving into the public sphere and becoming a spokesperson. We ought to remember that before asking why others did not become prominent.

Some have written that only the prospect of Kerry becoming President provided sufficient motivation for the new accusers to come forward. This seems to be the main point made by a vet who appears in the anti-Kerry ad who was interviewed on CNN the other day and asked why he did not come forward earlier: "For one thing, I did not know that John had been put in for a Bronze Star, a Silver Star or, for that matter, a Purple Heart on that day. I did not see the after-action report, which, in fact, was written by John. And as the years went by, John was not running for the highest office in the free world."

Readers respond re "Is Kerry Smart"?

My post yesterday "Is Kerry Smart? Is Kerry a war hero?" has brought a lot of email. Rather than clutter up that post with more updates, I'm going to present some of the email response in two separate posts, this first one about the issue of Kerry's intelligence.

TPB writes:
I feel compelled to defend Boston College Law School. First, being a Jesuit school, BC (which is ranked in the mid-twenties or so today, but was probably not as good in the seventies, when Kerry went there) had a strong tradition of Socratic learning that is particularly compelling to lawyers. In fact, most law schools tend to follow this approach, though perhaps with a bit less enthusiasm than at Jesuit schools.

Second, along with the strong political education at BC law, the school is known within the federal government as one of the places from which to draw critical thinkers (along with Notre Dame and Georgetown). This has been a point raised, on numerous occasions, by Tom Clancy with regard to his "Jack Ryan" books. Back in the sixties and seventies, there was a preference in the FBI and the Secret Service for BC and G-town grads because of the aforementioned Socratic education style. My father, in fact, was a product of this.

Finally, as any law student in any university can tell you, it's not necessarily where you go that counts. The basics of law - the Constitutional theory, the trial practice instruction, etc. - are taught in all law schools. Whether a student grasps or pays attention to this is what counts, not whether the school is highly ranked. Hence, I have classmates from my law school (a top 10 school at the time I went there) that really aren't very good attorneys, whereas students of lower ranked schools - Rutgers-Camden or Cardozo, for example - are exceptional attorneys. From what I understand, Kerry was a lackluster ADA in Suffolk County, MA. His performance as an attorney is more relevant than the school in which he studied.

I want to stress that I was suggesting an inference arising from the fact that Kerry--a law school applicant with extraordinary plus factors, the money to go to any school he wanted, and a history of choosing elite, prestige institutions--went to BC Law School. I was not making the same inference regarding anyone else who goes to a lower ranked law school, and I was not saying anything about the actual education you get at an elite law school compared to other law schools.

The same emailer wrote back to add:
I understand that Kerry did everything he could to hide his BC connection, since it's known as a morally conservative school, going so far as to leave out where he went to law school on his site for a while. BC alums were quite upset with that.

Lily Malcolm makes the point about Kerry's website here. Even if it's great to go to BC Law School--I stipulate that it is!--if Kerry himself has been ashamed of it, then we should assume that he went there because the options he preferred were closed to him.

I'd like to present more of the email, but I can't get to it on this computer and am having a problem with my laptop. Sorry. I got a lot of good email and would like to use more of it.

August 5, 2004

Blogger woes.

Sorry to anyone who ventured onto this blog when I was seemingly insanely reposting the previous two posts over and over again. I kept getting the message that I wasn't making a connection, so I kept retrying the publish button. All I can say is it's a good thing I figured out what was happening when I did, because there really is no limit to how many times I might have republished. And what bad luck that one of these posts was full of pictures!

Is Kerry smart? Was Kerry a war hero?

Soxblog asks (via Kausfiles) is John Kerry really so smart? I have to admit, like Soxblog, I've been wondering why Kerry went to Boston College Law School. Since he was rich, it can't have been the lure of a free ride. You would think, with his anti-war activism, he would have been a very attractive candidate for admission to Harvard (or another top-ranked law school) if only his LSAT and GPA were at all within range. No offense to Boston College, of course. I think it's similar to attending my school, the University of Wisconsin Law School. And the point is, he had an extremely admirable personal story and record of activism, as well as the ability to pay his way, so he could have gotten into Boston College with numbers well below those of the average students.

We keep hearing about Kerry's ability to deal with "nuance" and "complexity," but could it be that this is spin, and the truth is he actually doesn't think clearly? We know he doesn't speak clearly: he can't get to the point, and he often strays off-topic. We keep hearing that he's "thoughtful," implying that he takes a long time to think things through. Another way of putting that is that he's slow.

There has been so much talk about how dumb Bush supposedly is, that it's surely fair to ask about Kerry's mental capacity. What were his undergraduate and law school GPAs? What was his LSAT score? If we don't hear the answer, I think, we ought to assume the numbers are fairly low.

As to the question whether Kerry was really a war hero or some sort of war villain, the other and much nastier question that is being asked today, I will only note that if these charges were true, why didn't they come out back when Kerry was conspicuously opposing the Vietnam war and relying on his hero reputation for credibility? The motivation to discredit him was quite strong then. It seems awfully late to be bringing out this material. You may think that all the carping about Bush's military records justifies bashing Kerry's military record, but a key difference between the two attacks is that there wasn't a similiar motivation to attack Bush's record closer in time to the events in question. I think the absence of an earlier challenge of Kerry's record is quite probative. In any case, the attack on Kerry's military record is very ugly and is dragging the political debate to a repulsively low level.

UPDATE: Prof. Yin adds: "regardless of what anyone else thinks about the relative merits of Boston College vs. Harvard, doesn't Kerry seem exactly like the kind of person who would think that Harvard is more desirable?" And thanks for calling this post "nonpartisan." I really am nonpartisan about the presidential race!

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader (who wasn't happy with my acknowledgment of the hierarchy in the prestige of law schools) referred me to this biographical article about John Kerry that appeared in the Washington Post last week. It gives an explanation for why Kerry went to law school at Boston College. Kerry ran for Congress in the Fall of 1972, when he seemed to be a fast-track golden boy. He was devastated by defeat and:
The law became Kerry's Plan B. The Yale graduate wanted to return there to law school but could not because his wife, Julia, was expecting a baby. His next choice was Harvard, then Boston University, but he applied too late. Boston College offered the opposite of Yale's theoretical approach -- it was famous as a training ground for politicians -- but BC had an opening, and Kerry took it.
So he couldn't go to Yale because Julia was pregnant, but he couldn't go to Harvard because he was late in applying. How do you figure that? Also, one loses a Congressional election in November. That leaves a good two months to apply to any law school. The article describes Kerry as quite devastated by his election loss, and that may have hampered the application process. Schools do have different deadlines (though not before January). [MORE: The dates for taking the LSAT would also be a factor.] In any event, it was seen as odd that he became a student at BC:
Boston College law professor Thomas Carey strode into his first-year torts class and was stunned to see, near the back of one row, "this tall young fellow I'd been mesmerized by a couple of years earlier testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And there he was, starting off as a regular grunt."
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Instapundit (who links to this post--thanks!) opines that great intelligence may not be that important in a President. He notes Carter and Hoover were very smart. Maybe people somewhat less smart (or, really, intellectual) are better at making practical decisions. I think we all know some terribly smart people whom we would never want to rely on to make an important decision. In fact, supersmart people may be particularly bad at making decisions, because they may be too confident that they know better than others. So I don't disagree there. I'm not saying the smarter man ought to win or that if Kerry isn't as smart as he's made out to be he shouldn't be President. I'm just saying that since he's been promoted for his superior intelligence, it's fair to ask whether he really is all that intelligent. I've spent a lot of time struggling to follow what he's saying and trying to figure out what his opinions are, and this effort is affected by the assumption that he's as smart as they say. If he's not really all that smart, then his manner of speaking seems to be more a matter of covering up his inadequacies, as opposed to the product of a highly nuanced mind that sees all the complexities.

ALSO: I appreciated Lily Malcolm's posts about Kerry going to Boston College (which Instapundit links). She recognizes, as I do, that it sounds snobby to talk about law school ranking. One catches hell for mentioning it. She asked back in March:
By the time he applied to law school, the guy had a resume that should have made admissions offices salivate: St. Paul's, Yale, Skull & Bones, the Silver Star, testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he couldn't do any better for law school than BC? ... [M]ost people attend the most highly regarded school they can get into. And you'd think an overachieving, hyper-ambitious snob like Kerry wouldn't settle for less than the very best unless he had no other choice.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I just reread Lily Malcolm's explanation of what makes law school admissions people "salivate." I have read admissions files for many of the 20 years I've been at Wisconsin. Let me say that, while the honored military service and the testimony in the Senate would be highly impressive, it would only justify admission to law school in the case of a person whose record as a whole shows a capacity to do the required work. And attending a series of prestigious institutions is impressive if the academic record itself shows that the person has diligence and aptitude, but if the academic record is poor those institutions scream privilege: here is someone who had great advantages. That is not a plus factor in admissions. All of this is to say, once again, that the known facts imply a weak academic record.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: I've gotten a lot of email on this post. I provide some reader response for "Is Kerry a war hero?" here and for "Is Kerry smart?" here.

A prairie walk.

Take a walk through the prairie today in Wisconsin. The grass is seven feet high. I think about the settlers years ago who had to make their way through the sea of grass, as I walk on a path cut in the UW Arboretum.


Some of the flowers are nine feet tall:


Through the flowers, you can see the morning moon:




Trees, beautifully aged:


And beautifully dead:


August 4, 2004

Watching Clinton on Letterman.

We were just watching part of the TiVoed Clinton-on-Letterman show.

I comment on what an attractive character Clinton is--his flowing speech, his easy demeanor, his warmth.

John says imagine if Kerry had all the same policies and qualifications, but spoke and acted like Clinton, don't you think he would win easily?

I say yes, but the same is true of Bush: if Bush had all of Clinton's physical presentation, and kept his own policies and achievements, Bush would easily beat Kerry.

John says it would be fairest if both of them could have the Clinton presentation so that we could then judge them on their real merit.

I say, yeah, it would be like blind grading.

So you were having a brat on the Terrace?

Why, yes. They grill them up outdoors by the lake. Here's the view from my table in the shade, looking out on the Terrace and Lake Mendota:


And here's that brat I was talking about:


Don't eat the bun and it's Atkins-compliant.

Later, I remove to the café:


Don't eat these things, of course, if you're Atkinsing.


Don't worry. I didn't. I was just waiting for my cappucino, which I then took to my table, where I edited my Civpro2 materials for a couple hours.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for linking and for coming up with the term "bratblogging"!

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm finding it a bit funny that so many people are stopping by to look at my half-eaten sausage! If you folks are really so interested in sausage, I have blogged about sausage before, here. Careful, it's very golf-y. Scroll down to the dialogue and the paragraph just above it if you want to concentrate on the sausage. For more about bratwurst, the NYT has bratwurst content today in an article datelined Kenosha, Wisconsin, about how regular folk are reacting to the recent terror alert. You know they are regular folk because they are at a small-town diner:
"I don't know who on earth to believe anymore," said Michael Schumacher, a 54-year-old writer who was eating a bratwurst for breakfast. "You feel you're being manipulated all the time."

Additional sausage-related material: the diner is called Franks. I see Schumacher is having his brat for breakfast. Interestingly enough, my golf-oriented, sausage-related dialogue is about eating a frank for breakfast, which makes me feel that everything is connected. There's always a link.

Pronunciation note: "brat" does not rhyme with "cat." For my own catblogging, look here.

An indescribably cool job.

The Onion lead story "CIA Asks Bush to Discontinue Blog" is currently the most linked thing on Blogdex, unsurprisingly. I was out this afternoon having a brat on the Terrace and strolling down by Lake Mendota, taking some photographs, when I ran into into the father of Onion writer Peter Koechley, who let me know that Peter had written the now-famous Bush blog article. I congratulated him on the extreme coolness of his son's job. He told me Peter was the Onion's representative at the Democratic Convention, which is also indescribably cool. I found this story on
The world's great news organizations are here at the Democratic National Convention: the all-news networks, the broadcast networks, NHK and the BBC and The New York Times and the Washington Post.

And, of course, The Onion.

The Onion, "America's Finest News Source" (see Web site) is represented in the person of one Peter Koechley. And he is, indeed, one: Not just the one Peter Koechley here, but the one Onion representative.

"That's 10 or 15 percent of our entire news outfit," Koechley pointed out.

Koechley isn't in Boston so much to report with daily dispatches than to gather material for future Onion stories. "There's no direct reporting happening," said Koechley. "Our concept of what's topical is a little more glacial."

Koechley, 23, "grew up with comedy newspapers," he said, starting one in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin (also The Onion's place of origin), when he was 13 and another when he was 15. Now he's part of a staff that puts out one of the most notable humor publications in the country ....

Congratulations to Peter. That "comedy newspaper" referred to was "The Yellow Press," written by West High School students, who frequently met at my house. They were a great bunch of kids!

The death of a great photographer.

Pause a moment and mourn the loss of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Here, you can view some of his beautiful, inspiring work.

UPDATE: So maybe you're thinking of buying a book of Cartier-Bresson's work. There are lots of choices. May I recommend this one?

"Eat less, eat different, work out more .... wear pink ties."

That's Bill Clinton's weight loss advice, given at the behest of David Letterman, on his show last night.

"Control the volume for hypnotic eyes up to 6 times."

That's the insane advertisement statement of the day. From a paper NYT ad for Lancome mascara. Sorry I can't do the circumflex over the "o" in Lancome. The mascara name has another circumflex over an "o" which I can't show you, but it belongs in the product name: "Hypnose Mascara." It seems that the notion that gripped the admen and product namers was hypnosis. I guess they were brainstorming about eyes and came up with the idea of "look into my eyes" used in hypnosis and thought it was fabulous for a beauty ad, because there's always the goal of achieving mind-altering control over someone through beauty. But how to process "hypnosis" into a product name? Well, it's for Lancome, so let's just French it up: "Hypnose"! Never mind that you just referred to two body parts that aren't the eyes!

Now, the ad line itself takes the idea of controlling the viewer through the hypnotic effect of blackened eyelashes a step further. It seems as though you can control the degree of hypnotic effect, however, not more than 6 times. Six times what? The original hypnotic effect of your uncoated eyelashes? I really don't know, but it sure sounds powerful and precise. And note that adfolk who write about makeup can never bring themselves to call eyelashes eyelashes (or eyebrows eyebrows or eyelids eyelids)--it's always "lashes" (and "brows" and "lids"). Here we have these tiny eyelid hairs, with their basic limited capacity for screening dust and sweat our of your eyes, and suddenly they are taking on some sort of sixfold power to control people. And they aren't just eyelashes, they are lashes. "With each stroke," the ad tells us, "the patented POWERFULL brush intensifies lashes ..." The double meaning of "lashes" is quite apparent--and a bit frightening. Picture a supervillain with eyelashes that literally possess the qualities that mascara ads talk about: that would be one scary creature!

(The double "L" on "POWERFULL" is not an error, by the way. In fact, the people who thought it up are so pleased with the image of power and fullness contained in that respelling that they've put a little "tm" mark next to it.)

August 3, 2004

Why are Kerry supporters implicitly conceding that Bush is stronger on terrorism?

I'm watching Howard Dean on Hardball, and he's walking a thin line trying to accuse Bush of raising the terror alert level for political advantage without actually accusing him of doing so. (Here's the story on raising the terror alert.) Dean is pointing to the age of some of the information relied on (though other information is from the last week or so) and the fact that it is coming out at a time when Bush has a motive to overshadow Kerry (though raising the terror alert right before or during the convention would have been more harmful to Kerry). Kerry is distancing himself from these accusations, to his credit. But using Dean's logic--look at what is happening now and who stands to benefit--why shouldn't I suspect that Kerry is sending out Dean as his attack dog?

But quite aside from all of that, a question I have is this: why is heightened concern about terrorism seen as something that advantages Bush? Why doesn't fear of terrorism make us want Kerry? Terrorism really is a huge problem, whether it's weighing on our minds on a particular day or not. If Kerry supporters are saying that worrying about terrorism helps Bush, then we should be for Bush!

I can understand that Kerry supporters want to do what they can to help him, and I understand why it can hurt Bush to make us believe that Bush is manipulating the terror warnings for political purposes. But why are they conceding that that people concerned about terrorism will rally around Bush? Why isn't the argument that Kerry will do a better job of dealing with terrorism?

UPDATE: The answer to my question has to be that Kerry supporters are simply accepting the polls that show that the voters think Bush is stronger on terrorism.

Hey, they brought back the J. Peterman catalog!

Here it is in the afternoon mail, looking the way it always did and bearing no explanation of its long absence and sudden return. "Early evening at Shimba Rainforest Lodge, up in a treetop cocktail lounge ...."

Here's the website. This is interesting.

UPDATE: Here's a much better explanation from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Peterman -- former minor-league baseball player and longtime entrepreneur, now 62 -- found the famous coat, an ankle-length cowboy-style duster, on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and built a catalog around it in 1987. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, creators of the television series, became fans of the quirky writing and worldly voice that was J. Peterman, and in 1995 designed a character around it....

But even while "Seinfeld" was spreading Peterman's name, he was losing it. The company expanded rapidly in the late '90s, opening a chain of stores. Too rapidly, it had become apparent by the time J. Peterman opened on the first floor of the San Francisco Shopping Centre, in November 1998. By the next January, the San Francisco store had closed, the company went bankrupt and Peterman was out -- though his name was still in.

"The rapidity of the crash was amazing," he says. "And it was too bad. But we did a lot of things we shouldn't have done."

In the meantime, though, real Peterman had met fictional Peterman (O'Hurley) on national television, and, oddly, the entrepreneur and the actor who played a version of him became friends. Good friends. Good enough that the real Peterman says, "When the company went down, he had a bigger identity crisis than I did," then pauses. "That's a facetious remark."

Good enough also that when Peterman was ready to plunk down $1 million to buy back his name, he told O'Hurley, "I'm going to restart the company, do you want in?" The answer Peterman remembers: "Yep, how much?" And today, the fictional Peterman sits on the real Peterman's board.

Great story!

"Best Performance by an Inanimate Object."

That's my favorite category in the voting for the 2004 Tubey Awards at Television Without Pity. Among the many nominees are:
Drywall, The Apprentice

Janet Jackson's Boob, Superbowl

Paula's Finger Bandage, American Idol

Thing Made out of Stuff, Joan of Arcadia

I voted for "Thing made out of stuff."

Falcon! [Hawk!]

A few minutes ago, I was standing in my kitchen, and I looked out through the French doors to the sundeck, and there, sitting on the wooden railing was a falcon. Before I could get my camera, it flew off. Moments later, I was standing in the big room near the picture window, and the falcon flew right into the window! Birds have hit that window before--and, bird-lovers, I have taken steps to deter them--but the thud of that falcon into the window made me scream. Later, I saw the falcon flying from one large oak tree in my yard to another. It seemed to be staking out the territory of my yard.

Falcon recovery has been an important project in Wisconsin in recent years. Here are some pictures of Wisconsin peregrine falcons.

I will try to find more information about what to do about my bird-luring window.

UPDATE: At 4 p.m., the falcon was back, sitting in my pear tree. I went and got my camera and positioned myself at the window. As I zoomed in, just before I made the shot, he flew away. Maybe the zooming-in lens caught his eagle eye, his falcon eye. I'll get some pictures soon, I think, because it looks as though he's taken up residence in these trees. And as he flew away, he called out, so now I know his call.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris says he's seen two falcons, more than once. So there must be a nesting pair in our yard! I say this to Chris, and he chides me for assuming the falcons are of opposite sexes.

FINAL UPDATE: I got a photograph at last, and one of the local bird lovers tells me it's a red tailed hawk, not a falcon, so nothing recently endangered, but a pretty cool hawk nonetheless. Imagine looking out your window and seeing one of these ten feet away from you:

Drudge's siren light.

Drudge is toying with our emotions today by using his rotating siren light to alarm us about the fact that Bush and Kerry have campaign stops today in the same town.

I have to admit that I check Drudge a lot, and I'm sure the old siren light is part of the reason I do. I've developed a sense that the look of the news is the look of Drudge's page. I realize that's a bit absurd, but I can't shake the feeling!

Oh, he's just taken the siren light down. It wasn't up for long. I guess he got some instant feedback about how idiotic it was.

UPDATE: At the moment, the site has a photo of Kerry right next to a photo of Bush. Kerry, wearing sneakers, is standing on a boat deck and the wind is causing his loose clothing to billow comically. Bush, wearing a neat, dark suit and a blue tie, is striding purposefully in front a marble pillar and an American flag. I think we can safely guess which candidate Drudge prefers.

"All the numbers suggest that this convention was a huge success."

So says John Kerry's pollster Mark Mellman. That's pretty sadly desperate, considering the polls he's looking at.


Our public sociologist Jeremy blasts the NYT for passing along the bad science finding that watching television causes kids to take up smoking.

My previous post asks why we enjoy bad drawings, so I suppose I should ask why we have such an appetite for bad science. Yesterday, didn't we all lap up the news that drinking quite freely sharpens the mind? We like it when we hear that something bad is actually good--e.g., the Atkins Diet (go ahead and ladle butter on that steak, it will help!). And we like it when we hear that doing something virtuous will have bonus benefits--I'm always hearing about additional benefits from exercising or eating vegetables or, as with the Times article, not watching television. I'll bet it wouldn't be hard to find articles about how kids' minds are improved by watching more television. We are entertained by hearing our beliefs confirmed and by hearing them contradicted. And of course, science should entertain us.

UPDATE: Jeremy responds to this post here. Among other things, he doubts that there are studies showing TV is good for you. I seem to remember seeing such things, but maybe I'm wrong. I did some Google-searching and couldn't find anything positive. In fact, based on my search, I'd have to think TV really is quite shockingly destructive. A theory I have, but will leave to someone else to try to prove, is that the alarmism about television and children is a kind of anti-feminism (intentional or unintentional). Many of the articles about the bad effect of television on children's brains harp on the use of television as a "babysitter." There is a shaming and scolding of parents for not devoting far more hours to interacting with young children. This shaming loops in fathers as well as mothers, but it is, I think, women who will feel guilty for failing to do what they imagine women before them did. But, of course, parents have been allowing their children to chill out in front of the TV for as long as there has been TV. I know. I was in the first generation that had TV. And believe me, in the 1950s, parents let their kids watch all the TV they wanted. You would not believe the hours of quiz shows and sitcoms I watched as a kid--without a word of criticism from the parents. Ah, we ate all the candy and ice cream we wanted too. We were the baby boomers and we could do whatever we wanted. And now that we've got all the jobs making scientific studies of all the pleasures we indulged in when we were young, we just can't stop serving up sermons and lectures about all the things you young people shouldn't do.


Spam subject lines inspire drawings here. The first one I decided to click on made me laugh: "You were wrong cabinet Sanchez."

I found this site by reading My Bad Art Year, which I found reading this Metafilter discussion of Tim's Badly Drawn Cat Site, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Why are bad drawings such refreshingly relaxing fun? Maybe it's like karaoke.

August 2, 2004


"Law sloth" (and law student) Ava Rice amusingly describes the ways of the law school "gunner." Lawprof Cameron Stracher defends the gunner. (Both pieces via JD2B). Stracher's key point is that the gunner learns more, more quickly. Rice's key point—if you read past all the funny observation and cranky attitude—is that social acceptance counts. I think the well-balanced law student (and lawyer) can find a way, on the one hand, to do the work, gain the knowledge, and contribute to the classroom, and on the other hand, to win the respect of peers and have good social relations. It's not an either/or proposition. You can overdo competition and participation, and you can overdo seeking the approval of others. The gunner's primary offense seems to be seeking the approval of the teacher rather than the other students. Maybe the best strategy is not to yearn too much for either the approval of the other students or the teacher, but to seek what is really valuable: the knowledge that you will need to practice law and the collegiality that makes the practice of law personally rewarding. Not only is this the strategy of a person of good character, but it will feel a whole lot better too.

UPDATE: Ava Rice responds here. Ava Rice is a pseudonym (get it?) for a male, according to the blogger profile. He's expressing some uneasiness about getting linked here:
I never really thought about actual people reading this thing, forget about actual law professors..… I mean, do I really feel comfortable writing about what I really want to write about when I picture actual professors and lawyers reading this?

I think anyone who blogs really ought to picture everyone reading them, because the day is going to come when a prospective employer or prospective spouse or whatever is going to read your blog. You may imagine yourself just writing to yourself, in an impossibly obscure little outpost on the internet. But the fact is, it's on the internet. At the same time, you probably ought to picture no one reading your blog, or maybe just a few close friends, at least to be able to write your blog in a personal voice.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Danny Noonan at The Electric Commentary adds another law student denouncement of gunners. He seems to think a gunner might comment "on the dissenting opinion of one of the cases cited in the case they were supposed to read." I must say that in 20 years of teaching at Wisconsin, I have never had a single student even once refer to anything in a case the was merely cited in the assigned case. I've also never had a student refer to something that was in the full text of the case but not in the edited-down version of the case. I do think Noonan is right that there are many students in the class that are as well-prepared as the students who volunteer a lot. Why don't these people realize how much power they have to dilute the effect of the students that annoy them by talking too much? Well, I guess they do realize they have the power, but why don't they use it? And how can they complain if they have the power to eliminate the effect of the gunners but they won't use it? Gunner-hating is awfully passive-aggressive, isn't it? If all you gunner-haters would just raise your hand once a week and make a contribution, there would be no more room in the hour for gunners to occupy. You may think that it is entirely the prof's job to control the few students who talk too much (or, more importantly, stray off-topic), but in my experience, students will also fault the teacher for cutting off students and for displaying negativity toward a particular student. You may think you hate the gunner, but you will still, I'll bet, sympathize with any student to whom the prof seems to be hostile, even if that student is a gunner. The most effective and positive way to overcome the gunner problem is for all the students to make a decent contribution for the good of the whole.

"A case of wishful thinking reminiscent of the most fevered Bush administration delusions."

Spencer Ackerman, writing in The New Republic, aptly and concisely exposes and punctures the delusion of Kerry's "secret plan" to wind down the war in Iraq: "Kerry is expecting, essentially, that the Europeans, liberated from Bush, will greet him with sweets and flowers."

Running for First Lady.

Tim Russert ended yesterday's "Meet the Press" with a discussion of the race for First Lady. This is a significant subject, like it or not, that I brought up in two posts yesterday--here and here. Here's the MTP dialogue:
MR. RUSSERT: Teresa Heinz Kerry made a very open appeal for support for women voters at the convention. Let's watch. ... Did it work?

MS. IFILL: You know, it's interesting. That's a perfect Rorschach. I was in the hall that night, and the response seemed muted. There were a lot of empty seats. You could kind of only hear her, because she speaks so softly. And I thought, jeez, that wasn't much of a speech. I called my friends at home who watched it on television, and they were blown away.

MR. RUSSERT: Ron Brownstein, let me bring you in here. The Newsweek poll has Kerry-Edwards up amongst women by 16 points, 53-37. ... And Bush ahead amongst men by 5 points. Big gender gap.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: ... Most of the women who would respond to [Heinz Kerry's speech] ... are already in the Democratic camp. Her job was more to do what the daughters did on Thursday night, I think, to humanize John Kerry and to show the side of him that you don't see when the spotlights are on. She did almost none of that. And I think for that reason, the speech was a wasted opportunity....

MR. RUSSERT: All right, Harwood, break the tie.

MR. HARWOOD: Tim, Laura Bush is a spectacularly good red-state spouse. She's smart. But she's also a bit subdued and supportive of her husband. Teresa Heinz is a very good blue-state spouse. She speaks not only to women but also to that larger immigrant story. There's a lot of immigrant voters in this race. She's urbane, she's sophisticated, she's strong. She's going to be an asset for him.
Here's what I think.

Laura Bush is the First Lady from central casting. She perfectly plays the role of an idealized First Lady (not the feisty, outspoken variety of First Lady but the Pat Nixon/Jackie Kennedy type). I assume she is a smart and good person who is not interested in projecting her personality into the public sphere and has chosen to walk carefully through the various scripted performances required of her.

Teresa Heinz Kerry is going to be a problem---not because she's "opinionated," the characteristic she pointedly defended in her convention speech, and not merely because she is interested in being the feisty, outspoken kind of First Lady, projecting her personality into the public sphere. She is going to be a problem because of that personality-projecting combined with a lack of real interest in helping her husband. I have no way to know what she really thinks of him, but time and again, I get the impression that she can barely tolerate him and doesn't even particularly care about supporting him. She too is walking through her public appearances, but she's not willing to play the First Lady role. She surely has a right to express herself, and she used her speech to inform us of this fact, though we all know it. But her honest self-expression seems unlikely to help her husband. This is not because we want to squelch female expression and demand a demure First Lady. It is because her honest expressions do not inspire support for the candidate.

Compare Heinz Kerry to other recent feisty First Ladies: Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan. These women had strong personalities (in fact they seemed far more energetic and political than Heinz Kerry), but they also obviously adored their husbands and staunchly agreed with their politics. We could see their love and it rubbed off on us--or at least it rubbed off on those not so opposed to the man as to be immune to such influence. Heinz Kerry shows none of this adoration. In fact, she seems to show a lack of interest in him. Maybe she doesn't even support his politics. (She is the widow of a Republican Senator.) She has an air of world-weariness (perhaps even mourning for the dead Republican). Here is her current husband, a dour-faced man with a droning voice, who is trying his damnedest to look like an optimist, and his own wife will not deign to gaze at him and smile. I'm all for female independence and expression, but why doesn't she want to help him?

UPDATE: Kate O'Beirne, the Washington Editor of the National Review, adds to my speculation that Heinz Kerry does not agree with her husband's politics:
At a Washington party in 2001, Teresa Heinz (then) greeted me enthusiastically with the charming pronouncement, "I agree with everything you say on TV. I'm a Republican and you're my favorite." Her husband, John Kerry, stood uncomfortably at her side, which he was no doubt used to doing by then.

Muzzles, Botox, and baffle gab.

Zell Miller turned in a sharp performance on "Meet the Press" yesterday:
Oh, the Democrats have changed. This time, it's the Democrats who have the party of division and diversion. Have you ever seen anything like this Democratic convention? We've been going to them for a long time. This is the first time I've ever seen the speakers issued muzzles before they went up to the speaking platform. I mean, you have to give them a C+, I guess, for discipline, but it was a convention that was completely deceptive in every way. Somebody back in Georgia said that it's the Botox convention: cosmetically enhanced. ...

I found [Kerry's] speech amazingly evasive. It was the same gobbledegook, same baffle gab that you have always heard from John Kerry. He said that he had a plan for Iraq, but then he never got around to telling you what that plan was. He said that he was going to increase troops by 40,000, and special ops, he was going to double, but I'm not going to send them to Iraq. I don't know exactly where he stands on these things still.
Miller is an excellent speaker, and he seems to represent a style of thinking characteristic of his region of the South. Some of the things he says sound elegant, but--unlike the quotes I've set out above--don't ring true at all to me. These two things jumped out at me:
[H]ow can a person say that they are for American values and for the American family whenever they vote or not vote but oppose an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage as a union between man and woman?

How can a person ... talk about the glory of Old Glory [when] they voted three times .... against an amendment that would have protected the flag against abuse?

"Ego, I don't know the meaning of the term."

The NYT interviews Ralph Nader. He shows his contempt for the Democratic Party ("decadent") and its little show last week: "This is repressed conformity." Of himself, he says: "Ego, I don't know the meaning of the term."

The article includes a nice picture of Michael Moore and Bill Maher, on Maher's HBO show, on their knees, begging Nader to drop out. Nader is laughing.

August 1, 2004

A giddy Bush.

Bush on C-Span at a rally in Pittsburgh. He's loose and confident and a bit giddy:
I wish Laura were here. Man, did I luck out when she said "yes." She's a great wife and a wonderful, wonderful person and a wonderful First Lady. Listen, I'm gonna give ya some reasons why you need to put me back in office. Perhaps the most important reason is so that Laura will have four more years as the First Lady.
Now why is Bush saying this now, right at the top of his speech and with such enthusiasm? My guess is that he means to say, implicitly: I'm more of a man than John Kerry. I have a great wife who loves me and I love her. You don't want that "shove it" lady in the White House, now, do you?

Struggling to listen to Kerry.

Chris Wallace interviewed John Kerry and John Edwards on Fox News Sunday. Here's a snippet that had us crying out in exasperation.
KERRY: I think this administration has dropped the ball on homeland security. I think they are now moving to catch up, but what America wants is leadership that's ahead of the curve, which doesn't have to be told by an independent commission, which they, incidentally, fought to prevent--they didn't want this commission--they tried to slow walk this commission. ...

EDWARDS: We're gonna stay focused on what we're going to do for America ...

WALLACE: Senator Kerry, in your convention speech ... you said, let's be optimists, not opponents. Let's take the high road. But in your speech, you said, the President misled us into war. You said that he's playing politics ...

KERRY: No, I said I will never mislead us into war.

WALLACE: Well, the implication was, this President did. In fact, you said he did.

KERRY: I said he did -- correct -- and I have said it several times. But in the speech I didn't. You're quoting my speech ...

Kerry makes this last ridiculous point pedantically, as if it's at the very core of what really matters. We were going "huh?" and then laughing.


KERRY: I didn't say that. I said I will never mislead us.

WALLACE: But ... you don't disagree with the premise that you have said that he ... that he misled us.

KERRY: Well, all Americans understand what's happened now.

WALLACE: That's not my question, anyway, my question is, there's that and you also said that you won't play politics with the Constitution. Implication: this President has played politics...

KERRY: Correct.

WALLACE: ... with the Constitution. Isn't that what John Edwards calls the negative politics of the past?

KERRY: No, those are comparisons of choices about the values that we bring to politics. You know, you hear a lot of talk about values in America. I think that the choices that you make in your policies reflect your values, and the things that you try to champion. John and I want health care for all Americans. That's a value. John and I believe that you shouldn't talk about no child left behind and then not fund the education system so that no child is left behind. That's a value. Under our plan, we're going to fund education, we're going to respect educators, teachers, we're going to bring our schools up in a positive and affirmative way. They're choosing to do one thing, and we have an affirmative choice. Obviously, we have to talk about the comparative choices. That's not name-calling. That's not petty and small. We have a big idea of health care for all Americans. We have a big idea for young people to afford to be able to go to college, where tuitions are going up. We have a big idea for restoring America's reputation in the world and fighting a more effective war on terror. To compare how we will fight the war on terror is the center of this campaign and that's what Americans want to know.
I was alternately laughing and groaning throughout this meandering evasion. How many times and at what length are we going to have to listen to Kerry chide Bush for going negative and then self-servingly elaborate why all of his criticisms of Bush don't count as negative?

UPDATE: Liberty Corner aptly asks "What on earth does any of that have to do with the Consitution?" I'd say that Kerry was implicitly substituting the less specific question: aren't you going negative? Which he, of course, proceeded to evade anyway. And he was such a stickler a moment before that assertion that the President had mislead us into war was not in the convention speech (though he's said it elsewhere many times and the convention speech implied it).

Teresa Heinz Kerry: "It was pretty surreal."

"This Week with George Stephanopoulos" had a clip of Stephanopoulos interviewing Teresa Heinz Kerry the day after John Kerry's convention speech:
How did you feel about last night?

It was pretty surreal.


Well, you know, you're standing ... until the balloons started dropping, and the kids started playing balloons, and I said, okay, it's playtime now. But until then, it's kind of like happening to somebody else.

What's surreal is that the wife of the candidate would answer that question that way. Stephanopoulos was giving her an opportunity to help her husband's cause by saying something like "He did a fantastic job." Instead of talking at all about how he did, she interpreted the question literally, as if everyone just wants to know about her inner emotional life. And even then, one might have thought that she would have expressed her feelings in terms of her pride in her husband or her nervousness for him or her love and support, but instead, she came out with the hippie's "It was pretty surreal" and nothing more. Prodded to explain, she rambled on about balloons. Not a word about her husband. I give her credit for honesty: she does not try to figure out what is required of her and substitute appropriate answers. But I get the sense that she can scarcely bring herself to care about all the events swirling about her.

Here's a second interchange with Stephanopoulos:
Coming into this convention over half the country said they didn't know that much about John Kerry. What do you think is the big thing they learned this week?

Well, you know, I was saying a little earlier that John finally got a forum where he could be at his best, which is thoughtful, allow passion to come in, allow his ideas to come forth. You know, how often in life do you get that kind of attention and space and time? So it was a very good moment for him.

There, Heinz Kerry doesn't interpret the question literally, or isn't able to think of a "big thing" that people learned about Kerry. Her answer, delivered somnambulently, consists of little more than an acknowledgement that Kerry did have a chance to give a big speech. He "got a forum" where he "could" do a few things, where he had everyone's attention. Well, did he do anything worth noting?

She seems crushed by the boredom of it all.

The template is bugging me.

I'm disgusted with my Blogger template again. It's so unappealing! Please bear with me if I fool around with it again.

UPDATE: Okay, here I am trying to use Minima again. I'd tried it a while back but had trouble with photos lapping into the sidebar. I think I spotted the place in the code to fix that. This template is less obtrusive than the old one. My main complaint is that the subtlety of the template makes the Blogger ads so glaring. Why doesn't Blogger let us pay to get rid of them!


A while back I typoed "Demoncratic" for "Democratic" when writing about the convention. Now, the New York Times, of all newspapers, is comparing the Democratic Convention to the assembly of the fallen angels in "Paradise Lost." The source of the comparison is Milton scholar Pitt Harding:
When the devils convene in Pandemonium, a hall even more chaotic than the FleetCenter, their base is energized with rage against the militarist they blame for unfairly defeating them and ruling dictatorially. There are deep divisions in the party - some want all-out war with God, others are doves - but Satan unites them ....