February 12, 2005

Passing through Lodi.

I drive straight north to Lodi, Wisconsin, which I don't think is the Lodi that Creedence Clearwater Revival was stuck in. There's a Lodi in New Jersey, too, and I've always assumed that's the one that Creedence meant to just pass through. [ADDED: Read through to the update before emailing me!] I didn't ride in on the Greyhound, I drove my new Audi TT Coupe. Here's Main Street with Silvio:





I admired the roof lines of the buildings that were built in the late 1800s:









I stopped to photograph the Palmer Tree, which the plaque on the rock said was a Burr Oak, that dated back to 1848, when the town was settled:




There were some more recent signs, but these seemed not to be from the present but from the 1970s.









In the middle of Main Street there is a break in the storefronts where the sidewalk crosses over a brook:



An archway proclaims it "Home of Susie," and a sign explains that in 1948 Susie the duck endeared herself to the Lodi townsfolk when she laid her eggs in a masonry flower basket, to which she returned each year. The duck received "national media attention," perhaps the most attention ever paid to Lodi.



Back to the car, parked in front of Galaxy Pizza:



Driving home I stop at Lodi Marsh, at a segment of Wisconsin's "Ice Age Trail." Some views of the marsh:












UPDATE: An amazing number of people have emailed to say that Creedence was talking about Lodi, California. Is "Lodi" like "Springfield" -- a name that comes up as a town name in every state? I happened to drive home through Springfield, Wisconsin today. Googling "Lodi," California comes up first, followed by New Jersey. Third is Italy, which must be the source for the name. Here's a Lodi, Wisconsin website.

Silvio is getting impatient.

I'll be back later.

Don't miss Nina's Gates-blogging!

(If a scandal arises as a result of the big Gates project, we can call it Gatesgate.)

What's worth "bothering" about in the Ward Churchill controversy.

Sean Hackbarth tries to answer a question I asked him in email. He had written to me to call attention to a post of his that complained about Ward Churchill coming to UW-Whitewater "to grab as much attention as he can." My question, meant to imply why I wasn't going to link, was: Aren't you helping him get attention?

He titles the new post "Should we even bother?" which suggests he's not really getting or not admitting what my point was. I recommend doing what is best, not doing what takes less effort. Denying someone the springboard of your outrage might be better. That it's less bother is just a bonus.

But if your outrage at things Churchill has written is creating a fund of energy that you want to expend on something useful, what I have recommended and continue to recommend is to focus on the institutions that hire and promote undercredentialed political ideologues like him. By focusing on Churchill, you make it easier for those institutions to avoid responsibility for what is a much broader problem. You make it all too easy for these institutions to retaliate against the one individual that critics have locked onto. You help them make it seem as though they've done enough. That the retaliation also offends free speech values further demonstrates how dysfunctional the focus on the individual speaker is.

"Now that the 'frames' have the added fabric, they have become curvy and flirtatious."

Nina has the first of what I'm sure will be a lot of pictures of The Gates in NYC.

UPDATE: Using pure nerve, Nina finds her way to the press box and gets some great shots, including this closeup of Jeanne-Claude (her hair newly oranged), Christo (not orange, grizzled), and Mayor Bloomberg. She attributes her success to her black coat and her multi-cultural personality ("New York chutzpah, Midwestern temerity, Polish spunk").

Too much moral clarity?

In today's NYT, Roger Cohen writes about the Bush Administration's embrace of Natan Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.":
Here is Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state, explaining last month what will guide her policy: "The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls 'the town square test': if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a fear society has finally won their freedom."

The idea of the town-square test appears on Page 40 of Mr. Sharansky's book. By this point, he has developed the arguments that are repeated in various guises through the remaining 263 pages. These may be summarized as follows: Freedom is attainable for every person on earth. It is the best guarantee of global security, because democratic societies are nonbelligerent. Totalitarian or, as he puts it, fear societies are dangerous because they always seek external enemies as a means of self-preservation.

To act on the above requires "moral clarity." This phrase is repeated with bludgeoning insistence. By moral clarity, Mr. Sharansky means the courage to bring down autocracy wherever it may exist, including the Middle East. "We must recapture moral clarity," he writes, "by recognizing that the great divide between the world of fear and the world of freedom is far more important than the divisions within the free world."

Cohen calls the book too "simplistic," too "pat."

The danger now is that the beauty of his argument may become a form of blindness. He uses America's abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison mainly to laud the response of a free society to such an outrage: investigation, public debate, judgment and punishment.

But Mr. Sharansky might also have taken Abu Ghraib as an illustration of what can happen when a society becomes too certain of its mission, too giddy with its might, too negligent of constitutional safeguards of liberty and too blind to the humanity of people from another culture. Moral clarity in the name of freedom is one thing. But the slogan of freedom masquerading as moral clarity is quite another.

Cohen is right to raise these concerns. It's important to have values, but you also must constantly pay attention to what you are actually doing. Ideologues are dangerous, even if some ideology is important in the practical work of making the world a better place. Real moral clarity involves clearly seeing the effects you are having and not falling blindly in love with your own ideas.

She "worships the female sexual organ, seeing it as her god."

Uganda denounces Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues."
The Ugandan government has condemned "The Vagina Monologues," which is to be staged in the country later this month, saying it is part of an international effort to corrupt the moral fabric of Ugandans. The state minister of information, James Nsaba Buturo, said the government had no plans to ban the play, but said the title "is undoubtedly indecent and tasteless" and the content "promotes values that are a threat to our country."
Well, good for them for not banning it! Myself, I think the play is awfully bad, though I couldn't care less if Ensler "worships the female sexual organ."

(Political theology might be this blog's theme of the day. See previous post.)

UPDATE: In the end, Uganda did ban the play.

"When you think of the New Testament, they get about 2 of the values and we get about 27."

That's Howard Dean, speaking to members of the Democratic Party's African-American caucus. Ah, political theology!

The tsunami's archaeology.

The BBC reports on the effects of the tsunami in India:
Archaeologists say they have discovered some stone remains from the coast close to India's famous beachfront Mahabalipuram temple in Tamil Nadu state following the 26 December tsunami.

They believe that the "structures" could be the remains of an ancient and once-flourishing port city in the area housing the famous 1200-year-old rock-hewn temple.

Three pieces of remains, which include a granite lion, were found buried in the sand after the coastline receded in the area after the tsunami struck.

Saturday!

How nice to have a Saturday -- a Saturday without a stack of admission files on the table. The files claim your attention whether you are reading them or not. To be fair and properly attentive, you can't read too many in a row, so much of the time you are simply feeling that you ought to be reading them. Today, the table is clear. I have no plans to make any progress through any tasks more challenging than reading the newspaper. (The blinds are even up!) It's a perfect day to back Silvio down the driveway and head out onto the Wisconsin backroads. What's out there? Snowy hills and rolling farmland and maybe a charming little town or two. I think I'll drive north today. I hope to have a few photographs. Today, as I look forward to seeing the very orange photographs from The Gates in NYC, I'm going to go collect some images that will be very white and gray. And blue!

February 11, 2005

Recycling in Madison.

Regular readers know of my tribulations trying to throw out the trash properly in Madison. A reader sends this link to an article about the new recycling program in Seattle, because it's got this about Madison:
In Madison, Wis., a liberal college town that embraced recycling enthusiastically when it began in 1991, a fine has never been imposed.

"Seventy percent of the population is going to walk across a bed of hot coals to recycle a bottle. They just do that. They believe in it," said George Dreckmann, Madison's recycling coordinator. More than 90 percent follow the law, and Dreckmann said it doesn't make sense economically or practically to go after the few violators.

Useful information!

You know, we're required to use special clear plastic bags that are emblazoned with the words "Madison Pride." It's not bad enough that you have to put your bottles on display to your neighbors. Good thing we drank a lot of milk this week so there are plenty of bulky milk containers to cover up all the wine and beer bottles that conveniently sink to the bottom -- otherwise the locals might think ill of us -- but then they'd probably think ill of us if we had a lot of diet soda cans -- or even soda cans, period. But we've got to buy special bags that compel us to manifest a prideful attitude about the low-level virtue of recycling. Arrgh.... Time to uncork a bottle of wine and drink a toast to the cloying self-love that swirls through my lovely little city.

But regular readers want to know: How did the test chair work? Well, the chair was gone, but I've got to allow for the possibility that some ordinary citizen came by and decided to pick up the chairs, a la Holly Woodlawn in "Trash." (Note: any esoteric allusion to beer bottles is quite unintended.)

The history of humor.

"The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker" arrived in the mail today. It contains over 68,000 cartoons, most of which are on two CDs but 2004 of which are in the 600+ page large format book. A nice thing about the book is that it's organized by year, beginning with 1925. (Doesn't the magazine seem older than that?) So you can see the sort of thing that was thought funny in any given year -- that is, what the editors of The New Yorker thought was funny in a way that expressed the whole New Yorker ethos. Like here, in 1925, a man is reading the newspaper and on the floor is a very sketchy line drawing of, presumably, his son. The son is on all fours and might have a tail, so maybe he's a bit of a monkey boy -- I'm not sure. The caption is:
"Pa, what is all this talk about Evolution?"

"Son, I'll have to consult my attorney before I can answer that question. I might be sent to jail for it."

Okay. It's a reference to the Scopes trial, which was in 1925. (A case in which a schoolteacher was tried for teaching about evolution.) So is it just a simple matter of the father referring to the Scopes prosecution, or is it some strange devolution of the boy into a monkey that the father is invoking Scopes to avoid dealing with? I'm going to guess the former. Finding this cartoon inscrutable doesn't necessarily prove that humor changes a lot over the decades, because there are always some current New Yorker cartoons that you can't quite figure out. (There was a "Seinfeld" episode about that.)

Anyway, looking for some info on the Scopes trial, I came up with some contemporaneous and non-New Yorker cartoons: here and here.

A tribute.

To one Marine who was killed in Iraq, a friend of one of our students here at the law school, who wrote, the day after the Iraqi election:
These tributes and beautiful stories are never portrayed in the mainstream media--only the violence or death, and then the success--never a tie between the tragic sacrifice and the success!

The site has been sent to numerous military families, however, without having a military family member or friend I think it is hard for people, especially my generation, to understand the sacrifices people just like ourselves are making over there. For example, I don't know another person in my law school class (except two others who knew Bobby) who have either friends over there, family over there, or have known someone who has been killed, some law students, obviously opposed to the war--which as you know is not rare in Madison (and I opposed the war after we found out they did not have WMD), even had the audacity to tell me that day when I was notified that Bobby had been killed that "it is too bad your friend died for nothing."

Perhaps you could take a look, as I think both the left and the right should recognize the true heroes that led to the success of the election in Iraq--as it wasn't really Bush, but rather, it was people like Bobby. Also, the right needs to remember to ensure that they realize that "spreading democracy" has an extremely high cost--and the left needs to remember in order to remind them that whether you were against the war or not, this is a victory for human kind and being antiwar should never mean being antisoldier.

"Modernist obscurantism and feel-good communalism."

New Republic art critic Jed Perl slams The Gates -- even though it will create "one of the world's most beautiful urban spaces." Apparently, it's all too easy, too beautiful. It has "no core, no essence" -- "There isn't much of anything left once you've stripped these fun-with-fabric extravaganzas of all their logistical complexities."

Maybe it is purely lush and hedonistic, but why not give in to the sheer pleasure of beauty?

The California Supreme Court on IQ and the death penalty.

I've written before about the question whether the Supreme Court's Atkins case, barring the death penalty for the mentally retarded, meant for IQ tests to be determinative. Yesterday, the California Supreme Court rejected the IQ line-drawing sought by the prosecution (who suggested 70 as the cut-off point). The case involved a man who has scored from 71 to 86 on various tests. How bizarre it would be to execute him because he scored 71, when it would violate his constitutional rights if he'd only scored 70! The court decided he was entitled to a hearing, based on the fact that a qualified expert found him to be mentally retarded. At the hearing, the IQ scores are simply part of the whole mass of evidence that can be considered in reaching a factual conclusion.

How fascinating the human body is when it doesn't look like itself!

What a cool sports photo! It reminded me of a Tim Hawkinson artwork, which I'd just been admiring in the newspaper: see it here by clicking on slideshow and going to the sixth item.

The sports photograph comes from these World Press award winners, which I found via Metafilter.

All the items in the art slideshow and the photography awards series are worth taking a look at.

For February: orangeness.

Well, I didn't go to New York, at least not this weekend, to see The Gates in Central Park. Teaching on Friday and Monday mornings, it would be two days of traveling and -- realistically, for me -- $1500 just for one full day in the city. (Yeah, another night and morning too, but still!) So, I'm checking out the photographs over on Flickr. This one is nice. Tomorrow the fabric will be unfurled, so there should be tons of photography soon. Nina's in NY, with no photographs yet, but she's saying, "This morning, I'm off to explore the emergent path of saffron. It is up and waiting. The sun is brilliant. The stage is set." So she should have some good pictures, with her unique commentary, soon enough.

How exciting for the people in New York! I hope you like orange. Personally, I think orange is just what February needs. Officially, they're calling it "saffron," but people, you know it's orange! No need to deny it, like a J. Crew catalogue. It's orange!

UPDATE: Nina's got pictures now. She notes, here, that the gates -- with the fabric still tightly wound -- work as frames when you photograph the buildings that ring the park.

"My great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?"

So said Camilla Parker Bowles when she first met Prince Charles thirty years ago. I've always been pro-Camilla. Charles was in love with her when he was -- wasn't he? -- pressured into his marriage with Diana. Everyone always loved and deified Diana and ridiculed Camilla for her looks.

Actually, the two women share the basic horse-face look, though Diana pulled it off more daintily. Obviously, Charles finds horse-faced women appealing, so why shouldn't he think the horsier of the two was more beautiful? It's good for people to have different beauty standards, because it increases the total amount of happiness in the world, making it more likely that people will be able to mate with a person whose looks they love.

Their love is a tribute to horses, in fact. The two met over horses:
The Prince of Wales and Camilla Shand, as she was then, hit it off from the first time they met, at a polo match in 1970. But Charles was something of a playboy, and when he dithered and went abroad with the navy, Camilla married a longtime suitor, Andrew Parker Bowles. The two remained friends with the prince. Mr. Parker Bowles even took on the ludicrously named ceremonial post of Silver Stick in Waiting to the prince, while his wife took another traditional role - that of the prince's mistress.
Silver Stick in Waiting? The ways of the English are mysterious! But good luck to couple, presumably happy at last.

The decision to allow Ward Churchill to speak at the UW-Whitewater.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides a good, local report of the decision by UW-Whitewater chancellor Jack Miller to not to allow Ward Churchill to speak on campus. I think Miller handled the situation reasonably well. The student group had invited him as a speaker back in July before the current controversies arose and has made a statement that it doesn't mean to offend anyone.

The Badger Herald, a student newspaper, also does a good job with the story, providing better detail about the stipulations Miller imposed:
Miller will not allow Churchill to speak should he not meet six stipulations.

The most important of those stipulations is the guaranteed safety of Miller’s campus, considering the earlier incidents at Hamilton.

Miller’s second requirement stipulates the state will not fund Churchill’s travel expenses or speaker’s honorarium.

“All funding for this event will come from either private gifts or student fees allocated by the Student University Fee Allocation Committee (SUFAC),” according to the statement.

Churchill’s attendance at the university would also depend on the outcome of a review by UC-Boulder, where the school’s Board of Regents is currently debating whether to dismiss Churchill from the university.

The statement said the university would also provide views contrary to Churchill’s. Finally, Miller demanded a clarification of Churchill’s “Little Eichmanns” remark.

I think these are good stipulations, though it seems to me that it's the university that has to supply the security. Various politicos are taking potshots at Miller, which is to be expected. But he had a difficult situation to deal with, and there was no perfect resolution.

And nice job with the story by The Badger Herald. I don't think the other student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, even has a report.

February 10, 2005

Still winter.

It's still winter here in Wisconsin.



Some snow melted today:



It's a little bleak!


The Ward Churchill controversy comes to Wisconsin.

Personally, I think Churchill is getting way too much attention. As my mother used to say: "You're only encouraging him." Anyway, the big brouhaha comes to Wisconsin -- as Churchill is scheduled to speak at the Whitewater campus on March 1st -- the Badger Herald reports. I like this quote from my colleague Gordon Baldwin:
“[Churchill’s] probably a jackass, but that doesn’t [matter],” Baldwin said. “If he is invited, he’s got a right to speak, but you don’t have a First Amendment right to be respected or to be agreed with.”
I know there's more to the controversy than Churchill's right to speak, but that's the University of Colorado's problem. There, I look askance at UC, not Churchill: Why did they hire and promote him?

Condom bangles.

BBC reports on a miniature outrage, turning female condoms into bracelets that sell three for $2:
"We get them for free from hospitals and clinics. Then we cut the plastic off, just leaving the band, which we repaint in bright colours - pink, yellow, red."

Jurors make a $1.8-billion mistake.

They meant to award $1 million to be split among the members of a 1,812-person class, but they accidentally gave $1 million to each member of the class. [UPDATE: Sorry for the missing digit in the number of persons in the class! It really is a $1.8 billion mistake... MORE: This kind of really undercuts me making fun of the jurors' mistake. (Correction made.)]

And it's a strange case all around: a man offers his million-dollar house as a prize in an essay contest with a $195 entry fee, 10% of which will go to charity. He does give 10% to charity, but the winner of the contest doesn't accept the prize, and the man just stays in the house and later sells it for a million dollars. One of the contest losers notices all this and sues. The winner, being Canadian, can't be compelled to show up in court, so we never hear why he didn't accept the prize. I love the way the defendant's lawyer harps on the irrelevant fact that all the essays were crappy anyway.

February 9, 2005

Simulblogging "American Idol."

I prepared for tonight's simulblog by reviewing parts of last night's show. If you remember, I made a harsh accusation: the show is using overdubbing to make contestants sound better than the performance heard by the judges. I stand by this observation. I wrote:
Regina Brooks -- sings really well -- though again, I think it looks overdubbed. But she doesn't make it! Well, I think it was overdubbed, so I don't think we heard how she really sounded.

I watched the performance again closely, and the mouth does not at all match the soundtrack! The show is using too many fakey tricks to supply the entertainment value. I think that's a mistake. There were so many bogus things about last night's show. One I didn't mention before is that when the judges are telling contestants that they made it, they do that old Regis Philbin "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" trick of looking all sad, as if they are about to deliver bad news, and then -- wow -- it's good news. What a cheesy old gimmick! Is that all they've got?

8:00: Tonight, the kids are put into groups. They have to work together. But some of them don't like each other. Well, I doubt the drama is going to be all that good, because we immediately get diverted into an irrelevant sequence about one contestant's mother having trouble breathing. The other early conflict involves a group of three guys, one of whom seems to have a serious mental deficiency. We're asked to laugh at this young man, but it doesn't seem funny.

8:11. Two contestants confront one woman who can't learn the words. She's dragging them down! (And she doesn't even seem to see the problem.) Another set of contestants gets up the nerve to kick out the parents. A third set confronts the guy who seems to have a serious mental deficiency: "To me, you seem a little bit anti-social."

8:20. The first trio is freakishly mismatched. Seeing them dance together is weird. "You were definitely in some sort of a group," says Randy. Two of them make it. The one who doesn't didn't sing badly, he just could not dance. The second group includes the woman who couldn't learn the words, and she pretty much just sings "Oh" for the whole song. They call her on it. How hard is it to learn "baby, baby, where did out love go?" asks Simon. Word-forgetting-girl loses. We see her stalking down the street. She turns to the camera and says "I'm a very beautiful person." Ah, too bad! A very beautiful person who could not learn the words.

8:32. Anwar Robinson is good, and his whole group makes it. Then, there's an awful group. Ah, this whole segment is too filler-y to summarize.

8:41. The group with the seemingly mentally challenged man does a cool harmony at the end, and one member is dropped and it's not Scott, the seemingly mentally challenged guy. The one who loses carried a teddy bear during the routine. There's a group of three guys that leads to a big fight among the judges, but the upshot of it all is that the cute blond guy gets a reprieve. The rocker guy is ridiculous trying to sing "Can't Help Myself." Well, what do you expect? Why would a rocker guy come off well singing "Can't Help Myself"?

8:51: "I can't love nobody else, I just love myself" -- that was an excellent attempt at the lyrics. A horrible threesome makes it through. Why? The need to equalize the males and the females. That was just pretty weird. Or was it "the braveness that we took" in choosing a godawful song. Now the guys are crying over the opportunity they've been given.

End of show!

UPDATE: About my suspicions that there is overdubbing, several people have emailed to tell me that I may be seeing the picture out of synch with the sound if I am using any of the following: digital cable, TiVo, HDTV. Of course, I am using all three. I still think I see the problem only some of the time, but I'm going to settle down and assume it's some technical glitch at my end. But I'm not going to back down about thinking Marlea Stroman's quitting was staged. It fit the theme of the evening too neatly and seemed bogus.

Scared to death, dying of sorrow.

There is new scientific evidence that people, almost all women, die of heart failure brought on by strong emotion. It's not a heart attack, it's "stress cardiomyopathy," AKA "broken-heart syndrome."

The naked Kate Moss painting.

I love the painter Lucien Freud, and I love his painting of Kate Moss that just sold for $7.29 million. BBC reports:
Moss first suggested she pose for Freud in an article in Dazed and Confused magazine.

Lucian Freud, grandson of famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, usually paints people he knows well but his most famous model, aside from Moss, is probably the Queen.

It takes between six months and a year of regular sittings for the artist to complete a painting, but Moss said she was unconcerned by the length of time it would take.

She is pregnant in the picture (which would seem to be a problem if you're posing over such a long period of time). It's nice to see the famous model displayed like a very ordinary, quite flawed, fleshy female.

The buyer of the painting is anonymous, and quite possibly Moss herself.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book of Freud's paintings. Lots of reproductions of the paintings, and the text is by Robert Hughes.

For the everything-happens-for-a-reason file.

A few weeks ago, a red light failed to register in my consciousness, and I wrecked my car. (Wow, my post comes up first when I Google "I just wrecked my car"!) Today, I was driving my new car down the snowy hill near my house, with no lights or stop signs, and a young woman on a light blue moped (which she had been driving on the sidewalk) rode right out in front of me, from a side street that had a stop sign. I had been watching her and wasn't going to drive through until I saw her stop, and so there was never the slightest chance that I could have hit her. She had never even turned her head to look my way.

Check your Wisconsin quarters.

The Wisconsin state quarters are atrocious -- the worst of all the state quarters -- and yet some of them are extra-screwed-up, which in the wacky world of coin collecting, means they're worth a lot of money. If you've got one with an extra cornstalk leaf, it's worth $500.

"There is even a blog...."

Imagine thinking the existence of a blog on a subject is an unusual sign of the great intensity of interest in it. The NYT does, in this article about "The Gates":
The artists estimate that thousands of people around the globe make a point of traveling to see their work, often signing on to help install the pieces. Smaller Christo communities hammer beams, tread water, twist fabric, answer phones or perform myriad other tasks to help bring a work together. There is even a blog on which visitors can record their reactions: nycgates.blogspot.com.

As I've indicated in earlier posts, I'm really interested in "The Gates." And, actually, the blog in question looks pretty nice. The Times article is mostly about whether the project will bring a lot of tourists to NYC during a time of year when they usually stay away. I've given a fair amount of thought to making a trip myself. I don't want to go purely out of fear that I'll regret it if I don't, and I'm not in the mood to travel (except in my new car). But maybe I will just hop in a plane one day and go over there and check it out.

February 8, 2005

Depressing email.

I received an email today that began:
Usually don't read you, since I'm rather liberal (by today's attenuated standards anyway) and have lost my tolerance for the right half of the blogsphere. But happened by your blog...you are absolutely correct about "Crumb" ....

I'm writing from the middle, trying to talk to everyone. I'm trying to be honest, and I think I have some interesting things to say. But I know there are lots of people who see themselves on my left -- though I bet I'm to their left on some things! -- who view my blog as poison, not to be touched. I find it hard to understand what these people imagine themselves to be doing. It's not that I think everyone ought to read my blog, but I can't understand how people interested in politics feel averse to reading bloggers who are in the middle, who are not blogging in order to stir up the troops on one wing or the other, but who are genuinely trying to speak honestly, as an individual and who are open to argument. It's awfully sad. And the fact that I find it sad, by the way, is evidence that I really am in the middle, because people on the right think it's great that the left is isolating itself this way. I know you people on the left aren't reading this, but if you were, I would tell you: the right is laughing triumphantly.

UPDATE: One reader writes:
I read mostly rightwing blahgz .... and I also read Kaus, Atrios, MyDD, DailyKos and lurk DU and you are more middle of the road than Joe Gandelman in my book. You have a slightly conservative slant on some things (I mean you aren't "out there") but on social issues I'd put you are slightly liberal. That's just my guess.

Pretty accurate.

Another reader writes:

I'm a liberal and I enjoy your blog a lot! ... There are a lot of liberals and lefties who aren't in the mood to listen to anyone to their right (as opposed to ON the right) these days. Their behavior may very well be self-defeating. But it shouldn't be surprising. Consider what most liberals have endured politically over the past 15 years: They elect the politically-moderate Clinton and hold their noses while he triangulates, only to watch as the GOP destroys his presidency over personal indiscretions. Gore loses a contested election and liberals are asked to unite behind Bush for the nation's good, only to watch as Bush behaves as if he has a mandate to ignore them. Liberals are again asked to stand behind the president after 9/11, only to watch as he uses the tragedy to some degree for political gain - and victory in the 2004 elections. Liberals are ridiculed for their opposition to Iraq, and ridiculed FURTHER when their doubts about WMD prove correct. To this history, add the incompetence of Democratic candidates and elected officials, who have largely failed to present a viable ideological or policy alternative to conservatism or Bush's war on terror.

In other words, large swaths of the nation are unrepresented in national politics, and feel betrayed by past efforts to find common ground. This is not merely bitterness from Bush's reelection. Wouldn't you feel disenfranchised if you were on the losing side this often, and under sometimes-dubious circumstances?

At some level, liberals have nobody to blame but themselves. Their party was coasting for decades since the 1970s, and they let it happen. But you cannot discount the role of conservatives, whose divisiveness has contributed mightily to the current situation. Most liberals I know have simply decided that they've been marginalized, by their opponents and their supposed representatives, to the point that they have no stake in engaging public debate. That includes a lot of reasonable people who read the papers and vote, not lefty activists who wouldn't listen to conservatives under any circumstances.

Both sides have done plenty to polarize current political discussion, but as the party in power, it is the GOP that reshaped the playing field to create these conditions. Only a fool would believe that the rise of conservatism is purely ideological and hasn't also resulted from a change in political tactics driven by conservative activists.... If we are living in the conservative era that so many right-wing political pundits crow about, then aren't they most responsible for the climate that is driving reasonable people away from reasonable, moderate debate?

Despite this gloomy analysis, remember that your blog is popular for a reason: You strive for thoughtfulness and fairness, and people recognize that more often than not.
Another reader disagrees that "the right is laughing triumphantly":
I think people on the right are also horrified at just how left the left has become when people like you and Jeff Jarvis and Instapundit are labeled as conservative or hard right, and are unable even to read what you have to say.

When people who are professors at NYU start believing that David Corn of all people [is a] Karl Rove plant at worst and betraying their own side at best - and thus seek to ostracize him - they've gone all unhinged.

I mean, if they can't read you guys, the centrists, and think even the left is betraying them, and this wave of thought is becoming more and more status quo, how can anyone actually on the right have a conversation with them? They've made themselves unreachable and untouchable.
I concede that plenty of people on the right agree with me that it's terribly sad.

Still another emailer:
I've been reading your blog regularly and you're doing just fine. Keep on keepin' on, please.

What I like most about Althouse is:
a) its eclecticism. (Your blinds are up! Woo hoo!)
b) that its not primarily a political blog, even though you sometimes write about politics
c) that it's written by a someone pretty close in age to me
d) and that you usually write with such a common sense tone.


Your correspondent's putting you into the "right half of the blogosphere" doesn't make any sense to me. The only justification I can think of for that would be your choosing Bush over Kerry. By itself, that hardly makes you a right-winger, so I think it says more about his/her politics than it does about yours.

Voting for Bush counts for a lot, which I kind of understand but kind of also think is a strategy for failure. If the majority of people voted for Bush, you need to try to understand the most liberal segment of those voters if you want to become the majority.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As I've said before, I think there are some people on the left who want to be that fervent, self-regarding minority.

ONE MORE: Here's another email:
[Y]ou have mentioned feeling sad at the way your moderate political views are seen by some on the left. I think I know just the feeling you're describing. … The sadness I feel that I think might correspond in some ways to yours is that, a result of my political evolution, almost all of my old friendships are in trouble.

Nearly everybody I count as a friend from the first few decades of my life is still true-blue, and now that I am multi-colored, I find that I cannot talk about politics with most of them at all. They genuinely cannot bear to hear one word about the ways in which my thinking has changed. To them, it seems, admitting that I don't share every one of their views on the war in Iraq, or the privatization of Social Security, or the artistic genius of Michael Moore, or whatever the topic of the day might be, would be tantamount to admitting that I am no longer a good person or a potential friend. These are well-educated, intelligent people who wish urgently to be good and to do good things in the world, people who think of themselves as open-minded and tolerant. And yet their minds seem to me to be anything but open. Deep down, I don't think most of them believe that it is possible for anyone to be a worthwhile person who holds political views different from their own. Many of my old friends seem to have constructed their self-images around the belief that it is their political liberalism that defines them as good. The result appears to be that no liberal tenet can safely be challenged or even closely examined without threatening all of their beliefs about everything, and especially about themselves.

I have come to suspect that to many of my liberal friends, there really isn't a political spectrum of various views out there. Instead, there are just two categories: good views, which correspond with their own, and terrible views, which don't. Some of these folks are so quick to categorize, so eager to label. The word "Republican" is an all-purpose shorthand category for selfishness, greed, stupidity, ignorance. The word "corporate" serves the same purposes. Anybody who did not thoroughly oppose the war in Iraq is a war-monger. Anybody who wonders if affirmative action is still a good idea is a racist. Anybody who thinks some gender differences might be inborn is sexist. Anybody who doesn't hate George Bush is stupid. Anybody . . . well, you get my drift. To me, this haste to label and demonize difference appears to be a way to avoid the risks inherent in thinking, a way to keep the mind securely shut.

I don't really understand this. … I am married to a Republican, so political disagreement is a daily feature of my life. My husband and I talk about politics all the time. We debate, compare, disagree, agree, tease one another, pound the table, shout, laugh, grumble, ask the kids what they think, learn things from one another. Once in a while I change his mind about something, once in a while he changes mine. Most of the time, neither of us manages to change the other's point of view one bit -- but we have a good time trying. We did have to teach ourselves how to do this. It didn't come naturally to disagree without fighting, and once in a while we lose perspective and get angry for a while. But this happens less and less often, and most of the time, our discussions are fun. I would love to have conversations like this with my old friends. I think our twenty- and thirty-year-old friendships are strong enough to stand a few areas of disagreement, just as my marriage is. But I can't find a single liberal friend who thinks this way. To them, any disagreement seems to be synonymous with the complete downfall of all understanding and shared history. They veer away from discussion, change the subject, or even ask openly if we can stop talking about whatever-it-is because it makes them too uncomfortable.

There are, of course, narrow-minded labelers on the right as well as on the left. But like you, I've noticed a certain willingness to entertain and explore civil disagreement among many on the right that seems to harder to find on the left. Why? I wish I knew, but I don't. I'm just glad that people like you keep blogs, so that I can remind myself I'm not the only person on earth who approaches politics the way I do, nor the only one who sometimes, as a result, feels a little sad.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another email:
Thank you, thank you for your moderation! Thank you for sharing the letters from your readers. It's so nice to know we are not alone! I am a moderate, and have moved to the left of most of my childhood friends, but am (apparently) considerably to the right of most of the people in my new neighborhood (a "faculty ghetto"). I have been able to have a few polite but intense conversations with self-described progressives, but only when they didn't know beforehand that I was "on the other side." It is, indeed, a sad state of affairs when I can have a more thoughtful and open-minded conversation with the fundamentalist Christian abortion-clinic-protesting father of a friend from high school than I can with a card-carrying faculty member of a large, prestigious midwestern university. (By the way, the clinic protester was ashamed of his fellow-protesters' conduct and has since begun to express his beliefs by volunteering at a local charity for pregnant teens instead. I wonder if some of the lefty intellectuals I know are ever ashamed by anything their more extreme fellow travellers do? Would they be willing to admit it if they were?)

And another:
Let me add my voice to those who are reassuring you that yours is not a 'rightwing' or 'wingnut' blog. In fact, I can't imagine how anyone could read it that way. I don't read your blog every day, but I do enjoy its literary qualities when I drop in once or twice a week. You've developed quite an engaging blog voice. Having tried to blog myself, I appreciate and even envy that. On political matters, I sometimes agree with you and sometimes disagree. I suppose I'm a bit to the 'left' of you (for example, I couldn't possibly have voted for Bush) -- but really, I couldn't care less about that. Why, anyway, would I only want to read people I agree with? I read blogs not only to stay informed but to enjoy this new form of writing. And yours is quite enjoyable. I do hope you keep at it.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Thanks for reading to the end of what might be my longest post ever, caused by the fact that I don't have comments and wanted to include a lot of the great email this post brought in. And thanks to Glenn for linking to me in a post that mentioned the Nash Rambler, a car I have fond memories of!

Simulblogging "American Idol."

7:00. Time to see a lot of people who used to be good turn out to be terrible. Carrie Underwood, the farm girl, when asked about "the stars" in Hollywood, thinks the reference is to the heavens. She's officially all sweet and innocent. Another woman says she isn't going to disappoint her baby twin girls by having to go home, and we kind of are glad she doesn't sing well. The tracheotomy guy Anthony Federov sings well. Another guy, who once was thought to be brilliantly good, is a horror. The teaser before the commercial has a weeping woman saying "If I'm not able to, like, express myself through music, I will probably die."

7:15. Rashida Johnson is sick and barely has her voice! Drama! She reminds me of Jennifer Hudson last year. They tell her they love her and she makes it. They show a bunch of good singers in a row, and I suspect these of being overdubbed. A contestant named Shunta goes with the wrong group and we're subjected to boring suspense about whether she'll make it to her audition.

7:26: Shunta Warthen makes it to the audition and makes it through. Kind of a dumb manufactured drama. Crying girl -- named Regina Brooks -- sings really well -- though again, I think it looks overdubbed. But she doesn't make it! Well, I think it was overdubbed, so I don't think we heard how she really sounded.

7:38. Mario Vasquez! He's good. I liked him from before. Francisco Torres. I like his interviews, but the singing was kind of bad. Mario makes it, of course. Torres gets a no, and I'm not surprised. Marlea Stroman: pretty, but off-key, as far as I can tell. I guess I'm wrong. She makes it.

7:48. Now, we're seeing some rocker guys. Aaron Kelly, Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis -- they all sing "The Letter." They all make it! The Phantom of the Opera girl is next. She tries to sing "The Letter." The freakishness is irksome. She's out. We see Marlea Stroman feeling bad in the audience: the other girls are mean. Mikalah Gordon: the most confident 16-year-old ever. The teaser to the commercial shows Stroman losing it. Is she going to quit, Verna-ishly?

7:56. Stroman wants to go home: "I really miss my son... I don't want to be here. That's my life: a mother." She vernas, but in a strong, positive way. (I do suspect this whole segment of being bogus, though, because I don't think she did sing well. Maybe this was fiction. You're out, but do this. It will be cool.)

UPDATE: Here's the Television Without Pity mini-recap. You know, I'm going to confess that I rewatched this show. That's how much of an "American Idol" sucker I am. And I must say it was a very nicely put together episode, something that was more easily perceived when not simulblogging. (Or perhaps it was just that I could see the themes the editing was based on and knew what various things were foreshadowing.) One thing about simulblogging is that you look for trouble. Rewatching the show was a mellower and more enjoyable viewing experience. (Though, as you might suspect, I find blogging about the show more enjoyable than the show.)

Website beautifully designed ... to signal to me that I would never read one of your books.

Here.

Finally!

Regular Althouse readers know that I have been struggling to hang six blinds since last November. [ADDED: I mean five six-foot blinds.] Each one has been its own little trial. Many curses were cursed. Many days, when there was no progress at all, I felt sad to see the electric drill and the paint-spattered stepladder still in my room. These inappropriate-for-the-bedroom items disturbed my sleep and invaded my dreams. And now the long winter nightmare is over. I finally got the last blind up!

Nice billboard.

Here.

One-upping the commenters.

Hey, that question turned out to be a koan!

Crumb and Lileks.

Here's what James Lileks says today about Robert Crumb:
Never liked Crumb -- his work always gave off that foreign 60s vibe that was so beloved by a certain demographic of the Stoner-American community, the Loser Whom Time Passed By. By the mid-70s there was nothing so pathetic as someone who held on to 1968 as the ne plus ultra of civilization, and felt content to ride out the subsequent decade in a haze of genial aimlessness. I used to wait on these guys every night -- they'd get off work at the U, order up a pitcher of 3.2 beer, and wander over to the jukebox to play Janis Fargin' Joplin tunes, A sides AND B sides, with a little Marley to show off their spiritual side. Urgh. One of them drew Mr. Natural on the wall of the men's room. They were distinct from the other Stoner demographic, the guys who would play old Stones tunes and play pool and smoke the strongest cigarettes allowed by law and give you an Elvis sneer if you came back to empty the ashtrays. They hated, on sight, the other college stoner clique, the Sensitive Types who listened to complex progressive rock and ordered tea with six packets of honey. (Dude, pack the bong. This cut has 7/8 time AND a Mellotron!) But somehow, if you were a stoner, you were supposed to appreciate Crumb. I never got it.

Lileks really needs to see the movie "Crumb." He's mixing up people who like Crumb with Crumb himself, who can't stand those people either (and hates rock music). There are still plenty of despicable things about Crumb, but it's not that he's a 60s hippie -- it's something quite a bit more disturbing. Anyway, "Crumb" is a great movie -- far better than "American Splendor." I just watched "Crumb" again for about the sixth time the other day.

Actually, I see a similarity between Lileks and Crumb: both have a fascination with the styles of a bygone day. Lileks is fixated on the 60s and 70s, Crumb on the 20s and 30s. Crumb, though, is more horrified by the present and in love with the past, and it might be just about the reverse for Lileks.

This is as good a place as any to comment on Lileks' book, "Interior Desecrations," which did not make me laugh out loud a lot the way his earlier book, "The Gallery of Regrettable Foods," did. Here's why. I never had the experience of believing the kind of food in "Regrettable Foods" was good, so that book for me was entirely the experience of disbelief. How could anyone ever have thought that was a good idea?! But I vividly remember when plenty of people, including me, thought the extreme interior designs of the 70s were just fabulous. For me, reading "Interior Desecrations" was a very eerie, unsettling experience. Looking at those pictures, I could see that everything was a hideous, horrible mistake, but I simultaneously relived the feeling of loving those things and associating them with freedom, artiness, and good politics! For me to read that book was to see beauty and ugliness in the same thing at the same time -- far too intense of a confrontation with personal fallibility to make me laugh. So what I thought was going to be a big laugh -- and can recommend to you for a big laugh -- was for me a strangely profound experience.

Nervous Norvus, "Transfusion."

I've listened to a lot of old novelty songs over the years, but I had never heard of Nervous Norvus until today. This morning, there was a fresh coat of icy snow on the street, and I was thinking back to my recent car crash, as I backed Silvio out of the driveway to go to work, and the satellite radio was tuned to the "Decades" channel where it's always the 1950s, and here was this crazy song "Transfusion," by Nervous Norvus. It's all about a drunk-driving car wreck, with much talk of getting a blood transfusion, with a bit of a beatnik twist to it (as in: "Hey, Daddy-o, Make that Type O"). Here's a sampling:
Tooling down the hightway doing 79
I'm a twin pipe papa and I'm feelin fine
Hey man dig that was that a red stop sign-
(scrreeech-BANG!!tinkle)
Transfusion transfusion
I'm just a solid mess of contusions
Never never never gonna speed again
Slip the blood to me Bud

Every verse ends with a line like that:
Shoot the juice to me Bruce...

Pass the crimson to me Jimson...

Pass the claret to me Barrett...

Pump the fluid in me Louie...

Put a gallon in me Alan...

Yikes! But maybe there should be a satellite channel that just constantly reminds you to drive carefully. I had been thinking the other day that there should be a channel with an authoritative voice saying things like, "Pay attention! A small child might dart out at any moment! You must always be aware! Remember the person in the next car might be talking on a cell phone..." But maybe there should just be a Careful Driver music channel playing things like "Transfusion" and "Dead Man's Curve" ("the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve/and then I saw the Jag slide into the curve"), and "Tell Laura I Love Her" ("but as they pulled him from the twisted wreck"). (Email me with other play list suggestions.)

Sidenote: Ray Peterson, who had the hit single of "Tell Laura I Love Her" back in 1960, died recently.
UPDATE: I don't know why "Tell Laura I Love Her" didn't automatically make me write "Last Kiss." In "Laura," the guy dies and the girl prays for him in a chapel. In "Last Kiss," the girl dies and the guy determines to live a virtuous life to be reunited with her in Heaven. Note that in both songs, it's the guy with the soul that needs looking out for. The goodness of the girl is never in doubt. (Sorry the lyrics link for "Last Kiss" does not have the full set of words found in the original hit single. I'm thinking the Pearl Jam version of the song left out the part where the girl goes back to the car to get the ring. Maybe it's sadder when you're not distracted by thinking about how dumb it was to go back for the ring.) EMERGENCY ADDITION TO THE UPDATE: As a reader points out, I'm mixing up "Last Kiss" with "Teen Angel"! And so, "Teen Angel" will be added to the Drive Safe playlist.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Bob Dylan song is stunningly good at striking caution into the mind of the driver.

YET MORE: Another reader offers Roy Acuff's "Wreck on the Highway":
There was whiskey and blood all together
Mixed with glass where they lay
Death played her hand in destruction
But I didn't hear nobody pray.

The singer is very disturbed by the lack of prayer at a terrible car wreck. I'm thinking the message here is not only to be careful not to have a car wreck, but to be careful to pray and keep your soul in proper condition for death, which may come suddenly, such as in this car wreck. I like these very simple, old cowboy songs. This reminds me to stop at the "Hank's Place" channel on the satellite radio some of the time.

AND MORE: A reader suggests "Hot Rod Lincoln," which I'm afraid encourages reckless driving (even though he gets stopped by the cops in the end). Also --"Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!" -- "Leader of the Pack."

AND YET MORE: This song, "Beep Beep," is totally inappropriate for my Drive Safe playlist, but writing this post made me think about it. It was a very popular novelty song in 1958, when I was a kid. I especially liked it because it featured a Nash Rambler outpacing a Cadillac, and our family car was a Nash Rambler.

AND: Several emailers have mentioned Bruce Springsteen's "Wreck on the Highway," which is different from the Roy Acuff song, dispute the nearly identical title.

My own private how-to-throw-out-the-trash echo chamber.

I've blogged before about the difficulties of throwing out the trash properly in Madison. In fact, today, as I was thinking about how to throw a few things out this week, I Googled "madison trash collection" and the second thing on the list was my own previous fretting about how to throw out the trash properly in Madison.

At least the first thing on the list seems to be official rules, but no, that's not Madison, Wisconsin! Google again: "madison wisconsin trash collection." And now the first thing on the list is me fretting about how to throw out the trash properly in Madison! I just hope that if there are other people in Madison struggling with the age-old question of how to throw your trash out properly in Madison and they end up here at my blog, they find it a bit amusing, and not incredibly annoying, because it really already is incredibly annoying to try to figure out how to throw out the trash in Madison.

The worst thing is when you try to do it right and they don't take it, and then you've got to drag it back in from the street and try to figure out a different way to proffer it next week. I tried throwing out a blind, and they didn't take it. Did they just not see it? What else can I do? There's no way to fold it or tie it or put it in anything. So I just continue to harbor it by the side of my house, probably irritating my neighbors who are the ones in a position to see it. I have a bunch of chairs and a heavy table to throw out. Let's see, this looks like the right information, and, based on this there is no reason to think I can't just put the furniture right out there on trash day. But no way am I going to put all the things out at one time. I'm going to play it safe and just put out a test chair this week.

Maysles' documenting Christo and Jeanne Claude.

The NYT has a nice article about the filmmaker Albert Maysles, who has been documenting the work of Christo and Jeanne Claude for decades. I've been recommending the five-film documentary set in my sidebar (scroll down) for a long time. I recently re-watched the "Runnning Fence" one, which I particularly like because of the fence itself and because of the artists' interaction with the crusty ranchers and the crunchy environmentalists. Anyway, the occasion for my rewatching is the same as the occasion for the Times' article: the big "Gates" project unfurls this weekend in Central Park.
A pioneer in direct cinema, the American version of French cinéma vérité, Mr. Maysles is an old-school documentarian, preferring to remain out of frame and let life speak for itself.

"When you ask a question," he said, "you already know what the answer will be."

And so he has sought out what he doesn't already know.

It was Mr. Maysles's team who filmed a man being stabbed to death during a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in the 1970 film "Gimme Shelter," Mr. Maysles who ferreted out the aspirations and disappointments of a reclusive mother and daughter in their decaying house in East Hampton, on Long Island, in "Grey Gardens" (1976). And it is Mr. Maysles whom the Christos have allowed to accompany them from intimacy to intimacy for more than three decades, from Christo's freak-out session as he watched their Colorado curtain become snagged during its unfurling in 1972 to Jeanne-Claude's singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Day," a bit off-key, in the back of a taxi cab in 2003.

I love the Maysles' movies. And did you notice the jab at Michael Moore in that passage?

"A new opportunity for peace is born."

So says Mahmoud Abbas, as he and Ariel Sharon announce a cease fire.

The class action reform bill.

It's very hard for newspaper readers to understand what the current bill about class actions and federal jurisdiction is all about. Here's Senator Leahy blowing smoke:
Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said state courts had a long and honorable tradition of hearing class actions. He noted that of the four class actions consolidated for review by the Supreme Court that became part of the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the only one that "got the case right by deciding for the African-American plaintiffs" was a state court in Delaware. (The other three were federal court decisions.)

"This bill erects new barriers to lawsuits and places new burdens on the plaintiffs," Mr. Leahy said. "Who does it benefit? The wealthy and powerful special interests. It overrides the laws of our states."

I've got to prep my Federal Jurisdiction class, so I must be brief.

First, Brown v. Board of Education and the cases like it were based on federal law, unlike the class actions the current bill is concerned with.

Second, the state courts traditionally presented problems for litigants who were claiming federal constitutional rights, so it doesn't make sense now to suddenly portray them as better than federal courts.

Third, the reason the lower courts didn't apply the law the Supreme Court recognized in Brown is because they were dutifully following the precedent that they had no power to overrule and had to wait for the Supreme Court to overrule in Brown. So this is no basis to slam the lower federal courts.

Fourth, the only state law the new bill (depending on the form it takes) is threatening to override is the state approach to choice of law. The class actions in question are still state law cases. (If they were federal law cases, there would be jurisdiction under a different statute!) The federal court would be applying state law, but empowered to use its own approach to choosing which state's law to apply.

The bill addresses the problem of plaintiffs' lawyers choosing a state court that will apply the law that is most favorable to them [ADDED: and will skew in their favor in other ways]. The bill is designed to enable defendants to remove the case to federal court: it is a correction for an unfair advantage that now exists for the party who files the lawsuit. The new bill bases federal jurisdiction on "diversity" -- the fact that there are parties from different states, which is a traditional, constitutional basis for federal jurisdiction.

The problem under the existing jurisdiction statutes is that they are interpreted in class actions cases to look only at the named representatives of the class, even though the class itself is full of persons who are from different states than the one the defendant is a citizen of. This interpretation of jurisdictional law permits the plaintiffs' lawyers to choose as named representatives some class members who are from the same state as the defendant, which then prevents the defendant from removing the case to federal court. There is also an issue about the amount of money in controversy -- which I won't trouble you with -- that is addressed by the new statute.

I think the bill really does address a kind of excessively self-advantaging forum shopping that takes place under the current law. It does not represent a disparagement of state courts generally. The problem is the ability of plaintiffs' lawyers to choose one state court from all the state courts, and their quite understandable (and not at all unethical) motivation to choose the state court that will skew furthest in their favor.

About all those people moving to Canada.

The NYT has an article following up on all those Americans who were going to move to Canada after Bush got re-elected. I don't think the article is really meant to be a humor piece, but look at who they've managed to turn up.

There's a 56-year-old man -- here's a photo of him in Vancouver, where he's looking for a job and finding Canadian companies prefer to hire Canadians -- and perhaps, though the article doesn't say, have some doubts about a person who flees his country on this ground. (How would he deal with a challenging on-the-job problem?)

And there's this 30-year-old woman who says "I don't want to participate in what this administration is doing here and around the world. Under Bush, the U.S. seems to be leading the pack as the world spirals down" but has a long-term Canadian boyfriend she's going to move in with in Toronto. This is political? Oh, shut up, and take a picture of me next to my Volvo, which I'm trying to sell.

And there's a 40-year-old financial planner who lives in Palm Beach, Florida, who says: "I've told my wife, I'd be willing to take a step down, socioeconomically, to move from white-collar work to a blue-collar job, if it would get us to Canada." They don't say what the wife said back, but it might not have been "fit to print."

If you're already in Seattle, and you're talking about retiring and living in Vancouver -- like one person in the article -- that makes sense. But if you need to find a job, and especially if you're talking about moving over one thousand miles in a northerly direction and dragging a family along in your political-expression escapade ... well, tell me how it works out after you do it.

February 7, 2005

Not fisking.

I've updated last Friday's post about "Our Godless Constitution" to deal with Jim Lindgren's complaint about my use of the expression "Separation of Church and State." But I want to write a separate -- yeah, separate -- post about his statement that I "fisked" that Nation article. My attempt to Google to a definition of "fisk" first got me to a baby names site, where I learned that Fisk means "fish" -- it's a Swedish name. I guess that's why you're not really running across "Fisk" as a first name. Who names their baby after a fish? (I mean other than the parents of one of our Chief Justices.) I'm trying to confirm my understanding that to "fisk" something is to go line-by-line, making devastating attacks against one thing after another. I'll take this as a confirmation.

Anyway, what I did to the Nation article was really almost the opposite of fisking. I cherry-picked one egregious distortion and based my entire post on that. This approach to a post is probably much more common than fisking, and it suits blogging really well, because you need to try to keep a blog post short. That post wasn't all that short, but imagine if I had tried to go through point-by-point, examining all the many quotes in the article. I picked the ripest mistake I could see and went to town with it. And I admit that is the sort of ankle-biting blogger behavior that makes MSM fear and loathe us! It may unfairly suggest that if I did that to one of your sentences, I could have done it to all of them: I could have fisked, but I just didn't have the time or space. It's a technique that could easily be abused, but I still think it's a good blogging gambit.

So if it's not fisking, and it is something we bloggers do a lot, how about a word for it? "Fisking" got started -- I think -- after a single instance of someone fisking a Fisk article. So maybe I should suggest "Allening," after Brooke Allen, the author of "Our Godless Constitution," the article I allened.

UPDATE: A reader points out something I noticed, but didn't mention. Lindgren only describes me as "effectively fisking Allen," which could be read as recognizing that my allening was as devasting as a fisking. Why bother to fisk when you can just allen?

Baby, you can't do my media criticism.

Here's the free link to get to Lee Siegel's TNR essay about why football provides the perfect showcase for ads. Assuming you want to get to it. It reads like this:
Last night, the brunt of the commercials during the first quarter were for cars, mostly SUVs and minivans. Even a very unexcited-looking Paul McCartney ("Thank you Super Bowl!" he kept shouting) sang, as the first of four songs in his halftime show, "Baby You Can Drive My Car." The interesting thing about a car is that it's a piece of property that you can inhabit while traversing, or entering, other people's property. That's what Brady's team was doing as it moved down the field. So what was happening in the stadium and what was occurring on the tube were mutual reinforcements of this illusion of sovereign motion.

Well, first, that really is not the interesting thing about a car. But second, what laughably tedious writing! The weird thing is that it reminded me a lot of the great old George Carlin routine comparing football and baseball.

UPDATE: The person I know with the best memory reminds me that I've made fun of Lee Siegel's writing before. I looked it up: it's here.

"Kites on Ice."

Yes, I know. I should have taken some photographs of the "Kites on Ice" festival, a nice annual display on Lake Mendota. But I didn't. I guess I'm not as interested in kites as a lot of people. I've never gone over to see the festival, which has been around for seven years now. How photogenic was it, anyway? I'm not seeing any photographs in the press reports -- other than one guy carrying a Sponge Bob kite. Any bloggers out there with photos?

UPDATE: Here are some "Kites" photos. And these photos clear up what had been a mystery for me: why was I hearing fireworks this weekend? I thought it might be some Super Bowl thing, but, no, it was a kite thing. (You know, I can't write Super Bowl without thinking Superb Owl. I'm really not a football person. I'm more of an eccentric words person.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: It's not really all that related -- it's from a year ago, and it's an ice regatta, not kites on ice, and it's Lake Monona, not Lake Mendota -- but here some cool aerial photography. The patterns of snow and bare ice -- made from the wind, I suppose -- are interesting, seen from this perspective. Well, I just wanted you folks to know that we do find things to with all the ice we've got up here in our northern city full of lakes.

Bush's books.

President Bush loved the book "I Am Charlotte Simmons" and is recommending it to all his friends. He tells reporters about the nonfiction books he reads and doesn't mention the fiction, but, according to the linked Elisabeth Bumiller article, he loves Tom Wolfe and has read all his books. And Wolfe voted for Bush. Why do I always imagine that any given fiction writer votes Democratic? (I meant that as a serious question, but somehow I'm expecting jokes in the email.)

Of course, Wolfe has some terrific nonfiction books. Myself, I prefer nonfiction and have only read Wolfe's nonfiction. I'm especially fond of "From Bauhaus to Our House" and "The Painted Word."

UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a Guardian interview with Wolfe, from just before Election day, explaining his support of Bush. A snippet:
So what is it about his liberal neighbours and fellow diners in his adoptive New York that Wolfe cannot abide? "I cannot stand the lock-step among everyone in my particular world. They all do the same thing, without variation. It gets so boring. There is something in me that particularly wants it registered that I am not one of them....

"I do think," he admits, apparently speaking for himself, his country and his president, "that if you are not having a fight with somebody, then you are not sure whether you are alive when you wake up in the morning."
From my place here in Madison, I really know how he feels!

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is Drudge's sensationalist teaser for the Bumiller article: "Bush recommending Tom Wolfe's racy new beer- and sex-soaked novel, 'I am Charlotte Simmons' to friends..."

February 6, 2005

Who cares about feminism?

I wasn't going to write about that Frank Rich article today, but Mickey Kaus is talking about it (via Instapundit), so I'm going to have to have my say about this. Rich is insufferable, but I usually glance at his weekly essay long enough to see what he's going on about. Today, because it's Super Bowl Sunday, he bounces his anti-right rant off Janet Jackson's breast. Kaus responds:
It wasn't what Jackson did that was offensive. It was what Timberlake did. Here was a massively popular, relatively hip singer whose message was that it was a hip, transgressive thing for men to rip clothes off women when they feel like it (which is quite often). I watched the game with a group of non-evangelical, non-moralistic dads who were uniformly horrified. The problem for them wasn't sex--their kids see flesh all the time in videos--but a form of sexism, not prudery but piggishness.
But if it was sexism and not prudishness that was really offensive here, why didn't people on the left get upset about it? The fact that the right reacted to the breast-baring proves that it really was about sex, doesn't it?

You might well ask.

But didn't you notice that the feminist concern about sexual predation, a huge deal circa 1992, fell into steep decline shortly thereafter? The people of the left had a keen eye for the sexual subordination of women in the late 80s and early 90s, the era of the anti-pornography movement. They gasped about sexual harassment around about when Clarence Thomas was nominated as Supreme Court Justice. And then it all just suddenly went away, because party politics outweighed whatever real concern about feminism they'd ever had, and Bill Clinton needed help beating Paula Jones into submission. Feminism has never recovered! Oh, abortion politics still remains, because it works well as a campaign issue, but there's not much serious attention to feminism on the left anymore.

And I don't mean to say that the conservatives have been fine feminists through all of the flap about the flopping breast. I only mean to say that I once thought I could rely on the Democrats to take the feminist side of things, until a big lightbulb went on right around when I read this article in 1996.

UPDATE: Thanks to Prof. Bainbridge for linking. And let me underscore that I am pro-feminism. My point here is that during the Clinton era, the Democrats showed that they were not reliable supporters of feminist values. They like to act as though they are, because it attracts a nice chunk of voters. That is, feminism is a means to an end, which is party power. And when feminism was inconvenient to the end of party power, they sold it out. That's how you can tell it's a means and not an end. For me, it's an end! (And please note that I am not attempting to define the feminism that I strongly support, so don't assume I buy into the form it took during the anti-pornography era of the late 80s and early 90s.)

"She loved the way he played the game because he was aggressive and he went after what he wanted."

That sounds like a quote about romantic adventures, and when you know it's about Condoleezza Rice, you might think it's a quote about her admiration for George W. Bush. But it's from Washington Post article about how much Condoleezza Rice loves football. (The specific reference is to Jim Brown.) Here's the whole quote, from a former boyfriend:
"She loved the way he played the game because he was aggressive and he went after what he wanted. And that's the way she was, she went after things she wanted. She knew how to strategize and get control."

The Secretary of State is missing the Super Bowl today, for the first time, because she is in the Middle East seizing "a moment of historic opportunity." Hopefully, she will be aggressive going after what she wants and knows how to strategize and get control.

UPDATE: A literary emailer writes this about the boyfriend's quote:
I just finished reading Virgil's "The Aeneid" and thought how much that encapsulated Dido's love of Aeneas (well, the part that wasn't fueled by Venus' tricks). And if I remember correctly, it resonantes with Othello's comments on why Desdemona fell in love with him.

IQ tests and the death penalty.

Can the Supreme Court really have meant for the death penalty to turn on an IQ test? The convicted man in the Supreme Court's case -- Atkins v. Virginia -- now scores a 75 on his IQ tests, an increase of 16 points that his lawyers attribute to the mental stimulation provided by the case itself! And prison itself can increase IQ, according to David M. Gossett, a lawyer for death row inmates:
"Prisons are highly structured and safe environments... They're sometimes good environments for the mentally retarded. These people are not vegetables. They can learn. These are people who can get better at taking tests."

The prosecutor in the Atkins case is declaring that there is a bright line at 70 and the judge seems to agree ("The issues are bright lights and targeted with a bull's-eye"). That means a random guess on a single question on the test could be a matter of life and death!

According to the text of the Atkins decision, avoiding the death penalty requires more than just a low IQ score:
[C]linical definitions of mental retardation require not only subaverage intellectual functioning, but also significant limitations in adaptive skills such as communication, self-care, and self-direction that became manifest before age 18.

But what about someone who has the evidence of "significant limitations in adaptive skills" from childhood but lacks a low enough IQ score? And how low does the score have to be? The Supreme Court mentions several numbers, but doesn't draw a bright line. How could it? Americans don't put that much trust in IQ tests. How could our conception of what is "cruel and unusual punishment" be thought to depend on these tests, which we do not rely on in any other area of social policy?

One thing I like about not being an artist.

Back in the days when I was an artist, I used to get really angry when artists got attention for doing things like this. What bothered me so much? Was it that the giving of the attention was what made it art, and without the attention, it would merely be a sad act of personal debasement? But that's still true. Clearly, I was jealous. Now that I don't feel any rivalry, I merely take note and move on. Yes, that is another thing I don't care that someone is doing.

Disrespecting Ronald Reagan.

Last night, simulblogging the Screen Actors Guild Awards, I expressed surprise that Ronald Reagan's picture was shown first in the "In Memoriam" segment of the show. This morning, listening to a tribute to Reagan on the occasion of what would have been his 94th birthday, I realize that Reagan was a president of the Screen Actors Guild. So, in fact, what should surprise us is that a separate tribute wasn't done for him.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards show is always full of talk about how important the Screen Actors Guild is, so missing such an obvious opportunity to talk about the Screen Actors Guild says a lot! It has to be considered a deliberate choice to disrespect Ronald Reagan.

The perfect time would have been right after the current Guild president, Melissa Gilbert, gave her little speech, which included expressions of concern for tsunami victims (presumably the reason so many actresses wore black and why someone insisted on tossing that hideous black boa over Gilbert's cleavage-y pink dress) and for American soldiers (who, Gilbert hoped, would find life a bit easier knowing that the Screen Actors Guild Awards were being dedicated to them). Gilbert then smiled and introduced a "special surprise" involving an actor would couldn't be there tonight. What we get is a clip of an actor who happens to be 100 years old. That's where a short film about Reagan as Guild president belonged.

Shame on the Screen Actors Guild!