March 26, 2005

Is "American Idol" hurting Broadway?

The NYT's Ben Brantley bemoans the effect of "American Idol" on Broadway singing:
The tentacles of the "American Idol" sensibility ... reach much deeper, into the very throat of the American musical, and may change forever the way Broadway sings. This is not a happy prognosis.

The style of vocalizing that is rewarded on "American Idol" - by its panel of on-air judges and by the television audience that votes on the winners - is both intensely emotional and oddly impersonal. The accent is on abstract feelings, usually embodied by people of stunning ordinariness, than on particular character. Quivering vibrato, curlicued melisma, notes held past the vanishing point: the favorite technical tricks of "Idol" contestants are often like screams divorced from the pain or ecstasy that inspired them.

The Broadway musical has always had its share of big-voiced belters, from Ethel Merman to Patti LuPone. But they have usually belonged to the tradition of Broadway as a temple to magnified idiosyncrasies, to performers for whom song is an extension of individuality. Which is why when Simon Cowell, the most notoriously harsh of "American Idol's" judges, describes a contestant as "too Broadway," it is meant as a withering dismissal.

Hmmm... I don't think that's what Cowell means by his "too Broadway" slam. I think he thinks Broadway is traditionally exactly what Brantley thinks "American Idol" is turning it into. I think "AI" wants the contestants to have more life and individuality, but the people with the nerve and stamina to get through such a high-pressure competition tend not to have soulful, artistic depth.
That self-congratulatory element is also part of the "American Idol" package - the subtext that goes, "I deserve to be a star because it's my right as an American, and because I try so hard." It seems appropriate that musicals as seemingly different as "Wicked," a politically corrected back story of "The Wizard of Oz," and "Little Women," adapted from the Louisa May Alcott classic, both have first-act finales that are brassy (and virtually interchangeable) declarations of self-worth and self-determination.
Well, actually "American Idol" judges and voters are constantly hitting I'm-a-star kids with on-the-spot rejection, and many of us viewers watch to see the smuggest ones get the boot. (Kimberly Caldwell -- known as KimberME -- was a Television Without Pity punching bag in Season 2.)

And those brassy first-act finales are scarcely a post-"AI" development, as Brantley himself must concede. He notes, among other things, that "Jennifer Holiday was bringing down the house in 'Dreamgirls' by wrapping her voice like a boa constrictor around an angry ballad called 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.'" And that, of course, was the original song choice of "American Idol" fan favorite, Frenchie Davis -- blamed in the article for bringing "AI" to Broadway. Last season's winner, Fantasia, became the frontrunner by singing a beautiful and sensitive rendition of "Summertime," a Broadway musical song.

There is some kind of interplay between "American Idol" and Broadway, but it's more complicated than Brantley lets on. Brantley hates "American Idol" -- I can surely understand why he (or anyone else) hates it -- but he also can see that Broadway is pretty bad. Both are bad, but he wants Broadway -- and not "AI" -- to survive. But that's no reason to blame "AI" for Broadway's problems.

UPDATE: Matt Marcotte addresses Brantley's article from the perspective of not having seen any "AI" to speak of. But he loves Broadway and has seen a lot of the recent shows. I saw about five Broadway shows back when "Ragtime" came out, but -- as with movies and concerts -- I dislike sitting in an audience so much that I rarely bother to buy tickets for anything. Are Broadway shows more "belty" than they used to be? I think maybe it's subjective. It may be that for Brantley, after seeing "American Idol," Broadway singing seems worse because you're now able to think that it seems like "American Idol." More specifically, Brantley's subjective experience includes his response to those inferior people he's forced to sit amongst:
Like the Olympics telecasts, "American Idol" celebrates stamina, will power and gymnastic agility. The most successful contestants take an athletic approach to a melody. They hoist, hold and balance notes like barbells in a weight-lifting exhibition. And the audience claps and hoots instinctively every time such muscle-flexing occurs.

That same Pavlovian reaction is now being elicited on Broadway as well. Eruptions of note-bending have joined the hallowed list of performance tricks guaranteed to inspire applause: precision tap dancing, Rockette-style line kicks, handsprings, successive pirouettes and indignant one-liners that are followed by the slamming of doors.

At the performance I attended of the new musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," , the audience greeted each number with subdued warmth, though the show's stars, John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz, were working hard to put over the songs with style and character. Finally, in a self-addressed valentine that is the show's last number, Mr. Butz claimed his "American Idol" moment with one musically stretched-out phrase: "I think we still deserve a ha-a-a-a-nd ..." I suspect that the composer David Yazbek intended the moment to be comic. All the same, the audience roared with approval. It was what they had been waiting for.
I actually sympathize with Brantley here. How can you enjoy a show (or a movie) sitting with an audience that is responding inappropriately, revealing that they don't understand the meaning?

But crowd-pleasing has been part of shows and concerts for a long time. Why do they give Oscars for hammy emoting -- crying and dying -- and not for subtlety? Why do people at rock concerts cheer for show-offy guitar solos? Brantley's article is titled "How Broadway Lost Its Voice to 'American Idol'" -- and I just don't believe in the cause and effect. The human taste for big, loud, and spectacular goes back a long way.

By the way, that article title reminds me of all the books that are around these days that have titles saying one thing changed everything. It's a big trend in titles: the single causative factor.

Did I "join the caucus"?

Hugh Hewitt writes this about me:
Ann Althouse joins the caucus of those agreeing with the view that Congress either did not intend to keep Terri Schiavo alive pending a de novo trial, or failed to effectuate that intent, and thus that criticism of the federal courts is misplaced.

I dread reading the rest of the post, because this first sentence misreads me so badly.

First, the "caucus" metaphor suggests that a group of like-minded politicos got together to promote a particular outcome and came up with this talking point. I was alone, watching TV and writing on my blog, not consulting with or communicating with anyone else. I never so much as sent out an email seeking a link. I called it the way I saw it.

Second, I never wrote about what Congress "intended," I wrote about the obligation of the courts to deal with the statutory text Congress produced. That text told the federal courts "determine de novo any claim" of a federal right. It did not say to give Schiavo "a de novo trial." People who would like to see the federal court redo everything the state court did, down to the appointment of Michael Schiavo as the guardian, keep saying "de novo," without focusing on what is to be done de novo. But, clearly, under the statutory text, it's the consideration of the federal rights.

I'm not pushing a particular outcome here. In fact, I'm sympathetic to the argument of erring on the side of life. But I'm trying to understand what Congress did and explain why so many federal judges have read the statute the way they did.

If Congress had written a different statute, the analysis would be different. If they had authorized to federal courts to do more, there would be more serious questions about the constitutionality of the statute.

Hewitt does not parse through the text of the statute as I did. He links us to the statute, and he quotes an email from an unnamed Remedies teacher. But that email is irrelevant as a criticism of what Judge Whittemore did, because it focuses on irreparable harm, and Whittemore found irreparable harm. Whittemore denied preliminary relief because of the failure to show "substantial likelihood of success on the merits," given the feebleness of the federal claims that were asserted. The unnamed Remedies teacher has nothing to say about this requirement.

The statute did not purport to eliminate the need to show likelihood of success, and if Congress had produced a text that did, the statute would have had a severe constitutional problem. Hewitt says it's wrong to presume that Congress would enact a "pointless" statute, and without the preserving Terri Schiavo's life, the effort would be pointless. But the federal courts did consider the federal rights, as directed in the statute, and because of the unlikelihood of success on the merits of those federal claims, it did not order relief. Are we supposed to substitute an imagined text that Congress didn't write, because of what we think some members of Congress were hoping would happen in the courts? What a ridiculous way to do statutory intepretation! How can anyone taking this position ever again complain about activists judges?

Hewitt continues:
The reason some scholars may have come to an opposite conclusion may be that they found the dismissal of Congressional intent acceptable in the face of the underlying issue of the law's constitutionality. Had the federal courts concluded that Congress could not do what it did, then respecters of the rule of law would have either to defer or argue that the damage done to principles federalism [sic] was worth the intrusion -- a much harder case to make than the argument concerning the intent of Congress.

This is not the basis for my conclusion. In fact, I took a lot of heat on the conlawprof email list arguing that Congress did have the power to pass this statute. I think some of the "intent" that Congress failed to express in the language of the statute was left out because it would have created constitutional problems. For example, if Congress had dictated to the federal courts that they issue a particular form of relief or if it had instructed the federal courts to redo the state law parts of the case, the statute would probably have been unconstitutional. My post was completely focused on following the text of the statute, and though this part of Hewitt's post is not specifically tied to me, I resent the implication that I am merging and overlapping issues this way. The fact is that Hewitt's post does not look carefully at the statutory text and does not deal with the specific textual points I made. He's the one making a mush of things.

Why, seriously, does he think so many federal judges took the position they did? Why did the United States Supreme Court not intervene? Not one Justice wrote a dissent from the denial of certiorari. All these able jurists are just outrageously sitting back, flouting the will of Congress and allowing a woman to die? Does that make any sense? And do you really want your readers and listeners to think the judicial system is not grounded in the rule of law?

UPDATE: A lot of emailers are pointing to cases they think were mishandled and asserting, based on these cases, that the judicial system really is not grounded on the rule of law. Failure to live up to the highest ideals of the rule of law does not mean the judges have lost touch with the imperatives of the rule of law. Don't let imperfection shatter your faith in what is one of the greatest resources created by humankind. But also -- those cases that you think were mishandled: are you sure the courts not only erred, but flouted law and simply did what they wanted? Or is your vision clouded because they didn't do what you wanted?

March 25, 2005

Zoom Quilt!

It's mesmerizing! (Via Drawn!) Yow! It's still reeling through my head...

Badger victory.

Congratulations to the UW men's basketball team, whose win tonight puts them in the final eight of the NCAA tournament. There are many happy people here in Madison. As usual, I don't care about sports, but I'm happy to be in a city full of happy people.

Why aren't Republicans and Democrats consistently compassionate?

What exactly did Ralph Nader say about the Schiavo case on "Crossfire" the other day? People keep emailing me about it. So, let's look at the transcript:
NADER: I must say, I don't see a government interest in denying the parents their desire to take care of Terri. I don't see a government interest.

I think that shifting the guardianship from Michael to the mother and father of Terri is the way to resolve this. Nobody knows what Terri would say. She was alleged to have said something, hearsay, to the side of the family of her husband. She didn't talk about feeding tubes. She doesn't have a ventilator. She doesn't have a heart pump. I don't see the government interest.

So, this puts me on a different political spectrum than Eleanor Holmes Norton. And so, let me put it this way. The Democrats usually are very compassionate about preventing occupational diseases and air pollution and medical malpractice deaths and so on. And, on this, they seem to be in the harsh arena. Apart from all the quibbles about jurisdiction, we're getting right down to who should be the guardian here.

And, on the other hand, the Republicans were so vocal with their compassionate statements on Sunday about this one person. And they are about as cruel as I have seen a political party on hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths on the job, in the environment, and in hospital malpractice. Can you bridge that gap?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NADER: Can you bridge that gap?

[National Right to Life legislative counsel Dorothy] TIMBS: Well -- well, first of all, you know, this issue is not about Republicans and Democrats. If you look at the House vote, you had almost as many Democrats who voted for this issue as we had -- as we had Republicans. In the Senate, we had some disagreement about the form that the bill should take, but there was no formal objection. So, I'm not going to speak to that. If you disagree with Republicans' positions on other things, you know, I'm sorry for that. We're not even a Republican organization. This issue is about the rights of just people with disabilities.

Senator Harkin recognized that. And that's why he took the lead on this as well. And I'm happy to hear that you agree that the guardianship should go to the parents, which...

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alan Dershowitz, who, like Ralph Nader, is an honest guy, says that this -- if this were a death penalty case and the legislature was saying no, the liberals would be jumping up and down. If you had some murderer, a murderer who was about to be murdered and the -- and this sort of thing was going on to save -- to make sure he was killed, the liberals wouldn't like it. Isn't that true?

[Delegate Eleanor Holmes] NORTON: I don't know what Alan is talking about.

The fact is that the right to life, let's base this on the fact that murderers can in fact go into court, but on a much more limited circumstance than was allowed for this single person in this case. And that's the important thing to remember. Yes, if the state is going to deprive you of your life, it is she who said that she did not want to live under these circumstances.

If the state is going to deprive you of your life -- if the state is going to deprive you of your life, then, of course, habeas corpus obtains, very limited habeas corpus today.

Nader asked Timbs and Norton a great question: Why aren't Republicans and Democrats consistently compassionate? Timbs and Norton filled the airspace with words but made no serious attempt to answer the question.

I'm not a Nader fan, but I can recognize a great question when I see it. I haven't seen much blogging about the Nader's contribution to the Schiavo debate, but, judging from the email I'm getting, people are focused on the fact that Nader took the side he did. I'd rather read answers, from Democrats and Republicans, that really try to face up to the challenging question he asked.

UPDATE: I'm getting email and seeing some blog posts trying to answer this question. One answer is that "compassion" is just self-serving rhetoric, which is owning up to the hypocrisy Nader implied by asking the question. Liberals try to meet the challenge of the question by saying that it is compassionate to allow Schiavo to die. Social conservatives try to meet the challenge of the question by saying that conservative economic policies really are compassionate -- Nader would require such intensive regulation that there would be economic effects that would hurt people much more than a little more air pollution and lower recoveries for medical malpractice.

"Many Advertisers Find Blogging Frontier Is Still Too Wild."

That's the Wall Street Journal's headline. (Via Memeorandum.)
[M]any companies are wary of putting their brand on such a new and unpredictable medium. Most blogs are written by a lone author. They are typically unedited and include spirited responses from readers who can post comments at will. Some marketers fear blogs will criticize their products or ad campaigns. And, like all new blog readers, companies are just learning how to track what's being said on blogs and which ones might make a good fit for their ads.

May I make a suggestion? Focus on blogs written by lawprofs!

The article has some good advice for designing a blog ad, from Mr. Blogads, Henry Copeland:
[H]e advises advertisers to think like bloggers, and remember they are joining an ongoing conversation, incorporate links to other sites and use a voice that fits the blog's general tone. Above all, he says, they should stop hitting readers over the head with giant logos. One good example he points to is an ad that Knopf, a publishing division of Bertelsmann AG's Random House, designed for Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami's most recent book. Rather than linking to a site that sells the book, Knopf's ad joins in the spirit of blogging by quoting and linking to other blogs that discuss the book, such as MetaFilter.

Yes! Adapt to our environment. Act like you belong here!

"The Office" -- American style.

I read some reviews of the new American version of "The Office," and they all seemed tortured by the very idea of replacing the British star with an American counterpart. Here's Dana Stevens in Slate:
No living human could reproduce the precise blend of vanity, pathos, and smarm that Ricky Gervais, the co-creator and star of the British series, brought to the character of David Brent, but Carell wisely re-imagines the role from the ground up; his version is less a buffoon than a dickhead, with the knitted brow and aggressive physicality of Ben Stiller. He also wears his self-loathing closer to the surface than his predecessor did; where Gervais was wrapped in a cocoon of self-regard, Carell seems constantly on the verge of a temper tantrum, or possibly tears. Carell understands the needy, unlovable Michael Scott from the inside out. But some characters belong to the actor that created them; stepping into such a role, any other performer is as doomed as a singer covering a Bob Dylan song.

Now, wait a minute. What a terrible analogy! There are countless brilliant covers of Dylan songs! Dylan made his way into public favor through the work of the artists who covered him -- Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Byrds. A great thing about Dylan has always been how wonderfully well his songs transform in the hands of another singer.

But back to "The Office." At my house, we were laughing through the whole show, and we especially enjoyed Carell's reinterpretation of the role.

A sidenote: I kept trying to figure out where I recognized that actor Rainn Wilson from. He's Arthur from "Six Feet Under"! Great! I always missed Arthur.

"They used to have a couple of whorehouses in town -- are they going to bring those back?"

So said a man old enough to remember speakeasies in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where there is a referendum about ending a 110-year-old ban on serving liquor in hotels and restaurants. Here's the Wisconsin Public Radio audio clip.

UPDATE: On April 5th, residents voted to lift the ban.

"Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose."

Maureen Dowd quotes Nietzsche. The topic is, naturally, the Schiavo case. But is morality really working as a device for manipulating the electorate? As Dowd notes:
A CBS News poll yesterday found that 82 percent of the public was opposed to Congress and the president intervening in this case; 74 percent thought it was all about politics.

I'm sure some core of Republican voters is satisfied by Congress's ineffectual overreaching on behalf of Schiavo, but there are other people -- like me -- who are reminded why, though we voted for Bush, we don't feel at all at home in the Republican party.

Is it possible to explain the Schiavo statute on television?

I watched a number of the cable TV news analysis shows last night (and in the last few days), and I am appalled at the failure even to raise the most basic legal point about the statute Congress passed. Time after time, I heard people -- like Fred Barnes on Fox News's "Special Report" -- say that everyone knows that Congress intended to give Terri Schiavo a de novo hearing, in which the federal court would disregard everything the state courts have done, and that the federal courts ignored the statute that Congress went to such extraordinary lengths to pass. Those who took the other side of the question and supported what the federal courts did kept making statements about how wrong it was for Congress to want to disregard the work of the state courts, how Schiavo's plight shows why one ought to have a "living will," or why Schiavo is really better off dead. Christopher Hitchens did an especially abysmal job on "Hardball," repeatedly saying that Schiavo was "brain dead" and that there simply was no life even to be talking about.

Regardless of what people like Barnes think Congress intended, the federal courts were given a statutory text to follow, and the fact is they followed that text. Yet the TV commentators -- at least what I heard -- never made this most basic point. Barnes and his ilk relied on material in the second part of the statute, headed "Procedure." That section gives Terri Schiavo's parents standing to bring a lawsuit and says:
In such a suit, the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings.

But the substance of the statute -- as opposed to the procedure -- is in Section 1:
SECTION 1. RELIEF OF THE PARENTS OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO.

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida shall have jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.

Those procedures outlined in Section 2, including the authority rehear claims de novo, apply to the "suit or claim" provided for in Section 1. Read the boldface text: the statute only authorized the parents to bring federal law claims. It gives no authority to redo the state law claims, which is what the state courts relied on in appointing the husband as the decisionmaker and so forth.

The parents' complaint in federal court had only a few skimpy federal claims to make, and the federal court denied preliminary relief because there was very clearly no "substantial likelihood of success on the merits" on these federal claims. The main federal claim was a violation of due process, which had to include consideration of the quality of the state court's work. The federal courts in no way flouted the federal statute. It's irrelevant that Congress managed to make people think it was doing things that it never put in the statutory text.

Did any of the talking heads on the news analysis shows make this point? I didn't hear it. Yet this is the main legal point that explains what the federal courts did. Maybe somehow it's too technical or dry to say on television. The other night, Harvard lawprof Laurence Tribe was on Greta Van Susteren's show and not only didn't he make this point, he asserted that every legal expert thinks the statute is completely unconstitutional. But it wasn't so obviously unconstitutional that the federal courts started there. If it was so unconstitutional -- "up, down, and sideways," as Tribe put it -- why didn't the court begin with that? It's a jurisdiction-granting statute. If there is no jurisdiction, there's nothing more to say. It should have been easy -- if Tribe is right about blatant unconstitutionality -- to say the statute purports to give the court jurisdiction, but the statute is unconstitutional and therefore void. Why then did the court presume jurisdiction and move on to the likelihood of success on the merits? Because the unlikelihood of succeeding on the federal claims -- the only claims that could be at stake under the statute -- was so painfully obvious.

I was tearing my hair out last night listening to all this TV analysis and not hearing any focus or even mention of the need for federal claims under the new statute. There is so much talk on TV talk news -- round and round with emotional assertions and clips of suffering faces -- but there is an abject failure to explain the actual legal points. The judges who did the work in this case can't go on the show and explain what they did, and no one serves as a proper voice for them. The audience is left to think that judges are arrogant, insulated, illegimate, and heartless. What a sorry display!

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. And sorry I missed Glenn's presentation on Kudlow, which did try to explain the legal distinction on television. He writes:
I'm quite astonished to hear people who call themselves conservatives arguing, in effect, that Congress and the federal courts have a free-ranging charter to correct any injustice, anywhere, regardless of the Constitution. And yet my email runneth over with just those kinds of comments. And arguing that "it's okay because liberals do it too" doesn't undercut my point that conservatives are acting like liberals here. It makes it.
Yes, it really undercuts what these so-called conservatives can say about judicial appointments now, doesn't it? They've blown their credibility.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And thanks to AmbivaBlog for the plug.

YET MORE: Here's the "Hardball" transcript with the Hitchens material referred to in the post. An excerpt:
The thing is, there‘s no role for anyone in this case, because there isn‘t a life, unfortunately, to save. Mrs. Schiavo is dead and has been for some time. ...

I don‘t know whether Mr. Schiavo was able to interpret his wife‘s wishes or not when she was alive. But she‘s now dead. ...

I‘m a materialist. We don‘t have bodies. We are bodies. When the brain is gone, you are gone. No physician who‘s attended her in any capacity has said that she‘s anything but totally brain-dead. She‘s not disabled. She‘s gone....

Her brain has shrunk to a point where it‘s no longer human. As you say, the—full of fluid. All people want to know at the point like this is how one can decently put an end to it. I must say, I find it revolving, the idea of—even if she can‘t feel anything, something in me rebels against the idea of, as they say, starving her. If I was a physician, I would just give her a morphine injection. And that is what is often done.

AND EVEN MORE: Hugh Hewitt links to this post. My response to him is here.

March 24, 2005

"American Idol" -- goodbye to Mikalah.

With the results on Thursday, I'm deprived of the TiVo, because Chris insists on TiVo-ing "The Apprentice" -- a show I can't tolerate anymore. How can I tolerate "American Idol"? Oh, well, that's a mystery! How can anyone? But without my TiVo, I'm forced to watch the commercials. Some of them are pretty damned good, like the one with the freshman boy trying to get nachos out of the vending machine and ending up pressed against the glass inside the machine.

As entirely predictable, Mikalah says goodbye tonight. Interesting how "America" gets it right most of the time. Mikalah missed way too many notes, and she lost her wacky charm. They did a nice clip montage for her, reminding us of her sweet eccentricities. But she really did need to go. In the bottom three with her were Anthony and Nadia. Nadia! -- who many people thought would win the whole show! Let this be a lesson, don't touch the woman's hair! She needs the full Nadia hairstyle to distract us from the voice that isn't quite all there.

What else was interesting tonight? Maybe the way the camera zeroed in on Jessica, who wept to see Mikalah go. Maybe the way Scott mouthed a wordy prayer once again as he waited for his verdict. Maybe the Ford commercial they imposed on the kids, with Constantine carrying a giant spoon. Oh, and I'd almost blocked it out of my head! There was the group sing of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." The road was long, listening that one out.

Disaster city.

The BBC tells the story of Texas City, where a huge explosion killed fifteen persons yesterday. My parents survived the great 1947 explosion that killed 576 people, as I described here (scroll down to "Me and Texas").

Madison politics: "I love my bubble."

Local politics, Madison-style:
Austin King says he has accomplished a lot in his two years on the Madison City Council. But he boils the race down to this:

"This district is a very young and progressive district," he said of the downtown District 8, populated by many students. "My opponent's an older conservative guy. From a purely demographic point of view, I don't think he stands a chance."

His opponent, Kimia Lounge owner Kami Eshraghi, argues that he would fit in better on the council, where King is by far the youngest member. And although Eshraghi describes himself as a Democrat, he said that sometimes King goes too far left.

"It's hard to be to the left of him," Eshraghi said. "I'd like to point out that I'm the same age as the other alders. ... The key is experience, and this is not a student government job. This is a city job. We need someone with experience."...

King said the city gets a bad rap as being too idealistic.

"People are always telling us that in Madison, we're in a bubble. I used to fight that. We're in a bubble where people around us don't think logically," he said.

"How can you ask someone who thinks Jesus is coming back to Earth to care about global warming? Yeah, Madison's my bubble. It's a bubble of intellectualism and deliberative democracy and discourse. I love my bubble."

King, by the way, enjoys calling himself the "lefty's lefty."

UPDATE: I just reread this post and was struck by the line: "although Eshraghi describes himself as a Democrat, he said that sometimes King goes too far left." Strange use of the word "although," isn't it? What is the Capital Times saying? That Eshraghi claims to be a Democrat, but that claim is undermined by his seeing King as too far left? Democrats are supposed to go as far to the left as possible?

"I am broke, but I hide it well."

That's how Ozzy Osbourne responded to Jon Stewart (on "The Daily Show"), who said he expected to find him "broke" (i.e., a broken man).

Soothing music.

Recently, I collected suggestions for music to help you read and study. Over at About Last Night, they're collecting suggestions for music to ease and calm your mind in "times of extreme mental disruption."

Disorderly acting.

A woman looked out the window the Madison Public Library, thought she saw an armed assault taking place on the top level of the Overture parking ramp and called the police. The police showed up to find five UW film students staging a scene. The State Journal reports:
"Immediate compliance (by the students with) officer commands saved what could have been a tragic incident, as the fake gun appeared real," department spokesman Mike Hanson said.

"We were making a film," explained Fuezi Balli, one of the five students - four crew members and one actor - involved.

"There was a gun involved in a sequence for 10 minutes or so and someone saw it. The director didn't report to anyone that we were going to be doing something like that," he said.

"It was a fake gun, I was holding it," he said.

The production, called "Blake," was for an advanced video production and direction class, he said.

"We definitely didn't think anyone would see us doing it," he said.

They were on the exposed top level of a parking ramp, visible from other buildings!
"When an officer responding to this hears a gun call, there is an extra, heightened alert and certain tactical maneuvers are put into place. From a distance if they were to see one individual holding a gun to someone's head, the officer might have to use deadly force to stop that. In (Wednesday's) situation, fortunately, the people complied with the officers right away. But when everything is fluid and moving fast, we don't always have the time to (confirm) if a gun is fake or not."

Two weeks ago the department's SWAT Team responded to the Atwood Community Center to rescue a woman they - and passers-by - believed was being held at gunpoint, only to find that the scene was part of a play rehearsal.

Aren't you glad to know the new generation of storytellers has a firm grasp on how the real world works?

UPDATE: I'm getting a lot of similar anecdotes in the email. Here's a good one (from Hana Volokh of Purr Se):
When I was in high school (10 years ago! That seems like forever!) one of my teachers assigned a group project on something or other. One group (not mine) decided to make a cops-style video for their project, and one scene involved tying up a guy and putting him into the trunk of a car. After filming it, they proceeded to let him out, of course, and then they got in the car and drove somewhere else. But they never got there, because a police helicopter had seen them shove the guy into the trunk of the car, and they were swarmed by about 10 police cars a few minutes later.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt or arrested. They finished the video and showed it in class. It was mildly amusing, and you could definitely hear the sound of the police helicopter in the car-trunk scene.

"100 Years of Illustration."

Here is a beautiful weblog dedicated to the art of illustration.

March 23, 2005

"I don’t want to live like a dead soul. So these days I am blogging..."

Blogging in Nepal:
Journalists in Nepal are going hi-tech to sidestep tight censorship imposed after last month’s royal coup....

“I feel that our very own survival, intellectually and mentally, depends on freedom,” says Dinesh Wagle, a newspaper journalist who runs United We Blog!...

“I don’t want to live like a dead soul. So these days I am blogging for a peaceful and democratic Nepal,” he said in an e-mail interview. King Gyanendra seized power on February 1, arresting government and political leaders, rights activists and journalists.

He also banned media criticism of his move, which he said was aimed at ending a nine-year Maoist revolt that has killed 11,000 people and shattered the tourism and aid-dependent economy.

But United We Blog! and another popular blog, the anonymous Radio Free Nepal..., publish interviews with arrested political leaders and news about anti-king protests that the mainstream media cannot.

“I am blogging the truth as I see and as I think,” says the print journalist running Radio Free Nepal.

Coney Island.

Nina has a lot of nice photos from Coney Island, along with a description of a spitball-plagued subway ride there. Keep scrolling for more NYC pictures.

Café photos.

This morning, I sat down with my book at a table in the front window of L'Etoile Café.



A nice croissant:



A cup of coffee:



A woman reading at the next table:



You can watch the people walk by:



And try to figure out what kind of plant that is:



Refill that coffee cup about four times:



When you get tired of the piped in Ella Fitzgerald and Willie Nelson, there's always the iPod shuffle:



Isn't it beautiful?



So touchingly minimal and filled with minimal music.

The big "American Idol" screw-up.

Jacob at Television Without Pity gives last night's "American Idol" an F. An F! I've seen some low grades over there, but I can't remember seeing an F before. Ha, ha! Let's see. First there's this:
Some idiot in the booth screwed up the phone numbers for three singers in the bottom-third during review, so instead of results Wednesday, we're getting rehashes of tonight, with "live elements," meaning Seacrest pantsing around, and the results show will be on Thursday. My O.C. night. I kind of hope that person is executed.
Then there's the damned theme: "Billboard #1 Hits, which means the kids only had 930 songs to choose from. Harsh!" So a big criticism is the crap the contestants picked to sing when they had (theoretically) so much to choose from. Then there's Carrie's hair:
Her hair is insane. INSANE. She looks electrocuted. She doesn't sound that bad, of course, but dude, the hair is really distracting. She's at the seashore poking her face through a wooden standup of Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease.

The movie reference I thought of was Tina Turner in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" -- you know, where she shaved the whole front third of her hair for that weird, receding hairline effect.

Actually, Jacob seems to like the performances -- except Constantine -- a lot more than I did. So why the F? Just the nutty hair and Scott hurling his glasses aside were entertaining enough to get the grade up to at least a D, I would think. But maybe that phone number screw-up is just so abysmal that it's got to be graded a failure.

If you're wondering where the mistake was made: at the end of the show, during the recap, where the phone number appears in large and small print, for the last three contestants, the large-print number was correct, but the small print number was a different contestant's number. The three disadvantaged contestants were Mikalah, Anwar, and Jessica. The three contestants whose numbers got an additional display were Anthony, Carrie, and Scott. Jeez, you'd think if there was one thing they'd do absolutely correctly it would be displaying the numbers. How can we trust them to count the numbers right?

UPDATE: I just had to correct my own numbers -- I'd written "two" instead of "three." How can I criticize them for getting numbers wrong when I'm getting numbers wrong?

"What am I going to do, just ramble on and on"?

So said the panicked Janeane Garafolo in the struggling early days of Air America, according to Drudge's account of the HBO documentary, which is scheduled to air on March 31st. I can't wait to see it.

UPDATE: Sorry, that quote was from Marc Maron. Janeane Garofalo just "looks suicidal in nearly ever scene which she appears." I like the quote, by the way, because it expresses what I imagine probably every radio show host thinks.

Judicial nominations and the Schiavo effect.

The NYT reports on signs that the Schiavo controversy will have an effect on the process of appointing federal judges:
The intense fight in the Terri Schiavo case is injecting another explosive element into the coming Senate showdown over President Bush's choices for federal judgeships as well as into future battles to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

The Republican-led effort to circumvent a state court order to disconnect Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, combined with a federal judge's refusal on Tuesday morning to countermand that order, has crystallized issues in the judicial debate in a compelling and singular public way, Republicans and Democrats alike said.

Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials.

Within a few hours of the decision by Judge James D. Whittemore of Federal District Court in Tampa, who refused to order nutrition restored to Ms. Schiavo, conservatives were expressing their outrage, accusing the judge of giving no deference to the legislation rushed through Congress.

"Judge Whittemore has engaged in a gross abuse of judicial power," said Burke J. Balch of the National Right to Life Committee.

Richard Viguerie, the strategist behind conservative direct mailings, said, "It could be the opening shot in the Supreme Court nomination battle that we expect sooner rather than later."

Mr. Viguerie added, "It is very dramatic proof of what we have been saying: that the judiciary is out of control."

Viguerie is, of course, exactly wrong. What Judge Whittemore did is very dramatic proof of the judiciary's deep commitment to the rule of law and its firm resistance to political pressure and emotional entreaties.

And what do "conservatives" really think of judges? Do they want them -- as the third paragraph in that block quote says -- not "to ignore the will of the public and elected officials"? I thought good conservatives wanted judges to set aside political preferences and faithfully follow the dictates of the law. The criticism of "activist" judges is that they abuse the law by making it into what they prefer politically, but the solution isn't that they should do more of what other people prefer politically. It's that they ought to do what the law requires.

Do Balch and Viguerie seriously think that Justice Scalia would agree with their assessment of Judge Whittemore? Obviously, they are promoting activist judges of the social conservative stripe, and there is nothing properly conservative about that at all.

Deeply infiltrating the gang.

Here's the story of Billy Queen, an ATF agent who infiltrated a dangerous motorcycle gang:
Retired now, Mr. Queen is supposed to be hiding in a witness protection program, but he popped up in Hollywood, in the heart of Mongols territory, swaggering around in a ball cap with A.T.F. spelled out in big white letters.

"Maybe I'm a little bit crazy," he supposed at an outdoor cafe and laughed in a sadistic little way, as if he were thinking of using his companion's eye for an ashtray just because it might be funny.

From the way he talks, Mr. Queen has not fully extricated his real life from his undercover persona of Billy St. John. He speaks fondly of those days, the parties, the camaraderie, the bullying of the Hell's Angels. He said that even though he was an undercover agent, he preferred to pal around with the Mongols on his days off because he was fond of them.

"Don't you feel anything?"

As my first post on the Terri Schiavo case says, I avoided writing on the subject, but chose to break my silence to weigh in on the subject of federalism, an area of professional expertise for me. After that, I read the federal court complaint and decided to provide a summary of it for my readers, who I didn't think would take the time to read and understand it. I followed up yesterday with a post about the district court decision -- really a tribute to the worthy judge. I did one more post, critical of Congress for groundlessly impugning the work of the state courts, which had put so much serious, hard work into the case. I've gotten a lot of supportive links and email about my posts, but I'm not surprised to get an email like this:
I'm disappointed. Your logic is 100% legal, antiseptic, and very dummy-proof. Spoken like a true legal professor.

I'm pro-choice, conservative, republican ... but this makes me literally cry at every turn. Don't you feel anything? or has Madison finally numbed you also?

The least and the most you can do is make the case for compassionate conservatism.

Here is how I answered the emailer:
I have a lot of things I could say that I am choosing not to say, as my first post indicates. Some things I chose not to say out of pity for the parents, who have suffered.

I'm not going to fill up my blog with speculation about what has really motivated the husband and parents of Terri Schiavo over the years. There are all kinds of horrible things one could say about them. It's easy to think of those things and to write them down. As to end of life decisions and the hard realities of death and dying, thousands of painful dramas play out every day. I don't have general pronouncements to make about how these should be resolved. Terri Schiavo's drama was enacted in public because of the bitterly hardened dispute between the husband and the parents. The dispute made an occasion for people with strong moral beliefs to argue their positions in high media profile.

I am not one of those people who have fixed beliefs about "the culture of life" or "the right to die," so I don't have an automatic side to take and the desire to fight it out. I think these are difficult matters, and maybe I should write about them here and increase the proportion of moderate writing. But I pick my subjects here. When I choose to write about something serious, it's usually because I think I have something different to say or some extra value to bring to the table. When I'm silent about something, you can speculate about what I might think, but you don't know. You can try to goad me to write on a subject by emailing me your speculations about what I think (and feel), and maybe I will reveal it, but maybe I'm really quite committed to my silence.

March 22, 2005

"American Idol" -- a brief and biased account.

I'm not going to say a lot about tonight's show. I'll just say I think it was really cool that Constantine Maroulis sang "I Think I Love You" -- the theme was "number 1 hits" -- and it totally worked on me. And I can see they are in the process of depriving Nadia of her phenomenal hair and that is so, so wrong. Other than that, I think Scott did a nice job. Anwar was okay. Bo is still good. Carrie was a horror and horrendously overpraised. Mikalah is in big, big trouble. And I'm bored by Jessica, Anthony, Nikko and whoever else I'm forgetting to acknowledge. Except Vonzell -- I (heart) Vonzell.

Catering to religious constituents and ignoring federalism values: the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in Cutter v. Wilkinson, a case about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. This is an important case about religious freedom and federalism. The Free Exercise clause standing alone does not require the state to give special accommodations to religious believers, but Congress has attempted to require the states, as it runs its prisons, to make those accommodations.
The government "follows the best of our traditions" when it relieves burdens on religious practice for all religions, not just "majoritarian" ones, the acting solicitor general, Paul D. Clement, told the justices....

Douglas R. Cole, Ohio's state solicitor, asked the justices: "Can Congress really say to prisoners, 'We'd like you to be religious and we'll give you a better show for getting out from the rules that apply to everyone else?' "...

He also said the law provided an "impermissible incentive" to inmates to adopt a religion as a way of obtaining favored treatment. He said the law invited "constant pressure, day after day, if you want this set of benefits, get religion."

Quite aside from whether the Establishment Clause even permits states to choose to give special treatment to prisoners who invoke religion, the federal statute is a severe intrusion into the way states run their prisons. Was that intrusion justified? Were the states really inconsiderate of the religious needs of prisoners? Or was this like the Schiavo legislation -- Congress catering to its religious constituents and ignoring federalism values?

Forget Hogzilla -- now, it's Catzilla!

Reuters reports:
A London man trying to coax his cat back into the house before he went to bed got more than he bargained for.

Instead of a tame pussy, the cat-like creature that emerged from the bushes in response to his calls was nearer the size of a Labrador dog.

Neither was the snarling beast in the mood for a quiet bowl of milk. It flew at the man, giving him the fright of his life, and several nasty scratches.

The man alerted police after scrambling back into his house.

Officers who visited the scene soon afterwards believe they saw the culprit.

"One police officer believes they saw a large black cat-like animal approximately the same size as a Labrador dog," a police spokesman said.

The unwisdom of the Schiavo legislation.

Jonathan Adler has a nice post at The Corner about the Schiavo legislation. (And I'm not just saying that because he links to my two Schiavo posts from yesterday.)
While Congress clearly has the authority to regulate federal court jurisdiction, and to provide for such jurisdiction so as to ensure that state courts act within constitutional constraints, I feel the legislation is inappropriate on several grounds. First, state courts make these sorts of decisions all the time in life-or-death situations, including death penalty cases without equivalent federal interference. Second, this creates a terrible precedent for ad hoc federal interference in high-profile cases of injustice. Private relief legislation is rightfully disfavored. Third, after-the-fact efforts to [undo] state court judgments are also a bad thing. If Congress wants to use this case as the basis for new legislation to provide for federal court jurisdiction where state courts violate incapacitated individuals' federal due process rights, that would be fine and dandy. Unprecedented ex post facto challenges to state court judgments, on the other hand, should be avoided -- even when the cause is just (and, yes, even when a life may be at stake).

This raises a point I've been meaning to make. On the conlawprof email list, I've taken the position that the statute is constitutional, and I do think that. Congress has power to define federal jurisdiction, and, though it can't violate individual rights or require the federal courts to do things beyond the bounds of the "judicial power" (as defined in Article III of the Constitution), it can provide for all sorts of intrusions on the work of the state courts. It's important to recognize that state courts can violate constitutional rights and that Congress can provide for the federal courts to protect individuals from various bad things state courts might do.

There is an argument -- made in the federal court case -- that the federal statute does violate individual rights. The theory is that it burdens Terri Schiavo's right to refuse medical treatment. But assuming Congress really did have the power to pass its highly specialized law, that scarcely makes it a good idea.

Even if a court should not find the statute void because of its lack of deference to the state courts, Congress ought to have given more consideration to the work of the state courts. And even if the statute is constitutional despite its singling out of one person for special, positive treatment, Congress ought to have felt constrained, knowing that it would not routinely give special treatment to other persons like Terri Schiavo. Its unwillingness to write a general law betrays a lack of commitment to any principle -- principle demands general applicability and not favoritism. And don't tell me it was too much of an emergency for it to be possible to draft a generally applicable law. Terri Schiavo's case has been around for years.

Congress acted in a bold, emotive fashion that showed too little respect for the serious, hard work of state courts. After the spectacle of this case, however, I tend to think there will be political pressure on Congress not to behave this way in the future. And this legislation is a monument to Congress's susceptibility to political pressure.

UPDATE: Sam at Disability Law agrees: "There is ... no good argument that the statute is unconstitutional. But that doesn't mean the statute is a good idea."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge struggles with the conflicts among four principles he agrees with: the culture of life, limited government, federalism, an the rule of law. And more, about federalism, here.

"Judge Whittemore at times sighed, paused and buried his face in his hands."

Here's the NYT account of yesterday's hearing in the Terri Schiavo case:
Judge Whittemore frequently interjected questions, pressing Mr. Gibbs about his claim that Judge Greer had violated Ms. Schiavo's due process rights that and that he had not given her a fair trial. He pointed out that Judge Greer had held a "lengthy" trial and had appointed several independent "guardians ad litem" to represent Ms. Schiavo's interests, and that her parents had represented her interests, as they saw them, by fighting the tube removal.

Judge Whittemore asked Mr. Gibbs to cite case law that would bolster the claim that Ms. Schiavo's Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process had been violated, adding, "because we haven't found any." Without proof that the state court's handling of the case violated precedent, Judge Whittemore said, "I think you would be hard pressed to convince me that you have substantial likelihood" of succeeding on the merits of the case.

And here is the report of the judge's refusal to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube. As one could predict from reading the report of the hearing, the judge's denial was based on the failure to show a likelihood of success on the merits.
"This court appreciates the gravity of the consequences of denying injunctive relief," Judge Whittemore said in a 13-page ruling. But he said Ms. Schiavo's "life and liberty interests" had been adequately protected by Florida state courts, and despite "these difficult and time strained circumstances" the court was constrained "to apply the law to the issue before it."

Thanks to Judge Whittemore for handling this terribly burdensome case with skill and dignity.

Hogzilla was no hoax.

The National Geographic's experts dug up the remains of the beast and have concluded it was real, but only 8 feet long, not 12, and 800 pounds, not 1200.
That wasn't good enough for Ken Holyoak, owner of the 1,500-acre (600-hectare) fish farm and hunting preserve where Hogzilla was shot by guide Chris Griffin.

"I need to stress that they did not have that much to work with, seeing as how the poor beast had been underground for nearly six months," he said Monday.

Holyoak said Hogzilla weighed in at half a ton on his farm scales, and that he personally measured the hog's length at 12 feet (3.6 meters) while the freshly killed beast was dangling by straps from a backhoe.

"As with any organic being after death, tissues will decompose and the body will atrophy, making actual measurements change over time," Holyoak said. "Have you ever seen a raisin after it was a grape?"

Have I ever seen a raisin after it was a grape? Have I ever seen a raisin before it was a grape? While it was a grape? After it was something other than a grape?

Ah, forget about grapes! There are hogzillas roaming the backwoods of Georgia. And the tusks really did measure 18 inches.

"Actress Regina King; spring handbags; bacon; religion and personal finance."

Normally, I don't TiVo the "Today" show. But today I will, and not because I'm curious why it's "religion and personal finance" and not "religion and bacon," "religion and spring handbags," or "religion and Regina King." Why present all those other topics unyoked to religion? Or is "Today"/TiVo just bad at punctuation, and we'll have to figure out our finances without divine assistance?

I'm TiVo-ing "Today" to see some media response to the decision in the Terri Schiavo case. I did not mean to become a Schiavo-blogger, but I wanted to write about the federalism issues, which led me to participate in the conlawprof email discussion yesterday, which led me to read the federal court complaint and write about that. Now, I've agreed to do a radio show, which is at noon today, so I've got to keep current with the discussion. If you're within earshot of Minnesota Public Radio, you can hear me on the "Midday" show with Gary Eichten. You can also live stream the show at the website. Arthur Caplan will also be on the show. He'll talk about bioethics. I'll be talking about federalism and separation of powers.

UPDATE: The timing of the radio show may change -- or it may be preempted altogether -- because of the need to cover a press conference about yesterday's school shooting in Minnesota.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Radio show done. Did any of my readers listen in?

March 21, 2005

"I just felt like I was not supposed to have my legs."

The NYT examines body integrity identity disorder.
[M]any with the disorder would go to extreme measures to get rid of the limb they consider extraneous.

In May 1998, the urge drove one man to a California surgeon who had lost his license more than 20 years earlier for several botched attempts at sex reassignment surgery. At a clinic in Tijuana, the surgeon, John Ronald Brown, 77, cut off the left leg of Philip Bondy, 79, of New York, who had paid him $10,000. Then Mr. Brown sent Mr. Bondy to a motel in a run-down section of San Diego to recover on his own.

Two days later, Mr. Bondy was dead of gangrene, and Mr. Brown was charged with second-degree murder. During the trial, newspaper reports said that Mr. Bondy had sought the operation to satisfy a "sexual craving."

The complaint in the Schiavo case.

I've read the complaint in the federal court case brought by Terri Schiavo's parents. (Available here.) The defendants are the husband, the state court judge, and the hospice.

The claims against the judge are based on the "due process right to a fair and impartial trial," (on the theory that the judge became an advocate for her death) and on a "deprivation of due process" based on the judge's failure to appoint a guardian ad litem, his failure ever to assess Schiavo in person, and his failure to order various tests. The judge is also charged with violating her free exercise of religion in that forcing her to "engage in conduct proscribed by her Catholic faith specifically targets religion for special disabilities without a compelling reason for so doing."

The claim against the hospice is based on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which, it is alleged, covers the hospice because of its receipt of federal funding. RLUIPA would require a compelling reason to impose a "substantial burden" her free exercise of religion.

The religion-based claims against the judge and the hospice rely on the theory that the Catholic religion requires the continued feeding of a person in a persistent vegetative state and that, even though the defendants are not preventing Schiavo herself from taking an action required by her religion, that those caring for her are required to act pursuant to the requirements of her religion. That seems to be a difficult argument to make, even though, under state law, those caring for her are only able to withhold feeding because they attribute that desire to her. The federal religion claims assume that she must now want what the doctrine of the Catholic church requires, because, when she was able to think about such things, she was a Catholic.

The claim against the husband? I really don't know.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum links to this post and notes that I seem "pretty skeptical." He's right, I am.

Terri Schiavo and federalism.

I've avoided writing about the Terri Schiavo case so far, and I could do a post about why I've done so. At this point, beginning to write about the subject is especially difficult because the subject is so complex and many events have already take place. But I'm going to jump in very late in the discussion and talk about federalism – which is a subject I've taught in law school for over twenty years. [ADDED: You can read a fairly elaborate article of mine on the subject here.]

Over the weekend, with Congress enacting its law designed to put the federal courts in position to override the work of the state courts, much of the commentary turned to the subject of federalism. I didn't make a careful analysis of each commentator, but I would expect that those who had already decided one way or the other about what should happen to Terri Schiavo found themselves with an opinion about federalism that supported the position they'd already taken. Most people don't adopt a stance about the proper role of federal law and the federal government and then stick to it regardless of the issue, but they do tend to criticize their opponents for changing their stance on federalism. People like to defer to the states when they are doing something one approves of and to demand federal action when they aren't.

Today's Wall Street Journal editorial makes some observations in this vein:
A Florida court has twice before ordered Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube removed--in 2001 and 2003. Six days after the latter episode, the Florida legislature passed "Terri's Law," which allowed Governor Jeb Bush to intervene. Last year the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Terri's Law was unconstitutional.

We review this history both to show how poorly Florida's legal system has served Mrs. Schiavo, and to explain the reasons that Congress is taking the extraordinary step of intervening in what normally would be considered a matter solely for a state's judicial system. The conservative Republicans leading this effort--Senators Bill Frist and Rick Santorum, Representative Tom DeLay--are taking hits for supposedly abandoning their federalist principles.

We'd have more sympathy for this argument if the same liberals who are complaining about the possibility of the federal courts reviewing Mrs. Schiavo's case felt as strongly about restraining the federal judiciary when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues they don't want to trust to local communities. In any event, these critics betray their lack of understanding of the meaning of federalism. It is not simply about "states' rights." Conservatives support states' rights in areas that are not delegated to the federal government but they also support federal power in areas that are delegated.

Think of an analogy to the writ of habeas corpus. As John Eastman of the Claremont Institute points out, "We have federal court review of state court judgments all the time in the criminal law context." The bill before Congress essentially treats the Florida judgment as a death sentence, warranting federal habeas review. Mrs. Schiavo is not on life support. The court order to remove the feeding tube is an order to starve her to death. Moreover, Mrs. Schiavo is arguably being deprived of her life without due process of law, a violation of the 14th Amendment that Congress has the power to address.

Surely, many of those who oppose what Congress did in the Schiavo case do generally approve of intruding on the state to impose a higher standard of individual rights – including the rights for the disabled. They would not normally stand back and allow the states to innovate and experiment with the narrowing of individual rights. Certain matters have traditionally belonged to the states, but there is a long modern trend of re-visualizing these matters in terms of the rights of the individual. Whether one agrees with the conception of rights reflected in Congress's Schiavo law, one should not deny that Congress has an important, well-established role enforcing the rights of the individual and displacing choices made at the state level. And who does deny this role? The disagreement is about what rights are, not what federalism is.

One more thing about federalism: the democratic branches of the state government had a conception of the rights of Terri Schiavo that the state court trumped, relying on state constitutional law. Arguments about federalism need to take account of the fact that the state is not a monolithic entity. Congress is now aligning with the position taken by the state legislature and the state governor. One could say that the new federal statute embodies federalism values, because it attempts to restore the choice made by the democratic branches of state government and to remove the obstacle set up by the state court.

March 20, 2005

"If we were super, super lucky and did everything right, we might some day have another BMW."

Goodbye to John Z. DeLorean.
Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?

The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

So do we stop wearing skirts ...

Or keep wearing skirts and wait until we have grounds to sue Sony Ericsson? (Via Metafilter.)

Disappearing bumper stickers?

Neo-neocon thinks so.

Is Wisconsin leading the way in cat hunting?

Not at all. Here's the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A Wisconsin proposal to declare wild or feral cats an unprotected species -- allowing them to be shot on sight -- has sparked, well, a cat fight.

Cat lovers around the nation howled in outrage, the man who made the proposal received death threats, and some Minnesota letter writers asked how Wisconsin could be so cruel to even consider such a thing.

They might be surprised to learn wild cats are fair game in Minnesota, and have been for years.

"A wild or feral cat is an unprotected species in Minnesota," said Mark Holsten, Department of Natural Resources deputy commissioner. They can be shot or trapped or otherwise killed as a nuisance animal, like gophers, skunks or weasels, Holsten said.

"If you have feral cats on your property, you can shoot them. They're [like] a gopher or a woodchuck," Holsten said.

That's not news to some rural Minnesota residents.

"We have been killing stray-wild cats for years, but apparently are not doing our job well enough," Charles Wolf of Long Prairie wrote recently to the Star Tribune. "There are still way too many of them."

Petty revenge.

The NYT uncovers the intense interest people have in raining petty revenge on those who've annoyed them in small ways.
Dena Roslan was sick of a co-worker who kept helping himself to her lunch cookies. So Ms. Roslan, 30, a clothing designer who works in Manhattan, bought a bag of dog biscuits that looked like biscotti. "My only remorse was not being able to see his face after he ate the bait," she said.

Go to the link to see the photo of the smugly pleased Ms. Roslan waving a dog biscuit. She seems to think she's perfectly delightful, as do a lot of other people described in the article.

Maybe there are passive aggressive types everywhere who are just waiting for a high profile newpaper to encourage them to indulge their creative side. So let me do my part and say that this behavior is far more vile than what it is designed to protest.

UPDATE: I know someone who -- like many others before him -- quit a job at that UW Survey Center, which conducts important surveys about health care services, because people on the telephone, always ready to tell off telemarketers, were just too mean. They seemed not to hear the introduction that clearly stated the important public purpose of the University survey. How many people walk around in their daily lives with their minds addled by idiotic vengefulness?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Given the email I've received, I need to sledgehammer a point: the UW Survey Center is not a telemarketer! It conducts important, scientific, government research that relies on random sampling. People have free-floating anger about telephone calls that has incapacitated them from understanding or caring about the legitimate research that is conducted by telephone. Email about how much you hate telemarketers and feel justified saying whatever you want to a stranger who calls you is really only proving my point about the pathetic petty aggression people are carrying around in their heads. Maybe some day you or a member of your family will have a health problem and would have benefited from high quality statistical research that became impossible because of the generic hostility of people like you.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Nappy Forty asks some really good questions about the dog biscuit lady.

Bears love suburbia.

It's those birdfeeders and yummy garbage and tantalizing unclean grills. And some people don't seem to know that bears are dangerous:
"We have to tell them: 'Please don't feed the bears. Don't try to take pictures of them with your kids in the foreground' ... Some people just don't think."

Taunting the Bear.

Did you know that one blogger can engineer the evolution of another blogger in the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem? Those of us who've worked our way through the natural process of evolution and felt pleased with each stage may be disturbed to see how easy it is once you figure out how.

UPDATE: How does the Bear respond when taunted? And here's a response to the response.