April 16, 2005

Judicial nominees and "playing the religion card."

But which side is playing the religion card? It's hard to tell in this NYT article. But let's take a close look:
The Family Research Council, a Christian conservative advocacy group, has organized an April 24 telecast, "Justice Sunday," which includes prominent conservative Christians speaking by simulcast to churches, Web sites and Christian broadcast networks. Under the heading "The filibuster against people of faith," a flier for the telecast reads, "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Religious advocacy groups have as much right to engage in political speech as anyone else, and religious people have plenty of reason to be concerned about who gets onto the courts and who is kept off. Here, they profess concern that the filibuster is being used to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is contributing a 4-minute videotape to the program. Is it wrong for a politician to associate with religious leaders who are advocating a political position? I can see worrying that a particular group has a lot of political influence, but that is ordinary politics, not a reason to silence people who are speaking out on matters of public concern and who identify with or are motivated by a particular religion. And Frist agrees with them in opposing filibustering judicial nominees. He's not obligated to shun them because of their religious affiliation.

So what is the response from Democrats?
"Our debate over the rules of the Senate and the use of the filibuster has nothing to do with whether one is religious or not," Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said at a news conference with Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader from Nevada. "I cannot imagine that God - with everything he has or she has to worry about - is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven."

The first sentence of that statement is simple disagreement about the basis for opposing the nominees, and of course, one would expect people like Durbin to say they are not discriminating on a religious ground. That second sentence subtracts from the credibility of the denial, however, because it's little more than a mockery of religion.
Democrats seized on Dr. Frist's participation in an effort to portray Republicans as intolerant extremists. "In America, we are in a democracy, not a theocracy," Mr. Reid said, urging Dr. Frist to back out of the event. "God does not take part in partisan politics."

I don't see the sense of this statement. Religious people fighting for a cause they believe in do not make the government a theocracy. Many prominent and highly respected political activists -- notably Martin Luther King, Jr. -- have operated from a religious foundation. It's nothing new, and it doesn't deserve to be demonized. There's a tone of mockery toward religion in what Durbin and Reid are saying, as they twist the Council's political activity into the idea that God is somehow debating about or participating in partisan politics. I'm sure that draws easy laughs and gasps from people who scoff at religion, but it's quite unhelpful.

There's an important and serious argument going on now about who should be on the federal courts. The Senate Democrats are using the filibuster to block a small number of the nominees, ones they consider way too deeply embedded in social conservatism and thus at odds with the moral values they represent. The socially conservative Christians want these people on the courts because they want their moral values expressed through courts. It's a very important stand-off, but making it all about religion is a distraction. A person's fundamental moral beliefs play a role in his or her decisionmaking, even if that person is a judge and is trying mightily to follow orthodox interpretive methodology. So the Senators are right to fight about the nominees the way they do, and they will have to work out this issue of majority rule and the filibuster device. But these recent comments by Durbin and Reid are offensive, inflammatory, and manipulative.

In case you're thinking I just lean Republican, here are my recent posts critical of Republicans in the current fight over the judiciary:
DeLay backs down a bit about judges.
Congress and the judiciary -- with a response from Justice Kennedy.
More railing about judges.
The return of a reasonable tone?

The GOP and the judiciary.


UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner links to this post and characterizes me as endorsing the FRC's contention that the filibuster is being used to block nominees "because they are people of faith and moral conviction." Hmmm... I don't mean to accuse of Senate Democrats of simple discrimination based on religion. I think that's how the Democrats characterize the FRC attack. I think the Democrats are opposing strong social conservatives, and I understand why they do. I don't even think it's wrong for them to do so, but I see why the FRC is pushing back the way they are. I'm not a social conservative myself, and I don't know enough about the individual nominees to have a position, but if I were a Senator, I'd vote against nominees that I thought they were deeply wedded to very conservative morality if I were not convinced that they make a special effort to exclude their personal morality from their judicial decisions.

Taking note of the 60 year mark.

We are sixty years away from the last days of World War II. Bob Dole just published a memoir, an account of his injury 60 years ago this week. Here's the story of a medic in Dole's Tenth Mountain Division, who died 60 years ago today, 21 days before the Germans surrendered.

Should there be an all-women law school?

I'm really happy with the comments function on this blog, which I reactivated a week ago. The discussion on this post, from yesterday, is especially interesting. If you read far enough down into the comments, you'll see that I bring up the subject of a women-only law school. I wanted to start a separate place here to discuss the topic: Should there be an all-women law school?

UPDATE: Christine Hurt says no to the all-women law school. By the way, I realize that there are some serious legal and accreditation problems with such a school -- as noted by various commenters -- and I don't purport to know the answers. I'm mostly interested in speculating about whether it would be a good idea. It's not worth bothering to figure out those details if it's not even a good idea to have an all-women law school. But some commenters seem to think it's not worth figuring out if it's a good idea if there's a legal/accreditation problem. I disagree!

Tori Amos, singing "Yes, Anastasia," Joni Mitchell, and an improv about where you happen to be sitting.

How was that Tori Amos concert in Chicago last night? I asked Chris, who had seen the singer five times before. He was pleased to have finally heard her do "Yes, Anastasia," which he ranks as his third favorite Tori song. The only better songs: "Sugar" and "Winter."

Here's a set list (and a little review) from a fan site.

I see Tori did the Joni Mitchell song "The Circle Game." I haven't thought about that song for many years -- years during which, apparently, I've been captive on the carousel of time.

Chris was sitting in the first row of the second balcony (at the Auditorium Theater), which was really high, so high Tori noticed his predicament and made up a little improv song about it. It had the line "I like a red dress, but not tonight": that was the image of a woman bloodied from a fall off that balcony. For people already feeling vertiginous up there, it was fun to have Tori make up a song about their fear, even a song that magnified it.

Robert Hughes and R. Crumb talk about Andy Warhol and Albert Speer.

Robert Hughes and R. Crumb, together at last. Hughes is the art critic who praises Crumb in the movie "Crumb." After a public appearance, at which it's established that both men hate Andy Warhol, the two go out to dinner and talk about Albert Speer:
After the discussion, Mr. Crumb quickly ducked out of the library, avoiding a throng of fans, and later joined Mr. Hughes for dinner, where they took a while to warm up to each other, but by the end were in a spirited discussion about Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, whom Mr. Hughes interviewed in the late 1970's.

Mr. Hughes told about an exchange in which Speer said that architecture was certainly one way to unite a people, but that if the Nazis had had television, there would have been no stopping them.

Mr. Crumb, finishing his plate of baked chicken, beamed. "Oh, that's great," he said. "It's true."
Is it? It seems to me television makes everything small. Grandiosity miniaturized and contained in a box, viewed across the tops of your toes, is not awesome but ridiculous. There you are, in your house, not merged in a massive throng, but on a sofa alone or with your intimates. If we were starting with a free country -- and not state-controlled TV -- I think instant mockery would doom a televised propaganda effort of the sort Speer wielded with architecture.

By the way, I recommend the documentary "The Architecture of Doom," which you should watch in a double feature with "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl."

Hey, did you notice that Hughes and Crumb ducked out of the assembly and ate chicken; they didn't chicken out of the assembly and eat duck. Why do I bother to think and write such things? Maybe because I was raised on television and still like nothing more than idly flipping the channels looking for stray amusements. Am I wasting my life on trivia? A bit. But I'm also utterly immune to the charms of fascist dictators. Even the politicians I like enough to vote for, I still laugh at and think of as funny little men. That's another way of saying that on TV, Jon Stewart would outmatch Speer.

"Thieves got an illicit glimpse at ... their 'souls.'"

How you feel when someone steals your iPod. Having your laptop stolen would probably feel worse, but laptops are less stealable, because they are hard to sell. Worst of all is to have both your iPod and laptop stolen. You've lost your whole music collection, if it was downloaded. And even if you have the CDs, reimporting everything into a new computer will be more irksome than a thief taking a glimpse of your soul.

Competitive coffee.

The World Barista Championship. Make 12 drinks in 15 minutes, and they'd better be sublime if you want to beat Phuong Tran, who's making "four cappuccinos, four espressos and four cups of her somewhat mysterious signature offering, the 'crimson sage' ... espresso, sugar cane juice, white pepper powder, sage leaves and crimson shot glasses."

A celebration of nothing.

I'm having a weird feeling this morning. It's the first weekend day in a long time when I haven't had some major obligation bearing down on me. Am I forgetting about something? I feel like I am. No, no, it's really a Saturday. A genuine Saturday. No article deadline. No moot court down at the courthouse. Nothing! Can it really be?

"Another non-Italian pope would confirm Italy's decline."

Here's an interesting piece in the NYT about the need some people feel for an Italian pope.

April 15, 2005

Post-Hawaii, back to normal.

N.Z. Bear has Hawaiian honeymoon pics. And news of a reactivated ecosystem! We inhabitants of the ecosystem are most grateful!

Taxes, done at last.

I can't believe how much time I spent doing taxes this year. What a nightmare! Here's an article saying that Americans spend 6.5 billion hours every year filling out tax forms. What a waste! Even if some simpler system would not be perfect, there is so much time that could be used on more productive, creative activities. How much better off we would be with a simpler system! And isn't it ordinary workers who are least able to take advantage of all the crazy little details that have made the system so complex? Let's change this fiendish system!

A man and his mustache.

You remember Robin Givhan. She's the Washington Post writer who wrote that article about Condoleeza Rice's high-heeled boots, the one that we all blogged about. Well, she's back with another article that everyone's blogging about. The hot topic today is John Bolton's hair, that which is on top of his head, and that which is, differently colored, under his nose.
The fulsome silhouette of the mustache makes for a particularly dreary distraction and seems to pull his whole face downward. It makes Bolton, who is only 56, look hoary and dour. For a man who has shown little evidence of a capacity to charm -- an ability that can come in handy for an ambassador -- the mustache makes him appear unwelcoming. For all of the testimony about his spiteful dealings with both colleagues and underlings, and his denials of such behavior, he managed to look mean.
Well, that goes along with my longtime opinion of mustaches: they make men look mean. Charlie Chaplin might be the only exception. Please men! Let us see your philtrum! Nothing makes a man more adorable than a well-shaped philtrum. And nothing uglifies like a mustache!

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for doing one of those links that people are forced to click on. For some reason that made me Google "philtrum" -- I guess people must Google their "favorite body parts" -- and the incredibly weird thing is that it took me here. Look at that URL! Isn't it a small world -- philtrum-wise?

"If they want to be boys, they should go to a co-ed school."

What should be done at Smith, which has always been an all-female college, about students, born female, who take on a male, transgendered identity? The Financial Times has an interesting article.
”If they want to be boys, they should go to a co-ed school,” says one alumnus from the 1990s, who did not wish to be named for fear of being labelled intolerant. “Women go to Smith because they only want to learn with other women.”

For these students, who pay $37,000 a year in tuition fees, Smith is first and foremost for women. Women, they say, learn better without the distractions of male classmates, and if an all-women college accepts, teaches and graduates male students, it will go down the path of the other “seven sister” colleges and lose an invaluable part of its heritage. Women’s colleges are an endangered species - Sarah Lawrence and Vassar have gone co-ed and Radcliffe has been subsumed by its former brother school, Harvard.

But the traditionalists at Smith -- according to the article -- are not the dominant culture:
For those students from the progressive, feminist tradition of Steinem and Friedan, Smith’s transgender students fit naturally on a campus that has long been tolerant of sexual difference. Notably tolerant. When the widely read Princeton Review of US colleges is released each year, Smith is regularly rated one of the top 10 most “gay friendly” colleges in the country. Students joke that the college’s motto should be “Queer in a year or your money back”. The campus has long been home to organisations such as the Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance’s Women of Colour Committee. The National Enquirer tabloid once dubbed Smith’s hometown of Northampton “Lesbianville USA” because of its visible population of gay women. (One Smith student told me it is the only place in the US where local 14-year-old boys are mistaken for university students.)

A "Death With Dignity" Act for Wisconsin?

NBC15 reports:
Two state lawmakers plan to bring the issue of assisted suicide back to the floor, saying recent high profile cases prove people want more control over their life in death.

State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) says, "This is not a case of whether or not you're going to die, you are going to die. The question is how are you going to die? And this bill gives the person who's dying one more option."

In the wake of the Terri Schiavo saga, Senator Risser says people are worried they don't have enough control over their lives when dying....

[Under the proposal, y]ou must be 18 years old and deemed both mentally competent and terminally ill by 2 doctors. Then after an oral request and a written request signed by 3 witnesses, a physician can prescribe the requested medication.

UW professor of law and bioethics, Alta Charo, poses the question, "Since terminally ill patients are already entitled to have the ventilator turned off so they can suffocate to death, wouldn't it be more merciful to let them choose another method in which death comes more as a friend not as an enemy?"...
According to the article, the prospects for passing this law are quite low.

"The AMT is spreading its tentacles far down the income chain."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the AMT hits us hard in Wisconsin.

UPDATE: And here's an op-ed in the NYT making the point I noted yesterday, that tax software makes people far less aware of the AMT and therefore much more likely to tolerate it. From the op-ed:
In a world without paid preparers and TurboTax, taxpayers would face the tedious process of calculating their taxes twice - once under the regular income tax and once using the cumbersome alternative minimum tax rules. But software does that calculation in the blink of an eye - and for taxpayers who have to pay the tax, tell them how to adjust their withholding so that next year they won't even notice that they're paying it.
Too true!

ANOTHER UPDATE: How hard did the AMT hit me? More than $6,000!

"Academic work ... is so bloodless most of the time."

That's from a nice piece in the Village Voice about academic blogs.

Now you know why we academics blog: we blog for blood.

April 14, 2005

Quiet on the set!

Once again this semester, my house is a movie set. This evening, I'm not allowed to make any noise in the middle level, the main level, of my house. Just standing in front of a bookcase of DVDs, looking for something to take upstairs, brings a complaint. We can hear you. They are down in the garage, filming lord knows what. Many cantaloupes were purchased, and I'm told there is fake blood. Horror is a favorite genre. I guess the cantaloupes will be slaughtered.

I go upstairs and flip channels idly. No TiVo up here. No HBO On Demand. I decide to take a bath. It takes 15 minutes to fill my bathtub. I guess it's a pretty large bathtub. Within five minutes, there's a knock on the door. We can hear the water. Ah, yes. I hadn't thought about it. The sound of water running through the pipes. Sorry!

What they said at the protest.

The Capital Times reports on the protest I wrote about and photographed here. The protest was centered on ousting military recruiters from campus. The article quotes UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley saying there's "no way" these students will succeed and that students who want to talk to the recruiters deserve access to them. I see the noise I complained about in my post got a police response:
"Apparently we've got complaints from around campus that we're being too loud," said junior Ben Ratliffe, after a police officer had a word with organizers. "I would say we've got complaints of our own."

An ad lib response to criticism that flips the words for rhetorical effect. I wonder if Ratliffe noticed the similarity to the famous Bush World Trade Center quote.

Here's Ratliffe's message:
Ratliffe said the protest was aimed at getting military recruiters and the ROTC program "out of our schools." He said the war on terror is a "euphemism for military expansion."

The money being used for the war in Iraq should be used here at home to promote jobs and health care, he said.

And then there were the "more strident" members of the crowd:
Sophomore [name deleted] said she supports the resistance in Iraq and said it will continue as long as the U.S. military is there.

Why did I delete the name? I can't bear to slur one of my University's students with her own vile remark.

UPDATE: Here's the Badger Herald story on the protest, which notes that "more than 100 students" participated in the walk-out. To calculate the percentage of students who participated, here is the number of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: 41,588.

And check out the comments to this post. There's an excellent debate about why I deleted the student's name and a surprising lack of hostility toward the student despite the utter stupidity of her remark. I guess people have seen enough Che T-shirts on clueless young people not to be too bothered by the foolish romanticization of rebellion.

"As my tax professor stated, it's Turbotax that is allowing the AMT to remain."

Great comments, leading up to that one, on this post from yesterday.

UPDATE: In the twenty minutes since posting that I figured out my AMT, and Turbotax would have spared me from having to feel very bad about this, I suppose. I feel bad about the federal tax for having the AMT and bad about the state taxes for being so high in the first place and for being the reason I owe so much on the AMT.

Rationally, I admit that it isn't fair for people in states that charge high taxes to get away with contributing less to the federal effort. Why should people in low-taxing states, deprived of the benefits of the local services more taxes would fund, have to pay a larger portion of the costs of the federal government?

Rationally, I know my real problem should be with the state taxes, yet the feds are irking me with their complicated forms. In which case, I really ought to use Turbotax, not only to avoid the aggravation of witnessing the AMT grinding out the extra thousands, but so that I won't irrationally blame the federal government for doing something that is actually fair. Or am I losing my mind?

The ecosystem is not dying!

N.Z. Bear stops by the comments to this post of mine to say:
As for the Ecosystem, nah, it’s not dying. I just got hit with some big life activities right at the time where I was trying to get some major improvements done on the Ecosystem (try getting married and completing massive home improvements all in the same month sometime… nobody ever said I was all that bright).

All the Ecosystem needs to return to robust health is my devoted attention again, which it will have in about a week or so. Stay tuned, and do not despair…

Great. I love the Ecosystem. It gives colorful, lively imagery to our bloggish aspirations. If only I could get to be a Playful Primate again!

Student protests.

I'm trying to get some work done, here in my office overlooking Bascom Mall, and there's a mini-student protest going on. A few kids are lolling on the lawn and there are some signs, but the speaker has a really loud amplifier, so I can hear what he's saying even with my windows closed. He barely needs amplification at all to reach the gathered crowdlet. I'm informed that all the money spent on the military should be re-routed into social programs.

I think I'll take an early lunch break and hope when I get back they'll be dispersed. Or at least turned down.

UPDATE: Oh, this is that walk out of class thing that I blogged about back here. Later, there's a different phase of activities when a small band of students walks up the hill beating drums, carrying signs, and chanting. I was able to grab a picture from my office window just now:

"InstaLanche -- Wha?"

Richard's having trouble understanding what anybody's talking about anymore.

Fake cellphone talking.

There are so many reasons to pretend to be talking to someone on your cellphone. Just think about it a little and you'll get many ideas!
But James E. Katz, a professor of communication at Rutgers University, says his classroom research suggests that plenty of the people talking on the phone around you are really faking it. In one survey Dr. Katz conducted, more than a quarter of his students said they made fake calls. He found the number hard to believe. Then in another class 27 of 29 students said they did it.

"People are turning the technology on its head," Dr. Katz said. "They are taking a device that was designed to talk to people who are far away and using it to communicate with people who are directly around them."

Brilliant! But now that we know people are doing this, it's time for us to start calling their bluff: You aren't really talking to anyone are you? You're trying to say something to me, aren't you? Well, why don't you just say it directly?

Of course, anyone who blogs can't be too critical of people who opt for indirect modes of communication. And in fact, I'm not critical. I think it is a good way to express yourself diplomatically. The person in line in front of you is taking too long with a transaction? I'm sorry, honey, I will be home just as soon as I can... Yes, the Band-Aids are in the medicine cabinet.

A life well played.

Johnnie Johnson was shy, and Chuck Berry took the lead, adapting Johnson's piano-playing style to the guitar, according to the brilliant documentary "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll." He was thus one of the absolutely fundamental creators of rock and roll. Though the character in the song "Johnny B. Goode" played the guitar, the song was dedicated to the piano player Johnnie Johnson. Johnnie Johnson, dead at 80.

DeLay backs down a bit about judges.

Good.
"I believe in an independent judiciary. I repeat, of course I believe in an independent judiciary," DeLay said.

At the same time, he added, the Constitution gives Congress power to oversee the courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said.

It's true, there are congressional checks on the judiciary, but we expect you to exercise them responsibly. The really effective congressional check, however, is the Senate's power to confirm. DeLay, not being in the Senate, is left to chatter about impeachment (ridiculous), the "power of the purse" (underfund the courts? that's just destructive), and cutting back jurisdiction (show me the proposal and I'll comment). In short, he's just saber-rattling, or as I prefer to call it "purse swinging." I know he's hot to keep some sort of Schiavo-momentum going. But the serious debate about judges is the one going on in the Senate.

UPDATE: And here's the NYT front-page article on DeLay and the judiciary. The subheading in the paper NYT is "Unyielding, DeLay Steps Up Attacks on Judiciary Over Schiavo Case." So what is it -- backing down or stepping up? I see the Times is also calling it his "crusade against judges" -- leveraging religion into the prose. Here's how the Times presents the material that was in the AP article linked above:
"Of course I believe in an independent judiciary," [DeLay] said. He also apologized for the impeachment comment, even as he insisted it was well within the purview of Congress to rein in the courts.

"Sometimes I get a little more passionate," Mr. DeLay said, "particularly during the moment and the day that Terri Schiavo was starved to death. Emotions were flowing."

"I said something in an inartful way," he added, "and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize. I apologize for saying it that way. It was taken wrong, and I didn't explain or clarify my remarks as I'm clarifying them here."

Mr. DeLay was not specific about what legislative changes, if any, he would like to see emerge from the Judiciary Committee's review. But in announcing that he had asked Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and the committee chairman, to examine the actions of federal judges in the Schiavo case, Mr. DeLay said the House had previously passed legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts and breaking up the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a bill that died in the Senate.

"We set the jurisdiction of the courts," Mr. DeLay said. "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts."

I think he's backing down. And note how bereft of ideas about legislative changes he is.

April 13, 2005

"Married gays feel boxed out by IRS tax forms."

That's the headline for this article, which reports that some couples are checking "married, filing jointly" based on a marriage recognized at the state level.
Gay-rights advocates, however, warned gay couples against inviting the wrath of the IRS by filing their taxes jointly as married people if the status means they will end up paying less in taxes to the government. Better, they say, to file as singles or to calculate their taxes a couple of ways — single and married filing separately, for example — and then submit the return that forces them to pay the most.

"Even if you're wrong in the end, you don't face the consequence of underpaying," said Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle attorney who sits on the board of Lambda Legal, a national gay-advocacy group. "You're not in the position of owing back taxes, interest and penalties. And it keeps you on the moral high ground, showing that you're willing to undertake the obligations that go along with marriage."
That's awfully harsh advice! It seems to me that if you're paying less as a single taxpayer and federal law defines marriage not to include yours, you should just follow the federal law and save money. Is that unprincipled?

UPDATE: The non-harsh, important part of that advice is not to choose "married filing jointly" if that gives you lower taxes than single, because you'll be underpaying within the standards of federal law and subject to penalties.

Don't mock our cat-shooting ways!

This vote to permit shooting feral cats has brought Wisconsin a lot of attention. And now Governor Doyle is responding to the cat-loving constituents:
Governor Jim Doyle says "everybody is kind of laughing" at his state right now — over a proposal to legalize the killing of feral cats.

The proposal was adopted Monday at meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress — a public advisory group. It classifies wild, free-roaming cats as an unprotected species that kills songbirds and other wildlife.

"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat.
There's still a legislative step. I'm betting the cats win in the end. The birds are just going to have to deal with their sorry lot in life. You're prey! Get used to it!

"You are in for a shock, America."

So says Ryan Seacrest introducing tonight's "American Idol" results show. The shock isn't, apparently, that the show will be dragged out to an hour tonight, but, it seems, who's in the bottom three and who's leaving. Wow! Ryan's in a real suit!

The first half of the show is frittered away promoting a record -- I think it's for charity -- that the finalists are making. It's a horrid, maudlin song with lines line "Every time you touch me, I become a hero." We see the kids in the studio, marveling at the equipment. Sure is complicated and fancy! And then they perform the song on stage, and the choreography is a hilarious sleepwalk -- presumably designed around the least able dancer in the group, who -- I'm just going to guess -- is Scott. We see Carrie rocking her chaste pelvis from side to side like a teeter-totter. They're all in jeans, except Nadia, who's wearing a fabulous evening gown.

Announcing the bottom three, Ryan makes each one, upon hearing the news, get right up and sing a song. The poor kids are put through the wringer. (In an earlier segment, we saw how hard they worked each day of the week. Sunday is not the day of rest, but the day of filming a Ford commercial.)

Scott is the first to get the bad news, and, given his choice of favorite song so far, sings "Against All Odds." We see Simon cringing: he wants Scott off the show.

Shocker! Bo is in the bottom three! I guess people forgot to vote for him. Or, more likely, his fans have switched over to Constantine.

Constantine is told he's safe, and just before that, Simon is asked what he meant last night by calling him "astonishing." Some people thought he meant it sarcastically, but Simon says it really worked. He wouldn't have thought it would work to try "Bohemian Rhapsody," but it did.

Anwar and Carrie have already heard they're safe. Now, Anthony and Vonzell are told they are safe too. So that puts Nadia in the bottom three -- the only one I predicted would end up at the bottom. She sings "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me." She gets my award as the coolest looking person ever on the show, but I think she'll leave. Her or Scott.

They do the thing of saving one of the three next. And it's Scott! Screams of amazement!

Oh, no! Don't let it be Bo! "America has decided that Bo..." -- oh, no! -- "you are safe." Yay!!!

Poor Nadia, beautiful Nadia, must leave. Goodbye, Nadia! Lots of people thought she was going to win. But it is not to be.

My tax update.

I'm going on paper, sans software. And I've figured out a few things: how much you've got to put on Schedule D when you cash out of your mutual fund, that the date of death is what counts as the cost of stock you inherit. Have you ever done the capital gains worksheet? It's like a piece of comedy writing! I've got papers of all sorts spread out on the dining room table. Some force that is larger than I am is preventing me from finishing before the deadline. How crazy it is that taxes can reach out and consume a whole week of the year! How antithetical to productivity! In other words: what a waste!

"Sideways."

Oh, come on. Does anyone really care about this movie? I mean anyone other than the kind of guys who merge with the Paul Giamatti character and women who think they are bursting with Virginia Madsen-ish sensuality? Let me exclude all the people who self-flatter with identification and restate my question.

Does anyone really care? I tried to go to see that movie back in January and I wrecked my car and never got to our destination. That's just a fluke. If I didn't want to see the movie, I'd just stay home. I wouldn't venture out and then wreck my car to avoid the ordeal. That's just something that happened that I feel very bad about, and if you maybe some day pay more attention to red lights than I did that day, maybe my regrettable experience will produce some good in this world.

But last weekend, I blogged that I was going to watch the DVD and report back later, and, though I've got email and comments, not one person has said, so what did you think of the movie you said you'd opine about?

Let me say that I adore the director Alexander Payne. My favorite Alexander Payne movie is -- it's not even close -- "Election." Let's watch "Election" again! I'm always up for that. My second favorite Alexander Payne movie is "Citizen Ruth." I bow down at the feet of Alexander Payne for making that movie about abortion, which took on every possible political angle and tore us to shreds.

Oh, but Hollywood! Here's Jack Nicholson ready to be in a movie. "About Schmidt." Kathy Bates too. And maybe our hero will end up redeemed.

And now, in the orange glow of California, we've got "Sideways." Four flawed adults sip wine and find redemption, some more than others. It's very nice. There are some well-written lines that make me laugh. There's some beautiful acting, but it's beautiful acting that takes the edge off everything. The sexuality is promising. Give me Matthew Broderick in "Election," desperately washing his privates at the spigot of a motel bathroom in preparation for his ill-advised tryst. That's more real and more funny.

Alexander Payne, I'm glad you're successful, and I hope you're happy, but I'll go back to the old movies that you made in the days when you were really you.

UPDATE: One of the commenters brings up "Wonderfalls." I posted about buying the DVD of 13 episodes of the cancelled show, and then, as with "Sideways," I never posted about my opinion of it. So, okay. I watched about six of the episodes. The pilot was quite good, but it was downhill from there. Maybe they didn't have the money or the commitment, but the show never lived up to its promise. The main character, Jaye, had little to do but to listen to talking animals, and following their orders was more of a shallow puzzle than anything at all deep (as following God's orders on "Joan of Arcadia" usually is).

There was a bunch of regular characters, such as Jaye's family, but they never got a chance to amount to anything. We found out the sister was a lesbian, but that's just a stock revelation, nothing interesting. Compare that to the strong development of the secondary characters on "Joan of Arcadia." The last few shows before I gave up on the series, centered on a guest star. Somebody came to town and Jaye had to help him or her, mostly by trying to understand the slightly hard-to-understand message some animal was giving her.

The show seemed at times to want to be "Joan" for savvier, hipper people, but it seemed to be a mindnumbingly Californian idea of hipness, which just amounted to scoffing and not caring about anything -- except in the sappy endings of the story, where Jaye understood the animals and helped people. Bleccchhh!

I tried to watch the show back when it was on TV, and got through only part of one episode. Here's my post about that.

"The damage to the cause of constitutionalism."

Here's a National Review editorial that disapproves of some of the recent excess in criticizing the judiciary, bemoans the way it plays into the hands of those who make too much of judicial independence, and expresses hope that Congress can find some reasonable ways to check the judiciary. Most interesting paragraph:
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have felt it necessary to distance themselves from DeLay’s remarks, and Cornyn has issued clarifications and apologies. But the damage to the cause of constitutionalism, as conservatives understand it, had already been done. It is now that much easier for liberals to dismiss any attempt to assert a role for the political branches in restraining judicial excess — even the Republican demand that Bush’s judicial nominees receive an up-or-down vote — as a threat to “judicial independence.” And since many liberals have so grandiose a view of the judicial role that even strong criticism of judicial decisions counts as such a threat, they were already so inclined.

"Scalia Go Home To the Dark Ages."

Here's a very poorly written report of a student protest against Justice Scalia at NYU School of Law.

If you glue it down, it's not litter?

UCLA needs to discover chalk.

Congress and the judiciary -- with a response from Justice Kennedy.

Here's the latest NYT report on Congress and the judiciary. Here's a passage about the attacks on Justice Kennedy:
At a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the court's spending request, Representative Todd Tiahrt, Republican of Kansas, veered from the budget issues to press Justice Kennedy.

"Lately we've had rulings that seem to go beyond the rule of law" and that reflect "outside influence," the congressman told the justice. He pointed to a Supreme Court decision last month barring the execution of those who were juveniles when they committed their crimes. That decision, which was written by Justice Kennedy and which cited international treaties and practices abroad, appeared to reflect "pressure put on by the United Nations and other agencies," Mr. Tiahrt said.

Mr. Tiarht said the court was "not interpreting the Constitution and laws that govern America anymore," and added that his views were shared by people "across the United States."

Justice Kennedy, appearing unruffled, replied mildly that disagreements over the meaning of the Constitution were "a very important part of democratic dialogue." He added, "This give and take is very healthy."
Nice that Kennedy actually responded. So often there's no comment. But I love the cool, measured response that models judicial demeanor. It helps people see that judges function in a different way from politicians, even though the politicians are pushing the proposition that they don't.

There are also cooler heads among the politicians:
Both Mr. Specter and Mr. Frist said the tone of the Senate fight over judicial nominations and the intense lobbying by outside groups interested in the issue were complicating their efforts to strike a compromise with Democrats and avoid a showdown.

"We need to lower the rhetoric," Mr. Frist said. "For the life of me, I can't understand how we benefit moving America forward and we have the other side of the aisle talking about shutting down government."
And by the way, I thought Senator Schumer did a great job of defending the filibuster on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, even while sitting next to Senator Cornyn, whom you could tell he did not like.

UPDATE: Schumer was on "Fox News Sunday," not "Meet the Press." No wonder I couldn't find the transcript.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reading the article more carefully, I see that Justice Kennedy was actually there being confronted, which explains the relatively temperate remarks by Tiahrt (as one of the commenters noted). Intemperate remarks targeting Kennedy for impeachment were made over the weekend, and obviously Kennedy is aware of them. His response when directly confronted was a typical judicial response for that setting, so it actually isn't extraordinary at all. Had he not been there, I don't think he would have offered a comment, and the comment that he did make is really quite close to no comment at all.

But isn't that one slot higher in the U.S. News ranking a source of infinite pleasure?

Anonymous Law Student has a sort of humorous comparison of Columbia and NYU law schools. Another "Anonymous" blog? So does that mean he's not a law student -- the way Anonymous Lawyer and Anonymous Law Professor weren't what they said? It's not as though there is a shortage of blogging the inside view of being a law student. I haven't read enough of this blog to know, but judging from this post, he's a Columbia law student.

How many people get into both Columbia and NYU and feel they must go to Columbia because it's one tick higher in the U.S. News ranking, and then the whole time they are there they have this sense that life is so much better down there in Greenwich Village? Don't pretend you took anything more than that into account! List a lot of diverse factors to assuage your pain, but in the end, you know what you did. You let U.S. News trump all the detailed preferences that are individual to you. And yet you probably still think it's wrong for admissions committees to rely so much on the single-factor of the LSAT.

Do take into account that I went to NYU and my experience with it and the Columbia/NYU comparison are decades old. But I'm right, aren't I?

April 12, 2005

Kitty alert!

The vote is in: 6,800 to 5,200 in favor of hunting feral cats!
UPDATE: Jeremy explains why his dad shot cats back on the farm in Iowa.

Lighter teaching loads.

Gordon Smith has an excellent discussion of the trend toward lighter teaching loads for lawprofs.

Remember your birthday?

Oh, it's that time again! Another round of "American Idol." I pick up the TiVo controller with trepidation. Ryan Seacrest acts like it was a travesty that Nikko Smith lost out last week, but Nikko deserved to go. Seacrest chides us: "Watching the show without voting is like starting a conversation with Randy: pointless." Obviously, he knows nothing of the pleasures of blogging a crap-ass TV show.

What's the theme tonight? Ryan tells us: "Songs from the year you were born. Remember your birthday?" What the hell kind of question is that? If you can't remember your birthday, I'd suggest sitting home on a comfy sofa and just watching the big show.

First up, Nadia Turner. Born in 1977. I guess I wasn't paying enough attention in 1977, because this song means nothing to me, but Nadia's huge hair and drapey, ultra-short, red dress mean a lot. Still, I'm bored out of my skull with this song. The word "dream" is in it. And the words "come true" are in the last line, after which she gives a syrupy smile. Ha! Randy doesn't know the song either. "It's from Crystal Gayle." Paula wows over the look, but the song: umm... Simon says "That was musical wallpaper." Seacrest: "Of all the songs in that year, why did you pick that one?" Answer: dreamy, dreams, dreeeeeemssssss, I'm a dreeeemer.....

Bo Bice is going to sing "Free Bird." 1975. I am so up for this! Randy and Paula love it, but Simon advises him to "use the rock influence on your voice on well-known songs." "Free Bird" isn't well known??? "Free Bird" is iconic! Simon says it's a "sacred song" that you shouldn't "run all over the stage" singing. So it's "sacred" but not "well-known"? Simon speaks in a very self-consciously rational way, but sometimes he says something that just doesn't make sense. What did he mean? I do agree, however, that Bo shouldn't roam about so much. And I like the way, when Ryan tried to hold his hand, Bo jerked his hand away.

I start thinking about what songs would be available to me, if I could be on the show. I'm way too old and I'm a horrible singer, but still ... Here's the list from my year, and my song from that list is "Sweet Violets." I remember hearing it once. I was in bed and overheard my parents playing it. I loved it deeply and the next day asked my parents about it. They told me, it was not for children and I couldn't hear it. Was it about sex? Death? Oddly, though I've always remembered it, I have never bothered to find the song and listen to it. I can still hear it in my head from that one listen, but I've never heard it again. I rush over to iTunes. The Dinah Shore hit is not there (only a Mitch Miller version). Ah! here are the lyrics. It's a bizarrely veiled filthy song from the past! Good thing my parents protected me, or protected themselves from having to deal with my questions.

Anwar Robinson. 1975. "I'll Never Love This Way Again." In the intro, he admits that as a little kid, he didn't talk, but he found a voice for himself in music. That's genuinely touching. How many musicians can say that? Most, perhaps. Maybe I'm too much of a mom, but that brings tears to my eyes. Randy says he's "the best singer in this competition." Paula: "The tone of your voice... is mesmerizing." Even Simon likes it, but then says "comforting ... like a blanket." True! Anwar is a sweetheart. And the repeated phrase "I know I'll never love this way again" really is very engaging.

Anthony Federov, born in 1985, is singing "Every Time You Go Away," that nice Paul Young song, a good choice for him. Halfway through, I'm thinking, it would be fun to hear Clay Aiken sing this. Anthony's okay, but he's a little short of power. He ends well enough. The judges like him, including Simon. An example of good song choice.

1984 is the birth year of our dear Vonzell Solomon, who sings "Let's Hear It For the Boy." I hate the song and I hate the instrumentation. I predict she'll be in the bottom three. I'm tired of strenuousness. Paula tells her "you're adorable up there," and Vonzell beams in a way that makes me love her again, much as I detest that kind of crap music.

Scott Savol was born in 1976, and they show a picture of him as a pissed off, scowling baby. Ah! Give the boy credit for what he's achieved if sourness was ingrained biologically. He's going to sing "She's Gone." Hall and Oates. He says, he's the rocker in this competition. Hall and Oates are in the audience and we see them nodding enthusiastically. This may be the best song choice ever on "American Idol." The high notes are beautiful. Paula's up and dancing. Randy: "Scotty... you got it started man... you brought it home." Paula: "Awesome." Simon: "Scott, you're a nice guy, however...." Scott protests: "I think I rock."

Carrie Underwood is next and is it mean of me to hope she screws up? My #1 goal for Season 4 is: Carrie must fail! 1983 is her year and "Love Is a Battlefield" is her song. Damn, that's a song that could win me over! She's a bleating zombie, swiveling her hips in a way that's intended to be sexual. It's strenuous... and bleaty... How I detest her! Please, slam her! Randy: "pitchy... you messed up the words." It's a song Paula has covered, so maybe Paula will be critical. No, she says "I think you rocked." Simon: "It was a little bit like watching a kitten who wants to be a tiger." Randy: "Finally, he speaks the truth." Yes!

Last tonight is Constantine Maroulis, the Justin Guarini of Season 4. Born in 1975 and singing "Bohemian Rhapsody"! We love the boy! Crazy white light blinds us, and then, there he is, all charismatic. We love him! Simon: "That was astonishing!" Seacrest: "He's never, ever used that word on this show." He sang "Bohemian Rhapsody," people. It's Constantine! The next American Idol.

Jeez, I'm even considering voting for the first time this season.

Now, I kind of like them all. Except Carrie. Let that phony girl go. Bottom three (in my dream world): Carrie, Nadia ... ?.... Anthony?

Church secrecy and very old claims.

When does the statute of limitations start to run on claims against the church based on child abuse by priests? Do we start counting when the plaintiff turned 21 or do we start counting when the church revealed its role in protecting the priests? In the case argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court today, it makes a big difference. Either the time to claim is counted from 1969 and is long past or from 2002. The alleged abuse took place between 1960 and 1962, and the priest in question died twelve years ago.

(The plaintiff's side was argued by Cardozo lawprof Marci Hamilton.)

Let's encourage students to IM in the law school classroom.

This is a subject that came up and was batted about at lunch today. My colleague Asifa Quraishi said the students are already using the classroom WiFi to IM each other, and maybe it hasn't been so bad. We got going on the subject of how maybe we should outright encourage the students to IM, including sending tips and cues to a student who is engaged in Socratic dialogue with the lawprof. What's wrong with students pooling their expertise on the fly? The student doing the speaking is not rendered passive. He or she will still have to read the messages quickly and integrate them with existing knowledge. It could be lively and energizing. The students who aren't chosen to speak will have some way to express themselves, which might help them listen to the student who is speaking, and a spirit of community and collaboration might take hold. Am I wrong?

UPDATE: I'm getting a lot of interesting comments on this one, including some saying I'm being naive or foolish, but I see Glenn Reynolds agreed:
I actually do encourage [IM-ing] -- I figure that this way you've got several students thinking about the question seriously, when they might otherwise just be waiting to see if the student I've called on makes a fool of himself. How well it works depends on the class, and how extensively they tend to IM, but I do agree with the point.

Good point. If there is IM-ing and anyone is struggling to answer a question, everyone is implicated. The lawprof could say: "No one is offering you any help? So no one has any ideas?" All would have to take responsibility, instead of idling while the other student tries to speak.

Another thing we talked about at lunch is that all the students would get practice writing apt and pithy answers, as IM-ing trains you to do. I find this notion so appealing that I would like to see a technology that would allow me to ask a question of the whole class, require that every student enter a sentence or two answering, and then randomly display one answer on a screen in front of the class, which we could then discuss. You wouldn't need to know whose answer that was, and everyone would have made a go at typing out an answer, and I think that might put us in a nice position to begin a discussion.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Other technology, from an emailer:
Regarding your recent blogpost, I am a fan and a student at MSOE. IM is nice for class, but nothing beats Microsoft Onenote! After recently discovering the ability to “share” a note-taking page several of my friends joined with me to take down what is going on in class. Not only do we get a full audio recording, but we have triple or better overlap while taking notes that don’t miss any points. Oh, and the audio is linked to the notes, click on a word and have the audio automatically transfer you to that point in the recording.

As you know, MSOE is primarily engineering. Engineering notes are almost never strictly text and often make little sense with hastily drawn in margin notes about every little thing discussed. The only way to capture fully every diagram/handout/equation and still understand what the professor is actually talking about is to break down the responsibilities (often wordlessly) and focus on one aspect of the notes of the class, leaving your friends to take the other half. Often this means someone pastes in Visio diagrams while someone else uses a program like Mathtype.

There are a few difficulties with this approach…. Network access (wired or wireless works fine) must be present in the classroom. Sometimes formatting decisions must be made. Finally, the format is great at MSOE as laptops are standardized and handed out by the school itself. It would also help to have friends you are with between all your various classes. The only remaining problem is the cost of the program itself.

It was really nice to see such subjects as technology in class discussed by professors. I’ve been using this feature throughout this quarter and I almost with I wasn’t graduating this year, given how easy notetaking became.
Sounds great! I guess in the future there will be no excuse for not getting everything down. Once they can't write "Althouse talked too fast" on the evaluations, just think how fast I might talk.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Aspiring Lawyer responds and points out some software that might be just what I'm looking for. I've got a request in to our tech guy about this. I would love to bypass the Socratic agonies and get everyone answering everything!

"Strings of silicone started coming out of her eyes and ears."

From the NYT report on FDA hearings about silicone breast implants:
Carolyn Wolfe, 74, of Manassas, Va., told the panel that after her silicone implants had ruptured, strings of silicone started coming out of her eyes and ears. Her nipples seeped silicone, she said, and she developed rheumatoid arthritis and a goiter.

Horrid, it's true, but can't people make their own decisions about the risks:
Michele Colombo, 35, of Lake Worth, Fla., said her silicone implants had helped her "to feel whole." Ms. Colombo said opponents of implants were "making a moral judgment, not a medical one."

UPDATE: And the panel rejects the broader use of silicone implants. Although I find it a little hard to see why cancer patients are treated differently from others who want implants -- none have a medical need, only a cosmetic one -- I found this persuasive:
In its own presentation, Inamed assumed that implants were like stereo equipment and were no more likely to break in their 10th year of use than in their first. With this assumption, it concluded that 14 percent of implants would have ruptured after 10 years.

The drug agency suggested that implants might be like cars or tires, which wear out with age. Under this theory, the agency found that as many as 95 percent of patients who got silicone breast implants for reconstructive surgery would experience a rupture by the end of 10 years. Still, it admitted that it had little idea whether this assumption was accurate.

"In fact, we really don't know," said Dr. Pablo Bonangelino of the agency.

ANOTHER UPDATE: One day later, the FDA [panel] approves a different company's silicone implants. That seems a bit strange, but Mentor had better evidence than Inamed. It's all about rupture rates, by the way, not any serious diseases of the sort you may remember reading about years ago.

"There's a Howard Johnson's. Wanna eat some clams?"

Neo-neocon has an ode to the disappearing Howard Johnson's restaurant.
There's a Howard Johnson's. Wanna eat some clams?
Many people have said that, and some of them -- like me -- had to think of "Billy the Mountain" when they did.

Andrea Dworkin has died.

She was 58. The staunch feminist won widespread fame seeking anti-pornography legislation, on the theory that pornography caused rape: "Pornography is used in rape - to plan it, to execute it, to choreograph it, to engender the excitement to commit the act." She was a major cultural figure in the late 80s and early 90s, who wrote some amazing books that were quite readable if you didn't get too angry at some of the connections she made.

UPDATE: Susie Bright has a lot to say about Andrea Dworkin here:
It was Andrea’s take-no-prisoners attitude toward patriarchy that I always liked the best. Bourgeois feminists were so BORING. They wanted to keep their maiden name and have it listed in the white pages; they wanted to get a nice corner office in the skyscraper. When I was a teenager in the 70s I couldn't relate to those concerns. It was Dworkin's heyday....

I loved that she dared attack the very notion of intercourse. It was the pie aimed right in the crotch of Mr. Big Stuff. It was an impossible theory, but it wasn’t absurd. There is something about literally being f**ked that colors your world, pretty or ugly, and it was about time someone said so.
And here:
The contradictions between Dworkin's brilliance and her lunacy have always gotten under my skin. ... Every time I put down one of her books, I was impressed by her passion, and by the risks she could take with her imagination--- and yet I was also convinced that she was cracked. The more she attacked sexism, the more I felt imprisoned by her concept of sex itself. Her arguments for liberation folded in on themselves, in a victimized dervish dance; they became just another bar and stripe in the code of the double standard.
ANOTHER UPDATE: There are some interesting comments to this post, including one with the phrase "Shame on you, Prof. Althouse." The third comment says "Nice to see another Susie Bright fan," which made me stop and ask myself whether I am a Susie Bright fan, which made me remember I love Susie Bright's contributions to the commentary track of this DVD.

AND MORE: Dworkin said she liked George Washington, and that was enough for Richard Brookhiser. But there's more:
Later on, when NR twitted feminists for supporting a later president, Bill Clinton, I got a note from Dworkin pointing out that she didn't. I wrote a paragraph for "The Week," beginning with the old New Yorker lead-in, "A friend writes..."

Dworkin's prose was unrelenting, hard, clean and compelling. Florence King praised it (while disagreeing with many of her conclusions). She really meant it. R.I.P.
Ah, how that resonates! Feminism was only a means to an end for a lot of people who positioned themselves as the voices of feminism. Their abjectly partisan goals came to light when they supported Clinton and (especially) smeared Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. It was an appalling spectacle. I care a lot about feminism, but I have not trusted the self-appointed voices of feminism since then. Dworkin, for all her overstatements and wackiness, was truly devoted to feminism as an end. She didn't care enough about free speech and she was over-the-top in her aversion to heterosexual sex, but I mean to honor her with this post.

YET MORE: Cathy Young has comments inside and on Hit & Run. I respond to the Hit & Run piece and ask if I've been too kind to Andrea Dworkin here.

April 11, 2005

Let me say something obvious about taxes.

It seems to me that if a government -- federal or state -- is going to tax us, it should have a website where you can easily enter your information. There shouldn't be confusing gateways to privately run websites. There shouldn't be any fees collected anywhere. It shouldn't be for some people and not others. There should be a simple, straightforward website where honest people can key in their numbers in a few minutes and get on with their lives.

UPDATE: Lots of comments on this one! Here's an email too:
I can't let you use my name or position for obvious reasons.

But just to let you know: Our revenue dept used to have a free site to file simple tax returns. Worked great. Shortly after the Big Boys in tax preparation got hold of the IRS and got an agreement that they wouldn't pursue free filing, they went state to state. Basically, lawsuits and interference with private enterprise were hinted at. So now, we don't have it anymore. Last year was the last year.

So it's not the state - it's the people who stand to lose money if the state does it for free.

And I wish people would stop saying we make things difficult. PLEASE give credit where that credit is due - the revenue dept doesn't make the rules. Your elected officials do, and they do it by granting exemptions and deductions for the select few who can get their voices heard. Every deduction results in another box on the form, another worksheet to fill out, another chart to figure out of you qualify, and another complication. Revenue employees are left with the chore of implementing the complications. And catching all the flak.

Should the state block the city from having its own minimum wage?

Mayor Dave says no. The Wisconsin Senate is voting tomorrow on the subject. Here's the argument:
I would urge you to reject any proposal that would forever trade away the right of local units of government to set the minimum wage locally, in exchange for a one-time concession on a statewide minimum wage increase. It is only because of the proliferation of local minimum wages that the legislative majority is even considering a statewide increase. It would be extremely short-sighted to forever surrender that leverage, in exchange for a one-time increase in the state minimum wage.
These days, there is a lot of attention to federalism -- the division of power between the federal government and the states -- but we do not often think about the division of power between the state government and the cities. We don't even have a word for that relationship, do we?

The people of Madison have their own distinctive ideas -- which I frequently disagree with -- but I want to support experimentation and decentralization. Maybe it's a mistake, but it's us. On the other hand, a minority within the city may be a majority within the state. If Madison behaves foolishly -- perhaps because of the high concentration of University folk -- shouldn't the state government respond to the hardworking business owners who can't get what they want from the city? The Mayor's argument reveals that he's not just concerned with the localized expression of values; he's trying to use city government to leverage a movement at the state level.

Russ Feingold is getting divorced!

Oh, no! And it's not the first time. Question what this means for his presidential ambitions.

UPDATE: Here's a more substantial article, which includes speculation about the effect on his prospects for the presidency:
"This is the end of his presidential hopes, at least for 2008," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, an expert in presidential campaigns.

"The Democratic Party is much more tolerant of things, but a twice-divorced single man would have very little chance of being elected president. That is not something that would appeal to any red state."

Two weeks ago, the Feingolds traveled to Alabama. The public portion of the trip ran March 28-30. Mary Feingold was very visible as the Feingolds were received and entertained by local officials, Democrats and supporters....

Sabato, who regarded Feingold as a long shot for the presidency, said he would have inherent difficulty in capturing a Southern state or borderline conservative state and news of a second divorce "absolutely would not help. It's superficial, but a strong enough reason for the Democrats to look elsewhere."

According to Sabato, the only previously divorced man to win the White House was Ronald Reagan. "One divorce is survivable" for a prospective president, he said. "Two divorces is not, especially when one is unmarried. And Feingold would not jump into another marriage before 2008."
Sounds right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Poliblogger links to this post and has comments on the same topic as my comments, which include some commenters on my commenters.

Can this be spring?

In University Heights, here in Madison today, a statue crouches, mournful somehow despite all the blue flowers, and the storybook house cowers within a cage of leafless trees:

Stops on a spring walk. Stops on a spring walk.

Magnolia buds are willing to begin the effort to pop open:

Stops on a spring walk. Stops on a spring walk.

There are assorted floral manifestations of conventional spring prettiness:

Stops on a spring walk. Stops on a spring walk.

And just as I arrive home, I see this chalking -- maybe a child's interpretation of the spring flower or maybe of the sun:

Stops on a spring walk.

Arborists.

Do you see them? (Click to enlarge.)

Arborists.

There are some jobs you can tell are great fun for the people who do them, even though you wouldn't want to do it yourself. Maybe my job, law professor, is like that for you. For me, it's what these arborists do: climb four stories high in an ancient oak tree and drag along a chain saw to hack off dead branches, which they let crash to the ground.

Arborists.

Here's the photoset.

UPDATE: That's the tree in my backyard, and the arborists were working for me today. I asked one whether he gets scared. He said no and added: "It's the greatest job in the world!"

Blog theme drift.

It looks as though RLC (AKA my ex-husband) is moving toward a new format, not only is he cutting down on the zen koan-ish things, but he's changed the blog subtitle from something about koans to a Jack Kerouac quote:
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy. 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening. 5. Something that you feel will find its own form. --Jack Kerouac, from "Belief and Technique for Modern Prose"

Or is that koan-ish too? I think Kerouac seems like the blogging type. Graphomania.

Anyway, RLC has started to opine on current affairs too, so that's definitely a veer away from the zen. Today, he's got a little spoof of death-obsessed news media.

Summer driving.

Next month, I'm going to finally take my newish Audi TT Coupe for a long drive, going from Madison to Ithaca to pick up my son. I've already done that trip (with a touch of photoblogging here), but would like to drive through some photographable places on the way. The most conspicuous place is Niagara Falls, but I'm into more ordinary places that exemplify the local culture. Plus I'm interested in twisty, scenic highways. Any suggestions? Use the comments.

Later in the summer I want to drive out west. I'm interested in landscapes but also in being able to stop at night in the comfort of very high quality lodging. Twisty, scenic highways and photographable little towns are what I'm looking for.

Links not checked out.

Much as I hate the word "blawg," I'm awed by "Blawg Review #1" at Notes from the (Legal) Underground. I haven't begun to check out all the links. It's Monday morning, the beginning of the second-to-the-last full week of the semester, a week when both my classes -- Constitutional Law I and Federal Jurisdiction -- converge on the ultimate in dreaded law school topics: sovereign immunity. The tricky part for me is teaching the Conlaw students on a 1L level while teaching the Fedjur students on a 3L level. So I must be off, the links unclicked.

The Journal of Law & Liberty.

Have you noticed the new journal at NYU -- my old law school -- "NYU Journal of Law & Liberty"?
The NYU Journal of Law & Liberty provides a forum for the critical discussion of classical liberal legal scholarship, publishing essays and articles on the nature of rules & order, legal philosophy, theories of rights & liberty, constitutional law, jurisprudence, legal history, and historical & contemporary legislation.

Great idea for a new law journal. You can read it online too. Here's the first issue, with a collection of articles on "Hayek and the Law."

The President's iPod.

If Bush only has 250 songs in his iPod, he should get an iPod Shuffle. But maybe he wouldn't care about the fact that there's a much smaller iPod that weighs nothing, since he's focused on exerting himself to the point of burning 1300 calories at a time. The article quotes the observation that "it's interesting" that the President likes the music of artists who don't like him, but actually it's not interesting. It would be interesting if he paid any attention to what old rock stars thought about politics.

Feral cats await news.

Today's the big day, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Cat lovers and bird-loving hunters are girding for battle at tonight's Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings, where citizens across the state will be asked to vote on whether stray cats should be hunted.

The proposal, known as Question 62, asks whether the state Department of Natural Resources should define free- roaming, feral domestic cats as an "unprotected species" that can be shot by anyone with a small-game hunting license. The proposal would affect any cat not under an owner's direct control or without a collar.

The proposal is the suggestion of Mark Smith, a La Crosse hunter who considers feral cats an invasive species. Smith received death threats last month after a Wisconsin State Journal story about his proposal spread across the nation, electrifying pet lovers.

His suggestion was quietly approved last year by the La Crosse County branch of the Conservation Congress. Subsequently, the full Congress, an elected body with the duty to advise the DNR and Legislature on natural resource issues, decided to put the issue before the general public at its spring hearings, which take place at 7 p.m. tonight in each of the state's 72 counties....

Joe Caputo, chairman of the Dane County Conservation Congress, said he hopes tonight's meeting at the Alliant Center is civil.

"It's a good forum to start a debate on this issue. As chair, I'm going to allow people to speak, as long as everybody can be constructive and civil," Caputo said. "But if it turns into a free-for-all, I'll call the question and we will vote on it and move on to the next question. Everybody will have 3 minutes to speak. We're all adults and able to listen...."

It's basically bird lovers against cat lovers here, isn't it? Hunters are not the important factor.

UPDATE: Here's a report on those meetings.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I still haven't seen the results of the vote, but here are some comments from Sissy Willis.

Undergraduate forever.

You've heard of the "perpetual student," but it's usually a grad student, collecting degrees, isn't it? This UW-Whitewater student has more 100 more credits than he needs for a bachelor's degree and he's avoiding graduating. He's going to be on Letterman tonight.

The ecosystem awry?

Things haven't been updating normally over in the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem lately, but there's a reason. N.Z. Bear took some time off to get married. So best wishes to him and Mrs. Bear.

UPDATE: It may not just be Bear's temporary distraction. Poliblog speculates that the ecosystem is actually slowly dying, overburdened by profligate blogging.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bear stops by the comments to this post. Look inside. And I do a separate post about it here.

Premium gas.

What's to stop the gas station owner from just bribing the delivery guy to fill up the premium tank with regular?

April 10, 2005

"Sideways," at last.

As you may remember, back in January, Tonya and I were driving in my car -- L'il Greenie -- on our way to pick up Nina and then to go to see the movie "Sideways." We never got there, however, because I wrecked my car. Now, the movie is out on DVD, so we're getting together tonight to watch it. I've kind of been -- like Camille Paglia -- on strike against Hollywood movies, finding them "absolutely boring," so we'll see how I like this one. I'll let you know, later.

Meanwhile, here's an article in the L.A. Times about how the movie "Sideways" has affected wine sales, hurting merlot and helping pinot noir.

Bill Maher, Camille Paglia.

I just noticed that Bill Maher's HBO show is back. We're watching the first new episode -- from a couple weeks ago -- on HBO On Demand right now. Maher seems to have moved to the right since last season, but the studio audience is still stubbornly all left. They keep applauding loudly for cranky lefty cracks by Richard Belzer and not responding at all to any of the other panelists.

Camille Paglia is on!

What do you think of teachers having sex with their students?

Paglia: The teachers of today are "psychically weak" because the abler women have taken different career paths.

You watch "The Bachelorette."

"I love 'The Bachelorette.' I'm actually on strike against Hollywood movies. I think they've become vapid and artificial. I find them absolutely boring. But 'The Bachelorette' -- I'm riveted by it. I think that show has done wonderfully. It's edited beautifully. It's great escapist fantasy. It's really a kind of primitive, in its own way."

People don't date anymore, they hook up. The cell phone has allowed women to get in touch with their inner slut. What do you think of that?

She's concerned about "the collapse of romance ... the stripping away of the ceremony of courtship." It's going to hurt women in the long run.

What do you think of what's happened to Michael Jackson?

It's "a tragedy." "He's as much a victim of fame as Norma Desmond... I blame the parents of these young boys, who, in effect, sold their children to him."

UPDATE: Watching the second episode of the new season, from a week ago, I see it begins with an announcement that they've filled half the audience with conservatives. Great!

Taxes.

I still haven't done my taxes. I've never done my taxes using a computer program, believe it or not, but I'm thinking of doing it this year. Can anyone tell me what the best software is to use with a Macintosh?

UPDATE: Every year, I think about efiling and I start looking at software and websites, as I've been doing today, and I have a very negative reaction. It's too complicated, I'm afraid of giving my info to a private company, I'm afraid the software won't work, and there seem to be complicated hidden costs. Then I decide I don't want to waste the time figuring out any more things possibly for nothing, and I switch to the paper forms. I this close to deciding in favor of paper again. I'm picturing myself getting started with the software and then encountering problems, and problems in the form of computer problems are irritating in a completely different way. The paper forms are: free, familiar, stable, and tangible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My colleague Gordon Smith has gone back to the paper method! In the comments people are saying I can efile federal taxes free and only pay $50 to file my state tax. Well, I'm doing taxes for three individuals, so that's $150, which doesn't seem cheap at all. Plus, it seems that only some federal taxpayers fit within the IRS free file system, and I'm expecting to find out I'm not one of them. I don't want to get started and then encounter hidden costs. I already find it agitating to do my taxes. Really, as soon as I click on those links that take me away from the official IRS page, I start to feel really nervous! I think it's like the way my mother used to feel about using a computer at all. But I've been happy and comfortable using a computer for twenty years, and I feel threatened by the efiling sites. I also don't do any banking by computer. I guess I don't like computers getting their hands on my money (but I have been buying things on Amazon since it's earliest days).

Looking for alien life on Earth.

Here's a NYT op-ed (about why we should search Earth, not Mars, to find alien life forms) that brings up a question I've been meaning to look for answer to for a long time: why isn't it inconsistent to believe that all the life we know on Earth traces back to a single cell and that other planets that have Earth-like conditions would give rise to life? It seems to me, that if Earth-like conditions get some life-creating cell started, that there should have been many such cells on Earth, starting many different evolutionary lines. Even if in the end, one line became so successful that it rendered the other lines extinct, wouldn't there have been a period in which multiple lines coexisted?

From the op-ed (by astrobiologist Paul Davis):
Genetic sequencing is used to position unknown microbes on the tree of life, but this technique employs known biochemistry. It wouldn't work for organisms on a different tree using different biochemical machinery. If such organisms exist, they would be eliminated from the analysis and ignored. Our planet could be seething with alien bugs without anyone suspecting it.

How could we go about identifying "life as we don't know it"? One idea is to look in exotic environments. The range of conditions in which life can thrive has been enormously extended in recent years, with the discovery of microbes dwelling near scalding volcanic vents, in radioactive pools and in pitch darkness far underground. Yet there will be limits beyond which our form of life cannot survive; for example, temperatures above about 270 degrees Fahrenheit. If anything is found living in even harsher environments, we could scrutinize its innards to see whether what makes it tick is so novel that it cannot have evolved from known life.

10 best rock movies.

Here's the AFI list of the ten best rock movies ever made. (Do I have to say "via Blogdex"? I got the link via Blogdex, but I'm irked at Blogdex for not tracking my blog. I've tried reentering my blog address and even emailing them -- more than once! -- but they never pick up my links. They never answer the email either.)

[CORRECTION: It's not the AFI's list, but a really good list by a music critic. Sorry. The AFI is mentioned in the article, and they do have their lists. This isn't one of them.]

One thing about the list is that the only movie on it I haven't seen is the one they place first, "Almost Famous." I've never cared about seeing that. It's always looked to me to be mainly about how cute Kate Hudson is. But since I don't at all respond to the putative cuteness of Kate Hudson -- not positively anyway -- I've steered clear.

Of the remaining nine, I even have seven on DVD. I don't have "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll," because it's not available on DVD, and I don't have "The Rutles," because frankly, it's not very good. I remember when it first came out. It was just a TV movie. We loved both The Beatles (who were being spoofed) and Monty Python (who did the spoofing), but we could barely sit through it. It just wasn't very funny. The closest thing to funny is that the John character is named Nasty. "The Rutles" is nothing compared to "This Is Spinal Tap."

I looked over my DVDs to see what I'd suggest that wasn't on the list. I have "The Filth and the Fury," but it's not all that great, and "Sid and Nancy" is already on the list and much better. The one I'd suggest is "Nico Icon," and I thought to write that before it occurred to me how underrepresented women are on this list. Women are underrepresented in rock music, of course, but to have the only significant women characters on the list be groupies -- the Kate Hudson character and Nancy Spungen -- is a bit galling, especially considering that one of the greatest of all rock stars is Madonna and she really did make a great movie ("Truth or Dare").

UPDATE: Writing a lot and publishing instantaneously and without an editor, I still work hard at cutting verbosity. I regret missing the last two words of that phrase "the ten best rock movies ever made." How did that idiotic usage get started? There's no possibility of ranking movies that have not been made. I suppose it's an alternative to "of all time." Which is a stupid thing to say about movies generally and rock movies especially.

"Left of the Dial."

Last night, I watched that new HBO documentary about Air America called "Left of the Dial." That is, I watched a lot of it, fell asleep, and woke up during the closing credits. I don't think I fell asleep solely because it was boring, but it was awfully boring. The various radio characters who were the subject of the film never lost their awareness of the camera, so there were no revealing moments. I got really tired of seeing them rushing through hallways and essentially saying "ooh, I'm so nervous" over and over again. Maybe the end segment that I missed was better, and I'll finish watching the movie very soon and do an update. My favorite movies are documentaries -- check my profile -- but HBO does a lot of documentaries that are slapped together from scant footage, with no attention to artistic technique, as if what the movie is about is all that matters.

UPDATE: I tried to finish watching this, but couldn't. More rushing around. Is this going to work? I'm supposed to care because, what, these people are feisty underdogs? It seems to me that they are very successful comedians, yet they never say anything funny in the movie. People launching a business and hot to succeed are not fun to watch, unless there's something quirkily charming about them. I'd rather watch these guys.