September 3, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist dies.

RIP.

ADDED: I am stunned. I can't believe he's gone. He has been so important for so long. It's hard to believe there's a news story capable of overshadowing Katrina. I wonder what Bush will do. Do you think he might elevate Justice Thomas to Chief Justice? Do you think Judge Roberts will be chosen? A new era is upon us. What an effect this man has had! He was one of the greatest Wisconsin citizens ever, born here in Milwaukee, in 1924.

"A least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide."

Reports the NYT:
Some officers officially told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

From the Superintendent of Police Eddie Compass:
"If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don't think you would be too happy either... Our vehicles can't get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes."

Would the NY Police have reacted to adversity that way? Think what they did after 9/11.

IN THE COMMENTS: I want to quote something I wrote in there:
Let me just say that I think my post is too harsh. I understand the pressure these people face. I doubt that I would do better. But I wish there were more stories of heroics after Katrina. I keep thinking of 9/11 because there were so many positive stories to counterweight the horrible then. 9/11 was a story of great evil and great good in human beings. Katrina is more of a story of ordinary things: nature and imperfect people.

Salvation Army.

I see that my BlogAd from TheCapitol.net turned into a Salvation Army ad. That wasn't my doing. They contributed the ad spot they bought from me to the Salvation Army. Very nice! (The Mercy Corps ad is one I put up free.)

Katrina political rhetoric.

Can you imagine what it would be like if the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans were Republicans? Lots of tricky rhetorical twistiness is needed to pull off the blame Bush maneuver. Or — oh hell, why bother? — just blame Bush for everything. After all, the mayor cried. And the governor is all sad-faced. Bush is squaring his jaw and doing that cowboyish walk and talk. Doesn't that make you so mad? He doesn't care!

Katrina and segregation.

Bearing Blog writes about an interview on NPR with Betty Hearn Morrow, a disaster sociologist. (The audio should be available here at 1:00.)
Bizarre. This morning on NPR's Weekend Edition: a sociologist tries to explain to Linda Wertheimer, without using the word "segregation," that the relief workers will be intentionally racially segregating the emergency shelters. I think the link is here.

She's going on about how people want to be with their own "cultural group" and how tensions will be lower that way. This may or may not be true, but what's interesting to me is the linguistic somersaults she's putting herself through to avoid saying "we will segregate the shelters."
Has everyone forgotten about Johnson v. California, a case the Supreme Court issued back in February?
The Supreme Court ruled ... that California must abandon its policy of assigning inmates to racially segregated cells for as long as 60 days when they arrive at new prisons -- unless the state can prove it has no race-neutral way to prevent interracial violence.

A five-justice majority rejected the state's contention that the court should defer to the judgment of the corrections officials who deemed the unwritten policy necessary to prevent members of race-based gangs from turning on one another in two-man cells. The state also argued that its policy affects members of all races equally. The court said California's policy must withstand the same "strict scrutiny" as all other racial classifications.

"We rejected the notion that separate can ever be equal . . . 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, and we refuse to resurrect it today," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in an opinion that was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"When government officers are permitted to use race as a proxy for gang membership and violence without demonstrating a compelling government interest and proving that their means are narrowly tailored, society as a whole suffers," O'Connor added.

[Justice Stevens, writing separately, took an even stronger anti-segregation position.]
I wonder what the civil rights cases coming out of Katrina will look like. If the issue of segregating refugee shelters worked its way up to the Supreme Court, would the Johnson dissenting view prevail?
Justice Clarence Thomas said the majority put concern for the "indignity and stigma of racial discrimination" ahead of inmates' "safety and . . . lives."

In a 28-page dissenting opinion that was nearly twice as long as the majority opinion, Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, said California authorities need latitude to deal with such gangs as the Crips and the Aryan Brotherhood. Its policy, he wrote, "is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests."
John Roberts will have replaced Justice O'Connor (unless something very strange happens), but the Johnson majority would still have five votes. It will be interesting to see what effect transformed microcosmic society of the Court will have on Anthony Kennedy.

"A J-School question."

From Mickey Kaus:
Has the network TV coverage of the N.O. Superdome fiasco a) made the situation seem to be worse than it really was (because TV always focuses on the negative things--the crime, the snafus, the corpses and complaints, etc.) or b) made the situation seem better than it really was (because network TV didn't want to make it look as if a heavily African-American crowd of refugees couldn't behave itself)? ... I was going to guess a) until I read this.
His link is to that BBC story about the 50 British tourists escorted out of the Superdome, which we discussed here yesterday. My concern was with whether the National Guard were taking the problems of white people more seriously than those of black people, which is quite different from what Kaus is asking. He's wondering about which way the journalists are bending things.

Triage.

Rabbi Marc Gellman:
What looks like unfeeling cruelty on the TV screen is most likely the result of hard but decent choices made by people who see exactly what we see, but who, unlike us, are charged with facing the chaos and turning it into hope....

Triage is not a way to decide whom to kill. Triage is a way to decide whom to save so that in the end the most people can be saved. Triage choices are tough, but they are necessary because doing nothing is a choice, and because following the loudest scream is a choice, and because only helping those on television is a choice, but all those choices are driven by impulse and are not supported by coherent moral values. If the resources were unnecessarily limited, and if the triage decisions were made in error we will know in time. The point now is that any finger-pointing must be mollified by a good dose of trust, humility and patience. Just because we see a helicopter on the news flying over a group of victims here does not mean that the helicopter is not following a triage decision to save a group of more needy victims there. Triage is where morality meets reality. It is precisely at times of chaos that morally informed but tough-minded triage decisions must be made, otherwise morality is simply a dilettante’s luxury and a mere intellectual puzzle for the philosophy classroom, but irrelevant on the street.

Comments?

"Any First Amendment decision, right or wrong, will reverberate more readily through the law than a decision made in any other area."

That is what lawprof Seth Chandler discovered, in an elaborate computer-based study of Supreme Court cases, reports The Economist. As a Federal Jurisdiction lawprof, I was especially interested to read this:
He found the most important opinions, at least judged by how many times they were cited, by working out which nodes were likeliest to fall on the shortest paths between two other nodes. Intriguingly, the cases mostly come from an advanced and esoteric subject—the law of federal jurisdiction—that addresses structural features of American government, such as the relationship between the states and the federal government and the relationship between the courts and Congress.

But the federal jurisdiction cases "are not ... the cases that are most tightly bound into the network":
To find the network's so-called main core, Mr Chandler repeatedly filtered out less-connected cases. He found that most of the cases in the main core interpret the American constitution's First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. This, he suggests, means that deciding a free-speech case requires understanding a more complex body of precedents than deciding any other kind of case. By the same token, any First Amendment decision, right or wrong, will reverberate more readily through the law than a decision made in any other area.

Fascinating!

"I have found it personally inspiring in my war on political correctness in academe. "

Says Camille Paglia about Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." But she doesn't think it deserved to be #1 on that list of greatest songs put out by Rolling Stone. That should have been something by the Rolling Stones. The flaw of "Like a Rolling Stone" is "compulsive sneering - an adolescent tic," per Paglia. But, wait, isn't adolescent sneering the point of rock and roll? It's hard to do adolescent sneering well. And once you've done it well, if you try to get past it, John Pareles might pillory you in the New York Times.

Fats Domino.

I see Fats Domino turned up in that last page of The Amsterdam Notebooks: that annoying little tourboat played his music, just one more example of old American popular music playing incongruously in Europe. Fats Domino has also been in the Katrina news. Here's the story of how he told his agent to pray for him because he wasn't going to leave New Orleans. His house flooded to a depth of 20 feet, and he was rescued by boat, but for three days, he failed to call the agent or his daughter, who were frantically searching for him. He'd gone to stay with a friend in Baton Rouge, where he watched the TV reports about the aftermath of the hurricane.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 34.

It's Day 34 of this 35 day project. Tomorrow's the last one. Here's the set thus far.

This page records my venture onto one of those tour boats that show you around the canals. After avoiding them through my entire trip, I yielded to the inevitable on my last day in the city. I loathed the experience.

The guide with the monotone voice had one theme:

Amsterdam Notebook

(Enlarge.)

September 2, 2005

"Maybe, because of this hurricane, we got our press corps back."

Said Bill Maher, just now, on his HBO show, finding what he called a "silver lining." He's interviewing Anderson Cooper who displayed some passion and anger about hurricane relief. Maher's theory is that the hurricane experience will cure reporters of what he thinks is their supine acceptance of what Bush tells them about the war. Cooper distances himself from the question.

Contributions.

Everyone's made a contribution for hurricane relief by now, right? If not, here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross. You can also click on the Mercy Corps blogad over there. (A free ad, in case you're wondering.)

To Loyola and Tulane lawprofs.

Here's a message from the UW Dean's office:
If you know of anyone on the faculty at Loyola or Tulane law schools who would like a place to settle temporarily, the Dean's Office at UW-Madison law school will welcome them here and provide some kind of non-paying visitor/fellow status that will entitle them to access to UW libraries and such. We'll scout for office space in the building (probably squatting in rarely used or shared offices) and make every effort to match them up to folks on our faculty with a guest room. Let them know we are here to help, if they need it. Inquiries can be directed to:

R. Alta Charo, racharo (at) wisc (dot) edu
Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development
University of Wisconsin Law School
5211C Law Building, 975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706

Refugees.

When was the last time Americans were called refugees?

There's an old Woody Guthrie song "Dust Bowl Refugees":
Yes, we ramble and we roam
And the highway that's our home,
It's a never-ending highway
For a dust bowl refugee.
Once drought made Americans refugees. Now it's water.

"The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for."

Andrew Sullivan writes:
Kevin Drum wants to say that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals believe in funding organizations like FEMA or the Corps of Engineers and conservatives don't. Nuh-huh. Real conservatives believe that the state should do a few things that no one else can do - defense, decent public education, police, law and order among the most obvious - and leave the rest to individuals. Funding FEMA and having a superb civil defense are very much part of conservatism's real core. It's when government decides to reshape society, redistribute wealth, socially engineer, and take over functions that the private sector can do just as well that conservatives draw the line. The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for. Bush in this sense is not now and never has been a conservative.
Like Drum, who responds to Sullivan in an update, I don't know what the "real core" of conservatism is. I note that good rhetoric can be squeezed out of such ideas. I'm the real conservative. No, I am. I don't personally care that much about that sort of debate. I don't define myself as a conservative and am continually bemused by the tendency of other people to call me conservative. But I do agree with Sullivan that this is what government is for — especially, I would add, when you're talking about restoring order.

But I note that Sullivan doesn't address the line between the federal government and state and local government. Basic order is the responsibility of the city, which failed catastrophically here. The state also has an important backup role, which it seems to have performed badly. The role of the federal government in funding public projects is more complex. I think Drum is right that liberals are more willing to keep taxes high and fund more projects. And I tend to think the federal government should be blamed for not spending the money to solve the glaring disaster-waiting-to-happen that was New Orleans.

Lawprofs opposed to John Roberts.

Here's the letter.

Katrina politics.

Kos (and presumably other sites) are savaging Bush over Katrina. What's missing is criticism of state and local government. Justified outrage about the response to Katrina is — not surprisingly — merged with the usual partisan politics. On the other side, people are excusing Bush and putting all the blame on state and local government. How hard is it to play it straight here? I'm going to try.

Special treatment?

What is your opinion of the racial dimension of this story? Think carefully before answering.

UPDATE: Sorry I had the link wrong. This is a specific story about how British tourists at the Superdome were treated. NOTE: I'm deleting the comments that unfortunately addressed the wrong question.

"After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering."

World opinion.

"They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."

Said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who strikes me as incredibly inept.
Governor Blanco told ABC she had "no idea" how many people had died, when asked about fatalities because of the inadequacy of the response.

"We're not into the blame game... I've been trying to save lives," she said.

Well, I can see why she wouldn't be into the "blame game." And, you know, it's not always a game. Some people really do deserve blame. The city and the state failed in this one, it would seem. Now it's time — past time — for the feds to do what needs to be done.

"Not acceptable."

I'm glad to see President Bush is beginning to take a tougher stance about the problems with Katrina relief:
"A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected, and I want to thank the people for their efforts," Bush said before leaving the White House for a tour of the devastated areas in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. "The results are not acceptable."

Expressions of hope in the strength of the human spirit only go so far. At some point, they just sound out-of-touch and lame. I want to see better leadership from Bush and think perhaps he's gotten that message. Do more!

"They are so black."

I watched a lot of CNN yesterday. I was watching Wolf Blitzer when he said:
"You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."
Clearly, he meant to say "so many of these people are so poor and so many of them are black," and his instinct for poetic parallelism led him to bumble into an extra "so." But perhaps some people do think his mistake let racism show.

Blitzer's quote mentions Jack Cafferty, and throughout the afternoon, Cafferty had been drawing attention to the way the media has not been talking about the plainly visible fact that nearly all the stranded victims of the flooding in New Orleans are black. Cafferty was discussing Jack Shafer's Slate article. Shafer wrote:
My guess is that Caucasian broadcasters refrain from extemporizing about race on the air mostly because they fear having an Al Campanis moment....

Race remains largely untouchable for TV because broadcasters sense that they can't make an error without destroying careers. That's a true pity. If the subject were a little less taboo, one of last night's anchors could have asked a reporter, "Can you explain to our viewers, who by now have surely noticed, why 99 percent of the New Orleans evacuees we're seeing are African-American?
Blitzer's type of error was far different from Campanis's. He didn't express a specific prejudiced belief about race. He just got tangled up in his own news-prose.

But what were Shafer and Cafferty driving at? What should a reporter be saying about race beyond what the viewer can see for himself, that the victims are mostly black? Shafer writes:
What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"
I don't think that is the most obvious question of the day, though. Consider these: Were the provisions for flood prevention and for evacuation and shelter so inadequate because mostly black people were affected? Would the rescues have come more quickly if the victims were white? Would viewers and reporters express more outrage at the pace of relief if we were seeing white victims?

When one network took time from its Katrina coverage to provide a bogus "update" on the search for Natalie Holloway, all those questions sprang to my mind.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 33.

It's Day 33 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

I visit the Anne Frank House. The sign says no photography. I ask if it's okay to draw, and the woman selling the tickets doesn't quite understand what I'm saying. I realize that if they don't want people taking photographs, they would probably object even more to someone taking the time to stand there making a drawing. I say never mind. If someone tells me not to draw, I'll stop, I decide, but I'm not going to seek out a ban. There isn't a no drawing sign. I feel guilty and clandestine the whole time I'm there.

But, in fact, it's early in the morning, and it isn't crowded at all. I have a long time alone in Anne Frank's bedroom. I make this drawing of the pictures on her wall. She's a kid interested in pop culture — movies — Greta Garbo. "Ninotchka" is a new movie that she's excited about.

Amsterdam Notebook

(Enlarge.)

I feel I'm doing something wrong, drawing these things, absorbed in one girl's interest in the pop culture of long ago— ephemera, preserved under plexiglas.

I find myself noticing everything that is incongruent with the suffering of the Holocaust: the ornate toilet, the Shelley Winters Oscar, the misconceived book covers. I collect a variety of things on one page:

Amsterdam Notebook

(Enlarge.)

September 1, 2005

Admitting Tulane and Loyola students to the UW Law School.

Here is our official announcement. There are some significant limitations — you have to be a Wisconsin or Minnesota resident, you must be 2L or 3L, and you have to pay tuition — but this is the offer [ADDED: I note that nonresident 2Ls and 3Ls might be admitted]:
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LAW SCHOOL
Madison, Wisconsin
www.law.wisc.edu

We are prepared to admit students from the J.D. programs of Tulane and Loyola – New Orleans as visiting students for the Fall 2005 semester, subject to the conditions below. Our classes begin on Tuesday, September 6, although we recognize that some affected students will be unable to arrive on campus by that date.

Second- and Third-Year Students: We will admit as a visiting student any student who is a resident of Wisconsin or Minnesota (with whom Wisconsin shares tuition reciprocity). We will consider applications from students who are residents of other states, on a space available basis, if there are special reasons for them to be in Madison, such as the opportunity to reside with friends or family.

We will accept the students’ representation that they are in good standing at their home schools. Transfer of the credits earned at Wisconsin will require the approval of their home schools, and at present there remain some questions as to the circumstances under which Tulane and Loyola may grant that approval, particularly as to second-year students.

First-Year Students: Until we receive clearer guidance from Tulane or Loyola, we are not prepared to consider first-years on a visiting-student basis. We deeply sympathize with the plight of the first-year students at those schools, but also recognize that transferring credit for visiting-student work during the first year presents special issues for the home school. If at some time in the very near future either Tulane or Loyola chooses to grant that approval, we will follow the same residency guidelines as listed above. Until this issue is resolved, students who meet those residency guidelines are free to sit in on our first-year classes.

Tuition: All visiting students will be required to pay tuition. For residents of Wisconsin and Minnesota that tuition will be at the appropriate in-state level. For non-residents, the University administration is presently exploring whether partial credit may be given for tuition paid to the student’s home school or other reductions from the full rate of out-of-state tuition may be available.

Contact information: Please direct your inquiries to Michael A. Hall, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid -- mahall2@wisc.edu; 608-262-5914.

20 countries have offered Katrina aid.

It's reported here that offers of aid have come from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organisation of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

This, despite President Bush's statement:
"I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

Did you notice Venezuela on that list?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the United States, offered to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area.

The State Department did not comment on Venezuela's offer but several officials smiled at the gesture from Mr Chavez, who yesterday called Mr Bush a "cowboy" who failed to manage the disaster.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, a close Chavez ally, led a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of Katrina in parliament on today. The parliament then returned to normal business with a resolution attacking Mr Bush over the Iraq war.

"We pee on the floor. We are like animals."

"Said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry." Reported in the L.A. Times:
In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

What plan did this city have for evacuation of the poor? They've always known this could happen. Only a small fraction of the people who needed shelter got to the Superdome, and the Superdome was in no way adequate to house them. So there was no rational plan whatsoever, was there?

Offering homes to the Katrina homeless.

On Craigslist.

"What is going on in the United States?

James Ridgeway writes in the Village Voice:
Why won’t Bush take decisive action in the Hurricane Katrina disaster and send in the military? He has control of the world’s mightiest military machine—thousands of planes, trucks, boats, expertly trained men and women. Where are these people? How can the National Guard be so close to providing help, as the public is told, yet still there are people dying on the sidewalks of a major city?

No excuses. Just do it. I'm tired of the talk. It's all very nice that people are raising money, but the military should be there, saving lives. What is going on?
Fights and trash fires broke out at the hot and stinking Superdome and anger and unrest mounted across New Orleans on Thursday, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured in to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina's wake as looting, shootings, gunfire, carjackings and other lawlessness spread.

That brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest military response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.

Where are they? People are dying!

Luxuriating in pain.

Times are too troubled for performance art like this:
Tattoo artist Lea Smith will prick [artist Mary] Coble's skin to form the names of hate crime victims from the nation's gay, bisexual and transgender communities....

Once the tattooist etches a name (she won't use ink), blood will well on Coble's skin. Then Smith will press paper against the welts to make mirror-image prints of the first names. As the evening progresses, her prints will wallpaper the gallery with victims' names written in blood.
With ordinary people suffering in New Orleans (and elsewhere), who should care about an artist voluntarily taking on pain for show?

Which is greater, the pain Coble will suffer or her self-indulgence? Her devotion to the anti-hate crimes cause or her devotion to her career advancement?

Investigating the Piano Man

The BBC reports:
The patient at the centre of the "Piano Man" row should be forced to return to the UK to answer claims his condition was a hoax, the local MP has said.... Dartford MP Howard Stoate said the trust should get its care costs back if he was lying. The hospital dismissed this, saying Mr Grassl needed care.

"He recently electrified the United States."

And now he's got a book. And an actress. And he's coming to Madison.

This just came in the email:
JANE FONDA introduces antiwar British MP GEORGE GALLOWAY
Sunday September 18 at 7pm
Wisconsin Union Theatre • Memorial Union • 800 Langdon St.

Tickets: $20 • Students $10 : Sales limited to first 1300
Ticket sales begin: Tuesday September 6th at 11:30am

Memorial Union Theater Box Office Hours:
Monday-Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: noon - 5:00 p.m.

George Galloway is Respect party MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in East London. He recently electrified the United States with his appearance at a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on May 17, when he turned the proceedings into a condemnation of the war in Iraq. CNN's Wolf Blitzer described Galloway's speech in the Senate as "a blistering attack on US senators rarely heard" in Washington.

Galloway's new book is Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington (The New Press) and will be published and timed for national release in bookstores in conjunction with the tour.

Jane Fonda - actress and outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam - will present her views on the occupation of Iraq and introduce Mr. Galloway.

National Tour sponsored by: The New Press, International Socialist Review, Center for Economic Research and Social Change, the National Council of Arab Americans

Madison Co-Sponsors: The Havens Center; The Progressive; The Capital Times

New Orleans, 2025.

The tourist experience, envisioned.

"Senators rarely grow in office. Usually they just get more childish and egomaniacal!"

Says Mickey Kaus. He's talking about Biden, but I wonder if it's true as a broad proposition. I'm not too fond of Senators myself. It's been widely noted that they almost never win presidential elections — and they all seem to think they deserve to be President. What is it about being a Senator?

Helping students from schools affected by Katrina.

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is taking steps to assist Wisconsin residents studying at colleges and universities closed by the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Katrina....

The university will attempt to accommodate students from institutions that have been officially closed by hurricane damage, should they want to study in Madison. The university will assist students in several sets of distinct circumstances.
Info at the link.

"We are out here like pure animals. We don't have any help."

That's a description of conditions around the Superdome. Inside the flooded city, they've stopped boat rescues because of violence aimed at the rescuers.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

"Why do you have to sit there and listen to less qualified people ask you repetitive questions when you can't go to the bathroom or whatever?"

Well, you just do. Judge Roberts prepares.

"Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq."

David Sanger of the NYT analyzes the Bush response to Katrina and compares it to his response to 9/11:
Not since he sat in a Florida classroom as the World Trade Center burned a thousand miles away has President Bush faced a test quite like the one he returned to Washington to confront this afternoon.

After initially stumbling through that disorienting day almost exactly four years ago, Mr. Bush entered what many of his aides believe were the finest hours of his presidency. But unlike 2001, when Mr. Bush was freshly elected and there was little question that the response would include a military strike, Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq....

"The great thing about this president is that he doesn't try to use tragedy to gain immediate attention for himself," said Bob Martinez, a former governor of Florida who has endured his share of hurricanes and other disasters. "He talks to those with knowledge, and then he acts."

But now, he said, "there needs to be a powerful message to the country to energize the help," a message Mr. Bush plans to amplify, his aides say, when he visits the stricken areas, probably Friday or Saturday. Mr. Martinez noted that "the risk is that there is sometimes a big disconnect between you when you speak and when bottles of water end up in people's hands."

That may be a more complicated problem in this disaster, veterans of such operations warn, than it was after 9/11. Mr. Allbaugh noted that for all the horror of that day, the immediate damage was confined to "16 acres in New York" and part of the Pentagon, and "here you have hundreds of thousands of square miles" of misery. And the problems in the region will vary tremendously, from caring for the newly homeless in New Orleans to wiped-out ports along the coast.
We all need to hope for Bush to succeed in this. But then we all need to hope for him to succeed in Iraq. As with Iraq, there will be hyenas howling at every mistake, who will drive the rest of us crazy by seeming as though they hate Bush so much that they love when things go badly. I realize they can't really think that way — can they? — but they do drive us crazy by seeming like they do.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

UPDATE: And, no, I didn't misspell "mistake" intentionally to see if I could make hyenas howl as an object lesson. I just tried to change "misstep" to "mistake" at the last minute. Sorry for the distraction!

Stamps, Acme products.

Here's a set of stamps that were exchanged at an illustrators' conference. Each stamp is like a business card for an artist. I found that via Drawn!, the illustration blog. Also found through Drawn!: all the Acme products the Coyote ever used.

"The sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis."

Peggy Noonan on the looters:
A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.

There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want....

If this part of the story grows--if cities on the gulf come to seem like some combination of Dodge and the Barbarian invasion--it's going to be bad for our country. One of the things that keeps us together, and that lets this great lumbering nation move forward each day, is the sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis, that the fabric holds, that under duress it is American heroism and altruism that take hold and not base instincts born of irresponsibility, immaturity and greed....

If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they'd stop it.
Let me quote this commenter from one of yesterday's threads on this blog:
I work in New Orleans East. I try to help families there. I've recieved telephone death threats from people I couldn't help. I've known children whose father had been shot. People who moved after they had been held up at gun-point. The list goes on. You can't say that the hurricane is the only root of this problem. Many of the thugs running around the city now, were thugs before Katrina as well. This just gave them an opportunity to turn more of the city into the lawless chaos they tend to drag with them where ever they go. I pray for the innocents who lived in fear of them before the storm and especially those who live in fear of them now. They must be stopped.
Most people are decent and brave in times of crisis — and in ordinary times as well. People suffer routinely and inconspicuously in ordinary times. Now we see those ordinary problems magnified and on television. While we're looking and feeling moved to help the victims in New Orleans, we ought to make a note to remember how much people living in that city and other cities have to struggle with violence as part of their lives even when no one is paying attention and thinking about doing anything to help them.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

Beyond the physical suffering.

Right now we are focused on the physical suffering caused by Katrina.

Monty Loree is talking about the financial problems a million people will have as their credit is ruined as they default on bill payments.

I heard someone on television last night talking about those who depend on government checks that they receive on the first of the month. Because Katrina came at the end of a month, many people who live from check to check were completely out of money when it hit. They cannot get to the new money they stood to receive today.

UPDATE: A reader emails:
I wonder if American Express, for example, would be willing to let people donate their accumulated Amex Points (I'm sure there are similar programs with some other cards) to hotel chains which agree to provide housing at a discount or even free. I'm thinking of Amex because, one, there are a lot of better-off people who use these cards all the time and have great backlogs of points which can be used for all sorts of items AND HOTEL STAYS (we have bunches of points, for example, which we have been banking for a vacation since I made the decision to stay home with my child and thus stopped consulting full-time--and traveling, using Amex). Remember, Amex runs a travel service utilized by MANY corporate travelers--and corporations have subcontracted travel services for business to Amex. Perhaps Amex could help coordinate with the many hotel chains with which it works (and has discount arrangements, even before you get to the points issue).

I'm not trying to put the finger on Amex, by the way; I know there are other similar programs. It's just that I'm more familiar with how that one works, and that I know that particular company works with other major corps.

Many consultants, business employees, and other road warriors are ALSO likely to have free-stays banked at various hotel chains, as well. I wonder if these could be donated, and if so, how people could go about this.

Finally, it's good for people to remember that MANY companies, on an ongoing basis, have charitable-giving matching-fund programs. MANY people don't know this ... so they might want to check with their company's benefit manager, or whatever. My husband works for a major corporation which has this program in place, and we are mostly going to donate through that avenue, just because of the dollar-for-dollar match.

To the New Orleans law students.

Here is the Tulane Post-Hurricane Blog, and here is the Loyola Post-Hurricane Blog. Please know that there are a lot of people in law schools around the country who care about you and are trying to think of ways to help you. Those two blogs will serve as a way to communicate. Thanks to Eric Muller for setting them up.

UPDATE: Here's the official Tulane Law School site, which Tulane students need to use. Go there and sign up for their email list.

Katrina.

It's hard to fathom the suffering in New Orleans. I spent yesterday evening watching the TV news, seeing weary, confused people wading through water, trying to figure out where to go, how to begin to deal with their problems. One woman who walked down the Interstate held a feverish five-day-old baby. I heard someone say that hundreds of people were still on rooftops waiting to be rescued. An old man cried when a reporter asked him if he had to swim to save himself.

What of all the people without water? What about the sick and the elderly and trapped somewhere? What about those who are injured and inside buildings where they cannot signal for help? Will we not eventually discover many dead bodies of men and women — of children — who wondered for days if anyone would ever get around to looking inside their place?

It's hard to think about the city of New Orleans gone. One expert opined that only a small central core of it will be rebuilt.

I heard the word "refugees" over and over again. It's hard to believe this is happening in our country. How can there be so many people suffering and in need of help, waiting for days for the most basic aid — in America?

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 32.

It's Day 32 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

Here are some observations about fashion:

Amsterdam Notebook

And here's a running list I kept of names of stores and restaurants that amused me:

Amsterdam Notebook

August 31, 2005

"He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace."

Sex Pistol John Lydon, venting about Bono.

950 Iraqis Die in Stampede.

No bomb is needed to kill hundreds of people once they are gathered in a big crowd. Merely yelling that there is a bomb is devastatingly effective. It happened in Baghdad, but it could happen here or anywhere that a crowd gathers in a tight space.
"They started crashing into each other, no one would look back or give a hand to help the ones who had fallen. People started running on top of each other, and everyone was trying to save himself."

Rapex!

We've got you now, rapists! (Via Metafilter.)
A South African inventor unveiled a new anti-rape female condom on Wednesday that hooks onto an attacker's penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.

"Nothing has ever been done to help a woman so that she does not get raped and I thought it was high time," Sonette Ehlers, 57, said of the "rapex," a device worn like a tampon that has sparked controversy in a country used to daily reports of violent crime....

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man by surgery, which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.
Who hasn't vaguely envisioned this invention?

I think just knowing some women are wearing these things ought to be enough to deter rapists, a bit like the way some folk's having guns in the house lowers the rate of burglary and benefits all of us.

UPDATE: Complete your ensemble with the "No Contact Jacket."

A Ten Commandments monument survives judicial scrutiny.

The Eighth Circuit, applying the newest Supreme Court cases, says yes to a 40-year-old, stone monument in Plattsmouth. Dissenting judges objected to the lack of a "contextualizing presence of other messages or some indicia of historical significance."

I said it last June.
The rule is: old things carved in stone should be left alone.

"Dead people and live ones mix with bugs and rats in the green, fetid water and the August heat."

The great American city we have loved, New Orleans "is gone: buried beneath the sea, fouled by the waters its levees, canals, and pumps held back over the centuries."

Telephone call.

I am calling for a national coalition of law professors looking for signatures for a letter opposing the nomination of John Roberts...

That would not be me. I support him.

"We have an American refugee situation on our hands."

Said a Red Cross spokeswoman about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
"We have a mass migration of people who are homeless. It is an incredible thing to see and experience, and I don't think any of us in our lifetimes ever thought we would see anything like this."

Why do so many Americans favor teaching creationism?

A new poll shows that almost two-thirds of Americans think public schools ought to teach children about creationism when they teach evolution:
The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
I don't think it's so much that Americans are anti-science as that they are much less committed to scientific values than to the values of free speech and open dialogue. This is not not as antithetical to science as it may seem at first to people who strongly believe (as I do) that science classes should contain only bona fide science. There ought to be better social studies classes to teach students about the relationship between religion and science.

Looting and charges of racism.

On Metafilter, one member thought he'd found shocking evidence of racism in reporting the news about looting in New Orleans, and many members spoke up to express their outrage. Saner posters stated the plain facts about how Yahoo News collects the stories it displays, which should have led to a massive "never mind," but didn't.

Pictures of looting are stirring up emotions, and I hope these reactions won't take an ugly racial tone. I haven't read much of the commentary yet, but I see that Michelle Malkin is expressing strong outrage against the looters and comparing it to urban riots of the past. The big difference, of course, is that people are stranded in the water in New Orleans and elsewhere. In a riot, you only need the people to calm down. Today, people are struggling to survive, and I would not blame them for taking food and things to drink.

If the news reports show people carrying away televisions and the like, however, a lot of overheated judgments will be made. But it is hard to imagine how terrible the people there must feel. It's almost an invasion of privacy to photograph people doing bad things when they are in such a state. But we've got to also feel sympathy for the rest of the people who are stranded there and frightened by a breakdown in order.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin emails that her "outrage is particularly directed at people looting non-vital items," and says "I have sympathy for moms taking diapers from CVS stores. I have no compassion whatsoever for idiots of all colors stealing Dyson vacuum cleaners and diamond earrings."

Katrina talk, Bush talk.

I haven't gone looking — not very far, at least — but I'm expecting to see the talk about Katrina turn into talk about Bush. There's already been the early blaming: try to find ways to see any problem that may emerge as Bush's fault. On the other side: Bush will be praised for whatever response he takes. Bush's critics will accuse him of exploiting the disaster for photo ops and political advantage. There should be lots of squawking about the stories that are getting overshadowed. Sheehan! Plame! The women's names upon whom such hopes rested are drowned out by the louder name Katrina.

And you know Bush's people are deviously orchestrating that.

UPDATE: A reader notes that Kevin Drum has also come out against politicizing Katrina. But then there are all those comments on his posts (which he can't control). The link in my original post goes to Daily Kos, and I just went over and read some of the hundreds of comments there. Really awful! Well, I'm glad there are blogs with comments right there for all of us to see the kind of things that would otherwise be said outside of our hearing. Funny that the people making the comments don't seem aware of how they look to those outside their insular group.

Anyway, you don't need me to tell you, but Drum's post makes me feel that I should add to the chorus and say it would be good to make a contribution to hurricane relief. Glenn Reynolds has posted what I'm going to assume is a good set of links for that purpose.

"A Marxist Perspective on Darkness on the Edge of Town."

An academic conference on Bruce Springsteen. There are things less cool.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 31.

It's Day 31 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) This is the page of the notebooks that has the least to do with Amsterdam. I was just watching TV, "Oprah," to be exact. Gail Sheehy was on, pushing her then-new book about menopause, "The Silent Passage." Looking back on this drawing, I notice it's lot like blogging. I copy out a (near) quote that happens to strike me and then make my own comment. Sheehy was strongly pushing hormone replacement therapy back then, and subsequent reports about that were very negative. I was struck by the fact that it was testosterone that women needed to preserve their sexual feelings.

Amsterdam Notebook

(Enlarge.)

August 30, 2005

"You should have seen the cars floating around us. We had to push them away when we were trying to swim."

Biloxi.

New Orleans.

Sorry I don't know how to link to this properly, but go to CNN.com and click on "Watch: Screams for help," an emotional and detailed description of the efforts at rescuing people trapped in flooded New Orleans. [LATER: Look for the "unanswered screams" video here.]

NOTE: This is not a link to a video of people screaming for help. It is a phoned in report from the CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve, who is very articulate. The video shown is of property damage, not of human beings suffering.

UPDATE: I'm watching a lot of news shows tonight, seeing all the people being rescued from rooftops. How many people are out there, stranded and afraid, unrescued as night has fallen? How many people are spending the night on rooftops, waiting for the daylight before they have a chance of being helped? So sad!

A word of advice to Bill Maher and Jon Stewart.

You need to restock your audiences. It's too packed with fans who are inflating your sense of how smart and funny you are. They may love you, but they are ruining you. And they are making you seem like a rude host to your guests, even when all you're doing is debating with them.

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of comments! What's happening in there? Oh, people just got going...

Interview with a "Six Feet Under" writer.

Television Without Pity has an interview with Jill Soloway, one of the "Six Feet Under" writers.

Re the pregnant Rachel Griffith:
Before we found out Rachel was pregnant there were three pregnancies [planned for the final season]. And the middle one was, I think, a second miscarriage, and then the third one was gonna be, like, some of these problems and an abortion. And it was just going to be a lot more complicated...

And, uh, she did not want to play an abortion scene. She was willing to play the first miscarriage, because, you know, certain stuff. It was early on. But she didn't want to be playing anything involving the death of the baby.
I'm surprised actors have so much say in what happens to their character.

I'm not surprise to read that lack of money to build a set might lead to a decision to make a fact about a character be that she lives in her car.

I'm not surprised that TV writers read and obsess over Television Without Pity.

I like this, about the NYT TV critic Virginia Heffernan:
I look and I'm just like, What is she saying? "This breathes sincerity and authenticity" and I don't know what she's talking about, you know? I really don't. I don't know if you read those things that she writes in the New York Times, but she also writes really sort of complicated, interesting, you know, academic-y foundation takes on the show. I mean, I can barely follow what Heather's talking about? I like what she's talking about and I get it and sometimes she goes into tangents where I go, "I have no idea what you're talking about anymore." And, with Virginia Heffernan I have no idea. I mean, I cannot make heads or tails of her commentary at all. She seems very, very, very smart. I mean, I read stuff like that and I go, "Wow, this person's brilliant. Don't know what they're talking about."
Ha, ha. I love Heffernan, though, let me say.

Soloway promotes her book, "Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants," which she characterizes as herself ranting away. She lets us know that her voice is basically Claire. So, with that, I click on the link and order the book.

Must — should — the man witness childbirth?

Here's an interesting piece in Slate about how harshly people reacted to the news that witnessing childbirth destroyed some men's sexual attraction to the woman who had given birth. Since men can't control whether they feel sexual desire or not, shouldn't women want to hear what the real facts are, even if those facts interfere with the sentimental birthing room dreams they have in mind? It's much more important to preserve your future sex life then to try to live up to some idealized picture of childbirth. If having your partner in the room really does endanger that sex life, women should think clearly about whether they want to take that risk.
For most of human history, of course, men didn't go anywhere near women in labor, and any expectation that they would is relatively new: In Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, set in the 1940s, a father is sent off to the bar by the household women so he doesn't have to hear his wife's cries of pain. This changed in the 1960s, when a doctor named Robert Bradley put power in patients' hands, reducing the number of Caesarean sections and episiotomies he performed and playing up natural ways of making childbirth less painful. One method, he discovered, was to invite the husband in to have him talk to his wife—a practice popularized in the 1970s. Putting husbands in the delivery room not only coincided with feminism but was intimately wrapped up with the natural childbirth movement and its effort to see the modern body in a more holistic fashion. (Bradley himself was no feminist; he told husbands to enforce a natural-foods diet he designed so that their "statuesque" wives wouldn't pack on pounds.)

The idea that childbirth was natural and therefore beautiful wasn't actually embraced by all feminists. Shulamith Firestone insisted that modern feminism shouldn't celebrate childbirth, but hope that science could soon render women's role in it obsolete. She writes, "Pregnancy is barbaric. … The husband's guilty waning of sexual desire, the woman's tears in front of the mirror at eight months are all gut reactions, not to be dismissed as cultural habits. ... Three thousand years ago women giving birth 'naturally' had no need to pretend that pregnancy was a real trip, some mystical orgasm."

Today's women aren't celebrating pregnancy as a mystical orgasm, but they do see having the father in the delivery room as a necessary component of a healthy marriage, one in which both partners contribute equally to collective partnership.
The ancient tradition of excluding the man might well have reflected deep understanding of sexual happiness. The 1970s feminist idea had some intellectual interest to it, but always seemed off and ideological. And now that view has morphed into the bland present day concern for healthiness.

I'd say get the facts and make a sound decision for yourself. And don't focus on the childbirth experience so much. It's like focusing on the wedding and not the actual married life that will follow. The wedding is not the marriage, and the childbirth is not the family. The real happiness is to be found (or lost) in marriage and family, not in weddings and childbirth. Real life is lived in all those ordinary days, not on those big occasions that seem to matter so much when you're starting out.

UPDATE: A reader writes:
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is emphatically not set in the 1940s; I know you didn't write the paragraph which contained that error, but merely excerpted it. However, I thought you might wish the correction, just the same.

Betty Smith's classic novel opens, if I recall correctly, in 1912 (although it flashes back to a number of years earlier) and extends into--again, if I recall correctly) the early '20s, or at least post-World War I). There was, however, a movie made from the book, and that movie dates to the mid-1940s, so that's perhaps the source of the wrong date.

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" .... aaahhhhhh. That happens to be one of the books which had the greatest impact in my childhood (I first read it around 1970 at about age 9--yeah, yeah, I'm one of those precocious readers--and have re-read it many, many times since) in more ways than could possibly interest you, from history to the developing writer's early mind to issues of class, religion, and poverty etc. Most special to me is that the copy I first read--and still read, despite its falling-apart state--belonged to my maternal great-grandfather, whom I never met, but who belonged to a potato-famine Irish-immigrant family that settled in--you guessed it--Williamsburg, Brooklyn and lived in poverty there before, and during a good chunk of, the time depicted in the book (my own grandmother started school about 10 years after Francie would have, but under depressingly similar circumstances). His annotations in margins and general underlinings are priceless to me.

Sorry for the digressions, but it was so lovely to see this book, mostly unknown to my contemporaries, pop up in your blog! Even in the unexpected context in which it was raised...

"The major problem is one of who is agreeing, not what they have agreed on. "

NYU lawprof Noah Feldman, who was a senior adviser for constitutional law to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has an important op-ed in the NYT today:
THE completion of Iraq's draft constitution, which will be submitted to the people for ratification in October, should have been an occasion for celebration. As most Americans are aware, it has not been. But while much of the criticism has focused on such areas as women's rights, federalism and the role of Islam, such concerns are largely misplaced. In fact, the text strives to balance democratic equality with the Islamic values that are popular with many Iraqi voters, and it sketches a workable if vague compromise on power-sharing between the center and the federal regions.

The major problem is one of who is agreeing, not what they have agreed on. The flawed negotiations of recent weeks, driven at breakneck pace by American pressure to meet an unnecessary deadline, failed to produce an agreement satisfactory to the Sunni politicians in the talks. It appears that the draft will be put before the people with their strong disapproval. The paradoxical result is a looming disaster: a well-conceived constitution that, even if ratified, may well fail to move Iraq toward constitutional government.

"He's a home wrecker. He's trying to rip a father away from a child, and rip a husband away from a wife."

So says a 22-year-old man who married the 14-year-old girl he impregnated. He's being prosecuted for statutory rape. (To marry, they crossed from Nebraska, where one must be 17, to Kansas, where 12 is considered old enough.)
[The prosecutor's] office has been deluged with letters, the vast majority angrily urging that he leave the couple alone. One, from a woman named Patricia, said, "I'm sure your time can be better spent putting away real criminals."

Why shouldn't this man be prosecuted? You could say, he's been selected for prosecution not for his sexual act — which is far more common than statutory rape prosecutions — but for committing to marriage — which is a conspicuous, public act. The linked article, on the front page of the NYT, seems fairly sympathetic to the man, but I don't see it.
Matthew and Crystal met when she was 8, and he played video games with her half-brother. Mr. Koso, who was in special education classes for attention deficit disorder and other learning problems, graduated from high school in 2001 and joined the Marine Corps, but left after four months on a medical discharge. When Crystal's mother had no car, Mr. Koso drove her to the doctor and the grocery store.

"He's always been friends with people that were younger," said Peggy Koso, recalling her son at age 5 or 6 passing hours with building blocks and racing cars with a neighbor of 3 or 4. "His own peers never accepted him."

The two became a couple, according to Crystal's "Happy Anniversary" drawing on the wall, on Sept. 17, 2003. She was 12 and he 20. Exactly a year later, Crystal's mother, Cecilia Guyer, who is divorced from her father, filed for a restraining order against Mr. Koso, writing of him: "He's too old for early teens. He needs to stay away."
It seems that if Crystal were 10 years older, she would not find Koso to be an adequate partner, and that Koso himself lacks the ability to deal with the adult woman Crystal will be in 10 years. The fact that she may have loved him the whole time is no excuse. Surely, many pedophiles are capable of getting children to fall in love with them.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 30.

It's Day 30 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Not much happening on this page. Just walking around, hanging out in a café. I notice and draw a small building the purpose of which I don't understand. It has potted plants on top and a little door, but no windows. In the café, I jot down the first names of the Motown singers I hear them playing.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

August 29, 2005

An eerie wall.

This odd mural is a familiar sight in Madison, Wisconsin.

Madison.

Madison.

Madison.

"The Comeback."

Did you enjoy the second-to-the-last episode of "The Comeback"? There were some richly satisfying moments this week, especially regarding my favorite villain, Paulie G. And I loved Valerie's song in the end, after she cast off the "plain vanilla" style.

Hoping for better written Supreme Court opinions.

Stories like this, about John Roberts's attention to editing and writing style, have inspired me to hope for far better written Supreme Court opinons in the future. I've also gotten in touch with depth of my displeasure over the writing in Supreme Court opinions, which it is my job to read and to make other people read.

From the linked article:
Careful wording is "part of his approach to the practice of law," said David G. Leitch, the general counsel to the Ford Motor Company, who overlapped with Mr. Roberts at the law firm Hogan & Hartson and at the Justice Department in the 1990's. Something as minor as punctuation style could cause Mr. Roberts to demand revisions; longer debates "over the way certain sentences were phrased and the possible unintended meaning of certain phraseology" were a hallmark of his style, Mr. Leitch said.

"Judge Roberts always viewed it as a point of pride that we really strived to make everything in our briefs perfect," Mr. Leitch said. "Not that we always achieved it. But he was a stickler for everything, from spacing errors to the formation of quotation marks to grammar, and to the actual construction of arguments. So it was definitely an intense process."

In Judge Roberts's view, he said, "your brief writing conveys not only your argument to the court, but it also conveys a sense of your credibility and the care with which you put together your case."

The writing of lawyers does indeed convey an important message about the quality of their argument to the court. By the same token, the writing of judges conveys an important message to the lawyers and others who are thinking about how much to respect the work of the courts.

The bloated, flabby, obfuscatory writing, strewn across multiple opinions has wearied readers for two decades. Justice Roberts will bring us crisp phrasing, clear reasoning, and single opinions for the Court — I hope.

"This is a living document, as all constitutions are."

Here's an interesting part of Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" interview with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad:
Mr. Russert: Mr. Ambassador, let me read for you and our viewers this morning something that exists in this draft Constitution. Islam is the official religion of the state, and it is a main source for legislation. No law can be passed that contradicts the fixed principles of Islam's rulings.

Do you believe that the 1800 American men and women who have died in Iraq died for the creation of another Islamic republic in the Middle East?

Amb. Khalizad: No. Those were exactly the same words that were in the constitution of Afghanistan which we celebrated. And also do not forget that immediately after what you just read, there are two other requirements that the draft mentions, one, that no law can be against the practices of democracy and also that no law can be in violation of the human rights enshrined in that constitution.
The requirement of being consistent with three such different sources of law is quite amazing. What happens when there is a conflict? There is no principle of hierarchy as far as I can tell, so is there a requirement that the three things be harmonized? If there is, won't it be necessary to distort and reshape to make the three things fit together?
Amb. Khalizad: What you have, Tim, is a new consensus between the universal principles of democracy and human rights and Iraqi traditions in Islam. And in that, it is an agreement, a compact between the various communities and it sets a new paradigm for this part of the world, a reconciliation, a consensus between the various forces and tendencies that are at work here in Iraq.

Mr. Russert: As you well know, some secular Iraqi leaders disagree with you in terms of the effect of the so-called Islamic influences. This is how The New York Times reported it on Wednesday. "Secular Iraqi leaders complained that the country's nearly finished constitution lays the groundwork for the possible domination of the country by Shiite Islamic clerics, and that it contains specific provisions that could sharply curtail the rights of women. The secular leaders said the draft contains language that not only establishes the primacy of Islam as the country's official religion, but appears to grant judges wide latitude to strike down legislation that may contravene the faith. To interpret such legislation, the constitution calls for the appointment of experts in Shariah, or Islamic law, to preside on the Supreme Federal Court. The draft constitution, these secular Iraqis say, clears the way for religious authorities to adjudicate personal disputes like divorce and inheritance matters by allowing the establishment of religious courts, raising fears that a popularly elected Islamist-minded government could enact legislation and appoint judges who could turn the country into a theocracy. The courts would rely on Shariah, which under most interpretations grants women substantially fewer rights than men."

Amb. Khalizad: Well, let me say several things on each of the points that you've raised. One with regard to women first. This constitution, this draft, recognizes equality between men and women before the law and disallows any discrimination. It also disallows violence in the family. It encourages women's political participation. And it grants a 25 percent minimum women's representation in the National Assembly.

With regard to family law, which is a controversial article, it recognizes the freedom of choice, that people can choose which law, whether secular or religious, can--will govern their personal matters having to do with marriage, divorce, inheritance. This is no different than what is the case in Israel.

With regard to the role of the Supreme Court, I think your comments reflected an earlier draft. The current draft does not establish a separate constitution review court but gives the responsibility to the Supreme Court here and it doesn't call for Shariah judges. It calls for experts in law, which includes expertise in Islamic law, but also expertise with regard to democracy and human rights, to be represented in the Supreme Court and it allows the next parliament to legislate on that.

Mr. Russert: So if a Shiite man decides to bring his wife to a Shiite religious court, you believe that woman will have equal protection?

Amb. Khalizad: Well, first, exactly how this will be done will be regulated by law. What the constitution says is that it's freedom of choice. And it directs the next legislator to regulate. What I've heard from the conversations that we've had with various members of the commission is the concern that if someone was of strong faith and wanted to go to a religious court or to get an affair settled, he should not or she should not be disallowed from doing that by the state. But how they will do it exactly, that will depend on the legislature.
That doesn't answer the question of which party gets its way! What if one wants secular court and the other wants religious court? That concept of "choice" is opaque. Again, there seems to be an interest in including the things people care about without committing to which principle supersedes another. The answer seems to be that the legislature will determine these important details. The ambassador continues, suggesting as much:
Amb. Khalizad: I have encouraged many groups who have concern about this that they ought to make this a campaign issue and run against ideas that they find unacceptable with regard to what their legislation might be. This is a living document, as all constitutions are, Tim, and as Iraq evolves and changes, this constitution will also change and adapt to the circumstances. Our own Constitution, as you know, had to change in order to remain relevant. And this will be the case with Iraq as well, as it will be the case with other countries. Constitutions are not just one-time documents. To be relevant, they will have to adapt.
Surely, anyone interpreting a constitution will recognize that it is a living document and must be interpreted to adapted to "remain relevant."

Well, three members of our Supreme Court don't, but other than that....

Surely, the Iraqi judges will get the point. And when the Koran is interpreted to fit with the times? No one's going to have a problem with that, will they?

6 foot holes open in the Superdome.

With 9,000 people inside waiting out the hurricane.

Two things I started to watch on HBO but didn't finish.

1. "Rome." (First episode of the series.)

2. "Real Time With Bill Maher." (First episode of the new season.)

"Rome" had a lot of people bustling about in costumes, amidst scenery, declaiming various things in English accents. Violence and nudity don't really stimulate my interest in a story, though I was mildly intrigued by the perfect bikini wax jobs the women had. But — who knows? —maybe all that historical research they were bragging about in the promos actually revealed that the women had their pubic hair plucked into narrow vertical rectangles.

Bill Maher drove me up the wall — and I watched every episode of the show last year, so I am not a Bill Maher hater. His comic style of speech conveys an extremely smug attitude and certainty that he's the smart one who's been right about everything all along. (Jon Stewart uses nearly the opposite tone and is much more watchable.) Among the guests on Maher's show was Chris Rock, who was coasting on a single comic idea: you can connect anything to the subject of the high cost of gasoline. Why am I just getting to the point where I find Maher's speech intolerable? Maybe I've gotten more thin-skinned or maybe it's just the state of the world these days and the way so many people are so eager to point at everything that doesn't go smoothly and to say see I told you all along it was a big mistake.

August 28, 2005

Pencils.

Here's a blog that's charmingly and prettily about pencils. I noticed it just now as linked on Drawn! and then realized I'd also seen it on Metafilter.

On Metafilter, somebody links to a 1988 Apple animation — a classic of some sort — called "Pencil Test." You just know guys came up with that title, because for women, "pencil test" means something (which the animation is not about). Or are my female readers going to tell me they don't know what the "pencil test" is?

Anyway, me, I don't like to use pencils. Too much friction. And never dark enough — unless you go with a very soft pencil, which is going to be quite smudgy. Even if you want something to draw with, and you'd like to use smudging as a technique, a pencil is inferior. If I want to smudge up a drawing, I'm going to use charcoal. It's blacker and it's not all shiny and metallic.

I like the idea of the physical object, the pencil. It's perfectly lovely that they figured out how to get graphite inside of wood, the pink erasers are cute, the sharpeners make a satisfying grindy noise, the shavings curl touchingly and smell nice, and they're wonderfully biteable. But they are not for me.

Sorry, pencils!

Yet another Piano Man update.

From The Independent:
He was, in fact, 20-year-old Andreas Grassl, a farmer's son from a small village on the German-Czech border. His family lawyer has categorically denied that he faked his illness. It is thought that his problems may stem from his fear of being the only gay in his village. German newspapers, who had given the myth of Piano Man the same attention that he had received the world over, appeared positively disgusted to discover that the mystery patient was from Bavaria. "It's all over," sighed the Frankfurter Rundschau. "The truth is often so awfully banal." One left-wing newspaper remarked that it was better to be "half-dead and playing the piano in a British psychiatric hospital than living as a homosexual in a Bavarian village".
Interesting, this loathing of Bavaria. Is there a state in the U.S. that Americans would react to this negatively?

There's also this from The Australian:
Andreas Grassl, 20, had bombarded German television stations with requests to appear on their shows. He also wrote to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and singer Robbie Williams asking them to help him launch a career in the media.

Grassl eventually got a column in a local newspaper in which he dwelt scornfully on the instant fame of pop stars and reality TV contestants and said he would "so love to be a millionaire". He achieved a different kind of fame during four months of psychiatric treatment in Britain. He refused to speak, expressing himself only by drawing and playing pianos. The mystery prompted a hunt across Europe to identify him.

A selection of Grassl's writing, including articles and letters in his school magazine and his columns for the Bayerwald Echo in the Bavarian town of Cham, reveals his preoccupation with celebrity....

From the age of 10, Grassl begged regional and national television and radio for the chance to take part in shows. He reported every triumph, no matter how small. "On December 6 my voice was heard for approximately 20 seconds on the Czech radio station Cesky Rozhlas 7," he boasted in one edition of the school magazine.

Grassl's first break came at the end of 2000 when the Bayerwald Echo agreed to let him write a column entitled Cult aimed at teenagers.

His subjects ranged from Britney Spears to a US election campaign. A former Echo journalist described him as scatter-brained. "He'd suddenly get hyperactive, pouring out one idea after another so you couldn't get him away from your desk," he said. "But he obviously had creative talent."

In one column he criticised the effortless fame acquired by others through programs such as Big Brother. "It's suddenly the fashion to shove people inside a container, pull them out one after the other and then turn them into pop stars for a week," he wrote....

Carey Cooper, a psychologist at Lancaster University, said Grassl may have been suffering from "Hollywood syndrome".

"It's a real problem among all the failed actors in Hollywood when they get to the point where they can no longer accept that they've failed," Professor Cooper said. "They begin to act as if they are famous or find means unconsciously or consciously to attract attention."
Seems a little like Rupert Pupkin, doesn't it? Well, I hope he's enjoying his fame.

"Cleavage, erotic as it is, does not occur in nature."

In case you didn't read the NYT Style Magazine, here's a link to the article about the hot topic: cleavage — and its dependence on undergarments:
Although brassieres first appeared in the United States around 1904 (the word itself first appeared in Vogue in 1907), it seems the impulse to improve on nature's deficiencies goes all the way back to the Greek goddess Hera. According to Teresa Riordan in her excellent account ''Inventing Beauty,'' Hera wore an early version of a push-up bra, described in the ''Iliad'' as festooned with ''brooches of gold'' and ''a hundred tassels,'' the better to divert Zeus from the Trojan War. With the development of Vulcanized rubber in the 1840's, the idea of pneumatically improved breasts came into being, but they were scoffed at as ''ridiculous contrivances'' by no less a connoisseur than Lola Montez in her ''Arts of Beauty, or Secrets of a Lady's Toilet.'' Inevitably, corsets and the like impeded access to the very delights they served to highlight, leading at least one redblooded male to make witty protest. ''Please leave off that breastplate,'' James Joyce wrote to his future wife, Nora Barnacle, during their courtship. ''I do not like embracing a letterbox.''

Closet editing.

Do you ever edit you clothes closet? Just take everything out of it and judge each item: throw out, give away, or put back in the closet?

If you do that, do you have a rules of thumb like: if I haven't worn it in [a particular number of months or years], it cannot go back in the closet? What is the length of time in your rule?

Can you really follow that rule, or do you make exceptions? Is there some length of time that for you signifies vintage, which supersedes the original time-length rule of thumb?

What really old clothing items — jewelry doesn't count — do you have that you would seriously defend as vintage? And of the things you can't call vintage, what has remained unworn in your closet for the longest time (and how long)? My vintage entry: a beautiful (and comfortable) pair of black suede Perry Ellis high heels from 1981. My nonvintage item that I can't wear or part with is a long chartreuse dress made of scarf-like silk, not worn in nearly 15 years.

And yes, I'm trying to clean my closet — trying, in the sense of blogging about it, meaning to do it... sometime.

UPDATE: I'm actually doing it! In the real world! I am going to be so organized.

Warning!

Signs

Are all the lawprofs Democrats?

Nearly all are, per Adam Liptak, writing in the NYT:
[A] study, to be published this fall in The Georgetown Law Journal, analyzes 11 years of records reflecting federal campaign contributions by professors at the top 21 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Almost a third of these law professors contribute to campaigns, but of them, the study finds, 81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans.

The percentages of professors contributing to Democrats were even more lopsided at some of the most prestigious schools: 91 percent at Harvard, 92 at Yale, 94 at Stanford. At the University of Virginia, on the other hand, contributions were about evenly divided between the parties. The sample sizes at some schools may be too small to allow for comparisons, though it bears noting that by this measure the University of Chicago is slightly more liberal than Berkeley.

For what it's worth, I haven't given any political contributions in a while, but when I did, it was to Democrats — mostly Russ Feingold. I'm actually surprised by how many lawprofs — 15% — the study found had contributed to Republicans.

Anyway, I haven't read the law review article, but this seems to be a key point:
Law schools that take race into account in admissions decisions, the study says, "open themselves to charges of intellectual inconsistency" if they do not also address the ideological imbalances on their faculties.
Charge a lawprof with inconsistency. Really. Go ahead. I strongly encourage you. You'll have lots of fun.

UPDATE: Pandagon accuses me of making just making a joke about this and not "challenging" it. I will therefore have to accuse Pandagon not really getting the point of the Althouse comments section. I'm opening a discussion here. I could say more, but I'm waiting for the commenters to run with it. Then, I join in the comments. But suffice it to say, lawprofs will not agree that supporting affirmative action in admissions is inconsistent with lawprofs being nearly all liberals. Tell me why you think it's inconsistent and I'll respond.

MORE: Why did my flippant attitude rile Pandagon (and others)? Are they really put out that I'm not more substantive? Of course not. Their real problem is that they know very well that affirmative action and a liberal faculty are two things lawprofs generally want very much and that lawprofs really will come up with the arguments that are needed to harmonize these two policies. Chiding me for not saying more is just a smokescreen. They know what I'm saying and they know they'd do what I'm saying if they were put on the spot. But go ahead. Try to put a lawprof on the spot. Go ahead. I strongly encourage you. You'll have lots of fun.

Not "Walking on Sunshine."

I guess we'll never think of Katrina and the Waves the same way again. Say a prayer for New Orleans:
"This is a once in a lifetime event," the mayor said. "The city of New Orleans has never seen a hurricane of this magnitude hit it directly."

The mayor said Katrina's storm surge would likely top the levees that protect the city from the surrounding water of Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and marshes. The bowl-shaped city must pump water out even during normal times, and the hurricane threatened electricity that runs the pumps.

Afraid to go out in your own $10 million yard?

Well, what do you expect? You moved into the ecotone.

Hitchens on "The Daily Show" and in The Weekly Standard.

Did you see Christopher Hitchens on "The Daily Show" show this week? It was a rather strange little interview in which Jon Stewart did most of the talking, asking really long questions that ostensibly begged Hitchens to explain things about the war in Iraq but left Hitchens with little time to attempt to do it.

Hitchens did manage to say he was going to have an article in The Weekly Standard on the subject. Now, the article is available.

An excerpt:
I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago. Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time....

The subsequent liberation of Pakistan's theocratic colony in Afghanistan, and the so-far decisive eviction and defeat of its bin Ladenist guests, was only a reprisal. It took care of the last attack. But what about the next one? For anyone with eyes to see, there was only one other state that combined the latent and the blatant definitions of both "rogue" and "failed." This state--Saddam's ruined and tortured and collapsing Iraq--had also met all the conditions under which a country may be deemed to have sacrificed its own legal sovereignty. To recapitulate: It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty....

I have a ready answer to those who accuse me of being an agent and tool of the Bush-Cheney administration (which is the nicest thing that my enemies can find to say). Attempting a little levity, I respond that I could stay at home if the authorities could bother to make their own case, but that I meanwhile am a prisoner of what I actually do know about the permanent hell, and the permanent threat, of the Saddam regime. However, having debated almost all of the spokespeople for the antiwar faction, both the sane and the deranged, I was recently asked a question that I was temporarily unable to answer. "If what you claim is true," the honest citizen at this meeting politely asked me, "how come the White House hasn't told us?"
Read the article.

I would love to have heard what Hitchens said about Jon Stewart after that interview. I wonder if it would have been something like this passage from the article:
There are an astounding number of plain frauds and charlatans (to phrase it at its highest) in charge of the propaganda of the other side. Just to tell off the names is to frighten children more than Saki ever could: Michael Moore, George Galloway, Jacques Chirac, Tim Robbins, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson . . . a roster of gargoyles that would send Ripley himself into early retirement. Some of these characters are flippant, and make heavy jokes about Halliburton, and some disdain to conceal their sympathy for the opposite side.
Too harsh for Stewart? Perhaps, but if he were interviewing any of Hitchens's gargoyles, I think he'd treat them far differently from the way he treated Hitchens.

UPDATE: Here's the video of the Hitchens interview, available at Crooks & Liars, which opines:
Jon was very focused tonight and made Hitchins lose his place a few times. (How did he ever do that?) When intelligence is met against blind ideology, intelligence usually wins. (I just made that up)
Gargoyles, indeed.