October 8, 2005

Stalking statues.

Here I am at the Albin Polasek Museum in Winter Park, Florida. No, I'm not there now. These pictures are two years old, but John just scanned and uploaded them.

Albin Polasek Museum


Albin Polasek Museum

MORE: Here's John's whole photoset from the Albin Polasek Museum photo. There's one that looks like a baby in a sonogram. And a nice Abe Lincoln/Virgin Mary combo.

The eco-friendly baby.

A 7 month old infant already out of diapers? Yes!
For many parents in the United States, the idea of potty training before a baby is able to walk, or even before age 2, is not just horrifying but reprehensible - a sure nightmare for parents and baby, not to mention a direct route from the crib to the psychiatrist's couch. But a growing number of parents are experimenting with infant potty training, seeing it as more sanitary, ecologically correct and likely to strengthen bonds between parent and child.

You better get your baby in line with the eco-virtues.

Reading about rubber bananas while really very hungry.

Oh, I've been sitting in this café for so long. The large capuccino glass has been empty for .... is it hours? That cookie -- a large cookie, admittedly -- is the only solid food I've eaten all day. I have every intention -- and have had every intention for an hour -- of relocating to a restaurant. I'm thinking sesame chicken. But somehow I keep finding one more thing to read. And so there's this, a little diary by Donovan, part of a promotion of his autobiography, "Hurdy Gurdy Man," and when we drove over to the café -- hours ago -- we were playing "Hurdy Gurdy Man" on the CD player and talking a lot about Donovan and how much we love the song "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (which, John argued, Prince ripped off in "Sign O' the Times").

An excerpt from the Donovan diary:
I went to Capital Radio, where I'd earlier sent around two dozen rubber bananas. You put your mobile phone in them, a cute idea taken from the Marx Brothers movie where they'd pick up a banana and say, "Hello?" My song Mellow Yellow means I am forever associated with bananas so I thought I'd give them away on air. That night I played the beautiful Café de Paris in front of 600 fans.
Must get food.

UPDATE: Eating sesame chicken now. Really feeling much better. Still love Donovan....

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a nice long piece about Donovan's book. Some excerpts:
His sexual libertarianism was also shaped by teenage reading of the Beats, particularly Jack Kerouac. “When I read On The Road it seemed like there were gals in the bohemian world who were willing to break the conditioning of their background, and refused to be pushing a pram, refused to marry in the normal way, and wished to be artists. These gals were not just sexual objects, they had freedom and an artistic bent. I was fascinated by those liberated females – not just because of the sexual freedom but because they had left society.”....

He also had the misfortune to appear on the national stage in the very year – 1965 – that Bob Dylan was abandoning folk and pushing forward the frontiers of pop and rock . They met when Dylan toured Britain that year, and Donovan appears in DA Pennebaker’s documentary, Don’t Look Back. Conventional thinking on the film is that Dylan is sneering at Donovan, who performs a song for him, but Donovan doesn’t see it that way. “Absolute bullshit,” he snaps. “If you actually look at the movie, Bob is honouring my work.”

The allegation clearly hurts. I hadn’t even asked about Don’t Look Back; he brought it up himself. I do want to know, however, what it’s like for Donovan, trying to celebrate his 40th anniversary when suddenly 2005 turns into the year of Bob Dylan. Surely it must be frustrating that even after all these years he can’t escape the man’s shadow? “I’m going to have a pee,” he says, “but I’ll be back, and we’ll address that.”...

There is a scene in the book where he has gone to bed with the American folk singer Joan Baez, but when she reminisces about sex with Bob Dylan his ardour is considerably dampened....

Hotel Fox!

Okay! Let's go to Denmark! (Via Drawn!)

"You know, once you start to think 'Bush is an idiot,' it becomes a pervasive organizing principle."

Did Althouse say that just now?

"Robert Bork 'Borks' Harriet Miers."

Great headline.

All the President's women.

Phyllis Schafly (casting aspersions on Harriet Miers):
"All the women around Bush are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade – his wife, his mother, his Secretary of State, the [co-chair] of the Republican National Committee ... There is no woman around Bush who is in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Is the problem with the genuinely conservative women on the list that they are against Roe v. Wade? Was Miers Bush's only real choice because she could be portrayed as conservative but would uphold abortion rights, as all the women close to him demand?

UPDATE: William Saletan marshalls the evidence that insiders know Miers is anti-abortion. I'm not convinced. And again, lots of people are anti-abortion but not anti-abortion rights. And lots of people think Roe v. Wade was poorly reasoned or wrongly decided in its time but don't also think it should be overruled now.

Did "Real Time With Bill Maher" just get a lot funnier?

A side effect of my oppostion to the Miers nomination: It made "Real Time With Bill Maher" get a lot funnier. All those jokes premised on Bush's incompetence? Suddenly, I found myself laughing. Ann Coulter was laughing too. Well, I mean, she's always laughing -- that's her gimmick -- but she was laughing at Bush.

And I loved the ad in the beginning for the perfume "Harriet," with the tag line, "I can be anything you want me to be."

The panel last night was Andrew Sullivan, Ben Affleck, and Salman Rushdie. About midway through the discussion, everyone chez Althouse agreed that it was amazingly easy put those three men in order of their intelligence. I'll just say, in the order I wrote the names two sentences ago, no man is in the position he ended up on our in-order-of-intelligence list.

Andrew Sullivan got very impassioned -- by the subject he came to get impassioned about: torture. I can't remember how he got that to be the topic, because Maher tries hard to get the panel to subjects people can laugh about. Sullivan, like Coulter, laughs continually while speaking, but unlike Coulter, never seems to be at all fun-loving. In fact, he seems to lack a sense of humor, especially about religion, which Maher considers an immense humor target. I'm not really sure what function the Sullivan Laugh serves. It usually seems to convey a dismissive mockery, usually of the moral inadequacy of others.

"Luttig is getting huge free publicity."

A reader emails:
It seems to me that the big winner from the whole Miers brouhaha is Luttig. Before her nomination, he had practically no chance of being nominated, since he's not a woman or a minority. But now, every time someone says Miers is unqualified or mediocre, they add "unlike Luttig, who is a brilliant, supremely qualified conservative intellectual." Why people don't mention Karen Williams or Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown as the primary preferred alternative, I don't know. Luttig is getting huge free publicity. If the Miers nomination is withdrawn or if she is not confirmed by the Senate, there will be huge pressure for the President to nominate "Luttig or someone like Luttig."
Very interesting. And clearly, this ties to ideas about affirmative action. Some Miers supporters are even throwing the word "sexist" around. Don't say she's not qualified, or you're a sexist? That translates into: See, you wanted a woman hired, and this is what we had to do to find a woman, so please be discreet and don't mention her inferiority. Don't compare her to Roberts. If we could pick a man, we'd find someone lustrous, like Luttig. But everyone says we shouldn't. We tried picking Roberts for the O'Connor slot, and everyone complained. We're doing what you insisted upon, so you'll have to accept the consequences.

How insulting to women this is! And the implicit critique of affirmative action is quite cheap, because, as the emailer notes, there are impressive women the President could have chosen.

October 7, 2005

"He is the box."

Said by me in a discussion just now with a colleague. Topic: how Harriet Miers will behave if she gets to the Supreme Court. The "he" is Justice Scalia.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some very funny efforts at constructing the dialogue that led up to my punchline, which leads one reader to observe: "Hey! This is Ann's on-line, nerdy version of 'The Aristocrats'!"

"Please send help!"

My colleague Gordon Smith -- who, by the way is calling for the withdrawal of the Miers nomination -- blogs from the faculty meeting -- for help!

He was plugged into the ethernet. I was in another corner of the room, not plugged in and unable to pick up any WiFi. Had I been able to get on line, I would have blogged, but I wouldn't have blogged for help. I'd have been happy enough just to be able to get on line and to blog. As it was, I really needed help more than Gordon!

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge is awed by the free-spirited ways of the Madisonians:
Do Gordon and Ann take laptops to the faculty meeting and just whip them out in plain sight? I've occasionally used my Treo to blog from a faculty meeting or, more often, to check email, but even that is pushing the outer limits of the group norms of my faculty. Blatantly working on a laptop while paying only partial attention, at most, to my colleagues' endless rambling thoughtful comments probably would be way over the line of what's acceptable here.

I've written about the role of group norms play in determining in how corporate boards make decisions and remain curious about the role of norms in governing behavior. So I pose a question: If your job requires endless meetings, do your workplace civility norms allow one to blog from the meeting?
I have another question: Does anyone work somewhere where prolonging meetings with superfluous, new issues and philosophical reflections is considered beyond "workplace civility norms"? If not, and if, at the same time, rapt attention must be paid to everyone who takes the floor, you've got a major dysfunction. I think you have to go one way or the other. If you want to require rapt attention, you've got to make the meeting very crisp and fast. To the extent that the speakers want to be tolerated as they luxuriate in extended discourse, they need to show mercy by allowing a lot of freedom to the rest of us folks. We have the mutual tolerance approach here in Madison ... at least as far as I can tell.

Is using a laptop worse than doing crosswords or reading -- the traditional methods of staving off madness? Maybe it is. There's that clicky keyboard sound, and the screen seems to be a barrier, walling you off from the communal spirit so many of the professorial types seem to believe they are generating with all the back-and-forth.

And then, the possibility of blogging... that must be especially disturbing. Many faculty do not understand blogging and imagine all sorts of odd or abusive things going on in this little 'sphere of ours. Is Althouse taking quotes out of context, satirizing us, holding us up to the mockery of her right-wing groupies?

"The Apprentice" -- enough cake for you?

Someone just asked what happened to my usual commentary on "The Apprentice." I did watch both the Donald and the Martha this week. Anything you feel like saying about them? Actually, the shows were pretty cool this week. Martha's had two big, ugly cakes (for brides) and Donald's had another even uglier cake (for old folks). But let's take the discussion to the comments, where spoilers can run free.

The lingering Justice O'Connor.

What is the effect of Justice O'Connor's continuing on the Court this term? What of all those lawyers who have shaped their arguments specifically to appeal to her way of thinking, whose briefs are already filed? And what of the lawyers who've considered or who are considering doing that, without knowing whether she'll be there to decide the case or not? Then there's the particular case of Jay Sekulow, director of the American Center for Law and Justice, who said, in a White House sponsored conference call pushing the Miers nomination:
"Let me tell you this from the perspective of someone who litigates cases regularly in the Supreme Court of the United States. I'm involved in three three cases at the Court this Term, and believe me: I want Harriet Meirs up there voting on these critical cases."
Eric Muller is very outraged at Sekulow and the White House. But Sekulow clearly states that he doesn't know for sure how Miers will vote. And I note his probable, though unspoken, preference to be free of O'Connor's vote.

Why lawyers blog.

The joy of blogging seems to be a theme here today. I just noticed -- via Instapundit -- that I'm quoted in today's NYT. It's fun to get quoted about blogging, and my quote is about the fun of blogging. The reporter, Jonathan D. Glater, is trying to find out why so many lawyers are bloggers.
"It's our natural environment, to read things on the Web, to read news stories, and to have something to say," said Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin who posts her views at althouse.blogspot.com. Compared with spending a year writing a law review article, she said, blogging is fun.

I should add that parts of the process of writing an article are fun, but that there is something un-fun about the long delay between having your ideas and getting them published. I think blogging lawprofs tend to be the ones who enjoy freedom from the editing process. The law classroom itself is very spontaneous and expressive, and if you love talking in class but want a wider, more diverse audience, blogging feels great.

AMPLIFICATION: By "natural environment" I meant text, especially the sort of text that contains mysteries about bias and missing arguments and information. Lawyers can read such things and see what hasn't been said and pose necessary questions and reframe arguments and so forth. We're used to doing that in the ordinary course of our work as we read briefs and court opinions. We just naturally plunge into such things and find material to write about.

"Warren."

So you're nominated for that big Supreme Court position, and now you're courting the various Senators, including the very important Patrick Leahy, the senior Democratic Senator on the Judiciary Committee, and he asks you who's your favorite Supreme Court Justice of all time and you say "Warren."

Warren?

Uh.... whoops.... but you see an out: Yeah, Warren, you know, Warren Burger. Great save! Except who has Warren Burger as their favorite Justice? I mean, plenty of people adore and revere Earl Warren, who is widely considered one of the finest Justices in the Court's history. But Warren Burger? Come on. Well, ask her about that at the hearings. I think even the brilliant advocate John Roberts would have trouble piecing together a plausible answer if he were assigned the task of arguing that Burger was the greatest Supreme Court Justice of them all.

Really, do you have a clue why she said "Warren"? She must have meant Earl Warren when she said it, right? Because who would use the first name to identify a justice? The news report doesn't at all convey the sense that she might have been cracking a joke, and it's hard to picture her making a joke, particularly this joke, in this context. But why would she blurt out Earl Warren? Possibly because she knows he became a great justice after entering the Court with no judicial experience, and she is attempting to portray herself as capable of doing the same. But why would she name this immense liberal hero unless she didn't know the first thing about constitutional law? Even if she's secretly a liberal, this would not be the right time to roll out that information.

(Link via Bench Memos.)

UPDATE: Actually the Bench Memos post is an attempt to explain the blunder. This unsourced info is provided:
"Miers was asked about Justices she admired. She responded that she admired different Justices for different reasons, including Warren — interrupted by Senator Leahy — Burger for his administrative skills.

Reasonable people could ask whether Burger was a great administrator, but the comment is taken out of context by the Washington Post. Miers didn't express admiration for his jurisprudence."
So, maybe she was in the middle of saying the whole name and Leahy jumped in, and her point was that even Burger had some reasons why you could admire him. Except Burger is criticized for his administration skills: many of the recent Rehnquist obituaries emphasized what an improvement he made over Burger.

Fun is the one thing that institutionalization can't buy.

Victor Fleischer is somewhat optimistic about what he calls "institutional blogs." (A dreary name, no?) This would be a blog like the University of Chicago Law School faculty blog, which is called The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog. You can't get any more institutional than that.

Fleischer is responding to Matt Brodie, who speculates about the future of blogging, in a way makes the future sound dull. Here's Fleischer's point:
Unless blogs have an identifiable voice, they aren't much fun to read. Anyone who has been to a faculty meeting knows that cacophony trumps harmony. And blogging might start to feel more like work. And what do you do with law profs who just want to talk about personal stuff, not law?
Is the secret of blogging fun? Fun to read, fun to write. And not just fun, play. Joy.

October 6, 2005

Audible Althouse, Episode 9.

It's time for another podcast.

"I eagerly await the announcement of President Bush's real nominee to the Supreme Court."

Says Ann Coulter.

Boring mnemonic device of the day.

I needed to remember a room number: 1335.

What should Democrats do about Harriet Miers?

A free TNR link:
Liberals right now seem content to watch conservatives fight it out with one another over Miers's nomination and quietly hope that Senate Republicans, despite their reservations, lack the guts to cross the White House and vote against her nomination.

But they should oppose her too!

UPDATE: I've fixed it now so the link is free. Sorry for not doing it right before.

"When it comes to the oppression of gays and lesbians in Muslim countries, gay activism hasn't died...."

... it never really existed."

UPDATE: I've got it so the link is free now.

What about the terrorist attacks that don't happen?

It's hard to claim credit for the absence of an event. WaPo reports:
President Bush said today the United States and its allies have disrupted at least 10 serious plots by the al Qaeda network in the past four years, as he sought to rally the nation against international terrorists and warned foreign governments against supporting them....

He added, "We've stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into our country."...

Bush did not elaborate.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan later identified two of the three schemes to carry out attacks in the United States as previously alleged plots involving Jose Padilla, a Puerto Rican convert to Islam who was suspected of planning to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb," and Lyman Farris, a naturalized U.S. citizen and truck driver from Ohio who was allegedly recruited to destroy New York's Brooklyn Bridge, blow up airliners on the ground and derail passenger trains. Both men were arrested after being identified by captured al Qaeda commanders, and neither plot got beyond a reconnaissance stage.

McClellan said other plots Bush referred to are "still classified."

ADDED: To be clear, I certainly think credit is deserved for stopping attacks. My point is that people don't notice and don't give you credit. Everything just seems uneventful.

Offensive art.

Russian style:
A top Moscow gallery bowed to religious sensibilities and pulled an exhibit that combined two potent symbols of Russia -- a gold icon and black caviar -- local media reported on Thursday.

Churchgoers had appealed to the state Tretyakov gallery, objecting to "Icon-Caviar", which depicts hundreds of tiny fish eggs where the face should be on an icon, saying it was trivial and insulting.

The artist, Alexander Kosolapov, told Ekho Moskvy radio that his work was in no way religious: "The icon frame -- that's a metaphor for Russia. The caviar, that's also a metaphor."

Ha! We think it's offensive if you use an offensive material to depict the sacred image. But if you had to argue that it's worse to use caviar than to use elephant dung, couldn't you?

Rove awed.

Is the anagram -- for Roe v. Wade -- apt?

"Decent judicial candidates that are opposed to Roe v. Wade have their opposition integrated into a coherent theory of constitutional interpretation."

That's something I wrote after one of the presidential debates last fall:
I had the impression that Bush was asked whether he had a "litmus test" about Roe v. Wade for judicial appointments--in fact, in my live-blogging, I faulted Kerry for not answering the question whether he had a litmus test---but I see that it was Bush who took the question "would you like to [overturn Roe v. Wade]?" and rephrased it: "What he's asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges?"...

Bush could easily give a negative answer the question as he rephrased it into "litmus test" form: "I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I'll have no litmus test." This hides the ball (very much the way judicial candidates themselves hide the ball). Decent judicial candidates that are opposed to Roe v. Wade have their opposition integrated into a coherent theory of constitutional interpretation. Bush must pick good judges, not one-issue anti-abortion types, so anyone with a chance at confirmation would be someone who would be presented as a well-qualified constitution interpreter. The antagonism to Roe would exist within a theory of constitutional interpretation. I presume Bush would pick judges with the sort of approach to interpretation that excludes Roe v. Wade.
I hope I was right about that! But apply that to the Miers nomination. For me to be right, her nomination must fail. Right?

"You'd almost think they were doing it on purpose."

Here's a NYT op-ed by Democratic consultant Francis Wilkerson on why Supreme Court Justices appointed by Republican Presidents keep voting to preserve abortion rights:
It's the darnedest thing, but when it comes to the most sacred cause in the Republican canon, the right to life, Republican presidents somehow find a way to mess up. You'd almost think they were doing it on purpose....

[A]s more than a few abortion opponents have come to suspect, in the Oval Office the "culture of life" is from time to time trumped by the culture of electability. With abortion rights safeguarded by Roe, and Roe, in turn, safeguarded by the court, a candidate's public opposition to abortion is treated by much of the nation's pro-choice majority as a more or less immaterial wish that's unlikely to be fulfilled. For the millions of highly motivated pro-life voters, however, it's much more: it's a statement of solidarity and a solemn vow to advance their special cause.
Was the Miers pick part of an ingenious strategy to preserve the power of the Republican Party? Read this headline before answering.

Miers supporters: something in writing, please?

I have yet to see a single piece of writing by Harriet Miers dealing with an issue of constitutional law or even anything purporting to demonstrate the analytical, interpretive skills required to serve on the Supreme Court. The nomination was announced on Monday. It's Thursday. Can we have something in writing that shows her mind in action, that inspires confidence that this is a person whose judgment we should all trust for the next two decades?

UPDATE: I'm still waiting. "Texas Life Insurance Update" doesn't count!

ANOTHER UPDATE: And this surely doesn't count, except as evidence of what a profound step down the Miers nomination is from Roberts.
Alex, from Fargo, North Dakota writes:

Could you explain how Barney plays horseshoes?

Harriet Miers

The President throws the horseshoes to Barney, and Barney runs after them. Metal horseshoes are too heavy for Barney to lift, so he doesn't carry them around. Instead he moves them around with his nose. He has figured out pretty quickly how to get under the horseshoe enough to flip it over. As you know, the President loves horsing around with Barney.

And, apparently, the President loves horsing around with the other branches of government.

"For the first time in my life, after over 1,200 abortions in private practice, I actually looked at the pile of goo..."

A pro-life speaker on the UW campus:
“It’s not a choice of hot dogs and hamburgers,” Levatino told the audience as protesters lining the aisles with signs proclaiming, “Our bodies, our right” hissed and interrupted. “There’s more at stake.”

Levatino then launched into a graphic description of his abortion procedures, which involved pulling individual body parts off a 20-week-old fetus from inside the womb with a large metal clamp.

“I didn’t have any qualms with what I was doing,” Levatino stated. “I was pro-choice. It was part of my care to women.”
Supporters of abortion rights heckled during the speech. Can somebody explain how they can think that helps their cause? I'd say trying to blot out the other side's speech, especially in this case, implicitly expresses your fear that the information and reasoning he's providing is persuasive. Also, it makes you look rude and insensitive to both the speaker and those in the audience who want to hear, which is especially damaging to the abortion rights cause (because it's easy for people to think of abortion as a woman's selfish insensitivity to the interests of another).

"... or whatever it's called."

How delightful good old Howard Dean is:
On MSNBC's "Hardball" yesterday, ... Dean invoked a crude phrase usually reserved for the locker room when urging Bush to make public Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's White House records. "I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it's called," he said.
There's some colloquial phrase he was trying to dredge out of his poor overheated brain. "Hide the ball," I guess. Maybe he thought "ball" sounded dirty.

But we were trying to discourage student drinking.

Is that a defense in an antitrust suit?

UPDATE: For those of you wondering why this new case is different from the one you remember reading about before, which got dismissed a while back, here's more:
A Minneapolis law firm filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing 25 bars near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and their trade association of conspiring to inflate drink prices from 1990 until last year. The class action lawsuit seeks relief for revelers it claims were ripped off....

A judge in April dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by the same firm, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, saying there was no conspiracy. That lawsuit accused bars of illegal price-fixing when they agreed in 2002 to voluntarily stop weekend drink specials to stave off a tougher ban on drink discounts the city was considering.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court reiterates claims that the voluntary ban on specials was meant to maximize bars' profits but alleges the violation of federal antitrust laws goes back even farther.

For 15 years, drinkers "were charged supra-competitive, excessive and fixed prices for alcohol" at the taverns, the lawsuit claims. Through private conversations and secret deals, the bars agreed when to increase prices and offer drink specials, it claims.

The conspiracy allegedly started after Wisconsin increased its drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1987. Despite reduced demand, drink prices increased faster than inflation in the 1990s "and the timing and sequence of those increases were agreed upon" by bar owners during monthly meetings of the Madison Tavern League, the lawsuit claims.
Do University officials attend Tavern League meetings?

Anyway, a class action ... maybe all you former students will one day recover for all the extra money you paid for drinks here a decade ago. How much will you get? Maybe you'll get a coupon for a free beer!

October 5, 2005

Chez Althouse: a dialogue about Harriet Miers.

My non-law student son (Chris) asks me what I think about Harriet Miers and, before I can answer, adds:
"No one seems to like her."

Me:
"Yeah."

Chris:
"It seems like he just picked her because they're friends."

Me:
"Yeah."

The "professional disposition evaluation."

From today's Badger Herald:
Just before the start of the fall semester, Edward Swan, a student in the College of Education at Washington State University, was informed he was in jeopardy of being removed from his program.

The college is bound by state law to evaluate the character of each student at graduation. Since 2001, the college has used a system where each semester, faculty members fill out a “professional disposition evaluation” for each student they have in class. The forms ask for marks on, among other things, students’ commitments to such politically charged concepts as “social justice” and “diversity.”

Mr. Swan, a self-professed conservative with strong opinions on the Bible and the role of men and women in a family, failed four of his evaluations.

According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, one faculty member flunked Mr. Swan for writing “diversity is perversity” on his copy of a textbook, while another claimed that he was a “white supremacist” and that he often sported a camouflage hunting cap and spoke of his love of hunting, both of which alarmed her.

Swan readily admits to being an avid hunter, but rejects the idea that he is a racist.

“I have four biracial children,” he told the Daily News.

The case at Washington State University is only the tip of the iceberg of so-called “dispositions theory.” Colleges and universities across the country have begun changing their admission and evaluation standards to add ideological criteria into the mix. Increasingly, institutions of higher learning are allying themselves with the proponents of social justice, blurring the line between knowledge and belief, education and indoctrination.
Read the whole thing. This is a complicated matter:
[College of Education Dean Judy] Mitchell disputed the idea that Swan's working-class background was one of the elements that led him to fail his PDE evaluations while other more sophisticated or educated conservatives might pass.

"I think our faculty are fair to people of all backgrounds," she said.

Mitchell emphasized the College of Education is trying to find and train teachers for the public schools who will be committed to be as useful as possible to all students in their classrooms, regardless of varied backgrounds and culture.

That goal is a legitimate one, said two WSU faculty members who teach about constitutional law and civil liberties in the political science department.

"There's no right to a state job, like being a public school teacher," said faculty member Cornell Clayton. "It's a benefit, not a privilege.

"The state can impose a character test - and beliefs can be part of that test. But you can't keep people from state jobs because their beliefs may not be what you'd like," Clayton said.

Mitchell Pickerill thinks the language in the PDE forms may be problematic. "The question on the form is written in such a way that it reflects faculty biases," Pickerill said.

Pickerill sees the PDE's language as one expression of the culture of "political correctness" within the university.
(Mitchell Pickerill is the author of the message quoted in the previous post. He sent along the links for this story.)

I don't have a opinion to express about this particular incident -- which seems to depend a lot on disputed facts.

Comments?

Three conspiracy-takes on the Miers nomination.

Washington State polisci prof J. Mitchell Pickerill gave me permission to quote this funny message he had on one of those academic email lists I belong to:
Three conspiracy-takes on the Miers nomination:

(1) Bush knows full well Miers will deliver his agenda if confirmed (for all we know she promised in person), but that she will appear as a total stealth candidate. So far so good. In addition, conservative commentators are in on the game, decrying the pick in hopes that the Dems will throw up their hands and say, "whoever those guys are against, we're for."

(2) In the event #1 is wrong OR Dems see through it, Miers is a sacrificial lamb. Dems and some Repubs will oppose her, and publicly base their opposition on her lack of credentials (the types of things people on this list have already pointed out). The White House plans on this and has a follow-up nominee ready to go. The follow-up nominee will then be a "home run" and will have such credentials that those who voted against Miers on this basis will have difficulty voting against the new nominee. In a loose sense - this game says let's start with Kennedy and get Bork instead of vice versa.

(3) #s 1 & 2 are plain silly. Miers is an alien from outer space and has infiltrated our government and gotten herself to an appointment to the Supreme Court with plans to extend the right to citizenship - not to mention the right to privacy - to aliens.

"The burden is on Miers to demonstrate such talents, and on senators to compel such a demonstration or reject the nomination."

Everyone's talking about the George Will column about Harriet Miers, so let me read it too, this morning, as I find my instinct to defer to the President's choice fading to nothing:
Senators beginning what ought to be a protracted and exacting scrutiny of Harriet Miers should be guided by three rules. First, it is not important that she be confirmed. Second, it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption -- perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting -- should be that her nomination is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial deference is due.

It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's "argument" for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists....

The wisdom of presumptive opposition to Miers's confirmation flows from the fact that constitutional reasoning is a talent -- a skill acquired, as intellectual skills are, by years of practice sustained by intense interest. It is not usually acquired in the normal course of even a fine lawyer's career. The burden is on Miers to demonstrate such talents, and on senators to compel such a demonstration or reject the nomination.
Who seriously believes the evidence exists to make this demonstration? If Will is right up to this point and this is the test, the nomination should be doomed.

You know, I really felt my willingness to trust the President's choice evaporating as I wrote this post earlier this morning. Someone in the comments to that post wrote:
How many sixty year old women have better credentials for the Supreme Court than Harriet Miers?

Law Review Articles Editor while one of the few women in law school.

Clerkship in the Federal District Court as a prelude to becoming a trial lawyer.

Became Managing Partner of a premier Texas Law Firm the hard way (she earned it).

President of the state bar of the second largest state in the country.

General Counsel to the President of the United States.

Look at Beldar's several posts if you think I exaggerate.

This attorney has practiced law in more of its many manifestations than all but a few attorneys in the United States.

She not only broke but shattered the glass ceiling with performance at all levels of the practice of law.

Why is that not truly stellar, considering that in 1970, when she entered the legal profession at age 25, fewer that five percent of practicing lawyers were women?
I responded:
"How many sixty year old women have better credentials for the Supreme Court than Harriet Miers?" But 60 was considered too old to be a candidate until just now and apparently still is for the males. And what male candidate who is considered Supreme Court material takes a mid-career job doing something like the Texas Lottery Commission? Can you picture Roberts doing something like that even early in his career? Even if she was in the limited set of women who were law grads in 1970, huge numbers of women flowed into the profession very shortly later. Go to women in the 50 to 55 age range, the same target range used for the male candidates, at there are plenty of individuals with superior credentials. My problem isn't with her lack of judicial experience, it's that there are no elite credentials of the sort that say this is a superior intellect -- a mind that should decide the most important issues for us over a period of decades! If you think about it that way, her nomination is an absurd imposition on us by the President.

"It's a lot more expensive getting them to come to my home rather than me going to a brothel."

Life in Denmark, where one expects the government to take care of your needs:
Mr Hansen started seeing a prostitute after attending a course at a social centre.

There, he and other disabled people were taught that if they had needs, they "could do something about it".

"I had a strong desire to have sex, and I think I gained the confidence around that time to get the call girls to come to me.

"Since then I've had a lot of escort girls coming to see me - but I've also had girlfriends."

Organize yourself! Stop wasting time! Quit playing with your hair!

Teachers in Togo force schoolgirls to shave their heads.
"They must shave their hair. The government should even legislate on this."

"I hope they enjoy their lily white, golly gee, clean, fun plaza."

Says Lee Siegel, who brought a lawsuit challenging a deal in which the city gave the LDS church control over a public square in Salt Lake City. Yesterday, the 10th Circuit approved the deal, saying it does "nothing to advance religion, but merely enables the LDS church to advance itself."

Assisted suicide and federalism.

Here's the AP report on the physician-assisted suicide case that comes up for oral argument in the Supreme Court today:
In 1997 the court found that the terminally ill have no constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide. O‘Connor provided a key fifth vote in that decision, which left room for state-by-state experimentation.

The appeal is a turf battle of sorts, not a constitutional showdown. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft , a favorite among the president‘s base of religious conservatives, decided in 2001 to pursue doctors who help people die.

Hastening someone‘s death is an improper use of medication and violates federal drug laws, Ashcroft reasoned, an opposite conclusion than the one reached by Janet Reno, the Clinton administration attorney general.
Frankly, I think this is an easy case (for federal supremacy), but it's a hot-button issue, so it will be interesting to see what is said -- especially by the new Chief -- at the argument.

The NYT has this editorial:
[T]he Court of Appeals was right to resolve it more simply, through a careful interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act. Mr. Ashcroft claimed that the law gave him the power to overrule Oregon's assisted suicide policy. But when Congress passed the act, it clearly intended to prohibit ordinary drug abuse, not to set out a federal policy on assisted suicide....

In his zeal to stop assisted suicide, Mr. Ashcroft, a self-described legal conservative, turned his back on two principles that are sacred to legal conservativism. First, he refused to strictly, or even accurately, construe a Congressional statute. Instead, he inserted meaning in it that did not belong there, giving himself power that he should not have had. Second, he ignored conservative dogma about deference to the states, especially on matters like regulating medical practice, a core state concern.
There is some appeal to the idea that the courts ought to narrowly construe broadly written federal statutes where the states have undertaken specific policy experiments in areas of traditional state concern (such as health). (I have a forthcoming article that sees Justice O'Connor's dissenting opinion in the medical marijuana case as suggesting this new approach to preemption.) This might seem like a good idea, but to be principled, you can't turn it on and off. The NYT likes assisted suicide and reviles Ashcroft's conservatism, but if this is to be the approach to federalism, it would have to apply even when you loathe the state's policy and love the federal law. I can't help thinking that the NYT would be back to wailing over the horrible "federalism revolution" if its policy preferences were the other way around.

UPDATE: Here's a very early report on the oral argument:
"The most natural reading of the (federal) Controlled Substances Act is ... this falls within the authority of the attorney general," said Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of the Bush administration....

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor immediately challenged Clement, asking if federal drug laws also prevented doctors from participating in the execution of murderers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said he found it "odd" that the attorney general determined physician-assisted suicide to be an abuse of drug laws, when the state of Oregon strictly limited how the drugs could be administered and in what cases.

"I don't think it's odd," Clement replied, noting that federal laws regulating drug use have been in place for more than 90 years.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on the oral argument:
"The practice of medicine by physicians is an area of traditional regulation by the states, is it not?'' O'Connor asked U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement....

New Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. directed most of his questions to Oregon Assistant Attorney General Robert M. Atkinson, who represents the state. Roberts signaled skepticism when Atkinson said the federal government couldn't stop states from authorizing doctors to distribute morphine for medical use or steroids for bodybuilding.

"Doesn't that undermine the uniformity of federal law and make enforcement impossible?'' Roberts asked....

Members of the court's liberal wing joined O'Connor today in expressing skepticism about the federal government's bid to block the state law.

Justice David Souter said Clement's argument would make the attorney general the "sole authority to determine whether any state may or may not authorize assisted suicide and would do so in a way that any other attorney general can flip back and forth.'' Souter called that a "bizarre result.''

Justice Stephen Breyer told Clement that the argument against the government's case is that the Controlled Substances Act "has nothing to do with assisted suicide.''

Breyer later prodded Atkinson, without success, to draw a distinction that would allow the federal government to fight abuse of morphine and other addictive drugs but not to second-guess states that want to let doctors facilitate suicide.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote on social issues, called the dispute "a hard case'' and directed questions to both sides.

Clement said the Controlled Substances Act gave broad enforcement authority to the attorney general, saying ``the abuse Congress was concerned with is not solely addictive abuse.'' He pointed to the ``date-rape drug,'' a sleep medicine that some rapists have used to disable their victims.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested he agreed with that argument, saying Congress had a broad aim when it passed the law in 1970.

"I think that assisted suicide would have been as unthinkable at the time this was enacted as prescribing cocaine for recreational use,'' Scalia said.

STILL MORE: Here's David Savage's report in the L.A. Times, which portrays Roberts as especially active:
"What's the closest analogue to this?" the chief justice asked Clement, pressing for an example of where the U.S. attorney general overruled the states and their doctors on how legal drugs are used.

Clement paused and then responded that the Food & Drug Administration had objected in the 1970s when several states allowed the use of laetrile as a cancer treatment.

"That's the FDA. What about the attorney general?" Roberts repeated.

Clement could not cite a specific example of where the attorney general had overruled the state medical authorities on the use of prescription drugs. Roberts' question highlighted that Ashcroft was claiming a new power to regulate medical practice.

Oregon state lawyer Robert M. Atkinson picked up on that point, saying that "for the first time in our history ... a single, unelected federal official has decided what is accepted state medical practice."

But Roberts also challenged Atkinson's claim that state authorities could ignore the federal drug laws.

Suppose one state decided that it would permit people to obtain morphine from their doctors because "it makes people feel better," Roberts said. "Doesn't that undermine the effectiveness of the federal law? How is the federal government supposed to enforce its prohibition" on abusing morphine if one state permits it? he asked.

EVEN MORE: The Linda Greenhouse article in the NYT about today's argument doesn't even mention Roberts. [MORE: The longer version of the article at the link now does mention Roberts at the end, but not in connection with the suicide case.]

"It is time to get rid of this horrible mummy."

Somehow it's still hard to face up to the need to bury Lenin's body:
"It is time to get rid of this horrible mummy," said Valeriya Novodvorskaya, head of the Democratic Union, a small reform party. "One cannot talk about any kind of democracy or civilization in Russia when Lenin is still in the country's main square."

She added: "I would not care even if he were thrown on a garbage heap."...

Where Mr. Putin stands is now the central remaining question of Lenin's future address.

Mr. Putin said in 2001 that he did not want to upset the civic order by moving the founder's remains. "Many people in this country associate their lives with the name of Lenin," he said. "To take Lenin out and bury him would say to them that they have worshiped false values, that their lives were lived in vain."

IN THE COMMENTS: Best line "Somehow it almost sounds as if Putin is speaking for himself."

"Meet Danny. He's a kid looking for a dad."

I love, love, love this faux trailer presenting the "The Shining" as a feel-good heatwarmer. (Via Marginal Revolution, via Geek Press.)

Iraq's National Assembly reverses its bizarre interpretation of the referendum rules.

Good news.

(Here's my post from Monday on the subject.)

"I know her heart."

So says President Bush, as he tries to reassure conservatives about the Miers nomination. I razzed the Democrats for all the "heart" talk at the Roberts confirmation hearings, and the word makes me suspicious. Bush knows hearts (and he can look into a man's eye and see his soul). One wonders if his father believed he knew David Souter's heart.

There's a whole lot of "trust me" here, and it's especially hard to take because he has chosen someone who lacks the elite credentials of so many persons who were on the short list. When Bush chose John Roberts, he presented a person with stunning, silencing credentials. Now, so soon after that, we get the polar opposite. It's very strange indeed! I'm probably much more willing to trust Bush on something like this than most people are, and I'm not big on getting a particular ideology on the Court. (I'm not like the social conservatives who are fretting about the nomination because they want to know the nominee is anti-abortion.) But I do care intensely about competence, and I am highly sensitive to the idea that there is a two-track system, where male appointees are truly stellar and female appointees only need to be good enough and not too offensive to anyone.

UPDATE: From the Washington Times version of the same story, I read this Bush quote:
"I know her; I know her heart; I know what she believes -- remember, she was part of the search committee that helped pick Roberts," he said. "She knows exactly the kind of judge I'm looking for. And I know exactly the kind of judge she'll be."
Jeez, that's like something from a movie script where everyone in the audience is supposed to see the mistake the character is making!

Harriet Miers and religion (or is that politics?).

The NYT has an article about Harriet Miers and religion on its front page this morning. This is an attempt to gather a lot of information on the subject and to develop ideas about what her religion might say about the sort of Justice she will become if confirmed, but what is most striking is how little one can derive about her actual opinions from any of this.

She became a member of an evangelical church, in 1989, the same year "she took a break from a lucrative law practice and delved into politics with a campaign for the Dallas City Council in 1989, running for a nonpartisan post." She also switched to the Republican Party that year.
In a discussion with her campaign manager in 1989, Ms. Miers said she had been in favor in her younger years of a woman's right to have an abortion, but her views evolved against abortion, influenced largely by her born-again religious beliefs, said Lorlee Bartos, a Democratic campaign consultant in Dallas who managed Ms. Miers's City Council campaign.

"She was someone whose view had shifted, and she explained that to me," Ms. Bartos said.
Is that religion or politics? If I were hot to get a pro-lifer on the Court, I would not be convinced! If she is a pragmatic politician, who made religion part of her persona when she chose to get ahead in Texas politics, what do you think she will do if and when she has the lifetime position on the Court? That depends on how things play out with the set of Justices she joins, what the issues of the day turn out to be, and how the consumers of the Court's work respond. She could very well form a coalition with Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer and win the love of legal academia. There is more glory there than duly contributing her vote to Justices Scalia and Thomas, especially if the new Chief Justice distinguishes himself from them, as I suspect he will.

October 4, 2005

TimesSelect: a disaster?

I keep checking the NYT list of the "Most E-Mailed Articles," which used to be dominated by the op-ed columnists that you now must pay $50 a year to read. Today's list of the top 25 stories from the last 24-hours lacks a single TimesSelect item.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Maureen Dowd makes the list (at #6) with a piece about the Miers nomination. Here's the key bon mot:
W. is asking for a triple leap of faith. He has faith in Ms. Miers as his lawyer and as a woman who shares his faith. And we're expected to have faith in his faith and her faith, and her opinions that derive from her faith that could change the balance of the court and affect women's rights for the next generation.

That's a little bit too much faith, isn't it?

We're #1.

Nice.

Shrimp, polenta and chocolate mousse.

That's what George Bush and Harriet Miers were eating for dinner when he asked her to be his new nominee. Want more facts?
"She kept a low profile here as she did up there" in Washington, said Bruce Buchanan, political science professor at the University of Texas in Austin. "People who look into her background find her to be self-effacing - no family, no private life to speak of."....

Bush first met with Miers about the position on Sept. 21, the same day that Ginsburg told an audience in New York that she didn't like the idea of being the only woman on the Supreme Court. First lady Laura Bush wanted to see a woman nominated, too. Bush and Miers met three more times after that.
Nice to think that he responded to Ginsburg. He listens to the women, don't you think?

Bush and abortion.

Ms. Magazine reports on Bush's press conference today:
A reporter asked, "You’ve taken the time to express that you know her heart, her character. You’ve emphasized your friendship. So it seems reasonable that over the course of the years you’ve known her perhaps you have discussed the issue of abortion. Have you ever discussed with Harriet Miers abortion? Or have you gleaned from her comments her views on that subject?”

Bush kept avoiding the question, saying that he has no “litmus test” for judicial nominees, but the reporter reiterated the fact that Miers is someone Bush has known for a long time. “Have you never discussed abortion with her?” the report asked incredulously. “In your friendship with her…?” “Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her,” said Bush. “What I have done is understand the type of person she is and the type of judge she will be.”

Bush later would not answer a reporter’s question about whether he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but did emphasize that he has “made my position clear in the course of my campaigns … and I’m a pro-life president.”

Personally, I think Bush does not want to see Roe overturned. I think he's a lot more pragmatic than the hard core pro-lifers who have vested their hopes in him. I think there are a few women very close to him -- perhaps four close family members -- who talk about the importance of letting women govern the insides of their own bodies, and that there are some smart political strategists -- including at least one genius -- who see quite clearly the devastating harm that would befall the Republican Party if the Court overturned Roe.

Harriet Miers as the new entry on the list of nonmathematician math majors.

Here's a good list for reference. How does the interest in and aptitude for math affect how one behaves in non-mathematical aspects of life? Think of what math may have had to do with the accomplishments of these folks (and go to the link for the full list, compiled by Steven G. Buyske):
Ralph Abernathy, civil rights leader and Martin Luther King's closest aide.

Harry Blackmun, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, AB summa cum laude in mathematics at Harvard.

David Dinkins, Mayor of New York, BA in mathematics from Howard.

Florence Nightingale, pioneer in professional nursing. She was the first person in the English-speaking world to apply statistics to public health. She was also a pioneer in the graphic representation of statistics; the pie-chart was her invention, for example. Not really a math major, she was privately educated, but pursued mathematics far beyond contemporary standards for women.

Laurence H. Tribe, Professor at Harvard Law School, often regarded as one of the great contemporary authorities on Constitutional Law. An AB summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard.

Leon Trotsky, revolutionary. He began to study Pure mathematics at Odessa in 1897, but imprisonment and exile in Siberia seem to have ended his mathematical efforts.

Art Garfunkel, folk-rock singer. MA in mathematics from Columbia in 1967. Worked on a PhD at Columbia, but chose to pursue his musical career instead.

Phillip Glass , composer, a Bachelor's from the University of Chicago.

Carole King , Sixties songwriter, and later a singer-songwriter. She dropped out after one year of college to pursue her music career.

Tom Lehrer , songwriter-parodist. PhD student in mathematics at Harvard.

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass , and other works. A ringer: he was a logician under his real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Heloise (Ponce Cruse Evans), of Hints from Heloise . She minored in math.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn , Nobel prize-winning novelist, a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Rostov.

Bram Stoker , author of Dracula, took honors at Trinity University, Dublin.

Ted Kaczinski, PhD in mathematics from University of Michigan. Kaczinski worked at UC Berkeley for some time and published papers in complex variables before retreating to the woods and becoming the infamous "unabomber."
Can we get an op-ed from Larry Tribe on the subject? Or maybe you readers can speculate in the comments.

I'll just say that I expect the Senate Democrats to use the math background as they grill Miers about whether she's got a heart -- a subject they pestered John Roberts about. I expect them to heart-grill Harriet even more. She's supposed to represent women -- O'Connor did! -- so where are her feelings? She never married! She has no children! She majored in math! Will they dare take the tack that she's not a proper member of the group she's supposed to represent? You know they are thinking about it.

I just want to say that I'm standing here waiting for every misstep in that direction, and I intend to slam them for it -- from over here in my little outpost in the blogosphere.

Bears! Quicksand!

A little info about two things you might be worrying about in your spare time:

1. Quicksand:
The force needed to pull out a person immersed in quicksand is about the same needed to lift a car.... The trick for escaping is to slowly wiggle the feet and legs, allowing water to flow in. People float in quicksand so it is also impossible to sink all the way in, but quicksand usually forms at river estuaries, so a captive could drown at high tide.
Quicksand, like lava, is a big kid fear, for some reason.

2. Bears:
Attacks can generally be divided into two groups: predatory and defensive. Each calls for a different strategy.

Black and grizzly bears are capable of both types of attack. Those involving grizzlies tend to be defensive, when the animal feels threatened, according to Stephen Herrero, a bear expert at the University of Calgary and the author of "Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance." Playing dead then lets the bear know you're not a threat and can cause it to back off.

Black bears usually flee from humans, but when they do attack the motive tends to be predatory, and playing dead doesn't work. Neither does running away, since bears are much faster than humans.
Oh, so you have to understand the bear's feelings?

NPR, blogger guys, and the Miers nomination.

Here's an NPR clip about bloggers and the Miers nomination.

We hear Powerline's John Hinderaker complaining about the nomination and saying that Bush was "teed up to hit a grand slam home run." Hmmm. The Prez plays tee ball? You guys, with your sports metaphors. Are you even getting them straight?

And NPR, why only male bloggers? I'm going to assume it was because they were going for the image of bloggers as a bunch of blunt-talking tough guys.

"I know Harriet as well as anyone could, and I'd have a hard time telling you what her beliefs are on that subject."

"That subject" is, of course, abortion. The quote comes from this NYT article, which details the one thing we know about Miers and abortion: that in the early 1990s, as president of the Texas bar, she pushed the ABA to take a neutral position on abortion rights unless a majority of its members voted in favor of abortion rights:
Darrell Jordan, who also served as president of the Texas bar in that era, said the dispute transcended individuals' personal beliefs on abortion. Many lawyers, in Texas and elsewhere, he said, simply believed it was wrong for the national bar association to take a strong position on a political issue. Mr. Jordan said that even some supporters of abortion rights, including himself, shared the view that it was "inappropriate" to have that be the "official position of the legal profession," adding that many lawyers left the bar association over the issue.

Mr. Jordan said it would be "unfair" to read Ms. Miers's role in this effort as a sign of her opposition to abortion. He said, "I know Harriet as well as anyone could, and I'd have a hard time telling you what her beliefs are on that subject.
I wish we could be clearer in distinguishing abortion and abortion rights. It is possible to support abortion rights and still be opposed to abortion (in the sense of finding it morally wrong). And it is possible not to have a moral objection to abortion but nevertheless think that the Court went wrong when if found abortion rights in the Constitution. And there is complexity even within support for abortion rights. One could easily find no right in the Constitution, but think legislatures should not criminalize it. One could find a right in the Constitution, but think there is room for some regulation. And questions would still remain about whether that regulation is desirable or how much of it is appropriate.

We hear so much from those who have black and white positions on abortion. I tend to think Miers is not one of them. Indeed, I think maybe Bush isn't one of them.

UPDATE: Talk Left on Miers and abortion:
[A]n interview with Pastor Ron Key, who until a few weeks ago, was Ms. Miers' pastor at the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas ... shows she's very faith based, and that her Church is pro-life and against gay marriages. But, Pastor Key admits he has not talked to her about those issues. On the other hand, he says she is the same kind of person as Priscilla Owen and that they are good friends.

I don't think anyone really doubts that Ms. Miers is pro-life, but if she has gone through her career not publicly stating her view, maybe she will not let her personal views affect her rulings as a Judge. I'm also getting tired of the abortion debate. It's not the only important issue. I'm far more concerned with her position on criminal justice and civil liberties issues....

I have not seen any direct quote attributed to Ms. Miers in which she publicly states she is personally pro-life or believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.
Well observed. And consider that Miers, unlike, say, Roberts, does not seem to have spent her life gunning for a Supreme Court appointment.

"I really came out of high school believing I wasn't bright enough to be a doctor."

The NYT article "Miers Known as a Hard-Working Advocate for the President," recounts some of the difficulties Miers had getting started in her career, such as not being able to find a job after graduating at the top of her law school class. This resonated with me:
"I really came out of high school believing I wasn't bright enough to be a doctor," Ms. Miers told The Dallas Morning News in 1991. "Career days at high school, you just got no encouragement.
Maybe you younger people today have trouble getting your mind around that, but, trust me, women growing up in the 50s and 60s were not encouraged to take on careers. I graduated at the top of my high school class in 1969 and yet no teacher ever encouraged me to pursue a career of any kind. I believed law and medicine were out of my reach, meant for a completely different sort of person. I remember meeting a female law student when I was in college -- that is, art school -- and thinking of her as incredibly strange and wondering how she got the idea that she could go to law school. It wasn't until I was four years beyond college that I formed the thought that I could have gone to law school. And, by the way, in art school, the male students were treated as if they were the ones to be taken seriously, though I must say one art teacher gave me a serious piece of economic advice: If I was moving to NYC, I would need a "sugar daddy" and he had some phone numbers to share.

How did Miers get the idea to go to law school? She was impressed by the lawyer who dealt with her family's financial affairs after her father had a stroke.

Also:

Miers goes out on the town with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.

The NYT choose a fabulous photo of Harriet Miers to illustrate its article.

October 3, 2005

The Iraqi constitution can't fail.

Now.
Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil....

Other Shiite members of the assembly defended their action. They said that if only people who came to the polls were counted in the referendum, insurgent attacks could frighten away so many voters that the constitution could be rejected on the basis of a small, unrepresentative sample of voters.
Isn't it a clever disincentive to violence? Preventing voting undercuts the cause of the very people who were motivated to prevent voting. Given the reality of the threat, why isn't this incentive justified to allow people to vote?
The legal passage in question states: "The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of voters in three or more governorates do not reject it."

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word "voters" in one passage. "I think it's a double standard, and it's unfair," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish assembly member who, like many other lawmakers, said he had not been present during the vote and only learned of it afterward. "When it's in your favor, you say 'voters.' When it's not in your favor you say 'eligible voters.' "
It is awfully hard to support the interpretation. I wonder if the theory of "Active Liberty" would help.

Audible Althouse, Episode 8.

It's time for another podcast. I hope you're in the mood for a big dose of podcasty goodness, because this one is 55 minutes long. It covers the last four days of blogging: the university's diversity day, the layout of the bookstore, Cynthia Lennon's book about John, whether there was a squirrel in my house, the movie "A History of Violence," the TV show "The Apprentice," the pink locker room at the University of Iowa, the continuing distortions of the 2000 election, Barack Obama's vote against John Roberts, and, most importantly, the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.

What was John Roberts like on his first day?

He's not wearing the Rehnquistian gold stripes on his robe, Dahlia Lithwick reports:
So, how does Roberts look in the chief justice's chair? As though he were born to it, quite frankly. He is clearly prepared for argument. He listens intently to his colleagues' questions and watches them while they speak. His first exchange with Phillips shores up his credentials as a strict constructionist: "So, your approach introduces a third concept … and that's nowhere in the statute." He goes back and forth several times in this first colloquy and is quickly confident enough to retort: "That's my question." He juggles counsels' names, time limits, and a stack of briefs as though he's been doing it all his life. The fact that Roberts' umbilical cord was being cut when most of his colleagues were already practicing law is irrelevant. He is absolutely ready to lead them.
Hyper-competent. That's the way I like my Supreme Court Justices.

"I'm confident that she has a conservative judicial philosophy that you'd be comfortable with, Rush."

Here's the transcript of Dick Cheney talking about Harriet Miers on Rush Limbaugh's show today:
I'm confident that she has a conservative judicial philosophy that you'd be comfortable with, Rush. I've worked closely with Harriet for five years. I've seen her and worked closely with her, hand-in-glove with her, really, through this process of reviewing candidates for the Supreme Court, and that's how we got to the Roberts nomination. She believes very deeply in the importance of interpreting the Constitution and the laws as written. She won't legislate from the federal bench, and the president has great confidence in her judicial philosophy, has known her for many years, and I share that confidence based on my own personal experience.

Impossible to restore the complex culture of New Orleans?

Consider this:
Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was a majority-black city. It also was a poor one, and most of the people hardest hit by the storm were both....

It is also a place where French, Spanish, American Indians and West Africans intermarried as far back as the 18th Century. This resulted in a rich cultural heritage and a multiracial, sometimes inequitable society organized along color and class lines.

Now the city's native sons and daughters are speculating on how that complex culture will change in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some even question whether it will survive at all.

"I don't know that you're going to be able to capture the past," said Arnold Hirsch, a historian at the University of New Orleans. "You may come up with something new. You might be able to help the poverty and the problems that became so manifest during the hurricane, and that might be to the good. But it wouldn't be the historical New Orleans."

Read the whole thing.

"The impossibly wild, angry, infuriating, talented, cruel, funny, magnetic young rebel who would love and torment her and eventually cast her aside."

That would be John Lennon, according to this WaPo article on the occasion of Cynthia Lennon's hot new memoir:
In the standard accounts of the Beatles' rise, she's usually written off as the impressionable and clueless young thing who ensnared John in marriage after getting pregnant. Her own version is very different: They were young and madly in love and good for each other until fame, drugs and a bizarro performance artist named Yoko Ono swept him away. In person she has survivor's radar and a sweet, knowing demeanor that seems anything but clueless....

Her portrait of John is loving but candid. There are some fond moments: the scene of the boys dressed in black suits, like undertakers, at the wedding is hilarious, and John's joy at seeing his baby son Julian for the first time is heartwarming. But he could be vindictive, controlling, cynical and egocentric, she says. He insisted that she dye her hair blond to look like Brigitte Bardot and became furious when she cut it too short. Later on he bullied her into taking LSD even though it made her sick.

Then, as the madness of Beatlemania overtook him, he shut her out altogether. He hit her only once, she says, in a jealous rage early on after she danced with his best friend, Stuart Sutcliffe. It took him three months to apologize, and it never happened again. But the verbal abuse, the mocking and the demands never ceased, she says, although she confesses that she was far too passive and forgiving, inevitably shying away from confrontation for fear of losing him....

One living person who won't care for Cynthia's account is Yoko, who comes across as manipulative and vindictive or just plain oblivious. The book will confirm every Beatles fanatic's worst image of the woman many still blame for breaking up the world's favorite band.

Yoko changed John, made him fragile and precious and needy, cut him off from family and friends, according to Cynthia's version. "He was a different man when he was with me -- much more gregarious and all encompassing. John was never really precious when I knew him, never fragile."
I'd much rather hear this version of John than the saccharine pop culture John, the one that plays with the soundtrack "Imagine."

A D- for that B+.

Stephen Bainbridge gives Hugh Hewitt a D- for giving Bush a B+ for nominating Harriet Miers. (But what grade to do they give Miers herself?) Bainbridge utters the dreaded name "Carswell."

Here's what Hewitt says to the conservatives who are fretting about Miers:
Wake up people: Do you really think W is going to elevate a friend who doesn't agree with him on the crucial issues of the day just because she's a friend? Bush-haters like Sullivan will smoke that pipe, but no serious analyst of his judicial nominations.

Bush's picks for the Bench have been stellar, and his support for them unwavering. Conservative critics of Miers are disappointed they didn't get Luttig or McConnell, but many of them were also disappointed with Roberts. Meanwhile many folks who actually know the nominee are enthusiastic.

The Miers nomination is turning into a Rorschach test dividing conservatives into the camp that understands governing for the long term and those that are so emotionally fragile or contingent in their allegiance that anything they (1) don't understand or (2) disappoints in any way becomes an occasion for panic and declarations of irreparable injury.
Let's check out Sullivan then:
Just when the conservative coalition was already fracturing - over Iraq, spending, immigration, Katrina - you'd think that Bush would pick a solid base-favorite for SCOTUS. That was my assumption: something to rev up the troops, divide the country into a classic culture-war left-right battle, etc. But I was wrong.... The only reason I can think of for Bush to rattle his base in this fashion is the same reason Clinton decided to push his luck with a blow-job in the Oval Office: "Because I could." He picked Miers because he could. If he wasn't allowed to get his favorite crony, Gonzales, he was going to go one better. This is not to say we shouldn't give the Miers nomination a thorough and fair look. Unlike many of the Cornerites, I'm not sure yet whether she'd make a decent Justice. But, boy, does this pick remind us of who GWB is: about as arrogant a person as anyone who has ever held his office. Now the base knows how the rest of us have felt for close to five years. He had one accountability moment. He doesn't expect another.
Of course, Hewitt is right about Sullivan hating Bush. The Miers nomination doesn't really add much of anything to the reasons people have to hate Bush. It really just seems that Sullivan uses whatever happens to trash Bush. Lots of people do that around here in Madison. I find it tedious.

"Wouldn't it be funny if Souter and I got married?"

See what happens when you nominate a woman? She starts blogging about her feelings!

Miers and abortion.

The Washington Post reports:
As president of the Texas State Bar in 1993, Harriet Miers urged the national American Bar Association to put the abortion issue to a referendum of the group's full membership. She questioned at the time whether the ABA should "be trying to speak for the entire legal community" on an issue that she said "has brought on tremendous divisiveness" within the ABA....

Miers was among a group of lawyers from the Texas bar and elsewhere who had argued that the ABA should have a neutral stance on abortion.

The ABA's policy-making body overwhelmingly rejected the Texas lawyers' group's 1993 proposal to put the issue to a referendum by mail of the ABA's then-roster of about 360,000 members.

What does this mean about whether Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? Almost nothing. It doesn't even tell us whether she's opposed to abortion rights. She took part in an effort to move the ABA out of endorsing a position that many of its members strongly opposed. At most, it tells us that she had some sensitivity for the concerns of ABA members who were pro-life, though not necessarily that much, since she only sought a majority vote in the referendum. A stronger position would be that the ABA shouldn't take a position contrary to the deep moral beliefs of a significant portion of their members. Her position seems to have been moderate, concerned about the functioning of the ABA as an institution and considerate about diverse opinions within the group.

Schumer looked happy.

Senator Schumer had on his jovial demeanor as he talked about the Miers nomination at his press conference, which I saw part of just now on C-Span. He indicated that Miers was one of the names on the list of acceptable candidates the Democrats gave to President Bush.

UPDATE: I'm watching the C-Span rerun of Harry Reid's presentation this morning. Miers stood with him and he praised her unstintingly. He didn't commit to voting for her, but he seemed to be actively promoting her.

"She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met."

From ABC News:
Miers was Bush's personal lawyer in Texas and took on the tough job of cleaning up the Texas Lottery when he was governor. She followed him to Washington, first serving as White House staff secretary and then deputy chief of staff before being named to replace Alberto Gonzales, who was named U.S. attorney general, as counsel to the president.

Born and raised in Dallas, Miers, 60, earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. In addition to her legal career, she served one term on the Dallas City Council.

The White House and Miers' supporters praise her as a trailblazer and a pioneer in the legal field. The first woman hired by the prestigious Dallas law firm Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely, she also was the first female president of the Dallas Bar Association and the first female president of the Texas Bar Association.

Miers met Bush in the 1980s, according to published reports, and was counsel for his 1994 campaign for governor. He appointed her chair of the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995. Miers then was president of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell and co-managing partner of Locke Liddell & Sapp before she joined the White House in 2001....

Miers, who has never been married and does not have any children, is known for putting in long hours without complaint. She has revealed little about her own emotions or ideology, but has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush administration on a broad number of initiatives including tax cuts, Social Security reforms, restrictions on federal spending on embryonic stem-cell research, national security, education reforms and fighting terrorism.

According to a blog by former White House speechwriter David Frum, Miers has been known for her loyalty and will not make headlines as a Supreme Court associate justice.

"In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met," Frum's blog said. "She served Bush well, but she is not the person to lead the court in new directions — or to stand up under the criticism that a conservative justice must expect."
Never married? Interesting. Is anyone going to say anything about that? Thinks Bush is the most brilliant man she had ever met? Well, that's just weird. Or, really, sycophantic.

Let's check out that Frum blog:
The Miers nomination ... is an unforced error. Unlike the Roberts's nomination, which confirmed the previous balance on the Court, the O'Connor resignation offered an opportunity to change the balance. This is the moment for which the conservative legal movement has been waiting for two decades--two decades in which a generation of conservative legal intellects of the highest ability have moved to the most distinguished heights in the legal profession. On the nation's appellate courts, in legal academia, in private practice, there are dozens and dozens of principled conservative jurists in their 40s and 50s unassailably qualified for the nation's highest Court. Yes, Democrats might have complained. But if Democrats had gone to war against a Michael Luttig or a Sam Alito or a Michael McConnell, they would have had to fight without weapons: the personal and intellectual excellence of these candidates would have made it obvious that the Democrats' only real principle was a kind of legal Brezhnev doctrine: that the Court's balance must remain forever what it was in the days when Democrats had a majority of the votes in the U.S. Senate--in other words, what we have, we hold. Not a very attractive doctrine, and not very winnable either....

I worked with Harriet Miers. She's a lovely person: intelligent, honest, capable, loyal, discreet, dedicated ... I could pile on the praise all morning. But nobody would describe her as one of the outstanding lawyers in the United States. And there is no reason at all to believe either that she is a legal conservative or--and more importantly--that she has the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly bend the American legal system toward the left.

I am not saying that she is not a legal conservative. I am not saying that she is not steely. I am saying only that there is no good reason to believe either of these things.
So the conservatives are unhappy. Will this make the Democrats back off? Or will this encourage them to take the opportunity to win one?

Is the Miers nomination doomed?

Tom Goldstein analyzes the political dynamics of the Miers nomination and predicts defeat!
Miers [does not] have a built in "fan base" of people in Washington, in contrast to the people (Democratic and Republican) who knew and respected John Roberts. Even if Democrats aren't truly gravely concerned, they will see this as an opportunity to damage the President.

Miers + cronyism.

That's my Google News search for the day. Only four hits right now, but I'm expecting to see opinion on Miers form around the accusation that Bush is into cronyism. I'll be monitoring that. Here's the same search done in Google Blogs: currently, 23 hits.

UPDATE: I wonder how long it will take for someone to call Miers a "crone." Too sexist, you think? Clearly, you haven't read as many Mary Daly books as I have!

Harriet Miers!

President Bush is expected to announce that he has chosen Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court! [UPDATE: He has announced.] How interesting! We heard her name fairly late in the speculation. I posted about her here on September 27th, which was the first time I heard the name. So many others were considered and passed over, so many judges. But in the end, Bush has chosen a person who has never been a judge -- there will be much talk about that -- and a person who is a woman (to replace the Court's first woman) -- so we won't need to talk about that anymore.

Miers, who replaced Alberto Gonzales as White House Counsel, led the search for the new nominee, and people will thus compare her to Dick Cheney, who led the search for Bush's running mate in 2000 and ended up getting the position himself. I suppose we've got to speculate on the mind of Bush, that he ends up becoming impressed by the one he works closely with in a search. Or we might subtract some things we've thought about Cheney. Perhaps we've thought he was especially sly in deflecting all the other candidates and seizing the job for himself. That seems less likely now that it's happened twice. It says more about Bush. But let's not talk about Bush, let's talk about Miers!

I have never heard Miers speak, but an important consideration for Bush ought to have been how well the nominee could present herself at the hearings, a concern that ought to have heightened as the Roberts confirmation process played out. Roberts presented himself so brilliantly and had to stand up to an intense grilling. It won't do for the next nominee to be far from his standard. The new nominee will be compared endlessly to Roberts, and Democrats will engage heavily in rhetoric that puts a new golden glow around Roberts. The Democrats who voted for Roberts are in a position to take special advantage of the opportunity to compare the new nominee to him and to say that he was acceptable, but she does not measure up. Bush needed to find a nominee who would not empower than line of argument. Whether Miers is such a person, we will need to find out.

It's interesting that Bush waited until today, the opening day of the Court's new term, to make the announcement. I had thought that he would announce immediately upon the confirmation of John Roberts. By announcing today, we absorb the news at the same time we look at the Court's new term. As we will think about the various cases the Court faces, we will talk about what Miers might do with them. Announcing today makes us focus on the fact that O'Connor, who wants to leave, is still there, ready to sit on the cases until the new nominee is confirmed. I think that lights a fire under the Senators to do their work quickly. Let the Court have its new member so it can get on with its work.

We will see how long it takes for Senate Democrats to articulate Miers-specific reasons for slowing things down.

UPDATE: Baseball Crank is "less than thrilled" with Miers. He also notes "Bush calls the bluff of Harry Reid, who said he wanted a nominee who was "more of a trial lawyer."

October 2, 2005

Did you take notes at the movies?

Yeah. In the dark.

Notes taken in the dark

Why did I eat that bowl of soup?

Look at the menu Nina has planned! I'm contemplating bulimia to get ready for this. Readers glance around wondering if anyone else is worrying, considering the previous post, that Althouse is going to start intentionally vomit-blogging again.

"A History of Violence."

I just saw the David Cronenberg movie, "A History of Violence." Now, I don't purport to do movie reviews here, and that's a particularly good thing in this case, because I don't have a coherent opinion about this movie. I don't even have an opinion as to whether it's a good movie. I'm just giving some bloggish impressions, numbered to give some semblance of order.

There are no spoilers here.

1. Nice that it's only about 90 minutes long. I always get antsy at the movies. 90 minutes is a typical length for a comedy, not a drama. So my question is: Was this a movie of atypical length? Was it a comedy? I was laughing anyway and so were some other people. The violent outbursts felt like very serious, stunning violence, but overall, it was comic, the way "Pulp Fiction" is comic. Yet there were no obvious laugh lines. It was a really interesting feeling of being appropriately affected by the danger and violence, but still finding it funny.

2. It has a dreamlike quality -- and begins with a child's nightmare (at least that's where I came in). No, there are no monsters. Light chases the monsters away. So the child is told. Yet the movie is quite underlit -- what diner has mood lighting? -- perhaps to signify that the tale to be told follows the logic of a dream: threatening characters show up in your ordinary life and you need to escape from them, in one scene after another, where very strange things happen, dragging you out of your normal life; troubling questions arise about your identity and the identity of others around you, as you try different ways to get back home, as you lose your grip on what your home is.

3. It was a low budget movie, I'm assuming. That may explain a lot of the low lighting. The point where I realized they really made this go without the money they needed: Two men enter what is supposed to be a very rich man's mansion and, when each of them steps on what is made to look like a solid marble threshold, it caves way down like a flimsy board.

4. Viggo Mortenson makes a great leading man. Much of the movie is watching his face. I enjoyed that.

5. Maria Bello is not a good actress. She's interesting to look at, but she can't do what is needed in a film like this. Cronenberg tried to cover for her inadequacies by having her do things like run out of the room and throw up off camera or bury her face in Mortenson's shoulder and cry. We'd watch more of him then, instead of her. And by the way, if there's one thing I would like to ban in movies, it's having a character express emotion by vomiting.

6. That was William Hurt? Wow, he got... less attractive.

I haven't read any reviews of this movie. I just saw Mortenson on Letterman and liked him and his clip, and I saw that the film got an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I guarantee that all six points above were written without reading a single review. Now, I'll read some reviews.

Here's a line from one of the less good reviews, by Stephen Witty:
"Violence" -- hailed in some quarters as [Cronenberg's] most "accessible" film -- is, sadly, his least interesting, settling for some genre setpieces and a pair of eccentric performances by villains Ed Harris and William Hurt. As a history of Cronenberg, it's a good introductory lecture, detailing his careful composition, mastery of unease and complicated thematic interests. As a Cronenberg film though, it's figuratively bloodless, without any real body to it at all.
Fair enough.

From Kevin Turan:
It's a measure of Cronenberg's confidence in his material, his cast and his own skill that he purposely opens this ultimately compelling film with a glacially paced sequence of a pair of drifters checking out of a motel at a velocity that only Jim Jarmusch in full "Broken Flowers" mode could love.
Hey, I missed a glacially paced sequence that opened the film. Was I really that late?
Matching her costar's level of commitment, Bello gives her most involving performance, supplying a level of emotional belief that is the film's secret weapon, holding it together no matter where it goes.
Too many male reviewers forgive too much when they love the actress's looks. I give Turan a demerit.

The WaPo's Desmond Thomson:
"A History of Violence" forces us to confront our Pavlovian conditioning to violence, whether we are watching real military campaigns with living room detachment or whooping and hollering for fictional ones. It's not about popcorn heroism or the importance of protecting an increasingly troubled world against hostile invaders. It's just about why we're cheering.
Generic, trite observation. How about a review of, you know, this movie?

Over at Entertainment Weekly, there's praise for the score, which reminds me to say I hated the score, and there's a discussion forum, where I read that audiences hated this movie. Hmm... I wonder why? Was it marketed as a mainstream film, but it's an art film. I don't know. As an art film, it's actually awfully B-movie-ish.