November 19, 2005

"I went there to live because it seemed so simple."

Johnny Depp wants out...



... of France. "It's insane."

Is a role-playing lesson about Islam, complete with prayers, permitted in public schools?

The Ninth Circuit rejected the Establishment Clause claim:
During the history course at Excelsior School in the fall of 2001, the teacher, using an instructional guide, told the students they would adopt roles as Muslims for three weeks to help them learn what Muslims believe.

She encouraged them to use Muslim names, recited prayers in class and made them give up something for a day, such as television or candy, to simulate fasting during Ramadan. The final exam asked students for a critique of elements of Muslim culture.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled in favor of the school district in 2003, saying that the class had an instructional purpose and that students had engaged in no actual religious exercises.

The appeals court upheld her ruling Thursday in a three-paragraph decision that was not published as a precedent for future cases...

Edward White of the Thomas More Center, the attorney in the case for the two children and their parents, said he will ask the full appeals court for a rehearing. He said the panel failed to address his argument that the district violated parents' rights.

"What happened in this classroom was clearly an endorsement of religion and indoctrination of children in the Islamic religion, which would never have stood if it were a class on Christianity or Judaism,'' White said.
Isn't White correct? If he is, should we think that the school is more respectful of Islam or more respectful of Christianity? One might contend that the school is more hostile to the religion it would never make the students pretend to exercise, because of the exclusion, but I think the opposite is true. The role-playing seems acceptable to the teachers when they conceive of the religion as a manifestation of a culture and not really a religion at all. If you wouldn't do an exercise like this for all the religions, you shouldn't do it for any of them. Asking children to say prayers that they do not believe could be very offensive to those who actually believe the religion. And finding out that the school made your child recite prayers other than yours is infuriating.

"The darkness at the center" of every book about the Beatles.

John Lennon.
[Beatles biographer Bob Spitz] hits the Lennon-as-drug-addled-emotional-cripple note with jarring frequency, a riff that often obscures the bad-boy rock expressionist's outright genius—just listen to a bootleg of the "Strawberry Fields Forever" demos recorded only weeks prior to what Spitz calls Lennon's "apogee of drug taking and self-abuse."
Here's the Spitz book on Amazon, open to the Search Inside function. Find something interesting and post it in the comments. I found this on page 336, describing the recording of "Come Together":
"Shoot me!" The taunt was indicative of the way John was feeling at the time. If Yoko helped reinforce his contempt for Paul, the heroin made their differences more irrational. Convinced that Paul was stealing his thunder, if not his soul, John fought his resentment with numbness.
Not really that well written, is it? "Convinced that Paul was stealing his thunder, if not his soul" is awfully bad.

Note: "Spitz" should not count as bodily-fluids blogging. Or should it?

That gives me an idea. Hmmm.... No references to semen or pus in the entire book! There is blood, though:
[M]uch of [Yoko Ono's book] Grapefruit [John] found infuriating, scattered with outrageous instructional “pieces,” such as “Use your blood to paint. Keep painting until you faint. Keep painting until you die.” John, who loved nothing more than to whip up controversy, saw in Yoko a kindred spirit. She refused to play by anyone's rules. Yes, there was the "avant-garde crap" she perpetrated as art, but she was unlike any woman he'd ever met, a real challenge to figure out. She excited him.

"It's a bloggerly day in the blogging world/A bloggerly day for a blogger..."

In the unintentional humor category, over at OSM, the top news under "Current Headlines"-- I kid you not! -- is: "AP: Winnipeg bowler advances to semifinal of Qubica/AMF Bowling World Cup."

And in the intentional humor category... we have a winner.

Closing in...

... on the big 3 million mark. Can't think of anything to do about it -- other than to try to identify the 3 millionth person.

Jacob gives an A+.

He writes:
You know that part of Magnolia, or Jerry Maguire, or Oprah, where Tom Cruise starts singing "Save Me" or "Free Falling" or "Psycho Killer, Qu'est-Ce Que C'est?" or whatever, and you get so, so embarrassed and you have to look away? Times one hundred. For almost every second of the episode. I have hysterical blindness in my ears now. It's like the opposite of how Daredevil can hear really super-well, except the sense that's being compensated for is my sense of self.
He's describing the last episode of "The Apprentice"! Ha!

A suprising display in a State Street poster store window here in Madison.

Four posters:

1. Image: a painting of the face of a Nazi, wearing a monocle, in which is reflected the silhouette of a hanged man. Text: "This Is The Enemy."

2. Image: a painting of Hitler, cowering, under a sky full of Allied planes. Text: "When? It's Up to You."

3. Image: a photograph of what looks like a live chicken, fully plucked. Text: "I am."

4. Image: a short, very dirty hippy, wearing a soldier's helmet, on which is scrawled "Stop the War." Text: "Because I scare very easily."

What's up?

ADDED: It might be helpful to know that it's the same store I described here.

Faces at a conference.

These are some faces drawn to pass the time at a conference. I won't say who or where or when. (Click to enlarge.)

Conference participants. Conference participants. Conference participants. Conference participants. Conference participants.

"Bloggers reacted quickly."

I've got to run and go shopping, but I don't want to disappoint readers who think I live to slam OSM. I wouldn't want to leave you with just LED-like butterfly wings, internet dating lawsuits, "South Park" on Scientology, Google's struggle with copyright holders, and Senator Kerry's quest to retain his rightful place in America's heart. So let me just ask a few questions about what's currently visible on the OSM home page.

Why would the "BEST OF THE BLOGS" be a dopey call for a "round of applause" for a cab driver who found a bag of diamonds left in his car and called the police?

Why out of 9 "current headlines" are 7 of them from Xinhua News Agency? And why does "Weather information for Asia-Pacific cities" count as a headline? It's not exactly news.

And why, if bloggers ought to hold back and give OSM a chance to get itself established before critiquing them, does OSM present its lead story with a news blurb followed by the line "Bloggers reacted quickly"? It's the way of blogging to react quickly. They're trying to present themselves as better than MSM because they are so quick. How can they or their defenders complain that other bloggers are quick to react to them?

Cue the Althouse-is-crazy comments.

Butterfly wings that are "identical in design to the LED."

BBC reports:
This slab of hollow air cylinders in the wing scales is essentially mother nature's version of a 2D photonic crystal.

Like its counterpart in a high emission LED, it prevents the fluorescent colour from being trapped inside the structure and from being emitted sideways.

The scales also have a type of mirror underneath them to upwardly reflect all the fluorescent light that gets emitted down towards it. Again, this is very similar to the Bragg reflectors in high emission LEDs.

"Unlike the diodes, the butterfly's system clearly doesn't have semiconductor in it and it doesn't produce its own radiative energy," Dr Vukusic told the BBC News website "That makes it doubly efficient in a way.

"But the way light is extracted from the butterfly's system is more than an analogy - it's all but identical in design to the LED."...

"When you study these things and get a feel for the photonic architecture available, you really start to appreciate the elegance with which nature put some of these things together," he said.
No, I'm not trying to restart the Intelligent Design debate. I just think it's cool.

Well, would you go out with him?

A disappointed love-seeker is suing Match.com:
A lawsuit recently filed in Los Angeles claims that Match.com's staff have turned up for dates with clients in order to keep them interested when no one else seems to be interested in them....

It has been brought by a Florida man who accuses the company of posting profiles of fictitious potential clients on its website to give the impression, he says, that it has more single people on its books than is really the case.
Well, would you go out with that Florida man? He seems unpleasantly litigious and prone to conspiracy theories. Picture yourself on a date with him, and he starts describing this lawsuit. Wouldn't you excuse yourself to go to the ladies' room and then never come back?

I anticipate comments that begin "but I'm a lesbian so I wouldn't go out with a man" or "but I'm a man so I wouldn't go out with a man" or "but I'm a gay man so I wouldn't go to the ladies room." I know I'm being heteronormative and gynonormative. Deal with it.

Too far in mocking Tom Cruise? What about too far in mocking religion?

Here's a CNN segment on the new episode of "South Park" that mocked Scientology and Tom Cruise. CNN jumbles a lot of things together and titles the segment "Did 'South Park' go too far in mocking Tom Cruise?" Why not ask whether "South Park" went to far in mocking Scientology? That was what most of the episode was about.

Not shown in the CNN clip is the show's hilarious animated depiction of the deep secrets of Scientology. Instead, CNN reruns rumors about Cruise's sexual orientation, replete with the usual clip of him jumping on Oprah's couch. It's true the "South Park" episode repeatedly used the phrase "Tom Cruise come out of the closet." (Cruise literally hides in a closet for a reason that has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.) CNN shows many of those repetitions and informs us that they counted 39 of them. It's very funny.

But religion is the real target of "South Park's" mockery, and CNN opted for the easy approach of tweaking Cruise one more time about the rumors. In a lame attempt to appear journalistic, CNN presented the rumors as a report on how other people are spreading rumors. (Isn't that usually how one spreads rumors?) Can you picture CNN actually going after Scientology the way "South Park" did?

Side note: I love "South Park's" crude imitation of John Travolta's voice, which you can hear in the CNN clip.

"Information wants to be found."

Everyone agrees to that. So if Google's Book Search program brings readers to the books that want to be found, how has it done anything other than enhance the value of the books? But it must scan the books into its system to perform the searches, that is, make a copy, and the copyright holders, not content that Google is doing them a service, wants to be paid for that copying. It's hard not to notice and envy that huge pile of money Google's got.
Publishers and authors are suing Google over its Book Search program (formerly called Google Print), which lets users search for terms within volumes. Though users will see only a few lines of text related to the search term, Google is planning to digitize entire copyrighted works from the collections of three university libraries. The publishers and authors contend that without their approval, that is a violation of copyright laws....

Google ... maintains that it needs to scan a whole book for its search engine to work. Successful searches will return only three to five lines of text, which the company says constitutes a "fair use," allowed under copyright law.

David Drummond, Google's general counsel, said the company's service allowed users to find books that are in libraries but no longer in bookstores, and that would otherwise go undiscovered by most potential readers.

[Allan Adler, a vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers,] and Nick Taylor, president of the Authors Guild, which is also suing Google, made several pointed references to Google's status as a for-profit company. "The issue here is indeed control," Mr. Taylor said. "It is the appropriation of material that they don't own for a purpose that is, however altruistic and lofty and wonderful, nevertheless a commercial enterprise."

Translation: Google is making money, so we don't care that it is improving life for both authors and readers. We want some of the money!

"I won't stand for the Swift-boating of Jack Murtha."

Senator Kerry employs a coinage that stirs up old feelings of pity.

November 18, 2005

"They're acting like CBS did last year after bloggers (like Charles!) proved the TNG memos were frauds. It's really uncanny."

Steven Den Beste commenting chez Dennis the Peasant. "It's a bad sign when they start editing the past, in this case by deleting the previous 'name defense' post." A later commenter adds: "Someone needs to do an animated overlay of OSM's original 'trademark' post v. the newer revised version. Alert the media!"

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone links to this recent post by Roger L. Simon, and it makes me say:
Yeah, I read that post of Roger's. It is incredibly whiny. The identification with Judith Miller is laughable. The expressions of weakness with respect to the organization he took a pile of money to run are reckless. How would you feel if you were one of the investors?

Poor, sensitive Roger? Let me remind you once again that Simon telephoned me when I first criticized the Pajamas offer that was emailed to me. He bullied me in the most unbelievably patronizing tone of voice, then, when I tried to express how I felt about blogging, said "Nice to talk to you" and hung up on me. He totally did not impress me as a sensitive sort of person, though he is playing that role in that post of his. I'm sure he feels terrible about his project. But the notion that bloggers shouldn't criticize it, when they had a flashy launch party, is beyond absurd.

And now we should hold back to spare Roger's feelings? Should we have worried about hurting Dan Rather's feelings too?

Suddenly, I feel like writing a post titled: "What's the Frequency, Roger?"

UPDATE: I just looked back at the original post I did about rejecting the Pajamas Media offer. It's very short and light, but it does try to express the feeling I have about blogging:
Did you get your offer from Pajamas Media yet? Are you going to put on the pajamas -- take a flat fee to commit the top four spots on your sidebar for a whole year? I thought Pajamas implied a bloggy freedom, different from a corporate, mainstream mentality. Are we supposed to marry Pajamas and give up on Henry Copeland's delightful BlogAds, which has been beautifully designed with a feeling for the spirit of blogging? Ah, I don't like pajamas anyway. I want to blog naked. With Henry.
This is what led Roger to lay into me over the telephone and then hang up on me. That's all I would have written, had he not called me and acted like that. I was trying to spare them. After the phone call, I wrote this, analyzing the Pajamas offer in detail. And so it became one of my regular subjects.

In which I advise local liberal lawyers to support Judge Alito.

After guiding my CivPro class through the mysteries of transfer of venue this morning at the Law School, I transfer myself to another venue, the Café Monmartre, for a little debate about the Alito nomination for a group of lawyers from the American Constitution Society (the liberal answer to the Federalist Society). I'm there to convince them that they ought to support the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. It's impossible, of course, but I do have some arguments: we need strong, well-established jurists on the Court, not stealth nominees and compromises; the wheel will turn again and allow a Democratic President to appoint a brilliant and distinctive liberal jurist to the Court; liberals should not want the institution of the Court to be degraded by political fights in which ordinary people are encouraged to believe that there is no creditable rule of law and judges are nothing but democracy-usurping activists.

The place looks awfully bohemian for a lawyerly event, but this is Madison, my friends:

Café Monmartre

It's very hard to get an unblurred shot of the place:

Café Monmartre

But in some ways a blur is appropriate -- symbolic, perhaps of the blurring of the line between law and policy, which I recommend sharpening ....

Café Monmartre

... and my opponent in the debate prefers to keep well blended. We must recognize that the Justices are "making public policy" for the country, he says, as I keep saying that progressives have a stake in preserving the rule of law and the legitimacy of the courts. They need an articulable legal theory that is as powerful as the conservative's originalism, I say. My opponent fairly seethes: "The concepts such as original intent of the framers are pernicious in my opinion." A member of the audience rejects my assertion that originalism is comprehensible to ordinary Americans and that liberals need a theory that is equally appealing in the political debate, where, now, their favorite judges are too easily painted as "activists" who are "legislating from the bench." Who believes the conservative's argument? -- he asks and says that everyone must know that what the courts do is politics by another name. I said, "If I had a videotape of you saying that and I put it up on my website, do you have any idea what the reaction would be?"

Any suggestions on how to mark the occasion?

The Site Meter is getting awfully close to 3 million right now.

My Life's Getting Somewhere Now.

That my suggestion for a follow-up recording for Salvatore Acquaviva:
A little-known Belgian songwriter won a plagiarism case against Madonna on Friday, leading a local court to ban the megastar's song "Frozen" from sale or broadcast in the country. Songwriter Salvatore Acquaviva's suit had alleged that Madonna's 1998 hit off the album "Ray of Light" plagiarized parts of his song, "Ma Vie Fout L'camp (My Life's Getting Nowhere)," which had been written five years earlier.

"The judge has ruled Madonna must withdraw from sales all remaining disks, and orders that TV and radio can no longer play 'Frozen,'" Acquaviva's lawyer, Victor-Vincent Dehin, said.

"Relinquished" is the new "graciously agreed."

Open Source Media, which airs a terrific public radio show, has a new post up about their their problem with OSM, which, I must say, makes OSM's defense of its name look really weak. Even stranger is OSM's “About Our Name” post, which keeps changing, but at one point said, as quoted by Brendan at Open Source:
There are other Open Sources. A gentleman named Christopher Lydon has an excellent web site called Open Source. His URL is www.radioopensource.com, and he graciously agreed to give us opensourcemedia.net.

Brendan responds:
This is just not true. And weird. We didn’t graciously agree to give them anything. We’ve never talked to them. They didn’t answer our email.
Right now, OSM has this "About Our Name":
There are other Open Sources. A gentleman named Christopher Lydon has an excellent web site called Open Source. His URL is www.radioopensource.com, and he relinquished the domain name opensourcemedia.net.
"Relinquished" is the new "graciously agreed."

Phase 1: Collect Underpants.

Iowahawk has made a chart explaining the OSM business plan. He explains the chart here.
In Phase A, various important blogosphere blogs are coerced into a mutual non-aggression pact under the auspices of the OSM directorate. This is very similar to NATO, but French people are excluded. In Phase number B, there is large alcohol party in New York, which is an important center for media business discussions. In Phase 3, the system creates values, which are translated into very large checks for everybody. In Phase number D, I drive my new yacht, the “Ha Ha Ha,” to a tax-free Caribbean island.
He's in the alliance, so you've got to give him credit for violating the first rule of OSM. And my name comes up, in a sentence that -- outrageously -- contains the name of a bodily fluid.

UPDATE: What's going on at the OSM website right now? They've had a picture of some chickens at the top of the page since yesterday. You know how whenever there's a story about avian flu, there's got to be a picture of some chickens or parrots or something, because otherwise, people might be wondering what the word "avian" means? Fortunately, OSM saves us from worrying about what the word "flu" means. They write out "influenza." They are professionalizing blogging, so no slang. Turgid writing is the rule.

Me and those precious bodily fluids.

My reference to bodily fluids in this post has gotten a lot of attention, but do you know this isn't the first time I've gotten a strange amount of attention for talking about bodily fluids?

Let me reminisce about last year's bout with the fluid. It was the day after one of those presidential debates that we paid such close attention to back then:
I noticed from my Sitemeter that I'm getting referrals from the Washington Post, so I check over there and see:
Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times watched television commentators and "livebloggers" last night. ...

"Just after 10 p.m., the Democratic Web blogger Ann Althouse wrote . . . : 'A glob of foam forms on the right side of his mouth! Yikes! That's really going to lose the women's vote.' "
Oh, I'm blogging as a Democrat? Well, I read it in the New York Times, so it's probably true. Did Rutenberg read enough of my blog to see that I'm voting for Bush, or is he just concluding from the fact that I don't mind saying that I observed spittle in the corner of Bush's mouth that I must be opposed to him? Maybe Rutenberg is assuming that these bloggers are all so partisan that if they say one thing against a candidate, they must say everything against that candidate.

Why no referrals from the New York Times on Sitemeter? WaPo made my name into a link, but the Times doesn't do links. In fact, where WaPo has the ellipsis above, the Times has "on Althouse.com," which is neither the name of this blog nor the URL. And why two b's in "Web blogger"?

For all the thousands of things I've written about the election, the big recognition I get is for seeing spit in the corner of Bush's mouth? Ah, I suppose I deserve to get picked on for something small since I was picking on Bush for something small, which of course, for MSM, symbolizes what small, small, pajama-wearing, ankle-biters these bloggers--b-bloggers!--are.
Then:
[T]he Washington Post and the NYT are paying attention to my paying attention to a glob of foam that formed in the corner of President Bush's mouth last night.

Me and presidential bodily fluids, talked about in the big newspapers! I feel like the new Monica Lewinsky!

Fascinating though this high-level MSM attention is, it's the Belmont Club that is linking to my spittle-spotting and saying something interesting about it. Is it "vacuous," as one of the commenters on that post says, to judge people from their faces or are we tapping into some deep, subconscious skill that evolution has built into our eyes and our brains?
Maybe I'll put in a Google Alert for the various bodily fluids and pursue this line of blogging in earnest, since it's worked so well in the past. Any other bodily-fluids blogging? -- you may wonder. Well, there's this, from back when this blog was young:
I was annoyed when the mango juice sold in the Law School snack bar changed its name from Fantasia (no connection to American Idol) to Naked. When I'm consuming liquid, I don't want to contemplate nakedness. That's just wrong: why are you making me think of bodily fluids?
Why? Just to get to you!

"The con man's game is always the same: sensing what the gull most wants to be true."

Stephen Metcalf has a nice piece in Slate about the decline of "the English professor as con man." NYU physics prof Alan Sokal plays the central heroic role, with his hoax article explaining why "an external world obedient to invariable physical laws was an Enlightenment fiction." Here's Metcalf:
I started graduate school a few years before the Sokal hoax, when what was still transgressive and sexy about literary theory was fighting it out with the sheer ay, caramba factor of such pronouncements as "E=MC2 is a sexed equation." By the time I exited grad school, the feeling of an era being over—however meretricious in some of its particulars the era might have been—was unmistakable. These days, no think tank pundit would bother to denounce literary theory; its biggest stars, by way of generating some final headlines, have publicly disowned it; and no fresh cohort of terrifying intellectual charismatics has crossed the Atlantic to revive it.
How many hours of your precious life did you throw away trying to get your mind around literary theory? What else did you fritter away your undergrad years studying and what intellectual pursuit would have been a better use of your time? What ideas did you take seriously then that seem so worthless now?

Donald's "Apprentice."

(Spoilers.) It was so obvious that Clay was going to go if his team lost that I kept saying, "Something better happen other than just Clay getting fired." I think Clay had just gotten worn down and had no reserve of patience for anyone anymore. At least Trump had the showmanship to make it seem as though Randal might get the ax for his blunder of putting the wrong the channel number on the poster for XM Satellite Radio, and -- let's face it -- for being too passive. I like the way, this season, Trump is a lot harder on contestants who try to win by being inoffensive. "What did you do on this task?" is a question that gets asked a lot.

For once they had a new kind of task, writing and recording a song, with the key being to make the song fit on a very particular channel on the elaborate XM dial: XM Café. Felisha heroically stopped her musicians when they got too jazzy and ordered them to fit the song exactly into the Café niche. None of this art and personal expression, guys. It's nice, but save it. You have to understand the task and do it. This reminds me of my attitude about law school exams: You must answer the question I've asked -- and show that you understand what the question is. Don't try to get credit by saying a lot of accurate and insightful but nonresponsive things. Don't answer the question you thought I could have asked or that you happen to know an answer to. That's like those musicians playing jazz for a Café recording.

The losing team made the mistake of not fitting the station's niche, which involves light rock and clearly articulated, heartfelt lyrics. There was something quite creepy about interviewing the artist -- Jide -- and deciding what his feelings were and then writing the lyrics for him. Clay was shot down for starting in on lyrics that Rebecca decided seemed too much like something a woman would sing. Was that too obviously an expression of her distaste for Clay's homosexuality? Rebecca substitutes lyrics about how Jide, who immigrated from Nigeria as a toddler, feels that he has betrayed his heritage. I cringed at the way they blithely imposed that self-criticism on him.

The early stage of the task was "American Idol" meets the "Apprentice," with sets of three contestants sitting at a table like the AI judges and hearing singers audition. Too bad there were no clips of them telling singers they were simply horrible. The team that lost actually picked the better singer. Chez Althouse, we laughed a lot at the singer who wasn't Jide when he sat down at the piano and started banging and howling. Did he think he was Elton John?

The other thing that made us laugh a lot was Miss Universe. They made a big show of introducing her -- Trump owns the "Miss Universe" contest -- and then they went on to this music task. "Apparently, Miss Universe has nothing to do with the task." "I guess they just couldn't think of a task to go with 'Miss Universe.'" So, she just stood there. The camera shows a close up of Rebecca, as if she's thinking, Yeah, okay, I get it. She's prettier than me. Screw you.

November 17, 2005

Bob Woodward is in the news.

I haven't been following the Plame story closely. The infusion of Bob Woodward into it excites some folks, but I've always found Woodward frightfully dull. Maybe he gets his stories by being so gray that people don't notice him. But I ran across a drawing I did of him a while back, saying something so quintessentially Woodwardish. I have no idea what he was talking about, but I love the maddening blandness of it.

Bob Woodward

"Note just what it is about your work the critics don't like..."

"... then cultivate it. That's the part of your work that's individual and worth keeping." Jean Cocteau said that, quoted, recently by RLC. I've been thinking about that quote all day. It's quite inspiring. So look out.

Professor Bainbridge makes an economics exam out of my old post about Pajamas Media.

His exam. My old post. Very funny. And I don't know the answers to the economics questions. Do you?

What a horrendous pro-Alito ad!

From the Committee For Justice. View it at this link for the full effect with cheesy visuals and cornball patriotic trumpet music. Here's the text:
In 1990, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Samuel Alito to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today, liberal groups led by People for the American Way oppose Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. Their agenda is clear.

They want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and are fighting to redefine traditional marriage. They support partial birth abortion, sanction the burning of the American flag, and even oppose pornography filters on public library computers.

Do these groups represent you? If not, call your Senators. Tell them to support Judge Alito.
I support Alito, but I am disgusted by this kind of argument in favor of him. Alito is a judge, not a political candidate. This is very similar to the way the White House presented Harriet Miers, as a social conservative who would vote for outcomes that would please social conservatives. The Alito nomination corrected the mistake that was made with Miers. He's a well-qualified, experienced judge who appears to have a sound judicial temperament. Don't try to help him by making it sound as though he's not.

Felix.

They're talking about Felix the Cat over on Metafilter (with lots of good links). Don't you like Felix the Cat?

Can I get a feminist?

Remember back last February when Kevin Drum wrote about why there are so few women in political blogging? He guessed that "men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing — both writing it and reading it." I had occasion to think about that yesterday. One thing Kevin failed to note is that male attacks on women are not so much of a food fight as a sex fight. Blogosphere-strength fighting with a woman takes on an outrageous sexual tone, aggressively declaring that that this is a boy's game. Are there any feminists around to see when it's happening and say a little something?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum asks whether my observation is specific to the LGF comments section -- in which case, who cares? -- or whether it applies elsewhere, including at at Washington Monthly. Lots of good comments from readers.

MORE: Drum also gets his word in about OSM:
Open Source Media — formerly Pajamas Media — had its big rollout yesterday, and it was an odd affair. I never really understood what OSM was about, but I figured they'd explain themselves at their launch party and then I'd get it. Except that they didn't. The main site is here — bankrolled by $3.5 million in venture capital money! — but all it contains is a couple of posts, some newsfeeds, and an explanation (as of noon on Thursday) that they are actually OSM, not Open Source Media, so no worries over Chris Lydon's trademark over "Open Source."

Everyone else is as befuddled as me, which is an odd reaction to a product launch, but perhaps OSM is just running behind schedule and decided not to put off the party just because there was no actual product yet. It wouldn't be the first time in the high tech biz.

YET MORE: Enough folks have misread my intention in writing this post that I feel compelled to add that I am not whining about needing someone to help me out of a jam because I'm a victim. I actually am concerned about the larger feminist issues identified in the post.

"The Avery Bill."

That's the name given a bill, passed by the Wisconsin legislation, designed to guard against the criminal conviction of the innocent:
His name was dropped from the legislation after he was arrested last week and charged Tuesday with killing and mutilating a young woman.
Avery really did not commit the rape for which he spent years in prison before being freed as a result of the legal work performed by the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The goals of the legislation his case inspired are sound.

But maybe it's not such a good idea to name legislation after living human beings. They do not remain in stationary, symbolic form for you.

Actually, this reminds me of Cindy Sheehan, who served as a symbol for the anti-war movement for a while, but who also did and said things that she saw fit to do and say. She helped the movement for a while but then she turned out not to be so useful.

November 16, 2005

Martha's "Apprentice."

Did you watch Martha's "Apprentice" show tonight? There's so much more emotional dysfunction among the contestants on this show than on Donald's. Everyone seems to be scheming to bring someone down, and they conspire and gang up on the one they perceive as weak. I loved the way that played out tonight, especially the scene where Jim gave Marcela a talking to. That was one of my all-time favorite "Apprentice" scenes. Jim kind of rules, don't you think. Oh, and Amanda crying? We laughed a lot chez Althouse at that. Spoil away in the comments.

Audible Althouse, #21.

Here. Drugs taken and not taken, dispensed by doctors and friends; lobotomies; whom to cast in the various roles if they ever make a movie of the new biography of Sandra Day O'Connor; not wanting to eat in an empty restaurant; how scary "Rodan" and the eagle owl are; and how a few stray words about Open Source Media (the erstwhile Pajamas Media) led to a spew of comments calling me things like "a Berkeley house whore." 41 minutes.

I was on "Open Source."

Is the name Open Source Media too close to Open Source Radio? (You know, I was on Open Source Radio a couple weeks ago, the night the Alito nomination was announced. You can listen to that show here if you want -- Cass Sunstein, Charles Fried, and Eric Muller are also on.)

UPDATE: Open Source Radio complains (incredibly meekly):
In May we named our show “Open Source” and we named our non-profit production company “Open Source Media.” In fact, this used to be our URL until we decide to scrap the “net” and look for an “org.” But here’s the actual legal-type description of what we are:
A joint production of Open Source Media Inc. and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Open Source is presented by WGBH Radio Boston and distributed by Public Radio International (PRI).

What this means is that we are seven people in a rented office with, incidentally, a rather bold mouse who does not yet have a name. We make a radio show four times a week that uses bloggers as local and topical experts; this show is distributed to public radio stations by Public Radio International, and to truckers and early adopters by XM satellite radio.

So this morning I got an email from a listener with the following subject header:
did someone steal your name?

Hm. A company that used to call itself Pajamas Media now calls itself Open Source Media, which is — scroll down to our legal notice — kind of exactly what we call ourselves. They’ve collected $3.5 million in venture capital, and, to celebrate their re-naming of our already-named name, they’re holding an event at the Rainbow Room.

Imagine if you were the venture capitalist who forked over this kind of money and now know, on day one, that they mismanaged step one.

Okay, I'm not going to talk about OSM for a while. I'll observe a circumspect silence out of sheer pity... the sheer pity of "a Berkeley house whore." Ah, listen to the podcast if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Taking off the Pajamas: now, what do you see?

Kevin Alwyrd is present at the revelation of Open Source Media, the erstwhile Pajamas Media, and he's a little distracted (by one of the speakers), but he "still [doesn't] completely get it." He links to Mike Krempasky ("It’s a pretty flashy event - but I don’t think they’ve done much to explain their business to the attendees") and Jeff Jarvis ("Now I’m even more confused").

Jeff Goldstein is live- fake-blogging the event beginning with a trip to the hotel bar:
I found Tim Blair, Roger Simon, and Ed Driscoll bunched around a small table near the restrooms. Ed and Roger were nursing Gibsons, while Tim (who at 5’1" is much shorter than I thought he’d be) was drinking what looked to be IPA out of a pilsner glass inscribed with the legend, "Bloggers Do It In Their Pajamas." "Heh, cool," I said, motioning to Tim’s glass. "You have those made up for the launch?" "What do you think, genius?" Blair asked, not looking up. "I maybe had it printed up special for myself?"
Would you drink a fluid out of something that said "Bloggers Do It In Their Pajamas"? I think of bodily fluids. But no matter, now the bloggers can do it in their Open Source Media. Or as somebody already quipped: Open Sores Media. Swapping semen for pus, bodily fluids-wise.

UPDATE: Did they notice the "Open Sores" pun? I see that back in June, Roger L. Simon raised the question of what to rename Pajamas, and "Open Source" came up in the second comment, got repeated a few times, and then drew this:
Open Sores News--
"Band Aiding the World"
So they had to know the joke was there.

But what do you think of the new Open Source site? Is it fun to use and workable? I notice a lot of flabbiness in the writing. The home page currently features this block of text to draw us into the blog opinion on a top news story:
The historic Gaza border deal reached yesterday between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Associated Press, Christian Science Monitor), brokered by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in marathon negotiations, has been received by the blogosphere with a far greater amount of skepticism than it has where the mainstream media are concerned. Blogger Joshuapundit seems quite unhappy: he says that Israel was pressured by Rice, the Eurooean Union's Javier Solana and Middle East special envoy John Wolfensohn to accept the agreement with little, if any, safeguards. The deal, whose full text can be found at the State Department website, would allow Palestinian authorities to take control of the border between the Gaza strip and Israel, notably in Rafah, and would open links with the West Bank. Both Time and the Washington Post have all the behind the scenes details on how the agreement was reached. War to Mobilize Democracy is "nervous" about security, but notes that the deal will ease the international pressure on Israel; Heavy-Handed Politics write that history makes them simply skeptical. On the other side, Anything They Say not only cautiously welcomes the new situation, but is pleasantly surprised by Rice's deal making skills, at least compared with her "terrible performance as National Security Advisor."
"Has been received by the blogosphere with a far greater amount of skepticism than it has where the mainstream media are concerned"? You'd think they'd write their very first sentence crisply!

And why should anyone care what these bloggers think? Who are they? Unless you're already sold on blogging, the teasers are laughable: "Blogger Joshuapundit seems quite unhappy," "War to Mobilize Democracy is 'nervous,'" Anything They Say "is pleasantly surprised."

There's nothing snappy or exciting in any of that, no sense that these bloggers are likely to come out with anything more interesting than whoever was sitting next to you in the living room where you watched the evening news.

"Eurooean," "Heavy-Handed Politics write" -- so much for professionalizing the image of blogging.

And this on the day when you are asking for attention, trying to hook new people.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If I were an insider to OSM, would I mock them like this? Isn't much of the value of bloggers that we are on the outside? Rolling up together in a group to make money -- is that worth the sacrifice of independence? Everyone who signed on is now stuck with the presentation on that website that we were not able to see when we were asked to sign on to 18-month commitments.

STILL MORE: I'm told Jeff Goldstein wasn't even at the OSM launch, which surprises me, because I began reading it on the OSM home page under their heading "live-blogging." That's an awfully strange way to introduce people to their service. Aren't ordinary people being asked to trust the OSM portal?

Also, Charles Johnson linked to this post to note my bad taste -- the "fluids" wisecrack -- and this set off his commenters who just started wildly insulting me -- hilariously assuming I'm a big lefty and using lots of bad taste insults against me. How does that make sense? If they are outraged at my bad taste, as Charles suggests they be, then why aren't the comments primly proper? They must be insulting me because they assume I'm a lefty. Ha, ha. Somebody tell Armando! Anyway, Charles's fans end up hurting him on the day when he is trying to make an impression as an elder statesman of blogging, by making his site look all trashy. And the irony is priceless: he is complaining about my bad taste. Yet "semen" and "pus" are both perfectly sound English words, not slang at all, and pointing out literary images is quite high tone.

AND NOW THIS: Wonkette links, and it's not to the semen-pus thing.

THURSDAY MORNING: One day after the launch, Jeff Goldstein's fake-live-blogging is still the only blog post quoted on the home page, under the heading "BEST OF THE BLOGS." In all this time, that's all they've found? The highlighted post ends with this line: "Or as my friend Bill Bixby once said to a French prostitute (god rest his soul), 'bonjour, you plump little tart!'" How they can think it's a good idea to open the site with such writing? Who does that appeal to? And if it didn't appeal to you yesterday morning, but you kept going back to give them another chance, what would you think? The site is stupefyingly inactive and as yet devoid of sharp commentary. There is only this obscure insider humor about the founders of the site getting drunk and talking about a prostitute.

Awards season.

The 2005 Weblog Awards are gearing up.

The icepick lobotomy doctor -- a little too " stubborn" and "impervious to criticism."

The "King Lear in medical garb" who lobotomized 3,000 persons, including some as young as 4 (to nip schizophrenia in the bud) and some for nothing more than youthful sullenness (the stepmom said he didn't want to take a bath and turned the lights on during the daytime).

UPDATE: Here's the link to the NPR audio reviewed at the original link.

"We have free speech too, don't we?"

Judge Posner asks, rhetorically, ruing the demise of Article III Groupie:
"If he does it on his own time and does not compromise his official duties in some way, I don't see the problem," the judge said in an e-mail message. "We have free speech too, don't we?

"If Lat appears before judges whom he's made fun of in his blog or who may be offended by the blog (the humorless judges), then there might be a problem, though only a problem if he is 'outed' - and he outed himself!"

Counting on other people to have a sense of humor is a very dangerous business.

"A government investigation hung completely on testimony from journalists, with journalists turned into witnesses ... a scary notion."

Have you really thought through what Scooter Libby's defense is going to be like for the press?
Lawyers for I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former White House official indicted on perjury charges, plan to seek testimony from journalists beyond those cited in the indictment and will probably challenge government agreements limiting their grand jury testimony, people involved in the case said Tuesday.

"That's clearly going to be part of the strategy - to get access to all the relevant records and determine what did the media really know," said a lawyer close to the defense who spoke on condition of anonymity....

In interviews, lawyers close to the case made clear that the defense team plans to pursue aggressively access to reporters' notes beyond the material cited in the indictment and plans to go to the trial judge, Reggie B. Walton of United States District Court, to compel disclosure as one of their first steps....

The prospect of another legal battle over access to reporters' records "could be worse for the media" than the Miller showdown, said Lucy Dalglish, head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "You now have a situation where you have a government investigation hung completely on testimony from journalists, with journalists turned into witnesses, and that is a scary notion."

Ms. Dalglish said that unlike the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who was restricted partly by Justice Department regulations on subpoenaing reporters' notes, Mr. Libby's defense team will not be bound by those same rules.

"This is a very unsettling case, and it could take years in the courts to resolve," she said.

"I acquire quite a few medications and then dispense them to my friends as needed."

Says Katherine: "I usually know what I'm talking about." This is, apparently, a big trend:
For a sizable group of people in their 20's and 30's, deciding on their own what drugs to take - in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications - is becoming the norm. Confident of their abilities and often skeptical of psychiatrists' expertise, they choose to rely on their own research and each other's experience in treating problems like depression, fatigue, anxiety or a lack of concentration. A medical degree, in their view, is useful, but not essential, and certainly not sufficient.

They trade unused prescription drugs, get medications without prescriptions from the Internet and, in some cases, lie to doctors to obtain medications that in their judgment they need.
Oh, these young people. They used to just smoke marijuana.

Academic blog controversies.

Slate has a big piece today, written by Robert S. Boynton, about the dangers of blogging when you're an untenured academic. It's loaded with material about Dan Drezner, but there's not a peep about Jeremy Freese, recently tenured in the Sociology Department here at UW, who wrote and still writes an unusually quirky blog that is dotted with pithy applications of his expertise.

From the Slate piece:
In many respects, Drezner's predicament was merely a cyber-version of an age-old dilemma. Whether online or off, the kind of accessible and widely read work that brings an academic public recognition is likely to draw the scorn and suspicion of his colleagues. Furthermore, so-called public-intellectual work won't count for much when it comes time to decide whether one gets tenure. In most disciplines at large research universities, tenure is directly related to the number of peer-reviewed books and articles one publishes. Teaching and community service are factored in but are usually far less important than one's publishing record. "For the time being," says John Holbo, an assistant professor of philosophy at the National University of Singapore and the founder of a group blog called The Valve, the most academic bloggers will receive is "a bit of 'service' credit, for raising the department's profile."...

But in another sense, academic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"—an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today …" variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy—the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent....

The current antipathy toward blogging may have something to do with the fact that universities have no tools for judging blogs. And most people agree that blogs would need to be evaluated through some kind of peer-review mechanism if they are to be taken into account. "It is utterly absurd to propose giving someone credit for activity with no barriers to entry," Holbo says.
One thing missing from this article is the recognition of the fear nonblogging academics have about bloggers. For one thing, they don't understand what the bloggers are doing and worry that we'll do something damaging or dangerous with our power (such as it is!). But they also don't want to know that it's good, because that unleashes the other fear: Will I be required to blog? If blogging is good, are they going to be judged deficient for not blogging. And they are probably already at least a little jealous about ther colleague's heightened profile. It seems a little unfair that the ability translate expertise into blog form brings prominence that nothing ensures will be proportionate to the quality of the traditional written research. Of course, the actual quality of the traditional research has never been precisely calibrated to an academic's prominence, but blogging lets different individuals use different paths to prominence. Most notably, it gives new power to persons who don't teach at elite schools and don't have elite connections. It's a new way to get connected. It's threatening! And since it may be intertwined with political power and a kind of pop culture celebrity, it can be infuriating!

In any case, I agree with Holbo that most academic bloggers really deserve service credit for what we're doing. Most of the on-topic things we write are communicating our knowledge to the general public, which is a worthy old tradition, long categorized as service, not research. It is possible for some parts of blogs to count as research, but that, of course, would need to be judged to count in the tenure process.

If various academic departments are looking for a way to judge writing published in places that are not peer reviewed, I have some advice: Look to the way law schools do their tenure process, because most of what law professors publish is not peer-reviewed. Here at the UW Law School, our tenure process goes through the Social Sciences Divisional Committee and is judged by committee members who serve in departments like Political Science, Economics, and Sociology. You can image how these folks look at the student-edited law reviews where lawprofs publish. But we've developed ways to interact with them. Adapt these techniques for blog-writing that deserves to be treated as research.

Snow!

There's a light dusting of snow this morning, the first of the season. It brightens things up, like confectioner's sugar on a doughnut.

At last, a jaunt to NYC is possible!

Finally, a non-stop flight between Madison and NYC:
The flight will leave La Guardia at 3:40 p.m., arriving in Madison at 5:10 p.m.. The flight is then to leave Madison at 5:40 p.m., arriving at La Guardia at 9:01 p.m.
This might make a quick weekend trip to the city attractive. Having to pass through O'Hare, with all the potential for delays and missed flights, takes all the fun out of the idea. Thank you, American Eagle!

Back from my post-operative haze.

I guess there are about six procedures involved in dealing with my foolishness in waiting so long to do something about a tooth that turned out to be cracked. Yesterday was the fourth one: screwing an implant into my jaw. The procedure was not harrowing, because I opted for the IV-sedation, but it caused a good deal of snoozing the rest of the day: a nap in the recovery room, a nap at home on the sofa, and an 8-hour overnight sleep. I wasn't in pain or nauseated, just useless.

I'd thought I'd watch a lot of television, but that turned out to be too challenging. I put on an old episode of Saturday Night Live, the one that begins with Wayne and Garth enthusing over the first Gulf War -- "Oh, she's a scud!" -- then I fell asleep during Sting's monologue. Later, I tried to watch "Special Report With Brit Hume," but it was over my head. Much later, getting into bed, the new "South Park" was just starting, so I let that go for a while.

Old people keep accidentally driving their cars into crowds of townsfolk, the citizens finally come up with the remedy of taking away the driver's license of everyone over 70. "How will I get to the drug store to buy my medicine?" "You belong in a nursing home anyway. We'll help put you there." The old people call in the AARP, which parachutes in hordes of old people with machine guns. I had to switch it off and conk out, so I don't know how the battle played out. I'm going to guess that in the end the townsfolk realized that taking every old person's license away was an overbroad remedy.

Now my long post-operative mental haze is over. I think. Time for some blogging, newsreading, CivPro-teaching, job-talk listening, article editing, etc. Or am I supposed to spend the day reclining, as it said on the sheet of paper the oral surgeon gave me, the one with all the advice about salt water and soft foods? I could have my painkiller prescription filled, make a groggy mess out of myself for a second day and lounging about sampling the contents of the TiVo. Wouldn't you?

Or am I still a groggy mess and too blurred to see it? If this post lacks my usual cogency and clarity, let me know. I could call in sick for the first time in twenty years.

November 15, 2005

The O'Connor biopic.

Yesterday, we were discussing the new biography of Sandra Day O'Connor. In the comments, readers started to cast the movie made from the book:
P. Froward said...

I want to see an O'Connor biopic! Like a "Behind the Music" kind of thing, you know, personal torments and redemption and all that. Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash... Justice O'Connor....

Simon said...

Also starring Nick Cage as Stephen Breyer, Catheryn Zeta-Jones as Ruth Ginsburg, Chris Barrie as Dave Souter, and Charles Bronson as Antonin Scalia.

Featuring a cameo appearence from Sir Sean Connery as Robert Bork, who turns out to have been the arch-villain all along!

Please contribute to this casting fantasy!

For the record: I hate the biopics that come out this time of year. Which singer will die next and have his dumb musician's problems reenacted by a hammy actor who wants an Oscar really bad? Oh, this is a two question post now. Name the singer who will die and the actor who will play him/her.

What I'm dreading today.

I've got another appointment with the oral surgeon. This time I'm taking the IV-sedation -- as opposed to the novocaine/nitrous combo I had for that tooth extraction two months ago. Today, some sort of metal screw will be screwed into my jaw, while I'll be in some strange mental state the like of which I've never experienced. I have never let a doctor manipulate my consciousness and don't like the idea at all. But that extraction was harrowing, and the doctor told me that IV-sedation is what he'd advise a family member to have. You know, doctors have to give you all the information and let you decide, but the main thing you want to know is what they would decide. Anyway, for now, I can't eat or drink anything. I need to teach my class at 11, and I've never had to deal with a public speaking situation where I had to be utterly thirsty throughout. Maybe my students are reading my blog and will make a special effort to do most of the talking today.

What has become of Article III Groupie?

After succumbing to the temptation of the super-hot embrace of Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker, Underneath Their Robes has fallen out of the blogosphere! What has happened?

"They are making me crazy. They have ruined my life."

It's those terrible not-ladybugs. Remember when you were all ooh! cute! ladybugs!? We know so much better now:
Unlike domestic ladybugs, the multicolored Asian variety likes to keep its polka dots indoors in the winter. In older rural neighborhoods, where houses are not knit tight, only insecticide can hope to keep them out. They swarm by the tens of thousands. Unlike the domestic ladybug, the Asian variety leaves a yellow stain. It can bite. Worst of all, it stinks.

As Michael F. Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, explained: "When the beetles are handled or disturbed in any way, they emit this yellow substance from their leg. It's lady-bird blood. It has a noxious odor."

Or, as Lorene Bowling of Olive Hill, Ky., put it, "They stink something terrible."...

Ruth Hopkins, who lives in Mount Vernon, about 40 miles from Lexington, said she got up several times every night last winter to get her hand-held vacuum and sweep the bugs off the sheets and off her ailing 89-year-old husband.

"I would just take that sweeper and sweep all night," said Mrs. Hopkins, whose home is near the Daniel Boone National Forest. "All winter long, we got no rest. They would drop off the ceiling everywhere."
We have them in Wisconsin, but not anywhere near that bad. They seem to be energized by a warm day after it's been cold, on certain days in the fall and spring. I guess in the south, there are days like that all winter. I suppose with the onset of global warming, we'll be seeing more of these horrible bugs. Is there any solution other than insecticide?
In Asia, the bugs do not winter in dwellings, but land on tall, light-colored rocks and find their way into warm, damp recesses in the stone. When the beetles got to the United States, the white vinyl siding on small buildings and granite or light stone walls on larger ones may have beckoned the same way their native rocks had.

So, usually on warm, sunny autumn afternoons after a hard frost, beetles light on the western and southwestern sides of buildings, favoring light-colored buildings over dark ones, and showing a particular affinity for surfaces with contrasting dark vertical lines - like vinyl siding. When they crawl around in search of warm recesses, they end up inside, in light fixtures or attics for the winter.
I'm going to take that into account the next time I have my house painted. I want to know how dark I need to go to make my house not remind them of a rock in China. The poor darlings are just homesick.

UPDATE: Wouldn't mosquito netting work better than a DustBuster? I'm really disturbed by the idea of repeatedly vaccuuming a sick, old man.

TimesSelect + New Coke.

Google count: 64. Ha ha. But not everyone observes the official absence of space between the esses. So add 37. Aw, too bad. Can they please stop it now? They've got to know they will have to stop sooner or later. What good does it do dragging out the death of a mistake?

"I thought I was replacing The Donald."

"It was even discussed that I would be firing The Donald on the first show." That's how it sounds to be Martha Stewart explaining why your TV show just ... didn't ... succeed.

Here's how it sounds to be The Donald: "I think there was confusion between Martha's `Apprentice' and mine, and mine continues to do well and ... the other has struggled very severely. I think it probably hurt mine and I sort of predicted that it would."

So what's your theory about why Martha's show was never nearly as good as Donald's? Mine is that she always cared too much about her image (and the image of her company, Omnimedia). If you're going to be a bitch, be a bitch. You can't be a please-like-me female at the same time. That's icky. Trump lets himself be a truly weird buffoon (even as he makes a lot of sense a lot of the time). Stewart can't bear to play into her own bizarreness.

Second theory: Trump has Carolyn Kepcher. Everyone loves Carolyn. And Martha had that guy that wasn't quite George. She needed better sidekicks!

Third theory: Trump's show has fabulously dramatic photography, editing, and music. It's just mesmerizing! By comparison, Martha's show felt flat and bland. Did they just not give her as much money, or were the aesthetic choices like her interior decorating choices? Beige, beige, beige.

November 14, 2005

A restaurant experience.

Ever go to a restaurant where you're the only customers, and the restaurant is really good and the people are so nice that you feel for them so much that you kind of wish you'd gone somewhere else? What if no one else is there because on other occasions people have had that experience so they don't go back because they don't want to feel sorry for the nice family that runs the place? I'd name the restaurant, but I'm afraid it wouldn't help them!

"Rodan."

That owl has been disturbing me all day. It brought back a childhood memory. When I was 5 years old, the movie "Rodan" came out. I saw ads for it on TV and could not understand if the fact that it was in a movie meant that it wasn't real. I asked some people, and no one would give me a straight answer, for some reason. Back then it was much more common to tease young children. Or maybe it was just a Delaware thing. Anyway, I was terrified of Rodan for a long time.

"Remember Ruth Buzzi on Saturday Night Live? Ginsburg was the spitting image of Ruth Buzzi.”

Oscar reports that's what Orrin Hatch said at the ABA Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice section meeting this past weekend:
In boasting about his bipartisanship, he tells a story about his willingness to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg to her first judicial appointment as appeals court judge on the D.C. Circuit. Ginsburg’s advance person, when scheduling the nominee’s sit-down with Hatch, said that Ginsburg (an extremely well-credentialed feminist lawyer and law professor) “is really scared of you.” Hatch says, “I didn’t understand why anyone would be scared of me” – aw, shucks! – “but Ginsburg did come across as really timid. Remember Ruth Buzzi on Saturday Night Live? Ginsburg was the spitting image of Ruth Buzzi.”
Ruth Buzzi was on "Laugh In," of course, not SNL, but nice try at a fresh pop culture reference! More Supreme Court stuff from Hatch:
Clinton called me and ran down his list of about ten names for Supreme Court justice. His first choice was Bruce Babbitt. I said, “he’ll probably get confirmed, but there will be blood everywhere.” I suggested, “how about Steve Breyer.” Well, he picked Ginsburg for that slot, but he picked Breyer next.

AND

I attended a meeting at the U.S. Supreme Court at which some of the justices said to me, “you have to get rid of diversity jurisdiction.” I stared the Chief Justice down, and said, “we’re not going to do that.”
Nice to see he's having fun wielding power.

More about Hatch at the link, including his use of the term "shit list."

A Veteran’s Day parade in Madison.

Thought you'd like to know:
University of Wisconsin students and community members celebrated American veterans by holding the first Veteran’s Day parade in Madison in over 20 years Friday.

Coordinated by the Associated Students of Madison’s Support the Troops Campaign, nearly 70 Wisconsin and UW veterans, family members and supporters participated in the parade.

Accompanied by the UW Alumni band, participants marched down Gilman Street and State Street to Library Mall, concluding the parade with a commemorative silence in front of the Wisconsin Historical Society headquarters.

If you haven't voted yet...

Remember that you can vote for me to be in that deck of cards until Tuesday at 8 a.m. PST: here (in the sidebar).

Obscure Comment of the Day.

I know whenever anyone posts a comment on this blog, because Blogger sends me an email. You probably don't go back and look for new comments on old posts. There are thousands of old posts on this blog. You can't be looking back through all of them all the time to see if anyone has added something new. But there are, occasionally, comments on old posts that I see, so let me just point this one out today ("Ann... you have personality, I have personality, my son and daughter have personality, my wife...").

The old post of mine that collects the most belated attention is over on an alternative blog I wrote for a while when I had a temporary copy of iBlog software. There are no comments over there, but people keep finding this post and emailing me to defend the Order of the Eastern Star.

If you want to generate outré comments for your blog, take my advice: write lightheartedly about something some people take seriously.

Article III Groupie's a guy!

The New Yorker reveals the name of "Article III Groupie," author of the terrific blog Underneath Their Robes (via How Appealing):
In real life, A3G is a thirty-year-old Newark-based assistant U.S. attorney named David Lat. “The blog really reflects two aspects of my personality,” he said over lunch recently. “I am very interested in serious legal issues as well as in fun and frivolous and gossipy issues. I can go from the Harvard Law Review to Us Weekly very quickly.” Lat, who has a boyish face, lives in Manhattan and commutes to New Jersey, and he writes his blog entries in his spare time. Like A3G, he graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, and he worked briefly at a big New York law firm. Although his current job as a prosecutor has required him to pare back his life style, he says, “I still hoard toiletries from luxury hotels all over the world.” Lat interviewed for a Supreme Court clerkship, with Justice Antonin Scalia, but he didn’t get it.

“Yale treats certain judges like celebrities,” he said. “And I’ve always had a certain status anxiety about not having clerked on the Supreme Court.” (A3G often refers to Supreme Court clerks as “the Elect.”) “My interest in celebrity has kind of metastasized from the judges to the clerks,” he added.

Lat is proud that some of his catchphrases have slipped into wider circulation—“litigatrix,” “judicial diva,” and “bench-slap” (for disputes among judges). Although he intended to remain anonymous, the success of the blog made coming clean irresistible. “I felt frustrated that I was putting a lot of time into this and was unable to get any credit for it,” Lat said. “But eventually these things have a way of coming out anyway. I only hope that the judges I appear in front of don’t read it.”

Ooh! Exciting! Can't say more now. I'm off to teach a class and then run over to Café Monmartre to do an American Constitution Society panel discussion on Judge Alito. More later!

Owl with a 6-foot wingspan.

It was headed toward extinction but it's back (in England) -- the eagle owl:



Will you still love it when it snacks on your cat or dog?

How Brennan and, later, Breyer affected O'Connor.

From Cliff Sloan's piece in Slate about Joan Biskupic's new biography of Justice O'Connor:
[S]ome of [what is in the book] is new—an apparent rivalry between liberal lion William Brennan and O'Connor for influence on the court, and Brennan's clumsiness in his maneuvers; the effectiveness of Justice Stephen Breyer in reaching out to her. With Potter Stewart's departure in 1981 and O'Connor's replacement of him, Brennan seemed to have lost an important occasional ally. He viewed his new colleague with suspicion, and—though he is often thought of as the consummate court politician—he made the same mistake that Scalia would make several years later: He caustically attacked her, and if anything seems to have driven her away. Brennan's approach to cases became particularly arch and unyielding in his later years, and even when he had O'Connor's vote he could not get her to join his opinions. Breyer's style would prove far more hospitable to O'Connor than Brennan's broadsides; like her, he was attuned to the particularities of each case and searched for common ground.
The subject of the relationships among the justices and the effect on the decisions is highly interesting -- and exceedingly hard to study.

Alito: "The Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

The Washington Times reports on a 1985 document the nominee wrote in an application for a job as deputy assistant under Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III.
In direct, unambiguous language, the young career lawyer who served as assistant to Solicitor General Rex E. Lee, demonstrated his conservative bona fides as he sought to become a political appointee in the Reagan administration.

"I am and always have been a conservative," he wrote in an attachment to the noncareer appointment form that he sent to the Presidential Personnel Office. "I am a lifelong registered Republican."...

"It has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of the Solicitor General during President Reagan's administration and to help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly," he wrote.

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."...

Although Judge Alito's conservatism has not been particularly evident in his legal rulings, it was abundantly clear in his job application 20 years ago.

"I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values," he wrote.

"In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate," he added.

The document also provides the clearest picture to date of Mr. Alito's intellectual development as a conservative.

"When I first became interested in government and politics during the 1960s, the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign," he said. "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment."
Let the battle begin.

Up until now, the attacks on Alito have been based on nothing of substance. Critics cherry-picked his cases, found the ones where he ruled against sympathetic parties, and treated the outcomes in cases as if there is no legal reasoning involved in reaching outcomes. Or they simply assumed that Alito must be a big right-winger because he (unlike Miers) was not being attacked from the right and conservatives all looked rather happy about having him as the nominee.

With this letter, we enter a new phase of the nomination process, in which the opponents have something very substantial to talk about. And, indeed, they must fight, based on this. I see two aspects to the coming fight.

First, there is the question of what is the better set of values. A lot of people will read Alito's statement and agree with it, while others will oppose it. Some may only care about a few of those issues or may agree about some things and not others. Though most of the talk will be about abortion rights, we have a valuable opportunity to talk about what the full set of conservative legal positions is, to compare them with the liberal positions, and to debate about which is better. I welcome this public debate and hope it can be done well.

Second, there is the question of how personal beliefs affect a judge's performance on the bench. Some will defend Alito by saying a good judge is a humble, faithful servant of the law who sets his personal, political beliefs aside. Related to this is one of Bush's big issues: the liberal judges are activist judges who make the law mean what they would vote for if they were legislators. In this rhetoric, the conservative judges somehow escape the temptation the liberal judges succumb to. As long as you have a conservative judge, the rhetoric goes, you don't have to worry about what his political beliefs are: He will do the proper, judicial thing and not "legislate from the bench" like those bad liberal judges. Those of us who are not political ideologues tend to think that judges try to follow the law, but that the texts and precedents are ambiguous or fluid enough to require some judgment to get to a decision. Thus, the background beliefs and political tendencies of any judge will need to flow into the decision-making, no matter how modest and dutiful the human being making the decision is.

November 13, 2005

Audible Althouse, #20.

This is a 46 minute podcast, covering an insulting letter, a misunderstood interaction with another blogger (my ex-husband), the concept of "The Althouse Man," how ugly the Three Stooges are, how blankly beautiful actors today are, that song about Saint Germain stuck in my head and the Supreme Court case that put it there, the problem of calling war opponents "unpatriotic," and the creepily under control Ave Maria Town.

Too much Dowd: like too much coffee?

Kathryn Harrison reviews Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary?"
Consumed over a cup of coffee, 800 words provide Dowd the ideal length to call her readers' attention to the ephemera at hand that may reveal larger trends and developments. But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it...

When a few hundred pages' worth of these observations are published in one book, they suffer the opposite of synergy, adding up to less than the sum of their parts. Energizing in small morning doses, the author's fast-talking spins on the spin can rear-end one another until the pileup exhausts a reader's patience.
Bloggers shouldn't be writing books either then, I suppose. But there is this urge to become a permanent object -- a permanent, saleable object.

"Bargain basement Nietzsche and Foucault, admixed with earnest American do-goodism, that still passes for 'theory' in much of the academy."

That's Sean Wilentz's description of "the new political history," quoted by Gordon S. Wood in his review of Wilentz's "The Rise of American Democracy," which dares to tell the story of dead white males.
[Wilentz] writes as a good liberal, but an old-fashioned New Deal one. Like Schlesinger in 1945, he wants in 2005 to speak to the liberalism of the modern Democratic Party. By suggesting that the race, gender and cultural issues that drive much of the modern left are not central to the age of Jackson, Wilentz seems to imply that they should not be central to the future of the present-day Democratic Party.

Senator Boxer's novel.

Wait a sec, I'm distracted by that incredibly bad illustration. Okay, I've made it past that and will now read this NYT book review, written by Ana Marie Cox, about a novel by Senator Boxer (with help!), about Supreme Court appointments. This ought to be interesting....
Senator Barbara Boxer's new political-thriller-cum-romance-novel hinges on a Supreme Court nomination battle: the president's selection is a tight-lipped, right-wing ideologue; the Democrats are certain she will "help turn back the clock" on court decisions. With a Republican majority, a confirmation looks all but certain.

Boxer, a California Democrat who was elected senator in 1992 after 10 years in the House, is clearly following the dictum to "write what you know." But any novel with even a hint of autobiography is likely to carry a whiff of revenge fantasy. So it is instructive, if not surprising, that the protagonist of Boxer's fictional universe, Ellen Fischer, herself a plucky senator from California, winds up defeating the nomination. How she succeeds is a secret worth keeping - though hopeful Democrats need not rush to the bookstores for strategic advice: Fischer's tactics are too far-fetched to be of much use beyond the hectically imagined pages of "A Time to Run."
Please feel free to spoil the story in the comments! It's a thriller, so, what? Sex? Murder? I don't read thrillers so I have no idea what sort of hijinks would make an appropriate, publishable story here.

Anyway, I note that Boxer has exchanged her job-related surname for another, throwing in the letter "c" so it wouldn't be so face-slammingly obvious. Presumably, the image of fishing (for information?) appealed to her more than the head-punching evoked by her actual name. The nominee's name, by the way, is Frida Hernandez. Imagine the brainstorming that went into selecting that. Most of the book is the story of "Fischer's" life. She has two boyfriends to choose from: Josh Fischer and Greg Hunter. Hunter, eh? Hunter becomes a right-winger, wouldn't you know?

IN THE COMMENTS: The plot is recounted. Don't you want to know what Boxer's fantasy of defeating a Supreme Court nominee looks like?

Why aren't you reading that essay?

I was going to read this essay -- about "chick flicks" -- but it started with the most annoyingly boring way to start an essay: by quoting a damned dictionary definition.

Why aren't you going to the movies?

Man, this description of the economics of moviemaking is depressing! Read the article for the details, but this is the real effect:
In most cases, nearly half of a movie's total audience turns out in the first week of release, which means there has been very little or no word of mouth motivating most of the audience. In other words, many people go to a movie without any real information about it - without even reading a review. Or, put most cynically: Most of the time, there is no relationship between how good a film is, and how many people turn out to see it.

So what makes people go to a movie? Generally, it is awareness - or now, in Hollywood parlance, "pre-awareness." Since studios cannot spend enough on advertising to buy awareness (there is so much advertising noise in the marketplace these days), there is a tendency to make movies with familiar titles, characters and stories: "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Spider-Man," "War of the Worlds," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." In the past decade, most box-office revenue has come from pre-aware titles, which includes sequels ("X-Men 3," set for a May 2006 release) and remakes ( "King Kong," Dec. 14).
I guess that explains my personal pre-awareness: I'm not going to like any of these movies. And I don't want to. I used to look for movies to like. Now, I flip through the pages and pages of ads for new movies and feel nothing but resistance. Too many. Too much. They're all bad.

"More wicked than your average blogger"?

A squib about Al Franken's new book in the NYT Book Review:
"The Truth (With Jokes)," by Al Franken, [is] a gloomier, more astringent book than his "Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)," which came out in 2003. Franken's new one has dark circles under its eyes. "The Truth (With Jokes)" went to press before Katrina and the indictment of Lewis Libby, so it already feels mildly dated; and regular readers of political blogs, which have multiplied exponentially since Franken's last book, may feel a lot of the material here (on John Kerry and his "Swift Boat" attackers, Abu Ghraib, Fox News) has already been hashed to death. But Franken is more wicked than your average blogger.
"More wicked than your average blogger"? What kind of a standard is that? Isn't the average blogger a rather amiable person, telling stories about the kids, the job, hobbies, sports, and TV? Or does "blogger," as used in the NYT, not actually refer to the tens of millions of bloggers on the planet, but to the set of American political bloggers? That might establish some standard of wickedness so that being more wicked than average would mean something, seeing as there are some real bastards at the front end of that bell curve.

But how wicked is Al Franken? The example the Times offered up as proof wasn't pithy enough for me to want to keep in the block quote. The NYT is really trying to sell us on a book that snarks on the current news in a world where most of the writers who satirize current politics react within minutes after news hits the web. Even later the same day, the story seems stale. If you've waited a day to crack your joke, you're better off finding the next thing to snark about. How can you possibly compete on the long time line of a book?

There are at least two good reason for books like this to exist, however.

1. You go to the bookstore. You see the bookcover. You feel: this expresses something. You buy it and voila: this expresses something about me.

2. Look at the damned calendar. It's a Christmas present! For that political friend or family member of yours. Oh, Josh will like this. He's a political junkie.

"Only we are left."

In Muzaffarabad:
Malik Naseem emerged from the ruins of his house with steaming bowls of "sevian" - a sweet delicacy.

"We used to celebrate Eid with our family and friends," he said, offering me a bowl. "But the earthquake took those familiar faces away and brought you media people here instead.

"So we celebrate with you. You are our family this year."

Beneath this instinctive warmth came a reminder of the raw grief of Muzaffarabad. Malik Naseem asked me if I had enjoyed my time in his city. I said I had met many good people.

"No," he replied, crouching and cradling his head in his hands, "the good people were all killed in the earthquake. Only we are left."
There are still victims who have receive no aid. Donations have been insufficient.