August 12, 2006

"Freedom is a long-distance race."

Said George Bush, quoting Albert Camus. Our president just read "The Stranger."


Freedom will be defended.

UPDATE: After writing this post at 10:41, I decided to read "The Stranger," which I have to admit, I'd never read. I have read some Camus. I've even read "The Plague" twice, once in French. And I've read enough books in French that I have to wonder why "The Stranger" wasn't one of them, since the writing is especially simple. Water, red, stones, sky, eyes, light, sweat, knife, gun, belly, blinded, dog, white, sun, glare, trees, tears, God, happy, hope. You could get used to the vocabulary quickly and enjoy the repetitions. But I read it in English today. It's 4:35. It was interesting to read a copy of it that had been in the house for a long time, that my son had read once and filled with marginalia. I couldn't tell whether his notes were influenced by a teacher's lecture or if they were purely his. I had meant to try to think about how the book would have been perceived by President Bush, but that didn't last too long. Fortunately. It would idiotically taint the book to waste any time thinking about President Bush in connection with -- for example -- the group of threatening Arabs:
They were staring at us in silence, but in that way of theirs, as if we were nothing but stones or dead trees.
Sorry not to have some ripe political analysis for you. I suppose I could say President Bush seems to have a complex relationship to his mother, and maybe he thought about that when he read this book, which has a theme of the character's relationship to his mother -- mainly, his seeming inability to feel anything at her death. His reaction is to drink coffee, smoke, sleep, start a new love affair, go to a comedy movie, and go swimming -- something people really take the wrong way. Did you know that Barbara Bush was criticized for not attending her own mother's funeral?

Here are three things The Stranger learned from his mother:
1. "[I]t was one of Maman's ideas, and she often repeated it, that after a while you could get used to anything." (p. 77, Vintage paperback)

2. "Maman used to say that you could always find something to be happy about." (p. 133)

3. (Realizing why Maman had taken a "fiancé" when she was close to death) "Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again." (p. 122)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some more sentences, written on a few hours' reflection.... An ordinary man receives the jolt: his mother has died. His response is ordinary but also extraordinary. He smokes, drinks coffee, and seeks new love, real sensation in his ordinary world. He seems numb and inexpressive, and he follows various characters who lead him into their more fully formed lives. Marie offers love and marriage. He follows without seeing the importance of it. Raymond draws him into jealousy and revenge, and he goes there too, and doesn't see a reason not to. Killing a man or not killing a man seem like equal chances on a coin flip, and, seeing life that way, he kills a man. On trial, his emptiness and his search for sensation, for some feeling of living, become the argument for the prosecution, the reason why he is guilty. Condemned, he thinks it through. He sees the significance of life, even a short life, even a hated life, and finally recognizes that he exists, which is enough, which is everything.

Auctioning off the Unabomber's possessions.

A court has ordered that Ted Kaczynski's possessions be sold to pay for restitution to his victims. What did the Unabomber even have, living in that off-the-grid shack, without water or electricity? What things do you retain when you're freaked out by all the things other people have? I want to see the complete list! Smoking Gun? Ah, yes! They've got the whole list. Unlike Ted, I love the internet. Let's read the list....

48 items -- some plural -- on the "Tools" list. "Red colored vice" is one. No virtues are listed, so we don't know what color they would have been had they existed.

24 items on the "Clothing" list. Expect to pay a premium for glasses and anything with a hood.

19 items on the "Personal Belongings" list. He did have three watches, including a "Le Watch." And three typewriters.

And the books: here's the whole list. "Autopsy of a Revolution." Things about ancient Rome and world politics. "Count Your Calories" (that will bring out the anger!). "The Defense Never Rests." Guides to edible plants. The ways of the Indians. "The Organization Man." "Razor's Edge." "Psychology of Women" (evidence of pain?). Volumes of "Skeptical Inquirer." "Secret Agent." Several Dickens novels. "Your Right to Privacy." "The Elements of Style." A beginner's typing manual. Many more. You try to solve the puzzle of a brilliant mind gone wrong.

"We have changed the way people view what it means to be Finnish..."

"... and those people who didn’t believe in us have been forced to go into hiding," A country's whole identity is caught up in heavy metal music.

"We only like to represent material that someone might actually want to read."

That's what an agent wrote to lawprof Jed Rubenfeld when he proposed to write a book about law for laypersons, according to this big NYT piece about the novel of his that's coming out next month, supported by tons of expensive publicity. The book -- which I've got around here some place (because I'm a publicity outlet, you know) -- is called "The Interpretation of Murder." The title, I assume, is based on "The Interpretation of Dreams" -- Rubenfeld's book has a lot of Freudian material. If this big publicity campaign works out, a lawprof will get very rich -- I approve! -- and there will be a big rage for lawprofs, lawprofs, lawprofs -- I approve! And presumably, everyone will go mad for Freud -- right? -- like the way "The DaVinci Code" made Leonardo DaVinci or Renaissance art or the Gospels or -- what the hell was that book about? -- a newly reupholstered part of our mental furniture. Do you want Freud back in your head -- so soon after he was so brilliantly, successfully ousted?

Rubenfeld's idea, we read, began with "the intense hostility that Freud developed toward the United States after his visit there in 1909" and took the form of a mystery based on killing off the famous Freud patient Dora.
At first he just made up details about New York in 1909, he said. But when he showed it to a friend, an avid reader of historical novels, she balked when she learned none of the details were accurate.

Over the next six months he researched the history of New York in the early 20th century. The next draft included extensive factual details about famous buildings and historical events, as well as long passages about Freud’s theories.
Extensive... long... is the NYT trying to tell us something?

Most of the article is about the way publishers try to make a book a bestseller by putting lots of money behind it. The sheer act of putting lots of money behind it is itself a way to attract attention, even before you start spending the money to buy publicity. The Times is, no doubt, weary of this game.

I guess I should take a look at the book and provide you with some first-hand opinion. I don't read many novels, and the ones I choose for myself are almost never -- well, never -- the sorts of historical novels and mysteries that make the bestseller lists. If I want to read about history, I'd rather go with nonfiction written by a historian, and as for mysteries, I've just never been interested. What difference does it make who did it? These are just fictional characters made up for the purpose of teasing us by making it seem as if each one could have done it and withholding key pieces of information so you can't tell which one until the end. I'm sure there's more charm to it than that, but I don't know, because, as I've said, I don't read them. I think I've read about five mysteries in my life. Look, I can name them: "Gaudy Night," "The Three Coffins," "Death in a Tenured Position," and maybe something by Agatha Christie and something by Georges Simenon.

Anyway, if I do take a look at "The Interpretation of Murder," which I'm horribly unlikely to read all the way through, the main thing I would care about is how well Rubenfeld has figured out a way to depict Sigmund Freud. He'd better not just be a guy spouting Freudian observations! So Freud hated America? That's the germ of Rubenfeld's idea? The phenomenon of America-hating by self-important Europeans could have some meat to it. As to what the lamp posts looked like in New York in 1909, I don't need a lawprof to put it into words.

UPDATE: It's 6:28 pm, the same day the original post was written. Most of today I spent reading "The Stranger," prompted by another post written today, which now has an update. I also sat down for 20 minutes or so to skim "The Interpretation of Murder," and that was enough to satisfy myself that this is simply not the kind of book that I read. In particular, I intensely dislike when a present-day writer affects a style of a past era because his story is set in that era. Every sentence contains a word choice that irritates the hell out of me. This effort to create an aura of the past... what is it for? But I'm not going to savage this book. It's a genre book in a genre I don't care about. I understand that these things exist for people who aren't like me. You folks can decide if this is a good example of things like that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Let me type out the third sentence in this book to explain what I hate about the prose style. The first two sentences, for reference, are: "There is no mystery to happiness" and "Unhappy men are all alike." Here's the sentence that exemplifies everything that bugs me:
Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn -- or, worse, indifference -- cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays.
First, how could the editor not detect and expunge the "denied"/"pride" rhyme that shockingly informs us of the author's lack of ear?

Second, "cleaves" is an idiotically archaic word. You have to ask yourself why you'd ever use it instead of "clings." But what's worse is that the subjects to that verb just aren't cleaving things. A "wound" doesn't cleave. A "spark" doesn't cleave. A "blow" doesn't cleave.

And why bother to dress up "spark" with the adjective "kindling"? It's a redundancy that was daubed onto the sentence to try to make it sound like 1909, whatever the hell 1909 sounds like.

And why drag in "a shroud"? We've already got too many images: a wound, a blow, a spark, cleaving. Now, we've got a shroud in that sentence too? Blah! I shrink with bone-chilling horror at the deathly shroud of moribund prose that dangles limply from the author's limblike arms, as he threatens ominously to envelopingly enwrap me in it ... or it in me.

August 11, 2006

Bloggingheads!

Hey, I'm on Bloggingheads (with Bob Wright)!

ADDED: They're calling it the "Special Gender Difference Edition." You'll have to watch it to ascertain whether that's apt. The topics -- which you can jump to individually within the hour-long show -- are:
Ann's crackpot colleague and the 9/11 `conspiracy' (11:12 minutes)

Mel Gibson, Take 2 (10:07)

How to tell a male blog from a female blog (09:49)

America's polygamy problem (11:07)

Bob dances on Lieberman's grave (04:28)

Ann proves manlier than Bob (07:38)

Anyway, it was great fun get to go on Bloggingheads, which is a show I was already a fan of, and really cool to talk to Robert Wright, whose book "Moral Animal" played a central role in something having to do with me and feminism that happened back in the 90s and that I bring up, to Bob's surprise, in the third segment.

Vlogging about today's YouTube absorption.



And here's the Art of Noise video I refer to and and remember half of the title of. (It's "Close to the Edit.")

"You think that the Monkees music is banal and insipid?"

Says Mike Nesmith as played by Frank Zappa, interviewing Frank Zappa as played by Mike Nesmith.

"Try to refrain from musical tones."

Says the unknown, young Frank Zappa on "The Steve Allen Show" in 1963, orchestrating noise on the bicycle.



What was daytime TV talk like in the 1970s?

I'm trying to remember, as I see that Mike Douglas just died. See him in action here, talking to Frank Zappa in 1976. And here he is with Johnny Cash... and Don Rickles. Cash calls Rickles a "great spiritual leader," and Mike asks Cash if he always wears black.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted the show for a week. Here's what Douglas had to say about one of the guests they picked out, Jerry Rubin:
He just got on my nerves. It sounded like this guy hated the president, the Congress, everyone in business, the military, all police and just about everything America stands for.
RIP, Mike.

UPDATE: Now you have to go to the links. The embedded videos were making this page too slow-loading.

"I like female cartoon Kazakh superbhero by name 'Astounding Woman.'"

EW interviews Borat. You probably need a subscription to read the linked interview, but it's too offensive for me to recommend reading it anyway.

It would be better to read this interview with auf'd Runwayster Bradley Baumkirchner (the woodland gnome):
How does one not know about Cher?

I don't really follow pop culture. I'm really focused on what I do and things outside of that I really ignore. I'm really bad with actors' names — terribly bad with names in general. And I don't really read People magazine. I don't watch very much TV at all....

You probably had the driest sense of humor on the show, saying things like ''If I shave my beard and leave my mustache, maybe Bonnie will like me better'' last week. Did people get you?

I've been receiving e-mails upon e-mails about that comment. People think that comment was real. I'm like, ''It's not real, man. That was a total joke.'' I guess my humor is really particular. You worry about those things being televised. After the show you don't even remember what you said. At the beginning I was like, ''Are people going to get me?'' But no, I don't feel like a squid with no ocean. I don't walk through my day feeling like that. Some people are just dumb.
Uh-oh. We thought he was dumb. Or stoned (which he denies in the interview).
On your website you say your clothing is for ''dreamers, lovers, loners, thinkers, and the occasional tea drinker.'' Cher might fit in there?

It's true. You could add coffee drinkers in there too. What I like to do is particular. It's not Juicy. Now that the show is over, it would be great to get together with Cher and collaborate on something. Wouldn't that be a gas?
Well, who knows if Cher has a really, really dry sense of humor... and loves aluminum foil?

"These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for."

A Brit's admiration of America:
We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.
The writer makes a connection between our old Constitution and our willingness to fight wars. Do you see that connection?

ADDED: There is the converse notion, expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Missouri v. Holland:
[W]hen we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in the light of out whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.
So instead of seeing the Constitution as providing the foundation for the wars fought after it was ratified, one can also see these subsequent wars as giving meaning to the Constitution. These two views aren't contradictory, but mutually reinforcing.

"Woman's Inhumanity to Woman."

That's a book by Phyllis Chesler, cited by Simon in the comments to the Condi post I wrote this morning. I read the comment right after writing the Britney post just now and went back to see that the author of the cruel Daily Mail article was written by a woman. And there's a lot of material in a new vlog I recorded yesterday -- just wait! -- on this subject.

Let's look at the reviews of the Chesler book on the Amazon page:
From Publishers Weekly

Chesler, author of the bestselling Woman and Madness, explores the "shadow side" of sisterhood: women treating each other badly. How could her own mother have been so mean to her? How could someone who "borrowed" published ideas from her not acknowledge her or say "thank you"? In this treatise on breaking the "cycle of cruelty" between women, controversial feminist Chesler addresses why sisters fight, why some women prefer to work for men rather than for women, and other highly subjective cases of woman/woman cruelty. From the "demented Demeters" and "murderous Electras" of Greek mythology to modern-day Mommie Dearest, Chesler warns, mothers and daughters are doomed. Whether they acknowledge their mothers' viciousness, as Chesler does, or whether they're "unconscious" and suffer "amnesia" about the hurt, she says, the patterns are set. Throughout girlhood and into adult life, women repeat the basic lesson in Chesler's words, "maternal envy teaches daughters to be passive, fearful, conformist, obedient as well as similarly cruel to other women." Thus, she says, "an assertive woman manager might be viewed as bitchy and non-maternal." This comment is certainly more digestible than, say, "what complicates the aging process is a woman's life-long experience of all other women as rivals and potential replacements." Chesler draws her evidence from interviews with an unspecified group of women with horror stories: backstabbing by feminist colleagues, sadistic gynecologists, battering lesbians, etc....

From Library Journal

Second Wave feminists have for 30-plus years operated under the assumption that sisterhood is powerful. Indeed, women acting in concert have forced society to redefine gender, domestic relations, and the workplace. Still, despite huge gains in public visibility, female ascendance has been hampered by a rarely acknowledged reality: women often betray, hurt, and humiliate one another. Mothers stymie daughters, biological sisters compete, girlfriends gossip maliciously, and women bosses exert arbitrary and capricious authority....
Can I get a witness?

"I feel like I'm missing out on life."

Says Britney Spears in a little video that I think is quite sweet and charming but that the Daily Mail is calling bizarre and irrational and saying "has shocked fans worldwide." I don't know this isn't exactly the picture people have of celebrities hanging out on their own time. And she's eating butterbeans -- she says so -- not "what appears to be takeaway chicken and chips." It must be hard for the British to hear Southern. She feels she's missing out on life. Jeez, where is your empathy?

"Her external ugliness reflects her internal ugliness."

Said the interviewer on Syrian television about Condoleezza Rice after the guest -- author Colette Khuri -- said: "If I were asked, as an author, to portray malice, I would sketch an image of Condoleezza Rice. This woman is grim, both in the way she looks and in the way she is inside. I don't know why she is always malicious from within."

ADDED: If the expression on her face were not grim, she would be called a lightweight who did not deserve the trust that has been placed in her. This is typical of the way women are criticized: either you're unfeminine or you're an airhead.

And, for a non-Syrian slur on Rice, here's a photo I took of a wall in Madison, Wisconsin last year.

August 10, 2006

If the 9/11 conspiracy theory were true...

...why wouldn't the government have found a way to silence the persons who began to uncover it?

IN THE COMMENTS: The question is answered... conspiracy-theory style.

Is the UW hypocritical about free speech values?

David French responds to what was indeed a very short comment by me about his comparison between letting Kevin Barrett teach here at the UW and recognizing a Christian student group that wants to be able to define its membership based on religion. My point was solely to reject the idea that it doesn't make sense to be so lenient toward Barrett and tough on the students. The situations are too different. French says:
The purpose of the comparison is quite simple: to illustrate that Wisconsin's commitment to free speech and the marketplace of ideas is uneven, at best. On the one hand, Wisconsin is willing to give a radical professor more rights than the law requires in the name of "academic freedom." On the other hand, Wisconsin appears to be willing to give Christians fewer rights than the law demands.
I still disagree with him! If Barrett were trying to exclude non-Muslims from his class, the comparison would be apt.

The university perceives Barrett's classroom as furthering the marketplace of ideas, because he's given assurances that he will promote debate and treat different viewpoints fairly. You may find it hard to believe that he actually will, but the decision to retain him is based on that belief, and Barrett was required to give those assurances.

The student group, as I understand it from reading French's piece, is seeking the right to discriminate against other students in order to preserve its ideological character. That may be a worthy pursuit, and the university may be wrong to reject it, but it doesn't demonstrate the university is being inconsistent. The university's decision is aimed at preserving diversity and debate within the group. I understand the argument against this. There is less debate overall if groups can be diluted with members who disagree with what they stand for.

I'm not saying the students aren't right, just that French hasn't identified hypocrisy.

"For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself."

Do you expect him not to fly around in a private jet when he's promoting his global warming film? Do you expect him and Tipper to live in a house that's not 10,000 square feet? Well, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn't run any air conditioning.

Hey, speaking of air conditioning, did you know that all the people and machinery in the Mall of America generate so much heat that no heating system is needed there, even in the winter when it's less than zero degrees? I wonder how cold it needs to get outdoors before they get to shut off the air conditioning.

Cher, Madonna, Pam Grier, Marilyn, the Hepburns...

Didn't you love the fashion icons challenge on last night's "Project Runway"?

[Spoiler alert.}

Really, how did Bradley survive as long as he did. Here's how EW puts it:
Bye-bye, Bradley. You're going home. Home to whatever spacey-woodsprite-tree-hollow-magic-mushroomland you came from. Home to a safe place where nobody has ever heard of Cher and everybody thinks it's perfectly okay to dress her in a top made out of Reynolds Wrap and pants that were so intent on beginning their very own vagina monologue that even the model called cameltoe on you. Home to where you can have the nap that you look like you've been wanting really badly.
And don't miss Project Rungay (the blog).

Do you really want to go on vacation?

I had the feeling it was just me, but apparently it's a big cultural trend that people don't want to go on vacation anymore. Assuming this actually is happening and it's something new, what's the cause?

People have always worried about leaving their work. It will either pile up and make things harder when you get back or it will be a problem because someone is covering for you. They'll either do it badly -- and you'll have to undo the mess -- or they do it well -- and you'll look bad by comparison.

And then there's also the problem -- is this new? -- that the vacation might not be good enough. In typical NYT fashion, the article tells the story of one Manhattanite woman. It's Randi Friedman, the 27-year-old publicist. Can you believe it? She went to a resort and it rained and it was rather cold. But she did -- wince -- gain a sense of perspective when she turned on the hotel TV and saw how bad the day at the beach was for the victims of the Asian tsunami.....

(Oooh, I wish they'd edited that part out...)

Anyway, I'm not surprised people rebel against vacation. Presumably, you have your regular life set up to provide a decent level of satisfaction. Your living quarters are reasonably comfortable, your job is somewhat enjoyable, and you like your town and at least some of your friends and acquaintances. Why go to the trouble of going somewhere else, where every day is going to cost you lots of extra money, and where you have no guarantee you'll be one bit happier than you are at home? To try to ensure the experience will be better than home, you can make a big effort at planning or lay out a lot of extra money, but that increases the burden and only makes it more important that the vacation turn out well.

Lieberman's loss.

Congressional Democrats are backing Ned Lamont, and Republicans have a chance to say things like "It’s an unfortunate development ... from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy."

Democratic national chairman Howard Dean says Joe Lieberman ought to quit and Democrats “have an obligation” to get behind Lamont. What do you expect? The Democrats are a political party, and Lieberman lost because he didn't align sufficiently with Democratic values. He's being portrayed as pathetic. Not only did he lose the primary, he's "too angered by his loss to accept ... counseling" that he needs to give up.

How will Lieberman frame his independent campaign? Can he say sharp things about all the Democrats abandoning him? Can he fall into the embrace of the Republicans, who seems to only want to say nice things about him to make the rest of the Democrats look bad? This embracing of Joe to make the rest of the Democrats look bad is a painful reminder of that kiss, and we can only imagine how terrible Joe feels about that. (I picture Joe singing "He Kissed Me and It Felt Like a Hit.")

Meanwhile, the Republicans don't seem to care at all about their guy in Connecticut:
[Alan] Schlesinger, a lawyer who won his party’s nomination back in May, when few thought Mr. Lieberman’s bid for a fourth term was in much jeopardy, is not widely known. He has raised very little money. Not a single national Republican figure has come forward to promote his cause. And, amid some murmuring by fellow Republicans that he step aside, Mr. Schlesinger said he was in the race for good, and could not and would not be removed.

“I’m not going anywhere. The way the numbers stack up, I can win this thing,” he said cheerfully.

Mr. Schlesinger, a former mayor of the town of Derby, first burst into the headlines this summer after The Hartford Courant reported that he had gambled under a fake name and once had gambling debts (he dismissed the accounts as irrelevant).
What an awful candidate! Either Schlesinger needs to step aside or Republicans should just all get the message to vote for Lieberman, right?

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan writes:
So it's Lieberman versus Lamont unless Mr. Schlesinger drops out, in which case a Republican with his own money could conceivably come forward and shake things up. A new candidate like that would take votes from Mr. Lieberman.

I wonder how national Republicans will play this? Would the White House allow a conservative to come forward? Personal ties and gratitude aside, a newly elected Joe Lieberman, free of the constraints of the Democratic Party, might be a much more reliable supporter than an independent Republican moneybags with a lot to prove.

"Mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

Plot averted. Is this the end of carry-on luggage -- even a purse? -- and and bringing your own drink onto an airplane?

UPDATE: Gawker has fun with it. One more reason to love America.

IN THE COMMENTS: A cry of pain: "Unboxed sanitary napkins in a clear plastic bag???? Ugghhhh!!!"

August 9, 2006

Agonizing over the anti-loitering law.

Here in Madison:
The grass-roots Common Sense Coalition and a majority of Madison City Council members want to reinstate the city's controversial anti-loitering law to help stop a surge in serious crime.

But Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the move is divisive, politically motivated and distracts from an important community conversation on public safety.

The effort "is designed to pull people apart," he said.

The original law, passed in 1997 and dropped over concerns about discrimination in 2002, made it illegal to loiter for the purpose of selling drugs....

The coalition's initiative presents a political challenge for Cieslewicz and liberal council members who want to be tough on crime but face pressures from constituencies to protect civil rights.

"I don't support an anti-loitering ordinance in concept," Cieslewicz said, reserving judgment on a veto. "We don't know what they're going to propose, but I'd be a tough sell."
So, deciding whether something ought to be a crime, the key question is not how harmful the activity is, but whether arrests under that law will be racially balanced? And if someone else proposes making some harmful behavior a crime when you think the arrests under that law will not be racially balanced, they deserve to be accused of being distracting and divisive?

Yellowstone, in bleakness.

Cloudscape

Yellowstone

Yellowstone

Kos is triumphant.

He should be. From his torrent of enthusiasm:
[E]ven the most powerful, entrenched forces can be dislodged by people-power. That the combined mights of the Democratic and Conservative establishments couldn't hold the gates against the barbarian intruders.

We can make a difference, and we will.... We will win the battleground races. We will win many "lean Republican" ones. We will shock in several more. And even where we lose, we'll build the party for the future, recognizing that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the Conservative movement.
So are you identifying with the barbarians or the Romans?

"It was handled by someone on a very busy day at a more junior level than we would wish for in ideal circumstances."

That's the pathetically lame excuse offered up by a senior Reuters editor attempting to minimize the Adnan Hajj problem.

UPDATE: Here's the WaPo version of the story, highlighting the work of LGF's Charles Johnson:
In Johnson's view, the news media haven't adequately sounded the alarm about threats to Western societies posed by radical Islamic groups -- something he says he seeks to redress through his politically conservative blog.

"My main take is that political correctness has kept a lot of the hard truth from being spread by the mainstream media," says Johnson....

"The vast, vast majority of Muslims want to get along and live a comfortable life just like everyone else," he says. "But the mainstream media shies away from showing the public the real face of Islamic extremism. They don't want to offend. And they are influenced by some strong advocacy groups that are funded by Middle Eastern countries, which are actively engaging with the mainstream media to promote a point of view."

Johnson responds here, finding fault with the piece.

"How old were you when you said to yourself, 'I am taking this country down?'"

That's what Stephen Colbert asked Neal Katyal, the lawprof who won Hamdan, the Guantanemo detainees case. Here's a very admiring profile of him.

August 8, 2006

The rift between Rice and Bush.

Over the Israeli-Lebanon war:
State Department sources said Ms. Rice has been repeatedly stymied in her attempts to pressure Israel to end strikes against Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. The sources said the secretary's trip to the Middle East last week was torpedoed by the Israeli air strike of a Lebanese village in which 25 people were killed.

"I've never seen her so angry," an aide said.

Primaries.

Are you hanging on the news of the primaries? How emotionally invested are you in whether Lieberman wins or loses? Do you care about the McKinney race?

UPDATE: I'm watching Joe Lieberman's concession speech right now. The theme is that Lamont represents the past -- the old partisan politics. He says -- tone-deafly? - that he went to Washington to "unite, not divide" -- reminding us of George Bush. Perhaps that is intentional though. Maybe he means to say that it's good that he works easily with the other party. Maybe he can come out of this loss stronger, but it's a strength that disrespects his own party. "Tonight, our campaign will file the necessary petitions." He's going to run without his party's nomination. He wants to go back to the Senate as "an independent Democrat" and to continue to work with the other party and for strong national security. "I will always do what I believe is right... regardless of what the political consequences may be." Aw, Joe. Good luck.

Debating the Wisconsin marriage amendment.

Start here, with Fair Wisconsin.

Comparative freedom.

Over at PhiBetaCons, David French is comparing the way the University of Wisconsin is treating Kevin Barrett with the way it treated a Catholic student group. It's a complex comparison, and I'm not saying I agree with French. The student group's speech entails discriminating against other students, and Barrett, by contrast, has given assurances that he will allow diversity of opinion.

"Unremitting, agonizing, thinking-ness."

= the quality Dahlia Lithwick believes Anthony Kennedy's critics criticize him for.

The Grand Tetons.

There I was, a lone photographer, photographing the lone photographer:

The Grand Tetons

Amid the fabulous mountains. In the morning, they gripped the clouds:

The Grand Tetons

In the evening, defying the sunset, they resisted any golden tinging:

The Grand Tetons

(The Grand Teton photoset.)

How to be apolitically political.

And while I'm sojourning at Throwing Things, let me note this adorable post, where, because they're a pop culture blog, they can't talk about the Lieberman-Lamont thing that it seems that we all ought to have to talk about, so they make the topic pop culture things related to Connecticut.

UPDATE: Post-primary apolitics.

Stephen Colbert interviews Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Oh, my, that's funny. (Thanks, Throwing Things.)

Does being a female blogger mean anything?

Melissa Clouthier thinks not, and she observes that I didn't seem "overly impressed" by the BlogHer convention. Here's my main BlogHer post. What do you think?

Per Clouthier:
In fact, one of the reasons I like the Internet generally and blogosphere specifically, is that it is the take, the expertise, the style, the clarity and the content that counts. No one (save my friends and family who read this) knows what I look like. Who cares? It's irrelevent anyway. You either like what I say or don't. You either appreciate my expertise or you don't.
I wouldn't say that. I think readers picture the writer and their subjective view of the writing is subtly and constantly affected by that picture. As a reader you take whatever shreds of information you have -- even if it's only the presumed sex of the writer based on the name -- and you swirl it around with whatever else is in your head. As I've said before, if I only have a name, I always picture someone good looking. I think that's because I'm an optimist. You should see the glamorous movie stars in my head when I'm going on names alone. But throw in a little cartoon drawing or a thumbnail photo and I extract all sorts of emotions that affect what I think. You think you're more objective? I'm willing to believe that you think you are but not that you are.

This is why BlogHer has a reason for being. Males do dominate in the blogosphere and no blogger's linking behavior is objective. It's instinctive. This can favor women or disfavor them. Who knows? I think it's worth it to note when some bloggers seem blind to women bloggers and to point it out. It can get a good response. And it's worth giving credit to the male bloggers who seem to go out of their way to promote women -- which I do in my talk at BlogHer (which will eventually be available as an audio file). I single out Glenn Reynolds (obviously) and Stephen Bainbridge (although I'm having second thoughts after he was gratuitously mean to me about wine!).

Clouthier's jumping off point was this post by Kathy Sierra. Read that one too. It starts off with a photo of a lace bra and panties. And if you click over there because of that, keep in mind that that is more evidence of my point that there is a big emotional component in internet behavior.

"After the public realizes I’m right ... my chances of getting a job will be better.”

The Badger Herald -- which is mostly on summer hiatus -- has a new article on the Kevin Barrett controversy. The student reporter, Joanna Pliner, obtained this quote from UW Provost Patrick Farrell (who made the decision to retain the 9/11 denialist):
“I think the political correctness — or non-political correctness — of his views outside the classroom … should not have an impact on whether or not he’s allowed to teach."
Political correctness?

The Herald, unlike various local newspapers, calls attention to the political criticism that comes not just from Republican legislators, but from the Democratic governor Jim Doyle, whose spokesperson is quoted as saying, "The governor would have come to a different decision than the university." Presumably, that means Doyle would have fired Barrett. (Doyle is up for reelection this fall.)

Also quoted is Donald Downs, the UW political science professor who is president of the Committee of Academic Freedom and Rights:
Downs said he does not believe Barrett’s theory at all and does not know anybody at the university who does, “left, right or center.”

But despite that fundamental disagreement, Downs said he still supports Barrett’s employment.

“We want professors to be intellectually responsible, but we also want professors to be intellectually honest,” Downs said. “We want the envelope pushed; we want people to stick their necks out if it is done with intellectual integrity. Otherwise it could cause a watered-down education.”
Most amusingly, Barrett himself is quoted, saying he plans to seek a permanent job here at the UW: "After the public realizes I’m right ... my chances of getting a job will be better.”

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: he's crazy. I think I know what Farrell is thinking: swathe this loser in academic freedom rhetoric, then hunker down and wait for the semester to end. But meanwhile:
More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.
Don't assume Barrett's ideas are obviously only a crackpot fringe theory. The 9/11 conspiracy theory has the power to propagate.
Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" ... quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John F. Kennedy's assassination and that it has covered up proof of space aliens....

University of Florida law professor Mark Fenster, author of the book "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture," said the poll's findings reflect public anger at the unpopular Iraq war, realization that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction and growing doubts of the veracity of the Bush administration....

The poll found that a majority of young adults give at least some credence to a 9/11 conspiracy compared to less than a fourth of people 65 or older. Members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with only a high school education and Democrats were especially likely to suspect federal involvement in 9/11.
I think the university ought to do something big this fall to respond to the situation. If you really care about free speech -- and I think the university does -- you believe that the remedy for bad speech is more speech. I would like the university to present speakers this fall on at least two subjects: 1. Why and how conspiracy theories originate and spread, and 2. Debunking the 9/11 conspiracy theories. In the second category, I would like to see Barrett on the stage with experts in engineering, who would make his lack of expertise very obvious to the audience.

August 7, 2006

"Noise is the real punk."

Oh, I see that Dominick Fernow got written up in the Village Voice:
[Y]ou'll find a stuffy basement hotbox packed to the ceiling with the most elusive items in the noise underground: cassettes affixed to shards of vinyl or slipped into fuzzy pouches, CD-Rs packaged in seven-inch sleeves, seven-inches packaged in tin foil, a record where the grooves are lathe-cut onto a coke mirror . . . everything from mutant monoliths like Merzbow and John Wiese to obscurants like Cream Corn Barf Extravaganza. There's plenty of black metal too, but no death metal, hardcore, or punk. "In many ways I would say it's a real punk store in that it's more about celebrating the individual instead of the genre," Fernow says. "Noise is the real punk. It's not about the haircut, it's not about politics, it's not about an agenda. It's personal. That's the key for me. And that's an intimacy."...

Back in Madison, Wisconsin, when Fernow was in the eighth grade, some new friends invited him to hang out while their death/grind band practiced. The emotional intensity he witnessed was unlike anything he got from Aerosmith or the Chili Peppers. There were no gateway bands, no Metallica, no Slayer, not even Cannibal Corpse—Fernow just dove straight into tape-trading bands like Fleshgrind and Anal Blast. Around 1997, an appropriate distance from the time when computers and CD-Rs would become ubiquitous, 16-year-old Fernow started Hospital Records to release his home-recorded, organically made noise cassettes.

Dom is the person who painted this...

The lower level

... which -- you may remember -- is something I couldn't get out of the garage, back when I cleared out the whole garage. It's an artifact of one of the concerts that were played in that garage. Embalm was a death metal band, and there were at least two other bands, Toy Gun and Four O'Clock Tragedy, that played here back then.

Anyway, John visited Dom in NYC this summer -- in that "stuffy basement hotbox" -- and got some great photos, like this one:

Hospital Productions

Arches.

I was just having coffee with a friend yesterday, talking about my recently completed road trip, and she said, "I thought there would be more photographs." Oh, there are more photographs all right. It will take me some time to sort through them all. I got through my Badlands set, from the last day of the trip. Now, I'm going back to the beginning, to the second day, when I drove from Denver to Moab, Utah, and toured Arches National Park, the park with even better rocks than the Badlands. I'll display a few here, but the whole big set is here.

There in the distance is the famous Delicate Arch:

Arches

These things are amazing but have a rather obscene vibe:

Arches

The road gives a good idea of the scale:

Arches

Like a castle in the distance:

Arches

Sublime layers. This is the one I would paint:

Arches

Doesn't it seem as though every Hollywood cowboy who ever rode a horse should come galloping out from behind that monolith?

Arches

This is the Moab Fault, where something quite extraordinary -- a 2500 foot displacement -- happened 6 million years ago:

Arches

As they say in the movies, let's get out of here:

Arches

It was beautiful:

Arches

"I fully expect to wake up tomorrow morning to see some cheetahs tearing apart a gazelle on my front lawn."

Dennis York stands with the bunnies.

"The flip, winky gender-bending outfit is maybe not the one you ought to be wearing when you're posing in front of a big poster of the Twin Towers."

Go Fug Yourself calls out Maria Bello.

The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar.

Where the customers -- most of them women -- "smash glasses, rant and even hit specially trained workers":
The bar employs 20 men who have been given protective gear and physical training to prepare them for the job.

Clients can ask the men to dress as the character they wish to attack....

"The idea of beating someone decorated as your boss seems attractive."
Okaaaay. That's happening in China. Want something like that in your town? Or have you got a better idea?

"The 9/11 conspiracy movement exploits the public's anger and sadness."

"It traffics in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans."

So writes Senator John McCain in the foreword to "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts." This is the well-known analysis published in Popular Mechanics in March 2005, plus an afterword dated June 2006. It is good to have this clearly presented and updated material in book form. It will be available on August 15th, but you can order it at the first link now. (I received an advance copy.)

UPDATE: The whole text of the book is updated and expanded, not just the afterword.

Faking the photographs.

Really crudely done photoshopping -- with obvious political intent -- has gotten past the editors at Reuters in the last few days. Quite apart from the dismaying ineptitude of missing the clear evidence of manipulation that bloggers will eagerly and easily throw in their faces, we should worry that there is much more subtle and expert use of photoshopping going on all the time. These recent incidents should wake us up and make us mistrust every photograph that is ever offered up as anything other than an imaginative illustration.

UPDATE: Reuters takes down all 920 photographs by Adnan Hajj.

"The 'peace' Democrats are back. It's a dream come true for Karl Rove."

Writes Martin Peretz.

August 6, 2006

Audible Althouse #61.

It's a new podcast. I talk about driving and art, and drinking and eating.

The Badlands

You can stream it on your computer -- no iPod needed -- right here. But the best way to keep up with the retrospective view of the week's bloggage is to subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"People think I'd be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn't admit it? Oh, please."

Said Oprah, in a seeming denial that got everybody talking. Here's a big article about celebrities denying gay rumors. Are you just calling more attention to it? Are you setting up a thousand new jokes?

But about that Oprah quote. Is it even a denial that she's gay? "People think I'd be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn't admit it? Oh, please." That's only saying it's ridiculous to think that I'm the kind of person who would be ashamed of being gay. If I were the interviewer, I'd want to ask: Yes, I know you wouldn't be ashamed of being gay, but as a popular mainstream daytime television personality, might you not reason that your audience is not ready to hear that someone like you is gay, and might you not decide to remain discreet about it in order to continue to reach them?

But let's look at the source material. It's an interview on the home territory of Oprah Magazine, with both Oprah and her best friend Gayle King.
Gayle: The truth is, if we were gay, we would so tell you, because there's nothing wrong with being gay.

Oprah: Yeah. But for people to still be asking the question, when I've said it and said it and said it, that means they think I'm a liar. And that bothers me.

Gayle: Well, particularly given how open you've been about everything else in your life.

Oprah: I've told nearly everything there is to tell. All my stuff is out there. People think I'd be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn't admit it? Oh, please.
The boldface indicates possible hedging. But Oprah says "Yeah" to Gayle's initial statement, so she's either not gay or she is liar. And it would bother her if you thought that she was a liar.

And doesn't having a nonsexual best friend as good as Gayle seem highly desirable to you? It's not as though the relationship only makes sense if it's sexual.

"I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from..."

Said Mel Gibson, in the process of apologizing and in the process of creating a mystery about where words that obviously came from his brain came from. But many Mel defenders are repeating the talking point that it's not true that in vino veritas. So let's ask the experts:
When asked where those vicious words came from, Dr. Kevin J. Corcoran, a psychology researcher who has studied the effects of alcohol on perception and judgment, replied, simply, “his mouth.”

Dr. Corcoran said comments do not spring from nothing; for example, Dr. Corcoran said, he himself would not make anti-Semitic statements under the influence of alcohol.

“I say other outrageous things when I’m drunk,” he said.

He added that Mr. Gibson “may not fully believe” his statements about Jews, “but they were waiting to be delivered,” once his inhibitions were lowered and he was subjected to the stress of being pulled over by the police....

[There is] a condition that researchers call the “alcohol myopia effect,” in which someone who has had too much to drink reacts to immediate cues without regard to consequences or the broader social context. G. Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, said that psychologists often focus on the difference between “traits and states.” Inebriation is a temporary state, but it might unleash one’s deeper and more permanent traits, he said.

ADDED: John points out a Flemish proverb: "What is said when drunk has been thought out beforehand." (Found on page 67 of one of our favorite books, W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger's "Aphorisms.")

MORE: I see there's a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called "The Flemish Proverbs." Look closely. See if you can find Mel Gibson.

Globish.

What is the future of English? Here's the NYT article, and here's my Instapundit post on it. Discuss! In English. Try your hand at Globish, perhaps.

"I could see myself, retired from professorhood, roaming around the museum looking for the surly folk ..."

That's me, over at Instapundit, riffing on this.

"This was probably just a particularly hormonal squirrel."

Mommy mauled by squirrel.

Badger Down Under.

It's a blog by UW political science professor Ken Mayer, who's visiting at Australian National University this fall. He's sent the kids off to school -- in uniforms -- and here are some questions the Australian kids asked them:
Where is Madison? (Don't laugh. Do you know where Toowoomba is?)

Have you ever been robbed at gunpoint?

Are there hobos on every street corner?

What about New York? There must be hobos there.

Have you ever been shot? (this was the same person who asked about being robbed, who has apparently learned that the entire country was actually the set for Scarface)

Do you like Vegemite? (apologies to our Australian friends, but it is, um, an acquired taste)
"Hobos" is an evocative word, not used by Americans -- that I know -- to refer to anyone in the present in the United States.