October 28, 2006

Harsh shadows.

On a sunny, mid-fall day:

Bascom Mall

Do you think we can predict what's going to happen in the election...

... by looking how certain movies are doing this weekend?
Newmarket's very controversial Death of a President (91 theaters) did only $.06 mil Friday with a pathetic per screen average of $673 for should be a $0.21 weekend. The Weinstein Company's Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing (4 theaters) took in $0.01 mil Friday and a disappointing $2,867 per screen average for what should be a $.04 mil weekend.

Fall.

Bleak:

Fall

But that was yesterday.

Fall

Today... I need to get out.

"In one semifamous cleanliness lapse in the 1992 presidential campaign..."

"Bill Clinton, who had just shaken dozens of hands at a tavern in Boston, was handed a pie but no fork on his way to the car. The ravenous Mr. Clinton promptly devoured it using his unwashed hand. He eventually became a serious user of hand wipes and lotions at the urging of his doctor, an aide said."

Mmm... pie!

That's from an article in today's NYT about how all the politicians use Purell. I checked to see if Barack Obama was mentioned. Answer: yes:
“Good stuff, keeps you from getting colds,” Mr. Bush raved about hand sanitizer to Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, at a White House encounter early last year.

Mr. Obama, who recounts the episode in his new book, says that after rubbing a blob of it on his own hands, the president offered him some, which he accepted (“not wanting to appear unhygienic.”)

Mr. Obama has since started carrying Purell in his traveling bag, a spokesman said.

Why did I check? Because it was quite recently that the NYT published a review of Obama's book that I thought wafted the suggestion that Bush was a racist for using Purell after shaking Obama's hand.

Anyway, as long as I've mentioned pie... I thought this was cool.

"I commend Oprah Winfrey for the very fair and balanced treatment she gave O'Reilly..."

Says Lorie Byrd.

I saw the show (only because I hastily set up a season pass for "Oprah" so I wouldn't miss... Madonna!). It was extremely well-done, with strong participation from audience members. Oprah was gracious to Bill O'Reilly, but still asked hard questions. O'Reilly complimented her for being nice while doing a show with someone she clearly disagrees with. Not like that jerk David Letterman who -- here's the clip -- went on and on about how O'Reilly wouldn't bow down to the moral superiority of Cindy Sheehan.

Oprah's website has lots of coverage of the show:
In his latest number one bestseller, Culture Warrior, Bill warns that America is in the midst of what he calls a vicious culture war between two factions.

Oprah: What is the war?

Bill: The war is between traditionalists like me, and I believe you, too, by the way, who think the country is noble. America's a noble nation.
I like the slickly inclusionary "I believe you, too."

Here's a good example of O'Reilly in full-out stream-of-consciousness mode -- with Oprah getting in one exquisitely specific line:
Bill: You know, we have our military fighting for our country overseas. We at home have to fight for our country. Do you want to be Denmark? Do you want to be Holland? That's what the S-Ps [secular-progressives] want. Anything goes: euthanasia, legalized narcotics, unfettered abortion, on and on and on and on. Look, when you and I were growing up, what kind of music did we listen to?

Oprah: I listened to The Temptations. …

Bill: What are the kids listening to now? Ho's. Glocks. Drugs. We've come a long way, haven't we? … These are the kids at 9, 10 …They know all about it. There's no more Temptations. They're obsolete. How about movies? What did we go to see? We went to see The Blob. Steve McQueen running around going, "There's the blob." We had a lot of laughs. Popcorn. Now they have a chainsaw guy cutting off people's arms. That's what kids are seeing. Oh, we've come a long way, haven't we? This country is under siege.
Oh, no! There's the blob!

ADDED: I'm just checking out the Letterman appearance. Before bringing out O'Reilly, Letterman had a chat with Paul:
It occurred to me: I know very little about anything. I mean, it's not like you have to have a license to run one of these shows. But then when a guy like Bill O'Reilly comes on... I ... I believe he probably doesn't know what he's talking about either. So.. it's just... when you get right down to it, it's a couple of dumb guys out here... just yakkin'.
AND: Dave was prickly but O'Reilly did a good job of going back to humor and Dave would come back too. They kept taking breaks to say they really are good friends, but you could also see Dave -- like a lot of people -- is quite upset about the war. It's appropriate to show real anger there. It's a war. It's no joke. I thought the two of them did a decent job. I liked when Dave said he hadn't read the book, but "What's it about? Sailing?" (You have to see the jacket photo to get the laugh.)

(I note that the show I'm watching from last night is not the same one O'Reilly was talking about on "Oprah," shown in the linked clip.)

"If you want to read about attitudes toward females..."

So it's finally arrived! The day when we scour the files of political candidates for evidence about their attitudes toward females! And may the least sexist candidate win!

In one corner, we have a man who has written novels -- gasp! novels! -- that lack any strong female characters! In the other, we have a man who has a sister who's written a memoir -- oh, no! a memoir! get me Oprah! -- in which she tattles that he pulled her hair!
In its latest attack, the [George] Allen camp takes particular issue with the portrayal of women in [Jim] Webb’s novels, saying female characters are consistently “servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these.”
And:
Mr. Webb ... attacked Mr. Allen personally. “You ought to read what George Allen’s sister wrote about him if you want to read about attitudes toward females,” he said, alluding to an autobiography by Jennifer Allen in which she describes her brother as a bully who once dragged her upstairs by her hair because she had defied her father at bedtime.
Oh, come on, Althouse. Get the story straight! It's not a memoir, it's an autobiography. And he didn't just pull her hair, he dragged her up the stairs by her hair -- the caveman! -- because she defied her father -- the patriarch!

Well, who is this Jennifer Allen character that she merits an "autobiography"? It looks like a memoir to me. She tells the story of growing up with that patriarch, who was a "legendary" football coach and, apparently, a mean daddy. Too bad Amazon doesn't have a search-inside-the-book function for that one, because we could find all the references to brother George and quote them -- in or out of context, as suits our fancy.

But come on, let's not stop with Webb and Allen. It's time to dig in. I want to know about all the male candidates. Who respects women more?

And all you guys who are hoping to make it in politics, who are burnishing your credentials right now? Better make sure you show nothing but respect from now on. Better go crawling on your knees to any woman you ever disrespected, lest she dash off a memoir. Bonus political tip: Hire a ghostwriter to write a novel full of upright, feisty females.

ADDED: From Maureen Dowd's TimesSelect column:
Mr. Allen’s younger sister, Jennifer, wrote a memoir in which she described her brother pulling a Michael Jackson and dangling her over a railing at Niagara Falls, and slamming a pool cue against her boyfriend’s head. (She later said the pool-cue story was a joke, calling the book a novelization of the past.)
So it's that kind of memoir.

"When it's done right, it's a controlled maneuver, and it stops the car."

The new high-speed case chase:
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether police officers can be sued for intentionally ramming a fleeing car during a high-speed chase, causing the death or injury of the driver....

[A police officer] rammed the rear of the speeding vehicle, sending it out of control and over an embankment. The driver, 19-year-old Victor Harris, survived but was rendered a quadriplegic.

He sued, and both a federal judge and the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta agreed that an officer who used "deadly force" by ramming his car into another vehicle could be held liable for the damage he caused. ...

When trying to stop a fleeing car, police officers try to drive alongside and then nudge the rear to the right so that the car spins out. This is known as PIT, for Pursuit Intervention Technique.

October 27, 2006

Architecture or nature?

Take your pick.

Architecture or nature?

It's just a matter of taste.

Steve Irwin mockery.

Were you upset by the little Steve Irwin thing on "South Park"? Satan is giving a Halloween party, and he confronts a guy who appears to be dressed as Steve Irwin. Picture at the link -- he's walking around with the stingray stuck in his bloody chest. Satan tells him it's too soon. When it turns out it really is the dead Steve Irwin, Satan throws him out for not wearing a costume.

Dressing as Steve Irwin for Halloween actually is a pretty clever idea, and it raises the interesting question why some evil/horrible things are considered good for costumes when others aren't. We all know you can't dress as Hitler, for example, even though, in general, evil imagery is encouraged.

Hitler, by the way, appears in the new "South Park." Not as a costume, as a dead guy. And he does have a costume. He's the "Can you hear me now?" guy, with a cell phone. Don't you hate that guy?

Also pushing the evil/funny envelope: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer did an extended Three Stooges routine that was quite brilliant.

"In few places is the power of global climate change celebrated as it is in Wisconsin..."

It's the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Bestial.

Sometimes, on an impulse, I set up a Google alert for a word that strikes me for some reason or another. I'm looking for some random input, just to shake things loose. The other day -- I can't remember why -- I set up the word "bestial." This word drags in the weirdest stuff, mostly garbage, but today, it brought this.

Reading movie and TV recaps instead of watching movies and TV.

How widespread is this trend? In two days, I encountered two individuals who said they derived their movie and TV entertainment from reading recaps and skipping the viewing experience altogether. Both mentioned The Movie Spoiler for movie summaries, which I hadn't heard of before. For TV, the obvious choice is Television Without Pity, which I've been reading for years, but I wasn't reading recaps of shows I didn't watch (and it never occurred to me to just say "twop.")

I like this idea of substituting the recap. I love reading things on line. (I mean, I'm severely addicted to reading things on line. Last night, I curled up in bed at 7:30 to read a book, but along with the book I brought my laptop. I thought I'd click around on the laptop for a few minutes and then get to the book. At 11, I was still on the laptop!) Lately, I haven't felt like watching TV. It's not as though I'm trying to practice some new austerity. I just haven't been enjoying the TV-viewing feeling too much lately. Reading TV recaps might nicely replace the relaxing, easy experience that once was TV. But if everyone only reads about TV and doesn't watch it, why do we even need the shows?

Somebody needs to start a website for smart, funny recaps of TV shows and movies that don't exist.

Have you been having trouble seeing new posts to this blog?

I had that problem myself in Firefox, and it's corrected in this new update. For some reason, the "check for updates" function in Firefox was not showing that this new version is available. It is! Update! And see the constant refreshment of Althouse!

CORRECTION: It's Firefox, not Foxfire. I wonder how many other syllables I've been reversing without putting myself in a position to attract corrections. Foxfire is bioluminescent fungus, you know.

MOREOVER: In the episode of "Lassie" that first aired on October 26, 1958, "Timmy and Boomer hunt foxfire to smear on their faces and become trapped in an abandoned house in the woods that is scheduled for demolition." Reason for wanting to smear luminescent fungus on their faces: to scare the girls out of kissing them at Martha Tyson's Halloween party.

After the radio show...

I cross the pedestrian bridge over University Avenue...

University Avenue, fall morning

... and pass through the inhumane architecture of the Humanities Building...

The inhumane Humanities Building

... into the welcome space of Library Mall:

Early morning, campus

Radio.

I'm on Week in Review, starting in a few minutes, and, nicely, I'm able to get on the WiFi today. We'll see if being able to look things up on the fly makes things better and whether I'm tempted to blog as I go. The show will be up for streaming here later this morning.

ADDED: First subject: Rush Limbaugh on Michael J. Fox's political ad and the stem cell research issue. Second: That anti-Harold Ford ad. Third: The New Jersey marriage decision.

AND: Iraq.

MORE: Here's some background on that "Injun time" story I didn't know anything about.

"Canada can take care of North Korea. They’re not busy."

Let's talk about the part of the anti-Harold Ford ad that's not about the Playboy lady. Canada's upset!

"After we clean the world of the White House first..."

That's when Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly, the most prominent Muslim cleric in Australia, said he would step down. Reuters paraphrases the quote above as a statement that "he would not go until the White House was cleaned out." Somebody needs to learn how to read. Those words aren't a mere wish to see President Bush out of the White House. They state a desire to rid the world of the White House. The place in need of "cleaning" is not the White House, but the world. The uncleanliness is not the President in the White House, but the White House in the world.

The demands that Hilaly step down follow his horrible statements about women and rape: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem."

Spot the free speech issue.

Kevin Barrett, the UW's part-time lecturer who thinks the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh yesterday (at the invitation of the College Greens):
Members of the UWO branch of College Republicans picketed outside the union, and several made their way to the lecture as well. Shortly after Barrett took the podium, UWO Police were forced to take action when dissenting students stood up and turned their backs to Barrett mid-lecture. The officers received applause as they escorted students out of the room.

One of the student demonstrators outside was UWO fifth-year senior Erin Kisley, who said that while she believes in academic freedom, Barrett is stepping over a thin red line.

“I don’t want my student activity fees to be funding him to come here,” Kisley said. “I think his teaching is wrong. I believe in freedom of speech, but as an education major, I also believe that you should be teaching facts instead of your own opinions.”

Andrew Sabais, Chair of College Greens and UWO senior said many people view Barrett’s presence at the university as an “embarrassment,” but disagrees with Kisley.

“Tonight there is a big embarrassment for this university, and that is the College Republicans demonstrating outside against free speech,” Sabais said.
Hmmm... Were they demonstrating against free speech or exercising free speech? The opinion that Barrett doesn't deserve to be a featured speaker at UWO is a perfectly good one. The only serious free speech question here is whether the students who stood up and turned their backs on the speaker should have been thrown out!

The student journalist who wrote the linked article says "UWO Police were forced to take action when dissenting students stood up and turned their backs to Barrett mid-lecture." What "forced" the police to "take action" against the students, who had chosen a peaceful, quiet form of protest?

ADDED: If Barrett had been a little sharper, he would have called on the police to leave the students alone. After all, he presents himself as very skeptical of government authority and concerned about free speech.

"Will the idealistic Coyote take up his father’s whip to exploit the leadership-hungry clowns?"

The Broadway show that asks that question gets the terrible review you knew it would get when you watched the clip yesterday. Ben Brantley on "The Times They Are A-Changing," (Twyla Tharp's thuddingly literal depiction of Bob Dylan songs):
Ms. Tharp turns lyrics’ metaphors not only into flesh but also into flashlights, jump-ropes, stuffed animals and new brooms that sweep clean. (If there was a kitchen sink onstage, I missed it, which isn’t to say it wasn’t there.) Props rule in this magic kingdom, along with charadelike annotations of images.

Just mention, say, Cinderella in “Desolation Row,” and there she is, center stage. When the same song refers to Dr. Filth, there he is performing surgery....

October 26, 2006

Radio alert.

I'll be on the "Week in Review" show on Wisconsin Public Radio Friday morning at 8 Central Time. It will be streamable here later in the morning. I wonder what news stories people will want to talk about. The election, I assume. Gay marriage. Iraq. Stem cells (and how mean Rush Limbaugh was to Michael J. Fox).

"Whatever short-term political gain there is [for Democrats], it can only have a negative impact on gay men."

Camille Paglia on the Mark Foley scandal:
When a moralistic, buttoned-up Republican like Foley is revealed to have a secret, seamy gay life, it simply casts all gay men under a shadow and makes people distrust them. Why don't the Democratic strategists see this?.......

The Foley scandal exploded without any proof of a documented sex act -- unlike the case of the late congressman Gerry Studds, who had sex with a page and who was literally applauded by fellow Democrats when they refused to vote for his censure. In the Foley case, there was far more ambiguous evidence -- suggestive e-mails and instant messages... What does it mean for Democrats to be agitating over Web communications, which in my view fall under the province of free speech? It's a civil liberties issue. We can say that what Foley was doing was utterly inappropriate, professionally irresponsible, and in bad taste, but why were liberals fomenting a scandal day after day after day over words being used? And why didn't Democrats notice that they were drifting into an area which has been the province of the right wing -- that is, the attempt to gain authoritarian control over interpersonal communications on the Web?....

And with the Democrats' record of sex scandals, what the hell were they thinking of? For heaven's sake, after we just got through the whole Clinton maelstrom! What Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was far worse than any evidence I've seen thus far about what Foley did with these pages.... There was a time when feminists were arguing, in regard to sexual harassment in the workplace, that any gross disparity in power cannot possibly produce informed consent. All of a sudden, all of that was abandoned for partisan reasons in the Clinton case.
Well ranted.

Lots more at the link (on many subjects).

UPDATE: Paglia's statement about Studds is incorrect, as a commenter pointed out. Studds was censured, with only 3 Democrats voting against it. As for the Democrats' attitude at the time, here's the 1983 NYT article:
... Mr. Studds walked to the well, where he stood facing the Speaker with his back to the other members as the censure was read. He appeared grim but stoic as he turned without a word and sat down in the front row where colleagues from Massachusetts shook his hand....

The emotional debate echoed with appeals for morality and mercy. Supporters of the milder penalty argued that the two members had suffered irreparable harm already, and did not merit further humiliation.

''They must live with their shame, their actions indelibly recorded on this nation's history,'' said Representative Louis Stokes, the Ohio Democrat who heads the Ethics Committee....

''The idea of a reprimand was not strong enough for the American people,'' said Representative Bill Alexander, Democrat of Arkansas. ''After all, these guys molested minors. I was out in my district over the weekend and I was overwhelmed. The reaction was brutal.''

Some lawmakers who supported the milder penalty were bitter at the House action. Later, one California Democrat called the vote ''disgusting'' and said the representatives were ''trying to show how pure they are.'' Another West Coast Democrat added that a vote for the harsher penalty would be ''easier to explain'' to constituents.

Judging a candidate by his fiction writing.

George Allen attacks Jim Webb for the tawdriness in his novels. The stuff is rather awful, but it does seem lame to go after fiction. Politicians who dabble in fiction writing usually throw in sex scenes, and these things nearly always look ridiculous out of context. But do the desire to write a sex scene and the failure to do a very good job of it say anything about a person's competence as a legislator? Maybe there's a shred of information in there with all the salaciousness. And it does provide the occasion to remind us of other bad sex written by politicians, like that dreadful thing Scooter Libby wrote about bears.

ADDED: Jim Webb's writing career is clearly more substantial than the usual "[p]oliticians who dabble in fiction writing." And the line involving the father and son -- shown out of context at the link -- is not part of a sexually titillating scene as I discovered by going to Amazon and use the search-inside-the-book function to see the line in context. Click on the comments for more discussion.

UPDATE: Webb explains the scene:
"It's not a sexual act," Webb told [radio host Mark] Plotkin regarding the "Lost Soldiers" excerpt. "I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist."

"The duty of a writer is to illuminate his surroundings," he added.

Coincidentally, a Cambodian woman in Las Vegas is facing sexual assault charges for performing a similar act on her young son, according to an Oct. 14 report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The article quotes an office manager for the Cambodian Association of America, who described the act as a sign of respect or love.

"It's an exception," Thira Srey told the Review-Journal of the practice. According to the report, the act is usually performed by a mother or caretaker on a child who is one year old or younger. In Webb's novel, the child is four years old.

Who's your least favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Well, the poll to choose your favorite Supreme Court Justice is over, and -- of course! -- Scalia won. He won by a lot. He inspires people to be fans. He embodies a distinct position. Whether you want that in a judge is a separate question. Coming in last is Alito. Who would vote for Alito when there's Scalia? Just people who like their judges earnest and nondescript. They may be quite right!

Anyway, that's so last week. The new poll is for least favorite Supreme Court Justice. Go over there and vote, then come back and read the rest of this post. I don't want to bias you with what I'm about to say.

Okay. Welcome back. Now, let me say it: Scalia should win this poll too, and for exactly the same reason he won the first one! I expect Kennedy to get a lot of votes, since he's a big source of frustration for a lot of people. Pick a side! Quit hogging the middle! Power monger! That's not my opinion. The italics indicate the voice of some imaginary person I'm just making up for your amusement.

Now, I'll look at the poll results. Oh, should I vote? Sorry, I can't. I have a love/hate relationship with the whole cast of characters. I was able to pick my favorite. (And why did none of you try to guess which one it is? Is it too obvious?) But I'm not going to single out one person to pick on.

Ouch. We have a clear leader at this point. (Spoiler alert!) It's Thomas. Why is it Thomas and not Scalia? My theory: He doesn't put himself in front of the camera and humanize himself. Or is it racism? Scalia and Thomas together get over half the votes. Conservatism makes people mad, I think.

"The center of political gravity will shift."

David Brooks is making predictions again:
In the liberal era, the urban Northeast dominated the landscape. In the conservative era, it was in the South and in bedroom communities like those in Southern California. In the coming era, the center of gravity will move to the West and the Midwestern plains, and to the pragmatic, untethered office park suburbs sprouting up there.
(TimesSelect link.)

Is something going to happen out here in the Midwest? I sure hope so.

"It is the most ridiculous contract in the world. It's just crazy."

That would be marriage, according to Simon Cowell.
"Without any legal advice you sign this binding contract and you are not sure where you are going to be in 10 years' time."
There's a lot of talk these days about all the legal benefits of marriage, but very little talk of all the disadvantages. When you get married, you don't want some damned lawyer bringing you down. You want to be surrounded by well-wishers in fancy clothes, celebrating you. Later, if things go wrong, as they do half the time, you'll have your lawyer, and he'll explain the shocking and drastic extent to which you invited the government into your personal life.

"They're freaking jungle-drums... It's racist -- it tries to conjure up deep, dark African moods. Yeah, it's overtly racial."

I was one of the people who thought that anti-Harold Ford TV ad was meant to stir up racial feelings, but I think the complaints about this new radio ad are ridiculous. There's a complete mismatch between the criticism and the actual drums in the ad.

It's terrible to use racism in politics, but who's doing it more? Are Corker supporters trying to make people feel a racist antagonism toward Ford, or are Ford supporters trying to make people think Corker is a racist? Both things are wrong, and both sides should be careful to avoid even the appearance that they are doing anything like this. But at some point claiming you've perceived racism makes you look dishonest or paranoid... mostly dishonest.

"Dems Dodge Big Gay Bullet?"

Says ... asks ... Mickey Kaus:
It seems to me the New Jersey Supreme Court has -- perhaps non-accidentally -- denied Republicans the powerful base-mobilizing weapon that a ruling mandating gay marriage would have given them. Sure, New Jersey proponents of gay marriage have been more or less invited to return to court if the legislature doesn't call the equal package of rights it grants gay couples "marriage." But by kicking the nomenclature question to the legislature, and giving them 180 days to resolve it, the New Jersey justices avoided having the state instantly become, in AP's pre-anticipatory words, "the nation's gay wedding chapel."
That is, we don't have the instant spectacle of people suddenly going to New Jersey to get married. (Going to New Jersey to get married sounds like the least cutting-edge thing in the world to do, doesn't it? But throw in the gay and nothing's boring.)

The first link in Mickey's quote is to Dale Carpenter's analysis of the New Jersey court's decision. Carpenter doesn't see much of a way for the New Jersey court, once it's stepped onto this particular slippery slope, to keep from going all the way to a right to same-sex marriage:
[H]aving started down the path to full equality for gay individuals and couples through a variety of state statutes and judicial decisions, the state could not give any good reason why it should continue to differentiate. For example, the court noted, the state has adopted a domestic partnership system that gives gay couples a list of rights also given to married couples. But yet the domestic partnership system does not extend other rights of married couples to these same-sex couples. What’s the basis for granting a select list of the rights but not the others?...

It is difficult to understand how withholding the remaining “rights and benefits” from committed same-sex couples is compatible with a “reasonable conception of basic human dignity and autonomy” [recognized in the state domestic partnership law]. There is no rational basis for, on the one hand, giving gays and lesbians full civil rights in their status as individuals, and, on the other, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they follow the inclination of their sexual orientation and enter into committed same-sex relationships....

The state had nothing left in defense of the rights gap except an unadorned “tradition” that the state itself had steadily undermined in its public policy....

Seen in this light, the New Jersey court’s quotation from Justice Brandeis’ famous dissenting opinion praising the states as “laboratories” to “try novel social and economic experiments” is a bit ironic. The New Jersey court now holds that once the state substantially experiments with gay equality it must go all the way, ending the experiment.
So the court shifts the attention back to the legislature. If the legislature doesn't choose full-scale marriage, things will go back to the court, and I think you know what to predict. The court has at least slowed down the process and involved the legislature, giving people a chance to respond -- adapt? -- to the change the court has set in motion. Mickey Kaus suggests that the court's motivation was not quite that kind of interest in the political process, but a politically engaged concern about how the opinion would affect the next election.

As it is, what the court did is complicated enough to mute the effect. And there are no exciting pictures to show on the news and splatter on YouTube.

"None greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee."

Danny Harold Rolling, who murdered five college students, sang a hymn as he received his lethal injection.

"A conservative gets up early to be productive, driven by the pure instinct to be self sustaining...."

"... A liberal thinks they can sleep in, and someone will cover their lame ass.” So said Ted Nugent, who came to Madison, Wisconsin last night.
UW senior James Sands said the strong-willed speaker made several inappropriate comments.

“I think he’s a moron — he’s a raging idiot,” he said. “He just likes to do it for the publicity.”...

Clearly expressing his Republican leanings, Nugent riled up the crowd with conservative credo....

“When I see a beggar on the street, I say, ‘Hey asshole, there’s a help-wanted sign right over there!’” he said.

The already rowdy crowd at the theater erupted when a member of the audience criticized Nugent’s non-involvement in the Vietnam War.

Nugent ended the prolonged verbal exchange between the two with the short demand, “Eat shit and die.”..

Nugent praised political activism with his unique brand of lobbying.

“It’s time to break out the crowbar of independence and bop some politicians on the head.”
Apparently, no one stormed the stage or started a fistfight. I'm glad there was good security, no violence, but still some rowdiness. "Where's the raucous activity?" I asked last week, inveighing against campus politeness. It's great that the kids let go the disrespect in the theater of free speech on campus.



CORRECTION: That's Ted Nugent, not Todd Rundgren. I've mixed those two guys up for decades, ever since the 70s... when I hated a lot of the music.

ADDED: Now that I've got the names straight... my blog search should work better. Before I was all why is no one blogging about the big "God, Guns, and Rock, & Roll" speech last night? Ah, no, actually I still can't find anything. Doesn't anybody blog anymore??

MORE: Rising Jurist was there -- unlike me -- and has this. Excerpt:
It wasn't anywhere near the fracas that The Badger Herald is reporting. Nugent was overwhelmingly applauded and cheered for his ultra-conservative commentary. Save the occasional heckler—"More money for corporations!"—and foolish question-askers, it was an Uncle Ted lovefest.

"Running with Scissors."

I love the book, so I'm interested -- warily -- in the movie. But I'm incredibly annoyed at the poster. It depicts scissors, running. Has any movie poster (or book jacket) ever illustrated the title in a more idiotically literal fashion? Plus, it bothers me that the hand isn't wearing pants... especially considering the worst thing that happens in the story... which the trailer -- available at the link -- does not give you a clue about. The trailer systematically introduces us to a series of actors and tantalizes us about the sort of character each plays. Then, in the end you see that Joseph Fiennes is in the movie too. But you were never shown anything about what his character -- Neil Bookman -- does. If you happen to know, you should agree with me that that hand, running in little boy's shoes, should be wearing pants.

"A fresh exploration of the timeless tale of a young man's coming of age."

The musical "The Times They Are A-Changin’" opens tonight. Here's a look at how the Broadway folk are interpreting Bob Dylan songs. Even if you're already convinced that there's no way the show could be any good, watching that clip, you'll still wonder if it can really be that bad... can this really be the show? Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is.

October 25, 2006

New Jersey Supreme Court finds right to same-sex unions.

Here's the news story. The urgent subject now is: How will this affect the election? I assume most people will say this helps the Republicans. Is that so and if so, how much will it help and where exactly? Clearly, it goes beyond New Jersey, because it lights a fire under social conservatives and those who worry about overactive judges. Please opine away in the comments, and I'll come back and say more later when I have some more time.

CORRECTED TITLE: Sorry for the rushed title earlier. I shouldn't have said "marriage," but "unions." I'll read the case and have more later. It's been a busy day...

MORE: Here's the PDF of opinion. Here's the NYT article:
“There has been a developing understanding that discrimination against gays and lesbians is no longer acceptable in this state,” [the judges] wrote.

But the justices wrote that their mission in this case was a narrow one.

“At this point, the Court does not consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but only whether those couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples,” the court wrote.

“Cast in that light, the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.”...

But the court ... said that denying same sex couples “the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose.”
I'm not hot to stir up this issue. I personally support gay marriage, and I hope Wisconsin voters vote "no" on the amendment that's on the ballot here. But I have to say that I don't think the New Jersey court's carefulness about the limited step it's taking "at this point" will undercut the amendment proponents and others who want to get voters excited about judges who get out in front of what the majority wants.

Stem cell politics in a YouTube world.

I hate the way the stem cell research issue is used to manipulate voters' minds, and the Michael J. Fox ad is just one more thing. But I've got to jump in and talk about the reaction to it:
Republican strategists who saw how quickly the commercial was downloaded, e-mailed and reshown on news broadcasts certainly thought so. Rush Limbaugh rushed in to discredit Mr. Fox, though he mostly hurt himself. Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, told his listeners that the actor either “didn’t take his medication or was acting.” Mr. Limbaugh later apologized for accusing Mr. Fox of exaggerating his symptoms, but said that “Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democrat politician.”

Republicans cobbled together a response ad that did not mention Mr. Fox but attacked the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. It included testimonials by the actress Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” At least in the advance version shown on YouTube last night, Mr. Caviezel’s introduction seemed either garbled or to be in Aramaic.
Wheeling out Jesus, mumbling in Aramaic, is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in a political ad. And accusing Michael J. Fox of hamming it up, looking extra-sick, is mindbogglingly stupid.

I think there are going to be a lot more attempts to produce the kinds of ads that push the envelope and make everyone want to watch on YouTube. But that's going to mean there will be all sorts of mistakes and lapses for us to talk about for days. It's great blog fodder, but I'm afraid we're going to get terribly distracted by these things. And we're only just getting started.

Encouraging experimentation with single-sex public schools.

The federal government is changing the rules about permitting single-sex education:
Two years in the making, the new rules, announced Tuesday by the Education Department, will allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes as long as enrollment is voluntary. School districts that go that route must also make coeducational schools and classes of “substantially equal” quality available for members of the excluded sex....

While the move was sought by some conservatives and urban educators, and had backing from both sides of the political aisle, a number of civil rights and women’s rights groups condemned the change.

“It really is a serious green light from the Department of Education to re-instituting official discrimination in schools around the country,” said Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center....

To open schools exclusively for boys or girls, a district has until now had to show a “compelling reason,” for example, that it was acting to remedy past discrimination....

Although the research is mixed, some studies suggest low-income children in urban schools learn better when separated from the opposite sex. Concerns about boys’ performance in secondary education has also driven some of the interest same-sex education.
Even if you don't think single-sex education is good, don't you still want to allow parents to choose if for their kids, at least for a while as an experiment to produce evidence about whether it's good? Or do you think the new rules violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act?
“Segregation is totally unacceptable in the context of race,” [said Nancy Zirkin, vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella organization representing about 200 civil rights groups.] “Why in the world in the context of gender would it be acceptable?”

The American Civil Liberties Union signaled it might consider going to court. “We are certainly in many states looking at schools that are segregating students by sex and considering whether any of them are ripe for a challenge,” said Emily Martin, deputy director of the Women’s Rights Project at the A.C.L.U..

"He missed the state of the union address one year."

Chief Justice John Roberts said about his predecessor William Rehnquist. "When asked why, he said it conflicted with a water color class at the YMCA he had signed up for."

Roberts was giving a speech at Middlebury College. One student said: "The thing I was intrigued by was not necessarily what he said, but how he said it. Questions I assumed he would say he could not answer, he would find a way to answer." Well, he's got a way with words... and knows how to frame answers to difficult questions.

"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice."

The WaPo article about Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic candidate for Senator in Tennessee, focuses on racial issues. The second paragraph is one of those ordinary citizen quotes that is presented so that it seems to represent how a lot of people think:
"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," [jobless 57-year-old John] Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."
The article also makes it look as though the Republicans are deliberately trying to stimulate racial prejudice to help their candidate:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee ridicules Ford's expensive tastes on a "Fancy Ford" Web site, and the Republican National Committee is airing a controversial new ad that features a scantily clad blonde who says she met Ford at a Playboy party. "Harold, call me!" the woman chirps.
I've seen the ad and consider it shameful.
The state Democratic Party is working particularly hard to rally black voters. State party officials believe African Americans could push Ford over the top if they turn out in large numbers. ... Ford has tethered himself to Rep. Lincoln Davis, a popular two-term Democrat from a rural, white central Tennessee district and the chairman of Ford's campaign.

Davis said he polled his district in July and found Ford trailing 49 percent to 35 percent. "I didn't even tell his campaign," Davis acknowledged.

New numbers came back a few weeks ago showing Ford ahead 49 percent to 39 percent. "He's a rock star, a superstar," Davis said. "And if he wins my district, he's the next senator from Tennessee."
The article notes that Ford would be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Things that affect a boy's mind.

A divorced man has won a lawsuit that he brought to prevent his 9-year-old son from getting circumcised:
The couple's 2003 divorce decree gave the father the right to be consulted before the boy underwent any "extraordinary" non-emergency procedure.

The father said he believed surgical removal of the boy's foreskin could cause long-term physical and psychological harm. The child's mother wanted the procedure to prevent recurring infections. She testified that the boy had suffered five bouts of painful inflammation and had begged her to help him.
Oh, yeah, and having your father enlist the power of the state to assert dominion over your penis -- that's not going to affect your mind.

Here's another article. Things are a bit more complicated. The judge, Circuit Court Judge Jordan Kaplan said, analyzed the medical evidence and seems to have decided based on an insufficient showing of physical benefit in the boy's particular condition. Moreover, the boy had his own lawyer, and the lawyer recommended that decision. And then there's this:
The eight-month dispute took some nasty turns. [The mother's lawyer] charged that the father did not care about the boy's health but feared his ex-wife and her new husband were trying to convert the boy to Judaism.

The father's attorneys hinted that the mother's aim was to spite her ex-husband and please her current husband, who is Jewish.

The boy's stepfather and stepbrother are both circumcised, while the biological parents are Catholic immigrants from Eastern European countries where circumcision is rare.

But Kaplan said he did not address "issues of ethnicity or religious beliefs relative to circumcision" because the parents did not raise them in their legal pleadings.
So what seems most important is excluded from the judge's view because neither parent wants to get into that. The poor kid! Not only are his parents divorced and still fighting, they're fighting over his penis! There's nothing the judge can do about that.

October 24, 2006

"It seems to me the reporting on that case was a lot clearer than the opinions."

You don't like my writing. Fine! I don't like your writing. Dahlia Lithwick talks back to Antonin Scalia.

Howard Dean declines the "gladiatorial contest."

Analyze the stuttering stumbling at the end of the quote:



I detect dissimulation.

ADDED: I've been reading old blog posts -- reminiscing?? -- and I happened to run across what I think is my first post about Howard Dean. Writing the morning after his famous scream, I was entirely sympathetic to him.

"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."

So said Justice Scalia.

Let's talk about English usage!

It would be better to say "not everything that is stupid is unconstitutional." "Everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional" can be read to mean that every stupid thing is constitutional, when plenty of stupid things are unconstitutional. I know there's some argument over whether this should actually be considered a usage error. The argument that it's not usually brings up Shakespeare's "All that glisters is not gold." Why didn't he write "Not all that glisters is gold"?

Here's a discussion of the usage dispute:
"All ... not" can... be condemned on the grounds of potential ambiguity. When I proposed the sentence "All the people who used the bathtub did not clean it afterwards" as ambiguous, many people vigorously disputed that it was ambiguous. But they were about evenly split on what it did mean!... "Not all the people who used the bathtub cleaned it afterwards" (or, if the other meaning is intended, "None of the people who used the bathtub cleaned it afterwards") is free of this ambiguity....

Fowler quoted a correspondent who urged him to prescribe "not all", and commented: "This gentleman has logic on his side, logic has time on its side, and probably the only thing needed for his gratification is that he should live long enough."
So, forget about this particular language nicety, I'd say. I'm rather glad to myself, since I was personally needled for years by someone who was inordinately vigilant on this usage point.

Not every ambiguous phase is a usage error/every ambiguous phrase is not a usage error.

How can the doctors say your illness is only in your head...

... if stuff that looks "like large flecks of black pepper" is coming out of your skin?

Does the President go on the "internets"?

Yes! He likes Google Earth:
“I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes."
But -- unlike the rest of us -- the President must stay away from email:
“I don’t e-mail, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive e-mails because there’s no telling what somebody’s e-mail would show up as a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, ‘Well, I didn’t read the e-mail.’ ‘But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about e-mailing.”
But everyone gets off the hook for not reading email, don't they? I get so much email, and so much of it is from lists and mass mailings that it's really easy for me to miss things. Plus, I have a powerful spam filter and a big junk folder... There's always an excuse for not reading email.

ADDED: Here's the video, with Bush saying: "One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps." Okay, all you comedians. Not only will you have to keep calling the internet "the internets." You'll have to start calling Google "the Google."

Who's your favorite Supreme Court justice?

ATL is taking a poll. I forgot to guess who I thought would win before I looked at the results... at which point it seemed obvious. It's interesting how evenly spread the vote is, though, with the highest only getting 19%, and 6 of the 9 getting between 10 and 20%. Do you think most lawprofs have a favorite Supreme Court justice? I think they may but that it's not someone currently on the Court. My favorite justices tend to be favorites because I enjoy presenting their points of view in the classroom or because I like their writing style, not because I think they are getting more things right than the others.

ATL is also talking about reviving the term "Scalito," using it not in the original sense of mocking Alito as a Scalia clone, but to refer to the two as a pair when they make a joint appearance -- the way one refers to celebrity couples like Brangelina and Bennifer. (The first comment over there tries to make nicknames out of other judicial pairs.) Anyway, this Scalito entity appeared at a National Italian American Foundation the other day. Scalia talked about judicial independence and said: "You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing." And Alito seemed to have a problem with people writing about judges on the internet:
"This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this. This is available to the world. ... It changes what it means to be a judge. It certainly changes the attractiveness of a judicial career."
Hey, it's not my job to make your job feel cushy!

"A whirling dust plume filled with asbestos, benzene, dioxin and other hazards."

The dust from the falling World Trade Center towers: What damage did it inflict?

Disenfranchisement/fraud.

Democrat/Republican. Pick your side on the voter I.D. issue.

Stay the course!

Don't you have to stay the course about staying the course? The WaPo has what should become a classic in the annals of political rhetoric:
President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.

Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.

"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.

"We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.

"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June....

"What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration," Snow said yesterday....

Bush used "stay the course" until recent weeks when it became clear that it was becoming a political problem. "The characterization of, you know, 'it's stay the course' is about a quarter right," Bush complained at an Oct. 11 news conference. " 'Stay the course' means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is: Don't do what you're doing if it's not working -- change. 'Stay the course' also means don't leave before the job is done."

By last week, it was no longer a quarter right. "Listen, we've never been stay the course, George," he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. "We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics. Constantly."

Snow said Bush dropped the phrase "because it left the wrong impression about what was going on. And it allowed critics to say, 'Well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is,' when, in fact, it's just the opposite."

October 23, 2006

I can't seem to watch television anymore.

And my cable bill is over $130 a month. Is that better or worse than the fact that I'm paying $37 a month for my land line phone, which is used almost only to receive automated political ads -- "Hi, this is Kathleen Turner..." -- and efforts to get me to submit to a political poll -- "We don't do those," I hear myself saying these days?

"We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll."

"Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer." Sandy West, a Runaway, dead at 47.

Stanley Fish to professors: "Do your job."

It's not about free speech. (And his speech isn't free either: you need TimesSelect to read it.)

So, do your job... and make sure you understand what your job is. What is your job? Per Fish, two things:
1) to introduce students to materials they didn’t know a whole lot about, and 2) to equip them with the skills that will enable them, first, to analyze and evaluate those materials and, second, to perform independent research, should they choose to do so, after the semester is over. That’s it. That’s the job....

There is an obvious objection to what I have just said. Any course of instruction, especially in the social sciences and humanities, will touch on deep moral and political issues. The materials students are asked to read will be fraught with them. Wouldn’t it be impossible to avoid discussing these issues without trivializing and impoverishing the classroom experience? No, it’s easy. You don’t have to ignore or ban moral and political questions. What you have to do is regard them as objects of study rather than as alternatives you and your students might take a stand on.

That is, instead of asking questions like “What should be done?” or “Who is in the right?” you ask, “What are the origins of this controversy?” or “What relationship does it have to controversies taking place in other areas of inquiry?” or “What is the structure of argument on both sides?” I have coined an ugly word for this way of turning politically charged matters into the stuff of academic investigation. The word is academicize. To academicize a topic is to detach it from the context of its real-world urgency, where there is a decision to be made, and re-insert it into a context of an academic urgency, where there is an analysis to be performed.
Should you do that? Can you do that?

I've been through this before with Fish (who's said this before). A key problem with it for me is that here his idea contradicts our longstanding policy, which we call the Wisconsin Idea.

"From that moment on, he began to try to understand it by painting himself."

A painter responds to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer’s affects the right parietal lobe in particular, which is important for visualizing something internally and then putting it onto a canvas,” [neurologist Bruce] Miller said. “The art becomes more abstract, the images are blurrier and vague, more surrealistic. Sometimes there’s use of beautiful, subtle color.”
The artist, William Utermohlen, when he had his wits about him, steered clear of the modern styles of his contemporaries. ("Everybody was doing Abstract Expressionist, and there he was, solemnly drawing the figure.") Now, disease draws him into forms of expression he shunned.

But what do you think of the implication that modern art has something in common with the diseased mind? This resonates horribly with the Nazis' condemnation of "degenerate art." I don't know why the linked article -- in the NYT -- doesn't deal with this disturbing problem.

Democrats = net neutrality?

How close is this connection? I'd like to know.

"Good DAY, Althouse!"

You know, I forgot why I don't like Jeff Goldstein... oooohhh... wait... it's coming back to me... something about balloons... and M&Ms....

But this cracked me up.

(Key reference material here.)

The legal strategy of that expansive, ambitious defendant, Google.

The NYT has a terrific article about Google's approach to the law. It expects and perhaps even wants to be sued, and it will fight for new rules of law that fit with the new reality it has already created.
[P]otential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.

“I think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.

“The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”...

Professor Zittrain of Oxford said Google’s corporate mantra — “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” — gives some insight into its approach.

“They actually see that as Promethean,” Mr. Zittrain said. “They think of it as bringing fire to humankind. And it may even cause them to be bolder than other companies.”...

“We’ve got a formidable legal team, but obviously it’s nowhere near the unlimited resources of Google,” said David A. Milman, the chief executive of Rescuecom, a nationwide computer repair company that sued Google on trademark infringement grounds similar to Geico’s — and quickly lost. The company said that it would appeal the decision.

“People say you can’t fight the government,” Mr. Milman said. “Google, in this case, is very similar to the government. They’re the government of the Internet.”

This will be very exciting. I wish Google well!

The Bat Cave.

The Daily News has a piece about an about an abandoned building inhabited by kids who call the place the Bat Cave.
It's like a dorm," said Sasha, 18, who ran away from her Long Island City, Queens, home four years ago to live in the labyrinthine Bat Cave, just off Third St. and named for the bats that once lived in the four-story building.

The squatters sleep in the building that was once a power station, despite a decadent drug culture consumed with vicious fighting....

"I wake up around 11, go to lower Manhattan to panhandle, drink too much, get f----d up on drugs and go back to the Bat Cave," said "Straps," 23, who ran away from her Suffolk County home four years ago.

The site, across from a proposed Whole Foods store, is only blocks from $1.5 million brownstones. Owned by mega-developer Shaya Boymelgreen, the building is expected to become a luxury condo complex called Gowanus Village.

The article says there are pictures in Flickr. Searching for the tag "bat cave" gets you to a lot of pictures of... real bat caves... which are pretty cool! But "bat cave brooklyn" gets you to the right place.

It's sad about the homeless kids. Whole Foods and luxury condos are nice and will solve the real estate discrepancies. The kids, presumably, will melt away into other, less visible places.
"It's a very sad story," said [Assemblywoman Joan] Millman (D-Carroll Gardens), who alerted police and contacted a homeless outreach group. "If these are kids that need treatment, we need to provide that for them."

Verizon security guard Anton Green said the kids wave to him when they pass the nearby phone company truck depot he watches over, but he insisted they appeared harmless.

"They look like they're punk rockers - Mohawks, Army bags, hoodies," said Green. "They seem real nice, well-mannered."

"The show did everybody a disservice."

"The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of the problems between men and women that we see today. ... I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax."

So said Billy Gray, who played Bud on "Father Knows Best," quoted in this article that notes that Jane Wyatt, who played the mother on the show, has died.

The writer of the article, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, comments:
"Father Knows Best" was just kind of background noise for me. I watched it occasionally, but if you're talking black-and-white shows about happy nuclear families, I preferred "Leave It to Beaver."...

As a girl in the 1970s, watching this kind of show 20 years after they were made, I never felt inspired to pretend to be helpless or use my feminine wiles to attract men because of that or any show. That wasn't the world I lived in. Watching these shows was like flipping through an old photo album, but never having any desire to wear spats or leg o'mutton sleeves. Instead I took from "Father Knows Best" and its ilk a more basic plotline: That families, at their best, love each other no matter what, and stick together when the world is confusing and cold. In my own home, Father and Mother knew best together.
Are those idealized family shows ridiculous, harmful, or helpful? Don't we know how to extract what is useful from an unreal story? Every decade has its popular shows that are unreal in some way that reflects the insecurities and hopes of its time. But maybe Gray is right, and we extract the wrong things from those shows.

I watched "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver" when they originally aired. Like Cooper, I too felt a much closer attraction to the "Leave It to Beaver" family. I wanted Ward and June for my parents, not Jim and Margaret. Who knows what subtle difference made the Cleavers more inviting?

Teaching grammar.

That it's being done at all is front page news:
The National Council of Teachers of English, whose directives shape curriculum decisions nationwide, has quietly reversed its long opposition to grammar drills, which the group had condemned in 1985 as "a deterrent to the improvement of students' speaking and writing."

Now, even the sentence diagram, long the symbol of abandoned methodology, is allowed...

Ooh! Sentence diagramming! I approve!

October 22, 2006

Audible Althouse #70.

It's a new Audible Althouse. With porcupines, cactuses, sharpened daggers, and poison pens.

Books referred to:
Jack Handey, "Lost Deep Thoughts: Don't Fight the Deepness"

D. H. Lawrence, "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays"

Jill Krementz, "The Writer's Desk"

Martin Amis, "Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million"

And that plant I mentioned: hens-and-chickens.

Stream it right through your computer here. But all acutely incisive sharp people subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Can someone who puts up with Glenn Greenwald's prose explain something to me?

How can people bear to read Glenn Greenwald? He posts endless massive blocks of overlong, tedious, unedited sentences. Here are two typical Greenwaldian sentences. Two:
Yesteryday [sic], I wrote a post pointing out that the hordes of right-wing pundits condemning the Larry Craig outing have no standing to voice such complaints, since the very tactic that they were purporting to condemn (publicizing innuendo about private sexual behavior and exploiting sexual morality for political gain) is one which their political movement has used repeatedly, over and over, as one of its central weapons. I cited countless examples -- including some from this week, along with others throughout the last 15 years -- which demonstrate that the right-wing of the Republican Party centrally relies upon tactics indistinguishable from the Craig outing, and that unlike the Craig outing (engineered by a single, obscure individual), the entire right-wing political movement traffics continuously in those tactics.
That's atrocious writing. Edit, you idiot. Absurdly, his next line begins "As was painfully clear to anyone who can read..." Well, Glenn, it is painful to read your prose, and anyone who can read and has any taste at all will turn away in disgust at writing like that. (Really, why is his blog popular?) This post, which he titles "Introduction to Logical Reasoning 101," as if it's going to be to the point, is almost 2000 words long -- twice as long as a newspaper op-ed.

Let's skip ahead to the last sentence:
And since responding to these types of Bush followers is usually a waste of time and energy more than anything else, I thought it would at least be fruitful to try to illustrate some points about how Bush followers reason, just as a way to have this exercise be something other than a complete waste of time.
Speaking of "waste of time"... do you think you could waste some of your own time paying a little bit of attention to your ridiculous writing, like maybe by not writing the phrase "waste of time" twice in that laughably verbose sentence?

Someone throw a copy of Strunk and White at that man!

Anyway, why am I bothering with this mindnumbingly bad blogger? Well, I saw in my Site Meter records that I was linked somewhere on his page and went over to see what was up.

Oh, here it is:
Right-wing pundits this week spent several days expressing such intense outrage over the outing by Mike Rogers, claiming that the conduct of this single, obscure blogger somehow shows how depraved and evil The Democratic Party itself is.
This post of mine is linked at the word "pundits." I can't tell if he means to be saying anything about me or is just linking to me because I linked to two "right-wing pundits" in my post. Am I one of the "right-wing pundits" he's railing about? Quite aside from the question of whether I'm right-wing, I didn't spend several days, express intense outrage, or even mention the Democratic Party. All I did was write one post speculating about the strategic thinking of "aggressive characters like our 'lefty blogger'" and opine that the strategy would probably backfire.

Maybe someone who's actually taken the time to slog through Greenwald's execrable writing and understands his approach to "Logical Reasoning" can explain in a few crisp sentences what he means by linking to me like that. I get the impression that he is insinuating that I support right-wing efforts at gay-bashing. If so -- and I'm not going to put up with reading his crap to find out -- that is utterly despicable and false.

"Get out before I kill you."

"I blame it all on lip gloss."

Writes Daphne Merkin:
I believe there is something irrevocably ruinous about a culture in which women are expected to go around with their lips in a permanent state of shiny readiness, a perennial Marilyn Monroe moue of glistening sexual receptivity, hinting at the possibility that they, like Monroe, sleep fetchingly in the nude.
Click on the link at your own risk. It's long, name-dropping, and philosophicalish.

Is "philosophicalish" a word? You might well ask, as, indeed, I did. And in this wonderful world that contains Google, I found 421 uses of the word, including one by D.H. Lawrence, describing his own writing in "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays":
This volume contains what Lawrence himself called "philosophicalish" essays written in the decade 1915-25. The topics range from politics to nature, from religion to education; the tone from lighthearted humor to mordant wit, to spiritual meditation. For all these contrasts, however, the essays share many of the underlying themes of the mature Lawrence: "Be thyself" could be the volume's motto. As far as possible, this edition restores what Lawrence wrote before typists, editors, and compositors made the extensive alterations that have been followed in all previous editions of the texts--on occasion entire passages removed by mistake or for reasons of censorship have been recovered.
Required observation: Lawrence was a blogger!

Irresistible chance connection: The same issue of the NYT that contains the Merkin essay that led me to talk about D.H. Lawrence, also has this piece about D.H. Lawrence's bohemian New Mexico, which leapt immediately to mind because I had looked longingly at this photo of his desk in front of a window:



I need to move my desk in front of a window, you're thinking. Aren't you?

Or are you thinking: What exactly is a "merkin"? Or:



Did you steal my lip gloss???

"There's something about a man carrying the world’s ills on his back that makes us want to lie down on ours."

S.S. Fair writes a scary, hilarious essay about her taste for men with ruined faces.
One night I went to dinner with a very handsome, known-the-world-over movie star, and every other woman in the place was making plans to poison my mahi-mahi. Movie Star was quite used to his dates continually getting death threats, but after one or two nights of that, I went back to the guys with ruined faces who fell down on their knees in gratitude that someone not drooling or crazy or beastlike would deign to love them a little, and be there to wipe the tears from their bloodshot eyes — which were spaced just a little too close together.

It’s the Florence Nightingale trap, I think. Even if you were raised by feminists and the men who divorced them, females are still hard-wired to be accommodating and supportive, the shadowy figure behind the throne....

And who’s your ruined man? When you see the dissipated face of Hugh Laurie as House, maybe your fantasies don’t go horizontal, but there’s a character that needs saving, and the challenge is almost irresistible. When you see Jeremy Irons on-screen, you’re looking at the wreck of the Hesperus, a beautifully ruined face that could have seen the fall of Rome or fought at Agincourt with the rest of the dissolute Englishmen, like Bill Nighy in “Love Actually,” or Terence Stamp in anything, or was he not quite ruined enough? Standing alongside all of them is the ghost of Richard Burton, all pocked and anguished and icily composed.
I'm sure somewhere there's the equivalent essay written by a man who's ecstatically in love with the ruined faces of women. It's harder to find fabulously ruined actress faces these days, though, as the actresses tend to go for ruin by surgery -- and it would be awfully creepy to be into that sort of ruin.

"If I am a conservative, and I detest many of the things this conservative administration is doing..."

"... then what kind of conservative am I and what kind of conservatives are they?"

That -- according to David Brooks -- is the question Andrew Sullivan is asking in his book "The Conservative Soul." Brooks writes a strangely good/bad review, in which he agrees with the aspects of Sullivan's thinking that have to do with the "conservatism of doubt" and "epistemological modesty" but takes him to task for failing to understand what religious conservatives are really like and for missing the "complexity" of fundamentalism. Then he praises Sullivan for being at his "wonderful best" when he is "a fervent, passionate crusader" for the things he's fundamentalist about -- like gay marriage and torture.

That doesn't seem too complimentary to Sullivan, but in the end I get the impression that Brooks is criticizing himself, saying that all that doubt and modesty that he himself finds so alluring really doesn't cut it in American politics:
... Oakeshottian conservatism can never prevail in America because the United States was not founded on the basis of custom, but by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed. In many cases, the people making those calls were religious leaders. From Jonathan Edwards to the abolitionists to the civil rights leaders to the people fighting AIDS and genocide in Africa today, religiously motivated people have been active in public life. They have been, in their certainty and their willingness to apply divine truths, fundamentalists — if we want to use Sullivan’s categories. You take those people out of American politics and you don’t have a country left....

Conservatives need to relearn the lessons of Burke and Hayek — that the world is complex, and efforts to transform it will have unintended consequences, most of them bad. But if American conservatives give up their optimism and their universal creed, they will once again be a small sect at the fringes of political life.

"Calling Trek fascist overstates the problem..."

".... its biggest flaw is the unexplained and unexplored Utopianism that nevertheless informs almost everything about the various shows and movies."

Captain Ed thinks long and hard
about the TV show that gave him his name.

Unreadable headlines.

Are you sometimes puzzled by headlines that are written so concisely that it's hard to tell whether words are nouns or verbs? Here's one I saw today:
Life peers face axe in Lords overhaul
Five of seven words could be either nouns or verbs!

I still remember and feel like laughing about a headline from a decade ago that began: "Clinton eyes higher..." He was looking toward higher funding or taxes for something or other, but it created the picture of a man whose facial features were migrating.