March 24, 2007

A note on comments.

I have started deleting all the comments of one of our most conspicuous commenters for reasons I am not going to discuss. I ask all of my commenters to take some extra care with your comments now. Don't be a troll and don't feed a troll. If you are a troll, I may target you for deletion next. If you feed a troll, you may soon find that your comment refers to a comment that has been deleted. Let's raise the level of discussion around here. I have many great commenters that I love having as my guests. Others are being destructive and need to stop. If you're someone I'm targeting for deletion -- and I'm deleting all your comments regardless of content -- you need to go away permanently. You are on notice that I consider you to be harassing me, and I will contact Blogger about your account if you do not desist.

When Matt Yglesias met Joe Wilson.

"He struck me as a bit off."

CORRECTION MADE: I had transcribed that last word as "odd," which was misheard. Oddly, the meaning isn't that different.

AND: In the comments, Tristram lets me know I should have written: Oddly, the meaning isn't that off. And I note that it's worse to say someone is "off" than "odd."

"I haven't got any troubles I can't tell standing up."

I've gotten over 100 visitors to this blog in the last couple hours from people trying to find out who said that. And before you look at the answer -- back here -- try to guess what the speaker was talking about it. Now, someone answer my question: What made everyone want to know all of a sudden? Some quiz show or crossword?



"The de facto national primary."

Kos likes it.
There's some level of nostalgia over the notion of a long, drawn out primary process in which Iowa and New Hampshire kick things off. This is supposed to help the Jimmy Carter-type underdogs "build momentum" and give voters a chance to "deliberate" over their decisions.

In reality, of course, we had a system in which two non-representative states (IA and NH) decided our nominee last time, and they were gunning for the same "right" this time around.

The rest of the states aren't morons. They saw what was happening, and so many have moved up to the front of the pack that now we have essentially a national primary on Feb. 5.
I'm inclined to agree -- on principle . (If only we could push the date back later.) But I'm wary about this. I'm thinking there are lurking problems -- some strange, new dynamic will kick in -- and we're not going to like what happens. Or maybe I'm just afraid for the outcome to pop up suddenly, instead of sneaking up on us over the weeks.

On classroom advocacy, diversity, and neutrality.

Lawprof Stanley Fish is doing guest columns this month in the NYT, and today -- TimesSelect link -- he's denouncing teachers who appropriate the classroom for political advocacy:
A student assigned to study an issue must be equipped with the appropriate analytical skills. Acquiring and applying those skills in no way depend on political or ideological affiliations. If the assignment is to give an account of the dispute about gay adoption rather than to come down on one side or the other, two students with opposing views of the matter might very well produce the very same account. Academic performance and individual beliefs are independent variables. They have nothing to do with each other....

“Intellectual diversity” — a term of art introduced by the conservative activist David Horowitz — mandates the proportional representation, on the faculty and in the curriculum, of conservatives and liberals. Its watchword is “balance,” but balance is a political measure, not an educational measure, for it could be achieved only by monitoring the political affiliations of professors and the political content of the materials they assign.
So, left-wing professors had their great success bringing politics to the classroom, and that gave rise to Horowitz's conservative "intellectual diversity" campaign, and now that the conservatives are getting successful, the vision of the neutral professor -- once scorned by lefties -- is portrayed as attractive. Hmmmm..... It is all politics, isn't it?

"It's about these lovers and they took poison."

"It was like 'Drink this, and it'll make you seem like you're dead or whatever....'"

March 23, 2007

Justice Breyer strikes out.

He was on the NPR show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me":
On why he even agreed to answer questions outside his area of expertise in the humbling, and often embarrassing, "Not My Job" segment: "Well, it was my sister-in-law who wanted me to do it, and I wanted peace in the family."...

In the end, the NPR regulars confessed they were relieved that Breyer didn't know Bowie once tried to exorcise Satan from his swimming pool, Iggy Pop spent a year eating nothing but German sausages or Osbourne once asked for directions to the bar immediately after checking in to rehab.
Aw. But would you have done better? Me, I would have got the Osbourne.

Separated at birth?

Bill Richardson:

Ronald Reagan:

Cowboy hat tip: John Althouse Cohen.

Marketing doll snobbery.

Andrew Sullivan links to "I Can't Believe I'm Defending the American Girl Doll Racket" and says "But he is, Blanche, he is." I stand ready to get all manner of references to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," but that post is written by Christine Hurt, who I am certain is a woman.

Anyway, it's a terrific post, about decidedly girly things, and I would love it if one of the male bloggers at Conglomerate had weighed in on the subject, but let's give Christine her due. And I agree with her that American Girl is justified snubbing copycat dolls who show up at the doll hair salon. Even though the AG employee should have been kinder to the little girl with the "fake doll" than the girl's mother portrays her, the mother should have known better than to allow her child to walk into a humiliating situation.

"Crisis = opportunity + danger."

= canard.

Loading Guantanamo onto the U.S. Attorneys story, increasing pressure on Gonzales.

Secretary of Defense Gates wanted to move the Guantanamo detainees to the United States, and Condoleezza Rice agreed with him, according to this NYT article, which connects this story to the ongoing controversy over firing several U.S. Attorneys. The link between the two stories is Alberto Gonzales:
Mr. Gates’s arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said....

[O]ne senior administration official who favors the closing of the facility said the battle might be renewed.

“Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” that official said, referring to speculation that Mr. Gonzales will be forced to step down, or at least is significantly weakened, because of the political uproar over the dismissal of United States attorneys. “I suspect this one isn’t over yet.”

Details of the internal discussions on Guantánamo were described by senior officials from three departments or agencies of the executive branch, including officials who support moving rapidly to close Guantánamo and those who do not. One official made it clear that he was willing to discuss the internal deliberations in part because of Mr. Gonzales’s current political weakness. The senior officials discussed the issue on ground rules of anonymity because it entailed confidential conversations.
So someone has made the decision to ramp up the pressure on Gonzales by leaking these private deliberations. Someone sees an opportunity to take down Gonzales and is going for it.

Here's the reason not to move the detainees to the United States:
Some administration lawyers are deeply reluctant to move terrorism suspects to American soil because it could increase their constitutional and statutory rights — and invite an explosion of civil litigation. Guantánamo was chosen because it was an American military facility but not on American soil.
I wonder why this isn't persuasive to Gates and Rice. But since this wasn't a public debate, everyone who participated in it is disserved. One person has decided to leak on his terms, with his slant on the subject.

"If you protest, your husband will hit you, and if you call the police, he’s going to divorce you, and the whole community will scorn you."

Polygamy in New York City.
Don’t-ask-don’t-know policies prevail in many agencies that deal with immigrant families in New York, perhaps because there is no framework for addressing polygamy in a city that prides itself on tolerance of religious, cultural and sexual differences — and on support for human rights and equality....

[T]ypical, many immigrants said, are cramped apartments in the Bronx with many children underfoot, clashes between jealous co-wives and domestic violence. And if the household breaks up, the wives’ legal status is murky at best, with little case law to guide decisions on marital property or benefits.
ADDED: Meanwhile, in Germany:
A 26-year-old mother of two wanted to free herself from what had become a miserable and abusive marriage. The police had even been called to their apartment to separate the two -- both of Moroccan origin -- after her husband got violent in May 2006. The husband was forced to move out, but the terror continued: Even after they separated, the spurned husband threatened to kill his wife....

The judge rejected the application for a speedy divorce by referring to a passage in the Koran that some have controversially interpreted to mean that a husband can beat his wife. It's a supposed right which is the subject of intense debate among Muslim scholars and clerics alike."The exercise of the right to castigate does not fulfill the hardship criteria as defined by Paragraph 1565 (of German federal law)," the daily Frankfurter Rundschau quoted the judge's letter as saying. It must be taken into account, the judge argued, that both man and wife have Moroccan backgrounds.
Women's rights or multiculturalism: pick one. Either there is equal justice under the law or there is not.

March 22, 2007

I'm going to watch "An Inconvenient Truth."

I see it's on Showtime HD in about 15 minutes. I've never seen it, so... here goes. I'll drop some simulbloggish notes here as it unwinds... as the spirit moves me.

1. We see images of Al Gore with a sonorous voiceover. "I was in politics for a long time." Was? What sort of naif thinks Gore is not in politics here?

2. Now we're seeing him on stage talking and it's much less pretentious... and quite charming. He speaks of schoolteachers and makes us feel that he's explaining very simple points. It bothers me that he shows thick, dirty smoke pouring out of smokestacks and then green blobby cartoon characters to illustrate "greenhouse gases." Aren't we talking about a clean, colorless gas -- carbon dioxide?

3. We're seeing a lot of long horizontal time lines, with disturbing vertical spikes at the end. Now, a lot of images of hurricanes. Now, quotes from Winston Churchill, warning Europe about Hitler. Suddenly, we're following the story of the 2000 election. (Note: I voted for Gore.) We hear Gore saying "I accept the finality of this outcome." That was Gore at his best, accepting the Supreme Court's result as the end of the line. And, we're told, this led Gore back to his longtime interest in climate change. And back to the slide show.

4. The film weaves Al Gore's biography into the scientific lesson. What was the point of all that? Is this a big campaign informercial? In the context of the movie, the biographical material was used as a credential, as if growing up close to the land -- raising Angus cattle and working in tobacco fields -- imbued him with special understanding of the ways of Earth. It made the argument that he cares. In fact, the movie did a good job of building toward a passionate conclusion that we can and must act. So there was a scientific and a political argument combined and sold through the persona of The Man Al Gore.

5. In the end, I wondered: How do I know how much of all this to believe? I don't have the basis to test Gore's assertions. Some things looked impressive, but I couldn't know whether they are accurate or not. Some things struck me as implausible. (For example, Gore points to one segment of Antartica and claims that if it melts, the oceans of the entire world would rise 20 feet. ) Other things were inconsistent with what I've read elsewhere. (For example, Gore says that the U.S. contributes 30% of the greenhouse gases emitted, but in the oral argument in Massachusetts v. EPA, the pending Supreme Court case, the figure 20% was used and, I think, not contradicted.)

6. Clearly, the movie is propaganda -- extremely well-done propaganda -- but propaganda can be used to sell what is true. There's nothing inherently wrong with propaganda. I accept, for example, that there are campaign ads. I simply take them for what they are worth. But what is the process of determining what the information presented here is worth? I'm not a climate scientist. The answer, I assume, is the marketplace of ideas. I have to rely on the debate, the responses that the film has provoked.

7. Gore put his reputation behind this, and he asserted his set of facts. In doing that, he laid himself open to refutation. Taking that first, big step -- laying out his set of facts -- is important. How well has it held up? Anyone watching the film should be provoked to keep reading and thinking -- even though the film tries to end with a slam-dunk conclusion that you'd be a fool to see a reason to continue to think critically about.

8. The time for analysis is over, we're told sharply. Only bad people maintain doubt. (We're shown an old ad for Camel cigarettes to prove the point: those who wanted to keep selling cigarettes after the Surgeon General's report spoke of doubt as a product they needed to sell.) Good people accept the story told here and act.

9. Melissa Etheridge's voice fills the soundtrack and tiny white letters on screen spell out our instructions. And the instructions are not too demanding. Drive a hybrid car if you can, etc. We're left to feel good about ourselves (for believing, unlike those bad people), about the ease with which we can do the needed things, and -- above all? -- about Al Gore.

10. And dammit, it works. I do feel good about Al Gore!

"The IRS may hate me/But in the end they're going to have compensate me."

Lawprof Adam Steinman enters the TurboTax tax rap contest.

TurboTax is getting an awful lot of promotion for the price of a $25,000 prize, including this from me. That reminds me, I need to buy some TurboTax. Hey, if you do too, buy it here, and help support the Althouse blog. And be assured, I will pay taxes on the income I make from Amazon Associates. Sorry that didn't rhyme.

The Edwards announcement.

Here's the live feed. We're waiting to hear news about Elizabeth Edwards -- who has battled breast cancer -- and the effect that may have on John Edwards' campaign. The announcement was scheduled for noon, Eastern Time, and it is now a quarter after.

UPDATE: They are about to speak. They have big, warm smiles. Now, he is speaking, describing the new tests she had done, including a bone study and a biopsy, which showed that the cancer had returned. It's "largely confined in bone, which is a good thing." The cancer, he says, is not "curable," but it is "treatable." He says he's "very optimistic."

AND: He's not changing anything about the campaign.

MORE: This is embarrassing, and it looks absurd to turn right around and say this. But such are the hazards of blogging. In fact, it is probably the case that a good person could go either way. And so could a bad person. So, really, nothing is proved about Edwards's character. We don't know the details of this couple's relationship. We should feel sympathetic toward anyone who struggles with a disease in the family, whoever they are, even if some of their decisions are not perfectly selfless. I wouldn't promote or depreciate Edwards for any of this. It's an occasion for sympathy, not judgment.

Is Terry "still man enough to marry a woman"?

If the state prohibits same sex marriage, does a person who's undergone sex-reassignment surgery get to chose which sex he or she wants to be when it comes time to fill out the marriage license? If not, which sex would you impose on the person?
Because the state prohibits same-sex marriages, Terry and Winstanley's bid for a quick Milwaukee County Courthouse wedding last week was derailed until a hearing could be convened to investigate, even though County Clerk Mark Ryan accepted their marriage-license application as valid.

"They came in and applied just like anyone else would," said Ryan, who accepted the application after the couple paid the regular $100 fee and swore they were eligible to marry under state law.

Ryan said that Terry was able to produce a birth certificate listing the name Ronald and the gender as male. However, staff in his office thought the couple appeared to be two women - and noticed that Terry had to start over in filling out the form.

On the first try, Terry had written "Barbara Lynn Terry" where the form says "Bride."
If you read the article at the link you may be influenced by the fact that Terry served a prison sentence for raping a woman and was denied a request to transfer to a woman's prison. You may also want to take into account that various courts have decided that it's the sex recorded on the birth certificate that counts. And according to lawprof Arthur S. Leonard the "transsexual legal movement" would celebrate if the court decided that Terry couldn't marry, because they want legal recognition for the reassigned sex.

UPDATE: The judge decides Terry is a man and can therefore marry a woman.

About that U.S. Attorneys matter.

I think David Brooks -- TimesSelect link -- has about the right take on it:
When you look at the prosecutors who were fired by the Bush administration, you see some who were fired for proper political reasons and some who were fired for improper ones. Carol Lam seems to have been properly let go because she did not share the president’s priorities on illegal immigration cases. David Iglesias seems to have been improperly let go because he offended some members of the president’s party.

But what’s striking in reading through the Justice Department e-mail messages is that senior people in that agency seem never to have thought about the proper role of politics in their decision-making. They reacted like chickens with their heads cut off when this scandal broke because they could not articulate the differences between a proper political firing and an improper one.

Moreover, they had no coherent sense of honor. Alberto Gonzales apparently never communicated a code of conduct to guide them as they wrestled with various political pressures. That’s a grievous failure of leadership.

The bad behavior has not stopped there. The Democrats, apparently out of legislative ideas after only 11 weeks in the majority, have gone into full scandal mode, professing to be shocked because politics played a role in prosecutorial priorities. They and those on their media food chain have made wild accusations far in advance of the evidence, producing enough cacophonous demagoguery to make rational discussion nearly impossible.
I'm sick of all of them.

Suing the school over your Tigger kneesocks.

Free speech for students is a big topic this week, what with the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" case. Here's a new one:
Strict dress codes are common at many public schools in California, but Toni Kay Scott, 14, says her school crossed a constitutional line when it punished her for wearing knee socks with the Winnie-the-Pooh character Tigger.

“I’ve been dress coded many times for little things,” said Ms. Scott, an honor student at Redwood Middle School in Napa. “Like wearing a shirt with a little Dickies or butterfly logo the size of my thumb.”

Ms. Scott is among six students who have filed a lawsuit against the school and the Napa Valley Unified School District saying the dress code is “unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and restrictive.” Filed Monday in Napa Valley Superior Court, the suit says the dress code violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by creating an “aesthetic conformity in the name of safety.”

The dress code forbids students to wear certain colors and apparel with writing, insignia, pictures, words and letters. It was largely intended do away with gang-related and other provocative symbols.
The school has designed its rule to be content- and viewpoint-neutral. I note that Scott also got in trouble for wearing a "drug prevention T-shirt." That's a good sign! I support the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" guy, but Tigger-kneesocks-drug-prevention girl needs to deal with it.

UPDATE: By contrast:
Heidi Zamecnik, 17, of Naperville, and Alexander Nuxoll, 14, filed the lawsuit against Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois on Wednesday, seeking the court's permission to openly express their opinions on homosexuality during an April 18 event meant to protest discrimination against gays.

In response to a National Day of Silence event at the school in April 2006, Zamecnik wore a shirt that read "My day of silence, Straight Alliance" on the front and "Be happy, not gay" on the back, according to the suit....

According to the suit, one school administrator ordered Zamecnik to remove the T-shirt and another official ordered her to cross out "not gay" with a marker.
This demonstrates what's so good about the Redwood Middle School type of dress code.

The "no impact" lifestyle... and book.

A writer's got to live:
Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper [including toilet paper!]; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

Mr. Beavan, who has written one book about the origins of forensic detective work and another about D-Day, said he was ready for a new subject, hoping to tread more lightly on the planet and maybe be an inspiration to others in the process.

Also, he needed a new book project and the No Impact year was the only one of four possibilities his agent thought would sell. This being 2007, Mr. Beavan is showcasing No Impact in a blog ( laced with links and testimonials from New Environmentalist authorities like His agent did indeed secure him a book deal, with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and he and his family are being tailed by Laura Gabbert, a documentary filmmaker and Ms. Conlin’s best friend.
I hope that book isn't going to be printed on, you know, paper.

There's only one way to have no impact: Don't get born. And I'm not trying to start an abortion debate here. I mean don't even be an unfertilized egg in the first place.

Yet even the unfertilized egg has an impact, one which normally consumes paper products. Do I need to look up the details of how Michelle Conlin handles her menstrual periods? Oh, the things women will do to help out their writer-husbands!

Old post with a new, sad comment.

Maybe you can go back there and help Rose.

Teaching about sensitive subjects.

If you're wondering why I'm not writing anymore about the Kaplan story, it's that my approach to it has always been to comment on articles published in mainstream media. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, clicking on the "Kaplan story" label below will collect all the old posts about it.) But you might be interested to know that one response by my school was a forum, held on Tuesday night, where faculty and students discussed the challenge of teaching about controversial subjects. I have worried that the reaction to Professor Kaplan's classroom statements (about the Hmong) would cause teachers to avoid the subject of race:
It would have been so much easier to teach using simple, straightforward lecturing, with every sentence carefully composed, with a sharp eye on the goal of never giving anyone any reason to question the purity of your beliefs and the beneficence of your heart.

Your colleagues may sympathize with you in private, but most likely they’ll be rethinking this idea — heartily promoted in law schools since the 1980s — that they ought to actively incorporate delicate issues of race into their courses.
The forum seemed designed to address questions like this. I'm not going to write about the forum. In fact, I didn't attend the forum because I saw it as too much of an internal confabulation to write about here, and I didn't want to use the material that I'd be privy to.

My colleague Alan Weisbard, however, did decide to attend and to blog about it. You can read what he wrote here. I thought you might find this part especially interesting:
[M]any students, of varying backgrounds and perspectives (at generally liberal UW, this was expressed most poignantly by (white) students, male and female, identifying themselves as "anti-affirmative action" and/or as "Republican" (whatever that is)), felt reticent to express their true views on controversial subjects because of fear of negative repercussions from fellow students (and gave some chilling, in multiple senses, examples). Some present expressed considerable doubt that faculty could do much to change this: Peer culture may be much more influential than anything faculty do or don't do. Others disagreed, and there was some constructive, if largely disembodied, discussion. At least we were talking, and complexifying the oversimplifying assumption of faculty omnipotence and sole responsibility. Not much talk of student responsibilities to the collective learning environment, however.
Alan has some more posts on the subject over there which you can click around and find.

I should think that affirmative action -- an extremely important topic in constitutional law -- is the single most difficult thing to discuss openly and vigorously. Don't you agree? I suspect that in the great majority of law school classrooms, perhaps in nearly all of them, students feel compelled to act as though they support affirmative action and dare not say anything to the contrary, even if the teacher seems to bend over backwards to encourage debate.

Professor Kaplan caused an uproar while teaching about race from a left liberal position. I really wonder what the reaction would have been if he had been viewed as a conservative, who was not presumed to have the generally approved set of political beliefs. On the other hand, I think that the only reason he got into the position where he ended up saying some inflammatory things -- and I still don't know exactly what they were -- was because he was teaching from a left-wing perspective.

As to the students who feel chilled, I think it's easy to say to them they should take more "responsibility" in the "collective learning environment," but I think the teacher has got to be the teacher. Students are going to care what other students think about them. Their social relationships matter to them, and their interest in their standing among their peers deserves respect. The teacher needs to structure the classroom discussion in a way that gets the whole range of opinion heard. The most obvious way for a law teacher to do that is to call on students to articulate the arguments of the various parties and judges in particular cases and to require them to defend those arguments and to respond to other students who have been called on to articulate other arguments. It's a mistake to think that a lot of class time should be consumed by students professing their personal beliefs, endorsing policies, and proclaiming politics.

But by all means, talk about such things. There must be a thousand bars and cafés in town where you can carry on the conversation late into the evening.

"What puzzles me is why so many people are scared of so many ridiculous things."

Cathy Seipp said last summer:
Did you have to develop a thick skin or does it come naturally?

I guess it just came to me naturally, although naturally we all become less sensitive to what others think of us as we grow older. Or at least, we should. The alternative is to remain forever a sensitive adolescent, and that's kind of pathetic.

Did you have to develop your self-confidence to write as fearlessly as you do or did it come naturally?

Again, I think most people naturally gain confidence as they age, if only because we develop a sense that we finally know what we're doing. What puzzles me is why so many people are scared of so many ridiculous things.
These are words of wisdom, words to live by. Thanks to Cathy for saying this and for saying and writing so many other fine things.

Cathy Seipp, R.I.P.

Here's the L.A. Times obit. And this is nice, with a terrific photo, from LAist.

March 21, 2007

"American Idol" results: the final 10.

And so Stephanie is out. One thing that surprises me is that after all the talk about the "girls" being better than the "boys," the final 10 is evenly split, male and female. And interestingly enough, there are 4 white males. One of them is my favorite -- Blake -- though he's far from the best singer, and the other three are not too good really. The other male -- Sanjaya -- is also not a very good singer. Of the females, I'm really glad the rocker chick Gina survived. It's funny that Hayley is still there. And then the top three best singers seem to be Jordin, Melinda, and LaKisha -- the three black singers left in the competition, all female. Let me just try to pick the order that they will leave (and we can look back and see how wrong I was): Chris R., Gina, Hayley, Phil, Chris Sligh, Sanjaya, LaKisha, Blake, Melinda, Jordin. So: Jordin to win.


A word to replace "homophobia."

The arguments for: 1. "Homophobia" seems inaptly restricted to fearing gay persons, 2. "Gaycism" seems parallel to "racism."

Arguments against: 1. "-cism" is not a suffix. (Not that you can't have a new suffix. Just in the "-ism" family, there's "-aholism.") 2. "Gaycism" is too silly and the idea it's supposed to express is very serious. (People will wonder what's "gayce"? And the facile rhyming seems lightweight) 3. Why replace a word once you have a word? (The old word comes to mean what people use it to mean. It's pedantic to fret about the roots of a word once it's embedded.)

I say no. Disagree?

IN THE COMMENTS: Internet Ronin puts his finger on what was vaguely troubling me:
Transpose the "c" and "y" and it spells "Gacyism," as in John Wayne Gacy.

"You liberals are such elitists!"

"Actually, it's élitist."

"A heartbreak loser turned Oscar boasting Nobel hopeful globe trotting multimillionaire pop culture eminence."

Roll him on in!

That's a picture of Al Gore -- or a statue of Al Gore -- waiting for his car -- it better be a hybrid or we'll hear no end of mockery -- to go to Congress to tell them all about global warming. Ah, it's a Lincoln Town Car. So, get your comedy engines started.

Is the Al statue going to keep on rolling, into the presidential campaign?
Friends say Mr. Gore is content to be an evangelist for the world rather than a candidate for office. Hassan Nemazee, a Gore fund-raiser in 2000 and a friend of Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper, was host of a dinner for them last fall, and recalled that Mr. Gore expressed his disdain for the “tomfoolery of politics” — the endless fund-raising, the repetitive glad-handing, the sniping among operatives.
But it's tomfoolery whether you're in or out, Al! I say, come on in! You're better than most of the other fools.

The other Thompson.

Enough about Fred Thompson. What about Tommy Thompson?
Tommy G. Thompson took a major step toward a presidential bid when he said Tuesday that he will formally announce his candidacy in several weeks, kicking off his campaign in Wisconsin and Iowa.
We need some Wisconsin in this thing. Russ backed out. So bring on the Tommy.

On the issues. First, he's got a plan for Iraq:
He'd have its 18 provinces set up their own governments. "Shiites would elect Shiites, Sunnis would elect Sunnis, Kurds would elect Kurds," he said.

He'd also divide up oil revenue among an Iraqi federal government, the territorial governments and its citizenry.
Second, he finesses abortions exactly like Romney and Giuliani:
"I am pro-life, and I think that's the way to be," he said.

Pressed by Blitzer about the issue of overturning Roe vs. Wade, Thompson responded that the real question is what he will look for if he were to appoint a new Supreme Court justice - and that's a "strict constitutionalist."
Typical Republican finessing of the gay marriage issue: leave it to the states.

So, what do you think? Does Tommy have a chance?

"Troposphere, whatever."

I've just been reading the oral argument in Massachusetts v. EPA, which was argued back in November. (PDF.) The state of Massachusetts is suing to force the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. A key point of contention is whether carbon dioxide counts as a pollutant within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. Here's a striking exchange between Justice Scalia and James R. Milkey, counsel for the state of Massachusetts:
JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Milkey, I had -- my problem is precisely on the impermissible grounds. To be sure, carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and it can be an air pollutant. If we fill this room with carbon dioxide, it could be an air pollutant that endangers health. But I always thought an air pollutant was something different from a stratospheric pollutant, and your claim here is not that the pollution of what we normally call "air" is endangering health. That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming.

MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist.


JUSTICE SCALIA: That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.
That's funny and painful, but is it painful in a way that makes Justice Scalia look bad? Actually, no. He is, I think, implying that he needs to defer to the EPA's decision about what the Clean Air Act covers. How can he possibly have a better view of it? He's not a scientist.

ADDED: What's really painfully funny is that Scalia's theory of the role of the courts makes it possible for him to say that the more incompetent he is the more he is right. It's damned clever!

March 20, 2007

"American Idol" -- tonight's show: The British Invasion.

Okay, this is the perfect show for me. The songs are the British Invasion songs, with Peter Noone tutoring the boys and LuLu for the girls. I love Peter Noone, let me say, so I'm really happy. I'm unashamed to say I was a huge Herman's Hermits fan. LuLu, I couldn't care less about, but in the first segment, we see her helping Hayley Scarnato, giving her really precise, quality instruction.

1. Simon leers horribly at Hayley, who's wearing heels, hot pants, and a silky backless top that's attached to her torso with a wacky amount of double-stick tape. She sings "Tell Him" and stomps all over the stage, up and down the stairs. She does not trip and fall, so okay.

2. Chris Richardson sings "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," and follows the melody -- the great melody -- the way Peter Noone told him to.

3. LuLu looks like my sister. I was trying to figure out who it was she reminded me of. And Stephanie Edwards reminds Lulu of Beyoncé. Stephanie sings "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." It's hard not to think about how beautifully Dusty Springfield sang this song. By contrast, Stephanie's singing is clunky and heavy-handed. But they're praising everyone today, and I'm sure they'll like her too. They've revealed that tonight is especially important, because they're eliminating the eleventh person, and the top ten get to go on tour. Actually, they are hard on her. Simon: "I think you are losing your edge... you're losing your soul."

4. Blake Lewis -- my personal favorite -- sings a song I love: "Time of the Season." He sings it much like the Zombies original, and the beat box thing imitates the original instrumentation. He gets a ton of praise for making the song sound contemporary, which just mystifies me. It was just like the original, but not as good.

5. LaKisha Jones sings a crappy song: "Diamonds Are Forever." She's a good singer, but she didn't belt it out like Shirley Bassey, and she didn't do something else interesting with it. Simon complains that she looks 50 years older than her age. Her problem is already that she seems old.

6. Phil Stacey wails "Tobacco Road" and seems kind of Bo Bice-y. But not as profound. [ADDED: And he reminds us of Bat Boy.]

7. Jordin Sparks emotes "I Who Have Nothing," a melodramatic song I've never liked. Tom Jones did it, and it really is more of a man's song, all about how the other guy buys "you" diamonds and takes "you" to fancy restaurants, while the singer just has some big love to share. Or so he claims.

8. The incredibly cute youngster Sanjaya tells Peter Noone he's torn between two songs. One is "You Really Got Me," and there's just nothing at all better than the early Kinks. But the other is Herman's Hermits' first hit "I'm Into Something Good." It's inexpressibly adorable to see the kid Sanjaya sing Peter's own song to him. Peter says Sanjaya looks more like one of Herman's Hermits than one of the Kinks, but advises him to go with the Kinks and "really get into it." He picks the Kinks. They keep showing a 12-year-old girl in the audience who's crying like a Beatles fan at "The Ed Sullivan Show." He's sort of shout-singing and running all over the place and at one point he just completely shouts "You got me so I can't sleep at night!" and it's really quite perfect. Simon: "I think the little girl's face says it all." Ryan sends Sanjay down to give the girl a hug. Very sweet!

9. Gina Glocksen is asked how she's holding up, and she talks about the stress, including "critiques that we see on blogs and everything." (Hi, Gina! Have I said anything mean about you?) The song is "Paint It Black." LuLu gets her to raise the key a half step and advises her to "devour" it. Gina really is the best rocker chick they've ever had on the show, and I'm not just saying that because I think she might read this. I said it before.

10. Chris Sligh is doing "She's Not There," one of the very best 60s songs. (Only The Zombies get picked twice tonight.) He enters walking through the audience and really obviously fails to interact with the girls reaching out to him. He practically brushes them away. I think the tone is not that pretty and he's not soulful enough. He needs to be better.

11. They save Melinda Doolittle for last, which signals that she's best. I'm tired of the way they keep presenting her as the best. It's too unsubtle. Let us decide! She's doing the musical comedy song from "Oliver!": "As Long As He Needs Me." This is famous for being just about the least feminist song ever. She's sitting on the edge of the stage, which, in the language of the show means, deep and meaningful. She sings the first line so it sounds like "as long as she needs me." There's also that line "I'll Klingon steadfastly." Man, I hate this song. Have you seen "Oliver!"? The character is an abused woman, manifesting the ultimate in Abused Woman Syndrome. And couldn't you have found a real British Invasion song instead of this mawkish, politically incorrect showtune?

So who might go home? Maybe poor Gina. Possibly Chris or Phil or Stephanie. It would viewed as upsetting if LaKisha got the boot, but, really, if it happens, it will be because of that draggy song and the way too old-looking bright green cocktail dress. If I had to bet on one person to stay though, it would be the supremely adorable Sanjaya (even if he's actually the worst singer).

Does "American Idol" discourage kids?

Music teacher Nancy Flanagan says it does -- via Joanne Jacobs -- and she hates that:
What bothers me is that children watch American Idol, and children are now developing this idea that singing is something that should be attempted only by the “talented.” Some children now believe that judging singers is an amusing spectator activity, and making fun of imperfect singers is perfectly OK. Hilarious and justified, in fact: anyone who dares to sing in front of a camera deserves our scrutiny and scorn. None of this encourages children—or their families—to participate joyfully in group or individual singing. In the American Idol paradigm, singing is now reserved for those who have a “good” voice.
I disagree. I come at this from a different perspect. Unlike a musically talented person like Flanagan, I'm bad at singing. I was a third grader when I learned this, and I felt terrible about it. I've refrained from singing in almost every situation since then, out of the belief that it's very embarrassing and humiliating to sing off key -- even to sing one note off key.

I think if I'd been able to watch "American Idol" in my formative years, I could have been happier about my singing. What strikes me about the show is that so many people sing off key. Even the top singers go "pitchy" at times. It's not my secret shame, then. It's widely shared, and many, many people sing in public, even exposed to critics and possible outright ridicule, and they survive. What nerve people have! I would think. I need to get some of that.

In fact, I think the show demonstrates how to deal with criticism. We've seen hundreds of young people stand there -- they rarely collapse -- and listen to judges critique them. Some behave foolishly, but an amazing number of them stand up to it courageously, some are heroically thankful for the honesty, some survive a beating and sing another day, some are able to absorb the judges' advice and improve over the course of the season. This teaches something different from the endless, soothing bath of encouragement Flanagan recommends.

I think it's fine learn that some people do better than others. We need to develop taste. And it's great to learn that honest criticism -- and even some mockery -- is not only survivable but can even be beneficial. And it's even rather nice that kids can learn that there is work -- glamorous work! -- for the critic -- that it's worth it to learn to perceive and judge and put that judgment into articulate language.

"The zoo must kill the bear."

For his own good. Say the animal activists.

Kill him! Kill baby, Knut!

Oh, you think Knut is cute? You, human. Don't you understand what it means to be species-appropriate?

MORE: Here.

AND: Consider what the polar bear would do to the cute little baby seal:

"I'm angry! I'm angry all of a sudden!"/"I'm angry, too! We’re angry at each other!"/"Now everything is fine."

It's the dinner table conversation as imagined by children... as told by the hilarious Simon Rich. Via Metafilter, where the comments eventually get mean:
So when did the New Yorker decide to become McSweeny's, only less funny?
posted by thecjm at 7:24 AM on March 20

Do you know what else is not that funny? The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Game.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:33 AM on March 20

Ugh! There's a game based on The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. I detest The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. It's irritating to see the picture that's "supposed" to have a caption, and then you wait and wait... for what? There's no good caption. Everyone tries to "get" it, but there's nothing to get. It might be okay if somehow the contestants transcended the task, but they never do. They just keep trying to get the nonexistent missing caption. It makes me sad. Now I'm okay again.

"Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time."

Student evaluations for Socrates. (Via A&L Daily.)
He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in.

He's sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

He always keeps talking about these figures in a cave, like they really have anything to do with the real world. Give me a break! I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves.

He also talks a lot about things we haven't read for class and expects us to read all the readings on the syllabus even if we don't discuss them in class and that really bugs me. Students' only have so much time and I didn't pay him to torture me with all that extra crap.

If you want to get anxious and depressed, take his course. Otherwise, steer clear of him! (Oh yeah, his grading is really subjective, he doesn't give any formal exams or papers so its hard to know where you stand in the class and when you try to talk to him about grades he just gets all agitated and changes the topic.)
Much more at the link.

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus," "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"...

It never gets old, does it? It's funny, and it will always be funny. "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." People will be laughing about that line in Conlaw classes years and years from now. I hope the Supreme Court writes an interesting opinion, so it can be a main case in the case book, to lighten the load of studying free speech forever. Oh, you think I'm not taking drugs seriously enough... taking drugs seriously... taking drugs ... heh heh heh... what are you, the principal or something? The Principal of the Blogosphere? Eric Alterman already has that job, so settle down. It's time to talk about "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Heh heh... It never gets old, does it?

Well, I had a nice, detailed post on on the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" case -- boringly aka Morse v. Frederick -- but my computer ate it last night. It got the munchies. I had all the lines from the Justices that cracked me up, like when Justice Ginsburg tried to make a hypothetical out of the notion -- who knows why it popped into her head? -- what if instead of "Bong hits 4 Jesus," the banner had said "Bong stinks for Jesus." Now, I assure you I'm not high. For one thing, it's 6 a.m. For another, I haven't been anywhere near marijuana since I sat next to those guys at a Kinks concert in 1973. Also, it's illegal. And unlike some people, for me, the fact that something is illegal is enough to keep me from doing it.

Now, take down that banner! Don't you see the Olympic torch is coming through town? It's a torch to ignite all the hopes and aspirations and lofty, sporty thoughts of mankind. Not a cue to light up illicit botanicals.

Since I lost the heart to reconstruct my hilarious post from scratch, let me link to Dahlia Litwick's write-up and offer a little commentary:
... [Joseph] Frederick wanted to annoy school administrators, and he wanted media attention, and as we discovered today, he chose well on both fronts. He was suspended for 10 days. And we are out in droves to cover his case....

[A]ccording to Kenneth Starr, former righteous independent counsel—now tanned Californian law-school dean—the fate of the drug wars depends upon the unconditional school message that drugs are bad, yet schools cannot enforce that message because smartass kids keep undermining them.
I love that Ken Starr is the one embodying the principal's censoriousness. Like a perfectly phrased 15-foot banner, he's the perfectly chosen purveyor of high school moral standards.
Starr's alternative...: Schools get limitless discretion to craft broad "educational missions" and are then free to squelch any student speech that "undermines" them.
I love the way that formulation is so well-framed as a general principle yet so utterly disturbing. To be fair, Starr doesn't argue for "limitless discretion." He argues for deference to the reasonable decision of the school official.
Souter ... insists that the "bong hits" statement itself should be scrutinized for its meaning. The way Cheech and Chong might strive to seek meaning in a Hansen song. But Kneedler responds that the only person who can determine the banner's meaning is the educator who banned it. "But won't the principal always prevail?" asks Justice John Paul Stevens. Um, yes. That seems to be the point.
Souter had a really good point, actually. Kneedler was making a distinction between speech that supports illegal drug use and speech that advocates legalizing marijuana. Souter posited that "Bong hits 4 Jesus" could be construed as an argument for legalization, through the literary device of ridicule.
By the time Douglas Mertz gets up to argue on the students' side, it looks like he's already won, if for no other reason than the justices appear horrified by the limitless [sic] power the schools are asserting. But somehow he manages to trigger a second, more terrifying episode of paranoia in them. "This is a case about free speech, not drugs," he opens, but Roberts clocks him with: "This is a case about money. Your client wants money from the principal for her actions." Then Kennedy jumps in to ask what kind of kid would go after "a teacher who has devoted her life to this school, and you're seeking damages from her for a sophomoric sign."
I was surprised to see Kennedy blatantly show sympathy for one party over the other like that. And Roberts's point seemed strange. Cases about things that happened in the past are nearly always, in some way, "about money." Why bring it up here? Because it's horrible that a poor educator should ever have to pay?

Later, however, Roberts nails it. The case is about whether there was clear law that the principal should have known, which is required before damages are available against a government official who has what is called "qualified immunity":
Can we get back to what the case is about? You think the law was so clearly established when this happened that the principal, that the instant that the banner was unfurled, snowballs are flying around, the torch is coming, should have said oh, I remember under Tinker I can only take the sign down if it's disruptive. But then under Frazier I can do something if it interferes with the basic mission, and under Kuhlmeier I've got this other thing. So she should have known at that point that she could not take the banner down, and it was so clear that she should have to pay out of her own pocket because of it?...And so it should be perfectly clear to her exactly what she could and couldn't do.

The opportunity for humor is ripe and Scalia snags it:
As it is to us, right?
Souter explains the joke:
I mean, we have had a debate here for going on 50 minutes about what Tinker means, about the proper characterization of the behavior, the nonspeech behavior.
One of the finest points in this case is what it means for a message to be "disruptive" (a key concept in Tinker). This case is about something that happened on the street and not in a classroom. The banner was, of course, silent, and the occasion was a parade. It's quite different from disruptive speech during a lesson. Scalia offered a distinction between "disruptive" and "undermining." The school's real objection is that a pro-drug message undermines the message it endorses. That is, they don't want disagreement and debate. They still convey their anti-drug message all the time, and this student isn't interrupting them or even distracting anyone from hearing that message. He's just delivering a counter-message on another occasion, and they object to the argument. That should be held to violate the First Amendment.

But the Court can also say that this wasn't yet clear, which would save the principal from having to pay damages. It would, however, set the stage for the next suit for damages, as the Court can use this case to make the law clear. And it should.

March 19, 2007

''There's a lot more work to be done..."

President Bush asks for your patience on the war. Do you have any?

MORE: The text:
It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating....

Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through....

The United States military is the most capable and courageous fighting force in the world. And whatever our differences in Washington, our troops and their families deserve the appreciation and the support of our entire nation.
That does clearly imply that if you don't support the war, you don't support the troops.

"While I could never advocate censorship... the three young women... harmed by AutoAdmit... deserve a way out of this electronic shock."

Elizabeth Wurtzel -- the "Prozac Nation" memoirist, now a Yale Law student -- opines rather incoherently about the AutoAdmit dustup.
[T]he Washington Post ran a front-page story about some young women here at Yale Law School whose careers--if not their lives--had been ruined by some salacious postings. The descriptions of them--sluts and whores--and the suggestions about what might be done to them--rape and sodomy--were showing up on Google searches of their names, and had prevented at least one of them from securing employment.

Since then, Dean Elena Kagan at Harvard Law School and Dean Harold Koh here at Yale have sent out open letters, condemning the nasty communications. We've had speak-outs and write-ins, organized blue-ribbon panels and worn red outfits for solidarity. There's talk of legal remedies and media campaigns....

In such a world, what to do about AutoAdmit? To start with, pray for mercy, because based on the content of its postings, the future of jurisprudence does not look good. Having done that, plead for civility. Just because we can say anything, does that mean we must say everything? While I could never advocate censorship, I would certainly ask for sensitivity....

Because people are delicate. The neighborhood rumormongers of yore could cause enough trouble in a small town, but the unpoliced World Wide Web is really a mess. It's unpoliced, which demands that we be better people, gentler and more humane. Because if not we will surely all go mad. As it is we are overwhelmed: It never stops, we don't know how to stop it, we wouldn't want to anyway, and then we relish complaining about it. This is how we live now. Do we want to add random postings about ourselves, our private selves, that aren't even true, into this volatile mix? AutoAdmit for adults?

In the mean time, the three young women here at Yale Law School who've been most harmed by AutoAdmit--beautiful and brilliant all--deserve a way out of this electronic shock.
"In the mean time"? Well, I guess we are living in a mean time. Maybe sometime in the future, people will be nicer.

In the meantime, I'm still recommending laughter and a thick skin. It's much more liberating than asking your professors to nurture your sensitive soul.

Speak-outs and write-ins, organized blue-ribbon panels... oh, my.

"This is not a case about drugs or drug policy. This case is about freedom of speech and teaching our young people the importance of free speech."

Here's an early report on the oral argument today in Morse v. Frederick -- better known as the "bong hits 4 Jesus" case.

More on the oral argument later. For now, here's Linda Greenhouse's preview of the case.
As the Olympic torch was carried through the streets of Juneau on its way to the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City, students were allowed to leave the school grounds to watch. The school band and cheerleaders performed. With television cameras focused on the scene, Mr. Frederick and some friends unfurled a 14-foot-long banner with the inscription: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”

Mr. Frederick later testified that he designed the banner, using a slogan he had seen on a snowboard, “to be meaningless and funny, in order to get on television.” Ms. Morse found no humor but plenty of meaning in the sign, recognizing “bong hits” as a slang reference to using marijuana. She demanded that he take the banner down. When he refused, she tore it down, ordered him to her office, and gave him a 10-day suspension.

Mr. Fredericks’s ensuing lawsuit and the free-speech court battle that resulted, in which he has prevailed so far, is one that, classically, pits official authority against student dissent. It is the first Supreme Court case to do so directly since the court upheld the right of students to wear black arm bands to school to protest the war in Vietnam, declaring in Tinker v. Des Moines School District that “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Greenhouse highlighted the way religious groups are supporting the student. (Note that Kenneth Starr represents the school):
The Juneau School Board’s mission includes opposing illegal drug use, the administration’s brief continues, citing as evidence a 1994 federal law, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which requires that schools, as a condition of receiving federal money, must “convey a clear and consistent message” that using illegal drugs is “wrong and harmful.”

Mr. Starr’s main brief asserts that the court’s trilogy of cases “stands for the proposition that students have limited free speech rights balanced against the school district’s right to carry out its educational mission and to maintain discipline.” The brief argues that even if Ms. Morse applied that precept incorrectly to the facts of this case, she is entitled to immunity from suit because she could have reasonably believed that the law was on her side.

The religious groups were particularly alarmed by what they saw as the implication that school boards could define their “educational mission” as they wished and could suppress countervailing speech accordingly.

“Holy moly, look at this! To get drugs we can eliminate free speech in schools?” is how Robert A. Destro, a law professor at Catholic University, described his reaction to the briefs for the school board when the Liberty Legal Institute asked him to consider participating on the Mr. Frederick’s behalf. He quickly signed on.

A writer with a writer parent does it right.

RLC notes my complaint about Rebecca Walker and points out another article in the Sunday Times, which I missed:
Here's a really nice article about a famous writer's son who achieved literary success on his own, practicing his craft for years, suffering the rejections that come with the territory, even changing his name in order not to use it for advantage -- because he understood that it would hurt him as a writer to do so. I admire this young man, and I'm eager to read his book.
The first linked article is about Joe Hill, who hid his identity as the son of Stephen King until after his book "Heart-Shaped Box" was published and received great reviews. Give credit to Joe and to Stephen too.

But who's to say what people do from force of character and what they do out of inherited personality traits?
Like his father, Hill married young, has three kids and lives in an isolated part of New England. Also like his father, he shows his manuscripts to his wife. “A lot of people marry their moms,” he said. “I kind of married my dad. I’ll go from the manuscript I gave her and the manuscript I gave him and go back and forth, and it’s the same comments.” (Hill’s wife, Leanora, and King are so in sync that she reads King’s drafts too.)

Hill is even more protective of his privacy than his father was for much of his career. (King didn’t have Google Maps and other online search devices to contend with.) Though Hill’s fallback demeanor is congenital niceness, he wouldn’t even consider an interview in his hometown and cut off any questions about his children. Hill is certainly no stranger to aggressive fans. When he was 12, he found a six-pack-toting ex-convict at the front door. “I just got out of Thomaston Prison,” Hill remembered the man saying, “and I just wanted to tell you that your dad’s books are the only things that kept me from killing someone in there.” Here, Hill made a sound effect to suggest that at that moment his head exploded, cartoon-style. “My memory is that my dad went outside and had a beer with the guy.” But, he added, “there have been people who have broken into the house. You get into a little bit of a defensive crouch.”

Hill did concede this much: He lives in a remote part of New Hampshire, not Maine, where he grew up. And he works at home. In his office, Hill keeps files full of letters that mark his long literary apprenticeship. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. He could have had it another way.

"Warmest Regards, Omarosa Tobacco Industry McCarrot Top."

Yikes. Isaac's really mad at US Airways.

When do you find yourself saying "here, kitty kitty" to a bobcat?

An encounter in California:
This past Saturday, I was mountain biking near the summit of Loma Alta, near Fairfax, when suddenly a big furry critter jumped off a berm crossing directly across the road in front of me. I got off my bike to get a closer look and there, staring me in the face about 20 feet in front of me, was a quite large bobcat. We kind of did a face-to-face stare down for a couple of minutes. Then it just laid down, and soon after, I sat down ... We sat there together for a good 20 minutes, perhaps even a half hour. Somewhat embarrassed to say, but 15 minutes into this viewing I actually uttered the words, "Here kitty-kitty!" What was I thinking! Eventually it stood up, gave a stretch and casually bounded down a stream-cut ravine.
How scary is a bobcat anyway? This isn't like saying "here, kitty kitty" to a tiger. (I'm thinking of the scene in "The Life of Pi" when Pi foolishly encourages the tiger to swim to the lifeboat.) A bobcat is double the size of a house cat. Me, I'm afraid of house cats roaming about outdoors. A double-size cat would scare me, but would it terrify me? Perhaps you've had a bobcat -- or other wild cat -- encounter you can tell us about.

"I haven’t opened up a law review in years. No one speaks of them. No one relies on them."

So says Second Circuit Judge Dennis G. Jacobs, quoted by Adam Liptak. (TimesSelect.) Liptak:
Articles in law reviews have certainly become more obscure in recent decades. Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well. They take pride in the theoretical and in working in disciplines other than their own. They seem to think the analysis of actual statutes and court decisions — which is to say the practice of law — is beneath them.
Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well. That's my favorite Adam Liptak quote of all time -- though it still can't beat the Jacobs quote for post title. Now, there's a quote!

But the big question is do the judges read lawprof blogs?
The assembled judges pleaded with the law professors to write about actual cases and doctrines, in quick, plain and accessible articles.

“If the academy does want to change the world,” Judge Reena Raggi said, “it does need to be part of the world.”

To an extent, her plea has been answered by the Internet. On blogs like the Volokh Conspiracy and Balkinization, law professors analyze legal developments with skill and flair almost immediately after they happen.
(Hi, judge!) I'll have to make a note to comment on more cases in a "quick, plain and accessible" way.

And on the theory that I've got some judge and law clerk readers, let me put in my request that they write their damned opinions in a quick, plain and accessible style. Because I'm getting pretty weary of their obfuscatory, evasive, rambling scribblings myself. Unfortunately, I don't have the option of just not reading. Their work is imposed on us. Talk about an obligation to say something useful and well!

As for those professors, how much should we worry about their disinclination to stoop to the level of quick, plain accessibility for the purpose of talking to judges? Do you really think these characters who opted out of the practice of law should have more influence over the law that affects real life? Maybe you should be glad they've cocooned themselves within an academic discussion that harms no one.

Do you feel sorry for the law review editors who work so hard on what the professors write? The editors still get their editing experience. They get their lustrous credential to put on that résumé that will land them the judicial clerkships where they will get more experience working on judicial opinions -- those lengthy, obfuscatory judicial opinions that fail to cite law review articles.

If the very persons who just spent two years working closely on law review articles don't find a way to work law review citations into the opinions they draft and edit, that says a lot about the value of what they chose to publish.

Hey, law review editors, why don't you start choosing "quick, plain and accessible" articles that judges will read and be influenced by? I think we know very well that the prestigious journals reject such things instantly. It's not what their lofty lawprofs write and respect.

It's a vicious dynamic, no?

But judges could change the whole dynamic if they started rejecting law clerk applicants whose law journals published the kind of articles they don't read. So quit complaining and use your power to change things. Or are you so beholden to the law professors whose work you don't read that you have to hire their darlings, those law students who publish the articles you don't read?

March 18, 2007

Idea for a law school exam.

From The Wise Bard.

One last hope.

For the Badgers.

UPDATE: Bad! Terrible! Horrible!

"Striking resilience and optimism" among Iraqis.

The Times Online reports:
DESPITE sectarian slaughter, ethnic cleansing and suicide bombs, an opinion poll conducted on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq has found a striking resilience and optimism among the inhabitants.

The poll, the biggest since coalition troops entered Iraq on March 20, 2003, shows that by a majority of two to one, Iraqis prefer the current leadership to Saddam Hussein’s regime, regardless of the security crisis and a lack of public services.

The survey, published today, also reveals that contrary to the views of many western analysts, most Iraqis do not believe they are embroiled in a civil war....

The poll highlights the impact the sectarian violence has had. Some 26% of Iraqis - 15% of Sunnis and 34% of Shi’ites - have suffered the murder of a family member. Kidnapping has also played a terrifying role: 14% have had a relative, friend or colleague abducted, rising to 33% in Baghdad.

Yet 49% of those questioned preferred life under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to living under Saddam. Only 26% said things had been better in Saddam’s era, while 16% said the two leaders were as bad as each other and the rest did not know or refused to answer.

Memeorandum notes the discussion of this article.

The Supreme Court is to blame for the Viacom v. YouTube lawsuit.

According to Lawprof Lawrence Lessig. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act should have precluded this outrageously wasteful litigation, but the Supreme Court deprived us of the legislative resolution:
Drawing upon common law-like power, the court expanded the Copyright Act in the Grokster case to cover a form of liability it had never before recognized in the context of copyright — the wrong of providing technology that induces copyright infringement. It announced this new form of liability even though at precisely the same time Congress was holding hearings about whether to amend the Copyright Act to create the same liability.

The Grokster case thus sent a clear message to lawyers everywhere: You get two bites at the copyright policy-making apple, one in Congress and one in the courts. But in Congress, you need hundreds of votes. In the courts, you need just five.

Viacom has now accepted this invitation from the Supreme Court.

"We wanted gender diversity. We wanted racial diversity, economic diversity, age diversity."

Lawyer Robert A. Levy talks about assembling the plaintiffs and putting together the case for the successful attack on the D.C. gun ban:
"No Looney Tunes," Levy said. "You know, you don't want the guy who just signed up for the militia. And no criminal records. You want law-abiding citizens."

..."We called all our contacts in the legal community," Levy said. "We looked at the newspapers: Who was writing on the subject? Who was sending letters to the editor about gun laws?" They scoured the city. "Friends lead you to other friends, and you just keep talking and talking to people, until finally you have your clients."

They found dozens of likely plaintiffs, Levy said. They went with three men and three women, from their mid-20s to early 60s, four of them white and two black. They found a mortgage broker from Georgetown and a neighborhood activist in a crime-scarred area of Northeast Washington. They also lined up a communications lawyer, a government office worker and a courthouse security guard. In their disparate walks of life, the six shared an eagerness to arm themselves.

Levy knew only one of them: Tom G. Palmer, 50, a Cato colleague who is gay. Years ago in California, Palmer said, he brandished a pistol to scare off several men who he feared were about to attack him because of his sexual orientation. He said he wants to be able to legally defend himself in his Washington home.
Read the whole thing. Levy is a libertarian, with no connection to gun rights groups.
"I don't want this portrayed as litigation that the gun community is sponsoring. . . . I don't want to be beholden to anyone. I want to call the shots, with my co-counsel."

Yesterday's Madison peace activities.

While I was up at the Capitol end of State Street yesterday, watching the St. Patrick's Day parade, Uncle Jimbo was monitoring the situation at the University end of the street, where I'd only seen the gestational phase of the anti-war activities. The parade I saw was really beautiful, with sunlight, the glistening white Capitol, a huge happy crowd, lots of kids running after candy thrown into the street, and our beloved Bucky Badger. It was so beautiful that when I started thinking about how beautiful it was, I had to struggle not to break down and cry -- and tears come to my eyes as I type this. I mean, look at this:

You're dissolving into maudlin tears now, aren't you? Or are you a staunch anti-war type, firming up your belief that Althouse is soft in the head and waiting to see just how badly she's going to slam the activists down at the other end of the street? I'm just going to leave it to Uncle Jimbo:
We start off with a quick chat with Lee Rayburn, deposed local Air America host, and victim of Clear Channel’s corporate savagery. This was cut short by the cowbelling of the orchestra. Next we have young Atticus intoning the words of his savior John Lennon. He actually does a creditable job and tries to stir some life into the scene; he is hamstrung by the pacing of the song and the anti-depressant medications of much of the crowd.
More at the link, including the part with the puppets ("an evil W flushes our sons, daughters, civil liberties, and future down a giant toilet"). Here's his video (in which you will hear the f-word):

Driving to Green Bay.

In case you're wondering why is Althouse getting such a late start this morning, I was up until 3 a.m. after driving, beginning at 8 p.m., to Green Bay and back. It's all about that snow storm back east. A flight got cancelled, the next flight -- after a motel stay -- was late, a connection was missed, and the only way to avoid a second night in an airport motel was to fly into Green Bay instead of Madison. You'd still arrive at 10:30, but you'd arrive 130 miles away. I was just relaxing into a cozy night of TV -- mellowing out as two "I Shouldn't Be Alive" guys were getting horrendously lost in the Amazon -- and then, minutes later, I'm fueling up the car for the 5 hour round trip to Green Bay.

Speaking of green, it was St. Patrick's Day, not a good time to be driving after midnight, especially on that 20 mile stretch of Route 26 where it's just 2-lane blacktop, and there's a long line of cars and school buses streaming toward you. I guess they were coming back from a sporting event in Madison. There are always a few drivers who think they can improve their situation by passing one car in front of them, and I'd like to thank all those idiots who trusted me to slow down to avoid a head-on collision. When I finally got into Madison at 1:30 a.m., the streets were flowing with young revellers. As I drove across State Street, a young woman yelled at me, "Don't drive drunk!" -- which was for her a big joke, because she assumed everyone out in a car right now was drunk. But I was driving-all-the-way-to-Green-Bay-and-back sober.

So we made it back safe and wide awake. And those guys got out of the Amazon, too, because the show is called "I Shouldn't Be Alive." I don't know how they did it, and I'd like to know. But I'm glad they did, and I'm glad to be back in Madison, Wisconsin on March 18, 2007.

Alice Walker's daughter writes about her motherhood.

I'd never heard of Rebecca Walker before, but today I see two articles about her in the NYT. The first thing I read -- this piece in the Style section -- is that she's the "estranged" daughter of the radical feminist writer Alice Walker. Then I see there is also this article in the Arts section. So, presumably, you don't get an article -- certainly not two articles -- just for being the estranged offspring of someone famous. There must be a book.

The book is called "Baby Love" -- which must piss off Joyce Maynard (if not Diana Ross) -- and subtitled "Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence."

The Arts section article, by New York Observer editor Alexandra Jacobs, has a deliciously grouchy first paragraph that blames birth control for the genre of "mom-oirs." If it's a choice -- Choosing Motherhood! -- you've got a story to tell, right? Good for you. I support free choice about motherhood, but that doesn't mean I want to hear the details of how you made the very mundane choice. The details of a commonplace story can be worth reading. It might even make the best reading -- if you're the best writer. Just as motherhood is not destiny, however, having a mother who is a writer doesn't automatically make you a writer.

Jacobs clearly detests Walker's book, which she calls "merely a paean to pampering."
A Tibetan doctor, the daughter of one of the Dalai Lama’s private physicians, offers her 'little silk bags of herbs”; hovering in the background, meanwhile, are an osteopath, doula, pedicurist and masseuse....

Not to begrudge the author such luxuries, but there was no need to make the world privy to them.
But that could be good if brilliantly described, self-aware, and hilarious, don't you think? (I'm thinking of this Spalding Gray book.) Maybe Jacobs is jealous. [ADDED: And maybe -- maybe, baby -- the book sucks.]

I'd rather hear Walker tell about that estrangement from the famous writer/mother. That's an inherently more interesting subject, and not just because we love celebrities. The desire for an infant has nothing to do with a particular individual. Even if you honor your unborn child as an individual, that individual is an abstraction. It's when that baby develops a mind of its own that the story gets interesting.

So let's check out the Style piece. It's called "Evolution of a Feminist Daughter," and that title caught my attention. Yet there's nothing in this article that connects the mother's feminism to the daughter's estrangement. The most interesting thing here is that before becoming a mother, Rebecca Walker wrote about how the relationships you make are just as important as blood connections, but in her new memoir she takes it back. Confronted on the contradiction, she says she came upon the first idea to deal with her own problems with her parents, and that having a child changed her mind.
“To grapple with how my parents raised me I had to come up with a philosophy that could sustain me. Having my own child gave me the opportunity to have a completely different experience. So hence a different view.”
This shaping and reshaping of ideas to go along with one's condition in life is thoroughly human, but it unless the writer is sharp and funny and self-aware about it, why would you want to read her?