June 2, 2007

Is today your birthday?

It's a good day...

Balloons escape

To be born...

Balloons escape

The same day...

Balloons escape

As Lydia Lunch and Frank Rich ...

Balloons escape

And Jerry Mathers and the Marquis de Sade ...

Balloons escape

And Johnny Weismuller, Martha Washington, and Thomas Hardy ...

Balloons escape

You could go anywhere.

Is there anything you'd like to say sub rosa?


Go ahead.

The internet is taking the profit out of pornography.

At first, it looked as thought the internet was going to help the business, but it hasn't worked out that way. Too many amateurs are giving pornography away for nothing.
And unlike consumers looking for music and other media, viewers of pornography do not seem to mind giving up brand-name producers and performers for anonymous ones, or a well-lighted movie set for a ratty couch at an amateur videographer’s house....

“People are making movies in their houses and dragging and dropping them” onto free Web sites, said Harvey Kaplan, a former maker of pornographic movies and now chief executive of GoGoBill.com, which processes payments for pornographic Web sites. “It’s killing the marketplace.”...

“The barrier to get into the industry is so low: you need a video camera and a couple of people who will have sex,” [said Paul Fishbein, president of AVN Media Network] ...

The more traditional pornographic film companies are not giving up, of course. They say they have an answer to the new competition: quality...

“We use good-quality lighting and very good sound,” said David Joseph, president of Red Light District, a production company in Los Angeles that has made films like “Obscene Behavior.”

Mr. Joseph said his company did not waste its time, or that of the viewers, on unnecessary plot lines.

“There’s not a whole lot of story — it’s basically right to the sex, but we’re consistent with the quality,” he said, noting that the company is also careful to pick interesting backdrops. “We use different locations, rooms and couches.”
So do you want a nice couch or not? I wonder what it would take to before the idea of a good story would present itself as a strategy for success.

Anyway, no one's going to feel sorry for these businessfolk having a problem. Too bad the problem isn't that people have gotten tired of pornography and have found new attraction in real-life encounters, but maybe the amateur work seems more like real life. (I wouldn't know. Personally, I have never encountered a pornographic film anywhere other than in the context of a federal district court case.)

"The average full-time worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00 a.m. and begins to wind down around 3:30 p.m."

You may think you're working, but you're not. Why not accept reality and appreciate the time you're afraid to see as wasted?
“The old thinking says ‘the longer it takes, the harder you’re working,” says Lynne Lancaster, a founder of BridgeWorks, a business consulting firm. “The new thinking is ‘if I know the job inside and out and I’m done faster than everyone else then why can’t I go home early?’ ”

A few companies are taking the concept of “watch what I produce, not how I produce it” even further. At the headquarters of Best Buy in Minneapolis, for instance, the hot policy of the moment is called ROWE, short for Results Only Work Environment.

There workers can come in at four or leave at noon, or head for the movies in the middle of the day, or not even show up at all. It’s the work that matters, not the method. And, not incidentally, both output and job satisfaction have jumped wherever ROWE is tried.

In other words, what looks like wasting time from where you sit, could be a whirl of creative thought from where I sit. .. [A]ll the energy that’s been poured into trying to force everyone to work at the same pace and in the same way — it seems that’s the real waste of time.
Sounds right to me. Don't you want to get the benefit of your ability to get things done fast? Don't you hate the employer who mainly wants to see that you're slogging away all the time? Don't you hate when you feel like that overseer is buried in your brain, criticizing you for every digression and inefficiency?

By the way, this expresses some of the reason why I'm glad I'm a law professor and not a lawyer in a law firm that operates on a system of billable hours.

"This case is very emotional, very personal, very sad."

On trial for murder, Gregory Zalevsky is representing himself:
With an arsenal of bad posture and loud sighs, soft paunch and hushed, almost groveling tones, Mr. Zalevsky, 57, has turned his trial into something of a humility contest....

In court, his main adversary is Jonathan S. Kaye, an assistant district attorney with a jarhead haircut and the blocky features of a man who plainly knows how it feels to be punched in the face. Mr. Kaye has matched the defendant’s demeanor with a choice of soothing, schoolmasterly tones over harsh rhetoric.

“Does everybody think they’re able to focus on the issues of this case and not get distracted by extraneous things, such as the defendant representing himself?” he asked potential jurors. Later, he put his concern more bluntly: “I may come across as — not a bully, but — if he doesn’t follow the rules of evidence, it’s my obligation to object.”

For jury selection, Mr. Zalevsky arrived from jail in striped slacks, tan socks, stitched shoes, tortoiseshell glasses and an aging sweater, all variants of blue or brown but none quite matching. He rubbed his lip idly, scanned the panel, scribbled notes and seemed to try to ignore Mr. Sweeney out of existence.

Keeping the baby.

Isn't it interesting that two of the best-reviewed movies of the summer are about a woman going through with an unplanned and seemingly ill-advised pregnancy? In "Waitress" -- which has 91% positive reviews -- the woman is in an abusive marriage and expresses great bitterness toward the unborn child. In "Knocked Up" -- which also has 91% positives -- a woman gets pregnant after a drunken one-night stand with a complete loser. Is something happening here?

CORRECTED: I had "the two best-reviewed movies," which is probably inaccurate. The key thing is that these two movies stand out as the best romantic comedies/date movies to see right now. (Actually, I object to the characterization of "Waitress" as a romantic comedy.)

Getting political bloggers fired: Is Matt Browner-Hamlin the new Amanda Marcotte?

I wasn't going to write about this post by Ian Schwartz, because it involves something I consider to be an old blogosphere flame war. I decided not to talk about it when I saw it yesterday, but now I see Glenn is talking about it. He is saying no one's going to care too much, because it involves Chris Dodd, but he's still telling us to look:
This will get less attention than Amanda Marcotte, though, since most people, upon hearing about Chris Dodd's campaign blogger, will respond by saying "Chris Dodd is running for President?"
So Chris Dodd is interesting enough to bother to say that he's uninteresting. Glenn doesn't link for the purpose of noting that something isn't worth paying any attention to. And the incantation "Amanda Marcotte" conveys a lot of meaning. It says this is a story about how a blog that got someone a political job contains some nasty writing that could be used to drive him out of that job.

Now, I'm a weirdly interested party here, because the #1 nasty thing Schwartz tells us about is something the blogger -- Matt Browner-Hamlin -- wrote about me. He called me a "f*ckwit" and a "f*cking assh*le" in the midst of that absurd, frenzied blogswarm around me for the way I made fun of that photograph of a bunch of bloggers posing with Bill Clinton. Well, look. Amanda Marcotte got into trouble not just for writing bad words and attacking people. She said vicious things about religion. Anyone could look at her quotes and see the problem: John Edwards had hired someone to speak for him who had openly expressed contempt for religion. There's no back story that needs explaining. We already know what religion is and what it means to millions of American voters. No serious candidate is ever going to say religion is bad, even in polite language.

So not only is Edwards a more important candidate than Dodd, but what Marcotte wrote hit America's hottest hot button. What Matt Browner-Hamlin wrote, on the other hand, is blogosphere arcana. Not only will people say -- as Glenn put it -- "Chris Dodd is running for President?," they'll have to say "Who the f*ck is Ann Althouse?" I can't believe any normal person trying to understand the 2008 campaign would sit still for an explanation of why Browner-Hamlin felt motivated to write those things about me. I suppose you could try to avoid the back story and just slam him for screaming obscenities at a woman. And I suppose there are a fair number of Americans who are sensitive about language and manners -- and even attitudes about women. Browner-Hamlin did present himself as defending women by attacking a woman, though, and who is going to want to delve into what really happened there? It lacks the pizzazz of the Marcotte matter.

Anyway, apart from my self-interest in this, I'm not keen on using old, nasty blog posts to try to get bloggers fired. Let me remind you of the position I took in the Marcotte controversy:
... I'm a little conflicted about this. Not because Marcotte attacked me [link] -- that's life in the blogosphere -- but because I like to see bloggers use blogging to snag political jobs, and, on the other hand, I'm wary about this new activity of wrangling bloggers for the benefit of political candidates. [ADDED: Marcotte was hired by the Edwards campaign to act as a liaison to bloggers. I call that "blogger wrangling." "Edwards" is a correction.] For you bloggers seeking jobs: I hope you get them. But for you bloggers staying in this noble enterprise: Preserve your independence and don't let yourself get manipulated, even by some blogger wrangler you loved when she was one of you.

In that post of mine that Marcotte savaged, I really was trying to hurt this emerging profession of blogger wrangler. I want bloggers to keep their distance from candidates and not succumb to flattery and seduction. Oh, the candidate actually cares about me, wants to talk to me. It's fine to take advantage of some access, but don't come back like a sucker and blog about how nice the candidate was to you.
So, Browner-Hamlin is a young guy who did the blogger thing and got a job. Please don't try to get him fired on my account. But a little advice to the new bloggers who are starting out and hoping to leverage themselves into political jobs: Don't fall into the lazy blogger approach of calling your opponents f*ckwits and assh*les. It was never good writing. It's a cheap way to seem spicy, and it may seem cool to some readers, but it doesn't show off your skills even now, when you're just getting started writing. The fact that later it may screw up the career you're trying to promote is a huge other reason not to do it, but it was never good. Think of better, more original ways to express yourself. You should want to distinguish yourself through writing. Calling people assh*les... it's been done.

ONE MORE THING: There is something about the Clinton-and-the-bloggers controversy that I would like to draw more attention to and that is that way the attack on me relates to the Hillary Clinton campaign. My main point about the photograph was that the blogger who stood directly in front of Clinton would remind people of Monica Lewinsky and thus undercut what Bill Clinton was trying to do by lunching with bloggers -- to help Hillary.

Put yourself in Hillary's place, seeing that picture. I think it would piss her off! I think people working on her campaign are trying to figure out how to use Bill well and know they don't want events that yield pictures like that. As I suggested here, it would work as a dirty trick against Hillary to ruin appearances by Bill by having Monica-like women pose near him like this. And I'm not saying the woman in the photograph I mocked was doing that or was behaving in a particularly suggestive way. It really doesn't take much to make people start thinking of Bill as a lecher.

Obviously, a lot of bloggers attacked me over what I wrote, and I haven't checked through to see which candidate each one supports, but I don't think they support Hillary. That is, I think they were happy with the subliminal effect the photograph had and didn't want the subject made into a subject for conscious, critical thinking. Both Amanda Marcotte and Matt Browner-Hamlin went to work for Hillary Clinton opponents. Not long before he got his new job, Matt wrote a piece on Huffington Post that was very hostile to Hillary. These are not friends of Hillary Clinton.

June 1, 2007

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers that grow so incredibly high.

Oh, wow. Psychedelic:

Fake looking flowers

I don't know if I like having kaleidoscope eyes. Maybe blank it all out with whiteness:

Fake looking flowers

But don't look too long. Don't look too hard. Look out!

The Flower Vortex

It's a vortex!

Picture yourself with a psychedelic record...

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" turns 40 this weekend. How strange this makes me feel! "It was 20 years ago today...," the opening line of the album, referred to desperately old-fashioned times, and now the album is twice that old, and yet... it seems to be all about youth and promise and newness.

At the time, I thought my parents were so hopelessly mired in the past to still be listening to the music they loved from the 1940s. I enjoyed mocking my father's ridiculous belief that the big bands would come back. The old man needed to face the fact that rock and roll had conquered everything. But they were in love with music that was only 20 years old. That would be like someone today loving U2's "With or Without You" and Prince's "Sign O' the Times" -- which seems utterly normal and not at all pathetic.

Funny how things within your own lifetime remain so alive. But step across the boundary into that infinity of time when you were not yet born, and it's so far away. When I was growing up, WWII seemed disconnected from anything that related to me -- though in truth, I owed my existence and everything about my way of life to it -- but it was no longer ago that the Clinton Era is now.

Enough about me. Back to "Sgt. Pepper." Let's see what Steven Van Zandt has to say:
After being obviously the "greatest album ever made" for years, it ran into a bit of revisionist history these past, oh, 30 years or so.

It probably began with one of the Beatles putting it down or shrugging it off or making the mistake of suggesting that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be....

So, with the only disclaimer that the appallingly awful stereo mastering is, tragically, the only available version right now, let me revise revisionist history and suggest that "Sgt. Pepper" was, and is, an incredible piece of work and absolutely the best representation of the Summer of Love and the very psychedelic 1967. (Blog: What are your "Pepper" memories?)
Are you asking me, Stevie? Right when I was going to stop talking about myself and listen to you. Okay.

Well, the day the album came out, I bought it. My friend was having her "Sweet 16" party that evening, which was bad timing, because all I wanted to do was to listen to that album over and over and get it thoroughly imprinted on my brain so I could listen to it on a deeper level, over and over. So I brought the album to the party, thinking everyone would freeze, stunned by the brilliance, and want to do nothing but listen and talk about how the entire world had changed today.

But it played too much in the background for us to hear it properly. Someone's mother said to me, in a disgusted tone, "What is this music?" I can't remember how much of my contempt I conveyed as I said this was the new Beatles album. I silently counted her as one more example that my parents' generation was the lamest. The entire environment of a suburban "Sweet Sixteen" party was giving me that she's leaving home after living alone for so many years feeling. How right George was about the space between us all. But this is not the way we're going to live from now on. Bring on the tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
It was universally mind-blowing at the time....

Interestingly, in direct contrast to the album's ultramodern sound, its lyrics and sensibility were wistful, nostalgic -- very much looking back when the world was looking forward (and made more obvious if you include "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane," both meant to be on the album). It's full of depressed, dysfunctional, cynical, confused and, yes, lonely characters going through the motions of life, implicitly asking, "Is this all there is?" when the band's audience was never more full of hope, discovering love and becoming philosophically enlightened.

The world was unified in its praise of and inspiration from the album as it has never been for anything before or since.
Stevie says to get the album in mono -- I've had it right by me for 40 years -- and listen straight through:
I promise you will be transported to a place you've never been....
Oh, but I was.

ADDED: Excellent "Sgt. Pepper" website.

Warm fuzzies.


Aw, he's lonely!


That's better.

Am I the only one who has never seen Fred Thompson act?

I mean, set aside the acting one does as a politician. (I tend to refer to politicians as "political actors," but not because I think they are playing a role, just because they are taking action.) I have never seen Fred Thompson in any TV show or movie. Does this give me some useful perspective on the impending FT candidacy? Perhaps not. I may be the least reliable observer, because I don't understand how other people feel. I won't be seeing what they are seeing. You guys are prepped to receive what he will dish out, and he -- quite rightly -- will speak to the people who already have deep feelings about him that have nothing to with his capacity to be President -- except to the extent that your subliminal receptivity will help him do the job. I feel quite estranged from these new political doings. And all because I didn't watch enough TV.

Anyway, I see that Jeremy Sisto is going to join "Law and Order" -- not replacing Thompson though:
Jeremy Sisto, best known for his role on "Six Feet Under," will replace Milena Govich as a detective on NBC's "Law & Order" next season....

Sisto is currently in theaters with Adrienne Shelly's indie romantic comedy "Waitress." Shelly was murdered by a construction worker last year, an incident that inspired an episode of "Law & Order."
Yeah, don't let the expression "romantic comedy" fool you. Sisto plays a brutish husband who makes Stanley Kowalski seem like a comic character. It's terribly sad that the extremely talented Shelly was murdered, but her death seems to have caused reviewers to write uncritically about the movie. The men in "Waitress" are naturally evil. This is a movie where a man's only hope is to reshape his existence to cater to a woman's needs -- let's cuddle and talk! -- and where women whose men won't comply joyfully traipse off into the sunset without them. Poor Sisto puts his dramatic all into a role where the character is a monster for no reason other than that he's a man. But I adored him in "Six Feet Under," and I'm glad to see he's got this new role.

"I think that Rudy, as far as terrorism goes, is just entering his peak killing years. And that's why I'm for him."

In case you missed Dennis Miller on O'Reilly last night, here's the transcript.

Speaking of blog controversies...

I was happy to see that traffic on this blog hit a new high in May. The previous high was last September, when traffic was inflated by a huge influx of visitors who were extremely hostile to me! Mostly, I'm glad to get a lot of traffic, and it's fine that a lot of people are here looking for a fight, but it's not fun when it's all out of proportion, especially when there are all sorts of distorted comments which I don't like answering and also don't like leaving unanswered.

Anyway, May had its crazy little controversy -- noted in the previous post -- so there actually was a little of that sort of thing pushing traffic. Not that I planned it. You never know what little offhand wisecrack or thought experiment is going to set people off. I mean, sometimes you know you're taunting a particular person or type of person. I never do that as a means to the end of getting more traffic. Really, I want readers, not traffic.

My approach to blogging is to say whatever I want about whatever interests me, and nothing more. Sometimes a little less -- to protect my privacy and to respect people I interact with in off-blog life -- but never any more. I hope you can tell, and I hope you realize how much I appreciate the readers who come here because they like approach.

Radio alert.

I'll be on "Lake Effect," on WUWM, the Milwaukee public radio, some time between 10 and 11 Central Time today. Streamable here. The archive will be up here later. I've already recorded the interview, which is a fast moving ramble about blogging that mostly concentrates on my recent, controversial suggestion that it might be a good idea to use nonfiction books when teaching young children how to read.

UPDATE: You can listen to it here now. It's only about 5 minutes long.

May 31, 2007

The Spelling Bee.

Of course, I'm watching the Spelling Bee, and of course, I'm for Isabel Jacobson, the speller from Madison, Wisconsin. So many great spellers have gone down in this first prime time round, and suddenly we see that there is only one young woman left. It's our Isabel! She has three favorite words, we see in the bioclip, and one is "kakistocracy, which means government by the worst people possible." That's so Madison! She's written the word on a little slate, and she tosses it over her shoulder and gives a funny-disgusted look. She wears all the bracelets she own on one arm for good luck. There are 25 of them. She gets a crazy, Greek origin word that means wet and spongy. Helodes. And she gets it right!

UPDATE: Epaulement. She gets it! A barricade of earth. Go, Isabel!

UPDATE 2: Cyanophycean. A blue-green alga. Cyano- is easy, but -phycean? No! She's out. And it's down to two boys. One is Canadian. The other is an incredibly cool kid who loves math and music and math just enough more than music that he sees music as numbers.

UPDATE 3: The American kid is Evan O'Dorney. He gets pappardelle. Hey, that's easy! And Canadian boy, Nate Gartke, gets an easy word too. Now, Evan gets another food word, yosenabe. Too easy! How can kids at this level get the Japanese words wrong? Nate gets coryza wrong, so Evan needs to get one word right. Serrefine. "A small forceps for clamping a blood vessel." He spells it right away! He wins! Yay, Evan!

UPDATE 4: In the interview, Evan tells us why he likes math and music more than spelling. Math and music "fit together" -- they make sense! -- and spelling is "just memorization." The interviewer goads him: Don't you like spelling more now? He pauses a long time -- is he thinking of numbers or notes or is he getting the message he ought to make himself appealing to the spelling bee fans? -- and finally, he forces himself to say "a little." I love it! He's the reluctant speller. He does it well, but he doesn't love it, because he loves two other things so much, and those things really are so much better.

What feast did your kitty cat leave for the ant today?

Mmmm... Ant says: yummy.

What your kitty cat left behind

But what is it? Hints lie elsewhere in antdom. Over here:

What your kitty cat left behind

And here:

What your kitty cat left behind

The ant has his bliss, and you too have yours, smooching with your kitty cat this evening.

UPDATE: Elsewhere, "I ate three lumps of it. But I spat two of them out, so I really ate one and a half of them."

Beyond the Sanjaya video.

I must confess that I've watched three other videos today that I thought were pretty cool. First is this Will Ferrell thing from the same website as "The Sanjaya Installation." [ADDED: Was it wrong to make the girl say those things? It will be funnier to you if you -- unlike me -- think it's just fine.]

The Landlord

Then there's this nice, morphing image of the history of women's faces in art (which someone emailed me after seeing it on BoingBoing). [ADDED: The first time I watched this video, I was struck by how similar all the women looked, but the second time, I had the opposite impression. How different they are.]

Then there's this long, but totally worth it video of an elaborate encounter of lions, water buffalo, and crocodiles, which Andrew Sullivan featured. [ADDED: How pathetic the lions and crocodiles are as they try in their way -- the only way they have -- to get some food. The human beings, heard on the audio track, are rather lame too. Now, the buffalo... the buffalo rule.]

These videos have absolutely nothing to do with each other. At least one is sure to be to your taste. I loved all three.



... or is it purplitude? Or is it simply mauvelous?

Cross-examination reveals the defendant was that anonymous blogger who's been writing about the trial.

Boston Globe reports:
As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn't know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston's tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement -- case closed.
Oh, there's always one more way that blogging can get you in trouble. Here's a tip. Don't blog anonymously unless you're ready to accept all the consequences that would come if everyone suddenly knew it was you. Congratulations to the lawyer who figured out that she should ask that question on cross. You know, I love to support bloggers, but this doctor totally deserved what he got.
In April, before the trial began, he wrote about meeting with an expert on juries who advised him how to act when he was cross- examined. Flea was instructed to angle his chair slightly toward the jury, keep his hands folded in his lap, and face the jury when answering questions, slowly. "Answers should be kept to no more than three sentences," he wrote.

The consultant told him juries in medical malpractice cases base verdicts almost entirely on their view of a doctor's character.
So when they hear you're a blogger...
"We've said it before, and we'll say it again: If the basis of this case is that Flea is an arrogant, uncaring jerk who maliciously neglected a patient, resulting in his death, the plaintiff will not win, period," he wrote. "As much of a cocky bastard that Flea may appear in the blogosphere, the readers who have a personal acquaintance with the real 3-D doctor understand how such an approach cannot succeed."
And all that cocky bastard Flea writing comes into the trial as evidence. Now, you might say, but can't a blogger adopt a persona and use a pseudonym to signify the disconnect between the writer taking a pose for literary effect and the real-world person?

I have a colleague who explains his use of a pseudonym this way:
I make no secret that I'm a law professor. It's right there in my profile. This means I have students, and a professor image to live up to with my students. Maybe maintaining my image as a law professor isn't as onerous as the image-burden borne by, say, a Supreme Court justice, or the pope. But it's not nothing. In front of my students, I have to be reasonably fair, dignified and mature. This doesn't mean being a phony; it's more a question of emphasizing certain aspects of one's personality and putting others in a closet for the day.

If you read my blog, you know that I use somewhat crude language from time to time. I say "f***" in several posts. Just the other day, in a single post, I used the terms "big butt" and "ass." Indeed, "big butt" was in the title of the post. I have (in my opinion) a somewhat wide-ranging sense of humor that isn't above occasional dips into puerility...

I don't tell my students that I'm always "the dignified professor" or that I never use crude language. That would be pompous and false, not to mention irrelevant. But I don't use crude language around students.... Maintaining an image means drawing a line between your professional persona and your personal life.

Most law-prof bloggers seem content to put their blogs largely or mostly on the professional side of that line. While they don't always blog about law, they seem to refrain from saying stuff that would be inappropriate in a conversation with a student in their offices. Folks like Professor Bainbridge, or the Volokh Conspiracy, or Althouse, or Conglomerate maintain an informal, yet not-unprofessional tone. To varying degrees they trade on their academic affiliations, and would have relatively little ground for complaint if, for example, their law schools posted something about their blogs on the law school web sites. And you don't catch them saying "big butt." Indeed, a Google search "'big butt' professor bainbridge" yields only a few hits, none of them from his blog.
Hmmm... I'm not so sure I belong in that Bainbridge, Volokh, Conglomerate set. I think I cross the professional line all the time. I'm always getting the "you, a law professor" chiding. I write things all the time that I wouldn't say to a student. But still, I understand Oscar's idea of using the persona to indicate: Now, I'm speaking in this other mode.

So, fine, maybe Dr. Flea was doing something like that. But that doesn't make the evidence inadmissible. It just means he'll be able to explain that in his testimony if the material comes in. It's not hearsay, because these are statements of an opposing party. If it's relevant to an issue in the case, and the judge doesn't think it's too unfair, it can come in. You should have thought of that before you laid your arrogance out on the web. I'm sure it's a great relief to a professional who has to hide a lot of his feelings to let out all his cocky bastardliness on the web, but others have their interests too -- the plaintiffs lost their 12-year-old child -- and a pseudonym is not immunity.

Is Justice Ginsburg reading dissents from the bench because she's passionate or because she's political?

Linda Greenhouse is highlighting Justice Ginsburg's decision to read two of her dissenting opinions from the bench this year. In both, Ginsburg spoke for herself and the other three liberal Justices (Stephens, Souter, and Breyer), and both dealt with issues of concern to women (Carhart, the "partial-birth" abortion case, and Ledbetter, this week's employment discrimination case).

Greenhouse portrays Ginsburg's actions on the emotional level. Not only were the dissents "forceful" -- aren't they all? -- but Ginsburg herself was "passionate and pointed."
To read a dissent aloud is an act of theater that justices use to convey their view that the majority is not only mistaken, but profoundly wrong. It happens just a handful of times a year. Justice Antonin Scalia has used the technique to powerful effect, as has Justice Stevens, in a decidedly more low-key manner.

The oral dissent has not been, until now, Justice Ginsburg’s style. She has gone years without delivering one, and never before in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms. “What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics,” Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said of Justice Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome in the abortion case to the fact of the court’s changed membership. “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.”

The justice’s acquaintances have watched with great interest what some depict as a late-career transformation. “Her style has always been very ameliorative, very conscious of etiquette,” said Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, the sociologist and a longtime friend. “She has always been regarded as sort of a white-glove person, and she’s achieved a lot that way. Now she is seeing that basic issues she’s fought so hard for are in jeopardy, and she is less bound by what have been the conventions of the court.”
(White glove? Not "kid glove," meaning careful and gentle, but "white glove," which I think is generally used to refer to luxury services provided to the rich. Who wears the white gloves in a "white glove building"? The doorman, not the residents. [ADDED: There's a lot of discussion in the comments about the phrase "white glove."])
Some might say her dissents are an expression of sour grapes over being in the minority more often than not. But there may be strategic judgment, as well as frustration, behind Justice Ginsburg’s new style. She may have concluded that quiet collegiality has proved futile and that her new colleagues, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., are not open to persuasion on the issues that matter most to her.
In other words, it's not an expression of emotion, but a sophisticated political move, intended to get Americans excited and involved in the Court's work -- so they'll see what's at stake. Nothing wrong with that, and I don't mean to say it's not lofty and profound to care about who gets chosen to wield Supreme Court power. It is. Greenhouse's piece subtly conveys the impression that an extremely reserved woman has finally overcome her reticence and spoken up and that this means the majority has erred badly in its understanding of the law. That in itself is a political argument leading the readers to think that Ginsburg must be right and that the fact that she is in the minority on the Court is a problem that needs to be corrected.

ADDED: This post is getting a lot of action in the comments, and I feel as though I ought to spell out something maybe I'm being too subtle about. I think this piece unwittingly demeans Justice Ginsburg as a woman by portraying her as meek and emotional. The idea that she of all people would speak up is supposed to give dramatic weight to her opinion in the cases. The fact that her opinion supports the interests of women may -- for some people -- eclipse this other matter of concern to women, and I want to drag it back into the light.

Justice Ginsburg is a strong, accomplished jurist who is and has always been the equal of the other Justices. She's no purer or less political than the others and no more driven by emotion. If she chooses to read her dissenting opinions about women's issues aloud and provide material for Supreme Court journalists to stir up readers with bathetic pronouncements that she's "found her voice," what I see is a smart political move by an adept legal thinker who knows what the stakes are and wants to affect the game.

Here's Tom Smith who clerked on the D.C. Circuit when she was a judge there:
You had to admire Judge Ginsburg's obvious intelligence, and she seemed like a nice lady. But the idea that she was somehow less political than any other judge is just silly. She was very political. They all were. Some cared more about the law than others, and Ginsburg cared about the law. But there was no question that on a case involving sex discrimination or labor unions, you would be a fool to bet against a liberal outcome if she were the swing vote. She was a nice lady, but she also knew how to rip somebody a new one, if you will.... The idea that she is some kind of elegant, delicate flower who has been forced by the big, bad conservatives to descend into the hurly burly of the political rough and tumble is a complete fantasy of the New York Times and Linda Greenhouse. That is to say, utter rubbish.
Go over there and read the whole thing.

If you're seeking asylum, try to seek it in San Francisco.

Not Atlanta. Or at least New York. And avoid Detroit.

"The Sanjaya Installation."

The Sanjaya Installation

May 30, 2007

"This is like an ad for Sundance. This is our dream. It's happening."

Exclaimed, not sarcastically, just now, by someone who works at Caffe 608 at the Sundance Cinemas in Madison, on seeing 5 of the 7 tables along the wall each occupied by one person working on a computer.

ADDED: So Robert Redford swooped in to check out his enterprise, but that was at 9 p.m. You can see from the time stamp here that I missed him by 6 hours. Various local media people were invited to meet him at the Bistro, but not Madison's most popular blogger, who keeps blogging about the place. Either they're not savvy about the power of blogging, or they are and know I might say just about anything about Redford if I got to see him close up.

MORE: Pics.

This flower is trying to tell you something...

Whatever... some flower...

But what? Lighten up. Enjoy life. Pay attention. Notice things. Yellow! Yellow! Have you thought enough about yellow in your short span of years? And...

The center of the flower...

Oh, no, it's the asteroid! We're doomed!

The last 2 episodes of "The Sopranos" are coming up.

How do you feel about it? Are you mostly thinking about which characters will meet death, or are you prematurely mourning the death of the great, great television series.

Ooh... better put two poofy flowers on top...

Flowers of some sort

... to cover that up... though I know that even the flowers get you guys excited...

"You really have to use your breast power responsibly."

I've said it before (somewhere here): Women know what their breasts look like in their clothes. It doesn't just happen. "Breast power" is real. We can pretend we don't know, but we do. That doesn't mean we have great judgment about how to use it. So let's see an attempt at devising some rules:
What looks sexy for a night out on the town may not be appropriate in the workplace. In fact, [Elisabeth] Squires said cleavage should never make an appearance in the office.
Even in the summer at the law school when there's almost no one around?
"It's way too big of a distraction for men and women," she said. "If cleavage isn't in your job description, don't put it in."...

Squires suggested that women also keep things respectable at family events, like a kids' soccer game....

Night is prime time to bring out breasts, but Squires suggested women treat their cleavage as part of their outfit -- not a focal point.

"You can certainly be a bit more daring," she said. "This presumably is adult time, and cleavage is powerful. This is the time to use it. But they should be part of your whole look."
Okay, so night time is the "prime time." Clearly, there are other times. What are they? Hanging about cafés in the summertime? Catching a light lunch with a former President? We need to know.

I've already gotten Amanda Marcotte to show up once in the comments today. I'm trying to see if I can make her come back.

I found this article via Instapundit.

Poppies... poppies...


"Current effects alone cannot breathe life into prior, uncharged discrimination."

Writes Justice Alito, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a 5-4 decision that makes it harder for employees to sue within the statutory time limit. Linda Greenhouse reports:
... Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.

An initial disparity, even if known to the employee, might be small, Justice Ginsburg said, leading an employee, particularly a woman or a member of a minority group “trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment” to avoid “making waves.” Justice Ginsburg noted that even a small differential “will expand exponentially over an employee’s working life if raises are set as a percentage of prior pay.”...

As with an abortion ruling last month, this decision showed the impact of Justice Alito’s presence on the court. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whom he succeeded, would almost certainly have voted the other way, bringing the opposite outcome.

The impact of the decision on women may be somewhat limited by the availability of another federal law against sex discrimination in the workplace, the Equal Pay Act, which does not contain the 180-day requirement. Ms. Ledbetter initially included an Equal Pay Act complaint, but did not pursue it. That law has additional procedural hurdles and a low damage cap that excludes punitive damages. It does not cover discrimination on the basis of race or Title VII’s other protected categories.

In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg invited Congress to overturn the decision, as it did 15 years ago with a series of Supreme Court rulings on civil rights. “Once again, the ball is in Congress’s court,” she said. Within hours, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, announced her intention to submit such a bill.
So a key question is whether there is good reason for the various limitations in the Equal Pay Act. From Ginsburg's opinion:
Notably, the EPA provides no relief when the pay discrimination charged is based on race, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Thus,... the Court does not disarm female workers from achieving redress for unequal pay, but it does impede racial and other minorities from gaining similar relief.

Furthermore, the difference between the EPA’s prohibition against paying unequal wages and Title VII’s ban on discrimination with regard to compensation is not as large as the Court’s opinion might suggest. The key distinction is that Title VII requires a showing of intent. In practical effect, “if the trier of fact is in equipoise about whether the wage differential is motivated by gender discrimination,” Title VII compels a verdict for the employer, while the EPA compels a verdict for the plaintiff. 2 C. Sullivan, M. Zimmer, & R. White, Employment Discrimination: Law and Practice §7.08[F][3], p. 532 (3d ed. 2002).
So, go ahead, Hillary. Fix it.

When Hillary books collide.

Greg Sargent detects a discrepancy:
[According to "Her Way," by Jeff Gerth and Tom Van Natta] after Bill's election in 1992, he and Hillary were already plotting two terms for her in the White House....

[Carl] Bernstein reports that according to [Hillary's best friend Diane] Blair, Hillary had repeatedly confided to her that aside from a brief flirtation with running for Governor of Arkansas in 1990, she had no interest whatsoever in running for elected office up until 1999, when she started eyeing a New York Senate run....

Of course, it's conceivable that Hillary was privately scheming to run for President while telling her best friend she had no interest in elected office. And as Hillary's best friend, Blair (who has since passed away) might have been expected to deliver an account that was partial to Hillary. But again, this account is a firsthand on-the-record one, while the Gerth-Van Natta one was second hand -- and disputed by the key firsthand witness.
Oh, my! Who to believe! I'm in a tizzy over this! Did Hillary have political ambitions all along or not? I am going to be racking my brain. Too bad Blair passed away and we can't probe her with follow up questions.

"The rest of the Republican Party is like Kate Winslet, desperately trying to pry the McCain campaign's frozen clammy hand from our own..."

Analogies from the mind of Hugh Hewitt, which is seething with hostility for John McCain... in a post that's illustrated with a picture of a DVD box that does not contain "Titanic," because the "Titanic" box doesn't have a picture of a big, smoking gun.

Conservatives are not happy with the immigration bill -- if we may judge from this poll of 51 right-wing bloggers.

CORRECTION: It's Dean Barnett, writing on a blog called Hugh Hewitt. (I thought once you named the blog after yourself, you'd missed the chance to bring in a co- or guest-blogger. I impetuously named my blog after myself, without giving any thought to the matter, but I do find it confusing when there is a name in big letters at the top, but someone else is writing.)

Over at Yglesias, they're talking about a Naomi Wolf article from 4 years ago.

I mean, Matt thought it was new, because some other blog wrote about it as if it were new. (I picked it up via Memeorandum.) He's all concerned about Naomi's tired old whine that pornography has wrecked man's capacity to appreciate real, in-the-flesh women, or, as Naomi puts it: "The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women." (The onslaught of Naomi Wolf's prose is responsible for the deadening of this female's interest in reading in relation to third wave feminists.) Anyway, I'm so glad Matt fell for this one, because some of the comments over there are pretty funny.

"There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture."

From a big New Yorker article (about how badly the Republicans are doing):
[Karl] Rove thinks that more voters now are being influenced by technology and religion. “There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” he said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.” As for spirituality, Rove said, “As baby boomers age and as they’re succeeded by the post-baby-boom generation, within both of those generations there’s something going on spiritually—people saying it’s not all about materialism, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things. If you look at the traditional mainstream denominations, they’re flat, but what’s growing inside those denominations, and what’s growing outside those denominations, is churches that are filling this spiritual need, that are replacing sterility with something vibrant, something that speaks to the heart of the individual, that gives a sense of purpose.” Rove believes what he has always believed: that the Christian right and, to a lesser extent, tax- and regulation-averse businessmen will continue to assure Republican victories.

"I fired three warning shots and they kept coming at me."

So said David Kelly, according to the criminal complaint in the State Street murder case:
[Austin Bodahl, 23] and Kelly began arguing, according to a witnesses. Then Bodahl approached Kelly as Kelly was seated on a concrete flowerbed, and tried to punch him in the head, but missed.

Kelly, a familiar presence on State Street who wore a green kilt, got to his feet and walked backward as Bodahl pursued, throwing numerous punches. Witnesses reported hearing two popping noises, and Bodahl continued advancing on Kelly as Kelly walked backward onto State Street.

One witness said Bodahl delivered so many punches that he tired out, then gave up and walked to the curb. Kelly could have left at that point, witnesses said, but he walked toward Bodahl. They talked for a time in a casual tone of voice, then Bodahl threw several punches. Kelly fell on his back and Bodahl punched him several more times as Kelly tried to block the blows with his feet and arms.

Then came another shot. Bodahl walked to the curb, and he laid down.
Kelly -- who Assistant District Attorney Mike Verveer said is schizophrenic off his medication -- is charged with first-degree reckless homicide.

May 29, 2007

Forget "Vulcan Utopia," we want that Utopia where "Purple Rain"-era Prince...

... is as "omnipresent and heavily marketed" as t-shirt Che Guevara. Or "Labyrinth"-era David Bowie. That would be nice too.



''He still didn't put the butter up... I was like, 'You're just asking for it, you know I'm giving a speech. Why don't you just put the butter up?''

What's the deal with Michelle Obama saying things like that to the crowd?
DePaul University marketing professor Bruce Newman, who has written several books on political marketing, sees the teasing as a strategy for Obama, through his wife, to appeal to professional women who might otherwise vote for one of his chief rivals for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By joking about his domestic foibles, Michelle Obama is showing herself as a woman who doesn't kowtow to her husband, he said.

''It's a clever strategy. I think it's very wise,'' Newman said.

It might even earn him some points with men, said Harvard University's Thomas Patterson, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

''Men in a strange sort of way understand leaving butter out and socks laying around. It humanizes the guy,'' Patterson said.
So is this a good way to use the candidate's spouse? I think it depends on how good the delivery is. It could be tiresome and phony. We need some video:

Pretty good, I think. It could get old, but it's kind of charming for now.

IN THE COMMENTS: This is very smart, from Dan:
I think the unstated premise behind such playfulness, that is to say the implicit contrast it provides to the Clinton's something other than intimate and endearing relationship, allows it to work better than normal. A strong comparison is being drawn. I can't help but think in the back of her mind such a contrast is the conscious goal of what would otherwise be insignficant filler. If so, fairly subtle and thoughtful rhetoric, and perhaps part of the reason as to why the delivery was pretty good. These aren't throw-away comments by Mrs. Obama. Rather a great use of innuendo--i.e. the Clinton's are bad, not like us in this room. Laura Bush has also been very successful with this kind of humor directed at "George". John Kerry and Theresa Heinz Kerry being the latest and last foil. Anyway, Barack doesn't screw around, he's at home with me, but I still haven't gotten him to put away his socks.
Another take, from BJK:
I see the strategy: vote for the nagging spouse


vote for the candidate with the nagging spouse: Obama '08!

Very subtle...
From Susan:
I liked her body language. Very open. And when she put her hands on her hips, which can be an aggressive, dominant stance, it came across to me as just confident. I had never seen her speak before and I don't think I could ever vote for someone as liberal as Obama, but I was impressed with the way she came across.
Yes, she has a nice, natural, youthful manner. Quite unusual for a political wife, and I do think that modern women who believe in egalitarian relationships will get a much better vibe from the Obamas than from the Clintons. And I love the dress. [CORRECTION: It's not a dress, but a pants outfit. Looks like a dress when you don't see the full view.]

Game show: dying woman chooses who will get her kidneys.

No, it's not some dystopian film. It's a real show -- "The Big Donor Show" -- in that brilliantly enlightened place, the Netherlands. Don't freak out yet. Go through the thought experiment: What if you had to argue that this is a very good thing?
The 37-year-old donor, identified only as Lisa, will make her choice based on the contestants' history, profile and conversation with their family and friends.

Viewers will also be able to send in their advice by text message during the 80-minute show....

The former director of TV station BNN, Bart de Graaff, died from kidney failure aged 35 after spending years on a transplant waiting list.

"The chance for a kidney for the contestants is 33%," said the station's current chairman, Laurens Drillich. "This is much higher than that for people on a waiting list."

"We think that is disastrous, so we are acting in a shocking way to bring attention to this problem."
So the positive side of it is that it's drawing attention to the problem of the need for more donations. One might also say that decisions are currently made according to the priorities developed by health care experts and ethicists, but if there is a TV show, ordinary people become immersed in the process of decisionmaking. The viewers are drawn into thinking deeply about the difficult decision that they are normally content to leave to experts. I don't think we should picture the audience as idiotically gaping at a morbid spectacle. The show may develop their moral thinking and make them more compassionate... and more likely to respond to the need that the show is informing them about.

I acknowledge, as I must, that making a game show out of this seems so wrong, for so many reasons, but nowhere near as wrong as the fact that Bart de Graaff, died from kidney failure aged 35 after spending years on a transplant waiting list.

UPDATE: This turned out to be a hoax -- intended to draw attention to the shortage of donors. ADDED: That is, there really was a show, but the donor, in the end, was revealed to be an actress. The contestants were really individuals who needed organs, and the show was not meant to trick people but to care about the problem and to feel moved to become donors.

A Madison Memorial Day confrontation.

Here's how the Wisconsin State Journal puts it:
[A]t an anti-war rally at James Madison Park, Elliott Adams, national president of Veterans for Peace, described a similar "Norman Rockwell" scene from a previous Memorial Day parade and suggested the culture that allowed the Iraq war to happen is instilled in Americans at a young age.

Like the crowd of more than 300, many of them carrying signs with messages like "Bring the troops home now," Adams commemorated Memorial Day with a message of peace.

"It's a great day to end war," Adams said.

"It's a great day to honor the dead," Jim Hanson muttered audibly during the speech, adjusting his video camera.

Hanson writes for a right-wing military blog and planned to post the video of the rally online with commentary about how Memorial Day is not about war protests. His presence, however, -- and side comments -- began to attract the attention of members of the audience, some of whom intentionally stood in front of Hanson's camera and accused him of being a National Security Agency operative.

Joshua Gaines, an Iraq veteran, finally confronted Hanson. They exchanged heated words; both sides implied the other was trampling the Bill of Rights; then, as quickly as it started, the conflict cooled down as both sides backed off.

"He can be here," Gaines said later. "But don't interrupt an honorable speaker like this."
And here's how Uncle Jimbo puts it in a blogpost he calls "Moonbat Memorial Day":
They had anti-war BS and every flavor of agit-prop, but not a single solitary moment in 2 1/2 hours mentioned the sacrifices of all the men and women since 1776 who made it possible for them to whine, and whine they did. I filmed most of it and it was drivel. If anyone has a single moment where our war dead were honored in this I will recant, 'cuz I didn't hear any, and that chafed my cones.

More at the link, but here's Jim's video:


Scratching the phantom itch.

From an article on neuroplasticity:
An amputee has a bizarre itch in his missing hand: unscratchable, it torments him. A neuroscientist finds that the brain cells that once received input from the hand are now devoted to the man’s face; a good scratch on the cheek relieves the itch. Another amputee has 10 years of excruciating “phantom” pain in his missing elbow. When he puts his good arm into a box lined with mirrors he seems to recognize his missing arm, and he can finally stretch the cramped elbow out. Within a month his brain reorganizes its damaged circuits, and the illusion of the arm and its pain vanish.

Gore "envisions a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions."

What's with Al Gore and his book called "Assault on Reason"? David Brooks thinks he has "a bizarre view of human nature." (TimesSelect link.)
Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more emotional mind below. He thinks this can be done through a technical process that minimizes information flow to the lower brain and maximizes information flow to the higher brain.

The reality, of course, is that there is no neat distinction between the “higher” and “lower” parts of the brain. There are no neat distinctions between the “rational” mind and the “visceral” body. The mind is a much more complex network of feedback loops than accounted for in Gore’s simplistic pseudoscience.

Without emotions like fear, the “logical” mind can’t reach conclusions. On the other hand, many of the most vicious, genocidal acts are committed by people who are emotionally numb, not passionately out of control.
So, ironically, it is Gore himself who is being irrational -- according to Brooks.

But wait. Does Gore actually believe in this unscientific view of the human mind? Is the point of this book to wake us up and make us see that we've been manipulated by the media?

The other way of looking at the problem Brooks points out is that Gore is being quite rational, he understands very well that emotion and reason are intertwined, and he is using talk about rationality to manipulate our emotions. I think the use of that scary word "assault" in the title gives it away.

Be very afraid. Evil people want to control you -- assault you! --with invisible forces that play upon parts of your body that are beyond your conscious thought. I will protect you with this magical substance I have called Reason. Come to me. I will save you.

ADDED: There's some talk in the comments about how annoyingly condescending Gore sounded in his recent NPR interview. You can listen to it here.

May 28, 2007

Insect happiness today.

Peony with ant

Peony with ant

Peony with bee

Peony with bee


Oscar writes about it, so I don't have to. You know, you cannot trust movie reviews that were written after the director was murdered.

I saw this movie a couple weeks ago, and though I almost never go to the movies, and I like to use what raw material I can, I have not blogged about this movie. Let me just try to reconstruct the dialogue I remember as we left the theater:

That was one steaming pile of man-hating.

Oh, I thought maybe you liked it.

Those ladies in front of us loved it. I hated it. I mean I liked the close-ups of the pies and the way the pies were all named after her emotions, but everything else... Hey, look, those two guys saw the movie together. I don't see how any self-respecting male could go to see this movie unless a woman made him see it.

Yeah, really.

"There were far too many variables to consider..."

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
"The death penalty is touchy enough without having to worry about how it relates to the mentally ill. This really seems like one of those things that should be decided on a case by case basis by the people involved, not by us."

The opinion further stated that the court was "intimidated" by the extreme pressure brought on by its eminent position, arguing that it would have been much easier for the justices to deliver a firm, definitive ruling had they not been "hyper-aware" that constitutional scholars, trial lawyers, and lower-court judges would study and discuss their decision for generations to come....

The oral arguments by opposing attorneys Keith S. Hampton and Gena B. Bunn, though impressive, reportedly only made matters worse.

"Both attorneys were super smart and well prepared and made a lot of really good points," Justice Samuel Alito said. "When Mr. Hampton was presenting his case, I was thinking, 'Yeah, this is totally right,' and I was prepared to side with him. But then Ms. Bunn got up and sounded just as convincing, but argued the exact opposite point. It's like, who do you believe?"...

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the lone dissenting opinion, in which she stated that she knew the correct decision was either yes or no, but couldn't say which one it should be.

Enjoy the day.


"Find your candidate a nasty enemy. Tell people they are threatened in some way. . . . It's a cheap trick, but the simplest."

Politics professor John J. Pitney Jr. writes about the way Jerry Falwell served the interests of liberals:
Many Republicans and conservative leaders regarded Falwell as a liability. During the 1984 race, a Democratic campaign aide told Time: "Jerry Falwell is a no-risk whipping boy." Ed Rollins, who ran President Reagan's re-election campaign, later agreed: "Jerry Falwell, no question, is a very high negative." Politicians also noticed that Moral Majority was mainly a direct-mail operation and had never built much of a grassroots organization. With ebbing support from the political world, Falwell quit as president of the group in 1987. It folded two years later.

Since then, the religious right has had a complex political history. For a time, the Christian Coalition loomed as a powerful successor; and it eventually crumbled. Although conservative Christians took up a key role in Republican politics, they were far from monolithic, having a variety of leaders and viewpoints. Their activists came to see Falwell as a small part of their heritage, if they thought of him at all.

Liberals, however, did not forget Falwell. As a political consultant once advised his fellow Democrats: "Find your candidate a nasty enemy. Tell people they are threatened in some way. . . . It's a cheap trick, but the simplest."
Yeah, we should all be onto that trick by now.

"An aging roué, who is almost too facile, and a grimly ambitious feminist lawyer, with a tough but conventional mind."

Noemie Emery -- in The Weekly Standard -- tells the story of Bill and Hillary as a long-running TV soap opera. What do the script writers have in store for us next season?
Can the couple bring it off once again? If they can't, it won't be the first time a show failed when main characters tried to spin off into separate series, losing much of the magic that made the act compelling. From the start, the thing that made The Clintons work was the unlikely union of opposites, held together in an attraction-revulsion dynamic, with the whole adding up to more than the sum of its parts. As a sum, they are, and remain, an incredible story. As parts, however, they are merely stock players: an aging roué, who is almost too facile, and a grimly ambitious feminist lawyer, with a tough but conventional mind. In 1992, they seemed fresh and exciting; now they are part of the system and the problem; they were young; now they're not far from the age that the elder George Bush was when they ran against him. And if her job was tough, Bill's is still tougher: It is easier to discipline a huge and unruly political talent than to try to breathe talent into a humorless disciplinarian....

Whether this pol will achieve her lifelong ambition is a whole other story, and one that is yet to be seen. Writers are working on three different endings: In the first, she loses and goes back to the Senate, where she makes peace with her limits and destiny; in the second, she loses, makes Bill's life hell, and rages on at him and the world for the rest of eternity; in the third, she wins, Bill pulls her over the finish line, and they go back to the White House for four or eight years of the same old dynamic, but this time with her owing him. However it ends, it will be quite a story. It will be must-see TV.
Ending 1 is way too boring. Ending 2 makes the best TV show -- for my taste, at least. But I'm not watching it on TV, I'm watching it in the news and trying to blog, and from that perspective, I've got to say that Ending 3 looks juicier than Emery makes it sound. Nevertheless, I'm not hoping for the news that makes the best raw material for blogging. That would be evil.

"They will be snuffling in the dust, squeaking with metaphysical neediness and kissing the lovely pink feet..."

Here's a comment on the new Bloggingheads, by mnbr:
This has to be the all time best Bloggingheads.tv diavlog, no?

It's part of Bob Wright's ordinary cleverness to find smart interlocutors who dig talking to each other ... and then to let them have a ball! Having tried Ann and Annie out once before, Bob must have smacked his head, realizing what a gold mine he'd found, having these two beautiful, smart, quirky, ultra-independent, totally charming women go at it ... WOW!

Can I please just prostrate and grovel in awe at this splendid display of the female mind? Please? Surely one could hand over most of one's net worth to secure Ann and (possibly) Annie as second and third Islamic wives?

The rolling riffs here are amazing - trial by blow job, GOP slime moulds, Dems as amoeba, Western varmints, Fatboy Gore, "nature is trying to kill us ... We ovulate more often now... more bumps here and lumps there", comments on the Sopranos twisating [sic] rapidly into thoughts about whether the human soul is constructed artifice or "merely" a chemical imbalance - can you imagine any two men coming up up with this brilliant, fast-moving, intensly [sic] pointed stuff? Noooo ... we smelly, dull buffoons? .. not even close!

Sure, we're the only ones who're going to figure out some obscure outer reaches of the Reimann Hypothesis ... but, who cares? ... all the mathematicians who could do that stuff will have put away their sticks of chalk, they will be snuffling in the dust, squeaking with metaphysical neediness and kissing the lovely pink feet of these mercurial goddesses ... yes, no?
This amused me -- partly because praise is cool, but also because it's a little weird and because it stirs up memories of the old Larry Summers controversy that seized the national imagination back in 2005:
Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, suggested the other day that innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers....

By some accounts, Summers referred to "innate ability" or "natural ability" as a possible explanation for the sex difference in high-school test scores....

What's the evidence on Summers' side? Start with the symptom: the gender gap in test scores. Next, consider biology. Sex is easily the biggest physical difference within a species. Men and women, unlike blacks and whites, have different organs and body designs. The inferable difference in genomes between two people of visibly different races is one-hundredth of 1 percent. The gap between the sexes vastly exceeds that. A year and a half ago, after completing a study of the Y chromosome, MIT biologist David Page calculated that male and female human genomes differed by 1 percent to 2 percent—"the same as the difference between a man and a male chimpanzee or between a woman and a female chimpanzee," according to a paraphrase in the New York Times. "We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome." Another geneticist pointed out that in some species 15 percent of genes were more active in one sex than in the other.

You'd expect some of these differences to show up in the brain, and they do. A study of mice published a year ago in Molecular Brain Research found that just 10 days after conception, at least 50 genes were more active in the developing brain of one sex than in the other. Comparing the findings to research on humans, the Los Angeles Times observed that "the corpus callosum, which carries communications between the two brain hemispheres, is generally larger in women's brains [than in men's]. Female brains also tend to be more symmetrical. … Men and women, on average, also possess documented differences in certain thinking tasks and in behaviors such as aggression."...

Already Summers is being forced to apologize, in the style of a Communist show trial, for sending "an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women." But the best signal to send to talented girls and boys is that science isn't about respecting sensitivities. It's about respecting facts....
So, men are also overrepresented among political policy geeks. But political policy commentary, more so than the physical sciences, can be done different ways....

Preserve the historical landmarks of American popular culture.

I didn't know it was called Trimper's Rides. [CORRECTION: I'm mixing up Ocean City, Maryland and Ocean City, New Jersey.] We just called it "the Boardwalk," all those summers when it was the highlight of our week-long stay at Aunt Isabel and Uncle Henry's cottage in Ocean City, New Jersey. I was young enough to find the Tilt-a-Whirl unbearably thrilling and to marvel at the kids who had the nerve to ride the merry-go-round and grab for the brass ring.

Now, I see it was called Trimper's Rides. Tthere's a news story: after 117 years, the place is closing. The property is too valuable, and the taxes go too far beyond what you can make with an old-fashioned place like that:
Trimper's is the oldest continuously owned amusement park in the United States, and its demise would reverberate beyond the mid-Atlantic shore, said Jim Futrell of the National Amusement Park Historical Association.

Closing Trimper's "will forever change Ocean City, and I don't think it will change it for the better," Futrell said. "It would rob the community of its soul."...

There are the arcade with rows of Skee-Ball lanes, the pipe-organ carousel with hand-painted horses, the haunted house and the mirror maze.

Granville and Doug Trimper have appealed the taxes with the state. They also have reached out to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and lawmakers for help. Options under consideration include a historic designation or legislation to change the way the park is assessed, Doug said.
The place is more than twice as old as the Coney Island amusement park. It is classic Americana. We are fools if we don't preserve these landmarks of American pop culture. This isn't even a question of designating the place a historical landmark to prevent its destruction. The owners want to preserve it. They just want tax relief to spare them from the spiraling property assessments. And doesn't the value of the surrounding property come, in part, front the classic amusement park that gives Ocean City character? I can't believe the city doesn't do everything it can not just to preserve but to restore something so distinctive and so profoundly and historically American.

Memorial Day.

WAC with flag

Picture source explained. More here. Memorial Day always makes me think of my parents, who are both dead, not that they died in a war, but they did meet in the Army, during WWII.

My first Memorial Day post:
My mother was a WWII veteran. She joined the Women's Army Corps for reasons she would never put in personal terms. I used to ask her, "Why did you join the Army?" I wanted to hear the details of a teenager who cared for her infant sister, named Hope, who was doomed by spina bifida, incapacitating the poor baby's mother with grief, and who went to college, at the University of Michigan, when she was only 16. I wanted to hear about how she had a great passion to leave Ann Arbor, where she had lived all her life, to have new adventures. But her answer was always devoid of a personal story. It was always: "You have to understand how it was for everyone at the time. There was a war."

My father was drafted into the Army after the end date of the war, so he was not, technically, a veteran. They are both dead now and so are among the many of their generation who did not live to see the [WWII] memorial. They met in the Army. My father had one of those Army office jobs, and so did my mother, who was transferred from working on battle fatigue cases to an office job when it was learned that she could type. My father had made some coffee in his office, and my mother went into the office attracted by the smell of coffee. They were married two weeks later. Personally, I owe my own life to the Army and the smell of coffee, but to be more like my mother, I shouldn't tell it as a personal story: There was a war. People did what had to be done.

May 27, 2007

May flowers.







"I thought I was making a movie about a paralysed guy but I realised I was making a film about women."

Says Julian Schabel, accepting the directing award at Cannes, for his film "The Butterfly and the Diving Bell," which is based on a book that I was just recommending here. I had no idea there was a film.
The subject of the film, Jean-Dominque Bauby, was a fast-living playboy, the toast of the Paris fashion world, until he suffered a debilitating stroke at the age of 42.

Schnabel shows him waking up in a seaside hospital after weeks in a coma and suffering from what a neurologist calls "locked-in syndrome" -- he is unable to speak or move any part of his body apart from his left eyelid.

The title refers to Bauby's feeling of being trapped in his body, which has come to resemble the airtight chamber of a diving bell, and his still active mind, still agile as a butterfly.
He writes a beautiful memoir by way of that one eyelid and dies 10 days after it is published. How to make a movie out of that? Schnabel's quote hints.

ADDED: And the Palme d'Or goes to a Romanian film about abortion, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" by Cristian Mungiu:
"Pitch perfect and brilliantly acted, '4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' is a stunning achievement, helmed with a purity and honesty that captures not just the illegal abortion story at its core but the constant, unremarked negotiations necessary for survival in the final days of the Soviet bloc," reviewer Jay Weissberg wrote....

Mungiu offers a shocking image of the aborted foetus, but it is the abortionist's graphic description of the process and his chilling exploitation of the women's dilemma that make for particularly excruciating viewing....

"Because of the pressure of the regime, women and families were so much concerned about not being caught for making an illegal abortion that they didn't give one minute of thought about the moral issue," he told reporters.

"It was either you or them getting you for what you did."

He put the foetus on screen to serve as a reminder to audiences. "It makes a point -- people should be aware of the consequences of their decisions," he said.
This sounds as though it will upset those who are both pro- and anti-abortion, which may be a good thing. I support abortion rights but think people should face up to "the consequences of their decisions."

A new Bloggingheads: "The Slime Mold Edition."

With me and Annie Gottlieb. Topics (and times):
Hillary and Bill's secret pact (08:50)

How the GOP is like a slime mold (11:38)

Is McCain too tough? Is Obama tough enough? (10:35)

The power of jokes to shape public opinion (11:49)

Al Gore, heavyweight contender (10:28)

Ann and Annie vs. Mother Nature (08:53)

The Sopranos: Shakespeare for our time (17:04)

ADDED: Speaking of slime mold -- so is it an animal or isn't it? -- remember that time I found some in my yard?

Slime mold

And remember that time I thought my yard should be wearing pants?

"Do voters have any idea what they are doing?"

Possibly not:
In his provocative new book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies,” [Bryan] Caplan argues that “voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly.” Caplan’s complaint is not that special-interest groups might subvert the will of the people, or that government might ignore the will of the people. He objects to the will of the people itself.

In defending democracy, theorists of public choice sometimes invoke what they call “the miracle of aggregation.” It might seem obvious that few voters fully understand the intricacies of, say, single-payer universal health care. (I certainly don’t.) But imagine, Caplan writes, that just 1 percent of voters are fully informed and the other 99 percent are so ignorant that they vote at random. In a campaign between two candidates, one of whom has an excellent health care plan and the other a horrible plan, the candidates evenly split the ignorant voters’ ballots. Since all the well-informed voters opt for the candidate with the good health care plan, she wins. Thus, even in a democracy composed almost exclusively of the ignorant, we achieve first-rate health care.

The hitch, as Caplan points out, is that this miracle of aggregation works only if the errors are random. When that’s the case, the thousands of ill-informed votes in favor of the bad health plan are canceled out by thousands of equally ignorant votes in favor of the good plan. But Caplan argues that in the real world, voters make systematic mistakes about economic policy — and probably other policy issues too.
Guess which way Americans are "systematically biased"?
...Scott L. Althaus, a University of Illinois political scientist, finds that if the public were better informed, it would overcome its ingrained biases and make different political decisions. According to his studies, such a public would be more progressive on social issues like abortion and gay rights, more ideologically conservative in preferring markets to government intervention and less isolationist but more dovish in foreign policy.
Love the name, Scott, but why am I not feeling confident that your own "ingrained biases" are not affecting your studies? I'm picking up a bit of the old: if only people thought clearly, they'd agree with me. I'm never surprised when a professor discovers that democracy is defective because Americans aren't more left-wing. But unlike Althaus, Caplan thinks voters are incompetent because they aren't libertarian enough.
To encourage greater economic literacy, [Caplan] suggests tests of voter competence, or “giving extra votes to individuals or groups with greater economic literacy."
Until 1949, he points out, Britain gave extra votes to some business owners and graduates of elite universities. (Since worse-educated citizens are less likely to vote, Caplan dislikes efforts to increase voter turnout.) Most provocatively, perhaps, in an online essay Caplan has suggested a curious twist on the tradition of judicial review: If the Supreme Court can strike down laws as unconstitutional, why shouldn’t the Council of Economic Advisers be able to strike down laws as “uneconomical”?
But who designs the economic literacy test, and who appoints the Council of Economic Advisors? I assume Caplan doesn't think it would be Althaus and his ilk.

Ugly tourists.

It turns out Americans aren't the worst, but there's still a NYT article about it.
"... what distinguished Americans was that they could be loud and demanding, and then would invariably apologize and give them big tips."

"Tell people how much you weigh."

She tells: 224.

This is the "Fat Rant" video noted in the article linked in the previous post. I'd seen this before, but hadn't known about all the responses. I watched a few responses: they're not polished and funny like the original. But at least watch the original, especially if you're interested in the politics of fat in America or if you just want to be cheered up about your weight by the 224-pound Joy Nash.

The whole subject of the number itself is quite fascinating. There's a mystique about the 200 mark, and lately I've gotten the feeling that there are a lot of Americans who don't think a woman is particularly fat until she hits 200, and that there is a different group of people who think 125 is the point where fat begins.

There's substantial craziness about the number and yet something like a code of silence about the number. Nash thinks it would help to tell people what the number is. But I bet you're thinking, oh yeah, I'll say the number, in a month or so when I get through this diet -- you know, that diet that you'll either abandon or continue for the next year or so, at the end of which you either will or will not count as success that you stayed about at the number you really don't want to say now.

Hey, why didn't I say all that into my video camera and post it as a YouTube video response?