October 6, 2007

Woman with a dog in a bag.

Woman with dog in Brooklyn

(Photo by John.)

Frank. Headache. Eleven.

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Because you don't want evasive painting.

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Now, I know where to go to get my headaches.

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Eleven. We just loved this sign — especially the way they used an "11" to make the "l" in "Eleven."

"You know what he wants... you don't show any response."

I know I've been spending too much time at Starbucks. Here's something Melvin Jules Bukiet says in that anti-Brooklyn thing I just linked to:
Brooklyn’s always been the overlooked sibling among the boroughs. Founded several years before New York, it was swiftly relegated to a role as Manhattan’s unglamorous adjunct. First farms and then factories provided its economic basis. Now back-office space does the same. Until recently, Brooklyn was strictly second choice for residence. Beatniks who couldn’t afford Greenwich Village crossed the river in the ’60s, and yuppies who couldn’t afford Soho moved to Park Slope in the ’80s. Now hipsters who can’t afford the East Village have filled every cranny between soon-to-be evicted bodegas and auto-repair shops with cafés sporting lava lamps on the tables and old record albums tacked to the walls. Inside, a horde of latte-swilling sensitives sit in mismatched chairs and tap at laptops and can’t imagine why they’d ever want to cross the river again. They interpret their migration born of economic necessity as a hegira of moral virtue. Self-righteous sour grapes define their attitude to Gotham.

In short, they’re young.
I'm not young, but I was one of those yuppies who couldn’t afford Soho and moved to Park Slope in the ’80s. I'm back in Brooklyn, now, unyoung yet in need of coffee and WiFi. This Bukiet character has apparently never been to Madison. I'm starved here in Brooklyn for the indie cafés I live at back home. I'm forced to patronize Starbucks and I had to shell out for the T-Mobile connection. It's irksome.

These days, I mark my time at Starbucks by the inevitable reappearance in the music rotation of the Bob Dylan song "Jokerman." Why "Jokerman"? I've never much thought about "Jokerman," but really, look at the lyrics: "Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune. Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman." Is it possible to sing that line a few more times? Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, it's getting painful.

Liberty toxifier.

Last night, we were asking the waitress about the dandelion salad. The music was loud.
"It's a liver detoxifier."

"What?"

"A liver detoxifier."

"Oh. I thought you said a liberty toxifier. I wouldn't want that. I'm trying to keep my liberty pure."
And, frankly, I don't want my waitpersons mentioning my internal organs.

Remember "The State"?

"A guy like Giuliani is polarizing because he actively chooses to be. It's part of his persona. He wants people to hate him."

"Hillary, by contrast, is polarizing not because she wants to be, but because the right-wing attack machine made her that way. She's 'polarizing' only because a certain deranged slice of conservative nutjobs detest her."

Writes Kevin Drum — responding to Andrew Sullivan, who's putting down both Rudy and Hillary for being "polarizing." Drum thinks that Sullivan is running them down because he doesn't like either Rudy or Hillary, and Drum un-runs-down Hillary. So either Hillary is not polarizing or Kevin Drum — I'm following Drum-style analysis — like Hillary.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture."

Comparative interrogation techniques.

"Brooklyn principles can be found anywhere that young people gather to share their search for love and meaning..."

"... a search that they alone are qualified to pursue by virtue of their pristine vision of the deep oneness of things. Whereas physical danger or emotional grief leaves most people lonely or ruined or dead, they triumph over adversity."

Melvin Jules Bukiet — peering from Manhattan — looks down on the Brooklyn writers like Jonathan Safran Foer, Myla Goldberg, Nicole Krauss, and Dave Eggers -- and "everything McSweeney’s." (Via A&L Daily.)

"The rage he harbors raises questions about whether he can sit as an impartial judge in many of the cases the Supreme Court hears."

The NYT would like to say that Clarence Thomas's anger disqualifies from hearing some cases. Isn't it insanely obvious that if a liberal black judge harbored anger for the way he was treated over the years, the NYT would admire him for his passion and for the crucial perspective he brings to judging — perspective that white judges can never hope to reach through mere knowledge and empathy?

But somehow NYT editorial writers can understand that a conservative black judge's emotions are distorted, overblown, and disqualifying.

He's "dredg[ing] up" something that happened 16 years ago. Here's a new rule: The NYT should disrespect anyone who remains angry about something that happened more than a decade and a half ago.

Why couldn't Clarence Thomas write a nice, dignified book, the way these white justices did?
When Supreme Court justices write books, which is not often, they tend to write about subjects and in ways that are consistent with the dignity of the court. When he was chief justice, William Rehnquist wrote about the 1876 presidential election; Justice Stephen Breyer’s “Active Liberty” set forth a specific view of the Constitution.
Imagine that a liberal black judge had written a passionate, personal story of his life. Make that judge a man who grew up in poverty in the south in the era of segregation. Imagine a conservative newspaper editorial criticizing him for failing to write something more dignified, something more like like a history book written a white judge who was raised in middle-class, midwestern suburbia or a theoretical book written by a white man who spent his childhood in middle-class San Francisco. Don't you think the New York Times would sneer at that editorial and call it racist?

October 5, 2007

Friday evening in DUMBO.

We were down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass tonight, getting something to eat at SuperFine...

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... walking on that deserted backstreet with the Twilight Zonish place where they're storing the carousel...

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... then looking for the way back home...

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"It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you I have betrayed your trust."

How painful to see the destruction of a heroine. Marion Jones — winner of 3 Olympic gold medals — has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and admitted about taking steroids.

Duke lacrosse players bring a civil rights case against Nifong and others.

NYT reports:
In a 162-page complaint, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans sought redress for what they described as “one of the most chilling episodes of premeditated police, prosecutorial, and scientific misconduct in modern American history.”...

They “knew that these charges were completely and utterly unsupported by probable cause, and a total fabrication by a mentally troubled, drug-prone exotic dancer whose claims, time and again, were contradicted by physical evidence, documentary evidence, other witnesses, and even the accuser herself,” the complaint continued.

Mr. Nifong, who lost his public office, his license to practice law in North Carolina and his freedom during a 24-hour prison stay, used the racially-charged rape case to increase his chances in an election in which he faced “formidable competition in his own party’s primary election,” the complaint said.
Here's the complaint (PDF).

"It strikes me as a self-hurt book."

Jon Stewart assails Chris Matthews about his book that tries to get you to use political strategies to succeed in your personal life.

ADDED: Here's the video. (I took down the YouTube version that became unavailable.)

"Why do we wear pins? Because our country is under attack!"

Sean Hannity raves. And everyone's talking about the fact that Barack Obama stopped wearing his American flag lapel pin. We're hot for our symbols and we love to talk about what they mean. (It's so much easier than talking about the substantive issues. Can you compare the health care plans of the candidates?)

And speaking of symbols: This Is Your Elephant on Drugs.

Leave Larry Craig alone.

Larry Craig is not leaving the Senate. He's not gay and he's not leaving. I say good.

There are many reasons not to like Senator Larry:

1. The denial of gayness. (Even if somehow he's not gay, it's disrespectful to gay people to feel that you need to deny it.)

2. His apparent willingness to have sex in a bathroom the general public uses. (I'm strongly opposed to sex in public bathrooms, but he didn't actually do that, he only, probably, indicated his willingness to have sex, probably, right there and then.)

3. He's making life hard for his fellow Republican senators. (They're "embarrassed," and they don't want to have to go through with a lot of conspicuous procedures to oust him. Plus, he "promised" to go, so why doesn't he keep his promise? Deal with it. He was elected. Let the people of Idaho pressure him to go if they don't want him.)

4. He pleaded guilty and then refused to accept the consequences, like everyone else who pleads guilty. (Obviously, he couldn't withdraw that guilty plea, and I'd have been outraged if the judge had bent the rules and let this powerful man with his high-priced lawyers break free of the rules that apply to everyone else. But I would have loved to see the legal battle over police tactics and freedom of expression.)

5. He was convicted of a crime. (Yes, a little "disorderly conduct." Does one misdemeanor unrelated to your job mean you've got to go? Are you willing to apply that rule across the board? I think not. As a crime, it's less bad than a drunk driving conviction. How many senators have those?)

6. He's not a solid family man. (Care to apply that rule to every Senator?)

So let's leave Larry alone.

October 4, 2007

"That was how I felt, and that she had draped herself in unflattering prudery, unflattering and almost pre-modern."

Marty Peretz reminisces about how he felt on watching Anita Hill testify, back in 1991. It's his strategy for writing about the Clarence Thomas memoir without reading it. And he's got a backup anecdote to flesh out his musings about the aura around the unread book:
A large Cambridge dinner party a few years ago comes to mind. I won't say at whose house. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't seated next to Al Sharpton, an interloper. (Sharpton had arrived with someone else but uninvited. The hostess was furious.) I was seated next to Anita Hill, an attractive woman and an interesting woman. We spoke about how the loss of the King James version in our culture had degraded the writing and speaking of the English language. Then, as if our conversation lacked something, she raised the name of Clarence Thomas. Sad, no?

"Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game."

"Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a 'before' in a Charles Atlas 'before and after' ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy — he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?"

"Top Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time."

"Painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures."

The White House admits today that it approved the use of "painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures" for terrorism suspects in CIA custody. It denies that these things constitute torture, which it calls "abhorrent." Whether or not it is torture, is it not abhorrent?

"Life is NOT a malfunction."

The answer to the question raised yesterday is: "Short Circuit." Here are the "memorable quotes" from the movie that Clarence Thomas found so hilarious in 1986, when he was 38 years old. Today's question is: Which line made Clarence Thomas laugh the most and why? Remember, he was with the woman he would ultimately marry, and what she found funny was that he was laughing so much.

They loved what she said...

... but what did she say? Don't ask. They don't know.
Ann Rivers, 41, came away from [Hillary] Clinton's speech at a banquet held by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People thinking that she and the New York Democrat had identical positions on Iraq: "Pack up all the stuff -- whatever we've got over there -- pack it up and leave," Rivers said in summarizing what she thought was Clinton's stance.

But Clinton's comments were more nuanced. "We must begin to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home as quickly and responsibly as we can," the New York senator said. Her call to "begin to end the war" left Clinton substantial maneuvering room -- and since then she has refused even to commit to withdrawing all U.S. troops by 2013, the end of the next president's first term.
Nuance! We loved it in '04. And now it's New Nuance — with improved softening. You won't even notice where the finesse begins.

Oh, I'm nostalgic for John Kerry! You could tell when he couldn't fit his nuances together. He had enough shame that he stumbled a bit and let a rough edges show now and then. Those were innocent days...

Time for a remake of "Hollywood Shuffle."

"Hollywood Shuffle"... for Arab actors.

The Andrew Sullivan Award.

For humor deafness.

Fred Thompson with "a can of beanie weenies and half a premade tuna fish sandwich."

Well, if you think it means something, why don't you say what it is? It looks to me like a case of a woman who knew how to spot the single man in the super market line. And the case of the law professor who's never heard of a Middle America staple.

By the way, did I ever tell you about the time Clarence Thomas asked Howard Metzenbaum "if he would consider having a human-being sandwich for lunch instead of, say, a turkey sandwich"? That put the fear of (talking about) Natural Law into Metzenbaum. (Page 221 of "My Grandfather's Son.")

Scalia as Jack Bauer.

The cartoon.

October 3, 2007

Top Chef!

I haven't been blogging it this season, but I've watched every episode, and the winner, announced tonight, was my strong favorite from Day 1.

Spoil away in the comments.

ADDED: Here's the Television Without Pity recap. I must say, the entire series was edited to try to make it seem as though the chef who eventually won had all sorts of problems, but I think you could see all along that he was the most skillful. To create suspense, they edited the show to include every little complaint about the time he didn't work well with others or the lack of sufficient
acidity or whatever. The worse came last week when they told him his food — though clearly better than that of the other contestants — somehow lacked soul or that he didn't include enough of himself -- and it sounded to me as though they were saying: You're Asian, why isn't your food more Asian? No one else got stereotyped like that.

And, as the TWOP recap says, the live element of the finale made the show worse. Padma is boring, yelling repeatedly about how the show is live. And only part of it was live. It was live in the style of a "Survivor" finale, but without any interesting discussion among the contestants. On "Survivor," the contestants are voting, so we see something happen on the live show. Here, it was just the judges, who had already decided on the winner, delivering the news of their judgment -- with less dramatic effect, since the contestants got to see the edit of the show, including what the judges said about them. Which was really mean to Casey.

No more memoir blogging, but...

No more butterflies.

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Oh, wait.

There's one more thing I've got to say about the Clarence Thomas memoir, "My Grandfather's Son." It's about Al Gore.
Al Gore was ... candid when a friend of mine approached him [before the Supreme Court confirmation hearings], saying he'd vote for me if he decided not to run for president. Strange as it may sound, I appreciated that kind of honesty. It took a certain amount of courage ... to admit to their real reasons for voting against me instead of making up a transparent excuse.
Al Gore did vote against Thomas. And Al Gore did run for President. And... well, you have to ask yourself: Did Clarence Thomas admit to his real reasons for voting against him or did he make up a transparent excuse?

Sorry, now, back to regular blogging. I'll try to find another picture to put up as a solemn promise to get back to regular blogging.

Down under the bridge today.

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I took a walk down under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges today.

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I took the Clarence Thomas memoir with me, and I read it in a café in DUMBO and on a park bench on the Promenade. Oh, look:

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See, that's my message to you that I'm done "live-blogging" my thrilling read through "My Grandfather's Son," and it will be back to multifaceted everyday life here on the Althouse blog.

What I really think about the Clarence Thomas book.

I've now finished the Clarence Thomas memoir "My Grandfather's Son," which I've been sort of live-blogging. You can live-blog a book! I've picked out some things that struck me as interesting as I went along. Doing this, I've been accused both of fawning over him and of obsessively hating him, because, after all, that's what you're supposed to do with Clarence Thomas. One or the other must be true.

But, no, you're wrong. I neither love nor hate Clarence Thomas. I have some strong ideas about writing, especially memoir writing, and if I'm going to read a book, I'm going to impose my standards on the writing. I'm not about promoting or indicting the writer. I'm genuinely interested in writing as writing.

Here's a post I wrote back in January 2006 about the forthcoming Justice Thomas memoir:
Jeffrey Rosen writes about judicial memoirs, which are difficult to write, because they're either going to be bland -- like Justice O'Connor's, in his view, despite the incident with the testicles -- or embarrassingly revealing -- like Justice Douglas's....

And now Justice Thomas is working on a memoir. The man has fabulous material -- he grew up in poverty and his confirmation battle was a political and cultural event unlike any other. Does he dare to really use this material, to risk his slowly accumulating somber reputation by writing a real book for us to read? Rosen cautions him not to:
[L]ike Douglas, Thomas may inadvertently harm his judicial reputation among moderates (which is, at the moment, unfairly underrated) by revealing more than he intends.

"Judges wear black robes because it doesn't matter who they are as individuals," John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings. "That's not going to shape their decision." Few people today, of course, believe that judges' personal experiences have no influence on their judicial decisions. But taken as a warning, Roberts's statement was prudent and wise. Too much revelation may undermine the public's respect for judges as apolitical authorities. And judicial celebrity can backfire: as any celebrity knows, those who live by publicity have to avoid overexposure, which can lead to the worst fate of all - oblivion.
I say: either write a book or don't write a book, but don't write a fake book. Don't put your name on a book-shaped object just because you're a celebrity and you can get publishers to publish it and publicists to get you on talk shows and lure readers to give up their money and time. If you're going to write a book, you owe your allegiance to the reader above all. If you've got a conflict of interest, recuse yourself!

(Please read David Foster Wallace's essay on Tracy Austin's memoir in "Consider the Lobster." He faults her for her allegiance to friends, family, and everyone else, and lays down the rule that the writer's duty is to the reader.)

It's one thing to embarrass yourself by making things up, like Justice Douglas and James Frey, quite another to put yourself out there and let readers see who you really are. I think the memoirist who fails to do that is the one who has embarrassed himself.

I said something similar back when Bill Clinton's book came out:
I see Clinton is getting a lot of grief for writing a boring book. But what did people expect? If you want to read a great memoir, read a memoir by someone who is in a position to follow the number one rule for writing a great memoir: tell your story without a trace of personal vanity. You have to be willing to make the character that is you look foolish, mean-spirited, selfish, petty, and everything else. There is simply no way that Clinton or any other political figure can follow this rule. So if you want to read a good memoir, read Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" or Mary Carr's "Liars' Club." If you want to read about grand historical events, don't read the story told by one of the key figures. How could that possibly be good? It would make more sense to read this as a memoir of the Lewinsky-impeachment events.
I guess, according to that, I don't really think there's much chance at all that Clarence Thomas will meet my standard. But wouldn't it be incredibly cool if he did?
So did he? He revealed plenty of negative things — rage and gloom and a serious drinking problem. But these revelations do tend to work in favor of his credibility, when he gets to the part that really matters: whether he or Anita Hill told the truth at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. And the negative material could be seen as self-indulgence: He wants — he demands — your sympathy. He has suffered terribly and his anger is righteous.

But to answer my question: Yes. It's a real memoir.

But what you really want to know isn't what I think of the book as a work of literature, right? You want to know if I think he lied — or Anita Hill lied — at his confirmation hearings. I really don't know. I want to believe him. It's hard for me to understand how Anita Hill could have manufactured the details of her story out of nothing and lied outright and under oath to the Senators and to the whole country. Thomas found himself in the middle of things, confronted with the accusations, and he determined not to give up. His memoir shows why he was the kind of person who would not give up under those circumstances.

But Anita Hill came forward and caused all the anguish. Thomas depicts her as a left-wing ideologue who was in league with other left-wing ideologues who would do anything to destroy him — as he puts it more than once: to kill him. Could individuals with that much professional status be that evil? Clarence Thomas knows the answer to that question. His book blazes with his righteous indignation. Could he be evil enough to write this if he knew he was lying?

I'm entertaining the notion that it is possible that neither one was lying — that is, neither blatantly said what he or she knew was not true. Maybe Thomas said a few little things that Hill remembered and inflated through a process of solitary brooding followed by vigorous prompting from anti-Thomas zealots. And maybe he forgot those little things. On page 221, he says that he couldn't remember whether he'd ever used illegal drugs. How can you not remember that? "I'd been a heavy drinker in college and had often been around people who smoked marijuana and hashish... I might possibly have tried them once or twice when I was drunk..." He was also drinking heavily in the period when Anita Hill worked for him. Maybe he had some alcoholic amnesia.

But he's Clarence Thomas. You've got to love him or hate him, don't you?

"What is my role in this case — as a judge?"

That's the question D.C. Circuit Judge Larry Silberman told Clarence Thomas he should ask himself in every case he had to decide. Thomas considered this to be "the best piece of advice I received, one that became central to my approach to judging." In 10 words, Justice Thomas writes, Silberman "did more to give me a judicial philosophy than any of the futile academic debates about which I'd heard far too much while preparing for my confirmation hearings." (Page 204 of "My Grandfather's Son.")

I think Silberman's advice is great, but I'm really interested in the phrase "any of the futile academic debates." I don't think that implies that there were some non-futile academic debates. I think Thomas has let slip that he regards all the academic debates as futile.

ADDED: This is related, from page 238. Thomas asserts that at the time of his confirmation he had no opinion about whether Roe v. Wade was correctly decided:
Until he's gone through that deliberative process on a case-by-case basis, an open-minded judge can't predict how he will rule in any given situation. As for the matter of my judicial philosophy, I didn't have one — and I didn't want one. A philosophy that is imposed from without instead of arising organically from day-to-day engagement with the law isn't worth having. Such a philosophy runs the risk of becoming an ideology, and I'd spent much of my adult life shying away from abstract ideological theories that served only to obscure the reality of life as it's lived.
By the way, I believe him when he says that he never discussed Roe v. Wade. He says he was never "especially interested in the subject of abortion." (Page 223.) He never even read Roe until he was preparing for the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. "In law school I'd been a self-styled 'lazy-libertarian' who saw abortion as a purely personal matter." After law school, he "remained agnostic on the matter." It was only when he actually had to decide an abortion case as a Supreme Court Justice that he ascertained that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled — he says.

Justice Thomas is into comparative going-away parties.

Page 202:
Leaving EEOC was far more difficult than I'd expected. The employees decorated all eight floors of the building at their own expense, brought in a veritable cornucopia of home-cooked food, and threw me a heartfelt going-away party. One staffer after another thanked me with warm smiles and hugs for all I had done and said that things would never be the same without me.
Page 173:
[M]y schedule prevented me from accepting an invitation from Sonya Jarvis, Anita's roommate, to attend her going-away party. Revealingly, EEOC staff had refused to throw a party for her.

Usage mistake made twice in the Clarence Thomas book.

"Run the gauntlet."

(Pages 197 and 210.)

"I knew this was no fetish-laden intrigue with a woman of another race, but a gift from God."

Clarence Thomas describes his wife. (Page 182 of "My Grandfather's Son.") This is, I think, the only reference to sex in the first 200 pages of the book.

Fetish-laden intrigue. Presumably, that refers to other people's interracial relationships. His sexual attraction comes from God.

God also helps him get his mortgage loan approved on page 190.

ADDED: More divine intervention at page 196:
They asked whether I wanted to be a judge. The question took me by surprise, and I said I wasn't sure. My indecision was no pose: I really didn't know what to do...

[T]hey asked if I'd be willing to fill out the forms... I thought it might be the best course of action to let the FBI start investigating me and see where things went from there. "Maybe this is God's way of telling me what to do," I said.

What 1986 movie did Clarence Thomas find hilarious?

Justice Thomas goes to the movies with his future wife, Virginia Bess Lamp, who is mainly amused that he's laughing so much. What movie is it?

Don't reveal the answer if you actually know it. Let commenters guess for a while. Here's a list of the top 100 movies of 1986 (by IMDB rating), and the movie is on the list. Make your selection and give reasons. The prize isn't for getting the answer right, but for making a guess/giving a reason that amuses me.

Does Clarence Thomas ever criticize conservatives?

Yes.

At page 178, of "My Grandfather's Son," Justice Thomas, who was chairman of the EEOC, states that his "main quarrel with the Reagan administration... was that it needed a positive civil-rights agenda, instead of merely railing against quotas and affirmative action."

At page 179, he writes: "Too many of the president's political appointees seemed more interested in playing to the conservative bleachers..." He suspected this was because "blacks didn't vote for Republicans," so there was little to be gained by helping them. As proof that his suspicion was right, he notes that he offered to help the Reagan reelection campaign "only to be met with near-total indifference." A "political consultant" told him "straight out that since the president's reelection strategy didn't include the black vote, there was no role for" him.

"You would have to be a puritan out of the 16th Century with a magnifying glass in order to spot Eve’s nipples."

So says the ACLU lawyer for the artist Ed (Gonzo) Stross:
Stross is fighting a 30-day jail sentence for violating a city sign ordinance for exposing Eve’s breast and painting the word "Love" in his variation of Michelangelo’s "Creation of Man" on the outside wall of his art studio....

In 1997, Stross got permission from the city to paint the 1,100-square-foot mural on an outside wall of Gonzo Fine Arts Studio at Gratiot and Utica roads, but with conditions: no letters, no genitalia and regular maintenance of the artwork. The city contends that Eve’s bare breast was prohibited under the agreement.
So what do you think is the stronger argument: the First Amendment protects his free expression or he hasn't violated the condition? And what is the relevance of Michelangelo? Or the size of Eve's nipple?

Assuming the condition uses the word "genitalia," I think the strongest argument is that he hasn't violated the condition because breasts are not genitalia. Genitalia are the reproductive organs, and breasts don't contribute to reproduction. You could have your breasts completely removed surgically and still reproduce.

ADDED: He's obviously violated the "no letters" provision with the word "Love," so the only useful argument is that he has a free expression right to paint the giant mural in disregard of the conditions. Don't be distracted by Eve's nipples. I think he's got to lose this one, but what are 30 days in jail for an artist when you get publicity like this?

Clarence Thomas helps "a sister" -- Anita Hill.

In his memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," Clarence Thomas repeatedly states his opposition to affirmative action, particularly because he thinks it puts a stamp of inferiority on black achievement. But he portrays his own hiring of Anita Hill as affirmative action and uses it to stigmatize her as inferior.

As assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education, he hires her because his friend (Gil Hardy) asks him to "help a sister" (page 140):
Not only did I feel I had an obligation to help my fellow blacks, but I remembered how hard it had been for me to land a job after graduating from Yale, and I didn't want to treat her as I'd been treated. I found a way to hire her without going throught the nearly impossible hiring process for political appointees. Her work wasn't outstanding, but I found it adequate.
Now, perhaps Thomas would say that wasn't affirmative action. And, in a way, he'd be right. It's not an openly declared policy designed to bring in minorities. It's the old boy network -- special treatment for people who know somebody who's already on the inside. Hire your friends. Or, more specifically: Hire your friends if they are the same race as you. Thomas makes no effort to justify his action. He only diminishes her -- she "wasn't outstanding" -- even as he admires his own feeling of "obligation to help my fellow blacks."

After President Reagan makes him the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas once again hires Anita Hill. Here's how he puts it:
Anita Hill immediately said that she wanted to go with me. I said I'd think about it... (page150)

... Gil Hardy intervened yet again. I said that I needed someone with experience in the field of employment discrimination, but Gil insisted that I should "give a sister a chance"... (page 152)

... I ... had to do something about Anita HIll, who'd been pestering Anna Jenkins, my interim secretary, as had Gil. I reluctantly brought her aboard, and the first thing she did was claim the largest office in my suite. She had no experience with employment law, so I also [hired two "outstanding young career employees"]. (page 154)
We all want a nice office. Thomas himself enthuses over his office. And many of us have the nerve to push for a job where we know we lack the experience but think if we get the spot, we'll work hard and figure out what to do. Thomas himself repeatedly takes jobs that way. And it's easy to slip in words like "pestering" when you mean to disparage a person who is only doing the normal thing under the circumstances. Of course, we know Hill is Thomas's nemesis, but there is nothing that she's doing here that is wrong. The wrong is coming from Thomas. He's hiring a person he thinks is unqualified because she's black and she's friends with his friend. He therefore denied a job to someone else, someone who deserved it. And he's the one assuming the position of chairman of a commission that is supposed to be about equal opportunity.

At page 171, Thomas unleashes a flood of criticism: Hill was "a growing nuisance" who was "nagging" him about writing a letter of recommendation. She "wasn't performing up to expectations and failed to finish her assignments on time," according to his chief of staff. She'd had "quarrels" with the staff and had stopped coming to morning meetings. She was "far too interested in my social calendar." She was "sullen and withdrawn." She sought a promotion on the ground that she'd attended Yale Law School, and when he promoted another woman, she "stormed" into his office and accused him of favoring the other woman because she had light black skin (as did the woman he was dating).
I found her accusation, her attitude, and her reasoning equally irritating, and told her so.
She responded that she was going to look for another job, and he writes a recommendation letter for her. I think that this is the same recommendation letter that she was "nagging" him about on page 171. The chronology is a little confusing here. How long did he drag his feet getting out a recommendation letter when Oral Roberts Law School was recruiting her to teach law? Writing a letter like this would have been a small, routine part of his job, but he makes it seem as though her seeking it presented a big problem -- or that it was untoward to expect much of him because his grandparents had died recently:
I would have been glad to supply it, but the death of my grandparents had made it hard for me to cope with even the most important of my duties at EEOC, much less write letters of recommendation.

Justice Thomas steels himself by listening, over and over, to "The Greatest Love of All."

Yesterday, I wrote that I was blogging as I read my way through the Clarence Thomas memoir ("My Grandfather's Son"). That was at 11:26 am. (Really 12:26 for me here in New York. I keep the blog on Central Time, as always.) That turned out to be the last post of the day.

Perhaps you're thinking, Althouse got caught up in that thing we call real life. She complained about Thomas: "He hasn't said anything about sex." And then she must have gotten a clue and detached herself from the keyboard. She abandoned her readers to a long, weird comments thread, where they would mark time until the next tidbit about Thomas, the next tidbit that never came.

Or perhaps I had a class to teach and some other things to read and by the time I got back to the Thomas tome, I found I'd hit a boring stretch. I was saving up to say a few sharp things about this part, and then the boredom won over the desire to say something sharp, and I was asleep at 9:30.

Now, I'm up hours before dawn, ready to talk.

First, I can see one thing clearly. I lost my sympathetic feeling toward the author when he abruptly left his wife and child. On the first page of this book, Thomas writes about his own father's "inexplicable absence" from his life. Now, suddenly, Thomas is absenting himself from his own family and, for us, it's inexplicable.
It was the worst thing I'd done in my life, worse even than going back on my promise to Daddy that I would finish my seminary studies and become a priest. I had broken the most solemn vow a man can make, the one that ends... as long as you both shall live. I still live with that guilt, and always will.
So we know he feels bad. But this book is brimming with bad feeling about so many things. Bad feeling and then steeling himself to soldier on. We're in a chapter titled "A Question of Will," and two pages after he's drinking, driving, and deciding to leave his wife, he's bolstering himself by listening over and over to the song "The Greatest Love of All" (the George Benson version from the movie about Muhammad Ali).

According to Wikipedia, the song "has in certain circles become shorthand for cheesy music or kitsch." It's used and abused in many movies and TV shows: "Coming to America," "School of Rock," "Say Anything," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The psycho killer in "American Psycho" identifies it as his favorite song. And that's apt. It's a song about self-love, a powerful declaration that self-love is the greatest love.
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
A man who leaves his wife and child is wallowing in the lyrics of a song about how people aren't fulfilling his needs? He has no one, and he must look only to himself for inspiration? Thomas writes that he "didn't even like" himself after what he'd done to his son, but that's why the song was so helpful.
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Thomas quotes those lyrics. So, you're down on yourself because of something you've done. A song said something that helped you out, but why? I've abandoned my son, the way my father abandoned me, but, really, the most important love is the love that I have for myself! Did he ever picture his own father out enjoying life, singing about how he'd found the greatest love of all, the love for himself?

Here's a line from the paragraph about the song: "I'd done what I thought was right." What? Oh, that's Thomas gliding quickly from remorse about his broken family to the more signficant topic: coming out as a black conservative.
I'd done what I thought was right, and I took heart from George Benson: I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows/If I fail, if I succeed/At least I live as I believe/No matter what they take from me/They can't take away my dignity.
I'm picturing the movie version of "My Grandfather's Son." A despondent Clarence sits by his record player. He sobs. He listens. His face reflects a thousand emotions. Finally, he rises, restored, and walks into a montage of scenes in various federal offices, where we see him smiling and shaking hands with one smiling white male conservative after another, as the triumphant music swells: If I fail, if I succeed/At least I live as I believe/No matter what they take from me/They can't take away my dignity.

It's a cheesy, kitsch classic.

October 2, 2007

Justice Thomas drives south, "drinking beer and watching other cars slide off the road and crash into one another."

In the Fall of 1980, Clarence Thomas is working for the Republican Senator Danforth, and he's just registered as a Republican for the first time and voted for Ronald Reagan. On the invitation of Thomas Sowell, he attends a conference on economic policy. There, he meets the journalist Juan Williams, and he speaks freely to him -- in a way that he now portrays as naive. Williams writes a column about him -- and Thomas is not too upset about it to decline to pose for the photograph that accompanies it. But now he's publicly exposed as a black conservative -- who criticized his sister for her dependency on welfare -- and he's feeling the emotional toll:
Not long after the column appeared, Kathy [his wife] and Jamal [his son] went to Worcester to spend Christmas with the Ambush family [his in-laws]. I stayed behind in Washington. Christmas no longer meant anything to me, and I preferred putting in extra time at the office to celebrating a holiday about which I no longer cared.
Even as a time to spend with family? There's more to this than dissatisfaction with religion, but he has never even described his loss of Christian faith (though he has described many instances of race discrimination by individuals who purport to be Christians).
I started drinking as soon as they left. I woke up sick and depressed early the next morning. All I could think about was the angry reaction to the Post column.
He didn't think of his wife and child going off without him for Christmas? He didn't think about whether he wanted them gone so he could drown himself in drink? This memoir gives us the material to see how much of his problems were personal psychological problems. His grandfather abused him and deprived him of love. He seethed with anger and couldn't feel the love he wanted to feel for his family. He had a serious drinking problem. But the conscious narrative is that he was the victim of race discrimination, especially coming from liberals who wanted to herd black people and deny them their individuality.
It made no sense to me. Why was it wrong for me to speak my mind? All at once I felt an overwhelming desire to drive down to Savannah and see my family. I didn't understand why -- Daddy [his grandfather] and I were as distant as ever -- but somehow I knew I needed to be with them. I threw my clothes into a suitcase, grabbed a six-pack from the refrigerator, and headed out the door. Freezing rain had fallen during the night and the windshield of the car was thickly covered with ice, but that didn't stop me. I chipped it off and headed south, drinking beer and watching other cars slide off the road and crash into one another.

ADDED: In the next paragraph -- I'm blogging as I read -- he decides he has to leave his wife "in order to survive." He confesses to "the emotional emptiness at the center of my marriage," but he has abstained from writing one unkind word about Kathy. That's understandable, but it makes the story a little false, and I'm left wondering about how honestly he's portraying his emotional trajectory. He hasn't said anything about sex. And he began studying for the priesthood and believed at one time he had a calling into that life that demands celibacy. There are sexual themes that are utterly unexplored, and yet they will become central when Anita Hill appears on the scene.

Sunset with a little cloud over the Statue of Liberty.

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Last night, from the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights.

Clarence Thomas on Ayn Rand.

From page 62 of "My Grandfather's Son," in the chapter about law school and his ideological shift from left-wing radicalism to conservatism:
It was around this time that I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand preached a philosophy of radical individualism that she called Objectivism. While I didn't fully accept its tenets, her vision of the world made more sense to me that that of my left-wing friends. "Do your own thing" was their motto, but now I saw that the individualism implicit in that phrase was superficial and strictly limited. They thought, for instance, that it was going too far for a black man to do his thing by breaking with radical politics, which was what I now longed to do. I never went along with the militant separatism of the Black Muslims, but I admired their determination to "do for self, brother," as well as their discipline and dignity. That was Daddy's way. He knew that to be truly free and participate fully in American life, poor blacks had to have the tools to do for themselves. This was the direction in which my political thinking was moving as my time at Holy Cross drew to an end. The question was how much courage I could muster up to express my individuality. What I wanted was for everyone -- the government, the racists, the activists, the students, even Daddy -- to leave me alone so that I could finally start thinking for myself.

There's George Clooney's double.

"I think maybe George Clooney is going to come down those stairs soon, because his double just came out. That's his double over there."

"Yeah, I thought it looked like George Clooney, but couldn't be George Clooney because the crowd didn't get excited. Plus, he's not fat."

"George Clooney isn't fat. He's got bulk."

"He's fat. A little fat. Actually, technically, he's obese."

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"You know, you can wait here all day if you like, but that light is set up to shine on that window for an interior shot."

The scene on Hicks Street, yesterday, where they're filming the new Coen brothers movie, "Burn After Reading."

Clarence Thomas on middle-class white women who think they're "oppressed."

Harsh words for feminists at pages 98-99:
Many of the women I'd met [at Yale Law School] had come from the most privileged of circumstances, yet they often referred to themselves as "oppressed." I found it hard to take their "oppression" seriously, since I'd spent the first part of my life living among black women who cooked and kept house for the middle- and upper-class whites of Savannah. They never talked about being oppressed. What right, then, did the elite white women of Yale have to complain about their lot?
This is in a part of the book where he describes feeling much more comfortable around the people who worked in the Missouri attorney general's office in Jefferson City. He liked the way these people talked about a lot of things other than politics and had political opinions that "ranged all the way across the spectrum, with a generous sprinkling of indifference in between." He especially liked the way none of the "white secretaries" were radical feminists. Because they didn't complain about oppression, he got the feeling these women would, like him, have scoffed at the privileged white feminists at Yale, and he liked that feeling: "I began to relax, and to see and live life more fully."

Secretaries who don't complain are so much easier to take than those feminists who are always needling you.

ADDED: Welcome Instapundit readers. This is one of many posts about the book. I'm blogging as I go. If you want to find the other posts, go to the main page of the blog and scroll. So far, there's this on the "60 Minutes" interview, this on taking a bath at his grandfather's house, this on feeling like law school was a swirling miasma, and this on his reading of Ayn Rand. More to come.

MORE: As chairman of the EEOC, Thomas had little feeling for the problems of white, middle class women. Here's his description of a meeting with Women Employed, a group advocating for equal pay (page 165):
About a hundred mostly white women showed up. They gave every impression of being successful, and judging by the questions they asked me, they were smart and sophisticated as well. Yet I couldn't understand how angry they seemed to be about their lot in life. How could these well-off white women be more bitter than the poor blacks and Hispanics with whom I met regularly at the EEOC?

"Cases and terms of which I knew nothing swirled about me in an incomprehensible miasma."

Clarence Thomas describes law school -- and many, perhaps most, new law students will identify with his description. Even though I am, by profession, a swirler of the miasma, I sympathize.
No less puzzling was the way in which some of my new classmates jumped self-confidently into the fray, talking back to he professors as if the tangled complexity of legal doctrine were second nature to them. Where had they learned so much? Would I ever catch up?... Panic and dread threatened to overwhelm me.
Thomas sees himself as uniquely disadvantaged, and he focuses on the students who leap out to the front. It's a memoir, and he should tell it from his point of view, but notice what is missing. He does say "some of my new classmates," which implies that he knew there were the other classmates who, like him, felt lost and afraid.

Terribly isolated in what was an alien environment, he focused on the students who took to law school as if it were second nature. But law school is always full of students who think class is a swirling miasma and mock those second-nature students as gunners.

You can hang out with them and have a few drinks and laugh at the ridiculous lawprofs and gunners. But Thomas determined to spend even more time studying -- 50 hours a week of study. And he did a lot of drinking alone:
I spent hours sitting by myself in our one-room apartment, guzzling blackberry brandy and listening to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On... I brooded over the futility of life as I listened to that half-despairing, half-hopeful album, in which Gaye asks whether anyone cares enough to save "a world in despair."
Thomas does say that he made "several good friends" -- he names two -- who helped "ease my anxieties." But he never seems to relax or find humor in the alien place. The miasma of law school is another obstacle he must recognize and grimly overcome.

Anita Hill reemerges, as she must, to respond to the Clarence Thomas memoir.

In an op-ed in the NYT:
In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.” A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.
Many people were involved in bringing Hill forward and bolstering her testimony, but it was in a situation where there was a powerful political motivation to destroy him. It was hardly the usual he-said-she-said situation. There was a huge crowd of promoters behind both of them.
In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling “60 Minutes” this weekend, “She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed.” Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa. I remained at that evangelical Christian university for three years, until the law school was sold to Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va., another Christian college. Along with other faculty members, I was asked to consider a position there, but I decided to remain near my family in Oklahoma.
I don't think Thomas's quote connotes that she lacks religious belief. Take the word "religious" in context, between the adjectives "demure" and "conservative." I think he's using the word "religious" to connote a certain type of demeanor -- perhaps someone who forgives, turns the other cheek, and judges not. (Under my interpretation, you can criticize him for stereotyping religious people.)
Regrettably, since 1991, I have repeatedly seen this kind of character attack on women and men who complain of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In efforts to assail their accusers’ credibility, detractors routinely diminish people’s professional contributions. Often the accused is a supervisor, in a position to describe the complaining employee’s work as “mediocre” or the employee as incompetent. Those accused of inappropriate behavior also often portray the individuals who complain as bizarre caricatures of themselves — oversensitive, even fanatical, and often immoral — even though they enjoy good and productive working relationships with their colleagues.
True and important. If only the politics could be set aside. If only Hill had also addressed what happened to our perceptions about the seriousness of sexual harassment during the Clinton era, when the politics cut the other way.

***

I'll update this post when I've read through the relevant part of the memoir. When I picked up the book yesterday, I intended to go right to the part about Anita Hill, but I let myself read the first page -- "My father had broken the only promise he ever made to us" -- and got caught up in the chronological narrative.

ADDED: Captain Ed attacks Hill.
Old, unsubstantiated allegations only have credibility among those who use them for political purposes. Contrast Hill's reception to that of Paula Jones and her allegations of indecent exposure and sexual harrassment against Bill Clinton. Unlike Hill, Jones made her complaint contemporaneously, and pursued legal action through the channels that Hill espouses in this column after the incident got publicized. All of the same people who lined up behind Hill against Thomas didn't just ignore Jones, but called her every name in the book, including "trailer trash". Hill, who thinks that she helped lead an evolution in how harrassment gets treated, somehow neglects to mention Jones as part of that evolution.
Oliver Willis attacks Thomas ("absolute filth... whose odor wafts from every case he gets his grubby little paws on").

October 1, 2007

Because I know you want to talk about it, Part 3.

Hillary Clinton has taken over control of the nation's brain, as demonstrated by the fact that people seem to think it's worth talking and talking about the sound of her laughter. Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall.

Because I know you want to talk about it, Part 2.

Britney Spears lost custody of her children today. She's 25 years old. As a young girl she was used to make money by adults who used her to express what they thought would amuse people to see a young girl express. And now she's got nothing left. It's just sad.

Because I know you want to talk about it, Part 1.

I'm disgusted with the use of Congress for political posturing like this. So Rush Limbaugh said something that can be construed to insult soldiers. Whatever. This shouldn't be taking up time in Congress. It's a damn radio show. You're Congress. Why not just go home and shut off the lights when you leave?

ADDED: I noticed that someone -- too abusive to link to -- thinks that this post is inconsistent with this one:
I don't know about you, but I cannot bear the personal attacks on Petraeus. Argue with him on what his report means, find the holes in the statistics, cross-examine him, but respect him.
There is absolutely no inconsistency. This post is about Congress spending its time passing resolutions denouncing private citizens for things they say. It doesn't take a position on what Limbaugh actually said. I didn't like Congress wasting time trying to pass a resolution about the MoveOn.org ad either. That's a subject I didn't happen to write about, but the assumption that I supported that resolution is wrong.

Justice Thomas takes a bath.

I'm reading Clarence Thomas's memoir -- "My Grandfather's Son" -- and here's his description of taking a bath back in the 1950s when he lived with his grandfather (called "Daddy"):
He insisted that we bathe in what he called a "teaspoon" of water, using laundry detergent instead of soap. "Waste not, want not," he repeatedly warned us. We weren't allowed to use towels to dry ourselves, either, since Daddy thought washcloths were good enough to get us dry (as well as being easier to launder than towels). Whenever he thought we hadn't gotten ourselves clean enough, he finished the job himself, a terrifying experience that we did everything we could to avoid.

AND: Jan Crawford Greenburg interviewing Thomas.

Things noticed and possibly having to do with Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

We walked up Hicks Street early on Saturday, with plans to hike over the Brooklyn Bridge, over to the Seaport to buy half-price tickets to a Broadway show, etc. etc., but we stopped to talk to these guys:

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They were guarding this movie equipment, so what movie was it? They're kind of horsing around, but they mention Brad Pitt, and then a woman comes along and was all "George Clooney was standing right here yesterday." So, yeah, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. That sounds too made up, like you're just pulling movie star names out of a hat.

But, no, they're really filming "Burn After Reading." It's the Coen Brothers new movie -- not set in Brooklyn Heights, but Brooklyn Heights is supposed to look like Georgetown.

I would have walked right by and not even noticed that was movie equipment, but my sister noticed and stopped and engaged the guys and the passerby in conversation.

Really, I had more conversations with strangers this weekend. I'm normally in aloof mode when I'm on the street. I don't want anyone harassing me.

She's noticing more things as well. She was the one who noticed that "Anatomy of Love" was propping up the air conditioner...

Speaking of propping... maybe the book was a prop for the movie. Burn After Reading. It makes too much sense. You burn with love, you burn a book, "Anatomy of Love" is a book that you might want to read if you burned with love and needed some air conditioning (and maybe it deserves burning), and if you burned with love and read "Anatomy of Love" and made love in the air conditioning, then later, your love might go cold and the book would only be useful for propping up the air conditioner.

My sister also noticed, right nearby, that someone had put an origami animal on the window sill to keep company with the animals lined up inside the window.

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It seems too sweet and clever not to be part of the movie too.

And now it seems that the world is full of so many connected and interesting people and things. Pay attention!

Looking out of the Esperanto Café.

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Seems metaphorical, but it was just me, at loose ends, picking up the camera again.

ADDED: This film clip seems necessary:

No people without dogs. No dogs without people.

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Sounds like a manifesto.

Supreme Court. Supreme Court. Supreme Court.

Yes, it's time to ramp up the talk about the Supreme Court once again. Enough photos of dogs and anecdotes about celebrities. Let's get serious. Let's get professional. Let's go out and buy the Clarence Thomas book and read the hell out of it.

Here's one of those overviews of the term ahead. Big generalizations. Presumptions that terms have themes and so forth. I prefer to focus on the individual cases as they come up. Today, for example is all about Washington State Grange v. Washington Republican Party and Washington v. Washington Republican Party. (That link is to ScotusWiki, an excellent outgrowth of Scotusblog, our favorite hangout when the Court is in session.)
Although the [Court in California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000)] struck down the partisan blanket primary, in dicta it endorsed a nonpartisan blanket primary that would allow top vote getters to advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. A nonpartisan primary passed constitutional muster because primary voters would not be “choosing a party’s nominee.”

In September 2003, the Ninth Circuit held in Democratic Party of Washington v. Reed that Washington’s partisan blanket primary, which had been in effect since 1935, was “materially indistinguishable from the California scheme held to violate the constitutional right of free association in Jones.” In response, the Washington State Grange – a civic organization with roots as a nineteenth-century farm organization – rallied voters to enact (through an initiative) a modified blanket primary a year later. While under the invalidated system the top vote-getter from each party advanced to the general election as that party’s nominee, now the top two vote-getters for each office advance regardless of their party affiliation. However, candidates for “partisan” offices may indicate the party they “prefer”; if a preference is expressed, it appears on the ballots....

In resolving this case, the Court must balance the rights of states to regulate elections with the rights of political parties to refrain from associating with non-members. The Court’s judgment will ultimately depend on how it approaches the central question in this case: is Washington’s modified primary partisan because of its treatment of party preference, or nonpartisan because candidates advance to the general election without regard to party affiliation?

Madison and New York/young and old.

Last semester, as I drove my car to and from work every day, nearly every time, I listened to the album "Poses," by Rufus Wainwright. The ride is short, usually the length of one song. Sometimes I played the satellite radio, but when I did, I had to switch to the CD player a few seconds after I entered the underground garage and the car lost contact with the satellite. My Rufus Wainwright addiction began when I happened to hear the song "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk":
Cigarettes and chocolate milk
These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I likes a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me
It's a song about addiction, and I got addicted to the song. Over the course of the semester, I became strangely bonded to the entire album. Strangely, because I hadn't gotten attached to a new artist or a sequence of songs in many years. Funnily, one song on the album is "Grey Gardens," based on the movie, "Grey Gardens," which has always been on the short list of favorite movies in my profile and which I often rewatch for inspiration.

I felt very close to Rufus Wainwright from January to August in Madison, Wisconsin.

Yesterday, my sister and I were traipsing through the Village and Soho. She wanted earrings and mementos. I balked at going into one store that had big sales signs in the window and -- I took one step up toward the doorway -- looked completely chaotic inside. I'd linger in the place next door until she was done with the chaos. The place that suited me was called Theory. I prefer Theory to chaos. She rummaged through the chaotic sale store and bought nothing. Not meaning to buy anything, I found two ideal black sweaters at Theory. I resist chaos but am a pushover for a rational pullover and a Cartesian cardigan.

It's a warm day in SoHo, and I'm weighed down by a bag with two heavy sweaters that will make so much sense back in Madison in January. A few stores later, I'm hitting the wall, and I need respite, so let's find our way back to that restaurant, Provence, that looked so pretty with the tables sticking halfway out the wall of doorways. A perfect choice for someone who almost loves the idea of a sidewalk café.

But now, the restaurant has crowded up, so we can't sit in one of the doorways. But I'm happy to get a seat by a pillar, even with another table -- a big table -- crammed right up to the other side of the pillar, and, of course, I let my sister, my guest, have the seat that looks out toward the doors. I'm recomposing myself with the beautiful French press coffee, and they seat six men and one woman at the big table at my elbow.

Diagonally across from me is a man who looks like Rufus Wainwright or is Rufus Wainwright. I glance at him now and then and try to eavesdrop over the restaurant din. I hear him refer to his mother and to Lorna Luft. I could imagine Rufus Wainwright talking about his mother -- is the woman at the table his mother? -- and Lorna Luft. He talks about a party where people talk about rehab, and then seems Rufus-y. Then someone calls him Rufus. So, it's Rufus, then.

I keep trying to eavesdrop -- it's nearly impossible -- there's some talk of religion -- and to converse with my sister. Dell is looking over to the big table more than I am. It's not that she's interested in Rufus Wainwright. As I suspect, and I learn for sure later, she's never heard of him. She's interested in what they are eating. What are those powdered sugar things with the little turd-like berries? Beignets. What's that metal stand? They're getting oysters.

I think about whether I'm excited to sit for so long so near a person whose music I have so much feeling for. But no, I feel normal, as usual. I remember the time, more than 30 years ago, when I sat in a restaurant at a table next to John Lennon. The feeling was overwhelming. I am so much older now, but is it that I fell in love with Rufus's music as an older person or that I'm sitting near him as an older person. I could find out if some day I'm sitting in a restaurant and, at the next table, it's Ray Davies. Maybe Bob Dylan. But no. I think it's a theory that can only be tested on Ray Davies.

September 30, 2007

Wall paintings of Greenwich Village.

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ADDED: The last 2 pictures are actually from SoHo. The second and third pictures are details from a mural signed by Rico Fonseca.

Dogs of SoHo.

Some are just getting the hang of things:

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While others have seen it all:

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Justice Clarence Thomas on "60 Minutes."

"I was never a liberal. I was radical," he says, talking about how difficult it was for him to go to work for a Republican after he graduated from Yale Law School. His Yale Law degree was worth almost nothing, he says. Though he graduated in the middle of his class, he couldn't get a job, and he was enraged to see that the degree meant one thing for whites and another for blacks. Everyone assumed he got into Yale because he was black, and not because he had grown up in severe hardship, and yet had always done well in every environment -- from all black to all white.

ADDED: The video.

I flirt with death.

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Dell poses in the graveyard:

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We know a lot, but we're not saying anything:

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Reflect:

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Contemplating the past.

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A visit.

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