December 8, 2007

Injuries of the day.

1. Following to the interests of visiting family, I took one step onto the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center and fell flat on my back. I'm used to ice skating, so I can't tell you why this happened. Was it the fresh Zamboni-izing? The weirdly leaden, horribly rigid ice skates they rent out? Or was it sheer inattention and overconfidence? I don't know, but it hurt, especially my pride. I went on to skate for an hour without further injury.

2. At the Children's Zoo at Central Park Zoo, I turned away from a turtle aquarium and, blinded by harsh late afternoon sun, cracked my head on a concrete tree branch. There are concrete trees everywhere, configured at child-friendly heights. I managed to navigate the rest of the Children's Zoo without further collision. I fed a couple alpacas, and they did not bite or spit at me.

3. In an effort to enter FAO Schwartz, we walked 2 blocks in search of the end of the line. Rounding the corner at Madison Avenue, I walked past a woman — an Upper East Side middle-aged blonde — who punched me in the back. I have no idea what punchworthy offense she believed me to have committed, but it seems to have been nothing more than occupying space on the sidewalk that she wanted a straight shot at. I was relieved that no one wanted to wait in the line, and we hailed a cab back to Brooklyn.

Me and that alpaca

Coffeehouse.

What do you want to talk about?

ADDED: Do you like my new blog portrait, done with the "thermal" effect in Photo Booth? It's demonstrating my iciness. I can do video in Photo Booth now (with Leopard). So give me some ideas for vlogging in blue (or as a cartoon, etc.). Back later.

"The Audacity of Oprah."

I'm always happy to see a new article by my old colleague Patricia Williams — did you know that my office at Wisconsin is her old office? — and here it is linked today on Real Clear Politics. She's been styling her writings as "diary of a mad law professor" for a long time. I can identify with that. So let's dig in:
...I'm intrigued by the brouhaha attending Oprah Winfrey's decision to endorse Barack Obama's candidacy. The Internet is positively foaming at her decision to campaign for him. Celebrities -- from Toby Keith to Sammy Davis Jr., from Barbra Streisand to Jon Bon Jovi -- have always stumped for candidates, but a lot of people seem to feel that Oprah is different. She's not a background singer; she is no mere decorative backdrop. Oprah can turn a book into a bestseller!, fume the blogs. When she lends her magic touch, it's somehow complicated or even unfair. I suspect that some of the controversy comes from those who like Obama and don't relate to Oprah's television persona, or vice versa. But it's interesting to contemplate: what does it mean that some people are so concerned about whether this particular celebrity ought to express herself in the political realm?

In a very straightforward sense, it's no wonder that the Double O's are such an arresting team: one of the world's most influential black men links arms with the world's most powerful black woman, and together they sell out an 18,000-seat arena in Columbia, South Carolina, so fast that the computers crash. It's an unprecedented performance of black power in the heart of the old Confederacy. For someone who lived through the most hateful moments of the civil rights era, it's exhilarating and hopeful -- and vaguely scary in the vertigo it induces.

Ha ha. Read the whole thing.

ADDED: Now, are the blogs fuming? Williams's piece is in The Nation, and she provides no names or links that help us understand if bloggers deserve her criticism. I haven't read much on this subject, and it doesn't bother me if Oprah supports a candidate. I'm not going to spend the morning fishing for blogposts that disapprove of Oprah, but I did see this on Politico:
Talk show hosts who interview politicians — regardless of whether their show is overtly political — typically shy away from getting too involved....

The day the news broke about her campaigning, MSNBC’s Dan Abrams raised the question of whether Winfrey’s jump into the political fray will turn off viewers.

“This could be great for Obama, no question about it, especially as he battles for women’s votes with Hillary Clinton,” Abrams said on the air. “But I think it’s dangerous for Oprah. Part of her appeal is that she is every woman. She appeals to Republicans, Democrats, Hillary or [Dennis] Kucinich supporters, on the coasts or in middle America. The problem is that Oprah is Oprah. But just as the campaign is getting particularly ugly, Oprah’s getting in?”...

Since Winfrey has displayed her allegiance to Obama, she has said publicly that it would be unfair to bring any other candidates on the show....

While that’s a clear disadvantage to her involvement, Winfrey has long been able to shake off any seeming crisis that might prove her to be the Teflon supporter....

That's awfully mild. Just some speculation about the effect on her show.

December 7, 2007

Baby at lunch.

Baby at lunch

"On paper, they look an awful lot like Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"They are professional women of a certain age — politically active Democrats, liberals, unabashed feminists who remember what it was like to be told they could not become firefighters or university department heads, let alone president of the United States of America."

So why aren't they for Hillary Clinton?
"She leaves me cold," said Sidonie Smith, who chairs the University of Michigan English department. "I hate to say that. It's a very strange feeling to have."
The classic feminist diagnosis would be: sexism. Did you think feminism immunized you from sexism? You consciously favor the advancement of women, but then when you look at a particular woman who is at the point of advancement, you think: Yes, but not her.

But is this what we are feeling about Hillary? I think not. Hillary is not just another professional woman of my generation, who ought to inspire sisterly empathy. She is a throwback to an earlier era, when women found their place through their husbands. The resistance I feel toward Hillary has to do do with her advancement under the aegis of a powerful man — a powerful man who seems to have diminished quite a number of women. According to the article, I'm responding the way women my age respond:
For many, it's visceral. While they struggled to break through institutional barriers in the workplace, Clinton hitched her star to her man and followed him to the top. When his philandering imperiled his political career, she not only pulled him out of the fire but helped orchestrate attacks against his accusers.
Exactly.
For others, the anger they feel is purely political. Some are disappointed by her support of the Iraq war, her reluctance to take stands on some hot-button issues or the fact that she has re-created herself as a centrist.
For me, these are reasons to support her.

Much more in the article. Let me just extract one more line: 
[I]n an interview with LA Weekly last May, Jane Fonda called Clinton "a ventriloquist for the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina."
The dreaded double-V! Ventriloquist with a vagina! Wow, Ms. Fonda is kind of crude. Also, inaccurate: Hillary doesn't wear a skirt.

ADDED: As a commenter notes, it's unlikely that Fonda meant to cast Hillary as the ventriloquist. Didn't she mean that the patriarchy is the ventriloquist and Hillary is the dummy? 

"If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?"

Writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Islamic justice is a proud institution, one to which more than a billion people subscribe, at least in theory, and in the heart of the Islamic world it is the law of the land. But take a look at the verse above: more compelling even than the order to flog adulterers is the command that the believer show no compassion. It is this order to choose Allah above his sense of conscience and compassion that imprisons the Muslim in a mindset that is archaic and extreme.

"We... fully, freely, and entirely approve of, assent to, ratify, and confirm, the said Constitution."

It was 220 years ago today that Delaware — my home state — became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution:
We deputies of the people of the Delaware state, in Convention met, having taken in our serious consideration the Federal Constitution proposed and agreed upon by the deputies of the United States in a General Convention held at the city of Philadelphia, on the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, have approved, assented to, ratified, and confirmed, and by these presents do, in virtue of the power and authority to us given, for and in behalf of ourselves and our constituents, fully, freely, and entirely approve of, assent to, ratify, and confirm, the said Constitution.

Done in Convention, at Dover, this seventh day of December, in the year aforesaid, and in the year of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth.

It is a shame that December 7th is remembered as a dark day when America was attacked, when it could be seen as a bright day in our history, the beginning of constitutional ratification.

"In the year of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth" — is an interesting phrase. Was there ever an effort to begin numbering the years beginning with the revolution (as was done for a time in France)?

ADDED: Other Delaware natives appreciate Delaware Day.

"There is a certain artistry to writing a post for a blog, and I had carefully woven in (self-effacing) references to calcified hippies"..."

Said Paul Soglin — Madison's former mayor, after blogging that people who bike on the streets in the snow should be shot. You might think it was a strange thing to write just as a teacher elsewhere in Wisconsin was getting arrested for writing that teachers should be shot. Soglin and the teacher (James Buss) were — to their own way of thinking — wielding that thing we call humor, but not everyone can hear the humor in writing and some people have a sharp ear for hearing hostility in the humor. Soglin actually intended his comment to be understood as a reference to the notorious Buss bust: "I thought this would be a subtle way of linking together all of us in the cheddarsphere." Subtle, after Buss was arrested when people didn't get his joke? I guess arrests aren't much of a deterrent. Not only did Soglin feel free to jokingly recommend shooting people, but his commenters felt free to recommend that Soglin be shot:
Fat, grumpy, intolerant ex-mayors ought to be shot. Get some exercise, asshole.

The blogosphere is talking to me.

First this. And now this.

"Beyond their lack of intelligence value... and the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them, the tapes posed a security risk."

CIA Director Michael H. Hayden tries to explain the destruction of the tapes showing the harsh interrogation techniques.
"Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them to and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and it sympathizers."

December 6, 2007

"Is the administration just washing its hands of the intractable Iranian nuclear issue by saying, 'If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke'?"

I'm terribly busy now on the last day of the semester, but I still feel remiss at not linking to this NYT op-ed by my old colleague Gary Milhollin (with Valerie Lincy).

"Instead of alerting management".... she decided "to take a picture of the unorthodox sign and post it on the Internet."

Imagine that!

Here's the LiveJournal page in question:
I'm sort of staring at the meat display, lots of salamis and sausages, and then various hams. And the hams' price signs have all been tagged with festive PERFECT FOR CHANUKAH banners. Which I blinked at for a couple of secs, trying to decide if this was an example of truly monumental cluelessness or ... nah. It's just the Department of Monumental Cluelessness, Well-Meaning Division.
Click the link for the luscious photos.

Anyway, get used to it, stores. Your customers have cameras and access to the internet. If you post some ridiculous sign, you're going to get embarrassed on the internet.

Or do you think this represents the erosion of civilization? Why couldn't Nancy Kay Shapiro simply talk to the people at Balducci's? What ever happened to face-to-face relationships? Eh... I take pictures of any funny signs I see.

"Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week."

"Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the 'intelligence community' on issues such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly."

Writes former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton.

A frightening mix of bodily fluids.

Former Bush communications adviser Dan Bartlett talks about blogs:
What about the blogs?

We had to set up a whole new apparatus to deal with the challenges they pose. Are they real journalists? ...

... If one of those journalists-turned-bloggers, Chris Cillizza, e-mails you to say he needs an interview, and at the same time one of the Post’s print reporters—say, Dan Balz—e-mails you and says he needs an interview, and you can do only one . . .

Balz.

Because the print edition of the Post has more of an impact?

Because Balz is on multiple platforms. He’s booked more easily on television. He’s read by more people. He influences people a bit more. Now, the question might not be as much Chris versus Dan as maybe, “Is it Dan Balz or one of the guys at [the conservative blog] Power Line?”

Yeah, or what if [conservative blogger] Hugh Hewitt called?

That’s when you start going, “Hmm . . .” Because they do reach people who are influential.

Well, they reach the president’s base.

That’s what I mean by influential. I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.
Please don't regurgitate into the IV.

"We welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Mitt Romney gives his religion talk, emphasizing the value of diversity and the general good of religion and putting the discussion of particular religious doctrines off limits.

I think this was all fairly well put, though there is some unfortunate exclusion of people who have no religion:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
If he means that to be free we must as a nation accept freedom and diversity of religion, that is fine. But if he means that one must be religious in order to be free, he is quite wrong.

He strongly states that a candidate for office should not have to explain or defend the doctrines of his religion, and he equates such a requirement with violating the constitutional proscription of religious tests. But are we really forbidden to take into account that we think a candidate's religion is too bizarre or too evil for a competent, reliable person to align with? What if the candidate were a Satanist or a Scientologist? Would we just put that to the side lest we violate the ban on religious tests?

It's not as though there is a statute disqualifying a member of a particular sect — which would clearly violate the ban on religious tests. To consider the candidate's religion is to look at the whole person and to try to make a judgment about whether he'd make a good President. Isn't it similar to looking at a candidate's personal life and judging him? Romney wants us to think about his seemingly — presumably — admirable family, even though having a solid family life is not a requirement for the presidency. It says something about his judgment and emotional stability.

But the fact is, we don't think much about the beliefs of the traditional mainstream religions, and there is an issue here as to whether Mormonism will receive the same treatment and not be classified with religions like Satanism and Scientology that the great majority of voters would see as a huge and probably insuperable barrier. Romney expects us to recognize Mormonism as one of the mainstream religions that provide a foundation in life for intelligent, responsible individuals who are worthy of our trust. I think we should do that, but we should also see that he is declining to participate in the debate about why we should. In so declining, he showed good judgment. There is absolutely no reason why he should engage in the obvious problem that I am raising in this paragraph. He'd be an inept candidate if he did.

"You can not be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination."

And so the Boy Scouts lose their almost-free lease on land owned by the city of Philadelphia. You can discriminate against gay people — the Supreme Court said they could in Boy Scouts v. Dale — but you can't discriminate and expect to maintain your hold on the city's property.

The Boy Scouts have their values:
"Since we were founded, we believe that open homosexuality would be inconsistent with the values that we want to communicate with our leaders," said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts. "A belief in God is also mentioned in the Scout oath. We believe that those values are important. Tradition is important. Our mission is to instill those values in scouts and help them make good choices over their lifetimes."
The sad part is that to pay the $200,000 a year rent (instead of the subsidized $1 a year), the Boy Scouts would need to cut its services, which are obviously highly desirable to the city:
“With an epidemic of gun violence taking the lives of children almost daily in this city, it’s ironic that this administration chose to destroy programming that services thousands of children in the city,” Mr. Jubelirer said. He added that the organization serves more than 69,000 young people, mostly from the inner city, and that its programming focuses on mentoring and after-school programs instead of camping trips.

And the city will not only lose valuable services, but will probably need to pay millions to the Boy Scouts to reimburse it for the elaborate Beaux Arts building that the Boy Scouts built and improved over the years. What a terrible loss all around.

December 5, 2007

Just in time for the election, Michael Newdow's "Under God" lawsuit is back, along with a challenge to "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency.

"I want to be treated equally," said Michael Newdow yesterday, as he argued 2 cases consecutively to a 9th Circuit panel. He's the atheist who challenged "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance around the time of the last presidential election only to lose in the Supreme Court on a rather innovative interpretation of standing. (Somehow the state court's decision that the mother had custody and did not want the daughter involved in the lawsuit deprived him of a sufficient interest in what the state taught the daughter about her father's beliefs.) But, in time to inject the issue into the new presidential campaign, he found other parents and he's suing on their behalf. So the first of his 2 cases is the Pledge challenge revived. The second case challenges the strange but familiar practice of stamping the motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins.
Terence Cassidy, a lawyer for the school district, argued Tuesday that reciting the pledge is simply a "patriotic exercise" and a reminder of the traditions of the U.S.

"How is pledging allegiance to a nation under God not a religious act?" Judge Dorothy W. Nelson asked. Cassidy said the pledge has religious elements but is not a religious exercise.

Newdow said the pledge has "tons of religious significance. That's why everyone gets so angry when we talk about ... taking it out."

Nelson asked Cassidy whether removing the words "under God" would make the pledge any less patriotic.

"Not necessarily," he replied, arguing it provided a historical context, not a religious one.
In the money case, the Justice Department lawyer also pushed the God-as-patriotism notion.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt indicated support for Newdow's position.

The "In God We Trust" motto "affects Mr. Newdow every moment of his life," Reinhardt said. "The government has no compelling interest to put a slogan on a dollar bill."
I'm almost certain that if the 9th Circuit agrees with Newdow, the Supreme Court will accept the generic "God" that has become such a familiar presence in the Pledge and on the coins. There will be talk of history and the phrase "ceremonial deism" will be thrown about and the controversy will be packed away and reshelved for a generation.

What will be interesting however, will be to see the various presidential candidates needled over this issue, because this is exactly the kind of thing that people get all excited about (even though it has nothing really to do with running the country). It was troublesome in 2004. (I think the Supreme Court majority that disposed of the case by concocting a new standing doctrine did John Kerry a great favor 4 months before the election.) It's irritating to see this issue rearing up now.

"Standing in bloody water... supervisors yelling when she didn't slime fast enough."

Hillary's worst job.

About that teacher arrested for a blog comment.

BUMPED: Good news: "Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens says he believes the comment left by James Buss was disgusting but is protected under the First Amendment."

ORIGINAL POST:

Here's something more on the Wisconsin teacher — James Buss — who was arrested for a blog comment that some read as recommending that teachers be shot. We discussed this a few days ago here.

In the new story, we see the ACLU and UW polisci professor Donald Downs urging that no charges be filed:
Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens is considering whether to charge Buss with disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communication systems.

"If you look at all the factors in this case, it's pretty clear it would be a mistake to charge," said Larry Dupuis, legal director of The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. "At worst, it was somebody expressing admiration for somebody who did something reprehensible. But the more reasonable explanation is this is somebody who is trying to mock the conservative view of teacher salaries."

Police Capt. Toby Netko defended the arrest. He said the teacher who complained was disturbed by the reference to "one shot at a time" and other educators agreed it was a threat.

"What happens when you say bomb in an airport? That's free speech, isn't it?" he said. "And people are taken into custody for that all the time."

Donald Downs, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and expert in free speech, said that "all sorts of unsavory, controversial speech" are protected by the First Amendment.

"It has to be intended to incite violence" to be illegal, Downs said. "If it's tongue-in-cheek, there's virtually no way they can claim that."

Downs added, however, that the school district might have legal grounds to discipline Buss. The teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave while his school district considers what action to take.

Buss tried for sarcasm, but not everyone gets a joke. Oddly enough, he himself was in the category of persons who are threatened, if it's a threat. Why wasn't he more worried about inspiring a troubled student to attack teachers? Probably, like many writers, he assumed people would understand his writing. But not even the other teachers understood it. That's all quite unfortunate.

Now, let me be clear about one thing — sledgehammer clear — so that no one can misread this: The man should not be charged with a crime.

And let no one think I will be coming 'round with a real sledgehammer.

UPDATE: As indicated above, the decision was made not to prosecute. Here, Buss explains himself:
Buss told police he "just wanted to see if the hate towards teachers from other posters was so strong that other posters would endorse my facetious post," the report says....

Buss, who in a statement described himself as politically "moderate," told police he misspelled words and used incorrect grammar and punctuation to enhance his characterization of "Observer" as "a right-wing zealot."

Buss told police that he did not intend his post, which he called "mischievous," as a threat, but he understood how someone could perceive it as "advocating a Columbine-like attack on schools." Buss said he posted comments on the Web site under two other names, "Jeff" and "Ditto."

"It's Ellen! I wanted to say hi to Daddy!"

Daddy = President Bush.

"The image of a spider monkey beating on a skull with femur bones... implied that there are hallucinogenic, mind-altering or psychotropic qualities."

Isn't it odd that the U.S. Treasury Department opines about such things?

Will this doom the Huckabee campaign?

It should.

ADDED: Am I being too harsh?

Boumediene: the Supreme Court and the Guantanamo detainees.

The Supreme Court hears oral argument today in Boumediene v. Bush. You can find the issues explained and debated very ably here by Timothy Lynch, Brad Berenson, Andrew McBride, and Marty Lederman. Berenson:
[I]n Boumedienne, the President is not claiming unilateral authority; he has worked with the other political branch of government to produce statutory law regulating the rights of Guantanamo detainees. Nor does the MCA purport to oust the jurisdiction of the courts. Although it eliminates the formal habeas corpus remedy, it substitutes in its place a new procedural regime, whereby Gauntanamo detainees get judicial review of the lawfulness and evidentiary basis for their detentions in the D.C. Circuit (and, as a discretionary matter, in the U.S. Supreme Court).
More on the oral argument later.

ADDED: SCOTUSblog is heavily covering the story. The oral argument is about to play here on C-Span3. And here's an early report of the argument:
A lawyer for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay underwent a barrage of questions Wednesday from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, with the attorney portraying the case as a fundamental test of the U.S. system of justice....
UPDATE: You can listen at the C-Span link now.

MORE: Here's Marty Lederman's view of the argument. And here's the MP3 of the oral argument at Oyez.

AND: I was especially struck by Justice Breyer, speaking from 50:44 to 52:51.

Hitchens hates Hanukkah.

You already know why if you've read his book "God Is Not Great," but he spells it out here in Slate. Excerpt:
When the fanatics of Palestine won that victory, and when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded.

And, of course and as ever, one stands aghast at the pathetic scale of the supposed "miracle." As a consequence of the successful Maccabean revolt against Hellenism, so it is said, a puddle of olive oil that should have lasted only for one day managed to burn for eight days. Wow! Certain proof, not just of an Almighty, but of an Almighty with a special fondness for fundamentalists. Epicurus and Democritus had brilliantly discovered that the world was made up of atoms, but who cares about a mere fact like that when there is miraculous oil to be goggled at by credulous peasants?

"I am scared to death right now. I am not going to see my wife. She is the only thing that means anything to me. I am a nobody right now."

Said Stephan Thomas Calewarts - also known as Stephanie Tia Calewarts. A court has refused to change his birth certificate to designate him as "male," as it had originally read. Calewarts was born with what is called “ambiguous genitalia,” and, after surgery, had his birth certificate changed to read "female." After marrying a woman, he sought to have it changed back to male, and lost, and because the woman is not an American citizen, the invalidity of his marriage means that his relationship to her is insufficient to earn her permission to stay in the country.

Unfortunately, he lost in Wisconsin state court because he's challenging an earlier court order from which he did not appeal.
He had surgery in July 1999 to remove his testicles and after gender reassignment surgery in Montreal in 2000, asked for his birth certificate to be changed to female, court records said.

“I thought I was going to have two birth certificates. One of each. Big deal. I was born with two genders,” Mr Calewarts said today.

“I can’t have sexual intercourse because nothing works.”

December 4, 2007

"The 2nd Annual Worst Quotes From The Daily Kos (2007 Edition)."

Jack Hawkins makes his selection. You know, I used to go over to see what was going on on that hugely popular blog, and I would find things I could write about here. But I gave up looking because I encountered too many unfamiliar names writing things that seemed like they belonged buried deep in the comments. Why did I care what these people were writing? Who are all these "diarists"? I didn't see the point of critiquing what they wrote. Where's Kos?

(What would my blog be like if I chose commenters I liked and gave them access to the front page? Now, it might be really good. But it would be an altogether different blog.)

Let's see what 10 things Jack came up with:
9) ... So, is the argument that Jesus didn't have a d*ck?" -- Cenk Uygur
Okay, I cut most of the quote, because it was just dumb meandering about a chocolate Jesus and why are people so uptight about it. It reads like a transcript of a high schooler's late-night YouTube. I'll just turn on the camera and see what comes out. Presumably, "Cenk Uygur" is the name or pen name of the person doing the typing. Who cares?

I switch to skimming:
... sallykohn

... Archangel M

... rainmanjr

... slw0606

... GreyHawk

... bluedogtxn

... Granny Doc

1) "... A man’s killing list is a very personal matter. It should be between him and those persistent voices in his head. So to sum up, I don’t like our troops, I don’t like what they’re doing, I don’t like their fat, whining families, and yet, I support them. Thank God I live in a free country. Thank You." -- AWhitneyBrown
Who are they? What's going on over there on Daily Kos? As I said, I don't read it anymore.

UPDATE: I'm criticized in the comments — and on other blogs — for failing to understand the Kos website. If that's your criticism, my criticism of you is that you've failed to understand this post. My point is that the site has become cluttered and uninviting to someone who isn't into cozying up inside the group. I don't want to figure it out. I saw Jack's post, and my response to it is that I have no idea whether the writers he picked out are ones who are supposed to count or not. And I don't know whether AWhitneyBrown is the person who used to be on "Saturday Night Live" or someone appropriating his name.

Eat chocolate, have sex, and don't diet.

For your brain.

"The tiny bitch was whisked away under an assumed name after receiving about 20 threats."

Yes, exactly. So says the BBC.

Dustless black pepper.

Shoot the cat?

Feral cats... and the people who insist on protecting them.
“From an animal-welfare perspective, confining cats and shooting the cat, in the Galveston example, is wrong,” says J. Baird Callicott, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas. Callicott, a past president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, taught one of the nation’s first environmental ethics courses in 1971. He went on to say, however, that “from an environmental-ethics perspective it’s right, because a whole species is at stake. Personally, I think environmental ethics should trump animal-welfare ethics. But just as personally, animal-welfare ethicists think the opposite.”

Out of curiosity, I boiled down the Jim Stevenson case and sent it to a few environmental-ethics professors. Most agreed with Callicott: Shoot the cat.

“You’re trading a feral cat, an exotic animal that doesn’t belong naturally on the landscape, against piping plovers, which evolved as natural fits in that environment,” reasons Holmes Rolston III, a Colorado State University professor who is considered one of the deans of American environmental philosophy. “And it trades an endangered species, piping plovers, against cats, which as a species are in no danger whatsoever. Suffering — the pain of the cat versus the pain of the plover eaten by the cat — is irrelevant in this case.”

Much more at the link. We previously discussed the Jim Stevenson case here.

"President Bush got the world's attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III."

"But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program."

So: Bush is devious and incompetent? Or: Bush's public statements were part of what has been a brilliant strategy for controlling Iran?
Critics seized on the new National Intelligence Estimate to lambaste what Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards called "George Bush and Dick Cheney's rush to war with Iran." Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), echoing other Democrats, called for "a diplomatic surge" to resolve the dispute with Tehran. Jon Wolfsthal, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, termed the revelation "a blockbuster development" that "requires a wholesale reevaluation of U.S. policy."

But the White House said the report vindicated its concerns because it concluded that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program until halting it in 2003 and it showed that U.S.-led diplomatic pressure had succeeded in forcing Tehran's hand. "On balance, the estimate is good news," said national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. "On the one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen."
Is anyone switching sides over this? You can read the spin elsewhere. I'm just putting up this post so you won't keep talking about this in the comments to other posts. 

I feel I have nothing I can contribute at this point. I don't understand why reports like this come out when they do, in the form they do or how these things play behind the scenes and are coordinated with the President's public statements. I'd like to see some expert discussion about that. Let me know if you see any.

Let's take a closer look at that pink urinal.



Remember the controversy over the University of Iowa's pink locker room for the visiting teams — the men's teams? I blogged about it back in 2005 when the feminist critique of it first made the news. It's flaring up again because of a threatened lawsuit:
More than a quarter century ago at the University of Iowa, the legendary football coach Hayden Fry decided to paint the visiting locker room pink as a psychological strategy, so the story goes, intended to calm opponents and curb aggression. After the university rebuilt its pink locker room in 2005 as part of a $90 million stadium renovation project, two then-law professors who objected that the color scheme carries demeaning implications for women sparked an intense and often ugly national debate involving death threats and hate mail...

After protesting the pink locker room at a Hawkeye home game in November, Jill Gaulding plans to file a complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions, now that a new Iowa presidential administration is in place.

“I don’t think this is about Hayden Fry or his intention in the 1980s; I think this is about how people understand the locker room in 2007,” said Gaulding, who has since left Iowa and now practices employment discrimination law in Minnesota. “This [is] understood as a funny version of the slur that goes on in athletics about playing like a girl, playing like a sissy” — and worse, she said, the university has perpetuated the insult in “a very official, permanent way.”

“It’s based on a concept of gender hierarchy that says not only are boys and girls different, but more important it’s better to be a boy than a girl; it’s shameful to be a girl,” said Gaulding, who is researching a book on cognitive bias and gender discrimination. “Anyone who’s not deeply in denial understands and acknowledges that the pink locker room taps into this very long tradition of using gender as a put-down.”

I think these feminist insights are interesting (if exaggerated), but taking legal action is utterly polarizing. This is the kind of emotional yet subtle issue that requires conversation and debate. But everyone you need to talk to will clam up when they hear you're about to sue them. Feminism is a cause that proceeds by winning over people's minds. Lawsuits can be a part of that process, but you have to be savvy about when to litigate and when to use writing and talk to persuade and cajole (or to shame and denounce). 

The reporter, Elizabeth Redding, called me because of my 2005 blog post, and I'm quoted in her story. The old blog post produced a great comments thread back then, but feel free to revive the conversation here.

***

Through Redding, I heard of this other controversy at the University of Virginia. I don't know why I missed it, because this is exactly the sort of thing I look for:
After a Cavalier touchdown, the marching band strikes up what, to an outsider, sounds like “Auld Lang Syne.” But, to its tune, students and alumni sing the “Good Old Song,” its lyrics written by Edward A. Craighill in 1895, its mention of all being “bright and gay” a throwback to when “gay” meant “happy,” the line a launching pad for what’s since become a university tradition of negating the word “gay” with gleeful (often drunken) shouts of “not gay!”

When Redding told me about this on the phone, I laughed out loud. I'm no homophobe, as any reader of this blog knows, but I found this funny. On further reflection, I said I thought it all depended on the context. What is life like for gay students at the University of Virginia? Do they feel like outsiders and does the cheer sound threatening, or does it sound the way it sounds to me: completely silly? I pictured good-natured straight students spoofing the old fear of being thought gay, the way someone might intone Larry Craig's "I am not gay" for laughs.
At the University of Virginia, steeped as it is in tradition, a student-led campaign this semester has applied peer pressure to encourage students to rethink the ritual. “Essentially,” said Stephen Leonelli, president of the Queer and Allied Activism group at Virginia, “we believe that it marginalizes the gay community by creating an environment in which certain people who may or may not identify as gay do not feel welcome.”

The campaign has sparked a fury of letters and opinion pieces in the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, with the latest opinion piece, on Wednesday, defending the “not gay” chant and criticizing a culture of political correctness and liberal groupthink. “I’m just expressing my religiously informed political views that it’s wrong to act homosexual,” Alex Cortes, a first-year student and the writer of “Not gay and proud of it,” said in an interview Wednesday.
Eh... 

If Cortes is representative, then the straight students aren't as cool and fun-loving as I'd instinctively pictured them. (I love students!) And if Lionelli is representative, then the gay students are not in on the fun. But for all I know, Leonelli and Cortes are anomalous activists pushing their political agendas and with little feeling for the campus culture.

"I went out there to have a bit of an adventure and got more of an adventure than I bargained for."

The charm of understatement.

December 3, 2007

Anchor in the snow.

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On Montague Street. Sunday morning.

"You’ll learn lip-o-suction, the music kiss, the Trobriand Islands kiss, and many more."

Kissing lessons. Only $155.
• You’ll master the counterkiss, one of the most important kissing skills.
• You’ll learn to kiss for the sake of kissing.
• You’ll enjoy kissing more....
The counterkiss.... You wouldn't want to fail to retaliate.
Keep in mind that this is a great gift for teens. Parents can order the lesson for a child who they want to learn how to kiss.
Uh, thanks, Mom.
Or it is a great gift to give your significant other.
It says so much.
Imagine being able to boast to your friends that you completed a kissing course with the world’s leading authority on kissing, author of The Art of Kissing. People will be lining up to kiss you! And ultimately the kissing lesson is more entertaining that a night at the theater.
People will be lining up to kiss you... That's just scary.
Q. Does the kissing doctor come to my home or must I go to his office?

A. No house calls. Lessons are only available in his office...
FYI, he's in Jersey City.

No, I wasn't looking for kissing lessons. And I'm really not looking for kissing lessons now. I was just reading CNN.

Is this offensive?

In 1990, there would be no end of outrage over something like this. But it seems that it's considered a good gift for fans of Hillary Clinton, because Amazon has it paired with a Bush out-of-office countdown calendar. It's also #1 on the Amazon Kitchen and Dining bestseller list

New York, December, midday.

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"You can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say ... you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic..."

Mobyism.

ADDED: Sorry to link mystifyingly to something so old! I saw the link in the comments in this post from Saturday, where we're talking about the teacher in Wisconsin who got arrested for posing as a right-winger and saying that teachers ought to be shot. Michael wondered if anyone had seen Moby lately.

"$perm wail by donor."

Jokey NY Post headline for a case that poses a serious question: Is this the punishment of a good deed or the proper respect for the child?
A sperm donor who sent gifts signed "Dad" to his biological son has been slapped with a child-support order, 18 years after helping his friend get pregnant.

The Nassau County man donated his sperm to a work colleague, and included his name on the child's birth certificate, saying it would give the boy an identity, courts documents revealed.

He then blurred the lines between donor and full-time father by sending money, presents and cards signed "Dad" and "Daddy," and having phone chats with the now college-bound teen.

But the man's goodwill backfired: A court ruling says he is now liable for financial support of the 18-year-old, who lives with his mother in Oregon.
It seems that you can be either a sperm donor or a father, but if you go into the gray zone between the two, the child gets a father.
"He was assured that he would have no responsibility on his part and of course 18 years has elapsed where there hasn't been responsibility," [the man's lawyer] said.
Assured? By whom? Surely not by the baby — unborn or born — and not by the little boy who was led to think he had a daddy.
"He did not anticipate this would happen now, when the child is almost an adult, that the mother would come forward for child support."
Did not anticipate that an 18-year-old would perceive a strong need for money and remember that there was a man — a doctor — who called himself Daddy? Just outright forgot about the whole notion of college? Never contemplated the prospect that the boy would develop a mind of his own and be capable of analyzing his own needs and interests?

ADDED: Meanwhile, in the UK:
[Andy] Bathie, a fireman from Enfield, north London, said ... "These women wanted to be parents and take on all the responsibilities that brings. I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family. And now I can't afford to have children with my own wife - it's crippling me financially"....

"We would warn men providing genetic material that the only time they are not the father is when they donate through a licensed fertility clinic. This does not apply to unlicensed websites or home insemination."

Did you watch that Democratic debate, you know, the rich-folks-only debate?

Eric Scheie agrees to cover a debate for Pajamas Media only to discover that it's not going to be so easy to watch it:
Thinking I must be crazy or just stupid (for the Democrats would never hold a debate on a channel that wasn’t generally available to the public, would they?) I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with the controls looking for [HDNet]....

As it turns out, the only way to get this channel is to upgrade my monthly service to “HD TV,” (plus pay an extra charge for “special” channels like HDNet), but that even then my existing equipment (which I paid for and had installed) would not work. To actually receive the new signal, I would have to buy a new receiver, and on top of that I’d have to buy a new satellite dish, have old one yanked off the wall and the new one installed!
Ha ha. You know I have an HD TV, and I pay for cable plus extra for HD service, but I still don't get HDNet, because it's extra extra. So I was 2 steps closer than Eric to being able to watch it, but I still couldn't watch it.
So, the Democratic Party — the party of the working class — is broadcasting tonight’s debate from an elitist network run by billionaire Mark Cuban that requires expensive equipment and high monthly charges to access.

What’s up with that? Is this a signal that despite the egalitarian rhetoric, that they’re actually the party of the rich and famous? Imagine the outcry if the GOP broadcast its debate from fancy network that ordinary people couldn’t access. There’d be cries that the Republicans were in a “gated community.”
And, amusingly enough, it's where you have to go to watch Dan Rather.

Eric decides to "blind-blog" the debate:
I couldn’t watch it, and so I can’t tell you what the questions or the answers were. But here’s what I think probably happened.

Hillary won, hands down....

John McCain to Don Imus: "Glad to have you back."

In case you were wondering whether Imus would still be able to get prominent political figures on his show.

And who should be most afraid? Hint: a quote from today's show:
"Not much has changed. Dick Cheney is still a war criminal, Hillary Clinton is still Satan and I'm back on the radio!"

And the answer isn't Dick Cheney.

"I just had never been treated like that by a man before."

Says David Phillips, describing what he says was a sexual encounter with Larry Craig in one of a series of audio clips presented by The Idaho Statesman in an article titled "More gay men describe sexual encounters with U.S. Sen. Craig." In the third audio clip, Phillips has Craig giving him a $20 bill and telling him to keep quiet because he can "buy and sell your ass a thousand times over" — which is odd, since $20 is not a display of wealth and is an insulting amount of money if it's supposed to be paying for sex. Phillips sounds sympathetic and sincere as he talks about feeling humiliated 20 years ago.

If Phillips is telling the truth, then, on top of it all, Craig was an inconsiderate sexual partner. Not that that is a reason one ought to have to resign from the Senate. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if it was.

"This has certainly given ammunition to those who never miss an opportunity to portray Muslims as intolerant."

Said Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. "This case has done quite a bit of damage to how the Sudanese government will be perceived; they have done their country no favors."

He was commenting on news of the pardon of Gillian Gibbons, the British woman imprisoned for allowing her schoolchildren to name the class teddy bear Muhammad.

"He wants a blank check, and that's impossible. We're not stupid like he thinks. It's that simple. There are conscious, thinking people here, too."

Says Venezuela says no to Hugo Chavez:
Venezuelan voters delivered a stinging defeat to President Hugo Chávez on Sunday, blocking proposed constitutional changes that would have given him political supremacy and accelerated the transformation of this oil-rich country into a socialist state....

The victory for the "No" vote represents the first electoral setback for Chávez, 53, a former lieutenant colonel who won the presidency in a 1998 landslide and, until now, had trounced his opponents in one referendum and presidential election after another.
To phrase it like a Spanish king, they told him to shut up.

December 2, 2007

"He sees an opening right now to move the law toward what the conservative movement wants..."

"...and you never know whether that opening will last." Says Anthony Lewis about Chief Justice John Roberts. He's reviewing Jeffrey Toobin's "The Nine" in The New York Review of Books.

It's a rank slur on the Chief Justice.

Blue snow morning.

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"Mike Huckabee has leaped ahead..."

The Iowans are falling in love with the mild-mannered Arkansan.

Frank Rich promotes Barack Obama.

Also in today's Times, Frank Rich promotes Obama:
By telling an Iowa audience on Tuesday night that he had opposed the Iraq war “from the beginning,” Bill Clinton committed a double pratfall. Not only did he refocus attention on his wife’s most hazardous issue, Iraq, just as it was receding as the nation’s Topic A, but he also revived unhappy memories of the truth-dodging nadirs of the Clinton White House.

Whatever his caveats, Mr. Clinton did not explicitly oppose the Iraq war from the beginning. But Al Gore did unequivocally and loudly in a public speech before the beginning, as did an obscure Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. What if Mrs. Clinton had led an insurrection against the war authorization in the Senate? Might she have helped impede America’s rush into one of the greatest fiascos in our history?
Rich thinks Obama would be a more formidable match for the Republican candidate:
[T]he Republicans have fallen into a trap by continuing to cling to the Hillary-is-inevitable trope. They have not allowed themselves to think the unthinkable — that they might need a Plan B to go up against a candidate who is not she. It’s far from clear that they would remotely know how to construct a Plan B to counter Mr. Obama...

Part of the Republicans’ difficulty in countering Mr. Obama, should they have to, is their own cynical racial politics. For the most part, race has been the dog that hasn’t barked in this campaign despite the (largely) white press’s endless fretting about whether the Illinois senator is too white for black voters and too black for white voters....

An Obama candidacy would force them to engage. Or try to. A matchup between Mr. Obama and Mr. Giuliani, who was forged in the racial crucible of New York’s police brutality nightmares of the 1990s, or between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney, who was shaped by a religion that didn’t give blacks equal membership until 1978, would be less a clash of races than of centuries.

Oh, yeah, go after Romney because he professes a religion that had a defect that it eradicated 3 decades ago. That will be wonderfully effective and a stunning display of enlightenment. Don't we all want to see how much religious and racial discord the 2 parties can stir up and leverage in their lust for power?

Can someone please ask Obama how he likes Rich's vision?

***

Maureen Dowd's column is about Obama too. But she's not really promoting him. She's up to something else.

Barack Obama "is trying to turn years of feminist thinking on its head and argue that the best candidate for women may, in fact, be a man."

Robin Toner effuses on the front page of today's NYT. Never mind that John Edwards played exactly that theme a couple months ago. Obama is the one designated for Timesglow.

It's Sunday, so pour it on:
The pitch for Mr. Obama, in a new video, speeches and talking points aimed at women, presents him as deeply sensitized to the needs and aspirations of women, raised by a single mother, “a man comfortable with strong women in his life,” as his wife, Michelle Obama, puts it, and a man committed to the issues they care about.
In other words, he's pandering in utterly banal terms that apply just as well to most of the other candidates.
The breakthrough nature of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy has a powerful appeal for many women...
Count me out. I think she's popular with women because they adore her husband — who's deeply sensitized to the needs and aspirations of women blah blah blah — and she's what she is because of him.
But even as [Obama] pursues a first of his own — a black president — Mr. Obama, like the rest of the field, has little choice but to compete for women’s votes; 54 percent of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa four years ago were women, as were 54 percent of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire.

Around the country, but especially in the early voting states, many of these women are engaged in a complicated conversation, with a hunger to make history often pushing them in one direction while more conventional considerations, like a candidate’s stand on the war in Iraq, pushing them in another.
Can someone please verify that the support for Hillary represents "a hunger to make history"? I don't believe it... unless the "history" in question is: first President to make an end run around the 22nd Amendment.

Eventually, the Times around to John Edwards:
The gender factor is rarely addressed head-on by Mrs. Clinton’s rivals.

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Senator John Edwards, was a notable exception when she told Salon.com last summer that Mrs. Clinton was “just not as vocal a woman’s advocate as I want to see” and relied too much on her sex as a rationale for her candidacy. But in less-noticed, more subtle ways, rival campaigns are advancing the argument that it is acceptable for a woman, even a feminist, to back someone other than the woman.
So Barack Obama is “a man comfortable with strong women in his life,” but Elizabeth Edwards represents her husband's failure to take the gender issue head on? Come on, that was way down in the article. You weren't supposed to perceive an inconsistency or even to read that far. Edwards is not designated for Timesglow.

6 a.m.

There's something special at 6 o'clock in the morning...

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... when it's still to early to go to Starbucks...

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... because it's Sunday, and they don't open until 6:30 on Sundays, and the door's unlocked, but when you go in, they say "We're not open." It's 6:11, and you're a woman alone. Outside, it's snowing and there's not yet a hint of dawn. It seemed beautiful when I stepped outside my building a few moments earlier, saw the first snow of the season and took those pictures, but now, it seems really sad and lonely. The barista can't say, "Please, take a seat, and I can serve you when it's 6:30," and she doesn't think to say, "I know we're usually open at 6, but not on Sunday... I'm really sorry." She just glares at me, and I see I'm a trespasser. I must retreat into the night. I could walk back to my apartment, and I would if only the WiFi weren't malfunctioning again. I could go walk on the Promenade, take some more pictures, but does a woman walk alone in the dark on the Promenade?

My exile in New York continues....

Eventually, I get a wisp of happiness from a doggywog....

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I think about home...

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