March 15, 2008

Lake Mendota, today — fishing, kiting.

This is what's going on out in back of the Pyle Center, where I'm attending a law-race-feminism conference:

Ice on Lake Medota

Ice on Lake Medota

Blind item: What self-styled "feminist law professor" is trashing my blog because I'm blogging this conference? Hello? We're honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and you're not here.

"Feminist theory offers students a way to think about gender as performance."

In college, performing gender.
"Some transmen want to be seen as men — they want to be accepted as born men. I want to be accepted as a transman — my brain is not gendered. There’s this crazy gender binary that’s built into all of life, that there are just two genders that are acceptable. I don’t want to have to fit into that."

Self-censorship for censorship.

A pro-Hillary DailyKos diarist is unhappy with the anti-Hillary Kos diarists and announces that he's not going to write until the administrators impose discipline. Silence to get other people to shut up? Does that ever work? Passive aggressive insistence on censorship? That's not very attractive.

"There once were two cats of Kilkenny/Each thought there was one cat too many..."

"So they fought and they fit, and they scratched and they bit/Till excepting their nails and the tips of their tails/Instead of two cats there weren't any."

Are Hillary and Barack taking each other out?

Asifa Quraishi: “Western feminists have lost opportunities to work with - rather than against - Islam and Muslim women."

At the Wisconsin Law School feminism conference, I'm listening to Wisconsin lawprof Asifa Quraishi. You can click on the link to the abstract of her paper here. Excerpt:
[Muslim women] are are a topic of feminist attention because Islam itself is considered to be a primary problem standing in the way of feminist work. More and more, Muslim women in my world feel the irony that dominant western feminism simultaneously ignores us and is obsessed with us. It is an attitude that echoes the colonialist mind.
Asifa finds and stresses the parts of the Islamic tradition that serve the interests of women and that make a stronger basis for arguments to people in Muslim countries than Western-style feminism and criticisms of Islam.

She asks: Why is the veil so important to Westerners? Aren't you subordinating Muslim women when you impose your interpretation that it symbolizes subordination? She says there could be an interpretation that veiling is empowering. Moreover, there is an Islamic tradition that can be understood to give women personal choice about covering her head.

Asifa is wearing a headscarf as she says this, and she talks about how she is perceived by Muslims and western feminists when she's wearing it. Then she removes the scarf and asks us if we now hear what she is saying differently. Something is gained and something is lost either wearing the scarf or not wearing the scarf — and she's seen this and struggled with it since she was a girl.

"Transgressive caregiving" and a view of a frozen lake.

At the race-and-feminism conference this morning, I'm sitting next to a huge window, with this view of Lake Mendota:


Ah! The warmth of home!

I'm listing to Utah lawprof Laura Kessler read from a paper about "Transgressive Caregiving." Transgressive caregiving? It sounds alarming. From her paper:
Can unpaid family caregiving be a form of political resistance or expression? I argue that it can, especially when done by people ordinarily denied the privilege of family privacy by the state. Unlike feminists from other disciplines, feminist and queer theorists within law have largely overlooked this aspect of caregiving, regarding unpaid family labor as a source of gender-based oppression or as an undervalued public good. Consequently, prominent feminist and queer theorists within law have set their sights on employment or sexual freedom as more promising sources of emancipation for women.

This book examines a less well-explored conception of family caregiving within law, revealing the way that family caregiving can be a liberating practice for caregivers. Specifically, sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies, including the family, workplace, and state, as well as patriarchy, racism, and homophobia. I label such political work “transgressive caregiving” and locate it most centrally—although not exclusively—in the care work of ethnic and racial minorities, gays and lesbians, and heterosexual men, whose family caregiving practices are the focus of the book.
Sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies.... Discuss!

ADDED: You can download Laura Kessler's article here.

Race and religion, Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas.

It's 3 a.m. ... And Ruth Anne Adams — commenter extraordinaire, historian of the Althouse blog, and Maternal Optimist blogger — is sending me email:
I spent a good bit of time reading the thread and the comments ["Barack Obama responds to the criticism over Jeremiah Wright"]. I kept thinking about Clarence Thomas' description of the nuns who, in the face of a segregated South, instilled in the students that they were all God's children, all worthy in dignity to learn and grow up in God's grace. I just think that there's something to chew on/turn over/mull. How did these two very prominent Black men look at the evil that is America's history with race and see it manifested in their personal religious worship? Clarence Thomas, as you may not know, has returned to full Communion with the Catholic Church. He did a fabulous interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN [Program #6, nun talk begins at 5:50 minutes into interview] when his book was published last year and he talked of the bitterness and hatred he could not carry. And I see Pastor Wright fomenting that bitterness and hatred.

In the Catholic Church, there are a few 'out there' parishes and the faithful know where they are. They are magnets for unorthodoxy of all kinds. If I were a politician and gaining some credibility because I called myself Catholic but I was going to these wayward parishes, I would justifiably get lots of flak. If I belonged to a 'Christian' white supremacist church, especially for 20 years, I couldn't wipe away that stink fast enough to become a credible candidate. Why is the reverse not obviously true? Is there a difference with John McCain accepting an endorsement from a daffy Catholic-hating powerful pastor with a brief visit and Barack Obama entrenching himself in his home parish? I think the Anchoress makes some reasonable points, but I think she's too generous to Barack. We're starting to see a pattern of America hatred with those people who are close to Obama. Glints of it appear when Michelle speaks [hey! has she been muzzled?] Most voters can't abide hating America to that extreme.

I bounced these off of you because I remember you simul-blogging Thomas' memoirs in the fall and I suspect you have a good basis to answer these questions that I'm merely musing about.

Glad you're back in Madison! The blog is so different there.

Ruth Anne :)
Thanks! And the blog's different without Ruth Anne in the comments, but I think she — and someone else you've probably missed — will be back in a week or so.

March 14, 2008

Lawprof Patricia Williams is giving a talk called "Moaning in America."

Now, I'm at the feminism conference here at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and Pat Williams is giving the keynote speech. She begins with the image of a "twinning doll" – an image she used in this column in The Nation.

She's looking at "3 narrative models": 1. the "neo-kumbayan moment" (denial, cynicism, Ward Connerly... "just stop talking about it"), 2. the "neo-biologizing moment, through the discourse of DNA," 3. economic choice ("I want to engage with the Law and Economics movement").

She's talking about the Democratic primary, the toxic identity politics. What can we do?

Pat is very interesting and funny talking about multiracial families: Angelina Jolie and her mixed race brood and a woman who is suing because a medical mix-up led to her giving birth to a partially black child.

What would Barack Obama look like if he were a woman? Would he look like Susan Estrich, Geraldine Ferraro, or Oprah Winfrey? When Oprah endorsed him, "race rushed in."

UPDATE, next morning: I have to apologize for not conveying more of what Pat said last night. It is extremely hard to convey the sense of what she says without giving long quotes, which I can't do in real time, because she also speaks very quickly and continually makes surprising connections. She has a beautiful voice and brings in a lot of detailed stories and images. This is mesmerizing, and I enjoyed listening closely, but I could not bring it to you convincingly. I don't want you to think this was because she wasn't saying anything. She was saying too much. This was not, however, an extemporaneous speech. She was reading. So go read some of her columns. I've linked one.

AND: Scroll down on this page and you'll find capsule descriptions and links to many of Pat's columns, some of which were the basis of the talk she gave last night. There is, for example, this one:
The March 22 [2007] New York Post offered a fascinating study in the contradictions of our culture. The top half of the front page was consumed by "a stunning mother-child portrait" of Angelina Jolie with her newest adopted child, or as the Post put it, her "Viet man." The lower half of the page was given over to a more lurid headline ("Baby Bungle: White Folks' Black Child") trumpeting "a Park Avenue fertility clinic's blunder" that "left a family devastated--after a black baby was born to a Hispanic woman and her white husband."

The story about Jolie's magical mothering of her rainbow brood was a fairy tale of happily ever after. The bungled baby story, meanwhile, was considerably less heartwarming: Long Islanders Nancy and Thomas Andrews had trouble conceiving after the birth of their first daughter. They employed in vitro fertilization and baby Jessica was born. Jessica is darker skinned than either of the Andrewses, a condition their obstetrician initially called an "abnormality." She'll "lighten up," said that good doctor. Subsequent paternity tests showed that Nancy's egg was fertilized by sperm other than Tom's. The couple has sued.
That column is old enough that you have to subscribe to The Nation to read the whole thing, but there are many others available in full, and I realize I've been remiss in not reading them and blogging them on a regular basis.

Here's her piece on Oprah and Obama. Excerpt:
[T]heir particular form of raced celebrity enshrines the notion of American mobility at a moment when it is--in reality--sorely vexed. ... Obama radiates a kind of hope that crosses the immigrant epic with a romantic desire for rainbow diversity. Similarly, Oprah is the black, female, Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches story of our day. From her humble beginnings as a traumatized little girl, albeit pluckier even than Orphan Annie (we Americans do love "pluck"), Oprah reinvented herself by sheer will and rose against all odds to the very top of the phantasmagorical bubble machine we call the entertainment industry. There's a general fear of, as well as attraction to, that bubble. Is the celebrity a platform or a dog-and-pony show? Is it serious debate or entertainment? How easy the purchase of cynicism.

But if we're lucky, maybe something enduring comes of artfully imagining our ideals.

"A person's a person, no matter how small."

Is "Horton Hears a Who" about abortion?

Photos from the cheese contest.

The international community of cheese judges converges on Madison, Wisconsin.

Barack Obama responds to the criticism over Jeremiah Wright.

I've been feeling remiss that I hadn't done a post yet about the Jeremiah Wright controversy, but since I'm entering the dispute late, let me start with Obama's response:
As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
Isn't that enough?

ADDED: Here's the NYT article about the controversy, with an interesting photograph that makes Jeremiah Wright appear to be a white man.

So, yes, I've flown out of New York.

And I'm here in Madison. No race-and-feminism conferencing yet for me. I'm too late for the afternoon session. But I will make it to this evening's keynote speech from Columbia lawprof Patricia Williams. It's called "Moaning in America," and I'm expecting multilayered wordplay and... what? Anti-Reaganism? Suffering? Sex?

Meanwhile, I'm resting up — sipping cappuccino in my favorite Madison café.

It's not as if the trip was grueling, though we did spend an extra half hour on the ground. The air traffic was backed up this morning after President Bush flew in through La Guardia to give this talk at the Economic Club. (He said we're going through a "tough time" but we should "bounce back.") The only reason I knew is that my car service driver pointed out the helicopters flying overhead in formation.

The driver seemed pretty interested in politics. He had the news radio on and when the story on Eliot Spitzer elicited a barely audible scoff from me, he struck up a conversation about it. He assured me that all men, given the chance, would do what Spitzer did, and that Spitzer's enemies went after him and brought him down.

"I'm from Egypt," he said and proceeded to tell me about an Egyptian politician who was destroyed by a trumped up charge of rape against his son which tricked the man into trying to bribe the authorities, and so he was caught and destroyed. That is to say: there is human nature, and that is simply a given; the real problem is those people who set out to destroy a political opponent.

But don't you think that once someone is in power, it is his responsibility to refrain from doing those things that will allow his enemies to take him down?

No, all men will do this. This is the way men are.

Even Barack Obama?

I was going to say even Mitt Romney?, but I thought Barack Obama would make a better question, and in fact, he didn't want to say Barack Obama would do the same thing. He went back to stressing that it is the enemies who seek to destroy a man who deserve our scorn.


The plane was tiny and there was hardly anyone on it, but it was a smooth nonstop flight, and I passed the time this way:

1. I did a packet of Brooklyn-themed crosswords that Eric Berlin sent me after I blogged about the movie "Wordplay." (You can get them here for $1.99.) In the movie, they make a big deal about how the annual tournament must — as a matter of long tradition — take place at the Marriott in Stamford, Connecticut, but in fact, this year's tournament was in the Marriott that's 2 blocks away from where I was at Brooklyn Law School. Too bad I missed it! But it was really nice of Eric to notice and to send me the the Brooklyn-themed puzzles he'd constructed for the event.

2. I watched the new episode of "Survivor," the one where — spoiler alert — Jonathan's leg wound swells up and threatens his life and they need to tear him away from the game and the people he loves, and then Chet whines about a boo-boo on his foot that he thinks is getting infected and he insists that the others vote him out — which they do. The Jonathan-Chet contrast is a brilliant case study in masculinity. There was also some hilarious fake-idol-finding by Jason and impressive pole-carrying by James. And then, in the end, I totally fell for the editing that made me think dear, sweet, flexible, swimmy Ozzy was in danger. Surely, if they were blindsiding him, he'd have felt the vibe and played his real immunity idol, but it was nerve-racking there for a second.

3. I read the Peter Bagge comic in the new issue of Reason magazine — the one where he's traveling around New Hampshire, covering the primaries, almost adulating Ron Paul and then facing up to the reality of that racist newsletter. I don't think the comic is linkable yet on line, so pick up the paper copy of the magazine. I've been getting my courtesy copy in the mail ever since this encounter. If only the blogging life had more things like that in it. Not too many more, but a few.

4. With a little more time, I turned the magazine page and read this article about — guess what? — prostitutes!— completely unrelated to the Eliot Spitzer downfall. It's a review of "Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul," by Karen Abbott. The review begins with a description of a high class whorehouse, circa 1907:
The Everleigh Club was an ornate mansion. Thirty themed boudoirs (“the Japanese Parlor,” “the Moorish Room,” “the Egyptian Room”) included absurd touches of decadence, such as hidden buttons to ring for champagne and a fountain that fired a jet of perfume. The city’s finest chefs prepared the women’s dinners. They read poetry by the fire with guests, who included the writers Theodore Dreiser and Ring Lardner. Sometimes Minna and Ada let swarms of butterflies fly loose throughout the house.
Then, I got to thinking about that question I'd just posed on the blog before getting onto the plane. I reconsidered, picturing it with themed boudoirs, champagne buttons, perfume fountains, top chefs, famous writer clients, and butterflies.

5. I gazed out at the clouds and the brown-and-white Wisconsin land below and daydreamed.


No snowglobes.


If it was legal, would you want to be a prostitute?

Megan McArdle's readers insist that her support for legalized prostitution ought to force her to deal with the question whether she'd do the work herself. Her answer — sensible up to a point — is there are plenty of jobs she doesn't want to do. Her post doesn't explore whether we ought to protect young, weak, and economically hard-pressed individuals from doing things that will probably hurt them. The question is how harmful is the work — if you consider what it would be if it were legal? So thinking about whether you would want to do it — when you are not a weak or desperate person — is a decent test of whether it is so harmful that the law should be used to protect people from it. Admittedly, this is only looking at whether the prostitute is harmed by prostitution, but let's focus on that. Would you consider a career in prostitution? Assume reasonable benefits: great pay, excellent health care, a safe, well-run workplace, interesting colleagues. Would you?

ADDED: I reconsider the question in light of butterflies.

Very obedient doggies.

And a chimp who's obedient — but wily — and only up to a point.

Via Metafilter, where someone says no cat would do that which provokes a link to this.

Is this wrong? Is there an ethical violation in using animals for comedy? Speaking of animal ethics, did you watch "America's Next Top Model" this week? Whatever you think about meat generally, what do you think about a reality show competition where the women have to pose in meat panties?

Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro. She's important!

And she's certainly not the stereotypical "single mother" she's stood for in Obama campaign rhetoric.

ADDED Jezebel comments:
The Times posits that her legacy is apparent in Obama's "self-assurance and drive, his boundary bridging, even his apparent comfort with strong women." I think her legacy has other ramifications as well. If Barack wins the presidency, the specter of Stanley Ann could put the nail in the coffin on the right-wing love affair with the "nuclear family." It's obvious that in this country, and in much of the world, the shiny, suburban two-parent household is mostly a Dick Van Dyke-ian fantasy. If a boundary breaking, unapologetic single mother could raise a son who becomes President, the notion that being raised in a traditional household is ideal would take a real hit.

On the other hand, Obama seems to have embraced all that his mother eschewed: he married into a tightly knit, Christian family. He's never moved his kids around -- he and Michelle have (smartly) created a very stable world for their daughters, Malia and Natasha.

"Adventures in Identity Politics."

As I head back to Madison for a spring break that will begin un-spring-breakingly with a law school conference about "the institutions and the people who have theorized sex and race," I'm struck by this Charles Krauthammer column. Krauthammer pithily summarizes the narrative arc of the Democratic race: Hillary Clinton began as a moderate, but reacted to pressure by moving leftward. With no significant policy differences, personality and identity became central. On personal charisma, Barack Obama was crushing Clinton, but then — did Clinton make that happen? — identity politics found its way into the foreground. Krauthammer concludes:
The pillars of American liberalism -- the Democratic Party, the universities and the mass media -- are obsessed with biological markers, most particularly race and gender. They have insisted, moreover, that pedagogy and culture and politics be just as seized with the primacy of these distinctions and with the resulting "privileging" that allegedly haunts every aspect of our social relations.

They have gotten their wish. This primary campaign represents the full flowering of identity politics. It's not a pretty picture. Geraldine Ferraro says Obama is only where he is because he's black. Professor Orlando Patterson says the 3 a.m. phone call ad is not about a foreign policy crisis but a subliminal Klan-like appeal to the fear of "black men lurking in the bushes around white society."

Good grief. The optimist will say that when this is over, we will look back on the Clinton-Obama contest, and its looming ugly endgame, as the low point of identity politics, and the beginning of a turning away. The pessimist will just vote Republican.
I'm off to "obsess" about race and gender at a conference about honoring the "obsession" with race and gender. I think the race and gender issues are real — even if they are often misperceived or exaggerated. Krauthammer doesn't quite say if he thinks these issues are mere delusions. His point is that they wreak havoc on a political campaign.

Barack Obama had positioned himself as someone who transcended race, and he thrilled us with the hope that we could all transcend race with him. If we fell for him, it had to be in part because we could see that he was black, but we weren't talking about that, and it was working because he didn't and we didn't. But the Hillary Clinton campaign couldn't let us dream our shared dream. She had to rouse us. It was her only hope, and her dream was worth more to her than the great coming together over Barack Obama.

But it wasn't just Hillary driving the wedge into the happy good feelings of the coalescing Democrats. Krauthammer portrays the Republican Party as the passive beneficiary of ugliness on the Democratic side. But it's not as if the Republicans are above the fray. They are promoting the chaos. Now, I know they'll say that the opportunity only exists because the Democrats have so deeply invested themselves in identity politics, and indeed, this is the subtext of Krauthammer's column. The notion seems to be that the Democrats would have been better off if — like Republicans! — they'd ignored the race and gender issues all along.

March 13, 2008

"This conference aims to honor the institutions and the people who have theorized sex and race in ways that have helped to change the world."

A University of Wisconsin Law School conference called "Working From the World Up: Equality’s Future" — celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project — takes place this Friday and Saturday in Madison. The program of speakers (and information about the possibility of registering) is here. I'll be there and live-blogging for your reading pleasure.

AND: Look what Eric Muller said about my commenters. I haven't read all the comments, but I have a feeling that Eric is missing some of the humor. I'm mainly seeing a reflexive distaste for leftwing academic theorizing more than any real "misogynist.. [n]auseating ... filth ... spewing."

"Is it really all that hard for someone in high office to 'to get extramaritally laid'?"

Slate readers are racking their brains over why Eliot Spitzer would use a prostitute for sex. Doesn't he "have heaps of women throwing themselves at him"?, they wonder. Is it really such a difficult question? It seems to me there are many obvious advantages. You save an immense amount of time and complexity by substituting an economic relationship for a personal one. It's dangerous to do something illegal, but it's also dangerous to create a relationship with someone who becomes emotionally attached and might do all sorts of reckless things.

"I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive. We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama."

I hope people are noticing what a ridiculous and even offensive non-apology this is! Why is Jesse Jackson making an appearance in Hillary Clinton's statement? It's like this, isn't it? And it's diminishing to say we can be "proud of" him. That's like patting him on the head and saying "good for you." And I don't see how anyone can think we won't notice the sorry-if-you-were-offended locution. It's not an apology! Now, maybe Hillary thinks she shouldn't have to apologize. Fine, then, be straightforward about it. Defend Ferraro if that's your real view. And, while you are at it, frankly own up to the fact that you've been asking us to give you bonus points for being a woman.

Mickey says...


Still trying to laugh at Eliot Spitzer — more video.

The Letterman monologue. "Now Spitzer will have to pay women to call him 'Governor.'"

Letterman's "Top 10 surprises during Spitzer's resignation."

Lewis Black on Letterman speculates about what "extras" would need to be included to be worth $4300. Actually, this clip gets dull. I quit 1/3 of the way through. Is Lewis Black funny enough anymore to be a comedian?

Let's see what "The Daily Show" came up with last night. They're mocking the TV coverage of Spitzer's car moving through traffic... and it ends with a slightly funny trailer for a movie called "Tainted Gov."

And here's Colbert. This is the funniest one because he "is the meat in a Spitzer sandwich."

But generally, I think the comedians are getting lazy on this comedy material. The story seems so richly hilarious to them that they're forgetting to add much new value at this point. I say raise your game, comedy writers. You've been given this immense opportunity and from those to whom much is given, much is expected.

March 12, 2008

David Mamet writes about "this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong."

A cool essay.
And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
Read the whole thing.

It's that wonderful time of the year again.

Borough Hall done up for St. Patrick's Day

We're getting set up here in Brooklyn. That's Borough Hall, tonight (with Brooklyn Law School in the background on the left).

"The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen," says Geraldine Ferraro.

And she steps down from her position on the finance committee of the Clinton campaign.

The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen. Come on, that's hilarious! She plays Hillary's surrogate and makes an attack that Hillary can't do directly, then cries foul when she's attacked as if it's some underhanded way to get at Hillary? She deserved the attack, and it was perfectly appropriate to attack her as a way to attack Hillary.

But it's interesting the way Obama and Hillary are attacking each other through surrogates and retaliating by expressions of outrage that force the elimination of each other's surrogates. I wonder how many rounds of that we're expected to watch before we see it as a childish game.

ADDED: Olbermann unleashes one of his word torrents on Hillary and Geraldine. Tiny excerpt:
In your tepid response to this Ferraro disaster, you may sincerely think you are disenthralling an enchanted media, and righting an unfair advance bestowed on Senator Obama.... Senator Clinton: This is not a campaign strategy. This is a suicide pact.... This, Senator Clinton, is your campaign, and it is your name. Grab the reins back from whoever has led you to this precipice, before it is too late. Voluntarily or inadvertently, you are still awash in this filth.... You must remedy this. And you must… reject… and denounce… Geraldine Ferraro.
AND: Hillary tries to do one of those "apology" things: "I want to put that in context. You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive. We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama." Oh, man, is she stepping right back in it! A non-apology — sorry if you were offended — and then the patronizing "proud of" — it's how you feel about your children — and the unnecessary relinkage with Jesse Jackson. Remember Bill's South Carolina remark? That was widely viewed as playing the race card, so she's restimulating racial thoughts. If she thinks this statement will effectively distance herself from Ferraro's remark, she has very poor judgment.

"Would I want Hillary answering the red phone in the middle of the night? No, bloody not."

Camille Paglia, weighing in late, finds a little something new to say about the 3 a.m. ad. And she says it very well:
The White House first responder should be a person of steady, consistent character and mood -- which describes Obama more than Hillary. And that scare ad was produced with amazing ineptitude. If it's 3 a.m., why is the male-seeming mother fully dressed as she comes in to check on her sleeping children? Is she a bar crawler or insomniac? An obsessive-compulsive housecleaner, like Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest"? And why is Hillary sitting at her desk in full drag and jewelry at that ungodly hour? A president should not be a monomaniac incapable of rest and perched on guard all night like Poe's baleful raven. People at the top need a relaxed perspective, which gives judgment and balance. Workaholism is an introspection-killing disease, the anxious disability of tunnel-vision middle managers.
I also love her bitching about Hillary's retro-feminists:
The cloud of feminist cant about Hillary's struggling candidacy has been noxious. "Media misogyny has reached an all-time high," screeched the National Organization for Women in a press release titled "Ignorance and Venom: The Media's Deeply Ingrained Sexism." Groan. If women are going to play in the geopolitical big league, they'd better toughen up and learn how to deal with all the curveballs. Never has the soppy emotionalism of old-guard feminist reasoning been on such open and embarrassing display. How has Hillary, who rode her husband's coattails to the top and who trashed every woman he seduced or assaulted, become such a feminist heroine? What has she ever achieved on her own -- aside from the fiasco of healthcare reform?
You know, I enjoy Paglia's writing — though I've had my issues with her! — but these three-screen-long essays are really a series of disjointed paragraphs that would be so much better as individual blog posts, put up in a much more timely fashion. Maybe she's doing it this way the better to manufacture a book of essays to be published and sold at some much later date, but I think it's a damned shame she doesn't yield to the blog form her writing obviously wants to take.

"I know what you want, you got what I want. I know what you need. Can you handle me?"

Sings Ashley Alexandra Dupré. You can hear her on her MySpace page. Music is her life but "This has been a very difficult time" for her. "It is complicated."

"Saying that Hillary has Executive Branch experience is like saying Yoko Ono was a Beatle."

Glenn Reynolds quotes a commenter on DailyKos.

I disagree. Saying that Hillary was President is like saying Yoko Ono was a Beatle. Yoko Ono definitely had a Beatles experience. The serious question here is whether one gains something useful by watching someone else do a job and being in a position to have many deep and involved discussions with him about his work as a trusted advisor. This experience alone won't make you the equal of the person you've observed so closely. You'll have to practice the finger movements before you can play guitar, and your aptitude for the job hasn't been tested. It's not everything but it's not nothing.

Letterman skewers Spitzer — more comedy video.

The Letterman monologue and desk set. This one includes the line: "If you were his wife, wouldn't you be on the next train out of here? Just: adios, get the kid, take a hike." The end of the clip is a serious criticism of Spitzer for holding onto the office of governor for purpose of negotiating a better legal position for himself. "Do that on your own time! Go down to the Mayflower Hotel and figure that out there."

More demands for resignation. "What's he doing up there? He's in the governor's mansion. He's hanging around up there. We're paying his rent... while he's, you know, banging whores." Letterman is corrected: Spitzer is in NYC, in his own apartment. "Well, then, by all means, governor, take all the time you need." Letterman is hilarious in this clip, repeating the phrase "banging whores," and stressing the hypocrisy of running for office on the platform "If you break the law, we will kill you" and then... banging whores.

And here's the Top 10 Messages Left on Eliot Spitzer's Answer Machine. "Hi, I'm calling from the New York Post. Would you rather be known as disgraced governor perv or humiliated whore fiend."

Photographing sculpture on Manhattan's East Side.



"An impeachment proceeding would force Democrats to either abandon him or defend him. They would abandon him."

Said some unnamed Democratic leader to the NYT about Eliot Spitzer, who is scheduled to announce his resignation 17 minutes from now.

UPDATE: Spitzer resigns. I can't think of a time in American politics when someone fell this far this fast.

Some questions about the right image for a law professor.

I'm making an ongoing project out of collecting questions about what people think is the right image for a law professor. It's not that I'm aspiring to fit this image or trying to convince anyone else to, but mostly that I'm interested in how people think a law professor — and maybe, more generally, a teacher — ought to dress and act and so forth. This project got started yesterday when I asked a colleague whether a law professor can wear sandals in class. No, she said instantly and emphatically. Not even really nice sandals — expensive, beautiful sandals with low heels? No. Even if you have a excellent pedicure? No.

Why? Is there something about seeing my toes that makes it hard to get your mind around minimum scrutiny? Is there something about the absence of hosiery that makes you worry that I've skimped on preparation? I understand the value of professional appearance and demeanor. The issue here is not whether you should do all you can to tap that value. I'm interested in the specific elements of professional appearance and demeanor in the law school classroom. You're teaching people to be lawyers, but you aren't in a courtroom or law office. Should you nevertheless model the look and tone appropriate to the setting your students will enter? Or is a classroom a much more casual place, where you can — and should — not only adopt a different look, you can speak and act in a different way.

You understand my project. Let me begin my list of questionable things for a law professor:

1. Sandals. Consider the variations. Would you say yes to dressy sandals on a woman but no to Birkenstocks on a man and flip-flops on anyone? Does your rule vary depending on whether there's a fresh pedicure? Does hairiness or gnarliness change the rule?

2. Other footwear. Can a lawprof wear sneakers? Fluffy slippers? (I once saw a pro se plaintiff in federal court try a case wearing fluffy slippers!) Mary janes? Mary janes with oddly colored socks (fuschia, chartreuse, etc.)? Are bare feet ever allowed — perhaps in a small class in the summer session? Don't we all know of at least one lawprof who taught barefoot? Actually, I often walk around the hallways around my office in bare feet or purple socks, but I think I've always kept shoes on in class.

3. Exposed limbs. If we're not wearing jackets, should we at least have long sleeves? Are women but not men allowed to reveal their arms? As for legs, surely it is unacceptable to wear shorts. On the other hand — hand? — skirts for women are obviously dressier than pants. There can't be some emerging rule — I'm looking at Hillary Clinton — that a woman must wear pants to look professional, but there might be some ideas about whether the legs exposed by a skirt can be bare and how short a skirt can be. And what about a really long skirt? I've often found it comfortable and amusing to wear a below-calf length skirt.

4. Bralessness. I've always assumed the rule here is that you can go braless in class if no one can tell. There are many other breast-related questions, but perhaps you would think it unprofessional of me to ask them. These questions would have to do with the tightness and low cut of upper body clothing and the visibility of nipples and so forth. (Seriously, if you want students to know that you're really excited about the rule against perpetuities or some such thing, you want them to get the message from your face, your tone of voice, and your flailing hands.)

5. Slang. I've always assumed it's not just acceptable but highly desirable to speak in a casual, conversational way in class, but where is the line? Let's say you are examining a foolish Supreme Court decision in a conlaw class. Which if any of these phrases should be avoided: a. What the heck did Rehnquist mean by that? b. What the hell is that that supposed to mean? c. Did the Court screw up? d. What the fuck?

6. Getting into strange positions. I think a good professor ought to move around a bit. It's especially good to get away from the lectern and write on the blackboard — to relieve tedium if nothing else. But should the lawprof remain on the podium — in the teacher's space — or is it okay or even good to walk out into the classroom and maybe lean against the wall over there? Is it wrong — or perhaps good — to sit on the table or ledge in the front of the classroom? Some lawprofs will sit in a strange way. I remember my Conflict of Laws professor sitting sideways on a narrow ledge with his hands coyly clasped around his one upraised knee. I remember this 30 years later! Yet I myself have often sat on the desk in a cross-legged position (with both feet up).

7. Stalling. Do the first few seconds of class not count, so that you can toss off a few lines about something that was just on TV or in the news? Examples: a. How could Archuleta think he could do a Stevie Wonder imitation on Beatles night? b. Exactly why is prostitution illegal? But we can't talk about prostitution. We're here to talk about the independent and adequate state ground doctrine. I tend to think motive matters. If you're off-topic and casual to begin because you're trying to create a good mood and get everyone to settle in and start paying attention, it's good. But if you're stealing time from students to impose your political views, it's bad. But that part isn't about one's professional image, is it?

8. Digressing. Once class has started, when is digressing acceptable? I'd say the shorter the digression, the less justification it needs. There are funny, pointless things you can say that take two seconds, and there are anecdotes that consume whole minutes. And content matters. There are those tales of the days when you were a lawyer, which may seem professional but are really the most outrageous waste of time. And then there are the wordplay and little cultural references that leaven speech. I like a lot of that, but I realize it may be distracting or annoying. And then there are some students who are so earnest and diligent that they take everything seriously and could mistake your little joke as part of the doctrine. If you have a dry, deadpan, or subtle sense of humor, your students may simply perceive you as bizarre and unreliable.

I'll stop now, but you get the point. To be continued. I haven't mentioned blogging yet, but obviously, there are some big questions there.

Mitt Romney says he'd be "honored" to serve as Vice President to John McCain.

McCain has got to pick a governor, don't you think? This presidential race has been way too senatorial.

Or has the presidential sheen of governors suddenly worn thin this week?

Let's say what we really want right now is an incredibly clean governor. Perhaps the very quality that made Mitt Romney seem oddly unhuman to people a couple months ago will seem cozily reassuring now.

IN THE COMMENTS: This isn't about Romney, but it's an important angle on the choice of governors that I think a lot of people won't understand:
John N. said...
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Young (47) effective governor of a blue state. Good campaigner, has been elected statewide twice. Can help McCain carry critical midwestern states, including Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and can help in states like Colorado and Ohio too.

MadisonMan said...
I don't see how a Minnesotan helps someone carry Wisconsin or Iowa.

Original Mike said...
Pawlenty ... Can help McCain carry critical midwestern states, including Wisconsin

Vote for a gopher? No way!

Why so much talk about Silda standing by her man Eliot? It is really about Hillary and Bill?

Surely, you've noticed all the articles about Silda Wall Spitzer standing there next to her whoring husband, the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer.

The L.A. Times:

That moment of public humiliation stayed with people -- men and women, Democrats and Republicans. At a beauty salon in Brooklyn Heights, at the Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in midtown Atlanta, at a Denver office building, at a bar in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the same questions came up:

How could she?

Why did she?

Haven't we seen this play one too many times?

Why do we go through this ritual of public shame and repentance, with the political wife standing mutely before the TV cameras as her husband admits his sexual indiscretion?

"I find it nauseating . . . phony and awful," said Leah Schanzer, 38, a doctoral student who stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in New York City. She gave an exaggerated shudder.

"It makes it seem like she's Susie Homemaker," said her friend Leslie Heller, 47. "She shouldn't be standing there, next to him."
The New York Times:
Silda Wall Spitzer gave up a high-powered career as a corporate lawyer to raise three daughters and support her husband as he sought elective office, yet has always had deep reservations about his political career. Time and again, she has found herself in the particular bind of encouraging him during critical junctures in his public life while still holding on to some regret that he had chosen to put himself — and their family — there in the first place....

According to friends, the governor’s time in Albany exacted a psychic cost from Ms. Wall Spitzer, 50, who has not been able to fully embrace her role as first lady. “I think the whole period of his governorship hasn’t fit her,” one friend of both Spitzers said. “It strained the marriage.
The Washington Post:
When Silda Wall Spitzer stood beside her husband in ashen-faced misery the other day as the governor made his brief apology in the prostitution scandal, she uttered not a word. Yet she launched a thousand conversations.

"Why is she standing there?" many women wondered. "Should she be? Would I be?"

And for many, who've seen a long line of wronged political spouses do the same, from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Dina Matos McGreevey to Suzanne Craig, the immediate answer was a resounding, "Hell, no."

"I watched her and I thought, 'Again, the wife is standing there,'" said Jessica Thorpe, a 38-year-old mother of three in Larchmont, N.Y. "And I had a visceral reaction. I just don't get it. Why does it always have to be that way in politics? What will she get out of standing there?"

The blogosphere was buzzing, too, with the same questions. "Why do they show up?" asked blogger Amy Ephron on She proposed her own fantasy: "I just want one of them —Hillary, Silda — to stand on the steps of the White House, the governor's mansion, and stamp their foot and say, 'And another thing, I'm keeping the house.'"
Well, the Washington Post is most overt about it: To think about Silda is to think Hillary — to think about Hillary in a negative, damaging way.

Publishing an article that is designed to involve readers in the private decisionmaking and presumed suffering of this individual we've never paid attention to before is a way to drag us back into a slew of old questions about Hillary that we've thought about for years and probably dealt with one way or another by now. Here, let me pick that scab for you.

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage writes:
Silda Wall Spitzer is highly intelligent, personable and ambitious.

She is also a master strategist.

This “stand by her man” moment is just one of many well thought-out steps she’s taken as she makes her way to her ultimate goal.

Soon enough . . . she’ll run for Governor.

After all, she has experience.

March 11, 2008

"The further backward you look, the further forward you can see."

Said Winston Churchill, quoted in Alan Greenspan's "The Age of Turbulence," which I was looking back at today. Doesn't it seem as though that new McCain ad was conceived as an illustration of the quote? The ad dips back into the past, showing, first, Churchill, and alternately races into the future.

Art on the SoHo sidewalk.

Sidewalk art

Forget Mississippi, "American Idol" is doing The Beatles.

We'll see what travesties ensue.

Polls close in Mississippi and they say Obama's winning.

But CNN isn't calling it yet.

Meanwhile, there's this story that I consider too boring to talk about but I'll flag it anyway. Geraldine Ferraro put her reputation on the line to help Hillary by saying "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." She added that the press "has been uniquely hard on [Hillary]. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign." Uh, yeah, people seem to like Obama more than Hillary.

ADDED: Now, CNN is projecting Obama as the winner. And I'm pleased to say that I didn't waste one precious minute watching the results on TV. All I did was collect some "breaking news" email from CNN.

Harvard sociology prof Orlando Patterson sees racism in Hillary's 3 a.m. ad.

He says:
I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.
I thought the child with the letters "NIG" on his/her pajamas was black, but then Patterson isn't seeing — or talking about — the letters. I don't know if Patterson considered talking about those letters and decided his piece would be stronger without pressing that point. If he did, he was probably right. In any case, he detects a substantial racial message, and he suspects it was intended:
It is possible that what I saw in the ad is different from what Mrs. Clinton and her operatives saw and intended. But as I watched it again and again I could not help but think of the sorry pass to which we may have come — that someone could be trading on the darkened memories of a twisted past that Mr. Obama has struggled to transcend.

Talking about blogging.

Law librarian Harold O'Grady, of the Brooklyn Law School Library blog, interviews me here.

Should federalism fans fret when the feds prosecute prostitution?

Lawprof Rick Hills examines the topic (raise by Spitzer's problem). Go to the link if you want the explanation of when and why the commerce power covers prostitution. I want to highlight the political discussion at the end of Hills's post:
Does anyone else besides myself find the use of the Mann Act against a governor a mite disturbing, especially when enforced against someone who belong [sic] to a political party other than the President's? Given that the state governments seem completely capable of prohibiting prostitution if they wish to do so, is the enforcement of sexual morality by the federal government a completely gratuitous -- and, therefore, politically suspect -- exercise?

Of course, there are also the allegations of money laundering and perhaps mail fraud.
Also tax evasion (not by Spitzer, but by those who are making money).
But there is no claim that Spitzer defrauded the people of New York of honest services and, therefore, no role for the feds in illuminating local official dishonesty that local pols seek to shield. Of course, the governor's transgression occurred in Washington, D.C., an enclave in which the federal government has general police powers. But the feds are not enforcing any D.C. ordinance. Whose interest, therefore, are the feds serving? Not the interests of us New Yorkers: We can enforce -- or not-- our own laws against sexual hank-panky. Not the residents of D.C. The only obvious beneficiary of this prosecution is the majority leader of the New York Senate, Joe Bruno and, more generally, Republicans who have managed to eliminate a major political rival.
I think these concerns are valid, but visualize the disarray if Spitzer uses this line of argument to try to cling to power. Is this what Democrats should want going on during the presidential election season?

Eliot and Hillary.

In happier times. He was — is? — her superdelegate. Notice the body language in that video. She's leaning toward him, but he looks as though he's trying to avoid her. He's twisted away from her even as he's supposed to be showing his support. That's odd.

What effect will Eliot's disgrace have on Hillary — and more generally on the Democrats? It will make any sex scandals affecting Republicans harder to use. Hillary, of course, has always had her sexually errant husband, and Eliot's problems might remind us of Bill's. But how does that affect what we think about her? Perhaps we'll be reminded of the old reasons to feel sympathetic toward her. Or, cutting the other way, we may get squeamish about putting Bill back in the White House.


Crank up your excitement once again. Today, we're so very interested in Mississippi.

John McCain and Barack Obama: "Each sees the other as a posturing phony."

Writes Michael Crowley:
When McCain talks about Obama on the stump, he trades his typical graciousness for sarcasm and contempt. When McCain lectured Obama about the future of Iraq last week, he did so with what The New York Times called "a tone of belittlement in his voice." McCain has also called Obamamania a swindle. "America is not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history," he said in Wisconsin last month. And he has huffed that "I don't seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with personal greatness." After Obama issued a press release last May noting that conditions were still dangerous enough in Iraq that McCain had been forced to wear a "flack jacket" during a public tour of a Baghdad market, a McCain release taunted Obama for his inexperience, adding, "By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket." For good measure, an unnamed McCain aide drove home the point to the Politico, saying that "Obama wouldn't know the difference between an RPG and a bong."

Obama has swung back in similar, if somewhat milder, fashion. Noting that McCain had changed his position on the Bush tax cuts, Obama joked last month that "the Straight Talk Express lost its wheels." Later, he cracked in a Democratic debate that McCain "traded his principles for his party's nomination." Snickering at the idea that McCain is a scourge of lobbyists, Obama recently said that "he takes their money and has put them in charge of his campaign."
Obama has swung back in similar, if somewhat milder, fashion. Yeah, somewhat milder. That's putting it mildly.

The Spitzer jokes.

Letterman monologue.

Letterman's "Top 10 Spitzer Excuses."

"The Daily Show."

"The Colbert Report."

All links video. Enjoy Eliot's pain.

Those chaotic caucuses. (Just another opportunity for Hillary to be sleazy?)

So let's look at that Josh Marshall post:
Caucuses rarely if at all vote directly for national convention delegates (I'm going to hedge here a bit because I don't know the ins and outs of every states rules.) Generally speaking, they choose delegates to a state convention, which in turn chooses delegates to the national convention. In some states I think there are even intervening county conventions.
Yeah, like Texas. I know that because my son Chris is a county delegate — he's for Hillary — as was just about everyone else that didn't sign in and walk right out on caucus night. Read his description of the chaotic process that got these people chosen on this post of mine.

Back to Josh:
[U]nlike in primaries where the delegates really get picked on primary night, that's not what happens with caucuses. When you have a caucus in state such-and-such and they say Obama got X number of delegates, that's just an estimate. He doesn't really have them yet. What it really means is that he got X number of delegates and if they all go to the state convention and vote for Obama then he'll get the estimated number of delegates, or something very close to that number.

The point is that there's a lot of potential haggling and funny-business possible between what's actually set in stone now and what people are expecting come convention time....

[W]ay down at the county convention level we're talking really big numbers of delegates. You don't know these people quite as well. Some of them may be new to politics. You've got to be certain they all show up at the different conventions... [I]f at any point one campaign or another can't manage or control their delegates, they can lose some national delegates.
Kos has more.

It's going to get uglier. I hope when it's all over, the ridiculous caucus system is abandoned.

Now, here's a political ad!

And here's an article about the Milwaukee ad man Steve Eichenbaum who made it.

"TPM Cuts Female Writer Not Making Case for Obama."

That's how Linda Hirshman tells it. She publishes her email exchange with Andrew Golis, her contact at TPM:
Linda to Andrew: "So why did I not make the cut? Is writing for the times and the Post not good enough for TPM?"

Andrew: "It's not a matter of prestigious clippings, Linda. We're trying to both keep long-standing contributers [sic] around and flesh out the discussion by involving people who are covering things we're not yet addressing."

Linda: "And do you have a lot of contributors covering the female voters, who are likely to determine the outcome of the election of the President of the United States? I am assuming it's not that you don't want anyone who's not already in the tank for Obama. I am serious, here, Andrew. I think this is a real mistake; I have a point of view you don't have much of, I am getting increasingly prestigious opportunities to write and opine, and this is the moment you should capitalize on your relationship with me, not drop me."

Andrew: "I'm not sure the accusation of bias is particularly helpful. For now, like I said, we're focusing on getting our long-standing regulars and folks covering things we don't on the blog. I recognize that you think female voters should be one of those things, we disagree." [emphasis mine]
But look at how Hirshman was introduced to the TPM crowd on October 7, 2008:
Linda Hirshman joins the TPMCafe Coffee House, and kicks things off with the first of a three part series on liberal principles.
A three part series. I don't get what the actual arrangement between Hirshman and TPM was, but she's exposing herself to some serious criticism if she's misstating the situation. And the email does speak for itself — albeit in the voice of someone who is not saying everything he thinks.

Let's see if Golis responds to her invitation to slam her on line. Pretty nervy of her to ask for it like this. But you can be nervy when you're getting increasingly prestigious opportunities to write and opine.


TPM is driving me crazy with its date format. Right now, Josh Marshall has a post up dated "04.10.08." Judging from the post underneath it, that's a mistake, and he meant 03.10.08. Hello? This isn't Europe. It took me 10 minutes to realize that the October 7th post I linked above wasn't March 10th. Every damned post over there begins with a tiny testimony to bad judgment. It's an American blog. Write American.

CORRECTION: I'm wrong about the date format. Sorry. I got confused by a combination of the incorrect date on their top post and my assumption that a post from October was really from March.

ADDED: I'm almost glad you got the chance to see the fury I would unleash against any American who would adopt the European-style date format. Not really. I'm terribly sorry. Mainly for the clutter. Whence this blog ethics that keeps me from deleting the error? It's a strange and powerful blog ethics that binds me.

AND: It's TNR that drives me crazy with the European date format, not TPM. See, for example, here.

"Thank you so much for reminding me that I wrote a couple of good lines."

Said Leonard Cohen to Lou Reed. It was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last night.

A bigger deal, of course, was made of Madonna, who gave a long speech that included a lot of thanking, and she's done so well she can thank anyone who did anything in any relationship to her, like the "ones that said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn’t sing, that I was a one-hit wonder. They pushed me to be better, and I am grateful for their resistance." Thank you for providing the contrast that makes my greatness all the more apparent.

March 10, 2008

"I'm just saying what I've already said, I'm like, 'C'mon, guys, give me a hand here!... How can I help you? What are you concerned about?"

Justice Scalia recalls the time back in the 70s when he argued a case before the Supreme Court and there were, like, 2 questions. He wanted to answer justices questions and instead of having to repeat the argument in the briefs. Or so he says now, when he has a motive to justify his incessant question asking.

A vlog about women bloggers.

This is that interview with John Hawkins that I was talking about here. He's going to write about it, and I'll link to him when he does. Meanwhile, I've excerpted some of my end of the phone conversations to make a little vlog.

"But if you use the word pal — or worse, the phrase my friend — in my kitchen, it'll make people paranoid. My friend famously means 'asshole'...."

So writes the chef Anthony Bourdain in his great memoir "Kitchen Confidential," right after reeling off a long, colorful list of scorching epithets the kitchen staff used routinely and in good fun.

Ever notice how often John McCain interjects "my friend"? I always sort of feel that maybe he means "asshole."

Anyway, here's something from The New Yorker, from Hendrik Hertzberg:
McCain does not always use the word “friend” in a friendly spirit; this time, though, he sounded perfectly amiable. The celestial choirs were a little more muffled the next day, in the White House Rose Garden. President Bush, offering the nominee-elect his (somewhat superfluous) endorsement, referred to McCain as “my friend” and himself as “your friend.” McCain, for his part, abjured the “f” word.
Well, maybe you don't talk to the President like that, and maybe the President was putting him in his place.

Link via Drudge, who's highlighting the part about Condi:
If McCain really wants to have it all—to refurbish his maverick image without having to flip-flop on the panderings that have tarnished it; to galvanize the attention of the press, the nation, and the world; to make a bold play for the center without seriously alienating “the base”—then he can avail himself of a highly interesting option: Condoleezza Rice.

... [W]ith Rice on the ticket the Republicans could attack Clinton or Obama with far less restraint.

By choosing Rice, McCain would shackle himself anew to Bush’s Iraq war. But it’s hard to see how those chains could get much tighter than he has already made them....

Choosing Rice would be a trick. Her failures would be buried in an avalanche of positive publicity for a personal story as yet only vaguely known to the broad public. (One of the little girls who died in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing was her playmate? We didn’t know that!) But the trick would not be an entirely cynical one. Her ascension, though nowhere near as momentous a breakthrough as the election of Obama or Clinton, would be a breakthrough all the same.

Lunch at the Loneliness Café.

The Loneliness Café

The Loneliness Café

The Loneliness Café

7 new sins.

Via the Pope:
1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control
2. "Morally dubious'' experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

And I was just going to call attention to the Daily News headline...

(Click here to enlarge.)

... which merely amused by didn't shock me. I just kept walking, saw this...


... and thought monsters in New York.

"Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring."

Shocker NYT headline.

The governor spoke for perhaps a minute and did not address his political future.

He declined to take questions and promised to report back soon. As he went to leave, three reporters screamed out, "Are you resigning? Are you resigning?", and Mr. Spitzer charged out of the room, slamming the door.
And good God, all he's accused of is going to a prostitute, not participating in running a prostitution ring, which is what the headline made me think. But sure, run the man out of office and destroy him for visiting a prostitute once. What vicious times these are. But he was on the prosecuting end of the crime of prosecution:
As attorney general, he ... prosecuted at least two prostitution rings...

In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.

“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”
So run out of the room and slam the door. There will be no sympathy.

ADDED: Stephen Bainbridge comments and links back to his own earlier attacks on Spitzer. He also provides a link to the complaint (PDF), where we can see that Spitzer (allegedly) paid $4,300 for the encounter. Well, $4,300 so far. Seems like he's going to pay a lot more.

"The difference between making arguments and analyzing them is not always recognized, and ... readers get outraged about things I never said."

The Fish-eye view: Why Stanley Fish bothers to write columns for the New York Times.
For the most part, it is not my purpose in this space to urge positions, or come down on one side or the other of a controversial question. Of course, I do those things occasionally and sometimes inadvertently, but more often than not I am analyzing arguments rather than making them; or, to be more precise, I am making arguments about arguments, especially ones I find incoherent or insufficiently examined....

Given a choice between being trivial and being ethical in any direction whatsoever, I’ll take trivial (although I might want to debate the judgment), because ethics is not something I’m doing in these columns. This doesn’t mean that I think ethical questions are unimportant — although I do think there are fewer of them than is usually assumed; there are none, for example, in the current controversy about superdelegates; it is just that if you want those questions raised and examined, you’ll have to go elsewhere. This might seem to be an admission that my perspective is severely limited. Yes, it is, but it is my conviction is that its limitedness is its strength and that were it to be expanded the only gain would be the pious fuzziness you can get from a thousand other commentators.
Heh heh. Fish is eely. See how "inadvertently" he "urged" a "position" on the superdelegates question — the most pressing political issue of the day?

Contemplate — with a plate — the difference between a cockroach eye's view and a cockroach's eye view.

Commenter-blogger XWL tries to figure it all out.

And did you know we have a cockroach as one of our commenters here? Blogging Cockroach — right here — responds:
hi xwl

nice work
although the iphone field of view is too narrow
and it just doesnt have that fish- or bug-eye thing
that althouse paid a lot of money to do on her nikon slr
which would be closer to my way of seeing things

anyway its hard to test cockroach vision
i mean there arent too many cockroaches who are going to sit there
and tell the optometrist which way the letter e is pointing
and what they can read in 9 pt type in that little mirror

but us cockroaches do see in color
yes we do
just not the colors you see
our vision goes from what you call green
into the ultraviolet
so i can see at least three colors
of ultraviolet light
ha ha you cant see them
and what you call green looks pretty grey to me
thats your basic night vision perfect for kitchen floors at 2 in the morning
plus--and here is where it gets weird--
i can tell which way light is polarized too
thats so i can tell direct light from light reflected off water
extremely handy to keep from falling into a toilet bowl
or a sink full of water
when what im really looking for
are the crumbs on the cutting board
plus i would never be fooled by a mirage in the desert
i mean how many cockroaches in little foreign legion uniforms
have you seen in movies dragging themselves over the sand
going 'water water i see water...'
never has happened for good reason

anyway its all a matter of perspective
you think you see the world the way it is
let me tell you there are alternative views
but this comment is getting too long
and although i live near harvard u
im not getting paid to teach cockroach epistemology
not to mention metaphysics
which has been in a bad odor for a long time anyway
speaking of which
something tells me me
theres a piece of foil with camembert stuck to it
that slipped off the counter last night
which really deserves a little visit
adieu mes amis
je vais a la gloire
Insect philosophy! I've never thought about it. But I have thought about insect politics!

"Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I! Insects don't have politics.... they're very brutal. No compassion.... no compromise. We can't trust the insect. I'd like to become the first insect politician. I'd like to, but.... I'm an insect.... who dreamed he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake."

The drugs people take — antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, sex hormones — are in your drinking water.

A new study shows. How did they get there, you ask?
People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.
This is so upsetting. Not just the drugs, but facing up to the reality that the water we drink has been pissed before. I know when we breathe, we're always breathing molecules that everyone in the history of the world has exhaled from their wet, spongy lungs. But is it not also the case that every molecule of water we drink has been pissed before — many, many times?

The "problem with journalist 'shield' laws is that journalism isn't a profession; it's an activity, one now engaged in by many."

Glenn Reynolds writes (in his Glenn Harlan Reynolds persona):
Efforts to limit the privilege to "professional" journalists... quickly transform into a sort of guild or licensing system for the press — ironically, something that the First Amendment clearly prohibits.

Complying with subpoenas might make journalists' lives more difficult, but lots of industries are burdened by having to comply with the law.

Journalists usually aren't terribly sympathetic to those industries' complaints. We should be no more sympathetic to reporters' special pleading.

"Blogging While Female: 5 Conservative Women Bloggers Talk About Gender Issues And The Blogosphere."

I'm trying to absorb this Right Wing News post in preparation for an interview I'm going to do today. Give me some tips! This seems like a very 2005 topic, and it's not something I've been thinking about lately.

What exactly did the Democratic candidates pledge with respect to Michigan and Florida?

Jeralyn Merritt has the text of "4 State Pledge":
... I _______________, Democratic Candidate for President, pledge I shall not campaign or participate in any state which schedules a presidential election primary or caucus before Feb. 5, 2008, except for the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as “campaigning” is defined by rules and regulations of the DNC.
Merritt thinks that the exclusion of the delegates is not commensurate with the scope of the pledge:
Now, can people stop saying that Hillary Clinton agreed the votes in Florida or Michigan wouldn't count or to the non-seating of the delegates? It prohibited only campaigning. Even fundraising was allowed.

The exclusion of Michigan and Florida was a penalty imposed by the DNC. In my view, it was an unfair one and should be lifted. The votes should count as is, the delegates should be awarded and seated.

Song heard late last night.

Last night I finally entered the code that got XM radio paying on line — I've had this feeling that I only want to listen to music in my car — and I got back to Bob Dylan's radio show — "Theme Time" — the theme was "birds," and he played the craziest song:

Captain Beefheart singing "Ice Cream for Crows."

ADDED: Ben Ratliff wrote this in 2002:
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, with its clashing meters, crisscrossing melody lines vaulting over wide intervals, and precision timing, was always several steps closer to jazz. ... [T]he great intuitive artist of rock, Captain Beefheart (born Don Van Vliet) ... is said to be in poor health, at home in Northern California after 20 years of forswearing music for a successful second career in oil painting....

[MTV turned down the] video for the song ''Ice Cream for Crow''... Apparently, the video was too arty for the channel. But Mr. Van Vliet himself made great television. By the time of [his 1982] Letterman appearance he could no longer be understood as a hippie: he was unique, a wearily abstract, imperiously folksy 41-year-old. Mr. Van Vliet strolled on the set with a water bottle in a paper bag. Mr. Letterman: ''Do you need a glass?'' Mr. Van Vliet: ''No, but the war is a pimple on the pope's pet dragon.'' A pause. ''What did I mean?''
What do the paintings look like? This.

AND: Why am I always forgetting the possibilities of the internet? Here:

AND: At the end of that Letterman clip, Van Vliet talks about living in the Arizona desert and how hot it is — 114° — and he doesn't sound as though he likes it. Letterman asks him why he lives there. Answer: "I love the tension, the discipline."

March 9, 2008

"I dabbled in politics in the late 1960s and 1970s, more out of guilt than anything...."

"... Guilt for being rich and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn't enough and you have to go and get shot or something, or get punched in the face to prove I'm one of the people. I was doing it against my instincts."

Something John Lennon said in 1980
(a year before he was shot to death).

I wonder how many of the artists who seem politically engaged feel something like this.

Last light. First lights.

Last light:


First lights:


Why is the blue in the first picture so much greener? I didn't do that. The sun did.

Close-to-home fisheye with sunburst.

Close-to-home fisheye with sunburst

Monsters and demons.

I've been reading Carl Bernstein's book about Hillary Clinton, "A Woman In Charge," and I was struck by the way she talked to members of Congress about her health care plan:
Mrs. Clinton “tended to view anyone who criticized her plan, even constructively, as an enemy,” Mr. Bernstein writes, adding that much to the dismay of Senators Bill Bradley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, she advised Congressional Democrats that “the time had come to ‘demonize’ those who would slow down the health care train for some important roadwork.”
These days, her campaign people acted scandalized when Obama advisor Samantha Power called her a monster. I wonder what is worse — expressing the opinion that someone is a monster or exercising power by threatening to cause the public to think that you are a demon. Demons are worse than monsters, it seems, but that's the least notable difference.

What the iPhone saw at a posh East Side restaurant...

I paid $40 for lunch at Payard, where iPhone took a cockroach's-eye view...


... and gazed at the ceiling...


(No, I'm not saying there were any cockroaches! It's just a description of the camera angle, like "bird's-eye view." Why do people get squeamish at mere idea of seeing the world from the perspective of an insect? Insects matter too.)

Democrat Bill Foster wins the House seat once held by Dennis Hastert.

Here's the report. But the really interesting question for anyone with a tie to the University of Wisconsin Law School is: Is he any relation to that great old professor Bill Foster? Answer: Yes! He's his son.

Bill Foster, senior — who died in 2002 at the age of 82 — played an important role in school desegregation (PDF):
Foster played a major role in the desegregation of public schools. The Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. However, laws do not enforce themselves, and there was great resistance in many places. As part of a research project, Foster traveled repeatedly to southern states, talking with federal judges, governors, school officials, white segregationists and black action groups. He brought many of these people to off-the-record meetings in Madison. He maintained contacts with all involved, and he recruited other law professors to do field research concerning school desegregation. Their work was published, but, more importantly, Foster continued as an informal consultant to black and white leaders. He also served as an informal channel of communication among federal judges who faced the problem of implementing the Brown decision. In 1965, Congress provided funds for local schools, if the local schools adopted acceptable desegregation plans. However, federal agencies provided no guidelines for what was an acceptable plan. There was no way the agencies could write such guidelines without high political cost. Professor Foster drafted a set of guidelines based on the experiences of those with whom he had been talking for almost a decade. Foster’s guidelines were published in The Saturday Review, and reprints were widely distributed to local school districts. Federal authorities then adopted the Foster guidelines. Within four months after this, more school desegregation was accomplished than the federal courts had been able to enforce over the course of nearly ten years.
Congratulations to young Bill, and thanks for giving us at Wisconsin another chance to remember our wonderful old colleague.

Are you taking drugs to enhance your intellectual performance?

If they work and if you know some of the people you're competing with are taking them, will it even make sense to say no?
“I think the analogy with sports doping is really misleading, because in sports it’s all about competition, only about who’s the best runner or home run hitter,” said Martha Farah, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. “In academics, whether you’re a student or a researcher, there is an element of competition, but it’s secondary. The main purpose is to try to learn things, to get experience, to write papers, to do experiments. So in that case if you can do it better because you’ve got some drug on board, that would on the face of things seem like a plus.”
But there are all those the standardized tests that have so much impact on what schools you attend. And in law school, students are competing for grades that will have a huge effect on their employment options. And how other students do affects how you do, because the teacher is required to meet a predetermined curve.
Jeffrey White, a graduate student in cell biology who has attended several institutions, said ... “You can usually tell who’s using them because they can be angry, testy, hyperfocused, they don’t want to be bothered”....
Oh, great, we're all going to have to take drugs and the drugs will make us all assholes.
Mr. White said he did not use the drugs himself, considering them an artificial shortcut that could set people up for problems later on. “What happens if you’re in a fast-paced surgical situation and they’re not available?” he asked. “Will you be able to function at the same level?”
And your surgeon will be a druggie. That is, you'll have to hope he's on drugs, because when he can't get his drugs, he'll be terrible.
One person who posted anonymously on the Chronicle of Higher Education Web site said that a daily regimen of three 20-milligram doses of Adderall transformed his career: “I’m not talking about being able to work longer hours without sleep (although that helps),” the posting said. “I’m talking about being able to take on twice the responsibility, work twice as fast, write more effectively, manage better, be more attentive, devise better and more creative strategies.”
Or so he thinks. But he's an asshole, right? Or is he a stealth advertising agent for the company that makes Adderall? Because I feel like getting it now.

Imagine working extremely hard because of a drug. You had the will to achieve — that came naturally — and you chose to take the drug. But now the choices you make come from the drug, and you've lost the natural intuitions that would prevent you from descending into workaholism.

If that is the future, if you value your brain, your intellect, your soul, you must cede the intellectual fields to the drug-fueled superhumans who will dominate and domineer over you unless you take the pills too.

Timothy Leary said "Tune in, turn on, drop out." The slogan will need to be revived — but with a negative added to the middle clause.