Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Lesson is: Always Lie

The good gentlemen at PoweLine have posted a letter from a recent YLS graduate who provides an interesting perspective on the whole Solomon Amendment issue. The gist, as far as I can determine, is that a very large number of employers who recruit Yale Law students are not in compliance with the School's rather expansive non-discrimination policy (government employers give preference to veterans, many firms systematically discriminate against women in their partner-selection processes) but that they're able to recruit on campus with impunity because they fraudulently claim to be in compliance with the policy. The JAG Corps, then, is being punished for having the temerity to actually admit that it isn't in compliance. It's a valuable lesson: honesty is not always the best policy.

Irish Give Willingham the Bums' Rush

Just this Saturday I was telling my brother that one Notre Dame football's big problems was that as long as Tyrone Willingham continued to produce at least mediocre results - winning seasons, minor bowl games, the occasional upset of a big-time program - the school couldn't fire him. My reasoning was that since Willingham is an African-American, and it would be a horrible PR move to fire an African-American head coach unless he'd shown himself to be genuinely incompetent, and Notre Dame is a school that gets by almost exclusively on its reputation at this point, the school (which after all hasn't been a big-time program for about a decade) would rather go through ten more seasons of mediocrity than endure the firestorm that would come from firing the guy. Shows what I know. I guess maybe it's a victory for color-blindness in the country: we live in an age where we judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by his position in the BCS standings.

Retain Your Finest Meats and Cheeses

There was no celebration at YLS today in response to the Solomon Amendment decision. Not because the bulk of Yale Law students aren't pleased-as-punch with the ruling - they are, of course - but because, well, we're kind of a disorganized bunch.

I talked to a leading member of SAME (the big anti-Solomon group on campus; I think the acronym stands for the Student Alliance for Military Equality). She first tried to excuse the lack of celebratory posters and the like by saying that Yale's case (we filed separately in the 2nd Circuit because we wanted to make a statutory interpretation as well as a constitutional claim) won't be decided until later this week. When I pressed her on the issue she admitted that they were just behind, what with the Thanksgiving break just having ended, and hadn't prepared. It was a small victory for me, but all I'm likely to get today.

I did suggest that when the Yale decision does come down they ought to have a marching band, and fire off fireworks inside the law school itself. (Wouldn't that be awesome!?) Look for big things, oompa-band-sized things, between now and Friday.

Solomon Amendment Unconstitutional

and there was much rejoicing at the Yale Law School.

Despite the eminent wisdom of the 3rd Circuit, I personally continue to think that the Solomon Amendment is perfectly constitutional. If Yale and her ilk didn't want to get bossed around by Congress, they shouldn't've gotten so addicted to suckling at the government teat. End of story.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Highest Court in the Land

If only to cause suspicion, I'm going to follow up a post on junk food with a post on pot. (And just so you know, my dinner was delicious.)

I think Dahlia Lithwick is being too hard on the Supremes for their evident unwillingness to rule in favor of medical marijuana in Raich v. Ashcroft. She takes the Court's conservative majority to task for being unwilling to live by its federalist principles when it doesn't like the substantive outcome:
...should the court's staunchest conservatives get away with being for states' rights only when the state in question isn't California? No. Will they? Oh, you can bet your bong on it.
Not to dwell overly on semantics, but Raich isn't a "states' rights" case. No one is arguing that the state of California ought to be able to create positive rights that preempt the application of otherwise legitimate federal law. That would be, in effect, nullification, an issue whose constitutionality was settled, I'd like to believe, during the Jackson Administration, or at the very least after the Civil War.

The issue in Raich is instead one of enumerated powers and the Commerce Clause, of the limits that the Constitution places on the power of the federal government. The question is whether a small amount of marijuana, produced for private use by the grower or given free of charge, is "interstate commerce" that can be regulated by the Congress. (It's interesting to note that you didn't need California to pass a Compassionate Use Act, or anything like it, to give rise to this issue.)

The Court has developed a "states' rights" jurisprudence of sorts, but it's mostly about state sovereign immunity, the (wrong-headed in my view) idea that the Eleventh Amendment insulates the states from virtually all lawsuits to which they don't consent. Even the Rehnquist Court isn't looking to repeal the Supremacy Clause.

Personally, I'd like to see people like Mrs. Raich be able to use pot for relief from their symptoms. For what it's worth, I think marijuana should be legal and that the whole of federal (and state) drug policy is badly misconceived. That said, I think the Court ruling for Raich would be a big mistake. I can't see how you could do it in any kind of principled way that wouldn't set up a situation in which, down the road, federal prosecutors had to prove federal jurisdiction in the facts of each prosecution.

Raich is, I think, a different kind of case from Lopez and Morrison, the principle cases Lithwick is using to accuse the conservatives of hypocrisy. The defendants in those cases were arguing, in effect, "What I did isn't the kind of stuff that's 'commerce' as the Commerce Clause understands it." It's a kind of "theory of the forms" of constitutional law. The world is divided into abstract categories. Some (growing wheat) are "commerce"; some (possessing a gun) aren't. Raich isn't arguing that growing and possessing marijuana aren't "commerce" (she's not trying to invalidate the entire marijuana component of the War on Drugs); she arguing that growing and possessing marijuana in the amounts that she did, or in the manner that she did, isn't commerce, or at least isn't interstate commerce. She's asking in effect for the right to a factual determination as to whether her specific activity was actually interstate commerce, and to be exempted from prosecution if it isn't.

Pretty soon, every federal criminal defendant will want a similar determination, if only to delay and disrupt their prosecution. The principles laid down in Raich can't, after all, be cordoned off to cases involving sick women seeking relief in pot-laced zucchini bread. No federal criminal statute will be presumptively constitutional when applied; its constitutionality will have to be re-litigated again and again in every case, since every case will have different facts that may or may not actually give the federal government jurisdiction under its enumerated powers.

A Cause for Celebration

I just discovered that "Five-Minute Fries" isn't just a clever name: those babies actually cook in 5-6 minutes! It's hard to describe how happy this makes me.

Unknown Unknowns, in Stereo

I spent an hour this afternoon helping a professor move a pair of enormous (6'6") speakers he was selling. I say this not to boast about how generous I am with my time and energy (well, not only to boast...) but as a set-up for a statement about my utter ignorance:

I had no idea how much crazy crap there is to know about speakers, and stereos, and turn-tables, and amps, and pre-amps, and so-on, and so-on.

No idea.

Not just: I don't know about those things, about music equipment, either specifically or in general. That I've always known, and will freely admit. I've only owned a stereo for a little under a year now, and it's a real basic model. I like music, but have never been especially concerned with sound quality - being able to hear it clearly is good enough for me.

No, what surprised me - genuinely surprised me - was how much there was I didn't know I didn't know, that I didn't know there was to know. Whole categories of sound quality I'd never even thought of. Devices I'd never known existed. Whole areas of human experience I'd never even considered thinking about. (Indeed, it's true: I would not have thought a 50-year-old turn-table would sound better than a modern one, but that's because I never thought about that issue at all.) It was a classic Rumsfeldian "unknown unknown" situation.

I still don't understand any of it, or know most of it, but at least I know now that there's a whole complex universe of stuff out there about Hi-Fi sound systems that I don't know, and probably never will.

My ignorance is staggering.

Britney Spears: a Julia Caesaris for Any Age

Currently reading: Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars", the Robert Graves translation. (Hey, it beats doing the reading for class.) I'm up to Tiberius.

It's some interesting stuff. The Romans are so alien, and yet so familiar. The Americans really are the Romans of the modern world: we have the same kind of syncretic/practical civic religion, the same quasi-religious devotion to our constitution and republic (and the same willingness to ignore them when it suits our ends), the same fondness for dangerous sports as a way to prove our virility in an age when most men will never know war or even much manual labor, the same inadvertently-stumbled-into global hegemony.

(I suppose in my analogy the Europeans would be the Greeks, content to smugly savor their refinement and civilization as their power fades into memory. Who, then, are our Carthaginians? The Germans - Morgenthau certainly did want to salt the earth - or the Russians? Is al-Qaeda our Parthia? Latin America our Germania, or Asia? Ho Chi Minh and Viet Nam would be a nice analogue to Arminius in the Teutoberger Forest. Have I possibly taken this metaphor too far?)

The one place where the Roman achievements still really exceed our own is in the creation of "non-traditional" family structures. Perhaps my view is shaded, somewhat, from only reading the lives of the Caesars (monarchs of every age have been fonder of unnatural and serial marriages than their subjects), but the House of Julian seems to have had an inordinate fondness for serial quasi-consanguineous marriage. Augustus' step-son and successor, Tiberius, married his step-sister, Julia. His child by his first marriage, Drusus Minor, married Livilla, daughter of Tiberius' brother Drursus Major, who had in turn married his step-cousin (Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Anthony and Octavia, sister of Augustus). The fourth emperor, Claudius, was both stepfather and father-in-law to his successor Nero.

Fascinating stuff, though it makes for some cumbersome family trees. I suppose someday we shall rise to their level in this field, too, as we have in all others.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

You Know It!

OK, this is the most accurate quiz ever:

You Are the Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.
People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.

(via My Domestic Church)

He is Coming.

Today is the first day of Advent, and with it the new liturgical year.

This being the 21st Century, there is an Advent Blog.

Advent is a curious season, a blend of different occasions and remembrances. As the Church year starts, the secular year is drawing to a close. We remember the coming of Christ 2,000 years ago and look forward with renewed zeal to His coming at the end of the world. The month is paired with November (which, technically, we're still in, but...shaddap!) in which we remember and pray for the dead. In these months we think on final things, of death and of the Second Coming and Last Judgment. It is written:
"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
For these reasons we should be always-ready, since we don't know the hour either of our own death or of the Second Coming. And that, Virginia, is the true meaning of Christmas.

(Sorry for the morbid post. Christmas is a festive holiday, etc etc. Must be seasonal affective disorder.)

Fisko, Ergo Sum

Will Baude claims that he makes his whiskey sours with
Van Winkle 7-year whiskey-- 1 part sugar, 4 parts lemon juice, 12 parts whiskey, Marasca cherry
and yet, as we can see from this website, Old Rip Van Winkle brand whiskey is aged no less than 10 years:
All Van Winkle bourbons are aged a minimum of 10 years in charred mountain oak barrels. These lightly charred barrels give the whiskey a smoother flavor than most other whiskies on the market today. Each warm and cold season that the whiskey passes through the charcoal layer of the oak barrel staves, the spirit picks up color and a new richness-layer of flavor.
Which is it, Will? And what else are you and your old-media cronies hiding from us? Don't make me unleash the Pajamahadeen!

This is the Blogosphere! No nit is too small to pick! No misstatement fails to hide a sinister secret meaning! Omnia Delenda Est! "We won't have destroyed anything unless we destroy the ruins too!" - Ubu Rex.

UPDATE: Oh, how convienient...OK, well, I'll call off setting up for now. For now.

The Fox Returns from the Multiplex

Because the City of New Haven is one of the country's worst-served in terms of the motion-pictural arts (within the city limits: population, 123,626; number of movie screens, 7) I try to make a point, whenever I get back to New York, of seeing a few movies. I remain undeterred by the obscene ticket prices (adult tickets: $10.25) though they do force me to be somewhat more, discerning, when it comes to my cinematic selections. No more seeing every John Travolta release as when I was a young man, when the beer flowed like wine and the women flocked like the salmon of Capistrano. Under these oppressive conditions, I'd've never seen such masterpieces as "White Man's Burden". Oh, the humanity!

Anyway, this week was no exception to the general rule. I saw two films while at home, both with my family (or, at least, significant portions thereof). Those films, and my impressions (WARNING: may contain spoilers):


"Ray" This movie was both better than, and more-or-less the same as, I thought it would be. The better: Jamie Foxx is actually quite good. His performance is an excellent impersonation - you're really able to suspend your disbelief as to the guy onscreen actually being Ray Charles, in a way that I at least never felt about Will Smith's much-ballyhooed performance as Muhammad Ali. It's more than that, though: it's genuinely good acting, as is most of the rest of the acting in the picture.

The anticipated: the "dramatic action" (am I using that term correctly?) of the movie is a convoluted, treacly mess. The movie tracks both Charles' rise to musical stardom and his descent into heroin addiction. With neat psychoanalytic precision, each of these is assigned a figure from Charles' past: the rise is his mother, who admonished a young Ray as she was sending him to a boarding school for the blind to "never let nobody make you into no cripple"; the descent his younger brother, whose death Ray blames himself for not preventing. This has a certain internal logic, but it just rings false to me. I mean:

~ It's possible that Charles became a heroin addict because of the death of his younger brother. But isn't it equally possible that he became a heroin addict because he was a jazz musician who worked in the 40s and 50s? Surely Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday, smack addicts all, didn't all have kid brothers who drowned before their eyes. They became heroin addicts because a) heroin was chic in the circles they traveled in, so they tried it, and b) heroin is an incredibly addictive drug. No complicated psychological traumas required.

~ With regard to the impact of his heroin addiction on his life, the movie's left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing. There's a classic "show, don't say" problem in the picture. Towards the end of the movie, we're told, by a mental-construct version of Ray's mother, that he's allowed heroin to make him into a cripple. Taken in isolation, this is a sensible claim: drug addiction can indeed be crippling to the people it strikes.

The problem is that very little else in the movie suggests that Ray Charles was, in fact, crippled by his addiction. We see lots of images of him scratching himself, to show that he's got the "junkie itch", but other than that he seems to be in good health throughout the picture. He continues to be a consummate professional as a performer, not missing performances and continuing to get perfect recordings in the studio in just one take. In what are supposedly the darkest days of his addiction, he starts a successful business. We're told that heroin is destroying his family, though it's not clear why heroin, as opposed to the demands of his touring schedule, is responsible for his missing his son's Little League games. He has some run-ins with the law, but these are relatively easily disposed of, and at any rate are presented not as the end result of his "hitting bottom" but rather as lawless persecution by uptight authorities who fear white children will be corrupted by his "devil-music".

If anything, his heroin use is depicted as a largely harmless personal indulgence - like his taste for Bols gin and marijuana, both of which he apparently continued to enjoy in large quantities even after he'd disembarked from the H-train - one that was only a problem when used as a pretext by racist, quasi-fascist police to harass him. Indeed, though the movie dares not criticize its subject for them, Ray Charles' serial womanizing and overwhelming desire to succeed, not his heroin addiction, are the forces tearing his life apart. It's his habit of making mistresses of his backup singers that threatens to break up his marriage, and disrupts the functioning of his band by alienating and driving away his once-favored concubines as they find themselves replaced. His endless touring schedule is what alienates him from his children, and his near-obsessive need to accumulate wealth and success is what separates him from his early patrons at Atlantic Records and his former friends in the band.

Of course, these aren't problems that can be overcome with a stint in rehab and a psychoanalytic break-through. And indeed, they don't seem to have been "problems" Ray Charles felt he needed to overcome at all. And so the movie misapprehends itself, telling one story while telling you it's telling another.


"The Incredibles I liked this movie a great deal, so much so that I won't go on and on as I did with "Ray". Just two things:

One: What I like best about Pixar movies (which, to a one, I love, though I haven't seen "Toy Story 2") is that, while they fill them with in-jokes just for the adults ("The Incredibles" has an especially cute one - the villain's henchmen trying to devise a drinking game to play while watching the doomsday device attack the city) grown-ups don't have to spend the whole time leaping from one adult joke to the next. Pixar films have actually engrossing plots, interesting characters, themes, etc etc., just like a real movie. Adults can enjoy the whole thing, rather than just the islands of maturity in a sea of kid's stuff. Compare to, say, "Shrek 2", which was pretty light on stuff to appeal to anyone over 12, except for a couple of throwaway one-liners.

Two: I think a lot of the talk about "The Incredibles" being some kind of conservative (or worse, Nietzschean) attack on the educational establishment's recent moves to strip the lives of children of competition in the name of self-esteem (banning dodgeball, doing away with valedictorians and class rankings) is a bit overblown. This idea finds its origins in a series of passages from the movie itself:
HELEN PARR: Everybody's special.
DASH PARR: Which is another way of saying no-one is.
BOB PARR: They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity.
as well as the fact that the villain's scheme involves eventually selling his inventions, which have given him the equivalent of super powers, so that someday
SYNDROME: Everyone can be super!
I understand where the people promoting this idea are coming from, but I think there's a much simpler, and better, explanation for these lines than the promotion of a certain political idea. That is: it's what's appropriate for characters in that situation to say.

If you were a superhero, forced to live underground and forbidden to use your powers, you, like Mr. Incredible or Dash, would probably become frustrated with your fate pretty quickly. Unable to deal with those frustrations constructively, you might come to blame the "normals" around you: if only they weren't so pathetic, so weak, you wouldn't be straight-jacketed, forced to play down to their level, humiliated. I don't especially care whether "Incredibles" director Brad Bird does or does not agree with this proposition. What matters is that I believe the characters agree with it, and I do. The end of the movie, in which Dash runs in a track meet but doesn't try his hardest, so as not to embarrass the other children, I think confirms my point. The oft-quoted words aren't some kind of manifesto for letting the talented achieve what they may, whatever the consequences for the mediocre. They're the angry words of frustrated former- and would-be superheros, neither more nor less.

Just Like MacArthur, "I Have Returned."

I'm back in New Haven, after a fun sojourn in New York & New Jersey. There will be sporadic postings throughout the day, as I vegetate whilst watching pro football and perhaps do a little reading for History of the Common Law. Maybe some reminiscing about my adventures, maybe some world-historical topical stuff - it'll be a grab-bag. Check back throughout the day.

Umbilical Stem Cells Heal Paralyzed Woman

Wait! I thought stem cells derived from sources other than destroyed human embryos were worthless, and would never produce any significant medical advances. That's why we need to devour our young! This is clearly some kind clever fraud perpetrated by the Catholic Church as part of its sinister anti-choice agenda.

(via Instapundit)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Posted Without Comment

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Am I a Hypocrite?

Two days ago, I poked fun at Will for taking his girlfriend to lunch at Popeyes. Yesterday, said girlfriend linked back to me, producing a torrent of hits, and my highest volume day since just after the election.

So what'd I do today? Naturally, I had Popeyes for lunch. I figure if Will and Amber like it, it must be brain food, and I needed all the brains I could get since I was on-call in Administrative Law. Well, it didn't turn me into some kind of genius, but it did make me groggy, and that's something.

Ugly Fan Culture

Jim Geraghty on the ugly culture of contemporary sports fandom. Of note:
I've gone to games wearing the jersey or hat of the visiting team - sometimes the ribbing is good natured, but increasingly, a four-letter dismissal of my team and me is considered the appropriate response. I know a lot of folks who wouldn't wear the wrong team's apparel to a game - why run the risk of running into a drunken lout looking for a fight?
I've been on the wrong end of this phenomenon two times.

1. I went to a Yankees-BoSox playoff game in Fenway back in '99. We had way-way nosebleed seats. Under a sweatshirt and a flannel shirt, I was wearing my Hideki Irabu t-shirt. I spent most of the game, in other words, a covert Yanks fan. When Clemens got knocked out and they brought in, of all people, Irabu to replace him, I knew my moment had come. I removed all the outer layers, and proudly bore my Irabuitude to the world. Needless to say, the Boston fans were not amused. Actually, they were amused, just in a "lets-harass-this-kid-for-the-rest-of-the-game" kind of way. One guy offered me $20 for the shirt so he could wipe his behind with it. (I seriously considered the offer.) In the words of the elderly, abused Irishman on the Simpsons: "Aye, but 'twas all in good fun." I never felt seriously threatened, some of the taunts were pretty funny, and given the circumstances (playoff game, archrivals, etc) I understood where they were coming from.

What I don't understand is:

2. Over the summer my roommate and I caught a Mets game at Shea. It was Mets-Braves, pretty sparsely attended. Being a Yankees fan and needing protection from the sun, I was wearing my Yankees cap. The Mets rallied to win, and my roommate starts high-fiving the guys behind us (who, as an aside, had annoyingly spent the entire game discussing their fantasy baseball league). I turn to high-five as well - I'm not a Mets fan, but I'm at least happy the guys won - and instead of high-fiving they knock my cap off my head and start playing keep-away. I'm sorry, wha? I mean, I know Mets fans are jealous of the success of their crosstown rivals, but do you have to abuse a fan who's trying to congratulate you on your team's victory? And do we really have to act like we're seven again? It's incidents like this that make it hard to respect Mets fans. I feel sort of like Yahweh vis a vis Sodom: for the sake of a few righteous fans, I'll not condemn the whole lot. Though my brimstone finger is getting itchy.

Have I been on the giving end? Only very mildly: I've done the "ASS-hole, ASS-hole" chant that Red Sox fans are given as they're escorted out of the Yankee Stadium bleachers. That's about it. Though I have chuckled as visible Giants fans are mocked at Jets games. But I'd never take a guy's cap. There are lines one does not cross.

UPDATE: I've added a link to another Mets fan who protests that he, too, is righteous. Sorry Tripp.

Talk About Beating the Odds

In the early 1990s, former child star Danny Bonaduce, drug-addicted and broke, went on a blind date. At the end of the evening, he wanted to have sex with his date, but she informed him that she was saving herself for marriage. So, being resourceful, he pulled out the Yellow Pages, hired a minister, and married her on the spot. The same day they met. Just so he could sleep with her.

And of course, eleven years later, they're still happily married with two kids.

I now firmly believe there is no such thing as "doomed to fail".

Monday, November 22, 2004

Curse You, Michael Powell!

The fracas over last week's Monday Night Football intro must've really put the fear of God into ABC and the NFL, 'cause this week's intro was astonishingly tame. It was just a bunch of players saying, "It's 9:00pm Eastern on a Monday night." That's right: Tom Brady and Trent Green, telling you the date and time. That's not an intro, it's a *bleep*ing station identification.

Two Types of Bush Judicial Nominees

Conservative Activists vs. Principled Conservatives

I basically agree. There are certain areas of contemporary constitutional jurisprudence that I'd like to see reversed - most notably the Court's abortion cases - but I'm by no means on board for the whole "Constitution in Exile", lets-repeal-the-entire-regulatory-state program. I feel about the post-Wicker v. Filburn Commerce Clause jurisprudence the same way I feel about the Bush tax cut: it was probably a bad idea at the time, but it will almost certainly do more harm than good to fix the problem now.

I'm really rooting for Michael McConnell, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Has It Really Come to This?

"asleep at the switch in the '60s and '70s"

Honest conservatives: Gay marriage not the only, nor even probably the greatest, threat to the institution of matrimony in the West.

(via FamilyScholars)

Elite Media Bubble? Whaddya Mean?

From the article on The Incredibles that I linked to in the last post:
At one level, the debate is over current controversies in public education: Many parents believe that their children, mostly in elite schools, are being pushed too hard in a hypercompetitive atmosphere. But other parents are complaining about a decline in programs for gifted children, leaving students to languish in "untracked" and unstimulating classrooms.
So: "many" parents send their kids to "elite" schools; those whose children attend average-mediocre-or-bad schools are just the remnant, "others". I suppose that, from the perspective of a New York Times reporter, that's probably the way things are.

Am I making too much of a minor choice of phrase? Almost certainly.

I'm a blogger. That's my job.

Another Kind Word for the House of Windsor??

What's happening to the world? In the span of 4 days, I've had two nice things to say for members of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Windsor (the other). These people are my inveterate enemies! Usurpers! Oppressors! Etc, etc.

Anyway: I agree wholeheartely both with Prince Charles' comments:
"What is wrong with people these days?" the prince responded with evident exasperation in a memo written in 2002 and made public Wednesday at the tribunal. "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far above their capabilities?

"This is all to do with the learning culture in schools," it added. "It is a consequence of child-centered education system which admits no failure. People seem to think they can all be pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability."
and Mickey Kaus' argument in favor of those comments:
Technically Charles would appear to be off the hook--he doesn't say in his memo that no secretary can ever aspire to other achievements. He merely seems to be saying 1) this secretary doesn't have the chops, and 2) too many people think they can do things for which they don't have the chops. The first is a judgment non-feudal, fluid meritocracies have to make of everyone at some point (when they've done "the very best they possibly can"). The second is a complaint anybody who has to run such a meritocracy (and constantly tell people "no") might have, and isn't incompatible with believing that people who actually have ability and put in the effort should rise. (Issue 2 is ventilated in The Incredibles, which takes Charles' side. How'd Tierney miss that angle?)

Meritocracy, it's often noted, is the most vicious of hierarchies because it tells people not only that they have wound up at a certain level but that they deserve to be at that level. It may say something about the unwillingness of putative meritocrats (like Clarke) to face the harshness of their own system that they need to accuse people like Charles, who make those harsh judgments explicit, of not being meritocrats but of really being aristos who don't want people to "rise above their station." ... P.S.: It's entirely possible, of course, that Charles is an inveterate feudal bigot in private. (If not him, who?) And it's too bad he didn't cut the condescending line in yesterday's self-defense that declared, "In my view it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor." Does anyone think he really thinks that?
Of course, I suppose these are easy ideas for a prince, or a successful journalist, or a lawyer-in-training, to have. But I still think it's basically true.

Vanity of Vanities; All is Vanity

The folly of vanity: it seems that a major cause of Kennedy's death (other than Oswald's bullets) was the elaborate corset he wore to straighten his posture and allow him to project the image of a vigorous leader.

The first bullet, it seems, passed relatively harmlessly through Kennedy's neck; if that had been the only injury he suffered, doctors probably would have been able to treat him. But because of his corset, his body was unable to crumple into the car, as a normal body would, and so he remained upright for another few seconds, giving Oswald the time to fire the second shot that shattered his skull and killed him.

Fascinating stuff. (via the Corner)

Mentioned Without Comment

Will, did you really take your visiting girlfriend to lunch at Popeyes?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Wow. Ye Smack Hath Been Laid Down.

Ron Artest has been suspended for the entire rest of the year. Stephen Jackson is gone for 30 games, Jermaine O'Neal for 25, Ben Wallace for 6 and Anthony Johnson for 5. Three of the five longest suspensions in NBA history were handed out today. I guess they're serious about the whole "no fist-fights with fans" thing, eh?

I do hope those fans who instigated the whole thing are banned for life from NBA events, and face criminal sanction. It was, after all, their fault.

Is it just me, or has the NBA reverted to its 1970s form? Heavy drug use, fighting, low quality of play, declining ratings.... Not that I would know (I was still in my pre-extant stage at the time) but that's my impression.

UPDATE: Good point. He's got all the time in the world now to rest up and promote his rap album.

The "Rest" Will Save the West, Vatican Hopes

Tim Schnabel points me to this article, on the Vatican's plan to use priests from Africa to re-evangelize the West.

I've already partially experienced this trend, though with priests from South Asia - in both Amherst and my grandmother's town in Rhode Island, the assistant pastors are very orthodox missionary priests from India. It's an interesting phenomenon; one of the weird (and unanticipated) consequences of colonialism - I've got to imagine that Arthur Rhodes and his ilk didn't think that when they were spreading the various European languages and Christianity throughout Africa and Asia they were creating a kind of backup Europe that could come on-line if the original every broke down for some reason. But then, thus has it ever been: I suspect St. Paul wouldn't've guessed that within 1000 years Syrian and Palestinian Christianity would be all but gone, and the new Christian heartland would be among the descendants of the German and Celtic barbarians.

Christianity has not always been a primarily European religion; indeed, it wasn't even originally European at all. There's no reason to anticipate, I suspect, that it will be a primarily European religion in the future. Perhaps my descendants will live in a world where people complain of the long line of central African popes, and are shocked to see an Italian chosen to sit on the throne of Peter.

Worst... Curriculum Vitae... Ever

Old Oligarch is right. There are annoying CVs, there are annoying Frenchmen, and there are annoying computer programmers, and then there are annoying CVs of French computer programmers.

I'm bleeding from the eyes.

Venezuelan Irish Twins?

Just discovered at Baseball Musings: Dodgers SS Cesar Izturis (DOB: 2/10/80) and his younger brother Maicer Izturis (DOB: 9/12/80) were born seven months apart. I'll say this: either Mama Izturis is very, very efficient, or this was the most unpleasant pregnancy-with-twins in recorded history.

A Narrow Victory

The J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets! win an ugly squeeker in Cleveland, beating the Browns 10-7. They trailed almost the entire game, but put together a few good drives at the end to take and hold the lead. They benefited tremendously from two misses on short field goal attempts by Phil Dawson, who prior to this afternoon hadn't missed a FG all season. But an ugly W is still a W.

In non-narrow victory news, Peyton Manning threw for four TDs against Chicago, bringing his season total to 35. He's basically at the point where only a season-ending injury can prevent him from passing Dan Marino's single season record. Gee, I'm really glad I took Jamal Lewis, who injured his ankle today and missed two games in a suspension for his narcotrafficing guilty plea, instead of the Indianapolis QB in my fantasy draft. Then again, conventional wisdom dictates taking a running back in the first round, and we must always do as conventional wisdom dictates. Always.

I'm sorry, I'm just really peeved about my fantasy football season. It's blinding me with impotent rage. I don't know what I'm saying anymore.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Do You Like Giant Monkeys?

If you, like me, are looking forward excitedly to Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, then you might want to check out Kong is, your one-stop shop for giant ape fun. They have lots of short Quicktime video diaries from the set (of which my favorite is this one, about the art of making special effects poo). Warning: these videos are surprisingly addictive.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Coming Soon: New Missal Translation

What? An English translation of the ordo missae that actually accurately reflects the underlying Latin text? People won't stand for it, I say! Who are those Romans, anyway, to tell us how to worship? Someone contact the See of Cicero, IL!

via Cacciaguida

OK, That's Funny

Young man wants to take Method Man as his patron saint; Father Sibley suggests St. Methodius.

Our Moral Superiors, the Europeans

Taunt black soccer players with racist jeers.

My goodness, they do have so much to teach us idiotic, Bush-voting Americans. I do like the English counter-cheer though:
“One Armada and NO World Cups.”
Now, I'm not unsympathetic to Philip II, the admiral-duke of Medina Sidonia, and their cause. But still: a good cheer is a good cheer. It's no "19-18!", but then, "19-18!" isn't much of a "19-18!" anymore.

"Becoming Like God"

That's the title of the latest book by Kaballah big-wig Michael Berg.

So all we have to do is do what you say and we can become like God? Fantastic! 'Cause, y'know, that really worked out great last time.

Prince William: "I Would Face Front Line"

Odds against that? Ehhhhh, I'd say pretty high. But good for him.

I Was Belle

Hands Off My Heritage, Hippie!

There's a good piece in the UK Tablet debunking (at least partially) some of today's commonly held beliefs about Celts, Celtic culture and Celtic Christianity. Worth a read, I'd say.

Money graphs:
All one can say with certainty is that in the nineteenth century, before the non-English-speaking cultures of Britain and Ireland crumbled, the people of those lands tended with a certain uniformity to opt for the most doctrinally rigid, most austere and sexually unliberated brand of Christianity that was available.

What traditional Irish Catholicism, the Calvinism of the Highlands and the Calvinist Methodism of Wales shared, at least until recently, was a set of values that would have most modern Celtic revivalists shuddering, namely a keen interest in theological nitpicking, spiritual severity, and a fairly hard and unforgiving attitude towards the flesh.
Link via Open Book.

Ahh, Incest Humor....


I like the Flowers in the Attic reference. Maybe the 80s really are back.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Bushes on Clinton

Watching the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library right now.

I will note in passing: both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush talked a great deal about how Clinton rose from poverty to national prominence through determination and intelligence. That's fine, I suppose: it's one of the more interesting parts of Clinton's biography, it's a classic American story, and it's an easy way to say something nice about Clinton without having to praise any of his policies. That said, I can't help but feel there's something a little unseemly about two men born to privilege, the sons, respectively, of a senator and a president, to talk about how nice it is that the poor boy made good.

Then U2 (well, just Bono and the Edge) got up and played Rain, appropriate since it's pouring in Little Rock. (They also referred to Clinton as an "Irish son". Just like those bloody Castle types to stick together. grumble-grumble)

Now That's a Hold 'Em Hand

Matthew Yglesias flops four sevens, uses them to extract much money from two separate Queens-over-sevens boats. That's quite a hand. I don't see many four of a kinds; the best I've drawn lately was a kings-high boat and an ace-low straight (both of which I needed to win last night).

Of course, for every winner there must be a loser. On that note, I will mention in passing that at a recent visit to Foxwoods a friend drew three full houses during the evening, each of which was beaten by a four of a kind. Sublimely bad luck.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

For Armchair Theologians

Question: would this be considered simony?

Who Should Be the Time Person of the Year?

The general consensus seems that it's going to be Karl Rove. I understand the logic there, I suppose. He was the architect of a brilliant campaign, and Time named Bush POY in 2000, so they probably won't give it to him again just for winning re-election.

Though we don't get a vote, bloggers, as is our custom, haven't held back from making suggestions. Corner readers and contributors have suggested bloggers, or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, for their ground-up contributions to the 2004 election. K-Lo suggests Michael Moore. Jesus is also under consideration, I guess because of the success of The Passion and the role of Evangelicals and "values voters" in the election. This guy suggests "The American Voter". Here's a discussion thread on the subject. Dan Rather is suggested - I think that's just mean. Don't kick him when he's down, guys.

My suggestion: either Abu Musab al-Zaqawi or "the Iraqi insurgent".

What's the biggest story this past year, both in the United States and throughout the world? Iraq. Why is it the biggest story? Because all year there's been a guerilla insurgency there trying to sabotage the reconstruction of the country and drive the Americans out. For over a year now, the Iraqi insurgents have been taking on the most powerful army pound-for-pound in world history and basically fighting them to a draw. They've caused more American combat deaths than any force since the North Vietnamese Army / Viet Cong.

There's also precedent for the naming of less-than-estimable people as Person of the Year. Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek won in 1937. Hitler won in 1938. Stalin won in 1939 and 1942. Khrushchev won in 1957. Khomeini won in 1979. Of course, none of those people were actively involved in the killing of American soldiers at the time, but nevertheless....

At any rate, I don't think there's any chance Time will make the insurgents People of the Year, for the same reason that they selected Rudy Giuliani over Osama bin Laden for Person of the Year in 2001: they know they'd be pilloried if they did, so they cop out and go for the safe pick.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

This Sickens Me More Than Words Can Say

Was Truman Even Truman?

Yesterday, Oxblog's David Adesnik wrote:
For some time now, OxBlog has hoped that the Democratic party would return to the principles of Harry Truman, who recognized that strength and idealism are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing. George Bush may have inherited Truman's mantle, at least rhetorically, but his policies still don't measure up. That is the Democrats' opening.
I'm not going to disagree with the idea that there's a meaningful gap between Bush's rhetoric of democracy-promotion and his willingness to cozy up to dictators or quasi-dictators who ally themselves with us in the fight against al-Qaeda. That's certainly the case (though I'm not sure whether such a policy is necessary under the circumstances or more trouble than it's worth in the long term).

My dispute is with the implicit characterization of Truman. Although history has (rightly, in my view) judged him kindly, Truman's foreign policy wasn't some kind of liberal-idealist-interventionist lawn party. Like Bush, Truman did some illiberal things and dealt with some illiberal partners in furtherance of his liberal goals. Truman didn't shun alliance with hard-core autocrats like Syngman Rhee or Chiang Kai-Shek (or a host of others), nor was he above having his CIA monkey with the 1948 Italian elections, because he saw these as the prices that had to be paid in order to keep his larger strategic vision - the containment of Communism - intact.

When Bush makes nice with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Thailand, he's basically doing what Truman did in the late 40s. As I said, reasonable people can disagree as to whether or not this is a sound policy, but I think it's nuts to argue that it's a substantially different policy than Truman pursued.

A Brush with Greatness

Professor Singer in the Neonatal Ward

Monday, November 15, 2004

Albertus Magnus, Ora Pro Nobis

Today is the Feast Day of the Universal Doctor, Albert the Great, the great Dominican and scholar who's largely responsible for introducing Classical and Arabic philosophy and science to Christendom. (He's also the namesake of a certain former women's college located about a mile north of Fox Hall.)

To honor the saint, I'm going to put down the blog for a little while and try to learn some stuff.

UPDATE: See further.

King Colin?

It seems that outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell is a distant cousin of his soon-to-be former boss. They're both descendants of Edward I Plantagenet, called Longshanks, King of England, Lord of Ireland*, Duke of Aquitaine, Lord of Man, Conqueror of Wales and Scotland.

Powell is descended through his mother from the alleged illegitimate child of Sir Eyre Coote, lieutenant governor of Jamaica from 1806-08 (note: not the Eyre Coote who was a Jacobite and Indian adventurer; this was his nephew and probable name-sake) who was himself descended from Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of King Edward III, grandson in turn of Edward I.

Bush is descended on his father's side from Elizabeth Plantagenet, 10th child of Edward I, through her children from her second husband Humphrey de Bohun. (A whole slew of Dubya genealogies can be found here.)

Powell did always seem to me to have a kind of regal bearing. Powell for Vice President? Nuts! Powell for King-Emperor of the Americas!

*I challenge this claim, but still...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Don't Tell Anyone:

I just confused Kiera Knightly for Helena Bonham Carter.

C'mon, it's not that outrageous!

Anonyblogging: A Tale of Two Rings

Death, smart lady she, has an excellent post on the perils of anonymous blogging, comparing it to both the Ring of Gyges and the Ring of Power. She's absolutely right. That's why I don't anonyblog: I'm especially weak of constitution, and would be corrupted unusually quickly. (It's also that I'm vain and want to take credit for my good ideas - and am willing to have to take the blame for my far more numerous bad ideas to do it.)

An Ailin' Cheney and the Electoral College

An interesting question, raised by longtime reader PapaBear (OK, that's just my dad, but I wanted to give him a cool CB-style handle): although the latest Cheney heart scare seems to have been overblown, what would the Electoral College do if Cheney's health problems were to become so severe that he had to resign before each state's electors convene on December 13?

Alternately put: would Republican electors be bound to vote for a candidate they knew would not serve?

As a constitutional matter, I don't think there would be a problem. Nothing in the Eleventh Amendment requires electors to vote for the candidate who won their home state (that's the whole idea behind faithless electors). And Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 ("Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors...") seems to give the states a limited degree of power over electors that ceases once they're chosen. There's also the matter of the "faithless elector" statutes, but I don't think they've ever been used, and even if they were used I can't imagine they could be used to do anything more than impose criminal liability on wayward electors. So, my guess is: they could vote for someone other than Cheney, at least as a legal matter. (They could vote for someone other than Bush, too.) The question is a political one: what could the College get away with, politically?

So how might things work out, on a practical level? I suppose there are a couple of possibilities.

1. If Cheney leaves far enough ahead of the 12/13 date, Bush might have time to name his designated VP successor and get him confirmed by the Congress. (I imagine that this step would be largely a formality, especially given Republican control of the Congress.) The Electoral College would then vote in favor of the sitting Vice President and he'd simply continue in office on January 20th, 2005.

2. If Cheney leaves too close to 12/13 to have his successor confirmed by Congress, there seem to be three options available to the College. Bush could make his designated VP successor known, and the Electoral College could vote him in. (This would be a little problematic, since it would bypass both the people and the Congress in the selection of the vice president, but if handled sufficiently deftly it could probably work.) The alternative would be to have the College vote Cheney back in, and have him re-resign after January 20th. (Just to add another too-clever-by-half wrinkle, the new Congress could confirm Bush's VP nominee when it reconvenes on January, then have to re-confirm him after Cheney, who will have replaced his own successor, steps down.) OR, could the GOP electors abstain, giving no one a majority of the vice presidential vote and throwing the election to the House of Representatives? (I suspect not, since the Eleventh Amendment requires electors to write names on their ballots, which would seem to preclude the possibility of abstention.)

3. Theoretically, the electors could buck the direction of the Bush Administration entirely and name a vice president of their choice. You might see the Democratic electors try to break off a few moderate Republican electors (if such exist) behind the idea of a John McCain vice presidency, or somesuch. For a whole host of reasons, this scenario strikes me as super-unlikely. Remember that you wouldn't need a vice presidential resignation to make this work, and yet we've never seen this or anything like it. It would be political suicide for the Republicans doing it. And at any rate, both parties have a long-term interest in maintaining the tradition prohibiting such Electoral College shenanigans. I'll include this only for the sake of completeness.

None of these are easy solutions, which is why I suspect that if Cheney does have to step down for health reasons he'll do everything in his power to avoid doing it until after the inauguration.

A somewhat morbid sub-question: what if (God forbid) Dick Cheney dies before 12/13, but too late for the Congress to confirm his successor? Could the Electoral College vote for dead man, or would they have to vote for someone else? If they voted for a deceased Dick Cheney, what would happen on January 20th? Would no one be sworn in? Or could the Congress confirm Cheney's successor before that date, to have him get sworn in with the President on Inauguration Day? That would seem the easiest, most practical solution, but it seems to monkey with the constitutional more than just a little.

Best Post-WWII Pitcher?

Is Roger Clemens, 7-time Cy Young winner with 328 wins and a 3.18 ERA, the greatest pitcher since World War II? Well, it's either him or Warren Spahn, the sport's all-time winningest lefty with 363 wins and a 3.08 ERA.

I suppose it's open to debate, particularly if Clemens stays in the game for a few more years and closes in on Spahn's win total, but I give the edge to Spahn, who won all of his games after having badly injured his throwing arm in the Battle of the Bulge. That's pretty hoss.

UPDATE: Oh, man, this post originally contained a huge goof: the suggestion that Clemens is a left-hander. That's been corrected, thanks to the astute knuckle-rapping of Airdog.

The Yolk's on You

James Carville's a good sport, if a bit of a clown.

Almost makes me want to watch tonight's "Meet the Press" rerun. Almost.

Good Bad Movie Premises, Part II

Cry Wolf
Disgraced reporter Thomas Shepard, exiled from television journalism for his role in a news story using forged Air National Guard documents, stumbles onto the scoop of a lifetime: a secret White House scheme to assassinate the Canadian prime minister! But because of his controversial past, no one believes him; no one that is except a rumpled documentary film-maker with a head full of conspiracy theories and a stomach full of Polish sausage. Can this unlikely duo foil the plot in time, or will they fall victim to the same covert agent they're trying to stop? Action-adventure. Starring Paul Walker, Jack Black and Jon Voight.

Good Bad Movie Premises, Part I

Coming soon: National Treasure, the story of a family of treasure-hunters seeking an ancient Egyptian treasure hidden by the Founding Fathers, who left clues to its location on the Declaration of Independence, the Dollar, the Liberty Bell, et alia.

Now that is a premise for a movie! Will the movie be good? No, but it should be fun. And a large part of that will be a result of the ridiculous set-up. One of the problems with movies today is that our bad movies are so lame and unoriginal. Good movies, as a rule, are interesting and original: that's part of what makes them good. Bad movies can be bad for a whole host of reasons - bad execution, wrong cast, interference from the studio, insufficient technology to tell the story - but often they can be made at least enjoyable by an ambitious or interesting premise. This isn't always the case (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'm looking at you) but it usually helps, and at any rate a bad premise always sinks a movie.

What do we have out there today? Tepid remakes of British sex comedies and Japanese haunted house pics? One of several overproduced biopics of Alexander the Great? A creepy CGI version of a classic children's story? Some dysfunctional families-at-Christmas movies? Oooooo! Louis B. Mayer is green with envy.

And, with that in mind, I've decided to do my patriotic duty and start up a series of good bad-movie ideas, offered free of charge. I'll post them intermittently as they come to me. Will these movies be any good? No, but I'd like to believe that their badness at least won't be bland. That said:
First Ladies
Sexually and politically frustrated by an emotionally distant lover and a cautious, cynical campaign, the President's wife and mistress stick it to the leader of the free world by forming a third-party ticket that takes the country by storm. Comedy. Starring Susan Sarandon, Diane Lane, and Jeff Bridges.
Green light me, baby!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Second Time's a Charm

Subtle Anti-Kerry Humor?

In honor of Veterans' Day, AMC is hosting a "Best Vets" Marathon, showing a bunch of films about America's 20th Century wars. Right now they're showing 1965's The Battle of the Bulge.

In the last commercial break, they did a promo for Apocalypse Now (airing tonight at 8:00pm). The tag-line for the ad:
When you take a Swiftboat into Cambodia, bad things can happen.
Indeed. Not least, you might come under heavy fire from the Pajamahadeen.

Let It Snow, Let It Show, Let It Snow.

First snowstorm of the season. A light dusting, with only a little accumulation (almost all of it gone now). It's actually pretty nice out there right now.

In the meantime, I've been attacked by a mysterious ailment that only goes after one part of my body at a time. Yesterday I had exploding sinuses, but otherwise felt fine. Today I have a sore throat, but my sinuses feel fantastic. I imagine that by tomorrow my left elbow will be in unspeakable agony, but otherwise I'll feel fine. Why can't I ever get normal diseases, like Ebola?

As of now: watching the Amherst-Williams game on NESN. It's a 3-0 barn-burner with the Ephs challenging on the Jeffs' four-yard line. See, this is why I don't like college football.

Most Accurate Quiz Ever

Friday, November 12, 2004

History Geekery and The Patriot

TNT will be showing the Mel Gibson / Roland Emmerich quasi-historical Revolutionary War epic The Patriot this Sunday at 8:00. The Patriot is one of my favorite bad-history history movies. There are many reasons for this, one of which I'll share but one now: the movie is set primarily in the guerilla war in the Carolina back-country, yet only one character speaks with a notable Southern accent: General Nathaniel Greene, Washington's commander in the South from 1780-83, who was, of course, a Rhode Islander.

The Fox is Chilly

He's not the only one.

This post in honor of the impending mid-November snow storm here in the Northeast. Joy!

(So much for a light posting day.)

Fallujah Update

Latest word is that George Preussel is safe and sound in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. He's not out of the woods yet, but thanks to all those who included him in your prayers.

Also in the "pray as if everything depended on Him, work as if everything depended on you" vein, you may want to consider Operation AC, a quality outfit that collects funds to ship space heaters (air conditioners in the summer) to soldiers in Iraq. They also have an Adopt-a-Soldier program.

Rightist Rhodies

New in the blogroll: Anchor Rising, a group blog operated by some Ocean State conservatives. Since I'm a Rhodie on my mother's side, I thought I'd shoot 'em a link. (Discovered at the Corner.)

Pugilistic Prelates

The Shrine reprints a nice review of one of the more recent debunking books published in response to The Da Vinci Code (scroll up). My favorite part is this previously unknown piece of trivia:
at one point St. Nicholas (i.e., the historical Santa Claus) punched the heresiarch Arius in the face.
Not that he didn't deserve it.

Thank You, Come Again

Posting will be light today. If your craving for content simply must be sated, you might want to click over to The New Republic, which has a lot of good stuff up right now.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Did Anybody See That Movie Tron?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Baby, It's Cold Inside...

Chez Fox is a balmy (and affordable!) 50 degrees right now. The best part, of course, is that the heat just come on ... to keep it at 50! (There are some temperatures below which I will not go to save a few bucks.) The extremities are a little numb, but the core (and the wallet) are feelin' just fine, baby!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Livin' in the Water, Struggin' for Air

I'm currently the highest-ranked crawly amphibian in NZ Bear's blogger ecosystem. I only need one more inbound link to become the lowest-ranked slithering reptile. Who among you wishes to be the one to help me make that evolutionary leap?

Oh, you will be my High Evolutionary (and I will be your Tagar).

I'd say, "C'mon, people, don't make me beg," but it's far too late for that.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Munchies

I can only assume that the guys at Gourmet Haven thought I was massively stoned when I came in at 9:30 with bloodshot eyes and a a confused look and purchased:
* a balsamic chicken sandwich
* salt'n'vinegar potato chips
* apple-flavored fake twizzlers
* a 2-liter bottle of Coke
* a small dry salami
Alas, no. Not THC, just JREG. That's right: "Yet Another ENRON Article".

Ahh, the wonders of source-citing.

"Six Toed Cats?" ?

Will, si, I did know that. I'm not sure, though, whether
magistrate judge : district judge :: appellate judges : Supreme Court
is an SAT-worthy analogy. Might be worth a look, though.

That said: what the F*** is a "six toed cat"?

UPDATE: Mr. Baude emails to inform me it's an incest joke. ("There's a reason barncats have six toes.") I'm glad we're working to elevate the level of discourse here, Will.

Fool Me Once, Shame on You

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times...ARGH! I can't help it!
I'm going to see the stupid movie!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Alexander & the Problem of Ancient History

As Father Tucker points out, it's Alexandromania right now. There's the movie, and the History Channel documentary (which I watched tonight) and two Discovery Channel documentaries. There are probably going to be Alexander the Great happy meals and XBox games.

Watching the History Channel doc, I'm reminded of one of the big problems of ancient historiography - its total unreliability. Ancient historians basically acted by compiling as many local traditions on their subject as they could gather, reconciling discrepancies where they could and acknowledging them where they could not. Living in, and writing about, an age before widespread written records, and lacking any kind of archeological abilities, this was the best they could have done, and they did what they could with it. But it's a historical method that's very open to error. There's no meaningful way to distinguish actual historical events from plausible (or even not-so-plausible) legends. Imagine trying to write a history of the 16th century by going around asking people what they think happened and you'll have some sense of the difficulty Arrian encountered in attempting to write his Anabasis Alexandri.

My point is that we know that, when you're reading a "history" written in the classical era or antiquity, some portion of what you're reading almost certainly didn't happen. But there's no way to know, while you're reading, which parts are genuine and which parts are a kind of historical pious fraud, included not out of malice or the desire to deceive but simply because the author, no better than we, had no way of knowing true from false.

Take, for example, the story of the decadence of Alexander's court after he became Emperor. It's certainly possible that the king, who conquered the Persians, was conquered in turn by Persian luxury, as it's said of him, that he took a concubine for every day of the year and demanded the Greeks hail him as they would a god. But it's also true that the idea of the stalwart European undone by non-European luxe is a pretty antique meme, known to the Greeks and Latins as surely as it is to us. So is it possible that the stories were cooked up, or at least exaggerated, as a pedagogical tool, a way of using the life of Alexander to promote sobriety and virtue. Who knows? Then there's the too-good-to-be-true story of him scaling the walls of Multan by himself, engaging the defenders in hand-to-hand combat, where - wounded by an arrow to the lung - he was defended by the bearer of his Trojan shield. Riiiiiight. And so we trust these stories as true, even knowing that some of them are false (as the History Channel did tonight).

Ahh, well: print the legend.

UPDATE: See generally, TNR.

But He Might Have to Speak!

Scratch That

I'm already bored by this show. I loved "Joe Millionaire," but I seem to have moved on beyond "lets trick a bunch of random people into revealing their venality through an elaborate ruse" gimmick.

Is this what growing up feels like?

I must admit, though: passing off pureed bologna and Cheez-Wiz as goose-liver pate is an inspired move.

Gustav Holst in Reality TV

Just now, they were playing "Mars, Bringer of War" from The Planets as the background music in "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss".

This bodes extremely well.

Finally, A Useful By-the-Counties Map

Via Matthew Yglesias, I've finally found what I've been looking for these past days: a version of the county-by-county map that weights the counties by population.

The county-by-county map that USA Today and its ilk have been peddling seem to me largely analytically useless. It shows that the GOP is way ahead in terms of square mileage, which might be useful if we lived in some kind of freehold republic where only landowners could vote and the number of votes each one got was proportional to his acreage. It also shows (somewhat more usefully) that the GOP is strongest in small town and rural areas, and weakest in urban areas, but that point could as effectively be made by stating "the GOP is strongest in small-town and rural areas, and weakest in urban areas". (One interesting note about the unweighted county-by-county maps: if you look closely, Mississippi has more Blue Counties than New York. Zuh?)

My favorite thing about the weighted county-by-county map is that it looks like the country is about to eat New York City. Because we're delicious.

You Sexy Beast!

This Halloween (technically it was the day before Halloween, but still...), I attempted to answer the age-old question: can a werewolf get a job offer from a prestigious New York City law firm? The answer? With a resume like this, you better believe he can!

The werewolf's resume:
227 Grove Street, New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 787-1443


Yale Law School, New Haven, CT
J.D. expected, 2006

Activities: Yale Student Animal Defense Fund
Environmental Law Association
Yale Law Republicans

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
B.A. in Anthropology, B.S. in Poultry Science, 2001

Honors: Degrees awarded summa cum laude
Activities: Pi Kappa Phi fraternity


North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture, Raleigh, NC, Summer 2004
Assisted in drafting upgraded hen-house security requirement regulations. Participated in investigation of a string of livestock disappearances in the Raleigh area.

Nero Wolfe Investigations, New York, NY, 2001-2003
Participated in numerous investigations of serious crimes, including homicides and kidnappings. Tended orchids.

International Wolf magazine, Ely, MN, Summer 2000
Edited copy for the print magazine. Wrote articles for the magazine’s website, on topics ranging from de-ticking to proper howling technique, as well as an interview with Dr. Phil on alpha-wolf/beta-wolf relationships. Compiled an online archive of back issues.

Research assistant, Sandy Spring, MD, Summer 1999
Verified footnotes for the book Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux and Clare Frock.


Central European folklore, astronomy and lunology, basketball.
And yes, I spent almost as much time typing Mr. Collins' fake resume as I did working on my own. What's it to you? (And yes, NC State does offer a degree in Poultry Science. And yes, there is an International Wolf magazine. And yes, even my Halloween costumes are male-pattern-bald.)

For even sexier-beastiness: click

Scratch That

Game over. Bills win. Jets fall to 6-2.

Lets go Rams!

Back in It, Baby!

The J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets!, totally out of it only a few seconds ago, just scored off a touchdown to a bizarrely wide-open Santana Moss to pull within five. Zah!

Barak Obama

Watching Meet the Press right now, I can see why people like the Senator-Elect from Illinois. His politics are quite a bit to my left, but he seems like a sober and judicious guy, and pretty politically astute. And funny too: when Russert asked about his political future, hinting at rumors that he might be the Veep nominee in 2008, he demurred, suggesting that he needed to spend some time in the Senate first and pointing out that he didn't even know where the Senate restrooms were. I like a man who feels comfortable enough in his own skin to talk about bathrooms on national television.

Prayer Request

George Preussel, the younger brother of a close friend, is a Marine stationed in Iraq right now. He and his unit are set to be part of the final assault of Fallujah, which as I understand it is set to begin any day now. If you could find the time to include him in your prayers, it would be very much appreciated.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Of Vital National Performance

Virtual Stapler - this will change the world

This Sounds About Right

In Slate, Paul Freedman argues that terrorism, and not "moral values", was what tipped the election to Bush. He points out that:
Nationally, 49 percent of voters said they trusted Bush but not Kerry to handle terrorism; only 31 percent trusted Kerry but not Bush. This 18-point gap is particularly significant in that terrorism is strongly tied to vote choice: 99 percent of those who trusted only Kerry on the issue voted for him, and 97 percent of those who trusted only Bush voted for him. Terrorism was cited by 19 percent of voters as the most important issue, and these citizens gave their votes to the president by an even larger margin than morality voters: 86 percent for Bush, 14 percent for Kerry.
On the other hand, "moral values" voters tended to be concentrated in states that went for Bush in 2000, rather than in swing states.

That probably sounds right. I think the "moral values" vote got a lot of initial play because the national news media was genuinely surprised to discover how many voters - it was more than a fifth - listed that as the most important issue. After four years of news coverage about war, terrorism, and the economy, I think they were surprised to discover that anyone thought of "moral values" as the most important issue. The surprise was magnified by the fact that the idea of voting on "moral values" surely seems utterly alien to the New York- and Washington-based national media. And it was further magnified by the fact that these "values-voters" seemed to come totally out of nowhere since, unless I'm mistaken, "moral values" wasn't an option in exit polling before this year.

Having gotten initial exposure because of the general surprise of the mainstream national media, the "values-voters" story was kept alive by talking-heads on the right and the left who saw it as in their interest to lock in as conventional wisdom the idea that Bush won reelection on the backs of socially conservative Christians. On the right, social conservatives have an obvious interest in making Bush think they were the margin of victory - if the President accrued "political capital" in his reelection, they want it spent on them and their issues, dadgumit! And on the left, the reasons were two-fold. There were the Paul Krugmans, for whom the belief that the Democrats lost because Middle Americans are intolerant bigots is a salve. And there were Paul Begalas, who thought that the idea, if accepted, would push the Bush Administration to the right, causing a centrist backlash that would redound to the Democrats' advantage in 2006.

I'm always wary of monocausal explanations for historical phenomena, especially elections. Are social conservatives a substantial part of Bush's base? Of course they are, but so are basically libertarian Wall Street Journal-types, anti-Communist Miami Cubans, and a whole host of other groups. Are Republican-voting social-conservatives a growing part of the electorate? I think that's probably the case, but it's a slow, generational process, rather than a "swing" phenomenon that tilts any given election. Would it be a bad idea for Bush to ignore the concerns of this group? Yeah, but that's because they're a substantial part of his base, and one that I think is more than willing to bolt if they get jilted a few more times, rather than because they're the group that put him over the top.

28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, & 12 seconds

A real life Donnie Darko:

KING 5: Mystery ice ball crashes through roof of Kent home
KING 5 News

A Kent, Wash. family arrived home yesterday to discover a gaping hole in their roof, apparently caused by a chunk of ice.

The ice had slammed through the ceiling of Troy Halte's home and landed on his eight-year-old daughter Breeze's bed.

But no one yet knows where the ice came from.

The incident left ice crystals all over the girl's bed as well as outside in the Halte's yard.

Troy Halte says his yard and house were peppered with ice balls.

Just back from ballet lessons, Breeze discovered the hole in the ceiling above her bed and on it three giant ice balls the family has stored in the freezer.

"I was scared to death actually. I didn't know what it was," Troy Halte said, pointing to the place on his daughter's bed that had been soaked through.

Commercial jets routinely fly over the Halte's house, so they're wondering if they were hit by blue ice, usually created when restroom holding tanks leak in flight.

The FAA is investigating, but says blue ice is very rare.

Whatever it was, Troy Halte his thankful the ice bomb hit before his daughter's bedtime.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
If anybody starts seeing a creepy giant bunny, for goodness' sake DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU!

Who Doesn't Love a Good Secession?

Slate's "Explainer" column answers the question: "Could the Blue States secede?" (The answer, for the curious, is no.)

The article also links to the website of the Republic of Cascadia, a cryptopolitical entity in the Pacific northwest consisting of the former American states of Washington and Oregon and the former Canadian province of British Columbia.

The Republic of Cascadia

Cartographic restructuring is one of my many bizarre and esoteric interests, so I love this kind of stuff. When I was a kid, I used to draw freehand maps of North American or European geography, then subdivide it in weird and novel ways and imagine what a world so organized would be like. (Whaddya mean, "no friends"? That's ridiculous!) I think that was the origin of my fondness for counterfactual history, a fondness that endures despite the fact that almost all counterfactual history writing is utter dreck (sole exception: Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail). Cartographic restructuring, like counterfactual history, is all about indulging your inner Napoleon, being the Great Man who redraws the map and diverts the course of history, in a way that doesn't actually require killing millions of people. Is it a little intellectually masturbatory? Probably, but I think it's basically harmless. Mark Shea has a different take on the subject, or at least on the subject of counterfactual Church history.

Anyway: viva Cascadia!

Friday, November 05, 2004

New Poll on the Right

Because I've gone poll-crazy, I've put up an Election 2004 poll. The summer job poll will go up again soon. But for now, lets reminisce...

Oh Dear, That's Not Good

Seems like there's another virulent new STD on the horizon. (Be ye warned: the link contains a rather graphic picture of a diseased phallus.) The disease is Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), it's spread by a strain of chlamydia, and it seems to be especially difficult to treat.

Volokh for SCOTUS? Please No!

There have been some (joking) ruminations around the libertarian corners of the Blogosphere about getting Bush to nominate UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh to fill a coming vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Am I the only one who sees the obvious problem here? If Professor Volokh were on the Supreme Court, he'd either have to stop blogging or recuse himself from virtually every case that came before the Court since he would have, almost invariably, expressed an opinion on it before-hand.

Professor, don't go! We need you here!

New DC Team to be Called "Nationals"

So says the Washington Times. Not a bad name. (I would have preferred the Grays, but what do I know?) It will, however, complicate any future move to realign them into the American League, should such a move be desired down the road.

The Fox: A Clintonian Political Genius?

Newsweek is reporting that Bill Clinton urged Kerry to back the various statewide bans on gay marriage. Sound like anyone you know?

"We're Not Here to Start No Trouble..."

"...we're just here to do the Blogroll shuffle."

Some housekeeping work among the links. The Electoral College projection websites have been taken down, for reasons that I think are obvious.

I've also added some new stuff:

Times Against Humanity, another much-bigger-deal-than-I blog who I'm grateful has seen fit to link to me, and so to whom, as is my custom, I shall link in return.

The Pope Blog, a nice collection of quotes from and news about His Holiness John Paul II.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a groovy religious community based out of New York City. Founded in the 1980s through the joint effort of John Cardinal O'Connor and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, the order is just blowing up as it moves toward canonical status sometime in the next decade. I stopped in for a visit at the priory in Harlem when I was back in New York last week; they offered me lunch and I was amazed to discover that the order had about a dozen postulants preparing to enter the religious life. I don't know about you, but the idea of a small religious community adding ten or twelve new members a year in this day and age seems almost ludicrous. But there it is. As I said, a groovy community. They're very "in the world but not of it": imbued with a simple Franciscan piety and a deep orthodoxy, but hip to the media and technological developments of the age. Case in point: you can watch a Quicktime video of the most recent set of brothers taking their perpetual profession of vows here. And they have a monastic garage band. And Fr. Benedict has a TV show.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

"ein eiserner Vorhang"

The History Channel just informed me that it was Goebbels, rather than Churchill, who coined the term "Iron Curtain". He did so in a 1945 warning in Das Reich, the Nazi Party newspaper, as to what would happen if the Germans laid down their arms. He predicted (accurately) Soviet occupation over East and Southeast Europe, and the greater part of Germany, with the aforementioned Iron Curtain separating Bolshevism from Europe.

As they say: good artists borrow, great artists steal.

Don't believe me?

Would Monty Have Created an SS Insurgency?

Watching a History Channel special on WWII right now. A thought occurs:

Throughout the summer, autumn and winter of 1944, Field Marshall Montgomery was an advocate for concentrating Allied forces into a single thrust that would drive across the Rhine over the North German Plain straight to Berlin with the goal of decapitating the Nazi leadership. His plans were stymied by Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower, who preferred to keep making gradual progress along a broad front, at least until the German counterattack at the Bulge.

Does Monty's strategic plan sound familiar to anyone else? It seems to me eerily similar to Gen. Tommy Franks' plan of attack in Iraq.

Which raises the question in my mind. What if Monty's plan had been adopted, and had worked? What if the Allies had taken Berlin, and overthrown the Nazi government, by November 1944? Would there have been a German insurgency similar to what we're seeing today in Iraq? If the Nazi state collapsed with most of Germany outside Allied control, with much of the German army still in the field, with the Soviet armies still in Poland and Hungary, with Dresden still standing, might the SS (and/or the OKW) have launched an insurgency to try to drive the Americans and British out? They might have even used knowledge acquired suppressing Resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe. And if all of Germany-proper was under Anglo-American occupation, might there not also have been a simultaneous, and perhaps cooperative, Communist insurgency, as the Soviets tried to undermine the Western position in Central Europe? The Allies might have been tied down in a brutal occupation for a decade or more.

What if Kerry had Supported Ohio's Issue 1?

Could Kerry have won Ohio, and thus the election, if he'd publicly declared himself in favor of the state's anti-gay marriage amendment? Could state gay marriage amendments have been Kerry's "Sister Souljah"?

The Mainstream Media seems to have latched onto the idea that "moral values" (and in particular gay marriage) was the key issue in Bush's construction of a popular vote majority, and that the eleven ballot measures banning gay marriage in various states were instrumental in getting those mythical four million Evangelicals out to vote for Bush.

Was there anything Kerry could have done to diffuse this phenomenon? If he'd come out in favor of the passage of Issue 1, the anti-gay marriage initiative - which was cruising to an easy passage anyway - could he have diluted the enthusiasm of enough Evangelicals and/or convinced enough socially conservative Catholic union households that Kerry was acceptable to close the gap in the Buckeye State?

I'm not sure. (Nor am I that sure that "moral values" = "gay marriage"; among Catholics, at least, the "vote your values" emphasis was mostly on abortion. After all, there's no group called Priests for Traditional Marriage. It may have been different among Evangelicals - not being one I don't know.) But it is, I think, an interesting question.

I don't think it's that implausible that Kerry might have supported Issue 1. Consider his position on gay marriage:
1) He opposes amending the US Constitution to ban gay marriage.
2) He believes the issue should be left to the states.
3) He personally believes marriage is between a man and a woman.
Nothing about that position logically dictates that Kerry oppose banning gay marriage in Ohio. Indeed, 2 and 3 might suggest that he ought to have supported Issue 1. After all, what does it mean for the issue to be "left to the states" if not for states to be able to set policy on this issue, through courts, legislatures or ballot initiatives? And what does it mean to believe that civil marriage should be "between a man and a woman" if not to think that that understanding ought to be reflected in the law? The whole logic behind the Democratic opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment is that it was unnecessary because the issue could be dealt with on a state-by-state basis. Endorsing Issue 1 might have been a money-where-your-mouth-is moment for Kerry, a way of showing voters that his position on the issue wasn't just a disguise for covert support for same-sex marriage, and that his "personal belief" that marriage is between a man and a woman wasn't an analogue of his "personal opposition" to abortion: a purely private belief he doesn't think out to be reflected in public policy.

To put more Kerryite nuance on the issue, he might have come out against Issue 1 on the grounds that it also banned civil unions, but have endorsed a hypothetical amendment that banned gay marriage but left open the possibility of non-marriage civil unions. Civil unions are decently popular as a compromise solution, and if Republicans tried to spin it as a typical Kerry straddle, he could have pointed out that Bush also favors civil unions.

I know coming out in favor of Issue 1 would have been unpopular with the Democratic Party's socially-liberal base. But that constituency was energized by opposition to Bush and burned by its partial support of Nader in 2000: they were going to turn out, and turn out for Kerry. And, to the extent to which they didn't, they were mostly concentrated in dark blue states where a small drop-off in turnout wouldn't have hurt Kerry meaningful. The costs, I think, were small, and the potential payoff possibly quite substantial. The highest cost might actually have been giving ammunition to the Bush campaign for its "flip-flop" charge - the Senator who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act now coming out in favor of a state ban on gay marriage.

Just throwing it out there. Discuss amongst yourselves.