Friday, October 28, 2005

Nude Dancer Denudes Wallet
Today'sNew York Timeshas an op-ed defending the right of strip clubs torip off their clientele:

With many customers, fawning is key. What a stripper sells is not her ability to dance or take off her clothes, but her ability to suspend the customer's disbelief.

If she is doing her job right, his bald spot and his mortgage cease to exist, and he enters an adolescent fantasy of sexual prowess, temporarily transformed into James Bond, Han Solo and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one. The dancers keep cooing and flattering until the money runs out. It's not duplicitous; it's what the patron signs up for.

The author of the essay is Elizabeth Eaves, a former stripper who has turned the experience into a work of scholarship:Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power.

There's something poetic about a stripper who hates her customers so much she believes her job is to bankrupt them, since there isn't a lot of respect coming in the other direction of the"shake your moneymakers"business.

Eaves has anextremely low opinionof the men whose wallets she used to lay bare:

I don't have a lot of respect for these men. I don't think they're evil people, but I think that they're weak. I see visiting strip clubs as a form of cheating; I'm bothered by the idea that women are for sale, and I see this in many aspects of our society.

$500,000 for a Flying Fish

There may be no fat left in the federal budget, if you believe the assessment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but there's a lot of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.

A non-profit in Alaska led by a Republican Congressman's son spent $500,000 in federal funds to paint an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 like a salmon, according to theAnchorage Daily News.

A team of 30 painters and airbrush artists used more than 140 gallons of paint and took 24 days to render the lifelike chinook -- triple the time normally needed to coat an airliner.

"There's no question, at least in my mind, that this is the finest airline art ever conceived,"said Bill MacKay, the company's Anchorage-based senior vice president."People will just be amazed at the detail."

The fishy expenditure comes from the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, whose chairman Ben Stevens was spawned by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The board received $29 million in federal funding to promote Alaskan seafood.

Everyone Who Uses Must Converge
Last March, Ashley Smith was taken hostage by Brian Nichols after he shot a judge and three other people to death escaping an Atlanta courthouse. During a seven-hour ordeal, she read to him from the Bible andThe Purpose-Driven Life. He eventually let the 27-year-old woman leave and tell the police his whereabouts, surrendering peacefully.

Wall Street Journalpundit Peggy Noonan wasdeeply movedby the incident:

Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols were together for seven hours.Thisis Nichols's mug shot.Thisis Nichols's face after he gave himself up to police Saturday.

Something changed.

Something happened. ...

It is an amazing and beautiful story. And for all its unlikeliness you know it happened as Smith said. You know she told the truth. It's funny how we all know this.

Something did happen. Smith revealed a secret in hernew memoirthat she kept from police, the press, and Peggy -- during the ordeal, she gave Nichols some of hercrystal meth:

... as the night wore on -- after Nichols had snorted some of Smith's meth -- she tried to win Nichols' trust by talking about her faith in God and relating to him her personal stories. ...

She writes that she asked Nichols if he wanted to see the danger of drugs and lifted up her tank top several inches to reveal a five-inch scar down the center of her torso -- the aftermath of a car wreck caused by drug-induced psychosis. She says she let go of the steering wheel when she heard a voice saying,"Let go and let God."

In the short term,crystal methbrings reduced fatigue and adeep feelingof well-being, intelligence and power. (In the long term,not so much).

Noonan found in Nichols' transformation a redemptive Easter miracle:

This is all quite a mystery, too big to be understood, too beautiful to be ignored.

I just feel like bowing to everyone, all the victims and all the survivors, the good judge, the good guards, the good woman, the reporters, all of whom became part of something big and without borders. The only lesson is love. I feel certain this is true.


Update: Lee Siegel, a critic for theNew Republic, questioned Smith's story from the beginning, faulting the broadcast media for spinning a fable that omitted her criminal record, the circumstances of her husband's murder and the reason she lost custody of her child.

Brownie Backs Brown-Noser
The White House has enlisted a new ally in the effort to seat Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court:

Conservative activist Michael D. Brown said internal GOP polling being cited by party and administration emissaries purports to show that"70 percent of self-identified conservative voters have a favorable impression of Harriet Miers."

The emissaries are warning that ordinary Republicans beyond the Washington Beltway continue to support the nomination because they trust President Bush, even after several weeks of conservative opposition to her, according to several conservative Miers critics who have been courted by the White House.

The administration is"disappointed that conservatives inside the Beltway are fighting among ourselves over this nomination, and it fuels the fires for our enemies, for Democrats,"said Mr. Brown, the former Federal Emergency Management Agency director.

Brown also gave Miers 500 bottles of water and $200,000 in federal relief to replace a tree outside her Dallas home that was toppled by Hurricane Rita.

Losing Page Rank with Two Site URLs
I've been tracking the Google page rank of my web sites for the past year, trying to learn about effective, non-abusive techniques that improve their positions in search engines. You can really see a difference in a site's traffic when it goes up in rank.SportsFilterjumped to PR 7 in the last three months, and the site's membership is booming as a result.

A lot of publishers are losing page rank because they use two different domains -- one that begins withwwwand one that doesn't -- for the same site.

Most sites offer both forms of address to help users. For instance, you can reach the political analysis site MyDD at

When you use two domains, pick one that's the real address and redirect the other address using an HTTP status code of"301 moved permanently,"which indicates a permanent move, rather than"302 found,"which may be temporary.

If you take another approach, Google's likely to treat them as different sites. For example, Google tracks 24,600 incoming links, giving the site PR 7, and 808 links, giving it PR 6.

The site's hosted with Apache, so ifmod_rewriteis installed, a two-line.htaccessfile in's root directory will redirect requests to the real address with the proper HTTP code:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$1 [R=301]

To see if your site could benefit from this technique, try both of its addresses as a Google search. If the number of results is different, Google thinks you're publishing two different sites and you're losing page rank. I know this affects all Manila-published sites, because I've experienced it atBuzzwordand am abjectly begging UserLand for a fix, and other weblogging tools as well. Among the top 10 blogs onTechnorati, onlyDooceandKottke.Orgaren't giving up some rank.

And the Booker Goes To ...
There aren't many instances where I wish the American Revolution had turned out differently, but the yearly award of theBooker Prize for Fictionis one of them. Our former rulers treat an annual literary contest with the pagaentry and hype that the U.S. bestows uponSurvivorfinales and the joyous day Tom Cruise announces that he has anointed his next bride. Advantage Britain.

The Booker's such a big deal there's atell-all bookcoming out about the contest, written by departing administrator Martyn Goff:

There will be a number of stories that have not appeared ever before, including stories about judges. Yes, there will be sexual shenanigans, but that's quite minor compared to other things.

When this becomes a movie, I see Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren in the roles of the sexually rapacious literary judges, with F. Murray Abraham hiding in the closet taking pictures.

This year's Booker, announced live last night on British TV, went to Irish novelist John Banville forThe Sea, a novel of a grieving man returning to a vacation spot where something very bad happened in his youth. (The titleThe Prince of Tideswas already taken.)

Banville put some work into this victory. He shredded a critically acclaimed book,Saturdayby former Booker winner Ian McEwan, and may have contributed to the"dismayingly bad book"being left off the list of finalists for 2005.

The review's on afor-pay site, but the writer Jenny Davidsonbloggedthe good parts:

It happens occasionally that a novelist will lose his sense of artistic proportion, especially when he has done a great deal of research and preparation. I have read all those books, he thinks, I have made all these notes, so how can I possibly go wrong? Or he devises a program, a manifesto, which he believes will carry him free above the demands of mere art -- no deskbound scribbler he, no dabbler in dreams, but a man of action, a match for any scientist or soldier. He sets to work, and immediately matters start to go wrong -- the thing will not flow, the characters are mulishly stubborn, even the names are not right -- but yet he persists, mistaking the frustrations of an unworkable endeavor for the agonies attendant upon the fashioning of a masterpiece. But no immensity of labor will bring to successful birth a novel that was misconceived in the first place.

Something of the kind seems to have happened here.Saturdayis a dismayingly bad book. The numerous set pieces -- brain operations, squash game, the encounters with Baxter, etc. -- are hinged together with the subtlety of a child's Erector Set. The characters too, for all the nuzzling and cuddling and punching and manhandling in which they are made to indulge, drift in their separate spheres, together but never touching, like the dim stars of a lost galaxy. The politics of the book is banal, of the sort that is to be heard at any middle-class Saturday-night dinner party, before the talk moves on to property prices and recipes for fish stew. There are good things here, for instance the scene when Perowne visits his senile mother in an old-folks' home, in which the writing is genuinely affecting in its simplicity and empathetic force. Overall, however,Saturdayhas the feel of a neoliberal polemic gone badly wrong; if Tony Blair -- who makes a fleeting personal appearance in the book, ozozing insincerity -- were to appoint a committee to produce a 'novel for our time,' the result would surely be something like this.

Meow! I do not expect to learn in Goff's book that these two are having sex.

Harriet Miers, Bush's Stealth Bomb
A letter toNational ReviewcolumnistDavid Frum:

I graduated from law school this past May, and am currently a **th Circuit law clerk. I have always been a member of the Federalist Society, and have devoted much of my recent spare time to working on several law review articles that, while on subjects esoteric to non-attorneys (such as subject matter jurisdiction priority over personal jurisdiction), remain important to the proper position of the courts in our governmental system.

I'm considering abandoning them after watching how such advocacy often turns into a negative blotch on an attorney's resume and a disqualifier for any high level judiciary or executive service ...

Since the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the most fascinating political site on the web has beenConfirm Them, a weblog created by Republican activists to support the confirmation of President Bush's judicial appointments.

Miers has made a mockery of the site's name, splitting conservative contributors into angry pro- and anti-Miers camps. They were gearing up for a fight to get an openly conservative jurist with an established track record past the Senate, but instead have been handed another stealth nominee whose judicial philosophy must be taken on faith.

No conservative had the White House counsel on their short list of prospective choices, according toGeorge Willin one of the greatest insults in the history of punditry:

... there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.

Snap! You go, George!

Stealth nominees have a strategic short-term advantage that makes it difficult to keep them off the court, so it's likely that Miers will be confirmed unless President Bush withdraws the nomination, which ranks in probability somewhere between"no chance in hell"and"never in a million years."The president's so stubborn that were he captain of the Titanic, he would have run the ship into a second iceberg to prove he meant to hit the first one.

There's a long-term price for filling the Supreme Court in secrecy, as this clerk's letter illustrates. Conservatives have built an intellectual foundation for their interpretation of constitutional law over a quarter century, as embodied by theFederalist Societyand the embrace oforiginalism.

Neither Bush appointment has publicly nurtured this movement during their careers. In some instances, they've even distanced themselves from it. When asked her most admired Supreme Court justice, Miersdid not chooseJustices Scalia or Thomas. When John Roberts showed up in a Federalist Society membership directory, the White House issued aquick denial, stating that he"has no recollection of being a member."

Roger Pilon, a Cato Institute vice president and society member, was stunned to see Robertsrun away from the associationas if Joseph McCarthy was after him."Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Federalist Society?"

If you're a 25-year-old conservative who graduated Harvard Law first in your class and clerks for Chief Justice Roberts, do you spend the next 20 years contributing to law journals, actively participating in the Federalist Society and seeking a judgeship from which you can foster conservative jurisprudence?

Clearly, if you have supreme ambitions, the answer is no. By choosing Roberts and Miers, Bush has publicly affirmed the notion that judicial conservatives believe in an ideology that dare not speak its name. Friends of Clarence are the new Friends of Dorothy, forced to develop furtive code phrases to seek each other out -- just like how President Bush namedropsDred Scottas a double-secret shout out toanti-abortion activists.

"I couldn't help but overhear what you said aboutGriswold v. Connecticutat the bar, friend. Want to take this someplace more private so we can disrespectstare decisisaway from all of these living constitutionalists?"

Harriet Miers is the best thing to happen to liberals since the repeal of anti-sodomy laws. I hope she has a sister.

In a story that will not become an inspirational ESPN movie starring Gene Hackman, a Florida high school hasdropped its football programmidseason after losing its first six games by a combined score of 299-0. The Doral Academy Firebirds, who returned13 startersfrom last year's 0-11 team, still had thetoughest part of the scheduleto come. During the first six games of this season, they lost 29 out of 45 players with season-ending injuries to their pride.