Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Sidney Bluementhal - former Clinton hatchet-man, whom fellow jounralist Christopher Hitchens publicly accused of having committed perjury before the Grand Jury in the Lewinsky affair - joins the chorus of lefties blaming President Bush for the devastation in New Orleans due to Katrina.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
SEO Book's Aaron Wall sued over comments on his weblog.
(Aaron Wall comments here.)
Monday, August 29, 2005
Past Music Mondays:
Lyric Of The Week:
"Louisiana 1927" - by Randy Newman.
Free Featured MP3 Downloads of the week.
From Amazon.com's website:
Michael Penn's fascination with the changes of post-World War II America in 1947 inspired, and ultimately laid the groundwork for, Penn's most recent release, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947. Penn beautifully paints a picture of a forgotten L.A. throughout the album with stories involving an intriguing cast of characters and timeless tales, like the soaring "Walter Reed." While in the studio and preparing for a tour, Penn also recorded a new version of a song originally found on Free for All.
Download both tracks for free:
1) - "Walter Reed" from Michael Penn's Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947
2) - "Long Way Down" (Amazon.com Exclusive Nonalbum Track)
(There are also a couple more tracks available at Michael Penn's My Space Page. And, oh yeah, he's Sean Penn's brother.)
Pop Culture Madness shares with you and me their list of the Worst Songs Of All Time.
Led Zeppelin broke up years ago, but Zep tribute band Led-Zepplica soldiers on, and offers up credible cover version MP3's of Misty Mountain Hop and Kashmir.
If yer a fan of the likes of Sarah Mclachlan, you might enjoy a couple of Aussie lasses with US connections: Rebecca St. James, based here these days, and Missy Higgins, touring the States during August and September (Missy will be back in OZ in October, touring with Ben Lee.)
You can hear streaming audio and video of tunes from both ladies' album on their websites:
1) - Rebecca St. James
2) - Missy Higgins
I've written about the House Of Love before. And I told you to check out the streaming audio on their website. but you didn't do it, did you? Well, I beseech you: go to their website, and give a listen to the first four songs of their new album "Days Run Away." I'll wager you'll thank me for it.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Saturday, August 27, 2005
I'm heading out in just a few minutes to spend the day at the State Fair with buds and fellow bloggers Mondo and Sola. I've been going to the Fair every year since I moved to Minnesota, and haven't missed a year in over 30, but I gotta tell you, it changes little, year to year, so there's really no need to wait until I get back home to post my memories of a day spent at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Originally written a couple of years ago for a Livejournal post, and first posted here on Blogizdat in December 2004, I offer you, once again, Remembering the State Fair:
Overpriced hot dogs being consumed by extremely obese Fairgoers...A hog billed as the World's Biggest Pig, lying on his side in a pen full of smelly straw...Bored-looking youth milling about, slack-jawed, in front of the Alternative Rawk Musik Station booth...Parents pulling crying kids in red Radio Flyer wagons...Midway Carny barkers shouting out come-ons for their games of chance and skill...A field of caucasian faces, punctuated by an occasional brown visage...Hot and sweaty exhibition halls, with rows of vendors selling sandals, vegetable washers, pianos, velvet paintings, wooden clogs, tee shirts, sunglasses, gospel music CD's...Fair patrons trying desperately to stay cool, in various states of undress...Free copies of the day's city newspapers being handed out in plastic bags at the entrances...Beer-bellied middle-aged men wearing teeshirts with vulgar slogans...The twice-daily Fair Parade, headed by the Budweiser Clydesdales, with gymnists, clowns, marching bands, cheerleaders, with the Fair Queen and her Princesses atop their float, waving to the crowd...Political booths plastered with advertising for their candidates and positions of choice...A tired young lad walking hand-in-hand with his dreamy-eyed girlfriend, carrying the huge stuffed Pink Panther he just won for her at the Midway Dart Throwing booth...Mothers applying lotion to their children's puffy, sunburned bodies...Clusters of giggling tweenage girls, sending text messages to each other and calling each other on their cell phones...A sixty year-old tattooed man wearing a muscle shirt, tight lavender lycra shorts, brown socks and loafers...The Dairy Princess, sitting for hours in a large glass-windowed cooler, having her likeness carved in a 200-pound block of butter...Polka and square-dance groups, competing for prizes...Fifteen year-old girls caked with makeup, hoping to pass for seventeen, or maybe even eighteen...Attractive young couples snuggling on their first date...Older couples looking extremely tired of each other, and quite possibly on the verge of breaking up...Long, long lines at the cash machines and women's rest rooms...Fresh-faced 4H girls, with names like Cindy and Sandy, giving cow-milking demonstrations...Deep-fried cheese curds, corn dogs, foot long hot dogs, deep-fried Snickers bars, not-really-that-cold 3.2 beer, malts and milkshakes, mini-donuts, huge containers of soda pop, walleye-on-a-stick, everything and anything else on a stick...Antacids being handed out at the Health Building...Weary fairgoers carrying bulging plastic bagfuls of fliers and brochures that they picked up throughout the day...Yellowjackets and bees buzzing in and out of ubiquitous garbage cans...Size 18 middle-aged women spilling out of size 16 terry-cloth shorts and tops...Geezer Rock and Country bands, playing the Grandstand to 20,000 fans...An out-of-tune mariachi band...The screams of kids and adults, as they come down the giant yellow slide...A man carrying the broom and mop set he just bought for the Best-Price-Ever...Bad art mingled with great at the juried exhibition, in the Fine Arts Building...Blue Ribbons, Best-In-Show and Honorable-Mention tags hanging on sweaters, dresses, pies, woodworking, lamps, dolls...A dizzying array of brightly-colored flashing neon lights punctuating the cocophonous din of the Midway rides, late at night...A brigade of weary-looking men and women picking up trash.
Well, I'm off. (And for all you Mobsters, hope to see you at the NARN broadcast.)
Friday, August 26, 2005
You scored 14% Tough, 14% Roguish, 61% Friendly, and 9% Charming!
You are the fun and friendly boy next door, the classic nice guy who still manages to get the girl most of the time. You're every nice girl's dreamboat, open and kind, nutty and charming, even a little mischievous at times, but always a real stand up guy. You're dependable and forthright, and women are drawn to your reliability, even as they're dazzled by your sense of adventure and fun. You try to be tough when you need to be, and will gladly stand up for any damsel in distress, but you'd rather catch a girl with a little bit of flair. Your leading ladies include Jean Arthur and Donna Reed, those sweet girl-next-door types.
Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the Classic Dames Test.
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on Ok Cupid
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Doug (of Bogus Gold) posted his Musings on Blogging yesterday, and pointed out that Douglas Bass closed up shop at Apprehension this week. Mr. Bass was one of the few MOBsters I had the chance to chat with at any length at this past January's Keegan's gathering, and I have enjoyed reading his blog over the months. He will be missed.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
Past Music Mondays:
Lyrics Of The Week:
"Twilight" and "Memory Lane." - both by Elliott Smith.
Free MP3 Downloads of the week.
Check out these two tunes from Elliott Smith's achingly beautiful 2004 posthumous release, from a basement on the hill:
1) - "Twilight"
2) - "Memory Lane"
And be sure to give a listen to streaming audio of several live Elliott Smith tunes from his album Figure 8.
(All music files courtesy Amazon.com.)
Interesting set of CD and DVD reviews on Amazon, from one Crabby Apple Mick Lee.
The fascinating history of the C86.
Download the MP3 of "Noah's Ark," a lovely and trippy tune from Coco Rosie's upcoming CD on Touch and Go.
Here's a powerful MP3 cover version of an Echo and the Bunnymen Big Eighties classic "Villiers Terrace," by Kelley Stoltz.
News Of The Weird, from The Smoking Gun:
Slipknot's Burger King Beef.
More Family Troubles For Eminem.
It's yours for a mere $35 on eBay, The Swoon's only nationally-released Self Titled CD, with Yours Truly's moniker buried deep in the credits.
And, while you're at it, give a listen to Poor Old Lu's MP3 cover version of The Swoon's lovely Speak Soft, available from POL's Website.
And, lastly, although it isn't directly music-related, former Swoon lead singer (now pastor) Daniel Lancaster has MP3's available of his series on the book of Hebrews.
I Heart iMovie: Why Apple's iMovie HD Beats Windows XP Movie Maker 2.
(Jeff Carlson disagrees.)
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Six year-old AE (she-who-starts-First-Grade-in-two-weeks) has recently learned how to draw the Disney version of Winnie-the-Pooh, and is nearly as impressed with herself as I am. To sample her handiwork, click on any of the thumbnail images below.
Next up (I hope): Piglet and Eeyore.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
It starts next Thursday. What is it? From Wikipedia:
Minnesota State FairThe Minnesota State Fair, marketed as "The Great Minnesota Get-Together," is one of the largest state fairs in the United States. It is held at the state fairgrounds, adjoining the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. The site is in the suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, adjacent to the state's capital city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. At the fair, residents of the state and region come to be entertained, exhibit their best livestock, show off their own abilities in a variety of fields including art and cooking, learn about new products and services, and enjoy many different types of food—often on a stick. It typically runs for 12 days, running from late August into early September with the last day being Labor Day. In 2004, attendance was 1,631,940.
Minnesota first held a Territorial Fair in 1854, although the first Minnesota State Fair didn't occur until 1859, the year after statehood. Since then, the fair has run annually except for five different years. In 1861 and 1862, the fair was not held because of the Civil War and the Sioux Uprising. Scheduling issues between the fair and the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois caused the 1893 show to be cancelled. The fair again closed because of war in 1945, as fuel was in short supply. It was again closed in 1946 because of an outbreak of polio.
However, the story is a bit more complex than that. In its early years during the 19th century, the fair was held in many different locations. Some were not far from the current site, but others were relatively far-flung, including years where it was held in Owatonna and Rochester. For a time in the 1870s, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul held competing fairs. Minneapolis, the younger city of the pair, eventually outdid its neighbor by staging the larger fair with the help of Colonel William S. King.
In 1884, a committee was put together by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society to select a permanent site. One site that was considered was an area around Minnehaha Falls, but the final site chosen was the Ramsey County Poor Farm, the fair's current site. It was a politically-neutral site, being about halfway between Minneapolis and St. Paul at the time. The fair first opened its doors there on September 7, 1885. The site was then 210 acres (0.8 km²), but it now stands at 310 acres (1.3 km²).
One of the first annual events to occur is the creation of a sculpture made of butter. Each year, a new Princess Kay of the Milky Way is selected to promote Minnesota's dairy industry. Part of the job involves posing for several hours in a walk-in, glass-walled refrigerator as a 90 pound (41 kg) block of butter is carved into a head with her likeness. Butter makers started sculpting their products at the fair as far back as 1898, although the head-sculpting tradition didn't begin until 1964.
The main entrance to the fair from Snelling Avenue heads onto a road named Dan Patch Avenue for a pacer horse who won every race he ran in from 1905 to 1909 when he was retired.
One of the most significant dates in the fair's history was September 2, 1901 when then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt first uttered, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Roosevelt became president just days later after William McKinley was assassinated.
Machinery Hill is an area of the fairgrounds worth noting. For several decades, it held the largest annual display of farm equipment in the world, with many companies showing off tractors, combines, and various attachments. However, as the state's population has now largely moved away from farm life, modern displays generally focus on cars, trucks, lawn mowers, and recreational machines like motorbikes.
- State Fair Trivia. StateFairRecipes.com. Accessed August 22, 2004.
- Butter Sculpture Facts. Midwest Dairy Association. Accessed August 22, 2004.
- Fulton Klinkerfues. Remember When…Big brouhaha over where to put the fair. Good Age Newspaper. Accessed August 22, 2004.
See you at the Fair!
There are few enough daily hits to Blogizdat that I still often pay attention to where they come from. Just now I noticed I was recently found via an interesting website/blog I'd not previously known about: Punditdrome, a kind of RSS feed aggregator of blogs, though they describe it differently. I'm not quite sure how I ended up there - it appears to be pulling MOB blogs feeds, amongst others - but anyway, go take a peek. It's a cool concept.
(From their FAQ: "PunditDrome is an automatically updated Table of Contents to a selection of syndicated blogs. The site is not an "aggregator" since it only provides brief abstracts to its universe of blogs. To see a full article, click on its abstract. The associated blog opens in a new window, and the article is displayed.")
Friday, August 19, 2005
Thursday, August 18, 2005
We live in historic times: Diddy Drops the P.
"It's the era of Diddy."
So proclaimed the hip-hop impresario formerly known as Sean Combs, Puffy, Puff Daddy and now P. Diddy on Tuesday's Today Show, as he explained that he was changing his name once again.
The rap mogul last switched it up--from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy--in 2001, while seeking a "fresh start" after being acquitted on gun charges.
As for what brought about the latest change in moniker, the entertainer admitted that his previous name change left his fans uncertain of how to address him.
"I felt like the 'P' was getting between me and my fans and now we're closer," Diddy said.
"During concerts, half the crowd is saying 'P. Diddy'--half the crowd is chanting 'Diddy'--now everybody can just chant 'Diddy.' "
He confessed that his unwieldy name was even starting to befuddle him.
"I even started to get confused myself--and when I'd called someone on the telephone it took me a long time to explain who I was. Too long," Diddy told the New York Post.
"One word. Five letters. Period," he added.
Well, I'm glad that's settled.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Top five ways MP3 has changed the world:
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Technology editor, MP3.com
July 20, 2005
Happy birthday, MP3. Ten years ago last week, a guy named Jürgen Zeller sent out an e-mail to the rest of the team at Fraunhofer Gesellshaft, announcing that an internal poll had unanimously declared .mp3 to be the new official file extension of the audio format the company had been working on since the '80s. In the years to come, their invention changed the music business, the Internet, and--by extension--the world forever. Here's my list of the top five ways MP3 has changed the world.
1. Making music vanish into thin air
The most important thing MP3 did was to usher in the final format for all media: pure digital. Music is no longer tied to physical objects. Sure, if MP3 hadn't come along when it did, some other codec would have become the standard for the burgeoning digital music scene. And yes, I know that in some ways, the CD can be considered a digital format, and it predated MP3. But that doesn't change the fact that the engineers at Fraunhofer were the first to invent an algorithm that makes a good compromise between file size and sound quality--the properties that enabled music to be zipped around the Internet without sounding like it was coming through a tin can with a string attached to the back. Maybe that's why it still remains the de facto term for referring to digital music, such as Kleenex for tissue, Xerox for copier machines, and in some cases, even iPod for MP3 player.
Read the rest of the piece here.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Did DOD Lawyers Blow The Chance To Nab Atta?
In September 2000, one year before the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11, a U.S. Army military intelligence program, known as “Able Danger,” identified a terrorist cell based in Brooklyn, NY, one of whose members was 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta, and recommended to their military superiors that the FBI be called in to “take out that cell,” according to Rep. Curt Weldon, a longtime Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who is currently vice chairman of both the House Homeland Security and House Armed Services Committees.
The recommendation to bring down that New York City cell -- in which two other Al Qaeda terrorists were also active -- was not pursued during the weeks leading up to the 2000 presidential election, said Weldon. That’s because Mohammed Atta possessed a “green card” at the time and Defense Department lawyers did not want to recommend that the FBI go after someone holding a green card, Weldon told his House colleagues last June 27 during a little-noticed speech, known as a “special order,” which he delivered on the House floor.
More from from GSN.
(Also at Washington Times, and Yahoo News.)
(And remember, this happened under Clinton's watch, but you just wait: the Loony Lefties will still try to pin it on Dubyah.)
Monday, August 15, 2005
Past Music Mondays:
Lyric Of The Week:
What Kind Of Friend? by Mark Heard.
Free MP3 Downloads of the week.
This week features three captivating tunes from Loquat's 2005 release, It's Yours To Keep:
1) - "Slow, Fast, Wait and See"
2) - "Take It Back"
3) - "Swingset Chain"
David Bowie and The Occult? It's all here.
The fascinating history of the Theremin.
Two radically different MP3 downloads from the talented, bizarro and deceased Klaus Nomi:
1) - "Coldsong" (Purcell)
2) - "After The Fall"
Great local Twin Cities band, with a bunch of MP3's and WMA's available for download: Accident Clearinghouse.
Meet The Rutles - or not.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
From the New York Times:
August 7, 2005
When Pigs Wi-Fi
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
This is cowboy country, where the rodeo is coming to town, the high school's "kiss the pig" contest involves a genuine hog, and life seems about as high-tech as the local calf-dressing competition, when teams race to wrestle protesting calves into T-shirts.
But Hermiston is actually a global leader of our Internet future. Today, this chunk of arid farm country appears to be the largest Wi-Fi hot spot in the world, with wireless high-speed Internet access available free for some 600 square miles. Most of that is in eastern Oregon, with some just across the border in southern Washington.
More from the NYT here.
But lest you get the wrong idea, Daily Wireless explains the whats and whys.
But please feel free to play along:
|Your Capricorn Drinking Style|
Independent, powerful and seriously charismatic, you're not too eager to please. And if you make money being yourself, who is anyone to quibble? But just like most rock stars, you're either totally on or totally off... And you generally need a little social lubricant to loosen up and enjoy the after party, especially if you can hook up with a cute groupie.
Your Signature Cocktails
|Old-fashioned Capricorns like an old-fashioned just fine or a dry martini, or a gin and tonic, or a gimlet -- or any other no-nonsense quaff. You prefer drinks that taste like alcohol and generally hate drinks with more than three ingredients. However, you like the flavor of cranberry and will order a cosmo if you can handle the wait for it to get mixed.|
Your Celebrity Drinking Buddies
|Orlando Bloom, Kate Moss, Jude Law. Marilyn Manson, Dolly Parton, Howard Stern, Kirstie Alley, and Rush Limbaugh.|
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Living as we do in the entertainment mecca of the upper Midwest, I had the choice of taking the girls this PM to Highland Fest or to the Roseville Lutheran Church Free Corn Feed, and we chose The Corn. Well, the big draw was the fact that The Teddy Bear Band and The Rocking Hollywoods were playing at RLC, so The Corn it was.
We had a nice time: the weather was perfect and the food was tasty. Mrs. Muzzy and her parents were along for the fun, and the girls had a great time dancing to the band(s), having baloon animals made for them by clowns, and climbing into the firetrucks that were brought in by the city Fire Department for the kids.
We've been going to the annual neighborhood outreach event at Roseville Lutheran Church ever since it was first instituted, several years back. It seems several years ago the church wanted to expand the size of its physical plant and, in so doing, incurred the ire of a number of neighbors, who worried about increased traffic and noise. To mend fences, the church started hosting the neighborhood for an outdoor picnic-style meal in their parking lot each August. The Corn Feed is free to the community, and the church doesn't seem to use it to try to pressure anyone to attend their services, although I suspect they hope the event will draw some to their church. Nothing wrong with that, though I don't know if they ever won back the folks who'd initially been upset.
Anyway, like I said, it was nice.
And since I didn't make it to Highland Fest this year, I am including below some of a post I made to another online service about the Friday evening I spent at The Fest last year:
When The Wife got home from work this evening I rushed down to the Highland Park Half-Price Bookstore to get in on their semi-annual tent sale, only to find they'd closed up the tent in the parking lot a few minutes early. But the store was still open, so I managed to spend a little cash money inside. After I left Half-Price Books I went down the street to Barnes & Noble to pick up a couple of magazines and then strolled down the street to check out the Highland Fest events that were still going on.
Most of the booths had already closed for the night, but up the street a small carnival had been set up, and a band called Boogie Wonderland was playing 70's and 80's hits originally made famous by the likes of the late Rick James, Kool and the Gang, The Commodores, Pat Benatar and Kiss. As good as Boogie Wonderland was, it was actually more interesting watching the audience while they enjoyed the music.
As I stood at the back of the crowd and took in the sights, I noted:
Groups of teenage girls in the bloom of youth, way too young to have ever seen or heard of Kool and the Gang, wearing tee shirts and pleated skirts, sporting various shades of pink, calling each other on cell phones, flirting with young boys and sizing up their rivals.
(One of the more whimsical sights I witnessed: a small group of girls, none of them older than 15, joined by another young girl, a friend of a friend, who shook hands with the alpha female of the group with the wary look of prize fighters shaking hands before the big match.)
Two girls down in the front of the crowd, by the stage, sitting on the shoulders of their S.O.'s, faux swing-dancing with each other, twirling about in a rather well-choreographed version of the real thing.
Three other teen-age girls pogo'ing madly to "I Just Want To Rock And Roll All Night," in their own private mini-mosh pit.
Young couples, obviously in love, snuggling and holding hands, swaying and shimmying in time to the music, not together long enough yet to have become jaded with each other, but long enough to be utterly comfortable with each other.
Older couples, who'd clearly grown up on the songs being played - from the way they mouthed the words to every song - and very much into *their* music, looking rather pudgy and clumsy as they tried line-dancing to "Brick House."
Still more pudgy men and women, smoking various varieties of tobacco and cannabis, attempting (in vain) to not spill their cups of malt beverage, as they bobbed and weaved along with the rest of the crowd.
Family groups of Dads and Moms and young kids, trying hard to not lose track of each other, enjoying themselves but appearing frustrated, the older kids appearing to want to get away from the rest of the family.
By around 10:15 pm the band had ended its set and the fireworks had begun. They were neither the best I'd seen, nor the worst, but made for a pleasant ending to a pleasant outing.
In years past, when I have been alone in a crowd, I have often felt a sense solitude and loneliness that is tempered with a twinge of sadness. Tonght I felt none of that; t felt nice to be out in the cool evening.
I turned off comments on this post, because it was getting spammed. I'll turn them back on if/when the storm passes.
I was just now watching Avril Lavigne doing "He Wasn't" off her second album "Under My Skin" on the Tonight Show. I gotta say, her live vocals don't seem to have gotten that much better over the past couple of years, but her stage presence is much improved, and it was a pleasure watching her perform, as she seemed to be actually enjoying herself. She also seems to have jettisoned her old sk8tr-girl image - which I never really believed - and looked quite grown-up and pretty, wearing her hair long and blonde, her face all-smiles, with none of the way-too-precocious pout she once made famous. Anyway, while her perfomance wasn't great, it wasn't bad either. I won't rush out and buy the CD, but I might just have to keep my eyes open for a copy in the used bins at Cheapo.
Friday, August 12, 2005
"Teddy bears are hard workers. Whatever you're going through -- illness, exams, unrequited love -- your teddy is always there, ready for a cuddle. Their quiet stoicism deserves a reward, say German entrepreneurs Christopher Böhm and Elke Verheugen. And they've got just the thing -- a nice, relaxing vacation in the Bavarian capital, Munich."
All about Needies:
Needies Need You.
Needies are interactive plush dolls inspired by codependent, high-maintenance relationships.
Totally attention-starved, they compete with each other for human affection -- or, getting touch, as they like to say.
When you give Needies touch (by hugging and squeezing them), they will return your kindness with songs and shameless flattery.
But remember that Needies always know when other Needies are getting touch! If one Needie is getting touch while others are neglected, the unloved Needies will conspire to take its place.
Eh, I don't need 'em. I have kids.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The following is reproduced in full by permission from Imprimus, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.
Constitutional Myths and Realities
Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
Stephen Markman, who teaches constitutional law at Hillsdale College , was appointed by Governor John Engler in 1999 as Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and subsequently elected to that position. Prior to that he served as United States Attorney in Michigan (appointed by President George H. W. Bush); Assistant Attorney General of the United States (appointed by President Ronald Reagan), in which position he coordinated the federal judicial selection process; Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution; and Deputy Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Justice Markman has written for numerous legal journals, including the Stanford Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review , the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform and the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 29, 2003, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Dearborn, Michigan.
The United States has enjoyed unprecedented liberty, prosperity and stability, in large part because of its Constitution. I would like to discuss a number of myths or misconceptions concerning that inspired document.
Myth or Misconception 1: Public policies of which we approve are constitutional and public policies of which we disapprove are unconstitutional.
It might be nice if those policies that we favor were compelled by the Constitution and those policies that we disfavor were barred by the Constitution. But this is not, by and large, what the Constitution does. Rather, the Constitution creates an architecture of government that is designed to limit the abuse of governmental power. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 sought to create a government that would be effective in carrying out its essential tasks, such as foreign policy and national defense, while not coming to resemble those European governments with which they were so familiar, where the exercise of governmental power was arbitrary and without limits. Therefore, while the Constitution constrains government, it does not generally seek to replace the representative processes of government.
Governments may, and often do, carry out unwise public policies without running afoul of the Constitution. As a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, I often uphold policies that have been enacted in the state legislature, or by cities and counties and townships, that I believe are unwise. But lack of wisdom is not the test for what is or is not constitutional, and lack of wisdom is not what allows me—a judge, not the adult supervisor of society—to exercise the enormous power of judicial review and strike down laws that have been enacted by “we the people” through their elected representatives. Redress for unwise public policies must generally come as the product of democratic debate and at the ballot box, not through judicial correction.
Myth or Misconception 2: The Constitution principally upholds individual rights and liberties through the guarantees of the Bill of Rights.
It is not to denigrate the importance of the Bill of Rights to suggest that the Founders intended that individual rights and liberties would principally be protected by the architecture of the Constitution—the structure of government set forth in its original seven articles. The great animating principles of our Constitution are in evidence everywhere within this architecture. First, there is federalism, in which the powers of government are divided between the national government and the states. To the former belong such powers as those relating to foreign policy and national defense; to the latter such powers as those relating to the criminal justice system and the protection of the family. Second, there is the separation of powers, in which each branch of the national government—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branch—has distinct responsibilities, yet is subject to the checks and balances of the other branches. Third, there is the principle of limited government of a particular sort in which the national government is constrained to exercise only those powers set forth by the Constitution, for example, issuing currency, administering immigration laws, running the post office and waging war. Together, these principles make it more difficult for government to exercise power and to abuse minority rights, and they limit the impact of governmental abuses of power.
Many of the Founders, including James Madison, believed that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary because the Constitution’s architecture itself was sufficient to ensure that national power would not be abused. As Alexander Hamilton remarked in Federalist 84, “the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, a Bill of Rights.” And practically speaking, until 1925, the Bill of Rights was not even thought to apply to the states, only to Congress; yet the individual rights of our citizens remained generally well protected.
Myth or Misconception 3: The national government and the state governments are regulated similarly by the Constitution.
As the 10th Amendment makes clear, the starting point for any constitutional analysis is that the national, i.e., the federal, government can do nothing under the Constitution unless it is affirmatively authorized by some provision of the Constitution. The states, on the other hand, can do anything under the Constitution unless they are prohibited by some provision of the Constitution. Why then, one might ask, throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century—before the Bill of Rights was thought to apply to the states—did Michigan and other states not generally infringe upon such indispensable freedoms as the freedoms of speech or religion? How were individual rights protected? Well, in two ways principally: First and most obviously, there was simply not majority sentiment on the part of the people of Michigan or other states to encroach upon such freedoms. Second, Michigan and all other states had their own Constitutions that protected such freedoms.
Today the Bill of Rights has been construed by the U.S. Supreme Court to apply to the states, creating more uniform and more centralized constitutional policy. It remains true, however, that the impact of the Constitution upon the national and state governments varies substantially.
Myth or Misconception 4: Federalism is the same thing as states rights.
“State’s rights” in the constitutional sense refers to all of the rights of sovereignty retained by the states under the Constitution. But in this sense, state’s rights refers to only half of what federalism is, the other half consisting of those powers either reserved for the national government or affirmatively prohibited to the states.
In popular use, “state’s rights” has had a checkered history. Before the Civil War, it was the rallying cry of southern opponents of proposals to abolish or restrict slavery. By the 20th century, it had become the watchword of many of those who supported segregation in the public schools, as well as those who criticized generally the growing power of the central government.
While I share the view that federal power has come to supplant “state’s rights” in far too many areas of governmental responsibility, “state’s rights” are truly rights only where an examination of the Constitution reveals both that the national government lacks the authority to act and that there is nothing that prohibits the state governments from acting. There is no “state right,” for example, for one state to impose barriers on trade coming from another, or to establish a separate foreign policy. These responsibilities are reserved to the national government by the Constitution.
Myth or Misconception 5: The Constitution is a document for lawyers and judges.
The Constitution was written for those in whose name it was cast, “we the people.” It is a relatively short document, and it is generally straightforward and clear-cut. With only a few exceptions, there is an absence of legalese or technical terms. While the contemporary constitutional debate has focused overwhelmingly on a few broad phrases of the Constitution such as “due process” and “equal protection,” the overwhelming part of this document specifies, for example, that a member of the House of Representatives must be 25 years of age, seven years a citizen, and an inhabitant of the state from which he is chosen; that a bill becomes a law when approved by both Houses and signed by the president, etc. One willing to invest just a bit more time in understanding the Constitution need only peruse The Federalist Papers to see what Madison, Hamilton or Jay had to say about its provisions to a popular audience in the late-18th century.
One reason I believe that the Constitution, as well as our laws generally, should be interpreted according to the straightforward meaning of their language, is to maintain the law as an institution that belongs to all of the people, and not merely to judges and lawyers. Let me give you an illustration: One creative constitutional scholar has said that the requirement that the president shall be at least 35 years of age really means that a president must have the maturity of a person who was 35 back in 1789 when the Constitution was written. That age today, opines this scholar, might be 30 or 32 or 40 or 42. The problem is that whenever a word or phrase of the Constitution is interpreted in such a “creative” fashion, the Constitution—and the law in general—becomes less accessible and less comprehensible to ordinary citizens, and more the exclusive province of attorneys who are trained in knowing such things as that “35” does not always mean “35.”
One thing, by the way, that is unusual in the constitutional law course that I teach at Hillsdale College is that we actually read the language of the Constitution and discuss its provisions as we do so. What passes for constitutional law study at many colleges and universities is exclusively the study of Supreme Court decisions. While such decisions are obviously important, it is also important to compare what the Supreme Court has said to what the Constitution says. What is also unusual at Hillsdale is that, by the time students take my course, they have been required to study such informing documents as the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, Washington’s First Inaugural Address—and, indeed, the Constitution itself.
Myth or Misconception 6: The role of the judge in interpreting the Constitution is to do justice.
The role of a judge is to do justice under law, a very different concept. Each of us has his or her own innate sense of right and wrong. This is true of every judge I have ever met. But judges are not elected or appointed to impose their personal views of right and wrong upon the legal system. Rather, as Justice Felix Frankfurter once remarked, “The highest example of judicial duty is to subordinate one’s personal will and one’s private views to the law.” The responsible judge must subordinate his personal sense of justice to the public justice of our Constitution and its representative and legal institutions.
I recall one judicial confirmation hearing a number of years ago when I was working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nominee was asked, “If a decision in a particular case was required by law or statute and yet that offended your conscience, what would you do?” The nominee answered, “Senator, I have to be honest with you. If I was faced with a situation like that and it ran against my conscience, I would follow my conscience.” He went on to explain: “I was born and raised in this country, and I believe that I am steeped in its traditions, its mores, its beliefs and its philosophies, and if I felt strongly in a situation like that, I feel that it would be the product of my very being and upbringing. I would follow my conscience.” To my mind, for a judge to render decisions according to his or her personal conscience rather than the law is itself unconscionable.
Myth or Misconception 7: The great debate over the proper judicial role is between judges who are activist and judges who are restrained.
In the same way that excessively “activist” judges may exceed the boundaries of the judicial power by concocting law out of whole cloth, excessively “restrained” judges may unwarrantedly contract protections and rights conferred by the laws and the Constitution. It is inappropriate for a judge to exercise “restraint” when to do so is to neglect his obligation of judicial review—his obligation to compare the law with the requirements set forth by the Constitution. Nor am I enamored with the term “strict construction” to describe the proper duties of the judge, for it is the role of the judge to interpret the words of the law reasonably—not “strictly” or “loosely,” not “broadly” or “narrowly,” just reasonably.
I would prefer to characterize the contemporary judicial debate in terms of interpretivism verses non-interpretivism. In doing this, I would borrow the description of the judicial power used by Chief Justice John Marshall, who 200 years ago in Marbury v. Madison stated that it is the duty of the judge to say what the law is, not what it ought to be (which is the province of the legislature). For the interpretivist, the starting point, and usually the ending point, in giving meaning to the law are the plain words of the law. This is true whether we are construing the law of the Constitution, the law of a statute, or indeed the law of contracts and policies and deeds. In each instance, it is the duty of the judge to give faithful meaning to the words of the lawmaker and let the chips fall where they may.
One prominent illustration of the differing approaches of interpretivism and non-interpretivism arises in the context of the constitutionality of capital punishment. Despite the fact that there are at least six references in the Constitution to the possibility of capital punishment—for example, both the 5th and 14th Amendments assert that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” from which it can clearly be inferred that a person can be deprived of these where there is due process—former Justice William Brennan held, in dissent, that capital punishment was unconstitutional on the grounds apparently that, since 1789, there had arisen an “evolving standard of decency marking the progress of a maturing society” on whose behalf he spoke. Purporting to speak for “generations yet unborn,” Justice Brennan substituted his own opinions on capital punishment for the judgments reached in the Constitution by the Founders. His decision in this regard is the embodiment, but certainly not the only recent example, of non-interpretivism.
Myth or Misconception 8: The Constitution is a living document.
The debate between interpretivists and non-interpretivists over how to give meaning to the Constitution is often framed in the following terms: Is the Constitution a “living” document, in which judges “update” its provisions according to the “needs” of the times? Or is the Constitution an enduring document, in which its original meanings and principles are permanently maintained, subject only to changes adopted in accordance with its amending clause? I believe that it is better described in the latter sense. It is beyond dispute, of course, that the principles of the Constitution must be applied to new circumstances over time—the Fourth Amendment on searches and seizures to electronic wiretaps, the First Amendment on freedom of speech to radio and television and the Internet, the interstate commerce clause to automobiles and planes, etc. However, that is distinct from allowing the words and principles themselves to be altered based upon the preferences of individual judges.
Our Constitution would be an historical artifact—a genuinely dead letter—if its original sense became irrelevant, to be replaced by the views of successive waves of judges and justices intent on “updating” it, or replacing what some judges view as the “dead hand of the past” with contemporary moral theory. This is precisely what the Founders sought to avoid when they instituted a “government of laws, not of men.”
There is no charter of government in the history of mankind that has more wisely set forth the proper relationship between the governed and their government than the American Constitution. For those of us who are committed to constitutional principles and fostering respect for that document, there is no better homage that we can pay it than to understand clearly its design and to take care in the manner in which we describe it.
Well put, sir.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Monday, August 08, 2005
Past Music Mondays:
Lyric Of The Week:
American Tune by Paul Simon.
Free MP3 Downloads of the week, from two who made their names in the The Big 80's - one absolutely still making music, and the other, well, not so much:
"Punks, Get Off The Grass" - by John Waters protege' Edith Massey.
"Down On The Corner" - by Johnny Marr.
Check out a five-minute medley performed by the actually-quite-good Queen Cover Band Killer Queen.
Are you one of those who as a kid loved it when your slightly older cousin had you pull his finger while he filled the room with the sounds of flatulance? Well, then you'll love Flatulina. Whoopee!
If you're at all like me, you've been missing the dulcet tones of Mr. William Hung's voice. You're in luck: here's a couple of pages of William Hung remixes: one and two.
The fascinating tale of the UK's Radio Caroline.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Saturday, August 06, 2005
We were sitting at breakfast this AM at the Holiday Inn Express, and at the next table was a man with whom I assumed was his teenage son, or possibly grandson. Nothing odd about that, but it presented a kind of sad image, nonetheless. The man looked to be in his mid-fifties, white with mostly greying hair, powerfully built, wearing an NRA (National Rifle Asssociation, for you non-Anglos) tee-shirt. The young man looked to be about fifteen, mixed-race and was as sullen as one might expect expect a teen with a knit cap pulled over his brow to be. The older man kept trying to make pleasant conversation with the youngster, and was being met with the usual teenage grunt: 'Yeah,' or 'whatever.' I got to wondering how long it would be before my girls slip into that mode, and I resolved to enjoy and appreciate the fact that they still think their Old Man is the World's Greatest Dad.
Friday, August 05, 2005
I'm writing this on my laptop, piggybacking what may possibly be the fastest wireless connection I've ever used, at a Holiday Inn Express in central Wisconsin, on the way to Mrs. Muzzy's family reunion. I don't have high-speed access at home, and I don't have cable TV, so it's a treat to be sitting here watching The O'Reilly Factor while I type this entry. Bill's guest right now is a healthy-looking Tony Snow, who's back to work after a few weeks off battling colon cancer. Tony looks great, says he feels great, and I'm glad to hear he's coming thru this whole thing well.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Copped from the ever-lovely Janette:
The Cotillion Carnival
It's time for the Cotillion Carnival once again! Hostessing duties this week fabulously performed by:
As usual the posts can also be found at the home of Cotillion.