Tuesday, August 31, 2004

MLK for the USA

Today was the last day for accepting nominations for Chapel Hill's new committee to study the issue of changing the name of Airport Road to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm hoping for the best. Our mayor has set the committee up so that we can have a "conversation about race." That will be a welcome conversation. But King wasn't just about civil rights for African Americans.

People have said that to change the name of a road now, as opposed to 30 years ago, is a token, trivial thing. It doesn't have to be. It seems to me that King is as relevant today as he ever was, or more so.

I'm not the only one who would like to channel Martin Luther King.

Gonsalves: But aren't we Americans the good guys and "they" the "evil ones," to quote President Bush?

King: "We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools."

GOP: the lowdown

Jack Balkin sums it up.

Monday, August 30, 2004

About suffering he was never wrong

I heard it on the radio on Saturday, and Eric found the link: to the American Museum of the Living Image's "Living Room Candidate" exhibit of vintage presidential TV ads. The visual image of the little girl in LBJ's 1964 "Daisy" ad is part of the cultural landscape, but I don't remember actually seeing it. (It was pulled off the air rather quickly.) So it was startling to hear the audio. Here's the transcript:

SMALL CHILD [with flower]: One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, eight, nine, nine ....

MAN: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.

[Sounds of exploding bomb.]

JOHNSON: These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.

ANNOUNCER: Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.


What startled me most is that Johnson is giving a close paraphrase of W.H. Auden's most famous line, a line he tried to erase from his own work. It's from "September First, 1939":
We must love one another or die.

--a line that gained fresh currency after September 11.

Students still learn that Auden, on reflection, called the line "trash." "Well that's a damed lie! We must die anyway," he said. To which Sven Birkerts responds, "I've always wondered where this sudden literalism came from, this misplaced sense of scruple. It's his best line."

Leave me in my cell!

Summer 1999, I'm vacationing in Geneva enjoying the street life. I see two men dining at a sidewalk cafe, each talking on his cell phone, presumably not to each other. It's like a New Yorker cartoon, I thought. Now, I think nothing of it.

But it is something to think about--the way cell phones bring about the privatization of pedestrian space, of the very sidewalks.

"Anything that separates people from their surroundings is antithetical to the idea of a public realm," said Jerold S. Kayden, professor of urban planning and design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. "Every little brick added to the walls around people creates less of a common cause, and I don't think we need to be adding bricks."

She got his number

Matt Gross says this is the weblog to watch at the RNC.

Here's why.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

More from the blog conference

Ed Cone's site is hopping with reports--official and unofficial--of yesterday's successful blog conference. Yours truly is quoted in a story in the Greensboro News & Record.

UPDATE: Again via Ed, a neat little video of the conference, featuring, among others, John Hood and Chapel Hill's own Matt Compton. (Video works in Mozilla/Firefox; can't guarantee other browsers.)

The slow-growth paradox

Chapel Hill News editor Ted Vaden writes today about the Town Council's downtown redevelopment project. The project, which has been contemplated for years, seriously got under way last fall when the town hired John Stainback as development consultant. He hired ERA to do a market demand analysis, and with that in hand, the town is now actively planning to redevelop two downtown parking lots into residential/retail space while also adding four floors of residential space to an existing parking deck. The number of housing units planned is around 300. If all goes according to the best plan, the project will also include a transit transfer center for Chapel Hill Transit. The square footage of the combined proposed project, about 750,000, is huge by Chapel Hill standards--about the size of the controversial Meadowmont, Vaden estimates.

Vaden is surprised that this particular Chapel Hill council is moving ahead--and so quickly--with such a large-scale development, since most of us "were elected on slow-growth platforms." But there is not really a contradiction here.

In its comprehensive plan of 2000, Chapel Hill adopted a strategy of environmentally responsible growth that involves encouraging density where density is appropriate (downtown and in certain other identified corridors) while vigorously protecting the surrounding environment. Our urban services boundary, a progressive land use tool that greatly restricts growth in the areas surrounding the town, is a key component of this strategy.

The Sierra Club is actively engaged in fighting sprawl through promoting dense urban development, because it understands the environmental issue.

Scientists studying the future of our planet tell us that

Increasing urbanization should . . . help the environment. Almost all of the extra three billion or so people expected by midcentury will live in or around cities, according to studies by the United Nations and the National Academy of Sciences. City dwellers tend to use energy and other resources more efficiently, and have less direct impact on untrammeled landscapes like forests.


Just building density alone is not enough. It has to be combined with serious efforts to change transportation systems and conserve energy and preserve the surrounding environment. Chapel Hill is trying to do all of that, too--trying, in its own way, to become an ecocity. It's going to be a long struggle, and the odds seem stacked against success. But this is the lofty goal behind what may seem like just one more mega-development.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Piedmont Blog Conference

This morning I was among some sixty bloggers (or soon-to-be-bloggers) at a nifty conference hosted by Ed Cone in Greensboro. Here's my quick transcription of what transpired. For links to the sites of all the people who spoke, please see Ed's site.

Note well: If I failed to cite you, that's because I was too caught up listening to you!

UPDATE: Evan Zimmerman of NCBlogs has pictures up.

Ed Cone

I was motivated because Jeff Thigpen candidate for Register of Deeds was blogging. That was an excuse to do this conference!

It's a self-organizing conference—you did it. This is the first local or regional weblog conference, and that's important. We all get how weblogs have sort of a national and global impact, but we're just starting to figure out how they are a powerful local tool too. Local and statewide.

The intelligence is distributed across the room. This is not a conference with traditional panels.

Section 1: Politics, campaigns, advocacy and governance

David Hoggard talks about his experience with a blog as a political candidate for Greensboro City Council.

I wanted to get my voice out. If I depended on journalists to get my word out, it's limited at best, the ability to say what I want to say unfiltered. I didn't win but I worked hard.

I envisioned being transparent. Transparency in government is one of the most lofty ideals we can get, and there's nothing more transparent than a weblog.

Jeff Thigpen, Guilford County Commissioner, candidate for Register of Deeds

We wanted to get some things up quickly. The blog gave us more control over the message. . . .

Next came a freewheeling discussion of the value of the internet in political campaigning now and in the future.

Will Raymond of Chapel Hill

What about schizophrenic bloggers, like Sally, who have a political blog and a personal blog?

Sally Greene, Chapel Hill Town Council

That's a fascinating question, Will. Last year I ran for office; I had never run before, although I had been on the Planning Board. I knew that I needed to get my message out and I too knew that I couldn't count on the media to do it. It may seem strange since I'm married to one of the gods of the internet, Paul Jones, but I just didn't know anything about blogs.

But what I did do was to start a listserv. I used it on an irregular but frequent basis to write thoughtful (at least, I thought I was thoughtful) commentaries on campaign issues—for example, after a candidate forum I might come home and write more about what was talked about. People would tell me that they had liked one or another listserv message in particular and had forwarded it to x many other people—and so it went on like that.

I also had a static web site, like everyone does, but I loaded it with content. Since I'm not a very confident public speaker, I always have a written statement. I had four years of statements I'd made to the Town Council on various issues, and I put them all up. [Note: these statements are not up on my site now; I decided to start anew from the date I began to serve on the Council.] So people could go there and find out just what I'd said about any number of issues.

While most campaign sites fold after the election, I have maintained mine and I continue to update it with content and links to town-related news stories (which I selectively pick). I have kept up the listserv announcements too.

Now, for a couple of months I've been blogging. But it is separate from my Town Council web site. Each is linked to the other, but they are separate.

What I write on my blog is not very political; you can tell generally that there's a leftist bias on national issues, but very little of it has to do with local politics. This is in part because the Chapel Hill Town Council doesn't meet in the summer. It's not a very political time. I expect that in September when we start up again and we start to be dealing with live issues, I may very well blog about those.

But on the other hand—and this is something that I haven't consciously thought about very much, until Will's question—I think I do want to keep some space that is just my own, my "greenespace." I mean, there is a difference, although of course they overlap.

There was more freewheeling discussion, which I got so caught up listening to that I forgot to take notes. Part of this discussion was about whether it's a good idea for a political blog to accept comments. My own na├»ve assumption had been that of course it would be a good thing—people ought to be able to talk back to me as a candidate and officeholder. But others pointed out that one rude comment can attract negative attention to your site, and even though you have a pretty good explanation that it isn't your fault, your name is associated with it anyway. This is something to think about.

Ruby Sinreich, Chapel Hill, founder of orangepolitics.org

[Note: I didn't take notes of Ruby, because I know her and I'm familiar with the site. So this is a paraphrase. What Ruby has aimed for is very ambitious: she wanted to set up a community forum that would encourage more local engagement in politics. It's not clear that people have actually become more engaged in doing politics, which she counts as a disappointment, but it is very clear that the discussions that take place on the site are an important factor in Chapel Hill and Orange County politics. Later in the morning's discussions, talking about blogging and mainstream media, someone said that today, no journalist doing Chapel Hill politics can ignore orangepolitics.org. That's pretty powerful!

She also talked about the struggles she's had with keeping the comments civil. She started with a "moveable type" platform that had no way to require verifiable email addresses. You had to include one, but you could make it up. Anonymous posting on the site became a frequent thing and even a frequent subject of debate—whether it was a valuable practice in the spirit of Ben Franklin, etc., or just a cowardly annoyance. She has now moved to a different platform that allows her to require verifiable addresses.]

[Break]

Matt Gross talks about

www.civicspacelabs.com

which is a continuation of DeanSpace, is open source and will probably good for 2005 races.

Section 2: Journalism and personal media

Ed Cone begins with a discussion of himself as a paid journalist and as a blogger.

For purposes of this discussion, journalism is blogging and blogging is journalism. Sometimes it's about my dog. I want to turn to one blogger who has had an amazing impact as a journalist: Eric Muller.

Eric Muller, UNC-Chapel Hill law professor

I started my blog Jan. 2003, and if you go back you would see somebody not having the faintest idea what he was doing or why he was doing it. Then Howard Coble went on a radio program and said Japanese Americans were interned for their own safety, etc. He was then chair of house subcommittee on security . . . I started to go after him them. My readership went from nine to several thousand on many days. Got me up and running. And then I had reverted to mix of legal and other stuff. Then Michelle Malkin came out with this book which was brought to my attention by a reader. I didn't get an advance copy, even though she says in the book it was my thing about Coble that got her interested in writing. One of my readers emailed me and said did you see this. On the front cover is Mohamed Atta on one side and a Japanese American man on the other. For close to a month [it is longer than that] it has been All Malkin all the time. I got links from other bloggers, but also an invitation to do a formal book review from Reason magazine, and Brad's radio show. The day before his show I was on WHYY-Philadelphia radio in an hour-long debate with her; that opportunity also came to me through the blog. So the efforts that I put in have really shown very well how the line between what I'm doing and at least access to big media and conventional media is really blurring.

Without this, the story would have been lost. With Coble I did try op eds and struck out across the board (except at the Raleigh News & Observer). This time I didn't even bother trying. Just started blogging and it took off from there.

Ed Cone

So here you have a guy who's not a journalist doing a serious feat of journalism. So now every reviewer who is going to write a review of this book will have to go there. Clearly it's not just the fact that he got a number of hits in the last month that would make us all weep with envy. He moved the media world. That is fascinating.

Mark Binker, Greensboro News & Record reporter

I was at a seminar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg. We talked about . . . empathy for your subjects and issues like that; how to write so that the communities you're writing for think you're part of them. Part of the exercise is to write a personal essay about whatever is going on in our lives. We didn't have to publish it, but we did have to read it to the other people in the group. It's the last day in the seminar and you think you've processed everything; all of a sudden you're reading this, and you think, I'm exposing this part of myself? Take that and however many people have access to the web . . . if you are writing about yourself and writing about what's on your mind, and you have people coming up to you and say hey, I read this was on your mind. It was a very surreal experience at least for me because I'm not used, I’m used to being the black hole that information gets dumped into and I parcel it out bit by bit. It gives me a great deal of empathy for poor folks like the people I call. For somebody who has not been on that end of things before, blogging is an interesting sort of laboratory.

Ed Cone

The hunter gets empathy for the prey. That is critical for journalists. They are getting a sense of being a part of the community. That has another aspect to it. Sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted. We have Cori Dauber from rantingprofs.com. The New York Times kind of pisses Cori off. She's been good on NBC in the Olympics but her focus is that the NYT is not taking this shit [national security reporting] seriously enough. Cori, are you getting catharsis, getting results, having an effect on the debate on this subject by writing a well-read weblong saying media coverage of the war on terror ain't so good.

Cori Dauber, UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of Communications Studies

I talked to a friend of mine who is a journalism professor, and he had a great dividing line that journalism is a craft or practice; blogigng is a medium. There have been two or three times I've posted things that arguably could be called journalism because of primary source gathering. The one that got the most buzz in the blogosphere is one of our alums in Bagdhad who wrote about what their company had done and how the press had covered it. But for the most part I'm not engaged in journalism, I'm critiquing journalism. I start with the assumption they won't listen to me. I'm pointing out things to an audience, using the bizarre academic niche that I'm in to open things up. One of my readers emailed me very upset about a New York Times article where he felt the reporter had been unfair to a colonel who had once been his captain. There are specific reasons why the article was problematic. Not inaccurate; just had no follow-up. It said US troops had blindly shot and killed civilians. There was an outside investigation and it didn't involve US troops firing at civilians at all. That never was reported. So again with his permission I posted that email, and one his colonel had sent, with permission, that got lots of people buzzing in anger. All of it got sent to Daniel Okrent, "public editor" of the Times. This one they took very seriously. They went back and interviewed lots of people, checked the blog's facts, and it led to a very good column from Okrent surrounding this event. That's an impact. Do they listen to Okrent? I don't know. But it's on the record now.

Ed Cone

So, we have blogs by nonjournalists as a watchdog on the media. How about as watchdog on community life?

Jay Ovittore started a weblog a few weeks ago. His wife saw a house on fire; they called 911 was told it's just a controlled burn. Jay said, what's that about? You're scaring people to death. Shouldn't there be a sign? He got ticked off. He called fire chief and interviewed him and wrote an article on his blog.

Jay Ovittore

The fire chief agreed to an interview but wanted to speak in person. I had to gain his trust, but he answered my questions, invited my family to come see a controlled burn in the fall. He asked to see my story before I printed it to see if it was quoted correctly. I did and he loved it. I've only been blogging less than two months. It took me from joe schmo who is up and arms to someone who interviewed someone for a story I just wrote. I actually made the transition. I felt for a moment like I was doing something I'd been wanting to do for a long time, practice journalism.

Ed Cone

This is incremental, but that's good. It's on the record. An incremental victory. Part of the whole media landscape.

But I wouldn't have sent the story in advance to my source. I blog the same way I do journalism, and in journalism you don't do that for any number of reasons. That doesn't mean it's wrong for bloggers.

Do libel laws matter for bloggers? Yes. I did do an interview with Eugene Volokh about libel issues on blogs because when we start talking about standard practices. Read my post interviewing Volokh on this.

David Hoggard (on blogger as editor, blogger as blogger)

Sometimes after I post something I will come back to it. It has happened that I put out something that someone else tells me is wrong. So I change it. At that point what I do is to say I changed it. Because it's very easy to change without knowing that somebody screwed up in the first place. If you're editing yourself you need to let people know that you're changing it.

Ruby Sinreich

Journalists worship at the altar of facts, but they don't own them. We do media critique on stories. It's a positive impact, and I hope it leads to more accountability for journalists.

Ed Cone

Allen Johnson is the editorial page editor of the News & Record. He allows my blog address to appear on my colum. That's cool and progressive. We've had some back and forth, as colleagues, friends, journalists in a small city, some back and forth on that corrective dialogue and the media getting stuff thrown back out them. How do they respond? The personal blogs by News & Record reporters are exploding.

Allen, how does a big newspaper deal with 100,000 press critics in its market?

Allen Johnson

To me, blogs are like an extension of letters to the editor, which are to me an amazing tool particularly in a day and age when people have so much to do—to think that people still type them and put them in an envelope with a stamp. It's an extension of a way to have a dialogue. Part of the dialogues we've had with Ed is there are different types of blogs that I've seen with different standards and different rules. I think if they're generated by someone with journalistic credentials who is a journalist, then they should live up to those standards.

If there's a question about a policy or something, a journalist will ask the reporter why did you do that, or not do that? The media critic may still think it's screwed up, but we'd like to have that opportunity to explain how or why something happened or didn’t. It's an interesting way of empowering people to hold our feet to the fire. I like to read them because it helps me think about stuff going on in the community. Sometimes their criticism is right, often it is. There's an opportunity for us to get better by looking at that. But again, if you are presenting what you are doing as journalism, then you need to hold yourself to certain standards.

Ed Cone

I said to Allen: You should expect that every opinion columnist will have a web long soon; every opinion columnist should have a blog. Also, make it clear that the blog is not associated with the newspaper. Three, hold them to some standards, to whatever you have as standards. Then let a thousand flowers bloom. That was my answer. They've [the N&R's] been unbelievably accommodating. They're at the cutting edge.

Question to John Hood, of the John Locke Foundation, about how he feels about his media relationship

First, to the point about journalism v. blogging. Craft v. medium is a useful way to think about it. At my office I have some staff members who are researchers, some are journalists. It's even odd within our office who is a journalist and who is not. So definitional problems happen. But I think we ought not get too carried away with journalism as a field akin to law or medicine, with credentials. There is a process to go through to be journalistic. I'm not sure it has to do with credentials.

Blogging is influencing journalism practice in North Carolina. Journalists are reading blogs and calling folks up. It's happening. Some of it is scurrilous. Some is quite legitimate. Some of them led to stories. Reporters do read blogs to get a sense of what the conversation is. It's not fundamentally different from the way journalism has always been practiced. There's a place I like to have breakfast in Raleigh because the lobbyists are there and they don't know I'm listening.

Allen Johnson

Blogs are an additional tool. Journalists should be out and about.

Eric Muller

This is the wrong time to be worrying about that. Whenever there's a story about law, e.g., there are three law professors that the media calls. No matter what the subject, they'll call up Jonathan Turley at George Washington law school.

Cori Dauber

If you have a stable readership, that becomes a community.

Todd Morman

There's a lot of crap in the blog world, but there is in journalism too. Anybody who really likes truth really ought to see the spread of journalism out to the untrained as a good thing.

No one is aware of bloggers from the Raleigh and Charlotte paper.

At this point the conversation got so interesting that I quit taking notes for good. I kept wanting to break in but never quite made it. I will treat this like a forum at which I can post my further thoughts at my own pace, Greene's pace, as soon as I can gather them up.

Meanwhile, thanks to Ed and Billy the Poet and everyone for a wonderful and enlightening morning—at a beautiful museum to boot.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Gated communities outlawed in North Carolina

At least one version of them is. Now when are they going to take care of the rest of them?

Why are we in Vietnam?

The Vietnam war was the Civil War of the American century, and its fault lines are still painfully evident thirty years out. What else explains the way a draft-dodging president (who happens to belong to the party that never quit believing in that war) can do so much damage to a man who served with honor (but came back and threw in with the party of protest)?

From moveon.org, my son ordered the Kerry Kit DVD. The speech that 27-year-old John Kerry made in 1971 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was powerful beyond his years. Sen. Fulbright and others were "overawed." This is where Kerry hoped we would be by now:

And so when thirty years from now our brothers go down the steret withouit a leg, without an arm, or face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say "Vietnam"--and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead a place where American finally turned, and where soldiers like us helped them in the turning.


But that is not what happened. There was no "turning" of this sort. Bob Herbert names our reigning draft-dodging hawks one by one: Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz. Just as in the first Civil War, the sons of the elite sent surrogates so that their power could remain secure. The beat goes on.

UPDATE 8/29: Todd Purdum makes the same point, much better. See also these excerpts from Kerry's debate with John O'Neill on a 1971 "Dick Cavett Show."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

State of the nation

Democracies are really oligarchies with a populist face.

Does it really come down to the design of campaign logos? Required, though depressing, reading from Louis Menand.

An Olympic volunteer blogs

For some lucky reason the "Blogspot" banner ad has disappeared at the top of my page--and there's this curious "next blog" tab on the upper right. It seems to give random Blogger blogs for as long as you keep clicking! I stumbled on a really interesting one--the blog of an Olympic volunteer. She's from Namibia. Tons of pictures and great up-close non-mainstream media stories from a "post-colonial" (her word) point of view. Worth a visit. (Wonder what's with the picture of Castro in one of the photos?)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Gutter art

An interesting contest in Vancouver, via kottke.org. Not sure I agree with the winners, though.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Connect the dots

Training

Many of the military's young soldiers, members of the PlayStation generation, spend much of their downtime each week playing games. As the military sees it, they might as well be playing games that hone their skills. ''When a soldier is off-duty,'' Cummings said, ''he's going to go back to his barracks, and he's going to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. What if I give him a simulation instead?''


Service

Kilner and a number of observers inside and outside the Army worry that the high rate of closeup killing in Iraq has the potential to traumatize a new generation of veterans. Worse, they say, the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs avoid thinking or talking about it. Although both organizations have produced reams of studies on every other aspect of combat trauma—grief, survivor’s guilt, fear, and so on—the aftereffects of taking an enemy’s life are almost never studied.


Homecoming

This past Tuesday, August 17th, four members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard returned from deployment in Iraq. . . .


Sunday, August 22, 2004

The fear factor

A few weeks ago I admired the promo for a MOMA exhibit on skyscrapers. Here's how Herbert Muschamp concludes his review:

No artifact in the show is more moving than a drawing of the Twin Towers' structure. Prepared by Mr. Nordenson's students at Princeton, the study is an homage to Leslie Robertson, who engineered the structure for the architect Minoru Yamasaki. The color drawing reveals the different grades of steel that were used in the towers' load-bearing walls. It has the radiant beauty of an Agnes Martin painting. And it documents the exceptional finesse that went into the making of our lost icons.

''Tall Buildings'' benefits from a polemical edge. The show was conceived in the aftermath of 9/11. At the time, some believed that the future of the skyscraper was in doubt. Amid sound concerns about the safety of tall buildings, a degree of guilt hung in the air. It's naughty of a society to crave heights, the thinking went. Remember Babel!

Americans are easily shamed these days into renouncing habits. And we are quick to thwart the desires of those who won't go along with our disapproval. Skyscrapers need no justification. But it would be worth building higher merely to disembed ourselves from fear.

Does it need to be said that arousing fear is one of the things architecture is actually good for? Every visitor to the Eiffel Tower knows this. Tall buildings transport us to the far side of dread.

Uncivil discourse

Are Ed Cone's analysis of political discourse (thanks to Eric for the pointer) and the New York Times' analysis of presidential satire talking about the same phenomenon, or is there just something about George W. Bush?

Chapel Hill's own David Rees (son of Peg & Phil Rees) gets a nice mention in the Times article for his "Get Your War On," published by Soft Skull Press.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Friday, August 20, 2004

Saving West House

Does it take a botanist to save a brick building? If it seems unlikely, that's because you don't know Jeffrey Beam. Jeffrey, who is also a talented poet and performer, is a botanical librarian whose long years at UNC have led him to appreciate and, too often, to fight for the campus' natural environment. His advocacy sparked the formation of the Chancellor's Task Force on Landscape Heritage and Plant Diversity.

Now he has focused his attention on West House, a gem of a historic structure on UNC's campus whose only fault is that it stands in the way of progress. It's smack in the construction zone for UNC's planned Arts Commons (as of this moment, there seems something missing* on that link, but if you go here and click on the second item, you'll get a PowerPoint presentation of what the plan looked like until recently, when the configuration was changed to preserve the whole length of "Porthole Alley"). If he is tilting at windmills, fortunately he has a lot of help. The West House Coalition is gaining numbers by the day. Our own Sen. Ellie Kinnaird is one who is helping to make the case. For what it's worth, I'm another.

West House was built in 1935 by a wealthy textile magnate for his son as a campus housing alternative. (Today I guess he would have just bought a condo.) Representing a mix of colonial and Greek Revival features, including a garden enclosed with a serpentine brick wall, the house has significant preservation value.

The National Trust, Preservation North Carolina, and Richard Jenrette (former chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, international preservationist, former owner of Hillsborough's Ayr Mount, and great friend to preservation at UNC), are all on record as being deeply disappointed in the university's willingness to sacrifice this building.

As a member of the Piedmont Board of Advisors for Preservation North Carolina and a UNC alum, I think they're right.

The garden was designed by Chapel Hill's own Bill Hunt, a noted local horticulturalist and fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society; it is his only landscape on the UNC campus.

The architect, M.E. Boyer, Jr., was a prominent Charlotte architect; his granddaughter, Mary Louise Brown, is writing his biography. Some of his houses are on the National Register. He was instrumental in saving the U.S. Mint in Charlotte, now the Mint Museum, from destruction. The Boyer family includes many UNC-CH alums; on the granddaughter's maternal side are founding members of the university and members of its first Board of Trustees.

The Tanner family, which commissioned the house, has contributed much to UNC over the years, including the Tanner Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The West House was given to UNC by the Tanners many years ago.

The distinguished historian C. Vann Woodward was a resident of the house while he studied here.

Kirk Ross wrote a nice history of the house's various uses back in December. From 1964 to 1987 it was the original home of the Computer Sciences Department, where Fred Brooks, its chair, said he had "the nicest office on campus." From 1987 to 2002 it housed the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, headed by Ruel Tyson. Today it's the home of the Carolina Asia Center.

The argument has been made that since it was the result of high privilege--built by a rich man for a son too good for common housing--it's not worth saving. But surely every building on the campus is the product of privilege in one way or another (should we tear down Memorial Hall because Paul Carrington Cameron was a wealthy man?). Chapel Hill citizen Laurin Easthom made the point well in a letter to the editor:

Its origins are not as significant as the role the house has played during its history within the oldest public university in the United States. For 69 years the small West House has graced the UNC campus and has been used over the years in a variety of ways.


The Chapel Hill News agrees that West House is worth saving right where it is.

UNC officials have consistently said that if someone is willing to pay to move the house, they would talk about it. The university even hired a study of what it would cost: upwards of $500,000. The West House Coalition has accepted that assessment as realistic, while noting that it is quite unrealistic to expect any organization to step up to that.

The Coalition wants to see West House stay just where it is--for it to be integrated into the design of the Arts Commons. The use we have talked about with the most excitement is as a visitor welcoming and orientation center, but other uses are imaginable. It could be temporary housing for artists, for example (kind of the way guest housing is available on Jefferson's lawn at U.Va.).

The university maintains that the plans are too far along for what's done to come undone. But are they? See asterisk below and the text it refers to above. Major changes have been made to the plans in the past weeks and months. All that appears to exist now is a shape-shifting conceptual master plan. The designers of that plan are top-flight architects. If they were asked to engage in a redesign (the West House Coalition would be willing to raise the money needed for that), it sounds like the kind of challenge that a creative architect would welcome.

This story is far from over. Even so, earlier this year Jeffrey received an award for his efforts from the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. That's because only a poet-preservationist can make an argument like this:

I’m no Luddite — I appreciate progress and expansion when measured and balanced. I had ignored the process of the Arts Commons development, which was leading to the building’s demolition, for I loved the idea of the commons and assumed, mistakenly, that the designers held the same values as I and others, could see the obvious usefulness of West House in the Commons, and knew its significance.

. . .

America adores expansion. It’s part of our karma. We owe great and sundry achievements to this drive. However, it’s become a disease that is destroying our international reputation, our social fabric, our freedoms and is ultimately detrimental to our material existence. Short-term gains for lasting ills. I’m shocked to realize it has infiltrated our universities, traditionally home to less aggressive values.

The poet Russell Edson says, “The things we took for granted do not take us so.” This applies to trees, as well as cultures, religions as well as oceans, institutions as well as friends. We blindly think progress is always bigger, better is always more. Mies van der Rohe argues, “Less is more.” Poet Peyton Houston reiterates, “The storm in the heart of a flower is also the hurricane of God’s whisper.”

I have trained myself as a poet to look at places we don’t usually look. The poet Rilke made evident, “We are slowly losing the honey of the visible.” I believed it when poet Miguel Hernandez said, “The lemon tree in my garden is a bigger influence on my work than all the poets together.” And when Emily Dickinson observed, “There’s a noiseless noise in the Orchard — that I let persons hear.” I prefer to look at the “under / side of things, the side / shaded / by moss, the coolness under / the walkway / stone.” I have found beauty and value in the “The last place we would think / to look / … in the discarded / shattered world.”

When as a young poet I read William Blake’s great law, “Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish,” I took my job seriously. For 30 years I’ve understood my role as writing and performing poetry and music. Now, observing our society act out its greed and destructiveness domestically and internationally, I understand that my role is larger than that. I am Emerson’s poet, standing “among partial men for the complete man” apprising “us not of his wealth, but of the common wealth.”

I cannot rest while we lose the honey of the visible — the signature landscape that makes Carolina’s campus unlike any other. I cannot watch a building with a varied, important and unique history be destroyed. Nowadays, beauty, scarce in our culture, and its guidebook, aesthetics, remain virtually untaught under the thrust of invention-increase and must be guarded like a flame. Otherwise both will go out, and much good with it. As a poet, and as a spiritual being, I know that beauty, ethics, and morality are inseparable. What little we learn from the past if we desire the new at the expense of the valuable old!

If you're interested in joining the West House Coalition, now is the time. For more information, please get in touch with me or with Jeffrey, jeffbeam@email.unc.edu or (919) 967-2470; or Ellie Kinnaird at (919) 929-1607 or (919) 824-5240.

UNC alums can submit letters of support directly to the Alumni Association.

*What's going on here? Not long ago, this page had an illustration of a recently redesigned Arts Commons with one long street in it ("Porthole Alley"). You can still see that picture--as of now anyway--if you google "images" for "unc 'arts commons.'" (At the moment, the picture comes up in Safari but not in Firefox.)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Take it from a natural woman

Awhile ago I made my feelings known about the military's policy of paying for breast implants (among other things) for any military personnel who desired to put themselves through the trouble. When a soldier is injured in the line of duty, it's the government's responsibility to put her back together again. Anything more is taking "be all that you can be" a bit too literally (as the New Yorker headline suggests). It's gratifying to find I'm not alone in this sentiment.

Rainier Beer, near bear, no "near beer"

No kidding.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Guiltily remembering Julia

In a nice testimony in today's Times by a woman who is about to publish a book about cooking all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, we learn that there seems to have been a run on Dover sole in Manhattan this past Saturday, "an event which inspires heartwarming visions of a city of cooks simultaneously yanking the skins off flatfish in fond memory of Julia Child."

I too wanted to cook something for her, to her, but I let her down. I searched up and down for the one Julia Child cookbook I know I used to own. Not a classic French cooking one, but one probably from the late 1970s, probably called Julia Child & Company, like one version of her TV show. A tall thin trade paperback with lots of how-to pictures--I can just see it, but I cannot swear that I ever cooked anything out of it, and it's probably been lost now for years. All my cooking life I have intended, but not seriously enough, to follow Julia Child.

My most intensive cooking days were when I was young and single and first on my own. I would prepare elaborate meals for myself, but in small portions, little meal-lettes. I tried to follow Stanley Marcus' advice of not eating anything that wasn't truly wonderful, and not very much of it at that. I was probably anorexic.

I did faithfully watch Julia Child on TV in those years, sometimes copying down recipes. Still, I don't recall ever making them. That may be because what I wrote down in haste was not quite complete. I think I meant to find the real recipes. They may well be in the book I've lost.

Here are two from my files. Note no vegetables. In later years she said she deplored the trend of grilled vegetables: they were raw and burned at the same time. The quote at the end is vintage Julia Child. Bon appetit!

Lamb skewered (7-8 min. on each side)

Don't overcook. Should feel springy.
1/2 lb. per person, 1 1/2 in. cubes, inside of leg of lamb.
Marinade 30 min. in olive oil, lemon peel & 1/2 lemon juice, rosemary, salt & pepper
Alternate w/bacon, blanched in water.
Flat skewers are best.

[untitled] 2-3 min.

Lightly salt & pepper scallops (or other seafood). Flour them at the last minute. Drain excess flour off.
Use wooden skewers if possible. Wet 10-15 min.
Bay leaf-skewer (not quite) alternately.
Paint w/melted butter & fresh bread crumbs.

"When you have something awfully good, you don't need to muck it up with too many spices."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The President as ESL poster child?

This fall I'm going to be tutoring an ESL law student. The internet has lots of resources on ESL teaching, including one that sends me weekly bulletins. Today I learn that I can use examples from the speech of President Bush himself in order to show that, yes, English really is hard!

I don't know about this. Undoubtedly correcting Bush's errors has something to offer as a pedagogical tool, but it seems cruel to the man. Besides, I'm embarrassed for him--and for the nation that put him in office.

Where edgy, caffeine-fueled book reviewers get their penetrating insights

It seems they drink from the same cup, as it were, not to put too fine a point on it.

History lesson

I always wondered what caused the collapse of the Whig Party. Ed Ayers gives a concise version in In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863.
The political system based on these complex and interlocking loyalties flourished throughout the 1830s and 1840s but began to break apart in the early 1850s. The Whigs went first. To many voters, the Whigs no longer seemed to offer a coherent platform, ideology, or winning strategy. That party had long tried to reconcile irreconcilable groups: the largest planters in the South and leading businessmen in the North, nativists and men of generous spirit, evangelical Christians eager to use the government to improve society and people who did not believe the Bible sanctioned such a role. The Whigs had long attempted to appeal both to conservatives who valued stability and to forward-looking men who valued the party's emphasis on progress and enlightenment. To avoid alienating any of the constiuencies, the Whigs, even when they were strongest, repeatedly turned for their national ticket to innocuous candidates, men who stood for little except past military glory and good character.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Aitnoihsnsg sudty

Aoccrdrnig to rseerach at Cmabridge Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are in, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat lteter be at the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sltil raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but itesand rades wrods as a wlohe. Amzanig, waht?

(Tahkns to Feirdns of the Cahepl Hlil Pluibc Lrbiray Nweetlster.)

UPDATE: See comments at Eric's link, which include a reference to an interesting post at Languagehat.

Czeslaw Milosz

Since none of us gets to choose the era in which our brief lives play out, I find myself being grateful that my allotted time has overlapped the lives of some who were truly great. Leonard Bernstein is one who comes to mind. Czeslaw Milosz is another.

Though he lived long enough to see himself become an icon of the twentieth century, Milosz did not think of himself as great. He was a humble man who felt he had missed his calling.

Why did I, who was crazy about the natural sciences, suddenly convert to literature, switch to literature? If you study my work, you'll find that the sense of guilt is central to me, and to all my poetry. I also feel guilty for not having become a naturalist. I had decided to devote my life to studying nature, and that's what I should have done. But I didn't. Very bad. That might be the reason nature has shown me its cruel side. In fact, my entire life and all my creative work are against nagure, against so-called Mother Nature--an attempt to liberate myself from its demonic embrace. I can't, and I never could, but I tried. . . .


About ten years ago, my husband visited Milosz in his home overlooking San Francisco Bay. Using the new videocamera we had for our new baby, he recorded Milosz as he read two of his poems, in English and Polish. You can hear (and read) these poems on the Internet Poetry Archive, which Paul created and continues to edit with the sponsorship of UNC Press.

Death, you say, mine and yours, closer and closer.
We suffered and this poor earth was not enough.
The purple-black earth of vegetable gardens
Will be here, either looked at or not.
The sea, as today, will breathe from its depths.
Growing small, I disappear in the immense, more and more free.


--from "Conversation with Jeanne"




State fair round-up

It's state fair season across the midwest. Some highlights:

Mooving sculpture

A girl's pig tale

Hot elephant ears

Here's the beef.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

To the lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse from the Salt Marsh

We headed for Ocracoke as soon as they would let visitors back on the island. We came home a day early, just ahead of the evacuation notice for Charley. Ocracoke between storms was calm, sunny, beautiful, peaceful. As tourists, all we could know about the ordeal of Alex, which brought water higher than Gloria almost twenty years ago, was what we could overhear about cats rescued (or not), computers saved (or not), floors buckled and windows blown away.

With our first post-Alex housing being across the street from one of many well-tended cemeteries on the island, we were reminded that on Ocracoke, the dead are always with you. As we hung on to every word of Philip Howard's ghost stories on his walking tour of the village, we learned that they are closer than we thought.

Within two days, we were able to get a cottage with a vista on Silver Lake.

The day we set out, August 7, was National Lighthouse Day. This date memorializes the day in 1789 when the federal government took responsibility for building and running all the lighthouses. We made it a point to visit five North Carolina lighthouses on the trip down.

The first two are reproductions of "light stations," structures that put the "house" in "lighthouse." The lightkeeper at the Roanoke River light station, which (in a new location) overlooks the river and the town of Plymouth, lived here with his family until one of his children fell out a window and died. After that, they hired two lightkeepers who worked in shifts, their families on safe ground. The second, at Manteo, is beautifully sited in the town's harbor, though it too is not in its original location.

Down from Manteo is the Bodie Island lighthouse, the only structure that arises out of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,000-acre haven for wintering and migrating sea birds that the Roosevelt administration had the forethought to preserve.

Then comes Hatteras. It still looks out of place, after being moved a ways inland five years ago from its original location, but the phenomenal move itself now seems like an inevitable thing. Looking down from the top toward the path it took, it's almost possible to forget that Dare County went to court to oppose the $10 million project, calling it a boondoggle and a folly in the making.

What is it about lighthouses? Why not let Hatteras fall into the sea, as others have? A weakness for lighthouses, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, can only be called romantic. It's doubtful that they were always so loved. (Confederate soldiers blew one up at Bodie Island when the Carolina coast was occupied by Union forces.) There was little romance in working as "wickies," trudging up and down dark staircases to light the whale oil or, later, kerosene wicks. Those jobs disappeared years ago when electric lamps and, after that, photocells were installed. The fully automated "light tower" that sat 13 miles out beyond Hatteras at Diamond Shoals has been inactive since its light failed in 2001. With GPS, lighthouses are all but extinct, given over to technology that works more exactly if less evocatively.

"It will rain," he remembered his father saying. "You won't be able to go to the Lighthouse."

The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening. Now--

James looked at the Lighthouse. He could see the white-washed rocks; the tower, stark and straight; he could see that it was barred with black and white; he could see windows in it; he could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it?

No, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. The other Lighthouse was true too. It was sometimes hardly to be seen across the bay. In the evening one looked up and saw the eye opening and shutting and the light seemed to reach them in that airy garden where they sat.


It is hard to resist the pull of lighthouses, for, as Woolf knew, they are not simply one thing. At sunset we reached Ocracoke village and took in the reassuring sight of its modest white tower, commanding the skyline across Silver Lake. Later, we saw it from a new perspective. The base of the Ocracoke lighthouse is now open to visitors. You can't climb up, but you can look up to the top of the metal spiral staircase that, decades ago, replaced the worn out wooden stairs that hugged the brick interior (today, the wooden ones would have been painstakingly replicated).

The federal government is still in charge of the lighthouses, but since the National Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, they are steadily being "excessed" by the Coast Guard, given up to the management of the National Park Service or other preservation interests. Pleas for private donations are being made all around (that's what this questionable replica at the base of Bodie Island is about). No longer utilitarian, the lighthouses can't live on our dreams alone.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Beach week ahead

Hurricane Alex, first of the season, wasn't supposed to bother anybody very much, but it sure did a number on Ocracoke. Three feet of water in 30 minutes! Some 300 cars flooded out of useful existence. Warning: do not try to start a flooded (in the literal sense) car. It might go up in smoke. One poor guy did that while his car was parked under his vacation house, and the whole house went up in smoke.

With a beach house rented from tomorrow till the next Saturday, we've been on pins and needles wondering how much, if any, of our trip we'd be able to salvage. The good news is that we can go on schedule tomorrow. We will get a different house from the one we started with, though. The worst of the flooding came off of the sound side, and that's where that house was. They're taking the electric meter off of it this afternoon.

We have a nice alternate called, appropriately, "Paul's II."

Should be fun. I haven't lined up any guest bloggers, for I have a feeling I won't be missed all that much. But in case you're wondering, I'm off to inspect the damage. By the way, this second house has no phone line.

While I'm away, may I suggest

IsThatLegal
Ruby's Rants & Randomness
kottke.org
TalkLeft
The Morning News
The Revealer
History News Network
instapundit
Balkinization
the Volokh conspiracy

and for news of Ocracoke, the Ocracoke Journal of Philip Howard, 8th generation native and owner of the Village Craftsmen. He has some pretty interesting pictures from August 3.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Fast food nation

Hope for building needed housing in Afghanistan comes from the same stuff that keeps your Coca-Cola cold and your coffee hot.

The closing of the frontier

Another casualty of Sept. 11, it seems to me, is the once-powerful metaphor of the American frontier. Officially closed since about 1890, the frontier remained a compelling image for American progressivism. Remember the "New Frontier" that JFK outlined in a Los Angeles coliseum:

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not "every man for himself"--but "all for the common cause." They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

. . .

. . . I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric--and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.

But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age--to all who respond to the Scriptural call: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed."

With Caroline Kennedy's help, at a Democratic National Convention that took place again in Los Angeles, Al Gore revived the call to the New Frontier.

The metaphor of the frontier was conspicuously absent from the speeches in Boston. So much a part of the American psyche for so long, it seems to have vanished altogether with the institution of "homeland security." And that is not so surprising, for as a great historian of the American West, Walter Prescott Webb, pointed out many years ago, countries (he was thinking of European countries) that have to worry about the security of their borders do not put a lot of imaginative investment into the frontier: it is a danger zone.

In October 1951, in an article publichsed in Harper's Magazine, which was expanded into The Great Frontier, Webb asked us give it up:

I should like to make it clear that mankind is really searching for a new frontier which we once had and did not prize, and the longer we had it, the less we valued it; but now that we have lost it, we have a great pain in the heart, and we are always trying to get it back again. It seems to me that historians and all thoughtful persons are bound by their obligation to say that there is no new frontier in sight comparable in magnitude or importance to the one that is lost. They should point out the diversity and heterogeneity, not to say the absurdity, of so-called new frontiers. They are all fallacies, these new frontiers, and they are pernicious in proportion to their plausibility and respectability. The scientists themselves should join in disabusing the public as to what science can be expected to do. It can do much, but, to paraphrase Isaiah Bowman, it is not likely soon to find a new world or to make the one we have much bigger than it is. If the frontier is gone, we should have the courage and honesty to recognize the fact, cease to cry for what we have lost, and devote our energy to finding the solutions to the problems now facing a frontierless society. And when the age we now call modern is modern no longer, and requires a new name, we may properly call it the Age of the Frontier, and leave it to its place in history.

With the Space Age before him, John Kennedy was not ready for this advice. Neither were the rest of us. The frontier, like Gatsby's green light, offered nothing less than the American Dream, the boundless promise of the American Century. Perhaps now we would be wise to listen to what is being said here. Ahead of his time, Webb is saying simply that we live on a planet with finite resources, that we need to find creative ways to live within limits.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The agony of victory

Ten years of current and former employees of ibiblio.org and their hangers-on, about 20 of us in all, gathered last night at The Flying Burrito for a hot food eating contest. I knew better than to compete; it was more fun to watch. The winner was the young and hale Max Gustashaw (who doesn't look like it was all that agonizing, come to think of it; he made it look easy).

Three-course meal

Three Course Meal


Split personality

The California governor sued over this gun-totin' bobblehead, and I doubt he's too happy with "Governor Girlie Man Arnold" or "Groping Arnold," but apparently he doesn't mind this one or this one or this one or this one.

Well, of course. It's the difference between real life and make-believe. Very different images. Different marketing entirely.


A successful mass demonstration

First, to contradict myself, I was sloppy in my description of the Rock Against Racism case (see prior post). It's not that music isn't political speech. Of course it can be very political. Still, that's not the explicit basis on which the case was decided:

In the case before us the performances apparently consisted of remarks by speakers, as well as rock music, but the case has been presented as one in which the constitutional challenge is to the city's regulation of the musical aspects of the concert.


The court considered the "regulation of the musical aspects" under a time/place/manner test and deemed that the "manner" of the music was modestly compromised when the city of New York exercised volume control. The group still got to perform in the forum of their choice, to send the message of their choice to their intended audience. As the court said,

The guideline leaves open ample alternative channels of communication, since it does not attempt to ban any particular manner or type of expression at a given place and time. Rather, it continues to permit expressive activity in the bandshell and has no effect on the quantity or content of that expression beyond regulating the extent of amplification.


On balance, in the view of six out of nine members of the court, the decision to allow the city of New York to control the volume was a small infringement on First Amendment rights. As applied to the facts in the Boston case, Rock Against Racism is not all that helpful.

Meanwhile here (via The Revealer) is a report of a successful demonstration that took place outside of the "free speech zone." It was staged by Quakers.

Empty Boots
27 July 2004

Revealer publisher Jay Rosen at the DNC: "On Tuesday morning I encountered one of the most effective acts of political protest I have seen in a while. It took imagination. Organizers--the American Friends Service Committee--laid out upon the grass in Copley Square 907 pairs of black boots, arranged in rank and file like a missing army at attention. Earlier in the week it was done at Boston Common. ( Newsweek : "A Grid of Empty Boots.") They were protesting the American deaths in Iraq, and so their statement was anti-war. It was also about beauty, loss, the unsayable and the ineffable; and it made an implicit comment on the ugliness--the brutality--of the Free Speech Zone near the Fleet Center, which is so unlike the free spaces of a healthy democracy that protesters have declined even to enter it."




Monday, August 02, 2004

I protest (part 2)

I've read the First Circuit's opinion upholding the DNC's "DZ" (demonstration zone), an opinion Eugene Volokh thinks is reasonable under the circumstances. (You can get a .pdf of the opinion from his site.) Reasonable it may be, but it's a shame. It should have gone the other way--if not at the appellate level where the court has less room for second-guessing, then surely in the lower federal district court.

In upholding the city of Boston's decision to create this holding pen, remote from the convention site, "located for the most part underneath unused rail tracks," "surrounded by two rows of jersey barriers topped with eight-foot chain link fencing," with "coiled razor wire along the edges of the rail tracks," both courts endorsed fear over hope.

This is a case involving political speech, which is at the top of the top when it comes to First Amendment protection, as the appellate court acknowledged. Yet a key case that the opinion relies on involved a lesser kind of expression. In Ward v. Rock Against Racism (1989), the Supreme Court upheld the city of New York's right to assume control of the volume of the music that a group played in a Central Park bandshell (over the dissent of Marshall, Brennan, and Stevens). Although the plaintiff-appellants had political speakers and a political message, they did not argue that they were engaged in political speech. They based their argument on the fact that music itself is a protected form of expression. An argument based on political speech could well have gone the other way.

There's another difference. In Rock Against Racism, it was the prior behavior of that very group that prompted the city to enact its regulation. The court could quite validly speculate that the complaints that the group's loud music had legitimately evoked in the past would happen again. In the Boston case, the argument is based on "recent past experience with large demonstrations" in other times and places. That "there is no evidence in the record that the City had information indicating that demonstrators intended to use such tactics at the Convention" did not matter. Nor was the argument that the police would be perfectly able to arrest violent protesters persuasive.

With startling implications for the future of tradtional, human, in-your-face protesting, the court held that there were plenty of alternative means by which the protesters could get their message out:

[W]e think that the appellant's argument greatly underestimates the nature of modern communications. At a high-profile event, such as the Convention, messages expressed beyond the first-hand sight and sound of the delegates nonetheless have a propensity to reach the delegates through television, radio, the press, the internet, and other outlets.


None of these, not even the internet with all its advantages, delivers the same kind of message as a peaceful mass demonstration.

To his credit, one judge in concurring was blunt about saying that Sept. 11 had changed everything:

The DNC will be the first national political convention to be held following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center that were launched from Boston's Logan Airport. . . . Inevitably, the events of 9/11 and the constant reminders in the popular media of security alerts color perceptions of the risks around us, including the perceptions of judges. The risks of violence and the dire consequences of that violence seem more probable and more substantial than they were before 9/11. When judges are asked to assess these risks in the First Amendment balance, we must candidly acknowledge that they may weigh more than they once did.


Since these opinions were issued by the district court, which called the outcome "irretrievably sad," and the circuit court, which affirmed the result and the sadness, we are hearing of real terrorist threats against real targets. Our government should do everything possible to protect us against credible threats of terrorist attack. Serious threats deserve a serious response.

But in this small arena in Boston, in this skirmish involving long-chrished rights of American citizens--dare it be said?--the terrorists won.

UPDATE: What I mean.