July 28, 2007

"Yes, he can see you fine through his solid-gold eyeglasses, he simply doesn’t have time to dally with the likes of you."

Modern Drunkard picks the 10 greatest alcohol icons of all time, beginning with "The Striding Man," who embodies Johnnie Walker. (Via Throwing Things.)

Vlog!

Based on your questions here...



... including discussion of the movie referred to here ("Rescue Dawn").

CORRECTION: In the video, I incorrectly state that "The Pianist" is a fictional story. I'm terribly sorry to have forgotten that it's a true story.

Justice Stevens on "super stare decisis" and whether it's believable that Clarence Thomas did not talk about Roe v. Wade when he was a law student.

I'm watching C-Span's coverage of Justice Stevens at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals conference in Honolulu (from July 19, 2007). He's asked about the term "super stare decisis," which came up in the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

Stevens says:
Well, I wasn't particularly persuaded by that suggestion. I think, after all -- he's talking about Roe against Wade there and so forth -- and I think there are powerful stare decisis arguments there, but it's also true that that has been a controversial decision in recent years.

Interestingly, though, it was decided just two or three years before I went on the Court, and at the time, I was not asked a single question about that issue, because it was not then controversial. That's quite interesting. It was a 7 to 2 decision, a sort of fairly routine decision at the time.

I remember during the confirmation hearings for Justice Thomas he was asked about his discussions in law school about that case, and he said he didn't remember having any, and that people thought, well, he's not being forthright. Well, he was being absolutely honest, because I remember, at that time, it was not something law students generally talked about. It was considered a fairly settled, noncontroversial matter.

It became more and more controversial as the years have gone on.
I don't like the way he strayed from the question. Why wasn't he persuaded by the "super stare decisis" idea? But -- I think at first -- it's nice to hear him back up Justice Thomas's credibility on an issue that he's been scoffed at for so many years.

And then I think: Was it really true that Roe v. Wade was not controversial at the time, that law students didn't talk about it when it came out? I remember -- as a young woman who worried a lot about pregnancy back then -- being floored when the Supreme Court came out and said I had a right to an abortion. It hadn't been that long ago that we'd had to think about traveling to Sweden if we needed an abortion, and the ability to go to New York for the procedure was quite new. Suddenly, it was not only not a crime anymore, it was a constitutional right. I experienced that as astounding.

But maybe if you were already initiated into the law -- I was a college student -- it would have seemed obvious and ordinary -- just another step down what was a predictable path. Stevens says so, and in saying so he backs up Thomas.

Ah! But see the cleverness of saying that now? Stevens seems to forget the question about super stare decisis, but did he forget? Or did he see a way to entrench Roe more securely than if he'd talked about the term super stare decisis? He shifted to talking Justice Thomas. He backed up his antagonist on the Court on an issue over which Thomas has suffered long and bitter attacks. But the way he found to support Thomas entailed the notion that Roe was a secure and clear articulation of the law in its time -- an easily perceived detail in the coherent fabric of the law.

Stevens leans back in his chair. He's an old man wearing a pink short-sleeved shirt, big outdated glasses, and a Hawaiian lei. Who can notice that he's just made a deft rhetorical move? Well played, Justice Stevens!

"If the truth doesn’t set you free, maybe being a crazy bastard will."

"The American psycho meets the German kook."

UPDATE: The movie is "Rescue Dawn," directed by Werner Herzog. I talk about it a bit in this new vlog.

Stop me before I vlog again.

Don't ask me any questions. Otherwise, I'm going to do another vlog later this afternoon.

ADDED: You scamps! You asked me questions. And I vlogged again. Here.

"Let's talk about this silly, frivolous, nothing stuff so that America won't pay attention."



Watching this video, I thought, first, ooh, he's good. And then, what's with his hair? It seems to be coming undone in the heat... is that... is that a toupée?

Anyway, I came to this video via Jake Tapper:
There's an interesting meme of Democratic victimology developing here…

In addition to former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, saying that media attention on his hair stems from powerful interests who "want to shut me up", it should be noted that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, is also wading a bit into the waters of victimology…

After being the first one to really amp up her disagreement with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, from Monday night's debate -- her campaign sent out the video of their respective answers before the debate was even over, and she was the first one to personally use perjorative adjectives against Obama -- she's now trying to raise money claiming he "attacked" her.

"Last week, one of the leading Republican candidates equated Hillary with Karl Marx. Yesterday, one of the leading Democratic candidates called her 'Bush-Cheney lite,'" wrote Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle in the e-mail. "Hillary is under attack from opponents on all sides. When you're attacked, you expect your family and friends to stand with you…"

The short, 440-word fundraising appeal uses a form of the word "attack" six times. With Clinton as the victim, naturally.
But of course we should attack them! They can fight back, and then we can respond to that, perhaps by saying that they're indulging in "victimology." They need to think through whether it helps their cause very much to seem thin-skinned and to act prudishly offended when we speak of superficial things.

You know damned well that they are using image to try to manipulate us. (They never complain when we say they look fabulous.) They'd like to be free to pursue their political ambitions by taking advantage their good looks -- why has Edwards done so well over the years? -- but to stop us from engaging on the image level. They'd like all their subliminal campaigning to slip into our subconsciousness unchallenged.

They want all their critics to engage with them only on the substantive policy analysis level where, frankly, America won't pay attention whether there's also any silly, frivolous, nothing stuff to distract them or not.

"Rich people read."

Glenn Reynolds writes:
IN LIGHT OF YESTERDAY'S POST ABOUT TV, ARNOLD KLING SENDS THIS:
Back when I had my relocation web site, we got hold of some zip-code level marketing data. When I looked for purchases that correlated with affluence, hardback books was one of the strongest.
Rich people read. Books.

I'm not surprised to hear that.
I'm skeptical. What's the correlation between buying hardback books and actually reading serious writing? A few thoughts:

1. People with less money use the library, swap books with friends and family, and buy paperbacks.

2. Look at the hardcover bestseller lists. Most of this is junk reading. People who go for hardbacks tend to be people who want the latest thing. It's not especially deep. "The Secret" and "21 Pounds in 21 Days" are typical popular hardcover books. Cookbooks tend to be purchased in hardback form. Books that you look at but don't really read -- coffee table books and art books -- also tend to be hardbacks.

3. Most of the serious literature out there is available in paperback: All the classic novels and nonfiction are going to be in paperback. Take a trip to Borders. Are the most serious readers the ones at the front tables full of new novels and political books that will be gone in 5 years or back in the shelves labeled "History," "Philosophy," and "Science" -- which are full of paperbacks?

4. Hardcover books make nice gifts. You may buy them, but are they for you? And will the person who receives your gift ever read it?

5. Lots of children's books come in hardcover. Of course, rich people delight in supplying their children and grandchildren with copious quantities of books -- and in telling others about what readers the little angels are.

6. When you have the money for it, buying books can be a satisfying pastime. You pick up one book because the cover expresses who you like to think you are. There's that guy with "How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency." Go ahead, pile on another. "Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy." A couple more and the cute girl at the checkout will surely glow with admiration.

Aspiring to be "Mommie Dearest."

Here's a NYT article about how parents are giving birthday parties without presents for their kids:
In part to teach philanthropy and altruism, and in part as a defense against swarms of random plastic objects destined to clutter every square foot of their living space, a number of families are experimenting with gift-free birthday parties, suggesting that guests donate money or specified items to the charity of the child’s choice instead....

Bill Doherty, who helped create Birthdays Without Pressure, a Web site opposed to expensive, competitive parties in the Nickelodeon set, said the no-gift notion was “great, especially if the child is involved in choosing the charity,” but cautioned that “it could become another source of competition.”

In Randolph, N.J., Jack Knapp’s family has a five-year tradition of redirecting birthday benefits: They have collected dress-up clothes for a girl with cancer, items for the pediatric emergency room at Morristown Memorial Hospital and groceries for the Interfaith Food Pantry.

After seeing her two older siblings treated like heroes when they dropped off their haul, the youngest, Emily, recently told her mother, Mindy Knapp, that she wants gifts for her 4th birthday next month to go to the neonatal unit. Not that she can define neonatal.

“She said, ‘Could we give stuff to the babies at the hospital?’ Mrs. Knapp said. “Now they wouldn’t think of doing it any other way.”

Mrs. Knapp said her children’s grandparents “always support whatever cause the kids are into,” but also insist on giving them gifts, noting, “Otherwise it would be like a scene from ‘Mommie Dearest.’ ”
I was wondering if they were ever going to get around to mentioning "Mommie Dearest." It seems to be only the grandparents who remember the time when we delighted in loathing the mother who would give a birthday party and then whisk away all the presents to be sent to less fortunate children.



Now, parents are proud of their resemblance to that crazed vision of parenthood!

I eagerly await a NYT article about the way the superparents of today are schooling their kids in the rigors of housework.

"I hope that there was considerable controversy in your newsroom over the decision to run a story posing as a 'fashion' piece..."

Hillary shows cleavage. WaPo readers show disapproval that fashion and politics columnist Robin Givhan wrote about it.

From Letter 1:
...Robin Givhan wrote, without irony, that looking at Clinton's breasts felt voyeuristic and that her small, "not unseemly" amount of cleavage is the equivalent of a man's unzipped fly, as if Clinton deserved the sexualized attention thanks to a shameful social faux pas....

When I am at work, as a young woman often surrounded by older men, I want my mind to be on display and my body to be relatively invisible....
Presumably, then, she doesn't wear low-cut tops! Or is she insisting that the world be magically transformed so that women can wear anything and no one will talk about what they are wearing or even think about their bodies? If that transformation were possible, would we want it?

Letter 2:
What's next? An article on viewing men's crotches generally or seeing a difference when they are watching her speak?
There should, of course, be corresponding writing about men's clothing and any sexual messages it may communicate. I note that male Senators wear such extremely conventional clothing that it's very hard to find anything sexual about it or, in fact, much of anything interesting to say about it.

The first two letters are trying to work the theory that you wouldn't treat men with such disrespect, but both letter writers fumble with the problem that there is no equivalent thing that a man would do. Both resort to referring to a predicament that might happen without intentionality. An open fly and a noticeable erection are scarcely parallel to a woman's chosen low-cut top. If the Post had published an article about menstrual blood stains on a female politician's skirt, the first 2 letter writers would have a good point.

But Givhan herself brought up the subject of a man's open fly:
The cleavage... is an exceptional kind of flourish. After all, it's not a matter of what she's wearing but rather what's being revealed. It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!
She goes on to speak of a female politician in Britain who showed much more cleavage and to deal with the way showing just a little cleavage creates ambiguity about whether it was intended. ("With Clinton, there was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding -- being a voyeur.") Givhan is analyzing the complex gesture of showing but only showing a little: The possibility that it is unintentional or not meant to imply sexuality makes the viewer uncomfortable. This is a sly political joke: Clinton is "tentative" and "noncommittal" in "matters of style."

Letter 3:
Robin Givhan's attempts to turn Hillary Clinton's choice of a scoop-necked shirt on a hot day in the District into social commentary failed miserably. Givhan crossed the line by suggesting that the shirt revealed Clinton's changing comfort level with her sexuality....
The "hot day" explanation is quite silly. The Capitol building clearly must be air-conditioned to the point where all the men are comfortable in suits and in no danger of sweating, so there is no way the low-cut top was serving an important summertime physical need. In any case, Clinton was wearing a jacket too. How desperately hot could she have been? Is cleavage some special heat vent?

Letter 4:
Most disturbing... was the misogynistic tone Givhan took, most notably with her comment, "No one wants to see that . . . Just look away!" It really should come as no surprise that women tend to have breasts. With breasts come cleavage. They are part of the female body...
This is a rhetorical move I've seen before. Talking about how a woman has chosen to highlight her breasts is portrayed as an objection to the woman's having breasts at all. And one is called misogynistic. But good Lord! What a misreading! Givhan's "Just look away!" didn't express her distaste for breasts. The next paragraph expresses enthusiasm for the British home secretary with the lavish display of cleavage! "Just look away" was Givhan's impression of what Hillary seemed to be saying with the "tentative" cleavage.

Letter 5:
I can't decide what horrifies me more: that The Post, which I have often touted for its intelligent reporting, would publish such a sexist, dated article, or even worse, that the author was echoing a common viewpoint still prevalent in society.

As a mother and a professional analyst for the government, I have always believed that my colleagues have respected my work, my mind and my opinions, not whether my cleavage was showing. I dress as I believe all women should: with the ability to choose clothes that represent who they are, be they feminine, nurturing, intelligent, sexy or fashionable. But I do so with the hope that clothes represent my style -- not how much skin is exposed.
So women should wear clothes that "represent who they are," but it's wrong to analyze this self expression? Your "clothes represent [your] style -- not how much skin is exposed"? What does that mean? The style of your clothes obviously includes the way it covers some parts and not others. Once you concede that clothes express the inner self, it follows that we should try to understand the meaning of the clothing worn by a person who seeks political power. Why would you censor this valuable line of inquiry?

July 27, 2007

Questions, questions....

Muramoto

I'm going to do a 10 minute vlog in one hour... but I need a few questions! And they don't have to be about the photograph, of course. That's just there because... it's a picture I took.

ADDED: Here it is:

Wussing out on the YouTube debate?

The Republicans? I thought they were supposed to be the tough guys!

What are they afraid of? A question about the war from a mother whose son died? Or are they just afraid to have fun? Romney:
"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."
I'm picturing maybe a dog strapped to the roof of a station wagon.... A "Davey and Goliath"-style stop-action thing. And Davey's got a hose...

Dentist implants boar tusks on unconscious patient, photographs her, and later he wins $750,000 in a lawsuit about it.

How does that happen?
In a sprightly 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that Woo's practical joke was an integral, if odd, part of the assistant's dental surgery and "conceivably" should trigger the professional liability coverage of his policy....

The backstory, the court wrote, is that Alberts' family raises potbellied pigs and that she frequently talked about them at the office where she worked for five years.

Woo said his jests about the pigs were part of "a friendly working environment" that he tried to foster.

The oral surgery on Alberts was intended to replace two of her teeth with implants, which Woo did. First, though, he installed temporary bridges that he had shaped to look like boar tusks, and while Alberts was still under anesthesia, he took photos, some with her eyes propped open. Before she woke up, he removed the "tusks" and put in the proper replacement teeth.

Woo says he didn't personally show her the pictures but staffers gave her copies at a birthday party.
So... why did he win? Because everyone hates insurance companies? Because women who talk too much about their oddball pets deserve humilation -- as long as they're unconscious?

The summer associate who sent a senior partner the text message: “Are bras required as part of the dress code?”

I don't know what's more absurd: asking that question of a senior partner or using a text message to do it.

A word of advice: If you're even thinking of asking the question -- that is, if you're not already noticing braless women in your workplace -- don't ask the question -- just figure out how to go braless without it showing. Camisoles with lycra content, jackets, layers -- there are many tricks. Don't forget nippies!

If none of the various tricks work to keep people from noticing that you are braless, you shouldn't go braless even in a workplace where you can tell women are going braless.

1,500 Philippine prisoners reenact "Thriller."

Here's the YouTube clip we're all watching and wondering about (noted on NPR.org the other day):

Obama calls Hillary "Bush-Cheney lite."

One more thing that tips me toward Clinton! Bush-Cheney lite sounds like just about what we need. Clinton declares the epithet "silly," but I think that secretly she knows the comparison helps her in some quarters.

And Obama came out with that in the context of trying to justify what was in fact a major gaffe at the debate:
In South Carolina and during a visit to New Hampshire earlier in the day, Obama compared Clinton to Bush because, he said, she has said she will not have unconditional meetings with foreign enemies.

He told the College Democrats that her approach showed "stubbornness" and in New Hampshire he referred to her as "Bush-Cheney lite."
"Stubbornness"? As opposed to what? Giddy impetuousness?

Clinton's retort:
"I've been called a lot of things in my life but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney certainly," she said. "We have to ask what's ever happened to the politics of hope?"
Oh, come on. He's overflowing with hope! Hope that Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran will play nice. Hope that saying Clinton is like Bush will cause voters to recoil in horror...

Radio alert.

I'm going to be on "Week in Review" at 8 AM, Central Time, today. This is the Wisconsin Public Radio show where we go over the week's news stories, and I count as the conservative. On the left will be Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders. You don't have to be from Wisconsin to call in with a question.

Go here to listen on-line live. Remember, we're on Central Time. If you go at 8 Eastern, you can hear about "The Simpsons" from Steven Keslowitz, author of "The World According to The Simpsons: What Our Favorite TV Family Says About Life, Love, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Donut" (Source Books). Both shows will later be streamable at the archive here.

ADDED: Stream it here.

AND: Here's Lueders' book "Cry Rape" -- and his website on it, which includes the underlying documents in the case the book is about.

UPDATE: Read far enough into the comments to see why I mistrust Lueders' judgment and fairness. I should emphasize that I haven't read his book, so please don't take my reference to it as a recommendation.

Did you notice the visual pun when this ran on CNN?



I didn't. Chris Dodd can't catch a break. This was hilarious.

July 26, 2007

Questions, questions...

Give me some questions... And I'll do a little vlog in an hour.

ADDED: Here it is. I went long so I had to edit out some of the longer answers. If I skipped yours, remember: It's not you, it's me. I end up sporting a look that's either Little Edie or Elvis in "Harum Scarum."



AND: What am I drinking and does it have broccoli and algae in it? Answer here. It doesn't have broccoli. AND: Oops. Actually, it does have broccoli! Broccoli and algae. Good lord!

AND: The "creaky voice" discussion goes back to this post.

AND: In case "Harum Scarum" means nothing to you:

A Court-packing plan?

Here's a NYT op-ed saying that Congress ought to consider a new Court-packing plan:
WHEN a majority of Supreme Court justices adopt a manifestly ideological agenda, it plunges the court into the vortex of American politics. If the Roberts court has entered voluntarily what Justice Felix Frankfurter once called the “political thicket,” it may require a political solution to set it straight.
"When"... "If"... "may".... The writer, Jean Edward Smith, author of a biography of FDR, is not exactly taking a position on what the Roberts Court is doing.
Still, there is nothing sacrosanct about having nine justices on the Supreme Court. Roosevelt’s 1937 chicanery has given court-packing a bad name, but it is a hallowed American political tradition participated in by Republicans and Democrats alike.

If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two.
"[P]ersists in thumbing its nose at popular values"? Okay, now Smith seems to be taking a position, though there's no substance in his piece that backs this up, but even if it were backed up, it would be an idiotic point. He starts out fretting about a Court that enters the political sphere, and he ends up worrying about the Court failing to pick up the values of the political majority. So which is it?

Of course, I know: You want the Court to transcend politics but to transcend it in the direction that squares with your politics. I laugh at that.

Two more things:

1. Specify which cases are bothering you! If the "values" you prefer are so "popular," why can't Congress simply enact them as a matter of statutory law? I need to know what you're talking about before I can tell whether these new statutes would violate constitutional law. For example, if you're irked that the Court didn't strike down the "partial-birth abortion" statute, Congress doesn't have to restock the Court with Justices who will expansively construe abortion rights, it only needs to repeal its own statute!

2. The Constitution does create checks on the Supreme Court, and Congress can decide to use them. But such actions by Congress will themselves have a political effect. You need to look down the road and see if you like those effects too. It's not enough to say, wouldn't it be great to be able to suddenly appoint 2 new Supreme Court Justices at a point when we have a President who will nominate individuals we think will do things we like? You will need to explain why this solution is so important, and, when you that, you will probably end up in a debate that will portrays the Court as political. You may succeed in increasing the number of Justices at the expense of delegitimatizing the very Court you want to rely on. And when the next President comes in, he or she will have more power to choose Justices for openly political reasons.

"The guy writes about how his comrades mock disfigured women, slaughter dogs and wear baby skulls as hats..."

"... but he's upset that others have called his and his comrades' character into question?"

MORE: "He's a pretentious ass, and a lefty."

Is it illegal sex discrimination to hire only females to host "The View"?

Can producers of "The Price Is Right" decide their audience wants a male host? Is it wrong to insist on a male to play the role of Edna in "Hairspray"? Lawprof Ian Ayres thinks it is:
Title VII prohibits sex discrimination in employment unless the employer can establish what's called a BFOQ or "Bona Fide Occupational Qualification." The EEOC Guidelines do allow intentional sex discrimination in hiring an actor or actress where the sex-specific roles are necessary for the "purpose of authenticity or genuineness," see 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(2). But there is no way that the producers could establish that sex was a BFOQ for being host of "The Price is Right."

The same conclusion probably holds true for hosting "The View." The thought that only women could host a talk show would be difficult to square with existing case law. Probably a dozen different hosts have been employed by The View. They have all been female. There is little doubt that the producers of that show discriminate on the basis of sex in hiring.

Indeed, even John Travolta's portrayal of Edna in the movie Hairspray raises a non-trivial BFOQ question. Travolta, like all of his predecessors, is male. But it's hard to say that casting a man for the part is necessary for "authenticity or genuineness" -- especially when the whole point of his portrayal is that Travolta (unlike Divine) is playing it straight.
I know. The idea of lawsuits over such things seems ridiculous. But exactly why is it ridiculous?

Personally, I feel insulted by what the networks put on TV during the day. The whole line-up makes the statement: This is what we think women are. Or: This is what we think nonworking women are. Not that I wish I could sue. I'm just offended.

Voice lessons.

Lately, I've noticed a lot of young women speaking in a strangled voice that seems to be produced by a laborious effort to bypass the larynx altogether. They sound as if they are damaging their throats. Are you noticing this trend? Can you tell me how it got started? Is there some celebrity they are imitating? It sounds a little Winona Ryder to me, but there must be some stronger role models affecting young women. Also, is there some way to get them to stop? It is worse than Valley Girl intonation.

ADDED: Someone in the comments blames Tara Reid. Let's listen:



Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Please! She may be cute, but you Taroids? You sound awful.

MORE: A reader emails that it's called "creaky voice"
:
Creaky voice (also called laryngealisation, pulse phonation or, in singing, vocal fry or glottal fry), is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact, and forming a large, irregularly vibrating mass. The frequency of the vibration is very low (20–50 pulses per second, about two octaves below normal voice) and the airflow through the glottis is very slow. A slight degree of laryngealisation, occurring e.g. in some Korean consonants is called "stiff voice".

There is some argument among music instructors as to whether or not this is an actual register as it can be used to add a raspy sound to other registers. By putting a lesser amount of air on the cords than is needed for a clear tone of the pitch you are going for, the tone breaks up and becomes a rasp. Many Nu Metal singers use this technique to create a screaming sound. One example is Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Yeah Yeah Yeahs' singer Karen O also utilizes the technique in songs like "Rich" and "Art Star"....

Creaky voice manifests itself in the idiolects of some American English speakers, particularly at the beginnings of sentences that the speaker wishes to "soft-pedal". This phenomenon is more prominent among female American English speakers than among male speakers.

Okay, then. More video:



MORE: Slate's Emily Bazelon is a perfect example of the voice I'm talking about.

"Do we need to manage the current mess or try and transform it?"

"The former is a rationale for the Clinton candidacy; the latter is the rationale for Obama's." Why conservatives are coming to accept the idea of Hillary as President.

"I AM IN UR DEATHBED."

"SO U DONT GETS COLD FEETZ."

"The Internet has become the modern equivalent of the Protestant reformation."

A quote from the comments.

"The biggest problem is my butt hurts. Is that normal?"

Said John Edwards.

"Clinton's low-cut shirt simply reflected a few centimeters of sartorial miscalculation..."

WaPo columnist Ruth Marcus tries to put WaPo columnist Robin Givhan in her place:
[Hillary Clinton was] dissected by Post fashion critic Robin Givhan for showing cleavage: "It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative -- aesthetically speaking -- environment of Congress." Givhan contrasted Clinton's decolletage with the more abundant display by Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, and her complaint seemed to be that Clinton was showing too little, too unassertively.

Might I suggest that sometimes a V-neck top is only a V-neck top? As a person of cleavage, I'd guess that Clinton's low-cut shirt simply reflected a few centimeters of sartorial miscalculation, not a deliberate fashion statement.

Breasts may be an advantage in certain settings; the Senate floor isn't one of them. If you're giving a speech on higher education, as Clinton was, you don't want Ted Stevens thinking about -- and you certainly don't want to think about Ted Stevens thinking about -- your cleavage.
Marcus is clear that cleavage distracts viewers into sexual thinking and that a politician giving a serious speech should not reveal it. On that firm foundation, she builds the argument that Clinton bumbled. It was mistake. A miscalculation from a woman who is continually called calculating? A very wealthy woman who must have people helping her dress? I think women -- unless they are inept or don't care what people think -- know how much of their breasts are showing! The suggestion that Hillary Clinton of all people did not know is beyond absurd.

So let's go back to Marcus's firm foundation -- that cleavage distracts viewers into sexual thinking and that a politician giving a serious speech should not reveal it -- and build something else. Hillary Clinton deliberately crossed a well-understood line, because she'd calculated that it was in her interest to do so. As Marcus notes, Clinton had just received criticism from Elizabeth Edwards for being insufficiently womanly. Hillary wanted to prod us -- subtly, with a small and deniable amount of cleavage -- to think of her as more feminine.

Now let's examine the issue raised by Givhan that the problem was showing too little cleavage. Here's how Givhan's column ends:
Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton's was a teasing display, then Smith's was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn't as unnerving. Perhaps that's because Smith's cleavage seemed to be presented so forthrightly. Smith's fitted jacket and her dramatic necklace combined to draw the eye directly to her bosom. There they were . . . all part of a bold, confident style package.

With Clinton, there was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding -- being a voyeur. Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease. It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality. It also means that she feels that all those other characteristics are so apparent and undeniable, that they will not be overshadowed.

To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.
So both Marcus and Givhan find fault. One sees mistake, and the other sees tentativeness. I see a deliberate, controlled gesture that was exactly what she wanted to do, what she thought would be advantageous. Why must a fashion expression -- or a political expression -- be forthright? Givhan uses words like "teasing" and "surreptitious," but I'm thinking: subtle, deniable, diplomatic.

But I do love Givhan's idea that the most advanced woman would be so confident about her image as a competent professional that she'd forthrightly use clothing to express her sexuality. If she does this in a profession setting though, she will be surrounded by men in suits who have no way to present themselves more sexily. What's the male equivalent of the Jacqui Smith style? Can Joe Biden wear a codpiece?

Women have much more freedom than men do. Along with this benefit of more freedom comes more room for personal expression. We can adjust what we wear to express as little as possible. A female politician can wear a dark "Dress For Success" suit if she wants, and then, like the men, she's not saying much. But if she does more, we shouldn't say oh, that's nothing, as Marcus would like. We should talk about it!

July 25, 2007

Cyberchondria.

Do you have that special internet hypochondria?

IN THE COMMENTS: Peter Palladas tells this story:
I had an email from a strange woman - like you do - some years back. She had been visiting her GP with concerns about a weird lump in her belly.

GP had written it off - as they do - as something and nothing. A lipoma [bundle of harmless fat] is the most common guesstimate made in such circs.

But she wasn't satisfied and began searching the Web for options: 'lump, unexplained, useless GP, death,' etc.

That search took her to something I'd written about my own fucking disease - soft tissue sarcoma - where I'd moaned about ignorant GPs who don't know their lipoma from their sarcoma.

So she went back to her GP and told her to think again. So GP did have another think and lo and behold this woman did have exactly a soft tissue sarcoma the size of a bowling ball in her gut.

Surgeons whipped it out pronto and a life was saved.
Pogo -- a doctor -- wrote:
Palladas is on to something. Physicians were trained to be a priestly class, whose secret knowledge and arcane phrases must be translated to be understood.

A familiar taunt of patients who had read a bit (circa 1980) was and where did you go to medical school?. And boy did that shut them up.

This isn't so much the case anymore, and the Internet has become the modern equivalent of the Protestant reformation, wherein the priest can be bypassed, and salvation gained independently.

ADDED: My grandmother was regarded as a hypochondriac for many years, when in fact, she was suffering from scleroderma, which eventually killed her. So not only did she suffer horribly from the disease, she also had to endure the extreme disrespect of doctors and family members who saw her as an annoying crazy old lady.

Audible Althouse #87.

The Hillary Clinton campaign would like us not to talk about the way she looks, and Rudy Giuliani would like us not to babble about his psyche. I say no to all that. Here in America, the way we show respect is by showing disrespect. Or so I say, in this new podcast.

You don't need an iPod. You can stream it right through your computer here.

But the way to show respect -- and disrespect! -- is to subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Obesity. It's contagious!

Caught from friends.

Neurosis is “just a high-class word for whining.”

Said Albert Ellis, dead at age 93:
[He] challenged the deliberate, slow-moving methodology of Sigmund Freud, the prevailing psychotherapeutic treatment at the time.

Where the Freudians maintained that a painstaking exploration of childhood experience was critical to understanding neurosis and curing it, Dr. Ellis believed in short-term therapy that called on patients to focus on what was happening in their lives at the moment and to take immediate action to change their behavior....

In 1955, however, when Dr. Ellis introduced his approach, most of the psychological and psychiatric establishment scorned it. His critics said he misunderstood the nature and force of emotions. Classical Freudians also took offense at Dr. Ellis’s critical observations about psychoanalysis and its founder. Dr. Ellis contended that Freud “really knew very little about sex” and that his view of the Oedipus complex, as suggesting a universal law of human disturbance, was “foolish.”

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds links to this post saying:
ALBERT ELLIS HAS DIED. The InstaWife has always been a fan, particularly of his How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable. We could use more of that in the blogosphere sometimes . . . .

Further thoughts from Ann Althouse.
Which struck me as a little weird, because what "further thoughts" have I got here? But then I went to the "InstaWife" post, which was written back in March, and it does refer at some length to a conversation she and I had on Bloggingheads and then, continuing, in written blogging. So I actually do have some "further thoughts" on Albert Ellis, back here in this March post of mine. Just in case you were inclined to curse me out for getting the cheapest Instapundit link ever! And, oddly enough, that March post begins with an exclamation about how convoluted the conversation had become.

Giuliani's warns us off "this touchy-feely, let-me-try-to-figure-out- how-you-do-psychobabble-on-somebody."

Sure, of course you don't like it. Because it's so especially interesting in your case. When the candidate says, don't go there, go there.

Or is it the other way around? When the candidate says go ahead and look there, you actually should look there? As in: "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."

Anyway, I think an aversion to touchy-feely, let-me-try-to-figure-out- how-you-do-psychobabble seems pretty neurotic.

Coy C. Privette.

What a perfect name for a man with this problem!

Found via Andrew Sullivan, who seems happy as ever to see a "Christianist" fall. But, good Lord, what a minuscule character! "Cabarrus County commissioner and retired Baptist minister." The bigger they are the harder they fall. But aren't some folks so small that, when they fall, we should hear nothing?

"Christopher Hitchens famously put picnics on his list of life's most overrated things, alongside lobster, champagne and a certain sex act."

So begins an article titled "Abandon tired picnic dishes." Do you: 1. Keep reading to discover exciting new picnic dishes? 2. Google to discover exactly which sex act Hitchens thought was overrated?

I Googled... and gave some thought to the possibility of all four things coming into play on a particular occasion. Why not invite your paramour out on the perfect anti-Hitchens date?

Clinton, best in the debate, and best in the after-debate.

I think in these last two days it's become clear that Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' best candidate. In the most significant moment of the debate, the candidates were asked "[W]ould you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?"



Obama immediately says "I would," not really noticing the detail to the question. He'd meet "without preconditions"? He goes on to plug in some material, which he will use in the after-debate period about how wrong Bush has been to think that "not talking to countries is punishment to them."

Clinton gets a lucky break when the questioner, who's in the audience, is given a chance at a follow up and throws the question to Clinton. I think Clinton had seen her opportunity the instant Obama said "I would," and here, with the chance to speak next, she deftly takes full advantage:
Well...
A disarming "well," as if this isn't going to be word-for-word perfect...
I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

And I will pursue very vigorous diplomacy.

And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
Live-blogging, I say "this is the precise point in the debate where I conclude... that Clinton is the superior candidate." But as impressive as this is, her campaign also deserves credit for forefronting this interchange the day after the debate, and Obama must take a second downgrade for the way he handled the after-debate.

Listen to him struggle through this interview with Iowa's Quad-City Times. Now, let's look at the coverage in today's newspapers.

The Boston Globe
:
Yesterday, Obama's campaign tried to clarify his remarks by saying that he wouldn't agree to meet with such leaders before lower-level diplomatic work was done. But Clinton's campaign seized on their divergent answers, arguing that it exposes both her command of world affairs and Obama's greenness. "Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America's presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment," her campaign wrote in a memo.

Obama's campaign put out its own memo yesterday saying his is the approach that would keep America safe.

"Obama's tough but smart approach to America's diplomacy is exactly the kind of change and new thinking that excites voters about an Obama presidency," the memo said. His campaign also pointed to a remark Clinton made this spring in which she said, "I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people."

Clinton's campaign yesterday also employed former secretary of state Madeleine Albright to speak to reporters about Clinton's knowledge of diplomacy and the appropriate use of American power. "When all is said and done she knows that being president is about protecting the country and advancing national security interests," Albright said, adding that Clinton shows "a very sophisticated understanding of the whole process."
So Obama falls back on his mantra "change," showing his dreadful tendency to rely on abstractions and generic hope messages. He's gotten on a long way with such material, when speaking to admiring crowds of people who are just getting to know him. But it's horribly inadequate to fight off a formidable opponent on a specific issue.

And his attempt to catch Clinton in a contradiction could only work if we lacked the most basic powers of discernment. So Clinton said it's "a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people"? It can be wrong both to say "I won't talk" and to say "I will talk." The position Clinton took at the debate was that talks had to be planned and developed through a diplomatic process. She's rejecting both hardcore positions: promises to talk "without preconditions" and intransigent refusals to talk.

The Daily News:
Political observers said they expected Clinton to waste no time using Obama's comment to shore up her standing among key voter blocs, such as Cuban-Americans in bellwether Florida and Jewish voters who may find the idea of a sitdown with the Holocaust-denying president of Iran disturbing.

Team Clinton plans "to use these issues in outreach in the states [and nationally] with Jewish leadership and Jewish grass-roots voters," a Democratic operative familiar with the Clinton campaign told the Daily News.

Obama's camp said that approach wouldn't impress anybody. "There is a smallness to such misleading attacks that voters reject," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton....

In a race where Obama has presented himself as the fresher face, the exchange handed Clinton the perfect opening to "prove she's more experienced and would provide a steadier hand at the helm of the ship of state," said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

To push that message, the Clinton campaign swiftly arranged a morning press call with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who didn't attack Obama directly but called the New York senator "a person who understands how the American presidency works."

The Obama campaign quickly trotted out its own stable of surrogates, including former Clinton administration national security adviser Anthony Lake, who argued, "A great nation and its President should never fear negotiating with anyone and Sen. Obama rightly said he would be willing to do so."
So, Lake pretends Obama said what he should have said -- that is, what Clinton said.

Lynn Sweet in the Chicago-Sun Times:
During the day Tuesday, the Clinton and Obama campaigns issued dueling critical memos while advisers sparred over who appeared more presidential. The candidates each gave interviews to the Quad City Times in Iowa, the state with the crucial lead-off presidential vote, where they escalated the rhetoric.

"I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive," Clinton told the paper. Obama, she said, gave an answer "I think he is regretting today."

Obama told the paper that Clinton's camp was trying to score "political points."
Yes, she's not just demonstrating that she's right on the issue, she's demonstrating how to be a strong candidate, which is actually more important as the Democrats decide who they want to be the candidate.
He stood by his response and that Clinton's position was not that different from the Bush administration policy, so she "can't claim the mantle of change."
"The mantle of change." I wonder what people picture when they hear the word "mantle." Really, think about it for a while: The Mantle of Change, The Mantle of Change, The Mantle of Change. Doesn't it sound like something you win at a stage of a video game?

The Obama rhetoric is getting stale and repetitious -- just as Hillary is trouncing him in the after-debate!
Obama's campaign was trying to regain its footing after walking into a potential political minefield. The debate story in the Miami Herald, another early primary state where Cuban Americans make up a voting bloc, said Obama and Edwards "suggested Monday that they would meet with two leaders who top South Florida's most-hated list: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez."

If he met with Chavez, Obama told the Iowa paper, it would be to tell him "what I don't like" while finding areas to "potentially work together."

"I didn't say these guys were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon," Obama said.
That coffee line tries to brush off the controversy as lightweight and meaningless, but it is his biggest showdown with Clinton thus far.

He barely shows up for the showdown.

UPDATE: What about the second day after the debate?
"The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous," he said...
So from "coffee some afternoon" to "tea next week"...

July 24, 2007

Terrorism in Wisconsin... trying to trick us with bombs that look like cheese???!!!!

AP reports:
Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September.....

The four seizures were described this way....

- Milwaukee, June 4. A U.S. person's carryon baggage contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese. The bulletin said block cheese has a consistency similar to some explosives.
They come to Wisconsin and think they can fool us by making a bomb that looks like cheese? They test us with a dry run where they actually use cheese??? Bastards!

"Romney, Tancredo call for Brownback apology."

Is it wrong of me to find that headline funny? I mean, I myself love to pull the old apologize! apologize! routine, but still.... Romney's a serious candidate. Why is he even giving Brownback the time of day? And how did Tancredo get in on the action?

"What he said about 9/11 in his essay was not part of our discussion."

Said University of Colorado Board of Regents chair Patricia Hayes, explaining the firing today of Ward Churchill. Churchill will file suit claiming violation of his First Amendment rights.
Churchill touched off a firestorm in 2005 after an essay surfaced which he wrote shortly after 9/11 likening some victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, who helped carry out the Holocaust.

University officials concluded he could not be fired for his comments because they were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into allegations that he fabricated or falsified his research and plagiarized the work of others.
So, was he fired for the reason the University gives or for the opinions he stated?

John Kerry recites a limerick mocking Vitter.

Pathetic!
There once was a man named Vitter
Who vowed that he wasn’t a quitter
But with stories of women
And all of his sinnin’
He knows his career’s in the — oh, never mind...
(Via Don Surber.)

And now, for your comments.... Well, it's pretty obvious what you need to do...
There once was a man named Kerry
Who...

Ms. Magazine protests against "sexist" coverage of women politicians... AKA Hillary.

National Review points out that Ms. didn't get stirred up when the subject was Condoleezza Rice. I note that it's perfectly appropriate to write about how public figures look! Fashion and grooming are part of their communication. To put these matters off limits is to deprive us of the ability to talk about what in fact affects the human mind. It's repressive nonsense to tell us to shut up. Hillary Clinton is a powerful person who is seeking to become the most powerful human being on earth. We are absolutely free -- and even obligated -- to put her through the wringer. We talk about how the men look too -- and we should. Those who want power would like to confine us to the prepared text -- look only at the words, not the nonverbal levels of communication. We'd be fools to obey.

Best of luck...

... to everyone taking the bar exam today!

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"Look, I'm renowned not only in the U.S. but across the world for my capacity to be vengeful, aggressive, brutal, and ruthless..."

"... and I'm already about ten times as intimidating to any foreign despot as John Edwards could be even if he shaved his head and got some tattoos."

What Hillary could've said when that guy asked her how she's going to get taken seriously by the "Arab states, Muslim nations" where they see women as "second-class citizens." According to Beldar, anyway -- who thinks ¶ 19 of my debate blogging is too accepting of what was an "incredibly" and "amazingly" "lame" response:
Starting with a reference to visits she made as First Lady is, I am convinced, a careless use of that double-edged sword. None of those visits she made as First Lady were anything more than ceremonial....

If one is going to cite examples of notable national leaders who were effective notwithstanding their lack of a Y-chromosome, then then screamingly obvious example is former British Prime Minister Margaret ("The Iron Lady") Thatcher, followed (equally obviously) by Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi. Babbling about little-known women heads of state from Germany, Chile, or Liberia — Liberia?!? — cuts against her case, since none of those countries, whether headed by a male or a female, is going to be perceived by American voters as having a role remotely comparable to that of the United States in world affairs.
Looking at the transcript, I see what he's talking about. And I can see that my comment is very much a representation of how what she said merged with my own thinking on the subject. The key problem that I ignored wasn't the First Lady business, but her failure to address in any way the problem of the way Muslim countries treat women. She acted as though the question was just: Can a woman be President?
This was a question that begged for a thoughtful, articulate statement of principles. There are so many things she could have said about how we must not abandon our values just to gratify those cultures and countries who don't yet embrace sexual equality. This question was a medium-speed fastball right over the center of the plate — and she laid down a not-so-good bunt with it.
Maybe Elizabeth Edwards is right about Hillary: She really doesn't have the best feminist instincts.

Did Hillary avoid mentioning Bill in last night's debate?

She sure tried! For example, in talking about sending Chelsea to private school, she said: "I was advised... if she were to go to a public school, the press would never leave her alone... So I had to make a very difficult decision." "I"? No "we"?

She would have succeeded in her attempt at a total eclipse of the man had it not been for this question:
[M]y question is for Hillary Clinton.

With Bush, Clinton, and Bush again serving as the last three presidents, how would electing you, a Clinton, constitute the type of change in Washington so many people in the heartland are yearning for, and what your campaign has been talking about?

I was also wondering if any of the other candidates had a problem with the same two families being in charge of the executive branch of government for 28 consecutive years, if Hillary Clinton were to potentially be elected and then re-elected.
(Wow! 28 years!)

Clinton's answer minimized the "husband" -- she never says his name -- as much as possible:
Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000. I actually thought somebody else was elected in that election, but...

Obviously, I am running on my own merits, but I am very proud of my husband's record as president of the United States. You know what is great about this is look at this stage and look at the diversity you have here in the Democratic Party. Any one of us would be a better president than our current president or the future Republican nominee. So I'm looking forward to making my case to the people of this country and I hope they will judge me on my merits.
It wasn't so long ago that she was bringing the man forward to reflect some glow onto her. Why the repositioning? Or is it just that he's mainly to be used as a visual prop in her campaign, so that when he can't appear in person -- as in a debate -- you don't talk about him at all? She needs to stand on her own, as she says in that statement above, so she doesn't want to refer to him. But when he can show up in person and talk about her (and not about himself), that works just fine.

"I admire and like very much Barack."

With the help of the debate transcript, I've just added three paragraphs to the long live-blogging post from last night. Let me just highlight this part for discussion:
Finally, they are asked to look at the person to their left and say one thing they don't like about them. Most of them won't say anything bad, but Edwards snarks about Hillary's jacket: "I'm not sure about that coat." Which might seem cute, but might piss women off. Hillary comes back with: "Yes, John, it's a good thing we're ending soon." Which sounds like a wife telling her husband he's had too much to drink. But she's supposed to talk about Obama, so she says: "I admire and like very much Barack." I find it hard to believe a sentence that sounds like it was translated from a foreign language. But then, why should she like very much Barack? She'd like very much less Barack. Then Obama one-ups Edwards with "I actually like Hillary's jacket. I don't know what's wrong with it." Which could be read as a double insult. First, it puts down Edwards for knocking the lady's clothes. And second, it subtly implies that Edwards is feminine: Obama can't tell what is wrong with the jacket, because he's a man and doesn't know about fashion, not like some other men, who aren't manly enough.

July 23, 2007

Live-blogging the Democratic debate.

1. Just waiting for this thing to kick off. I'll add to this post, numbering the paragraphs as I go.

2. Intro, from some YouTube clip. Richardson looks terrified. Clinton, resolute. But now, it's Anderson Cooper, in the flesh. Couldn't someone have Tubed him? Biden glistens. Cooper blabs about how the questions were "heartfelt" so they had trouble choosing. Now, he's showing some cute clips that aren't chosen. Cooper cruelly slams some 5-year-old girl for being a puppet of her parents. And he hilariously slams the Biden campaign for its trick getting a lot of YouTubers to ask the same question.

3. Question 1: Politicians always make promises, but then they don't do anything. How will you be different? A good meta question. Unfortunately, we're getting an answer from Dodd. He got the job done in the Senate. Fine, but who cares about Dodd? Ah, now Obama. We need to "change how business is done in Washington." He brings "perspective" -- the perspective that we need to change.

4. Question 2, for Kucinich. How would we be better off with him? Why'd CNN pick this question? I think we know. They're packaging up li'l Dennis to set him aside for the rest of the night.

5. Kucinich is wearing a checked shirt. The hell? What male wears a checked shirt?! Hillary was "involved in the question," so Cooper throws it over to her. Wow! She's wearing an orange jacket textured with curving, scalloped lines. It reminds me of a chair we had in the 1950s, but it actually looks rather pretty and definitely sets her apart from the guys who absolutely are not free to wear orange suits. She speaks in a solid, stern voice that has nothing to do with wavy orange patterns. She speaks in a straight, navy blue line. Obama gets included here too, and he's elegant in a gray suit and a blue tie. His gestures look flowing as I scroll through them in slo-mo, looking for the perfect frame to post here. Just wait a few minutes.

DSC_0017.JPG

6. Hillary is asked to define "liberal" and to say if she is one. She doesn't like what other people have done to the good old word, so she prefers "progressive." The problem with "liberal" is that people think it means government will do everything for you, but "progressive" seems to be about giving people "tools" to better themselves. Cooper throws it to Gravel. Is he a liberal? He lights into Obama for taking money from lobbyists.

7. The next question gets applause: What if they had to pick a Republican running mate? Who would it be? Biden fails to answer the question. He just lists his accomplishments. Edwards says Chuck Hagel, then brushes the question aside and runs through his issues. No one else gets the question! Blah! Cool question. Crap nonanswers. [ADDED, reading the transcript: Biden did blurt out "Chuck Hagel" before going on about his accomplishments. The Edwards just copied him.]

8. Should African-Americans get reparations for slavery? Edwards: no (but blah, blah, blah other stuff about African-Americans). Obama cleverly says the reparations should be "investment in our schools." Cooper asks the whole group. Kucinich comes forward, and his answer begins "The Bible says...." Yeesh! Imagine if a Republican started an answer that way.

9. Richardson's first chance to speak is about Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, he seems robotic and looks awful -- afraid to spend money on makeup? -- and I feel like I'm watching the man -- whom I respect -- slip into oblivion.

10. "Not my question!" Cooper proclaims as he repeats a question from a black man to Obama: What about the way they're saying you're not "authentically black"? Obama refers to trying to catch a cab, that is, he reminds us he's been subjected to bias because of the way he looks to people who don't know anything about his ancestry and upbringing. He then segues to talking about how he's concerned about race issues. Clinton is then asked about being a woman. "I may be able to break that hardest of glass ceilings." For some reason, this line touches me, and I've been steely toward Clinton as she's played the sex card in the past. She's running not as a woman, she says (now!), but because she thinks she's the "best person." But she ends saying her taking office would send a nice message to "a lot of little girls and boys around the world."

11. Cooper asks Edwards about the way his wife says he's better for women than Hillary is. He talks about poverty, wages, and health care.

12. Two lesbians ask if they should be allowed to marry. Kucinich, of course, says yes. Dodd blathers about how one ought to treat people who happen to have a different sexual orientation but then says "civil unions" and denies marriage. Richardson would do "what is achievable" -- and that is civil unions. He volunteers that he'd reject "Don't ask, don't tell."

13. A reverend asks about the way religion is used to deny rights to gay persons. Edwards goes first and says he feels "enormous conflict" about the issue and he's been on a "journey" about it. His wife supports gay marriage though. I'm really skeptical about this notion that a candidate's spouse can represent positions for him, so that he gets to seem somehow sympathetic to it when he's not for it. What if President Bush tried to appease people who don't like the war in Iraq by telling us that Laura was actually opposed to it? We'd just laugh at him! The reverend turns out to be in the audience, and Cooper asks him how he liked the answer. Edwards now admits that it's wrong to use religion as the basis for denying gay people their rights.

14. What are they thinking?

DSC_0003.JPG

Clinton: I've got the nomination in my clutches.

Obama: I'm in this!

Richardson: I'm doomed. Either that or he's catching up on his reading and doesn't know he's doomed.

15. How do we pull out of Iraq now? Even if you opposed the war to start. It's like leaving a newborn baby to take care of itself. Obama says we should "be careful" getting out but also that we need to make it clear that "there is no military solution."

16. A mother of a soldier asks why the Congress hasn't stopped the war yet. Are the Democrats holding back for fear of getting blamed for losing the war? This question gets applause. Clinton goes first. No real answer. Kucinich lights on fire: All we need to do is cut off the funds. We can do it! Then Dodd flares up. Iraq is keeping us from saving Darfur. Sure. Richardson says he's different. Bring all the troops home by the end of the year. The war is a "quagmire." "It's endless." "Get it done."

17. Gravel yells that all the soldiers who died in Vietnam died in vain, because "you can now go to Hanoi and get a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone." And now, in Iraq, they are all dying in vain! Cooper throws it to Obama: Have all the soldiers in Iraq died in vain? Obama switches to the issue of going into Iraq. Cooper refocuses him, and he says no. Soldiers never die in vain (somehow). Edwards gets the question, and he too realizes he's got to deny that the soldiers die in vain.

18. Should women have to register for the military at age 18 the way men do? Yes: Dodd, Clinton, Edwards, Gravel.

19. Nice question for Clinton: How will you be effective with the Arab states when they are so biased against women? Oh, they'll take her seriously, she tells us. In fact, just having a woman President will be an effective statement. I like that. And I'd kind of like to see that.

20. They go to extreme closeup for Edwards for some reason:

DSC03791.JPG

21. Would you meet -- "without precondition" -- with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba, North Korea? Obama: "I would!" Hillary: "I will not promise..." You don't make promises like that without knowing more about how it will be used. She's got the more responsible answer, clearly. Edwards: "Yes," but Clinton is right. A little fence-straddling. And this is the precise point in the debate where I conclude -- I'd been toying with the conclusion -- that Clinton is the superior candidate.

22. "How many family members do you have serving in uniform?" asks a man with many military deaths in his family. The answers devolve into more talk about the plan to withdraw troops.

23. "Who was your favorite teacher and why?" Gravel claims some brother recognized his "dyslexia." Come on! Who talked about "dyslexia" back when Gravel was a kid? Obama had a teacher who made him feel special for having lived outside of the country. Biden talks about a priest who taught him something about the greatest sin... and his microphone malfunctions, so we don't really hear it. Edwards had a teacher who taught him that a guy could have a daddy who worked in a mill and .... blah blah blah... teacher wants li'l Johnny to be President.

24. A question about No Child Left Behind is written on a series of placards, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"-style. Richardson would scrap it -- and give teachers a $40,000 a year minimum wage, emphasize math and science, and have a "major federal program" for "music, dancing, sculpture, and the arts." Finally! A President who cares about sculpture. Biden: No Child Left Behind -- which he voted for -- was "a mistake." "Ya need better teachers." No kidding!

25. Would you send your kids to private school? Edwards: His kids all went to public school. Hillary: Chelsea went to public school "until we moved to Washington." "The press would never leave her alone." Obama: His kids went to a private school because it was near their house. Most in-your-face answer of the night, from Biden: "My kids did go to private school. It's because right after I got elected my wife and daughter were killed. I had two sons who survived." His sister helped him with those sons and sent them to Catholic school. He looks a little pissed off at having to talk about this. The poor man. Did you remember his terrible tragedy? Kucinich: Public school! Gravel: Both. Competition is good! Dodd: Veers off topic and lectures us about whatever. [ADDED, on reading the transcript: Biden's sister brought the sons to the Friends school, and later, he sent them to Catholic school.]

26. Sex education. Obama gets a chance to respond to Romney, who recently criticized him for saying he supported age-appropriate education for young schoolkids. He gives the right answer: Kids need to know if someone is "encroaching on their privacy."

27. They get really YouTubish with two Tennessee guys who ask whether all the press about Al Gore running hurts y'all's feelins. This gives all the candidates a chance to display their best, big, toothy smiles. No actual answers, just another video, a snowman talking -- in the style of Mr. Bill -- about Gore's big issue, global warming. Then, there's a cute video about energy conservation. Gravel says tax people on what they spend, not what they earn. Dodd wants to take us down to a 55 mile an hour speed limit, Jimmy Carter-style.

28. Nuclear power. Edwards: No. He's for "bio" fuel. He's against liquefied coal, because it's a "carbon-based" fuel. Like his "bio" fuel isn't. Obama: We should "explore nuclear power." Clinton: She's "agnostic" about nuclear power. "It can be a win-win if we do it right."

29. Would you work -- as President -- for the minimum wage? Edwards and Clinton -- totally rich -- both say sure. Obama is nicely set up to point out they're rich... even though "We don't have Mitt Romney money."

30. Why not make everyone pay Social Security taxes on all of their income? Dodd says yes. Obama won't answer. No one else speaks.

31. Damned Baby Boomers... raise taxes or cut benefits? Richardson talks about diabetes. No one else speaks.

32. A Virginia guy strums a guitar and sings about taxes. He doesn't like them. Only Biden answers, and he deserves credit for admitting that the government needs your money, but then he does the standard Democratic thing of saying he'd just take away the tax benefits the rich folks have.

33. Another question about Democrats and taxes. Only Kucinich answers.

34. Cooper prepares us for a barrage of questions about health care. Edwards shows his trial lawyer stuff wringing sympathy out of us with the story of a man who couldn't speak because he couldn't afford surgery that would restore his speech. Hillary wants "decency and respect" for everyone.

35. God and guns. One guy shows a quarter and recites the motto "In God We Trust." Biden's okay with it. Another guy says he doesn't believe in God and worries about Democrats pandering to religion the way the Republicans do. Blah blah blah... what do you expect them to say?

36. The end. The end of my TiVo anyway. I did get a little "off-live" tonight. It's hard to resist the power of the remote controller. If it persisted beyond 2 hours, I missed it. I guess there was something about guns. Anyway, that's it for me. So, okay, what do I think of the YouTube experiment and the way CNN filtered the raw questioning? I think they did pretty well. And, frankly, all the candidates did reasonably well. But, it's clear too that the top 3 that we knew coming in were the top 3 really are the top 3. I think John Edwards did a nice job of pulling himself up even with Barack Obama. And, likewise, Hillary Clinton let us know she's #1. Bill Richardson failed to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack. And so, we have a top 3, with a clear frontrunner. Now, can we see a debate with those 3? Please, before it's rammed down our throats that Hillary is inevitable? I'm not against Hillary. I found her appealing tonight. But I would like to see her tested against Edwards and Obama, without the pointless excess of Gravel and Kucinich... and... Dodd... and, sorry... Biden and Richardson.

37. Writing the next morning, with the transcript, I can see the last part, about guns. Biden calls the guy in the video crazy: "I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun. I'm being serious.... Look, we should be working with law enforcement, right now, to make sure that we protect people against people who don't -- are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun because they're either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record, and I hope he doesn't come looking for me." I didn't see the video, so maybe the guy did look crazy -- he was holding his gun and calling it his "baby" -- but Biden seems awfully interested in taking away guns.

38. Finally, they are asked to look at the person to their left and say one thing they don't like about them. Most of them won't say anything bad, but Edwards snarks about Hillary's jacket: "I'm not sure about that coat." Which might seem cute, but might piss women off. Hillary comes back with: "Yes, John, it's a good thing we're ending soon." Which sounds like a wife telling her husband he's had too much to drink. But she's supposed to talk about Obama, so she says: "I admire and like very much Barack." I find it hard to believe a sentence that sounds like it was translated from a foreign language. But then, why should she like very much Barack? She'd like very much less Barack. Then Obama one-ups Edwards with "I actually like Hillary's jacket. I don't know what's wrong with it." Which could be read as a double insult. First, it puts down Edwards for knocking the lady's clothes. And second, it subtly implies that Edwards is feminine: Obama can't tell what is wrong with the jacket, because he's a man and doesn't know about fashion, not like some other men, who aren't manly enough.

39. Cooper ends with a pitch for YouTube and the Republican debates. So they're using this format again. Now that people have seen the videos -- and which videos CNN chooses -- it should have an effect on the quality of the next set of videos. What are the lessons? You can do humor and you can speak through animation or puppetry as long as you ask a dead serious question, like that snowman did. It helps to personify the question, like those lesbians or the man with dead soldiers in his his family. And it seems to work to sound a little inept or too casual in the first second and a half, but then quickly get out a clear question. They also obviously want questions in the same basic areas they'd hit if they were writing their own questions, so you might choose something boring -- like Social Security -- that not too many other people will do but that CNN will think has to get in. Good luck.

Are we excited about the big YouTube debate?

I kind of am. It's a cool idea.

And the people have style:





Some of the people, anyway. I hope CNN doesn't waste the opportunity and pick the people who seem most like Wolf Blitzer.

Mitt Romney and the sign that read "No to Obama Osama and Chelsea's Moma."

This was a truly minor controversy, but Romney needs to show better political skills. It was slightly inept to let himself be photographed near the sign and quite stupid to hold up the sign, but once it happened, he should have had an elegant explanation. With all the characters running around to campaign events trying to lure the candidate into a "macaca moment," how is it Romney wasn't ready for this guy?

ADDED: The second link was wrong for a few seconds. If anyone saw it, they would have found this post waaaaay more amusing than it is!

"We also have people who are supporting Bush and undermining our efforts too."

I was just walking along Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, minding my own business, when I encountered a little street theater and got out my tiny Sony Cybershot to record what was clearly a public performance, intended to be seen. A man with a clipboard came up to me and -- despite the fact that I was wearing earphones -- asked me a question, which I am now able to hear was "Would you like to sign our petition to impeach Bush and Cheney?" My answer -- which was an answer to whatever he had on that clipboard -- was "No thanks." Then, demonstrating his commitment to individual rights, he commenced to interrogate me about why I was taking a picture, what my opinions were, whether I am the sort of person who might "undermine" their efforts, and whether I was working for some "organization." Oh, yeah, with this camera the size of a deck of cards, I'm backed by an elaborate organization. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's called Althouse.

To lose weight, alphabetize your CDs today, your spices tomorrow.

Another theory. I'm linking because I'm attracted to new ideas, but I'm easily bored, so that's all I've got to say. That and: What's for lunch?

I call bullsh*t on TPM's defense of its bullsh*t video.

TPM Café's Greg Sargent tries to respond to various bloggers, including me, who wrote about his blog post featuring a video clip of Giuliani supposedly "unhinged" and "screaming" the word "bullshit." Here's Greg in his new post:
Really, it almost seems at times as if the wingnut bloggers delight in setting themselves up for mockery and parody.
Typical beginning for a lefty blogpost. He assumes anyone not on his side is a "wingnut" -- someone who barely deserves any regard from his readers. (Hint to Sargent: I voted for Russ Feingold (every time he's run), Al Gore, Bill Clinton (twice), etc. etc.) And he assumes his opponents have written nothing that will require much of any argument from him -- it's already just a set-up for "mockery and parody." Oh, Greg, you moonbat, your lame post is beyond parody because it is already its own parody. (Hint: I'm just pretending to write like a lefty blogger for fun. I don't really write like that. But I note how damned easy it is.)
The latest winger pratfall-in-the-making concerns the video we posted the other day of Rudy screaming "bulls#$t" at a cop rally 15 years ago.
Pratfall-in-the-making? Greg, you've started off this post on your ass. Get to the point.
Bloggers Michelle Malkin, Ann Althouse, and Ace of Spades are all taking shots at us for posting the vid, arguing that it was absurd to do so because it has no significance in any way.

It's the usual ham-fisted and heavy-handed stuff....
And your post is the usual wheel-spinning. Are you paid by the word? Did you go to the Glenn Greenwald Summer Camp for Lefty Bloggers?
Althouse says we're simply "trying to hurt" Rudy (sniffle, sniffle) and even tries to claim that Rudy isn't "screaming," but rather is "shouting" (now there's a critical distinction).
Greg apparently doesn't know the first thing about gender studies. "Screaming" is a feminizing word. [ADDED: "Screaming" also calls to mind the way that word was used to bring down Howard Dean in 2004. Presidential candidates can't "scream," we learned, so you may think that if you can say he "screamed," you can destroy him the way Dean was destroyed. (I defended Dean about the scream at the time, by the way.)]

Obviously, there's a difference between "screaming" and "shouting." And you left out your word "unhinged." You said he was "unhinged" and "screaming." You know damned well -- unless you're incredibly inept -- that those words conveyed an image of a crazy, out-of-control guy. "Screaming" itself connotes loss of control -- which would be terrible problem for a President -- and when you've paired it with the word "unhinged," the connotation isn't the slightest bit subtle. You are trying to get readers to think that Giuliani is emotionally unfit to be President. If you had accurately described how Giuliani sounded in the video -- shouting the word -- it wouldn't have twisted the reader's mind the way you wanted. I called you on your deception. So that damned well is a "critical distinction."

Now get up off your ass and write a real response to me. I'm sick of these cranked out non-responses that pretend you've suffered no real attack. You have!
Memo to wingnuts: There's a little something about Rudy's "bulls#$t" moment that we know and that you don't know....
Blah blah blah... Sargent brings up the context of the video, which he didn't give in his original post, but which the NYT covered in an article yesterday. Since I updated my post as soon as I saw the article and included the relevant excerpt, this part of Greg's post is entirely meaningless.
Note to wingnuts: This moment actually had great resonance for African Americans in New York for many, many years. It was a key chapter in the history of both race relations in the city and of Rudy's own rise to power. And Rudy's own campaign internally conceded that this was really, really bad -- that he'd sought to rile up an audience carrying signs saying things about Dinkins like "dump the washroom attendant" without denouncing their crude displays of racism. This is all actually common knowledge to lots of people. You could have established this basic history and context with five minutes on Google or Nexis before holding forth on it.
You should have put that in your original post, too, loser. We bloggers were responding to your post, not generating new material. Your post wasn't about the larger context. You know damned well that you just thought you could make conservatives tremble because the guy yelled "bullshit." We called bullshit on you for that. You're now bringing up new material, after it became really easily available in the NYT. I saw that too and blogged an update as soon as I saw it.

You mock me for saying you were "simply 'trying to hurt' Rudy (sniffle, sniffle)," but I was right. You had no decent substance to your post. It was nothing but ooh, Rudy said a bad word... tee hee... that's gonna shock conservatives. That was and is bullshit. I wasn't saying don't hurt my guy -- which is what you're implying with that "sniffle, sniffle" attempt at mockery. I was saying you had no substance. I was right! Bringing up this racial context after the fact doesn't change the deceptiveness of your original post.
But let's say it's not even your fault that you didn't know anything about this. And let's even concede that we should have spelled the history and context out better in our initial post. Now that you actually know a little something about the topic at hand, isn't it time for some follow-up posts explaining to your readers whether the moment's worthy of attention and what people should think of it?

Update: It gets better. Althouse has now linked to The Times piece -- with no comment at all as to whether she now thinks the moment is significant.
Greg, I didn't merely link to the NYT article. I put up the entire relevant passage. So it is absolutely clear that I think it's significant. You're grasping at straws with that "no comment at all" business. Your "update" shows that you don't have the balls to admit you got it wrong about me.

Now, do a proper update and apologize to me. If you don't, you are conceding that you are indeed a deceptive, manipulative writer.

UPDATE: David Wiegel at Reason.com criticizes my original post saying "[s]keptical (mostly conservative) bloggers thought Sargent meant that the word 'bullshit' would alienate conservative voters." Well, David, Sargent quite obviously did mean that! If you're going to criticize me you'd better refer to the post I was writing about, not some later post full of new material. Sargent's original point about the video was only that it "might tell us something about the reliability and temperament of this man who is asking us to make him our next Commander in Chief -- especially now that he's trying to win the support of GOP 'values voters.'" There's not a blessed word about race in that. So I'm calling bullshit on you too, David.