November 17, 2007

Orange bike. Lamborghini.



2 vehicles, seen today.

Japanese human art.

Just something I stumbled into on YouTube. Pretty cool and amusing. Watch the whole thing and don't worry about not understanding Japanese.

IN THE COMMENTS: Christopher Smith provides the translation:
The hosts and the text say "The reason my girlfriend is angry"

The woman says "What heck are you doing?!"

Then in the middle the guy says "Why are you so angry?" and she responds "Well you..." then after they rewind she says "what the heck are you doing?" again.

The 100 greatest moments in the history of food.

Assembled here.

Of course, you know what #1 is. #2 is harder to guess, and it's a matter of opinion, but I approve:
1762 The sandwich is created as gambler John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, calls for his dinner to be put between two slices of bread so he can continue his card game with one hand and eat with the other. Lunchtimes would never be the same again.
The discovery of egg salad must necessarily rank far lower. But in the egg category, I think the greatest moment is the separation of yolk and white. Think of all that follows from that!

But actually, the egg hardly figures in the top 100. Its first appearance is at #21 as a mere ingredient in the Caesar salad:
1924 In Tijuana, Mexico, restaurateur Caesar Cardini is short of food after a big party. Scouring the kitchen, he digs out lettuce, bread, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, eggs and lemon, and knocks up the first Caesar salad, a dish that does at least look healthy despite being full of fat. It is, needless to say, hugely popular.
Ha ha. I love the idea that one of the all-time great recipes is a quirk of what one guy, one day, happened to have in the kitchen. But I'm sure this is the source of many recipes, including the most horrendous ones.

What's the best/worst/weirdest concoction you ever made from what you happened to have on hand? Tell the story. I remember once being treated — along with a large group of partyers who'd stayed overnight somewhere on Long Island — to a breakfast of eggs with sliced hot dogs scrambled into them. Since we were very hungry, it tasted delicious. That was decades ago, and I've never felt the urge to make scrambled eggs and hot dogs.

I do remember once making creamed tuna on mashed potatoes — in a situation where soft food was a medical requirement. It seemed really good at the time, but I never made it again... needless to say.

Criticizing "Clinton News Network."

Outcry noted.

ADDED: About those citizen questioners. There's this. And this.

BUT: Consider the current "media frenzy" over the planted question at the Clinton rally the other day. After the initial story broke, CNN gave it more life by doing an interview with the student (Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff).

Woody Allen's favorites of his own films are "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Match Point," and "Husbands and Wives"...

... with "Stardust Memories" and "Zelig" at the second rank:
He expresses bafflement over the high regard in which “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” continue to be held (“People really latched on to ‘Manhattan’ in a way that I thought was irrational,” he says) and makes a strong case for “Manhattan Murder Mystery”...
Eh. I think he's just unnerved that his 2 best films are among his earliest. And he's got all the credit he could possible get for "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan," so the strategy for reaping more credit is to promote the other films.

The link is to a review of a new book, Eric Lax's "Conversations with Woody Allen." I'm sure a lot of you, when the subject is Woody Allen, think first of his sexual misadventures. How does the book deal with that?
Unprompted, [Allen] brings up the subject with Lax, conflating the people who criticized the age difference between his and Mariel Hemingway’s characters in “Manhattan” with those who were up in arms about him and Soon-Yi. “Speaking of Soon-Yi,” Allen says, “it is ironic that my marriage to her, which was seen by many as so irrational, to me is the one relationship in my life that worked.”
And the aptly named Lax leaves it at that. If you were really a good conversationalist — good enough to sell books with titles that begin "Conversations with..." — you ought to be able to think of a hundred ways to prod your interlocutor to reveal something here.

What does it mean to say that a relationship "works"? Is there some sense in which you mean that your partner works for you? In "Wild Man Blues," Soon-Yi seemed to be managing you, moving you along in a positive way. Do you think perhaps the women your age expected you to do a little working for them? Or do you imagine that a relationship just works or doesn't? Do you still think a relationship is like a shark? That it has to constantly move forward or it dies? What does Soon-Yi do that keeps the shark going forward? And are you appropriately animate for a human being in the context in which you exist? Is that a robotic shark?

"Brave New World" or "1984" — "Which template would win"?

We used to wonder, Margaret Atwood writes.
During the cold war, Nineteen Eighty-Four seemed to have the edge. But when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, pundits proclaimed the end of history, shopping reigned triumphant, and there was already lots of quasi-soma percolating through society. True, promiscuity had taken a hit from Aids, but on balance we seemed to be in for a trivial, giggly, drug-enhanced spend-o-rama: Brave New World was winning the race.

That picture changed, too, with the attack on New York's twin towers in 2001. Thoughtcrime and the boot grinding into the human face could not be got rid of so easily, after all. The Ministry of Love is back with us, it appears, though it's no longer limited to the lands behind the former iron curtain: the west has its own versions now.

On the other hand, Brave New World hasn't gone away. Shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see. On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the gene-rich and the gene-poor - Huxley's alphas and epsilons - and busily engaging in schemes for genetic enhancement and - to go one better than Brave New World - for immortality.
Atwood's fear: We get both.

Read the whole thing.

I especially like the part about how she, as a 14 year old girl, struggled to understand Huxley, who wrote things like:
"Zip! The rounded pinkness fell apart like a neatly divided apple. A wriggle of the arms, a lifting first of the right foot, then the left: the zippicamiknicks were lying lifeless and as though deflated on the floor."
(Here's the line in it's chapter, which includes this sex talk: "'Hug me till you drug me, honey.'...'Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me, honey, snuggly …'")

She asks:
[H]ow close have we come, in real life, to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents?...

We wish to be as the careless gods, lying around on Olympus, eternally beautiful, having sex and being entertained by the anguish of others. And at the same time we want to be those anguished others, because we believe... that life has meaning beyond the play of the senses, and that immediate gratification will never be enough.

"When I kissed it, I thought the artist would have understood."

Said Rindy Sam, who put a lipstick stain on an all-white Cy Twombly painting. Encouraging art vandals everywhere, the French judge let her off with a fine of 1,000 euros ($1,425) to the owner of the painting (who was an aggressive enough a litigator to demand the full $2.8 million value of the painting). The owner of the gallery got $713. And Twombly himself received 1 euro, which the judge called "symbolic."

So forget about deterrence. In the France that this judge believes in, if you're willing to fork over a couple thousand dollars, you can put your mark on a highly valuable work of art and get famous doing it. Of course, Sam is herself an artist, and now you know her name.

IN THE COMMENTS: Reacting to Drill SGT who said "put on your Artist hat and explain a market that values a blank canvas at $2.8 million?," Palladian writes:
I wondered how long it would be before we got some reactionary "it's a blank canvas!" comment. It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story.

As for this incident, Europeans, for some reason, love to vandalize artwork, and European judges love to dole out light, friendly, non-threatening judgments. Sometimes the vandal is a crazy person. Sometimes the vandal is a brainless twat like this one who does it for some political or "performance art" reason. This happens because the vulgar, nihilistic stew that bubbles at the bottom of the contemporary art world can soften the bones and render to jelly even the most stalwart and talented artists thrown into it. When you have the editor-in-chief of a well-known European art magazine writing things like this:
"In my opinion, the arrest of Brener [who spray painted a green dollar sign onto a Kasimir Malevich painting] is an offence to the artist’s freedom of expression and, as such, a repressive act. Brener is no hooligan, but a transgressive artist with a strong personality, just as much as Malevich was the same, in his own time."

...then it's not difficult to see why these acts of destruction continue to occur, and why an art world that has come to value fame above all other things makes destruction seem attractive to its weak-minded bottom feeders desperate to "transgress the boundaries".

The best part about this particular piece of vandalism is that it's not even original:
"[in 1977] Ruth van Herpen kisse[d] a white monochrome painting by artist Jo Baer in the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, smearing her lipstick across it. In her trial hearing, she explains, “[The work] looked so cold. I only kissed it to cheer it up.”

How lame are you when you can't even be original in your vandalism?

I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging. Call it performance art.

Is Rudy Giuliani on a mission from God?

WaPo's Robert Barnes wrote about Rudy Giuliani's speech to the Federalist Society this way:
The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''

"It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th Century--Nazism and communism," Giuliani said. "It's this country that is going to save civilzation [sic] from Islamic terrorism.''
I want to expand on a point I noted yesterday. Barnes is doing something to Giuliani that is often done to Bush — making it seem as though religion generates and controls his political ideology.

There are several questions this raises:

1. Does the politician deserve this characterization?

2. If so, is the politician sincere, or is he wooing the people who like religion in politics?

3. If the former, do we like or at least accept religion in politics?

4. If the latter, is it unremarkable ordinary politics or something that should worry us?

To answer question #1, we can look at the text of the Giuliani speech:
The theme of this conference is “Shining City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism.” Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop....
So Giuliani is speaking at a conference with a title that is a religion reference. In 1630, John Winthrop wrote a sermon for the Puritans as they were arriving in the New World:
For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.
This is a reference to the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:13-14:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Many politicians have invoked Winthrop's sermon over the years, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, and Howard Dean. But Giuliani names Ronald Reagan. He's speaking to a conservative group, making a political speech, and connecting his remarks to the theme of the conference. If it were a liberal group, I think we'd see John Kennedy's name in this part of the speech.

Look how he goes on after saying "Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop....":
... but the American exceptionalism is also a very, very important part of that theme. There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.
Here we see the phrase Barnes quoted. Clearly, Giuliani is disparaging those who don't believe that America has a special role to play in the world. But he doesn't say that this is necessarily a "divinely inspired" role. He says "a special, even a divinely inspired role," which means it's certainly a "special" role and one might "even" think that role is "divinely inspired."

That's short enough that you could miss it — especially if there's static in you mental facilities when you hear religious things — but Giuliani is not expressing a personal belief that America's role in the world is "divinely inspired."

In a way, he is saying it without saying it, and therefore signaling to people who want to hear it. That one word — "even" — carries a lot of weight in my analysis. But it's there and it means that he has not said he thinks America's role is "divinely inspired."

So the answer to Question #1 is: probably not. Since I'm not giving a definite no, we should go on to Questions 2 and 3 or 4. I'll leave that to you for now.

Hillary Clinton has "scandalous information" about Barack Obama.

Robert Novak tells us:
Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.
She's decided not to use it? Seems to me this is using it.
This word-of-mouth among Democrats makes Obama look vulnerable and Clinton look prudent.
Prudent... devious... pick your adjective.

UPDATE: The Clinton response:
"A Republican-leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another. Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

"We have no idea what Mr. Novak's item is about and reject it totally."

November 16, 2007

"The expression 'why don't you shut up?' has become a popular slogan."

"On Monday, Caracas was full of posters. Student protesters have adopted it as their chant, and you can find various cartoons, songs and ringtones alluding to the subject on the web. I would love to be able to defend Chavez and feel offended by the king's remarks, but I can't! The king said what most of us have wanted to say for a long time. We have been listening to his diatribes every Sunday, which go for hours and hours... When he insults anyone who is not with him, when he humiliates our student protesters... We all want to say 'why don't you shut up?'"

So what do people really think of what the King Juan Carlos of Spain said to Hugo Chavez?

Among the Federalists.

"We thought we had planted a wildflower in the weeds of academic liberalism. Instead it was an oak, " said Antonin Scalia last night at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Federalist Society.

President Bush spoke too:
"Senate confirmation is part of the Constitution's checks and balances. But it was never intended to be a license to ruin the good name that a nominee has worked a lifetime to build," Bush said.

He also said many qualified lawyers had "politely declined" judicial nominations "because of the ugliness, uncertainty and delay that now characterizes the confirmation process."
Rudolph W. Giuliani spoke to the group today.
He professed his affinity for judges who see the Constitution for "what it is, not what they want it to be.'' He denounced the Senate confirmation process that denied a Supreme Court seat to former Judge Robert Bork and became an "attempted character assassination'' of Justice Clarence Thomas. He promised to nominate justices such as Thomas--and Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts Jr and Samuel A. Alito Jr....

Giuliani said Hillary Rodham Clinton should have been invited, since she is "one of the newest federalists." He was referring to what he said was her position that driver's licenses for illegal immigrants was something to be decided by each state.

"This is the only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis," he said, to laughter from the crowd. "And you know something? She picked absolutely the wrong one.''...

The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''

"It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th Century--Nazism and communism," Giuliani said. "It's this country that is going to save civilzation [sic] from Islamic terrorism.''
"Divinely inspired role" — good or bad phrase?

"Islamic terrorism" — good or bad phrase?

"The only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis" — really?

ADDED: Here's the full text of the Giuliani speech. Let's see "divinely inspired role" in context:
The theme of this conference is “Shining City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism.” Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop, but the American exceptionalism is also a very, very important part of that theme. There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.

Most countries on earth developed out of a single ethnicity, a single religion, some common characteristic that bound people together before they were even a nation. America is very, very different. We’re not a single ethnicity, we’re all ethnicities. We’re not a single race, we’re all races. We’re not a single religion. We were established so that we wouldn’t be a single religion. So we’re very different in our origins than just about any other country on earth. We’re united because of ideas and ideals. That’s what holds us together. That’s the thing that makes America America, makes Americans Americans—shared ideas....

American exceptionalism isn’t a debate, it’s not something we should be arrogant about where we say, “Oh, we’re very, very special.” We’re just very, very fortunate and when we don’t recognize that, I don’t think we do justice to our background and to what’s expected of us.

... America established this constitutional democratic government in the form of a republic and it was the nation that from the very beginning saw that tyranny and oppression is something that was illegitimate and had to be dealt with. It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. It’s this country that’s going to save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.

"Oh my God, it's Whitey!"

A hawk ruthlessly murders the beloved albino squirrel known to Ohio State Students as Whitey. Here's the Facebook page: "In Memory of the 'Whitey' the Albino Squirrel":
Whitey will be remembered for his bizarre looks, his noble character, and his ability to always make a student smile. Ladies and Gentlemen, honor a hometown hero and your friend, Whitey.
Does the hawk deserve a name? Does the hawk deserve a facebook page? Should a hawk starve? Ladies and Gentlemen, honor the hawk!

In other squirrel news, sees fit to write a whole article on the fact that a red squirrel went swimming.
"This squirrel was swimming strongly and had its tail coiled on its back so it didn't look bedraggled or as if it was struggling.

"I've never seen anything like it before."
Of course, it was a red squirrel. The British are mad about the red squirrels and hate the invader greys.

Friday night...


... beautiful, in New York.


HDTV and the female candidate.

My son Christopher writes that he watched last night's debate on high definition TV, and:
Hillary Clinton's lipstick looked different in HD. It was kind of weird. Her lipstick looked overly glossy and stuck out, almost a little garish. You can tell it's sort of like stage makeup. When she first came on her lipstick actually popped out in a Rocky Horror-ish way. That was my first impression when she was in close-up. I mean, and it looked good on regular TV but looked way overdone on HD.
He likes Hillary Clinton, by the way.

It seems that there is a problem with doing a woman's makeup so that it works on both regular TV and HDTV.

Actually, I would have thought HDTV would be a bigger problem for the men, because you don't want to think of them as wearing any makeup at all. Remember when we noticed Al Gore's makeup?
In his first debate with George W. Bush, Gore appeared in orange makeup applied thickly to cover a sunburn. He looked awful. Commentators compared him to Lurch from The Addams Family, "Herman Munster doing a bad Ronald Reagan impression," and "a big, orange, waxy, wickless candle." One columnist wrote that "it looked like he melted down orange circus peanuts and then asked Tammy Faye for a 'light' dusting." San Francisco Examiner television critic Tim Goodman landed one of the most quoted blows: "If you'd stuck him in a push-up bra and a sequin dress and had him sing show tunes, he'd have carried San Francisco in a landslide."

The vice president became The Man Who Wears Too Much Makeup. The label has endured as a trope of late-night comedians - "If Al Gore took off half his makeup and gave it to Warren Christopher, they'd both look a lot better," said Jay Leno... - and as color for political journalists. This isn't just fun at the vice president's expense. Commentators treat Gore's pancake problem as if it has deeper significance. It makes him seem bumbling, unmanly, and, most of all, phony.
Poor Al Gore. So it was a sunburn that led to his losing the election? Is that why he's so angry about global warming?

Just kidding, anti-Althousians. Stand clear of the vortex.

The subject is here is: makeup, HDTV, and the possible disparate impact on the female candidate. And Al Gore. You can kick him around a little if you must. About makeup. Or... whatever.

"It's fun, it's supposed to show how cosmopolitan London is."

About that skinhead-urinating-in-a-teacup ad.... It's effective!


On the most beautiful day...

... it sounds like a crazy windstorm out there.

UPDATE: 15 minutes later. Completely cloudy now.

+ ... Mother Nature is tempestuous today. Who knows what lies ahead? But I need to emerge from my aerie... There's a Conlaw class to get to...

"What we see is a world transformed, made unearthly, like something from a J.G. Ballard novel."

The titillating illustration of global warming.

Baby Borat!

It's Olive.

"What's lotion going to do to me?"

Barry Bonds indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Outrage? Or: He had it coming?

"Hnh, Biden stomps some dirt on Robert Bork's grave."

"He wants SCOTUS judges who've lived life, not who 'want an intellectual feast.'"

Writes Dave Wiegel, live-blogging the debate last night at 9:56.

Biden was alluding to what turned out to be the worst answer Robert Bork gave at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee (which Joe Biden chaired at the time, 20 years ago):
ALAN K. SIMPSON, Republican of Wyoming: And now I have one final question. Why do you want to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

BORK: Senator, I guess the answer to that is that I have spent my life in the intellectual pursuits in the law. And since I've been a judge, I particularly like the courtroom. I like the courtroom as an advocate and I like the courtroom as a judge. And I enjoy the give-and-take and the intellectual effort involved. It is just a life and that's of course the Court that has the most interesting cases and issues and I think it would be an intellectual feast just to be there and to read the briefs and discuss things with counsel and discuss things with my colleagues. That's the first answer.

The second answer is, I would like to leave a reputation as a judge who understood constitutional governance and contributed his bit to maintaining it in the ways I have described before this committee. Our constitutional structure is the most important thing this nation has and I would like to help maintain it and to be remembered for that.
It was 20 years ago, that Biden led the fight that defeated Robert Bork. I note that, last night, Biden railed against law professors:
I have taken on those justices who, in fact, show no balance — they are ideologues. We have enough ideologues. We have enough professors on the bench. I want someone who ran for dog catcher. I want someone — literally, not a joke. When Hillary's husband asked me for his advice when he was appointing people, I wanted to go to people and so did he — we couldn't. Four people turned it down. We wanted to get someone who, in fact, knew what it was to live life.
So... we got stuck with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Who are the 4 people who turned it down? According to Jeffrey Toobin's "The Nine," Mario Cuomo, George Mitchell, Richard Riley, Bruce Babbitt all said no, and Clinton finally — on the suggestion of Attorney General Janet Reno — turned to Ginsburg.

Someone ought to ask Joe Biden if he meant to say that Ginsburg and Breyer don't know knew what it is to live life. And why is he so sure that politicians like Mario Cuomo, George Mitchell, Richard Riley, Bruce Babbitt do? Because he's one?

Now, it may be a perfectly good idea to put a great lawyer with political experience on the Supreme Court, but Biden goes beyond that and disrespects two fine Supreme Court justices — Ginsburg and Breyer.

November 15, 2007

Live-blogging the Democratic debate.

1. Isn't it fascinating that the candidates aren't standing at their lecterns? Wolf Blitzer thinks so, as he announces each candidate and we wait while each one walks out to screamy — or not so screamy — cheers. The candidates stand in a line, lamely clapping, boring the hell out of us, and Wolf takes to chatting with the news commentators, who all blab about pressure on Hillary Clinton. Wolf elaborates the ground rules and expresses his hope to get into a "real conversation." One good idea: if you try to change the subject you lose your turn. We're 8 minutes into it, before the real questioning starts.

2. Hillary is asked if she "parses" her positions. Obama is drawn in: Does he think HC "triangulates." Answer: They have different health care plans. There's some testy argument about who's for universal health care. Hillary looks stressed and angry — and quite bright pink. She's yelling hoarsely. My ears! The audience is heckling and cheering alternately, and Wolf Blitzer is waving his arms about making things seem chaotic. It seems like a free for all. It's so abrasive. Hillary starts laughing — as if to say she's feeling loose and comfortable.

3. "Hell, no, I wouldn't support any of these guys," says Joe Biden, making me laugh, after all the others say they'll support the Democratic nominee, whoever it is.

4. Obama says he supports driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Or... did he? That was garbled. Later, he gets to yes. Edwards? No. Hillary: no. Richardson: yes. Most of them chew Wolf out for asking the question forcing them to answer without the condition of comprehensive immigration reform.

5. Did Wolf hear him right? Did Richardson say human rights are more important than American security? Richardson pauses and there's a look of fear. Will this be used against me? But he's already said it. He says it again: yes. Obama is asked the same question, and he tries to say there's not necessarily a conflict. Wolf doesn't pin him down. Dodd is clear: national security is obviously first. Hillary too puts national security first. Kucinich is all: "Hello? Hello?" They still don't call on him.

6. Is Hillary playing the gender card? That's the question. Of course, she denies it. Follow up: What did you mean by "the boys' club"? She refers grandly and vaguely to the "impediments" there may have been along the way to progress. Wolf asks if anyone thinks she is playing the gender card. Edwards takes over, but totally fails to talk about gender. When he says HC takes money from lobbyists, the audience boos him loudly. Who knew the pro-lobbyist sentiment was so strong? Anyway, no one wants to talk about gender.

7. After the break, the candidates are sitting now, and the questions come from the audience.... I'm not going to summarize all the talk about policy. I found this part pretty dull, which I suppose means it was a big victory for Hillary. The final question was from a UNLV student who asked Hillary: "Diamonds or pearls?" — a twist on the old "Boxers or briefs?" question famously asked of Bill Clinton in '92. She says — smiling — that people accuse her of not making up her mind, but here she can be clear: "Both." Which is mildly amusing, but then Biden goes "I want diamonds." And that — with a big laugh — happens to be the end. Goodnight, everybody!

IN THE COMMENTS: Enigmaticore wrote:
I have changed my vote intentions. I was not going to vote in the Democratic primary in my state, although I can.

But I am going to, and I will vote for Biden, even if he has no shot of getting the nomination. I had written him off because of his slim-to-none-nomination chance, but damnit, he's fun and he's right on a lot of things.
Reader I_am writes (after many, many comments on the subject of merit pay for teachers):
Wow. A thread on a national politics, specifically a presidential-candidate debate, has turned into one relating to the public schools in our own communities.
Blake responds:
1. This is the second night in the row I've seen positively civil debates here between people who hold polarized viewpoints. It's "best of Althouse commentary".

2. I would humbly suggest that the President of the United States is a virtually trivial role compared to the problems of education. A society survives on the quality of its education, and ours has been dismal for several generations now. It's not only more important than any short-term issue, it's also more important than any long-term issue, because those being mis-educated today will be trying to handle those long-term problems tomorrow.

Jes' sayin'.

"Blogs are walking up to legal scholarship and slapping it in the face. Blogs say to legal scholarship: 'How dare you! Evolve or Die!'"

The Bloggership Symposium.

I slap legal scholarship in the face — PDF — with "Why a Narrowly Defined Legal Scholarship Blog Is Not What I Want."

Eric Clapton's autobiography.

I've been listening to the audiobook of Eric Clapton's autobiography. It's my current "walking around" book — as I take my walks. I'm enjoying the book, especially the deadpan retelling of horrible dissolution brought on by drugs and drink. I was listening last night as I walked over to the Barnes & Noble on Court Street.

(I wanted to buy Norman Mailer's "Advertisements for Myself." Sadly enough, they didn't seem to have a single book by Norman Mailer in the store, here in this neighborhood where Norman Mailer lived for many years. You'd think they would have had a huge display table, with all of his books, just at the entrance of the store. But I looked everywhere I could think, including alphabetically on the fiction shelves, where there was nothing)

It's not a long walk, but I heard Clapton's descriptions of the following:

1. Getting up in the middle of the night on Christmas and opening his presents alone — as a grown, married man, then hiding in the basement. Pattie Boyd had to try to salvage the family Christmas by locking him in a room for the day.

2. Driving home at night after getting drunk in a bar, he would stop and pick up homeless men and bring them to his mansion. He wanted to hang out with them, because he thought they were more real than other people, even though most of them talked utter madness.

3. He thought about suicide, but what stopped him was the realization that if he were dead, he would not be able to drink.

4. Until he went to a rehab clinic in Minnesota, he didn't realize that alcoholism could be considered a disease. He had always considered it degeneracy and resisted thinking of himself that way (even though he was drinking bottles of vodka or brandy a day and going to great lengths to hide it).

Do you want to be a star in the commentosphere?

In the comments on this post from yesterday, we've been talking about how someone might decide to excel not as a blogger, but as a commenter.

Let's think about why a writer might want to find a readership this way, and then how you'd go about doing it well.

Caffeine Soldier is one of our commenters here. You can see from his profile that he also has a blog. At the top of his blog, he writes:
This is not a blogger's blog, this is a commenter's blog. Here's to all brave commenters who really fight the battles of the blogosphere - you're my cup of coffee! I raise my mug to salute you!

About Me... A proud member of the reality based commentosphere since 2000. You'll find my crap mainly in liberal and centrist blogs, but also at some other surprising places.
I'm pleased that he — along with a lot of other wonderful commenters — has chosen to contribute his writing to my blog, and I said:
I like the idea of being a star in the commentosphere. It's harder to see who the great commenters are, because they're tucked into the back pages, but it is a cool idea to have ambitions limited to commenting. I was saying something like this on the Stanford panel, a recommendation for people who worried about getting their names out.
When Stanford gets the audio up from the panel, I'll direct you to that part of the discussion.

You might want to do your blog writing as a commenter so you can fly under the radar, invisible to clients and employers, but that isn't the only reason.

Someone wrote a while back — sorry, I can't remember who or where — that they loved the commenter role because they didn't want responsibility for keeping up the flow of new topics — the blogger's job — but they enjoyed jumping in with something when they had it.

I know that feeling, because I play the commenter on my own blog a lot of the time. I feel different as a commenter — in my commenters persona — though I learned that my antagonists often pick up things I write in that more casual mode.

Another commenter, John Kindley, wrote:
I don't know about aspiring to be a star, but my blog now mainly consists of a running compendium of my comments on much higher traffic blogs. That way I don't run the risk of spending a lot of time on posts that nobody reads, and I'm basically doing what I'd do anyway. Thanks to Althouse for the idea (in one of her earlier posts) of blogging this way.
Thanks for the reminder that I thought that up!

I think it's probably true that you can be a writing star through blogging. (But the idea that one must write books nags at me.) But can you be a writing star through commenting? I'm sure many who do their blog writing in the comments of other people's blogs like it precisely because it's low profile. But let's assume someone wants to be a famous writer and wants to do it in the format of comment writing. Can it be done?

What could help would be a website — does this thing work? — that would collect and give order to all your contributions on all the blogs where you comment. Maybe Blogger could devise a feature like that. It would be nice if, when you clicked on a commenter's name here, you could get to all his other comments and had options to order them by date, page views, or subject matter.

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds me a lot of Dukakis."

Jim Pinkerton writes:
In '88, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis was leading the Democratic White House hopefuls. On April 12, he debated his remaining Democratic rivals in Manhattan. One of them, Sen. Al Gore, mentioned the Massachusetts prison furlough plan that Dukakis had defended. Under that particular program, criminals - even murderers sentenced to life in prison without parole - had been granted, Gore noted critically, "weekend passes." But Dukakis dismissed Gore: "Al, the difference between you and me is that I have run a criminal justice system. You haven't."...

[Dukakis] had been fatally wounded, politically, by Gore... he just didn't know it....
Pinkerton himself, as director of research for the George H.W. Bush campaign, worked on keeping the weekend passes issue alive, and it destroyed Dukakis.
...Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds me a lot of Dukakis. As he was two decades ago, she's from a big state, has a lot of money, is ahead in the polls - and she's been grievously injured. This time, the issue isn't prison furloughs, but driver's licenses for illegal immigrants in her "home" state of New York. Clinton has broadly defended Gov. Eliot Spitzer's unpopular plan, even as most New Yorkers have reviled it....
This issue, like the weekend passes issue, resonates deeply with the voting public, "but not inside the 'nominating wing' of the Democratic Party":
So once again, Republicans are sniffing political blood.

Gelatinous judge.

Here's a judge that got taken of a case, a divorce case involving the rich Sheikh Khalid Ben Abdfullah Rashid al-Fawaz:
... Mr Justice Singer, a family division judge, had said during the private hearing that the sheikh could choose "to depart on his flying carpet" to escape paying costs.

The judge also said the man should be available to attend hearings "at this, I think, relatively fast-free time of the year".

The court of appeal said the judge had said the sheikh should be in court so "every grain of sand is sifted", and called his evidence "a bit gelatinous ... a bit like Turkish Delight"....
The judge tried apologizing:
"My comments were poorly chosen. They were not intended to be racist, nor have I ever intended any disrespect or disregard for the tenets of Islam, or for the Sheikh's Saudi nationality and Arab ethnicity.

"My judicial work and public speeches clearly demonstrate that I am in no sense racist."
Apparently not. Singer put some élan and comedy into his remarks, but that's no excuse. If you want to horse around, don't be a judge.

Art is right wing.

From time to time, I write something here that gets a rise out of people. One was:
To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.
Witness the outcry.

So I was pleased to see a piece in The Guardian titled "Modern art is rightwing" (via Memeorandum). The author, Ed Vaizey, a Tory MP, argues the point this way:
Contemporary art is highly individualistic. It is about freedom of expression, the chance to make one's mark and to speak with a distinctive voice - all characteristics of the right, rather than the left. Contemporary artists are entrepreneurs in every sense of the word....

Contemporary artists are busy making money, just like any other capitalist in Britain, or the developed world, today. The contemporary art market is just that, a market where people invest and even people like Hugh Grant can make money....

More controversially, perhaps, contemporary British art is not engaged, in my view, in contemporary political debate....
Let's fight about it all over again!

UPDATE: And this?
[The new 75-story tower designed by the architect Jean Nouvel for a site next to the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown] is the result of a Byzantine real estate deal...

For some, the appearance of yet another luxury tower stamped with the museum’s imprimatur will induce wincing.
It's quite gorgeous.

The Democratic Debate/"Project Runway."

I haven't been watching much TV lately, and I don't following any show as it airs. I bought the season of "Survivor: China" to download and watch it on my iPhone when I'm traveling. I love "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but I catch up with it on HBO on Demand when I'm back in Madison. And I like the TV pastime. I want to watch maybe an hour or 2 of television in the evening. I don't get around to it here in NYC, mostly because the TV is small and un-flat. (How did the bulge of a picture tube become so distractingly unaesthetic that I'd prefer not to watch at all?)

But now, tonight, we've got another Democratic Debate, and it looks like a hot one (unless Wolf Blitzer makes it cold). Simultaneously, "Project Runway" is back. Robin Givhan reviews:
Most problematic... is that by the first episode, too many of the competitors have settled into well-worn archetypes. Were these 15 men and women chosen because they have such instantly familiar personalities? When the cameras are off, does Siriano really embody every single fashion cliche? Or do these players adjust their personalities to fit a preconceived ideal? In short, who exactly is having a crisis of authenticity: the show's producers or the cast?...

Siriano will be playing the role of the effete and sarcastic wunderkind. Webber stars as the overly confident fashion victim who thinks her experience as a model will serve as her secret weapon for winning the competition. Ricky Lizalde promises to be the contestant most prone to spontaneous weeping. And within the first 15 minutes, Elisa Jimenez, who makes giant marionettes, establishes herself as the avant-garde head case who describes her clothes as "mythical" and, for the first challenge, grinds grass stains into silk chiffon to "imbue it with a natural element."
Reality TV is a subtle mix of real and fiction. The players are themselves and they create themselves. That's part of what is so fascinating. Are we seeing what really happened or what was edited into existence? Endless layers of complexity to gaze into. Deep and frivolous.
Tim Gunn is back as the design-room mentor. And so are judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia.
Plus Heidi. How perfect! But the first challenge is horrifically unfair, as Givhan describes in a spoiler I won't copy. That's just one more thing to talk about.

Life is unfair, fashion contests are unfair.

But it's the debate that I've got to make time for tonight. It's a long ordeal, and I'm going to preserve my stamina today so I can live-blog it — energetically, I hope. Last time, I fell asleep, and I missed the whole driver's license interchange. I didn't come away with an opinion about whether "the boys" — as Bill Clinton called them — ganged up on Hillary and whether Hillary showed her vulnerability. So it will be interesting — I've got to find it interesting — to see if Wolf is tame — did they get to him? — and whether Obama can take advantage of any cracks in Hillary's once-impervious facade.

Life is unfair, fashion contests are unfair, debates are unfair.

ADDED: I now realize I could have watched "Project Runway" last night. I adore the show, but not enough to keep track of when it's on.

November 14, 2007

A vlog about almost asking John McCain a question about the "How do we beat the bitch?" question.

"I don't know anything about it. And, it sounds to me like a kind of gossip column story more than a real story."

Rudy Giuliani brushes off a question about Judith Regan's $100 million lawsuit against HarperCollins. Can anyone understand the lawsuit?
Regan... says that "it is now widely accepted" that one of Giuliani's vulnerabilities is the 52-year-old Kerik. Because of Regan's affair with Kerik, court papers say, a senior executive at News Corp., HarperCollins' parent company, told her he believed she had information about Kerik that could hurt Giuliani's campaign and she should lie to federal investigators.

She also contends another executive told her to withhold documents that were relevant to the government's investigation of Kerik, and court papers say that HarperCollins and News Corp. "knew they would be protecting Giuliani if they could preemptively discredit her."
I mean, can anyone understand this lawsuit other than as a way to get publicity for an attack on Giuliani? What's the legal claim?

ADDED: Here's the PDF of the complaint. The claims are mostly for defamation, for what executives at HarperCollins said about her when she was fired, plus claims for breach of contract, breach of the duty of fair dealing, sex discrimination, retaliation. Most of the controversy seems unrelated to Kerik and Giuliani. Here's how the Smoking Gun sums it up:
Judith Regan, the volcanic publishing industry figure who sought to publish O.J. Simpson's "I Did It" (and trysted with Bernard Kerik in an apartment overlooking Ground Zero) today sued Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate for defamation, claiming that she was unjustly tarred as an anti-Semite when fired last year.... According to Regan, Murdoch employees were aware of her personal relationship with Kerik and, fearing she had damaging information on Giuliani's former police commissioner and business partner, "knew they would be protecting Giuliani if they could preemptively discredit her." The Murdoch firms did this, Regan charges, by claiming she made anti-Semitic statements during a phone conversation with a HarperCollins lawyer.

Cute animation from McCain. [Update: about the conference call.]

Here. Starts out really well, anyway. Turns into a catechism. And you will get all the questions right.

ADDED: I'm on the blogger conference call with McCain right now. We'll see if I get my question in. I punched in late because I didn't want to be first.

UPDATE: They didn't get to my question, which was going to be based on this blog post about his reaction to the question "How do we beat the bitch?" He stayed with the phone call a long time — about 40 minutes — and he sounded completely relaxed and engaged, but I didn't get my chance. He took about 10 questions, all from men, and not one asked about the incident, though he seemed to expect to have to deal with it. He raised it on his own at one point, and his spin was criticizing the press for making it look as though he "was guilty of misbehavior." I wanted to ask why he didn't push back at the questioner the way he'd pushed back at the man who spoke of "the anger the average European Christian, native-born American feels when they see their country turning into a multicultural chaos Tower of Babel" and the way he surely would have pushed back if someone had asked — referring to Barack Obama — "How do we beat the n*****?"

But it's my fault for delaying the punch in. They go first come, first served. It's not: The questioners are all men, so let's move up the woman.

Oh, and he was asked about that animation I linked to above. The questioner, Matt Lewis, asked if the material referring to Rudy Giuliani indicated how he was going to start attacking Giuliani or if it was just for fun. McCain said he reviewed it and found it "a little juvenile," but decided "let's go ahead. Maybe someone will enjoy watching it." Which I assume means: We need something that can go viral, and this may be it.

It was at this point that he volunteered that opinion about the "How do we beat the bitch?" question, and that might suggest something about how his mind works. "How do we beat the bitch?" perhaps felt to him like a fun-loving thing, perhaps a little over-the-line, but can't we lighten up?

My response to that is that he wouldn't lighten up when confronted with the "average European Christian, native-born American" guy and he wouldn't lighten up if someone said "How do we beat the n*****?" or even "How do we beat the black guy?"

The 11,111,111th visitor.

Was it you? It was someone in Macon, Georgia, who was here for 5 minutes and 16 seconds, entering on the main page, and clicking into posts on Kathleen Willey, tahini tracking, and the bad case of Althouse Derangement Syndrome. Thanks for stopping by! And thanks to all the 11,111,110 visitors. Are they the same 11,111 readers, coming back 1,000 times? I don't know, but thanks!

IN THE COMMENTS: Yoda writes:
That may have been me, Ann. Greetings from Macon, GA. The comment about Greg Allman gives me the chance to brag about my city's great musical heritage: The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Walden and Capricorn Records, Otis Redding and Little Richard (somewhere I have a copy of Little Richard's Macon Police Department rap sheet.)

So, do I win a prize?
Can't really think of a prize... other than this front-page mention.

"Why should a school even bother with something like a 'Think Campaign' or a 'bias reporting mechanism'?"

Asks Wisconsin 1L Robert Phansalkar, analyzing the "Think. Respect." program at UW, which we've talked about on this blog here and here. I was critical of the program, which enlisted students to file reports on other students when they felt disrespected. What is heartening is that the students didn't go for it. They didn't file reports!
There has to be some reason for why this program simply did not take off. Apathy seems to be the traditional culprit of this kind of botched experiment, but, alas, the program would not have even started had this been the case. Rather, the real culprit behind this newly forgotten campaign and policy’s fall from grace is that they were ill-conceived from the get-go....

[W]e simply do not rush to a computer to fill out a form online when someone has offended us — we confront the person. We do not go to counseling to discuss an offensive remark — we talk it through. And when someone’s actions are so egregious that we can’t deal with the action ourselves, we turn to others, namely, the police.

The assumption that students simply cannot take care of themselves is the root of the very kind of paternalism that the “Think Campaign” perpetuates. The campaign and reporting forms advance the mentality that we cannot deal with these problems on our own.

But, as lack of enthusiasm and disuse of these programs plainly show, we are more than capable of dealing with the racism of today on our own.

ADDED: At least Wisconsin didn't go to the crazy extreme seen at the University of Delaware:
Delaware students have been not only inculcated with the lunatic view that all white Americans are racists (and that "REVERSE RACISM" is a "term ... created and used by white people to deny their white privilege") but also:

* Told to confess their "privilege" or lament their "oppression";

* Informed that "white culture is a melting pot of greed, guys, guns, and god";

* Required to "recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society" and "recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression" (whatever that means);

* Instructed to purge male residents' "resistance to educational efforts" and "concepts of traditional male identity";

* Challenged to "change their daily habits and consumer mentality" for the sake of "sustainability";

* Pushed to display on their dorm doors politically approved decorations proclaiming support for (e.g.) "social equity" (whatever that means);

* Subjected to other "treatments" designed to alter their beliefs and behaviors and inculcate university-approved views on politics, sexuality, moral philosophy, and more;

* Ordered to attend residence-hall training sessions and submit to one-on-one sessions with RAs, who filed reports to their superiors about individual students' "level of change or acceptance" of the thought-reform program.

One such report, for example, classified a young woman as one of the "worst" students in the residence life education program for saying that she was tired of having "diversity shoved down her throat" and responding "none of your damn business" when asked "when did you discover your sexual identity?"
Oh, good lord. They've really lost all grip on common sense and ordinary decency. Why would anyone want to go to a school that treats students like that?

"This woman claims to be a champion for women, a women's advocate, a feminist, but look what she has done to me. Look what she has done."

John Hawkins interviews Kathleen Willey.
Are you disappointed that feminists haven't stuck by you? After all, you were groped by Bill Clinton and unquestionably, the Clintons have worked to destroy your reputation. Do you ever sit and wonder, "Gee, where are all these feminists who are supposed to be looking out for ordinary women like me..."

Of course, I did. Every night, when I was being raked over the coals by the Clintonistas, of course I did. Believe me, I appealed to the feminists. I called the National Organization for Women. I asked for their help. But, they weren't going to criticize him. He was their guy. He was their man. He was pro-choice...they were in no position to criticize him or validate me and they didn't.

You know, think about it: where are they today? You don't see representatives of NOW. Where are the feminists? Where are they? I think Bill and Hillary Clinton pretty much shut them down. The feminists, NOW, they're all about one issue: abortion. They're not talking about women's rights, being an advocate for women, or equality in the work place. Those aren't issues anymore. It's abortion, plain and simple.

Along similar lines, a big part of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the presidency has involved playing up her gender and promising to stand up for single mothers. Yet, you're a woman who was a loyal Democrat and a Clinton supporter and after you were victimized by her husband, Hillary helped work to try to personally destroy you. What message you give to women who are considering voting for Hillary in...

Well, that's one of the reasons that I wrote my book. I hope that women, men and women, but women especially, young women, first time voters, who are excited about voting for a woman for President for the first time in our history -- this woman claims to be a champion for women, a women's advocate, a feminist, but look what she has done to me. Look what she has done. And believe me, when I say look what she's done, she gears up the war room. She enables his behavior, she cleans up after him. It has been going on since before they were married and it will continue because his behavior has not stopped. This is no advocate for women. If this is what she's going to do to women like me, who unfortunately, crossed paths with her husband, a sex addict and a predator, she is not a champion for women and she is not a women's advocate. I hope that young women will at least read my book, read my story, and think about what it would be like to be caught in the crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

A man shoots a feral cat that was stalking endangered shore birds.

And he is on trial now, facing 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
[James M.] Stevenson, 54, does not deny using a .22-caliber rifle fitted with a scope to kill the cat, which lived under the San Luis Pass toll bridge, linking Galveston to the mainland. He also admits killing many other cats on his own property, where he operates a bed and breakfast for some of the estimated 500,000 birders who come to the island every year.

In her opening statement, Paige L. Santell, a Galveston County assistant district attorney, told the jury of eight women and four men that Mr. Stevenson “shot that animal in cold blood” and that the cat died a slow and painful death “gurgling on its own blood.”

She said that the cat had a name, Mama Cat, and that though the cat lived under a toll bridge, she was fed and cared for by a toll collector, John Newland. He is expected to testify.

Whether the cat was feral is the crucial point in this case. Mr. Stevenson was indicted under a state law that prohibited killing a cat “belonging to another.”...

Ms. Santell argued that because Mr. Newland had named, fed and given the cat bedding and toys, the cat belonged to him and was not feral.
It seems to me that Newland is the greater menace, encouraging a nonnative predator in a delicate environment. The idea that this destructive behavior creates ownership is outrageous.

But Texas has moved in the other direction and has changed the law, so that in the future, it is a crime to kill any cat. What absurd sentimentalism about species! The birds are native and endangered. The cats are highly effective predators. And Stevenson has a productive business, which Newland was undermining.

This isn't about whether we love birds or cats more. The article portrays the trial as a charmingly colorful face-off between bird lovers and cat lovers and ends with the punchline "But you see, I’m a dog person... If he had shot a dog, then I’d be more upset."

This is a case about the ecological balance, and a man could be deprived of his liberty because he tried protect the environment (and his business that depended on it).

ADDED: A propos of the stalking cat, here's a stalking man coming in through the cat door. And meeting death. (Via James Taranto, who's mixing up the Turtles and the Lovin' Spoonful.)

"Tahini tracking."

Is it a problem that the government is doing it — or only that we know it's being done?

"He told me I'd be running on the beach within two weeks of my surgery."

Said Bonita Hovey, 61.
Within a week of her procedure, Hovey said she had an infection and a gaping wound on her belly.
Her doctor, Jan Adams, is the man who performed the "tummy tuck" and breast reduction surgery that preceded the death of Donda West, the mother of Kanye West.

"Tummy tuck" sounds cute, but it's serious surgery, and no one should take it lightly. It's not like getting a haircut. The doctor is slicing deeply into your flesh and removing a slab of you. Hovey describes a 16-inch wound in her abdominal wall.

I've had my abdominal wall cut through twice — to carve an escape route for an oversized infant. It was hard for days just to stand up. And I still remember thinking it was a triumph to walk to the end of the hallway and back.

Yes, we long to have our abdomen restored to the sleek look it had when we were 23, but abdominal surgery is a risk and an ordeal. Don't let the words "tummy tuck" fool you into thinking it's easy. Reconsider situps and eating less.

In praise of short law review articles.

"[M]y heroes Charles Black and Arthur Allen Leff were known for their interesting short pieces, but the world of law-review writing moved away to massive tomes for a while," writes Glenn Reynolds, who likes to write short articles (and short blog posts).

Massive tomes... I call them "unpublishable books." But they are published, as articles, in law reviews, and no one reads them. The shorter an article is, the more likely people will read the whole thing. If it's long, sane readers will adopt strategies of skipping and skimming.

The same goes for court opinions. How I would love to teach my Constitutional Law classes without making the students buy a casebook. I'd email them a list of links to the great cases, which we'd read carefully and deeply.

But the cases are far too long, and the students would be fools to read every word. Like a practicing lawyer grappling with the new cases, they'd have to develop methods for reading without reading. There aren't enough hours in the day, and the dull verbosity doesn't reward close reading. So we're stuck with the casebooks, the parts of the cases that the lawprof editor thought the students should get to see. You'd think the judges would want to defend themselves from the law professor's editorial judgment, but no, they must swirl up an unreadable mass of verbiage. Is it because, made short and clear, the writing would show its flaws?

I'm often asked what good lawprof blogging can do for legal scholarship. There's the example of concision. Learn from it!

"Aside from the inevitable sniping I’ll get from people like Ann Althouse..."

Good lord, someone's got a bad case of Althouse Derangement Syndrome. His dog dies, and he thinks of me, mocking him?

CORRECTION: Cat, not dog. AND: Apparently, not his dog, someone else's. Believe me, I'm not going over that blog with a fine-tooth comb.

"Something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign..."

It's Camille Paglia (who admits she's "leaning" toward Obama). She's got her sights set on Hillary Clinton, and it's going to get ugly, with the hurling of dangerous words like viragos and cathexis and — my personal favorite — "sycophantish":
Aside from the stylish Huma [Abedin], there's definitely something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign -- sometimes to her detriment, as with the recent ham-handed playing of the clichéd gender card. I suspect the latter dumb move, which has backfired badly, came from Ann Lewis (Barney Frank's sister), a fanatical Hillary true believer who has been spouting beatific feminist bromides about her for the past 15 years.... Hillary seems to have acolytes rather than friends...
Paglia goes on to lavish compliments on Dianne Feinstein — she's "shrewd" and "steady" — why can't she be the first woman President? Feinstein speaks with "silky ease" and has "true gravitas." Paglia also strokes Nancy Pelosi, who has a "relaxed, resonant realism" and speaks in a "low purr." Pelosi purrs but Hillary's got that "tight-wound, self-righteous attack voice" and that "flat, practical, real-life voice."

But there are no big conclusions here about Hillary. Just an expression of that vague irritation we all feel. (Don't we?) But I wonder if this is the reaction we would have to any woman who got realistically close to the presidency. And I'll bet that's the sort of thing Ann Lewis says behind the scenes, but that doesn't make it wrong.

Paglia lights into Ellen DeGeneres for her "cringe-making on-air meltdown over a dog":
Following Rosie O'Donnell's professional collapse amid lunatic rants and operatic kvetching, this has been a terrible year for Hollywood lesbians' public image. It's as if when the butch mask drops, there's nothing inside but a boiling candy kettle of infantile rage and self-pity.
Butch up, girls, says Camille. But don't forget to keep that voice at a low purr.

She's got this on global warming:
This facile attribution of climate change to human agency is an act of hubris. Good stewardship of the environment is an ethical imperative for every nation. But breast-beating hysteria merely betrays impious tunnel vision. Thousands of factors, minute and grand, are at work in cyclic climate change, whose long-term outcomes we cannot possibly predict. Nature should inspire us with awe, not pity.
That's a nice twist. Our arrogance lies not in thinking we can indulge ourselves in our carbon-spewing ways — as we're commonly told — but in thinking we move Nature. It's impious to think of ourselves that way.

On Norman Mailer:
I didn't care about his novels -- I don't care about any novels published after World War II (Tennessee Williams is my main man) -- but I was impressed by Mailer's visionary and sometimes hallucinatory first-person journalism. And I was directly inspired by his eclectic "Advertisements for Myself" (1959), which I took as a blueprint after my first books were attacked by the feminist establishment in the 1990s.
I will immediately go read "Advertisements for Myself"!
Mailer's "The Prisoner of Sex" (the original 1971 Harper's essay, not the book) was an important statement about men's sexual fears and desires. His jousting with Germaine Greer at the notorious Town Hall debate in New York that same year was a pivotal moment in the sex wars. I loved Greer and still do. And I also thought Jill Johnston (who disrupted the debate with lesbo stunts) was a cutting-edge thinker: I was devouring her Village Voice columns, which had evolved from dance reportage into provocative cultural commentary.
Ah, yes, I remember. How we hated Norman Mailer in those days. From this distance, I rather admire him for making himself as a vortex for feminist hate. He got into the center of things the only way he could.
[O]ne of the lousiest things Mailer ever wrote was his flimsy cover-story screed on her for Esquire in 1994. It was obvious Mailer knew absolutely nothing about Madonna and was just blowing smoke.
Because he neglected to read Paglia's musings on the subject, no doubt.
Guess what -- Esquire's original proposal was for me to interview Madonna. Mailer was the sub!
Ha ha. What a transcendent brag! I especially like the use of the word "sub," with its insinuation of phallic gigantism. Paglia has the bigger... writing talent.

Next, Paglia has a reference to my favorite movie:
Penthouse magazine had similarly tried to bring Madonna and me together, as had HBO, which proposed filming a "My Dinner with André" scenario of the two of us chatting in a restaurant.
Camille is the André, of course. Madonna would have to be the Wally.
But Madonna, no conversationalist, always refused.
Damn! Madonna just needed instruction on how to play the listener, like Wallace Shawn. "My Dinner with André" begins Wally's voiced-over anxiety about he is about sitting through a whole dinner with André Gregory. He resolves to get through the experience by, essentially, interviewing him. But Madonna's problem was not — I suspect — that she wasn't good enough at talking, but that she didn't fancy herself enduring a long outpouring of Paglia's thoughts about everything. To be a good Wally in a "My Dinner With André"-format movie, you have to wait while the other person has most of the lines, then finally, when the audience can't take it anymore, say "You want to know what I think of all this." And then charm us to the core with a few lines that we will remember for decades.

Hey, remember the time Camille Paglia refused to have dinner with me? I wrote a post about it called — of all things! — "My Dinner With Camille."

November 13, 2007


... no!

Blitzer better not "pull 'a Russert.'"

Crazy talk from the Clinton campaign.

UPDATE: Wolf Blitzer denies the report that the Clinton campaign is trying to intimidate him into treating better than Tim Russert did.
JACK CAFFERTY (commentator): ... I was clicking on the Drudge Report, and there you are, big as life, in the middle of the Drudge Report this afternoon, with a headline suggesting that the Hillary Clinton campaign is trying to intimidate you before you moderate this big debate in Las Vegas. What up with that?

BLITZER: Not true. No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me.

CAFFERTY: They'd better not. I'll come down there.

BLITZER: No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that.

CAFFERTY: Where do -- where does a silly thing like that come from?

BLITZER: I don't know. You know, I try to suspect that maybe some rival campaigns are trying to create a little mischief, try to get her embarrassed a little bit getting into the debate Thursday night, but I have no idea where it's coming from. I have no idea who generated this story, but I can tell you I have not felt any pressure whatsoever.
What's going on? Did Drudge or some Drudge source just lie? Or is Blitzer lying? Blitzer could be fudging. You can parse his statements: "No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me." That could mean there was no communication at all or it could be a characterization of something that was in fact said.

"No one has even called me to try to pressure me..." He could have gotten a message other than through a call directly to him, or there could have been a call that he will not characterize as "pressure." Maybe it was just a friendly suggestion. And don't blame me for hair-splitting. We're talking about the what-the-meaning-of-is-is Clintons.

"... or anything like that." Another matter of opinion. What is "like" pressuring? A little friendly conversation, putting down his rival Russert, and promising better access to the candidate/future President? Would that be "like that"?

"I have not felt any pressure whatsoever." Subjective. Maybe someone in the Clinton campaign simply inspired him to feel positive about distinguishing himself from mean old Tim Russert.

Anyway, I don't know. Let's keep discussing this. I'm going to watch how Blitzer handles himself as he moderates the debate. But he could figure out on his own, with no help from the Clinton campaign, that he should avoid pulling a Russert. Isn't it in his self-interest, however he arrives at that insight? Surely, it wouldn't be because he was intimidated and bullied into it. But he could never say so if it was.

"How do we beat the bitch?"

Someone asks John McCain. You can see that he does some comic gesturing and asks for a "translation," but then he says it's an "excellent question." Presumably, he means the translated question is good, and he's making a show of ignoring the word "bitch." But I don't think "bitch" is a word that can be used in political discourse around a presidential candidate. Imagine if the questioner had asked — referring to Obama — "how do we beat the [n-word]?" He would have immediately voiced his rejection of that word. Laughing and pretending to wipe away sweat and so forth would never have been good enough and he would have known it.

ADDED: For comparison, look at how McCain reacted, just last month, when a man asked a question that conveyed racial hostility:
"Do the people in Washington - the politicians and the lobbyists and the rich people writing the checks - do they understand the amount of anger the average European Christian, native-born American feels when they see their country turning into a multicultural chaos Tower of Babel?"
McCain brought that man up short:
"I believe the greatest strength of America is the lady who holds her lamp behind the golden door that says send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... And I am grateful to live in a nation that has been enriched by people coming to our nation from around the world.

"I will do everything in my power to secure the borders, but I love this nation and I love the people who have come from around the world," he said to loud applause.
Why did we not see that kind of passion and indignation in response to the sexist epithet?

"If you don't pass universal health care by July of 2009... I'm going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you."

John Edwards threatens Congress ... idly.

The Democrats often criticize Bush for having an overbroad theory of executive power, but at least when Bush grasps for power, it's for things the President can do on his own, leaving Congress and the courts hard pressed to stop him. But Edwards it promising to do something that a President can't possibly do on his own.


Sometime today (or so), my Sitemeter is going to hit that number. It's at 11,097,945 right now. I don't know. It seems significant. Would have seemed more significant if it happened 2 days ago. But still. It seems significant... but of what?

ADDED: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking, which is a big help trying to hit the number. And it's visitors, not pageviews. Pageviews tend to be about double the visitors numbers for me. The two statistics are much closer for Instapundit, though, because he hasn't got comments.

"I think the bases are not weighted enough."

Said Hillary Clinton as she stopped to right some American flags that got toppled when someone swept open a curtain. Of course, the image is ridiculous and unfortunate for a candidate, but I'm highlighting her quote, because it shows something about how she thinks on the spot: in terms of problem solving. Something went wrong. You don't cry. You don't blame. You figure out why it happened and how to avoid it in the future. That's pretty sharp. On the other hand, she knows how to govern her tongue. "I think the bases are not weighted enough" might be the voiced version of "Fire the idiot who didn't realize you need bigger bases for flags this big." But framing one's statements well, like problem solving, is a good presidential attribute.

"Students: next time you feel insulted by something a professor says, call the professor an asshole..."

"... This is a time-honored way of dealing with indignities."

ADDED: The linked post suggests that you call the teacher an "asshole" out of his or her earshot, but someone in the comments — Bissage — remembered this classic demonstration of how to talk to the teacher:

Inner beauty... reading the sky...

... and the question whether squirrels belong to the dragon family.

If law school deans still don't understand email lists...

... how are they ever going to understand blogs?

Disruptive kindergartners don't end up as worse students.

A study shows. Does this mean we can stop drugging them? The article suggests it doesn't, but I don't find the explanation very convincing.

Won't this interfere with my efforts to read whole books and magazines in your comfy chairs?

TV screens to be installed in Borders Bookstores.
[George L. Jones, the chief executive of the Borders Group said]: at Borders, “you browse, buy a latte, read a magazine. It’s entertaining.” The televisions are “another way that we can bring knowledge and entertainment,” he said....

Mr. Jones said Borders customers tend to be “highly educated, more affluent” and spend an average of an hour in the store, making them catnip to many advertisers. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to reach people,” Mr. Jones said. “Newspapers are not as effective as they used to be. Television is not as easily reachable as it used to be. This becomes an attractive option.
This is what we get for not buying the books.

ADDED: Me, I bought those noise-cancelling headphones I was talking about back here. You can put them on and use them with no music at all, just to make yourself almost deaf. It's quite eerie. But to wear headphones in a bookstore... that would wreck the social aspect of it. You want to eavesdrop and talk to a person who's looking in a section you found interesting too. If advertising screens take over our social spaces, we'll have to curl up into our shell even when we leave the house to try to get out of our shell. How will you ever meet the love of your life in the future?

November 12, 2007

SoHo tablescape.


Had to go into town to pick up a new pair of glasses. Got a sandwich and some pea soup at a favorite place on Prince Street. Snapped a tablescape.

IN THE COMMENTS: Madison Man reacts to the apple
"Ugh. I'm hoping it's just table decoration -- it doesn't look tasty at all."

Maybe it's for locavores.

"Why is it that a thing like that — watching a bottle melt in a fire — is such a guy thing — so fascinating for us, so incomprehensible to women?"

John Derbyshire wonders. But let me offer him another way to ask the question: "Why is it that a thing like that — watching a bottle melt in a fire — is such a guy thing — so fascinating for us, so incomprehensible to women who are married to guys like us?"

I got to that blog post through Andrew Sullivan, who doesn't comment but seems to male-bond with Derbyshire, who finds a mental resting point at: women are unknowable.

In the nowhere of the blogosphere....

... I'm trying to put on a necklace and to fend off a tsunami of possibly doughy Clinton sycophants.

ADDED: Not only did I typo "sycophants" as "syncophants," but the video is entirely out of sync! I'll see if I can fix it. Damn! [BUT: I think I know how.]... FIXED!

IN THE COMMENTS: I like what John Stodder says here. (And he may be interested to know what lawprof Jack Balkin said here, which I used to have up in the banner.)

"There's always that doubt in the back of the minds of people of color... that you believe that somehow someone is better than you..."

Michelle Obama tries to explain why Barack Obama does not have more support from black Americans: "What we're dealing with in the black community is just the natural fear of possibility... I think that it's one of the legacies of racism and discrimination and oppression."

ADDED: Caption contest!

(Photo from a Daily News article titled "Hillary Clinton suddenly vulnerable as bruises start to show.")

"Hillary Clinton unveiled a new slogan, 'Turn up the heat,' that slyly combines her toughness message with her gender appeal."

That sounds so wrong. But don't think sex, think cooking:
"I know as the campaign goes on that it's going to get a little hotter up here. But that's fine with me," she said, invoking Harry Truman. "I feel really comfortable in the kitchen."
Does anyone picture Hillary cooking? And we shouldn't be thinking about her sexiness! Can anyone explain why Hillary would want a slogan that reminds us of sex and cooking, especially given Bill Clinton's sex problem and her own ill-fated baking cookies remark?

Could Tim Russert please be more boring?

Matt Yglesias is outraged — just outraged — at Tim Russert. How dare that man drive politicians into a corner with tough questions instead of giving them space to inform us.

According to Yglesias, questions with the goal of providing information about the candidates' policies would — take global warming for example — show how fine the Democrats are and trap only Republicans:
And as it happens, the plans released by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are all based on good science and good economics. So asking them questions aimed at elucidating their plans shouldn't lead to any embarrassing incidents....

John McCain, by contrast, might or might not end up embarrassed by serious questions about his plan... His Republican counterparts, by contrast, would almost certainly wind up embarrassed by serious questions about their views of climate change since their policies are badly at odds with reality.
Come on, Russert! Can't you set things up to embarrass Republicans and not Democrats? But clear away Yglesias's laughable bias and his point is that candidates should be given room to lecture us about their policies. Or not us... because I wouldn't watch such a boring TV show... but somebody... or maybe nobody...
[Russert] attracts a circle of admirers who share his perverse and unethical lack of concern for whether or not his work helps produce an informed public, gobs of less-prominent television journalists seek to emulate his lack of concern with informing the public, print journalists eagerly court opportunities to appear on the non-informative shows hosted by Russert and his emulators, and down the rabbit hole we go.
It's unethical to confront political candidates with the contradictions in their own statements and with pointed criticisms from their opponents? It's perverse? Russert's a sadist, don't you know, because he won't let our politicians get comfortable.

IN THE COMMENTS: Zeb Quinn writes: "It was quite clear in the immediate aftermath of the last debate that the Clintonistas had their long knives out for Russert. This more of that." Yes, I think that's right. Is Yglesias a Clinton sycophant? I notice a lot of bloggers nodding their heads a little too eagerly at the rather flabby Yglesipost. Including Kevin Drum, whom I'd already suspected was a Clinton sycophant.

November 11, 2007

"Hillary Clinton was first lady in Arkansas, first lady at the White House for eight years, U.S. senator for seven years. Can you compete with that?"

Tim Russert threw that softball at Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" today. Here's the answer:
Well, you know, if you’re comparing how long I’ve been in public office, I’ve actually been in public office longer than her. I think that Senator Clinton is a capable and, and intelligent person. I think she’s been a fine senator from New York. But when it comes to the issues that are really moving the American people right now—healthcare, energy, how we deal with a shifting economy—those are all issues that I’ve been working with at every level of government.
Can't we ever look straight at the question whether being First Lady counts for anything? Obama should attack her for relying on being First Lady as a credential and for suppressing the record of her time in the White House. And he should stir up doubts about the wisdom of returning a former President to the White House. Why even concede that she's been a "fine senator" or that she's "capable"? Point to some failures! This is your big chance. Obama is so bland.

MR. RUSSERT: A year ago, you were asked about Hillary Clinton. And this the exchange. “Where do you find yourself having the biggest differences with Hillary Clinton, politically?” Obama: “You know, I think very highly of Hillary. The more I get to know her, the more I admire her. I think she’s the most disciplined—one of the most disciplined people I’ve ever met. She’s one of the toughest. She’s got an extraordinary intelligence.” “She is—she’s somebody who’s in this stuff for the right reasons. She’s passionate about moving the country forward on issues like healthcare and children. So it’s not clear to me what differences we’ve had since I’ve been in the Senate.” Do you still hold to that? There aren’t any differences?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that I, as I said earlier, I have admiration for Senator Clinton. I think she’s a fine public servant. The reason I’m running is because I think we’re in a unique moment in American history right now. The nation’s at war; our planet is in peril. We’ve got a series of decisions that we’re going to have to make. And I believe that I can more effectively than any other candidate in this race bring the country together, overcome some of the same old arguments that we’ve been having since the 1990s. I think I can reach out to Republicans and independents more effectively than any other candidate that...
He won't make even the gentlest criticism. Is he waiting for everyone else to do that or for her to fail on her own — a la Dean in '04 — and then to waltz into the opening John Kerry-style? Is he running for Vice President? Or is there no strategy at all, just a guy with no fight in him?

IN THE COMMENTS: "Hilarious! A faintly negative post about Obama and suddenly two comments lauding Obama from newcomers without profiles!" Simon notices something about the way blogging works.

ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: Zeb offers this answer to my last set of questions:
There's another choice. Is he afraid of her? is he afraid of really getting into it with her, of going into attack mode. Is he afraid of being crosswise with the Clinton machine? If you think about it, none of her Democrat opponents seriously attack and go after her. Maybe they're all afraid. They've all seen what the Clinton machine does to its enemies.
UPDATE: Walter Shapiro in Salon:
The next morning, Obama appeared for a full-hour interview in another arena of political combat, facing off against Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." The fiery Obama of Saturday night had been replaced on Sunday morning by a replicant, a tepid candidate mostly concerned with avoiding mistakes rather than winning converts...

[I]f Obama really wants to be the one who knocks Hillary off her pedestal, he should remember that statues rarely topple without a hard push.

AND: You can watch Obama's Saturday night speech here.

Today's photo sequence.

The window reflection lets the digital camera get a sense of how a film camera felt when it did a double exposure:


Where I was sitting — at Bocca Lupo — there were flowers on the counter:


A little while earlier I saw this odd Coke sign. ("Weak sauce"?)


Then back home, I had to record another harbor sunset: