January 27, 2007

Madison Saturday politics.

Anti-war guy

Liberty in Madison

The problem with a woman running for President.

I'm watching Hillary Clinton doing her town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. A man -- Representative Leonard Boswell -- is introducing her. He ends by waving his arm around and saying: "We wish you every success." Not a peep out of the audience. He goes on: "Let the conversation begin!" Still nothing! He adds "God bless ya... we're glad to have you here" and, finally, elicits a cheer.

"Thank you all," she yells in that harsh tone her voice gets when she's going for volume. "Well," she says, now properly modulated and holding her hands out, palms up. "I'm Hillary Clinton." She leans forward and laughs, like it's a big joke that she actually is Hillary Clinton. The crowd laughs, either because they get the "joke" or they actually are jazzed up at the experience of witnessing the grand personage in the flesh.

"I'm running for President, and I'm in it to win it." Has she been going around saying "I'm in it to win it"? This sounds clever for half a second, and then you get distracted thinking about what other possible reasons might lead a person to run for President. And then I find myself in a pit of irrelevance musing about the mind of Dennis Kucinich...

She has some material about how ordinary people aren't making enough money these days, unlike rich people, who make too much money. Democrats are required to say this. To me, it sounds like patronizing the audience. You folks are the good, deserving people. Elsewhere, there are bad people taking way more than their share.

Next, she talks about how a woman can be President. Americans are "good at breaking barriers, and I wanna see us get back to doin' that." Droppin' those gs is really gettin' to me. Kerry did that too, didn't he?

"We need strong leadership and smart solutions to deal with our problems."

Okay, enough generalizations. It's time for the town hall questions... the conversation...

The first question is about whether a woman can be President. Clinton's response sounds natural and decent enough, and I'm thoroughly bored with this issue now. Of course, a woman can be President, but we shouldn't elect her President just to prove the point. She's a specific person, now get on with it.

The second question comes from a doctor who wants to know what she's going to do about obesity and diabetes in the United States. I pause the TiVo and the expression on her face seems to show exasperation at having to respond to this sort of thing. I unpause and see the gears click into place: It's time for Universal Health Care tape loop. The system is screwed up because it's easier to get insurers to pay if you need to have your foot amputated than if you'd like to visit a nutritionist.

There's a question about education from a teacher, who informs us that her job requires her to deal with "raging pubescent hormonal individuals" -- 8th graders -- and the hard thing is she's going through menopause. She says this in a stand-up comedian style, and I get the feeling that she thinks Hillary is going to offer her some special menopausal camaraderie. Hillary does not. Bill may have told us about his underpants, but Hillary isn't going to let us in on the extent of her need for Tampax.

The next woman complains about how "women's work" -- she does air quotes -- is underpaid. "How do we change the culture" to value this work? The obvious answer is: not through the presidency. Hillary talks at length about women's work, the culture, etc.

How I'd have loved to hear something like: You know, what's ironic here is that I'm a woman, and you're undervaluing me, asking me questions about women's things, and not treating me like someone who is offering to take on the work that genuinely belongs to the office I'm seeking. How is a woman supposed to become President if all you ever picture her doing is taking on the caregiving responsibilities that have typically belonged to women?

I can't endure the whole event, not in one sitting... but I do vlog about it...

ADDED: Wait, it will take me a minute to get the vlog up. Meanwhile, the show was almost over, and I did watch it to the end. All the questions were on womanly subjects. I predict trouble if HC can't get people to think of her outside the traditional role while she's trying to get hold of a nontraditional role.


The Peace March.

Here's the peace march that took place today at about 1 p.m. on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. This clip shows the whole length of the parade. Note the man at the front, just behind the banners, who is holding a sign that says "Vive Saddam." (It's the third sign from the right.) The entire clip -- which I shot while walking in the opposite direction -- is about 3 minutes long. It includes a large dove puppet and a large papier maché skull.

ADDED: The march reminds James Wigderson of "the sham gunfights I saw in Tombstone, Arizona, to show off for the tourists." Oh, I don't know. If they were just acting the part, they'd have had it together for the chant a little more. The people at the front are all "Bring them home. Now." The middle is just "Peace. Now." mixed with "No more war." Behind them is the original chant, shortened to "Bring them home." And did you notice the guy who's marching while talking on his cell phone?

Anyway, let's critique the "Bring them home" chant. It's a chant that made sense for Vietnam, a war for which men were drafted. I very much understand the resistance and shock and desperation that was felt for the young men who were forced to go to Vietnam, feelings that would make many people say, quite simply, "Bring them home." But for Iraq, everyone has volunteered. Everyone who's there made a profound decision to do something. The chant "Bring them home," in that context, seems to be shouting disrespectfully in their face that they made a blunder. There are people who chose to do something and are working very hard to accomplish it. While it is true that our leaders owe them the right decisions about how to win the war, the individuals who volunteered deserve respect for the choices that they made. The chant omits the honoring of that choice.

We know how to make coffee in Wisconsin.


Intriguing, no?

A possession of mine.

Political button

Discussed here.

Things I read/watched but don't quite feel like blogging about this morning.

1. People kind of hate real estate agents.

2. Maybe you really don't have to save that much for your retirement.

3. A developmentally disabled guy reacts to opposition to a group home for the developmentally disabled.

4. An autistic woman demonstrates what she considers to be her language.

5. One night, back in the 60s, Bob Dylan did a call-in advice show on the radio.

6. Allen Shawn wrote a book about his phobias, but maybe he's not all that phobic.

7. A law and economics professor did a study that correlates earnings to skin tone.

8. Professor Bainbridge gives up on the "magazine" format for his blog.

9. The Swampland bloggers are squabbling.

10. Hillary Clinton needs to get some more votes in Iowa.

11. Powerline is at a conservative summit of some sort.

12. People don't like to shop at The Gap so much anymore.

13. Seminary students don't necessarily feel like becoming ministers.

14. An episcopal rector mocked parishioners and got in trouble.

15. An ugly incident upset people on a campus.

16. Elia behaved badly on "Top Chef."

17. People are talking about Libby and Rove and Cheney.

18. Bush is resigning himself to an Iraq resolution.

19. A guy had amnesia.

20. Angelina Jolie might be in a bad mood.

January 26, 2007

The government is here to help you with your body image problems.

Here's a story about how Spain is standardizing clothing sizes for women "as part of a government drive to ease pressure on young girls over their body size":
The change of sizes will be led by Spain's National Consumer Institute, which will measure more than 8,000 Spanish females between the ages of 12 and 70.

Spanish fashion houses will then try to fit clothes to them, rather than the other way round.

Last year Spain's main fashion show banned designers from using so-called "size zero" women to model their collections.

Now designers aiming for commercial markets should be encouraged to "promote a healthy physical image that conforms with the reality of the Spanish population," the ministry said in a statement.
It's one thing to standardize the sizes. I can't see objecting to that. The standardization of weights and measures is central to free trade. A pound of sugar from one manufacturer should weigh the same as a pound of sugar from another. Clothes sizes are much the same. I suppose you could say that the proportions should be variable. If the average woman is pear-shaped, will it be illegal to design for the apple-shaped woman? But basically, it doesn't bother me that manufacturers won't be allowed to manipulate the numbers to get the jump on their competitors.

But weren't they putting smaller numbers on larger clothes? I don't know about Spain, but here in the United States, they didn't use to have size 0 or even size 2 in ordinary women's departments. I should think reality-based sizing would have women shocked to learn what their real size is. But at least it won't vary from shop to shop. Some women might get upset not to fit into a size they were used to fitting into. Whether that sends them into crash dieting is another matter.

The bigger issue is whether government should demand that clothing manufacturers participate in the promotion of healthy bodily images. I don't much like government efforts to improve people's thought processes. It puts me in a bad mood.

Hey, why not ban black clothes? They're depressing and worn by people who are depressed. Let's mandate pastels and snappy prints!


The reason I'm blogging about this is that I got a phone call this morning asking me if I could go on the radio to talk about this story -- which I hadn't yet read. Wanna talk about it for 5 minutes, like 8 minutes from now? Okay.... Anyway, so I did that. This blog post is just a byproduct.

The pen is mightier...

... than the mountain lion.

"Ms. Fanning’s commitment to this material is unwavering in its creepiness."

NYT film critic Manohla Dargis writes about the movie "Hounddog," saying something that resonates with me:
“Hounddog” and the media storm that accompanied its world premiere on Monday expose the contradictions that grip Sundance, which insists on its commitment to quality even as it continues to program work that suggests otherwise. A Southern gothic about a white girl (Ms. Fanning) who learns how to sing the blues from a kindly black man after she is raped, the film had earned censure sight unseen from the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel.
(Oh, so it's also another one of those movies about how white people learn the meaning of life from idealized black people? Can't we retire that cliché?)
As sincere as it is stupid, “Hounddog” is pure art-house exploitation, as evidenced by the images of its 12-year-old star dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties, of her writhing on a bed and of her awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime to the Elvis Presley song of the film’s title. As in “The Accused” (the Jodie Foster rape movie), the film’s narrative momentum builds to the rape, which is discreetly staged; unfortunately, it is also presented with some of the same tropes of the classic movie love scene: there is a shot of the girl’s clutching hand and, after the assault, a close-up of her face. Ms. Fanning’s commitment to this material is unwavering in its creepiness.
Dargis obviously can't stand Sean Hannity and his ilk, but she's not letting that keep her from seeing what's wrong with this. By contrast, read this wrongheaded blather by Meghan O'Rourke in Slate, which concludes:
The problem for an American audience weaned on this waif, and chock-a-block with repressed feelings about adolescent sexuality itself, is that Dakota Fanning the actress (if not the character she plays) has chosen to take on this graphic a role. She has opened Pandora's box. Once she has become part of the sexual economy of adolescence—about which Americans are so clearly conflicted, living as we do in a hypersexualized era that is also peculiarly hyperprotective of children—she can't go back.
Sorry, Meghan, those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime are not repressed and conflicted and hyperprotective.

Questioning "dignity."

Peter Singer has a NYT op-ed about the "Ashley Treatment" (which we discussed recently here). The idea is to restrict the girl's growth and prevent her from reaching puberty because she is, mentally, a baby and will always be. Singer:
A Los Angeles Times report on Ashley’s treatment began: “This is about Ashley’s dignity. Everybody examining her case seems to agree at least about that.” Her parents write in their blog that Ashley will have more dignity in a body that is healthier and more suited to her state of development, while their critics see her treatment as a violation of her dignity.

But we should reject the premise of this debate. As a parent and grandparent, I find 3-month-old babies adorable, but not dignified. Nor do I believe that getting bigger and older, while remaining at the same mental level, would do anything to change that.

Here’s where things get philosophically interesting. We are always ready to find dignity in human beings, including those whose mental age will never exceed that of an infant, but we don’t attribute dignity to dogs or cats, though they clearly operate at a more advanced mental level than human infants. Just making that comparison provokes outrage in some quarters. But why should dignity always go together with species membership, no matter what the characteristics of the individual may be?

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families.
Are you so ready to throw out the "dignity" talk?

Look into my eyes.

You know you can't resist the sexy, ultraviolet glow.

Is it getting obvious that Sharpton can't stand Obama?

The two men pose in front of a painting of Thurgood Marshall:

Click on the (terrific) picture to enlarge it. Can you read the body language? The priceless expression on Sharpton's face?

Sharpton also met with Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton yesterday... and declined to make any endorsements.
Obama said the two talked about their shared agenda of fighting for the dispossessed. "I assured him that I not only want to hear his views and thoughts and policy recommendations, but publicly any of us who step into this fight for the nomination have to be held accountable and speak to these issues," he said.

Sharpton said they talked about economics, health care and education issues. "We are going to keep talking and he knows I'm talking to everybody," he said.

The normally loquacious Sharpton was unusually curt and cut off further questioning by saying he was behind schedule. But he told reporters who followed him that he would decide about his own candidacy "once I see what these guys do or don't do."
The normally loquacious Sharpton was unusually curt...

Is it getting obvious that Sharpton can't stand Obama?

MORE: Here:
“I left the meeting a little curious, feeling that he was noticing our civil rights agenda, but I didn’t understand what his civil rights agenda is,” Mr. Sharpton said.

He was noticing our civil rights agenda ... Noticing! Come on, that's harsh!

That power-grabbing President.

I love this collection of newspaper cartoons from 1937, portraying Franklin Roosevelt's aggressive view of executive power. (via Instapundit.)

This web-resource would be SO much better if you could get a separate address for the cartoon. Unfortunately, the graphically uninteresting block of explanatory text comes along with the vivid image.

Let's Google for a more workable source of FDR cartoons. How about this? Here's a favorite (which I especially enjoy after spending the first week of classes teaching Marbury v. Madison in two different classes, to 1Ls and to 2- and 3Ls):

January 25, 2007

Here comes your "national nervous breakdown."

Oh, who's to blame?
Bush schadenfreude. Partisan pleasure in George Bush's pain dates to the anguish of the contested 2000 election loss. The Democrats have run against something called "Bush" for so long that this sentiment is now bound up in any act or policy remotely attached to the president. Iraq's troubles, or Iran or North Korea, are merely an artifact of crushing this one guy.

The Iraq Study Group. The ISG report wasn't defeatist, but it enabled the vocabulary of defeat. Its warning of a "slide toward chaos" was re-defined as the current Iraqi status quo. They called their bipartisan solution "phased withdrawal," but it was a euphemism for defeat. Momentum was already building in this direction, and the ISG propelled it.

The leadership vacuum. The administration never rallied the nation behind the war in a concrete way. A young Marine officer recently returned from combat in Iraq told me this week he is taken aback at how disassociated the American people seem from Iraq, no matter how constantly it's in the news. He says it's as if the problem is not so much what is actually happening in Iraq but that the war is "annoying" to Americans, as if to say: Can't it just go away or not be on the front page all the time? Rallying a nation at war is a president's job.

The opposition vacuum. One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition's alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can't tell you what the path to success is." Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence."

"Is Barack black enough to beat Hillary?"

Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus talk about that on Bloggingheads in a segment that begins with Mickey calling John Kerry a "terminal doofus" but gets around to the promised topic.

And here's the link to Kausfiles on that topic, which discusses this essay by Debra Dickerson that asserts that Barack Obama isn't (the right kind of) black. Bob Wright and I talked about the same subject in a segment of Bloggingheads last week, which was based on this blog post of mine, talking about this news article about black leaders not (yet?) supporting Obama.

ADDED: WaPo has a big story on the general subject today:
The question of how Obama chooses to define and approach race looms large as he moves closer to formally launching his campaign next month....

Melissa V. Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton University professor who has followed Obama's political ascent, said that he may be forced to choose: "You can be elected president as a black person only if you signal at some level that you are independent from black people" -- a move she said would be "guaranteed" to make black people angry. "He is going to have to figure out whether there is a way not to alienate and anger a black base that almost by definition is going to be disappointed," she said.

"We have to have the stomach to finish the task."

Dick Cheney faces down Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Here's what Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia, said in his Democratic response last night. He said:

"The President took us into the war recklessly. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed."

And it's not just Jim Webb, it's some of your good Republican friends in the Senate and the House, are now seriously questioning your credibility because of the blunders, of the failures. All right, Gordon Smith --

CHENEY: Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash. Remember --

BLITZER: What, that there were no blunders? The President himself says there were blunders --

CHENEY: Remember, remember me -- remember with me what happened in Afghanistan. The United States was actively involved in Afghanistan in the '80s supporting the effort against the Soviets. The Mujahideen prevailed, everybody walked away. And in Afghanistan, within relatively short order, the Taliban came to power, they created a safe haven for al Qaeda, training camps were established where some 20,000 terrorists trained in the late '90s. And out of that, out of Afghanistan, because we walked away and ignored it, we had the attack on the USS Cole, the attack on the embassies in East Africa, and 9/11, where the people trained and planned in Afghanistan for that attack and killed 3,000 Americans. That is what happens when we walk away from a situation like that in the Middle East.

Now you might have been able to do that before 9/11. But after 9/11, we learned that we have a vested interest in what happens on the ground in the Middle East. Now, if you are going to walk away from Iraq today and say, well, gee, it's too tough, we can't complete the task, we just are going to quit, you'll create exactly that same kind of situation again.

Now, the critics have not suggested a policy. They haven't put anything in place. All they want to do, all they've recommended is to redeploy or to withdraw our forces. The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We're going to do it. We've got Petraeus -- General Petraeus taking over. It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task.

BLITZER: What if the Senate passes a resolution saying, this is not a good idea. Will that stop you?

CHENEY: It won't stop us, and it would be, I think detrimental from the standpoint of the troops, as General Petraeus said yesterday. He was asked by Joe Lieberman, among others, in his testimony, about this notion that somehow the Senate could vote overwhelmingly for him, send him on his new assignment, and then pass a resolution at the same time and say, but we don't agree with the mission you've been given.

BLITZER: So you're moving forward no matter what the consequences?

CHENEY: We are moving forward. We are moving forward. The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding. But in terms of this effort, the President has made his decision. We've consulted extensively with them. We'll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done. I think General Petraeus can do it. I think our troops can do it. And I think it's far too soon for the talking heads on television to conclude that it's impossible to do, it's not going to work, it can't possibly succeed.

"The more we play God or try to improve on Mother Nature, the more damage we are doing with all kinds of experiments that... turn into nightmares."

That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist, but hostility to scientific research comes from the progressive side when the question is the source of sexual preference.

That quote is from Martina Navratilova, who is one of the many critics of Charles Roselli, a researcher who is studying why some male sheep have a sexual preference for other males. Roselli tells his critics that he hates the idea of trying to manipulate the sexuality of human beings and claims that his real interest is in fact sheep.

Don't we accept the idea of sheep breeders doing what they can to get sheep who will in fact breed? Should someone who objects to efforts to cure human beings of homosexuality resist efforts to manipulate sheep? Assuming you don't care about the individuality and personal fulfillment of sheep -- and note that PETA started the campaign against Roselli -- don't you have to admit that any learning about sexual orientation will be applied to thinking about human beings?

But shouldn't we want to know the truth? Shouldn't gay rights advocates care when they sound like the religious fundamentalists they usually deride?

January 24, 2007

"American Idol" goes to NYC.

Yes, they're in NY, but they don't look any more urbane/hip/sophisticated than the people in all those other cities. They're all from Queens, right? Queens, Long Island, New Jersey.... Or anywhere really. They just need to show up in NY.

The worst thing about today's show is revealed at Minute 2. There's a guest judge. That never works out well. What's-her-name -- Carol Bayer Sager -- is given the Paula seat between Randy and Simon, and our girl Paula is all the way over on the left. Boo! We see pictures of Sager glammed up in 80s hair and makeup -- almost, but not, Pat Benatar. Well, she looks like Pat Benatar in the stills, and Joan Collins in the real-time photography. Who is she? She's written various songs -- "Groovy Kind of Love" -- and she was once married to Burt Bacharach. Big deal! She's not going to say anything interesting.

First up is Ian Benardo, who, we're told, has a sense of entitlement. In profile -- I don't wanna be mean, but... --- he looks like Zippy the Pinhead. He's funny when he says that after people see him, they're going to forget about "Taylor Who?, Carrie Under Where?" (Underwear!) When Simon Cowell asks him the classic question "Why are you here?," he gives the answer everyone could give, a big sarcastic "Duh" face and then "To try out for 'American Idol.'" He sings "Gloria," but it's not "she comes around here about midnight" "Gloria." It's some other "Gloria." Simon tells him it's "rubbish," and he's all what is that some British expression? Rubbish? Who even says that?

In the second segment, we get some truly annoying contestants. A 19-year-old woman who lies to her father and skips school to pursue her "dream" gets too many minutes on screen crying about her ordeal, including a phone conversation with said dad where he learns she's "going to Hollywood" and just basically says wow, great. So much for that problem. Then we get a woman who seems to think Greek ethnicity is enough. She doesn't make it. Neither does Ashanti, a young woman who's actually gone to Hollywood in two past seasons, and wants to snag a slot again this year. When they tell her no, she goes into the hammiest pleading ever... fortunately, to no avail.

Two kind of nice and pretty best friends both make it through, and we're tipped off that their friendship will get tested in Hollywood.

A really great singer named Kia Thompson does Aretha Franklin and is proclaimed the best of the day.

Then it's Day 2... there were a few more singers, including a nice opera-singer girl who gets through. There were some delusionals and another medley of bad singers. But I was getting bleary-eyed in the second hour. Enough already! These 2-hour shows are killing me!

ADDED: Here's the TWOP recap, which makes me want to add that those best friends are named Amanda Coluccio and Antonella Barba, and that dad-calling girl is Sarah Burgess. Now what was Opera Girl's name? I like her, but apparently not enough to remember her name.

Some names to memorize: Jenry Bejarano (he's 16, he's black, he's adopted, and his mother's Bolivian), Jory Steinberg (she was Canadian, but now she's Santa Monican), Porcelana Petino (she worked out to get in shape for the show and wore the lowest cut jeans you can wear on TV without a digital blur... in front!), Chris Richardson (a decent-looking white guy is good so they rave... blah blah blah... Timberlake!), Nicholas Pedro (he quit in Hollywood last year because he forgot the lyrics to "Build Me Up, Buttercup," and now he's back).

Kerry gets the hint.

We don't have the joke-botching Senator to kick around anymore.

"Systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion."

New ethics charges against Duke lacrosse team prosecutor, Mike Nifong.

"God bless."

I like this device in the NYT that lets you search for words in the text of all of President Bush's State of the Union addresses and displaying the results graphically. They've done a few key words -- "Iraq," "democracy," "oil" -- for you already. I decided to search for "God" (as they say....). The results show the only use of the word in an anecdote about Dikembe Mutombo, who, we're told, "believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.”

What? Bush didn't end with "God bless America"?

I check the full text. It ends this way:
This is a decent and honorable country, and resilient too. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence, because the state of our union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on.

God bless.
Somehow those last two words got left out of the "interactive graphic."

But it's interesting that Bush just said "God bless." Didn't he always say "God bless America"? Let's look:
2001: "Good night and God bless."

2002: "May God bless." (Said shortly after "God is near.")

2003: The most religious ending: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America."

2004: "May God continue to bless America."

2005: "[M]ay God bless America."

2006: "May God bless America."

2007: "God bless."
He seems to have come full circle. The blessing started out short, took its fullest form in the grandiloquent 2005 speech, then got small again. Reading the different blessings, what strikes me the most is that in 2001 he used, word for word, the tag line Red Skelton always ended his show with.

I would have thought that if Bush was going to switch to saying "God bless America," it would have happened in 2002, given the prominence of the song "God bless America" after the 9/11 attacks. But it's the 2003 speech, the one with the elaborately religious ending that introduces "God bless America" to Bush's State of the Union style. He adopts the long form: "may God continue to bless the United States of America." This is the speech that immediately precedes the invasion of Iraq. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. Ah! It was Bush's tragic mistake to believe that. God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. Ah! To think such a thing!

"Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

So read the note from Dick Cheney, translated for the jury by Scooter Libby's lawyer Ted Wells, paraphrased by Michael Isikoff:
The vice president was not going to allow Karl Rove to be protected and Libby to be sacrificed. Libby had stuck his neck “in the meat grinder” because he had been authorized by President Bush himself to talk to reporters and rebut what the White House considered unfair criticism by Wilson that the intelligence about Iraq had been “twisted.” And the “incompetence” Cheney was referring to was by the CIA which, he claimed, was responsible for whatever the White House had gotten wrong about Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction.
It looks like the trial is going to be quite a meat grinder. Per Isikoff:
Well’s argument was both brilliant and complex-and perhaps difficult for non-news hounds on the jury to follow. But it raised the prospect that the Libby trial will now turn into a horror show for the White House, forcing current and former top aides to testify against each other and revealing an administration that has been in turmoil over the Iraq war for more than three years.

"So much for the right to marry; so much for sexual autonomy; so much for consenting adults deciding whom to love...."

Eugene Volokh has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about how bizarrely hard it is to get a date with a dental hygienist in the state of Washington.

"To quote the titular song, 'You said you was high class/Well, that was just a lie.'"

The movie "Hounddog" -- about which such a stir was kicked up -- is a dog:
"Hounddog" is from the overheated and overacted school of Southern drama, filled with stereotypical characters, pseudo-poetic dialogue, and heavy symbolism ("Hounddog"'s biggest deviation from formula is that it features a killer R&B band that plays into the dead of night, presumably on call should 12-year-old girls need help with their personal problems). Fanning stars as Lewellen, a girl obsessed with Elvis who lives with her no-good father (David Morse) and her strict grandmother (Piper Laurie).
Piper Laurie! I'd be waiting for li'l Dakota to start making all the kitchen knives fly through the air!

Oh, sorry, I got distracted thinking about a time when movies were such great fun. And deep too!

Say it!!!

Back to "Hounddog," with its hangdog earnestness (and 12-year-old actress in a simulated rape scene):
Fanning plays the character as a cross between an innocent child and a wise strumpet; as a whole, "Hounddog" seems conceived simply to give her a role to flex her pre-teen acting chops.

The film has generated its share of controversy due to a scene in which Fanning's character is raped (it's handled without exploitation). Kiddie porn it isn't. Unfortunately, "Hounddog" isn't much of anything. It doesn't really resonate as a coming-of-age story, a family drama, or an exploration of the 1950s Southern experience, leaving precious little left but the controversy.

Ultimately, "Hounddog" is pretty mangy.
Well, I guess I'm glad the movie's bad and hope it goes nowhere. I would hate to see it get traction out of getting a rise out of social conservatives with something that good feminists should/used to care about. But the issue is still not dead. The fact that the movie isn't "kiddie porn" or that the scene as edited into the movie is "handled without exploitation" is no answer to the problem discussed at length in this post and its many comments. The problem was the use of the child actor to film the scene. The final cut of the scene and how it looks to movie viewers is a separate matter from how the child was treated on those days when she was filming the movie. This is a matter covered by statutory law and by moral principle, and there's no special exception for high-class films or overheated and overacted Southern dramas posing as high class.

MORE: Here's Orlando Sentinel critic Kathleen Parker:
[In Hounddog,] we witness a real 12-year-old portray a girl waking up as her naked father climbs into bed with her; "dancing" in her underwear while lying in bed; and getting raped by a teenage boy.

We are, in other words, voyeurs to a young girl acting out a sexual predator's fantasies. If we have a problem with that, we're told these are real issues that beg honest exploration. No, amend that. We're lectured -- by a 12-year-old, who, we're reminded, is a sophisticated actress.

"You know, I'm an actress," Fanning patiently explained to The New York Times. "It's what I want to do, it's what I've been so lucky to have done for almost seven years now. And I am getting older."

Does anything quite equal the ennui born of being scolded by a too-precious child?

Far be it for anyone to suggest that adults know more about such things than children. At least some of them do. Fanning's parents support their daughter's decision to play the rape scene, noting that this could cinch an Oscar for the child star.

Even Marc Klaas -- the ubiquitous been-there father of his murdered daughter Polly -- has given his nod to the film, vouching for its sensitive, supportive treatment of Fanning.

Only the actress' face is shown during the rape scene, which reportedly has been tastefully executed.

It's hard to get enough of tasteful rapes, I admit. Unless you're a real child rapist, the bunch of whom doubtless will be sufficiently stimulated by Fanning's rape-face, as well as her panty-dance and her little visit from bad Daddy.

But it's Art, so relaaaaax. And it's real, so get with it.

Hey, that was awfully minimal State of the Union blogging...

You're not one of these people who watched "American Idol" and not the State of the Union...

Are you?....

Because obviously you did watch "American Idol"...


What the hell is going on in this country? Doesn't anybody have any sense anymore?

Makes perfect sense to me!

"When the music does take a moment to catch its breath, a mellifluous voice emerges."

So reads the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, writing about Cougar, a musical group with a "post-rock's tone" and "a pedigree in jazz":

Turns out that Cougar's "vocalist" is none other than ubiquitous constitutional law commentator Ann Althouse, a professor at the U of W. "Trent was a law student," Skogen laughs. "We picked her lectures because she's got such a cool cadence of speech. The timbre and phrasing of her speech all sounded so nice."

Here's "my" group:

Hey, all you current students, I hope when you're putting up with me going on and on about sovereign immunity or some such thing, you appreciate the cool cadence of speech, the timbre, and the phrasing. You've got to pause now and then and think, man, this is mellifluous.

(Here's an earlier post of mine about Cougar. Here's their MySpace page, showing lots of upcoming shows in the next few weeks, including one in Madison.)

January 23, 2007

"I know that for me, I need to get over the fear..."

Says Melinda Doolittle, auditioning for "American Idol." She's a background singer, taking a chance, stepping forward, and they reach out and offer her a hand, as she sings Stevie Wonder, "For Once in My Life." "You walk in," Simon says, "with no confidence, no attitude, and yet you are... a brilliant singer... You are... what it's all about."

Yes, there was a whole hour show, and, in fact, I did watch it, but I'm just going to leave this little message for Melinda. We're looking for someone to love. And we love you.

"This rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour – when decisions are hard and courage is tested."

The State of the Union.

ADDED: "How'r'ya doin'" our President says, turning to Nancy Pelosi. He begins by taking credit for the new step of saying "Madam Speaker."

MORE: That "added" part was on the wrong post (the previous one), I see the next morning. I couldn't get Blogger to publish last night, so this went up -- as far as I could see -- after I went to bed. And the idea of simulblogging the speech went out the window. Sorry!

Rent a protester.

Pick a young and pretty one.

"Although I harbor endlessly reverberating regret about the abortion I had..."

"... I've always resisted the consolation industry, the people who show up with Kleenex after plane crashes, or hold 'post-abortive' workshops allowing you to 'grieve, forgive yourself, and move on.'" Amba writes:
This movement encourages [deeply troubled women] to pinpoint their abortion(s) as the fountainhead of all their disturbance, a devastating act they committed in powerlessness and ignorance, one foisted on them by a no-good man, by an evil lying abortionist who told them it was only a "blob of tissue," by a callous culture. Writer Emily Bazelon concludes the article:
And then there is the relief in seizing on a single clear explanation for a host of unwanted and overwhelming feelings, a cause for everything gone wrong. When Arias surveyed 104 of the prisoners she had counseled in 2004, two-thirds reported depression related to abortion, 32 percent reported suicide attempts related to abortion and 84 percent linked substance abuse to their abortions. They had a new key for unlocking themselves. And a way to make things right. “You have well-meaning therapists or political crusaders, paired with women who are troubled and experiencing a variety of vague symptoms,” Brenda Major, the U.C. Santa Barbara psychology professor, explained to me. “The therapists and crusaders offer a diagnosis that gives meaning to the symptoms, and that gives the women a way to repent. You can’t repent depressive symptoms. But you can repent an action.” You can repent an abortion. You can reach for a narrative of sin and atonement, of perfect imagined babies waiting in heaven.
It's complicated. Yes, female powerlessness is a major cause of unwanted pregnancy and abortion: women are forced into sex or are afraid to say no or they try to trade sex for love; they find themselves pregnant with bad, irresponsible boyfriends, no job, no money, and at best fragile plans to complete their education and make something of themselves. Sadly, choosing to end a pregnancy in such circumstances sometimes gives a woman almost the only feeling of power she's ever had. Other times, she wants to hold on to the pregnancy (I did), but is pressured out of it by the man.

Nonetheless, I think, to try to coddle the woman and encourage her to think of herself as another innocent victim is to disempower her all over again....

... I don't want to forgive myself. First of all, guilt is not what I feel. I feel regret, which is appropriate and irrevocable. I don't torture myself or suffer psychological disturbance as a result of having had an abortion; I'm too healthy and probably too pagan for that. What I suffer is barrenness for myself and loneliness for someone who should have been literally as close to me as my own heart, whose face I never saw and whose voice I never heard. (The latter struck me only recently, and I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before.) What I suffer is being alone in the world and disconnected from life in the most primitive way. And that is appropriate. That is a fact. Those are the consequences of the choice I made.
Read the whole thing.

Fox smears Clinton and Obama in one broad stroke.

Is there any other way to look at it?

Oscar nominations...

Did you watch the announcement live? I did. Poor Salma Hayek was devastated that "Volver" didn't get a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. I was glad Alan Arkin got nominated, even though I didn't think much of "Little Miss Sunshine." I do like him.

Lots of the usual suspects in the Best Actress Category. Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet are in some long contest for most nominations ever. Then there's Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Makes you want to be for Penelope Cruz, doesn't it?

Here's the full list of nominees.

UPDATE: Drudge writes: "'DREAMGIRLS' LEADS PACK -- BUT SNUBBED IN FILM, DIRECTOR CATS..." Oh! The poor cats! What did those sweet little kitties ever do to deserve such treatment from the Academy?

"Effort to 'Humanize' Clinton Is Underway."

That's the hilarious teaser on the home page of the Washington Post, leading to this article.
The effort to "humanize" Clinton, as her advisers have put it, was in full swing just two days into her presidential campaign.
Oh! So it's her advisors who are supplying the term that implies that she is not human. Wouldn't want the WaPo editorializing. But since it's her advisors... well, let's just have a laugh at the ineptitude of political advisors. Come on, you fools, just humanize her. Don't tell the press you're trying to humanize her!
Dressed in the same pastel jacket for all her appearances, Clinton sat on a sofa against a soft backdrop of bookshelves and a yellow curtain for her Web chat. She was joined by her campaign's blogger, Crystal Patterson, who read viewer questions aloud. Almost all of the inquiries were from women, and nearly one-third were from New York. One question was about the role Chelsea Clinton will play in the campaign (unclear, her mom said).

She hedged on her favorite movie, saying that, as a child, she had loved "The Wizard of Oz," only to discover "Casablanca" in college and law school, watching it so often that she memorized the lines. (Her passion for the Meryl Streep-Robert Redford classic "Out of Africa" came later, she said.) But she was clear about her own conviction that she can become president.
Can't you just picture the robotic brain gears turning, trying to think of a movie that would say just the thing she needs said? Oh, why didn't she have a "favorite movie" planned before she went into this on-line chat to humanize herself? "Wizard of Oz," can't go wrong there.... except it's childish, and not very imaginative or distinctive. "Casablanca"! That's a great movie everyone loves. Possibly more sophisticated than "Wizard of Oz." But anyone could think of "Casablanca." I need something that would have at least some individuality to it. Was there ever anything that ever stirred me? Damn it, I've been busy. I haven't been sitting around like you cookie-bakers staring at screens, waiting for some damned moving image to stir some -- what is it you people have? -- emotion. Oh, hell, there was that thing.... "Out of Africa"!

Plot summary
(with spoilers):
Karen Blixen [Meryl Streep], a Danish woman, marries a friend for the title of Baroness and they move to Africa and start a coffee plantation. Things unfold when her husband begins cheating on her and is away on business often, so she's at home alone, working on the farm and bonding with two men she met in her first day in Africa. She eventually falls in love with the one, Denys Finch-Hatton [Robert Redford] and goes on safari and whatnot with him. Later, she begins to want more from him than the simple friendship/relationship they have and pushes marriage, but Denys still wants his freedom.
No, no, damn you, bloggers! You're so eager to bring up my problems with Bill. Don't you be digging up my problems with Bill. Don't you bastards say that I picked "Out of Africa" because I empathized with Karen Blixen! Who the f*ck do you think you are? How dare you dredge up this scurrilous suggestion that I am............................. human.

Baraboo High School bans the "U.S.A., U.S.A." chant.

It's considered an obscenity:
The "U.S.A." some of the students were chanting stands for a three-word insult, an unsporting acronym the first letter of which stands for "You."

Fans at athletic events have been trying to sneak a few such cheers with double meanings past officials, leading administrators to tighten enforcement of WIAA rules and causing some students and parents to wonder what's wrong with a little team spirit.
So, kids, if there is something you don't like, make up a second meaning for it, pass it around, have a few laughs, and make the adults go nuts and ban it.

I remember the fun we had in 9th grade biology by deciding that the word "mutate" would refer a particular rude bodily function. What are you kids laughing about??!!

"'Teeth' is, more than anything, a coming-of-age story."

Just checking the news from Sundance:
Monday, in one of the festival's first deals, the Weinstein Company signed on to distribute "Teeth," in which a teenager discovers vaginal teeth that emerge when she is attacked.

Director Mitchell Lichtenstein says "Teeth" is, more than anything, a coming-of-age story. "Besides whatever other element it has, it's about a girl growing up and learning to accept her fate"....
Now, now. Don't confuse art movies for the elite with sleazy movies for bad people. It's a coming of age film.
Other films that include references to sex this year include "Zoo," a documentary about a man who died having sex with a horse. Here, the incident became a means of exploring universal human emotions, like loneliness.
How about the universal human emotion of bullshit detection?

January 22, 2007

The split-screen in the 2004 presidential debates helped Bush.

Yet it was the Bush side that wanted a single screen focused on the speaker, precluding reaction shots:
"Republicans thought they knew what they were doing by asking for single-screen, and the Democrats and all the pundits argued that it had hurt Bush because of the split screen. But the data shows that's not true," says Dietram Scheufele, a UW-Madison journalism professor. "It hurt Kerry quite a bit and didn't hurt Bush at all. The pundits didn't live up to reality."...

The study, published in the February issue of the journal Communication Research, put that assertion to the test, as 700 university students were asked to evaluate a five-minute-long debate clip in single screen and split-screen formats. The study was conducted in the two weeks prior to the 2004 election....

"The split-screen debates hurt Kerry and not really Bush," [Scheufele] says. "It was largely a function of what people thought about the two candidates in the first place. Split-screen coverage made Bush supporters more extreme in their support for the president and their opposition to Kerry. Kerry voters, on the other hand, didn't like Bush in the first place, but the split-screen coverage also didn't change much about their support for Kerry."

For Bush, the split-screen format shored up his base and helped him with GOP-leaning undecided viewers.

"When they saw Kerry on split screen and saw his smirks or writing something down in reaction to what Bush said, that produced a much more negative view towards Kerry," he adds. "People who leaned toward Bush in the first place felt even worse about Kerry."
The less Kerry the better!

"One man turned out to be a certain kind of comedian's dream -- he was a lawyer, and a Republican..."

"... and Philips concluded many of his jokes about the Grand Old Party by simply gesturing at the man, as if to say: I rest my case."

Philips? That would be Emo Philips, who was in town yesterday.
"I'm not a Republican, but I'm saving up to be one."

"I aestheticized the sleaze right out of it."

Says Robinson Devor, director of "Zoo," a documentary about bestiality:
Not graphic in the least, this strange and strangely beautiful film combines audio interviews (two of the three men involved did not want to appear on camera) with elegiac visual re-creations intended to conjure up the mood and spirit of situations...

"A lot of people looked at me as if I was an exploitative person, dredging up something for profit, and that bothered me. I was certainly asked many times, often with a wrinkled brow, 'Why are you making this film?' It was something I did resent; I thought artists had the opportunity to explore anything."

In the end, Devor ended up agreeing with the Roman writer Terence, who said "I consider nothing human alien to me."
Would you go to see this? I must admit, I've already seen a movie about bestiality, but it was for laughing, not for marveling at strange beauty.

"Bill Rehnquist was concerned about efficiency. He didn't want to waste time. You could raise your hand, but it was not encouraged."

Here's a nice, big, juicy excerpt from Jan Crawford Greenburg's new book about the Supreme Court, "Supreme Conflict." Excerpting the excerpt:
The new chief justice was a master of the short statement at the Court, and he demanded brevity from fellow justices in their conferences. Rehnquist made it known that he expected less talk than his predecessor Burger had allowed. He found endless debate unproductive, and he believed the justices could best exchange legal reasoning and ideas in written memos and drafts. Whenever Rehnquist thought a justice went on too long in conference, he would simply cut him off. "It will come out in the writing," he'd say.

"Bill Rehnquist was concerned about efficiency. He didn't want to waste time. You could raise your hand, but it was not encouraged," O'Connor said of the conferences. "I thought Rehnquist's push for efficiency was a pretty good thing -- to get on with the task and get the work done."...

As chief justice, Rehnquist rarely pushed the independent O'Connor, even when she sided with liberals on social issues. Despite their long friendship -- and the number of times he needed a fifth vote -- it was a rare instance when Rehnquist picked up the phone to press his views....

It wasn't Rehnquist's style to lobby. Once, in Clarence Thomas's first year on the Court, the new justice was struggling with a case over the plight of thousands of Haitians who'd fled their war-torn country on boats for the United States. The George H.W. Bush administration ordered the coast guard to intercept them and return them directly to Haiti. Lawyers asked the justices to step in and stop the coast guard. Thomas was anguished. He sympathized with the Haitians. He called Rehnquist for advice, and the chief referred Thomas to a favorite poem by Arthur Hugh Clough. "Say not the struggle naught availeth," the poem begins, urging fortitude in the face of battle. It then ends on a hopeful note: "Westward look, the land is bright."

Thomas made a copy of the poem and slid it under the glass top of his desk, where he's kept it. He joined seven other justices and declined to intervene in the plight of the Haitian boat people. "I am deeply concerned about these allegations" of mistreatment in Haiti, Thomas wrote in a separate opinion explaining why the Court would not step in. "However, this matter must be addressed by the political branches, for our role is limited to questions of law."

Much more at the link. And in the book.

Brownback's unusually religious announcement that he's running for President.

Let's analyze it. (I'm boldfacing the religious words.)
I have decided, after much prayerful consideration, to consider a bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Now, now, he didn't say God told him to run, did he?
I am running to spread hope and ideas. We are a blessed nation at an important crossroads. War, corruption, disintegrating families, and for some, hopelessness, tear at the American Dream. We need hope and ideas.

I am running for America…to be of service in a crucial time of trial.

Ours is an exceptional nation. A nation between two oceans made up of people from every nation on earth. A great nation united by our ideals. But we are a great nation because of our goodness. If we ever lose our goodness, we will surely lose our greatness.
All very uplifting. Hope, greatness, goodness. But it's all threatened.
We believe in a culture of life—that every human life is a beautiful, sacred, unique child of a loving God.
His #1 issue is anti-abortion, and he has situated it within a larger setting of the crucial need for a nation to believe in profound ideals.
We believe in justice for all—at all times.

We believe in liberty.

But the central institutions that best transmit these values—the family and the culture—are under withering attack.

We must renew our families and rebuild our culture!

We need to revitalize marriage, support the formation of families, and encourage a culture of commitment.
The Presidency isn't about family, however, so why is he running? Justice and liberty seem to have more to do with the duties of the President, and he puts those two things first only to say "but" the family is what we primarily rely on to "transmit these values," and this gets him right back to the matter of the traditional family, which he clearly has as his core concern. But we care about more than transmitting the values of justice and liberty to the next generation, and the President has a direct role in protecting liberty and insuring that justice is done, so it's worrisome to hear him shift immediately to the the subject of the family. I'm picturing him in the debates, taking every question and finding a way to answer with family, family, family.
We need a culture that encourages what is right and discourages what is wrong—and has the wisdom to understand the difference.

Each generation of Americans is called upon to carry the torch of virtue during its brief season. If one generation lets the torch fall, its light is extinguished for all future generations. That’s a big responsibility, but we can achieve it if we pick up the torch with courage, generosity, and realism. We must meet and fulfill the job we are called to accomplish in our day. The time to act to insure our future as a nation is now.
This wordy passage mostly restates the importance of tending to the next generation. The imagery isn't very good. (What's the realistic way to pick up a torch? Grab the end that's not on fire!)
Problems abound. The federal government wastes and spends too much. We lack compassionate yet practical programs to help the poor here and around the world. We need energy independence and alternative, clean-burning, domestic-grown fuels. The scourge of cancer has killed too many and must be stopped. We need term limits for judges and members of Congress like we have for the President. We need a flat tax instead of the dreadful, incomprehensible tax code we now have.
This is the issue logjam. I certainly agree that cancer must be stopped.
And we need humility.

While I am proud to be an American, when I consider my citizenship and the responsibilities it carries today in the light of eternity, I am more humbled by it. We have been given much and will be held to account for what we have been given.
He is unashamed to present his role in the Presidency as a matter of service to God. Humility is a nice theme, and a hard one to pull off when you're putting yourself forward as deserving the most powerful position in the world. I remember John Roberts making much of the humility theme at his confirmation hearings, when he described the role of a judge. But a judge is appointed by another person -- not pressing himself forward, and a judge can rightly humble himself before the law and promise to do only what the law requires. A President must impose his will. And everyone who runs for President is pursuing his will to achieve power.
I ask mostly for your prayers. Pray for America, that our division as a people might end and that our land be healed.

Thank you for your interest and support. Thank you for your prayers. Please join our campaign of national renewal and hope for the future!

God Bless you, and God Bless this nation we love so dearly...
I heard this part of the speech on television and was struck by how religious it sounded, more so than in text form. There was passion and sincerity in his voice. Hope, healing, renewal, prayer, America, God. We get the message.

First day.

After a seemingly endless winter break, it is finally the first day of what we call the Spring Semester. I'm here before sunrise, so the thick snow out there is looking very blue. But I'm happy -- as symbolized by my taxi-yellow walls -- and eager to get started. The courses are Constitutional Law I and Federal Jurisdiction, and both start -- propitiously -- with Marbury v. Madison.

Office portrait

The poster shows part of a painting by Pierre Bonnard. Would Pierre like the blue and yellow in the photograph combined with his pinkish purple? Consider this:

January 21, 2007

A vlog about not podcasting.

If you have trouble understanding that vlog, learn to speak body:

ADDED: I have nothing to say, because my speaking orifice is distorted.

Wait. Why was this duck taken to the hospital?

Our respect for the will to live is touching and strange.

The view after the treacherous drive home.

I made it home from the café, up the hill toward home, behind a Mini Cooper that couldn't make it. Some people hopped out of a van to push the Mini a ways and get it going, but it was inching toward an even steeper part of the hill, so I took a detour the long way back, through deep snow on a sidestreet so narrow that even when there is no snow, one car will have to pull to the side if there are two cars going in opposite directions. Despite encountering another car, I made it home unscathed, parked Silvio on the street and stopped to take two photos from my front stoop:



"I am a Situationist... I am an adventurer of the present."

It's time to pay attention to the Crumbs again. Aline has another book, and we're supposed to think this represents something new. But she's been doing autobiographical comics for years, as have many female artists, so it's actually not new at all. But anyone with a book coming out is entitled to seek publicity, and if she has a famous husband to leverage her fame, am I going to object? Well, yeah, I am. A little. I like to see women succeed, but the ones who do it through men irk me a bit. It's not their fault they're married, and using one's marriage to get ahead is a long tradition. But it irks me. It irks me in Hillary. It irks me in Padma. If you take the benefits, you also have to pay the costs. Including Althousian irkage.

To its credit, the NYT buries the information about Aline's new book. Unless you click on the slide show in the sidebar, you won't notice much about it in the article. The Times took advantage of the access to R. Crumb, who really is a great artist and someone who made his own way in the world. I love the movie "Crumb." As you can see in my profile, it's on my list of favorite movies. I watch it about one a year, and when I saw it originally in the theater, I went back and saw it again the next day. It's a movie I impose on other people. I don't accept everything about Crumb (the man), and neither does the movie. But, clearly, he's a worthy artist and a fascinating human being.

Speaking of the marriage between Robert and Aline, there's this juicy material:
Another village newcomer is Christian Coudurès, a printmaker, who moved from Paris. When he was depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend, Ms. Crumb decided he was a project she wanted to take on.

“When I first met him, he was in bad shape, drinking a lot,” she said. “I decided I needed to save this worthy person.” Mr. Coudurès eventually became what Ms. Crumb calls her “second husband.”

The Crumbs have long had an open marriage, that brave (and largely discarded) institution of the 1960s. Mr. Crumb travels to Oregon once a year to rekindle a relationship with an old girlfriend.

Speaking of Mr. Coudurès, Mr. Crumb said, “Between the two of us, we kind of make an ideal husband, because he can do all the masculine things I can’t do.” He cited Mr. Coudurès’s talents for wiring, plumbing, engaging in shouting matches with the highly energetic Ms. Crumb and driving a car.

“If she ever started making comparisons about our lovemaking technique, I might get jealous,” Mr. Crumb added.

Their daughter, Sophie, is not so sure about the arrangement. She called the idea of her mother’s having a second husband “gross.”

Nonetheless, the strong-jawed Mr. Coudurès, 61, has become a part of the support system that frees Mr. Crumb to focus on work. The Frenchman, who has a thick mane of black hair, does handyman chores. His daughter Agathe McCamy, 35, helps Ms. Crumb color her comics.

“I am a Situationist,” Mr. Coudurès explained in French after sharing a dinner with the Crumbs next to a gently crackling fireplace in his kitchen. He was referring to a European avant-garde philosophy born in 1957 and championed by Guy Debord. “I am an adventurer of the present.”
Hey, they are artists. Deal with it.

If I blog that Hillary's in, do I have to blog every time anybody else is in?

Everyone's declaring all of a sudden. I guess Obama touched off a stampede. I don't think Hillary meant to go in so early. But now it's everybody into the pool.

So do you really want to talk about the scintillating Bill Richardson and Sam Brownback? Vilsack, Brownback... I have nothing to say about them, but you could write a poem about them. I will say that I think it's funny to call Vilsack "The Sack." We could think of nicknames. The Back? Speaking of nicknames, did you notice Hillary is officially "Hillary." None of that confusing "Clinton" business. Or the disturbing "Rodham."

Wait a minute! I'm just looking at Tom Vilsack's website. Is he trying to scare us? Is he running for prison warden? Vice principal? Maybe this can be fun...

"So what is it that makes Rosie's 'ching chong' so offensive?"

Language Log gives us the expert linguistic analysis. Aren't you allowed to imitate a foreign language with a simple syllable? The Swedish Chef Muppet did.

C'mon, guys, wear leggings!

The designers want you to. You might look something like this:

Well, I mean, do you look something like that? I imagine my readers as very good looking. But if you're this good looking, you don't need to wear leggings, you just need to eschew shorts, because, as you know, there is an Althousian veto on shorts (unless it's hotter than 80° or you're engaged in a sport where shorts are required). But should you wear leggings because they are comfortable?
... I know a lot of guys who wear leggings around the home to watch DVDs, lounge around before Premiership games or surf the Internet. But actually on the street, never mind into a nightclub or bar? Yet, the truth is that leggings are way more comfortable than pants and that if we fellows were not all so uptight and worried about our status we would have all begun wearing them a long time ago. So hats off to Castiglioni, and on with the leggings.
Hmmmm.... do you know a lot of guys who wear leggings around the house? I think only guys who say "around the home" know a lot of guys who wear leggings around the house. Or guys who can write things like this:
These leggy knits were paired with mercerized cotton jerkins, snug little Rude Boy with manners jackets and Two Tone era skinny ties – a big Milan trend. Marni shoes were also real winners, knobby workerist boots in bottle green or metallic gray with subtle strips of contrasting color like burgundy.
And I'm going to assume they look astonishing in leggings, so I say, yeah, get out of the house... the home... in those leggings. You'll look like Romeo... or Baryshnikov:

And if you don't, you know you're not wearing leggings around the... house now. You're wearing sweat pants. And if you go outside: Put on some pants.

ADDED: In the comments Palladian reminds us of the joyous expression leggings unleash. [UPDATE: Photo link went dead, and whatever it was we were "reminded" of back in 2007 is no longer there to jog our memories.]

But don't get carried away:

MORE: It worked for Errol "in like" Flynn:

There's a lot of snow out there.

It's coming down faster than the City of Madison is prepared to deal with today. The trip to the airport was a little rough and then, driving back toward town, it was crazy. A car couldn't make it up the hill and everything got backed up. I saw it in time and took a detour, then eased into an open parking space right by State Street.

Looking at the snow through the café window

It looks pretty from here.

Looking at the snow through the café window

Ah! My coffee.

Looking at the snow through the café window

Let me gaze.

Looking at the snow through the café window

Joe Queenan has had it with reviewers calling things "astonishing."

Yeah! I agree. If you picture it literally, a reader astonished by a book looks mentally unstable. Maybe if he found he was a character in it, it would be astonishing.

Queenan's high-profile mocking of "astonishing" should put the word off limits. Now, reviewers will have to think of another word for -- let's face it -- good. You can't just say "good" or "really good." You can't use "amazing" or (especially) "awesome." Too teenagery. "Great" got ruined quite a while ago. I think "great" got fatally overused by people who had their vocabulary severely diminished by marijuana. (It was the only word of praise you could think of other than "wow," back in the days before the discovery of "awesome.") "Grand" -- I think -- was dead from overuse half a century ago -- along with "swell." "Terrific" is just too casual, despite its root in terror. I guess there was a time when saying a book was terrific would call up a mental picture of a reader who seemed ridiculously mentally unstable... unless, of course, the book was about him.

So get out your thesauri, reviewers. You pathetic praise-slatherers.