April 28, 2007

It's like this.

I mean....




I give up....


It is spring, right?


A glimmer ...


Alec Baldwin has no idea how to get out of a jam.

Alessandra Stanley watched Alec Baldwin on "The View." He was trying to patch things up after that terrible publicity over his enraged phone message to his 11-year-old daughter:
Alec Baldwin said on “The View” yesterday that he wanted to quit that NBC sitcom to write a book about “parental alienation.”...

Mr. Baldwin told Barbara Walters and Rosie O’Donnell that he wanted to devote his life to exposing the injustices perpetrated on divorced dads, and that he hoped to publish a book this fall on divorce litigation. Mr. Baldwin’s long-winded, self-obsessed soliloquy on his usurped rights as a father and the fiendish acts of his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, was so impassioned that Ms. Walters had to remind him that his first concern should be his relationship with Ireland. (When he mentioned his daughter, it was to make a point about her mother’s perfidy.)

He was looking to persuade but was mostly painful to watch — a little like Captain Queeg melting down on the witness stand in “The Caine Mutiny.”
Oh, how painful. I wonder what ridiculous father's rights characters have taken him in, are writing the book for him, and think he'll be a good figurehead for their cause. And what's more "alienating" to the child than having a father blustering about how bad her mother is? The best way for Alec Baldwin to make us -- and, I'm guessing, the child -- love him is to do the thing he does so well: act. Put that wild passion into playing characters. Or is that too sad? No one loves him for the man he actually is. The book's not going to help though.

"Moderate Ann Althouse waited for the transcript and called it a win for Bill Richardson."

Slate's blog rounder upper Michael Weiss, perhaps a little to eager to disrespect Bill Richardson, reads this post of mine as signifying that I only read the transcript of the Democratic debate. It's funny to think if you only didn't have to see (and hear) him, you might like him. But, of course, as you can see, my post plainly begins saying I watched two thirds of it before turning to the transcript . In fact, after reading the final third on transcript, I watched it too. I do admit, however, that Richardson is not eye-pleasing. He's most impressive on the radio.

Weiss begins his round up with this:
Barry Rubinowitz at The Nattering Nabob discovered newfound respect for Mr. Kucinch after seeing the Mrs.: "Most Surprising Moment: Seeing Dennis Kucinich's wife, Elizabeth. He got a tall, hot, redhead with a British accent. Not sure how he did it, but damn, he got the respect of a lot of men across America. If he can get that babe, maybe he can end the war and solve the health care problem."
I've got to give Rubinowitz credit for not making the usual witticism, which he deftly made us feel that he was going to do by starting with "he got the respect of a lot of men across America." You know you thought he'd say: If he can get that babe, the rest of us guys have hope. So it was funny to say "maybe he can end the war and solve the health care problem." But ordinary men can't compare their babe-magnetism to that of a man with power and celebrity (even at the Kucinich level), and war and the health care problem have no propensity to yield to the seductiveness of power and celebrity.

And I'm impressed by what some of what Rubinowitz has in a sharp summary of Richardson:
Bill Richardson – It isn’t good in a Democratic primary to be referred to as the NRA’s favorite candidate. His favorite Supreme Court Justice – Whizzer White...Whizzer White??? A man who was opposed to Roe v. Wade? Horrible speaker, bad impression – may have seriously damaged his VP chances. He has no Presidential chance at all.
I don't think he's a horrible speaker. As I've said, I was impressed when I heard him on the radio. But I think Rubinowitz -- and many Americans -- may be repelled by the way he looks. While we are wallowing in self-love over our acceptance of the black candidate Obama, we ought to think about whether we are feeling an aversion to a man whose facial features are Mexican.

Anyway, Rubinowitz is right about the way the question about the NRA hurt Richardson and how bad the Whizzer White answer was. It's bad if people know enough to remember how conservative White was on rights issues, but it's also bad if they don't. I think most people -- well, maybe not most people who'd watch a debate this early in the game -- would just think Richardson was absurdly out of it to name someone from so far back.

Maybe Richardson has the idea of trying to be like President Kennedy (who appointed White). Richardson did not go to law school, so it's not as if his sentiments about Supreme Court justices grow out of reading court opinions. "Whizzer White" probably popped into his head because he likes President Kennedy and because he knows -- the name "Whizzer" helps you remember -- that White was a great football player. Isn't Richardson the manliest of the Democratic candidates, with his guns and his sports? Unfortunately, he doesn't look athletic and, in any case, Democrats seem to be immune to such red state attractions. At least not until after they've chosen their candidate.

April 27, 2007

Why does Judge Kozinski hate blogs? (And does he, really?)

Everyone's blogging about Judge Kozinski saying -- joking? -- that he hates blogs:
ERIC GOLDMAN: So but what about blogs? . . .

JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI: I hate them, hateful things.

ERIC GOLDMAN: Why do you hate blogs? . . . .

JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI: I just think it's so self-indulgent, you know. "Oh, I'm so proud of what I'm saying, I think the world instantly wants to know what I'm thinking today." People wake up thinking, . . . . "I wonder what great thoughts have come into his mind this morning that I can feel myself edified by. I can't really have breakfast — really enjoy my day — until I hear the great thoughts of Howard Bashman!" I don't think so. I go for months without ever knowing what Howard has to say. So I don't know. I find it sort of self-indulgent. And I find it grandiloquent. And I find it annoying, particularly if I'm in an audience and people are sitting there typing in their computers.
My first thought was: he's kidding. "I hate them, hateful things" -- that sounds so diva-ish. I'm reading the text and hearing -- oh, I don't know -- the voice of Camille Paglia? Or, I think of "The Pillow Book" of Sei Shonagon which has that great chapter "Hateful Things." Did you know that "The Pillow Book" is said to be "what blogs were like 1000 years ago"? Some of her hateful things actually sound like she was complaining about blogs 1000 years in advance:
A man who has nothing in particular to recommend him discusses all sorts of subjects at random as though he knew everything.

To envy others and to complain about one's own lot; to speak badly about people; to be inquisitive about the most trivial matters and to resent and abuse people for not telling one, or, if one does manage to worm out some facts, to inform everyone n the most detailed fashion as if one had known all from the beginning -- oh, how hateful!...

One is in the middle of a story when someone butts in and tries to show that he is the only clever person in the room. Such a person is hateful, and so, indeed, is anyone, child or adult, who tries to push himself forward.

One is telling a story about old times when someone breaks in with a little detail that he happens to know, implying that one's own version is inaccurate -- disgusting behavior!

Very hateful is a mouse that scurries all over the place.
But the second thing I, your scurrying mouse, thought was: Kozinski is jealous because he wants to blog. Over at Above the Law, they're talking in the comments, and I see that someone agrees with me: "Methinks he's jealous that his judgeiness means he can't blog." Someone else says: "Koz could blog if he wanted to, Posner does." But that misses the point. For a judge to blog, he has to blog in the stolid, somber, serious Becker-Posner Blog style. That's not the "hateful" thing described in Kozinski's quote. All that fun stuff, that "self-indulgent" stuff, that's what he wants to do.

You know, many years ago, about 20 years ago, I was at a conference with Judge Kozinski, and one night at dinner, he told me his formula for becoming a federal judge. Like he was clueing me in so I could get there too. I told him I thought it was better to be a law professor, and my reason was personal freedom. You have to be so sober and decorous all the time if you're a judge. So, see, Alex. I was right! Look at meeeee.... I'm blooooggggginggggg and you're not!

Should bloggers do these conference calls with candidates?

I'm in the middle of writing a very important blog post, which is to say, a blog post that I'm inspired to write, and we're coming up on the time for one of these conference calls I sometimes get invited to do. I usually blow them off, but I said I'd do this one, on the second inquiry, because it's John McCain. How can you not tap into a conference call with John McCain? You can ask him a question. Okay. Well. But the funny thing is: I've been thinking about it and I don't have a question. I mean, not a question I could ask him personally. And you can't exactly horse around. They say you're cantankerous. Are you too cantankerous to be President? To some extent, is cantankerousness a good thing in a President?

As you know, I'm big on the separation between blog and campaign. The bloggers are flattered by the appearance of access, and it must be worth it to the candidate to get publicity and a greater likelihood of favorable coverage. I resist all that, but I have called in. I'll let you know how it works out. I'm on music hold right now. The song: "I Think I'm Going Out of My Head."

ADDED: Now, we're in "listen only" mode, which means we're a captive audience for McCain's statement. He says he's going to be talking with bloggers like this every two weeks.

... He's just talking about where he's been, naming towns, and he declines to go on about any issues, saying he knows bloggers like to ask questions and goes right to the questions, which I appreciate.

... The first question is about going after bin Ladin, which McCain, of course, intends to do.

... The second question is about the bill on funding the war in Iraq. He says he'd veto it, not just because of the time limit, but because of the pork. "What does $25 million for peanut storage have to do with the war in Iraq?"

... Lorie Byrd compliments him for his form of expression, specifically the way he said "Lighten up and get a life." McCain says he's going to keep being himself and keep his sense of humor. He mentions having bloggers on the campaign bus. He's not going to blame the media if things don't go well for him.

... Ah. I got my question in just now, which was to invite him to talk about what sort of person he would put on the Supreme Court, and specifically if he would strengthen a conservative majority or if he would work with liberals and others who care about preserving the balance that we've had on the Court for so long. He said he wanted, above all, a person with "a proven record of strict construction." This is "probably a conservative position, but," he said, "I'm proud of that position." He wants judges who won't "legislate." Then, he added that "this is new" and something we may not have heard: he'd like someone who had not just judicial experience but also "some other life experiences," such as time in the military, in a corporation, or in a small business. He would like to see "not just vast judicial knowledge, but also knowledge of the world."

... Someone asks about the Electoral College and what new states could be put in play. He emphasizes California and also mentions Pennsylvania and New York. "We gotta put more states in play."

... Someone asks about taxes and I can't hear it, but I can hear the answer, which includes a description of how taxes are collected in Estonia. You go onto a website that informs you what you owe, and you click "yes" or "no." They have nearly 100% compliance. I liked that detail.

... These notes don't cover everything that was asked. He took a lot, answered them all seriously, and sounded sharp and serious and not pompous. Several times he finished the answer with "see my point?" All together, he spoke to us for more than half an hour, nearly all of it on the questions.

So, was I coopted?

"The happiness of this Country depend much upon the deliberations of the federal Convention which is now sitting."

"It, however, can only lay the foundation — the community at large must raise the edifice."

So wrote George Washington in 1787, from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, in a letter, found just recently, that had been pasted into a young girl's scrapbook in 1826. Very nice. The words evoke the notion of a living Constitution.

Finishing the debate in transcript form, I give the win to Richardson.

I think I got about two thirds of the way through the debate last night. Here's what I managed to write. I was just about to watch the end of the debate this morning to finish up, but I found this handy transcript. I like a nice transcript. It's quicker to read than to watch, you don't have to type out the quotes, and evading the question is so obvious that what's irritating seen on TV becomes almost amusing.

Let me start reading where I left off last night and pick out what interests me.

Obama is asked "what are America's three most important allies around the world?" He throws in so much extra material that he gets around to naming two: the European Union and Japan. A follow-up question is asked: "I didn't hear you mention Israel, and I ask because there is a quote attributed to your name. You said recently, 'No one is suffering more than the Palestinian people.' Do you stand by that remark?" Answer:
Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said.
What the remark said. There's that remark, talking away, and I'm over here, so I guess you can say I'm standing by it. Standing by, watching with amazement, wondering what that darned remark will come out with next.

But in his next sentence, he takes ownership of the remark:
And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region.
Israel has been one of our most important allies around the world. It's the only established democracy in the Middle East. It's the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East.
Has been? So it "has been" an important ally, but it "is" a "linchpin" of our "efforts."

Hillary Clinton is asked about Giuliani's statement that "the Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us," and "America will be safer with a Republican president." She responds with what looks like her favorite debate move: say the current President is a failure.
We haven't secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems. You can go across this country and see so much that has not been done. The resources haven't gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government the way that they need to. And I think that this administration has consistently tried to hype the fear without delivering on the promise of making America safer. And its foreign policy around the world, as you've heard from all of my colleagues here, has also made the world less stable, which, of course, has a ripple effect with respect to what we're going to face in the future. So I hope that we can put that myth to rest. It is certainly something I will try to do during the campaign.
There is absolutely nothing there about why she would do a better job as the next President, and we were just reminded of Giuliani. Who do you want to trust, Clinton or Giuliani? That's the question. She gives not one shred of a reason here to go with her. Is there some way she would secure our borders and ports better than he would? Picture her standing at a debate next to Giuliani a year and a half from now. That's what you ought to do if you're trying to pick the best Democratic candidate. Is she the one you Democrats want standing there?

There's a "show of hands" question: "Do you believe there is such a thing as a global war on terror?" Kucinich doesn't raise his. I don't bother to read his explanation.

Let's read something important. Obama is asked "how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas" if there were another attack on two American cities and we knew "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that al Qaida did it:
Well, the first thing we'd have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans.
The first thing he thinks of is Katrina. Bush failed there, don't you know. Think fast, Senator. It's another 9/11! What is the military response? Show us you can think like a Commander in Chief:
And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we've got good intelligence, a., to find out that we don't have other threats and attacks potentially out there, and b., to find out, do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.

But what we can't do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community.

Because as already been stated, we're not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We've got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they've got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.
So the military response is: think and talk.

Edwards is supremely fortunate to get a shot right now at the same question:
Well, the first thing I would do is be certain I knew who was responsible, and I would act swiftly and strongly to hold them responsible for that.

The second thing I would do -- and, of course, some of these have been mentioned already -- is find out how did this happen without our intelligence operations finding out that it was in a planning stage; how did they get through what we all recognize is a fairly porous homeland security system that we have in this country that has not been built the way it needed to be built?

You know, did the weapons that created these two simultaneous strikes come through our ports? Were they in one of the containers that have not been checked? How did these weapons get here, and how do we stop it from happening again?

I believe -- and this goes to the question you asked earlier, just a few minutes ago -- global war on terror. I think there are dangerous people and dangerous leaders in the world that America must deal with and deal with strongly.

But we have more tools available to us than bombs.

And America needs to use the tools that are available to them, so that these people who are sitting on the fence, the terrorists are trying to recruit the next generation get pushed to our side, not to the other side. We've had no long-term strategy. We need one and I will provide one as president.
So, be strong. But mainly just try very hard to figure out how they did it and how we can defend against the next attack. His idea seems to be about winning the hearts of the next generation. How do you fight the terrorists? Why not make them love us so they won't want to be terrorists anymore? Surely, if they see the Democrats have brought their new tools into the White House, they'll feel the love.

Now, Clinton gets her shot. Come on, Hillary, show you can do it! Your two biggest opponents have set this up perfectly.
Well, again, having been a senator during 9/11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack and the impact that it has, far beyond those that are directly affected.
Boring. Non-responsive.
I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate.
Yes! Retaliate!
If we are attacked, and we can determine who is behind that attack, and if there are nations that supported or gave material aid to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond.

Now, that doesn't mean we go looking for other fights. You know, I supported President Bush when he went after Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decision that I would have made, had I been president, because we still haven't found bin Laden. So let's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can to destroy them.
Attack! Destroy! Thank God, one of them is willing to say it. Hillary wins.

No one else is given a turn at this, the key question of the night. But the next time Richardson is called on -- with the special Hispanic question "How do you feel about normalizing relations with Castro's Cuba?" -- he insists on going back to the "two cities" question. Good for him! And he must have been pissed to have been excluded from the A group.
I would respond militarily, aggressively. I'll build international support for our goals. I'd improve our intelligence, but that would be a direct threat on the United States, and I would make it clear that that would be an important, decisive, military response, surgical strike, whatever it takes.
That beats Hillary. Richardson is my favorite of the Democrats. And Obama and Edwards are unacceptable.

But wait.

Taking a cue from Richardson, when Obama is asked a question about lightbulbs -- yeah, really, what kind of lightbulbs! -- he goes back to the terrorism question. Now, that he's heard the others answer, he knows he's screwed it up.
But one thing that I do have to go back on, on this issue of terrorism: We have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down, networks have to be dismantled.

There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military and, in some cases, lethal force to take out terrorists and, at the same time, building the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been so lacking over the last six years.

And that, I think, is going to be one of the most important issues that the next president is going to have to do, is to repair the kinds of challenges that we face.
Am I going to let him off the hook for this? "In some cases, lethal force"?

Kucinich is spurred to challenge Obama.
My good friend, Senator Obama, that's a very provocative statement. You previously said that all options are on the table with respect to Iran. And I think that it's important for people to reflect on the real meaning of that, that you're setting the stage for another war.
Oh, no. Kucinich is pushing him back into the peace corner.
I think it's important that we move away from global warming and global warring. And the connection is oil. We're in Iraq for oil. We're looking at attacking Iran for oil.
Oh, no.
And until we change our international policies, which quit using war as an instrument of policy ... and change our energy policies ... we will continue to repeat this sorry cycle.
Obama responds (with Kuchinich interrupting him throughout):
I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran. But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region.... And I don't think that's disputed by any expert. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism... Hezbollah and Hamas.... There is no contradiction between us taking seriously the need, as you do, to want to strengthen our alliances around the world -- but I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.
Gravel goes wild here and says, among other things: "Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barack. Barack, who do you want to nuke?"

Obama's all: "I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise."

Well, now I do want to watch the video. It seems as though Obama comes to life at the end, that he does best when he's reacting to the other candidates, rather than answering the question cold. This is a good sign that he may be an engaging candidate. I'll say more when I've seen the video.

From the transcript, I like Richardson best. Hillary didn't do anything wrong. Obama worries me. Edwards did not impress me. The others... I don't have to have an opinion on them. But what a nut that Gravel is.

UPDATE: Mere Rhetoric notes a discrepancy in some transcripts and questions whether Obama said "Israel has been one of our most important allies" as I have it quoted or "Israel is one of our most important allies" as the quote appears elsewhere. Since I have the debate TiVo'd, I checked. My quote is correct. I am certain.

More antagonism toward guestblogging candidates.

Beltway Blogroll has a comprehensive post about Hillary Clinton's "guestblogging" at Firedoglake. It notes the Sleuth piece that frets about the connection between Firedoglake and blackface humor and goes on to talk about what I said was more important, the dual problem of a blog's sacrificing its independence by publishing campaign PR for the candidate and the candidate's presenting herself in an inappropriate context.

Beltway Blogroll quotes one of Firedoglake's own commenters taking issue with the decision to present Hillary as a guestblogger:
"Forgive me, but maybe someone can tell me exactly what was accomplished by having Hilary [sic] as a 'guest?' ... [S]he didn't say one thing that wasn't part of her campaign talking points and managed to duck answering any of the more pointed questions."
One of the commenters at Firedoglake was Jeralyn Merritt, who fell below her usual astute standard to smarm:
Senator Clinton, Jane and Christy,

This was such a welcome surprise. I hope you do it again on other issues. It’s a great way for the candidates to make our acquaintance and strengthen our working relationship with them.

Ugh! Beltway Blogroll is on my wavelength:
The problem is that the pursuit of a "working relationship" with campaigns can undermine the very spirit of the blogosphere. As one Firedoglake reader noted: "Senator Clinton is very on message. I don't think of a blog as a place to focus on just one subject. I can understand a candidate insisting on this as a requirement for appearing, but, on the other hand, it just doesn't seem bloggish."...

[Other commenters wrote:]

"[T]hese kinds of cameo appearances are of very little use, other than enabling the candidate to hype her talking points."

"I think you guys made a mistake, believing that you could INCREASE your blog power, or readership, or whatever, by bringing Hillary in here, having her field a few sweetheart questions, and then having her waltz out with credit for making a 'tough blogsite' appearance."
Firedoglake resisted taking this criticism seriously. TRex chose instead to write a vicious rant against me, calling me a "token," a "pet," a "talking dog," and a "vile, despicable" person. That is, ironically, he ended up underlining my point that Firedoglake is such an ugly, nasty place that a mainstream candidate should want to avoid it. Yeah, the traffic is tempting, but the traffic is there because of these very qualities. Porn sites get a lot of traffic too, you know.

April 26, 2007

Audible Althouse #83.

It's a podcast. I'm waiting for the Democratic candidates to start their debate. Also: migraines and a dream about a bird that hovers and dies.

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

But all the headachey dreamers subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose, every way you look at this you lose.

Ooh, I've still got the song "Mrs. Robinson" running through my head. It was playing on the radio as I drove off to work today. But now it's evening and I'm -- as Paul Simon wrote -- "going to the candidate's debate." Not going, really. Watching on TV. I said I'd "simulblog," but, truth be known, this is just a TiVo-blog, and I may just fast forward through some of the candidates. And I'm starting on delay. I don't want to deceive you, my friends. Let's start now.

FIRST ADDITION. Mike Gravel? The hell? I was trying to count up who the 8 were. I'd forgotten Dodd. Gravel... that's news to me. I didn't even know he was still alive!

We're told they will be limited to 60 second answers. Cool!

The first question is to Hillary Clinton. She's asked about Harry Reid's statement that the Iraq war is lost. Does she agree? She avoids answering, instead choosing to talk about how the Congress has voted to end the war and how "proud" she is of that. She refers to Reid as "Leader Reid." She sounds hoarse. It's entirely scripted. The 60 seconds expires, the question unanswered.

SECOND ADDITION. Biden is given the same question and he, like her, reels out a scripted, nonresponsive answer. Now Obama, in an indication that he's more of a serious candidate than Biden, is given a new question. He's quoted as saying the war in Iraq is "dumb" and asked to square that with the sacrifices of the troops. He expresses pride that he's always opposed the war. He talks about the importance of equipment. I'm struck by how quickly he speaks. He sounds different from the way he has sounded in his solo appearances.

Edwards is asked about his apology for voting for the war and a statement he made about the need for an honest leader who will admit mistakes: was he talking about Hillary? He says "no." So much for honesty! Edwards is fast off the mark with a lie. A lie about honesty. We need someone who will restore our trust, he says.

THIRD ADDITION. We go back to Clinton, because she was attacked (though Edwards tried to act like it wasn't an attack). She says she takes "responsibility" for her vote and that she would not have voted as she did if she knew what she knows now. The real question, she says -- correctly! -- is "what do we do now?" But then she runs Bush down for "stubbornly" refusing to accede to the "will of the American people," which makes me wish I could ask her whether she thinks the role of the President is to adopt the military strategy that the polls show the people preferring (which would be completely incompetent).

Kucinich says we shouldn't fund the war.

FOURTH ADDITION. Richardson is asked if he would fund the troops if he were in Congress. He says "no." The war is a "disaster." He would "withdraw all of our troops" by the end of the year. But he'd apply "intensive diplomacy" that would have the three religious factions working out their problems. He'd have a "security conference" that would include Iran and Syria. And he'd have other countries take over the reconstruction and security. Okaaaay. He's for magic. Great.

Chris Dodd talks fast. Gravel would "find another way." He'd "make it a felony to stay there," he says, sounding nutty.

FIFTH ADDITION. Obama is asked what "a mission complete status in Iraq" would mean. He avoids the question and sounds stressed and clipped in a way that is, again, different from the way he has sounded in his more controlled, individual appearances. He taps into some prepared tape loops about the "strain" on the military and sounds a little desperate. He's scowling. He says we're "one vote away, we are one signature away, or 16 votes away from ending this war." He avoids the question and consumes all his time. He really seems too green and unprepared for this.

Clinton is given time for "rebuttal"! But nothing was aimed at her. She must feel great. Everyone wants to know what she thinks, and Obama is not looking good. She doesn't answer the question either though. She repeats the idea that the President is intrasigent. Ho-hum.

SIXTH ADDITION. Obama is asked about a seemingly corrupt deal.

Edwards is asked about the haircuts. It was a mistake to pay for them out of campaign funds. He does a good job of saying that he lives a "blessed" life now, but "it's not where I come from." He tells a folksy anecdote about having to leave a restaurant when he was a child because his father couldn't afford the prices he saw on the menu. He's asked about hedge funds and how they could be "helping America." I don't think he answers.

Hillary is given a shot at the hedge fund question. She praises the market economy and the regulation of it. She segues into talk about New York and its manifold interests.

Richardson is asked about his statement that he's taking a long time to think about what to do about Gonzales "because he's Hispanic." "He came from nothing. I know the guy. Did it affect that he was Hispanic in what I said? Yeah, it did." People want "candor," not "blow-dried perfection."

SEVENTH ADDITION. Gravel sounds wacky. He's wasting our time. Or worse. Everyone who dies in Iraq is "dying in vain." He's passionate and angry about that.

Clinton is asked about the unfavorable opinion people have of her. She says it's that she's stuck to what she believes. Among other things: universal health care. America is ready for that.

EIGHTH ADDITION: Sorry for the delay getting through this. Life beckons! Okay... now they're going to talk about abortion. Blah, blah, blah... complexity. They all support the right to privacy but also try to show respect to those who care about the right to life. A few candidates are asked who their favorite Supreme Court Justice is. The official answer seems to be: Ginsburg.

The Virginia Tech question: what should government do. This leads only to talk of gun control. They're asked if they've owned guns. Those who have are: Gravel, Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and -- hey! -- Kucinich.

NINTH ADDITION. A question about the Confederate flag in South Carolina. No answer of significance. A question about what mistakes they will admit to. I'm getting bored and burnt out. There's still another half hour to go. Maybe I'll come back to this tomorrow. But I've had all I can take for one night. (This is the problem with TiVo, of course. I stop it to write something, and before you know it, 90 minutes expands into 4 hours!)

"What can one say, when three pecks can be made into an issue in the land of the Kama Sutra?"

Richard Gere is in trouble in India.

UPDATE: Gere was on "The Daily Show" last night, and Jon Stewart asked him about it. He didn't seem too concerned.

"Carbon credits" can be quite fake.

A Financial Times investigation found. It was always pretty obvious -- wasn't it? -- that these things seem fraudulent, but we accepted it -- didn't we? -- because Al Gore presented it as true and put his credibility on the line. This has to undercut his vouching for the science in "An Inconvenient Truth." But that's okay, not because I don't want to take the science seriously, but because it's dangerous to have a politician who purports to embody truth and gets people to buy it.

Jonathan Adler says:
The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them.
I've never seen why it was enough for these characters to buy their way out of an environmentally damaging lifestyle. If they have money to spend on making the world greener, why don't they contribute it as an act of philanthropy and then also reduce their carbon footprint? Why would having the money to spend make the damage you do acceptable, especially if you're preaching to people who don't have the money that they, unlike you, will have to change the way they live? That never made sense.

Big debate tomorrow. [I mean: today!]

I make a note to simulblog.

Oral argument in the campaign finance case.

Here's Linda Greenhouse's write up on the Supreme Court argument in the Wisconsin Right to Life case, which is about the provision the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prohibits issue ads right before the election if they mention the name of a candidate. The Court rejected a facial challenge in McConnell in 2003, but this is an as-applied challenge, and, moreover, McConnell was decided 5-4 with O'Connor in the majority. Alito has replaced O'Connor and may be expected to vote with Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, who dissented in McConnell. The fourth dissenter was Rehnquist, and Roberts, who replaced Rehnquist may be expected to join Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy as well.
For the first half-hour of the argument, Justice Alito said nothing, leaning forward in his seat at the end of the bench with an intense expression. He finally intervened during the argument by Seth P. Waxman, who was defending the law on behalf of a group of its Congressional supporters including Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is the other lead sponsor.

What would happen, Justice Alito asked Mr. Waxman, if a group had been running an advertisement about an issue, “and let’s say a particular candidate’s position on the issue is very well known to people who pay attention to public affairs.” Suppose the blackout period established by the law was approaching — 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election — “and an important vote is coming up in Congress on that very issue.” Could the group be prohibited from continuing to broadcast the ad?

That would depend on the context, Mr. Waxman replied.

Justice Alito did not appear satisfied. “What do you make of the fact that there are so many groups that say this is really impractical?” he asked. His reference was to the impressive array of ideological strange bedfellows that filed briefs in support of Wisconsin Right to Life’s challenge. These range from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association to the United States Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO.

“I love it!” Mr. Waxman replied energetically, as if he had been waiting for just such a question. He said that although these many groups opposed the law, they were living with it and contenting themselves with running advertisements that advocated their positions on issues without mentioning candidates. The only two as-applied challenges, he noted, had both been brought by Wisconsin Right to Life’s lawyer, James Bopp Jr., who also has another case pending before the court.

Chief Justice Roberts was unimpressed by this line of argument. “I think it’s an important part of their exercise of First Amendment rights to petition their senators and congressmen and to urge others to, as in these ads, contact your senators, contact your congressmen,” he said, adding, “Just because the A.C.L.U. doesn’t do that doesn’t seem particularly pertinent to me.”

ADDED: And here's Dahlia Lithwick:
Clement spends his rebuttal time tussling with Scalia, who seems to love nothing more these days. But when we file out of the courtroom, it doesn't look like Clement's snagged his five votes for the proposition that an ad that quacks and has webbed feet is probably a duck, aka an attack ad in disguise. And, much to Breyer's dismay, if that means gutting the electioneering provision of McCain-Feingold, so be it. When it comes to curbing corruption versus curbing political speech, it looks like speech is the winner today. Which means that there will be an awful lot more vicious, snarling, not to mention expensive, ducks coming to your TV screens next election season.
Then bring on the ducks. We will roast them right here to a fine crispy finish.

"Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center...."

"... and the breaking of what Sen. Barack Obama has aptly termed '9/11 fever,' it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history’s great ironies."

Does anyone serve up more horrendously muddled verbiage than Keith Olbermann? I mean if something is "profoundly and disturbingly evident" why is the hour "indeterminable"? Something is either clear or it's not. And must those dreadful metaphors also be mixed? A pyre and a fever are two different kinds of burning, so it's not clever to put them together, and the burning buildings of 9/11 are not an appropriate place to demonstrate cleverness, if in fact you were capable of it.

But, you say you've identified "one of history's great ironies"? (By the way, what are the great ironies of history? I've never seen that top 10 list.)
Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.
Excuse me a minute. I just want to diagram that sentence. Or, class, the assignment is to rewrite that in English.

Oh, blah, I can't continue to reprint this blather. Let me summarize. He quotes Giuliani saying that America will be safer with a Republican President because the Democrats will take us into a defensive policy in the war on terror and that "we will have more losses and it will go on longer." Translating Rudy's pithy remarks, Olbermann manages to avoid verbosity. What Giuliani is really saying -- don't you know? -- is: "vote Democratic and die."

Olbermann's portentous zinger: "How ... dare ... you, sir?"

What I'd like to see is not all this ridiculous gasping about who is and who isn't a monster but a serious discussion about whether the presidential campaign is offering us a choice between an offensive and a defensive response to terrorism and, if it is, which we ought to prefer. But it seems we've all already formed emotional attachments to one side or the other. Or else we've tuned out politics for now. Whatever, I recommend tuning out Olbermann. What a gasbag.

ADDED: Kevin Drum has a better response to Giuliani's remarks and the lame comebacks from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:
Neither one of them took the chance to do what Rudy did: explain in a few short sentences why the country would be safer with a Democrat in the Oval Office. Is it really that hard? Giuliani's position is clear: more war, more domestic surveillance, more torture, and fewer civil liberties. And while it's true that the liberal position on making America secure is a little more complicated than the schoolyard version of foreign affairs beloved of Bush-era Republicans, it's not that complicated. So instead of complaining about how mean Giuliani is, why can't Obama and Clinton just tell us what they'd do?

Whining just reinforces the message that Democrats are wimps. The real way to be "hard hitting" is to explain why Giuliani is wrong and what Democrats would do instead — and why the average Joe and Jane would be safer and better off without guys like Giuliani bumbling recklessly around the globe leaving a stronger al-Qaeda and a weaker America in their wake. Until they do, Rudy and the Republicans are going to win every round of this fight.
I say that's better, but I hear in Drum's prose a contempt for the voter. Aw, it shouldn't take much to tip "the average Joe and Jane" the other way. Republican's fight incompetently, so fighting only makes things worse. Get it, you dummies?

How incompetent is Harry Reid?

According to David Broder:
Hailed by his staff as "a strong leader who speaks his mind in direct fashion," Reid is assuredly not a man who misses many opportunities to put his foot in his mouth. In 2005, he attacked Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

He called President Bush " a loser," then apologized. He said that Bill Frist, then Senate majority leader, had "no institutional integrity" because Frist planned to leave the Senate to fulfill a term-limits pledge. Then he apologized to Frist.

Most of these earlier gaffes were personal, bespeaking a kind of displaced aggressiveness on the part of the onetime amateur boxer. But Reid's verbal wanderings on the war in Iraq are consequential -- not just for his party and the Senate but for the more important question of what happens to U.S. policy in that violent country and to the men and women whose lives are at stake.
The Broder column is getting a lot of blog response. Some of it is generic babble, like this from Josh Marshall:
I really don't know whether I find it more painful or amusing to watch David Broder's quickening decline. But I'm going to go with amusing. Because clearly there's some deep streak of evil within me that gets a kick out of watching one man struggle so desperately for relevance and even coherence.
Yeah, Broder's old and you're sick of him. If you can't attack the argument, attack the man.

The candidate is not "guestblogging." The blog is publishing a press release.

Please tell me no one is stupid enough to be impressed that Firedoglake has got Hillary Clinton to "guestblog" over there.

I'm irked when bloggers surrender their precious independence, but others are tsking that the candidate has besmirched herself with the ugliness associated the blog. WaPo's Sleuth takes Hillary to task for "guestblogging" on Firedoglake, where Jane Hamsher usually blogs, because of that time Hamsher blogged on Huffington Post and published a photoshopped image of Joe Lieberman in blackface. The Sleuth digs up the obviously not unbiased opinion of a former Lieberman spokesman (Dan Gerstein):
Gerstein said he understands the Clinton camp wanting to reach out to lots of potential voters, especially women. But given that Clinton, "under the microscope to a much higher degree of scrutiny," Gerstein said, "I don't think this was necessarily a good idea for her."

He suggested that Clinton's decision was particularly politically dangerous in light of the senator's vocal criticism of Don Imus after the shock jock's racially demeaning comments about the Rutgers women's basketball players.

Clinton could have chosen a blogger with "less baggage," Gerstein said. "Just as pure strategy, why would you want to take a risk and invite scorn and controversy and an accusation of hypocrisy when you don't have to?"
Oh, good lord. Imus again. That's a hilariously attenuated connection between Hillary and "nappy headed hos."

Bloggers -- and shock jocks -- need to be free to swing wildly. But candidates need to be careful. We know the Clinton campaign is working on taming and coopting the bloggers. I hate that. I mock that. But I wouldn't pin that blackface nonsense on Hillary.

Still, Firedoglake is a hardcore place, and Clinton doesn't belong there. To illustrate, let's look at a couple things published on Firedoglake the day after Clinton "posted."

There's this:
Oh, Michelle, you moron. Granted, dressing yourself up in what appears to be the anime version of a cheerleader costume may make all the fat, sweaty, unibrow-ed armchair warriors who read your blog squirt in their pants, but if you're going to jump around and cheer, you should at least make an effort to remove the stick from up your ass. It would make your jumps a far sight less stiff and spastic-looking....

To your Rightard masters, you are essentially a talking dog, a novelty act, an amusing freak. You are their Token Asian. (Although, I'm sure they don't have any compunctions about calling you "Oriental" behind your back, like you're some kind of rug or something.) You are a minority woman who sees absolutely no conflict of interest in making a mint out of (to use your own charming phrase) "stoking racial demogoguery"....

If there is any justice at all in the world, God will see to it that you will spend your declining years eating dirty hospital linens for a living.
Then there's a post titled "What All Those Little Beat-Offs At Red State Really Hate When They Say They Hate Abortion" -- with a video of Pink singing "U & Ur Hand." We see the singer in a sports bra, jumping rope bouncily, posing sexily, and singing about rejecting a man. The punchline in the lyrics is that the only sex he'll have tonight is masturbation. (I don't get the connection to abortion. Wouldn't women be more likely to reject sex and consign men to masturbation if abortion were illegal?) Does Hillary want to be associated with this? I mean, I think it's funny to picture her rejecting Bill by singing "U & Ur Hand," but it's just not quite right for the campaign.

So I can see why Firedoglake is popular (with about 80,000 visits a day -- not 100,000 as WaPo says). It's sexy and wild and viciously political. That's fun for the people who agree with the politics and who enjoy brutal, sexual humor, but it should be poison for a mainstream candidate. Let the blog be the blog and the candidate be the candidate.

Separation of blog and campaign forever.

IN THE COMMENTS: Reader_iam says:
I must say, that Malkin video is truly stupid and badly done. Embarrassing, really--but Malkin's playing to the more puerile, simplistic part of her base. (The fact that she does this so often is one of the big reasons that I have little use for her.)

TRex is doing the same thing, only he includes the sexist, racist nonsense. What really grates is the "sneaky" (I'd call it transparent, myself) way he goes about it:
To your Rightard masters, you are essentially a talking dog, a novelty act, an amusing freak. You are their Token Asian. (Although, I'm sure they don't have any compunctions about calling you "Oriental" behind your back, like you're some kind of rug or something.)

In this way, he gets to say this shit hiding behind, in essence, the " I'M not thinking these things, I'M not saying these things, I'm saying THEY'RE thinking and saying these things" excuse.

What complete and utter bullshit. He's exactly the person saying and thinking those things. To describe this as "projection" is to imply a level of subtlety and unconsciousness that we shouldn't let the TRex's of the world hide behind.

Slightly shorter version: He's a pretentious jerk, precisely the sort of sexist, racist lefty that unjustly smears all liberalism and provides ammo to his mirror images on the right.
UPDATE: Firedoglake -- via the guy who named himself after a big dinosaur, TRex -- attempts a response to this post.

Go over there and read it. (I can tell you their links bring few people over here to actually see what he's talking about first hand.)

It's a rambling, incoherent mess that either fails to grasp or misrepresents what I've said. TRex seems think no one will notice that he doesn't get my point. What can I say? He mainly drifts into a lot of blabber about how much he hates Michelle Malkin and rightwingers and me. It's all one big mush in the commodious dinosaur head. He's a nasty guy taking wild shots at a woman, a professional woman close to Hillary's age. He's cursing at me, raving about "boobs" (i.e., breasts). Sigh. He's only making it clearer that Hillary Clinton should not want to appear to be guestblogging for Firedoglake.

April 25, 2007

"American Idol" -- the "most shocking" result ever.

It's a two hour show tonight, but it's helping poor people, if you call up and make a donation. There are a lot of extra celebrities to keep you entertained... and to tell you to call up. But they also tantalize us with the news -- delivered by Ryan Seacrest -- that tonight's results are the "most shocking" ever, in all the seasons of the show. So what could that be? More shocking than Tamyra Gray going out in fourth place? Here's what I'm guessing, and I'm going to be pissed if it's true. I think they are going to say it was somehow a tie and no one is leaving tonight. Maybe two will go next week. Or that two are leaving tonight. Because I don't see how any one person leaving could be the most shocking thing ever. But they may think it is so if the loser tonight is Melinda Doolittle. And that definitely could happen. Checking "DialIdol," I know everyone is really close.

As for the charity event, how painful to see the incredibly rich Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell commiserating with a 12-year-old African boy who breaks down in tears over his dead parents. They present him as a hero for being the father of the house in a hovel in a shantytown the size of Central Park with over a million people, many of them parentless children. They are using the boy to encourage the audience to give money, but it just seems so crazy to me that the two millionaires won't just hand the boy the amount of money it would take to rescue him and his sister. Maybe they did when the cameras were gone.

MORE: But Melinda is safe. And so is Blake (my favorite). And Phil (AKA Bat Boy). And LaKisha. So it's either Chris or Jordin. But the only shocking result could be: Jordin!

Anyway, there are two weird pairings. We see Kelly Clarkson and Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck! Jeff Beck! Kelly is brilliant, as expected, but: Jeff Beck! What can I say? I'm very touched to see Jeff Beck. Then we get an Elvis impersonator and Celine Dion. Whatever.

YET MORE: Oh, no, it's Madonna, asking us to save a life by giving money. I want to know how much she gave. Because this is a PR opportunity for her. She's showing she cares. But she's fabulously rich. How much did she give?

AND: Oh, I predicted it! I said:
I think they are going to say it was somehow a tie and no one is leaving tonight. Maybe two will go next week.
That's essentially what they did. They don't proclaim a tie. I think they indicate that the lowest vote-getter was Jordin. And, changing the rules midstream -- I'm pissed! -- they say they can't send anyone home on "charity night," but they'll accumulate the votes from this week and next week and send two home next week.

EVEN MORE: Some good points are raised in the comments, so let me respond here.

I'm not impressed that they raised $30 million. There were 70 million votes Tuesday night, and how much did they invest putting the show together? How much ad money did they earn with this 2 hour display of nonentertainment. And all those celebrities participating? Yeah, Ellen gave $100,000, but did the other celebs cought up an equivalent portion of their great wealth?

It was a big PR thing, raising a paltry amount of money for all the parading of human suffering. And only $5 million from the corporate sponsors, purportedly based on the number of phoned in votes but capped at $5 million? I am not impressed by this stunt, which was all about the "American Idol" image. Better to give the money quietly, out of the vast sums they make on the show.

I'm told that really was Elvis in some some computer-generated gimmickry. Yawn. He wasn't too wonderful. I guess I averted my eyes. I paid little attention to any of the musical performances, except Jeff Beck.

As to the non-results. I can see that Ryan's statement that he was going to announce things randomly suggests that Chris and Jordin were not the actual bottom two. But what a stupid ordeal to put them through. Or did they know all along? That's even lamer. We were tricked into watching that gruesome PR.

It was really bad to have no results, and I definitely suspect them of saving someone they didn't want to lose. I'll bet if Phil or LaKisha had been last he/she would have gone.

"Since the slaughter raised no real issues, it was a blank slate on which anyone could doodle."

Christopher Hitchens on the reaction to the Virginia Tech massacre.
[The New York Times quoted] the Rev. Susan Verbrugge of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, addressing her congregation in an attempt, in the silly argot of the day, "to make sense of the senseless":
Ms. Verbrugge recounted breaking through the previous week's numbness as she stopped on a morning walk and found herself yelling at the mountains and at God. Though her shouts were initially met with silence, she said, she soon was reassured by the simplest of things, the chirping of birds.

"God was doing something about the world," she said. "Starting with my own heart, I could see good."
Yes, it's always about you, isn't it? (By the way, I'd watch that habit of yelling at mountains and God in the greater Blacksburg area if I were you. Some idiot might take it for a "warning sign.") When piffle like this gets respectful treatment from the media, we can guess that it's not because of the profundity of the emotion but rather because of its extreme shallowness. Those birds were singing just as loudly and just as sweetly when the bullets were finding their targets.
Am I terrible for finding this hilarious and absolutely apt?

The jury must be able to "give meaningful effect or a 'reasoned moral response' to a defendant's mitigating evidence."

Wrote Justice Stevens, as the Supreme Court overturned three death sentences. Chief Justice Roberts writes in dissent: "'Whatever the law may be today, the Court's ruling that 'twas always so -- and that state courts were 'objectively unreasonable' not to know it -- is utterly revisionist,'' Roberts said.

I'd like to explain that to you, but I've got to get my notes together for my federal jurisdiction class, where we happen to be studying the very aspect of habeas corpus law that you need to know to understand what Roberts is talking about.

From the Roberts opinion:
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), however, a state-court decision can be set aside on federal habeas review only if it is "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U. S. C. § 2254(d)(1). When this Court considers similar challenges to the same jury instructions five separate times, it usually is not because the applicable legal rules are "clearly established." The Court today nonetheless picks from the five precedents the one that ruled in favor of the defendant -- Penry I -- and anoints that case as the one embodying "clearly established Federal law." In doing so the Court fails to give any meaningful weight to the two pertinent precedents subsequent to Penry -- Graham and Johnson -- even though those cases adopted a more limited view of Penry I than the Court embraces today.

About those inspirational songs.

I just want to flag the discussion from yesterday about the "inspirational" songs done on last night's "American Idol." I said I liked the song "Imagine," and that touched off a lot of antagonism. Some folks really hate it. They call it "nihilistic," even though it's a simple expression of longing for universal peace and love. Sure, it's naive about politics and theology, but so what? To complain about that is like complaining that a classic love song fails to take into account the complexity of long-term sexual relationships.

The singer who was most aggressively promoted last night, Jordin Sparks, sang "You'll Never Walk Alone." The judges and many viewers ate up the bombastic performance. Now, that made me feel nihilistic. There's only one situation in which the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" is acceptable, and that is in its original setting, at the end of the emotional arc of a theatrical performance of "Carousel." Outside of that context, it is histrionic and hideous.

I was forced to sing that song in public school music classes back in the 1960s, along with "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "The Theme from 'Exodus'" ("This land is mine, God gave this land to me/This brave and ancient land to me"). What a gruesome grind that was! You couldn't wait to get out of there, go home, and play some Beatles records.

The "Girls Gone Wild" guy goes wild.

And goes to jail for it.
Blowing his nose and wiping away his tears, Joe Francis, 34, the multimillionaire founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” empire of breast-baring videos, pleaded guilty to contempt of court on Monday in Panama City, Fla., and was sentenced to 35 days in jail... He apologized to United States District Judge Richard Smoak for yelling during negotiations to settle a lawsuit brought by seven women who were minors when they were filmed at Panama City Beach in 2003. He said the women lied about their ages. He has reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount.
Any tears -- other than his own -- for Joe? I think not.

And then Dick Cheney appeared and all the angels sang.

Dick Cheney's halo became fully visible yesterday as he came to the Capitol for the the weekly Republican policy lunch. Speaking to reporters, he denounced the Democrats:
"Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics. Senator Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage."
The steely Schumer calmly strode away from the Cheney aura, but Reid could not hide his dread.

April 24, 2007

"American Idol" gives back.

So this is some sort of charity event, with sponsors donating 10¢ a call, but only up to 50 million calls, so they seem to be using this gimmick to stimulate a lot of extra calls that won't result in a donation at all. That bugs me. It's a good cause, but there really is no connection to the calls. You've just got corporate sponsors giving $5 million. Nice enough, but a lot of hype is achieved for the show and the sponsors, and people are duped into calling more, believing their phone calls are saving lives. It's a bit creepy.

It wasn't a very good show, as the singers had to act profound and sincere. There's nothing phonier that that. I sort of enjoyed Blake singing "Imagine." He showed some taste and restraint, and of course, I already like Blake and "Imagine."

I'm not going to write about all the contestants. I'm just watching the end, as they rave over Jordin Sparks bellowing "You Never Walk Alone." Ugh.

ADDED: In the comments, there a lot of anti-"Imagine" sentiment. It seems mostly about the "no religion too" bit. And I say I watch the show as a self-imposed blogging assignment, and people tell me not to do it if I don't enjoy it. But I enjoy blogging about it, and only write as much as I feel like, as this post shows.

But I feel like writing one more thing. There was all that material showing poor people, the ones that $5 million is supposed to save. We see Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell visiting desperately needy people somewhere in Africa, and then there's Simon saying things like "This is simply awful," which, you can't help thinking, is exactly what we hear him saying every week about mediocre singing. There's something so wrong about this. You can't help feeling that he's expressing how bad the experience is making him feel, since that's what he's doing all those times when he's saying "that was horrible" to a Idol contestant. Putting himself in this environment was for Simon the equivalent of the oft-cited singer's mistake: choosing the wrong song.

Shopping with Chris.

Back on April 5, Chris and I went shopping on South Congress Street in Austin. It was that day we ate the calamari at Vespaio. I like the noir atmosphere in this shop:


Try on the hat:

Chris poses

And take what I always think of as the Elvis Costello "My Aim Is True" pose.


"One of the mottos of The Work is, 'Who would you be without your story?'"

Uh-oh! Richard's back from his New Age-ish retreat and either has or doesn't have a story to tell.
In the evenings I would hang out in the hotel bar, where, sneaking off for meat meals, I’d buy drinks for lustful, neurotic divorcees in my age range. One or more of them would come into focus as favorites of mine and we’d go to bed together, perhaps renting a separate room in order to eliminate the roommate problem. We would bare our souls by longingly telling every bit of personal information about ourselves. As a couple or in a group we’d explore Los Angeles by night and drive into the desert during free daytime hours. At school’s end we would exchange contact information, but I’d be wary of getting entangled with my former bedmates. Either I wouldn’t want to see them again and would have to fend off their emails and phone calls, or I’d want to turn my life over to one of them and would have to figure out how to persuade her to move to Austin.
So, really, what happened?

A real dream.

I see a bright turquoise bird hovering at about eye level. "That bird is really good at hovering," I exclaim. Instantly, the bird drops straight to the ground, dead.

About that toilet paper.

Glenn Reynolds writes:
AT THE RISK OF BEING TARRED FOR TREASON LIKE HARRY REID, I'm going to declare that the war against toilet paper is already lost.

But unlike Reid and the other 76 Senators, I never voted for this one!

UPDATE: A reader suggests "smeared" instead of "tarred." In this context, all I can say is "Eww."

ANOTHER UPDATE: By the way, Sheryl Crow says the whole toilet-paper thing was tongue in cheek, though Rand Simberg isn't sure he believes her.
Oh, come on! It was obviously a joke. I didn't post on this story yesterday -- a day when I was already attacking Crow -- because I thought it was such a lame joke that it didn't fairly compensate for the annoying behavior I was complaining about

I'm really only posting now to say, Glenn, since you're eww-ing at "tarred," you might want to reconsider "tongue in cheek."

By the way, don't forget this guy, who's subjecting his family to life -- on 5th Avenue -- without toilet paper.

The psychotherapist's confidence in his own empathy.

Richard A. Friedman casts doubt on those patients who want psychotherapists who share their traits. The gay patient wants a gay therapist. The old patient wants a therapist who is at least not too young. The feminist wants a feminist.
What is critical to understanding someone is not necessarily having had his or her experience; it is being able to imagine what it would be like to have it. Thus, I do not have to be black to empathize with the toxic effects of racial prejudice, or be a woman to know how I would feel about being denied promotion on the basis of sex.
Even if we believe this feat of imagination is possible, how is the patient supposed to know that a therapist is sufficiently imaginative to do this well? You may think you have a great imagination. A lot of people do! But that doesn't mean that what you are imagining is accurate. I've known some individuals who have devoted an astounding amount of mental energy to thinking about what other people are thinking and coming up with plenty of material -- that imagination is grinding away like mad -- but it's all quite wrong.

There's a different level to the problem. Quite aside from whether or not the patient is right about who will empathize, there's the question of whether is morally wrong for the patient to discriminate based on the characteristics of the therapist.
Sometimes... patients should get exactly what they ask for in a therapist. One of my residents once saw a young woman from Africa who had survived hideous torture and rape and said that she didn’t think she could see a male therapist.

That struck me as entirely appropriate. Given her trauma, she simply could not have put her trust in a male therapist, no matter how empathic he might actually be.

What about patients whose demand for a particular therapist springs from nothing more than everyday prejudice? I remember a patient who once stormed into my office and demanded a white therapist to replace his therapist, who was black.

That’s a request I turned down, even knowing that this patient’s biased beliefs were an appropriate target for treatment. To do otherwise would have vindicated his prejudice and fundamentally compromised the therapy from the start.
Note that Friedman doesn't say that race discrimination is so morally wrong that he cannot be a party to it. He justifies his refusal on therapeutic grounds.

ADDED: Neo-Neocon responds.

More ominous than global warming.

The disappearance of the bees.

"Like, I really -- what I want to do is experience the whole entertainment business because, I mean, I'm not just a musician, I'm an entertainer."

So says Sanjaya Malakar, a darling boy who deserves his own sitcom. Perhaps the story of a someone who wants to be a star, has a lot of heart, but isn't any good at all. (It worked for Lucy!)

Sanjaya was on Letterman last night, doing the Top Ten.

And look, here's Arianna Huffington gushing about sitting near Sanjaya on the plane to the White House Correspondents' Dinner:
[T]he woman across the aisle from me leaned over and asked if I was flying in for the dinner. I told her that I was and asked if she was too. "Yes," she said. "I'm Sanjaya's mom!" I glanced back, and there was the fallen-but-radiant Idol, seated next to a bodyguard hired to protect him from the mobs of well-wishers that now follow him wherever he goes (It was a good hire: Sanjaya's table was a hot destination throughout the Correspondents' dinner). Mrs. Malakar was a very charming woman. Our conversation ranged from the black-beaded dress she had bought for the occasion to her less than rosy assessment of the Bush administration. My mind flashed on how Simon Cowell might have assessed Alberto Gonzales' off-key testimony, and whether the AG would have won over Arlen Specter if he'd done his hair in a pony-hawk.

Eh, my mind just flashed on what a dull writer Arianna Huffington is. She's sitting with Sanjaya and mother and all she gives us is the insinuation that "Mrs. Malakar" agrees with Arianna's boring politics? It's an unsupported insinuation, of course, because who has a "rosy assessment of the Bush administration"? Probably not even Bush himself!

And, Arianna, not every woman latches on to her husband's name. You ought to know better than to call a woman by her child's last name with a "Mrs." in front of it! Just as my name isn't "Mrs. Cohen," Sanjaya's mother is not Mrs. Malakar, she's Jillian Recchi. (And Sanjaya is just as Italian as he is Indian.)

Migraines are good for your brain.

Especially migraines with aura. For some unknown reason, they seem to help with memory and cognition in the long run, not that it's worth the hours of debilitating suffering, but it's some consolation.

I don't have migraines myself, but I did once experience pre-migraine aura without the migraine. Read the scintillating details of my scotoma here.

April 23, 2007



Political blogging with an aversion to politics: my little corner of the blogosphere.

What I said about blogging to start things off at Dartmouth last week. (The other voice you hear is John Hinderaker of Power Line.)

ADDED: Just some bonus snippets. (The other voice here, talking about eyebrows, is Brendan Nyhan.)

We live, we dance...

We laugh...

We die.

President Bush and Rich Little at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

This is so unfathomably bad. It's just bizarre. Bush starts off saying he's decided not to be funny. They should all have stopped right there. I'm not sure if you should click on this. It will take 32 minutes of your life to watch, but it's much more destructive than that. You may, like me, feel that you are growing older at a rate of one year for each minute of video. A morbid fear of death may kick in at about 8:32. I had to click pause as 12:37 to avoid becoming physically ill. I keep trying to go back and stick it out so I can do a proper post. I keep saying things like maybe it will get funny out of sheer extreme unhipness, but I am afraid. I am so very afraid.

Big shot litigator Martin Garbus blogs that he "represents Don Imus in a dispute with CBS."

Then unblogs it. But, so, this is interesting. Is Imus about to sue the pants off CBS? This will be amusing!

Garbus represented Lenny Bruce
back in the 1960s.

The view from Route 10.

The view from Route 10.

The Connecticut River, which draws the line between Vermont and New Hampshire, seen from the New Hampshire side.

"The event was disgraceful, so lame and mediocre that it is beyond parody."

That's Christopher Hitchens on why he walked out of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner:
“It is impossible to decide which is more offensive: the president fawning over the press or the press fawning over the president. It expresses everything that the public means when they talk about inside-the-Beltway and access journalism.”

Mr. Hitchens didn’t storm out of the city. He stormed back to his house, where he co-hosted (along with fellow Vanity Fair contributor Todd Purdum and former Clinton aide Dee Dee Myers) the magazine’s post-dinner party, a much sought-after ticket.

Mr. Hitchens, a one-time pariah for his support of the Iraq invasion and his savaging of Mother Teresa, still serves as something of a social arbiter in Washington. And following the strange-bedfellows theme, Paul Wolfowitz, the embattled World Bank president, was chatting amiably in a roomful of journalists at Mr. Hitchens’ home.
Living like that, how do you stay outraged and sharp enough to know when other people are being lame and mediocre? So he's a "social arbiter," eh? Looking at him on TV, you'd think he was a social pariah. Funny how things are.

Shirking debates: "It’s wrong. It’s a way to shirk their responsibilities as full-fledged candidates."

So says Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson, who, of course, needs more attention, and, I think, could best the other candidates in debate.

The other day, I turned on the radio in my car and heard someone discussing some important foreign policy issue, and I was impressed by his intelligence and expertise. After the segment ended, I was amazed to hear it was Bill Richardson. I hadn't been able to tell that I was listening to a presidential candidate.

But are the debate avoiders sleazy shirkers?
[A]ides to the major candidates have concluded that the sheer number of debate and forum demands combined with a sprawling field of candidates on both sides have made them more of a hindrance than a help, at least for now.

They are, the argument goes, time-consuming and money-burning obligations in which a candidate will realistically get perhaps eight minutes to lay out his views. That is because of the many candidates that are guaranteed to be on stage, since the field on both sides includes candidates that most voters — indeed, most political reporters — have probably never heard of.

In that kind of situation, the most likely way to stand out from the pack is to make a mistake.

The cost of participating in a debate? Days spent on preparation and travel to the often smaller cities where the forums are held. These obligations can take candidates out of states like Iowa and New Hampshire, with their culture of relatively small candidate-to-voter encounters, which presumably can be more valuable for candidate and voters alike.
It's easy to see why the candidates who already have the money and the limelight opt out. They are behaving rationally. The only way it will change is if they get a message that we are judging them harshly. Richardson is trying to frame debate avoidance as shirking responsibility. But since no one's paying attention to him, can he have any effect shaping public opinion?

And, really, do people want debates at this stage? Debates are incredibly tedious and annoying when there are a lot of candidates. The ones who know they don't have a chance -- like for example, in 2004, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich -- can speak in an entirely different way from the "real" candidates. A debate between real and show candidates is not a level playing field. The show candidates can speak from the heart, swing wildly, and deliver zingers, while the real candidates must maintain somber decorum and make absolutely sure that not one phrase will look wrong taken out of context. It's no wonder the frontrunners won't go there.

A nicely written episode of "The Sopranos."

There was a fine new episode of "The Sopranos" last night, with two neatly paired stories.

Tony and Paulie go on a road trip. Yes, a reason is trumped up, but the idea is basically to get them on a road trip, where there's lots of comedy (beginning with Paulie packing and revealing his impressive collection of white slip-on shoes) and with that slowly accumulating feeling that something violent is about to wipe that smile off our face.

Meanwhile, Junior is in the cuckoo's nest and his counterpart is a guy named Carter (who is reminding us -- by strange accident -- of the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho). This is the opposite of a road trip, as the patients are cooped up in room doing things like playing poker with white and red buttons (and Junior will be pissed off at you if you say you think "red buttons" is amusing). Here, too, we love the comedy even as we dread the impending violence.

Only one of the parallel stories ends in violence, though, and we end with Junior accepting the medication that "numbs him down" and Carmela accepting the $2000 Williams Sonoma espresso machine.

Driving all over the place in a bus to tell people to stop global warming.

No contradiction there!

Anyway, Laurie David and Sheryl Crow obviously think they are exceedingly delightful. They've snagged a lot of press in the last couple days and moved the global warming spotlight onto themselves and away from Al Gore. And I was getting so used to having all my concerns about global warming embodied in the carbon-sequestering body of Al Gore.

The Crow-David entity assumes we too think they are delightful. Here it is enthusing about its encounter with Karl Rove at the White House Correspondents Dinner:
At some point during his ramblings, we became heartbroken to think that the President of the United States and his top advisers have partially built a career on global warming not being real....

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?
Gah! They think the world should listen to them because they are -- they assume -- so terribly sexually attractive. Roll carbon-sequestering Al back in here please.
Unphased, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."
We are the ones who make a brighter day....

I love the way Sheryl is "unphased." This woman is strong. She can deal with a man not yielding to her sexual power. She cares that much.
At that point Mr. Rove apparently decided he had had enough. Like a groundhog fearful of his own shadow, he scurried to his table in an attempt to hibernate for another year from his responsibility to address global warming.
When the groundhog retreats, it means there will be more winter. Not the best global warming simile, but at least you tried.
Drama aside, you would expect as an American citizen to be able to engage in a civil discussion with a public official. Instead, Mr. Rove was dismissive, condescending, and quite frankly a bully.
I'll leave it to you to look at this writing and infer who was dismissive, condescending, and a bully in this encounter.

ADDED: Don't like the way the Crow-David entity spelled "unphased"? Blame "Star Trek."

"He is the custodian of truth that can save the world—he is the 9/11 key master—the key to unlocking the truth."

So says 9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett about William Rodriguez, who spoke at the University of Wisconsin yesterday. Rodriguez was a janitor at the World Trade Center, who, because he held one of the few master keys, helped save many people on 9/11. They say he was the last individual to make it out of one of the collapsing buildings alive.
At 8:46 a.m. he heard an explosion. “Boom!” Rodriguez imitated. He heard a man screaming “Explosion! Explosion!” from underneath. “I wanted to say a generator blew up. I thought it was a bomb.”

This piece of evidence may show explosives were used in accompaniment to the hijacked planes, he said. When the plane hit, “the walls cracked and the building shook.”...

Barrett said Rodriguez wrote to him, and wanted to visit to “set the record straight,” after the College Republicans hosted a 9/11 survivor in March and much of the talk surrounded Barrett’s conspiracy theories.
More here:
[He spoke of] his belief that explosives were detonated in the basement of the building, where he was that morning.

At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Rodriguez, who was two levels below ground, said he felt a large explosion that “pushed him upward into the air” seven seconds before the plane hit the building.
I'm sorry to see this heroic man become caught up in the conspiracy theory.

April 22, 2007



How to dress your kids.

Not like this!


A very creepy shop window, in Woodstock, Vermont:


I can't remember what "poop" on the sweatshirt was supposed to mean. An acronym for something. Looking for "poop sweatshirt" on the internet, I found this and this.

Personally, I don't think children need to be dressed in a completely somber and dignified way, but, especially if they can't read, don't put words on them.

Getting snippy with Maureen Dowd...

... for writing "Running With Scissors" about John Edwards and his pricey haircuts.

"There is no love lost between Gore and Hillary. They don't think she can win and they're probably right."

So says some unnamed Gore aide. "If Gore runs, he's got a really good chance of getting the nomination. And he has a good chance of pulling off the election, too."
[S]ince Sen Kerry abandoned his presidential aspirations this year, many of his leading advisers have yet to align themselves with any of the other candidates.

They were expected to join the campaign of Sen Edwards, who was Sen Kerry's running mate last time.

The former aide, who has himself signed up with Sen Edwards, said: "The question is: where have all the Kerry people gone? The answer for most of them is nowhere. Now ask yourself why."
Interesting. I'd love to see Gore in the race myself. He's got more substance than those others, more weight. That is... oh... I mean...
James Carville, President Clinton's former strategy chief, suggested last week that Mr Gore, who has piled on the pounds, could shed weight over the summer to make himself more media-friendly for a White House run.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he lost 15lb or so," said Mr Carville. "And I think if people thought he could get us out of the mess we're in with Iraq, they wouldn't care how fat he is."
You know how Al Gore is always talking about his "carbon footprint" or whatever? Here's a calculation I'd like to see. Maybe somebody here can figure it out. How much is one's carbon footprint increased by the consumption of food? Isn't everyone who is overweight overconsuming? I'd like to see a number representing the environmental damage we do for each excess pound we carry.

And this is not just for the purpose of tweaking Gore (whom I kind of like!). It's a serious matter that's got to be at least at the level of leaving the wrong kind of light bulbs on when you're out of the room. Plus, it might help people lose weight if they could reenvision their problem in terms of environmental responsibility. And if you're going to say to me that it's bad to shame people into good behavior, then are you against all the other shaming we are subjected to about the environment?

UPDATE: I still don't have an answer on my "carbon footprint" science question, which I'm quite serious about. But in the comments dpb says "isn't all that fat he carries just a form of carbon sequestration?" Fascinating point! So fat people are carbon sequestrating devices. If lots of plants are grown to feed people, and they just bulk up and hold it all inside, that's good environmentalism. Sure, they may die from being fat, but as long as they are buried, they have removed the carbon permanently. Remember: No cremation!

But there are many other factors here. The production and transportation of food requires the burning of fuel. If you were to eat only the amount of food that would maintain your ideal weight, rather than the extra 1000 calories a day (or whatever) that you do eat, then there would be less fuel burnt to supply your habit of overeating. Also, if you weigh more, your car is consuming more fuel carrying you around. Fat people in cars has got to be as significant as incandescent light bulbs.

Do you think this is insensitive and in poor taste? Let's just call it an inconvenient truth.