December 15, 2007

Two vlogs about my Amazon Kindle.

1. First, I review the Amazon Kindle and compare it to books, audiobooks, and the Rocket Book.

2. The second vlog is not a review but a quiz, consisting of readings from the various books I've loaded into the Kindle. You can guess the titles.

"I'm biased, sure, but I think that the illos I did brought a little something extra to the column..."

Rob Ullman tells how he lost his long-time gig illustrating Dan Savage's "Savage Love" column:
Anyway, if you're one of the people who likes your seedy sex advice served with a little graphic blandishment, you should make your voice heard, and contact [the Washington City Paper] here.

(Via Drawn!)

Are we experiencing a decline in the appreciation of illustration? Have you noticed, as you click around on line, how nearly all of the pictures are photographs?

ADDED: Here's a story (about internet advertising) that has a very nice illustration to go with it. But the illustration is displayed so poorly that it hardly seems worth it. You can click to enlarge it, but then it's disembodied and so small that I felt defrauded by the term "full image."

AND: Ullman's "illos" transformed Savage's column, making it seem unsleazy and rather cheerful. They helped us see Savage's humor and basic decency and kept us from feeling too put off by the often-ugly subject matter.

"The most important model of masculinity for a generation of Americans."

"He had transformed his persona from that of a skinny, boyish, even androgynous heartthrob with Brylcreemed curls, too-big jackets, sailor suits (!), and floppy bow ties into that of a suave man of authority and sensitivity in crisp, slim-line suits."

Obligatory Althouse info: My father looked just like him. See?

Richard Althouse

"Does your mom still teach here? Because I heard that she's REALLY easy... Best wishes trying to avoid learning in law school."

NYU Law School email, exposed.

"Come on. We live for that stuff."

"[W]e love it when designers can't keep their inner rage off their faces."

How to draw a female in proportion.


The trend in baby boomers offing themselves.

"It's having been native to an era and a culture in which self (and sex) was almost ideologically paramount, which, unless you've gotten over it, doesn't leave you too well provided for when self (and sex) begins to fail."

Yikes! So, what are you saying, Amba? Get over sex, lest suicidal urges overwhelm you as you approach old age?

"Sending people to prison for five or 10 or 15 years for looking at pictures is killing an ant with a sledgehammer."

"These people are being put on sex-offender registries, they are being ostracized from the community, for looking at pictures."

"There are a large group of individuals whose lives and families are absolutely being devastated because they looked at these images. They had absolutely no idea how severe the consequences would be and had no interest in doing anything other than viewing images."

"The deeply dispiriting Romney-Huckabee religion showdown."

Here's an excellent piece by Kenneth Anderson — a former Mormon — in The Weekly Standard). It's quite long, but well worth reading. Conclusion:
The exchange between the Huckabee bigots among the evangelicals, on the one hand, and Romney-the-opportunist, on the other--between assertions of a "Christian presidency" and the dismaying response of "conservative multiculturalism"--might seem to many to be a struggle merely within the loopy, irrational religious backwoods of the Republican party. It is not. It is about this country and the rest of us and our long-term relationship to liberal toleration at its hour of grave need--and that is why Romney's wrong answer to the wrong question is so very, very dispiriting.

December 14, 2007

"Leonard Kaplan, victim of a pretty clearly bogus political-correctness scandal in Wisconsin."

Glenn Reynolds links to a speech by my colleague (on a subject I've written about a lot here). I think the story is more complex, a strange intersection of two liberal/left trends. Look at how Kaplan explains himself. He's teaching a left-wing critique of law:
Is our talk about rights really meaningful or merely rhetoric? Though we pay lip service to universal rights, non-citizens in the United States may get something less. Even citizens may get less than a “right to happiness” if the state does not establish the material conditions necessary to make such a right possible....

My class discussion on February 15 was intended to be sympathetic to the Hmong people. I intended to illustrate the inadequacy of legal formalism. My examples of cultural practice were directed against the legal system, not against any immigrant group. My examples were intended to show the disorientation that new immigrant groups can feel when confronting a formalist legal system. My point was that if our formalist legal system treats everyone as if they are the same, new immigrant groups from very different cultures could suffer a form of injustice. The resulting controversy lost this point entirely.
It got disoriented. Ironically.

Kaplan said some things about the Hmong that he intended "to illustrate the inadequacy of legal formalism," but the Hmong students (it seems) were taken aback because the characterization of the Hmong felt insulting. (Kaplan said something — we don't have an exact text — about problems Hmong people have fitting into American culture.) Yet the students have been given reason to think that they should enjoy a welcoming and comfortable "climate" at the university. Kaplan's critique — which includes making students uncomfortable — belongs to the ideological left, but so does the message that students from diverse backgrounds should feel good about their experience at the university. It's a fascinating clash of two left-wing themes.

Much as I support academic freedom for the teacher (and hate to see any punitive action toward Kaplan), I feel sympathetic toward young people who go to law school for the purpose of acquiring the tools to use toward the ends they select and who then encounter a complicated critique of the law. I think law students expect us law professors to give them things they can use. They may feel outraged if we tear apart the system they are devoting themselves to learning how to work within. We need to respect their autonomy, even as we challenge them.

There is insight to be gained at the intersection of two left-wing ideologies (diversity and critique). So don't be too quick to choose sides. The best answers my lie beyond thinking in terms of two sides in this controversy.

"American Idol flunky Chris Daughtry has been named the bestselling artist of the year on The Billboard 200 chart..."

I was a big supporter of the guy when he was in on the trashy pop TV contest, but... what the hell? Is this actually what's happening in music today?

"It's a privilege to sit in the front row. I reserve those seats for people who appreciate music. Get the f--- out!"

Watch Tori Amos kick two girls out of her show. And they deserve it. I love the way the way they hunch over as they experience The Expulsion.

It's so:

"The Freak Show Comes to Life."

Don't you love when a headline becomes the URL and remains the URL even if you change the headline? Some funny stuff can happen that way. It can be real "Mush From the Wimp," if you know what I mean. (If you don't know, read this.)

So here's the blog post, sedately headed: "Hillary's New Pitch: 'No Surprises.'" The title says one thing, but oh, that URL:
It's from Michael Crowley at TNR's blog The Stump.

Let's read and see what's up with the unsurprising freak show:
Hillary just held an extraordinary press conference here after taping an interview with Iowa public television in which she introduced a provocative new theme to her candidacy...

"I’ve been tested, I’ve been vetted," she said. "There are no surprises. There’s not going to be anybody saying, 'I didn’t think of that, my goodness, what’s that going to mean?'"
So she's saying "no surprises." Not Crowley. Crowley may look on and think the freak show comes to life. But will he tell us?
Hillary smiled with the patience of a grandmother stuck babysitting bratty kids as reporters barraged her with breathless questions about whether Obama's drug history is the sort of surprise she's talking about and whether she thinks general-election voters might punish him for it.

But Hillary wasn't biting. "I am only talking about myself," she insisted, looking unusually resplendent in a dark suit with a red blouse and multicolored necklace....

Hillary's cool mien only really wavered once, when she was asked about her own experiences with drugs and--given that we already know she avoided them--the basis for her decision-making about them. A peevish look crossed Hillary's face as her press secretary, Jay Carson, audibly chortled with disdain. Hillary said she had already answered those questions: "I refer you to everything I've said in the past."
Ugh. I can't wait for the next 4 years of press conferences. I refer you to everything I've said in the past. Great phrase. I can picture myself using it with students. Got any questions? I refer you to everything I've said in the past. Try it in your next fight with your spouse or partner. I refer you to everything I've said in the past. It's quite the catchphrase. It could be the "Let me make one thing perfectly clear" of the next administration.
After forcing Billy Shaheen out of her campaign, Hillary has now pivoted to a "no surprises" argument which at least seems to spring directly from the Obama-cocaine talk--and is certain to keep that talk alive...
Hmmm.... keep that talk alive... freak show comes to life.... no, I really can't figure out what Crowley may have had that justified the headline memorialized in the URL.

Readers, help me out in the comments. Take Crowley's post and rewrite it so that it would fit the headline: "The Freak Show Comes to Life."

Losing weight...

... by thinking really, really hard.

"The issue related to cocaine use is not something the campaign is in any way raising."

Said Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, on TV last night after Clinton apologized to Barack Obama and after Bill Shaheen resigned as her campaign's New Hampshire co-chair. [ADDED: Do I really need to add that I'm scoffing at Mark Penn for saying he's not talking about what he's talking about?] 

Does anyone really think Shaheen was off on his own, reminding people that Obama wrote about his use of marijuana and cocaine when he was a teenager?
Clinton officials said she was personally distressed by the incident and had sought out Obama on the tarmac at Washington's Reagan National Airport before they flew to Iowa for the debate. Though the senators' interactions have been frosty since the start of the campaign nearly a year ago, Clinton wanted, her aides said, to make it clear that she had not approved Shaheen's approach.
Here's a focus-group of Democratic primary voters reacting to the story about Shaheen:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's desperation. It's like you can't find anything wrong with him now, so you have to go back to when he was -- something he did when he was a teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not fully convinced that Hillary was aware that that was going to happen. I'm not fully convinced. I think it might have been a loose cannon in her campaign, because I think that was just stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see how she could not know. I think anything regarding her campaign, I think that's something should she know, which will affect her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sort of surprised that she would use those tactics, given what happened to her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she didn't know, she should have known.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If indeed he used drugs or didn't -- whatever -- I think it shouldn't be held against him, because he was just flexing his muscles on his way to adulthood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe that Hillary Clinton was aware of this, because I don't think she's that stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was trying to derail the express train that Barack Obama is on right now. He's fast tracked himself to a possible lead that can over-take Hillary right now in the Iowa caucuses. That's why they had no alternative but to resort to these tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just didn't accidentally happen the day before the caucus. You think about, I mean, you've got the debate, and then this distracts the voters from voting.
No one lets her off the hook.

Speaking of sincerity, let's judge the sincerity of Hillary Clinton's mother. (No, it's not wrong to judge a mother talking about her offspring, when the offspring is running for President and is pushing video of her mother vouching for her.)

"She never was envious of anybody." Even written as text, that's unbelievable. But listen to it. If this were a parody commercial, I'd praise the actor for the hilarious inflection on the word "never."

"I'm not doin' hand shows today."

Fred Thompson in an amusing display of adulthood:

Or do you think he was too disrespectful to the moderator? She had no back-up solution and ended up looking like a substitute teacher. The "hand show" device is spiffy and efficient when everyone goes along. But this was a moment waiting to be seized, and Thompson seized it well. Will demands for a show of hands ever work in a debate again?

Obama's ease and Hillary's nervous laugh.

How much can we read from this little exchange? I love the way he pauses, giving her a chance to cackle (as if to say "gotcha"). After he utters his witticism, it's plain that the pause worked as comic timing. He used the pause to word the witticism perfectly, thus creating this delectable YouTube clip, which ends with more of that laughing of hers. Now, she's both laughing at his joke, which was a joke at her expense, and sounding nervous when he's being especially cool.

About that Bloggingheads redesign.

It's so very odd to drop by and not get slammed in the face with that color — Bloggingheads Green. But Bloggingheads Green is still there, in a few discreet strips and highlighting a small bit of the text. It's there to remind you of what once was: a pool of horrific green. Asked to appear on Bloggingheads, you had to rack your brain, wondering: Do I look good in green, weird green? Well, maybe Mickey Kaus didn't ask. But some of us did. And now, the greenness is gone.

There are many non-color improvements too, and you can discover them for yourself. At first, I didn't know why they had a list of links to YouTube clips taking up the whole bottom center. But look liker very well chosen clips — if you want the latest political stuff — which makes the site a smart jumping-off point for your morning news browse. Or so I'm guessing. I'm going to start there and you'll see if it produces a post or two here, which is my test of what makes a good jumping-off point for a browse.

December 13, 2007

"If we went back to the obesity rates that existed in 1980, that would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars."

Said Barack Obama at today's Democratic debate. That sounds absurd to me. But let me be fair. He prefaced that assertion with the phrase "it's estimated." Oh, estimated. Well, then. He wants to "emphasize how important prevention and cost savings can be." I get it. The plan is to get the government to pay for all sorts of routine health care for everyone, and we're supposed to think it will actually save money. But the truth is that going to the doctor more is not going to solve our fatness problem. If it did, we'd be paying now for the treatment (not that we wouldn't like the government to reimburse us). The false hope of a solution to obesity and a promise of illusory savings is being used to soften us up for massive spending on health care. I'm estimating.

Then Bill Richardson tells us that 33% of Medicare costs are "related to" diabetes. Conclusion: "We've got to have an elimination, as I did in New Mexico, of junk food in schools. We need to have mandatory phys ed." He's waggling his pudgy fingers at us and his blubbery neck wobbles all over the place while he speaks. He's wearing an elegant blue-gray tie that slopes way out over his big belly. The seniors are soaking up too much money, so... quick take those potato chips away from that kid. Make him do some pushups! Like we did in New Mexico.

ADDED: I'm getting a kick out of watching the graph at the side of the screen that shows the instantaneous reaction of liberals and moderates. It's most fun when the lines suddenly diverge, like when Richardson said "mandatory phys ed." Here's my instantaneous reaction to that (from an IM conversation):
it's like... oh, no, he wants to make me do pushups...

dems are: great, make that kid do pushups

moderates hear: he wants to tell me what to do

liberals hear: he's going to improve things

Cancel all your baseball memories.

They were all on steroids.

John Mellencamp, The Ventures, Leonard Cohen and The Dave Clark Five....

... and of course, the sure thing: Madonna.

Spiro Agnew.

Somewhere in the halls of the University of Wisconsin Law School:

ADDED: Spiro explores my office:


A Madison meetup?

There's an effort afoot to have a meetup here in Madison for readers of this blog. Email me at my annalthouse gmail address if you're interested. If I end up doing it, you have to email to get the time and place.

UPDATE: Email to go out soon. If you didn't get the email, email me again for the time and place.

FURTHER UPDATE: I've emailed those who've emailed me. If I missed you, email again.

Golden Globe nominations.

Here. Any opinions? I especially like the recognition for Ricky Gervais and "Extras." I find it weird that all "The Sopranos" got was a nomination for Edie Falco. It's as if it's a conscious strategy to force all "Sopranos" support to go to her. I like the nomination of Julie Christie for "Away From Her," but I haven't seen enough of the movies to know who was really the best actress of the year. I see Cate Blanchett got nominated in two categories — and plan to catch "I'm Not There," the one where she plays Bob Dylan, very soon if not today. And this is giving me some other good ideas for movies to see while I'm in Madison, with easy access to many nice theaters. "No Country for Old Men." "Atonement." What else?

In which Mike Huckabee reminds me of Jimmy Carter.

About a year ago, when Gerald Ford died, I explained how it happened that I voted for him:
I was all set to vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976. I'd voted for Carter in the New York primary when he was still a face in a crowd of candidates. But the day before the election, I saw a TV interview in which a reporter asked Carter what he would do if he didn't win. He said he'd go back to his peanut farm. This answer -- does it seem innocuous to you? -- gnawed at me overnight, and, as I was walking to my polling place, I sat down to talk about it with someone who was also planning to vote for Carter, and the two of us changed our vote to Ford. It wasn't so much Ford. It was Carter. I'd decided he was a small man. He didn't fit the Presidency. Did Ford? But Ford was already President. In truth, no one deserves to be President. But Ford did not select himself as President. He had only selected himself to represent one legislative district. I found that appealing.
Today, I read an email from my son John with the following quote and the question: "Remind you of anyone?"
‘‘If you aren’t for some reason elected president, what cabinet position would you be suited for?’’ I asked. Huckabee paused, considering. ‘‘Secretary of health and human services would be one,’’ he said. ‘‘Secretary of transportation, or the interior.’’ Perhaps aware that this wasn’t a Mount Rushmore self-evaluation, he quickly added that he doesn’t really want a cabinet position or any other government job. ‘‘I’d be just as happy to go back to Arkansas and open a bait shop on a lake,’’ he said.

December 12, 2007

It's Grande Conservative Blogress Diva time again.

Vote for me if you're so inclined. Vote every day for a week if you really care. Now, maybe you're thinking: "Grande Conservative Blogress Diva," what is it, and is it really Althouse? You could discuss that here. I recommend devising a definition that will make it crushingly obvious that I should win. You know, it can't possibly mean: Who's the most conservative female blogger. It's more like: Who's the biggest diva blogger for conservatives? Think about it.

I get pissed off at TNR.

So the New Republic editors are getting all pretentious about book-reading:
[I]t is neither sentimentality nor snobbery to insist that what we mean by the experience of reading may be singularly indebted to the printed book, to its physicality and its temporality.
Oh, please.
The breathless, Bezos-loving man from Newsweek says that he is reading Boswell's Life of Johnson on his iPhone. No, he isn't. All reading is not the same. It takes more than the apparition of words to constitute a book and its inner forms.
No, you're not a snob. Oh, no, no, no.
Bleak House is not e-mail (even if it once was serialized) and Atonement does not deliver information. "Search" is not the most exciting demand that one can make of a text. So let us see how many conversions to literacy's pleasures these gadgets make, and let us be grateful for them; but let us also recognize that we toy with the obsolescence of the book at our mental peril.
And we read a TNR editorial at our peril. Hey, it's a dangerous world.
The scanting of the prestige of books by the print media is a different matter.
The scanting of the prestige.... Could you possibly sound a little more desperate to display your erudition?
It is a kind of betrayal from within. In recent years, in-house book reviewing has been eliminated, abridged, or downgraded by the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland's Plain Dealer, The San Diego Union-Tribune--the list goes on. The same cannot be said about management's enthusiasm for, say, sports, or food. "Committing resources" is not least a philosophical exercise: A newspaper discloses its view of the world clearly by what it chooses to cover and not to cover, and with what degree of rigor and pride. When you deprive the coverage of books of adequate space and talent, you are declaring that books are not important, even if you and your wife belong to a book club and your Amazon account is a mile long.
You and your wife? All right, you were already pissing me off with your pretentious locutions, rank nostalgia, and over-the-top snootiness, but now I have to completely redirect my anger. How dare you write you and your wife? Here I am, reading your magazine, thinking you are trying to talk to me, and I run into that phrase you and your wife. You assume your reader is a man (and a straight man at that). I love when a pompous know-it-all falls flat on his — yes, I assume you're a man — face. Was it something about writing like a twit from the 19th century that made you forget that women expect to be treated as equals?

ADDED: "Bleak House is not e-mail (even if it once was serialized)...." Shouldn't the editors have stopped and thought a little more when they realized that parenthetical was needed? Here they are, fulminating about the wonders of a great novel, remembering how they felt decades ago when they read through thick paperback versions of the great Victorian novels and thinking this — my experience! — is the way it should be, and then they realized that the Victorians were reading these novels in bits in the newspaper!
[Charles Dickens] was the first to transform serial suspense into a large-scale social event. In the mid-1800s, it was the fate of a fictitious legal case — Jarndyce v. Jarndyce that had everyone so engaged...

What Dickens had in common with such successors as Aaron Spelling (Dynasty, 90210), Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue), Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice), and Stephen King (online serial The Plant), was a new wave of technology to ride, a huge potential audience to tap, the temperament to exploit the opportunity, and a business model to drive it....

[M]any who might never have read did read, and the audience for substantial literature grew. On the business side, writing fiction became a truly viable profession because profits increased....
Wouldn't Charles Dickens be laughing at you — with your reactionary twaddle and your meager profits?

"You women have heard of jalopies/You heard the noise they make/Let me introduce you to my Rocket '88."

Ike Turner — one of the originators of rock and roll — has died.

"Rocket 88" — according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — "is widely considered the first rock and roll record."

ADDED: Jon Pareles writes a nice, full-scale obituary for the NYT. One issue, but only one issue, is the way he treated Tina Turner:
Ms. Turner’s [autobiography, “I, Tina”] describes domestic violence, infidelity and drug use; his [autobiography, “Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner”] does not deny that, although he wrote... “Tina and me, we had our fights, but we ain’t had no more fights than anybody else.”

Tina walked out on him in 1975. Mr. Turner, already abusing cocaine and alcohol, spiraled further downward during the 1980s while Ms. Turner became a multimillion-selling star on her own. A recording studio he had built in Los Angeles burned down in 1982, and he was arrested repeatedly on drug charges. In 1989 he went to prison for various cocaine-possession offenses and was in jail when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Very sad. A flawed man. But he's just died, and he was a great musician.

I'm in Madison.


Very deeply in.

"Never having done this with Bill."

What does that mean?

ADDED: The Daily News says:
Alarmed by his wife's slide in the polls and disarray within her backbiting campaign, a beside-himself Bill Clinton has leaped atop the barricades and is furiously plotting a cure - or coup....

Another Democrat with close connections to the Clinton campaign describes Bill Clinton as "very engaged and very agitated. He's yelling at [chief strategist] Mark Penn a lot."...

One post-Thanksgiving meeting erupted into finger-pointing over the loss of her advantage.

"They all want to kill each other," said a source aware of the closed-door meeting.

The backstabbing involves several high-level people in the campaign, including Penn, Mandy Grunwald, Ann Lewis and Howard Wolfson, sources said.
I wonder who's going to get coupée.

"This isn't the worst thing that will happen to you today."

Said to me by a woman working behind the counter for a major airline as I checked my bag today and complained that the instructions on the self-check-in screen were confusing and flashed off before I could figure out what I was supposed to do next.

Think about it. As I'm checking in for a flight, someone working for the airline predicts that something bad is going to happen to me today. I assume I'd be arrested if I told her something bad was going to happen today.

In any case, checking a bag around here is a ridiculous procedure. If you decide you don't want to pay the curbside employee $2 + tip to take your bag, you have to go inside and find a computer to fiddle with, then see that you are to proceed somewhere else to get the tag. But where? Oh, the counter that you used to be able to go to when there were no computers. Then, though there is a conveyor belt of the sort that counter employees have always put bags on, you have to take your bag over to another place to hand it over to the screeners.

It's as if they are deliberately tormenting you so that next time you'll see why you ought to have forked over $3 to check a bag. What a ridiculous system! They ought to be making you feel good about the switch-over to self-service computers. Instead, I felt like they were trying to humiliate me for my unwillingness to use the old-fashioned skycap service. Actually, I'd have used it and tipped the skycap, but the $2 does-not-include-gratuity charge rubbed me the wrong way.

American Airlines, either modernize efficiently or be graciously old-fashioned. If you want to be modern and old fashioned at the same time, at least be efficient and gracious about it. But this set-up, at La Guardia Airport, is ugly and awkward.

And telling me it's not the worst thing that will happen to me today is beyond belief.

Here's what the woman working at the counter could have said: I'm sorry. We don't mean for it to be confusing. We're still working on perfecting the new system. I hope you'll give us another chance.

Or she could have told what I think is the truth: Why are you even trying to check a bag inside? You had your chance with the skycaps, but you were too cheap to pay $3. Three damned dollars, and now you think that I will lift your crap onto a conveyor belt or give you any information you could find yourself on the computer screen? And you dare to complain? I hope this is just the start of a terrible day for you, bitch.

ADDED: Some sympathy. And a film clip.

"Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

Mike Huckabee asks the NYT reporter. The reporter, Zev Chafets, portrays Huckabee as rather sly:
Romney, a Mormon, had promised that he would be addressing the subject of his religion a few days later. I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘‘I think it’s a religion,’’ he said. ‘‘I really don’t know much about it.’’

I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘‘Don’t Mormons,’’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’’
Earlier in the article, Chafets also references the devil — who, I think, appalls most NYT readers not because they fear Hell but because they fear those who concern themselves with the famous old supernatural malefactor. The context is that Huckabee is glowing over the endorsement of Tim LaHaye, author of the ‘‘Left Behind’’ series:
Recently [LaHaye] donated a hockey rink to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, although some members of the faculty there deride ‘‘Left Behind’’ as science fiction. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, has no such reservations. He considers the ‘‘Left Behind’’ books, in which the world comes to a violent end as Jesus triumphs over Satan, a ‘‘compelling story written for nontheologians.’’
Is Chafets trying to get readers to think that Huckabee is more benighted than a Liberty University professor? What actually is the difference between viewing the books as "science fiction" or as a "story for nontheologians"? Is it that those faculty members "deride" the story while Huckabee finds it "compelling"? But those unnamed faculty members don't stand to benefit from the endorsement of a very popular author, and there's actually nothing inconsistent between ridiculing the scenario in those books and acknowledging that the story works very well to engage some people in thinking about religion.

Satan horns his way into the article again when Chafets sits down to lunch with Huckabee:
Lunch with Mike Huckabee is a study in faith-based dieting. He has lost 110 pounds in recent years, a feat he chronicled in a book, ‘‘Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork.’’ This has given Huckabee something to talk about on daytime television. More important, it has lent him evangelical street cred. An important part of the evangelical narrative is overcoming the devil. But Huckabee was seemingly born born-again. Luckily for him, gluttony counts as a sin, Crisco as a Christian chemical dependency. By the time he reached 40, Huckabee had packed more than 300 pounds onto his 5-foot-11 frame. Then he began wrestling, calorie by calorie, with Satan.

Huckabee ordered soup and a sandwich without drama or comment and began talking about rock ’n’ roll.
Damn! Why won't Huck give Chafets the religious nuggets he so craves?
This is his regular warm-up gambit with reporters of a certain age, meant to convey that he is a cool guy for a Baptist preacher. Naturally I fell for it...
... but not hard enough to resist adding Satan! to the text of the article even though Huckabee apparently hadn't even mentioned religion at this point.
... and asked who he would like to play at his inaugural. ‘‘I’ve got to start with the Stones,’’ Huckabee said. The governor regards 1968 as the dawning of ‘‘the age of the birth-control pill, free love, gay sex, the drug culture and reckless disregard for standards.’’ The Rolling Stones album ‘‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’’ provided the soundtrack for that annus terribilis.
Satan again! Is Satan tempting Chafets? And why not tell us about "Sympathy for the Devil"? That came out in 1968. "Satanic Majesties Request" was released in 1967 and contained candyass songs like "She's a Rainbow." Maybe the editor decided it was high time to strike one Satan reference.
But Mike Huckabee wanted me to know that he believes in the separation of church and stage.
"Church and stage"? Oh, so that's not a typo? It's a Huckabee joke that's been processed into near imperceptibility.

You put all that Satan into the article and then you don't let us get the feeling for how he really talks about Satan? And the big quote everyone's going to get from the article is the one I've put in the title to this post, which leaves Huckabee — perhaps a kindly and humorous guy — looking... devilish.

I hear...

... you too.

December 11, 2007

"Mr. Straatman said the crack was modest in its width and depth, hardly the sort of gaping abyss into which you might plummet to your doom."

Art crack.

"More than the other primary candidates, Romney has President Bush’s virtues and avoids his flaws."

National Review endorses Mitt Romney:
His moral positions, and his instincts on taxes and foreign policy, are the same. But he is less inclined to federal activism, less tolerant of overspending, better able to defend conservative positions in debate, and more likely to demand performance from his subordinates. A winning combination, by our lights. In this most fluid and unpredictable Republican field, we vote for Mitt Romney.

In Tartu.

With statues.

And trees, birds, and food.


Nice to see Hillary Clinton has some top-flight people working for her.

IN THE COMMENTS: I ask "Is her deputy campaign manager a LOLcat?"


"Mitt Romney stood up, and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens, opposed driver's licenses for illegals."

"Mike Huckabee? Supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded college scholarships for illegal aliens."

That's Mitt Romney's new ad.

Meanwhile, Ryan Lizza has this big piece in The New Yorker about the Republican Party's embrace of "nativism." Excerpt:
“[Immigration] does appear to be the issue out here wherever we are,” [Mike Huckabee] told me. “Nobody’s asked about Iraq—doesn’t ever come up. The first question out of the box, everywhere I go—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, it doesn’t matter—is immigration. It’s just red hot, and I don’t fully understand it.”

Romney has not been similarly reflective in trying to discern the source of the issue’s power. Rather, he has quickly and easily adopted the negative code words of the anti-immigration movement—“sanctuary cities,” “amnesty”—and has tried to attach them to Giuliani and Huckabee. In doing so, he became the first top-tier candidate to seize the Tancredo mantle. My own sense, from talking to Huckabee, a Southern populist, and McCain, a border-state senator, is that they are genuinely appalled by Romney’s tactics, not only because of the damage to their campaigns but also because of the damage they believe he’s doing to the Party’s image....

[L]ast week, Huckabee, too, found his inner Tancredo: he announced the Secure America Plan, which included tough language about enforcement and pressuring illegal immigrants to return home. This leaves McCain as the only Republican candidate who hasn’t folded in the face of Romney’s attacks. At the press lunch in Virginia, after McCain had discussed his warm relations with several candidates, a reporter asked about Romney. “I’ve never known him,” McCain said icily. “I’ve never had a relationship with him.”

"The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate."

ABC reports:
In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke [Abu] Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds....

"From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks."

Kiriakou said the feeling in the months after the 9/11 attacks was that interrogators did not have the time to delve into the agency's bag of other interrogation tricks.

"Those tricks of the trade require a great deal of time -- much of the time -- and we didn't have that luxury. We were afraid that there was another major attack coming," he said.

"They never told us, 'Hell, no.' If somebody had said, 'You cannot destroy them,' we would not have destroyed them."

CIA lawyers cleared the destruction of the interrogation tapes.

"How smart is it for a woman with such a bad reputation for truthfulness and veracity to put those character traits at the center of the campaign?"

Stuart Taylor, Jr. asks the classic I-thought-you-were-supposed-to-be-smart question of Hillary. He notes her ridiculous citation of Obama's "I Want to Become President" kindergarten essay and proceeds to enumerate the Clintonian dishonesty:

Gennifer and Monica. ... Although well aware of her husband's philandering history, Hillary backed his squishy denials, famously asserting on "60 Minutes" that she was not "some little woman standing by her man like Tammy Wynette." More deceptively, she suggested to ABC's Sam Donaldson that Bill's contacts with Flowers were just an example of how he loved to "help people who are in trouble" and "listen to their problems."

"Hillary's words uncannily foreshadowed her insistence six years later to ... a White House aide that Bill had 'ministered' to [Monica] Lewinsky because she was a troubled young woman," Sally Bedell Smith writes in her fine new book about the Clintons, For Love of Politics. Hillary has continued to insist that she believed what she said about Lewinsky. But friends and former aides have told Smith and others that she knew her husband was lying all along.

Travelgate. ... [H]er statements were contradicted by evidence, including a long-concealed memo to McLarty and a written chronology prepared by White House aide David Watkins that came to light years later....

While saying that no provable crime had been committed, Robert Ray, who had succeeded Kenneth Starr as independent counsel, reported in October 2000 that Hillary's statements had been "factually false" and that there was "overwhelming evidence that she in fact did have a role in the decision to fire the employees."

Cattle futures. ... Hillary's first explanation (through aides) of this extraordinary windfall was that she had made the investment after "reading The Wall Street Journal" and placed all the trades herself after seeking advice from "numerous people." It was so preposterous that she soon had to abandon it.....

Removal of Vince Foster documents. ...

Castle Grande. .... Castle Grande was a sewer of sham transactions... Hillary told federal investigators that she knew nothing about Castle Grande. When it turned out that more than 30 of her 60 hours of legal work for Madison Guaranty involved Castle Grande, she said she had known the project under a different name. A 1996 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. report said that she had drafted documents that Castle Grande used to "deceive federal bank examiners."...

Billing records. ....
Taylor lays it out crisply.

"Why are the major Democratic presidential candidates standing on the sidelines when it comes to ending the war and zero tolerance for torture?"

Asks Arianna Huffington in a column titled "Dems Are Addicted to Backing Down."

She excludes the possibility that the Democrats might actually be supporting the policies they believe are best or at least acting politically by choosing policies they think the majority of voters want. No, for Arianna, since she doesn't like what they are doing, she perceives a mental disorder:
It's like AA — they first need to admit they have a severe problem, do a serious and fearless political inventory, and then commit to making a change.

Memo to Oprah: while you're on the campaign trail, maybe you can facilitate an intervention. How about you and Dr. Phil show up at the next debate and haul the Democratic frontrunners and the Congressional leadership off to spinal rehab.
Because you just can't imagine that the spine they have is used to stand up to you.

December 10, 2007

Why dyslexics become entrepreneurs.

It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.

The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed — 35 percent — identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

“We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills,” Professor Logan said in an interview. “If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you’ll hear over and over, ‘It won’t work. It can’t be done.’ But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems.”
Mentioned in the article is Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko's:
“I get bored easily, and that is a great motivator,” [Orfalea] said. “I think everybody should have dyslexia and A.D.D.”

He attributes his success to his difficulty with reading and writing because it forced him to master verbal communication.

“I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence as a kid,” he said. “And that is for the good. If you have a healthy dose of rejection in your life, you are going to have to figure out how to do it your way.”...

“I told myself I would never be a lawyer or a doctor,” he said. “But I wanted to make a lot of money. And I knew business was the only way I was going to do it.”
I wrote about Orfalea back in May:
I adore Orfalea, who wrote a memoir called "Copy This! How I turned Dyslexia, ADHD, and 100 square feet into a company called Kinko's." He got me through the loneliest segment of that 1235 mile drive from Austin to Madison last month as I clicked the satellite radio over to C-Span and heard him giving a talk based on that memoir. What a wonderful, inspiring guy!
I love these stories of how people find special powers in their mental deficiencies. (Oliver Sacks is a master at presenting material of this kind.)

Bonus topic: What are the mental deficiencies that prevail in the world of blogging?

"I was given the assignment to end this before it got too much worse."

"I give credit to God."

Says Jeanne Assam, the woman with a gun, who saved perhaps 100 persons.

"It is better to receive than to give... at least when the subject is guns."

Justice Ginsburg, concurring, characterizes today's opinion in Watson v. United States:
For reasons well stated by Justice Scalia in his dissenting opinion in Smith, 508 U. S., at 241, I would read the word “use” in §924(c)(1) to mean use as a weapon, not use in a bartering transaction. Accordingly, I would overrule Smith, and thereby render our precedent both coherent and consistent with normal usage. Cf. Henslee v. Union Planters Nat. Bank & Trust Co., 335 U. S. 595, 600 (1949) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting) (“Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”).
Everyone else on the Court accepted the distinction between giving and getting. Justice Souter finds "the appeal to symmetry underwhelming":
The problem... is not with the sturdiness of Smith but with the limited malleability of the language Smith construed, and policy-driven symmetry cannot turn “receipt-in-trade” into “use.” Whatever the tension between the prior result and the outcome here, law depends on respect for language and would be served better by statutory amendment (if Congress sees asymmetry) than by racking statutory language to cover a policy it fails to reach.

"A major restoration of flexibility for trial judges in drug cases."

SCOTUSblog explains this morning's Supreme Court case that authorized federal judges to lower sentences for crack cocaine crimes:
The Kimbrough ruling on punishing crack cocaine offenses marks a major shift in the debate that has raged for 21 years over the much more severe sentencing required for those whose crimes involved crack cocaine. The Sentencing Commission for years asked Congress to ease the 100-to-1 ratio, and usually failed, but only recently gained some flexibility to vary the Guideline range outside that ratio. The disparity in punishment has often been challenged as racially oriented, because black offenders more often are involved in possessing or distributing crack than powder....

The Court’s ruling, besides shoring up the Sentencing Commission’s criticism of crack punishment, also bolsters federal trial judges who in recent months have been experimenting with easing up on crack cocaine sentences. Whether this was a valid use of their authority, because it might and does result in below-Guidelines sentences, was the issue the Court decided in Kimbrough.

Obama's "The One," says Oprah.

"Apathy is the attitude that disappointment is normal." That's a quote that stood out for me, listening to Oprah Winfrey introducing Barack Obama in South Carolina. I'm watching the video at that link and thinking about how well the familiar Oprah style translates into the political setting.

At first, Oprah sounds hoarse and yells too much, but she settles into things by saying "South Carolina" over and over, talking about her own southern roots, thickening her southern accent, and confessing that she's leaving her comfort zone — "stepping out of my pew." That's an image that combines her beloved TV show and her roots in southern religion. She deftly unites modern TV-pop psychology and old-time religion.

She eases into talking politics. She's never done this before. She's stayed away from politics. She's had apathy, she says, but now she's inspired. To say that is to unite psychology and religion and politics. She increases the sound of the southern preacher in her voice so it makes you start thinking of Martin Luther King just before she says, "You know, Dr. King dreamed the dream." The audience responds with a churchly "Yeah." But we don't have to merely dream anymore. "We get to vote that dream into reality." She still hasn't said the name "Barack Obama," but the listener is on edge expecting the invocation of the name. "The reason I support Barack Obama is because he speaks to the potential inside every one of us."

Thus she presents Obama as an embodiment of our political, religious, and psychological needs. I'm saying "our," even though the presentation is strongly aimed at black people, because I don't lose the sense that she is speaking to the country as a whole. She ends with an image from the old television movie "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," in which the ancient black woman is asking one young black person after another, "Are you The One?" This too combines the psychological, the political, and the religious — religious, because who is "The One" but the savior of mankind?

She tells us some people think that Barack Obama ought to wait. She equates that with the old message that black people ought to have waited for equality. In this rhetoric, to tell him he should wait feels racist. But Oprah never accuses anyone of racism. She never even mentions the name of the rival who wants us to think that she is ahead of him in line. Oprah keeps the positive message in front. This is inspirational. Barack Obama is The One, so allow him to emerge into his rightful place, and we will all be fulfilled, saved... and — why not? — well governed.

ADDED: The photo at the link — to the NYT — says a lot. Oprah and Michelle Obama are standing together under a sign that, cropped, reads "We can believe in." Barack Obama is pointing at them with an active gesture that makes me think he's using his miraculous powers to unite the two women — to unite us all. Believe!

December 9, 2007

"I’m a religious fanatic just like you."

"J.F.K.'s speech was to reassure Americans that he wasn’t a religious fanatic. Mitt's was to tell evangelical Christians, 'I’m a religious fanatic just like you.'"

Maureen Dowd phones up Jon Krakauer, author of "Under the Banner of Heaven,” for some opinion about Mitt Romney's religion speech.



"I don't care if they call me crazy, the new time will go ahead."

Says Hugo Chavez, creating a new time zone for Venezuela, setting the clocks back half an hour.
Science and Technology Minister Hector Nacarro praised the measure.

"I see it as a very positive thing that while there is light we can be in it," he said.

And President Chavez said earlier this year that schoolchildren would arrive for lessons with more energy as a result of the change.

"These children have to get up at five in the morning... they arrive at school dead tired. And why? Because of our time."

Fiendish time! It's ruining everything!

Actually, this isn't the only half-hour-off time zone:
Canada's Newfoundland province is half-an-hour out of step with other Atlantic provinces.

Pakistan is only half-an-hour behind India, while Nepal is a mere 15 minutes ahead of its large southern neighbour.

Western Australia and South Australia observe a 90-minute time difference across the state boundary.

However, the remote border town of Eucla and the surrounding area, home to a few hundred people, operates on its own time zone, 45 minutes ahead of Western Australia and 45 minutes behind South Australia.

CIA interrogations: "tough enough"?

WaPo reports:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort.
Hypocritical enough?