January 19, 2008

New York night.


We stop for a coffee/tea before walking the rest of the way to the theater. Two days of Broadway shows...

Is Jack Balkin more subversive than Eugene Volokh? Am I?

Yale lawprof Jack Balkin is in China, checking out which lawprof blogs are blocked:
I was able to reach Volokh Conspiracy, SCOTUSBlog, How Appealing, Election Law, Instapundit, Mirror of Justice, Concurring Opinions, Becker-Posner, PrawfsBlawg, Feminist Law Professors, Business Associations Blog, Lessig Blog, and Black Prof. I was not able to reach Balkinization, Althouse, U Chicago, Leiter Law School and The Conglomerate.

There is almost no reason to believe that, from the standpoint of the Chinese government, Balkinization is more subversive than Volokh Conspiracy or Becker Posner, or a number of other blogs on this list. It is likely that, as with most Internet filtering schemes, the results are some combination of overblocking technology, arbitrary decisionmaking, and simple luck of the draw.
I can think of plenty of reasons why the Althouse blog is more subversive!

A Saturday coffeehouse.

It's up to you to make this post interesting. Carry on.

UPDATE: Your humble blogger has returned from my daylong sojourns in the material world. Thanks for upholding life here in virtual reality.

Bow down, Chris Matthews!

You cannot be disrespectful to Hillary Clinton, the woman.

AND: Here's the pithy statement that he was blabbering about:

IN THE COMMENTS: Ruth Anne Adams writes:
So now Hillary and the Intern-ment problem are equivalent with John McCain and his Vietnamese internment? I think he owes McCain an apology, too.

Tyra Banks to Chris Matthews:

Are you embarrassed to be such a pussy? I would be embarrassed.

January 18, 2008

"Were you embarrassed? I would be embarrassed."

Tyra Banks asks Hillary Clinton about Monica Lewinsky.

ADDED: Video disembedded.

Should a 10-year-old be permitted to go hunting?

There's a proposal to lower the hunting age from 12 to 10 in Wisconsin, something we talked about on "The Week in Review" on WPR this morning. Go here and scroll to the 43:45 point. I have something to say about it.

ADDED: Let me transcribe the key part of my comment:
A young boy who's 10 is very different from a young boy who's 12. I have two sons, and I think you go through a lot of changes in those years, and somebody who's 10 might be really open to bonding with a parent and learning how to do something new and something technical. I think being able to include a 10-year-old boy — a 10-year-old girl too (I mean, I don't have a girl, so I don't know) — but a boy who's 12 is more in his adolescence and more rebellious, and it may be a lost opportunity to really do something with your child....

I remember the way I was able to share activities with [my sons] when they were pre-adolescents. It's a wonderful time — I don't know if you have boys — but it's a wonderful time to do things with boys right before they go into adolescence... when they change... their emotions, their atttitudes... the things they want to do with you change. And so, I think that 10 should be seen as a very special age.

"Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought..."

I'm not declaring favorites in the presidential campaign, but I've got to say that stuff like this makes me love Obama, at least on a personal level:
Obama began by recalling a moment in Tuesday night's debate when he and his rivals were asked to name their biggest weakness. Obama answered first, saying he has a messy desk and needs help managing paperwork - something his opponents have since used to suggest he's not up to managing the country. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said his biggest weakness is that he has a powerful response to seeing pain in others, and Clinton said she gets impatient to bring change to America.

"Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought that they meant, 'What's your biggest weakness?'" Obama said to laughter from a packed house at Rancho High School. "If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. And then I could have said, 'Well, ya know, I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don't want to be helped. It's terrible.'"

In the Monica Lewinsky scandal — 10 years old now — "Everybody lost, with one exception, or possibly two."

Writes Timothy Noah in Slate. I had to stop and think who that one person was and decided it must be Matt Drudge. But he's not even one of the two:
The only unambiguous victor I can identify is Jonah Goldberg... [B]y making himself very available to the braying jackals of cable news, Goldberg was able to parlay a job as TV producer for conservative think-tank bore Ben Wattenberg into a contributing editorship at National Review, a columnist gig at the Los Angeles Times, and a measure of respectability thus far unsullied by his authorship of a best-selling book alleging significant connections between fascism and contemporary liberalism.

Another possible net winner is Hillary Clinton....

"If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do."

Mike Huckabee, working the South Carolina flag issue.

"People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with."

Christopher Hitchens rails about "identity politics":
Those of us who follow politics seriously rather than view it as a game show do not look at Hillary Clinton and simply think "first woman president." We think -- for example -- "first ex-co-president" or "first wife of a disbarred lawyer and impeached former incumbent" or "first person to use her daughter as photo-op protection during her husband's perjury rap."...

Here again, the problem is that Sen. Obama wants us to transcend something at the same time he implicitly asks us to give that same something as a reason to vote for him. I must say that the lyricism with which he does this has double and triple the charm of Mrs. Clinton's heavily-scripted trudge through the landscape, but the irony is still the same....

I shall not vote for Sen. Obama and it will not be because he -- like me and like all of us -- carries African genes. And I shall not be voting for Mrs. Clinton, who has the gall to inform me after a career of overweening entitlement that there is "a double standard" at work for women in politics; and I assure you now that this decision of mine has only to do with the content of her character. We will know that we have put this behind us when -- as with the vowel -- we have outgrown and forgotten the original prejudice.

ADDED: My son John IMs:
I'm sick of Hitchens's writing style!!

"I shall not vote for Sen. Obama..."

Are we supposed to take him more seriously just because he uses the word "shall"?

I can't imagine any other writer making such a pompous announcement of who they're supporting for president.

To Professor Althouse.


I shan't trouble You or your Readers with my Opinions on Mr. Hitchens, except to say that, were he to stand Time on its Head and return my Century, he would be a welcome Citizen to the Republic of Letters. Mr. Hitchens's Passport would be that he refuses to write Cant, right or wrong as he may be in the Issue.

I should also say that safe arrival upon the Shores of this Republic in my Day, would not have protected Mr. Hitchens from many a Knock. An Author may have written what he would in the Papers; but he should have found that the Love of the Publick was as much a Dweller of the Rocks as that known by the Shepherd in Virgil.

As a Ghost these 250 years and more, I should, indeed, wish to stand Time on its Head and return to my Life; were that it would be concluded better than it fell out. I shall not, however, use this Occasion to make Complaints of my Fate, for 'twas that which all Men share.

Writing in Haste, and puzzl'ing over the Tense to be used if Time were to run backwards,

I remain, Madam,

Your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

"I was a little disturbed by my anger..."

"Because of the way Daddy behaved when he was angry and drunk, I associated anger with being out of control and I was determined not to lose control. Doing so could unleash the deeper, constant anger I kept locked away because I didn’t know where it came from."

Bill Clinton's anger.
Is it problem anger?

Why Barack Obama is "authentically black."

"He is being black by choice. That is more authentic."

Radio alert.

I'll be on the "Week in Review" show on Wisconsin Public Radio at 8 AM Central Time this morning. That's 9 AM in the Eastern Time zone where I'll be on the phone.

Go here to listen on-line live. You can call in.

You'll be able to listen to the archived show here, later.

The other guest — on the left — is Ed Garvey.

AFTER-SHOW UPDATE: Ed makes no bones about his lefty politics, and it's fun sparring with him. Here's his blog, Fighting Bob. And I've got the archive link fixed, so go listen if you want.

January 17, 2008

"What the Hell is Mitt Romney Talking About?"


ADDED: Video disembedded.

Are you one of the 40 million Americans who live in a sexless marriage?

According to experts, your marriage is "sexless" if you have sex 10 times a year or less. So please, people, make the effort. That 11th time is crucial. Or are you choosing celibacy? Click on the link if you want to delve into all the details. Me, I didn't read much of the linked article. I'm not married and haven't been since the 1980s. It's not my question, but maybe it's yours. You have total access to a sexual partner, yet you don't bother most of the time. Is it a mystery, or is it obvious?

"It was on a blog, so I don't know if it's actually true..."

Said Rush Limbaugh, quoting something that some blogger said came from David Brooks of the New York Times. (Subscriber link to the radio show transcript.) This set up an interesting discussion, which I'll get to in a minute, but what's with "It was on a blog, so I don't know if it's actually true"?
Now, it's attributed to Brooks, but I don't know if it's true. Some blog post by a guy named Ezra Klein, who I don't know, and don't interpret this as a criticism of anybody.
I Googled some of the text and easily found Ezra's post, which contained a link to the NYT site to a piece written by David Brooks. Maybe Rush just wanted to take a gratuitous swipe at bloggers, but it doesn't say much about his level of fact checking, and since his point was to go after Brooks, why leave any question about the attribution to Brooks?

Anyway, here's what Brooks wrote:
[T]he Republican prospects in the fall just got even dimmer. I say this not only because a weak general election candidate won a primary, but because Mitt Romney’s win [in Michigan] pretty much guarantees a bitter fight for the nomination. If you doubt that, here is what Rush Limbaugh said about McCain and Huckabee on his program today: “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.” This week, Rush and his radio mimics have been on the rampage on the party’s modernizers, from Newt Gingrich on over.
And here's Rush's response:
I am personally trying to destroy the party's modernizers?... It is literally fascinating to hear that people who are not conservatives, or who have abandoned a lot of their conservatism, are now the party modernizers?... I am happy to be labeled and targeted as the guy who's targeting the modernizers of the Republican Party.

Midlife crisis or narcissistic jerk?

Here's a piece by psychiatry professor Richard A. Friedman that's ranking well on the NYT most-emailed list. There are different reasons why a piece might get emailed, one of which is that it's a surprising or brilliant article, but another is — and I think that's the case here — that the article says exactly what you'd like to say to somebody or — in this case especially — to say to a lot of people about somebody. The theory Friedman is putting his professional stamp on is that the term "midlife crisis" is a lame excuse for selfish, destructive behavior and a fear of getting old.

That made me think of this dialogue in the movie "Moonstruck":
Rose: Why do men chase women?

Johnny: Well, there's a Bible story... God... God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. Now maybe men chase women to get the rib back. When God took the rib, he left a big hole there, where there used to be something. And the women have that. Now maybe, just maybe, a man isn't complete as a man without a woman.

Rose: [frustrated] But why would a man need more than one woman?

Johnny: I don't know. Maybe because he fears death.

[Rose looks up, eyes wide, suspicions confirmed]

Rose: That's it! That's the reason!

Johnny: I don't know...

Rose: No! That's it! Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!

"The Prada Unman was gotten up in humiliating tutu belts, severe high-collar shirts that buttoned up the back..."

"... and odd cummerbunds that disappeared in a chevron down the front of trousers conspicuously lacking a fly.... [W]hen designers stop conceding to biological function, they move away from the realm of fashion and into that of social engineering. It is one thing to nudge men toward exploring their girly sides and quite another to suggest they sit to urinate."

Guy Trebay draws the line.

January 16, 2008

"We know how to talk about eatin' fried squirrel."

"Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America."

"He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is that we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

"Every time you post, recite the following to yourself as though it were a mantra: 'I am cutting rope with which to hang myself....'"

Advice to doctor bloggers, from Robert Lindeman, the pediatrician who blogged his own malpractice trial and then had his blog — which he'd been writing under the pseudonym "Flea" — exposed and used against him on cross-examination.

IN THE COMMENTS: Eric Turkewitz, whose interview with Lindeman appears at the link, writes:
I don't think I'd use detachment as the word for what he was doing. Rather, he seemed to be obsessed by the death of the boy and the idea of being blamed for it, perhaps understandably obsessed. And that seems to be what clouded his judgment.
Although I didn't use the word "detachment" — a commenter who calls himself "althouse too" did — I did write about "Flea" back here and posit a "disconnect between the writer taking a pose for literary effect and the real-world person." The doctor himself had characterized his blogger persona as a "cocky bastard."

The candidates and their TV shows.

I'll put it in quiz form.

1. Which candidate likes "The Office"?

2. Which candidate likes "The Daily Show" and "The Sopranos"?

3. Which candidate likes "Antiques Roadshow"?

4. Which candidate names Sam Malone (of "Cheers") as his favorite TV character of all time?

5. Which candidate says SpongeBob SquarePants?

6. Which candidate says it's a tie between the Lone Ranger, Lou Grant and Archie Bunker?

Go here for the answers. And then one more question:

7. Which candidate's information is most likely to be true and which is most likely to have been concocted for publicity purposes?

I think I'm going to have to stop watching "American Idol."

Monday marked the first day of my 5th year of blogging, and during each of those past 4 years, I blogged every episode — did I miss even 1? — of "American Idol." Last night, a new season began, and I started watching and got about halfway through before I abandoned it (with the recorder going) to check out the Democratic debate and the Michigan primary returns. Will I go back and watch the rest of the show?

It feels too much like an obligation, but what's worse is that I don't feel that it works well for me as raw material for blogging anymore. Must I once again live through the early auditions, where one mouth after another opens and something either reasonably good or horribly bad comes out?

What difference does it make? It will either be good or bad. If it's bad, you're to laugh.

(And I did laugh pretty hard at one poor man last night. He told us he was like Paul Robeson, sang with his mouth oddly constrained and his lingual frenulum on obscene display, and then blamed his failure to impress the judges on his choice of religious material. )

If it's good, you're supposed to bond. You're supposed to care as these characters begin their journey into the months long sifting process. They prod you to bond by presenting mini-melodramas that emphasize the contestants' close bonds to their mothers, their sick children, and their horses and kitties.

You're supposed to upload the significant singers one by one into your consciousness so that you can appreciate the experience of seeing them systematically and slowly eliminated, until there is one left standing, at which point, you — or at least I — will realize I am not at all interested in this person. Get off my TV screen.

And then they do. They go away. They hibernate — they estivate and they hibernate — until the following January, when you will have forgotten what a pain it was to follow the show week after unrewarding week, and you'll be able to feel excited by the return of the boinging theme music, and the old panel of judges, who will file in wearily and act pained that they have to sit through it all again.

But they are being paid. I'm not. Seriously, my readers paid me $200 to eat an egg salad sandwich that one time, but no one pays me to blog "American Idol." Would I take a job watching and writing about "American Idol" for $200 an episode? Of course not! But even as we do some things for money that we wouldn't do for free, we do some things for free that we wouldn't do for money. Nevertheless, somehow, this year, blogging every episode of "American Idol" doesn't seem to be one of them.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of great discussion of later episodes.

ADDED: Actually, there's a glitch that cuts off the comments in that old post making it impossible to see all of what I pointed you too. So here are the comments from this week's girls show (and some more), all by ace commenter Trooper York:
Now the ladies.

Carly is up and guess what her secret is? SHE"S IRISH AND SHE WORKS IN A BAR!!!! WOW.

She sings Crazy on you by Heart and does an ok rendition. The judges are trying to rehablitate her since the controversy seems to have blown over about her prior record contract. But she has a long way to go to really have a chance to win.

Syesha's up and does a smokey, sexy version of Me and Mrs Jones, but turns it into Me and Mr. Jones which freaks out Simon since he can't deal with gender confusion, (see his relationship with Seacrest). The judges dog her and she seems sad, but I think she is safe unless everyone forgets her. But she has the Latin base and the Miami people so she might be ok this week since other people will suck much worse.

Brooke is up next and takes her guitar and sings a letter perfect copy of Carly Simon's Youre so Vain to Simon. He loves it because it plays to his image and praises her for it. It's funny how they ask for orginality and then love a letter perfect copy. This is pure karioke if I ever heard it. I do admit she does have the horse face and lips of Carly Simon. Lets give her a carrot and move on to the next contestant.

Which is our favorite, little Ramile who belts out some Donna Summer. The judges don't buy it because they want her back in her box. It's funny because she is the only contestant who could actually fit in a box. Maybe a hat box. Or even a McDonals happy meal box. Or a happy ending box. Simon does call her one of the three best singers in the competition. So she should be good for this week.

Next up is pony girl Kristy Lee Cooke who sings "Youre No Good." Very appropriate because she is no good and I hope she is one of the two who are out this week. Simon says she has a lot of potential, but I think that is on her looks alone, cause she can't sing for shit. I would pay good money to see her saddle up horse face Brooke and ride her around the Surreal Life house, but that won't happen for a year or two.

Amanda Oversinger, I mean Amanda. Overbearing, I mean Amanda Overmeyer the motorcycle chick is next and she sucks big time. The judges really trash her big time and deservedly so. But the looks she is giving them are classic. I bet she's thinking, let me get a tire iron and come back here and see what's what. I guess she is going back to singing in bars and raping waitresses on pinball machines with pool cues. Sweet.

Alexandrea comes out in the professor's favorite outfit: a bubble shirt and cargo shorts. This outfit would be good for about six posts if some dude wore it on the Promonade. She sang "Hopelessly Devouted to You" in a hopelessly depressing monotone. The judges trash her gently and give just enough encouragement so she might skate this week. But I think she has a chance to go this week. [NOTE: He's right.]

Wait a minute I screwed up. It was Alaina Witaker who sang Hopelessly Devoted and ALexandrea who had the bad outfit. Both sucked and have a chance to be out. See what happens when you wait a day and rely on your notes. You forget. I feel like Roger Clemens. Please don't tell Congress.

Next up is Kady Malloy who does the Britney impression. I said it before and I will say it again, if she wants to be noticed she needs to show her cootch just like Britney cause otherwise she is out this week or next. Jeeez.

Last but not least, Asia'h rocks. All By Myself and the judges diss her lightly but I think it was the best of the night. Since she got the pimp spot she should be ok and get throught to the next round. Good tone, good belting, good dance moves, good look. She will be in the final ten.

So to recap, I think Amanda and Kady will be out this week. Also Jason the child molester guy with the Damien kid and Robbie the Axel Rose douche bag guy. Lets see. [NOTE: He was right about the guys, but wrong about the girls.]

Remember don't look at the spelling because I am typing as fast as I can and I can't spell for shit. Sorry....

I think that the Humility Kid [David Archuleta] will wear out his welcome before the final. He is peaking way too early. I think it will be a surprise winner this year. The Hernandez kid has good instincts and might go far, but my bet is split between Syesha or Ramile. Hey it might be the year for people with strange names to win it all. Right Hillary?

Not [Archuleta's] singing, but his popularity. He is the fave of the little tweener girls, notice the squeals and the screams at his performance. He might keep that demographic but everyone else gets pissed off. Witness the Talyor Hicks fiasco. Plus kids have a short attention span and most of the tweeners favs fade just as it happened in the first season with that bozo haired guy.

The question is who gets the Ralph Nader protest votes marshaled by Vote for the Worst. My bet is Cha-cheese-ie or Noriega. That is important because it kept Sanjaya and Scott Savol the secret squirrel around for quite a while.

A good personality can go a long way. People get tired of wise guys, but that is what puts the Vote for the Worst guys in your corner. Although that might have died out too since it was fun last year with Sanjaya but will Stern and the rest of them get on the bandwagon. It's not a good idea to talk back to the judges and overly bitchy like Noriega goes quick. But who ever thought that old pineapple face's kid would be on American Idol. General Noriega must be proud wherever he is these days. (Dead?)

If the economy is going to be the central issue, who is the best candidate?

The exit polling in the Michigan primary shows a strong preference for Mitt Romney among voters who thought the economy was the most important issue. Meanwhile, last night the Democratic candidates debated and — to my ear — pandered scarily on economic issues.

Here's Power Line on Mitt Romney:
... Romney made a fundamental but understandable error in his approach to the campaign. Romney and his advisers decided, early on, to position him as the one plausible candidate who is conservative on all three of the basic issue clusters: economics, national defense, and the social issues. As such, he could claim the mantle as heir to the Reagan coalition. This was a natural and maybe inevitable choice, but I think it turned out to be wrong.

Romney's self-definition exposed him to ridicule because of the liberal positions he took on the social issues when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. Romney's brain trust apparently thought they could avoid this problem, maybe because they underestimated the power of YouTube, more likely because they knew that Romney really is a social conservative and assumed he would be credible as such. Instead, he was typecast early on as a flip-flopper and a plastic candidate. That image has hurt him more than anything else.

My guess is that Romney's views on the social issues are similar to my own: he's a social conservative, but doesn't have much appetite for red-meat politics on abortion and gay marriage, and places much higher priority on the economy and national defense. With hindsight, I think there was a better way for Romney to position himself: as a conservative and supremely knowledgeable expert on the economy, as George Bush's heir as a vigorous defender of the U.S. in the war against Islamic terrorism, and as a person who is himself a social conservative--just take one look at his family portrait--but who doesn't talk much about those issues except in the context of the constitutional philosophy which will guide his appointment of judges. I think if he had followed this route, he would have been truer to himself and more credible to voters.
He'd certainly be more appealing to people like me who want a strong national defense position, don't trust the Democrats on the economy, and are social liberals. The "plastic" taunt has never bothered me, because it meant he might be closer to what I thought than he appeared or at least pragmatic and accommodating on the social issues.

Power Line notes that the economy is Romney's strength:
I don't think Romney needs to do an about-face on the social issues. If he emphasizes his expertise in applying free-market solutions to economic problems, with strong national defense in a close second place, and if he couches whatever comments he makes on the social issues in terms of the only sphere where the President actually impacts them--the appointment of judges--he should be able to achieve a subtle shift in the way he presents himself to voters.
Of course, he can accomplish a subtle shift. He's plastic:
plastic (adj.)
1632, "capable of shaping or molding," from L. plasticus, from Gk. plastikos "able to be molded, pertaining to molding," from plastos "molded," from plassein "to mold" (see plasma). Surgical sense of "remedying a deficiency of structure" is first recorded 1839. The noun meaning "solid substance that can be molded" is attested from 1905, originally of dental molds (Plasticine, a trade name for a modeling clay substitute, is from 1897). Main modern meaning, "synthetic product made from oil derivatives," first recorded 1909, coined by Leo Baekeland (see bakelite). Picked up in counterculture slang as an adj. meaning "false, superficial" (1963).
Wouldn't some plasticity be good for a change?

Hillary as Tracy Flick — the video.

January 15, 2008

Romney wins... and on to the debate.

NBC is showing 37% for Romney over 31% for McCain and 16% for Huckabee. And now for the debate... the Democrats. I guess Dennis lost his case.

9:06 (times are Eastern): Kucinich lost. Good lord, Hillary is grim and droning as she talks about her truce with Obama over the MLK controversy. Obama sounds normal. (Amazing accomplishment!) And Edwards seems to have a little speech memorized. He lived with the civil rights movement, blah, blah.

9:22: Someone in the audience is saying: "These are race-based questions." Tim Russert pauses, and the man shuts up. The debate goes on. But it's leaden. All three of the candidates look terribly weary.

9:43: Sorry for "underblogging" the debate. I'm trying to watch "American Idol" simultaneously. And I'm rather tired of both shows.

10:01: The pandering on economic issues is a huge turn-off for me. A 5-year freeze on interest rates? I'm not an economist, but that sounds terribly wrong. Yet there's not a word of explanation of why that might be a good idea (from Hillary Clinton).

10:17: I'm surprised that Tim Russert pronounces ROTC "Rot C," which I once said on a news show and felt very embarrassed about. I thought that was an old 1960s pejorative pronunciation. But Russert says it and then all the candidates say it. They're answering a question about requiring universities to give the military access to campuses, and the candidate all support it — and I don't hear one word about gay rights.

It's back! "American Idol."

You know you have to watch. It's not a question of whether we love the show. And certainly we can't enjoy the music. It's just part of American culture. So let's huddle together and keep each other company as we face the horrors and the occasional delights of another season.

ADDED: Simon Cowell says – after a big family whoops with joy when their girl makes it through to Hollywood — "You know what's amazing about this country is that you're genuinely happy when someone you know does well... The idea of me knowing somebody, they get good news, and celebrating with them... I couldn't do it."

Tonight on television.

I haven't watched much TV lately, and not because of the writers' strike. I hadn't been watching any scripted shows anyway. I'm just too busy staring at my computer and — occasionally — out and about in the real world. (I went to the opera last night, but I'm too busy to think up a workable way to blog about the opera.)

But tonight, TV is required:

1. Michigan primary results!

2. Democratic debate!

3. New season of "American Idol"!

Or does that sound terrible? Another primary, another debate, another season of "American Idol"?

Am I really supposed to blog every episode of "American Idol" — for the 5th year in a row? It's a tradition here on the Althouse blog. Am I up for it? Do I care? Can I find a way to blog without caring or just to care about blogging? Stay tuned.

Anyway, the Democratic debate is the subject of a hot last-minute legal battle as li'l Dennis fights for respect after MSNBC disinvited him when Biden, Dodd, and Richardson all dropped out. You've got to admit that it's absurd to have Clinton, Obama, Edwards and then just Kucinich. But a Nevada judge issued an injunction, and now there's a last minute appeal in the Nevada Supreme Court. It seems to be partly a contract dispute but partly an argument about NBC's obligation to serve the public interest under the Federal Communications Act of 1934. I don't quite understand that last part, since it's a cable network, he's not talking to the FCC, and the new format seems to suit the public interest well enough. But it does make it all sound juicier as an argument for consumption by the general public.

All this is to say that I'll do some TV-blogging tonight.

ADDED: I hope they keep Dennis out so that there will be some aesthetically pleasing symmetry to the evening: 2 panels, each consisting of a black man, a white woman, and a white man.

I love Apple.

This is the thing that I most wanted from them, and it's far more beautiful than I could have pictured.

Here, watch the ad. Even the ad is sublime.


Screams Drudge. I follow the link and see this video of Couric in her off-air moments on the night of the New Hampshire primary and find her completely sound and rather charming:

"What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House..."

"... and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor?"

Christopher Hitchens asks a question.

"I don't for a moment think that Obama shares Wright's views on Farrakhan."

"But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man."

That's Richard Cohen
, casting aspersions in the Washington Post. Barack Obama belongs to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Is he responsible for everything done by its minister Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.? Are all the candidates responsible for the opinions of their ministers, or only candidates that seem foggy?

"A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas.

Writes Bob Herbert, inviting the presidential candidates — who are campaigning in Nevada — to pay attention to "the dark persistence of misogyny in America":
There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At the sound of the bell, the prostitutes have five minutes to get to an assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to drop by.
First of all, these prostitutes aren't at all like Pavlov's dogs, who heard a bell and actually got physically excited by anticipation that they would be fed. They're more like doctors who carry beepers. They've chosen a line of work where their clients determine when their services are wanted, and they're being paid for attending to those needs whether they are in the mood or not. That's difficult to do, so show some respect. Don't condescend and tell them they are being humiliated. It's legal prostitution, and the job is voluntary. Are doctors humiliated when patients show up and expect them to palpate and attend to their naked body parts?

"What we have here is worthy of a Tom Wolfe novel: the bonfire of the multicultural vanities."

Writes David Brooks:
The Clintons are hitting Obama with everything they’ve got. The Obama subordinates are twisting every critique into a racial outrage in an effort to make all criticism morally off-limits....
Ha ha. Exactly. Are you deeply troubled that such serious matters should be so rudely politicized, or are you laughing at the farce?

Meanwhile, the 2 campaigns have supposedly called a truce with respect to any dispute over Martin Luther King. Does that mean race won't be a point of contention anymore or are we just seeing Obama showing off his graciousness while reminding us of Mrs. Clinton's MLK gaffe once again?

January 14, 2008

Pushing Romney in Michigan to screw up the Republicans.

We've talked about this before — the Kos effort to get Michigan Democrats to vote for Mitt Romney — but there's a video going around that I thought you might want to talk about. Actually, I found it pretty funny, and I like Mitt Romney (as much as any of the other politicians in this crazy election):

At Kos, they're saying: "Michigan, do you want this primary season to be over? Or do you want this primary season to be... hilarious?" The trouble with hilarity is you never know if you're going to get the last laugh.

Matt Yglesias has an interesting comment:
[C]ynicism aside, it really does seem to me that Romney would be a less dangerous president than Mike Huckabee or John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Voting for Romney in a primary is win-win.

So have your fun, and if he ends up President... enjoy that too.

"The last thing we need is a President who encourages festering racial controversies."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, observing Barack Obama.
You know, I've noted before that if Hillary attacks Obama too hard she risks losing black supporters -- and others who've invested in Obama. But it works both ways -- if Obama looks too much like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, or even like he's too close to those two politically, he'll lose a lot of people who've rallied to him precisely because he promised "a new kind of politics." You can't run as a uniter, and engage in racial politicking at the same time. Well, you can -- but it won't work very well.
Unless it does. You just have to get enough people to think you're not really the one raising the subject — which is the game Hillary herself is playing. Oh, but politics isn't a game. It's about people.

When the amputee is barred from the Olympics because his prosthetic legs give him an advantage...

... then you know how wonderful technology is. But too bad for Oscar Pistorius.
[German professor Gert-Peter] Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor found that the returned energy ''from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting.''...

Pistorius was born without fibulas -- the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle -- and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen."

That is, the whole Democratic Party's view of the surge, snarks William Kristol, adopting Bill Clinton's line.

This blog is 4 years old today.

And this is the 10,792nd post. I have posted every single day these past 4 years, averaging over 7 posts a day. It started like this, on January 14, 2004:
This blog is called Marginalia, because I'm writing from Madison, Wisconsin, and Marginalia is a fictionalized name for Madison that I thought up a long time ago when I seriously believed I would write a fictionalized account of my life in Madison, Wisconsin. There is nothing terribly marginal about Madison, really, but I do like writing in the margins of books, something I once caused a librarian to gasp by saying. Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book.
But the blog didn't stay named Marginalia. I changed the name to Althouse on day 2. Despite the name change, I really did see myself as writing marginalia that maybe somebody would run across one day on some dusty back page of the internet.

I remember when I started blogging, my across the hall colleague Gordon Smith told me his blog had about 60 readers a day, and I wondered how one could accumulate 60 readers. How I would love to have 60 readers! He told me of another law blogger who had 400 readers, and that seemed amazing. How do you get even 1 person to show up in the first place and read, and then how would you get them to come back and read every day?

I didn't know, but I loved the writing and found it truly intrinsically rewarding from that first post. Just the idea that people — anywhere — could read it was thrilling. To be here, now, 4 years later, still writing — with readers — is an immense joy.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by.

January 13, 2008

Fireworks, again... and I don't know why.

Living here, it's a regular thing to hear fireworks and to go out on the terrace and watch....


I have no idea what the occasion is. Is it for the 3 large ships that ease by?


UPDATE: It was the ships:
Three of the world's best-known ocean liners steamed out of New York harbour together late today, sailing out of the same port for the first and only time in their history.

The Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2 and newly launched Queen Victoria slipped past the Statue of Liberty together under the cover of darkness as fireworks burst overhead, offering maritime history fans a unique opportunity.
Since the QE2 is off on its last world cruise and, in November, will become a floating hotel parked in Dubai, this was the only time the three ships would ever meet.
Launched by her namesake in 1967, the QE2 has travelled 5.5 million nautical miles - the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back 13 times - undertaken 25 world cruises and crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times.

"I, seriously, was like the Lindsay Lohan of scrapbooking."

Did you know about the "Hall of Fame-Gate" scandal that has rocked the world of scrapbooking?
At first, [Kristina] Contes found the uproar amusingly absurd. She replied on her blog.
"Apparently, many lives have been destroyed by this catastrophe."

Her post prompted a barrage of responses on message boards on sites such as Scrapsmack and Twopeasinabucket. One message thread about her received more than 1,255 comments.

"I guess her response is 'dignified' if you live in the same trailer park as she does."

She "doesn't have a moral bone in her body."

Mortified and hurt, Contes stopped scrapbooking.
What outrage can you commit with a scrapbook? (She didn't take her own photographs.)

Reflecting on brownstone windows.


In Brooklyn Heights.


"I haven’t paid much attention to [the 'vast right-wing conspiracy'] for about 10 years."

Said Hillary Clinton, today on "Meet the Press." Well, does it exist? " I really don’t have any idea. ... I’m just too busy to worry about that.”

ADDED: Here is the transcript of the show. There's plenty in it to chew over. Let me highlight the last question, which has emotional impact — I think — even though she absolutely walls us out of her private world:
MR. RUSSERT: Doris Kearns Goodwin said, "What's the biggest public adversity a person has ever faced?" What's yours?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think we all know that, we lived through it, didn't we, and it's something that was very painful and very hurtful.

MR. RUSSERT: What did you learn from it?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, first of all, it is who I am as a person. I believe that you have to withstand whatever problems come your way. You have to make the decisions that are best for you. You're going to get a lot of advice coming from many different quarters to do things that don't feel right to you, that don't reflect who you are and what your values are. So you have to be grounded in who you are and what you believe. And you're not always going to make the right decisions, but you have to be guided by what you think is important, and that's what I've done.
She couldn't say "I have always deeply loved my husband" or "I believe marriage is 'til death do us part."

IN THE COMMENTS: Reader_Iam says:
She couldn't say "I have always deeply loved my husband" or "I believe marriage is 'til death do us part."

I don't think she should have to.

The former is none of our business, and as for the latter--well, so far her choices are demonstrating what she believes with regard to her own marriage; of course, only time will tell if that turns out to be the case in the long run. As is, of course, true of all marriages.
I don't think she owes us that look into her private feelings. I'm just saying she's the kind of person who chooses not to see that question as an opportunity to show warmth and intimacy or to pontificate about family values. It wasn't meant as a criticism.
What did you learn from it?

Frankly, I have to hand it to Hillary, because I'm not sure I could have bitten back my gut response to that question, which is, "Oh, f*** you."
That would have been one of the all-time great TV moments. #1 on some VH-1 "100 most outrageous TV moments" list. It'd be better than this:

Bat, man, man.

Stone carvings in Brooklyn Heights

Stone carvings in Brooklyn Heights

Stone carvings in Brooklyn Heights

Stone carvings in Brooklyn Heights.

Election coverage hijinx.

Get that damned hologram outta my face.

[Video disembedded. It was slow loading and didn't play in Safari.]

"But in a battle between a rat and a squirrel, my money is going to be on the rat."

Darrin Lunde, museum mammalogy maven, opines, in response to musings about the rodents that share the ecosystem that is Central Park.
Mr. Lunde recalled a scene a few years back, around twilight, near the north entrance to the Central Park Zoo: "Someone had strung up a duffel bag full of peanuts, and the place was just swarming with squirrels, but with only one great big brown rat sitting on top of the pile and battling off all the squirrels around him. I still remember that rat."
A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, a few years back, I was walking through the north entrance to Central Park Zoo, and someone had strung up a duffel bag full of peanuts. The place was just swarming with squirrels, but with only one great big brown rat sitting on top of the pile. I only saw him for one second. He didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that rat.


"The government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures."

We should talk about Ezra Levant. (Via Instapundit.)

The candidates... in a word.

Tranquility Base is asking you — quick — to give your first word association for each of the presidential candidates:
John McCain

Barack Obama

Mike Huckabee

Hillary Clinton

Fred Thompson

John Edwards

Mitt Romney

Rudy Guliani

Ron Paul

The order of the names might affect your thinking, but I've preserved the order used over there — where there are some pretty funny results already.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ricardo makes them rhyme:
So does Michael Farris, who insists he didn't get the idea from Ricardo:
John McCain - mean

Barack Obama - sheen

Mike Huckabee - green

Hillary Clinton - queen

Fred Thompson - umpteen

John Edwards - preen

Mitt Romney - machine

Rudy Guliani - obscene

Ron Paul - lean
And Trooper York is off on a meme of his own:
John McCain Mr. Wilson

Barack Obama Urkel

Mike Huckabee Junior Sample[s]

Hillary Clinton Alice Kramden

Fred Thompson Fred Flintstone

John Edwards Chrissy Snow

Mitt Romney Ted Baxter

Rudy Guliani Chachi

Ron Paul Mr. Furley

"In my opinion, it is a little late in the day to become sentimental about a woman running for president."

Novelist — and Madison resident — Lorrie Moore has an op-ed in the NYT:
The political moment for feminine role models, arguably, has passed us by. The children who are suffering in this country, who are having trouble in school, and for whom the murder and suicide rates and economic dropout rates are high, are boys — especially boys of color, for whom the whole educational system, starting in kindergarten, often feels a form of exile, a system designed by and for white girls....

Perfect historical timing has always been something of a magic trick — finite and swift. The train moves out of the station. The time to capture the imagination of middle-class white girls, the group Hillary Clinton represents, was long ago. Such girls have now managed on their own (given that in this economy only the rich are doing well). They have their teachers and many other professionals to admire, as well as a fierce 67-year-old babe as speaker of the House, several governors and a Supreme Court justice. The landscape is not bare.

Boys are faring worse — and the time for symbols and leaders they can connect with beneficially should be now and should be theirs. Hillary Clinton’s gender does not rescue society from that — instead she serves as a kind of nostalgia for a time when it might have. Only her policies are what matter now, and here — despite some squabbling and bad advice that has caused her to “go negative” — the Democrats largely agree. But inspiration is essential for living, and Mr. Obama holds the greater fascination for our children
Should we pick a President based on who needs inspiration most?

How strange that after all these years of waiting for a black or a female President, we get the strong candiates in both categories at the same time. It's not working out the way inspirationalists might have hoped as the two candidates must do battle. Moore would like to say: Step back, Hillary. Barack Obama is the candidate of diversity symbolism. But she's going to fight, and nobody can or should stop her. The race and gender cards are already in play. It may have been an inspirational game at some point, but it morphed into something ugly, and it's hard to see how it won't get uglier.