March 1, 2008

And now for a pro-Obama video.

I've given Clinton a tough time today, but please don't think that means I'm promoting anyone else. I'm not. I've been tough on McCain and on Obama — more than once — in the last few days. I write about what happens to come my way, and I hope I'm playing it straight.

In any case, I didn't go looking for this next video. I saw it on the Bloggingheads site. It's an independent pro-Obama video — similar to the "Yes We Can" video of a few weeks ago. But unlike that video, it's quite awful. Have a look:

Chanting the candidate's name? The people in this video are — most of them — swooning and sleepwalking. "I just want this war to end" — they sound like children. Nice, polite, pretty children. Much sweeter than back in the days when I was young and it seemed like a good idea to yell "We want the world and we want now," but just as juvenile.

Today's sunset.

New York Harbor sunset

New York Harbor sunset

New York Harbor sunset

Cloudscape with city.

Cloudscape with city

New York right now.

"If there is a bear."

John Dickerson writes about Hillary Clinton's children sleeping ad:
The new Clinton ad tries to ... [expand] the group of voters who care most about experience. Remember, it's a dangerous world.

The Bush campaign never ran an ad like this when it was accused of scare-mongering during the 2004 campaign. (They preferred using animals.) Perhaps that's why Clinton campaign staffers have to insist they are not trying to frighten voters. While coyness is annoying, the essential question the ad asks is a fair one: Which of the candidates do you trust to keep his or her head when everyone around them is lighting theirs on fire, and at a time when your kid's safety could be on the line?
At "animals," Dickerson links to this Bush ad:

YouTube wisely serves up this other ad:

I wonder how dangerous the world would need to be before I wouldn't laugh at "If there is a bear"?

Anyway, it's interesting, isn't it? Democrats try to scare you with children and Republicans try to scare you with animals.

"Why are the letters 'NIG' on the child's pajamas?"

Asks a commenter — "Tom" — on my post about the new Hillary Clinton commercial, the one that shows several children sleeping and then Clinton taking a national security phone call in the middle of the night. You can see the commercial at the link, and the pajamas in question are on display during seconds 11 and 12. On pausing, staring, and thinking, I believe these are pajamas that say "good night" all over them, but the letters "NIG" are set apart by a fold in the fabric.

Is the campaign responsible for sending out a subliminal message to stimulate racist thoughts in the unsuspecting viewer? It is either deliberate or terribly incompetent. There is no other writing on screen until the very end of the commercial, and if letters appear in any place in a commercial, they should be carefully selected letters. Certainly, each image is artfully composed and shot and intended to deliver an emotional impact. Could this be a mere lapse?

In 2000, there was a much-discussed commercial for George W. Bush that displayed the letters "RATS":
The announcer starts by lauding George W. Bush's proposal for dealing with prescription drugs, and criticizes the plan being offered by Vice President Al Gore. Fragments of the phrase ''bureaucrats decide'' -- deriding Mr. Gore's proposal -- then dance around the screen.

Then, if the viewer watches very closely, something else happens. The word ''rats,'' a fragment of the word ''bureaucrats,'' pops up in one frame. And though the image lasts only one-thirtieth of a second, it is in huge white capital letters, larger than any other word on the commercial.

The advertisement then declares, ''The Gore prescription plan: bureaucrats decide.''

But as one might be expect in a tightly contested presidential race, the Democrats have given the 30-second advertisement more than a quick glance.

After being alerted by an eagle-eyed Democrat in Seattle, aides to Mr. Gore examined the advertisement frame by frame, spotted the suspicious word and gave a copy of a slowed-down version to The New York Times.

Those aides said they had no comment and preferred that the advertisement, which has appeared in 33 markets nationwide since August, speak for itself.

Alex Castellanos, who produced the commercial for the Republican National Committee, insisted that the use of the word was ''purely accidental,'' saying, ''We don't play ball that way. I'm not that clever.''

Asked when he had first noticed the word in the commercial, Mr. Castellanos said, ''That's all I want to say.''

But several Republican and Democratic advertising consultants who were told of the commercial, as well as many independent academics, said they were startled that such a word would appear and said it appeared to be a subliminal attempt to discredit Mr. Gore.

Mr. Bush's chief media consultant, Mark McKinnon, said he had not noticed the word ''rats'' when he reviewed the advertisement before it was broadcast. Most people probably have not noticed either, although some people who watched a tape of the commercial at normal speed today -- albeit very carefully -- said it was visible.

After being told of the word, Mr. McKinnon said the commercial should be corrected because it ''certainly might give reporters or anybody else who looked at it'' a reason to stir up attention.

But after taking another look at the advertisement, he amended his comment.

'' 'Rats' is not a message,'' Mr. McKinnon said. '' 'Bad plan' or 'seniors lose' might be. But 'rats?' We're just not that clever. I just watched it five times in a row. Hard as I looked, couldn't see 'rats.' ''

Almost every advertising professional interviewed said that given the technology by which commercials are assembled frame by frame, it was virtually impossible for a producer not to know the word was there.

''There is no way that anything Alex Castellanos does is an accident,'' said Greg Stevens, a veteran Republican advertising consultant here.
The intense scrutiny of the "RATS" ad heightens the assumption that presidential candidates these days pay close attention to any incidental lettering that appears in their ads. "RATS" as part of the word "bureaucrats" in an ad criticizing Gore's prescription plan is nothing compared to "NIG" isolated on a sleeping child's shoulder in an ad intended to create doubts about a black man's ability to take an urgent phone call at 3 a.m., an ad authorized by a candidate who has already heard accusations that her campaign is slipping racial material into its attacks on her opponent.

This is either a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some controversy, of course. I know this is hard to take. But let me front page this one, from Mortimer Brezny, who is responding to a commenter who said: "[F]or subliminal messaging to be effective, I think it has to be intelligible. In this case, you really have to fill in the dots (reconstruct the right-half of the G) to make it so. If it had said NIC, would there be an issue, because you could imagine C => G?"
Oh, that is incorrect. The way the mind makes closure is by filling in the blanks. You don't need to see an entire face to envision what the other half of it looks like. That is not a conscious activity of the brain, it is neurological, like seeing the color red.

Certainly, Ann is correct that you activate associational networks in the brain. NIG is quite obviously in the same area of the brain as NIGGER, just as both words are nearby in the dictionary. And the commercial is about Obama. Associating those two neural pathways (Obama, Nig__) at the same time may create the subliminal message Ann is talking about. In that case the real fear being exploited here is "Do you really want a nigger in the White House?"

This is not bunk. Drew Westen has done a good amount of empirical work on it. And political hacks use such research in crafting their ads.

You may disagree with Ann's conclusion. But her analysis explains why the commercial -- incoherently -- focuses on kids in bed. No one is scared that terrorists will break into their home late at night and harm their children. The threat depicted does not correspond to the threat described by the narrator. But the threat depicted does prey on fears of criminals breaking into your home. And it is a persistent stereotype that black people are the source of crime. Indeed, being tough on crime has been a GOP code word for being tough on blacks. Longtime Republican strategist Lee Atwater himself admitted that.

"So if, with our subconscious, we actually notice these 2.5 letters, and our subconscious assumes that this is a G and not a C, then this forms a fragment of a racial slur, which some of us might subconsciously pick up on, and associate, naturally, with Obama."

Yes. The mind does this everyday, as when you see a sign behind Obama's head that reads "CHANG". You don't think Obama has chosen a Chinese running mate. You think Obama's head is obscuring the E because you have seen a "CHANGE" sign before. It does not require conscious thought and it takes less than a second to process.

It's funny that Ann often dithers around for fun to mass appeal, but when she writes a post that clearly demonstrates she's a genius, the claws come out.
Feel free to observe the claws out on many other websites, where personal attacks on me take the place of any serious effort to engage on the merits. For example, the usually serious blogger Kevin Drum calls me harebrained and a glue sniffer. The vicious attack on the messenger bespeaks fear of the message and lack of a substantive argument against it.

NOTE: I've added a link to the video in the first paragraph of the post and two screen captures from the video, taken at 0:11. The first capture is the full screen, with no digital editing. The second capture is a closeup of the lettering, and I've turned up the contrast, saturation, and sharpness. There's no question that there are letters on the pajamas. The letters N and I are very clear. The third letter, G, appears only partially, but it is definitely a G. You can see the center line slightly, and the other letters in the area make it likely that the words "good night" appear as a pattern on the pajamas.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Pastafarian wrote:
You must be kidding, right? The G is partially obscured, on the side of the screen and slightly out of focus, written sideways, and present for a second or so; I wouldn't even have guessed that it was a G, had I not been told. I would have assumed a C, had I even noticed this.
Amba aptly responds:
That's exactly how a subliminal-advertising genius would do it. With deniability, with doubt, right on the edge of intelligibility. If it was even a little more obvious, it wouldn't work. This way, anyone who brings it up can be called paranoid and crazy; it can be reflected back on the hypersensitive Obama campaign. We'll never know for sure if it's real, but one way to check would be to find out who made the ad and check out some of that person's other work.
By the way, the sleeping child appears to be black. Mere coincidence?

MORE: In this new post.

AND: If you've mocked me for this post, read this and then send me your apology.

A break in the clouds.

A break in the clouds

A break in the clouds

February 29, 2008

My makeshift radio studio.

Doing that radio show today, I had to use a wired land-line phone. That forced me to do the call in the kitchen, so here's how I set up in there:

Set up to do a radio show in my Brooklyn kitchen

The crafty Obama finds a way to look magnanimous while actually casting aspersions on McCain.

Noam Scheiber falls for an Obaman rhetorical trick. In a post titled, "Obama to McCain: You're Presidential Material in My Book," Scheiber notes what he calls "a very shrewd response by the Obama campaign to questions about McCain's 'natural-born' status." He links to this:
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a prominent backer of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama, introduced legislation Thursday that would define a "natural-born citizen" as anyone born to any U.S. citizen while serving in the active or reserve components of the U.S. armed forces. Obama's campaign announced late Thursday that he will co-sponsor the bill.

"Those who serve and sacrifice for their country, like John McCain and his father deserve every honor and privilege that our nation can possibly provide, and that includes the ability to run for the highest office in the land," Obama said in a statement.
Here's Scheiber's comment:
There was just no way McCain was going to be denied the presidency on the grounds that he was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was stationed there for the military. You might as well take the high ground here, and Obama's done so pretty gracefully (and with some political savvy).
Actually, Obama found the only possible low ground and made it look like high ground.

The argument that McCain isn't a natural born citizen within the meaning of Article II of the Constitution is an obvious loser, both as a matter of constitutional interpretation and as something that an opposing candidate would want to say. But Obama, co-sponsoring the bill, is acting generous, as though he is forbearing making an attack. But since there is no attack to make, he's not actually being magnanimous. He's only putting on a show.

What is more, offering a statutory solution sends the message that there is a problem to be fixed. So in fact, it's a crafty way of saying that McCain is not now currently qualified!

Finally, if one believed the statute were needed to solve a problem of disqualification, there would be 2 reasons why it would not be effective:

1. A statute can't change the meaning of a constitutional term. Congress can no more re-define who is a "natural born citizen" than it can deem persons younger than 35 to be qualified for the presidency.

2. Even if a statute could successfully re-define who is a citizen at birth, McCain was born 71 years ago. Anyone who believed that this new statute conferred status as a natural-born citizen would be plunged into confusing questions about whether it could have a retroactive effect as it related to the constitutional clause.

Thus, fooling with this bill now is a way of creating phony doubts about McCain's qualification. That Obama can also receive plaudits for magnanimity should startle us awake. This is a man with amazing rhetorical skills, so we need to raise our game. I'm not saying Obama shouldn't be President. Indeed, I'd like to see skills like this wielded in our favor on the world stage. But pay attention and sharpen up so you can see what he's saying!

ADDED: In the email:
Are you sure you're not misoverestimating him? I think Bush played the lowered expectations games brilliantly [his strategery was to be misunderestimated] and the Bush/Rove jujitsu is legendary. Obama might be too smart by half.

UPDATE: The Washington Post joins the gullibility club.

"No one wants to miss 20 6-year-olds in red cowboy hats tapping to 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."

Says Michelle Obama, referring to the one dance recital of his daughter Sasha's that Barack Obama missed.

Here are the lyrics of that kinky dominatrix song. Which line do you consider least appropriate for 6-year-old girls to sing?

Radio alert.

I'm going to be on "At Issue with Ben Mehrens," a Wisconsin Public Radio show, from 4 to 6 PM Central Time today. This is one of those call-in shows where we talk about the news of the past week. You can stream the show or, later, listen to the show from the archive.

UPDATE: We're at the news break now, at 4:30 CT. If you're listening, you may notice a trend in many of the callers: antagonism to free markets.

More blue.

Pre-Columbian art (seen with the fisheye at the Museum of Natural History):

South American exhibit at the Museum of Natural History

The color is the museum's lighting, not my digital tweaking.

Let's watch the YouTubed Hillary ad that the NYT has frontpaged right now.

A commenter at the NYT blog post (where a click on the front page picture takes you) compares this ad to the famous 1964 ad for LBJ:

The Clinton ad is much mellower, lacking the drama of the child's daisy petal counting becoming a nuclear countdown and explosion, but it makes the same connections between our love for children, our desire for security, and a purportedly reliable candidate. I thought Clinton's ad was quite effective, even though I knew I was watching a Clinton ad, and it's the kind of ad that is supposed to work by drawing you in and only at length revealing what is being promoted. I am entirely jaded and not susceptible to believing what the ad is trying to tell me, but I still experienced the emotional impact. When the candidate was shown in the end, looking earnest answering the phone at night, I cried a real sob, for a tiny fraction of a second (before laughing at myself).

ADDED: And score one point for feminism if you didn't have a sexist reaction in the end when you saw Hillary Clinton on the phone. In fact, I'm impressed that this image wasn't nixed on the ground that too many people will see a woman on the phone and think: Women! Always yakking on the phone!

AND: The Hillary campaign deserves credit for getting everyone talking about this. And from our own comments here, Palladian:
Amazing, the last image of Hillary on the phone produced in me a quick pang of positive feelings for her. A moment of love for her. Notice how the whole commercial up to that point is colored in blues, almost monochromatic. Then Hillary pops onto the screen, all warm tones, lit by a warm yellowish light. We connect with the only other warm tones in the commercial, those of the lights on the outside of the home that begin the commercial, the warm windows and porch lights of home. Hillary is a beacon in a shadowy world of blue, just like home.

And she's damn well put together at 3 o'clock in the morning, isn't she?!

AND: A lot of you are noting that she's wearing glasses, but this is a nice touch of realism. Hillary wears contact lenses, and at 3 AM, she'd probably have taken them out for sleeping and would quickly put on glasses. Now, that doesn't explain the perfect suit jacket, gold necklace, and neat coiffure, but wouldn't it be hilarious if they showed her wearing a granny nightgown and sitting on the edge of the bed to take that phone call?

"Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that."

"It's been calling itself  'voting Republican' or 'not liking the New Deal.' But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad."

Peggy Noonan, paraphrasing William F. Buckley, Jr.

Blue glass art commerce.

Scupture garden at MOMA

Apple Store

Apple Store

I photographed the Apple Store on 5th Avenue and the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art on the same day, and both the 3 images came out of the camera with a rich blue color.

AND: I've added a third photo (in the middle) because I didn't like the way the 2 photos leaned in the same direction. I needed to restore stability to the post. Speaking of distortions, you may be asking: Where are all the fisheye photographs? Hang on. I've got a few. You'll see.

Is it unacceptable for a white comic actor to impersonate Obama on SNL?

Wouldn't it be worse to use the black cast member who doesn't look at all like Obama?
[Lorne] Michaels said that the show auditioned "four to five" actors for the Obama role... "When it came down to it, I went with the person with the cleanest comedy 'take' on" Obama, Michaels said.

Michaels said he liked how [Fred] Armisen caught the tilt of Obama's head, the rhythm of his speaking style, "the essence" of his look. "It's not about race," Michaels insisted via phone....

Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, says viewers might have a different reaction if the roles were reversed. What if, he says, "SNL" had cast a black woman to portray Hillary Clinton? "Do you think there's ever going to be a day when we start casting Queen Latifah to portray Princess Diana?" he asks. "We just don't have the same representations going in other direction."
Why did the professor of critical studies come up with an example of a large American black woman playing a skinny English white woman? Kind of stacking the deck there, Professor Boyd. Now, if Queen Latifah played Hillary — with a lot of hair and makeup work, I can picture it — the issue would be: Did she do it well and was it funny? Which is the test SNL applied to Arneson. In any case, what is Boyd talking about? We are much more sensitive about a white person wearing blackface than about a black person playing white!

Remember Eddie Murphy in the 1984 SNL sketch "White Like Me"? Could white America have laughed any harder? "I've got a lot of friends, and we've got a lot of makeup. So, the next time you're huggin' up with some really super, groovy white guy, or you met a really great, super keen white chick, don't be too sure. They might be black." Was there any outrage over that?

ADDED: To be fair to Professor Boyd, if the question is whether a black actor would ever get the part of playing a white person, the answer may be that there are always plenty of white actors around to fill the white roles. It's not about whether we find blackface less acceptable than whiteface, but just that black actors don't get the chance to play white. But it's at least as rare for a white actor to get the part of playing a black person. And, as I implied at the beginning of this post, it would be more racially offensive to give the role to a black actor who doesn't look at all like the black person he's supposed to portray. It would represent the view that all black people look alike. 

The last-ditch effort to save the Clinton candidacy.

Adam Nagourney delivers the message: There is a reason Hillary Clinton has not been able to deliver the full attack against Barack Obama, but if he becomes the candidate, when it is too late, that attack will come. I expect to see this message everywhere over the weekend. Watch for it.

My campaign will be dispirited, because I'm a proud conservative liberal...

Leap Day.

Is there anything you're going to do about it?

I pity any journalist forced to cover the story. They must feel like the Bill Murray character in "Groundhog Day," stuck covering a tedious day that the public expects to see noted.

February 28, 2008



"The comment is a general, aimless and inane suggestion posted on a message board known for its aimless inanity..."

"AK47" fights disclosure of his name in the suit by 2 Yale law students over nasty things said on the AutoAdmit website. (PDF of motion, discussed on the WSJ law blog.)

The "aimless and inane" thing AK47 wrote was: "Women named Jill and [Doe II’s equally common first name] should be raped."

Butterflies are very discreet.


Visitors to the vivarium are not.

Why is McCain appearing with a raving anti-Catholic?

I think Barack Obama didn't go far enough distancing himself from Louis Farrakhan, but McCain stood on a stage with John Hagee and openly accepted his endorsement.

Hagee in action:


MORE: Here.

CORRECTION MADE: Hagee's first name is John, not Bill.

ADDED: Glenn Greenwald — posting the YouTube clip I found — writes:
Continuing with today's "politics/strange-bedfellows" theme, Ann Althouse called McCain's appearance with Hagee "disgusting" and posted the following You Tube in which Hagee shares some of his views on the Catholic Church.
I'd intended "Disgusting" to refer to the video, not to the McCain-Hagee appearance, but I accept the extension of my judgment to what McCain did. And I don't quite know what Greenwald means with his "strange-bedfellows" remark. Does he mean it's strange of him to ally with me? (Click the "Greenwald" tag below to see my history with Greenwald.) Or does he think that I'm deserting McCain? I saw this from Mark Kleiman:
Ann Althouse becomes, I think, the first conservative blogger to get on John McCain's case about his accepting the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who holds somewhat ... primitive ... views about Catholicism. Kudos to her....

How many Redbloggers will follow Althouse, and how many will simply button their lips.
This is big overestimation of my commitment to conservatives. I'm an independent blogger and I call them as I see them. The reason I appear allied with righties is that righties — as they say — look for converts and lefties look for heretics. I've gotten well-linked from the right, from bloggers who leave me alone when they disagree and give me positive reinforcement when they agree. This linkage makes me look like a traitor to my class (university professors) and I get punished from the left on a regular basis, with almost no positive reinforcement. For example, when I said I was voting for Obama in the Wisconsin primary, all I got from the left was the accusation that I was setting up a dramatic turn to McCain later in the year. It's just not like that for me. I'm not political the way those other bloggers are political.

Tonight's sunset.

New York sunset

(Taken with this new telephoto lens — which was also used for the new blog portrait.)

If you want "American Idol" blogging on the girls' turn last night....

... go back to this old post and scroll way down to Trooper York's comments on each of the singers. Personally, I hated everything in last night's show and could barely tolerate the show passing through my brain once. I'm not giving it the extra time it would take to write about it. Man, I hate that kind of singing.

McCain versus Obama.

WaPo looks at the current McCain-Obama fighting:
... McCain seized on a comment by Obama that he would reserve the right to return to Iraq after withdrawing troops "if al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq."

"I have some news," McCain told voters at a rally here Wednesday morning. "Al-Qaeda is in Iraq. Al-Qaeda is called 'al-Qaeda in Iraq.' My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base. . . . they would be taking a country. I will not allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender."...

Speaking to 7,000 voters at Ohio State University on Wednesday, Obama answered McCain's mocking tone with his own.

"McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, 'Well let me give you some news, Barack, al-Qaeda is in Iraq.' Like I wasn't reading the papers, like I didn't know what was going on. I said, 'Well, first of all, I do know that al-Qaeda is in Iraq; that's why I've said we should continue to strike al-Qaeda targets.

"I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al-Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq." The crowd roared its approval. "I've got some news for John McCain. He took us into a war along with George Bush that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than at any time since 2001.

"So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
Now, speculate about who will do better in a face-to-face debate in the fall.

Who will determine whether John McCain is a "natural-born citizen," qualified for the presidency?

There's been a lot of discussion of whether John McCain meets the constitutional requirement for the presidency. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father was stationed as a military officer. The NYT covers the story today:
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”...

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of Mr. McCain’s closest allies, said it would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military member born in a military station could not run for president.

“He was posted there on orders from the United States government,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. McCain’s father. “If that becomes a problem, we need to tell every military family that your kid can’t be president if they take an overseas assignment.”
I love the contrast between the academic and the politician, and I think the politician's legal sensibility here says more about how the Supreme Court would ultimately decide the question than any academic inquiry into the text and the history of the constitutional clause. Graham, by the way, is a lawyer (with a law degree from the University of South Carolina) and more than 6 years of service as a lawyer in the Air Force. He still serves in the Air Force Reserves, where he is a colonel and a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School. He knows law, and his interpretation of the clause is not just political instinct.
Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court....

Lawyers who have examined the topic say there is not just confusion about the provision itself, but uncertainty about who would have the legal standing to challenge a candidate on such grounds, what form a challenge could take and whether it would have to wait until after the election or could be made at any time.
And this is the point: No one should be seen as having standing to sue. No one who might conceivably file a lawsuit has a concrete and particularized injury that would be redressed through the disqualification of McCain. So there will not be a Supreme Court case interpreting the clause. If the Electoral College ever selects someone who presents this problem, it will be theoretically possible for Congress to reject the choice on constitutional grounds, but, politically, that too is inconceivable.

The real constitutional interpretation is taking place right now, as we decide whether to accept a man with this problem as the nominee, and later, as the candidate. I think we as a people have already answered the question as to McCain. None of his opponents are using disqualification as an argument and no one is concerned about it. Think of how different it would be if Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for President. The issue would be debated and argued, and I think we'd see him as disqualified and, because of that, he'd never reach the point of nomination. Can you picture Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton trying to defeat McCain by making the argument that his birth in the Canal Zone disqualifies him? They'd only make themselves look bad. The argument is so unattractive that no one serious will make it, and therefore the question, for all realistic purposes, has already been answered.

ADDED: Jim Lindgren peruses the historical texts and concludes that the answer is obvious (and McCain is "natural-born").

When is the organ transplant doctor committing murder?

In California, a doctor, Hootan C. Roozrokh, is charged with murder:
In brain-death donations, the donor is legally dead, but machines keep the organs viable by machines. In cardiac-death donations, after the patient’s ventilator is removed, the heart slows. Once it stops, brain function ceases. Most donor protocols call for a five-minute delay before the patient is declared dead. Transplant teams are not allowed in the room of the potential donor before that....

According to a police interview with Jennifer Endsley, a nurse, the transplant team, including Dr. Roozrokh, stayed in the room during the removal of the ventilator and gave orders for medication, something that would violate donation protocol. Ms. Endsley, who stayed to watch because she had never participated in this type of procedure, also told the police that Dr. Roozrokh asked an intensive care nurse to administer more “candy” — meaning drugs — after Mr. Navarro did not die immediately after his ventilator was removed.

February 27, 2008

You're living in the monkey house.

Discuss the new "Project Runway."

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo writes:
The "monkey house" comment was hilarious. Any design that elicits a gag reflux from Mr. Gunn needs to be rethought.

Human hair? Why human? Why mention the origin if the effect was solely the look itself? Because the desire was to shock, which is the last refuge of a hack. It's the fashion equivalent of Andres Serrano's Piss Christ ("It's repellent, so it must be good! Isn't urine pretty?"). It's a territory best left to 19-year-old rockers.

Chris is imaginative, but the hair idea was sophomoric. It made me think for the first time that he really does not understand people very well.
I loved the hair. First, it looked great. Second, it was a retro allusion to monkey fur, which was used in fashion — exactly the way Chris used it — in the 1920s and 1940s. I remember a glorious monkey fur dress that Eartha Kitt wore in the 1960s. I hope that Tim Gunn realized this before he riffed on the stink of a monkey house and that it was merely edited out, or he is not as great as we like to think he is. Third, using human hair as though it were monkey fur is both humorous and philosophical. If we react with disgust or outrage, we should progress to the next step and ask why? Why does it seem different from fur? Why is it worse? Fur entails the death of the animal, and the skin is still attached, making that obvious. No one imagines that a human being died to contribute the hair to Chris's project. So where does the disgust come from? Why didn't Nina Garcia accept the challenge and inquire into her own reaction? Could it be that we cling to our illusion that we are not one with the animals?

Museum of Natural History

Imagine the NYT without...

... Linda Greenhouse. Retiring, at age 61.

"I, Vincent Gallo, star of such classics as Buffalo 66 and The Brown Bunny have decided to make myself available to all women.".

"For the modest fee of $50,000 plus expenses, I can fulfill the wish, dream, or fantasy of any naturally born female."

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

"For sale: private fantasyland of global megastar turned reclusive weirdo."

"Sprawling 2,800-acre grounds include 'artistic' statues of nude children, waxworks of old men handing out toffees, a miniature steam train and generous accommodation for elephants. Ferris wheel included (might need oiling)."

Do you need to be a rich weirdo to buy Neverland? Or could Neverland become a some sort of resort or Gracelandish tourist attraction?

More fisheying the Museum of Natural History.

The grand entrance, with dinosaur:

Museum of Natural History

The mammoth, sans wooliness:

Museum of Natural History

The waterless room:

Museum of Natural History

"I would immediately have a trade timeout..."

Tigerhawk freaks out over the debate transcript: "So, National Mom, we are all going to take a 'time out' from 'trade' while you convene 500 experts to 'fix NAFTA' according to the interests of the unions and environmental activists."

"Your Shoes are a much more diverting Topick than the Wretches who would be your President."

Sir Archy, our beloved ghost commenter, has favored us with another visit to this Theatre of Topicks as he calls it.

Famous, mustachio'd...

... guess who?

Answer — and the reason for asking — here.

And the commenters are all: What DVD did he watch?

TNR talks to David Duke about Obama.

So Andrew Sullivan said:
I have not believed that Obama has an ounce of sympathy for a creep like Farrakhan. But Obama has now made me doubt this. If David Duke called John McCain a good man, would McCain hesitate to say he'd rather Duke opposed him? If this is how Obama wants to tackle this emotive issue, he needs to get real.
And now there's this from Michael Crowley at TNR. He's talking on the phone with David Duke. What does the famous racist think of the prospect of a black President?
...Duke seems almost nonchalant about it. Self-described white nationalists like himself, he explained cordially, "don't see much difference in Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton--or, for that matter, John McCain." Sure, Duke considers Obama "a racist individual," citing his Afrocentric Chicago church. But soon the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People was critiquing Obama as overhyped and insubstantial in terms you might hear from, say, Clinton strategist Mark Penn. ...

[H]is mild tone is still a curious reaction to what white supremacists have long considered a sign of racial apocalypse. ...

"I don't think Obama will be any more negative for the United States than Hillary or John McCain," explains Duke. "In fact," he added, "we probably have less preference for a European like a John McCain or a Hillary who has betrayed our interests, our heritage, our rights."

Edward Sebesta, a Dallas-based expert on neo-Confederate groups, says that, in a match-up against Obama, McCain might wind up suffering the brunt of the hatred: "They really hate McCain," he says. "They're suffering from emotional exhaustion. They might not have the energy to be infuriated by two candidates at the same time." Amazingly, some commenters on racist websites are already debating the grim choice between Obama and McCain.

"How Barack Obama played the race card and blamed Hillary Clinton."

Sean Wilentz portrays a clever sleight of hand:
[T]he Obama campaign's most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign's strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters — a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a "post-racial" figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so.
Does Wilentz prove his point? Read the whole thing.

IN THE COMMENTS: I don't think anyone is buying Wilentz's argument (and his motives are impugned).

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died.

The NYT obit:
William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn....

Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, National Review.....

The liberal advance had begun with the New Deal, and so accelerated in the next generation that Lionel Trilling, one of America’s leading intellectuals, wrote in 1950: “In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.”

Mr. Buckley declared war on this liberal order, beginning with his blistering assault on Yale as a traitorous den of atheistic collectivism immediately after his graduation (with honors) from the university.

“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
Lots of commentary at the National Review blog, The Corner.

I remember watching Buckley on "Firing Line" in the 1960s, before I went to college and learned that he was to be considered poison. What a great character with a great talk show. I should try to find some old video clips and add them to this post.

ADDED: Here he is interviewing Noam Chomsky in 1969: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. Now that's television!

AND: More video. What election commentary was like in 1969: "And yet always there is a strange seriousness, something in the system that warns us, warns us that America had better strike out on a different course, rather than face another 4 years of asphixiation by liberal premises.... No, Nixon won't bring paradise, but he could bring a little more air to breathe."

Obama, Farrakhan, and how Hillary Clinton took the opening and then squandered it.

What happened in the debate last night when Tim Russert confronted Barack Obama about Louis Farrakhan? In real time, I thought that Obama failed to denounce Farrakhan and that Hillary Clinton caught it and confronted him. It was the single most impressive thing I've seen Hillary Clinton do in the debates. But then Obama managed to cloud things up and make her point seem silly, and she backed down.

Now, let's look at the transcript:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments.

On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?
Russert challenges Obama to show what he's made of. Farrakhan offers his support: Do you have the courage to say no, I don't want your support, I reject it?
SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible.
Obama makes 2 significant rhetorical moves: 1. He reverts to the use of the past tense and 2. He refers to not to Farrakhan, the man, but to some of the things that Farrahkan has said in the past. This distances him from the question asked and leaves room for him to accept the support of the man.
I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.
Clearly, this is a failure to reject Farrakhan. It's extremely clever, but don't be fooled by the cleverness, which was hard to catch in real time. He's creating the space for Farrakhan to operate separately, bringing him support. Farrahkan didn't coordinate with the campaign in any way. Fine. That wasn't the question. Farrakhan has said some good things about Obama, and Obama doesn't want to say I don't accept support from this man. He talks about the nonissue of censoring him. Of course, Obama can't make Farrakhan stop, but he can do what Russert asked him to do: Say that he rejects the support.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?
Russert sees what is happening and asks the perfect follow-up.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, Tim, you know, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy. (Laughter.) You know, I -- you know, I -- I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.
"Of him" here matters. This is the one place where there is a reference to the man — though perhaps only the man and his comments — the man if he continues to come attached to the kind of statements he's made in the past. And there is still a failure to say that he rejects the support. And he's still speaking in the past tense. He still won't say "I denounce Farrakhan" or "I reject his support." He must want the support for the good it can do him. That's understandable, but it is an opening for Hillary Clinton.
MR. RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think -- I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it.

This is not something new. This is something that -- I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him.
Obama neatly packages the issue into the statements and the denunciations of the past.
RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."

RUSSERT: What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?
Russert opens the matter back up with details and with the figure of Jeremiah Wright, from whom Obama has not distanced himself.
OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.
This too is a clever set of rhetorical moves. How can he reassure Jews? 1. Jews already support him. 2. Jews were historically great benefactors of black people. (I love Jews.) 3. He has the capacity to rebuild the connections between Jews and African-Americans. (Jews should love me.)

That implies, I think, that people should worry less about what second-rate leaders like Farrakhan and Wright have been doing in the past and think more hopefully about what a first-rate leader like him can do in the future. In this view, garishly severing ties to Farrakhan and Wright is either beside the point or counterproductive. Let those 2 characters operate at a distance, helping Obama achieve power, and, at that point, Obama will get everything right and then he can transform everyone and root out all traces of anti-Semitism.
[OBAMA:] You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving -- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti-Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.
These 3 paragraphs filibuster the same point. Please forget the nasty things Tim Russert said so long ago.
WILLIAMS: Senator...

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Patty, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.
Great! She saw what just happened. She made the exact point that needed to be made. And she had a personal example of courage, doing precise thing that Russert invited Obama to do. Perfect.
And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.
RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on principle?
In other words: Please, Hillary, explain, for those out there who might not have noticed what you said you did and which Obama just wriggled out of doing.
CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting.
Make it clear! Don't let this look like a Clintonesque word game. This isn't "what the meaning of is is." There is a real difference. Say what it is so your best point isn't lost!
And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.
From her best moment to her worst! She melted into near gibberish. Why? What was she afraid of? Did she lose her grip on the subject? "Sort of, you know"? "I just think"? The filler words pop up everywhere. Bland praise seeps in: Obama is "absolutely sincere." And the distinction she just made between him and her becomes a lame wish to become "even stronger." So then, he's already strong, so what are you quibbling about? What a lost opportunity!
OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting.
He doesn't miss the opportunities. He just drove in the knife, yet it sounded lighthearted and funny.
There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it.
Huh? Clinton should be preparing her attack based on this nonsense. You can reject help that isn't formally offered!
But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.
This is the part everyone notices. It's hilarious. We love him. And she now seems ridiculous. Come back up for air, Hillary! Fight it! He gave you an opening! Point out where he failed.
CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.
Astounding! Hillary Clinton does not have the instinct for blood. She either gave up or she lacks the chops to keep up with him.
Ah, see? They like you when you concede to him. Hopeless.
WILLIAMS: Rare audience outburst on the agreement over rejecting and renouncing.
And the "moderator" Brian Williams scores a victory for Obama.
We're going to take advantage of this opportunity to take the second of our limited breaks. We'll be back live from Cleveland right after this.
The referee stops the fight.



ADDED: What others are saying. Andrew Sullivan, live-blogging:
Does Obama understand that saying he has consistently denounced him is not the same as simply saying, "I denounce him"? A weak response - reminiscent of Dukakis. (By the way, why is it somehow only a question for Jewish Americans that Farrakhan is a fascist hate-monger? It's a question for all Americans.) Obama's Farrakhan response suggests to me he is reluctant to attack a black demagogue. Maybe he wants to avoid a racial melee. But he has one. He needs to get real on this. Weak, weak, weak. Clinton sees an opening and pounces. She wins this round. He is forced to adjust. His worst moment in any debate since this campaign started. I'm astounded he couldn't be more forceful. His inability to say by himself, unprompted, that Farrakhan's support repels him and he rejects it outright really unsettles me.

I have not believed that Obama has an ounce of sympathy for a creep like Farrakhan. But Obama has now made me doubt this. If David Duke called John McCain a good man, would McCain hesitate to say he'd rather Duke opposed him? If this is how Obama wants to tackle this emotive issue, he needs to get real.
Josh Marshall (referring to this segment of the debate as "Russert's run of shame"):
I would say it was borderline to bring up the issue of Farrakhan at all. But perhaps since it's getting some media play you bring it up just for the record, for Obama to address.

That's not what Russert did. He launches into it, gets into a parsing issue over word choices, then tries to find reasons to read into the record some of Farrakhan's vilest quotes after Obama has just said he denounces all of them. Then he launches into a bizarre series of logical fallacies that had Obama needing to assure Jews that he didn't believe that Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness".

As a Jew and perhaps more importantly simply as a sentient being I found it disgusting. It was a nationwide, televised, MSM version of one of those noxious Obama smear emails.
Wow, I thought Andrew Sullivan was the one who was blinded by love for Obama. What an interesting comparison between Andrew "why is it somehow only a question for Jewish Americans" Sullivan and Josh "as a Jew" Marshall!

Don Frederick at the LA Times: "He could have saved himself some potential grief if he had been less circular arriving at that point" (of equating "reject" and "denounce"). Oh, Don, don't you see? It's all about the circular. It only worked because of the circularity. I mean, it's the circularity that made you think it was only circular!

Sticking with the MSM blogs, here's Katharine Q. Seelye for the NYT:
One of the more revealing bits — and a new subject to these debates — was over Minister Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Mr. Obama.

Asked if he rejected that support, Mr. Obama joked that he couldn’t really say that to someone who “thinks I’m a good guy,” but added, “I have been very clear in my denunciations of him.” Mrs. Clinton then said she had rejected the support of an anti-semitic party in New York and that it had been “important to stand on principle.” “There’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting,” she said. Whereupon Mr. Obama said he didn’t see a big difference but, “I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”

The exchange showed both of them in a strong light — she spotted an opening, portrayed her own heroics and pushed him to her side, while he showed flexibility and good judgment in quickly agreeing with her and defusing the issue.
Yes, isn't it nice that they're both good? He's better though. And she was, you know, right.

Marc Ambinder:
[T]here were was his weird language about the endorsement by Louis Farrakhan. There are some things you just don’t do in American politics: calling Farrakhan “minister Farrakhan” is one of them. He’s been declared persona non grata by everyone in the mainstream of our politics. It seemed to take badgering by Clinton for Obama to reject it explicitly (although he did not embrace it and had distanced himself from it before). I don't think Obama's at fault here... I think the circumstances conspired against him... but it just didn't sound right...
Circumstances conspired against him? What's that supposed to mean? Didn't sound right? It wasn't right!

MORE: Noam Scheiber brings up an incident from Hillary's 2000 Senate campaign relating to Suha Arafat: "I was sure she was going to invoke the firestorm she ignited after watching Suha Arafat deliver an anti-Israel tirade." Here's a 2000 NYT article that gives background on the Suha Arafat incident:
On [a trip to the West Bank in 1999], Mrs. Clinton was photographed kissing the wife of Yasir Arafat, after Mrs. Arafat, speaking in Arabic, accused the Israeli government of employing toxic gas against Palestinian women and children. Mrs. Clinton condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks.
So what's Scheiber's point?
She lectured Obama about how it's not sufficient to denounce anti-Semites; you have to actively reject their support. It was a sanctimonious turn, and Obama defused it with typical good humor.
Taylor Marsh says "Obama Blows his 'Sister Soujah' Moment":
As a Scots-Irish broad, I saw Obama's tepid response to Farrakhan, and was appalled. Emails from Jewish friends confirmed that I wasn't alone. That Obama had to be led to this reality is proof of his ruffle no feathers at any cost mentality. It has nothing to do with him believing in our "special relationship" with Israel, or insinuating anything remotely anti-semitic. It's about moral courage and the conciliatory reflex he has to extend grace to people who haven't earned and don't deserve it. People like Louis Farrakhan.

February 26, 2008

Okay, enough with the shoe shopping. Let's live-blog the big debate.

7:58 ET: I am so ready for this. It's do or die time for Hillary. And I'm watching the debate with a big Hillary supporter. I want to see some major action in the first 20 minutes. MSNBC is banging drums and hyping the debate (which starts in an hour). They show a picture of Jonah Goldberg and call him a "clown" who compared Obama to Hitler. I think the sensible people will switch over to "American Idol" and then return to MSNBC when this silliness is over.

9:01: "Oh, the debate."

9:04: Brian Williams plays Hillary the "I am absolutely honored" from the last debate followed by the "shame!" routine from the other day. What's with the mood swings? It's a "contested" campaign, she says and segues into a discussion of health insurance. The follow-up is about the "native garb" photo of Obama. Hillary doesn't know where it came from and doesn't condone it. Obama accepts her assertion about the "native garb" photo. Both of them derail Williams's plan and make this whole huge segment of the debate about the details of their rival health care programs. It's one filibuster after another.

9:19: Hillary seems to think that her getting the first question again is worthy of note, and she makes a clumsy reference to "Saturday Night Live," something about Barack Obama needing "another pillow." I don't like this infantalizing of Obama, and I don't her acting like people are picking on her. Tim Russert is struggling with her over NAFTA now, really trying to pin her down. Is she ready to opt out of NAFTA in 6 months? She says yes — unless it can be renegotiated on labor and environmental standards. This sounds harsh, but since Obama proceeds to agree with her entirely, it's not a point of distinction and should have no effect on anyone's decision.

9:35: Is anyone still watching? So far, it's been an annoying combination of wonky and angry.

9:48: Tim Russert seems angry too as he hypothesizes about how the Iraqis may react to a new President announcing a planned pullout.

9:53: "I think Senator Clinton showed some good humor there," Obama says after seeing the clip of Hillary being sarcastic about his speaking ("the heaven's will open," etc.). He nicely avoids the bait and gets back to talking policy (which is exactly what his strategy should be, since it's only Clinton who can benefit by shaking things up tonight). "I'm not interested in talk. I'm not interested in speeches," he says. Hillary offers that she was "having a little fun," and it's hard to have fun on the campaign trail.

10:08: Russert is raging. Hillary needs to release her tax returns! (She's too busy to do it before next Tuesday, she says, as if she'd personally get the papers together.) Obama should denounce Farrakhan! (He blusters.)

10:13: Hillary scores! When she ran for the Senate in 2000, she rejected the support of the anti-Semitic Independence Party. She "wouldn't be associated with people" like that. So far, Obama has only said that he gave a sermon denouncing anti-Semitism. Then there's some confusing byplay over whether "reject" is a stronger word than "denounce," and Obama gets away with resolving it by saying he would "reject and denounce." So her strong point got fuzzed over. He still hasn't denounced Farrakhan. She loses the moment and says "good, good." He beams. We go to commercial. Her moment is squandered. He got away with something there.

10:19: Obama is confronted with his "most liberal" ranking. I find his talking tiresome and will need to check the transcript to see if he said anything interesting.

10:33: In lieu of a closing statement, each is asked about the other, and many tedious words are blabbed. Arghhh! I hit the wall after that reject-and-denounce fiasco.

11:18: So what did you think of "American Idol"? Did David Cook deserved to be slammed for liking crossword puzzles when the other guys were about tennis and drag racing? Cook was the hardest rocker... yet somehow he's a pussy because he's — by his own admission — a "word nerd." Tonight was interesting because 2 guys who were unimpressive last week were really good: Chikezie and David Hernandez. I really liked Hernandez doing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" — it was 70s night — what a great song. Now, I'm watching the adorable, scream-inducing David Archuleta singing "Imagine." Randy — who loves him — asks why he skipped the first verse. David does not say because it's against religion, just that he had to cut it shorter and he likes the last verse best, but I think he didn't want to disrespect religion. Now Paula says she wants to hang him from her rear view mirror, which I suppose means she thinks he's Jesus. Either that or she thinks he's air freshener. But the way she goes on to break down crying over how it was the most beautiful thing she's ever heard, I don't think it can just be that he's super-fresh. Simon says "Right now, you're the one to beat." Two guys who fell in my estimation this week were Michael Johns (why is the macho guy bleating Fleetwood Mac?) and Jason Castro (dull). And what are we to think of Luke Menard? He picked an incredibly complicated song — "Killer Queen" — and pulled it off decently (but couldn't be Mercury). Something I don't even want to think about: Robbie Carrico singing "Hot Blooded" (man, I hate that kind of song). Or Jason Yeager (what a cheeseball!). And then there's Danny Noriega. He's very sweet, and he sang a great song ("Superstar"), but he's just not good enough. (Here, listen to Karen Carpenter sing it.) He could be the Sanjaya this year, but the young girls are going crazy for the kid who's actually really good, li'l David Archuleta, so we won't be having a Sanjaya.

A Madison Avenue shoe space.

Buying shoes

Buying shoes

Oh, you think I bought the Camper shoes? No, I bought Arche — the only brand of shoe that has the official Althouse seal of approval.

A Soho shoe space.



Portrait by Chris:

(Here's the place.)

"Okay, I'm putting my Nicorette back in."

You know, I like all of these individuals better in their off-camera stuff than what they do when they think a million people are looking.

The fisheye view of the Museum of Natural History.

Best seen through the fisheye: T Rex!


Most disconcerting is this confrontation with ourselves at the Hall of Human Origins (which is featured in the the end of the movie "Election").

Museum of Natural History

Is this really what we are and, if so, is it horrifying or is it wonderful that we figured it out?

Museum of Natural History

Glenn's back.

With 10 posts up before 9 a.m., so you won't fail to understand what it means for Glenn to be back. Why I remember how I felt yesterday at 8 a.m., thinking, damn, I need to make this thing look like it's going. What is worthy? What is pithy? What is pithy and worthy enough to tell 250,000 people?

But, of course, I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity to twirl around on the big stage for a week — and also for the nice feeling of being trusted with it. It's quite a responsibility and a complicated task: How can you be yourself but also fit into that other environment? It's not only that there it's a huge readership (and it doesn't exist because of interest in what I have to say). It's also that it involves group blogging, and — terrific as Megan McArdle and Michael Totten are — I'm used to controlling the whole structure of the front page.

So much as I love the chance to be Instapundit, which I've done a few times over the years, I'm also always happy to get back to being just Althouse. Among many benefits of things getting back to normal: I can read Glenn again.

"Roy Scheider here. You know who definitely need a bigger boat?"

"The montage of dead people, which I was most certainly not in. What's with the arbitrary cut-off date? I starred in two iconic movies; I played Bob Fosse; I just died. I didn't expect to beat Heath Ledger on the applause-o-meter or anything, but Jesus H., who does a guy have to fuck to make the 'In Memoriam' grade around here? …You know, if I thought I would still be apologizing for The Myth Of Fingerprints in the afterlife, I would have told my agent to shove that script sideways."

Television Without Pity does the Oscars show. (People seem to forget that the Oscars is a TV show.) Click on the little pics along the top to get all the snark.

"I get rides and stuff, so I’m not worried about it. I’ll get around to it, maybe this summer sometime."

These days less than a third of 16-year-olds get their drivers licenses as soon as they can. Surprising. Is it that it's too much trouble? Are kids these days less interested in independence? Does driving no longer symbolize independence the way it did back in the golden age of driving? (Was there a golden age of driving?)

Many more theories about the decline listed at the link — fearfulness among parents and their kids, lack of driver education classes in school, the expenses of driving...

Not listed (though the article is in the NYT): Kids are concerned about the environment! Why can't it be considered a good thing?

February 25, 2008

Another way under the bridge...


Althouse... under the bridge.

Photo by Chris.

Self-portrait in a red place.

Self-portrait in a red place

I'd be embarassed to talk about shame so much.

The Clinton campaign stooped so low circulating a picture of Barack Obama in African dress. The Obama camp responded with shaming: "On the very day that Sen. Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election." And then the Clinton side shamed them back: "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed." This is the classic rhetorical device that is technically termed "I'm rubber, you're glue."

"He isn't seeking to perfect Swift-boating, he's seeking to end it."

John Kerry:
"I believe Barack Obama has this moment of history to be able to change these politics and take the negative off, to take the politics of destruction away. He isn't seeking to perfect Swift-boating, he's seeking to end it. This is a man who understands we've got to talk to each other."

And Kerry is a man who doesn't understand that he was a terrible candidate.

Oscars slideshow.

Way more entertaining than actually watching the show.

Blogger(s) triumph.

JOSH MARSHALL WINS A POLK AWARD and gets a nice write-up in the NYT. (Am I supposed to punish the NYT for the dreadful McCain story? I've got to make an exception and link to this.) "[H]e operates a long way from the clichéd pajama-wearing, coffee-sipping commentator on the news." Dammit, where's my coffee? And enough with the pajamas cliché — which is a cliché even when you're calling it a cliché.

By the way, speaking of clichés: Have you noticed you never see MSM articles carping about bloggers anymore? Like this one from back in September 2006. Actually, I think that one was so dumb that no one ever wrote another one.

(Cross-posted on Instapundit.)

Got to get started....


Got to move along...

February 24, 2008

"Thank you life, thank you love."

Beautiful thank-you speech from Marion Cotillard, who won the Best Actress Oscar tonight.

ADDED: Cotillard aside, what a sucky Oscar show this is!

AND: Daniel Day-Lewis! I love that guy! "This sprang like a mad sapling out of the beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson."

"I'm going to kill somebody."

I heard a man say that today. I was walking down the street. A man was standing there, and I heard him mutter that.


(We were just minding our own business. Afterwards, we went to the Museum of Modern Art.)

See ya later.

Time for some window shopping:


(Enlarge: click.) (The place with the blue pig? The Blue Pig.)

Dance, Music, Sex, Romance... Somebody call the doctor... Say ooh, yeah, yeah... Help me!...

"Crippled by years of sexy dancing," Prince needs hip replacement surgery.


Ralph Nader throws his funny hat in the ring.

Shame on Obama! Hillary is only going to make you buy insurance after she's given you enough money that she thinks you can afford it.

Hillary is shaming Obama for telling people she's going to force them to buy insurance whether they can afford it or not. It really is so unfair. She's going to force them to buy insurance only if she thinks they can afford it. There will be tax credits and subsidies to get them to the level where they will be told they can afford it. Surely, no one will think they can't afford it once they government has figured out that they can. How dare Obama hinge his argument on the notion that people will have ideas of their own about how to spend their money.

(Cross-posted at Instapundit.)