March 8, 2008

There's a break in the clouds for sunset.

sunset skyline


It's stormy again now.

ADDED JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT (on the verge of springing ahead to 1 a.m.): This seems to be an especially popular sunset, so let me fill in the sequence. First, I noticed the break in the clouds, and I thought this looked subtly pretty and possibly a sign that things would shape up especially well this evening, so I got out the camera:


This is next. It's taken before the 2 pictures in the original post, and it's zooming in much closer to the Statue of Liberty (from my terrace in Brooklyn):


And this is the last one. It's zoomed in, but the clouds were already closing up:


It wasn't long after this that a storm rolled in, and that storm is still howling out there now.

NEXT MORNING UPDATE: The night of vigorous rain cleaned my windows!

Obama wins the Wyoming caucuses.

It's the smallest state, but there was a big turnout, and it looks like Obama won by a lot.

Complicating and transcending institutional parameters with oblique, allegorical, uncertain sociopolitical themes...

Why do museum curators post such nonsensical texts on the walls next to the artwork they want us to take seriously? I went to the Whitney Biennial today and there was the usual mishmash — lots of artists, lots of artworks — and you can look at it all and make what you can of it or you can stop and read the museum's explanation of what it thinks it's doing assembling these particular artists and artworks. Here's some text I wrote down:
The artists consider each of these multiple platforms equally valid even as they seek ways to complicate and transcend institutional parameters.
So... they are united in their belief in the equal validity of the multiple platforms? I love the way that's completely, incomprehensibly amorphous but also patently untrue — because of all the many artists in the show, there must be at least one who considers at least one of the platforms at least a little less worthy than the other platforms.

Anyway, surely, I'm being unfair by withholding the antecedent for "platforms." Let me correct that seeming unfairness. The "multiple platforms" are: "music and other performance, movement workshops, radio broadcasts, publishing projects, community-based activities, film screenings, culinary gatherings, or lectures." Come on, I'll bet anything one of those artists thinks "culinary gatherings" aren't equal to film screenings or "movement workshops" don't quite measure up to music performance.

Then there is the tiresome tendency — it's been going on for decades — to claim that art is "political." It's so sad and needy the way the assertions are made. There's a reference to "uncertain sociopolitical themes" and:
Much work in this year's Biennial concerns politics although its mode of address is often oblique or allegorical.
Like it's our fault if we don't see politics in the art. Maybe you should stand over there and look from an angle or consult your imagination and hear the political argument that large distressed block of styrofoam is trying ot make. It's allegorical — it's Al-Gore-ical.

Either the politics aren't there and the curators wish they were, or they're barely there and the curators are anxious for us not to miss them. But why is getting politics into the art so important? And if it's subtly there, shouldn't we be teased and left wondering what it is we're really seeing? Am I projecting my own thoughts or perceiving the artist's message? Musing about that, we form a relationship with the artist. It might have been interesting if the curator hadn't nagged us to see politics everywhere.
Projects... explore fluid communications structures and systems of exchange that index larger social, political, and economic contexts...
Projects explore structures and systems? And structures and systems index contexts? I think this is trying to say something political about art, something about how art challenges capitalism – because, of course, if art must be political, it must be left wing. The text goes on to credit the artists for producing objects that cannot be bought — that have "an ephemeral, event-based character." But there are plenty of big, chunky objects all over the museum that hardly look as though they are about to evanesce.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian writes:
The Whitney Biennial is a massive, smelly expulsion of all the hip, tiresome shit that's built up in the bowels of the New York art scene for two years, racing artwork from the cradle of the studio to the crypt of that ossified institution without waiting to see whether it could even survive a life on its own. It's a parade of all the embarrassing fashions of the previous two years, all the simple-minded trends and gimmicks that came and went, the hangover the morning after a drink-and-drug binge where one surveys the wreckage and the carnage around them and moans "What did I do last night?!"

"Curators" are also an interesting breed, generally academics not smart enough to be scholars in any actually useful discipline, nor creative enough to be artists themselves, nor attractive enough to be models nor rich enough to be hedonists, they make their living as parasites who, unsatisfied with simply sucking the life out of you, feel the need to explain it to you in the most uninteresting terms while they're doing it.

Art is attractive to people like this. Being at its core interpretive and ultimately unexplainable, it invites these lackluster pedants to simply make shit up. Hence also the gravitation towards postmodernism and its jargon, elevating making shit up into a religion.
Here's what gets me. Their writing proves they lack taste. So it is irrational to accept their aesthetic judgment.

Speaking of writing though, Palladian, that's one hell of a mixed metaphor in your first sentence: shit ≈ baby.

"I’m not really familiar with that."/“You don’t seem to be familiar with anything."

Dick Cavett encounters William F. Buckley.

This is not about Hillary.

Why did Obama let Clinton jerk him around over Samantha Power?

Here's the revolting and ridiculous conference call, in which Clinton campaign hacks pretend it's a giant outrage that the brilliant Samantha Power applied the word "monster" to Hillary Clinton. Power withdrew herself from the campaign, but where was Barack Obama? Why didn't he support her?

Here's Matthew K. Johnson:
For those of us who follow foreign policy and human rights policy in particular, Samantha Power is a fascinating and inspiring figure - a brilliant woman who has lectured and written equally from her heart and her head. Her Pulitzer-prize winning book A Problem From Hell is a passionately argued and beautifully written description of America's at times shameful and always complicated history during the genocides of the 20th century - it remains my favorite non-fiction book; the first one I will recommend to friends and colleagues and has inspired more than one of my own written works.... Her profession, and her approach to it, makes her a somewhat undiplomatic politcian, but I was still absolutely thrilled that she joined Obama's campaign, and was one of the first reasons that I became an Obama supporter - clearly he was attracting the top minds, many of whom were critical of the practices of the past (Power, like myself, is very critical of the Clinton years - the inaction on Rwanda, the ignorance of the power of strong leadership in the Balkans).
What do we learn from this incident? I don't need to learn that Clinton will do whatever it takes to win, and perhaps that does earn the label "monster," but let's not ignore the deficiencies in Barack Obama. How does he intend to win by shrinking away when her people pull their tricks? Where is his vigor? And, more importantly, where is his courage? It was cowardly to allow the Clinton campaign to savage Power and rip her away from him.

And now I'm wondering whether there is anything courageous about Barack Obama. Obama supporters, please: Make the case to me that the man has courage. And don't say that he opposed the war in Iraq, because I don't think, in the position he was in at the time, that it took courage to oppose the war. That served his political ambitions. Tell me something he did that was difficult to do, that took some risk to do what was right.

IN THE COMMENTS: Balfegor said:
I've read speculation that he may have used the "monster" kerfluffle as cover for tossing her overboard because in that same interview, she claimed he wasn't actually serious about getting out of Iraq in 16 months or whatever his plan was -- once he was president he'd discard his campaign plan and take a new look at the situation.
If this is the reason he let her go, it's a defense against the charge that he let Hillary push him around, but it only makes me worry more that he lacks courage. And ironically, Power's statement about how he would handle Iraq reinforced what I've been assuming, and this assumption was central to my decision to vote for him in the Wisconsin primary.

So what am I to think now that he let Power go? That what she said about Iraq was wrong or that it was right? If it's wrong, I like him less on policy. If it's right, then I'm more upset about the estrangement of Power and concerned that Obama is dishonest, saying things to get elected that he's never going to do in office. And yet — this is so troublesome for me! — I'm hoping that, if elected, he'll listen and reassess and exercise the good judgment that he now applies to the task of getting elected and the results of his presidential decisionmaking will be much more to my liking.

Iceland as "a desolate, magical place where human beings have little right to trespass."

So maybe you shouldn't travel there, but you can watch the documentary "Heima" ("Homeland") with the music of Sigur Rós — offered for streaming here on YouTube. It's also supposedly downloadable free on the band's website here, but I couldn't figure out where to click after I'd entered my information and received my code — so that was a little too desolate and magical for my taste.

Talk about Iceland, talk about traveling and not traveling, talk about majestic, other-worldly, ethereal music.

March 7, 2008

"McCain flips out..."

Is this flipping out? Josh Marshall thinks it is.

Maybe a better question is what sort of person views that as "flipping out"?

Let's talk about the new McCain ad.

I think this is a brilliant ad. It seems to be speeding into the future, with flashy visuals that remind me a little of the last episode of "6 Feet Under," when Claire drives off into the desert toward her future and the whole future of all the characters unfolds. But we aren't shown things that will happen in the future, even as futuristic music seems to tantalize us and make us a little anxious about things to come. We see images from the past (intercut with views of the galaxy). Images of Churchill and Roosevelt seem to embody a mystical sense of tradition. Even though I was trying to look at this ad with a critical eye, I kept getting chills. At one point — TR looking out onto a crowd — I thought: This is the feeling of being conservative — it is a deep emotional sense that the past matters and flows into the present and makes sense out of the future.

Time is the expressed theme of the commercial: The first words we see are "The Time Has Come." We know the candidate is old — to me, it's a big problem — but the commercial makes the long stretch of time seem profound and important. Because McCain is old, he is anchored in the past, there, where he is a young man. We see him looking dashing, but also suffering as a POW. In the voice over, he is saying that he felt that he owed more to his country than his country owed him. We hear him say that there was never a day when he was not proud of his country, and, as used in the ad, this must be heard as an allusion to Michelle Obama's statement that for the first time in her life she is really proud of her country.

We see some evocative children in the end — they are young, if he isn't. What do they have to do with him? They vaguely connect to the theme of time. We dipped back into the past, and we swirled around in outer space, but outer space isn't the future, is it? It's all of time. For the future... I believe that children are our future. But that one girl... we see a little black girl pausing over some purple wildflowers. ("I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it.") Is she there to suggest that Michelle Obama — like her husband — is a mere child? The girl plucks at the petals of one flower, so it brings to mind — it must be intentional — the famous LBJ commercial with a young girl plucking at a flower, counting down to a nuclear holocaust. We don't see a mushroom cloud, but some of those galactic images — notably the one at 0:08 — look like powerful explosions.

At 0:26, we see McCain saying "We're Americans, and we'll never surrender. They will." I confess that I first thought "they" meant the Democrats, and only in typing out the quote did I realize that, overtly, he had to mean our terrorist enemies. But to use that line in the commercial is to play with our brains and make us think — even though he didn't say it — that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are offering to surrender. If that is what Americans don't do, then, implicitly — and I know he doesn't say it — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not Americans.

I'm just sketching out my first thoughts on the commercial. Add to this. Argue with me. I certainly think that many people — probably people who would never vote for McCain — might experience this commercial as scary warmongering and think I'm pretty creepy to get chills from it. Let's talk about all that.

IN THE COMMENTS: Revenant said...
"The Time Has Come."

My soul has been psychadelisized!
Yeah, I was thinking about that too. "Now the time has come (Time)/There's no place to run (Time)/I might get burned up by the sun (Time)" — explains some of those shots of the galaxy — "But I had my fun (Time)/I've been loved and put aside (Time)/I've been crushed by the tumbling tide (Time)/And my soul has been psychedelicized (Time)." A Vietnam song, isn't it?

AND: One commenter, Sandy Shoes, sees the allusion to this, "Koyaanisqatsi"...

Which made me realize it reminded me of this:

"It’s a gossip site and we never said that it’s not. I guess we didn’t realize how mean some people can be."

And I guess he did but wants his distance from the ugliness he supports.

"You should be outside, far, far away from here, right this minute, visiting Machu Picchu ..."

"... or a former Hungarian brothel that's now a cute artisanal bakery run by tiny singing lesbians, or visiting a giant musty old castle in Leipzig, or maybe taking lousy digital pictures of that Amazonian tribe that makes cute little earrings out of dried capybara testicles. Do it. Do it now."

A publishing trend
about lists of 1,000 things you need to do "before you die."

Personally, I don't understand why getting all in people's faces about their impending death is going to get them going. I see those titles and think: Oh, I'm going to die? Well, then why make all the effort? I do these 1,000 things, and then it's not that I'm some wonderfully complex and enriched human individual. I'm just a corpse. Yes, yes, I know, you're about to tell me about the afterlife. But if there's an afterlife, I should be praying or doing good works, not galavanting around the globe or reading hundreds of novels or whatever these books want death to stimulate me into doing.

Too much Hillary and Obama?

What's going on here this morning? I need to look at other things. Surely, there are other interesting things in the world!


"She is a monster, too - that is off the record - she is stooping to anything."

Obama's foreign policy advisor Samantha Power says something hot and then hopes the reporters will cut her a break by saying "off the record" afterward. Come on, that's like saying "Mother, may I?" after you've taken 2 giant steps forward or "No takes" after the cootie girl has touched you. Are my cultural references old enough? They're so old that only Hillary voters understand them.

AND: David Corn gets it almost right:
The Clinton people do deserve chutzpah points for trying to turn this nothing-burger into a full-course feast. During a conference call with reporters yesterday, Clinton's top spinner, Howard Wolfson, compared Obama and his aides to Kenneth Starr because they dared to question Clinton's refusal to release her income taxes.... The comparison was ridiculous. But in Democratic circles, there's not much of a bigger slur than, Hey, you're Ken Starr! For Democrats, Starr is the functional equivalent of a monster.

So the Clinton crowd does not have the moral high ground in this round. Yet what was the net result? Power, a talented journalist and thinker who gives a damn about genocides (certainly more so than Bill Clinton did during the Rwanda nightmare), was forced off Obama's campaign.

What's missing? Obama deserves criticism for letting Clinton make something out of nothing and not standing up for Power.

"Does anyone want this nut answering the phone?"

Larry David proposes an anti-Hillary ad.

"The battle for the Democratic Party is so bitter because it is a battle over culture."

Writes The Economist:
Mrs Clinton's supporters look at Mr Obama's and see latte-drinking elitists. Mr Obama's supporters look at Mrs Clinton's and smell all sorts of ancestral sins, not least racism. The two groups neither like nor respect each other.

There are actually good reasons for irritation on both sides. The Obamaites are not just otherworldly. They are also weirdly cultish. All the vague talk of “hope” and “change” is grating enough. But many Obamamaniacs want something even vaguer than this—they want political redemption....

It is certainly impressive to see 20,000 people queuing for hours to see a politician. But should they worship their man with such wide-eyed intensity? And should they shout “Yes we can” with such unbridled enthusiasm? The slogan, after all, reminds any parent of “Bob the Builder”, a cartoon for toddlers, and Mr Obama himself rejected it as naff when it was first suggested to him. His supporters are rather like high-school nerds who surround the coolest kid in the class in the hope of looking cool themselves.
Naff! It's funny to read about American politics in British magazines.
But there are also good reasons to be irritated with Mrs Clinton's beer-track Democrats. Blue-collar workers have certainly had a hard time of it. The Cleveland rustbelt is a decaying monument to good jobs that have been shipped abroad or mechanised out of existence. But one of the tragedies of this campaign is that both Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have decided to ignore Bill Clinton's message—that the only way that America can remain competitive is to prepare people for new jobs rather than cling on to old ones—and instead engage in a silly competition to see who can bash NAFTA hardest.
Even if you like Hillary's "culture" better than Obama's, it's awfully hard to believe that they are going to get from her what they see in her. There is more reason to think the Obamans — for all their dreamy dopiness — are more likely to get what he seems to promise: a turn of the historical page and at least a little racial healing.

If you think the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most total votes, do you know whether it is Clinton or Obama?

It's only Obama if you exclude Florida and Michigan. Then, Obama is ahead by 598,266. Impressive! But if you throw Florida and Michigan back in, Clinton wins by 30,657. But that's not really fair. Clinton had name recognition that counted for too much at that early point, especially when they weren't supposed to be campaigning, and Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. Now, there's talk of redoing Florida and Michigan so those states can have delegates, but it's important to see that they will also have an effect on the popular vote totals that will influence the superdelegates.

Another issue raised in the above-linked article (by Blake Fleetwood) is that the popular vote total undervalues the states that had caucuses, since a smaller portion of voters turn out for a caucus. And Obama did so much better in caucuses than in primaries.

I counted the difference:
Using the numbers here, I found that Obama has won 290 delegates in caucuses, and Clinton has won 154. That's 65% for Obama and 35% for Clinton. In the primaries, by stark contrast, Obama has won 1072 delegates, and Clinton has won 1058. (Actually, 1058.5 — she won 1.5 delegates in the Americans Abroad primary.) That's 50% to 50%. You need to go to decimals to show the Obama percentage lead in the primaries: 50.3% to 49.7%.
But if you want to use total popular vote as a basis for argument to the superdelegates, what do you do with this information? You can't say with confidence that Obama really should have more total votes, because it seems to be that Obama supporters are overrepresented among the kind of people who go to caucuses. We can think of some characteristics that may be shared by caucus-goers and Obama-supporters — notably youth and political fervor. So who was "cheated" out of popular votes in the caucus states? Obama or Clinton?

In any event, it's hard to assign value to the popular vote, since the candidates were not playing — at least not early on — for the popular vote. They campaigned for delegates, so they built their strategies on winning a percentage of the votes within any given state. This cumulative popular vote does matter quite a bit more than it does in the Electoral College system in the fall, because these were not winner-take-all states. With the Electoral College, the popular vote is completely skewed, given the huge numbers of people who know their vote won't tip their state one way or another, making the decision whether to vote in California completely different from the decision whether to vote in Ohio.

And yet, the accumulated popular vote seems very important, both in electing the President in the fall and, certainly, in the Clinton-Obama match-up now that we're pitching arguments to the superdelegates. That gives the last few states, including Michigan and Florida if they horn their way back into the process, a whole new dimension of power.

March 6, 2008

Ominous entryway.

Neon hallway

In SoHo.

Why are the results so different in the primary and the caucus in Texas on the same day and what does that mean more generally about caucus results?

There are allegations of irregularities in the Texas caucus process:
Clinton aides alleged that Obama allies locked Clinton supporters out of caucus locations and illegally signed up participants before the so-called precinct conventions opened the doors to voters....

The Obama campaign made similar complaints against Clinton supporters throughout the day, illustrating the increasing bitterness between the two Democratic rivals....
More: "The complaints from the Clinton campaign include Obama supporters intimidating voters, giving caucus goers wrong information, and changing people's votes at those caucuses.."

My son, Christopher Althouse Cohen, emails about his own experience caucusing in Austin, Texas:
An unusual thing happened to me on the way to my polling location. I was walking to the school, and there was a group of Obama supporters holding up signs on the front of the school yard. I walked from the side of the yard to the front entrance, but I was wearing a large Hillary button, and one of the Obama supporters ran across the school yard so he could catch me well before I got to the door. He asked if I was here to vote and I, not stopping to talk to him, continued walking but said I already voted and I was going to caucus. It was 6:40 or so and both campaigns advised their supporters in all their mailings to show up early (at 6:30 or 6:45) to avoid potentially being shut out when the doors closed at 7:15. The Obama supporter said, "Oh, well the caucus is at 7:15," implying that I should leave and come back then. If I had done that and tried to show up at 7:15, I would likely have been shut out, because the doors closed then.

I just talked to a Hillary supporter online who said that he was standing in line at 7:15 and that the line was long enough so that he was standing outside, even though they had showed up early. The Obama precinct captain on the inside was demanding that everyone still standing outside, including him, be shut out, and everyone outside started arguing with the Obama supporters on the inside. Eventually, they were let in. He told me that a friend of his was in tears over the phone, because at her location Obama supporters were literally pushing Clinton supporters away from the sign-in sheets that were later used for the official vote tallies.

This news story says that there was a complaint of Obama precinct captains filling in "Obama" after every signature that left the presidential preference spot blank.

The sign-in sheets were confusing. I was unofficially in charge of the sign-in list, though there was an Obama precinct captain standing over me, talking to every single voter at the time, and I can say that a large portion of the people signing in found it hard to read and weren't sure if this was when they actually declared their support for a candidate, so I can see why some people might leave it blank. I'll attach a copy of what the sign-in sheet looked like.

Click image to enlarge.

The box to write your candidate's name is after the phone number spot.
The precinct captain at my location encouraged all the Obama supporters to stay after the sign-in process, but tried to convince me (she perceived me to be the leader of the Clinton supporters) that it wasn't necessary for people to stay after the caucus, that it wouldn't make any difference. After persistently asking many times what was going to happen after the sign-in and what the advantage was to staying, she eventually admitted to me that delegates were being elected that night, in that room, and that we needed 84 delegates and alternates total to represent proportionately the support for each candidate at that convention. I have no idea what would have happened if all the Clinton supporters had left and the Obama supporters got to take over that process. Fortunately, I urged all the Clinton supporters to stay, and we called up Clinton supporters who had already left until we had enough delegates and alternates. This went on until late at night. By then, the Obama supporters had elected each other into all the official positions in that caucus. They outnumbered us in that precinct, so it was no problem for them to do this.

What I've experienced and heard about directly is a very small part of the hundreds of complaints that have come in to the Clinton campaign. What I saw directly might not have technically violated any of the rules, but certainly was enough to potentially trick Clinton supporters into showing up late, and was enough to discourage Clinton supporters from staying to become delegates and alternates.

I left feeling like I could easily see why someone would not want to participate in the caucus. Just knowing how chaotic it can be really discourages people from voting. The difference between the primary and caucus results in Texas can be seen as an experiment that demonstrates the difference in results between those two systems, and much of that difference could be attributable to the shenanigans of Obama's base of fanatics. Right now, with less than 50% of the vote counted in the Texas caucus and 100% reporting in the primary, he's ahead 12 points in the caucus, and she's ahead four points in the primary. That's a 16 point difference in his favor in the same state, on the same day. Of the races he's won, 11 have been caucuses (12 if you count Texas), and she's only won one caucus (Nevada). What would happen to the math if you gave her 16 more points in all the caucuses?
This is the basis for an argument that can be aimed at the superdelegates.

UPDATE: I decided to calculate the numbers of delegates won in caucuses separately from the number of delegates won in primaries. Using the numbers here, I found that Obama has won 290 delegates in caucuses, and Clinton has won 154. That's 65% for Obama and 35% for Clinton. In the primaries, by stark contrast, Obama has won 1072 delegates, and Clinton has won 1058. (Actually, 1058.5 — she won 1.5 delegates in the Americans Abroad primary.) That's 50% to 50%. You need to go to decimals to show the Obama percentage lead in the primaries: 50.3% to 49.7%.

I don't know what you want to do with these numbers in combination with the stories of irregularities in the caucus process, but it's certainly interesting! And since the candidates are going to spend much of the spring and summer making their case to the superdelegates, I think this is ripe raw material. On the primaries, they are virtually even. The big Obama lead was accomplished through the caucus process. Of course, you can't exclude the people of the states that chose their delegates by caucus, but the more evidence Hillary Clinton can amass to show that the people of those states were not properly counted, the more she can explain away his lead in the pledged delegates and justify independent decisionmaking by the superdelegates.

"The Tobacco Monologues."

The new Minnesota smoking ban has an exception for actors in theatrical performances, but who is an actor and what is a theatrical performance? Aren't we all really actors in some sense, and when you go to a bar, are you not playing some sort of role? Minnesotans are working the loophole and, along the way, saying something about the line between life and art.
At The Rock [a hard-rock and heavy-metal bar in suburban St. Paul] earlier this week, a black stage curtain covered part of the entrance, and a sign next to it with an arrow read, "Stage Entrance." Along the opposite wall, below a sign saying "Props Dept.," was a stack of the only props needed: black ashtrays.

At the door was a printed playbill for that night's program, with a list of names of the people portraying bartenders and security guards. Playing the owner: "Brian."

Courtney Conk paid $1 for a button that said "Act Now" and pinned it to her shirt. That made her an actor for the night, entitling her to smoke. She turned in an understated, minimalist performance, sitting with cigarette in hand and talking to a bass player with the band....

At Barnacles Resort and Campground along Lake Mille Lacs, a "traveling tobacco troupe" dressed in medieval costume on the first theater night. Mark Benjamin, a lawyer who pushed bars to exploit the loophole, wore tights, a feathered cap and black boots.

"Hey, I'm a child of the '60s. I can do a little improv," he said. His improv amounted to speaking in medieval character to other patrons....

One bar on northern Minnesota's Iron Range, the Queen City Sports Place, calls its nightly smokefest "The Tobacco Monologues."

"Should You Leave Your Laptop at Home When Traveling Abroad?: The Fourth Amendment and Border Searches of Laptop Computers."

So, to translate that question for me: Should you travel abroad?

"In the tank."

I keep wanting to use this expression I hear all the time these days, but I always pick some other phrase, because I don't know what the "tank" is. Are we talking about something in a car or some sort of aquarium or what? I don't like to use meaningless yet concrete imagery. What do you picture when you hear that someone is "in the tank for Obama"?

Searching for a clue, I see that Julian Sanchez was fishing around the other day for an answer. He doesn't seem to get anywhere but he provokes one commenter to remind us of what George Orwell wrote about "dying metaphors" in "Politics and the English Language":
DYING METAPHORS. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically ‘dead’ (e. g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.
I've deeply internalized Orwell's advice. (I've read the old essay many times.) When I was writing the first sentence of this post, for "I always pick some other phrase," my first thought was "I always hold my tongue," and I rejected that phrase out of hand immediately.

Yet I do think "in the tank" sound spiffy. I like it. But I'm never going to use it until I know what the tank is.

ADDED: Some people seem to think I don't understand what "in the tank" means, and many think they've solved my problem by saying that "tanking" is a boxing term connected to "taking a dive." But what I want is a concrete image for the "tank" that we are talking about. I understand that a boxer taking a fall very eagerly can be pictured as "diving" the way you would dive into a pool or a tank of some sort. So if we say someone is "in the tank" as opposed to "tanking," do we mean that he has so eagerly gone for someone that he's not only taking a dive, he has already dived, so he's "in the tank"? In that case, it seems to be a sort of large clear-sided aquarium of the sort a circus might use for a stunt or a magician might vow to remain submerged in for a week. So if you think someone is "in the tank for Obama," picture a tank like that.

SO: Is The Tank in the tank?

We're not banning you.

We're accommodating someone else.

"Let's drop them 5 spots this year. We need to freak out at least one school each year."

Oh, like you don't understand how U.S. News ranks the law schools?

Accents, performed with astounding flexibility.

Via Daniel Solove.

"An unassuming foreign country has injected itself into the U.S. presidential race."

"What, exactly, was the Canadian government trying to do?"

IN THE COMMENTS: John Lynch said:
So, when Bush gets criticized by other countries it's his fault for alienating the world. But when a Democrat is catching it the foreigners are meddling. Got it, loud and clear.

The Sue Me, Sue You Blues.

George Harrison once sang: "You serve me and I'll serve you/Swing your partners, all get screwed/Bring your lawyer and I'll bring mine/Get together, and we could have a bad time."

If you sue me, I'm going to do my best to figure out how I can sue you. You want to think about that dynamic before you sue somebody.

So, anyway, Anthony Ciolli was sued by 2 Yale law students who were upset about comments on the AutoAdmit website that he used to work on, and now he's suing them and their lawyer — "seeking at least $50,000 in damages for abuse of process, libel and false light that he alleges cost him a job offer at a Boston law firm."
"This case is not about defending or exonerating anyone for the absolutely reprehensible comments that were made about the female law students on AutoAdmit," [Ciolli's lawyer Mark] Jakubik said. “It’s about what are the appropriate boundaries for seeking redress for those comments, and we think those boundaries were crossed to Anthony’s great detriment.”...

Federal law immunizes Web site administrators from liability for content posted by others...

The complaint alleges that the law students and their lawyers wrongfully initiated civil proceeding against Ciolli, that the students and a Web site they solicited to help restore their reputations libeled and slandered him and that the publicity they directed toward him placed him in a false light, with the result that he lost his job offer.
This new lawsuit has been filed in state court in Pennsylvania. (Quick, class, why does the court have personal jurisdiction over the Yale law students?) The complaint also uses the real names of the students, who used pseudonyms in the lawsuit against the pseudonymous AutoAdmit commenters.
"There was no real big secret about who they were," [Ciolli's former lawyer Marc] Randazza said.

Unlike the original suit, Ciolli’s complaint contains nothing that would be considered scandalous or would justify withholding the students’ names, Jakubik said.

"When folks engage in the kind of conduct that is outlined in the complaint, I’m not sure they should be given the cloak of anonymity," he said.
The decision to file a lawsuit is a momentous one. Think hard and think many steps ahead before you bring the courts into your life. Don't sue angry.

(Link via How Appealing.)

ADDED: Here's a PDF of the complaint.

"It's not our job to educate the public. Our job is to decide vitally important cases under the Constitution."

That's how Chief Justice John Roberts answered a high school student who asked him about televising Supreme Court arguments and — the WaPo summary implies — suggested that it would be a good thing because it would educate the public. I have follow-up questions: Is it your job to deprive the public of useful, nonconfidential speech that you generate in the course of doing your job? If that deprivation is not your job, why are you doing it? If you, in fact, do many things that are not your job — like answering questions from high school students — why are you in this one case relying on the argument that something is not your job?

What Supreme Court Justice said "Are you sure? I have smoked them, and I am sure I am not a dude"?


Free speech and the douchebags in central office.

What if a teenager criticizes school officials on her blog? Avery Doninger, 17, blogged "'Jamfest' is canceled due to douchebags in central office" — Jamfest is a battle of the bands — and the school official barred her from running for re-election as class secretary and, when she won on write-in votes, barred her from serving. Quite aside from the utter stupidity of punishing a student this way for this offense, should the courts intervene? The case was argued in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The district court judge sided with the school.

UPDATE: The Second Circuit sided with the school.

I won't spoil it for you but...

I should have been more careful glancing at articles this morning, because this spoiled the "Project Runway" finale for me. I intend to catch the show this evening, but in case you're in the mood to chat about it, this is the place.

March 5, 2008

"I don’t think it is fair to suggest somehow that we have been trying to hide the bone on this."

Said Barack Obama. And that real estate transaction, it was "a boneheaded move." No one wants to pay attention to Rezko, and for some reason, Obama's answers all contain the word "bone." Surely, there's a skeleton somewhere.

An artful humanization of a delightful video game.

It's Tetris:

Via Popsci via Instapundit.

How superdelegates tipping the vote to Hillary could comport with democratic principles.

Mickey Kaus has a theory:
If the superdelegates all voted with the winner of their state, would Hillary get the nomination? I think maybe. That would be one way she might colorably claim a superdelegate decision in her favor would vindicate democracy.

"American Idol" — the boys were pretty good last night, all retro-80s.

Each did a little intro interview on what was supposedly their "most embarrassing moment." But David Hernandez had a story about a booger, and not anything about his time as a stripper in a gay bar or the way that's now splashed all over the internet. And Danny Noriega told us about a time he fell down stairs, and not about that YouTube video everyone's clicking on — the one where he hopes Santa Claus will rape your mother. (NSFW, but it does have some sly humor to it. Why do people think this one man who breaks into your house at night is okay? Santa does have a bit of a rapist M.O.)

But about the singing. I loved David Cook making that dorky Lionel Ritchie song "Hello" into something rockish. And Jason Castro sang "Hallelujah," such a great song, winningly enough. Michael Johns sounded too much like he was just horsing around with the 80s the way he did "Don't You Forget About Me." Ditto Luke Menard with "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go." Another thing about Johns was that he bleated and seemed cheesy. Menard, on the other hand, made me reminisce about how passionate and exciting George Michael was in the original Wham version, which is my favorite 80s single. (Chez Althouse, it got played a lot on a Fisher-Price record player back then.) Danny Noriega sang some damned thing that I didn't like and couldn't even recognize as a song. David Achuleta sang Another Day in Paradise" earnestly and prettily and used his after-song interview to deliver a mini-sermon about the homeless, for whom he cares. David Hernandez — I've already forgotten what he did. Has the bad press wrecked my opinion of him? Chikezie? What was that thing he sang?

ADDED: Jacob at Television Without Pity gets very heavy-handed about Danny Noriega:
[W]hat I can't fucking abide is this idea that some dumb kid is going to see Danny on the screen... and realize that this is a way to get approval, attention, and acceptance. Taking the Danny route means putting all the scary things about gay people and stuffing them into a tiny little asterisk, while magnifying all the childish, feminine, negligible things -- all the things that put you in the category of not mattering -- and expanding them so that they cover your whole personality, with just a tiny little asterisk of things that we can, as a culture, forgive. As long as we don't have to see them, think about them, or otherwise confront them in a way which isn't hilariously powerless....
Maybe Danny's the Marilyn Monroe of the show and knows that fulfilling an archetype this insanely well is actually a power play. I can see that, actually. I just don't like what it does to everybody else -- also, now that I think of it, a problem with people like Marilyn, who excel at putting on the face like that.

Where's Andrew?

About the last thing we heard from him was: "I just had a Jager shot, and hope to get drunk very soon. So this is my last post of the night... emotion clouds the mind. Oh, and Jager."

Now, it's almost 10 a.m. and still no morning posts.

Politics is painful!

"She hopes that the Americans will have enough distance to understand, but her career is not just American. She can make films everywhere."

Incredibly lame attempt at spin on behalf of Marion Cotillard, whose Oscar win was immediately overshadowed by reports that she has expressed a belief in the 9/11 conspiracy theories.

"Did they just use a blood wipe?!"

[Video removed. Go here.]

Opinion on the war: It's going well.

A new Pew report:
In the most in-depth picture of the trend, the Pew report says that about half the public (48%) now says the Iraq war effort is going either very well or fairly well. That compares to a more than 2-1 majority who said it was going badly a year ago. Nearly half (47%) say the U.S. should keep its troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized -- roughly the same as those (49%) who favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. A year ago, 53% favored rapid withdrawal versus 42% who favored keeping the troops in Iraq.
This doesn't mean that more people think the decision to invade was good, only that there is support for finishing what we started.

So did you hear the one about how Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the nomination just decreased?

TPM Central passes along the spin from the Obama campaign:
Tonight was the Clinton campaign’s last best chance to make a significant dent in our lead in pledged delegates and they have failed. In our latest projections, we will win the Texas caucus with a double-digit margin and any pledged delegate shift will be absolutely minimal. In fact, Clinton’s chances of regaining the delegate lead actually decreased tonight, as the number of delegates remaining dwindles.
Sorry, but this close counting of the delegates seems obtuse. The idea of Obama as a magic man — and his candidacy as a movement — is gone. We enter a new phase, and opinion is softened. People will think about things in new ways. The Rezko trial is in the news, and reporters are starting to ask Obama tough questions. We have a long wait for the next primary, and it's a big one that Hillary is expected to win by a wide margin. If we end the primary season with Clinton strong and Obama battered, the superdelegates will respond, and they will make the final call. I'd say Clinton has hugely increased her chance of winning.

Josh Marshall's analysis:
Let's hypothesize for a moment a scenario in which March 4th broke the back of Obama's campaign. He emerges bloodied and doesn't seem to be able to stand up to Hillary's assault. His delegate margin is big enough that she can't catch up. But she runs through the next dozen or however many remaining contests there are making up steady ground on the pledged delegate front. I don't think a small margin of pledged delegates will be enough if Obama looks like a damaged candidate who seems unable to fight off a determined and ruthless opponent. Just hanging on to the margin he banked in February won't be enough because fundamentally, if neither candidate has it locked by the convention, the super delegates will want to pick the candidate who looks like the general election winner and is the favorite of Democrats at the time of the convention, two qualifiers which are in practice two sides of the same coin.

I don't think the above is a likely scenario. In fact, I think it's quite unlikely. Almost everything remains stacked against Hillary. There's no denying that. But I think this does point to what this debate -- literal and meta -- will turn on over the next couple weeks.

"Wearing a grungy yellow hoody and sweatpants, greasy hair pulled back, and no makeup to conceal her splotchy skin..."

"... as she shoveled food into her bloated face, it's hard to imagine the former bombshell that looked so much like her mother."

That, my friends, is mainstream journalism, the Daily News, not some blog, and the subject of that writing is a photograph of Lisa Marie Presley. Presley happens to be wearing her perfectly decent hair in the traditionally respectable style of the ponytail. Like many other women her age — 40 — she has a protruding abdomen. She's wearing what appears to be a clean sweatshirt and screwing the lid onto a bottle of water. There is no food in the picture, and Ms. Presley looks reasonably well put together with glamorous sunglasses and gold hoop earrings. The writer of the article, Leah Chernikoff, informs us that her father was quite fat when he died at age 42.

Fortunately, the comments slam Chernikoff. Here are the first 8:
  1. Someone is an unemployed journalism grad school grad... Hahahaha sucka. Go blog about it.
  2. How can a Daily News journalist take themself seriously with this cr@p? Excuse me, I used the word journalist. Is this a newspaper or the Enquirer?
  3. What is she eating in that picture? What a sow.
  4. That ain't Lisa Marie in the photo. That's Leah Chernikoff!
  5. You rotten hearted, bottom-of-the barrel tabloid ********. You bunch of old men with your fat bellies and bald heads, acting like hens clucking over someone's looks. You have the eye of hundreds of thousands of people, and this is what you choose to print.
  6. What is her crime and why is her weight our business? That is just totally rude. I'm almost as interested in Lisa Marie's size as I am in Britney's lifestyle. Leave them alone and give us a break from nonsense. You just sound like a jealous ****.
  7. I expect this from the NY Post, not this paper. So much for that. This paper has gone down hill.
  8. Another Daily "We Wanna be the Post" News douche bag story. When did Zuckerman sell the paper to Murdock?

UPDATE: Lisa Marie is, in fact, pregnant. And now, she's suing.

March 4, 2008

Pictures from the Texas caucus — at the Red River Church in Austin, Texas.

My son John was there, and it looked like this:

The Texas Caucus

Lots of people! And a little religion:

The Texas Caucus

They turned out in suits and in Earth Shoes:

The Texas Caucus

This is what caucusing looks like:

The Texas Caucus

Like voting, but with peeking.

ADDED: My other son also went to the caucus, but didn't take pictures. I've added his description at the end of the long live-blog post. Unlike John, Chris thought the caucus process was terribly chaotic.

IN THE COMMENTS: A third report from the caucuses in Austin, from my ex-husband Richard Cohen:
Ah, Red River and 45th, my old territory. Now my polling place is Blanton Elementary on the east side, where the caucus was equally well-attended but by a much more racially integrated crowd. Blanton's voters were predominantly middle-aged, though, with relatively few of the kind of 20ish citizens we see in John's photos. Lots of middle-aged black couples. Not many Hispanics, though my neighborhood is about equally brown, black, and white. I saw one young black man in baggy pants and a hat with earflaps; he laughed hysterically to himself when an official announced that the Democratic Party wanted us to check off our race and sexual preference on the signup sheet. The grandmotherly black woman sitting next to me turned out to be my neighbor across the street, whom I hadn't met before; we talked about home renovations, the housing market, and the cycles of white flight. I saw a good number of middle-aged white women in pairs or trios. And felt a communal quiet excitement at participating in a moment in American history we could feel good about, a moment, no matter what the result, when the wheel revolves forward.
Or backward!

Live-blogging the Texas and Ohio primaries.

6:15 ET: Let's just get this post set up. And I wanted to let you know that I'm going to be doing some commentary on C-SPAN at 8 ET and 9:30 ET. Meanwhile, here's Jonathan Alter's Newsweek analysis saying there is no way that Hillary can get enough delegates, even if you project the rosiest possible results for her in all the rest of the primaries.
So no matter how you cut it, Obama will almost certainly end the primaries with a pledged-delegate lead, courtesy of all those landslides in February. Hillary would then have to convince the uncommitted superdelegates to reverse the will of the people. Even coming off a big Hillary winning streak, few if any superdelegates will be inclined to do so. For politicians to upend what the voters have decided might be a tad, well, suicidal.
And here's a WSJ piece trying to figure out what Hillary needs tonight to keep going:
Should the senators split the states' contests -- or if Sen. Clinton wins, but only by narrow margins -- the debate will turn to how to interpret the results. Two smaller states, Rhode Island and Vermont, also vote today. Clinton aides have started to imply that even just one big win today would allow her to claim she had broken Sen. Obama's momentum, justifying a continuing competition....

"We expect on Wednesday the momentum of Sen. Obama will be significantly blunted and new questions will be posed as to whether he is the right candidate for the Democratic Party," said Mark Penn, Sen. Clinton's chief strategist, in a conference call with reporters. "Then this nomination will go straight to the convention."
7:20: I've just been setting things up here with the webcam and the lighting. Now, I need to check out what's going on, so I'll have something to say.

7:28: Obama's victory in Vermont is declared, but we're very close to the time when they will spill the exit poll results on Ohio. Exciting!

7:30: CNN won't call the Ohio race on the Democratic side. It's "competitive," we're told and I take that as bad news for Hillary.

7:32: The CNN exit poll shows that 59% of the Democratic voters were women, which ought to help Hillary. It also seems to skew old, which should help her. The Texas primary ends at 8, and then the Texas caucus starts at 8:15. Both my sons are caucusing in Texas, so I may get some photos and first-hand reports. I should add that McCain has been declared the winner in Ohio and Vermont.

7:43: Politico on how Hillary could come back. And here's Dana Milbank on Clinton "moving the goalposts." "My husband didn't get the nomination wrapped up until June" — she keeps saying that.

7:54: CNN is showing 60 to 38%, Hillary over Obama, in Ohio. But it's competitive! Keep watching! Only 1% of the vote in.

8:08: My son John is waiting in line for the caucus at Red River Church in Austin, TX. The line looks long to him.

8:25: I just did my first of 2 little bits on C-SPAN. Did anyone watch?!

8:46: John is reporting from the caucus, which he just got out of at 7:46 CT. The pews in the church were completely filled up. A party leader addressed them, saying it was "historic" and "we've never seen anything near this level of interest." There were lots of kids there. And some dogs. It pretty much seemed like voting, except that you could see what people around you were writing down. The party leader who directed them to come up to the tables to write down their choices said: "You can come up and it will be like taking communion." John heard someone chide him for saying that, but it wasn't clear whether he was kidding.

9:18: Congratulations to John McCain for clinching the nomination. Now, here's Mike Huckabee, conceding. He will "do everything possible to unite our party and to unite our country." He observes that the 2 most dignified campaigns are the ones in the Republican Party. A nice little speech, which isn't over, but it's down to the list of thanks, so I'll publish this update.

9:26: Huckabee is still talking. Some woman sold her wedding ring to make a contribution to his campaign. Would you even want that money? I wouldn't. I'd rather not hear about that. But he features it in his speech. Anyway, I note the percentages in Texas and Ohio: Hillary is winning Ohio by a much wider margin than Obama is winning Texas. She's got a 20 point margin: 59 to 39%. And Ohio is the state the candidate needs to win. [ADDED: I mean Ohio seems to be the state to win in the November election.] Huckabee is still talking, running on about the men who died at the Alamo. Finally, he's done. I hear McCain should speak soon. I hear that from C-SPAN, which is telling me to hang around until after the McCain speech.

9:50: McCain is speaking. Given the alternatives, he says, his election "is in the best interests of the country we love." That's a nicely modest way of putting it. He didn't grow up thinking the country owed him anything. But he felt "part of a kinship of ideals" that made him think he owed a life of service. Now, he's working the national security theme. We need to "combat Islamic extremism." On to trade: his adversaries "want to pretend the global economy will go away." On health care, he'll work to bring down costs without "ruining the quality of the world's best medical care." Energy: alternative sources. (He stops to cough. Don't look old!) And he wants to listen. We're "the captain of our fate." "We don't hide from history. We make history." Hope, values, principles, greatness, trust.

10:08: Wolf Blitzer keeps saying Ohio is "very competitive," even while looking at numbers showing a blowout by Clinton. What kind of numbers do you need to see before you stop saying that? Meanwhile, it's 50/48 in Texas. I'd say things look pretty good for Hillary (who also won Rhode Island, as expected). Obviously, she's not going to bow out. So, settle in folks, and wait for Pennsylvania, and all the ugly little globules of mud that will dribble out over the next 6 weeks. How about that Rezko trial? Should be delightful.

10:55: CNN calls Ohio for Hillary Clinton. And Clinton is currently ahead in Texas: 50/48. I'll have some photos from the Texas caucus very soon!

11:01: "Has anyone started calling her The Comeback Kid yet?" says Wolf Blitzer.

11:13: Okay, the pictures from the Texas Caucus are up (in a new post).

11:16: Clinton looks happy. She's all aglow. "For anyone who's ever been counted out, but refused to be knocked out..." She wants to symbolize the fighting spirit. Ohio is special, the key state that must be won if the presidency is to be won, and she's won it. She reels off a list of other states she's won — and it's a surprisingly long list. Obama's run of 11 victories in a row had obscured those victories, which include some awfully big states. "We're just getting started." She makes a big deal out of saying her website address, and the crowd chants it along with her, which strikes me as incredibly dorky. She going to be a fighter and a champion. "We're ready for health care!" "When that phone rings at 3 a.m...." She thanks a lot of people, including the 2 most important people in her life, Bill and Chelsea. Then, she also thanks her mother (an unnecessary slight snub to Mom). She gets a new chant going: "Yes, we will." Get it? "Yes, we can" refers to capacity, but it's not enough just to be able to do something, you have to actually do it.

11:51: Andrew Sullivan is very upset:
To keep oneself from despair....

I just had a Jager shot, and hope to get drunk very soon. So this is my last post of the night. Here's what I'll do in the morning: find out who won the most delegates in the March 4 states, and check someone else's math (yes, I'm not going to get it wrong myself) to see who subsequently has the numbers to win. And then take a deep breath. And say what I think. Right now, emotion clouds the mind. Oh, and Jager.
Chez Althouse, the drinks have been: 1 Bolthouse Farms "Vedge" and 3 waters. It fits with my cruelly neutral viewpoint.

12:04: My other son, Chris, also caucused in Austin (at McCallum High School). He describes the caucus as extremely chaotic and confusing. He had volunteered to work for Hillary Clinton. He was at the rally in Austin last night, and he drove all over town today putting up Hillary Clinton signs. At one place where they needed people to hold up signs, Bill Clinton made an appearance and shook everyone's hand. Chris was impressed by Bill Clinton's handshaking technique. It's very quick but fully engaged, with an instant of eye contact that leaves you feeling that you met Bill Clinton. There were a lot of schoolgirls at the event — perhaps 6th graders — and they were ecstatic about shaking Bill's hand. They were jumping up and down, almost crying, and saying "I shook his hand!" They were acting, Chris said, the way you would expect them to act if Justin Timberlake had kissed them. Chris contrasted the experience with coming within arm's length of Hillary and Chelsea at the rally last night. They were not shaking hands, but giving autographs, and he didn't have the same sense that he met them, not that he faulted them for that. There was some pushing in the crowd that was infringing on two old women in front, and Hillary came over and told them to stop. Chris said that Hillary and Chelsea looked exactly like the do on television, and that was "surreal." As for the disorganization at the caucus, Chris said that people didn't understand the rules. Could they just sign in and leave, or were they supposed to stay? Staying seemed to have to do with being chosen as a delegate for the state convention [actually it was the county convention], and they needed something like 40 delegates for the 300 voters in that precinct. What were they supposed to do if there weren't 40 caucus goers left in the end? The voters themselves had to "kind of take over and figure out what was happening." And this was in Austin with educated, politically involved caucus-goers, but there are 8,000 precincts in the state. Imagine the confusion on that scale. Caucuses are horrible, he said. Anyway, he ended up as one of the delegates for Hillary at the state county convention.

1:09: And now, Clinton has won Texas — the primary, that is. So the Obamomentum is broken.

Panini, pancakes, and chocolate in DUMBO.

The city is bleak:


But let's have breakfast:

Dumbo café

Let's have a chocolate break:

Hot Chocolate

"The Audacity of Hate."

By Innuendo.

This is the post where I take a vow of neutrality — cruel neutrality — in the Presidential election.

Who am I supporting in the presidential contest? You shouldn't know, because I don't know. In fact, I'm positioning myself in a delicate state of unknowing, a state I hope to maintain until October if not November. In the meantime, I will spread the attacks around and give credit where credit is due. I think if you look back, you'll see I've done this in the past week. Nothing is more boring than a blogger's endorsement, and I'm not interested in reading any blogger's day to day spin in favor one candidate or another. I would rather take a vow not to vote in November and to keep track of my pro and con posts and go out of my way to keep the tallies even than to turn into a blogger like that.

So I'm taking a vow of neutrality, but it won't be dull beige neutrality. I think partisanship is too tedious to read. This is going to be cruel neutrality.

ADDED: I'm not vowing that I won't vote. But if I break my vow of cruel neutrality, the punishment will be that I will not vote. And I do vow to exact that punishment on myself.

AND: Monitoring the Cruel Neutrality.

AND: Monitoring Monitoring the Cruel Neutrality. Looks like there's already a controversy over how to score "The Audacity of Hate."

Why did it take so long for the media to ask Obama hard questions?

Jeralyn Merritt asks.
What a disgrace that it took the media so long. If Hillary should end up out of the race by next week, which I doubt, they'll be jumping on Obama and propping up McCain. I'll be having none of it.
She's commenting on this WaPo article by Dana Milbank about that press conference yesterday ("Ask Tough Questions? Yes, They Can!"):
It took many months and the mockery of "Saturday Night Live" to make it happen, but the lumbering beast that is the press corps finally roused itself from its slumber Monday and greeted Barack Obama with a menacing growl.
Here's the video, giving a preview of how Obama will look when he's treated like a regular politician:

What happens after tonight?

Noam Scheiber reviews the possible scenarios after today's primaries.
1.) Hillary wins both Ohio and Texas. I don't see how this doesn't send us into a six-week-long battle for Pennsylvania.
Don't let Noam's double negative fool you: We'll have a long battle for Pennsylvania.
2.) Hillary wins Ohio; Obama wins Texas. Hillary's inclination will be to fight on (witness her recent remarks about "just getting warmed up"). And the press will let her do it for a couple of days. But i just don't see how she sustains it....
i sure do.
3.) Obama wins both Ohio and Texas. I see almost no chance of this happening after NAFTA-gate.
Oh, yes: NAFTA-gate. I need to post on that. It's a terrible screw-up by Obama.

Anyway, in this scenario, Noam expects Hillary to concede. What if it's close? What about the poor people of Pennsylvania? Shouldn't they have their say? I won't believe she's out until she says it.

McCain: "a fool, willing to flap his jaw about important topics based on ignorance."

What else are you supposed to conclude when he says "there’s strong evidence" connecting thimerosal to autism?

The effort to shift term "The Stupid Party" over to the Democrats has just suffered another setback.

"The country is groaning and moaning and screaming for change."

That would be funniest if who said it?

And speaking of "The Daily Show," Hillary Clinton was the guest last night. Here's the video. It's via satellite, so it's a little stiff. She shoehorns in a lot of campaign-speak, but she also gets in a few real-human-being moments, like at the beginning, when Jon Stewart asks why she's spending the last night before the primary with him, and she says "It's pathetic."

She misses some opportunities too, like when Stewart makes a baseball analogy, comparing her and Barack Obama to Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. Isn't Hillary Clinton reputed to be a big baseball fan? She didn't pause to say a word about baseball, but went right to the subject of her and Obama.

So it wasn't that different from your usual talking heads interview, and you can see that Jon Stewart is sad that the people we see behind Hillary haven't laughed at all. These are young people in Austin, Texas. If they aren't laughing at Jon's lines, he's in big trouble. Hillary explains: They can't hear him. Her people failed to set up an audio feed in the room! There's a good analogy for a campaign that keeps getting things wrong and can't get its audience excited.

March 3, 2008

Another photo quiz.

Here's a distinctive house in Brooklyn Heights where a famous writer lived from 1924 to 1925:

A house in Brooklyn Heights

Who was it?

AND: The first commenter — jroosh — gets it right. It's Henry Miller. The plaque read:
Raised in Brooklyn, the best-selling author is noted for his imaginative, controversial novels Tropic of Cancer (1934), which chronicles his colorful life as an expatriate in Paris, and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), which depicts his adult life in New York City. Both books were banned in the U.S. until 1961.

"Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me..."

Anger, web style:
Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia.... It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I'm selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind, here in my NYC apartment, on eBay...
Jimbo responds... blah blah blah.... Ouch.

See, this is why web-celebs must be chaste.

Here's a question I just heard a cute little 6-year-old girl ask.

"Do people die every second?"

I'm guessing the age of the girl, whom I passed as I was walking in Brooklyn Heights today. She did not look anxious about it. She seemed to be interested in the facts. I didn't hear the answer she got from the mother/nanny who accompanied her. In case you're wondering, the answer is yes.

We are the world. Really!

Especially Japan.

(I got this link from a Snapped Shot post that features a completely unrelated but very funny film clip about a large tree.)

Chaos coming.

Chaos coming

Chaos coming

Chaos coming

"Wikipedia is just an incredible thing. It's fact-encirclingly huge..."

"... and it's idiosyncratic, careful, messy, funny, shocking, and full of simmering controversies—and it's free, and it's fast. In a few seconds you can look up, for instance, 'Diogenes of Sinope,' or 'turnip,' or 'Crazy Eddie,' or 'Bagoas,' or 'quadratic formula,' or 'Bristol Beaufighter,' or 'squeegee,' or 'Sanford B. Dole,' and you'll have knowledge you didn't have before. It's like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks."

The novelist Nicholson Baker has a big NYRB essay on Wikipedia (and "Wikipedia: The Missing Manual"). I didn't go looking for this after writing the last post and mentioning that Wikipedia has what is almost only a stub on "A Room of One's Own." It just turned up as the next thing in my email box. But look at this:
... Wikipedia seemed unusually humble. It asked for help, and when it did, it used a particularly affecting word: "stub." At the bottom of a short article about something, it would say, "This article about X is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it." And you'd think: That poor sad stub: I will help. Not right now, because I'm writing a book, but someday, yes, I will try to help.
So, there's your argument countering mine. I called the short entry evidence of female underachievement. But you can say that all those scholars and literati with knowledge of and love for "A Room of One's Own" are off writing books. And you can build on that: Editing is traditionally a woman's work, properly shunned by the heroic women who are creating and composing their own tomes, perhaps expounding Woolf's slim volume.

I like the Nicholson Baker books I've read, like "Room Temperature," "Mezzanine," and "Double Fold." Pop quiz: What Nicholson Baker book did Monica Lewinsky give to Bill Clinton? Answer here — in the Wikipedia entry for Nicholson Baker. It's "Vox" — that book about phone sex. I haven't read that one. Sorry. Apparently, libraries interest me more than phone sex. (Or books about.) I have this vague feeling that I was once offended by some political thing NB once wrote. Dare I search my archives to see what I have against someone I like after I've forgotten what it is?

"I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so."

Why is a 73-year-old woman — feminist "icon" Gloria Steinem — talking like a teenager and making a mindcrushingly stupid attack on John McCain for the respect we give him for his years as a prisoner of war?

You might think she's lost her mind, but in fact, she's just using an old feminist rhetorical device:
“Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and Joan McCain had got captured, shot down and been a POW for eight years. [The media would ask], ‘What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years?’” Steinem said, to laughter from the audience.
The audience laughs because it's the ritual to laugh at this point. They take it on faith that men's accomplishments are valued more than women's. They may even recognize the device of naming the female version of the male hero. To ask us to visualize "Joan McCain" is to allude to Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own": "Let me imagine... what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say."

But Woolf's vivid device is horribly abused in Steinem's hands. Judith Shakespeare fell into oblivion because she was denied access to education and opportunity. Joan McCain actually becomes a pilot and suffers the same fate as John McCain, but people, looking on, deny her credit simply because she is a woman.

And yet the audience laughs.


By the way, I'm surprised the Wikipedia entry for "A Room of One's Own" is so skimpy. I guess feminists are underrepresented among Wikipedians. If it wasn't Wikipedia, you'd be able to argue that women's accomplishments are slighted by the bad people who put together encyclopedias. In fact, that this entry is little more than a stub is evidence of female underachievement.

"One doesn't craft a blog, just as one doesn't plan to puke. One pukes. One blogs."

A magazine article by contrast is not puked.

There, I feel so much better now.

"Clinton is pressed to say that Obama is not a Muslim. She does - but then she pulls it back."

Andrew Sullivan is looking at this video:

Here's the whole "60 Minutes" segment, which aired yesterday. Watching the short excerpt, I was inclined to minimize Clinton's "as far as I know," because it seemed as though Steve Kroft was using a technique of continuing to ask the same question until he extracted the quote that would make news. Clinton's initial response is completely appropriate, and, to my ear, it seemed as if the backing off in the end was a lawyerly precision about her lack of personal knowledge of the subject rather than a sly attempt to stimulate doubts.

But let's look at the whole context (at the end of the segment):

1. One seriously confused citizen, interviewed on camera, expresses the belief that Obama is a Muslim and says that's what he's "been told."

2. We see Barack Obama, interviewed by Kroft, who tells the candidate that something that's "popped up" on their "radar screen" — "not widespread" — is the idea that he is a Muslim. "60 Minutes" has skipped over any independent effort to trace the rumors. Kroft simply asks Obama: "Where's it coming from?" Obama says: "This has been a systematic email smear campaign that's been going on since actually very early in this campaign. Clearly, it's a deliberate effort by some group or somebody to generate this rumor."

3. "60 Minutes" shows the African garb photograph of Obama that, we're told, was on the internet and "attributed to people in the Clinton campaign."

4. Kroft informs us that "Senator Clinton denied any knowledge of it," and then we see Clinton talking not about the source of the rumors, but about whether she believes Obama is a Muslim. Her denials then come across as a little too smilingly cute and constrained. She doesn't know.

Now, I think this "60 Minutes" segment is very poor journalism. We're shown one ignorant man, told about rumors that are some unknown degree short of widespread, then treated to the statement of one candidate who asserts there is a "a systematic email smear campaign," followed by the statement that the one photo was "attributed to people in the Clinton campaign." What kind of reporting is that? Why don't you tell us the extent of the rumor, what was in the emails, and investigate the source? Why is there no following up on Obama's assertion that there is "a systematic email smear campaign"?

Instead, the Obama interview is edited to allow him the chance to profess his longstanding belief in Christianity and to say some magnanimous things about Muslims. Obama seems delightfully warm and flashes a beautiful smile. Hasn't he — with the help of "60 Minutes" — just slyly facilitated the rumor that the Clinton campaign is the source of the email?

Hillary Clinton has no way to know this is the set up, and her interview is cut to make it seem as though she's unwilling to squelch the rumor. But what exactly did she say about whether her campaign is the source of the email or the photograph? Did Kroft probe? It didn't make the edit. Maybe it wasn't punchy and entertaining enough, and maybe "60 Minutes" meant to leave her looking like the insincere face of an underhanded campaign.

ADDED: Mickey Kaus agrees with me:
It seems like mere reflexive politico-legal ass-covering on her part, not innuendo-spreading. If you're Hillary, you have to have learned not to make sweeping declarations of fact about things you can't really know--e.g., "Obama is not a Muslim"--without adding a caveat. Her sin, if any, was not realizing that this instance was an exception to the normal rule --an occasion where she'd be expected to make a sweeping declaration of fact about something she couldn't really know. And to do it on 60 Minutes--where smart politicians are normally primed be very cautious.
AND: There's room here to criticize Hillary for being too much of a lawyer, but there is also an argument that she is being distinctively Christian. It is a Christian point of view to see religion as something internal, known only to the individual and to God. You might go to church every Sunday and still not be a Christian, in Christian terms. Thus, if the question is whether someone else is a Christian, the most you can ever say is as far as I know. To claim to know more is to put yourself in the place of God.

March 2, 2008

"I'm not sure what possessed the eel to beach itself like that, but maybe it's a member of the 'Fans' tribe on Eelvivor..."

"... and is therefore prone to such stupid and ultimately self-defeating moves." Hahaha. Sara M — who actually worked on "Survivor" — is guest-recapping the show this week at Television Without Pity. She's got a great recapping style and inside info on the show. (Jeff Probst is not "a smarmy talking airhead.... He, like, runs that show." The show is "surprisingly un-manufactured" and "What you see is pretty much what happened," so that eel was not thrown on the beach by the producers.)

Just another Brooklyn sunset.

Just another Brooklyn sunset

Tonight. (It's better enlarged.) Later, there were fireworks out in the harbor again. Again, I have no idea why. March 2nd. Is there some March Groundhog Day? What? St. Patrick minus Ides?

Just a bar.

In Wisconsin.

Things that exploded in Brooklyn Heights recently.

A halogen bulb:

My lightbulb exploded

A rat:

Dead rat

Now, calm down an have some coffee.

Coffee left on a brownstone railing

The rat did not disturb me. I can only think somebody's kitty cat was having a nice meal and had enough. This is no more troubling than the rest of nature. But please don't take it back to your dorm room for cooking in the popcorn popper.

The bulb on the other hand... do you see that hole in the glass? I was 5 feet away from it when it exploded behind my head. It sounded like a gun shot, lit up the room like a lightning bolt, and I had no idea what was going on for a terrifying fraction of a second until I turned around and saw the light fixture smoking.

Staring out the window at a Starbucks....

On Broadway, in SoHo.

Starbucks in SoHo

I'm sure no reader can guess what element of this picture caused me to get out my camera and take a shot. You'll need to look at the enlargement.

If you find this bloggish pop quiz too taxing, here's a little doggy to make you happy:

A little doggie

Hillary on "Saturday Night Live."

I think Hillary does a pretty good job of delivering her lines (even if she reveals unfamiliarity with this show by getting the catchphrase "It's Saturday night" wrong). I've put up the video for the lead-in sketch too, but I only watched part of it. I tried to force myself for the purposes of this post, but I found it boring. It starts by having a character talk about how boring the debate is, but it's not funny to call something boring while just being boring. And the impersonations are all pretty bad. And it should be easy to make Tim Russert funny. The actual Tim Russert is funnier than that guy they have impersonating him. "SNL" is supposedly relevant again, but it's just not very good. They get one idea and run it into the ground here.

Michelle appropriates Jackie.

A WSJ PDF showing how Michelle Obama has quite deliberately appropriated Jackie Kennedy's First Lady fashion style, Peter Pan collars and all.

"There is nothing on this earth sexier than a woman that you have to salute in the morning."

Jack Nicholson is for Hillary Clinton (I think). Whatever... it's hilarious: 


Let's try to think of some more lines from his old movies for Jack to edit into his next Hillary commercial. 

UPDATE: Here it is! The next commercial I wanted!

"What kind of message does it give when you tell a group of kids that boys and girls need to be separated because they don’t even see or hear alike?"

Here's a big, interesting NYT Magazine article about educating boys and girls separately.
The walls of the boys’ classroom are painted blue, the light bulbs emit a cool white light and the thermostat is set to 69 degrees. In the girls’ room, by contrast, the walls are yellow, the light bulbs emit a warm yellow light and the temperature is kept six degrees warmer...
Gah! I'm getting hot just thinking about it. You're cooking the girls!

Actually, I love the idea of classrooms set up for different styles of learning, and I can even accept one classroom designed to appeal to most boys and another designed to appeal to most girls, but you've got to let boys and girls self-select into the classroom that suits them.

AND: 69° is not a cool classroom, and it's a waste of energy heating a room even to that temperature in the winter. I recommend 62° and put on a sweater if you're cold. And as for the warm yellow light... I thought Congress was taking away our incandescent bulbs. I'm pretty upset about that, and I'm warming up to the idea that it's sex discrimination.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian said:
"Taking away" incandescent bulbs? That would be a revolution-provoking act, as far as I'm concerned. And I consider it disability-based discrimination, since fluorescent lights (tubes, the stupid compact fluorescents, whatever) trigger migraines (with and without aura) if I sit under them for prolonged periods. They do not produce continuous illumination, no matter how "flicker free" they claim to be.

I am also very sensitive to color and light, in order for me to work I need proper, non-irritating light. I use both regular incandescents and incandescents coated with neodymium (full-spectrum bulbs), especially in my studio.
I said:
Palladian, the law is already passed. You have 4 years to stock up on incandescent lightbulbs to last the rest of your life.
Palladian said:

I hate the fucking compact fluorescent bulbs. Their light is ugly, the bulbs are ugly, they don't fit into a lot of classic lamps that I own, they're expensive, they've got mercury in them, it's illegal to throw they away in New York, placing yet another burden on taxpayers to try and figure out how to dispose of them.

Seriously, it's this kind of petty tyranny, this kind of ignorance to aesthetics, this kind of disregard for personal choice that pushes me closer to anarchism.

This kind of collectivist shit is fast turning us into Europe with less-interesting architecture. Fuck congress and the lobbyists from Philips who I suspect were primarily responsible for hiding this little turd in the "energy" bill.

Doing some calculations to figure out how many bulbs I'll need to buy...
Buy a lot so you can sell them to your aesthete friends who will beg for them and so you don't have to skimp and worry about whether any given situation is "lightworthy" (like "spongeworthy").