March 22, 2008

Enough with all the singlism and matrimania.

Writes Bella DePaulo:
What may be less obvious is that if reports [of the supposed health benefits of marriage] were more accurate and less caricatured, that would also be good for anyone who is, or wants to be, coupled. When singles are stigmatized, there is a risk that some people will be tempted to couple and marry for the wrong reasons — to escape the cultural muck that comes with being single. When singles are no longer marginalized or demeaned, then people who want to couple can do so from a position of strength. Rather than running away from singlehood to escape the stigma, they can move toward marriage or coupling as something they want to embrace.
Ah, but what if they don't? 

The pleasures of singlehood must be kept hush-hush. It's not a legitimate life style, you hear?

"Haven't drawn a jedi in awhile."

The last blog post from Justin Wright, a promising young animator who just died of a heart attack at age 27. From his college profile:
Justin’s journey to Pixar has another plot twist. He got introduced to the famous studio because of a heart transplant. When Justin was born, his heart had all sorts of complications: cardiomyopathy, a complete block, a hole between the upper two chambers, a hole in the mitral valve —the list goes on. Finally, when Justin was 12, his heart had been through too many surgeries and procedures to be of much use, not to mention that it was the size of a deflated soccer ball inside his slight 70-pound body. It was time for a transplant.

With a lot of time spent in hospital beds recovering, Justin drew pictures (a hobby he says he started as a kid when he got bored in church). His doctor at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children's Hospital noticed Justin’s interest, and one day, after Justin was fully recovered, took him on a tour at Pixar, where he had some connections. Justin was enthralled—this was what he wanted to do....

He credits his heart transplant with giving him the courage to make risky decisions... “I knew I’d been allowed to stay on this earth, and that I was lucky.....”

Want something, do what you want, take some risks, and know that you are lucky to be alive.

I'm only linking to this ripe piece of anti-Althousiana...

... here ... because something moved me to participate in the comments and I think you may enjoy my remarks over there.

I say "'A Man for All Seasons' is an old-fashioned, stagy movie that is not an interesting piece of film art and does not become so because an old man dies" and tangle with a few readers whose display of dumbness ought to make Roy think again about what level he thinks he's writing on.

Here's a piece in today's NYT explaining the "Man for All Seasons" phenomenon of the 1960s:
“A Man for All Seasons,” which came out in 1966, is a movie of a sort they don’t make anymore: smart, literate and, by today’s standards, a little earnest. Schools organized field trips so that students could be bused to see it, and it earned a huge popular following as well. It won Academy Awards for best director and best picture, and Mr. Scofield picked up the Oscar for best actor. There were also Oscars for best adapted screenplay, best costumes and best cinematography.

“A Man for All Seasons” was so evocative and so good-looking — and such a draw at the box office — that it spawned dozens of imitations. For a while you could hardly go to the movies or turn on highbrow television without seeing people in doublets, hose and ruffs, writing with quills.
Highbrow? "Highbrow" has been defined downward. "A Man for All Seasons" and the anglophilic stuff like it was exactly what "middlebrow" originally meant.

Also middlebrow (and pathetically nerdy): insulting people with a quote from a Nathaniel Hawthorne story you read for high school English class.

AND: Thanks to everyone who criticized me for disrespecting a movie I've never seen. I've heard this criticism many times — like back in 2005, when I was taken to task for knowing not to waste my time seeing "King Kong." But this time, thanks to this new wave of criticism, I had the revelation that had evaded me for years. I finally realized what's really going on. How do you know you won't like it if you haven't tried it? It's guys who flip out when they hear that from a woman. It strikes to the very core, doesn't it? How do you know you won't enjoy sleeping with me?

"Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver..."

James Carville says "the timing is appropriate, if ironic." Ironic.... It's like rain on your crucifixion day.

"How do you rate Obama’s speech? Excellent, good, fair, or poor?"

A Rasmussen poll asked "How do you rate Obama’s speech? Excellent, good, fair, or poor?"
30% Excellent
21% Good
26% Fair
21% Poor
1% Not sure
Rasmussen's own analysis of the poll compresses the "excellent" and "good" responses and highlights the 51% figure, but given the quality of the writing and delivery, the press response to the speech, and the question itself, the answer should be "excellent."

Even people who are deeply disturbed by Obama's connection to Wright and think he should have simply and clearly denounced the man should still think it was an "excellent." "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is a excellent speech: We study it 300+ years after it was delivered, but we're not buying the message. I think Americans will study Barack Obama's speech 100 years from now, maybe even 300 years from now, whether he becomes President or not. At the very least it was a good speech, yet 49% would not even concede that.

The important break in the numbers is between "excellent" and the rest, and 70% said the speech fell short of "excellent." This is, I think, disastrous for Obama.

Asked how "concerned" they are "about Obama’s relationship with his former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright," only 21% said they were "not at all concerned." 42% were "very concerned." Asked whether the speech was "racially divisive, unifying, or neither," only 30% — 30% again — thought the speech was "unifying," which is what Obama intended it and his entire campaign to be.

Obama's popularity has been built on unifying us and transcending race. If only 30% of us heard unification in that speech, then the speech and the connection to Wright have been massively destructive to what is the chief substance of his reputation.

ADDED: Obama told white people to feel guilty about race just when they'd been so happy thinking that loving him, just him, was the answer to racial problems. When we saw him consorting with someone who seemed to hate us, we needed reassurance that Obama loves us, and loving Obama was enough. But he didn't say that, and now we're confused. Our boyfriend was telling us he needs to see other people, and we don't understand the relationship anymore.

March 21, 2008


Best comments thread ever?

Thanks, everybody!

I should go away more often.

Have we ever had a fully bearded VP?

Gordon Smith does the research.

Euthanasia problems.

Driving through the snow just now and listening to BBC radio, I heard the tail end of a discussion about euthanasia. A man, who sounded perfectly cheerful and physically well, was talking about how he missed his dead wife and how he'd accomplished what he wanted in life. He was ready to close the book on life and thought he should be able to get a prescription for death with dignity. There was an expert on the show, a doctor who worked under the euthanasia regime in the Netherlands, and he said that even in his country that man would not be able to have what he wanted, because the law limited him to killing patients with physical illnesses. "It's a problem," he said. It's a problem!

Now, connected to the internet, I'm searching the BBC site for that program. I can't find it, but I see is this article about a woman with a frightful tumor on her face who sought euthanasia:
Former schoolteacher Chantal Sebire, a mother of three, was found dead on Wednesday after a court rejected her request to let doctors help her die....

Ms Sebire, 52, had appealed on French television last month for the right to die, saying she could no longer see properly, taste or smell. She described how children ran away from her in the street.

Okay. I'm back. Let's see what I need to catch up on.

1. Richardson endorses Obama. Racial rifts healed?

2. Passport file breaching. It's not just for Obama anymore.

3. Economy bad. But we're Americans. We assume it will bounce back.

4. Over a foot of new snow here in Wisconsin.

5. Spitzer in whore-addiction therapy. Next stop Oprah.

6. Arianna is now bigger than Drudge. But Drudge does it all with one page.

If you want to hear from me...

... I'll be on the radio.

Meanwhile, talk about what you like here. It's a coffeehouse.


UPDATE: That was a lively "Week in Review" show. Listen at the archive here. Lots on Obama and some good discussion at the end about the Iraq war and a laughable ad from the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

March 20, 2008

The loneliness café.


Radio alert.

I'll be on the "Week in Review" show with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio at 8 AM Central Time t0morrow morning. That's 9 AM ET.

Go here to listen on-line live. You can call in. We'll be talking about whatever news stories of the last week people want to talk about. And you'll be able to listen to the archived show here, later.

ADDED: The other guest — the "left" to my (supposed) "right" — is former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. I've been on with her before. It should be really lively — especially with this past week of news.

"An aide to John McCain was suspended from the campaign today for blasting out an inflammatory video...."

Politico writes:
Soren Dayton, who works in McCain's political department, sent out the YouTube link of "Is Obama Wright?" on twitter at 12:31 today with the tag, "Good video on Obama and Wright." It has since been taken down....

McCain and his campaign have repeatedly said that they would stay away from personal attacks on Obama, but the temptation has increased as Wright's words have dominated the race in recent days.
Here's the video, which I am not embedding with approval. It's plainly offensive and intended to stir up racial hostility:

ADDED: Let's look at some of the reaction (as collected at Memeorandum). Matt Lewis at Townhall objects to suspending Dayton, because all he did was pass the video along, Obama deserves to be attacked about Wright, it may inhibit others in the campaign from "doing their job," and Twitter culture is such that "Dayton most likely didn't think he was Twittering in an 'official' capacity."

Ed Morrissey writes:
I’m conflicted by this. I know Soren, and he’s a pretty good guy. He didn’t create the YouTube, and... it doesn’t do anything except show Wright, Obama, and his wife Michelle speaking for themselves.

It doesn’t do anything except show Wright, Obama, and his wife Michelle speaking for themselves.

However, McCain has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by getting involved in this controversy....

McCain needs to take some action to show how seriously he wants to remain a disinterested observer in the coming meltdown. That means Soren has to get publicly disciplined, unfortunately. I doubt he’ll be on the sidelines for long. It may not be fair, but … it’s politics.
Wow, I'm amazed at Morrissey's insensitivity to that video. My concern was that McCain hadn't distanced himself enough from Soren Dayton and that the campaign should have had safeguards in place in advance to avoid any connection to this kind of trash.

James Joyner writes:
Does the video play on the fears that some whites have about angry black men? Sure. Mostly, though, it seeks to undermine Obama’s portrait of himself as mainstream. It’s more than a little unfair but that’s the nature of these mashups....

Would I like to see campaigns waged on a higher plane than this? You bet. But it’s not going to happen....

I might add that the Obama campaign has benefited from at least three other viral videos. The “Hillary 1984” video was very powerful in knocking down the original frontrunner. The “Obama Girl” video was vapid but got a lot of attention for demonstrating Obama’s appeal to young voters. The “Yes We Can” video was an internet sensation which spawned numerous imitators, including a “McCain 10,000 Years” video which itself went viral. So, now, another vapid video is working against him. That’s politics.
Going viral with racial material is different. It's a rough world, and Twittering and YouTube are going to be part of politics, but the campaign needs to have standards and set limits.

Daniel DiRito writes:
Yes, Senator McCain has suspended a staff member who was found to be distributing the video. Unfortunately, the GOP has refined the tactic of disseminating fear and falsehoods while maintaining the deniability of their candidates.
I'm not quite sure how those 2 sentences fit together, but the McCain campaign should be absolutely above using this kind of racial material.

Oliver Willis writes:

The base impulse of the modern conservative movement - especially the blogosphere and talk radio contingents - is to always appeal to base elements. Racism, sexism, smearing opponents as the worst things possible, they come as easy to the right as breathing. Dayton just made the mistake of getting caught in public. Don’t think the campaign and the party aren’t doing the same or worse behind closed doors.
The McCain campaign needs to ensure that Willis is wrong.

Mickey Kaus on the Obama speech: "I thought it was a disaster for him."

Since people seem to want to talk about the Obama speech, and the number of comments on the previous post is getting close to the point where you have to know where to click to see the newer ones, I thought I'd put up another post — especially since Mickey Kaus is so interesting on the subject for so long on this new episode of Bloggingheads — with Bob Wright — whose interestingness is constrained by: 1. illness and 2. affection for Obama.

The "elite commentators" may be having "Obamagasms" over the speech, but "in terms of reaching the voters he needs to reach, i.e., white male voters, especially non-college-educated white male voters, especially in Pennsylvania, he... actively alienated them." First, "the chutzpah": Obama gets in trouble, and "he uses it as a teaching moment to lecture people on race." Second, he equates black rage and white anger and "is very condescending" toward white people. Third, he "completely misses the boat" about crime and welfare, the 2 issues that brought white men back to the Democrats after the Reagan Era.

But I'm not going to transcribe it all. Go listen.

"To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable," said Geraldine Ferraro.

"[Obama] gave a very good speech on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred."

No word yet about how Obama's white grandmother liked the way he equated her occasional private remarks — whatever they were — with Jeremiah Wright's years of stoking hatred as he led a large attentive crowd.

Good luck finding anything interesting in the newly released Hillary Clinton records.

These are her "public" schedules only. Based on these records, she was a very First Lady-y First Lady:
[T]he schedules released Wednesday are filled with references to innocuous public ceremonies and tours and political events — surrounded by whited-out boxes of deleted material. On March 28, 1995, to pick one example, the schedule shows that Hillary Clinton landed in Lahore, Pakistan, and was "given flowers by a boy and girl dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes." Clinton then visited a village home where she was "served cold soda." On June 1, 2000, researchers will discover that Hillary Clinton flew to Waco, Texas, where she visited the "Audre & Bernard Rapoport Academy." "HRC proceeds to read 'Where the wild things Are' to approximately 71 kindergarten thru second graders," the schedule reads.
I guess we could use this to razz her about the "experience" she's claiming.

"Do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"

The actor Paul Scofield has died (at age 86).

Here's the lawyer's favorite scene from "A Man for All Seasons":

ADDED: Actually, I've never seen "A Man for All Seasons." I was around in 1966 and went to a few movies in those days, but that wasn't one. It might have interested me back then. It must have played around campus in the years went I was in college (1969-1973). In those years, we went to see every movie we had any interest in, because we never knew when we'd get another chance and assumed it would only be on TV with commercials messing it up. But "A Man for All Seasons" was the exactly kind of movie we shunned and scoffed at then.

"Professors Strike Back."

Apparently, a lot of people want to watch video of professors talking back to the mean things written about them in student evaluaions. (Absurdly, the New York Times calls a website with videos is "a 24-hour network broadcast to more than 7.5 million students on American college campuses.") I watched a few of the videos, and for me, the responses were exactly what anyone should know they would be. If the students say the class is hard, the teacher will attribute that opinion to a failure to put in the required effort. Etc. Tell me any student complaint, and I can tell you what the teacher's answer will probably be. You think the prof is confusing? Well, the subject matter is complex and it would be doing you a disservice to simplify it for you. Boring? Pay attention! It's mildly interesting to see a professor say something like that in response to an actual quote from a bad review. Maybe it's really amusing to students though. Is it? I mean, I could make a vlog where I quote from my student evaluations and answer back. Would that entertain you?

March 19, 2008

So much for teasing it up real high and throwing some eyeliner on it.

"American Idol" loses the rocker chick extra early this year. Somehow "Back in the U.S.S.R." reenvisioned as a southern bar song didn't move enough people to obsessive phone-dialing.

"I started getting translations of the phrase the president used as the image appeared... I thought, 'oh my God, what an insult' ... "

"Tom and I are just a couple, like any other couple around the world."

Irish-born New York resident Brendan Fay reacts to the discovery that Polish President Lech Kaczynski used pictures of his wedding in a national speech railing about gay marriage. Fay is suing. [ADDED: Fay has sent his complaint to the Polish Consulate in New York.] Kaczynski was warning Poles about the EU's new Charter of Fundamental Rights. He said
"An article of the charter, due to no clear definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, may go against the universally accepted moral order in Poland and force our country to introduce an institution in conflict with the moral convictions of the decided majority of our country."

"I don't even know why straight people want to get married because you invite the government in your bedroom."

"But that's okay. It seems to be a very basic human need that I don't share." — says lesbian novelist Rita Mae Brown, who wrote that book "Rubyfruit Jungle" and who got kicked out of NOW. Time Magazine asks her what she thinks of gay marriage and she says "I don't understand it."

Asked about coming out as a gay person, she says:
The funny thing is, I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became the only lesbian in America. It was hysterical. It was a misnomer, but it's okay. It was a fight worth fighting.
She seems pretty sharp and irreverent. Lots of animals too: 11 cats, 5 house dogs, and a pack of fox hounds (i.e., 70 hounds). She's the Master of Hounds at Oak Ridge Fox Hunt Club.

Do you ever hear about somebody whose life is so interesting that you're envious, even though you don't want to do any of the things that person does?

Randy Barnett knows a few things about the DC gun case.

The Heller case will — he assures us — be decided on originalist grounds, because both sides are arguing the case that way:
The challengers of the law contend that the original meaning of the Second Amendment protects an individual “right to keep and bear arms” that “shall not be abridged.” In response, the District does not contend that this right is outmoded and that the Second Amendment should now be reinterpreted in light of changing social conditions. Not at all. It contends instead that, because the original intentions of the framers of the Second Amendment was to protect the continued existence of “a well regulated militia,” the right it protects was limited to the militia context.
Barnett also knows that the the Court will uphold the individual right to bear arms and not the collective right theory, because even the District of Columbia is saying it's an individual right (albeit "'conditioned' on a citizen being an active participant in an organized militia").

So it will be an individual right, but it won't change much of anything. Barnett explains: First, because it's a D.C. case, the issue of whether the 2d Amendment applies to the states won't be decided. Second, Heller presents an extreme fact pattern: the ban on having an operable gun in your house. The Court can strike that down without threatening other less drastic laws.

Barnett is reminding me of one reason why I haven't gotten too excited about this case. (Another reason is that it's a personal quirk of mine to get unexcited when I see other people getting too excited.) But Barnett tries in the end to say why the case is actually important:
For one thing, it would be a vindication of originalism. More importantly, the private ownership of firearms is a hallmark of American liberty....
This seems like a small pay off after so much work. There will be a right, but it won't be too useful. Barnett even frets that legislators will slack off on the protection of gun rights because they'll be able to act like the courts will take over. Announcing the individual right is a "risk," he says, but it's "worth taking," now that the case is before the Court. It would be worse for gun rights supporters to hear that the right isn't there at all, wouldn't it?

"On this day in 2003, the United States began Operation Iraqi Freedom."

President Bush marks the 5th anniversary of the war.

IN THE COMMENTS: I appreciate the many comments from those who have served, and I'll frontpage this one from Roger to represent them all:
For those of us who have been soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, you all will understand what this sort of date means. Those who have served understand the requirements of that service; we know the sacrifices that our comrades in arms have made. And we understand that those sacrifices will never be recognized by a sizeable portion of our fellow citizens. And even sadder that service will be the object of derision. So be it, and that really is not important. Those of us who have been there and done that know what it is to serve. Because we no longer have a draft, the task of service is left only to a small portion of the citzenry: to volunteers. That in itself is a shame. But it in no way diminishes the illustrious service of those volunteers who accept the burdens of service.

For those brave men and women who have served and sacrificed, please know that you are comrades with every soldier who has ever come before. God bless you all as you accomplish your missions and God speed you in safe return. You are in our hearts and prayers.

Does cute inspire tipping?

Cute tip jar

I think so.

An amazingly beautiful ad.

Video. Via Drawn!, which says "Some of the stuff is rendered beautifully while other stuff misses the mark and lands somewhere in the uncanny valley," and the commenters over there — jealous animators? — are rather cruel. All I'll say is that the expensive item in the ad is something I held in my hands a few weeks ago and came this close to buying. I'm sure if I had seen the ad, I would have bought it.

The animator, James Jean, has a blog.

"Standing shoulder to shoulder with his grim-faced wife, Michelle, the governor said his 'conscience is clear'...."

Here's this character, newly arrived on the national stage, whom we haven't had 5 minutes to get to like, and he's already nothing but trouble. Is David Paterson really going to get to be the Governor of New York for the next 3 years?
Asked if he had ever used campaign funds for hotels or other personal expenses, he left himself some wiggle room - saying he never "knowingly" did so....

Meanwhile, since the press conference an Olympic gold-medalist has also come forward, claiming she had a "close relationship" with the Governor and allegedly tape recorded her phone conversations with him, according to a newspaper report.

Diane Dixon, a Brooklyn native who won medals in the 4x400-meter relay at the 1984 games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, claimed that Paterson had assisted in helping her secure a Department of Education job in Crown Heights.
We barely know this guy and now we have to listen to his sex tapes?

IN THE COMMENTS: Madison Man says: "What is this with all the Michelles? Michelle Paterson. Michelle Obama. Jason sings Michelle." Ha ha. I know what he's talking about:

Jason Castro

Jason Castro
Jason Castro.

"The most painful Big Ten team to endure is the Badgers, a team that combines brutishness and blandness into an unwatchable goulash."

Says Robert Weintraub in Slate. I have no idea who Weintraub is, and I don't follow basketball, but I feel I must highlight this egregious badmouthing of Wisconsin.
I blame Bo Ryan, the coach who has created a top program in Madison by installing all manner of defensive tactics while forgetting the game is supposed to be entertainment. To use a soccer analogy, the Badgers always appear to be playing for a draw but manage to get enough muscled-in offensive rebounds from the likes of Brian Butch to get past the league's weak competition. Wisconsin will muck along in the tournament until it runs into a team that knows how to execute a crossover dribble. Until then, I'll be singing my own version of the Badgers' fight song every time they clog up my TV: "Off, Wisconsin!"

"Off" to you too, Weintraub!

Should the Democratic Party hold a caucus of the superdelegates?

This idea, proposed by Tennessee governor Philip Bredesen, is designed to avoid a brutal summer of fighting between Obama and Clinton:
In early June, after the final primaries, the Democratic National Committee should call together our superdelegates in a public caucus....

This is not a proposal for a mini-convention with all the attendant hoopla and sideshows. It is a call for a tight, two-day business-like gathering, whose rules would be devised by the national committee, of the leaders of our party from all over America to resolve a serious problem. There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote.
It sounds like a very sensible idea, which is why my sense is that this won't happen. Think about why not. One candidate or the other stands to benefit from waiting until August, and that candidate and some number of her supporters will resist the caucus. How can it happen without widespread agreement?
Some might raise reasonable concerns about the cost and logistics of assembling these superdelegates. But those would be manageable; this is a business meeting of a few hundred people almost three months from now, not an extended, cast-of-thousands convention.
If it's possible to do this, isn't it possible to line up the superdelegates behind the scenes and force them to make firm, public commitments? That would achieve the same result. Also, if you have this assembly when the nominee is still unknown, you're inviting strong partisans to a huge national stage — it will be far more dramatic than any political convention we've seen in our liftetime — and who knows what bloody chaos will play out?

Bredersen thinks what America will see is "a modern political party focused on results," which, "confronted with an unexpected problem," used "common sense to come together, roll up our sleeves and direct events to a successful conclusion." Yes, it would be great if we got to see such a fine party in action, but since it's a real political party, you don't know what might happen. It could be uglier than a summer-long struggle. If you want to be pragmatic, Governor Bredersen, you can't be idealistic about it. Think of the risks. And if it's necessary to script the caucus and ensure a smooth resolution of the problem, why do you need a meeting at all?

March 18, 2008

"What's the point of being an alpha male?"

Christopher Hitchens asks — Spitzer-relatedly. You'll have to go to the link to read his answer, because it's too filthy for this blog.

"You've made me feel very uncomfortable, because I now feel that you're all broken birds."

Said Simon Cowell to Carly Smithson after she explained why the lyrics of the Beatles' "Blackbird" — "take these broken wings and learn to fly" — seemed to her to apply to her efforts to make it in the music industry. Well, we all have our interpretations. Hers may be dumb, but would that Charles Manson had viewed it as such blandly reassuring fare. But the reason I'm posting about this segment of tonight's "American Idol" is that when Simon was saying that he was pinching and twisting his own nipples and making a crazy orgasm face. Here's the best TiVo frame of Simon's moment with his body:


Look, you can see that Paula Abdul is all what the hell are you doing!


Sorry for the graininess... and horrifying grossness.

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Arthur C. Clarke has died, at age 90.

"What do you love?"

You either loved "The English Patient" or you didn't.
What do you love?

What do I love?
Say everything.

Water — fish in it — and hedgehogs, I love hedgehogs. Marmite — I'm addicted, and baths, but not with other people! Islands — and your handwriting. I could go on all day.
Go on all day.

My husband.
And what do you hate most?

A lie. And what do you hate most?
Ownership — or being owned. When you leave, you should forget me.
The director Anthony Minghella has died of a hemorrhage after surgery on a growth on his neck. He was only 54.

Oral argument in the DC guns case.

Lots of coverage over at SCOTUSblog.
In an argument that ran 23 minutes beyond the allotted time, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy emerged as a strong defender of the right of domestic self-defense. At one key point, he suggested that the one Supreme Court precedent that at least hints that gun rights are tied to military not private needs — the 1939 decision in U.S. v. Miller — “may be deficient” in that respect. With Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Antonin Scalia leaving little doubt that they favor an individual rights interpretation of the Amendment (and with Justice Clarence Thomas, though silent on Tuesday, having intimated earlier that he may well be sympathetic to that view), Kennedy’s inclinations might make him — once more — the holder of the decisive vote.

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother."

Barack Obama gives his big speech in response to the uproar over Jeremiah Wright. Brief excerpts:
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy....

... Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together...

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough....

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man....

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me...

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother...

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up....

Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. [T]he anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
Missing here, I think, is an explicit acknowledgment that Wright is not merely expressing the anger he feels but that he is leading people into anger, keeping anger fresh and alive.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
Again, Obama speaks as if Wright were only expressing his beliefs, and he does not say that Wright was, from his powerful leadership position, instilling these beliefs in many others.

But the key question isn't whether Obama puts Wright down strongly enough. It's what Obama himself is. Would he, as a leader in the most powerful position, instill this destructive thinking in others? That doesn't at all seem to be what he does, and the rest of the speech is largely a demonstration that he does not:
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
He ends the speech with a saccharine anecdote about a decidedly un-angry old black man who tells a young white woman — Ashley — that he's supporting Obama "because of Ashley." Mustard sandwiches were involved. Did that distract you from what he did and didn't do in the speech?

I'd say he did not do very much — other than to resist condemning Wright and to model his socially acceptable attitudes and generate a feeling — I'm sure you didn't all feel it — that we need unite behind this man if the terrible divisions over race are going to end.

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan felt it: "I have never felt more convinced that this man's candidacy - not this man, his candidacy - and what he can bring us to achieve - is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides." And it felt all Christian to him.

Jonathan Chait thinks it worked, but only because Obama is black:
My first reaction is that the speech was extremely smart and intellectually subtle....

He may be liberated to operate at a high intellectual level in public because he's black. I'm not trying to be Gerry Ferraro here; let me explain. Candidates like John Kerry and (even moreso) Al Gore were also very smart, but constantly forced to dumb it down lest they be tagged as out-of-touch elitists. Since the egghead image is so at odds with the prevailing stereotypes about African-Americans, he has much less to fear by speaking at a high intellectual level.
Oh, bullshit. You may not be trying to be Gerry Ferraro here, but the only nonsexual difference between you and Geraldine is that you're for Obama and she's on the other side. And here's a clue: John Kerry is not very smart.

Righty Paul Mirengoff delivers a left-handed compliment:
Although Obama's speech is not without its evasions, I consider it a courageous one by usual political standards. He has refused to walk away from Wright's black liberation theology when it might well have been expedient to do so. The rest of us now should have the courage to take Obama at his word and decide whether it is acceptable to elect as president of the United States someone who carries Rev. Wright around as part of him, and who takes his ranting seriously.
Kathryn Jean Lopez does a pithy paraphrase:
Damn straight, Rev. Wright is angry. That's how I wound up at his church. That's why I stay there. I'm mad too, I just control it better. Now let's get electing me president so we can all feel good.
Of course, that's completely unfair. Even if he can be understood to have said something along the lines of "I'm mad too," he distinguished himself from Wright not in hiding his anger, but in believing we can change the things that cause the anger.

AND: Don't miss Shelby Steele's column in the WSJ (written before today's speech, but on point):
How does one "transcend" race in this church?...

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?...

No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.

Here's what Steele means by "bargaining":
Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.
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ADDED: Michael Weiss at Slate quotes this from me: "I'd say he did not do very much — other than to resist condemning Wright and to model his socially acceptable attitudes and generate a feeling — I'm sure you didn't all feel it — that we need unite behind this man if the terrible divisions over race are going to end." Weiss interprets this to mean that I saw the speech as a failure. But that's not right. I know I wrote "he did not do very much," but that doesn't mean it was a mistake not to do very much. Obama did not condemn Jeremiah Wright. He did not reach for a "Sister Souljah moment." He didn't present himself in a new light. But, in a way — within a narrow band — he did a lot, perhaps too much. It was all very subtle. He tried to be entirely inclusive, reaching out to everyone, and stepping on nobody's toes. He insisted both that we confront race and also that we get past it. There were complex contradictions in what he said, but his smoothly honed language made it possible for us to ignore these difficulties even as we could credit him with taking on an elaborately sophisticated problem. I think he meant to deal with his predicament this way. There's no reason to call that a failure.

AND: Mickey Kaus does a terrific job of identifying many of the contradictions you weren't supposed to notice.

A "yoga-practicing, public-radio-listening, Wrigley Field-visiting, Wes Anderson-movie-watching, Arrested Development-championing white dude"...

... somehow is not amused or chastened by Stuff White People Like.

So, I guess that blog is pretty popular, or why write a whole TNR piece about it? I gave the front page a look. I got the feeling you could "read" it by just glancing at the titles and noticing there were some paragraphs under them — the way you read The Onion, right? But I decided to really read one post, because it was on one of my long-running themes: men in shorts. The post is called just called "Shorts" (along with its number, 86), and not what it's really about: men in shorts, and already I get a vibe that this blog is about white men, not white women. The "white dude" who wrote the TNR piece, Adam Sternbergh, is not concerned with the maleness of the perspective, but with what he perceives as a thinly cloaked attitude of white superiority.

But back to the post on shorts (and good lord, that post has over 400 comments). ..Eh, I was going to find something to excerpt, but it's not that interesting.

So, let's look at the full list and pick something else.

Aha! #8 Barack Obama!

Immediately, I suspect Adam Sternbergh of being an Obamaton and this is his real grudge against the blog. Does this hit a little close to home, Adam?

"Do you think women are the subject of more vitriol in the blogosphere than men?"

John Hawkins has his second edition of "Blogging While Female"here's the first — and this one has an interview with me. The first edition was actually called "Blogging While Female: 5 Conservative Women Bloggers Talk About Gender Issues And The Blogosphere." I note the dropping of the word "conservative." And John does say this about me:
Even though law professor Ann Althouse tends to get lumped in with all of us right-wing death beasts, she's very much a moderate who would probably be just as happy with a Democrat or a Republican in the White House.
His big question for the women bloggers is: "Do you think women are the subject of more vitriol in the blogosphere than men?" He also wants to know why there are so few women bloggers and if women bloggers use their looks to get attention. So go over there and read the whole thing.

Are you watching HBO's "John Adams"?

Beldar is:
He's shown as a gentleman farmer who can relish teaching young John Quincy the utter necessity and joy of going elbow-deep while hand-mixing the contents of the manure-cart, and yet who immediately thereafter, upon hearing the boy's stated desire to become a farmer, firmly announces that it's to be the schoolbooks and "then the law" for the lad. (Some of you will see this — manure-spreading and lawyering — as entirely uncontradictory, just not in the same way Adams himself would have.)
It's a long slog through these episodes, even as the big events of American history pop up with regularity. Just when you think it's dull — let's palpate poop and pontificate — suddenly there's a famous battle right at their doorstep. Or there's John (Paul Giamatti) hunched over his extremely slow-walking horse, and around the next corner is the Boston Massacre. Watch men sweat and bore each other with tedious orations in the candlelight and — hold on — they'll get around to signing the Declaration of Independence. Then HBO will require you to gaze into the earnest, profound, somber visage of Paul Giamatti for several minutes to make sure you don't forget to think, think, think about what it all means. So it is overbearingly serious, but I can take it. If those little kids could put up with having the juice of a dying man's smallpox pustule jabbed into their arms, I can put up with the televised longueurs. Good will come of all this, one hopes.

Maybe you read David McCullough's book. I did not. I subjected myself to his "Truman," and I did not want to read another tome stuffed with way too many pages depicting what a good relationship some great man had with his wife. (Are McCullough's books the opiate of the married?) But I trust HBO, so I'm watching the mini-series. Still, every time I see tableaux of Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney (John and Abigail) smiling wanly, heads tilted together, fingers entwined — there are many! — I confirm my decision to skip that book. (But the Anchoress loved it.)

Let's look for commentary.

Lawprof Rick Garnett:
There were more than enough stirring "rule of law" and "importance of zealous counsel for the accused" moments [in episode 1] to justify recommending the episode to first-year law students. The episode ended with a dramatic speech on "liberty" by Adams (in a church), and with his departure for (I gather) the First Continental Congress. So far, the show seems to be doing a good job of highlighting Adams's struggle to keep-in-balance his "conservative" (that is, his unease-with-revolution) instincts with his "liberty" commitments.
Garnett seems intent on staying in character as a "prawfsblawger." (He's a law professor and he blogs about law — even if he's watching television.)

Paul Silver "swelled with pride and awe at the courage, tenacity, inspiration and skill of our founding parents." Is it okay for us to feel pride at what they did? I kept thinking that we never go to such trouble for anything today. I was feeling more ashamed, thinking I — and maybe everyone I know — would be on the side of the argument that said the war was a foolish risk and we need to bear with things a lot longer and hope for the best from the king. (By the way, didn't you think of Jeremiah Wright when someone said "God save the King" and one of the patriots responded "God damn the King"?)

The Television Without Pity discussion is good and irreverent, as usual:
Mmm, juicy pustules! (Imagine convincing people it was a good thing--especially when they were barely past believing in witchcraft.) I found it pretty dry, and I admit I was doing the Sunday bill-paying, work prep routine so wasn't wholly focused. But Tom Wilkinson was wonderful (although seemed tall for Ben Franklin, I don't know why). The Declaration reading sequence was pretty darn great, realistic or not, though. Sad but not surprising that the founding of Our Great Republic was so beset with bureaucracy and tit-for-tat....

[Tom] Wilkinson was rather good - I was worried about the scenery chewing, but then [Ben] Franklin was probably a smart alecky scenery chewer in real life so the acting fits. I'm neither here nor there on the fake nose, but [David] Morse [as George Washington] is doing rather well also.... One of my favorite scenes was after the vote to declare independence with the room so quiet - the collective thought of "what the hell did we just do? Yeah we really are doing this" just hanging in the air.
Ha ha. Well put. TWoP is such a refreshing read. There really is way too much pity everywhere else.

Oh, I forgot to check mainstream media. Well, here's Tom Shales for the Washington Post
Dramatizing America's colonial and revolutionary years is full of pitfalls and has resulted in many a leaden movie -- from the cartoon buffoons of the musical "1776" to the British-as-mad-fiends hysteria of Mel Gibson's imbecilic "The Patriot." Mythic historical figures can come across as strutting, one-dimensional impersonations. But shrewdly adapting a book by the dedicated David McCullough, writer Kirk Ellis and director Tom Hooper have created characters who live and breathe and also, on occasion, bleed. They talk in complete sentences -- a charming habit long since abandoned here in the Colonies -- and yet the dialogue never seems stiff and unwieldy, as often happens in historical productions.
And here's Alessandra Stanley for the NYT:
[I]n this historical drama, Mr. Giamatti is a prisoner of a limited range and rubbery, cuddly looks — in 18th-century britches and wigs, he looks like Shrek.

And that leaves the mini-series with a gaping hole at its center. What should be an exhilarating, absorbing ride across history alongside one of the least understood and most intriguing leaders of the American Revolution is instead a struggle....

This series has a “Masterpiece Theater” gravity and takes a more somber, detailed and sepia-tinted look at the dawn of American democracy. It gives viewers a vivid sense of the isolation and physical hardships of the period, as well as the mores, but it does not offer significantly different or deeper insights into the personalities of the men — and at least one woman — who worked so hard for liberty.

When did it become the rule...

... that politicians must confess to their extramarital affairs?

March 17, 2008

"For my daughter, I want to make sure that she's understanding the concepts. My daughter is getting straight-A's and I don't think she deserves it."

When grades just aren't enough.... you need more grades:
Under the new system, students will continue to receive a traditional letter grade — A, B, C, D or U (unsatisfactory) — for every subject....

A second section of the report card, known as Academic Performance, will show how students perform compared to the state's academic standards on a scale of 4 (advanced), 3 (proficient), 2 (basic) and 1 (minimal) — the same ratings students receive on annual state tests.

Students will receive three to five grades in this area, depending upon the subject...

The report card's final section, known as Learning Skills, will assess students on issues such as whether class time is used productively, whether the student cooperates with others and whether homework is being completed.

Here, the ratings will include M (mostly), S (sometimes) and R (rarely).

The Learning Skills scores won't be included as teachers compute the letter grade, though, leading some parents to question whether their children will continue to complete their homework.
I started this post with a mocking attitude, but now I'm thinking that maybe this is a good idea. It might be a response to the overemphasis on obediently turning in a lot of assignments. This might be helpful and fair to the kids who learn well without meticulous completion of homework. The other side of that may be what the woman quoted in the post title is talking about: The super-compliant child who isn't really learning very much. (She "said her daughter tends to be popular and well-behaved but sometimes her academic struggles have been overlooked because teachers like her.") But I think it will be hell for the perfectionist kid — or maybe the perfectionist kid will be so overwhelmed by so many different grades that she'll actually get over it.

Brain surgery done with a common hardware store power drill.

The surgeon is British, but he is operating in Ukraine:
[Henry] Marsh’s life-saving exploits in Ukraine began 15 years ago when he visited a state hospital in the former Soviet republic to give a series of lectures....

Patients with benign tumours, which would have been diagnosed early and quickly dealt with in Britain, were only treated once they had caused blindness or were bulging grotesquely off the sides of patients’ heads.

In Ukraine so little money is invested in the state health system that Marsh has to drill through the skulls of patients under local anaesthetic because no one is sufficiently trained to fully sedate them.

Marsh said he had watched aghast as patients died while doctors were locked in bureaucratic meetings. “I couldn’t bear to stand by and do nothing,” said Marsh, 58. “A Ukrainian doctor told me I couldn’t do anything to help but I wasn’t prepared to accept that.”
Marsh has worked with a Ukrainian neurosurgeon, Igor Petrovich, to improve "the atrocious conditions in a climate where no one criticised the state," and now is saying that in some ways the UK is worse:
"Igor is now doing a huge amount of operating, far more than me, while I, as with all senior doctors on the NHS, am struggling under a tsunami of regulation and bureaucracy."

"Have you ever tried to get cow s--- out of a Prada purse? It's not so f------ simple."

What are we going to do about Nicole Richie? The Supreme Court wants to tell us.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats are neglecting to rewire our neural links.

So says psychprof Drew Westen:
[M]uch of our brain consists of networks of associations--thoughts, images, ideas, memories, and emotions--that become connected with each other over time, so that activating one part of a network activates the rest (including the gut-level feelings associated with a candidate that "summarize" voters' judgments about the candidate and are among the best predictors in the voting booth). The more times a network is activated, the harder it is to change, for reasons both physiological and psychological.

Physiologically, the more two neurons are activated together, the more likely one is to trigger the other, as chemical changes in the cells themselves and the actual growth of physical links between them bind them together. Pragmatically speaking, that means that the more times voters hear John McCain described as a war hero and a strong potential commander-in-chief-instead of, for example, a man with such poor judgment on national security that he would support an endless continuation of an ill-fated war much like the one he suffered through despite his own personal experience--the harder it will be to deactivate that network and inhibit those neural links.
Drew Westen... he seems to be one of these academics who's repackaged his field to make him an expert on politics. I note that the New Republic headline writers situated his insights the field of advertising anyway. The problem is the "delay in branding John McCain," not the delay in rewiring our neural links.

But what do we think of Drew Westen's political brain science?

One thing I love about blogging is that I have a searchable record of whether I've dealt with this character before. And yes I have. Here:

Newsweek serves up the hot news that voters are swayed by emotion...

... and tries to sell us the laughable theory that Democrats, not realizing this blindingly obvious reality, have gone wrong by relying only on rational argument.

The article is mainly about the book “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation,” by Drew Westen....

Hilariously, Newsweek claims that the reason Democrats and not Republicans are going to Westen for advice is that Republicans already know they need to use emotion. Never mind that that Westen's book is plainly speaking to Democrats and advising them on how to make their positions more emotionally appealing.

And here's another one:
In today's NYT, John Tierney conveys an expert psychologist's advice to John Kerry. The expert is Drew Westen, a psychologist at Emory University, and the specific Kerry concern addressed is Clinton's charisma, which is going to shine upon us for the next week or month or so. Should Kerry, like Gore, distance himself from Clinton? Professor Westen says no, based on experiments inspired by the commercial, shown in the 2000 Presidential campaign, that momentarily flashed the word "rats" on the TV screen:
[One experiment showed] that people exposed subliminally to "rats" before seeing the picture of a politician tended to rate the politician more negatively.

"Subliminal priming can't radically change someone's opinion, but it can have an impact," Professor Westen said. "It won't make you drink if you're not thirsty, but if you are thirsty it could make you drink more. If Republicans had run the 'rats' ad enough, it's possible they could have influenced a small number of voters."...

The psychologists measured his appeal last year by flashing subliminal images of Mr. Clinton to people before asking them to rate their feelings toward Gray Davis, the then-unpopular governor of California. The people unknowingly exposed to Mr. Clinton's face tended to rate Mr. Davis considerably less negatively than did the control group, and the effect was especially strong among independent voters (as opposed to hard-core Democrats or Republicans with fixed attitudes about Mr. Davis).

"It was surprising that something as fleeting as three brief images of Clinton could affect people's gut attitudes toward a politician who was already as well known and unpopular as Gray Davis," Professor Westen said. "Clinton can bring out warm feelings in voters for Kerry the way that the late Ronald Reagan did last week for President Bush. For Democrats the mantra this year should be, 'It's the emotion, stupid.'"
Hey, wait a minute! Drew Westen is advising the Democrats about subliminal advertising? Remember when I pointed out that the letters "NIG" appeared on the shoulder of the sleeping black child in Hillary Clinton's "3 a.m." commercial — the one that had such a mysteriously powerful effect on the nation's psyche? Lots of people went into severe reactive denial. I must be crazy! Ask psychprof Drew Westen if I'm crazy.

Looking back at that post, I see that I updated it with a comment that referred to Drew Westen's work. (The name was misspelled as "Drew Westin," which I've now corrected.) When I did that update, I didn't remember that Westen was on record as actively advising Democrats — urging them to operate on our brains subliminally.

Here are 2 things to keep separate:
1. What, if any, sorts of messages have a subliminal effect on our brains? How does this work? How can it be used and how can we defend against manipulation?

2. Which candidates are trying to use subliminal messages to get us to think things they couldn't say directly? How should we judge a candidate who we discover is trying to do that?

ADDED: And Bill Clinton knows all about Westen and his book:
By now [July 2007], Dr. Westen has met with just about every major Democratic group, big donor and activist, not to mention several presidential candidates over the last several months.

Former President Bill Clinton, who was reading the book over the weekend, called Dr. Westen from Colorado to tell him how much he liked it. (Mr. Clinton comes off very well in its pages.)

“To say I think it’s a very important book is an understatement,” Mr. Clinton said in a telephone interview yesterday, adding that he particularly liked the discussion of how one could “evoke emotion without being intellectually dishonest.”

“One of the things I do for Hillary is research,” he said, referring to his wife’s presidential campaign. “I read things and underline them. I want her to look at it; I think she’ll largely agree with its findings.”

AND: Just look at how Westen's book buttered up Bill Clinton.

A new angle on why the political wife stands by her husband like that.

Maybe she's not that innocent.

Remember when Dina Matos McGreevey was on "Oprah," pimping her memoir – another phony memoir? — and saying "No one ever said to me that he was gay. It's a cliché that the wife is always the last to know, and it's true." She was making cute faces like this:

Dina Matos McGreevey

Are you reading that face differently now?

Little Miss Attila snarks:
How much time did I spend, in my twenties, trying to get it out of my boyfriend why it wasn't gay for us both to hop into bed with another woman, but it would be if we got into bed with another guy?
(Via Instapundit.)

ADDED: The novelist Richard Russo spun out his ideas for a fictionalized version of the Spitzer story. I'm sure this new rumor about Dina should fire up the novelist's brain. Maybe the wife's interest is not all about her husband and children. She might be enjoying sexual opportunities of her own. I don't know if the rumor is true, but that's an attractive young man her husband allegedly brought home to her and approved of her consorting with. If her husband was, in fact, gay, he was not much of a sexual partner for her. I'd like to see this scenario spun out by a novelist who is capable of seeing the woman as something other than outraged and wronged.

UPDATE: Dina Matos McGreevey says she didn't do it. But Governor Jim — enmeshed in divorce proceedings — says she did.

Happy St. Pat's from Clan O'Harra.

St. Patrick's Day stroller

The St. Pat rat?

If you're an O'Harra, maybe you can explain.

Speaking of celebrating....

Waiting for the parade

It's St. Patrick's Day.

Which is always a double celebration, chez Althouse. A click on the new "St. Patrick's Day" tag will reveal why and will also take you to lots of photos and videos of St. Patrick's days past. The photo here is my favorite old one, from 2006.

"But that's what makes Obama's association with Wright so significant. He's not from Alabama."

Mark Steyn on Barack Obama:
He's a biracial middle-class Kenyan-Kansan Hawaiian-born Indonesian-raised Columbia and Harvard graduate who chose to immerse himself in the most corrosive and paranoid end of a racial-grievance ghetto mentality that is nothing to do with him, his family or his upbringing. He doesn't have the same excuse as a Jackson, Sharpton or Farrakhan.

Why would he do such a thing? I wouldn't expose my kids to the four-letter ravings of Jeremiah Wright because I wouldn't want them to grow up loathing their country. I find it hard not to think less of a man who does.
Is the most obvious conclusion really that Barack Obama hates America? I should think it is much more likely that he wanted to feel connected to the historical experience of black people in America — exactly what he had missed growing up.

Steyn compares Obama to Condoleezza Rice — who "has childhood memories of a segregated south and racial violence" — as if the comparison makes Obama's choice more of a puzzle. But it's not if you think of him as a young man who had grown up so far away from an experience that other people saw in his face. It would make sense to plunge into exactly the experience he thought he had missed and to do so in a very openly accepting way, seeking to learn and feel. Looking at everything else we've seen of Barack Obama, I would assume he was listening and absorbing new information and, at the same time, maintaining his composure, morality, and judgment.

ADDED: Juan Williams says a lot.

Bill Clinton says: "Celebrate!"

Are you — assuming you're a Democrat — fretting about the chaos in the Democratic presidential race? Bill Clinton says relax and enjoy it:
"The voters get to decide. I think we should just celebrate this. If we just chill out here and let all the voters have their say, my gut is it's gonna come out all right."...

"I expect a spirited election in the fall, no matter what happens. But we should just let the Dems decide. This is a tough choice for them. They got two candidates, they basically like them both, and they have different strengths. And they have to decide which skilll set is more important, number one, for the country's welfare in the long run, and which one is more likely to be elected. And you know I have my strong convictions, but I might be wrong."...

"The fundamental fact is most voters like them both. They're trying to decide who will make the best president. And I think we just ought to let every state and Puerto Rico vote, let them all vote, and see where we are, and I think it will become clearer than we know, what to do."
Yes, why can't you Democrats celebrate? If you're having trouble feeling festive, why not listen to the Rush Limbaugh show? He's been celebrating this for weeks.

Let them all vote... see where we are...

You've got to give old Bill credit for his sheer nerve and political savvy. Count all the votes! There's a theme with deep resonance or Democrats. Why would you want to stop the vote counting before it's reached its full conclusion? That's not something Democrats like.

It will become clearer than we know, what to do...

Bill's found a mellowly presidential new place for himself. The wise old man will is asking for calmness, a fair conclusion to the orderly proceedings. He's asking for optimism: be happy that that there are two good candidates and trust that in the end there will be clarity.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, he's furiously devising new ways to blear our view of Barack Obama.

March 16, 2008

"We are the ones we've been waiting for."

Andrew Ferguson tracks down this slightly odd phrase of Barack Obama's. Is it eloquent or is it awkward? And what does it mean? "We are the ones we've been waiting for. Obama and his followers are perfecting postmodern reflexivity. It's a campaign that's about itself. The point of the campaign is the campaign."

We are the ones we've been waiting for. The first thing I thought of was the old 60s slogan: We are the people our parents warned us against. And doesn't that make sense? You've heard of these people out there and imagined them, and then it dawns on you that they are us. As Pogo once said: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Obama's phrase — which Ferguson traces to Alice Walker (and thence to "left-wing-radical-feminist-bisexual poet June Jordan") — is a nicely positive use of what is a not that unusual rhetorical device.

"I think it's one of the best swings on the tour. That was absolute poetry."

Said just now about my nephew Cliff Kresge, who is -7 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he is tied for third place. He's 2 shots behind Tiger Woods, who's first right now. Cliff has finished 15 holes, Tiger 13. You can watch on NBC.

UPDATE: So Tiger wins — with a very impressive putt, and Cliff ends up in a 3-way tie for third.

Easter cake.

Easter cake

A bakery window on Court Street in Brooklyn.

So, for "Meet the Press" this week, how about an Obama supporter and a Clinton supporter?

For the Obama supporter, we'll have former Senator Bill Bradley. And for the Clinton supporter: Representative Nita Lowey. That'll be nice and balanced, right?

The transcript is not up yet, or I'd particularize how Bradley wiped the floor with Lowey.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript. You can see the woeful mismatch for yourself.



For tips.

Hillary Clinton wants the Democratic Party to check into the irregulaties in the Texas caucuses.

Will there be a postponement? I think Clinton is right to complain about this — because I believe what my own son Chris told me about the Austin caucus he attended. And we need to see that this complaint about Texas implicitly makes a much larger argument that caucuses are suspect — an argument that is extremely important for Clinton, since Obama's lead is largely based on caucus wins. The Clinton campaign is working very hard on many fronts to undermine Obama and even as it seems devious, it may be quite legitimate. There is something wrong with the caucus process, and the association with Jeremiah Wright should trouble us.

Richard Russo on Eliot Spitzer: "unrelenting virtue is not just unrealistic but uninteresting."

The novelist thinks Eliot Spitzer would make a fine fictional character:
[F]ictive Eliot will do exactly what the real Eliot has done, only my guy almost never imagines getting caught. And when he does occasionally consider the possibility, he trusts that there will be ample warning that disaster is imminent. For the most part, things in his life have happened slowly, especially the good things, and he trusts that bad things will evolve similarly. He will swerve at the last moment. The possibility of a head-on collision, swift and devastating, simply never occurs to him.

Even worse, though he knows that the world doesn't work this way, he convinces himself that if he's caught, people will treat him fairly. Sure, he has shamed himself, but he's done a lot of good things, too, and people will remember that. He has always employed a kind of moral arithmetic, and he'll expect that same math to be applied to him -- all his virtues set up on one side of the ledger, his one weakness on the other. People will understand that he's mostly good. By the time my Eliot realizes that he's wrong about all this, it's too late. The damage is done. He has betrayed his wife, his children, his best self, and it's all his fault.
Russo gives us some great insight into what novels can do that journalism cannot. He shows us how the novelist's mind works, moving from Spitzer to his wife, asking himself questions about behavior and then making up answers:
Why does she stand there beside him at the podium when he confesses? Why do they all? I feel uniquely unqualified to look inside her heart, to ferret out her motives.
Of course, he doesn't really know, but he's got that arrogant novelist's belief in his power to take whatever bit of evidence is available and to find his way into the inner world of someone else's mind. What he sees may be thoroughly wrong but it will still in some way be right and, above all, it will be interesting.

"I knew him and know him as somebody in my church who talked to me about Jesus and family and friendships."

Barack Obama uses the roiling Jeremiah Wright controversy to present himself to us as utterly ordinary (and completely Christian).

And — as if it's your problem if you're hung up on Wright — he demands that we transcend race altogether:
"We have to come together," he told a town-hall meeting at a high school....

"I noticed over the last several weeks that the forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again. And I'm not here to cast blame or point fingers because everybody, you know, senses that there's been this shift," Obama said.

"It reminds me: We've got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We've got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. ... This country wants to move beyond these kinds of things."
Criticize me and you are part of the forces of division. You're the one with the anger and bitterness and misunderstanding if you dwell on Wright's fomenting anger and bitterness and misunderstanding.

So, really, why wasn't that race-and-feminism conference more bloggable?

That's the question I'm asking myself this morning. And now I have a new question: Why isn't the answer to the question why wasn't that race-and-feminism conference more bloggable more bloggable?