April 19, 2008

"It’s like trying to claim that John Hawkins is unfairly labeled a 'right wing news blogger' ..."

"... and then providing a link to his site, which is called RIGHT WING NEWS."

Rachel Lucas cracks me up as she lashes into a lame Glamour blog post that complains about how female "political bloggers" are getting marginalized as "feminist" bloggers while citing 2 bloggers whose blogs are completely concentrated on feminism.
Surveys have shown that most political blog readers are straight men. Now, why on earth would straight men bookmark sites that have articles about periods and fashion and the Weekly Feminist Fuck You when they could just as easily bookmark a site that doesn’t?...

Let’s say the majority of political blog readers were straight women, as were the bloggers themselves. And say there’s a ton of male bloggers out there, too, trying to “break into” this Girls’ Club. How well do you think it would work for them to name their blogs things like Masculinity.com and had entire categories devoted to hot rods, power tools, mens’ fashion, and things like “The Monday Man-centric Fuck You”?
And Dr. Helen adds:
My guess is that some "feminist" blogs ... get the attention they do because they are feminist blogs, not in spite of it. As Rachel points out, they don't even mention real political blogs such as Michelle Malkin (nor do they mention Ann Althouse) both political bloggers who happen to be women. I wonder why.
Eugene Volokh says:
[A]s Rachel Lucas points out, how do you ask "Why are all the big political bloggers men?" and miss Michelle Malkin? And if you mention some of the somewhat lower-traffic but still prominent bloggers, why ignore Megan McArdle and Ann Althouse (an omniblogger, but with a good deal of political and policy content)?
To answer the second question, I think that when you don't hew to the hardcore all-politics style of political blogging, people are less likely to list you as a political blogger (as Volokh's ambivalence about me indicates). Now, I got included in that Village Voice survey of the right-wing political blogosphere, but look how much I confused the author (Roy Edroso):
ORIENTATION: "Moderate" Democrat who disapproves of nearly everything the Democratic Party does

TONE: Free-associative...

CANDIDATE: No coherently stated preference...

MODUS OPERANDI: Favors piquant reversals...

WHAT TO EXPECT: Something—a news photo, a quote, a gum wrapper on the sidewalk—will annoy her and she'll go to McCain....
The truth is I'm not a normal political blogger (or a normal law blogger). And by "normal," I kind of mean... male-style. I'm not surprised to be left off any normal list, and I was pleased that Roy included me and took the trouble to understand me as well as he did — which was on the level of one of those male comedians who do routines about how women don't make any sense.

I am doing something different here. It's something that feels instinctively right to me. This blog is a true expression of my mind — and I am a woman. I'm not saying there's one style of blogging that is the real female kind, but I think there is something female about what I am doing and what I want to do. (I think something of the same thing is true about Megan McArdle, who drives some people crazy. And I give credit to Roy for including her in his Village Voice survey and trying to understand her too. He called her a "lipstick libertarian" and identified her "tone" as "self-referential.")

So maybe Glamour has a bit of a point that Rachel Lucas missed, which is that the idea of what a political blogger is has been defined by what male writers tend to do. Women can do it too, but a lot of women writers, like me, want to do something else. I'm gratified that I get noticed as a political blogger at all, because I'm not the political type. I don't think like John Hawkins or Markos Moulitsas. I operate in the political sphere and drive political people crazy by completely indulging myself being myself. I'm glad this gets to count as political blogging and that, being on the inside of political blogging, I can have something to do with stretching the definition of political blogging.

Double rally on the Wisconsin Capitol steps: Free Tibet + Pro-China.

At the top end of the steps, there were amplified speakers denouncing China to a crowd waving the Tibet flag. At the lower end of the steps, there was a silent crowd waving the Chinese flag, the Olympic flag, and the American flag.

Tibet/China rally in Madison

Tibet/China rally in Madison

Tibet/China rally in Madison

There were some Free Tibet protesters at the lower end too. One man in particular shouted his criticisms at the pro-Chinese flag bearers. The pro-Chinese group was extremely well-focused on being quiet and polite. I'll post a couple videos, but unfortunately, I botched a recording that showed the pro-Tibet man yelling and two Chinese students turning to talk to me very politely trying to explain why the criticism was not fair.

The first video surveys the scene:

The second video shows a man on the "Free Tibet" side shouting "Freedom of speech! Freedom of Religion!"


Shortribs. My favorite.

"The Monongahela River, which runs cleaner than when they were young (not a good sign)..."

I didn't expect to encounter such a subtle line in a WaPo article about whether Obama was right about the bitterness of people in small towns in Pennsylvania. The reporter who injected that piquant irony is Alec MacGillis.

It's a bad sign that the river runs cleaner, because it means that the factories upstream are closed.

The relationship between economic vitality and the environment is complex. Factories could be made cleaner, and when manufacturing moves overseas, the factories probably run dirtier. Still, I wonder: Why don't environmentalists celebrate economic recessions? Don't economic setbacks advance their goals? Perhaps they do celebrate quietly, maybe in the private chambers of their own hearts. It's not good PR to exult at misfortune.

Busted because the park is closed and then publicly humiliated.

Glenn Reynolds flags this New York Post story:
CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.
It was after 3 a.m., and the park was closed, so he was arrested for loitering:
"Mr. Quest didn't realize that the park had a curfew," [his lawyer] said. He was simply "returning to his hotel with friends."

At a hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, Quest agreed to undergo six months of drug counseling in return for an "adjournment in contemplation of dismissal," which means the misdemeanor charges against him will be dropped and the case sealed if he stays out of trouble and completes his drug program.

He was released with no bail after spending most of the day behind bars.
Glenn says:

Best line from the story: "It wasn't immediately clear what the rope was for."... Really, with this sort of arrest on his record, he might as well just run for Congress. He'll fit right in!
My first reaction was to laugh at the rope too. (And then to worry that kids might get the idea to experiment with rope and hurt themselves.) But now, I'm outraged that the public humiliation was out of proportion and unrelated to the offense.

It's not illegal to walk around with a rope tied around you like that. (It was under his clothes, I'm assuming, but even if it wasn't.) Being in a park after hours is a piddling offense. Don't police normally just tell you the park is closed and let you walk away? That happened to me and my then-husband once, and we just got in the car and drove away, laughing at the police and saying, mock hippie-style, "The park is closed? You can't close a park, man." I'd have been shocked if the police had arrested us and searched us for that, not that we had drugs on us. We didn't.

It was mildly bad and slightly stupid of Quest to have a small amount of drugs on him, and he deserves the same treatment as anyone else for that offense, but I don't see why it's acceptable for the police to injure him gratuitously by revealing private information about him the way they did.

UPDATE: Glenn updates his post to respond to mine, and calls attention to a rather strangely put detail in the NYT report of the incident:
The police noticed Mr. Quest at 64th Street and West Drive at about 3:40 a.m., the official said. As he was being escorted out, he volunteered, “I have meth in my pocket,” according to an official briefed on the case. The police searched him and recovered a small amount of methamphetamine in a Ziploc bag.
Glenn says:
So had Quest not volunteered that he had methamphetamine on him, he might have gotten precisely the treatment Althouse suggests, simply being "escorted out" of the park. And -- assuming this NYT report is correct -- why did he do that? Beats me.
I find it hard to believe Quest is stupid enough to have said "I have meth in my pocket" unless he knew they were about to find it on him.

ADDED: Mark Steyn weighs in.

The internet's not working!

So here I am in Madison, and, dammit, I'm at Starbucks. How the hell did I end up here? In New York, I'm stuck going to Starbucks, because there are no indie cafés with WiFi in my neighborhood or in the places I go around Manhattan. But when I come back to Madison, like this weekend, I shun Starbucks. But this morning (and last night), Charter Communications had a regional outage — I tried calling — so I left the house first thing in search of a café.

It was like in this "South Park." You get up, you try to get on line, you freak out — the internet's not working! — and you head right out to a café to get your morning internet. In the "South Park," they actually go to a Starbucks. (Why does their Starbucks have free WiFi? I've never encountered free WiFi at a Starbucks.) So I run downtown, heading for one of my favorite Madison cafés, but it's Saturday and it's not 8 yet, so, that's the one niche that Starbucks fills in Madison: It's open all the time.

But now it's after 8, and I can café hop. I can't find an electrical outlet here anyway, and I'm down to the last 11% of my charge.

Am I addicted to the internet? Let's just say that "South Park" — which you should watch — hits close to home.

IN THE COMMENTS: George said...
It's worse than you think, Professor—You're an addict, and you're dealing the stuff.
Ah! You're right! Bloggers are the dealers in the world of internet addiction.

Greg in Madtown said:
It's even easier on the near-east side of town. Three independent coffee shops within four blocks of my house, and Escape Java Joint (with free wireless, of course), is only closed 6 hours/day (midnight-6am). I'm not advertising -- I don't work there -- it's just great to live in a city where I can pay for internet by the cup, even on Christmas. (Again with those atheists!)
Thanks for the tip! And, look, my favorite Madison food blog has reviewed it:
Rooms lead on to rooms all painted mellow colors. Our original guess was it used to be a dentist's office, but according to the barista, before Escape was a coffee shop, it was an arcade and a thrift store in the recent past (which we vaguely remembered), and in the more distant past a machine shop and wagon maker.
Wagon maker. Layers of history.

What was the biggest lie at the Clinton-Obama debate?

My son John Althouse Cohen says it's this, from ABC's moderator Charles Gibson:
I would be remiss tonight if I didn't take note of the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Virginia Tech. And I think it's fair to say that probably every American during this day, at one point or another, said a small prayer for the great people at that university and for those who died.
Here's the transcript of the debate. I challenge you to find a bigger lie.

I mean, you could stake your life on a bet that what Gibson said was false and he knew it. He had to. Even hedged with "probably," there is absolutely no chance that "every American" said "a small prayer." Surely, some said a big prayer, there must be quite a few people who didn't realize it was the anniversary of the shootings, and plenty who never pray about anything. I'll bet Christopher Hitchens didn't say a prayer. There are atheists in America, Mr. Gibson! (Run for your life!)

On the subject of the debate and lies, didn't Hillary Clinton say she lied about the sniper fire in Bosnia? (My other son, Chris, pointed this out in the comments section of my debate live-blogging.)

From the transcript:
Well, Tom, I can tell you that I may be a lot of things. But I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in my book in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book.... [I]t just didn't jive with what I had written about and knew to be the truth.
I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case. That's the definition of lying.

And I love the "I'm not dumb" part. Take note of this strategy for getting Hillary to confess to lying. Corner her with 2 options: either you're stupid or you're a liar. I'm a liar, dammit! Don't call me dumb!

April 18, 2008

Slate's anti-Obama ad.

A joke, of course. (Slate can't be anti-Obama.)

AND: Does Obama mean to give Hillary the finger here?

Based on the way he laughs when they get it, I'd have to say yes. Especially ironic, since he's pushing the line about how he's the one taking politics to a higher level.

"PAUL CAMPOS BECLOWNS HIMSELF YET AGAIN, and Brian Leiter pinches the red rubber nose."

Says Glenn Reynolds — you can tell it's Glenn from the all caps — linking to Leiter.

Here's the underlying Campos compost:
Leiter thinks various members of the Bush administration are war criminals, and that their worst crimes - crimes for which they should apparently be subjected to Nuremberg-style prosecution - include the systematic torture of helpless prisoners in the name of a phony "war on terror."

Anyone who believes this must also acknowledge that John Yoo's eagerness to make specious legal arguments in support of torture seems to have led directly to lots of people being tortured, some to death.

Under such circumstances, it takes a twisted sense of moral priorities to get outraged about the (very slim) possibility that Yoo might lose his academic sinecure because he went out of his way to help the U.S. government commit war crimes.

In the end, I suspect that for Leiter, as for so many professors of this or that, words such as "torture" and "war crimes" are indeed nothing more than words, with which they can continue to play their petty and useless academic games.
I don't know what's more common among law professors — "eagerness to make specious legal arguments" or willingness to apply the label "war crime." And sure, there are plenty of petty and useless academic games ... but why is Campos so sure he's outside of these games as he makes his pronouncements?

Obama's a "whiner."

It's the new meme. Should be good for at least another day.

(Via Instapundit.)

The art that was obviously a hoax was a hoax.

WaPo reports:
A Yale University student's senior art project, which she said documented her bleeding during repeated self-induced abortions, sparked a protest on campus, an outcry on the Internet, and debates over morality, medicine, art and academia.

And -- the project was all faked. Senior Aliza Shvarts told Yale officials yesterday that she didn't get pregnant and didn't have abortions. But that didn't stop an outpouring of emotion as the story spread....

Within hours after the article ran yesterday in the student newspaper, blogs were full of livid reactions, including horror that so many fetuses were apparently aborted, revulsion at the graphic nature of the piece, shock that someone would risk her own health in such a way, and general disdain for art and academia.
I wish the WaPo would report that in addition to the "outcry on the Internet," there were plenty of people, including myself, who immediately spotted a hoax.
In a statement yesterday, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said: "Ms. Shvarts . . . stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."
Ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body... So that's what passes as insight at Yale these days? If I was going to get livid and horrified about something it would be that a great university sucks so many young women into the into the intellectual graveyard of Women's Studies. Think what these women could be studying instead of this endlessly recycled drivel. If you care about women's bodies, study science and help us with the limitations of the body. But to imagine you are helping us by restating meager platitudes is just very sad.
Shvartz, an arts major, told the Yale Daily News: "I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity. I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."
So you "believe strongly" in the boring dogma that's been circulating in the art world for decades? Do you believe anything interesting or original that might make it worth inflicting yourself on the world in the form of an artist?
"It's supposed to challenge the mythology of the body," [said classmate Juan Castillo]. "Are we only supposed to do what our bodies were 'naturally' meant to do, which is to procreate?

"I think she was definitely trying to spark conversation. In that respect, she's accomplished her goal," Castillo said. "But I don't know if she meant it to get this crazy, this out of control."
No, the conversation about whether we are only supposed to do what "our bodies were 'naturally' meant to do, which is to procreate" has been going on for a long, long time without the "spark" of a jejune art project.

The only interesting question is who was dopey enough to think this wasn't a hoax. WaPo would like us to think it was only those deranged internetters who get everything wrong. But it seems to me that a lot of the Yalies were slow on the uptake.

ADDED: The first commenter here links to this Yale Daily News item headlined "University calls art project a fiction; Shvarts '08 disputes Yale's claim." She's saying her school libeled her?
But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.”
Ultimately inaccurate? That sounds weaselly.
But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself.
Who's to say she didn't? Produce the sperm donor! Sue the university for libel! Let's keep thinking about Shvarts and her semen injections, because it's really enlightening on women's issues. Put her on "Oprah." This is at least as profound as the "pregnant man."
At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.
At the end of her menstrual cycle... she got her period!
“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”
Uncertainties... ambiguities... that's so heavy.
This afternoon, Shvarts showed the News footage from tapes she plans to play at the exhibit. The tapes depict Shvarts — sometimes naked, sometimes clothed — alone in a shower stall bleeding into a cup.
Oh, great, homemade porn.
Yale’s statement comes after a day of widespread outrage all across the country following an article in today’s edition of the News in which Shvarts described her supposed exhibition, which she said would include the video recordings well as a preserved collection of the blood from the process, which she said she is storing in a freezer.
Right next to the Haagen Dazs vanilla raspberry swirl frozen yogurt.

titusisnotcurrentlyhorny said...
It would of been cool if it was true.

I would love to see an art piece of hundreds of people on toilets pinching a loaf also.

Also, pictures of the hog in different "moods" would be interesting.

8:57 AM

titusisnotcurrentlyhorny said...
Tits bouncing in slow motion on thousands of televisions would also be something that should be explored in someone's art.

8:58 AM

titusisnotcurrentlyhorny said...
I'm really into Avant Garde shit.

9:00 AM

ADDED: The Chronicle of Higher Education presents the issue in terms of protecting the free expression of the student:
Robert M. O'Neil, a free-speech expert at the University of Virginia, agreed that displaying the Yale student's artwork is about freedom of expression. "Art departments have always been and must remain shelters for creativity which sometimes offends and often challenges," said Mr. O'Neil, director of the university's Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. But he also acknowledged that such a message "doesn't usually go down terribly well with people in the outside world."

[T]he episode at Yale has prompted questions about what constitutes legitimate academic work and how far universities should go in giving voice or providing a platform to students who express outrageous and offensive opinions. The incident also has caused people who already are skeptical about what they see as an anything-goes attitude in higher education to feel even more alienated from the world of academe.
(The boldface is mine.)

This is framed as if the "people in the outside world" don't understand art and don't care about free speech. But that's not how I've written about the problem here. I'm big on free speech. That's why I want more speech and why I'm dishing it out in hefty portions here. I'm being "outrageous and offensive" as I try to shine some light on bad, boring, unoriginal, lame, weak and bad for women and damaging to abortion rights. I am concerned not with the strength of the academic citadel, but with its feebleness. What is this elite institution giving young people if it pads out their minds with art world and Women's Studies ideology. Where is the critical thinking? Where is the education?

(I'm saying this as someone who has put a lot of time and energy into studying and caring about feminism and who wasted my undergraduate education years frittering away my powers in the art school of a great university.)

At least the Chronicle has the sense to talk to Roger Kimball: "What does a higher education mean and what is going on in these privileged, expensive redoubts of educational endeavor?"

But why am I reading that, when Roger Kimball has a blog. Yes, he's writing about this, of course:
I know that in the universe occupied by Ivy League academics, the spectacle of a woman repeatedly inseminating herself, quaffing abortifacient drugs (“herbal” ones, though: we’re all organic environmentalists here), and they video taking the resultant mess poses a problem. I mean, in that universe there really are basic ethical standards: Thou shalt not smoke, for example. Thou shalt not support support the war in Iraq. Thou shalt not vote Republican. There really are some things that are beyond the pale.

But when it comes to “art”: oh, that’s a tricky one. Shvarts “is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” the Yale spokeswoman said. But doesn’t it depend on the nature of the performance?

Read the whole thing.

"Secure," "confidential" plans for the WTC Freedom Tower...

... found by a homeless man in a street trash bin at West Houston and Sullivan Streets.


I've never — and I'm pretty old — felt something and known that's an earthquake. I've felt some very mild things and thought it might be an earthquake, but last night — here in Madison, Wisconsin — that was an earthquake.
A 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit southern Illinois early this morning just before 4:37 a.m., with tremors from the earthquake felt all the way north to Madison.

Paul Logan, dispatch supervisor at the Dane County 911 center, said about two dozen calls came in to the center and to other police departments around the county between 4:50 and 5:00 a.m., from people wondering what was going on.
I can't imagine calling the police over that, but somehow 2 dozen of my neighbors did. What's their motivation? How do their minds work? Maybe when you live in a liberal outpost in the bleak Midwest, and the war goes on and the news media ask a candidate why he doesn't wear a flag pin, you get needy and you turn to government to find meaning when anything seems amiss.

ADDED: New Madrid awakening?

April 17, 2008

Abortion as art — possibly a hoax, I think.

Maybe the real artwork is the outrage this purported activity will undoubtedly provoke:
[Yale art major Aliza] Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process....

The "fabricators," or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.
So is there any proof at all that these were really abortions? Blood is easy enough to come by.
"I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts said. "I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."
Okay, jump through the hoop she's holding up for you. Get outraged.

ADDED: Yuval Levin at the Corner also thinks it's a hoax. (Via Instapundit.) I assure you I read that after I posted here, so maybe this is so obviously hoaxy that we're chumps to give the young woman all this attention.

MORE: Hoax admitted.

"Scalia almost chortles. "Did you ever hear the expression 'hoist by your own petard?'"

Dahlia Lithwick describes the oral argument in Kennedy v. Louisiana, the case about the constitutionality of imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child:
[Jeff] Fisher, Kennedy's lawyer, gamely opens with the observation that Louisiana's effort to "reintroduce" the death penalty for rapists violates the "long-standing national consensus against it." It also offends a line of cases that require states to very narrowly define the class of offenders eligible for the death penalty. Justice Antonin Scalia interrupts him to ask how one might further narrow a class of "child rapists" and whether any rape of a child under 12 could fairly be described as not "particularly heinous."...

Fisher says that if you look at the pair of recent cases that banned capital punishment for mentally retarded offenders (in 2002) and juvenile offenders (in 2005), it's clear the social consensus is trending away from the death penalty. Then, Roberts jumps in to argue that the "evolving standards of decency" test should not be a one-way ratchet. Does this trend "only work one way?" he asks. "How are you ever supposed to get consensus moving in the opposite direction? … Do 20 states have to get together and do it at the same time?"

Scalia says this high bar against reversing the prevailing trend would put the court in the position of "prohibiting the people from changing their mind." And Roberts says the clear trend that matters is not the one Fisher points to but rather that "more and more states are passing statutes imposing the death penalty in situations that do not result in death." Scalia almost chortles. "Did you ever hear the expression 'hoist by your own petard?' The trend here is clearly in the direction of permitting more and more … capital punishment for this crime!"
But there is very little to laugh about here. As Lithwick notes, the rape for which Kennedy received the death penalty was truly horrible. Kennedy weighed 300 pounds and the child was 8.

I'm glad to see that Justices Alito and Ginsburg brought up the feminist themes that I noted in this earlier post on the case. Lithwick writes:
Justice Samuel Alito quotes a line from [the 1977 precedent] Coker opining that "life is over for the victim of the murderer. For the rape victim, life may not be nearly so happy as it was." He asks, incredulously, is that "something that would be written today?" Ginsburg adds that the attitudes toward rape that animated Coker—that women were the property of their husbands or fathers and were "spoiled" after a rape—have "no parallel with child rape." There was a lot of race and gender bias under the surface of the Coker case that isn't immediately present in this one.

Everything you ever wanted to know about elevators.

Including the answer to "the age-old half-serious question of whether a passenger barrelling earthward in a runaway elevator should jump in the air just before impact":
[Y]ou can’t jump up fast enough to counteract the rate of descent. “And how are you supposed to know when to jump?” [said elevator expert Rick Pulling,]. As for an alternative strategy—lie flat on the floor?—he shrugged: “Dead’s dead.”
Via BLDGblog, which highlights the story of the man whose life was transformed by getting trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. I'm going to focus on a part of the story that reaches out to me. [SPOILER ALERT: It's more fun to read the whole article. This is the very end of it.]
At a certain point, Nicholas White ran out of ideas. Anger and vindictiveness took root. He began to think, They, whoever they were, shouldn’t be able to get away with this, that he deserved some compensation for the ordeal. He cast about for blame. He wondered where his colleague was, why she hadn’t been alarmed enough by his failure to return, jacketless, from smoking a cigarette to call security. Whose fault is this? he wondered. Who’s going to pay?...

Caught up in media attention (which he shunned but thrilled to), prodded by friends, and perhaps provoked by overly solicitous overtures from McGraw-Hill, White fell under the sway of renown and grievance, and then that of the legal establishment. He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to litigation. Instead, he spent eight weeks in Anguilla. Eventually, Business Week had to let him go. The lawsuit he filed, for twenty-five million dollars, against the building’s management and the elevator-maintenance company, took four years. They settled for an amount that White is not allowed to disclose, but he will not contest that it was a low number, hardly six figures. He never learned why the elevator stopped; there was talk of a power dip, but nothing definite. Meanwhile, White no longer had his job, which he’d held for fifteen years, and lost all contact with his former colleagues. He lost his apartment, spent all his money, and searched, mostly in vain, for paying work. He is currently unemployed.

Looking back on the experience now, with a peculiarly melancholic kind of bewilderment, he recognizes that he walked onto an elevator one night, with his life in one kind of shape, and emerged from it with his life in another. Still, he now sees that it wasn’t so much the elevator that changed him as his reaction to it. He has come to terms with the trauma of the experience but not with his decision to pursue a lawsuit instead of returning to work. If anything, it prolonged the entrapment. He won’t blame the elevator.
Blame the law, or, more precisely, your own urge toward vengeance that drives you into the law's open arms. That is the suggestion conveyed by the author of this New Yorker article, Nick Paumgarten. But is it not possible to file a legitimate lawsuit, ask for appropriate damages, and still get on with your life?

The key sentence is "He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to litigation." He got a lawyer, and came to believe... Paumgarten won't say the lawyer talked White into behaving as if the 41 hours of elevator entrapment wrecked his life, but it seems that White made a destructive decision in the hope of financial gain. Or do you think he was just that angry, that vindictive, that long?

The annals of litigiousness need this morality tale.

The Pope sends Rush Limbaugh into ecstasy about... American exceptionalism.

Did you listen to Rush Limbaugh enthusing about the Pope yesterday? It was really quite bizarre.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung by the US Army Chorus, and you have to hear this, particularly if you haven't had a chance to have your TV on today or your radio, and you didn't hear this. You have to hear it and you have to imagine a crystal-blue sky, a crisp day in Washington, the pope and the president on the reviewing stand with others, the camera occasionally focusing on the US Army Chorus. You realize, this is at the White House, and a song written in tribute to God is being played at the White House. In this country there has been such an effort, and it has been way too successful, to remove God from anything public. Not only was God present, but the largest White House welcoming ceremony ever participated in a ceremony thanking God and respecting God and offering up a tribute to God, and you just have to hear this. It runs about 4:47. It's infectious, so well done. The US Army Chorus, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

(playing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

That is just beautiful. I'm at a loss for words to describe the impact that had on me, and I was not even paying close attention. I was looking at the computer and I had the TVs on, which are to my left when I'm sitting at the computer. I heard this start, and I told Cookie up in New York, "Get me the song. I want the song as part of the audio sound bites." She said, "You can hear it?" I said, "I can always hear God's music."
So, now, wait. Did Rush have a religious experience, or was he just delighted by the thought of those peoplethose liberals — having conniptions about the intermingling of religion and government?
THE PRESIDENT: In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred and that each of us is willed, each of us is loved. And your message that each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary. In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth.

RUSH: This is just fabulous. This is exactly what this country needs at this time. It took the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to bring forth a discussion -- a discussion I have been so desirous that happen at the highest levels of our elected leadership, a discussion of American exceptionalism.
Of course, the Pope is not bringing a message of American exceptionalism. So does he mean that the ceremony for the Pope gave President Bush a platform to proclaim American exceptionalism? But you see Bush's words. They aren't about American exceptionalism. They are about universal values, which is precisely appropriate for the occasion — as the proclamation of American exceptionalism would not be.

I've never seen a more vivid example of Rush Limbaugh hearing what he wants to hear.

You can hear it? I can always hear God's music. If by God, you mean the voices in your own head.

He goes on:
Once again, as you know, folks, I have been begging, I have been clamoring, I have been asking, "Where is the discussion in this country of American exceptionalism? Where is it in this presidential campaign?" It's nowhere to be found. You won't find it. It took the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for a discussion and statement of American exceptionalism to be made.

POPE BENEDICT: From the dawn of the republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God.
Is that American exceptionalism? It seems to me the Pope is speaking of the universal "dominion of God" and the way America's founders acknowledged it. Not that they were special, but that they, like everyone who ever lived and who ever will live is subject to God's moral order.

Limbaugh plays another Pope clip: "As the nation faces increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I'm confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more human and free society." Really, that is nothing but a generic statement that religion is good and people should be religious and good.

Now, here's Rush, in that special slightly bonkers manner of his that listeners find either so endearing or so infuriating:
And he continued on, and he ended it by saying God bless America. He's a big fan of America, Joseph Ratzinger is his prepapal name. He's from Germany, as you can tell. But it was just uplifting to me. I take this stuff personally. I love this country. I love anybody else who loves this country, and I don't care who it is that requires or necessitates or creates this discussion, gets it started, of the concept of American exceptionalism, whether it's the pope or whether it's somebody else. But I really wish that some of our own elected officials in power, leadership positions, would have the guts to speak of it in that context rather than wringing our hands and whining and moaning about how hard we have it and how horrible things are and how unfair life is and all the other things that people have become comfortable whining about. Thanks to the pope and the president today for this remarkable, remarkable ceremony at the White House.
He's a big fan of America, you know, this Pope, this Joseph Ratzinger. And check out that accent. German! He's from Germany! Wow! I love anybody who loves this country!

Reactions to the debate.

Collected here. Scanning the commentary, the dominant thoughts seem to be:

1. It was bad of ABC to trouble Obama with questions about his attitudes and character instead of offering him opportunities to expound policy.

2. Obama is tired. Lackluster.

3. Hillary was intense.

AND: Let me reveal what I think.

1. It was good.

2. Obama has always had a blandness about him. When you're feeling good about him, you project your hopes onto that blandness and he seems wonderful. When you're anxious about him, you think he's effete and ennervated. He's always the same. His face did look puffy and not as fresh as it once did. Deal with it. He's a human being.

3. Hillary bloomed with bright energy in the environment of ABC's questions. She can reel out the policy when that's what's required. But cruel political fighting unleashes her super powers.

The composition of a summer reading list.

Anna Williams thinks the creation of the list is an art in itself.

April 16, 2008

Too Many Cooks Spoil the...

"American Idol."

"Screw 'em," Hillary said about working-class white southerners.

"You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them."

Debate tonight. I'll be liveblogging.

Watch this space. It will be elongated — starting at 8 Eastern Time — with quirky observations and peevish intuitions. I'm very interested to see how those two relate to each other after all these (nasty) weeks apart. Strong acting skills will be required.

Obama will, no doubt, take a stance above the fray. Be cool but — be careful! — you'd better not seem aloof — don't look down on that shorter person next to you! — or we will see that image the Hillarists want to project on you. Hillary has the devious power of nothing to lose. She'll be looking for every opportunity to unsettle him, to provoke an error, to rephrase something he's said and make it sound unsavorily San Franciscan.

8:00. Opening statements are thoroughly bland. Oh, good lord, they're already going to commercial. I'll bet they lose a lot of audience. Here in NYC, the debate show is playing in between "Spongebob" and "Family Guy."

8:08. They're asked to pick each other as their running mate. Awkward! Obama says it's "premature." Hillary follows suit.

8:13. The bitter small-town religion clingers quote is thrown at Obama, who says he can see how it offended some people. So can Hillary. Hillary keeps dropping the names of places in Pennsylvania.

8:18. Hillary is challenged over a statement she made that Obama can't win. After some harrumphing, she concedes that Obama can win. Obama then concedes that Hillary can win.

8:24. Obama is asked why didn't he disassociate himself from Jeremiah Wright sooner. He mainly relies on the assertion that he hadn't heard most of the bad statements. At some point he says "someone I've disowned" and has to correct it to "statements I've disowned." Given her chance, Hillary brings up Wright's connections to Farrakhan and Hamas. "These are questions," she says.

8:35. Hillary does a good job of owning up to her Bosnian sniper fire gaffe.

8:41. Obama is asked about his patriotism. First, the easy part: Why not wear a flag pin? That's a "manufactured issue." He reveres the flag, and he does wear the pin sometimes. Then the hard question: Why is he friendly with William Ayres (once a member of the Weather Underground)? This is another "game" in O's view. The man is an English professor who lives in his neighborhood, and Obama was 5 years old when Ayres participated in the Weather Underground. Given her chance, Hillary recites some of Ayres's bad behavior, including his relatively recent statement that he wishes he'd "done more." Obama comes back with the fact that Bill Clinton pardoned 2 members of the Weather Underground.

8:52. Do they really have a plan to bring troops home from Iraq? If the military commanders told you that pulling the troops out will destabilize Iraq, would you still go through with your plan? Hillary: Yes. But her plan is only to "begin" to withdraw troops within 60 days and to proceed with caution from there. The idea is for Iraqis to get the message that they need to take over. Obama follows suit. "The President sets the mission." He'll listen to the commanders on the ground "with respect to tactics," but he provides the "mission." Mission. Tactics. Mission. Tactics. Get it?

9:01. Israel. Iran. Taxes. It's devolved into the usual policy recitation. The candidates sound fine, but you can read the transcript.

9:22: Obama is talking about a drastic rise in Social Security taxes for people making more than $97,000. We have to do something, and raising the retirement age is unacceptable. Could someone explain why? We live much longer than in the days when Social Security began, and many fewer people were expected to live to collect payments. If we live longer, shouldn't we work to an older age?

9:24. It's the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. People are saying a prayer. It takes a fraction of a second for Obama to bow his head. Prayer: Bows head. Great reflexes! That's just an intro to a question about gun control. Hillary keeps talking about Mayor Nutter — love the name. Both Hillary and Obama do exactly what you'd expect them to do: Distinguish between the good guys, who deserve respect as they go their traditional ways, and the bad guys, who deserve regulation. We can be sensible. Balanced. Don't give guns to "the mentally deranged," Obama advises. That's all very nice but do you support the D.C. ban, the one that's before the Supreme Court? Hillary waffles about how she doesn't know the facts. She does a federalism riff: What might work in New York is certainly not going to work in Montana.

9:33. Obama is asked whether affirmative action should be changed so that affluent African Americans like his daughters are not given advantages and maybe poor whites are. He recommends looking at all the factors for each individual. Race is one factor. But look at the whole person. (That's exactly in line with the Supreme Court case law.) Hillary thinks we need "affirmative action generally," by which she seems to mean that we need programs that reach very young kids, kindergarten and so forth. She's suddenly speaking very fast and energetically. This is her area of special expertise. It's quite striking how different she sounds on this subject. She dutifully responds to questions about national security, but she comes alive talking about children. Ah, but now she's talking about gas prices and she's still hypercharged. Maybe she's looking at the clock and knows she needs to cram more into the little time that's left. By contrast, Obama's tone and speed remain utterly consistent.

9:39. Obama laughs "heh heh heh heh heh" when Hillary is asked about how she'd use former Presidents, specifically George W. Bush.

9:47. Make your pitch to the superdelegates. Hillary: I'm a fighter. I'm ready. Obama: I will lift you up. I'm new. I'm different.

9:51. Good night, everybody.

7:16 AM. I sum up the general reaction to the debate and express my opinion here.

A study found that people who read blogs feel that "checking favorite blogs is part of a routine that they feel compelled to repeat each day."

The dreaded horrors of addiction strike. Oh, no!

But isn't it compensated for by not feeling compelled to buy the newspaper or sit through the nightly network news?

Funniest sentence in the linked article: "It’s important to note that the study was small—with only 15 subjects—and took place in one area (Irvine, Calif.)." Well, hell, we can do a bigger study that that right here, right now. What do you say? Are you suffering from addiction to reading your favorite blogs?

"Murtha says McCain too old to be president."

Oh, really?

Althouse says Murtha too old to have useful opinion.

The Supreme Court rejects the constitutional challenge to execution by lethal injection.

The Supreme Court has decided the lethal injection case — PDF — and I'm not surprised, having listened to the oral argument, to see that the Court rejected the argument that the 3-drug protocol violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. I'll read the opinions and update. For now, here's Lyle Denniston's summary:
The final vote was 7-2 in Baze v. Rees (07-5439), although there was no opinion that spoke for five or more Justices. The Court’s plurality adopted as a standard for assessing the validity of an execution method whether it poses a “substantial risk of serious harm.” It rejected the death row inmate’s proposal that the standard be “unnecessary risk.”...

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s plurality opinion said that a death-row inmate cannot win a challenge to an execution protocol “merely by showing a slightly or marginally safe alternative.” Instead, there must be proof that the options available must prevent a “substantial risk of serious harm.” A state is free to choose a procedure, Roberts wrote, if it is shown to be “feasible, readily implemented, and in fact significantly reduce[s] a substantial risk of severe pain.” The opinion then added: “If a state refuses to adopt such an alternative in the face of these documented advantages, without a legitimate penological justification for adhering to its current method of execution, then a state’s refusal to change its method can be viewed as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment.”
ADDED: The Chief Justice, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito, observes that it is well-settled that capital punishment is constitutional. That being the case, "there must be a means of carrying it out."
Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution—no matter how humane—if only from the prospect of error in following the required procedure. It is clear, then, that the Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions.
In fact, the Court has never invalidated a method of execution, he writes. In approving of execution by firing squad in the late 19th century, for example, the Court distinguished methods that were designed to add pain or degradation to the process of killing and noted that the English have sometimes disemboweled a living person before beheading him or dissected him in public.

The 3-drug protocol could be used deliberately to torture a person. If the first drug is insufficient, he could remain conscious while the second drug paralyzed him and the third drug stopped his heart. But the argument in this case was not that states were "superadding" torture, but simply that a mistake could be made. This is not, according to the Chief Justice, the "objectively intolerable risk of harm" that would count as cruel and unusual, in violation of the 8th Amendment.

But if the drug doses could be improved to reduce the risk, why not require it? Roberts says that would set a standard that would foment litigation whenever one could point to "a slightly
or marginally safer alternative... embroil[ing] the courts in ongoing scientific controversies beyond their expertise," and intruding on state legislatures, which, in fact, have a good record of adopting humane execution methods.

Justice Thomas, joined by Scalia, rejects Roberts's standard. He vividly describes 18th century executions conducted in a manner intended "to terrorize the criminal, and thereby more effectively deter the crime."
These “superadded” circumstances “were carefully handed out to apply terror where it was thought to be most needed,” and were designed “to ensure that death would be slow and painful, and thus all the more frightening to contemplate.”...

Although the Eighth Amendment was not the subject of extensive discussion during the debates on the Bill of Rights, there is good reason to believe that the Framers viewed such enhancements to the death penalty as falling within the prohibition of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. By the late 18th century, the more violent modes of execution had “dwindled away,” and would for that reason have been “unusual” in the sense that they were no longer “regularly or customarily employed,”...Embellishments upon the death penalty designed to inflict pain for pain’s sake also would have fallen comfortably within the ordinary meaning of the word “cruel.” See 1 S. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language 459 (1773) (defining “cruel” to mean “[p]leased with hurting others; inhuman; hard-hearted; void of pity; wanting compassion; savage; barbarous; unrelenting”); 1 N. Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language 52 (1828) (defining “cruel” as “[d]isposed to give pain to others, in body or mind; willing or pleased to tor-
ment, vex or afflict; inhuman; destitute of pity, compassion or kindness”).
So it is enough, in Thomas's view, to avoid intentionally enhancing the pain of execution.
It is not a little ironic—and telling—that lethal injection, hailed just a few years ago as the humane alternative in light of which every other method of execution was deemed an unconstitutional relic of the past, is the subject of today’s challenge. It appears the Constitution is “evolving” even faster than I suspected.
Thomas thinks it's "obvious" that death penalty opponents will do what they can to obstruct the death penalty, which makes it important to establish a "bright-line rule" that will spare the states the pain of further litigation. But the Court has denied the states this mercy:
[T]oday’s decision is sure to engender more litigation. At what point does a risk become “substantial”? Which alternative procedures are “feasible” and “readily implemented”? When is a reduction in risk “significant”? What penological justifications are “legitimate”? Such are the questions the lower courts will have to grapple with in the wake of today’s decision.
Justice Breyer too concurs:
I cannot find, either in the record or in the readily available literature that I have seen, sufficient grounds to believe that Kentucky’s method of lethal injection creates a significant risk of unnecessary suffering.
Justice Stevens concurs. Noting that the case today does not foreclose further litigation of the issue, he gives the states some advice: consider ending the use of the paralyzing drug (pancuronium bromide). The Court won't find its use unconstitutional, but the states might be well-advised to end it on their own.

Stevens also writes at length to take the position that the death penalty itself — because of its "negligible returns to the State" — is "patently excessive and cruel and unusual" in violation of the 8th Amendment. This, as Justice Scalia puts it in his separate opinion, "repudiate[s Justice Stevens's] prior view and ... adopt[s] the astounding position that a criminal sanction expressly mentioned in the Constitution violates the Constitution." Because the 5th amendment text refers to "a capital, or otherwise infamous crime" (requiring a grand jury) and to the requirement of due process for the the deprivation of "life," Scalia writes, the Constitution must be read to approve of the death penalty.

The 2 dissenting justices are Ginsburg and Souter. Ginsburg writes the opinion. They would "remand with instructions to consider whether the failure to include readily available safeguards to confirm that the inmate is unconscious after injection of sodium thiopental, in combination with the other elements of Kentucky’s protocol, creates an untoward, readily avoidable risk of inflicting severe and unnecessary pain."

Have a nice day of fluffy goodness!


"Never will we accept in [fashion] that a judge decides if a young girl is skinny or not skinny."

"That doesn’t exist in the world, and it will certainly not exist in France."

The French try to legislate against the promotion of excessive dieting. I should think it will only encourage excessive dieting to make it illicit and rebellious against the government. Government repression like this should induce bulimia.

"Madison is the smartest city in the United States."

So says a new study in Bizjournals. Somehow, Washington is second. I'm suspicious of the methodology.

Doug Moe is also suspicious, based on absurd accolades of the past:
I recall Men's Health magazine, in November 2003, putting Madison first in a survey of 101 cities that were ranked "by how well they keep the male citizenry safe, sane, and well stocked with six-pack abs."

The article began: "You can go an entire day without seeing fat people in Madison."

Hillary Clinton "needs to completely abandon her positive campaign and continue to hammer away at Obama."

Writes former Bill Clinton advisor Douglas E. Schoen in the WaPo. Ugh! Does he want everyone to hate her?

There's already been plenty of hammering away at Obama lately, and what's striking is that it hasn't hurt him in the polls.

Not Bittergate.


Michelle Obama, looking and acting like the perfect First Lady...

... on "The Colbert Report."

"I thought, This is weird, John McCain has a recipe for pasta with sausage and peas."


This is stupid, right down to the blaming of an unnamed intern, but so is the perennial purveying of the candidates' wives recipes.

"Twas unfortunate She drank an insipid Canadian Liquor, and not the noble Highland Spirits."

Sir Archy, the ghost who occasionally visits the comments section of this blog, has something to say about Hillary Clinton's recent demonstration of working-class style by drinking a shot of Crown Royal and a mug of beer:
Before I became the Ghost of a Scotch Gentleman, dead these 250 Years and more, I thought I should never live to see a Lady out of Scotland—and Few in it—drink Whiskey. In that I am not disappointed, for I had not lived; yet Sen. Clinton has drunk—and not only Whiskey, but Beer. 'Twas unfortunate She drank an insipid Canadian Liquor, and not the noble Highland Spirits; but, all Artifice as She is, I cannot but doubt that Someone told her 'twould be good Politicks to be seen raising a North American glass....

Senator Clinton may be all Artifice, but to put the most charitable Interpretation on her choice of Drink, I have little Doubt that familiarity with the so-call'd Bourbon of the American South, has left her unwilling to drink any further of it. That good Scotch Whiskey should Today be consider'd a Drink that only the well-to-do may afford, is another Example of the Chang'd World I so often pitch upon. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton sought the miserable Canadian rye as the only drinkable Spirit that did not have an Odor of Pretense about it, so that She may yet shew Herself to not be above the Common People. I however suspect that the Country People of Pennsylvania drink as little of Crown Royal as they do of any Whiskey, and are ever Beer-drinkers.

I will leave the Interpretation of the modern Meaning & Customs that commonly surround Mrs. Clinton's Choice of Drink to those most familiar with them, and only say that Decency would have me forbear to look further into the Matter.

Wishing I were yet able to drink to Your Health with something other than the very odd Products of North American Stills, I am,


Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

"The Official Village Voice Election-Season Guide to the Right-Wing Blogosphere."

Roy Edroso puts a lot of work into this thing, and it would have hurt my feelings if he'd left me out. So don't cry for me. And, check it out, they got Tom Tomorrow to draw a cartoon of Glenn Reynolds.

ADDED: Should I take care what I put up now, as the new readers from the Village Voice click over? How many? You might wonder. Based on the Site Meter, 29. Ouch.

AND: I see that Tom Tomorrow has illustrated all of us, including me. I feel really weird about that... mainly out of vanity.

MORE: Armed Liberal says:
[A]side from being a juvenile jackass, [the author Roy Edroso is] a tool. Why? Because while nonsense like this is great for making the 15% of True Believers feel Really Really Good about themselves, ... it makes the other 36% that we on the left need to do things like - you know, win elections - pretty pissed off at the smug arrogance that's so proudly on display....

We're in an election cycle where the GOP candidate should be staked out like a sacrificial goat waiting for the knife. Instead, we get Democratic thinkers worrying - appropriately - that the Democratic candidate is going to actually lose in November. And one of the big reasons is that the public voice of the Party is cranky, smug yuppies.
I agree. It's counterproductive. Why do people like Roy want to demonize me? Roy even designates me as a "moderate 'Democrat'" and notes that I voted for Obama in the primary. If that's enough to make you a stupid, evil right winger, how do the Democrats hope to get enough votes to win?

AND: A comment over at the Voice by David on Wed Apr 16, 2008, 09:26:
I think this tripe is what David Mamet was referring to in his "Why I am No Longer a Brain Dead Liberal" article a few weeks ago. Heck of a job, guys.

Charles Johnson — another target of the Voice piece — like me, notes that there's hardly any traffic clicking over from there: "Since this article was published, we’ve received a grand total of ... count ’em ... 32 hits..."

Protein Wisdom says: "It’s wry, amusing, and demonstrates perfectly the left’s contention that if you disagree with them, you’re either stupid or evil, or some combination of both."

Megan McArdle rants (her verb) about the term Roy applied to her: "lipstick libertarian."
I do wear lipstick (well, usually gloss), and more than occasionally eyeliner and mascara and a little shadow. And what the hell does that have to do with my political ideas?

... I'm annoyed that a typically female narrative style, which touches on personal experience, is derided as fundamentally unserious--particularly when it is so derided by people who admire it in feminist bloggers.
Yes, the lefties think sexism is quite okay when it's used to attack their opponents. I'm too thick-skinned — despite the routine application of moisturizer — to let things like that annoy me anymore. But I don't mind saving the evidence to use against people like Roy when my wily feminine emotions tell me to attack.
And I'm perilously close to despair at finding that so many of my correspondents not only believe that pointing out that I am 35 and unmarried is a devastating insult, but apparently expect me to share that opinion.
Despair!? I recommend pity aimed at those who flaunt their incomprehension of the benefits of singlehood.

April 15, 2008

Yesterday's sunset.


McCain on Obama's race speech: "It was good for all of America to have heard it."

Said after a pause, for something to say, after a student questioned him: ""Would you characterize yourself, as Barack Obama would phrase, as a typical white person?" And then he apologized for not really answering the question and said: "I want to say that I think Americans, all Americans, want a respectful campaign."

"We understand why someone might want to engage in this activity, but we are judges and if we are judges, no torture. Absolutely none."

In a debate with Justice Scalia, Justice Breyer quotes the Israeli Supreme Court.

"I am happy that I am divorced now. I will be able to go back to school."

Says the 8-year-old girl Nojud Mohammed Ali, whose lawyer said "I believe there are thousands of similar cases" in Yemen.

In other news from the Middle East:
A Turkish barber accused of swearing at God is sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, with his family back in Turkey calling on authorities to intervene....

According to reports, Boğday argued with his neighbor, an Egyptian tailor, and was arrested after the tailor told the police that he had sworn at God....

Muazzez Boğday said her husband knew the laws of Saudi Arabia well and would never swear. “Even if he did, he would never swear at God. He knows what the punishment would be,” she said.

"Don't be afraid, because whatever you do is going to be real and authentic."

It's advice. What the hell. It's not true, but it's Mariah Carey, mentoring the "American Idol" kids tonight. Go ahead, warble all over your multi-octave range. Don't be afraid. Whatever you do is going to be real and authentic.

ADDED: Kudos to Mariah for doing the show the Barry Manilow way.

AND: Doing a female singer's songs, all of the male contestants were better than all of the female contestants. It's touching that people appreciate what Jason Castro is doing. He's this year's Elliott. Beyond Elliott really. I don't think anyone in the history of the show has gotten nearly this far without oversinging and showing off. Randy said he sounded like someone singing at a luau on the beach off in the distance. And Paula was all: I want to be at that luau all night long.

What song was #1 on the day you were born?

It's easy to look up. In fact, it's easy to look up and click through to iTunes to download. In fact, I'm listening to Patti Page sing "The Tennessee Waltz" right now — that's how old I am.

And when you know your song, you can divine you fate through popstrology. According to Ian Van Tuyl:
Popstrology is no parlor game; its methodology is elaborate and broad—the book ["Popstrology"] is almost four hundred pages long. Van Tuyl identifies forty-five constellations (Lite & White, Mustache Rock, Shaking Booty), and, for each No. 1 artist (or “birthstar”), he provides a chart, which maps the birthstar’s signature qualities on a matrix of sexiness, soulfulness, and durability, among other variables....

Over a pint of Guinness in a bar on upper Broadway, Van Tuyl, who is thirty-eight years old and married to a sociology professor, considered a number of personages whose names had been in the papers. To do so, he had to expand the boundaries of the popstrological era, which, to orthodox practitioners, covers only the years from 1956 to 1989—Elvis Presley to Richard Marx. Apparently, many people over the age of forty-nine still hold positions of influence in the world.

First up, Michael Eisner and Robert Iger; Iger had just been named Eisner’s successor as the C.E.O. of Disney. “Michael Eisner is a Glenn Miller,” Van Tuyl said. “His birth song is ‘Moonlight Cocktail.’ Glenn Miller’s a bandleader, he’s an executive, but, more to the point, he died in an airplane over the English Channel. He didn’t leave on his own terms is the point. I mean, the guy was the Elvis of 1941 to 1943. So there are unbelievably strong career implications for Michael Eisner. And Eisner’s career accomplishments have been huge, but the fact is the children of Glenn Miller may not choose the way they go out.”

“Iger,” he continued. “Iger is a child of Patti Page. His birth song is ‘Tennessee Waltz,’..."
"... but she was also ‘How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?’ She was a bright, shining, thriving target for rock and roll to knock down. On the other hand, this woman sold records well into the sixties. I would be surprised to see any child of Patti Page showing any kind of revolutionary innovation. Probably stewardship is something Iger could aspire to.”
Dammit, Van Tuyl. Shut up.

What's the most amazing thing about this New York Magazine article, "The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the fourth wave"?

This piece, by Amanda Fortini, is all about the malignant misogyny against Hillary Clinton:
The egregious and by now familiar potshots are too numerous (and tiresome) to recount....

Why doesn’t our culture take sexism seriously?....

The past few months have been like an extended consciousness-raising session...
But look closely. There's something very important that isn't even mentioned! Bill Clinton! Hillary Clinton isn't your classic feminist heroine, fighting to make it in a man's world. She's a woman who leveraged herself into position in a very old-fashioned way, through a man, even when her use of that man required her to fend off other women and turn a blind eye toward sexual harassment. If you don't put that in the picture, your explication of the problem lacks credibility. Hillary has done what was expedient, and crying sexism now just happens to be expedient. Yes, we will have to study her case forever in trying to understand feminism, but this article is slanted for political effect and cannot be read as any sort of serious contemplation of the problems of women.

When Obama wrote "It was into my father's image ... that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself," was he talking about socialism?

Greg Ransom examines the memoir "Dreams From My Father" and the newly unearthed article "Problems Facing Our Socialism," written in 1965 by Barack Obama Sr.
If there is a mystery at the heart of Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, one thing is not left a mystery, the fact that Barack Obama organized his life on the ideals given to him by his Kenyan father....

So we know that his father's ideals were a driving force in his life, but the one thing that Obama does not give us are the contents of those ideals. The closest he comes is when he tells us that his father lost his position in the government when he came into conflict with Jomo Kenyatte, the President of Kenya sometime in the mid 1960s; when he tells us that his father was imprisoned for his political views by the government just prior to the end of colonial rule; and when he tells us that the attributes of W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela were the ones he associated with his father and also the ones that he sought to instill in himself. (p. 220) This last group is a hodge podge, perhaps concealing as much as it reveals, in that it contains a socialist black nationalist, a Muslim black nationalist, a civil rights leader, and (at the time indicated in the memoir) an imprisoned armed revolutionary.

A bit of research at the library reveals the answers about Barack Obama's father and his father's convictions which Obama withholds from his readers.
Read the whole thing.

And let me add that I found "Dreams From My Father" a perplexing read. For me, the most moving part is the introduction to the new edition, in which he says that he really ought to have written about his mother — as if her "dreams" have more to do with what he is. Certainly, they should. He lived with her (and her parents), and the father abandoned him. Why does his book consign her to the background? His narrative is based on the idea that that his absent father represents his true identity, and I had the sense that, for some reason, he decided that the story of embracing his patrilineal racial identity would make the best narrative. After all, he sold the book proposal based on the excitement created by his distinction as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The story he tells culminates with a trip to Africa as an adult to meet the many relatives who had nothing to do with his upbringing. This he presents as the ultimate homecoming. From a feminist perspective, this troubled me. Had the introduction not reassured me that he knew he owed so much more to his mother, I would have felt downright angry.

But is the real story in the book a submerged subtext about socialism? Is the search for racial identity a sop for white readers?

"The press is a sort of wild animal in our midst — restless, gigantic, always seeking new ways to use its strength."

So wrote Zechariah Chaffee Jr. — quoted last Friday by Chief Justice John Roberts at the opening of the Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism and the First Amendment. A wild animal in our midst, eh? I hope that doesn't mean you're inclined toward caging and taming.

A sentence about French President Nicolas Sarkozy and American presidential candidate Barack Obama.

I'm not sure whether I'm bothered more by the form or the substance of this sentence. It's from a NYT article by Michael Kimmelman headlined "A Lowbrow in High Office Ruffles France," and it follows the line "'Sarko l’Américain' is another common insult."
The French, though, may soon have to think up a fresh one if (and you can almost hear Mitterrand starting to turn in his grave) the United States elects a president who delivers speeches like the one Senator Barack Obama gave on race while this country has its first modern leader not to have graduated from the country’s upper-crust schools, a head of state who on a recent visit to the Vatican arrived late, with an exceptionally crude French stand-up comic named Jean-Marie Bigard in tow.
There's a lot going on there, including imaginary prognostication by a French corpse and the assurance that someone we've never heard of is not just crude but "exceptionally crude." Is he?

But let's think about the way Barack Obama is shoehorned into that crowded sentence. I get the feeling that the NYT would like to excite its readers with the thrill of an erudite American President who would require the French to look upon us with admiration. The reference to Obama's race speech is supposed to cue us to think about Obama as someone who is the opposite of lowbrow, even though a speech about social psychology is not about taste in music, art, and literature.

Is there any evidence that Obama has highbrow tastes? I just read his memoir and I remember no references to lofty aesthetic interests. In the music category, there was a mention of Stevie Wonder. I don't remember anything about art or any difficult works of literature. He does say he watched a lot of TV when he lived with his grandfather.

But, okay, let's assume the race speech is exquisitely crafted and that delivering it is the equivalent of showing deep appreciation for high art. Does it help Obama that the NYT is enthusing over the prospect of one-upping the French in lofty attitude? This isn't the week when we're swooning over his well-honed rhetoric. It's the week when were worried about his professorial musings that the common people weren't supposed to hear. It's scarcely the time when Obama needs to be promoted as highbrow and Frenchy.

April 14, 2008

2 art exhibitions in NY — one Japanese, one Chinese.

I saw 2 art exhibitions this weekend. One was the bright, poppy Takashi Murakami show at the Brooklyn Museum:
This survey of Takashi Murakami, the artist frequently called the Japanese Andy Warhol, has it all: immense, toylike sculptures; an animated cartoon that rivals Disney; and a fully functioning Louis Vuitton boutique (Brooklyn’s first!) selling Murakami bags. But it also elucidates the trajectory of an artist who began by recycling Japanese popular culture and then gradually figured out how to go deeper, harnessing Japanese traditions of painting, craft and spirituality. The art-commerce, high-low conundrums are fun, but the steady improvement in the paintings is the real heart of the matter. Along with the animated cartoons, which should please aesthetes of all ages, there is a moral component as well.
I loved this show. You should come out to Brooklyn and see it. I've got no photos — they weren't allowed — but there's plenty of video with the artist charmingly explaining himself here.

Then, at the Guggenheim, there's "Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe":
This museumwide survey of a leading Chinese artist indicates considerable command of cross-cultural references and extreme appropriation, including a gang of sculptors remaking a classic Social Realist ensemble of life-size figures while you watch. Gunpowder is a favored material, violence a frequent motif. A stop-action installation of seemingly exploding cars hangs in the atrium space. Scores of arrows make pincushions of snarling tigers (stuffed), and there are carved-wood religious sculptures and an entire fishing boat. Videos documenting pyrotechnical land-art pieces go boom. The show has far more than its share of hollow spectacle. The scorched, mural-size gunpowder drawings that combine elements of performance art, Abstract Expressionism and traditional Chinese and Japanese painting are the most believable.
Less color, less cuteness than Murakami, but equally outlandish. To me, there is far more profundity in Murakami, but I got something from those leaping clusters of life-size tigers, wolves, pigs, and cars and those drawings made from exploding gunpowder. No photos allowed here either. Go here for some video.

One quibble, and it's not Cai Guo-Qiang's fault. As I entered the rotunda, the guard handed me one of those audio-tour devices with headphones. "Do I need that?" I asked, thinking the show might have an integrated audio track that was part of the artwork. "Yes," she said, so I took it only to discover it was some earnest pedant telling me what to look at, for how long, and what to think. Ugh! Entering the up ramp — it still irks me that they started putting the shows up backwards so that we must walk up the ramp, instead of starting at the top for a gravity-assisted stroll — I passed the place where they were collecting the audio devices from people who were leaving, and I handed mine in. Those things are horrible. How are you supposed to get any good at seeing if someone is always talking in your ear, telling you what to see?

"She was admitted to the private San Francisco fund-raiser as an activist blogger and then functioned as a journalist."

Mayhill Fowler, the blogger who brought us that Obama quote (about bitter small-towners with their guns and their religion). So, bloggers are supposed to know their place, eh? If she were really a journalist, she'd have viewed the event as off the record. But she was a blogger — a pro-Obama blogger — so the idea was she'd boost their candidate. But — oh, no! — she blurred the line!
The whole episode gives a revealing glimpse into yet even more ways in which the Internet is changing the coverage of politics....

There’s a bit of a brush fire in California about how Ms. Fowler got in, and Ms. Fowler is protecting the person who secured her a ticket. That person has since called her and said that fund-raisers are always off the record.

“This was never conveyed to me,” Ms. Fowler said. “I was invited to the event, I had written on fund-raisers in the past, why wouldn’t I this time?” She said the Obama campaign had never objected before to her having written about fund-raisers (though admittedly, nothing much of interest had happened). And the invitations said nothing about being closed to the press. Besides, she said, several guests brought people and children and who had not been invited.

“We had a fundamental misunderstanding of my priorities,” Ms. Fowler told me. “Mine were as a reporter, not as a supporter. They thought I would put the role of supporter first.”...

Ms. Fowler said she held her digital recorder openly. The place was jammed with others using video cams and cell phone cameras...

Ms. Fowler said she found his response "professorial" and judgmental toward blue-collar voters and that even though she supports him, she was "taken aback" by them.

“I’m a religious person, and I grew up poor in a very wealthy family -- sometimes we didn’t have enough to eat, but my larger family was rich,” she said. Her father was a hunter. “Immediately, the remarks just really bothered me. For the first time, I realized he is an elitist.”
Oh, is "professorial" really so bad? I guess it is. But this notion that because Fowler was viewed as a supporter (a pose a journalist can't take), she wasn't free to talk about what she observed... I can't accept that. Of course, the campaigns have to worry that bloggers are loose cannons. Let them worry. They can try to use us for PR, but we're free agents. Access doesn't buy silence.

"We have gone public with our story in order to bring awareness within society of Genetic Sexual Attraction."

Do people think what you're doing is wrong? What you need is a foundation.

Active passivities on the East Green.

Spring is creeping up on Central Park:

The East Green, Central Park

This is the East Green. With magnolias:

The East Green, Central Park

I'm told Southerners don't regard these flowers as real magnolias, but they seemed real enough today....

The East Green, Central Park

... on the East Green. Where there are written rules:

The East Green, Central Park

"Passive Activities Encouraged."

Passive activities.
I prefer active passivities.

Shots and beer.

Hillary drinks. On camera. Does it make you like her more or less?

Now, we want to see Obama out regular-guy her. All he needs to do — on camera — is down some shots and beer — and smoke.

Is it wrong to take a nap at work?

Do you have to sneak a nap? If so, what's your strategy? If not, aren't you — we! — lucky? But shouldn't napping be legitimized? It's a natural process, as discussed in this episode of "The Brian Lehrer Show":

What if you had to pretend you never needed to urinate while at work? I bet some people would live up to the expectation to go — excuse the expression — all day without urinating.

"The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India."

Just one of over 200,000 books that business prof Philip M. Parker has written using a computer algorithm that collects information from the internet. He makes money producing these obscure things by selling them on Amazon, which prints books to order.
It is the idea of automating difficult or boring work that led Mr. Parker to become involved. Comparing himself to a distant disciple of Henry Ford, he said he was “deconstructing the process of getting books into people’s hands; every single step we could think of, we automated.”
Here's his YouTube video explaining the method. I only watched a minute if and fell asleep — on my tufted, washable scatter rug — so it's not vetted, except as a sleep aid.

"He has the unique skills to try to lower the temperature and foster a sense of common ground."

So says Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., the antiabortion Democrat from Pennsylvania, about Barack Obama, who has never voted for a restriction on abortion. Is Casey's support so surprising? He has to pick one Democrat or the other, and now is the time to use the power of his endorsement.
Casey's endorsement is particularly important because Obama's ability to reach these voters is even more in question in light of the controversy provoked by his description of small-town Pennsylvania voters as driven by bitterness over their economic situation and looking for ways "to explain their frustrations."..

Obama did not mention abortion in his controversial remarks, made last week at a fundraiser in California, though he noted other divisive social issues. But last week in Indiana, he said that both sides of the abortion debate are guilty of hyperbole.

"The mistake pro-choice forces have sometimes made in the past, and this is a generalization . . . has been to not acknowledge the wrenching moral issues involved," he said. "And so the debate got so polarized that both sides tended to exaggerate the other side's positions. Most Americans, I think, recognize that what we want to do is avoid, or help people avoid, making this difficult choice. That nobody is pro-abortion -- abortions are never a good thing."

Asked last night at a nationally televised forum on religious and moral values if there can be "common ground" on abortion, Obama said that "people of good will can exist on both sides." With Casey watching from the audience at Messiah College outside Harrisburg, Pa., he added that while there will always be irreconcilable differences between opponents and supporters of abortion rights, "we can take some of the edge off the debate."

"We have the abiding conviction that the death penalty... is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life."

So wrote Justice White in Coker v. Georgia, and this week, the Supreme Court takes up the question whether the death penalty could nevertheless be constitutional when the victim is a child.
Those facts alone are a powerful argument that executing someone for rape would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment," argue lawyers for Louisiana death row inmate Patrick Kennedy. The 43-year-old Kennedy was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1998 in an assault so brutal that the girl required surgery.
Coker was decided in 1977, just before Americans began to focus very seriously on how harmful rape really is, and White's recounting of the facts reflects the culture of that earlier era:
While serving various sentences for murder, rape, kidnaping, and aggravated assault, petitioner escaped from the Ware Correctional Institution near Waycross, Ga. on September 2, 1974. At approximately 11 o'clock that night, petitioner entered the house of Allen and Elnita Carver through an unlocked kitchen door. Threatening the couple with a "board," he tied up Mr. Carver in the bathroom, obtained a knife from the kitchen, and took Mr. Carver's money and the keys to the family car. Brandishing the knife and saying "you know what's going to happen to you if you try anything, don't you," Coker then raped Mrs. Carver. Soon thereafter, petitioner drove away in the Carver car, taking Mrs. Carver with him. Mr. Carver, freeing himself, notified the police; and not long thereafter petitioner was apprehended. Mrs. Carver was unharmed.
Mrs. Carver was unharmed. It's hard to imagine any American judge today ending that paragraph with that sentence.

It took Chief Justice Burger in dissent (joined by Justice Rehnquist) to tell us that Mrs. Carver, whom Justice White called an "adult," was only 16.