April 26, 2008

Late night thoughts of...


... tulips.

"Just the two of us going for 90 minutes asking and answering questions."

"We'll set whatever rules seem fair."

Hillary Clinton acts all cool about debating. Well played! Calling Obama a chicken for refusing to debate is old-fashioned. She's found a way to make herself look good bitching about his debate-shyness.
Speaking of voters in Indiana and around the country, she said "they would love seeing that kind of debate and discussion, remember that's what happened during the Lincoln-Douglas debates ..... I think that would be good for the Democratic Party, it would be good for our democracy and it would be great for Indiana."
Now, she's made him seem fusty and fussy.
"We've had 21 and so what we've said we're two weeks, two big states we want to make sure we're talking to as many folks as possible on the ground taking questions from voters," Obama said. "We're not going to have debates between now and Indiana."
Oh? Well, that's boring.

"The arrest was scary and intimidating to bloggers but also empowering."

"It made bloggers know that their blogs are influential, and now they feel more of a responsibility and take their blogs more seriously."

Said 23-year-old Ahmed al-Omran (who blogs as Saudi Jeans) about the release of Fouad al-Farhan, after 4 months in prison.

Another floral palate-cleanser.


That is intended to expunge any political nastiness that may linger from the previous post or any other post put up today.

"Obama, can this really be your friend..."

Great play on "Oh, mama, can this really be the end" in this Dylanesque riff on Obama's Jeremiah Wright problem.

Sorry for all the Obama-Jeremiah material today. That's just the way the blogging cards played out on this slow news Saturday. I'm not anti-Obama. If I were not sworn to cruel neutrality, I might rank him first of the 3 imperfect characters we much choose from. But he's running for President and he must be tested.

Have you ever had a restaurant meal so horrifically bad...

... that you acquired a phobia about eating in restaurants?

I'm going to put up another flower picture to symbolize that I'm done talking about disturbing things for a while and I'm ready to do Saturday.


Looks prickly, doesn't it? Ominous! Yet... yellow....

"Manipulative. Shameful. Race-baiting."

"Those are the only words to describe a new television ad from the Republican Party running in North Carolina that attacks Senator Barack Obama as 'too extreme' for the state."

So says the New York Times.

But look at the ad! It's about left-wing politics and anti-Americanism.

You can agree or disagree about whether Obama has a real problem on this score. But how is it racism? Is it racism simply because Jeremiah Wright and Obama are black? It would make more sense to accuse the NYT of racism for thinking that that anything that black people say or do is about their race. Here's how the Times explains it:
The assertion that Mr. Obama is “just too extreme for North Carolina” is a clear bid to stir bigotry in a Southern state. The ad’s claim that its target is actually two Democratic gubernatorial candidates who endorsed Mr. Obama is ludicrous.

This is too familiar. In his 1990 re-election campaign, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina ran the infamous “hands” ad showing two white hands crumpling up a letter while the announcer intones: “You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority.” His challenger, Harvey Gantt, a former Charlotte mayor, was, of course, African-American.
Huh? The Jesse Helms ad specifically talked about race. How is that like the anti-Obama ad?

Come on. There is a serious question here about whether Obama is too left wing. We damned well get to talk about it. If you're going to push us back and call us racists for trying to address an overwhelmingly important political problem with a black candidate for President, then what you are essentially saying is that America is not ready for a black President. And that would be racist. Either we can talk about him vigorously or we can't. And if we can't, he shouldn't be President.


And could John McCain watch the ad and think coherently before condemning it? Is this the man you want analyzing data and making life-or-death decisions for the world?

ADDED: For anyone who thinks I'm resistant to seeing racism in a political ad, let me remind that I was the one who wrote about the letters "NIG" on the child's pajamas in the "3 a.m." ad.




Did Bill Moyers act as Jeremiah Wright's PR agent or did he ask some good journalistic questions?

I watched last night's episode of "Bill Moyers Journal," dealing with Trinity United Church of Christ and Jeremiah Wright.

The introduction emphasized the good works of the church — its ministry to the poor and sick — but the positivity got a little hard to take at this point:
Trinity has long had strong ties with the African roots of its faith. Parishioners are asked to respect what they call the Black Value System, to rededicate themselves to God, the black family, and the black community, reinforcing the motto that they are "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian."
Nothing about the "Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness'" that people find troubling. I'm suspicious. Let's look at the transcript of the interview and see if Moyers simply acted as Wright's PR agent or if he asked some hard, journalistic questions.

The first candidate for a hard question is "So, when Trinity Church says it is unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian, is it embracing a race-based theology?"

Wright answers:
No, it is not. It is embracing Christianity without giving up Africanity. A lotta the missionaries were going to other countries assuming that our culture is superior, that you have no culture. And to be a Christian, you must be like us. Right now, you can go to Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and see Christians in 140-degree weather. They have to have on a tie. Because that's what it means to be a Christian. Well, it's that kind of assuming that our culture, "We have the only sacred music. You must sing our music. You must use a pipe organ. You cannot use your instrument." It's that kind of assumption that in the field of missions, people say, "You know what? We're doing this wrong. We need to take Christ and leave culture at home. We need to learn the culture of people into which we're moving, and preach the methods of Jesus Christ using the culture that we are a part of." Well, the same thing happened with Christians in this country when they said, "You know what? Because those same missionaries who went south, they didn't let us sing gospel music." That was not sacred —
Wright is going on about music, which no one who's worried about what is happening at Trinity Church is going to be upset about. Moyers doesn't press him with harder questions, but prompts him to keep running in this easy direction by saying "They were singin' the great Anglican hymns." Wright takes the encouragement. There's another long paragraph in the transcript about music, followed by a paragraph that generalizes to the level of "culture."

Wright concludes:
God has diverse culture, God has — and we're proud of who we are because that's the statement the congregation was making, not a race-based theology.
Moyers doesn't press him with any evidence that the church has a race-based ideology. He just makes a vague reference to the things outsiders have been saying: "So, God is not, contrary to some of the rumors that have been circulated about Trinity, God is not exclusively or totally identified with just the black community?" That question is framed in a way that makes it easy to say no: exclusively, totally... Were we not supposed to notice that? The church could be rabidly racial about Christianity 99% of the time and the answer to the question would still be no.

Wright must feel cozily comfortable sitting across the table from this puffball. Wright starts listing the non-black ethnic groups that attend the church, and Moyers moves on to the blandest question in the world, "What does the church service on Sunday morning mean in general to the black community?"

The second candidate for a hard question comes a little later. Moyers says:
Lots of controversy about black liberation theology. As I understand it, black liberation theology reads the [B]ible through the experience of people who have suffered, and who then are able to say to themselves that we read the [B]ible differently, because we have struggled, than those do who have not struggled. Is that a fair bumper sticker of liberation theology?
Moyers doesn't just sit back and let Wright filibuster here. There's some back-and-forth, but let's examine it:
REVEREND WRIGHT: I think that's a fair bumper sticker. I think that the terms "liberation theology" or "black liberation theology" cause more problems and red flags for people who don't understand it.

BILL MOYERS: When I hear the word "black liberation theology" being the interpretation of scripture from the oppressed, I think well, that's the Jewish story--

REVEREND WRIGHT: Exactly, exactly.
Moyers jumped right in to cue Wright to explain liberation theology in an easy way. Wright takes the cue and recounts the oppression of the Jews in the Biblical stories. Moyers prompts him to talk about the prophets who "hated the waywardness of Israel," who "were calling Israel out of love back to justice, not damning Israel." Here, Moyers is playing PR agent, setting up the opportunity for Wright to explain his anti-American statements. And the subject of liberation theology is left in the dust! We are given no substance about what liberation theology has meant in modern political movements and nothing to help us think about whether membership in Wright's church has something to do with extremist left-wing politics.

Wright hits the softball and says that the prophets "were saying that God was in fact, if you look at the damning, condemning, if you look at Deuteronomy, it talks about blessings and curses, how God doesn't bless everything." He goes on for a bit about the things "God doesn't bless" — which is to say, the things God damns — and Moyers finally breaks in with a question about Wright's notorious "God damn America." The PBS website transcribes the question this way:
One of the most controversial sermons that you preach is the sermon you preach that ended up being that sound bite about Goddamn America.
So, Moyers has incorporated the the standard defense — it's just a sound bite — into what can be our third candidate for a hard question.

Moyers plays a long chunk of the sermon that ends "God damn America," and asks "What did you mean when you said that?"

Wright answers that governments can deviate from the will of God and says "you are made in the image of God, you're not made in the image of any particular government." What should follow is a statement about the degree of allegiance people owe to their country, but Wright jumps to an invocation of free speech: "We have the freedom here in this country to talk about that publicly, whereas some other places, you're dead if say the wrong thing about your government."

At this point, Moyers could follow up either with a question about the allegiance religious people owe to a country they think has deviated from the will of God or a question about how, while it's true that Americans have free speech, free speech includes criticizing the things people say. But Moyers observes, inanely: "Well, you can be almost crucified for saying what you've said here in this country." Moyers extends his heartfelt sympathy to Wright for the suffering — the suffering of Christ! — he's endured over mere words.

Wright accepts the comforting: "That's true. That's true. But you can be crucified, you can be crucified publicly, you can be crucified by corporate-owned media." You know, you could be nailed to a cross or you could be lambasted in the media. The corporate-owned media. (Getting criticized on independent blogs may not quite equate with crucifixion. Maybe we bloggers correspond to mere flogging or piercing with thorns.)

Wright brings up Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Dr. King, of course, was vilified. And most of us forget that after he was assassinated, but the year before he was assassinated, April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church, he talked about racism, militarism and capitalism. He became vilified. He got ostracized not only by the majority of Americans in the press; he got vilified by his own community. They thought he had overstepped his bounds. He was no longer talking about civil rights and being able to sit down at lunch counters that he should not talk about things like the war in Vietnam.
King entered the political fray, and people debated politics. Some people agreed with him and some didn't, but he was a powerful voice in important political debates. He wasn't above the debate, but part of it, and people argued with him. What is wrong with that?

Moyers notes: "Lyndon Johnson was furious at that," and lets Wright deliver a mini-sermon about King's efforts on behalf of the poor, which concludes: "That part of King is not talked about because we want to keep that away from the public eye, and the public memory, and it's been 40 years now." Talk about it then! It's a free country. What I'm seeing in that conclusion is a whiff of left-wing politics, but Moyers does nothing here to follow up about what lies beneath that statement or God damn America. Instead, Moyers shifts to the problem that Americans have with hearing their country criticized:
What is your notion of why so many Americans seem not to want to hear the full Monty...
(The full Monty?)
... they don't want to seem to acknowledge that a nation capable of greatness is also capable of cruelty?
Eh. Moyers signals that he's absolved Wright and wants to move on to the more fun topic of what's wrong with those terrible Americans who want to crucify him.

Wright says we're miseducated because "after every revolution, the winners of that revolution write down what the revolution was about so that their children can learn it, whether it's true or not." Americans believe a "myth" about our country, so he's seen as "desecrating what we hold sacred."

Wheeling out big words, Wright says Americans don't understand "etymology" — "condemn, D-E-M-N, D-A-M-N" — and they don't understand "hermeneutic" — "the window from which you're looking is your hermeneutic."

At this point, Wright is going back to the subject Moyers tried to show him the path out of. Wright says "I've been framed" — and he means that as an intellectual joke. You know your "hermeneutic" is your window frame, and you've looked him through it. You've "framed" him. He gets carried away here, and Moyers lets him go, probably because he thinks it's good for Wright to dazzle PBS viewers by talking like an intellectual. But it's a messy rant:
This whole thing has been framed through this window, there's another world out here that I'm not looking at or taking into account, it gives you a perspective that — that is-- that is informed by and limited by your hermeneutic. Dr. James Cone put it this way. The God of the people who riding on the decks of the slave ship is not the God of the people who are riding underneath the decks as slaves in chains. If the God you're praying to, "Bless our slavery" is not the God to whom these people are praying, saying, "God, get us out of slavery." And it's not like Notre Dame playing Michigan. You're saying flip a coin; hope God blesses the winning team, no. That the perception of God who allows slavery, who allows rape, who allows misogyny, who allows sodomy, who allows murder of a people, lynching, that's not the God of the people being lynched and sodomized and raped, and carried away into a foreign country. Same thing you find in Psalm 137. That those people who are carried away into slavery have a very different concept of what it means to be the people of God than the ones who carried them away.
Moyers helps out by bringing back the easy old music theme:
And they say, "How can we sing the song of the Lord of a foreign land?"
The fourth candidate for a hard question is implied by this statement: "That chapter [Psalm 137] ends up with some very brutal words. You used them in one of your sermons." Wright understands the question to call for an explanation of his post-9/11 speech. He speaks first of his pain over 9/11 and explains the thinking behind his sermon:
I had to preach. They came to church wanting to know where is God in this. And so, I had to show them using that Psalm 137, how the people who were carried away into slavery were very angry, very bitter, moved and in their anger from wanting revenge against the armies that had carried them away to slavery, to the babies. That Psalm ends up sayin' "Let's kill the baby-let's bash their heads against the stone." So, now you move from revolt and revulsion as to what has happened to you, to you want revenge. You move from anger with the military to taking it out on the innocents. You wanna kill babies. That's what's going on in Psalm 137. And that's exactly where we are. We want revenge. They wanted revenge. God doesn't wanna leave you there, however. God wants redemption. God wants wholeness. And that's the context, the biblical context I used to try to get people sitting again, in that sanctuary on that Sunday following 9/11, who wanted to know where is God in this? What is God saying? What is God saying? Because I want revenge.
I think he's saying that the Psalm — God speaking? — is saying that people who have suffered want revenge and feel motivated to do terrible things. But he's really held himself open to a terrible interpretation — and calling it my "hermeneutic" isn't going to help. "What is God saying? What is God saying? Because I want revenge." What is Wright saying? That's going to sound to a lot of people as though he's saying 9/11 was God's revenge on America. He quotes the Psalm: "Blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock." Well, now, it really sounds as though he's saying that God blesses the 9/11 hijackers! God damns America and God blesses the hijackers? Wright has not backed down. He's stepped up.

Can Moyers probe? Help us out here, Bill. The obvious question is: Are you saying that God blesses the hijackers, that they were righteous in God's eyes? At this point, we get a long segment from the sermon. It's not a "sound bite." It goes on and on, and it's awful. His words are terrible, and the cheering from the congregation is sickening.

Moyers asks:
You preached that sermon on the Sunday after 9-11 -- almost 7 years ago. When people saw the sound bites from it this year, they were upset because you seemed to be blaming America. Did you somehow fail to communicate?
Well, I just listened to it — not merely with sound bites — and I'm upset, and I certainly think Wright was blaming America. Did you somehow fail to communicate? A tougher way to put it would be: It sounds to me like you were blaming America; did you somehow not mean what you said?

The persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly. What is not the failure to communicate is when something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public.
Oh, spare me. The "sound bite" defense outrages me after listening to the long clip. This is eely wriggling off the hook. Own up to what you said!
That's not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they wanna do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from the New York Times called me, a "wack-a-doodle."
Oh, this is the sound bite from the interview that was making the rounds the day before the show aired! Amazing!
It's to paint me as something. Something's wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with this country. There's -its policies. We're perfect. We-our hands are free. Our hands have no blood on them. That's not a failure to communicate. The message that is being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate.
Spare me. He blamed America for 9/11. It's right there in the long version!

Moyers lobs him another softball: "What do you think they wanted to communicate?"

I think they wanted to communicate that I am- unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ.
That's what it looked like on the clip I just watched. It didn't take any mysterious, corporate "they." You said it! Moyers lets him go on, saying the "sound bite" was "unfair... unjust... untrue" and attributing "very devious reasons" to the media. Moyers musters a probe: "Such as?"

To put an element of fear and hatred and to stir up the anxiety of American who still don't know the African-American church, know nothing about the prophetic theology of the African-American experience, who know nothing about the black church, who don't even know how we got a black church.
What would a good journalist ask at this point? I'd ask: Why are you saying they would do that? What are the "devious reasons"? You're saying the media who reported what you said, who showed a clip of you speaking, wanted to foment racism in this country?

But no, puffball Bill, asks Wright to tell us about the feelings of his wounded congregation: "What can you tell me about what's happened at the church since this controversy broke?" Wright informs us that they are "very upset." They should be upset to see themselves cheering and nodding at Wright's vicious words.
Our members know that this is what the media is doing. And our members know they're only doing it because of the political campaign.
It's funny how Wright attacks Americans for our lack of self-criticism, when he and, by his report, his congregation are utterly devoid of self-criticism. Blame the media. Blame corporations. Do you ever do anything wrong?

Moyers invites him to talk about death threats. There have been death threats. Of course, those are wrong, but Moyers is missing the opportunity to push Wright about the things that he is not owning up to. Wheel in the faceless bad people to distract us.

And here's the next question, which is most emphatically not a tough journalistic question: "Did you ever imagine that you would come to personify the black anger that so many whites fear?"
No. I did not. I have been preaching as I've been preaching since I was ordained 41 years ago.
But the sermon we just saw was full of anger. The fact that you've been preaching for a long time is no assurance that you are not angry and bent on stirring up anger in the people who look to you for inspiration. Moyers blandly and lamely implies that "many whites" are racists and have wrongly fixated on Wright as the personification of the things they irrationally fear. Again the faceless bad people are a convenient distraction. Why can't we talk about the actual sermons and what they mean?

Rather insanely, Moyers goes back to the music theme: "I think of how important music is to your church at times like this, that's intentional isn't it?" Wright proceeds to lecture about music. The word "suicide" appears in the lecture and Moyers perks up: "What is it you said about suicide?" Singing the blues is soothing to black people, Wright says, and Moyers uses this as a cue to give Wright yet another chance to tell Americans how much we've hurt him: "So what blues are you singing right now?" He says "what man meant for evil, God meant for good," and Moyers leads him into a mini-sermon about finding the good in a bad situation. Wright thinks that it was good that Obama had to give that "very powerful speech" about race.

The mention of Obama gives Moyers a chance to ask what might be a hard question — it would be the fifth candidate: "In the 20 years that you've been your pastor, have you ever heard him repeat any of your controversial statements as his opinion?"

No. No. No. Absolutely not. I don't talk to him about politics. And so here at a political event, he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician. I continue to be a pastor who speaks to the people of god about the things of God.
Moyers follows up: "in that speech at Philadelphia, had to say" — had to say! — "some hard things about you. How, how did it go down with you when you heard Barack Obama say those things?"

Wright picks up Moyers's "had to say" cue:
He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. Those are two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do
In the sixth candidate for a hard question, Moyers asks Wright about his "long complicated" relationship with Louis Farrakhan. Wright praises Farrakhan for helping people "change their lives for the better." "People listen" when Farrakhan speaks, he says.

Moyers has no follow-up question. He goes on to: "What does it say to you that millions Americans, according to polls, still think Barack Obama is a Muslim?" Answer: "corporate media and miseducation or misinformation or disinformation." And the final question is about how "[o]ur denomination, the United Church of Christ has called for a sacred conversation on race in America." This is a warm, fuzzy question. Wright rambles through an answer and we reach the end of the show.

Do you think Moyers asked hard questions? He started to six times, by my count, but I think it's quite clear that he was there to support Wright and give him a comfy setting and words of encouragement and sympathy.

ADDED: Protein Wisdom has some extended analysis. I especially appreciate this:
If Moyers had any journalistic integrity he might have gone beyond a bumper-sticker understanding of Black Liberation Theology and asked about the underlying Marxist frame work of liberation theologies in general....

... Wright’s characterization [of himself as acting in the religious sphere while Obama acts as a politician] is essentially false, given that Black Liberation Theology – and liberation theology generally – is at its core a religious casting of Leftist political activism, and that this is precisely what appealed to Obama about Wright and TUCC.
AND: Excellent commentary from vbspurs:
It was astoundingly condenscending, and very off-putting to see a man who feels he's been railroaded, when it is merely his own words which did him in....

No, Reverend. You're going to have to understand what you said is wrong, and moreover, you've caused a lot of damage to your acolyte, Senator Obama.

When minority leaders are caught with their pants down, they ask that the topic of race be "at last" explored.

This is their way of saying that what their words would be more fully understood if people (namely, the white "power structure") understood their struggle and tears better.

Sorry. Not only have we been exploring this topic in earnest for 40 years now, but this isn't going to be another time when all you do to justify your hateful words is to cry racism.

AND: Cjsmith defends God and Psalm 137, and to that I say that I'm not trying to say what the Psalm really means, only what it sounds like Wright is saying. I do think Smith underplays the line "Blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock." Even if the speaker is not God — and I don't assume it is — to say something is "blessed" is to say that God blesses it. So I think it is an expression of the belief that God is well pleased when those who have reason to feel vengeful take their revenge even on an innocent baby.

April 25, 2008

Portraits painted exactly 100 years apart.

"The Sisters, " by Rembrandt Peale. Painted in 1828.

"The Sisters" (detail)

"Portrait of Paul Cadmus," by Luigi Lucioni. Painted in 1928.

"Portrait of Paul Cadmus"

(From the Brooklyn Museum of Art.)

In the garden.



The Cherry Esplanade.

Cherry Esplanade

The Cherry Esplanade


I was at the Cherry Espanade 2 weeks ago — remember? Just buds. Now — full bloom. It was overcast and chilly that other day, and brightly sunny and warm today. Lots more people today.

Does "American Idol" punish religious heresy?

The NYT is on the case:
Carly Smithson might be the first “American Idol” contestant to be voted off the show for blasphemy.
Of course, no one is voted off the show. It's not "Survivor." People vote for their favorites, and the least-favorite goes.
Online chat boards devoted to “American Idol” have been abuzz since Ms. Smithson performed the title song from “Jesus Christ Superstar” — the 1970 rock opera, which many Christians consider offensive — on Tuesday’s episode.... Since its debut, and particularly following the release of the 1973 film version, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been railed against by some Christians for its portrayal of Jesus as confused and at times unwilling to accept his role, and because it hints that he had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.
Watching the show and blogging in real time, I wrote:
Now they make Carly sing. "Jesus Christ Superstar" — she's bellowing. To me, it's ugly. She's essentially yelling "Jesus Christ!" which isn't very pleasant. This is a family show. Blasphemy's not apt.
I wasn't tapping into old controversies about the Broadway show, just reacting to the harsh voice and the angry tone addressing Jesus that reaches its very loud height with the words "Jesus Christ" and comes across like the way a very coarse person swears. Have a listen: Dreadful, isn't it? Quite apart from how Carly sang it and whether blasphemy is abhorrent, it's an ugly, angry, repellent song.
ADDED: In the clip, you can see that both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Carly Smithson enthuse about how the song is her and expresses her true being — and goes along with her extensive tattoos. Well, the song is Judas yelling at Jesus. If that's the real Carly, what can she expect?

It's not just for performance art projects anymore.

Menstrual blood to heal your heart.

Mocking Hillary is not sexist — and it's not good feminism to think it is.

So there's this novelty pen with a laughing Hillary head stuck on top. Really, if you like Hillary, it should even be a good thing. It's just an item of commercial political Americana:


Yet Media Matters is upset. And Melissa McEwan cries sexism:
[I]f you are savvy enough to understand that the sexes don't play on equal playing fields in the first place, then you ought to be savvy enough to understand that singling out Clinton's voice as horrible necessarily invokes the woman-specific sexist context, even if that is not your intent.

As I've said before, you can't divorce criticisms of women from the context of womanhood....

[W]e can't use misogyny-charged criticisms in reference to Clinton as if her sex doesn't matter. And "her voice is unbearable" and/or "her laugh is terrible" are unavoidably tinged with a misogynist history older than this country, even if the person making the complaint isn't consciously or even subconsciously motivated by sexism.

The point is, you've got to be aware of your history. And there's a long-ass history of marginalizing women in this way. So if you're inexorably compelled to criticize Hillary's voice, just know that you've got to own the sexist context, too.
Look, we make fun of male candidates. We joke around about how they look and sound and it's often unfair and unrelated to their qualifications for office. It's part of the vivid debate we have in America. We don't have to pull back and tone it down because a woman (or a black person) is running. The candidates are seeking vast power. We should be irreverent and unafraid.

McEwan apparently means to be a good feminist by saying things they teach you to say in Women's Studies class, hushing and chiding us, and grasping after moral high ground with vague references to "history," but this notion that a powerful woman needs special protection from the full force of political debate — with all its vicious mockery — is not good for women. It may be stupid or unfair to judge a candidate by her laugh, but to cry sexism is lame.

"It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question…. We didn’t go looking for trouble. It was he who said, 'I want this to be decided by the courts.'"

"What are we supposed to say — 'Not important enough?'

It's nice to get a snappy video clip of Scalia saying this. I think he's right. I've thought that from the day the case came out. And I voted for Al Gore and had been watching the Florida antics with the punchcards and the chads and hoping he'd luck into a win. I've also written about the case at length and taught the case many times in law school.

ADDED: Here's the main scholarly article I wrote about the Gore-Bush litigation.

April 24, 2008

"So the truth about the super Ds is that they would rather lose with Barack than win with HRC..."

"... because they KNOW that if they lose with Barack, their pal John McCain is president and they get the royal treatment for two years."

Yes, and:
Let's give the mendacious Clinton camp the benefit of the doubt and say that Hillary is a sure thing, while Obama would likely lose. Wrong, but let's grant that idea.

I. Wouldn't. Care. Anyway. And neither should you.

... America stands on the verge of a new political realignment....

[I]f the Democratic Party gets the vote of the Millennial generation again, it will have it for the rest of their natural lives, creating a daunting electoral majority that will ensure Democratic advantages if not Democratic dominance for the next 30-40 years--whether McCain happens to get elected in 2008 or not.

With Obama at the top of the ticket, the Millennials will come to the polls in massive numbers to elect him....

Obama is the nominee who can literally lock in structural advantages for Democrats for the next forty years.
I think it is obvious that the superdelegates will pick Obama. They have their own self-interest to consider, not to mention the long-term interest of the party. The choice for Obama is clear — and it would be clear even if they knew Clinton would win and Obama will lose.

I left my apartment building at 6:30 to go for a walk, and right in front was a tour bus unloading a crowd.

They were here to see the sunset from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

The view from my corner, with silhouetted tour-bus crowd:

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

It was 72° and beautifully clear, not that clearness makes for the prettiest sunset. It doesn't. But the promenade was crowded with people and doggies:

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

I walked to the end of the promenade and turned onto a side street. It seemed as though everyone in the world was walking a dog:

Brooklyn chihuahua

UPDATE: At 10:40, I was sitting out on my terrace, watching the newly downloaded episode of "America's Next Top Model" and glancing up from time to time at the city lights, and suddenly there was a fireworks display out on Liberty Island. I have no idea what the occasion was. Surely, it wasn't the last day of classes, though that was an occasion for me. Perhaps you imagine all the lawprofs out on the town carousing the night after the last day of classes. But no, I was spending a quiet evening at home in my temporary home in Brooklyn Heights, but someone, somewhere, put on a fireworks display that I could fantasize was a celebration of the beginning of my lusciously 4-month-long summer. Yes, there are exams and many other tasks to accomplish, but still: It's summer.

Which law school graduation speakers would you most like to hear?

Paul Caron has a big list. I won't say which ones seem most appallingly tedious — but you can do so in the commentsd. I'll be positive. Here are some that stand out to me:
American: Stephen Breyer (Justice, Supreme Court)
Catholic: Samuel Alito (Justice, Spreme Court)
Loyola-New Orleans: Scott Turow (legal novelist)
Northeastern: Stephen Breyer (Justice, Supreme Court )[He gets around!]
Northwestern: Jerry Springer (TV show host; former Mayor of Cincinnati)
Vanderbilt: Nicholas Zeppos (Chancellor, Vanderbilt)[I love Nick, but... come on!]
William & Mary: Sandra Day O'Connor (retired Justice, Supreme Court)
Yale: Kenji Yoshino (Professor, Yale)[Again... come on!]
First, Yale, Vanderbilt... no insiders! Disqualifed! Second, Supreme Court Justice? Show-offy catch, but not creative enough to impress me. That leaves 2 nominees for my little contest:
Scott Turow
Jerry Springer
Can I see them throw chairs at each other? No? Then, the answer is obvious: Jerry!

What's really going on with the "luxury" seats for the airline coach class?

It's reported like this:
Behold Thompson Solution's Cozy Suite, a novel, staggered seating arrangement to debut on Delta Airlines that permits for comfortable sleeping during overnight flights. It offers 31 inches of leg room, which is two inches more than the best of any other economy arrangements, and an elevated seat back designed to enhance privacy and give a nice, cozy place to lay your weary head.
But look at it and think:

Is it not obviously a response to the problem of over-large passengers spilling into the space that belongs to another passenger? Look how the side panel extends upward. That's never been the way to make seats in first class — where there is plenty of room — more comfortable. Note how the armrest has no opening underneath it. This seat is designed as a container for overflowing body fat so that each passenger gets the (small) space he or she has paid for and nothing more.

Link via Instapundit, who seems to accept the "luxury" label slapped on this fat-compression box.

ADDED: Here's another aspect of the design that demonstrates my point. The staggered line claims "air" space in front of the seatmate who is set back a step. Picture yourself in the seat occupied by the snoozing youngster in that photograph and a very wide guy in the middle seat. That guy will be blocked on one side and diverted into the space open in front of you. He won't be touching you, so it will be harder for you to object, but he will be filling the area between you and the seat back in front of you. There's an extra 2 inches in that space, the press release says, but the fleshy arm that will extend into it will be much more than 2 inches thick.

So I get this email with the name "Wright" in the subject line.

And — the life of a weary blogger being what it is — I think first that it's some anti-Obama thing railing about Jeremiah Wright. And then I think of Bob Wright — is it something from Bloggingheads.tv? It starts off:
I trust you all made it through the grueling winter and are enjoying the daffodils!
That seems far afield from either Bob or Jeremiah.
With Spring comes the annual Wright & Like tour, and I hope you had such a great time last year in Delavan that you might want to try another stint?
Oh, yes, Delavan... Remember "Was I a decent docent?" It's Frank Lloyd Wright!
This year's Wright & Like is subtitled "On the Road Again", as it is a reprise of a similar tour we did six years ago, featuring four Frank Lloyd Wright houses off the I-94 corridor between Milwaukee and Madison: the Greenberg House in Dousman, the Smith House in Jefferson, the Arnold House in Columbus, and the Jackson House in Beaver Dam. We've added four more great venues to make a very full day: two John Randal McDonald houses (Oconomowoc and Beaver Dam) and one Russell Barr Williamson, in Beaver Dam, and the exquisite Farmers and Merchants Bank by Louis Sullivan, in Columbus.
I guess somehow I was a decent docent — decent enough to be asked back.

Funny, I was just sitting in Starbucks this morning — working on my notes for the last class of the semester, my last class here at Brooklyn Law School — and they played this old tune:

I can't believe your song is gone so soon.
I barely learned the tune
So soon
So soon.

"Why can't Clinton close the deal?"

Kos asks. Well, yeah. But why can't Obama close the deal?

I keep hearing about this "deal" and the unconsummated closing of it. This damned "deal" meme is everywhere. But there is no overarching national mind that is dithering over what decision to make. It's not like a seller and a buyer who can't come to terms. Individual voters have made their decisions, and it happens that neither candidate is preferred by enough voters to overcome the reservation of power that the party leaders have made for themselves. Deal with it.

Should we care about Bill Ayers?

City Journal's Sol Stern brings us up to date on the post-Weatherman, present-day activities of Bill Ayers. (Ayers has attracted attention because he's an acquaintance of Barack Obama's.) Ayers is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Stern charcterizes his department as "a hotbed for the radical education professoriate."
As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K–12 teachers need to “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.” Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.

Unfortunately, neither Obama nor his critics in the media seem to have a clue about Ayers’s current work and his widespread influence in the education schools. In his last debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama referred to Ayers as a “professor of English,” an error that the media then repeated. Would that Ayers were just another radical English professor. In that case, his poisonous anti-American teaching would be limited to a few hundred college students in the liberal arts. But through his indoctrination of future K–12 teachers, Ayers has been able to influence what happens in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of classrooms....

The next time Obama—the candidate who purports to be our next “education president”—discusses education on the campaign trail, it would be nice to hear what he thinks of his Hyde Park neighbor’s vision for turning the nation’s schools into left-wing indoctrination centers. Indeed, it’s an appropriate question for all the presidential candidates.
If there's anything to this issue, wouldn't you expect Hillary Clinton to pick up on it? She's long made children and education her special domain.

Power Line notes the City Journal piece and provides the interesting info that Bill Ayers has a blog. Now, I don't like the blog because it's not bloggy. It looks like a dumping ground for occasional press releases. The topmost post is a reprint of a letter he wrote to the NYT back in 2001. I guess it's timely again, not that he bothers to explain its timeliness. But I'm going to read it anyway. The letter is a response to an article based on an interview with him. ("No Regrets for a Love of Explosives," published on the least propitious day for such a reminiscence: September 11, 2001.) Here's how he defends himself:
[Dinitia Smith] and I spoke a lot about regrets, about loss, about attempts to account for one’s life. I never said I had any love for explosives, and anyone who knows me found that headline sensationalistic nonsense. I said I had a thousand regrets, but no regrets for opposing the war with every ounce of my strength. I told her that in light of the indiscriminate murder of millions of Vietnamese, we showed remarkable restraint, and that while we tried to sound a piercing alarm in those years, in fact we didn’t do enough to stop the war....

Some readers apparently responded to her piece, published on the same day as the vicious terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, by associating my book with them. This is absurd. My memoir is from start to finish a condemnation of terrorism, of the indiscriminate murder of human beings, whether driven by fanaticism or official policy.... My book criticizes the American obsession with a clean and distanced violence, and the culture of thoughtlessness and carelessness that results form it....

Perhaps precisely because we have suffered [on 9/11] we can embrace the suffering of others and gather the necessary wisdom to resist the impulse to lash out randomly.
Now, let's remember what Barack Obama said at the last debate when he was confronted with his association with Bill Ayers:
This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George.

The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those, either.

So this kind of game in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, that somehow their ideas could be attributed to me, I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't.
So are you worked up about the Obama-Ayers connection? I'm not. I'm interested in the education issues that Stern writes about. Maybe that is a terrible problem. It just doesn't have anything to do with Obama (though it might be interesting, as Stern notes, to hear what Obama thinks on the subject of the use of public schools to indoctrinate children).

"They're not of the world as we know it. You can't just thrust them into that and expect what we consider normal behavior."

How can the state of Texas possibly take proper care of the 437 children it has removed from the polygamist sect?
Children's homes and shelters across Texas prepared to welcome 437 youngsters from a polygamist sect by turning off TVs, serving a lot of bland chicken and vegetable dishes, setting up home schools and accommodating twice-daily devotionals....

Until this month, the youths inhabited a cloistered world where they couldn't swear, curse, date, dance, watch TV, go to malls or movies, play Nintendo, or surf the Web.

They instead ate fresh food, most of it home-grown; wore long dresses and long-sleeved, buttoned-down shirts; and seldom strayed far from a secluded Eldorado ranch....

"This is a unique population that has already been through quite a bit," said Ed Knight, president of Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services, which expects 14 of the children at its Waxahachie campus. He said the agency will "bend and stretch" its policies and usual practices.

"We are not planning to integrate these children into our normal population," Mr. Knight said. "They will in fact be isolated."
And how can the state provide appropriate legal counsel?
[The lawyers] with their clients in a corner of the crowded local coliseum. Most lawyers didn't get to talk to parents or do any investigation, as is customary. Most didn't get to see the evidence gathered by Child Protective Services, even in court....

"This is wildly different than anything I've encountered," said Betty J. Luke, a South Texas College of Law professor who works on clinical studies. She's represented children before. But this week, she's had trouble getting to sleep with the begging cries of her new 7-year-old client's last phone call echoing in her head....

"There was no meaningful way to have my client addressed at this cattle call. ... There has been no way yet to meaningfully represent my client," said Luke, who has had trouble reaching a Texas Child Protective Services case worker....

"The biggest complaint is that each child has not had the separate 14-day hearing they are entitled to," [said lawyer Guy Choate.] "There are questions about whether to appeal, whether it would be in state court or federal court, in San Angelo or where the children wind up."
But was the state wrong to intervene so drastically and dramatically?
"I suspect that they [the FLDS] had a whole lot of kids there without their parents," said [Carolyn] Jessop, who fled the community in 2003 with her eight children....

For several years now, children have been reassigned from one father to another and even one family to another as Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, grew increasingly tyrannical, Carolyn Jessop said in an interview.

That helps explain why so many of the children are unable or unwilling to tell child protection officials who their parents are. This confusion over identities is the reason a Texas judge ordered DNA tests for all of the children and asked that parents voluntarily provide DNA samples....

And while some of the mothers have said they will do anything to get their children back, including leave the reclusive, breakaway Mormon sect, Jessop said Texas ought to require psychiatric evaluations.

"I don't think there is one of them who is stable enough to get their children back. Mind control is classed as a mental illness and a child's right to safety far exceeds a mother's rights."

"The women in this society will never protect their children. . . . They turn them over to the perpetrators."

April 23, 2008

"Viewers love 'Amercian Idol' because it shows how just one person with talent can win over an audience of millions."

Said President Bush on "American Idol" tonight. First, "Deal or No Deal" and then "American Idol." Doesn't that man have a job?

"Thank you for your compassion. And God bless."

That's very nice. The charity wing of the show. ("America Gives Back.") But who's going home tonight? The 2 Davids are told they are safe, so we see the 3 women + Jason backstage, waiting to hear their fate, and Jason is yawning. Hey!

Brooke is safe! That shows that doing badly can be a good thing — if you have a fan base. They know they need to work to save you. I hope this is transformative for her.

Poor Syesha! Maybe she was a little too comfortable in the Broadway mode. Imagine if there was a "Broadway Idol" show. It would be quite different from "AI." It could be good. But it would be different.

Jason is safe, just like Brooke. He was (supposedly) bad, but he's got fans and they saved him. (Personally, I love the guy, and the song "Memory" is beautiful, so I enjoyed it.)

I'm happy with the bottom 2. My favorite 4 are in the top 4.

Now they make Carly sing. "Jesus Christ Superstar" — she's bellowing. To me, it's ugly. She's essentially yelling "Jesus Christ!" which isn't very pleasant. This is a family show. Blasphemy's not apt.

And — oh, no! — Carly's gone. I feel sorry for her now, but, really she never caught our hearts, did she? She always looked angry when she was singing — big voice and all.

Deal or No Deal.

What's with the Abercrombie & Fitch product placement in Obama's "concession" speech last night?

Thanks to Toby, a commenter on the previous post, for this observation:
Somewhat off topic, but did anyone else notice the people behind Obama during his concession speech? There was the guy who looks like a Larry David clone (and may well have been him for all I know); and there were the three male college-age guys all wearing easily identifiable Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts, which may be a case of a company taking guerrilla marketing [to] a presidential contest, or may be an odd coincidence. Weird in any case.
Somewhat off topic, but now, it's the topic. So, you'd think they'd arrange the crowd better. Or is this the crowd they arranged? You know, sort of "We need more white people."

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian notes that Titus observed it first, thusly:
I am watching Barack's concession tonight on CNN and I want to do the three guys wearing the A&F shirts behind him.

A 4 way with them would be hot.
And Palladian added:
I like the one in the middle with the "Yes We Can" sign. Yes you can, indeed. The chubbier one to his right is also hot.

But it is hilarious that there are THREE men standing together wearing Abercrombie & Fitch shirts. How much do you think that vulgar company shelled out to those boys for this product placement?
Given the tenor of those remarks, I wonder if the Obama campaign is trying to reach out to gay voters — something the Clinton campaign is doing openly:
Accompanied by Governor Ed Rendell, Chelsea Clinton trolled through Philadelphia on a gay bar crawl, posing for photos and shaking hands with supporters.

In what may be one of the most unique campaign tactics yet employed in the hotly contested Democratic race, the Clinton family targeted one of their most valuable weapons straight toward the heart of the gay community on Friday. Surrounded by a moving crowd of admirers, Chelsea walked through the streets of Center City in Philadelphia, visiting four gay bars along the way to shake hands and chat about her mother's campaign.

Outside of the Tavern bar, patrons shouted "You're gorgeous, baby!" and "We love your highlights!" as Chelsea exited on her way to another gay club. "Thank you," she replied, "but that's not why you should vote for my mom."

According to the Washington Post, Governor Ed Rendell has a tradition of touring the most popular gay clubs in Philadelphia before elections. For this round, Rendell invited Chelsea Clinton to crawl the bars with him to speak to LGBT community members....

"The gay community has great feelings toward the [former] president and Hillary and they happen to love Chelsea," Rendell said, according to the Washington Post. "These are important voters, they're smart, they're sophisticated and they turn out in large numbers and always have," Rendall said of the LGBT community.

"The Next McGovern."

John B. Judis frets:
[I]f you look at Obama's vote in Pennsylvania, you begin to see the outlines of the old George McGovern coalition that haunted the Democrats during the '70s and '80s, led by college students and minorities. In Pennsylvania, Obama did best in college towns (60 to 40 percent in Penn State's Centre County) and in heavily black areas like Philadelphia.

Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as "very liberal." In Pennsylvania, he defeated Clinton among "very liberal" voters by 55 to 45 percent, but lost "somewhat conservative" voters by 53 to 47 percent and moderates by 60 to 40 percent. In Wisconsin and Virginia, by contrast, he had done best against Clinton among voters who saw themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.
Do you think it's odd that "somewhat conservative" voters are more inclined to vote for Obama than moderates? It doesn't really fit Judis's "Next McGovern" theory.
The primaries, unfortunately, are not going to get any easier for Obama. While he should win easily in North Carolina, where he benefits from a large African-American vote and support in the state's college communities, he is going to have trouble in Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, where he will once again be faced by a large white working class vote.... [I]f Obama doesn't find a way now to speak to these voters, he is going to have trouble winning that large swath of states from Pennsylvania through Missouri in which a Democrat must do well to gain the presidency.

"It will give Clinton just the tiniest sliver of an argument that she should not drop out."

That's how Andrew Sullivan perceives Hillary Clinton's crushing victory. Just the tiniest sliver.

Power Line is going very negative.

And promises "much more to come."

"Her message is unapologetically emasculating."

Hillary's message is:
If he does not have the gumption to put me in my place, when superdelegates are deserting me, money is drying up, he’s outspending me 2-to-1 on TV ads, my husband’s going crackers and party leaders are sick of me, how can he be trusted to totally obliterate Iran and stop Osama?
Crackers. Crackers, indeed. Are we allowed to say "crackers"? Well, we can say waffles, so why not, in the grand scheme of bad carbohydrates, say crackers?

Anyway, that's Maureen Dowd, wielding extreme Dowdiness this morning:
In the final days in Pennsylvania, he dutifully logged time at diners and force-fed himself waffles, pancakes, sausage and a Philly cheese steak. He split the pancakes with Michelle, left some of the waffle and sausage behind, and gave away the French fries that came with the cheese steak.

But this is clearly a man who can’t wait to get back to his organic scrambled egg whites. That was made plain with his cri de coeur at the Glider Diner in Scranton when a reporter asked him about Jimmy Carter and Hamas.

“Why” he pleaded, sounding a bit, dare we say, bitter, “can’t I just eat my waffle?”

His subtext was obvious: Why can’t I just be president? Why do I have to keep eating these gooey waffles and answering these gotcha questions and debating this gonzo woman?
Gooey... gotcha... gonzo...

What's the next word in that series?


She's so emasculating.

"It's real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny."

There is some mass hysteria in Congo, as men believe that sorcerers are stealing or shrinking their penises.

Historic ort: Obama's famous waffle goes for $10,000 on eBay.

As well it should. When else has food played such an important role in a political story?

Can you think of any other historic orts and estimate their value at eBay auction? There's that cheesesteak with Swiss cheese that John Kerry ordered, without which cheese he might have won the election.

UPDATE: Bad first link corrected after 8 months. I hope you appreciate it!

And Hillary gets her 10 point margin.

Did we not all agree that the game would be transformed if she hit that mark?

WaPo puts it this way:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Pennsylvania presidential primary decisively on Tuesday night, running up a 10-percentage-point victory that bolstered her case for staying in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Barack Obama played down a defeat that did not substantially reduce his delegate lead....
The NYT front page displays the percentages as 54.7% and 45.3%, using decimals to deprive the feisty candidate of the 2-digit lead that means so much. The lead article, by Adam Nagourney, frames it this way:
For better or worse — and many Democrats fear it is for worse — the race goes on.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Senator Barack Obama in Pennsylvania on Tuesday by enough of a margin to continue a battle that Democrats increasingly believe is undermining their effort to unify the party and prepare for the general election against Senator John McCain.

Despite a huge investment of time and money by Mr. Obama and pressure on Mrs. Clinton by the party establishment to consider folding her campaign, she won her third big state in a row. Mrs. Clinton showed again that she is a tenacious campaigner with an ability to connect with the blue-collar voters Mr. Obama has found elusive and who could be critical to a Democratic victory in November.

Mrs. Clinton’s margin was probably not sufficient to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race, which continued to favor an eventual victory for Mr. Obama. But it made clear that the contest will go on at least a few weeks, if not more. And it served to underline the concerns about Mr. Obama’s strengths as a general election candidate. Exit polls again highlighted the racial, economic, sex and values divisions within the party.
The news is not that she won big, but that it's bad that she won.

ADDED: Here's the Wall Street Journal editorial:
Just when Democrats think they might have a Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton spoils the party. With her solid victory in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the former first lady kept her campaign alive and underscored doubts about Barack Obama's November appeal.

First in bellwether Ohio, and now in another crucial swing state, the New York Senator has shown her tenacity. She and her husband are nothing if not relentless, and Mr. Obama can be forgiven if he wakes up at night thinking he's in one of those "Terminator" movies where the machine in the form of a human being just keeps coming. Nothing – not Bill Clinton's gaffes, not the Bosnian sniper-fire fantasy, not even being outspent 3-to-1 – has been able to stop her.
A summary of the demographics:
According to the exit polls, Mrs. Clinton walloped him among voters without a college degree, and by nearly 2-to-1 among high school grads. She won easily among middle-income voters, as well as across the central, northeast and southeast areas of the Keystone State that are home to culturally conservative union households. These voters may not have bought her shot-and-a-beer routine, but they clearly preferred her to Mr. Obama's "bitter" condescension. Perhaps ominously for Mr. Obama's November prospects, Mrs. Clinton crushed him among Catholics, who are the ultimate swing voters across the U.S.
Bottom line: "Mr. Obama still needs to show he can appeal to the non-liberal, non-wealthy American middle class."

The bitter NYT editorial is called "The Low Road to Victory." It's the way she won. She went negative.
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it....

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
Inconclusive? But it was a smashing victory! I guess it's "inconclusive" because the party's candidate is yet to be determined. And I fail to see the terrible negativity that ad, which was just a vivid reminder of the weightiness of the President's job and a tweak at Obama for his complaints about questions that are less fun than eating a waffle. A really negative ad would push some ugly factoid in our face — such as Obama's connection to Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers.

April 22, 2008

"We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean."

The priest with his 1,000 balloons and dreams of glory.
"very cold, but fine"...

"losing height"...

"He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap."

Mitt Romney's name comes up in oral argument in the Supreme Court.

It went like this:
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I think--I mean, obviously you're correct that this system benefits incumbents, but it benefits your client in a particular way as well. The parties are certainly interested in candidates who will fund themselves because that presents less strain on the party's resources.

MR. HERMAN: Mr. Chief Justice, they are interested in those candidates only inasmuch as they get elected. The moment that the public turns on them, they won't be interested. And certainly the public was not particularly interested in Mitt Romney, who spent a significant amount of money on his own behalf, and many other spectacular flameouts.


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I'm not sure we need characterizations of the political candidates--


"A theater director... attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play."

A life-size replica? Not a scale model? I was wondering what the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was up to. It seems as though he's been out of the public eye for an awfully long time. ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was made in 2004.) So I looked him up on IMDB, and I know he's weird enough that maybe he is making a movie about about a theater director who's trying to build a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse. But who the hell built that humongous warehouse?

Here's the post about the Pennsylvania primary.

1. Turnout is very high, unsurprisingly. Isn't this fun?

2. There's a lot of jockeying over a number: The percentage points by which Hillary must win to justify the continuation of her campaign. Is it 10? Is it 5? Let's set the number in advance. Or do you think she should just go on until all the primaries are over, now that she's come this far?

3. The polls close and CNN pronounces the race "very competitive." They can't call it. That seems bad for Hillary... but I don't trust CNN. If they declared her the winner, the audience would abscond.

4. Wolf Blitzer at 8:00: "We cannot project a winner based on the exit polls alone. We're going to have to wait and see hard numbers coming up." Hmmm. So they have their exit polls, but they want to coordinate with the news of the actual ballot counts. What does that mean ... other than CNN wants you to watch CNN?

5. CNN predicts Hillary is the winner. Wolf offers no numbers, but Drudge is showing CLINTON 53%/OBAMA 47%. But maybe you're watching Andrew Lloyd Weber night on "American Idol."

6. "Um." Long, long pause. "You must never start to stop. Having said that, this is the biggest show and biggest platform that, no matter what, you're strong enough, and you're great enough... to pick up the pieces." Wolf Blitzer to Hillary Clinton. No! Paula Abdul to Brooke White.

7. David Gergen on what the superdelegates are thinking: "This is not just a question of who can win in the fall. They have to also make sure they held their party together. If at the end of this, the math is against her, she winds up with fewer delegates, fewer votes, and fewer states, if they turn it over to her, they run the very real risk they will drive African Americans out of the party for a generation. And they will drive away young voters. There're some things worse than losing an election in trying to build a party."

8. Hillary Clinton does her victory speech: Obama has more money! Give me money!

9. Obama speaks. He's in Indiana, and he thanks John Mellencamp and "his beautiful wife" for driving to Evansville from (I think) Bloomington. Very Indiana-y. He seems to be giving his stump speech. Or maybe I'm just tired.... Good night, everybody.

10. (Written the morning after.) You've got the comments up beyond 200, which means you can't see the newest comments unless you click on "post a comment" and then "newer" or "newest," so why not move on to the post I just put up.

"You always follow me around and play these little games, and I’m not going to play your games today."

"This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day."

Bill Clinton wants you to have a nice day.

Al Qaeda is...




"11 Ways the Internet Can Kill You."

Blogging's the least of it.

"Quite often the judges are debating among themselves and just using the lawyers as a backboard."

"One of the real challenges for lawyers is to get involved in that debate.”

Chief Justice Roberts — judging a moot court competition at Columbia Law School — gives some advice about appellate advocacy.

The food carts of Madison.

I'm back in New York City, after arriving in the wee small hours of the morning. But I'm still dragging Madison photographs out of the camera. Look, there's a new food cart:

Food carts on Libarary Mall

It's for men, apparently. Men who identify with Frank Sinatra, John Belushi, and Bozo, it seems. Fine Italian. (Enlarge.)

A cart that looks like it's made of brick. Why not?

Nevertheless, the old food carts are much more popular, at least for now:

Food carts on Libarary Mall

Food carts on Libarary Mall

Good luck to Fib's and to everyone trying to get a sandwich or a bowl of stew and to everyone breaking out the flip-flops and shorts.

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm told it must be written: FIB's.

Unexpected graffiti in Madison.


Is it ironic? Is it related to the pro-Ron Paul scrawlings I witnessed in the area (State Street)?

ADDED: Is Urban Outfitters putting up its own graffiti? This was on the wall next to the store. On the other side was — in the same chalked block letters — "Urban Outfitters sells 'Voting is for Old People" t-shirts." I think Urban Outfitters-style edginess would support that graffiti, which, to my eye, partakes of the same distanced faux-youthful attitude manifested by the t-shirts it seems to protest. Now, I'm thinking that I'm unwittingly contributing to Urban Outfitters promotion. Is Urban Outfitters getting the jump on me? Oh, no! Maybe I need to spend more time with family and friends.

"Now the squirrels enter from behind."

Freakonomics likes to watch squirrels. (And does not like to watch for potential out-of-context quotes.)

The Top 100 Public Intellectuals.

Selected by Foreign Policy. Now, you can vote for your favorite 5.

Let's see. Al Gore....

At the end of a year when 3 professors resigned because they were accused of sexual harrassment...

... the University of Georgia announces that its graduation speaker will be Clarence Thomas. Protests ensue, predictably.

Whether you think Justice Thomas did what his foes accused him of or not, isn't it a poor choice?

April 21, 2008

The new Hillary ad.

I like it. I like Hillary best when she shows her hawkishness, but I've heard some Obamists are upset about this. About this, about the waffle, about the meanie debate questions....

"This is an election about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women."

Says Nora Ephron. She's a humorist, you know, people.

McCain's "anger always has a purpose."

Says Bob Kerrey.
Since I was mentioned in the Post story I can offer my account of the McCain-Grassley argument.... The precise point of disagreement between the Senators was over a man name Robert Garwood. Senator Grassley believed he was a hero whose reputation was destroyed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Senator McCain believed him to a traitor who caused prisoners (like Senator McCain) to receive additional encounters with torture. Both Senators were extremely angry. Senator McCain was explosive (who wouldn't be?) but at no time threatening. Most important: McCain won the argument. My experience is that his anger always has a purpose and in this case the purpose was to defeat Senator Grassley's argument which he did decisively.

"Hamas Leader Vows Not to Recognize Israel After Carter Trumpets Terror Group's Willingness to Be Good 'Neighbor.'"

What a tool.

Obama refuses to debate Clinton in North Carolina.

Marc Ambinder says it's because his advisors "did not want to give Hillary Clinton any excuse to stay in the race beyond Tuesday, assuming she doesn't fare that well." I don't like it. He just did badly in a debate, so it looks like he's afraid to debate. He should be bold and show us how good he is, show us what a strong candidate he'll be in the fall. Otherwise, Clinton, who just bested him in debate, has reason to claim she's the stronger candidate.

The Clinton campaign should milk this like mad. Here's their first parry:
It is unfortunate that Senator Obama has chosen to brush off the people of North Carolina by flatly refusing to debate....

Hillary Clinton is committed to debating the issues facing the Tar Heel State. We hope Sen. Obama will make the same commitment
Flatly refusing.

They must be furiously brainstorming: What's the most apt way to plant in people's minds that he's chicken, that he's weakening, tiring, and he doesn't want to give people a chance to see it?

Howard Kurtz says:
In political terms, Obama had little incentive for another face-off. He's comfortably ahead in the Tarheel State, and after drawing most of the tough questions in last week's ABC debate in Pennsylvania, he undoubtedly wasn't looking forward to a sequel.
(Is it Tar Heel or Tarheel? It's Tar Heel.)

I disagree with Kurtz. 1. Even if Obama is ahead, he should try to defeat Clinton as impressively as possible. 2. His poor performance is the reason to come back with a solid performance. 3. It's not just about North Carolina; it's about proving to all of us and to the superdelegates that he's the better candidate. 4. He's handed her a fat, juicy issue, and she'll take advantage of it (which in itself will be a demonstration of her fighting strength as a candidate).

And speaking of weakness and evasiveness, the Obama quote of the day is "Why can't I just eat my waffle?"

"I'd stuff my face with anything around - any old rubbish, burgers, chocolate, crisps, fish and chips, loads of it - till I felt sick."

"Then there'd be a weird kind of pleasure in vomiting and feeling relieved."

I don't think I want to hear about anybody's eating disorder, but isn't there something especially untoward about a man admitting he's bulimic.
It was associated with stress. I was working too hard....

The only break I took was to eat. Work, and then quickly eat something. It became my main pleasure, having access to my comfort food.
Lame effort to make the problem seem manly.
I could sup a whole tin of Carnation condensed milk, just for the taste, stupid things like that.
Marks & Spencer trifles, I still love them. I can eat them for ever....
Sup a whole tin of.... trifles... Yeah, our bulimiman is English — the former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Sympathy gushes forth:
[H]is fellow bulimia sufferer William Leith says: "Poor John Prescott. I feel for him. More importantly, though, I feel for the society he lives in."

Uri Geller, another self-confessed bulimic, praises Prescott's "courage" in admitting his condition.

"No one expects a man, especially a successful one, to have an eating disorder," he writes in the Telegraph. "It seems such a weakness. But addiction isn't weak: it's as powerful as a landslide, and it was burying me alive."

Such sentiments are echoed online by bulimia experts. "It is good that man in such a high-powered position has finally come out and said he was a sufferer of this insidious disorder," William Webster writes on the Bulimia Anorexia Blog.

Even the often acerbic Tory blogger Iain Dale feels sorry for Prescott.

"In some ways, his bulimia partly explains his affair with Tracey Temple, and no doubt others," Dale writes. "We all think of politicians as supremely confident and outgoing people who wouldn't recognise shyness and self doubt if they hit them in the face. Many politicians are far from confident."
Partly explains his affair... I await the day when an American politician caught doing something stupid tries to use bulimia as an excuse.

Okay, everybody, elbows up!

Bascom Mall with Inflatable Bucky

Inflatable Bucky is here on Bascom Mall today:

Bascom Mall with Inflatable Bucky

Wiggle around:

Bascom Mall with Inflatable Bucky

He's got free doughnuts. And — in musical form, at least — tequila:

IN THE COMMENTS: george says:
Your god, he is large and inflatable.

We of the internet, too, raise our elbows in a moment of silent respect.
As well you should. Does your school have a better idol? You know, I was driving to work this morning, radio tuned to XM 60s on 6 (as usual), and they were playing The Beach Boys singing "Be True to Your School." Listen here and pay attention at 1:14. Does your school have a better song? The answer is no!

titusyourmoma says:
Does inflatable Bucky do or represent anything or is he just for school spirit?

Inflatable Bucky will fulfill your wildest dreams... if you truly believe... and raise your elbows in a moment of silent respect.

Middle class guy says:
Free doughnuts? The fat police have not arrived in Madison yet?
We flout authority.

Madisonman say:
Wow — you can open your window. I'm jealous.
I'm going to make a list of 10 things I like most about New York (which I return to today) and 10 things I like least. Not being able to open my office windows might make the least-liked list.
All that noise would be very distracting.
Well, there isn't a marching band playing out there all the time. You know, from my house, I hear the marching band when it practices and when it plays at the stadium.

And speaking of doughnuts, why did Ozzy give up for doughnuts?

Welcome to the working week.

I don't know which is more likely to cheer you up. A speckly flower:


Or a fuzzy motorcycle:


Waza waza and uja uja.

Japanese onomatopoeia is incredibly cool. But if you don't already know, can you figure out which of the 2 words above is supposed to sound like "many small things gathered together and moving, such as a swarm of insects or a crowd of people seen from a distance" and which is supposed to sound like "doing something difficult on purpose, even though there is no need to, such as swimming across a river instead of taking the bridge"?

I'm glad there are words for these things at all, whether they seem truly onomatopoetic or not. Let's just adopt the Japanese words. No need to anglicize. This isn't like the way there are endless versions of how a dog bark or a cock's crow gets transliterated in different languages. People knew they needed those words before they noticed that other languages spelled the sound differently. The Japanese originated the desire for words that sounded like many small things moving together and doing something difficult but unnecessary on purpose. We see their words at the same time we first think we want such words, so waza waza and uja uja it is.

Mickey Kaus is a Marxist and a snob like Obama.

So he says... incredibly well.

"What looks like an eight-year-old issues a profanity-laced detailed threat to assassinate President Bush."

Ed Morrissey says:
It’s more than a little disturbing, not so much because it amounts to a real threat, but because it shows just how poisonous Bush-hatred has become.
I think it's disturbing because is it is plain evidence that a child has been abused.

"Does he condemn them? Would he condemn someone who that says they're unrepentant and wished that they had bombed more?"

McCain asks.
"[Obama] became friends with [William Ayers] and spent time with him while the guy was unrepentant over his activities as a member of a terrorist organization, the Weathermen."
And here's the response from the Obama campaign:
"Unable to sell his out-of-touch ideas on the economy and Iraq, John McCain has stooped to the same smear politics and low road that he denounced in 2000. The American people can’t afford a third term of President Bush’s failed policies and divisive tactics."
Wow, they are on autopilot. Any criticism is met with bland disqualification: It's negative. Don't say anything negative. If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything.

I know Obama said when he was in kindergarten that he wanted to be President. But he isn't still in kindergarten.

ADDED: Here's a great, pithy clip show of the Sunday morning shows that includes McCain's remarks — and an amazing amount of talk about the "negativity":