May 24, 2008

The view from the forest floor.

View from the forest floor


Cookie exudes confidence.

Cookie exudes confidence

Hey, Too Many Jims is still monitoring the cruel neutrality.

I thought he'd given up. Even took him off the blog rolls. But he's all geared up now. The best way to see how the monitoring is going is to check the "labels" in the sidebar. Here are the significant ones:
Clinton Negative (3)
Clinton Neutral (25)
Clinton Positive (2)
McCain Neutral (6)
McCain Positive (1)
Obama negative (6)
Obama neutral (31)
Obama Positive (1)
See? Cruel neutrality it is!

And here's the original post where I take my vow of cruel neutrality and point to Monitoring the Cruel Neutrality.

His is bigger than Bill's.

Obama "looks like his own Secret Service agent."

"So cool."

You never see Hillary Clinton or John McCain or any other presidential candidate wearing sunglasses. Or.... wait... did Bill Clinton wear sunglasses when he played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show?

Did you remember it right? Even without sunglasses though, Bill Clinton was projecting coolness. He was the last Democrat to win the presidency, so... maybe coolness is required. Maybe being a Southern governor is required. We shall see. Maybe it's coolness that works for the Democratic candidate. UPDATE: In the comments, Pissed Off Hillbilly: "Clinton played 2 songs that night. He wore sunglasses on the second one, Heartbreak Hotel." Ah! So that wasn't the embellishment of memory. And maybe we can catch somebody else in sunglasses: More? Maybe they are Transitions lenses.

Hillary Clinton and the non-apology.

I called bullshit on HC's "apology" yesterday, but let's look at it more closely:

Language Log has the in-depth analysis of the transcript:
The apologizer's goal is to cite the narrowest possible range of offended people and reasons for offense. Thus it's not an accident that Senator Clinton mentioned the feelings of the Kennedy family and others about mentioning RFK's assassination, but not the feelings of those who were shocked by the implication that she should stay in the race in case her opponent is killed.
Read the whole thing.

You know, if she'd come right out and said I'm staying in the race because Barack Obama might be assassinated, it would have been — in addition to outrageous — nonsensical. If she dropped out, and he was then killed, the party would have to turn to someone, and it would obviously be her. How is staying in the race a special way to preserve her claim on the nomination in case of his death?

So, then, does this mean that we should believe her assertion that she wasn't really saying I'm staying in the race because Barack Obama might be assassinated? But her point about how late the nomination was decided in 1968 doesn't make much sense either. In that year, the first primary — New Hampshire — was on March 12th. This year, the New Hampshire primary was January 8th and the Iowa caucus was January 3rd. So the process got under way more than 2 months earlier.

In conclusion, I would like to apologize to Andrew Sullivan. On Thursday, I took him to task for calling Hillary Clinton a sociopath.

Questions that distracted me while watching the movie "Iron Man."

1. Who is that actor? (I had to hang around for the credits so I could exclaim "Oh, that was Jeff Bridges!)

2. Are we not supposed to know there is such a thing as a closed head injury? (Iron Man — who is an un-super-powered human being inside a high-tech suit of armor — gets slammed into things with intensely violent force, yet emerges from his suit unharmed, not even dazed. Yes, I know it's a comic-book movie. I'm just saying that I was distracted by thinking: That would have killed him.)


Googling around, putting together this little post, I ran across The Forbes Fictional 15. Who are the richest fictional characters? Iron Man (Tony Stark) is #10.

"Brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman."

"I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother."

And I very nearly missed out on linking to this article — because I've already written about Rebecca Walker and, even then, I felt put off by the way this woman is getting too much publicity saying thoroughly conventional things — motherhood is fulfilling — while being the daughter of a writer (Alice Walker) who had to build her fame by coming up with interesting new things to say and now has a daughter who manufactures fame out of expressing hostility toward her famous mother.

But this article is getting a fair amount of attention. Michelle Malkin is saying: "Print this out and send it to every young liberal woman you know."

So I read it. This struck me:
My mother took umbrage at an interview in which I'd mentioned that my parents didn't protect or look out for me. She sent me an e-mail, threatening to undermine my reputation as a writer. I couldn't believe she could be so hurtful - particularly when I was pregnant.

Devastated, I asked her to apologise and acknowledge how much she'd hurt me over the years with neglect, withholding affection and resenting me for things I had no control over - the fact that I am mixed-race, that I have a wealthy, white, professional father and that I was born at all.

But she wouldn't back down. Instead, she wrote me a letter saying that our relationship had been inconsequential for years and that she was no longer interested in being my mother. She even signed the letter with her first name, rather than 'Mom'.
But wait. You are the one trying to undermine her reputation. What is she supposed to do? Write articles portraying you as lying or exaggerating or nutty? She seems to be keeping her silence. I'm back to my original instinct: Look away.

Pajamas in Shanghai.

"Once that relaxation of the dress code became acceptable (starting around the 1980s) the perimeter for p.j.-wear just kept expanding until many people were wearing them day in day out."

Surprising photos at the link. (Via Kottke.)

May 23, 2008

Madison panorama.

Hillary Clinton, justifying staying in the race: "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."

Incredible! She'll say anything.

She later issued an apology for the remark.

"I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever," the former first lady said.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson defended the comments to The Post, "She was talking about the length of the race and using the '68 election as an example of how long the races in the past have gone -- she used her husband's race in the same vein."
Sorry, that's not called an apology. That's called bullshit.

Can polygamy be a crime in the United States?

Here's some timely analysis by law and religion prof John Witte Jr. (It's especially timely for me because it's the subject of the Constitutional Law exam I'm working on grading right now... as I take a break to blog.)
For nearly two millennia, the Western tradition has included polygamy among the crimes that are inherently wrong. Not just because polygamy is unbiblical, unusual, unsafe, or unsavory. But also because polygamy routinizes patriarchy, jeopardizes consent, fractures fidelity, divides loyalty, dilutes devotion, fosters inequity, promotes rivalry, foments lust, condones adultery, confuses children, and more. Not in every case, to be sure, but in enough cases to make the practice of polygamy too risky to condone.
Should we limit freedom to do one thing because it often leads to something else? Shouldn't we be very careful when the thing we would limit is something that we ourselves have no interest at all in doing but that other people believe is essential to their eternal salvation?

From the opinion in the 1878 Supreme Court case — Reynolds v. United States — that upheld the criminalization of polygamy:
[T]he accused, proved that, at the time of his alleged second marriage, he was, and for many years before had been, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called the Mormon Church, and a believer in its doctrines; that it was an accepted doctrine of that church "that it was the duty of male members of said church, circumstances permitting, to practise polygamy; . . . that this duty was enjoined by different books which the members of said church believed to be of divine origin, and, among others, the Holy Bible, and also that the members of the church believed that the practice of polygamy was directly enjoined upon the male members thereof by the Almighty God, in a revelation to Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of said church; that the failing or refusing to practise polygamy by such male members of said church, when circumstances would admit, would be punished, and that the penalty for such failure and refusal would be damnation in the life to come."
Reynolds was sentenced to 2 years at hard labor.

More from Witte:
[S]ome religious communities and their members might well thrive with the freedom to practice polygamy. But inevitably closed repressive regimes like the Texas ranch compound will also emerge—with under-aged girls duped or coerced into sex and marriages with older men, with women and children trapped in sectarian communities with no realistic access to help or protection from the state and no real legal recourse against a church or mosque that is just following its own rules. We prize liberty, equality, and consent in this country too highly to court such a risk.
Why isn't it better to strictly police child abuse, rape, and under-age sex? Why pick on one sort of behavior that has a risk of leading to these things? What if the evidence showed that mothers living with men who are not their children's fathers runs a high child abuse, rape, and underage sex? Could we criminalize that too? The answer shouldn't be the religious motivation seems especially repugnant.

UPDATE, December 14, 2013: Here's my post on the decision in Brown v. Buhman.

"If Golda Meir... heard about Golda nutcrackers, she would have bought them by the case and given them away as party favors."

Peggy Noonan channels Golda Meir... and calls Hillary Clinton a prissy sissy for complaining about sexism.
It is blame-gaming, whining, a way of not taking responsibility, of not seeing your flaws and addressing them. You want to say "Girl, butch up, you are playing in the leagues, they get bruised in the leagues, they break each other's bones, they like to hit you low and hear the crack, it's like that for the boys and for the girls."
Butch up!

But really, the cries of sexism are a way to try to hit low and hear the crack. It just hasn't been too effective.

Al Franken wrote about sex.


The Obama and Clinton campaigns are in "formal talks" about a VP slot for Hillary?

That's the report, but David Kurtz says:
On first blush I'm skeptical that there really are "formal talks" in the usual sense of that phrase. The report appears to lean heavily on sourcing from within the Clinton camp, which is notable. The significance here may not be that there are formal talks underway or that the vice presidency is under discussion. The real significance may be that this is the opening salvo from the Clinton camp ahead of the negotiations that would likely accompany her withdrawal from the race.
"Formal talks" seems like an awfully strange way to talk about something like this. It makes them sound like separate sovereigns.

Anyway... Obama: Don't do it! I mean, talk to her, get her to behave well toward your campaign, but don't put her on the ticket.

Here's Michael Crowley:
There are a lot of reasons why I think it makes no sense for Obama to pick Hillary, and why I don't think it will happen. There's the fact that Obama's entire campaign was a foil against Hillary's allegedly terrible Beltway-bound judgment. There's the absurdity of the idea that the Obama camp would be willing to wake up every day braced for whatever ill-advised thing was going to come out of Bill's mouth next. There's Obama's need for someone with more unimpeachable national-security credentials.

"Court Says Texas Illegally Seized Sect’s Children."

That was obvious.

''All whites are racist in the U.S.A.''

A statement in a NYC teachers' training manual that raised an outcry in 1987 — today's Year That Blog Forgot.

"John McCain is a liar. He's a man without honor, without integrity..."

John Hawkins — of Right Wing News — is a having a bit of a problem with the Republican Party's candidate.

The Brooklyn Bridge is 125 years old tomorrow.

I'd been looking at the Brooklyn Bridge for the last 9 months, but I'm back in Madison now, so I'm missing the festivities. I must have walked across the bridge 20 times while I was living in New York, and I still have a picture of the bridge as the welcome page of my iPhone. So let me mark the occasion with a few of my favorite pictures of the bridge:

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

"And whatever happened to the 'Kennedy Court'?"

Asks Linda Greenhouse, in a survey of the Roberts years on the Supreme Court that notes the decline of 5-4 decisions. There's only been 1 this year (and it was a "low-profile" statutory case where Justice Kennedy, in dissent, was not the deciding vote). Last year a third of the cases were decided 5-4. What's going on? It may be that the more contentious cases will come in the last days of the term. Greenhouse notes that Justice Stevens has voted with the conservative Justices in a few key cases:
It would be too simplistic an explanation to say that the liberal justices, at least some of them, have simply given up. Something deeper seems to be at work. Each of those three cases might have received a harder-edged, more conclusively conservative treatment at the hands of the same five-member majority that controlled the last term.

Instead, the lethal injection and voter ID decisions hewed closely to the facts of each case. Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol passed muster, but the court left open the possibility that another state’s practice might not. The voter ID challenge reached the court on a nonexistent record, so perhaps a stronger case could be made at a later time. Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the child pornography case construed the statute so narrowly as to allay the First Amendment concerns of Justices Stevens and Breyer and win their full concurrence.

So perhaps there was a bit of movement on both sides — not simple liberal capitulation, but liberals using their limited leverage to exact some modest concessions as the price of helping the conservatives avoid another parade of 5-to-4 decisions.
Or is it the Chief Justice playing a moderating role and following through on the ideas about minimalist decisions that he expressed at his confirmation hearings?
Recall the pledge that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made, both in his 2005 confirmation hearing and in the early months of his tenure, to seek consensus and to lead the court in speaking in a modest judicial voice....

The court’s modulated tone may also stem from the fact that this is an election year....
It's interesting that this line is well-separated from the discussion of Justice Stevens behavior. Is he perhaps hoping for a President who will appoint a liberal Justice or 2? It would not help that agenda to display the spectacle of 4 liberal Justices eager to change everything if only they could get one more vote.

Who's to say what these big patterns mean as cases are decided individually, by judges forming opinions mostly on their own? But Greenhouse's observations sharpen our view as we look to see the torrent of cases in the upcoming days. (And how strange it will be when we won't have Greenhouse to sharpen the picture for us anymore!)

ADDED: Jonathan Adler objects to the Greenhouse analysis.

May 22, 2008

Watching "American Idol."

This is Chris — for 1 minute and 20 seconds — watching last night's final results show. Can you tell if he's enjoying it?

That's taken with my new Flip camera, which seems pretty handy. The actual video quality is much better than what shows up on YouTube.

ADDED: I had to take the clip down because of a technical problem. I'm really having a lot of trouble uploading to YouTube. I keep getting the message "unable to convert video file." I had one version that uploaded — in MPG4 — but it got horizontally compressed (with vertical bars on the sides and distorted video). I'm editing AVI files in QuickTime Pro. Any advice?



Stephen Pinker opines on conservative bioethics: "The Stupidity of Dignity."

The sickness in theocon bioethics goes beyond imposing a Catholic agenda on a secular democracy and using "dignity" to condemn anything that gives someone the creeps. Ever since the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago, the panic sown by conservative bioethicists, amplified by a sensationalist press, has turned the public discussion of bioethics into a miasma of scientific illiteracy. Brave New World, a work of fiction, is treated as inerrant prophesy. Cloning is confused with resurrecting the dead or mass-producing babies. Longevity becomes "immortality," improvement becomes "perfection," the screening for disease genes becomes "designer babies" or even "reshaping the species." The reality is that biomedical research is a Sisyphean struggle to eke small increments in health from a staggeringly complex, entropy-beset human body. It is not, and probably never will be, a runaway train.

"The fate of the world for the next four years. It’s all going to boil down to a few old Jews in Century Village."

Rabbi Ruvi New predicts.

Crist, Jindal, Romney.

Looks like McCain wants a governor for VP. Which one?

What do you think of Bobby Jindal?
Mr. Jindal, who was born in Baton Rouge, La., to a family that had just arrived there from the Punjab area of India, took office as Louisiana’s governor in January after serving three years in the House of Representatives. Mr. Jindal, who was born a Hindu but became a Roman Catholic as a teenager, campaigned for governor as a social conservative, opposing human embryonic stem cell research and abortion in any form and favoring teaching “intelligent design” in schools as an alternative to evolution.

But Mr. Jindal also has a reputation as a policy wonk, like the Clintons, with a specialty in health care issues. After graduating in 1991 from Brown University, where he majored in biology and public policy, and attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Jindal worked for the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company and was executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. He later served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and in the Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for planning and evaluation.
Sounds great. The health specialty could work very well in the mix. But Jindal is only 37! That's 5 years younger than our youngest President... but old enough — in constitutional terms — to be President. I see fodder for jokes about how old McCain is. Their average age — 54 — seems ideal for a President. Downside: It would make it impossible to argue that Obama is too young to be President.

ADDED: Jindal turns 37 on June 10th.

"How do you respond to a sociopath like this?"

Asks Andrew Sullivan about... Hillary Clinton. She's a sociopath now? Why?
She agreed that Michigan and Florida should be punished for moving up their primaries. Obama took his name off the ballot in deference to their agreement and the rules of the party. That he should now be punished for playing by the rules and she should be rewarded for skirting them is unconscionable.
She's insane because she's fighting for the nomination using whatever arguments are available? If it's such a bad argument, it will lose and that will be the end of it. Obama is making the arguments that work for him. To exaggerate the hatefulness of her arguments and the virtuousness of his is to be too caught up in your personal preference for one candidate over the other. Obama's taking his name off the Michigan ballot wasn't all about some sort of supreme respect for rules and agreements. If he'd thought he was going to do very well, wouldn't he have left his name on?

Here's part of the quote from Hillary that drove Sullivan up the wall:
Now, I’ve heard some say that counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules.

I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country - that whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their votes should be counted.
Ha ha. That's rich. She is using the buzz words from the 2000 Florida recount (in which each of the 2 candidates made the arguments that helped his cause and acted outraged that the other was making arguments which he'd have made himself if they would have served his end). Clinton drives the point home:
I remember very well back in 2000, there were those who argued that people's votes should be discounted over technicalities. For the people of Florida who voted in this primary, the notion of discounting their votes sounds way too much of the same.
This isn't insanity. It's litigation. Quite normal. If the rules help you, you insist on the importance of rules. If the rules hurt you, they are mere guidelines that must bend flexibly for the sake of justice.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan responds ... but in the form of printing an email from an unnamed reader that makes some incoherent assertions about law.
To use the ligitation [sic] analogy, if you walk in to court espousing the exact opposite position of an earlier stated position, you lose, plain and simple. Your opponent calls it an admission, throws it in your face, and probably moves for sanctions.
What is this person talking about? "Admissions" as an exception to the hearsay rule? If a party says one thing about the facts of the case and then another, it's evidence, to be analyzed as the factfinder sees fit. You don't "lose, plain and simple." You just have a credibility problem. But I'm not talking about assertions of fact. I'm talking about legal arguments — arguments about what the law is or how it is applies in this case. You're allowed to make one legal argument and then another. You can make 2 contradictory arguments in the alternative at exactly the same time.

AND: I should add that what the emailer and Sullivan (and some of my commenters) are doing is also the litigation style — acting as if the argument on the other side is utterly ridiculous. I'm soooo jaded about that sort of thing. I can see what you are all doing. One side or the other will win, and it probably won't be Hillary, but her argument is not insane.

ADDED: An emailer copies me on email sent to Sullivan:
I do not agree with Althouse's comment discussed at this link on your blog (as it unfairly ascribes to Obama the same type of win-at-all-costs mentality exhibited by Clinton). However, the reader response that you highlight for the purpose of knocking down Althouse's view is simply not correct as a legal matter.

The reader believes that "if you walk into court espousing the exact opposite position of an earlier stated position, you lose, plain and simple" on the ground that the litigant has committed an "admission" that would be determinative in the litigation and even subject to sanctions. That is not so. Flip-flops in position -- even within the scope of the litigation itself — are generally not themselves determinative of the outcome, let alone sanctionable. Generally, speaking, a change in position has to meet the criteria of the doctrine known as "judicial estoppel" for a litigant to be bound to the first position and thus prevented from relying on an inconsistent position in the litigation. And that doctrine requires that the litigant take the first position in the litigation itself AND that it be accepted by the court before the litigant is prevented from later raising the inconsistent position. And even then there are exceptions. There are, of course, doctrines that prevent parties from re-litigating cases that have been concluded, but that problem does not arise here because NO litigation has yet taken place let alone concluded.

So, I think it is clear that Clinton could litigate a challenge to what has occurred in Michigan or Florida without being formally prevented from raising positions adverse to positions she posited previously. That, of course, is a different question from whether she would prevail in the litigation. I think the chance of her prevailing in such litigation is remote, let alone in a way that would would alter the Democratic primary season outcome.

"Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both proposing versions of RomneyCare on a national scale."

So we'd better look at the results of the experiment in Massachusetts.

I play 2 video games.

Twice recently, I've had a house guest who has brought a video game system, attached it to my television, and insisted that I play it.

1. My first guest brought a Wii, and the game I was induced to play was: Bowling. I felt a little silly acting out the motions of bowling while holding a remote control and being represented on screen by a character that looked like one of those old Fisher-Price LittlePeople, but it was kind of fun. I don't remember my score. Better than 37, I'm sure. Efforts to induce me to play another game or to bowl again failed. I did watch a lot of playing and contemplated whether this was a reasonably healthful, decently athletic activity for a young child. Good enough, I thought. But as long as you're up and moving around, why not move around in this real world we have here instead of manipulating your guy in an impoverished play world? The more realistic a video game is, the more I'm likely to think about how much more realistic real life is. If you're making your guy bowl, I'm going to think: Hey, we should go bowling — actual bowling. If you're making multi-shaped blocks drop onto a pile, I'm just thinking rotate it! or whatever.

2. My second guest brought an Xbox, and the game was BioShock. So there I was floating in the ocean amidst the burning wreckage of a plane crash. Look around, I'm told. That is, wiggle my right thumb. Go places. That is, wiggle my left thumb. I'm told the crucial skill is to move around and look around at the same time, in some sort of fluid 3-D fashion. I realize I am never going to learn this skill. I'm either going to be looking around or moving, not both. But I have the game on "easy" mode, so I'm able to survive this and every other ineptitude. Okay, so I find the stairway out of the water and bumble my way into an elevator to the bottom of the ocean past various signs and cityscapes that make me say, "Hey, this game seems to be based on Ayn Rand." I'm told this is a correct observation. So I'm all: "You bought a right-wing game." Yes. But then I'm mostly moving around in lots of dark hallways, rooms, and staircases where various characters come at me and I slug them with a big monkey wrench I picked up somewhere. No matter how vicious my attackers are, I always kill them, because I'm playing in "easy" mode. I find I like to hit them about 10 more times after I've killed them, spattering blood about and feeling the thud in the vibrating controller in my hands. "Why do I like doing that? Does that mean I'm a bad person?" After a while, I say that's enough for me, get up, and feel queasy and dizzy. I go get a glass of orange juice, take a sip, then sit down at the table and put my head down. "That game made me sick."

"It's a wholesome image I'm getting from this tiny article: milk-drinking boys, going to the movies with English-speaking Australian girls."

The Year That Blog Forgot today is 1943.

May 21, 2008

Yes! I'm watching the "American Idol" finale!

Aren't you? I think the judges were pushing David Archuleta, the kid who really really wants to win, but I heard it through the grapevine that the winner is David Cook.

UPDATE: Told ya!

AND: I love the way people responded to the guy who didn't seem to care if he won, who wasn't needy about this. The vote was 56% to 44% — that's a huge margin. That means something. Cook is — despite the immense taint of "AI" — pretty damned cool.

The absolutely insane talk of Obama promising Hillary Clinton the next seat on the Supreme Court.

I have avoided talking about this but now there's a WaPo column on the subject and I can't stand it anymore. James Andrew Miller writes:
It's likely that the next president will face at least one Supreme Court vacancy. Obama should promise Hillary Clinton, now, that if he wins in November, the vacancy will be hers, making her first on a list of one.
How could Hillary Clinton possibly be considered an appropriate Supreme Court nominee?
Obama could ... appreciate Clinton's undeniably keen mind. Even Clinton detractors have noted her remarkable mental skills; she would be equal to any legal or intellectual challenge she would face as a justice. The fact that she hasn't served on a bench before would be inconsequential, considering her experience in law and in government.
Now, why did WaPo publish this? Miller was a special assistant to Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. and he has a book about the Senate, but he sounds like a complete fool here. His notion that Hillary Clinton belongs on the Supreme Court is just: Everybody seems to think she's pretty smart. And it doesn't even matter that she has no judicial experience and has never done anything to indicate that she is any sort of a legal scholar or has anything like a judicial temperament.
If Obama were to promise Clinton the first court vacancy, her supporters would actually have a stronger incentive to support him for president than they would if she were going to be vice president.
No, they wouldn't! They'd think that Obama shouldn't be trusted with the responsibility of appointing federal judges.
Instead of subjecting herself to a long wait and another possible defeat, [Hillary] could don one of those roomy black robes, make a potentially ineradicable impact on the course of the republic -- and never again have to worry about being liked.
"Roomy black robes" — is he calling her fat?
Senate confirmation would be all but certain, even putting aside the gains that Democrats are likely to make in November.
Why not just beg people to vote for McCain? The Senate is going to rubber-stamp whatever unqualified, politicized judicial nominations a President Obama would send its way? Well, then, we must have the opposite party in the White House!
President Obama would engender praise (at least from Democrats) at the prospect of Hillary going toe to toe with Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Clinton's gumption and determination might make her one of the most powerful forces ever on the court, particularly when it comes to swaying other justices when the court is closely divided.
Miller thrills at the prospect of law as a raw political battle. Democrats who respect the rule of law and want rights to be taken seriously should not cheer at that spectacle. And conservatives will once again get strong traction arguing — as McCain did the other day — that their judges are the ones who are faithfully subservient to the law. I know liberals don't believe that, but they must present themselves as wanting judges who bring legitimate interpretative skill and diligence to their task and operate independently from politics. Or all is lost.

So Garry Kasparov is trying to give a speech when a penis helicopter starts flying around the room.


"On a gorgeous, unseasonably mild day in Portland, a free performance by a hugely successful local band is likely to draw a huge crowd."

But the NYT frontpaged that 75,000 people thronged to see Barack Obama. No mention of the band. I'm not sure how big a deal this is. The Times should have mentioned the band, but I think the people probably turned out for Obama and not The Decemberists. Who knows?

"J. Edgar Hoover is to be found at the far part of the Cub Room with his aide, Clyde Tolson."

Why do people go to nightclubs?... in The Year that Blog Forgot: 1945.

But there was still war going on, and here's the way the headlines looked this day in 1945.

Is Barack Obama "a walking, talking gaffe machine"?

Michelle Malkin marshals the evidence. I'm inclined to be a little lenient about gaffes, though I understand the urge to avenge Dan Quayle, who was — the legend has it — destroyed over the misspelling of a single word. A presidential candidate is constantly talking, responding to questions and situations ad lib, and he's going to make some gaffes. It can't mean that he's incompetent or an idiot. I love to post and laugh about these gaffes — like the "57 states" one — but it has almost no effect on what I think of the man. A good candidate should try to avoid giving his opponents this ammunition as much as he can, but there are more important things than avoiding ever saying anything wrong.

But there's one thing on Malkin's long list of gaffes that mattered to me:
Last March, the Chicago Tribune reported this little-noticed nugget about a fake autobiographical detail in Obama’s Dreams from My Father: “Then, there’s the copy of Life magazine that Obama presents as his racial awakening at age 9. In it, he wrote, was an article and two accompanying photographs of an African-American man physically and mentally scarred by his efforts to lighten his skin. In fact, the Life article and the photographs don’t exist, say the magazine’s own historians.”
I don't remember seeing that Chicago Tribune story. Malkin's piece — in the National Review — doesn't link to anything, but here's the article. I read "Dreams from My Father" and took it to be a truthful story. Obama makes seeing those pictures in Life magazine a pivotal event in his life:
He is 9 years old, living in Indonesia, where he and his mother moved with her new husband, Lolo Soetoro, a few years earlier. One day while visiting his mother, who was working at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Obama passed time by looking through several issues of Life magazine. He came across an article that he later would describe as feeling like an "ambush attack."

The article included photos of a black man who had destroyed his skin with powerful chemical lighteners that promised to make him white. Instead, the chemicals had peeled off much of his skin, leaving him sad and scarred, Obama recalled.

"I imagine other black children, then and now, undergoing similar moments of revelation," Obama wrote of the magazine photos in "Dreams."

Yet no such Life issue exists, according to historians at the magazine. No such photos, no such article. When asked about the discrepancy, Obama said in a recent interview, "It might have been an Ebony or it might have been ... who knows what it was?" (At the request of the Tribune, archivists at Ebony searched their catalogue of past articles, none of which matched what Obama recalled.)

In fact, it is surprising, based on interviews with more than two dozen people who knew Obama during his nearly four years in Indonesia, that it would take a photograph in a magazine to make him conscious of the fact that some people might treat him differently in part because of the color of his skin.

Obama, who has talked and written so much about struggling to find a sense of belonging due to his mixed race, brushes over this time of his life in "Dreams." He describes making friends easily, becoming fluent in Indonesian in just six months and melding quite easily into the very foreign fabric of Jakarta.

The reality was less tidy....

Former playmates remember Obama as "Barry Soetoro," or simply "Barry," a chubby little boy very different from the gangly Obama people know today. All say he was teased more than any other kid in the neighborhood--primarily because he was bigger and had black features.

He was the only foreign child in the neighborhood. He also was one of the only neighborhood children whose parents enrolled him in a new Catholic school in an area populated almost entirely by Betawis, the old tribal landowning Jakarta natives who were very traditional Muslims. Some of the Betawi children threw rocks at the open Catholic classrooms, remembered Cecilia Sugini Hananto, who taught Obama in 2nd grade.

Teachers, former playmates and friends recall a boy who never fully grasped their language and who was very quiet as a result. But one word Obama learned quickly in his new home was curang, which means "cheater."

When kids teased him, Obama yelled back, "Curang, curang!" When a friend gave him shrimp paste instead of chocolate, he yelled, "Curang, curang!"

Zulfan Adi was one of the neighborhood kids who teased Obama most mercilessly. He remembers one day when young Obama, a hopelessly upbeat boy who seemed oblivious to the fact that the older kids didn't want him tagging along, followed a group of Adi's friends to a nearby swamp.

"They held his hands and feet and said, `One, two, three,' and threw him in the swamp," recalled Adi, who still lives in the same house where he grew up. "Luckily he could swim. They only did it to Barry."

The other kids would scrap with him sometimes, but because Obama was bigger and better-fed than many of them, he was hard to defeat.

"He was built like a bull. So we'd get three kids together to fight him," recalled Yunaldi Askiar, 45, a former neighborhood friend. "But it was only playing."

Obama has claimed on numerous occasions to have become fluent in Indonesian in six months. Yet those who knew him disputed that during recent interviews.

Israella Pareira Darmawan, Obama's 1st-grade teacher, said she attempted to help him learn the Indonesian language by going over pronunciation and vowel sounds. He struggled greatly with the foreign language, she said, and with his studies as a result.

The teacher, who still lives in Obama's old neighborhood, remembers that he always sat in the back corner of her classroom. "His friends called him 'Negro,'" Darmawan said. The term wasn't considered a slur at the time in Indonesia.

Still, all of his teachers at the Catholic school recognized leadership qualities in him. "He would be very helpful with friends. He'd pick them up if they fell down,'' Darmawan recalled. "He would protect the smaller ones."

Third-grade teacher Fermina Katarina Sinaga, now 67, has perhaps the most telling story. In an essay about what he wanted to be when he grew up, Obama "wrote he wanted to be president," Sinaga recalled. "He didn't say what country he wanted to be president of. But he wanted to make everybody happy."

When Obama was in 4th grade, the Soetoro family moved. Their new neighborhood was only 3 miles to the west, but a world away. Elite Dutch colonists once lived there; the Japanese moved in during their occupation of Indonesia in World War II. In the early 1970s, diplomats and Indonesian businessmen lived there in fancy gated houses with wide paved roads and sculpted bushes.

Obama never became terribly close with the children of the new school--this time a predominantly Muslim one--where he was enrolled. As he had at the old school, Obama sat in a back corner. He sketched decidedly American cartoon characters during class.

"He liked drawing Spider-Man and Batman," said another friend, Widiyanto Hendro Cahyono, 46. "Barry liked to draw heroes."
Uh oh. I'm quoting way too much. And there's much, much more really interesting stuff — really humanizing stuff. Much better material than you'll find in "Dreams from My Father." Thanks to Michelle Malkin for prompting me to pull this thing out of the archive! For whatever reasons, Obama wrote a book framing his life story as a story about the search for racial identity. I think it was probably what the publishers wanted from him, and it may have also seemed like a good way to build his career. He's much more lovable in the Chicago Tribune version — even if it does call him out on the Life magazine story.

If the death penalty deters murder, how often must it be applied to have that deterrent effect?

Jac has 2 posts on this subject. In the first post, he catches Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics) in what I think is a real contradiction. And in the second post, he points to something striking about the statistics on deterrence and deals with whether he's contradicted himself about what he said about Levitt's supposed contradiction. I'm not going to try to summarize all that here, but it has to do with how a would-be murderer contemplates the prospect of execution — rationally? — and how quickly and often the state needs to execute convicts in order to maximize the deterrence of murder.

May 20, 2008

The "American Idol" finale: The Clash of the Davids.

Please keep me company!

ADDED: Someone other than Ryan Seacrest is saying "This is American Idol." I don't like that. I suppose it's someone famous, but I don't know who he is, and even if he's famous, he should not horn in on Ryan's territory. The Davids are introduced as if they were boxers, and DA is called "David 'Baby Face' Archuleta." Ah, here's Seacrest. That's better. Seacrest is calling them "Big David and Little David."

MORE: The ancient artifact Clive Davis made great choices. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" for David Cook, and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" for David Archuleta. I much preferred Cook, but the judges preferred Archuleta.

AND: Oh, no, they have to pick from the songs that people wrote for the show. I expect the songs to be utter crap. Cook does a song that is about "dreaming" and having "faith" in yourself — like every damned song that has ever been written for the show. Ryan tells him he was "singing your face off." Paula babbles. Simon sighs.

AND: David Archuleta is singing an idiotic song about "this moment" — an obvious attempt at recapturing the magic — feeble as it was — of the original "Moment Like This" that Kelly Clarkson sang in Season 1, so very long ago. It's funny that it has the line "Open your eyes and you'll see," when there's been such a big issue all season about Archuleta singing with his eyes closed. And now, here he is, singing it with his eyes closed. The judges are saying it's a bad song, but they take no responsibility for the horror of all these bad finale songs season after season.

AND: Finally, they can pick their own songs. David Cook is singing a song he's never done before, "The World I Know," by Collective Soul. Archuleta is doing "Imagine," which he's already done on the show — and which is also, obviously, a much more familiar song. Even before they start to sing, it seems determined: David Archuleta will win.

AND: Paula tells DC he's "standing in [his] truth." Simon tells him he made the wrong song choice. He should have sung "Billie Jean" or "Hello" — that is, one of the 2 best songs he's already done on the show. When he finished singing, Cook's eyes were all red. He cried. Does he perhaps not want to win? To use the boxing metaphors they are foisting on us: Is he taking a dive? It was my analysis this morning that it was not in Cook's interest to win. Winning would fit Archuleta's life so much better.

AND: Beautiful little David thrills us with "Imagine." Randy yells that DA is the best. Paula doesn't state that he's the best. But he's "stunning." Simon "You came out here tonight to win. And what we have witnessed is a knockout." So all is right in the world. Join hands. David Archuleta has won. And the world will be as one.

IN THE COMMENTS: I've corrected it now, but originally I typo'd the homophone "one" for "won" in the sentence, just above, "David Archuleta has won." Jokes are cracked.

Hillary wins Kentucky by a "wide margin."

Says CNN.

ADDED: Wow. 65% to 30% for Hillary in Kentucky. That momentum isn't quite working for Barack. Suddenly, it's time for Oregon. CNN (TV) is saying, based on a poll, that Obama is ahead, but they are not projecting a winner yet.

AND: Hillary's victory speech: Part 1, Part 2.

Red trees.


Not my red bud trees (mentioned in the previous post). Just some very red flowering trees I saw at the UW Arboretum on Sunday. Sorry I didn't read the label.

The older brain, disparaged for forgetting, may be functioning at a higher level, with widening attention.

A new study shows.
“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”
In my personal experience, it seems — if I'm remembering properly! — that the way the brain works changes over time.
For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it.
Isn't the whole point of reading to get to something that makes you stop and think (or write)? I mean, that's the way I read. It really slows me down like mad.
When both groups were later asked questions for which the out-of-place words might be answers, the older adults responded much better than the students.

“For the young people, it’s as if the distraction never happened,” said an author of the review, Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. “But for older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another.”
I smell patronizing self-esteem boosting in "they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers." But it's good to know that there are different kinds of minds, different approaches to learning and thinking (and writing), and that we can respect these differences (and not fear them as they loom in the future).
In a 2003 study at Harvard, Dr. Carson and other researchers tested students’ ability to tune out irrelevant information when exposed to a barrage of stimuli. The more creative the students were thought to be, determined by a questionnaire on past achievements, the more trouble they had ignoring the unwanted data. A reduced ability to filter and set priorities, the scientists concluded, could contribute to original thinking.
Oh, the harsh winter killed 3/4 of one my red bud trees — which are nevertheless quite prettily blooming right now as I look out the window and think about my brain and poor Teddy Kennedy's brain — riddled, we now know, with cancer.

ADDED: Byrd weeps for Teddy.

American money discriminates against the blind.

I blogged about the district court case in 2006, and now it's been upheld by the Court of Appeals.
The U.S. acknowledges the design hinders blind people but it argued that blind people have adapted. Some relied on store clerks to help them, some used credit cards and others folded certain corners to help distinguish between bills.

The court ruled 2-1 that such adaptations were insufficient. The government might as well argue that, since handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask for help from strangers, there's no need to make buildings wheelchair accessible, the court said.

Courts can't decide how to design the currency, since that's up to the Treasury Department. But the ruling forces the department to address what the court called a discriminatory problem.

[The American Council for the Blind president Mitch] Pomerantz says it could take years to change the look of money and until then, he expects that similar-looking money will continue to get printed and spent. But since blindness becomes more common with age, people in the 30s and 40s should know that, when they get older, "they will be able to identify their $1 bills from their fives, tens and twenties," he said.
This might be a good time to get rid of $1 bills and force everyone to use all those $1 coins we've been resisting for years. Wouldn't that save taxpayers a lot of money?
While the government has been fighting to overturn the lower court ruling, it has been taking some steps toward modifying U.S. currency for the visually impaired.

The most recent currency redesign of the $5 bill introduced in March features a giant "5" printed in purple on one side of the bill to help those with vision problems distinguish the bill.
Oh, that's why we got the purple 5? I was wondering. It's so garish — and ungreen — but I guess that's the point.

Here's my suggestion: Let's just have $20 bills. That's all I ever get from the bank or the ATM machine. I don't want anything larger. Does anyone? $1 bills should have been retired a long time ago — and we've already got the coins — so it's really only about the $10s and $5s. Get rid of them too! Let the government make a $10 and a $5 coin and be done with it. If it's a bill, it's a $20. Problem solved. Blind people happy. It's a golden opportunity.

"But that cold soup stayed with me. It resonated, waking me up, making me aware of my tongue..."

"... and, in some way, preparing me for future events."

Anthony Bourdain wrote that about the vichyssoise he was served as a kid in traveling to Europe on the Queen Mary. (The book is the delightful "Kitchen Confidential," page 10.) Cold soup was "the first food [he] really noticed... enjoyed and.. remembered enjoying."

Anyway, Jac is into cold soup, and looking around the web for ideas he found a lovely blog post about gazpacho which included this line (from the blogger, Sarah Miller, but in the comments):
Chilled soups were a tough sell for Patrick (as they seem to be for many men).
Jac doesn't like the gendered approach to food. Why not eat (and do) what you like and not worry about it?

I guess Jac wouldn't like "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche." Remember that? I'll bet a lot of men avoided quiche as a result of seeing that title. But do real men read books like that? (Do real men read?) The subtitle is "A Guidebook to All That Is Truly Masculine." That's a real artifact from the 1980s.

Do you care about gender and food? If you do and you want to eat cold soup, let me just say that Anthony Bourdain is thoroughly macho.

Or is he?

"I love her because she's a helluva fighter. She's tenacious and I like that. She cares for everybody, for people like me."

There's a lot of Hillary love out there.

Obama's statement was "a gracious response from a man the court had just branded as the legal equivalent of a segregationist."

Benjamin Wittes wonders if the Obama campaign read the decision it said this about:
"Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president," the Obama campaign stated oh-so-carefully in response to this week's California Supreme Court decision striking down the state's ban on gay marriage. "He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage."
The state court likened the policy Obama promotes to "separate but equal" racial segregation:
"[Affording] access to [marriage] exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation [domestic partnership], realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples," the court wrote. Those challenging the law "persuasively invoke by analogy the decisions of the United States Supreme Court finding inadequate a state's creation of a separate law school for Black students rather than granting such students access to the University of Texas Law School."
Wittes, who supports gay marriage, criticizes the court for accepting the analogy offered by the litigants:
Somehow, we've confused progress on marriage equality with some of the most opprobrious episodes of our legal, cultural, and moral history. For having the guts to move forward while other states were passing nasty constitutional amendments depriving gays of any marital benefits, Californians stand condemned in their own courts for discrimination and in their own newspapers for bigotry.

Few people, of course, really believe this. When we listen to Obama touting civil unions, we hear the progress that he urges, not some appeal to segregation. But it can't be progress when Obama suggests civil unions, and also progress when a court strikes them down as unconstitutionally discriminatory.
It's very common to say that judges are "confused," but I don't see the confusion. The California Court continued (PDF) in the paragraph Wittes quotes:
As plaintiffs maintain, [the Texas Law School case demonstrates] that even when the state grants ostensibly equal benefits to a previously excluded class through the creation of a new institution, the intangible symbolic differences that remain often are constitutionally significant.
Obviously, the court knows that the state was trying to move toward equality here, and I don't hear it insulting the politicians who want to move only incrementally. It is saying that there is constitutional significance to the symbolism of creating a separate institution. It seems to me that the court was reasoning in a principled, doctrinal fashion and not leavening its decisionmaking with sensitivity toward political realities.

Czechoslovakia and Governor Ronald Reagan.

It is 40 years ago today on The Time That Blog Forgot and Pravda warns Czechoslovakia about backsliding into bourgeois democracy and Governor Reagan tells us that the New Left is really an "unwashed" version of "the old right, practicing storm trooper tactics."

Which David wants it more — and what to do with the "wants it more" factor?

From an in-depth analysis of tonight's "American Idol" finale:
David Cook:
  • He's okay with it if the prize goes to someone else - which makes voters feel less manipulated.
  • A sense of neediness - if not outright desperation - is a key draw in contests like this to begin with.
David Archuleta:
  • Plus: From the petrified look on his face at every single elimination round you can tell Archuleta clearly wants it more than Cook. In fact, he wants it more than anyone in "Idol" history.
  • Minus: It's scary how much this kid wants it, even scarier if you speculate on what could be the real reason. You get the idea if David A. doesn't get it, that overbearing dad of his will never let him hear the end of it.
This is a complicated problem. I'm putting to the side my actual musical preference for Cook. I'm thinking about which contestant will be better off winning. Now, I think the producers want David Cook to win, because: 1. He's like Chris Daughtrey, who lost in Season 5 but has sold way more music than last season's winner, and 2. They hate Archuleta's very stage-daddy dad. But Daughtrey probably did better by losing, since it's hard enough to seem like a rocker when you've got an association with "American Idol," so Cook benefits by losing. But maybe losing is an even greater benefit for Archuleta. He needs to grow up, mature, get beyond his twerpy teeniboppitude. Nah. Let the little kid win.

ADDED: Here's some info about tonight's show. Each David will sing 3 songs: 1. chosen by Clive Davis (former chairman of Sony BMG), 2. online poll choice, and 3. singer's choice.
[Producer Nigel] Lythgoe also hinted at some kind of duet videos that will air during the finale that may include a top pop star using technology to perform alongside a dead legend.

The show pulled off a similar stunt last year by superimposing Elvis Presley's face onto an Elvis lookalike who sang along with Celine Dion.
No, what I want te see is a dead legend performing with the contestants. Since the female contestants are all gone, bring in the femininity with reanimated divas! I want to see Janis Joplin sing "Piece of My Heart" with David Cook and, for David Archuleta, Judy Garland and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

May 19, 2008

"Some of those states in the middle."

Mickey Kaus latches onto that Obama phrase. Scroll up from here to find the passage I'm talking about. (Why is it so hard to link to Kaus? What are you supposed to do if he doesn't have the word "link" at the bottom of the post you want to talk about. No wonder Glenn links to him by saying stuff like: "MICKEY KAUS has been blogging up a storm. Just keep scrolling." Why isn't the timestamp at the end of a post clickable? I know Mickey has to put a lot of time into worrying about Mexico taking over the Southwest, but doesn't he want to be linked? Come on!)
Today's Obama Gaffe to Ignore: No point covering this, Mr. Halperin, sir. Move right along. Obama's our nominee. We're stuck with him. Here he explains his impending loss in Kentucky:
"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle." [E.A.]
Cling Alert! ... As emailer "S" notes: 1) "Last time I checked, Illinois was more 'nearby' Kentucky than Arkansas. Heck, they even touch." 2) "[I]sn't there something a tad condescending in his reference to "some of those states in the middle"? ...
Is this too hard on Obama? Maybe so, but he needs to avoid saying things that resonate with his disastrous "bitter Americans" comment.

Like the new ad in my sidebar?

Palate cleanser.


The Bill O'Reilly rant you can dance to.

Warning! Very NSFW... and very funny.

(Via Throwing Things.)

ADDED: I've come to feel that "We'll do it live" is a curse.

"So I'm working on a mini-project here to track mainstream media and politicians calling Obama a faggot..."

Alex Blaze has a little project. (Via Memeorandum.) Is he on the right track? Doesn't the Democratic candidate always get framed as weak, effete?

As long as we're obsessing about whether criticism of Hillary Clinton is a manifestation of sexism, why not get some balance and obsess over whether criticism of Barack Obama is homophobic? Well, for one thing, Hillary Clinton is, plainly, a woman, but talking about Obama in these terms floats a rumor. You could also have a mini-project tracking insinuations that Obama is a Muslim. Are you criticizing the insinuations or propagating them?

Alex means well:
Personally, I'd love to have a queer in the Oval Office, but this is about deriding the personality of politicians because they don't fit the mold for heterosexual masculinity, which, besides holding back good policy, also helps relegate homosexuality, non-traditional masculinity, gender non-conformity, femininity, fabulousness, and women to second-class status.

UPDATE: Alex responds to my question.

"With each passing day, it seems a little less likely that the next president of the United States will wear a skirt..."

Did Mrs. Clinton ever wear a skirt? Not once, during the entire campaign. But that's not the point of the linked article (by Jodi Kantor). It's more talk about the whole "woman President" business that has always left me cold. Hillary Clinton is not a woman, she's a particular woman. (She's that woman, Mrs. Clinton.) I have always resisted the efforts to get women jazzed up about the idea of a woman President. But for those who did get absorbed into that idiotic emotional manipulation, there is now the need to work toward closure.
“Women felt this was their time, and this has been stolen from them,” said Marilu Sochor, 48, a real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, and a Clinton supporter. “Sexism has played a really big role in the race.”

Not everyone agrees. “When people look at the arc of the campaign, it will be seen that being a woman, in the end, was not a detriment and if anything it was a help to her,” the presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said in an interview. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is faltering, she added, because of “strategic, tactical things that have nothing to do with her being a woman.”
I'm with Goodwin on this one. Clinton used the woman thing to manipulate us whenever she could, and her campaign simply failed, as most campaigns fail.
As a former first lady whose political career evolved from her husband’s, Mrs. Clinton was always an imperfect test case for female achievement. “Somebody’s wife,” as Elaine Kamarck, a professor of government at Harvard and a Clinton supporter, described her.
"Somebody." Indeed.
Mrs. Clinton’s supporters point to a nagging series of slights: the fixation on her clothes, even her cleavage; chronic criticism that her voice is shrill; calls for her to exit the race; and most of all, the male commentators in the news media who, they argue, were consistently tougher on her than on Mr. Obama.
It's not that they were tough on her, but that they were easy on him.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, many women say with regret, did not inspire a deep or nuanced conversation between men and women, only familiar gender-war battles consisting of male gibes and her supporters’ angry responses. Mr. Obama, who sought to minimize the role of race in his candidacy, led something of a national dialogue about it, but Mrs. Clinton, who made womanhood an explicit part of her run, seemed unwilling or unable to talk candidly about gender.
Interesting, but Obama did not set out to lead that dialogue. He was dragged into it. Face it, Obama has the more agile, able mind. He presented himself as transcending race — something he could see many Americans want to do — and when he had to deal with it — he spoke in broad, inclusive terms. Clinton promoted herself from the start as deserving special support because of her sex, and then when things didn't go her way, she and her surrogates were quick to attribute her problems to sex and to whine and blame about sexism.

IN THE COMMENTS: dbp says:
"With each passing day, it seems a little less likely that the next president of the United States will wear a skirt..."

My hopes in this regard were dashed once Rudy dropped out.

"Vichy Forecasts Nazi Pact in Week... Form to Stress Economic and Moral Factors... Continental Solidarity Is the Keynote..."

That's a headline from the NYT on this day in 1941. 1941 is the year my random number generator had chosen for me to blog today on my side project The Time That Blog Forgot. It's strange and disturbing to read all the headlines of a day in that year, which may be the darkest year of its century. The usual stories about sporting events and market prices and local accidents are mixed — in typical newspaper style — with stories like the one with the headline quoted above. The first post, under that headline:
The article recounts the opinion of the Temps, the French newspaper read by "financiers, manufacturers and the liberal professions":
"None among us has forgotten the apostolate of Chancellor Hitler, who, even before becoming the master of Germany, quickened the strength of his country by awakening in the minds of his compatriots the ancient and noble — and also grim — notion of national honor. It seems impossible that this ardent apostle should not admit that a foreign people, even vanquished — especially if vanquished — may also feel itself bound by honor. In point of fact we know that he admits it. Since her defeat France has received his salute both as soldier and as political leader. And we were even told that in order to rebuild a well-balanced Europe France would naturally be called upon for her share of intelligence and effort."

Vanquishment is rough. It makes you say the most godawful stupid things.
The second post also quotes the French press, this time taking a swipe at the U.S. President:
"France is not a dominion of the United States."

That's the attitude of the French press today:

"As far as Mr. Roosevelt's decisions are concerned one must ask by what right on on the basis of what treaties he is interfering," said the Matin.

"France did not fall in this war in behalf of Roosevelt or Churchill but for France," added L'Oeuvre.
The third post is about an American religious leader attacking Americans.
It is not an outside enemy that will destroy America, but our own "materialism, paganism, lust, sin and selfishness."

So says the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. No matter how big our armies and how powerful our weapons, he says, "The enemy will get into the hearts of a wicked and disolute people." We need religion, in his view. "One individual, completely surrendered to God, is of more value than an army."
"London is almost reduced to ruins now. But if peace is made now and we go on for the next twenty-five years as we have lived for the last, it will be pulverized to dust by the war of 1960."

I must confess that I cannot understand this Peale character. What have we done in the last quarter century that's all that terrible? Look at what is going on in the world right now. Can't he be clear and say that is wrong and we need to fight? Instead he picks on us for the ordinary human character flaws we might have. Maybe he is saying that we need to be strong so we'll be able to fight. But he just can't help making that into an occasion for insisting that we be more religious. Eh. It's a sermon. What can you expect? I'll tell you what: a little more optimism. I don't need to hear about getting pulverized to dust in some war 19 years from now. You know, there's something to be said for positive thinking.
I'm working out the rules for this project. Am I allowed to know the future? I've decided I'm not going to reveal things about the future — I have to be in the assigned year — but I'm going to use what I know to make my comments more interesting or funny or sad.

Yesterday's year, by the way, was 1946. Just one post, about Communism.

EDITED: I've included the full text of the Peale post and deleted "More at the link" so you can see what my last point is about.

May 18, 2008

Glenn Reynolds joins the cult...

... only to immediately commit heresy.

Beware the fisheye curse!

Murakami's "Dob"

Let's walk among the flowering trees this cloudy Sunday.

Flowering trees

Walk... or bike:

Flowering trees

I'm glad it's overcast. The trees are pretty enough:

Flowering trees

I don't want them too pretty:

Flowering trees

How are you disposing of your fluorescent bulbs?

It's not easy.
[M]uch of the nation has no real recycling network for CFLs, despite the ubiquitous PR campaigns, rebates and giveaways encouraging people to adopt the swirly darlings of the energy-conscious movement. Recyclers and others guess that only a small fraction of CFLs sold in the United States are recycled, while the rest are put out with household trash or otherwise discarded....

Compact fluorescent bulbs each contain roughly 5 milligrams of mercury, which health professionals say is tiny in relation to the amount in a glass thermometer. Using that estimate, almost 2 tons of mercury were in the 380 million sold last year....

Kim N. Dietrich, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, said the bigger concern is the hazard that would result if the mercury from millions of bulbs escapes into the air and waterways before working up the food chain.

"I'm just amazed that the government is not paying more attention to this," Dietrich said.

Me too. It's obvious that much of those 200 tons is going to go into ordinary waste dumps every year. [CORRECTION: 2 tons.]

I hate fluorescent bulbs anyway, for aesthetic reasons. I'm willing to save energy by turning off or dimming more lights. But maybe you don't feel the aesthetic problem and you don't care about my trivial suffering. Why don't you care about the mercury?

"How will Barack Obama get to 270?"

In depth, serious analysis of what really matters: the Electoral College. — from Democratic pollster Paul Maslin:
States that strongly favor Obama ("strongly" in the context of close states, that is): Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington. That's 43 electoral votes. Add that to the safe blue 157 votes in 11 states and D.C. and Obama is at 200.

States that slightly favor Obama: Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Another 55 votes. He's now at 255

States that strongly favor McCain: Florida, North Carolina. Their 42 electoral votes are probably going to the Republicans.

States that slightly favor McCain: Colorado, 9 votes; Missouri, 11 votes; and Virginia, 13 votes. Obama's chances are better here.

Pure toss-ups: Nevada, 5 votes; New Hampshire, 4 votes; New Mexico, 5 votes; and Ohio, 20 votes.

Clearly, and I'm being cautious, I think it's going to be a close race. If Obama wins the 255 votes in the states where he's favored, then to get to 270 he needs to choose from the following menu: 1) Win Ohio, which takes him to 275; 2) win in the West -- Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, for 274; 3) win the three N's (Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire) for 269, plus one other state; or 4) win two of the three N's and either Colorado or Virginia.
Much more at the link. I'd like to see a second article by Maslin applying the same analysis with Hillary as the Democratic candidate.

If Hillary is not to be the first woman President, is there a woman President on the horizon?

Kate Zernike surveys the possibilities. Of course, it's a ridiculously inadequate argument for Hillary, but I've heard it over and over: If we don't elect Hillary, we'll have to wait too long to see a woman President and a lot of us won't get to have a woman President in our lifetime.

Zernike thinks the potential female candidates may "feel dispirited" by what happened to Hillary:
“Who would dare to run?” said Karen O’Connor, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “The media is set up against you, and if you have the money problem to begin with, why would anyone put their families through this, why would anyone put themselves through this?”

For this reason, she said, she doesn’t expect a serious contender anytime soon. “I think it’s going to be generations.”

Others say Mrs. Clinton had such an unusual combination of experience and name recognition that she might actually raise the bar for women.

In fact, the biggest point of agreement seemed to be that there is no Hillary waiting in the wings.

Except, of course, Hillary.
Oh, good lord, is this really the way it is? I think people were open to the idea of a woman President, but Hillary Clinton did not suit us. We don't want someone else like her. We want someone different. For starters, how about a woman who did not build her political career through her husband?

"One pound of fat is about the size of a coffee mug."

Ugh. This click-on-a-body-part WaPo webpage is grossing me out. But it might be helpful if you want to be scared or grossed out into losing weight. It's designed to pressure parents to keep their kids from getting fat. There are many reasons to avoid getting fat, of course, but WaPo seems to ready to cite anything scary:
At least one study has suggested that obese children might also tend toward lower IQs and be more likely to have brain lesions similar to those seen in Alzheimer's patients.
Is that useful?

Aber Wrac’h — does that sound like the name of a place in France.

But it is in France, and Nina's there — with lots of interesting photographs.

John McCain on "Saturday Night Live" — joking about gaydar and — as a conlawprof I love this — federalism.

"$160 million to the Department of Defense for developing a device that can jam gaydar. Now, I don't know if this is anti-gay or pro-gay or if such a device would even work, but I do know this. Jamming gaydar is not a federal responsibility. That's something best left to state and local government."

Joking about gaydar, he's cuing the young audience that he's not a social conservative. Now, maybe he is, but if he's joking about it, he's at least not sternly determined about traditional morality.

Overall, that was nicely done. Lots of self-deprecation. It's fear of self-deprecation that makes it so hard for politicians to be funny.

McCain was on twice. Here's the bit from Weekend Update:

"Imagine the excitement of leaving the convention and STILL not knowing who the nominee was!"

Music for driving.

As you can see from my last post, I took a long drive yesterday, driving for the sake of driving, and I wrote: "Propitiously, the radio played 'Radar Love.'" A commenter — aptly named Skeptical — challenged me:
Sorry, I don't think "Radar Love" on the radio can count as propitious. That's a song about somebody who isn't driving just to drive; he's driving because there is somewhere that he definitely has to be.
That's a pretty subtle point about the close interpretation of the lyrics. If it's a song about driving and you're driving and the music feels great for driving, does the stress on reaching the destination make it not a great driving song? Of course, there are some great songs about driving that don't stress the destination. I'm thinking of all the songs that rave about the car itself — like "Little GTO" and "409"— or the songs that are using driving as a metaphor for sex — like "Little Red Corvette" and "Mustang Sally." But stressing the destination creates an urgency about the forward motion that makes the song great for driving even when you are driving just to drive. Don't you love to drive to "Six Days on the Road"?

But I'm not so sure "Radar Love" is about the destination. It's in the now. It's about extrasensory powers enabling the singer to hear the voice of his "baby" without a phone or radio at all. "She sends her comfort, coming in from above. Don't need no radio at all." Via radar love, he's able to feel good again, driving now.

Anyway, driving yesterday, I needed a radio. I like the chance combinations of song and landscape. I like it when they fit and I like it when they don't. Here I am driving across the Wisconsin River on Route 14:

"Radar Love" has ranked well on some lists of best driving songs. We could try to make a list, but most people end up with songs that mean something to them, that are from their era. Let's try to transcend that. "Radar Love" is not from my era. I just happened to have the 70s channel on the radio, where I go when the 60s channel is playing one too many Supremes songs. Here's a VH1 list of Top 10 driving songs. There are a lot of things to object to about that list. #10 is something that would make me instantly change channels. But I'm not going to object to the fact that #1 is a motorcycle song. I'm going to use that as an excuse to embed this:

And now that the topic is movies and motorcycles, I have even more of an excuse to put this up, which I was going to put up anyway, because of the way it expresses the idea of driving for the sake of driving:

One last thing. This is my choice of best driving song: