July 26, 2008

I created a vortex on Melrose Avenue.



(Big thanks to commenter Chip Ahoy!)

If you wonder what this place is, well, you can see from the sign that it's on Melrose Avenue, so go find it.

Here's what we said at the time:
This looks like what they do on "Trading Spaces" and the people come back and hate it.

The hay-on-the-wall episode!


There was also the moss-on-the-wall episode. This is the twigs all over the outside of your building episode.

Some things I like about Beverly Hills.

The facade!


The diagonal crossing!


The torso!


The shame ....


Just kidding! There's no shame.

Listening to presidential talk — is Barack Obama what we want to hear now?

"And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."

It's Barack Obama, sounding smart and sensible in a casual conversation with British Tory Leader David Cameron. Drudge says this conversation was "caught on mic" so I was hoping for something revealing, but the linked article says the 2 men were "[s]eemingly unaware of an enormous fuzzy boom," which of course, means they were completely aware of the PR they were generating together.

By the way, I'm reading David Foster Wallace's essay about following around the McCain campaign in 2000, and it includes a helpful glossary with this item:
Weasel = The weird gray fuzzy thing that sound techs put over their sticks' mikes at scrums to keep annoying wind-noise off the audio. It looks like a large floppy mouse-colored version of a certain popular kind of fuzzy bathroom slipper. (N.B.: Weasels, which are sometimes worn by sound techs as headgear during OTSs when it's really cold, are thus sometimes known as tech toupees.)
(Don't buy the linked essay if you already have "Consider the Lobster." It's the same thing as "Up, Simba.")

What's the correct spelling — "mic" or "mike"? It's mike, obviously! Do you know any guys named Michael who spell their nickname "Mic"? Imagine 2 Michaels, Mike and Mic: Which one do you want to have a beer with?

So, anyway, if you think Obama sounds clever in that quote, realize that he's mainly saying "I'm the decider" — Bush's completely pithy and oft-ridiculed summary of the presidency.

And maybe it's time for a President with more elaborate language. Maybe we've heard enough from Mike and Mic is starting to sound really refreshingly wonderful.

There's something I like about L.A.


ADDED: The commenters get the answer easily. The men are all wearing long pants. If you have trouble understanding my opposition to men in shorts, look at this photo and visualize all the males in shorts. If you don't see the problem, I hope you are not dressing yourself.

Can you see what it is?

July 25, 2008

Greetings from L.A.!


"End of the Affair: Barack Obama and the press break up."

Oh! Do tell!
Around midnight on July 16, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney received a terse e-mail from Barack Obama's press office. The campaign was irked by the Times' latest poll and Nagourney and Megan Thee's accompanying front-page piece titled "Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race," which was running in the morning's paper. Nagourney answered the query, the substance of which he says was minor, and went to bed, thinking the matter resolved.
What was the query? Why are you being mean to me?

Read the whole thing. I'd say more, but my delayed flight is finally boarding, so you'll have to run with it.

"And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant)..."

"... when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness. The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow...."

Read the whole thing — in the London TimesOnline — or... wait... is this humor theme played out? This is a good example of something that takes no new insight. It's got to play out. This isn't satire. There's no critique of Obama in this, just continuous ga-ga admiration. I'm getting a tummy ache from all this candy.

ADDED: Just a bit of a sledgehammer. I know this guy is making fun of the deification. I'm saying that even this as a humor theme is played out. This is candy too. "The Daily Show" runs with jokes like this every damned night. I started blogging this article because I thought the mockery of the deification tasted pretty good. But then in the middle of putting up the post, I realized it was making me sick too!

CNN's horrific Obamamania.

I'm sitting in an airport where I'm forced to listen to CNN TV constantly, and the endless enthusiasm over Barack Obama is appalling. There's no pretense of journalistic neutrality. Barack Obama is getting a rockstar welcome... blah blah blah... ugh!

Will Americans get sick of hearing "Barack Obama" cheerleading? Even if you like him — and I kind of like him — it's cloying. Too much candy.

There's a lilting cadence to CNN's pronunciation of the name: ba-ROCKO-ba-ma, with an arcing, hopeful inflection. It's most noticeable when they say "John McCain" soon after. The nonObama candidate's name is said in a leaden singsong, ending in a flat low note.

If I were at home, I'd imitate the way they say the two names, but as I said, I'm in an airport, and my little foray into YouTubing would be even more annoying than the relentless CNN feed.

UPDATE: "Barack Obama is still in Europe...." And Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

IN THE COMMENTS: The Drill SGT said:
I thought you had a crush on him?
You know what it's like? To continue with the "rockstar" trope. If a rockstar you like gets too popular and everyone's squealing over him, including a lot of people who seem to be excited by the popularity itself, well, then, it's just not cool to like him anymore. He's now popular for his popularity, and it makes you want to discover something new.

Another coffeehouse.

Once again, I rely on you, my dear friends, to keep the conversation going.

I will join you later today... from the west coast.

Talk about anything you want.

July 24, 2008

Obama talks to Berlin "as a citizen — a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world."

... Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen -- a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world....

[O]n the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

And that's when the airlift began -- when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up.
I guess we're not supposed to think about how Obama wanted and still wants to give up on the Iraq war. Surely, if he'd been there in 1948, he would have said the Berlin airlift is hopeless. He thought the surge was hopeless.

I won't excerpt the rest of the speech. You can read it, but I'll summarize: Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another, right now.

"I'll probably... peel off until the cake."

Out of context Obama quote of the day.

Yesterday's was:
They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life. They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them -- that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness.
(Contextualized by me, here.)

An L.A. meetup?

I'll be blogging from L.A. soon, and as discussed here — where you gave me so many good tips — I may do a meetup with blog readers. If you think you might come, email me at my gmail address (annalthouse) so I can see if the numbers are there and, if it's going to happen, give you the time and place.

"I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do."

It's Giles Coren, getting "mightily pissed off" about copy editing — over the deletion of the word "a" — and with good reason. (Via Metafilter.) I completely understand the sentiment, and I love the thoroughly British tone of the complaint letter.
There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best". Well, you fucking don't. This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.... 2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?
Jesus with a bear? Some Christian iconography I haven't heard of? Or is that another one of his gay jokes, which it could be even if it is only a typo for "beard." I mean, I understand this Coren character is simultaneously fabulously subtle and crude.
3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.
Scansion. Railing about scansion in prose. Metre is crucial. I agree! ADDED: I've searched the internet for Jesus with a bear and found this very cool painting from Jim Woodring. (Click image to enlarge.)

You can stop envying your neighbor's granite countertops now.

Or have you already sprung for this expensive kitchen upgrade that may be the equivalent, cancer-wise, of smoking?

"Check in the hotel, Breck Girl, don't just go in there for a couple hours of quickies and leave at 2:40 in the morning."

"Check in, pal. Leave at a normal time. Not that I'm an expert, don't misunderstand."

Obama's rally in Berlin.

How strange is it for an American presidential candidate to have a big rally in a foreign country? Why is Obama doing this in Berlin?

This may be a cheap shot, but since it's also thoroughly predictable, why did Obama set it up? The main point of a rally is to generate optics. Why would it seem like a good idea for an American candidate to be seen amid thousands of cheering Germans?

Of course, some American voters long for European love and will warm to these images of German enthusiasm, but presumably these people already support Obama.

ADDED: The German perspective:
So what is motivating Berliners and Germans in general to treat a Democratic presidential hopeful to such a royal welcome?...

In comparison to US elections, German political campaigns are short, stolid and sober affairs that focus as much on party platforms as personalities. In the wake of World War II, many Germans view charismatic leadership with mistrust.
Good call!
That, however, doesn't mean that ordinary Germans or the media are immune to the aura of a politician who knows how to work a crowd.

The current edition of Germany's most serious news weekly, Der Spiegel, features Obama on its cover with the only vaguely ironic headline "Germany Meets the Superstar" -- a play on the title of the German version of the TV show "American Idol."

And many German bloggers do seem to idolize the Illinois senator.

"For me he already is the American president," wrote one user of a Website about Obama's Berlin visit. "He may not be have been elected, but he's the president in people's hearts."
Ick. But it reminds me of the famous interview with Princess Diana:
MARTIN BASHIR: Do you think you will ever be Queen?

DIANA: No, I don't, no.

BASHIR: Why do you think that?

DIANA: I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, in people's hearts, but I don't see myself being Queen of this country. I don't think many people will want me to be Queen.

Actually, when I say many people I mean the establishment that I married into, because they have decided that I'm a non-starter.

BASHIR: Why do you think they've decided that?

DIANA: Because I do things differently, because I don't go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart, not the head, and albeit that's got me into trouble in my work, I understand that. But someone's got to go out there and love people and show it.
Ah, so there's an angle if somehow Obama doesn't make it in the end. He can always be President of our hearts.

Deflated Canadian art-prank on Texas.

Canadian artist Cesar Saez proposed to build at 300-meter banana that would float in the air... in Texas. He needed over a million dollars to do this and the Canada Council for the Arts granted him $55,000. Since he was never able to raise the rest of the money — duh! — he never has to build the banana, and he gets to keep the $55,000.
When asked about this failed banana investment, Carole Breton, of the Canada Council, explained, "We understand that sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, there is no creation at the end . . . this is money for research, not for results."

ADDED: Bonus, only slightly related video:

July 23, 2008

"Ah, look, an old man in the clouds."

"... he's going to gaze serenely into the distance as he summons a few graceful fighter jets."

"The Arctic may hold 90 billion barrels of oil, more than all the known reserves of Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Mexico combined..."

"... and enough to supply U.S. demand for 12 years, the U.S. Geological Survey said. One-third of the undiscovered oil is in Alaskan territory, the agency found in a study released today."

Oil thirst — will it transform the election?

"Morally speaking, what [Bob] Novak was doing here is no better than walking down a crowded street with his handgun, firing off .22 rounds at random."

Says Matt Yglesias — about Novak's hit and run accident today.

ADDED: Above the Law's "Lawyer of the Day" award goes to David Bono, the law firm partner who bicycled after Novak and blocked his escape. You can see him on video here. He must have been agile on his bike, and I like his verbal agility as he says — responding to Novak's claim not to have seen the struck pedestrian — "There was a pedestrian splayed on his windshield. I don't think there's any way you could miss that." A perfectly upstanding, observant, and articulate witness. Tough luck for Novak.

IN THE COMMENTS: Seven Machos:
The important thing here is that an evil person did an evil thing and that a good person (on a bicycle! which is quasi-sainthood) stopped it.

We can't let common sense get in the way of the narrative.

AJ Lynch:
Yeah he was splayed on the windshield then he just slid off like one of those mishaps you see in a cartoon on TV.

Michelle Obama's "combination of bitterness, ingratitude, anti-Americanism, leftism, and, yes, elitism rubs a lot of people the wrong way."

Ramesh Ponnuru reviews the evidence and opines that "it would be remarkable if people weren't criticizing her."

22% of Americans "believe any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic."

According to a new Middlebury Institute/Zogby International poll.

And it's 40% among those aged 18 to 24, 43% among Hispanics, and 40% among African-Americans.

This is not a right-wing thing. Liberals are most likely to buy it — 32% compared to 17% for conservatives.

So all these people have the law wrong and don't seem to know the basics of the history of the Civil War. They think secession is possible, but would they support secession in their own state?

18% said yes. In the South: 24%. And 35% of the under 30 group were ready to secede.

Fascinating(ly stupid).

One man's "justice nerve" is another man's "collectivist nerve."

Jim Lindgren objects to a regime of mandatory community service.
Let’s hope that the Supreme Court would not permit Service Nation's move backwards to a more feudal relationship between ordinary people and the people who govern them. One senses that de Toqueville understood American values of volunteerism and freedom of association much better than the people behind Service Nation, an understanding that was also concerned about the tyranny of the majority.
Service Nation. It sounds like the title of a dystopian novel.

You'd think before naming your movement, you'd check the etymology of your key word:

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin servitium, slavery, from servus, slave.
But as Lindgren notes, one man's "justice nerve" is another man's "collectivist nerve." Something might sound so right to you, that you don't even notice how it sounds to others.

"But what good suggestions for McCain. He might visit a foreign country — Has he ever done that?"

Prime York snark.

Should the government decide that you've lived long enough?

William Saletan says yes.

ADDED: I thought we'd committed to the belief that age discrimination is wrong. How could we backtrack on that?

Young people want to believe they will live to be very old, so even they would balk at telling old people they can't have the heart surgery they need.

Imagine the human interest stories there would be about beloved great grandparents who only need a simple pacemaker but whom the government has slated to die.

Saletan's idea is emotionally and politically obtuse.

"Tried to find my hat first. I never did find my cigarettes."

Video of a man sitting in a diner when a car plows through the wall, obliterates the booth, pins the man against the counter, and doesn't hurt him at all.

Joe Klein's scurrilous meltdown.

Time's Joe Klein openly reviles John McCain for saying:
This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.
McCain basically added a sharp twist to one of his usual statements. The usual statement is touting his own aptitude and honor. The twist is to accuse Obama of the opposite.

Here's Klein:
I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.
I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major journalist. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether Klein has the right temperament for Time Magazine. How sad.


Here's what I see. Klein is trying to generate a big outrage to distract us from McCain's solid point. McCain said we had to win the war, he pushed for the surge, the surge worked, and now we will have that victory that he would not give up on. Obama said the war was hopeless, we'd have to accept loss, and the surge would only waste more lives.

That is a huge, huge difference. And that is what McCain was referring to. It could have been put even more sharply.

If Klein wants to get all outraged about something, he should get outraged retrospectively about how Obama and many Democrats were ready and even eager to embrace defeat. If Klein wants to worry about who is unsuited for the presidency, he ought to recognize that if Obama had been President two years ago, we would have suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq that would have repercussions for decades.

And Klein thinks it's "desperation" to urge us to face that crucial reality, which is what McCain did? Desperation — which is recklessness arising from the utter lack of hope — is what Obama had about the Iraq war.

Klein updates his post:
The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be "lost" at this point.
The point is that Obama's judgment would have led this country to jump headlong into defeat. We now must decide if we want this man making choices about things that will arise in the future. Why is it necessary to spell it out again and again that we need to use past judgments to predict future judgments about new matters? I feel like an annoying pedant saying this again. But the reason it's necessary is that journalists like Klein are covering for Obama.

Talk about "sad." That's sad.
The reality is that no matter who is elected President, we are looking at a residual U.S. force of 30-50,000 by 2011 (a year ahead of the previous schedule). The reality is that McCain should be proud that he helped salvage a disastrous situation by pushing the counterinsurgency plan. It's something to run on. But, at this point, McCain must sense that it's not a winning hand. Obama, the poker player, has drawn to an inside straight: the Iraqis favor his plan over McCain's long-term bases. That must be galling. But it's no excuse to pop off the way McCain did. It was, shockingly, unpresidential.
Oh, stop your idiotic gasping, Klein, and see what you just did! You reinforced McCain's point. You see the campaign for the presidency as a game to be won and the war as something to play with. McCain would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. If his insistence that we win the war now brings him defeat, while the man who chose defeat in the war wins the presidency, that is what McCain saw all along. To think, wow, he must really be pissed off about the way that played out is to show how you think, Klein.

Note: I am only reading McCain's statement and have not seen the video or heard the audio. Perhaps he's yelling and carrying on in a way that would justify Klein's use of "meltdown" and "pop off" and "shockingly unpresidential." But Klein's text emphasizes the "statement" and has no description of his tone of voice, facial expression, or gestures, so I am assuming it's all based on McCain's words.

ADDED: Confirming the assumption I just made, here's the video (via Americablog):

There is absolutely nothing angry or out-of-control about this statement. As for the line, which seems scripted, it's a strong line. I can see why Klein and his ilk are trying to scare McCain out of using it.

AND: McCain uses the line in this video. (Via Gateway Pundit.) This is a long segment in which Katie Couric interviews Obama and then McCain and does a nice job of crisply defining the two men:

July 22, 2008

"They say we're young and we don't know."

RIP, Estelle Getty.

"Today Is Fitzmas for Mickey Kaus."

Says Byron York.

ADDED: This stuff is painful:
Shocked to see a reporter, and without saying anything, Edwards ran up the stairs leading from the hotel basement to the lobby. But, spotting a photographer, he doubled back into the basement. As he emerged from the stairwell, reporter Butterfield questioned him about his hookup with Rielle.

Edwards did not answer and then ran into a nearby restroom. He stayed inside for about 15 minutes, refusing to answer questions from the NATIONAL ENQUIRER about what he was doing in the hotel. A group of hotel security men eventually escorted him from the men's room, while preventing the NATIONAL ENQUIRER reporters from following him out of the hotel....

"He was clearly surprised that we had caught him at this very late hour inside the hotel.

"Some guests up at this late hour watched the spectacle in amusement from a staircase nearby."

"I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but I am also opposed to courts taking fundamental decisions away from American voters."

Says lawprof Neal Kumar Katyal, who is representing the state of Louisiana as it seeks to reopen the Supreme Court case Kennedy v. Louisiana:
Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford who represented the defendant in the case, Patrick Kennedy, said “rehearing is completely unnecessary.” Military law does not apply to Mr. Kennedy, a civilian, Professor Fisher said, and Congress has not made child rape a capital offense for civilians.

Professor Fisher added that military law has long made rapes of both adults and children capital offenses in some circumstances. The innovation of the 2006 law was only to break out children as a separate category.

According to the petition filed Monday, the 2006 law is powerful evidence of the direction of public sentiment. “While Congress has not, as yet, applied the death penalty to child rape in the civilian context,” the petition said, “the recent trend (not to mention the general parity between military and civilian law today) indicates that it may very well do so, if given the opportunity.”
As I have already said, I think it is very important for the Supreme Court to rehear the case. The Court's analysis of "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" surveyed the law throughout the United States and drew conclusions without realizing that Congress, which represents all the states, had recently approved of the death penalty for the rape of a child (in a law applying to crimes in the military). From the now embarrassingly inadequate opinion:
Louisiana reintroduced the death penalty for rape of a child in 1995. See La. Stat. Ann. §14:42 (West Supp. 1996).... Five States have since followed Louisiana’s lead: Georgia, see Ga. Code Ann. §16–6–1 (2007) (enacted 1999); Montana, see Mont. Code Ann. §45–5–503 (2007) (enacted 1997); Oklahoma, see Okla. Stat., Tit. 10, §7115(K) (West 2007 Supp.) (enacted 2006); South Carolina, see S. C. Code Ann. §16–3–655(C)(1) (Supp. 2007) (enacted 2006); and Texas, see Tex. Penal Code Ann. §12.42(c)(3) (West Supp. 2007) (enacted 2007); see also Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.021(a) (West Supp. 2007)...

By contrast, 44 States have not made child rape a capital offense. As for federal law, Congress in the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 expanded the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty is a permissible sentence, including certain nonhomicide offenses; but it did not do the same for child rape or abuse....

The evidence of a national consensus with respect to the death penalty for child rapists, as with respect to juveniles, mentally retarded offenders, and vicarious felony murderers, shows divided opinion but, on balance, an opinion against it. Thirty-seven jurisdictions—36 States plus the Federal Government—have the death penalty. As mentioned above, only six of those jurisdictions authorize the death penalty for rape of a child....
This crucial passage is junk now.

How Radovan Karadzic hid himself.

With a new look, he "lived a strikingly public life practicing alternative medicine and writing for a health magazine" in Belgrade, WaPo reports.

Dell at Michelangelo's.

Dell at Michelangelo's

An iPhone picture of my sister, who drinks tea, while I drink coffee.

What Maliki is doing is betting that Obama will win.

Says Eli Lake:
In throwing his support behind Senator Obama's plan for a 16-month timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki is calculating that Mr. Obama may well be the next president of America, and betting that a successful visit by Mr. Obama to Baghdad will advance Iraqi interests in a new administration.

"If we were skinny, cute and 23 in 2008, we'd dress exactly like Wesley."

Project Rungay doesn't "care what you bitches say"
about the way Wesley Nault, one of the new "Project Runway" contestants, dresses himself.

"Anyway, I wake up on this day and think – oh, this used to be Poland’s holiday."

How would you feel if the holiday you celebrated as an innocent child were now discredited?

McCain refers to "the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border."

Is that a horribly embarrassingly revelation of ignorance or what the language experts recognize as "the common type of speech error that replaces an intended word with another that is semantically close and contextually relevant"?

Must we be principled about this? Can't we just mock the people we don't like when they make a gaffe?

ADDED: Politico says:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said “Iraq” on Monday when he apparently meant “Afghanistan”, adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition.

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers....

The McCain campaign says Obama has had plenty of flubs of his own, including a reference to "57 states" and a string of misstated place names during the primaries that Republicans gleefully sent around as YouTube links.
The problem with McCain's gaffes is that they augment fears that he is too old for the job. Obama's gaffes resonate with concerns we have about him too, but they are different concerns, and they are not as hard to overcome as McCain's age.

"How to blog, get tenure and prosper."

John Hawks speaks from experience (at the University of Wisconsin).

Important pens. Important insects.

You can't bring a camera onto the golf course when you're a spectator at a PGA event, as I was last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So I brought a little sketchbook and pen, thinking I might be moved to record something of what I saw and heard, in the style of my old "Amsterdam Notebooks." But ever since the fountain india ink fatally clogged my favorite Mont Blanc pen, I haven't been able to recover the old sketchbook spirit. My passion died with that pen. Here's all that went into the book I carried this past weekend, this little dialogue between my sister and me:
There's a mosquito on that guy's shirt.

If he was cuter, you would help him.


Now, I'm mourning once again not only for the Mont Blanc pen that died of fountain india, but the Pelikan pen that I used in law school to take all my notes and write all my exams. I am utterly sure that I would not have done so well without it and that it therefore determined the whole course of my adult life. You can see the beloved Pelikan in my hand here.

And what of that mosquito? Had it landed on a more attractive man, everything would have been different.

There are many pens and many mosquitoes. Most are just another pen or just another insect. But some!

IN THE COMMENTS: Trooper York discovers the theme of the day, and it inspires hysterical laughter.

"If I were sitting in a Tube train and all the people opposite me were reading 'Mein Kampf' with obvious enjoyment and approval..."

"... it probably wouldn’t disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkien or Richard Adams."

Amba quotes science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock in a post that ends with the words "the coming Obama presidency."

Rathergate, the movie.

The New York Observer has the scoop.

What would it take for you to want to see this movie?

Who plays Dan Rather?

"[B]irth control ... messes with God’s will, God’s will to permanently relieve me from cat litter duty. Because God has nothing better to do."

That's Lauren at Feministe, taking a flippant attitude about God and conception. Presumably, that works for her blog's readers as she alerts them to a Bush administration proposal to classify birth control with abortion. (The point of the classification seems to give to health care providers the right to choose not to provide contraception services.)

ADDED: Lauren mocks religion. In her view, it's absurd to imagine God micromanaging the wiggling of sperm cells in fallopian tubes. I get it. But look at it another way. When the Supreme Court preserved abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it stressed "the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy." Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter wrote:
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
Lauren may think it's absurd to imagine a God who involves Himself in conception, but many people do have this idea of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Why is it outrageous for the law to give them room to live by their beliefs?

You could say, they can have their beliefs but if the state wants to force health care providers to give contraception services, then they'll have to give up the business of health care. But that's the sort of harsh reasoning that we see from those who say that if the state wants to ban abortion and contraception, women who don't want to bear children can just refrain from having sex.

Yes, providing health care is a commercial enterprise and having sex is not (except in situations where courts have not identified rights that override legislative policies). More regulation is therefore acceptable. I'm simply trying to explain why someone who doesn't believe that God is involved in conception might support the removal of legal restrictions that burden those who do – in this case, health care providers.

"Fake interviews."

Barack in Iraq.

Dreaming about blogging.

Though blogging consumes many of my waking hours, I don't normally dream about blogging. But last night, in a dream I got extremely excited about blogging an idea I had about the election.

I never found a way to sit in front of a computer and type out the words. Maybe it's impossible to type in a dream:
The thing that snapped me into realizing I was dreaming was, uh-- was my digital clock. I couldn't really read it. It was like the circuitry was all screwed up or something.

Yeah, that's real common. And small printed material is pretty tough too. Very unstable....

Anyway, I read this essay by Philip K. Dick.

What, you read it in your dream?

No, no. I read it before the dream.
Dialogue from the film "Waking Life."

Not that I believe everything I hear in the movies — even in cartoon movies — but I think you can't read in dreams and, so, you can't write. So you can't blog. But you can get very excited about an idea you want to blog.

What was the idea? I thought I could make a vigorous, influential argument that the Republican Party could avoid nominating John McCain — that there is still time to step off what it knows is the path to almost certain defeat in November.

July 21, 2008

Savage autism.

That's his analysis and he's sticking to it:
In the July 16 installment of his program, which is broadcast every weekday, [Michael] Savage suggested that “99 percent of the cases” of autism were a result of lax parenting. He told his audience: “They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life.’ ” Among the other admonitions he felt children with autism should be hearing, he said, were: “ ‘Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’ ”

Asked Monday if he actually believed that 99 out of every 100 cases of autism were misdiagnosed, Mr. Savage conceded that figure was “a little high.” He added, “It was hyperbole.”...

“He characterizes children with autism who are very, very ill — disabled children — as essentially bad kids; the only thing wrong with them is they have parents who don’t discipline them,” said John Gilmore, executive director of Autism United and the father of an 8-year-old with a diagnosis of autism. “That completely misrepresents what is going on with children with autism.”

“Basically, what he’s doing is parroting what used to be said about autism 40 years ago, back in the heyday of Freudian analysis,” Mr. Gilmore added. “It was blamed on bad parenting. There wasn’t a shred of evidence to support that.”
It's painful even to think of the way parents of autistic children had to endure this blame on top of the difficulties and disappointments of having an autistic child. What an idiot Savage is to drag us back to those bad old days!

Is Savage's mother to blame for his idiocy? No, I think Savage is fully responsible. Now, it may be true, as the linked NYT article goes on to say, that some children are misdiagnosed with autism. But Savage's brutal tirade pushes us farther away from clear thinking about all that.

I do not listen to Savage's show, but based on that one horrible clip, I'd say he's a man in love with his own ratings — and let everything else, including basic decency, be damned.


(Via Gawker.)

Looks like "Bloggingheads: The Prequel!"...

Yeah...isn't that guy on the right Kaus?

A new luxury: toothless fish nibble the dead skin off your feet.

A pedicure.

"There are no moral or immoral jokes. A joke is either funny or it is not. That is all."

Jim Holt — author of "Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes"states a proposition (and debates it with Will Wilkinson whose immediate response is: "Can't possibly be true").

That joke Earl Butz told just wasn't funny?

Sarah Silverman's "the Holocaust isn't always funny" is funny?

"I enjoy it. It's not work. You get to meet interesting people. You get to do interesting projects."

So says Ron Burke, the owner of Cecil's Shoe Repair, one of 10 Madison characters profiled in the local paper (Isthmus).

"'Crackhead' is an embarrassing line item to have on a résumé."

New York Times writer David Carr tells his astonishingly sordid life story and then reflects on his storytelling:
Junkies and drunks frequently end up putting a megaphone to their own pratfalls in the form of memoir because they need to believe that all of the time they spent with their lips wrapped around glass, whether is was a bottle of vodka or a crack pipe, actually meant something. That impulse suggests that I don’t regret the past — it brought me here to this nice, happy place — but I’d also like to squeeze something more from it. And so I have.

Playful pasta.


(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

July 20, 2008

A Sunday coffeehouse.

I'm off for my 4th drive to Milwaukee to see the 4th round of the U.S. Bank Championship (where my nephew, Cliff Kresge is now in 30th place). Yesterday, we got soaked by rain and chilled, but he had one of the "hot rounds" of the day, so we were happy.

No need to tell me that I could get a hotel room and not drive back and forth 88 miles every day. I know that. This is the way I do it.

I have my ways....

But this post isn't meant to be about me and my ways or about golf. This is just an extra place I'm setting up for you.

You can talk about your idiosyncratic ways. Are there some things you do that people are always informing you that you could do differently — as if you didn't know?

Is there anything else you want to talk about?

This is your Sunday coffeehouse. And it can be like my favorite Madison coffeehouse:


At the moment you want it to be, it's a bar.

So have a cup of coffee or have a glass of wine.

Your call.

"I used to swear a lot. I like swearing, and I love reading people who do it well."

Oh, lord — is that swearing? — I'm going with a second Kevin Drum quote this morning — and a second post traced to the netroots convention. But anyway, this is a different subject: The use of rough language among friends and in blogging that used to be written in the style of talking to your friends but is now written with the intent to reach the whole political world, which isn't going to listen properly if you talk like that. Was the bad language ever good, and if it was, what have we lost? We do still want blogging to sound like the way we'd talk to friends, don't we?



"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining."

The quote that wrecked Phil Gramm, now out as a McCain campaign co-chairman.

We need to make a list of quotes in the 2008 campaign season that were deemed so bad that it made more sense to boot the quotee that to try to explain the quote. I think of Samantha Power calling Hillary a "monster."

Help me collect them all.

At some point, we're losing something, aren't we? People are expendible, and thinking more deeply about statements has become a luxury no one believes we can afford anymore.

On the other hand, Phil Gramm can't complain. He'd be whining.

No whining!

Eh, I'm sick of the whining about whining. Many complaints and criticisms are justified. The "no whining" retort is itself shallow and suggests that thinking more deeply is a luxury we can't afford anymore.

"Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want."

"And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited. Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki supposed said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months," he said in an interview with Der Spiegel that was released Saturday.

"That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
But he also purportedly doesn't like the idea that people are interpreting that as tantamount to an endorsement of Barack Obama. A spokesman said his remarks "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately." I'm assuming he spoke in Arabic, and the Arabic was translated into German by Der Spiegel and then retranslated into English. There's a lot you can do with a subtle statement that you get to translate twice and the temptation to influence the American election is so strong. I assume al-Maliki himself has his preference, much as he may cloak it, but surely, so does Der Spiegel and the various translators.

Kevin Drum says:
This is, obviously, bad news for John McCain. As Joe Klein says, McCain's original support of the surge, which is his main talking point on Iraq policy, "is a small, tactical truth too complicated to be understood by most Americans. Maliki Endorses Obama Withdrawal Plan is a headline everyone can understand."

True enough, but only if that's the headline the U.S. media actually decides on. Unfortunately, we're in sort of a fluid phase right now in which the press seems unsure of what narrative to adopt on the current state of American foreign policy. Consider: (a) negotiations with North Korea have recently started paying off, (b) we sent a U.S. diplomat to talk with Iran over the weekend and are apparently thinking about opening an interests section in Tehran, (c) the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, leading to calls for an increased troop presence, and (d) Maliki has endorsed the idea of a 16-month withdrawal timeline from Iraq. All of these are directions that Obama has endorsed for some time.

So does the press decide that this means Obama has shown good judgment and good instincts in foreign affairs? That seems like it would be the most reasonable interpretation, but alternatively the press could decide that what this really means is that there are now very few differences between Obama and McCain on foreign policy — without implying any judgment about who was right and who was wrong. That's a stretch, but it would be nice and faux-neutral, something that appeals to reporters.
He's combining 2 quite different things: 1. Whether the press will "decide that this means Obama has shown good judgment and good instincts in foreign affairs." Haven't they pre-decided that Obama is right about things? 2. How the press will write up the stories, i.e., how much they will let it show that they prefer Obama.

Allahpundit notes McCain's response:
McCain’s team put out a statement tonight, too. Quote:
Let’s be clear, the only reason that the conversation about reducing troop levels in Iraq is happening is because John McCain challenged the failed Rumsfield-strategy in Iraq and argued for the surge strategy that is responsible for the successes we’ve achieved and which Barack Obama opposed. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has never ignored the facts on the ground in Iraq, he’s never avoided the warzone before proposing new strategy, and he’s never voted against funding our troops in the field. If John McCain was following Barack Obama’s lead on foreign policy, the United States would have already withdrawn from Iraq in a humiliating defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.
Quite so, although I’d have re-written that as, “If John McCain and Nuri al-Maliki were following Barack Obama’s lead…” Barry O’s accomplished the foreign policy masterstroke here of screaming for withdrawal year after year when it would have been a horrific idea and now, with the jihadis and militias finally subdued to the point where it at least wouldn’t be disastrous, he wants credit for having been ahead of the curve. You truly are a visionary, Messiah.
In this view it doesn't matter so much that "there are now very few differences between Obama and McCain on foreign policy."