August 16, 2008

Some reactions to the Saddleback Forum.

My live-blog post on the Saddleback Forum has almost 200 comments, and after 200 comments, they get a little hard to read. (You have to click on "post a comment," then scroll to the bottom and click "newer.") So let me start a new post.

For substance, I'll point to Andrew Sullivan's live-blogging at the end of the McCain part:
9.57 pm. McCain's evolution into a candidate who knows how to stroke the Christianist base is somewhat impressive. It was a little canned at times, but it will work with evangelicals. All in all, this struck me as pretty much a draw....
And here's a segment of the Obama part:
8.42 pm. ... So far, this is a masterful performance. Having watched nothing but ads and soundbites and speeches for the past few weeks, I'd forgotten a little bit what a class act he can be.

8.34 pm. What a great moment in the history of race relations that a black presidential candidate can say that he would not have nominated Clarence Thomas - because he wasn't qualified enough!
Here's what Glenn Reynolds said about that:
Allahpundit notes that he didn't complete the word "experience" and has the video:

So Obama had the wit to perceive the irony and squelch it.

It seems that disrespecting Clarence Thomas is going to be getting a lot of attention.

Let's check out FireDogLake:
... So far, Obama's won the night.

And let me add -- I fucking hate Rick Warren....

Most annoying to me, McSame refused to define what rich is and what middle class is. Warren asked this for a reason, and McSame weaseled it. Obama, who gave a very direct answer, looked like the straight-talker.

Obama wins the night, by a big margin.
Strange emotional venting. Seems to me that they both fudged the meaning of rich, and that the definition is not such a big deal.

ADDED: In fairness to FireDogLake, I think the line "I fucking hate Rick Warren" is probably meant as a wisecrack in response to his repeated calls for civility and as such, I find it amusing. If it's the usual random spew, then it's not funny.

MORE: Power Line reads the transcripts and likens Obama to Jimmy Carter.



Let's watch the Saddleback Presidential Forum together.

Saddle up!

7:00 CT: CNN's John King pauses to let other networks join, and when he does, we can hear a voice saying "God who gave us life, gave us..." King drowns that out with the info that this "is not a debate... but the candidates will be questioned about their faith... about their compassion..." Bizarre.

7:01: Rick Warren tells us "we believe in the separation of church and state" but not "the separation of religion and politics." [CORRECTION FROM THE TRANSCRIPT: "... we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics..."] A coin was flipped and Barack Obama is going first, so John McCain will be kept "in a cone of silence." Warren wants us to disagree without demonizing each other and to restore civility to our political discourse. Now, here's Obama, with an open collar and no tie, and he hugs Warren, then finds his way over to the desk for the interview. [ADDED: Warren is also tieless.]

7:04: Warren wants to know who are the 3 wisest people he's known in his life [ADDED: to whom he will turn for advice]. First: Michelle. She can "get up in [his] face." Second: His grandmother. (Hauling her out from under that bus.) Grounded. Common sense. Third... No, now he's talking about political advisors, and he's not going with rankings anymore. He wants "a table where a lot of different points of view are represented."

7:07: Asked about his own failures, Obama talks about his troubled youth: drugs, drinking, "I couldn't focus on other people." But growing up, he realized "it's not all about me." Failure comes when he's selfish and doesn't think about "God's work." America's failure comes when we "don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew, that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me." For the uninitiated: the "me" is Jesus, but he's quoting, people, so please don't say he's talking like the Messiah.

7:09: Obama looked overpowdered and unnatural when he came out. (Except his ears, which looked shiny.) But he's sweating a little now, so he looks more normal. The Hawaiian tan is becoming.

7:11: Asked about "flip-flopping"/changing his mind, Obama talks about welfare reform, which worried him back when Bill Clinton signed it into law. But it worked better than he'd thought. "We have to have work as a centerpiece of any social policy." I think he sounds lucid and fluent. He's gotten the message that he shouldn't say "uh."

7:14: What tough decision has he had to make? He decided to oppose the war in Iraq. His critics can say he's never really had to make a tough decision. Certainly, there were no consequences (except to his own political future) of opposing the war, so this answer exposes his inexperience.

7:19: What does faith in Christ mean to him? He believes that "Jesus Christ died for my sins." He's "redeemed." He knows he doesn't "walk alone" and can carry out "in some small way, what He intends." Deeds matter, but he knows he'll fall short each day. It gave him the confidence to run for President.

7:21: Warren notes that there are 40 million abortions and asks when the unborn should be considered human. [ADDED: More specifically: At what point do the unborn have "human rights"?] Obama says that sort of decision is "above my pay grade," which sounds too cold for most people, I would guess, and then he moves quickly to the idea of the "moral difficulties" of abortion and the need for the woman's choice. "I don't think women make these decisions casually." And then on to the "common ground": reducing the number of abortions. He wants to provide resources and support that help women decide to keep a child. [ADDED: I revise my opinion here.]

7:25: Define marriage. It's "the union of a man and a woman," and for him as a Christian, it's "sacred" and "God's in the mix." How about a constitutional amendment saying that? No. The tradition has been to leave this to state law. He admits that there is a concern about same-sex marriage, which he doesn't support, but he likes civil unions. He seems a little robotic intoning this position. I'm sure in his heart he supports full rights for gay people, but obviously, at this point, he can't say it.

7:28: Stem cell research. Go ahead and use those embryos that you'd be throwing out otherwise. People don't think "boy, let's go destroy some embryos."

7:31: Warren asks "Does evil exist?" and what do we do about it. And it's at this point that I decide Warren is doing a terrific job. But of course, Obama says evil exists. But then what? "Confront it." But he must be thinking about how George Bush talked about evil, and he goes on to add that we have to be "humble" about what we do, because harm can be done confronting it. He doesn't have anything to say about how he'd balance between confrontation and humility in the face of evil. And in fact, I don't think he says anything here that George Bush himself wouldn't say.

7:32: Warren really wins me over with his phrasing of the Supreme Court question: "Which existing Supreme Court Justice would you not have nominated?" Obama knows he's been boxed in, as he says "That's a good one." He says: "Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution. I would not nominate Justice Scalia, although I don't think there's any doubt about his intellectual brilliance, because he and I just disagree..." John Roberts? He says that's a tougher question. Oh come on. You voted against his confirmation! Obviously, you wouldn't nominate him.

7:33: Would you make faith-based organizations give up discrimination based on religion in their hiring for social programs that receive government funding? In a lot of words, the answer is: yes.

7:37: Merit pay for teachers? Yes. (But pay all teachers more.)

7:45: When is war justified? He sounds dry and cold answering this. "Well, uh, obviously, American freedom. American lives. America's national interest.... We also have forged alliances...." When would you end a genocide? He says there's no "hard and fast line." We "should act" when we can, if we have the "international community" with us (but not necessaily the U.N.).

7:47: "Define 'rich'?" $150,000 or less — for a family — is middle class (or lower). If you're making more than $250,000, "you're doing well." I'm not sure what happens to all those in that gap between $150,000 and $250,000 or those who are not supporting a family with their income.

7:48: What will he do for the world's 148 million orphans? Obama indicates that he will look into it and shifts over to talking about preventing orphans. What will he do about religious persecution around the world? Obama would: 1. "speak out," 2. "lead by example."

7:51: There are 27 million slaves in the world. What will he do about that? Give prosecutors "the tools to crack down" in this country. As for the rest of the world... I'm not sure he has anything other than concern.

7:53: Warren asks the question asked by that 7-year-old girl the other day: Why do you want to be President? His answer is that his mother would get mad at him if he was ever mean. He wants to apply that standard to America. We're "slipping." We're "at a critical juncture." He wants to bring people together to find common sense solutions to problems.

7:54: How does he like this forum? Obama thinks it's good.

7:56: What would you tell Americans if you knew there'd be no repercussions? Answer: It's going to be hard to solve our energy problems and we should sacrifice for the next generation. That's the end, and the audience is told to give him a standing ovation, which it does pretty enthusiastically. Now, welcome John McCain. McCain comes out. He's tieless. John and Barack hug. They wave.

8:01: Leadership. The 3 wisest people you know, whom you'll rely on. First: General Petraeus, "who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq." So McCain starts off in a much more serious way. Second: John Lewis. He can teach us about "courage and commitment." Third: Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay. She represents free enterprise to him "in these economically challenging times." That was a much more presidential answer than Obama's. Really, why would a President have the members of his family as his main advisors? And Obama's political advisors were an unmemorable jumble of — what was it? — Senators? You know, I initially thought it was an advantage to go first, but second is interesting, because we immediately contrast each statement to Obama's. Knowing that McCain didn't hear Obama's answers makes it even a bit thrilling. If they had been on the stage together, McCain would have had to think about whether to honor at least one family member to match Obama. This way, we see that the notion doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

8:03: Your and America's greatest moral failure. His greatest moral failure is his first marriage. He doesn't expand on that, but listening at home, we can't help thinking of all the talk about John Edwards in the last week and how it made many people bring up McCain's old failings. America's greatest moral failure, McCain says, is not being devoted to more than our own interests. After 9/11, instead of saying we should go shopping, we should have encouraged people to join the Peace Corps or join the military. "Serve a cause greater than your self-interest." I note that he didn't talk about the U.S. government there. For him, "America" signified Americans. But Obama took it the same way. Serve others. Don't be selfish. One distinction: the military springs right to mind for McCain, but not Obama.

8:06: When did he go against his party's interest for the good of America? He has a long list, but he concentrates on saying that, despite Reagan's preference, we shouldn't send a few hundred Marines into Beirut to keep the peace.

8:07: What has he changed his mind about in the past 10 years? He pauses a while, then jerks to attention with his idea: "Offshore drilling! We gotta drill now and we gotta drill here." This gets the biggest applause of the night (to my ear).

8:08: McCain grabs some time to say we need to develop nuclear power.

8:09: What is the most "gut-wrenching" decision he's ever had to make? He says it was facing the offer to leave the prison in North Vietnam, which he refused because the code of conduct forbade leaving before an earlier-captured comrade, though he was in "bad physical shape" and the refusal meant that it would not "be easy" for him after that and it wasn't. He adds, "It took a lot of prayer." This corresponds to Obama's tough decision to oppose the war in Iraq.

8:15: What does it mean for you to be a Christian? "It means I'm saved and forgiven." He gets through that super-fast, then claims time to "tell a little story." The story is about how the North Vietnamese tied him up tightly in ropes, and a particular guard loosened the ropes, then hours later retightened them. Later, on Christmas, that guard marked a cross in the dirt for him.

8:18: At what point is an unborn child entitled to human rights? Without hesitation, McCain says: "At the moment of conception." (Remember, Obama said, that's "above my pay grade.") Big applause in the Saddleback Church. "I have a 25 year pro-life record."

8:19: Define marriage. "A union between a man and a woman." Then he pushes to talk about the Supreme Court. (McCain, unlike Obama, tries to break out of the questions.) Warren adjust by asking about whether the California Supreme Court was wrong to find a right to gay marriage in the California state constitution. McCain says they were. He believes the states should make the decisions — "I'm a federalist" — but he wants to preserve traditional one-man-one-woman marriage. If a federal court were to say the states must recognize same-sex marriage, then he would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but until then, he would leave it to the states.

8:21: Stem cell research. It's "a terrible dilemma," but he supports it.

8:22. Evil: "Should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it, or defeat it?" "Defeat it." He repeats his old statement that he'll follow Osama bin Laden "to the gates of Hell." He speaks passionately about defeating al Qaeda. Obama spoke only abstractly about evil, while McCain instantly limited the question to al Qaeda.

8:24: "Which existing Supreme Court Justice would you not have nominated?" "With all due respect, Justice Ginburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and..." — with some hesitation — "Justice Stevens."

8:26: Faith-based organizations and religious discrimination in hiring if they accept federal funding. He "absolutely" rejects imposing this non-discrimination requirement. Speaking with some passion, he says it would mean "a severe crippling" of their ability to function. He speaks of the work of Baptists in New Orleans after Katrina. Again, McCain is both more specific and more passionate than Obama (who is more cool and abstractly cerebral).

8:28: Merit pay for teachers? Sure. And he's shoehorns in the topic of school choice. "Choice and competition" works. "Give everybody the same opportunity."

8:30: At what point is someone rich? He doesn't state a number but a standard — fuzzily about taking care of the next generation. A good line: "I don't want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich." He adds that he doesn't believe in "class warfare" and "redistribution of the wealth." Clearly, this is a big difference from Obama. Obama wants to say there are these rich people over there, who are not you, and we can safely tax them more and give more to you. McCain says he's not dividing people up, but wants to keep taxes low for everyone and encourage moneymaking. He also shoehorns in an opinion on health care (a subject Obama never got to address). Finally, he comes up with a number for rich: $5 million. Compare that to Obama's $150,000 or $250,000! But he was kind of kidding. Now, he's shoehorning in the issue of spending.

8:40: What is worth fighting a war for? "Freedom. National security.... We can't right every wrong, but we can... be a beacon of hope... a shining city on a hill." What about stopping genocide? We need to stop genocide "when we can." It's "complicated," but we could supply the equipment for to be used by Africans in places like Darfur. McCain also speaks in detail about Georgia.

8:46: Religious freedom around the world. The President has "the bully pulpit."

8:48: The world's orphans. Warren is pushing for spending, I think, but McCain stresses adoption. Make adoption easier. He tells the story of his wife surprising him with a baby she brought home from Bangladesh.

8:51: "What would you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions in a church?" "Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values. I'm happy to be here.... I'm honored to be here." And that's the end. Another standing o.

8:55: Rick Warren lectures us again on the importance of civility and blesses us. Back to John King. Analysis to follow. But that's all for me for now. I'll just say the forum — and I was skeptical — was very nicely handled by Rick Warren and the 2 candidates.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of folks think McCain won clearly. A telling comment from XWL: "McCain has the advantage of just being able to say what he thinks."

Are Obama and McCain having a debate tonight?

I'm trying to figure this out:
The Rev. Rick Warren, author of the best-seller "The Purpose-Driven Life," will spend an hour interviewing each candidate at his 20,000-member Saddleback mega-church in Southern California.

On CNN's "The Situation Room" earlier this week, Warren said he won't play the role of a political pundit or ask "gotcha" questions, but rather tackle four areas of interest: the role of the presidency in government, leadership, the candidates' worldviews and America's role internationally.

The Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency will be carried on CNN TV and It will be the last time the two candidates share the same stage before their parties' conventions. Three debates between the two are scheduled after the conventions.
The Purpose-Driven Life.... When did politics go all Oprah? I can't believe we're finally going to see the 2 candidates side by side and some spiritual author is doing the questions.

So: "share the same stage."Are they going to be there at the same time or is this one interview and then another? You know, I got all excited about this for a minute, but if they aren't going to be on stage together, I'm not even going to watch. I'm going to assume that's why I haven't heard about it. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Ah, no, I'm right. Funny how it makes such a big difference, isn't it?

I missed this, from Alan Wolfe in TNR a few days ago:
Regardless of which candidate benefits the most from this joint appearance, ... the biggest winner is Warren himself. A wildly successful author and church planter, Warren is leading an effort to focus the attention of Christian conservatives on questions of social justice....

[T]he most important [thing Warren does] is severing a link between conservative religion and conservative politics....

The joint appearance ... is ... a significant antidote to the poison that the religious right injected into American politics. The United States is unlikely ever to be as secular as Western Europe. If a better balance between religion and politics is to come about, it will because of what religious leaders do, and not because of what non-believers such as myself want to happen.

UPDATE: Actually, I am going to watch this. I want to blog it... and maybe bloggingheads it.

"It should be known that Jonathan Crutchley's donation to McCain left the entire Board in disbelief."

Manhunt, which is, in the words of Politico a "gay sex site," forced its chairman of the board to resign because he contributed to the McCain campaign.

Consecration to a Life of Virginity of Women Living in the World.

Did you know the Catholic Church has this rite?
Q. Why did you choose to live your life as a consecrated virgin?

A. My love for God consumes me. It is my reason for living. I love serving his people and being a part of the church. It's not that I didn't like the thought of getting married or raising a family -- it was simply that I wanted to give God all of me, that I wanted to devote all my time and energy to prayer, ministry and outreach, and the only way for that to happen was to remain single. With a husband and children, my time and attention would have been divided....

Q. What is the difference between a consecrated virgin and a nun?

A. The consecrated virgin is not bound to a particular community or to follow a designated rule like a specific spirituality. She is able to work in whatever type of career she feels drawn to, and she decides what her prayer life and ministry will look like, usually with the assistance of a spiritual director. She does not take vows of poverty and obedience like the nuns do.

Madonna is 50!

Happy birthday, Madonna! Don't fear the five-o.

Let's watch her 27 greatest videos. Wow! So many great ones. Hard to say which is best. As you click through that set, each seems to demand first place. So let me feature one that I especially like that may be slightly more obscure than most of the others:

Celebrate Madonna! Pray for Madonna:

The corpse of Bigfoot!

Oh no! Bigfoot was real! And now, now that we can believe in him, Bigfoot is gone! Ah, poor, misunderstood giant. Doomed to wander the earth alone, only to be discovered dead! We believe now — o, gentle monster — we believe now.

But it is too late. Too late! Alas! O, Bigfoot. I'm so sorry!

2 more views of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

Who should I diavlog with?

A Bloggingheads question. Seriously (or not seriously). Who would you like to see me diavlog with? Keep in mind that the other person has to agree to it.

Here are all my old diavlogs, so you can see who I've gone with already.

"We ... don’t like the idea of keeping fans of our products from being able to engage with our content."

Says Curt Marvis, president of digital media at Lionsgate Entertainment, who is trying to figure out how to relate to YouTube and not "condone people taking our intellectual property and using it without our permission."
"For the most part, people who are uploading videos are fans of our movies. They’re not trying to be evil pirates, and they’re not trying to get revenue from it."
And it's usually free advertising of the product. The key is to prevent people from collecting ad revenue from the videos they post, and the linked article explains how the copyright owner can — instead of demanding that YouTube take down a video — "claim" it, run and ad, and collect ad revenue. 90% of the owners choose this option.

This sounds good, but I think it may lead to disabling embedding, which hurts us bloggers — an issue that Jac discusses at the end of this post. You know, we bloggers are usually promoting the product too. We're fans engaging with your product.

The motley architecture of Venice Beach.

Venice Beach

A juxtaposition that amused me. I love the incongruity of architecture, the harmony of yellow, the jumble of plant life, and the old-fashioned Americana of bicycle-with-front-basket and white picket fence.


Everyone laughed at me for going back around here to take a photo.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

But behind the amphitheater the metal skin of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall is mirror-like. I think this is what is left of the surface that had to be matted down because it was reflecting sunlight and overheating the surrounding buildings.

Have some coffee.

Java Detour

Here we are at Java Detour in West Hollywood, where the design is evocative of the Macbook, fittingly enough.

And don't get confused. I'm not in L.A. I'm just getting together the last of my L.A. pics.

Summer's coming to an end.

Venice Beach

Hit the beach.

August 15, 2008

It's the new Bloggingheads.

(Thanks to the reader [Henry] who sent me this — based on this and this.)

The new Woody Allen movie: "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

I walked over to Sundance to catch the 2 PM showing of the new Woody Allen movie, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." I'm a longtime Woody Allen fan, and this one got excellent reviews, so that was enough to get me out to see it on the first day.

There was a ton of typical Woody Allen stuff in this movie:

1. It's set in a European city that Woody apparently decided he wanted to hang around in. (The city is Barcelona.)

2. It depicts Woody Allen's sexual fantasies. A man can sidle up to the table of 2 beautiful women in a restaurant, ask them to fly away with him — in 1 hour! — in his private plane to a picturesque little village and have sex with him there, and the 2 women will go with him.

3. Everyone is inexplicably rich, ensconced in beautifully decorated mansions, but all the good people are anti-materialistic and unimpressed with their surroundings.

4. Young women glow spiritually and sexually in the presence of an artist or when they listen to the kind of music that Woody himself likes. In this case, Spanish guitar music.

5. Each woman is neurotic/crazy in her own special way, but they are easily categorized as the repressed type or the freely expressive type, and Woody really seems to love them all.

6. The men are either businessmen — and it's clear Woody doesn't like them — or artists — and you know Woody identifies with them.

7. Philosophical themes. A voice-over instructs us that the 2 main characters represent order and chaos. Someone lashes out at someone for wielding the categorical imperative.

That said, the movie isn't a Woody Allen cliché. It's continually delightful and surprising, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I got chills when characters kissed. I laughed out loud. And I loved, loved, loved Penelope Cruz. I was enjoying the movie immensely, and since I hadn't read the reviews, I didn't know that the character — Maria Elena — that they kept talking about would turn up and be Penelope Cruz. All the other actors seemed pretty good, and then she showed up and invented a new kind of intensity. Wow. Penelope Cruz.

It's enough to make me want to take up smoking. So exciting. And — spoiler alert — she kisses Scarlett Johansson.

No, that's not the kiss that gave me chills. Javier Bardem is in the movie too, bringing the testosterone to the table.

ADDED: Now that I've seen the movie, I'm reading articles about it. I found this hilariously bad sentence in the L.A. Times:
Of all the major American artists, Allen has experienced one of the cruelest and most violent whipsaws of fortune, of tumbling from audience adulation to mass approbation.
Wow, quite a tumble!

Man, this scared me.

Did WBZTV pay Drudge to drive traffic over there for that inane speculation? It was so upsetting to see that... I got all worked up for nothing. Now, take it down, Matt. I don't even want to think about that.

ADDED: But this juxtaposition is very favorable to Obama:

Not another photo puzzle.

It's too easy (for a lot of you):


But I wanted to put this up, because I should have put it up when I made my point back here about the way a design for a beautiful exterior of a building should produce a beautiful interior to be truly beautiful. Do you agree with this aesthetic principle?

ADDED: Simon emails:

Where is it?


Another photo puzzle.


ATL Idol judging.

The finale is up.

And if I were a Yale Law student, I'd get some Stanford lawprof lawyer to out commenter #26.

"Dogs are your friend... Not to say I don't like my chickens, but they are not my friend."

Cockfighting is now outlawed in every state in the union — as Louisiana caves to mainstream decorum.

Curved and straight.


Walt Disney Concert Hall



"That's it then? That's the jumping on the eggs?"

(Via BoingBoing.)

He cheated on his wife, so we can't trust him. Is that the rule you want?

Colmes wrestles Hannity to the floor.

"I was kind of hoping nobody would notice how kind of exploitative 'Intervention' has gotten lately..."

"... since I'm always like 'It's so smart and tasteful!' Despite (or in addition to) being extremely entertaining, the show's characters have gotten more and more desperate."

Says Videogum, with the video to back it up.

Things said and unsaid in a record store.

Me: "I love your T-shirt. I've had that record since the 60s. Love the artwork."

Record Store Guy: My friend made it for me. I don't know where she got the picture.

Me: She probably downloaded it from the internet.

Unsaid thing: And yet here I am, buying a CD box set from you, when other people are downloading their music from the internet.

Thing I just realized: I could have save $10 buying it on Amazon.

Explain: The continued existence of record stores.

August 14, 2008

Bob Wright and Jonah Goldberg on the memes about Obama's rhetoric.

"To honor and celebrate" the "voices and votes" of the primaries, "both Senator Obama's and Senator Clinton's names will be placed in nomination."

Ah! What thrills await us? Or do you think it will be pure and dignified honoring and celebrating of the voices?
Although Clinton will be nominated, and there will be a roll-call vote on her nomination, the two sides are still working out the mechanics of how that will happen, aides said. Clinton will not have enough delegates to win the nomination, which Obama will formally secure before delivering his acceptance speech on Thursday night.
How can you be so sure? The nomination will be determined by the superdelegates, and they can do what they want.

ADDED: This news made me go reread Maureen Dowd's column from a couple days ago:
Obama ... allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that “demeaning portrayals of women ... dampen the dreams of our daughters.” This, even though postmortems, including the new raft of campaign memos leaked by Clintonistas to The Atlantic — another move that undercuts Obama — finger Hillary’s horrendous management skills....

It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
Dampen the dreams of our daughters...

Those platform writers know about alliteration, but they don't notice the imagery.

The Democratic Party's email attacking Jerome Corsi (author of the #1 selling anti-Obama book).

Yesterday, we were talking about the Jerome Corsi book on Barack Obama. Looking at a NYT article that seemed critical of the book without providing much evidence of anything wrong with it, I wondered what happened to Obama's idea that he'd respond very quickly to criticisms. So here is the Democratic Party's email attacking Corsi. It's too long to print in its entirety as a blog post, so I'll pick out some things that seem most destructive to Corsi. The email isn't a systematic response to the Obama book. It's effort to discredit Corsi for various things he's written over the years — mostly not about Obama.

From a 2004 AP story:
"Anti-Kerry Book Author Apologizes for Slurs." "One of the authors of a new anti-John Kerry book frequently posted comments on a conservative Web site describing Muslims and Catholics as pedophiles and Pope John Paul II as senile. In chat room entry last year on, Corsi writes: 'Islam is a peaceful religion - just as long as the women are beaten, the boys buggered and the infidels are killed.' In another entry, he says: 'So this is what the last days of the Catholic Church are going to look like. Buggering boys undermines the moral base and the lawyers rip the gold off the Vatican altars. We may get one more Pope, when this senile one dies, but that's probably about it'." [AP, 8/10/04]
If that is a reason not to read Corsi's book, we shouldn't be reading Christopher Hitchens either. What exactly is wrong with being outraged at the scandal of child molesting priests?

From the Washington Times, evidence that Corsi believes a wacko conspiracy theory:
"The real reason behind President Bush's push for immigration reform, says author Jerome R. Corsi, is to unite the United States, Mexico and Canada by erasing borders and creating a 'North American Union.'... Government officials say the idea is no more than an unjustified conspiracy theory spread through the Internet.
Corsi also wrote a book that rejects "the fossil fuel theory--that oil comes from dead plants and dinosaurs. He believes it comes out of the ground naturally, and that there's more coming up all the time." Weird. I've never even heard of that theory. What does he think creates it? Eh. I don't want to know.

There are also a lot of Corsi quotes — taken from his Free Republic postings. The worst ones are about Islam. Example: "Islam is like a virus -- it affects the mind -- maybe even better as an analogy -- it is a cancer that destroys the body it infects. A throwback, Medieval, anti-modern, anti-science, anti-knowledge doctrine."

So, has Corsi been thoroughly discredited, or will anyone defend him?

Why Ernest Borgnine looks so young... for a 91 year old guy.

"The Excruciating Anguish of Elizabeth"...

... as PR.

I'm betting Mickey Kaus has it right.


(Via Bloggingheads, which does a nice job of collecting diverse video clips.)

Camille Paglia has an "increasing sense of forboding" about the election.

She supports Barack Obama, and she remembers the "ruthless whittling down of John Kerry" in 2004. She's not just critical of Obama's opponents, she's critical of Obama. Here's one of a few things she says:
A major gaffe this summer has been that, in trying to act more casual and folksy to appeal to working-class white voters, Obama has resorted to a cringe-making use of inner-city black intonations and jokey phrasings -- exactly the wrong tactic.
Here's the clip she offers for us to hear the "inner-city black intonations and jokey phrasings":

Wow. I don't get it. To me, he sounds just exactly like Barack Obama — not some "inner-city black" generality. Paglia goes on:
One of the major doubts those very voters have about him is to what extent he is an agent for the 1960s black power radicalism espoused by his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It does seem to be the case that Obama, raised in multicultural and tourist-oriented Hawaii, lacks direct experience of any working-class enclave aside from the black one. But so what? In remaking her campaign at the end, Hillary Clinton mimicked the metallic accent of her father's coal-country Scranton origins. Yet nothing in her inexorable climb toward multimillionaire status has ever indicated that Hillary prefers jawing with the humble proles to her favorite company of glitzy celebs, fast-track power players, and slippery, brainiac lawyers.
That's all she says on the point. So the idea is, if you want to appeal to white, working-class voters, you should adopt the right phony accent — a white one?

This is good though:
... Obama's tire gauge mini-crusade was a mortifying misfire with those same voters -- a shiny little gadget specializing in the literally lightweight issue of air versus the greasy, brawny push for massive, phallic drilling into the seabed of mother earth. Symbols matter!
Ooh! Look at Barack's tiny penis:

Keith Olbermann calls out Rush Limbaugh for saying why he thinks John Edwards cheated on Elizabeth.

Keith Olbermann presents a rather unsavory Rush Limbaugh clip:

I'm not defending Rush for stooping to this level (and I'd guess that he isn't particularly proud of his work in that segment). But Olbermann's comprehension falls short. I agree with him that Rush seems to be saying: 1. Men aren't sexually attracted to women who are smarter than they are, 2. Smart women are always telling men what to do instead of catering to their sexual needs, and 3. Elizabeth Edwards, being a smart woman, may have driven John Edwards into the arms — crudely, into the mouth — of Rielle Hunter.

But Olbermann is wrong to spin this as hypocrisy, a charge he premises on the notion that Rush is a big Puritan who expects others to meet standards of virtue that he ignores. Olbermann cites Rush's 3 failed marriages and problems with drug abuse. I don't think Rush ever promotes himself as particularly virtuous on sexual matters. (See this old post where I call him "a shameless sybarite.") The issue of drugs is irrelevant to Edwards's case, but in the time I've been listening to Rush (since January 2008), he's always been modest and self-aware with respect to his drug problems. But on sexual matters, he tends to be worldly. He frequently says he doesn't want to be married and implies that he's enjoying himself.

What I hear in the clip Olbermann has presented is a man's understanding of another man. Rush means to say something very crude, and he makes comedy out of holding it back and then blurting out just enough that we get the picture: A man needs a woman's mouth for sex. Rush's comic riffs often involve him telling us what other people must be thinking. His best work comes in this form, but this example is not his best work. His best work usually has him voicing imagined thoughts that he does not agree with — the thinking of liberals and leftists. But this one is a case of sympathy. He purports to know why men cheat on their wives, and he may be speaking from experience. So Olbermann's hypocrisy theme is just wrong.

Olbermann is probably assuming that all conservatives are alike, and since some of them profess strong sexual morality, all of them do. That's as wrong as thinking that all liberals are sexual libertines.

It's also absurd that Olbermann taunts Limbaugh for only being on the radio and not on TV. Obviously, Rush's ratings are much higher than Olbermann's, and he's had far, far more influence.

Interestingly, the clip shows why Rush belongs on the radio. And I'm not saying that because he's fat, which he is, and he knows it. He belongs on the radio because to produce his very expressive vocal stylings he throws his whole body into it. He flails his arms and jerks his shoulders like a ham Shakespearean actor. The voice possesses the body. You don't want to see that. You only want to hear the results of it. This is fine, since he's not terribly physically attractive anyway. He's a great voice. That's radio. By contrast, Olbermann belongs on TV. He looks right for that part, and he maintains physical decorum while producing a good, expressive voice.

Olbermann announces at the beginning of the segment that he's going to demonstrate that Limbaugh has turned Edwards into "a victim." He never proves that point. Elizabeth Edwards is a victim — of disease and a cheating husband — and that makes it quite unpleasant to blame her for Edwards's actions (which Rush does). But how does that make Edwards a victim? I think it makes Edwards even more disgusting to have Rush saying, I know why you must have felt like cheating on her.

Now, maybe Rush is a big step ahead of me, and he wasn't just blurting out a theory of why Edwards cheated on Elizabeth. There's not much to the idea that a man wanted more sex than he was getting at home — or a different kind. And the idea that a woman should stop talking so much and give a man oral sex is such low humor that it's hard to see why he didn't discard it. Maybe what Rush was really doing was trying to hurt Edwards with Rush's sympathy. After all, Edwards's supporters hate Rush. To portray him as the sort of guy who thinks like Rush is to hurt him.

Forbes challenges U.S. News in the college ranking game.

Nothing on law schools yet, but here's Forbes calculation of America's Best Colleges, done with Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity:
CCAP's methodology attempts to put itself in a student's shoes. How good will my professors be? Will the school help me achieve notable career success? If I have to borrow to pay for college, how deeply will I go into debt? What are the chances I will graduate in four years? Are students and faculty recognized nationally, or even globally?
Great questions! I wonder how they answer them....
To answer these questions, the staff at CCAP (mostly college students themselves) gathered data from a variety of sources. They based 25% of the rankings on 7 million student evaluations of courses and instructors, as recorded on the Web site
Huh? They relied on RateMyProfessors?! That's utterly unscientific. Okay, everybody, head over to RateMyProfessors and game the system. Don't you want your school's rating to go up? Instead of going there to slam the teacher who made you read too much, failed to amuse you sufficiently, and gave you a bad grade, it's time to pad the ratings of your school's teachers so that you can improve your credentials.

That's if anyone cares about the Forbes ranking... which they shouldn't, if it's based on idiotic data.
Another 25% depends on how many of the school's alumni, adjusted for enrollment, are listed among the notable people in Who's Who in America.
Who's Who in America?! What's the methodology of inclusion in Who's Who in America?

Who's Who in America? A better question is: Who cares about the Forbes college ranking? Other than the folks at Wabash College and Centre College, 12th and 13th on the list.

And, yeah, I'm irked that they completely disrespected the University of Wisconsin—Madison — at 335th.

August 13, 2008

Where am I? What am I thinking?


Today's photo puzzle.

ANSWER: I'm at (in) an installation by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art called "The Absent City":
While the work in the prow [of the museum] succeeds as a site-specific piece, at least architecturally speaking, the most important question to consider is how these works relate to the people of Madison. On a recent opening night, people were enjoying themselves, but I don't know if these pieces really dig deeply at the social and political issues the artists want to address — presumably, in part, issues about a sense of community and questioning the conventional order. Madison, while not a progressive utopia, is a pretty savvy place, and I think Madisonians could go for something more visually and conceptually challenging.
Ahem. Yeah. I'm thinking this would be a good exhibition for children. I'm inside a room created by hanging red plastic ribbons. There are other rooms with permeable walls made of other colors of ribbons. Each room on the inside is made of a single color, and the outside of the walls are a second layer of hanging ribbons, made — did you guess? — of multiple colors. In a central area there are little figures of people standing under a big flag made of flowers. Get the message? Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of good stuff, mainly about me being in hell. Plus: Sir Archy!



Want to keep talking about Edwards?

Hot new stuff here, with appropriate phallic symbolism.

MORE: This is good:

(Here's the photo they talk about.)

The L.A. ban on new fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods.

Isn't it outrageous to limit only the restaurants that cater to poor people?
The moratorium’s definition of a fast food business is any stand-alone restaurant that dispenses food, to stay or to go, and that has “a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders, and food served in disposable wrapping or containers.”
The linked NYT article focuses on the way the definition includes "places of more culinary interest," like those with "cooks from Mexico and Central America making lamb barbacoa and pupusas" and those that make "a high-quality hot dog from cattle raised on pasture, served with fresh grilled onions on top."

The "high-quality hot dog" woman whines: “Our policy makers abhor nuance and the subtle but distinct qualities that differentiate fast food from food that can be served fast.”

As if the law isn't already ridiculously vague and hard to apply! You think it would be better with more "nuance" about where your pulverized cow once grazed and whether your onions were ever frozen?

The article does eventually get around to quoting someone sensible, Joe R. Hicks, a radio talk show host:
“The crime in all of this is that people are sitting around meddling into the very minutiae of what people are putting in their mouths,” he said.

He argues that the ban assumes the 500,000 people who live in South Los Angeles are intellectually incapable of deciding what to eat.

“It’s insulting, and you could almost infer a racial insult out of the interference,” he said.

ADDED: For breakfast:
... three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise... two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.

That's what Michael Phelps eats.

"The GOP has persuaded the public of the wisdom of its fetish for populating the U.S. coastline with oil rigs."

From a New Republic editorial on "How Democrats got bulldozed on energy":
That Republicans have, against the odds, won the first round of this debate is a remarkable feat. This initial triumph owes as much to Democratic ineptitude as it does to GOP savvy. It speaks to the fact that Democrats have been unable to rhetorically defend their environmental policy as sound energy policy....

The Democrats' initial instinct was to revert to populism. They began wailing about the rapacity of "speculators." ... There was, however, a problem with this case: It simply wasn't true. Speculators weren't responsible for rising prices at the pump. And, beyond that, the public simply didn't believe this diagnosis. So the Democrats made their first adjustment. They began to broaden their populist diatribe and started attacking the likes of Exxon and the rest of the big oil companies. But, by that point, they were already losing the argument.
There's more. Read it. It's advice about what the Democrats should do now, but it doesn't seem any more convincing than the gambits that failed. Tell us to conserve — fine, but we still need oil. Tell us to develop alternate energy sources — fine, but we still need oil.

ADDED: I thought of a great energy conservation idea, much better than keeping your tires properly inflated. Don't use fossil-fuel burning transportation to go anywhere you don't have to go. That means: No vacations, nights out for fun, or pleasure drives into the country, no visits to family and friends that you can just as well telephone. No business trips, when you can use webcam communication. Don't go to the movies — watch TV. And don't buy anything that has been transported to you by the burning of fossil fuel unless you really need it. You can cut way back on your purchases of all sorts of items. You don't need another shirt or another toy for your child. And quit buying so much food. Since you are probably too fat anyway, this is a particularly good idea. All political candidates are welcome to use these ideas. You don't even need to link to me and acknowledge my contribution to this brilliant and immensely effective policy innovation. You can have it.

Jerome R. Corsi's #1 bestseller "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality."

Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman discuss the book and interview the author, who also wrote "Unfit for Command" (the notorious "Swift Boat attack" that hurt John Kerry so much in 2004).

Corsi openly admits his "goal is to defeat Obama," which seems to mean it should be read as a polemic, but Corsi calls his book "investigative" and denies that he set out to write "a political book." And his editor — Mary Matalin — calls it "a piece of scholarship."

Though books are generally viewed as loftier than journalism, NYT journalists Rutenberg and Bosman look down on books like this. It seems especially galling to them that books gain prominence via the NYT bestseller list (or as they say in the NYT "best-seller list"):
[B]ooks like “Unfit for Command,” which remained for some 12 weeks on the Times best-seller list, and, now, “The Obama Nation,” have become an effective and favored delivery system for political attacks.
Ha ha. Books are a "delivery system for attacks." The pen is mightier than the sword, and the book — look out! — is a veritable missile.
There have been anti-Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) and anti-Bush books too numerous to name. The sensational findings in these books, true or dubious, can quickly come to dominate the larger political discussion in the news media, especially on cable television and the less readily detectible confines of talk radio and partisan Web sites.

Fact-checking the books can require extensive labor and time from independent journalists, whose work often trails behind the media echo chamber.
Imagine! A book is able to get out in front of the usually nimble "delivery system" of the newspaper. And isn't it annoying that book authors get into the media and say things that require fact-checking? Who are these people? Who let them in? How dare they impose extensive labor on journalists!

This is a long set-up for showing us the results of the imposed fact-checking task that Rutenberg and Bosman apparently find so irksome. Let's have it:
... Mr. Corsi writes that Mr. Obama had “yet to answer” whether he “stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended to his law school days or beyond.” “How about in the U.S. Senate?” Mr. Corsi asks.

But Mr. Obama, who admitted to occasional marijuana and cocaine use in his high school and early college years, wrote in his memoir that he had “stopped getting high” when he moved to New York in the early 1980s. And in 2003 The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., quoted him responding to a question of his drug use by saying, “I haven’t done anything since I was 20 years old.”

In an interview, Mr. Corsi said “self-reporting, by people who have used drugs, as to when they stopped is inherently unreliable.”
So the statement that he hasn't answered is wrong, and Corsi's point should have been that Obama once used drugs, and we might want to be suspicious of the assertion that he stopped when he says he did. In saying this, Corsi reminds me of those Bush antagonists who speculate that he still drinks or that he is somehow dogged by the "dry drunk" effects of not drinking. Let's see if all the bloggers can be non-hypocritical. Treat Obama exactly the way you've been treating Bush on the substance-use issue.
In exploring Mr. Obama’s denials that he had been present for the more incendiary sermons of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Mr. Corsi cites a report on the conservative Web site that Mr. Obama had attended a sermon on July 22, 2007, in which Mr. Wright blamed “the ‘white arrogance’ of America’s Caucasian majority for the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks.”

Mr. Obama, however, was giving a speech in Florida that afternoon, and his campaign reported he had not attended Mr. Wright’s church that day.

William Kristol, a columnist for The New York Times, had cited the same report in a column, and issued a correction. “There is a dispute about the date, and Kristol chose to side with Obama,” Mr. Corsi said. “We can nitpick the date to death,” he added, saying his “fundamental point” was Mr. Obama’s close association with someone ascribing to “black liberation theology.”
So Corsi is faulted for citing a report that the campaign disputes and — perhaps, I can't tell — not also stating that the fact is in dispute. (I need to look at the book, which I don't have at hand.)
Mr. Corsi described most of the critiques of his book as “nitpicking,” like a contradiction of his claim that Mr. Obama had failed to dedicate his book “Dreams of My Father” to his family; Mr. Obama dedicated the book to several family members, in the introduction.
And that's the third and last of the picked nits Rutenberg and Bosman report. Are there more? Why isn't this article more of a fact-check by the NYT? It can't be enough that Media Matters is fact-checking the book. I'm inclined to assume the NYT didn't find any more mistakes or they'd have told us about them. That looks pretty good for Corsi. He is such a huge target. He destroyed Kerry and his book on Obama is #1!
Mr. Obama’s campaign has yet to weigh in heavily on Mr. Corsi’s accusations. It appears to face the classic decision between the risk of publicizing the book’s claims by addressing them and the risk of letting them sink into the public debate with no response.
But the Obama campaign made a big deal about how they were not going to let themselves be "Swift Boated." The "Fight the Smears" web site was supposed to jump on everything right away. Now, they're weaseling about not wanting to draw attention to the book? That's a complete contradiction.... which has to make us think that they don't have answers to the charges.

ADDED: If you want to buy the book, buy it by clicking here, and you'll support this blog (without paying any extra).

MORE: Roger Kimball has a post titled "NY Times tries to torpedo anti-Obama book; succeeds in spreading its message."

What are Olympic viewers concerned about?

Let's look at my Site Meter. Here's the image, captured at 7:45 AM CT, ranking the search terms that brought people here:


Now, I know some of this is caused by this comment, which continues a discussion we were having back here about....

If I spell it out, it will seem as if I'm just writing this post to get traffic.


The search for "arches national monument collapse" seems metaphorical in this context.

August 12, 2008

Olympics thread.

You don't have to hijack another post tonight. Talk about the Olympics here.

If you design a fabulous exterior, what happens to the inside?


Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

I posted pictures of the exterior of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier today, and in the comments, the question was raised about what it was like inside. Well, it's rather complicated and confusing. Here are a couple more pictures:

Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

I think it's pretty easy to guess that the architect bent paper or cardboard to invent an exciting exterior, and the interior was given far less thought. It basically had to be whatever it needed to be to produce the exterior. Compare the dome. It is perfectly equally beautiful on the inside and the outside.

Am I just talking about architecture?

The Chicago Picasso.

Picasso sculpture, Chicago

With dancers.

(Info on the sculpture in Daley Plaza: here. Enlargement of the photo: here.)

"The main consideration was the national interest. The child on the screen should be flawless...."

"... in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all the members of the team."

The 7-year-old won the "grueling competition " to sing "Hymn to the Motherland," but a member of the Chinese politburo didn't like her teeth: "So we made the choice. I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - after all, we have a perfect voice, a perfect image and a perfect show, in our team's view, all together."

"We are generally powerless to interpret reincarnationspeak and yogababble."

You can't just ask Language Log anything. Or is it you just can't ask Language Log anything? Or is it you can't ask Language Log just anything?

A reporter from the New York Daily News called to ask me about some things that former yoga instructor Rielle Hunter had said, about former Democratic politician John Edwards being "an old soul" with a "special energy" who could be a truly "transformational leader" if only he would use his heart more and his head less; and about her purpose on this Earth being "to help raise awareness about all this, to help the unenlightened become better reflections of their true, repressed selves." The reporter wanted to know what this meant — what becoming a better reflection of one's true repressed self would amount to, in precise terms. Doesn't it suggest that one's real self is trapped inside, he asked, and one's apparently real self that walks around among us, and eats breakfast, and experiences temptations regarding sexual relations with blonde videographers, is merely a reflection of that inner reality? Is this not, he went on (having apparently majored in philosophy at Columbia), a remarkable inversion of the way language is normally employed by philosophers talking about the self? Has Ms Hunter not got the outside inside and the inside outside?
What becoming a better reflection of one's true repressed self would amount to....

But there really is a linguistics question there! It's about screwing up the meaning by putting the adjectives "true" and "repressed" together. I think Language Log was manifesting some repression about sex and therefore failing to get to its true interest in linguistic. But it was nevertheless very funny, which is always good.

Of course we want more Instapundit polls.

(He's polling on polls.) It's the only way to get to comments over there.

From the Mark Penn memos: "Release the tapes. Create immediate pressure that deprives him of oxygen."

Jake Tapper asks: "What tapes?"

The date on the memo is December 30, 2007, so it must be the Jeremiah Wright tapes. Can there really be anything left that the Clintons didn't use?

Here's an index of all the memos. Can you find anything interesting?

“A word about being human,” he wrote. “Bill Gates once asked me, ‘Could you make me more human?’ I said, ‘Being human is overrated.’”

Spain's Olympic basketball team, posing for an ad, making "Chinese" eyes.

The Guardian reports:
No one involved in the advert appears to have considered it inappropriate nor contemplated the manner in which it could be interpreted in China and elsewhere. No offence was intended by the advert, but whether the Chinese see it that way is a different matter and it is likely to provoke more criticism at a delicate time for Spanish sport.
Oh, the problem of gestures that seem OK in one country but are terribly offensive in another! How are we to keep track of them all?

And don't make that OK gesture in Brazil, by the way.

UPDATE, August 13: The I.O.C. calls the ad "inappropriate."
“If anyone feels offended by it, we totally apologize for it,” the Spanish star Pau Gasol said. “We never meant anything offensive by it.”

Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said in an e-mail message: “We understand that the Spanish team intended no offense and has apologized. The matter rests there as far as the I.O.C. is concerned.”...

The Spanish Coach, Aito García Reneses, declined to apologize for the picture, which he said he had not seen. He did not appear in the picture. He said the intention was a joke.

"The aura around him is just really nice."


But grumpy old TPM says: "The latest McCain Web ad takes the 'Celeb' tag to a whole new low — it proclaims that 'Hot chicks dig Obama.'" Huh? The ad didn't "proclaim" "Hot chicks dig Obama." The ad showed that various fools love Obama — including some lunkhead who said "Hot chicks dig Obama" and some ditz who said "The aura around him is just really nice." If you think it's offensive to say "Hot chicks dig Obama," then you should do what the ad invites you to do: Discount the support for Obama and think for yourself.

ADDED: The TPM quote above is from Eric Kleefeld, but here TPM top dog Josh Marshall — referencing the recently revealed Mark Penn memos — wonders "How do you think McCain's memos read?"

Now, this is an interesting way to analyze things: Knowing what you know about the Hillary Clinton campaign and what was in the Mark Penn memos that are now available, look at what the candidate is doing and speculate about what is in the internal memos. Marshall says:
Only the deeply naive or the deliberately oblivious -- which regrettably includes the greater number of the people covering the campaign -- don't know the answer to that question.
In other words, you're stupid or willfully blind if you don't realize the McCain campaign is trying to resonate with racism. But let's imagine the Obama memos too. Let's not be deeply naive or deliberately oblivious.

There must be frank and embarrassing analysis of the opponent's weaknesses and the voters' biases in every political campaign. I want to speculate about this sort of thing, but let's be careful. If we don't have the memos, we don't really know what was said, and your speculation is only speculation, even if you are willing to sternly insist that only idiots fail to acknowledge that your interpretation must be true.

Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall — the front view.

Yes, the front view. This is only the first set of my photographs of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

So look out, Frank Gehry haters. And look out, fisheye lens haters. Or maybe if you hate Frank Gehry and the fisheye lens, the 2 negatives will make a positive — because, to me, this building was made to be photographed with the fisheye lens. I bet you can't even tell which crazy distortions are in the building and which come from the lens.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

David Brooks goes to the Olympics opening ceremony and contemplates economics.

David Brooks sorts human societies into individualistic and collectivist. He premises this categorization on some psychological studies that supposedly show that "Americans usually see individuals; Chinese and other Asians see contexts." I'm extremely skeptical of findings like that, but Brooks assures us that "experiments have been done over and over again, and the results reveal the same underlying pattern." For example, asked to describe what they see when looking at a fish tank, Americans talk about "the biggest fish" and Chinese talk about "the context in which the fish swim," whatever that means.

When I read things like that, I feel like the context in which I swim is bullshit. I want to know more about these tests so I can try to pick them apart. And maybe societies can be sorted into ones that where people see the results of purportedly scientific tests and want to check the methodology and ones where people defer to experts and swallow things whole — or am I somehow being American and individualistic?

Brooks wants to talk about economics:
[I]ndividualistic societies have tended to do better economically. We in the West have a narrative that involves the development of individual reason and conscience during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and then the subsequent flourishing of capitalism. According to this narrative, societies get more individualistic as they develop.

But what happens if collectivist societies snap out of their economic stagnation? What happens if collectivist societies, especially those in Asia, rise economically and come to rival the West? A new sort of global conversation develops.

The opening ceremony in Beijing was a statement in that conversation. It was part of China’s assertion that development doesn’t come only through Western, liberal means, but also through Eastern and collective ones.
Is this a new conversation? I thought this is a conversation we've been having for at least a century. Also, didn't China take its economic theory from the Western tradition?

Brooks is in China, at the Olympics, so he needs to do his column on China and weave in whatever material he's gathering by being over there:
The ceremony drew from China’s long history, but surely the most striking features were the images of thousands of Chinese moving as one — drumming as one, dancing as one, sprinting on precise formations without ever stumbling or colliding.
Eh. Here in Madison, Wisconsin, not traveling at all, I sit at my desk and hear the strains of the University of Wisconsin marching band practicing a few blocks away. They're always playing as one, marching in formation. Are they Chinese? It seems to me, people can get together and put on an orderly display when they want to. Does Brooks really want to say that the Chinese people are just much more likely to want to than Americans?
We’ve seen displays of mass conformity before, but this was collectivism of the present — a high-tech vision of the harmonious society performed in the context of China’s miraculous growth.
There's that word "context" again. Look out, you're soaking in it. What on earth is Brooks saying here? Yes, I know, he got to go to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and he had to think about what to write in his next column, but he's looking at a synchronous crowd and presuming the human beings in it just naturally act that way all the time — and not because the government enforces it, but because that's the kind of people they are. That's not just ridiculous. It's offensive.

But read on, Brooks is writing toward a punchline, and he expects readers to take his bait for a few more paragraphs.

August 11, 2008

Mystery image...

... revealed.

The Watts Towers.

We went to see the Watts Towers, but they were partly covered in scaffolding and the fence doors were locked:

Watts Towers

I would have loved to take my fisheye lens inside those structures and look up and see all these things curving in toward the center, but it was not to be. What was the problem? It seems it rained one time or something. But it was still lots of fun to see the fanciful art project:

Watts Towers

We heard about the Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, who devoted all his free time to constructing these things, single-handedly.

Watts Towers

I had to stick the camera and my hands through the bars of the fence to get these shots:

Watts Towers

There's a lovely community center next to the towers, and they had a nice exhibit of schoolkids' art and showed a perfect 1950s-style documentary on Rodia and his towers. What was 1950s about it? The music (which happened to be the same music used as the "Twilight Zone" theme, but in a different key). The attitude (all about the individualistic vision of the artist and devoid of sentimentality toward the ordinary citizens of his community). Too bad it's not on line. But why don't you drive out to Watts so you can watch it?

Watts Towers

I hope you get to see them sometime when you can go inside, but it was worth it just to get this close:

Watts Towers


Watts Towers

ADDED: Hey! The film is on line. I love YouTube. Watch this now, and let's talk not just about Rodia and his aesthetic, but the aesthetic of the filmmaker:

Thanks to commenter Bearbee for finding that. [Rodia's name is mispronounced "Rodilla" in the film, because someone who assumed it was a Spanish name spelled it phonetically, and then someone who knew it was an Italian name pronounced the Ls.]

And thanks to commenter Bissage for writing this:
(1) Sure, a humble construction worker might have single-handedly created a superb example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Naïve art . . . but did he ever knock-up a spacey new-age cokehead star fucker while his wife was dying from cancer?

Did he? Huh? Did he?

*pokes imaginary adversary in the chest*

No! He did not!

(I'll bet that!!! let some air out of his tires. He thinks he’s so big!)

(2) From Wikipedia: Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, . . .

Sound familiar?

Kind of like the perpetual art project that is Althouse.

(3) It turns out Mr. Rodia was an Italian immigrant. Well, that explains everything! Anybody who has lived between Boston and Washington D.C. thinks of one thing immediately when they hear the words “Italian immigrant.” Here it is.


I think not!

"This war did not begin because of a miscalculation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"It is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time. The man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union 'the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century' has reestablished a virtual czarist rule in Russia and is trying to restore the country to its once-dominant role in Eurasia and the world. Armed with wealth from oil and gas; holding a near-monopoly over the energy supply to Europe; with a million soldiers, thousands of nuclear warheads and the world's third-largest military budget, Vladimir Putin believes that now is the time to make his move."

Writes Robert Kagan.

"I'm not going to lie. The thought really crossed my mind for a split-second, 'There's no way.'"


The complicated story of Rielle Hunter and Jonathan Darman, the Newsweek reporter.

Jonathan Darman has his claws out:
The first time I laid eyes on , I could tell she was a story. She had frizzy blond hair with DARK roots, wore bright nail polish and moved like someone who knew how to work a room.
Huh? This made me a little suspicious of Darman. So what if her hair was frizzy and she wore bright nail polish? Lots of boring people do. And there's nothing amazing about dark roots. Why do you appear to be FREAKING OUT about it?
She was on a cramped commuter flight and she was flirting with a candidate for president of the United States. It was July 7, 2006.
I'm still not seeing it. Women flirt with the male candidates all the time.
Most of the other passengers seemed to have no idea who Edwards was. But this blond woman, putting away her bags, was visibly captivated by him.
One person recognizes a celebrity and others don't. The one that does is way more excited than the others. But in fact, Edwards and Hunter were already having an affair, and Darman is showing off — now — that he smelled something fishy back then. But give the man credit. He noticed, and he talked to her:
She told me her name and asked me what my astrological sign was, which I thought was a little unusual. I told her. She smiled, and began telling me her life story: how she was working as a documentary-film maker, living with a friend in South Orange, N.J., but how she'd previously had "many lives." She'd worked, she said, as an actress and as a spiritual adviser. She was fiercely devoted to astrology and New Age spirituality. She'd been a New York party girl, she'd been married and divorced, she'd been a seeker and a teacher and was a firm believer in the power of truth.
All right, then! We know a little more about John Edwards's judgment.
She told me that she had met Edwards at a bar, at the Regency Hotel in New York. She thought he was giving off a special "energy."
Blech. Energy. The buzzword of idiots.

Four months later, Rielle emailed Darman offering him a story. They meet for lunch at a restaurant in NYC and — shocking! — she's into drinking wine and is being smoochily friendly.
She told me that she'd felt a connection to me when we'd first met, that she could tell I was a very old soul. This meant a lot to Rielle.
Oh, did it? Sounds like one of her lines — along with what's your sign, sensing your energy, and feeling a connection.

At this point, I go looking for a picture of Darman. Well, damn! I feel a connection, sense his energy, and — sure — detect that he's an old soul. Let's meet for lunch and wine in SoHo, Jonathan.
Her speech was peppered with New Age jargon—human beings were dragged down by "blockages" to their actual potential; history was the story of souls entering and escaping our field of consciousness. A seminal book for her had been Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now." Her purpose on this Earth, she said, was to help raise awareness about all this, to help the unenlightened become better reflections of their true, repressed selves.
So I guess we know the seduction routine she aimed at Edwards — who perhaps got to thinking that Elizabeth was a blockage.
Her latest project was John Edwards. Edwards, she said, was an old soul who had barely tapped into any of his potential. The real John Edwards, she believed, was a brilliant, generous, giving man who was driven by competing impulses—to feed his ego and serve the world. If he could only tap into his heart more, and use his head less, he had the power to be a "transformational leader" on par with Gandhi and Martin Luther King. "He has the power to change the world," she said.
To feed his ego and serve the world. Ha. Note how that chimes with Edwards's self-analysis (in the "Nightline" interview):
Ego. Self-focus, self-importance... a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences. And nothing, nothing could be further from the truth.
But the frizzy-haired energy lady said I could remove blockages, release my old soul, and serve the world....

Back to Darman:
"Do you talk about this stuff with the candidate?" I asked. "All the time," Rielle replied. "I'll lecture him on it when he's getting too much up in here," she said, gesturing toward her head.
And not enough down here, she said, pointing to her crotch. (Kidding!)
"He'll see a look on my face and say, 'Yes, I know, Rielle, "Power of Now" says …' " Rielle wanted me to know all these things because she wanted me to write about them.
Oh, yeah, I forgot. There was no confessing to the sexual relationship here. She was trying to get the news out to the world that John Edwards would make a great President, with his old soulfulness and his ability — encouraged by Hunter — to get through the blockages and release his powers that are somewhere other than in his head.

Even if they didn't have an affair, we should question his judgment in wanting to put up with listening to this bullshit and, certainly, in wanting her to film a documentary about him.

After Hunter is fired, she tells Darman she's working with novelist Jay McInerney "on a 'genius' idea for a television show about women who help men get out of failing marriages by having affairs with them." She also says she's in love but won't say with whom. When the National Enquirer starts writing about the affair, she calls Darman for advice and seems to be trying to pressure him to think that he can't use all the material she'd given him. He refuses — it was never off the record — and she stops talking to him. Darman opines that she must have been "saddened" to realize he'd always been a reporter when she thought he was her friend — I'm sure he's read "The Journalist and the Murderer" — but I would guess that she was using him as a media connection all along and that she was now, on stern advice from Edwards, doing what she could to keep him from writing anything that would corroborate The National Enquirer.

So now I have "a 'genius' idea for a television show about a woman" who has an affair with a presidential candidate and who befriends a reporter — leading to all sorts of complexities about whether the woman is falling for the reporter, looking to him as a friend, or — most likely — massaging him into writing stories promoting the interests of the candidate. The woman travels with the campaign in the guise of a film documentarian, so our show can use her badly done and embarrassingly revealing video clips as a narrative device — in the manner of "The Office" or "The Comeback." And maybe her real job — for which she deserves the money that seems thrown away on her as a filmmaker — is to hand-feed favorable stories to reporters. Our adorable reporter tries to do his job as he teeters between falling for her and figuring out what is going on.

Email me, Jay. Lunch in SoHo?

UPDATE: The complicated story continues.