November 1, 2008

"There's something about the Olsens that makes them seem like trinkets...."

Robin Givhan on the Olsen twins:
Ashley Olsen... appeared on "Good Morning America" and spoke with Diane Sawyer. The morning host insisted that they stand next to each other so the audience could take note of just how teeny-tiny the millionaire author is compared with the statuesque journalist. We couldn't help but wonder: Would Sawyer have been so inclined to treat the equally diminutive actress Jada Pinkett Smith or former labor secretary Robert Reich like a Travelocity gnome?... Assembling [their new] book took more than a year and was daunting, one of them said. It might have been Mary-Kate. But it could just as easily could have been Ashley. It was impossible to tell them apart.... As individuals, they do not seem fully realized. As adults, they are a blur. When we see Ashley solo in the middle of a cocktail party, we wonder: Where is her other half? What is she doing? And who left this child alone in a room crowded with adults?
Soooo.... wow... twins are freaky.... I mean, I thought Givhan was critical of Diane Sawyer, but then, she just went on infantalizing and dehumanizing them. Hey, big news: Twins are human. Short people are human.

James Cagney weird-noises montage.

That's just part 1. Here are Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

When John McCain met Anna Nicole Smith...

... and told her he liked her TV show:

(Via Ben Smith.)

Does Obama have a pet? Does McCain have a pet?

Reading about Rush Limbaugh and his besotted fondness for his kitty cat, I realized we don't hear anything about the presidential candidates' pets. Usually, you hear about the pets... Socks this, Barney that. King Timahoe.

But I don't remember seeing any pet stories this time around. Do these men not have pets? Is this a new trend? Men without pets?

It turns out that Barack Obama, in fact, has no pets. McCain?
He’s got the usual dogs—four of them actually: two Yorkshire terriers, Lucy and Desi; an English springer spaniel, Sam; and a mutt, Coco—and a black-and-white cat named Oreo. But he also reportedly owns two turtles (Cuff and Link), three parakeets, and thirteen saltwater fish. And in the past he’s had guinea pigs, snakes, and “an iguana that Jack walked on a leash,” according to Vogue, plus a ferret. The ferret recently died of cancer, and though McCain called it “a very cute animal,” he also told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in a joint interview with his wife that, “Rather than alienate the pro-pet constituency, I will remain silent about the loss of our ferret,” implying that perhaps Cindy was the impetus behind that acquisition. Indeed, Cindy seems to be more of an animal person than John. “She loves animals, just not always ones that I appreciate,” he told Vogue. It was Cindy who went out and bought the two terriers as she coped with their daughter Meghan's graduating college and leaving home. But McCain has proven his devotion to his pets: About five years ago, as the New York Times’ Caucus blog reported, Coco the mutt began choking (on either a treat or a piece of meat—memories differ), and McCain attempted a sort of doggie Heimlich. When that failed, McCain stuck two of his fingers down the dog’s throat and cleared the blockage, saving the dog.

Requisite ferret link. ("This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.")

ADDED: What President had dogs named Sweet Lips, Scentwell, Vulcan, Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy? What President had, for pets, 2 tiger cubs? What President gave his dog the absurdly uncreative name Fido?

AND: Apparently, Obama promised he'd get his daughters a dog after the campaign is over, and the American Kennel Club ran a poll that determined that the breed he should get is.... poodle.

ALSO: I think poodle -- a large ("standard") poodle -- is a great dog choice, and it's probably what I would get. But I cannot picture an American male politician with a poodle. It doesn't have the right connotations... and not just because we associate it with a foreign country. (Bush has Scotties.) Mainstream Americans think bad thoughts about poodles, and the President has better things to do than to retrain our poodle-thoughts. Also, with poodles, you have to pick black or white. Obama can't do that! He could get 2, black and white, but that would seem as though he were trying too hard for symbolism. Yes, I know there are red poodles. Still... Maybe an American male politician could get a nice red labradoodle.

But wait. It's a dog for his daughters. I think those little girls should -- after all this -- get whatever dog or dogs they want. If they want to walk around holding little chihuahuas, they should do it. Or do they have their own image consultants, building their political careers, determining the precise dog that will say what's best to say?

"It's improv. Stream of consciousness.... I do my best, most expansive thinking when I am speaking. I get on a roll."

Rush Limbaugh talks to the UK Telegraph:
"I have days where I feel I've left half my brain at home and I'm not functioning 100 per cent, but I don't think the audience would ever know it, and there's never a day I don't want to do it. I prep it, but I don't think about it until it starts. At noon today I had no idea what the first thing was I was going to say until about 20 seconds into the theme music."...

His audience is now 12 times the circulation of The New York Times, he tells me. "And you can add up CNN, MSNBC and Fox, and my audience is 20 times that. They have no pretence of objectivity. They are activists now and they make no bones about it. CNN, MSNBC and Fox all opinionise. Like I do. They acknowledge this, and so it has become a battle between the two medias. The liberal media see this Obama candidacy as historic because race is a big deal to them. They think this country committed Original Sin. I actually believe that most of their support for Obama is that they are creaming in their jeans about the historical nature of the campaign. They want to be a part of it.They want to make it happen. They want a stake in it. They want to be able to say they did it if Obama wins."...

"I am truly colour blind and I wish everyone else was. We Balkanise when we say only women can represent women in Congress and only Jews can represent Jews and only blacks can represent blacks. It's bullshit. We all want the same things. Prosperity and a decent education for our kids. Treating this country like it is stuck 50 years ago is bullshit; we have made more progress than anyone over this. Get over it. If Obama says stupid things I'm not going to say they are not stupid because he's black. He's running for President, for God's sake. It's the Left who has been racist by agonising about whether he is black enough. Is he authentic enough? Does he have a civil rights record? For me he's a liberal. That is reason enough to oppose him."
Lots more at the link. I like this part about whether he cries:
"Don't cry easily. Get close to crying then I stop it. A movie or a book will get me misty-eyed. It's always happy ending good stuff that gets me crying, not bad stuff."

"Last time?" Long pause. "Last time was when my little cat died. Five years old. Had a stroke. I had two cats and this one had the personality and almost humanlike behaviour. Pets are like sports: you think you can invest a lot in them without consequences."

... He seems to know himself well, knows he can be selfish and that he cuts quite a lonely figure – just him and his remaining cat rattling around in that big house.
Aw. (And you thought straight men with kitty cats was a bogus trend.)

"Every time someone tries to hold Norm Coleman accountable, he runs to court to try to weasel his way out of it."

Al Franken does not like being sued for defamation. Who does? I hate to see political mud-slinging turned into lawsuits, even if there are plenty of people who will make the argument that if something were really a lie -- e.g., the "Swift Boat" attacks on John Kerry -- the candidate would have sued.

I thought conservatives loathed tort suits... not to suggest that it's fine for liberals to drag political battles into the courtroom.


By the way, "Senator Franken"... won't that be weird? If it happens. Not really weirder than Sonny Bono in Congress. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California. Ah, I guess nothing about blurring the showbiz/politics line can be weird anymore. It's utterly banal.


Did you know Sonny Bono's epitaph is "And The Beat Goes On"?

"But what it does mean is that McCain2000 wants to have it both ways..."

"... rather like modern corporations who give to charity and then try to reap PR benefits by hyping their altruism in their ads. Does stuff like this mean the gifts and phone call aren't 'good'? The answer depends on how gray-area-tolerant you are about sincerity vs. marketing, or sincerity plus marketing, or leadership plus the packaging and selling of same. Nobody else can tell you how to see it or convince you you shouldn't yawn and turn away in disgust. Maybe McCain deserves the disgust; maybe he's really just another salesman."

Here's the full text of the long article David Foster Wallace wrote about John McCain in 2000. It might provide a refreshing change of pace from the political writings of the present moment.

(Or do you think I owe you a coherent elaboration of my reasons for voting for Obama?)

"It was not immediately clear how Onyango might have qualified for public housing with a standing deportation order."

The latest news on Zeituni Onyango -- Obama's "Aunti Zeituni."

UPDATE: AP has this:
A statement given to the AP by Obama's campaign said, "Senator Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed."

"any and all appropriate laws be followed"

Here's a new quote to exploit, kids. Obama's view of the law is that you only need to follow the "appropriate laws." [AND: Click the "kids" link and consider what I said here before freaking out.)

"This is the paradox of Dave: The closer you get, the darker the picture, but the more genuinely lovable he was."

"It was only when you knew him better that you had a true appreciation of what a heroic struggle it was for him not merely to get along in the world, but to produce wonderful writing."

Jonathan Franzen, from a long Rolling Stone article called "The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace."
"David began to have anxiety attacks in high school," his father recalls. "I noticed the symptoms, but I was just so unsophisticated about these matters. The depression seemed to take the form of an evil spirit that just haunted David." [His mother] Sally came to call it the "black hole with teeth." David withdrew. "He spent a lot of time throwing up junior year," his sister remembers. One wall of his bedroom was lined with cork, for magazine photos of tennis stars. David pinned an article about Kafka to the wall, with the headline THE DISEASE WAS LIFE ITSELF....

[After he dropped out of college,] Wallace would visit his dad's philosophy classes. "The classes would turn into a dialogue between David and me," his father remembers. "The students would just sit looking around, 'Who is this guy?' " Wallace devoured novels — "pretty much everything I've read was read during that year." He also told his parents how he'd felt at school. "He would talk about just being very sad, and lonely," Sally says. "It didn't have anything to do with being loved. He just was very lonely inside himself."
Here's a passage from a story about how bad he felt on anti-anxiety medication:
You are the sickness yourself.... You realize all this...when you look at the black hole and it's wearing your face. That's when the Bad Thing just absolutely eats you up, or rather when you just eat yourself up. When you kill yourself. All this business about people committing suicide when they're "severely depressed;" we say, "Holy cow, we must do something to stop them from killing themselves!" That's wrong. Because all these people have, you see, by this time already killed themselves, where it really counts.... When they "commit suicide," they're just being orderly.
I liked this description of his living conditions at one point:
Wallace spent a year writing in Syracuse. "I lived in an apartment that was seriously the size of the foyer of an average house. I really liked it. There were so many books, you couldn't move around. When I'd want to write, I'd have to put all the stuff from the desk on the bed, and when I'd want to sleep, I would have to put all the stuff on the desk."

Wallace worked longhand, pages piling up. "You look at the clock and seven hours have passed and your hand is cramped," Wallace said. He'd have pens he considered hot — cheap Bic ballpoints, like batters have bats that are hot. A pen that was hot he called the orgasm pen.
And let me highlight this;
Wallace was always dating somebody. "There were a lot of relationships," Amy says. He dated in his imaginative life too: When I visited him, one wall was taped with a giant Alanis Morissette poster. "The Alanis Morissette obsession followed the Melanie Griffith obsession — a six-year obsession," he said. "It was preceded by something that I will tell you I got teased a lot for, which was a terrible Margaret Thatcher obsession. All through college: posters of Margaret Thatcher, and ruminations on Margaret Thatcher. Having her really enjoy something I said, leaning forward and covering my hand with hers."

He tended to date high-strung women — another symptom of his shyness. "Say what you want about them, psychotics tend to make the first move." Owning dogs was less complicated: "You don't get the feeling you're hurting their feelings all the time."
There's much more at the link, and I won't attempt to summarize it. But if you were wondering why this brilliant man killed himself, you will have your explanation.

A state employee says her supervisor had her run a child-support check on Joe the Plumber.

The woman, Vanessa Niekamp, says she acted under the impression that it was a routine check after an inquiry from Joe himself.

Attacking Joe the Plumber has been the stupidest move by Obama supporters. There was nothing to be gained, even if the man could have been personally destroyed. (Not that I recommend destroying private citizens for political gain.)

"Don't you feel like we don't quite have a leader right now? Don't you feel like our country is missing its voice?"

Asks Jac, adding: "It's not a very good feeling, is it?"

ADDED: I just noticed that the quote I chose to excerpt is not ostensibly pro-Obama. I liked it because of what it said about Bush. It really has been a dismal shame over the years that Bush has not been able to speak to us and for us about the things he has decided to do. (Sometimes, I wonder if Bush has read Mark 15:4-5 too many times, with too much self-regard.) 

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade says:
THEY TOLD ME THAT IF GEORGE W. BUSH WERE RE-ELECTED, even right-wing liberal female law professor bloggers in Madison, Wisconsin would be quoting Bible scripture on a daily basis. AND THEY WERE RIGHT.

October 31, 2008

"Look, I have this sense of impending doom; we’ve had a couple of elections stolen already..."

"... The only thing worse than losing is to think that you’re going to win and then lose."

Proposition K.

It sounds like a cross between breakfast cereal and hemorrhoid ointment, but it's a ballot proposal that will essentially legalize prostitution in San Francisco.

Live-blogging Halloween.

5:08: I'm ready for the kids. I've chosen M&Ms as the classic all-American candy. How about you? Last year, I was in NYC and my house was unattended. I felt bad about that. I've lived in my house since 1986, and that was the first time I did not give out Halloween candy.

5:23: No kids yet, but I've started eating some of the candy on the theory that the peanut M&Ms make a substantial dinner entree.

5:41: The first person is an adult! Weird, but female, so not scary. She's collecting nonperishable foodstuffs, and I give her some canned soup, peas, and tuna fish.

6:09: Finally, some kids. 4 teens. One was the Joker, but only one. There was also a cat, a Supergirl, and... oh, I forgot.

6:47: Uncomfortable dialogue:
Me: Are you a KKK guy?

Kid: Uh, no. I was asked that a couple of times. I'm a snow trooper from [unintelligible].

Me: Oh. Uh. Good. That would have been scarier.
6:49: A bat and (a little girl in a tux) a magician.

6:59: A professional wrestler and a (very well done) wolf.

7:10: The tiniest Halloweener arrived, in the classic baby costume: pumpkin. I'm just going back and reading my original Halloween live-blogging, from 2004. Hippie was a popular costume back then. Haven't seen a hippie tonight. I think that's a sign that Obama will win. (Get it? The year the conservative won, the hippie was "scary.")

7:33: Best example of me thinking twice before guessing the costume: "Are you 80s girls?" That was correct. Prostitutes would have been incorrect.

7:42: More 80s girls. 80s girl seems to have replaced hippie. A generational shift. Also, there was a witch. I complimented her for choosing the classic Halloween costume.

8:18: It seems over. Not much of a crowd this year. There's always Freakfest, but it's said that Freakfest isn't what it used to be. For the last few years, you've had to buy a ticket to get onto State Street, and this year they've installed a lot of surveillance cameras to keep the freaks in line.

8:25: It must be over. Anyone who shows up now is a straggler. I think it's time for me to close up for the evening.

8:42: I've turned off all the lights in the front of the house. I note that there were no political costumes at all. Not one Sarah Palin. No Obama/McCain masks. Not even a Nixon ... and I think in past years, there's usually been at least one kid wearing a parent's old Nixon mask. How do I interpret the lack of political costumes? I think it reflects a relaxed confidence that Obama will win.

The Bipolar Movie Challenge.

The video and the audio are from different movies. Try to identify them. (Warning: some bad language.)

ADDED: That was the second in a series. Here's the first:

"What are the scariest pieces of classical music?"

There's an obvious right answer, isn't there? Or 2 obvious best answers....

Jac has those 2 plus 2 others. You must have more.

About that famous guitar chord.

A mathematician discovers the secret of the opening chord in "Hard Day's Night":
Four years ago, inspired by reading news coverage about the song’s 40th anniversary, [Jason] Brown decided to try and see if he could apply a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles’ riddle. The process allowed him to decompose the sound into its original frequencies using computer software and parse out which notes were on the record.

It worked, up until a point: the frequencies he found didn’t match the known instrumentation on the song. “George played a 12-string Rickenbacker, Lennon had his six string, Paul had his bass…none of them quite fit what I found,” he explains. “Then the solution hit me: it wasn’t just those instruments. There was a piano in there as well, and that accounted for the problematic frequencies.”

Dr. Brown deduces that another George—George Martin, the Beatles producer—also played on the chord, adding a piano chord that included an F note impossible to play with the other notes on the guitar.
(Via Metafilter.)

"He threw his 300 game with all of his friends, gave each other high-fives and it's like the story ended. He died with a smile on his face."

"Don [Doane] will be a legend. It's something that will never be forgotten as long as people bowl here."

(Via Metafilter.)

ADDED: Bowled. Over.

"Beyond dirty campaigning... to something truly dishonorable."

Laying great emphasis on the treatment of Rashid Khalidi, John Judis condemns the McCain campaign:

(Via Josh Marshall.)

ADDED: More on Khalidi here:
Mr. Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia, was born in Manhattan in 1948....

He taught at universities in Lebanon until the mid-’80s, and some critics accuse him of having been a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Mr. Khalidi has denied working for the group, and says he was consulted as an expert by reporters seeking to understand it.

He was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation during Middle East peace talks from 1991 to 1993. From 1987 until 2003, he was a professor at the University of Chicago, where he became friends with Mr. Obama.

At Mr. Khalidi’s farewell party in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times article, Mr. Obama fondly recalled their many conversations, saying they provided “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.”
I don't know what the whole quote was, but I see subtlety in that statement. Obama is speaking at an event honoring a colleague, so it's no time for insults. Obama gracefully uses self-deprecation as he speaks of his own flaws, which Khalidi reminded him to see. We don't know from that whether Khalidi successfully argued that Obama had blind spots and biases or whether Khalidi served as an example of blind spots and biases. I think we see a polite and circumspect man -- perhaps even a man who follows the teaching of Jesus:
Matthew 7

1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Dreaming of the presidential candidates.

Have Barack Obama and John McCain turned up in your dreams? I've had one dream about each candidate now. A while back, Obama turned up in a dream. He was just a nice person who said hello. Last night, McCain finally turned up. He was wearing a thin, sweat-soaked shirt, and he angrily challenged me with a question about the war -- did I think it was almost over? -- and when I answered -- yes -- he stomped off and loudly declared that I had proved his point that everyone was getting that question wrong.

ADDED: Perhaps at some level, I perceive McCain as a father figure and Obama as a son figure. My age is about midway between the 2 candidates, so I need to be aware of the risk that I'll be affected by irrelevant psychological forces. A father figure you may respect or fear, follow or resist. A son you instinctively support and hope to see succeed.

"Why am I being punished for having bought a house I could afford?"

People who owe more on their house than it's worth will want in on the new mortgage plan too. The fact that they can meet the payments may make them feel even more entitled.

"If the lunch truly is free, the demand for free lunches will be large."

October 30, 2008

Say what you like....


... at The No-Wake Alehouse.

"Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works..."

"... his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers...."

The Economist cannot endorse McCain.
And Obama?
Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy....
He's a risk, but he gets the endorsement.

Here's an ad:

ADDED: The Corner's Andrew Stuttaford rationalizes:
The Economist endorses Obama, as it did John Kerry (2004), Bill Clinton (1992) and no-one (1984, 1988). Yes, it endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bob Dole in 1996 and George W Bush in 2000, but to portray this particular endorsement as an Obamacon moment seems like a stretch.

You know, (unless I'm mistaken) I had not blogged any endorsements until now. But this one impressed me and really hit home. It did not feel like the usual liberals doing what liberals do.

"O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him."

Al Qaeda's election prayer.

Right-wing monsters.

It's been 4 years -- here are the old left-wing monsters from 2004 (and some more in 2007) -- but Korla Pundit has finally gotten around to showing us the right-wing monsters.

Guess who?

"I picnic in virgin firths, grinning in mirth with misfit whims, smiling if I find birch twigs, smirking if I find mint sprigs."

Let me annoy you with Eunoia.

"Although there are cool things and crappy things, they all vie for our attention with equal fervor."

Hey, watch this thing for me, will you? It might be wonderful, but I have some other things vying for my attention right now.

(Via Metafilter.)

"The incumbent president has approval ratings somewhere between Robert Mugabe and the ebola virus."

"The economy is supposedly on the brink of global Armageddon. McCain has only $80 million to spend, while Obama's burning through $600 mil as fast as he can, and he doesn't really need to spend a dime given the wall-to-wall media adoration.. . . And yet an old cranky broke loser is within two or three points of the King of the World. Strange."

Mark Steyn observes. It is puzzling, isn't it?

(Via Instapundit.)

Afternoon conversations in the X-for-Unknown Café.


Where you might not know what this is a picture of, and I don't know what you're going to talk about. But you can click here if you don't want to guess what the picture is, and I will stop back in a little why and eavesdrop on you.

#1? Socks!

Top 10 items dogs swallow the most.

Now, you might think, this shows dogs are idiots, but -- and if you are a dog lover, you know this -- the truth that it shows how much your dog loves you! They eat your socks because.... your socks smell like you.

With the Democratic control of Congress, how much traction should McCain get out of the argument for divided government?

TNR presents the debate. On Monday, John B. Judis had a piece in called "Down with Divided Government," and today, we get a response from Jacob T. Levy: "In Defense of Two-Party Rule."

This is a huge question for me, and I've wavered on the subject. Usually, I prefer divided government, but that doesn't mean I need to support McCain. I've seen McCain put way too much effort into pleasing Democrats and flouting his own party, and I can picture Obama standing up to the Democratic Congress and being his own man. What, really, will he owe them? McCain, by contrast, will need them. And we've seen that he wants to be loved by them.

Sometimes, I think that letting the Democrats control everything for 2 years would work out just fine. Let one party take responsibility for everything. When they can't whine and finger-point, what will they actually step up and do? It will be interesting to know. And it will do the Republicans good to retool and define themselves, with an eye toward the 2010 election. I'd like to see this clarification after so many years of obfuscation.

So, that's how my thinking about 2-party rule has supported my decision to vote for Obama.

Now, let's see what Judis and Levy say. Judis notes various examples of successful presidencies under united government and bad presidencies with divided government, and says the evidence proves that "divided government is a curse, not a blessing, and should be avoided, if at all possible." He elaborates:
[In "The Politics Presidents Make" Stephen] Skowronek, a Yale political scientist, distinguishes two kinds of circumstances that have led to crippled government. In the first, a president from an opposing party, but who nevertheless represents the wave of the political future, confronts a congress wedded to the past and determined to frustrate him. You could put Nixon (who was the harbinger of an emerging Republican majority) and Clinton (who was the harbinger of an emerging Democratic majority) in this group. Both these presidencies degenerated into chaos in their second terms.

Then, there are presidents who, in Skowronek’s words, are “affiliated with a set of established commitments that have in the course of events been called into question as failed or irrelevant responses to the problems of the day.” Skowroneck numbers among these James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. These presidents don’t necessarily have to contend with a Congressional opposition in power, but like Hoover and Carter in their last two years, with a nascent and growing opposition in Congress that constitutes a functional majority in opposition to what they want to do. These presidencies have also proved disastrous.

A John McCain presidency would clearly fall in the latter group, and McCain, unlike Hoover and Carter, would have to face clear and unequivocal majorities in Congress united against him. Rather than promising success, that kind of divided government would promise chaos and failure.
Levy says:
The simple fact is that Republicans never controlled the House during Reagan's eight years....

The last six years of Clinton's presidency, 1995 to 2001, is the other era of divided government that gets held up as exemplary. Judis dismisses it as catastrophic on the basis of the Clinton impeachment. But that misses the wonderful weirdness of the late '90s. The chaos of impeachment coexisted alongside bipartisan legislative accomplishments... Again, I think a good president was made better through divided government....
But he's still not promoting McCain:
The obvious prediction is that Obama will have at least two years of one-party government. That may be, temporarily, for the best--the Bush-era Republican Party, like the Nixon-era Republican Party, needs some time in the wilderness to unlearn some very bad habits. ... [I]n the unlikely event that a healthier, reformed Republican Party is ready by 2010 and able to grab back control of the House, so much the better for American politics--and maybe so much the better for Obama's presidency. And in the meantime, I'm certainly rooting for smart and decent Hill Republicans (admittedly a minority) to hold onto their seats to lead the rebuilding toward another era of soundly divided government.
I don't know if undivided government is always better, but I think it can have some benefits now, and it's not so obviously always bad that opposition to it works as an especially strong reason to support McCain in 2008.

Picasso pumpkin.

From a collection of carved pumpkins, I like "Picasso's Dream":

It took me a while to see it, and I am a big fan of negative space and Picasso's "Dream" has long been one of my favorite paintings. A delightful feeling of belated recognition.

Should Barack Obama be giving handouts to his impoverished African relatives?

Glenn Reynolds writes:
Zeituni Onyango, the aunt so affectionately described in Mr Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston.

A second relative believed to be the long-lost “Uncle Omar” described in the book was beaten by armed robbers with a “sawed-off rifle” while working in a corner shop in the Dorchester area of the city. He was later evicted from his one-bedroom flat for failing to pay $2,324.20 (£1,488) arrears, according to the Boston Housing Court.
Funny how you have to go to the British papers -- in this case the London Times -- for this kind of story.
Has Obama mistreated these relatives? They contributed nothing to his life when he was growing up. How much of your money do you hand over to relatives who make less than you? Is that a moral obligation? Is it even a kindness? Shouldn't they have the incentive to take responsibility and work for themselves? In fact, we are not hearing them complain that Obama hasn't helped them enough. They could bad-mouth him like mad right now, and they don't. That means something.

And how do we even know that Obama hasn't given them money or other assistance? I think it's common courtesy, when you help your adult relatives financially, to keep it quiet.

Could it be that Obama practices Christian values? Jesus said:
Matthew 6

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Now, you might think, how could Obama have helped these people, they live in "a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston"?

First, I don't know what "a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston" really is and what it costs, nor do I know how much money these 2 adults have squandered or given to other friends and relations over the years. I seem to remember from "Dreams From My Father" that Obama's hugely numerous African relatives -- some of them anyway -- would shamelessly hit him up for money. I'd be happy to know he's not a soft touch. I'd be happy to know that he expects individuals to work and look after themselves. Yes, he said "spread the wealth around," but how does he mean to do it? It should cheer us to learn that he loathes handouts.

Second, I would highlight the fact that this aunt and uncle are living in Boston. The building may look "rundown" to the British journalist who wrote the above-linked article, but these people managed to immigrate from Kenya to the United States. How was that accomplished? I would love to know that Obama's attitude is: You made it to America, the land of opportunity, now prove that you deserved to be one of the lucky ones who were able to immigrate, by taking advantage of that opportunity.

Obama's judges. Althouse's obsession with linking.

WaPo's Ruth Marcus quotes me in her column, which is aimed at allaying fears about what Obama might do to the federal judiciary, fears stoked by Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi in that op-ed in the Wall Street Journal the other day. Marcus quotes Calabresi and National Review's Ed Whelan -- linking to both -- then asserts that it's "easy to exaggerate the impact of the next president" on the courts.

First, she quotes and links to Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard, who, she says, "has managed not to succumb to the fevered worries of his fellow conservatives" and says that "a Democratic president would probably simply be doing 'maintenance work' on the Supreme Court, at least in his first term, replacing one liberal justice with another." The direct quote from Eastland is: "Obama couldn't create a liberal majority unless at least one conservative, or man-in-the-middle [Anthony M.] Kennedy, were to step down, and that looks doubtful, at least in the next four years." Marcus thinks Eastland "understates" how much McCain could do to tip the Supreme Court with conservatives to replace the liberal Justices. Eastland aptly noted that McCain will need to appoint people that the Senate will confirm, so he won't be able to go as far as avid conservatives would like.

But how far to the left will Obama go in picking judges? Here, Marcus looks at Obama's July 2007 statement (dicussed in Calabresi's op-ed): "we need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

Marcus writes:
This stance, Calabresi said, is tantamount to requiring “the appointment of judges committed in advance to violating” the oath they take to dispense justice impartially. But as University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse, no wild-eyed liberal, pointed out, Obama “is not saying that judges should distort the meaning of law so that people they empathize with can win cases. He's saying judges need to understand the realities of the world, most significantly, what life is like for people.”
Now, the first thing I notice there is that Marcus did not link to my blog post, which you can find here. As you may remember, I got quite angry at The New Yorker's George Packer for writing about something from my blog without linking, depriving his readers of quick access to the complete context. Packer was especially irksome because he insulted me and clearly meant to damage my reputation as a law professor. But Marcus, distinctly differently, means to take advantage of my reputation as a law professor. She has chosen the statement of mine that best suits her argument and intends for my status as a law professor to bolster the statement. (By the way, Marcus dropped the italics I had on the 2 words, and I put them back above.)

Why no link? She linked the other writers she quoted. I see 2 possible reasons (aside from simple inattention to detail).

One reason would be to deprive readers of the context. Marcus picked the quote she wanted. She goes on to argue that "the suggestion that electing Obama threatens the rule of law, representative democracy and liberty itself is so unhinged it is hard to take seriously" and admits that conservatives won't like Obama's judges. My comparable assertion is: "I don't doubt that Obama will appoint liberal judges and that the Senate will approve them. But there is a limit to what judges can do, and if Obama appoints anything like the hemorrhaging hearts Calabresi envisions... there will be a mighty backlash," a GOP resurgence in 2010 and 2012. It's possible that Marcus wants to keep her readers from seeing that. I come out and say I think Obama's judges will be liberal, and she only says they probably won't make conservatives happy.

The other reason is that if she were to link to my blog, I would be transformed into Ann Althouse, the blogger, who might be writing some odd, bizarre thing at any given moment. Perhaps she stopped by at 10 a.m. yesterday when the top post was a picture of terrified eggs and the second one was titled "Priapism? That's the least of your worries!" Not so helpful in credibility-boosting as University of Wisconsin law professor. On the other hand -- let's be honest -- University of Wisconsin law professor connotes a person who would enthusiastically welcome the most far-left judges. What a dilemma! Oh, well, shore that up with "no wild-eyed liberal." What are you going to do? Write identifed as "right-wing" by The New Yorker?

IN THE COMMENTS: Trey writes:
Since I have highly developed empathy I am a shoe in [sic] for a high level judge appointment by He Who Must Not Be Criticized, dare I hope for SCOTUS? I dare!

After my appointment, I will have empathy for your distress Ann, and I will legislate from the bench. I will make quoting without linking to blogs written by women a federal hate crime.

I feel your distress.
Aha! Marcus linked to all the males she named and failed to link to the one female. Let's get the jump on the law of the future and think like a judicial-empath.

UPDATE: Email from Ruth Marcus, quoted with permission:
Dear Prof. Althouse,

I'm sorry about the missing link, but the explanation is a lot less interesting than the one you conjured up. The boring truth is that I'm a (relative) techno-idiot, and new to blogging. When I wrote the post in a word file, I was rather proud of myself to have put in hyperlinks, including to your post. But my email wouldn't let me attach the document to send to editors (yes, we still have editors here), and when I copied the documet into the body of the message, the links disappeared. My editors dug up the links themselves, but apparently neglected yours. I guess that makes them part of the grand conspiracy, but now that it's been unmasked, I'll ask them to put it in. Also your italics, which I suspect were the victim of the same word to e-mail copying.

It's probably more fun to impute motive to people, but a quick email to me would have gotten the link inserted pronto. Of course, it wouldn't have made for a blog post. And by the way, no wild-eyed liberal was my effort to try not to pigeon-hole you, to avoid the kind of resorting to cartoonish labels that you rightly criticize without going into a lengthy explanation. No good deed, I guess.


October 29, 2008


The team my grandfather and father loved. Congratulations!

"I'm 22 years old, and I'm from Chicago, Illinois. The South Side."

"My dream has always been for the world to hear me sing one time."

"Police recovered a gun today in an alley near where Jennifer Hudson's nephew was found shot to death inside a sport-utility vehicle on the West Side. It was not immediately known whether the gun was used in the killings of Hudson's mother, brother and nephew."

So there was that Obama informercial.

Did anyone actually watch it? Any sign that it was an effective tactic? I ignored it. It was on too early for my Central Time Zone ways. It's not as if it isn't available on YouTube. Here it is. You tell me if it was as good as tonight's episode of "Deal or No Deal."

Fall semester in Madison, Wisconsin... still beautiful enough to lie around on Bascom Mall.


(It's the spring semester you have to watch out for around here.)

I'm egghast.

Egg art, from Nocturnal Moth (via Drawn!).

(Hey, remember Eggagog? I miss that guy so much.)

"Priapism? That's the least of your worries!"

Cool sketches of "hateful" DC people from Sparky Donatello. And here are "little people I trampled over on my way to DC."

Do fantasy stories undermine rationality in children?

Richard Dawkins might want you kids to stop reading Harry Potter, fairy tales, and the like.
"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know"...

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious [e]ffect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research."
And he doesn't think much of the "Judeo-Christian myth".
He went on: "I plan to look at mythical accounts of various things and also the scientific account of the same thing. And the mythical account that I look at will be several different myths, of which the Judeo-Christian one will just be one of many.

"And the scientific one will be substantiated, but appeal to children to think for themselves; to look at the evidence. Always look at the evidence."
The funny thing is, talking like that, Dawkins sounds like a villainous character in a children's book. But he's quite serious, especially about children and religion:
"Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

What to do in Wilmington, Delaware.

I'm glad to see that, among other things, Adam went to the Charcoal Pit.

That place has been around since the 1950s, and I was around back then to go there all the time with with my grandparents (who, by the way, loved "What's My Line?")

"Is a 2004 amendment to Alaska's law on Governors appointing replacement Senators void?"

Simon says yes.

If Obama is so far ahead...

... why isn't he that far ahead?

How weird would it be if McCain won? How would people go about absorbing it?

How to use ordinary people in political ads.

The great film documentarian Errol Morris -- who makes his living, he says, doing advertisements -- writes about the use of ordinary people in political ads. He surveys some old ads, going back to 1952, and he talks about how he went about using real people to manufacture make an ad promoting Obama:
If you’re not going to put words in people’s mouths, if you’re really listening to what they have to say, you’re going to learn something. Admittedly, the evidence is anecdotal. I haven’t selected these people through some kind of statistical sampling. These people are self-selected. They wrote in and said that they were registered Republicans, Independents or switch-voters who were planning to vote for Obama. People in the middle. And I was interested in talking to them on film about why they were making the switch from voting for a Republican to voting for a Democrat. Was it linked with policy? With the personality of the candidate?
Here's the ad :

The ancient cell-phone call.

At the Met, the statues are posing like people:

The photographer, Rick Lee, gave me permission to reproduce that image here. Please don't reproduce it without his permission. You can see the full size picture and others on the same theme at the link.

"Is Barack Obama.... deliberately using the techniques of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), a covert form of hypnosis...?"

"A fundamental tool of 'conversational hypnosis' is pacing and leading—a way for the hypnotist to bypass the listener’s critical faculty by associating repeated statements that are unquestionably accurate with the message he wants to convey."

That assertion is failing to bypass my critical faculty.

UPDATE: LOL! Rush Limbaugh is talking about this theory in the first segment of his show today.

"The cheapest out if you're a previously McCain-friendly pundit who wants to endorse Obama is..."

"... to say you like McCain but can't vote for him because you're revolted by his campaign."

Says Mickey Kaus.

The Barack-Apocrypha.

The early miracles of Barack Obama. Did they really happen?
As tears streamed down her face, she heard a “gentle and friendly voice” behind her saying, “That’s okay, I’ll pay for her.”

Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.

-He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?

Although this happened 20 years ago....

Deep Glamour interviews Manolo (the shoe-blogger).

Manolo tells us what makes shoes glamorous, what makes Manolo glamorous, how to make the glamorous conversation, and so forth. Manolo keeps himself glamorous in part by hiding his real persona. But I suspect he's a lawyer. Look at his definition of glamour:
Glamour is the peculiar and elusive characteristic that combines, in unspecified and unspecifiable proportions, the qualities of charisma, style, beauty, desirability, confidence, rarity, and mysteriousness. In fact, it is almost impossible to fully define what makes something glamorous. As with the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity, we have trouble defining glamour, but know it when we see it.
And I think I know lawyers when I see them... always fawning over Potter Stewart. (Potter wasn't glamorous. Who are the glamorous Supreme Court Justices? Other than John Roberts.)

Manolo thinks George Washington is glamorous:
Tall, handsome, wealthy, mysterious, and possessed of real charisma. This is the test of true glamour: If your countrymen wish to make you king, you are probably glamorous. If you then refuse to be made king, you are indisputably glamorous.
I meant is. Not was. The next question is "Can glamour survive?," and of course, the answer is yes. Some of the most glamorous people are dead. And, as Manolo says, citing Marilyn Monroe, "dying young is the surest way of maintaining one's glamour indefinitely."

Ah, but to be glamorously old. Do that well. That's impressive.

"I can’t screw up Alabama."

Charles Barkley, explaining why he's going to run for governor of Alabama.

What's my line? "World famous architect."

Awkward, but awesome. Frank Lloyd Wright on the ancient TV quiz show:

(Via About Last Night.)

I love this exchange:
"Would it have anything to do with law in any way?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

The host John Charles Daly makes a ruling:
"No, I think that, while there may be some relationship, in some aspects of your work, with law, they would be incidental to our basic line of questioning."

Ugh. What an outrageous ruling from the host, John Daly. He's acting as though he's all erudite and urbane, making an elaborate technical ruling, and the "no" answer ends the questioner's turn. But the questioner worded his question carefully, saying "anything" and "in any way," so the ruling, relying on excluding the "incidental" and the concept of a "basic line of questioning" is thoroughly specious. I hate that kind of phony, show-offy, fake intelligence. Now, Wright, the "world famous architect," was also a world famous genius, and his 2-world answer was absolutely smart, correct, and funny.

Or do you miss that old-fashioned style of witty speech?

"Vietnam has suspended a much-criticised plan to ban very short, thin and flat-chested people from driving."

"The proposal worried many in this nation of slender people and [spurred] jokes about traffic police with tape measures enthusiastically flagging down female motorcyclists, and predictions of a run on padded bras."

So! Mockery works, even on communists.

You know what's terrifying?

Jerry Seinfeld cracking jokes about you.
Jerry Seinfeld's late-night rant about his wife's cookbook rival was no joke to the author's family.

In court papers filed Tuesday, Missy Chase Lapine said her young daughter was unnerved by Seinfeld's comments on the David Letterman show, which compared her to some of history's most notorious killers.

"I have never felt so frightened and vulnerable as the day my daughter, 7 years old, came home from school and asked, 'Mom, what is an assassin?,'" Lapine writes in papers filed Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Here's the video, copied from TV in makeshift fashion:

October 28, 2008

John McCain said he'd hate to live in Milwaukee?!

When did McCain say that? Back in 2004. Here, I found the old WaPo article. It's long, but eventually we get to the part where he's at a Diamondbacks-Padres game with the journalist (Mark Leibovich):
McCain spent 51/2 years as a POW and is now sitting at a ballgame, spooning Heath bar ice cream into his mouth and belly-laughing at his joke. If any demons linger, they are perfectly hidden.

The Diamondbacks score four runs in the third inning. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez waves to McCain from the on-deck circle. "You see that, Luis-Luis waved to me," McCain says.

Between pitches, the following tidbits of McCainiana are gleaned:

• He would hate to live in Milwaukee.

• He has been unimpressed with Kerry's recent performances: "Kerry's gotta stop nuancing everything."

• John Edwards would have been a tougher nominee to beat.

"This is your pitch, Richie, c'mon, c'mon," McCain yells at Diamondbacks slugger Richie Sexson. Sexson is facing San Diego's Jason Szuminski, a rookie pitcher who attended MIT.

"NASA, here we come," McCain says after Sexson hits a towering home run. Szuminski leaves the mound after giving up five runs.

"That's why we don't have more pitchers from MIT," McCain says, speaking loudly enough for fans nearby to hear. He is showing a version of himself unseen to this point, but one which suits him: senator as heckler.

Hey, let's get another video, with MIT folk grousing about how McCain insulted them.

Obama has fretted about U.S. "arrogance," and now Sarkozy is calling Obama "arrogant."

Power Line says okay, then, let's forget about this whole notion of "arrogance" in foreign affairs. Arrogance is "for teenagers when they are explaining why they don't like certain classmates."

The other beagles are all: Hey, how did he do that?

(Via Bloggingheads.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
That sort of resourceful canine determination to escape is ordinarily associated with the French breed known as papillon.

Touch-screen voting machines screw up... right in front of the video camera.

Even as a voting official demonstrates how he's just fixed the problem by "recalibrating" the machine. Terrible!

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
I’ve actually had good luck with those touch-screen voting machines.

One time I cast my vote and lights flashed and bells rung and then . . . JACKPOT!!!

A whole heaping pile of chads came pouring out!


"Why McCain is getting hosed in the press."

According to Politico, it's not that journalists simply want Obama to win. Politico says journalists are actually pretty good at adhering to "professional obligations," they aren't big ideologues, and they don't even like Obama personally. (They "find him a distant and undefined figure.") They used to love McCain, because of "his accessibility and iconoclasm and supposed commitment to clean politics," but they've fallen out of love, not because they want him to lose, but because he's not accessible anymore:
McCain’s decision to limit media access and align himself with the GOP conservative base was an entirely routine, strategic move for a presidential candidate. But much of the coverage has portrayed this as though it were an unconscionable sellout....
Meanwhile, Obama has benefited from the "[j]ournalists’ hair-trigger racial sensitivity," "his ability to minimize internal drama and maximize secrecy," and the sheer fact of his "momentum":
A candidate who is perceived to be doing well tends to get even more positive coverage (about his or her big crowds or the latest favorable polls or whatever). And a candidate who is perceived to be doing poorly tends to have all events viewed through this prism.

Not coincidentally, this is a bias shared by most of our sources. This is why the bulk of negative stories about McCain are not about his ideology or policy plans — they are about intrigue and turmoil. Think back to the past week of coverage on Politico and elsewhere: Coverage has been dominated by Sarah Palin’s $150,000 handbags and glad rags, by finger-pointing in the McCain camp, and by apparent tensions between the candidate and his running mate.

These stories are driven by the flood of Republicans inside and out of the campaign eager to make themselves look good or others look bad. This always happens when a campaign starts to tank.
Shorter version: It's McCain's fault he's getting hosed.

INT THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
Politico’s explanation makes sense to me. An illustration should help. Have you ever seen a blind man cross the road trying to make the other side or a young girl growing old trying to make herself a bride?

That, of course, takes us to the real question: What becomes of Sen. McCain when they finally strip him of the handbags and the gladrags that the Grand Old Party had to sweat to buy?

ADDED: Drudge says:

"Does same-sex marriage threaten your freedoms of speech and religion?"

The L.A. Times has a point-counterpoint (as California voters face the decision on Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage). Dean R. Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Western Center for Law and Policy, says:
In a chilling statement, Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor and thoughtful gay activist who helps draft federal legislation related to sexual orientation, said that when push comes to shove and religious- and sexual-liberty conflict, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."

The actual evidence is overwhelming that this conflict is not imagined but very real. Unfortunately, religious freedom and free speech are increasingly on the losing end of the equation. In 2005, Swedish minister Ake Green was sentenced to jail for preaching about homosexuality from the New Testament book of Romans (the conviction was eventually overturned). New Jersey's Ocean Grove Campground, a religious nonprofit, lost its tax-exempt status in 2007 because the organization refused to rent its facility to a lesbian couple for a civil commitment ceremony. In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston stopped doing adoption work rather than be coerced by the Massachusetts to place children with same-sex couples. A Massachusetts father was arrested in 2007 when he would not leave the school because the administration stubbornly refused to acknowledge his legal right to opt his child out of ongoing homosexual indoctrination occurring in a kindergarten class.

This year, two Christian doctors here in California were successfully sued for violating state civil rights law because they asserted their right of religious conscience by refusing to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. And famously, just this month, a first-grade class went on a "field trip" to watch its lesbian teacher's wedding in San Francisco.

While legal protections for free speech and religious liberty have been a critical component of our nation's core civil rights protections for more than 200 years, laws granting special rights to those engaged in homosexual conduct are the legal "new kid on the block" -- and this new kid is proving to be an 800-pound gorilla.
Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, responds:
Come on, Dean: Do you really think that people will believe your incredible claim that there is "ongoing homosexual indoctrination" in any kindergarten class, let alone that such indoctrination would be required if Proposition 8 fails? That's ridiculous. Proposition 8 has nothing to do with education, and you know it. All the voters have to do is read the language of the measure itself. Proposition 8 is about one thing and one thing only: eliminating rights and treating one group of people differently under the law. That's just wrong.
Jean doesn't really want to understand Broyles's point, and, frankly, Broyles doesn't want to make his point clearly. They are locked in the end stage of a political battle, where wringing out votes is crucial. So they argue strenuously and obtusely.

Let me see if I can make Broyles's point. I think he means to say that if same-sex marriage remains a legal right, enshrined in state constitutional law, then homosexual relationships will come to be regarded normal and good, and, consequently, anyone who objects to them will start to look like a bigot who should not be permitted to have his way. Thus, in order to preserve the right to discriminate against gay people and to keep schools from teaching children that gay couples are perfectly nice and so forth -- all things Broyles wants -- it's important to outlaw gay marriage, because it will be a powerful force in changing perceptions about gay people and those who think gay people are doing something terribly wrong.

Now, with Broyles's argument clarified, what do you think of it?

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
The problem with this fight is it has been framed in all-or-nothing terms.

But there’s a middle-ground for compromise.

Same sex marriage should become the law of the land but only if it’s interracial.

That’ll buy us some time.

"Judge Carol E. Jackson overrules the law and allows child sexual predators to stalk the darkened streets Halloween night..."

"... looking for their next victim. Is your child next? Call the University of Michigan Law School at ... and ask them why their graduates want your children to be raped."

There's a new court decision blocking a state law that "prohibits 'all Halloween-related contact with children' and allows sexual offenders to leave their homes from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. only if they have 'just cause,'" and Happyshooter, a commenter at Volokh Conspiracy, spins out a spoof of the sort of attack ads that are aimed at the judges who must stand for re-election.

(Judge Jackson is a federal judge, with the lifetime job that will spare her any real attacks of this kind.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
It’s a sign of progress that President Obama will be appointing federal judges who have the empathy to understand what it’s like to desperately crave the unblemished skin, firm body and innocent erogenous zones of a child.

Steven Calabresi envisions Obama's judges: Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Lawprof (and Federalist Society co-founder) Steven Calabresi has a WSJ op-ed titled "Obama's 'Redistribution Constitution'":
[That the new President will appoint many federal judges, including, probably, at least one Supreme Court Justice] ought to raise serious concern because of Mr. Obama's extreme left-wing views about the role of judges. He believes -- and he is quite open about this -- that judges ought to decide cases in light of the empathy they ought to feel for the little guy in any lawsuit.

Speaking in July 2007 at a conference of Planned Parenthood, he said: "[W]e need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."
Look closely at Obama's words. He is not saying that judges should distort the meaning of law so that people they empathize with can win cases. He's saying judges need to understand the realities of the world, most significantly, what life is like for people. That requires a quality of mind expressed by the word "empathy."

Law is not a verbal and logical abstraction. Statutes and constitutional provisions are written and voted on by people who have an understanding of the world and who mean something by what they write. Judges must try to understand all that. And law is applied to a set of facts -- it's actually unconstitutional for federal judges to decide cases that are not fact-based disputes -- and judges need to understand what those facts are. Judges therefore need the capacity to comprehend what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. That is the empathy Obama cares about.

Now, judges also need the capacity to understand how business and economics work, to understand science and technology, and to fathom all sorts of other real-world facts that are implicated in legal cases. That Obama stresses one kind of understanding -- how oppressed, suffering, and unfortunate people feel -- does say something important. But it does not say that squishy feelings should replace legal analysis.

Back to Calabresi:
On [Obama's] view, plaintiffs should usually win against defendants in civil cases; criminals in cases against the police; consumers, employees and stockholders in suits brought against corporations; and citizens in suits brought against the government. Empathy, not justice, ought to be the mission of the federal courts, and the redistribution of wealth should be their mantra.
As I've already explained, Obama did not say this. It may be that in close enough cases, a judge with a very specialized kind of understanding -- vividly picturing the suffering of the individual but numb to the realities of science and economics -- would tip toward personal injury plaintiffs, criminal defendants, employees, consumers, and so forth, far more than good legal analysis calls for.

But even if Obama were to inflict such lop-sided legal minds on us, if they were any good at all -- and I think he'd at least pick very high quality bleeding hearts -- it's still a big stretch to say they would usually decide cases in favor of the little guy. In fact, Obama is likely to pick extremely highly qualified persons who understand the broad range of factual realities implicated in cases, but who also have the quality of empathy that he prizes.

Now, Calabresi addresses that 2001 radio interview that we were taking about yesterday. He writes, correctly, that Obama said "that the U.S. Constitution as written is only a guarantee of negative liberties from government -- and not an entitlement to a right to welfare or economic justice." Note that Calabresi does not, like some others, assert that Obama said that the Supreme Court ought to have found affirmative entitlements in the Constitution. Calabresi nevertheless has a problem and even wonders "whether Mr. Obama can in good faith take the presidential oath to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.'"
Does Mr. Obama support the Constitution as it is written, or does he support amendments to guarantee welfare?
What? You can't take the oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution" if you support amendments? Well, then, strike any candidate who supports the Federal Marriage Amendment! The outrage of thinking that Article V of the Constitution can be used! I guess all the Founding Fathers who wanted a Bill of Rights were a bunch of traitors to the original document. How could Lincoln in good faith have taken the presidential oath if he wanted to see slavery abolished? I could go on. You get the point.
If Mr. Obama wins we could possibly see any or all of the following: a federal constitutional right to welfare; a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities, without regard to proof of discriminatory intent; a right for government-financed abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy; the abolition of capital punishment and the mass freeing of criminal defendants; ruinous shareholder suits against corporate officers and directors; and approval of huge punitive damage awards, like those imposed against tobacco companies, against many legitimate businesses such as those selling fattening food.
Obama has never proposed such things, and the idea is inflammatory and, frankly, silly. Do you realize how hard it is to pass a constitutional amendment? You've got to win in the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. How is there the slightest chance that could happen with the amendment Calabresi posits? Calabresi is trying to scare us.

I don't doubt that Obama will appoint liberal judges and that the Senate will approve them. But there is a limit to what judges can do, and if Obama appoints anything like the hemorrhaging hearts Calabresi envisions -- or pretends to envision to get you going -- there will be a mighty backlash. The Warren Court -- as Obama explained -- did not go all that far, yet its supposed excesses have been used for decades to argue for the appointment of conservative judges. Obama would be a fool to appoint extreme, left-wing judges, and I don't think he is a fool. But if he is, the GOP should take over Congress in 2010 and win the presidency easily in 2012.

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says:
I think you misread Calabresi. In context, his parade of horribles seems to refer to what his judges will do rather than Constitutional amendments.
Calabresi talks about amending the Constitution and then shifts to that parade of horribles, but I agree -- you are right -- that he means to say that the judges may find these things in the existing constitution.

Or not find. When he worries about "the approval of huge punitive damage awards," he's upset that the courts might fail to find a constitutional right against them. Presumably, Calabresi would like to see more judges who have empathy for the difficulties of running a business.

AND: Simon reminds me by email that I posted about Obama's remarks to Planned Parenthood back on the day he made them. I said:
Speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference today, Obama was critical of the way Supreme Court confirmations only wade into the shallow water of character -- "He loves his wife. He's good to his dog."

He criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for saying "he saw himself just as an umpire":
“But the issues that come before the court are not sports; they’re life and death. We need somebody who’s got the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.”

Obama said that 95 percent of cases can be judged on intellect, but that the other 5 percent are the most important ones.

“In those 5 percent of cases, you’ve got to look at what is in the justice’s heart, what’s their broader vision of what America should be."
Hmmm.... you’ve got to look at what is in the justice’s heart. Great way to distinguish yourself from Bush!
I've known Harriet for more than a decade. I know her heart, I know her character. I know that Harriet's mother is proud of her today, and I know her father would be proud of her, too. I'm confident that Harriet Miers will add to the wisdom and character of our judiciary when she is confirmed as the 110th Justice of the Supreme Court.
But we know what this "heart" business means! It means that the President (or would-be President) understands that judging won't be neutral, that the human being doing the judging, no matter how dutiful and honest he tries to be, can only find his way to a decision in a complex case by responding to the pull of emotion. So "heart" matters. The question isn't whether "heart" counts. It's: which "heart" do you want?

If we're all supposed to see that Obama is a socialist, and then he wins by a landslide...

... does that mean there's a mandate for socialism?

October 27, 2008

Imagining the Sarah Palin scenario with the parties flipped.

This segment builds a little slowly, and you may think you've heard it all before, but Glenn Loury makes a crushing point at the end.

"Forever Young."

"Forever Young" is very, very far from my favorite Bob Dylan song, but there's a children's book based on the lyrics, with illustrations by Paul Rogers, promoted by this simple and charming video clip:

(Via Drawn!)

Is "stay forever young" a good message for children? The child sitting in the window calls to mind the first scene in "Peter Pan," and I think the message of "Peter Pan" is that you ought to see the value of growing up. The child in the video looks at the stars and sees images of adult success: astronaut, politician, folksinger. You have to grow up to do those things.

You may have noticed that the blog theme of the day is incoherence.

In the category of Bob Dylan songs about retaining a youthful spirit, I much prefer "My Back Pages" -- listen here, lyrics here:
A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
Now, I did not set out to make confusion about equality a theme of the day, but I can see that this post connects back to that 10:25 AM post about what Barack Obama said about the Equal Protection Clause. Just an accident. So was the incoherence theme, now that I think about it. Sometimes things fall together and sometimes they don't.

Madison, Wisconsin. 6 p.m.

Class was over, it was getting dark, and I was hurrying to my car, but I had to stop at take a picture of this:


It was so Madison.

Later, I was in a second-floor restaurant, where they had chicken and dumplings on the menu. I've never seen chicken and dumplings on a restaurant menu. Chicken and dumplings! The one ancestral folk-food my mother cooked, the food of my father's lineage, the Pennsylvania Dutch. So, German. Let's have a brew. I chose Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre. This ale is made in Milton, Delaware, and it was in Delaware -- albeit not Milton -- that I ate the vast majority of the chicken and dumplings that I have eaten in my life.


And now I've had chicken and dumplings in Madison, not much like the way my mother made it. The dumplings weren't gummy enough. The truth is, my mother wasn't much good at making it... or any other sort of long-cooked food. She preferred to broil steaks and chops, so I never found out about how good braised and stewed things were until I left home. But tonight, I chose some semblance of home. The waiter said they'd put it on the menu as "comfort food."

That label says: "A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beer sugars, green raisins & a sense of purpose."

Is it foolish to question whether the Vice President is part of the Executive Branch?

Glenn Reynolds -- in a NYT op-ed -- says no:
Article I of the Constitution, which describes the authority of the legislative branch, says that “the vice president of the United States shall be president of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.” Aside from the job of replacing a president who dies or is unable to serve, the only vice presidential duties that are spelled out in the Constitution are legislative in character.
The Vice President sloughs off on this job terribly, don't you think?
But if the vice president is a legislative official, then the exercise of executive power by the vice president raises important constitutional questions related to the separation of powers. The Supreme Court has held on more than one occasion that legislative officials cannot exercise executive power. The Court would likely dub this a “political question” that is beyond its purview, but Congress is empowered to remedy this sort of thing by legislation.
I think the better way to state the rule is that one branch cannot exercise the power associated with another branch unless a specific clause provides otherwise. Thus, the President has a legislative role because he's been given the veto power, and the Senate has a judicial role in trying impeachments, and so forth. So I don't think the specifically assigned legislative function means that the VP is not part of the executive branch.

Reynolds sees value in locating the VP in the legislative branch in order to be able to say that he's constitutionally forbidden to perform the executive function.
And Congress should do just that: pass a law to prohibit the vice president from exercising executive power. Extensive vice presidential involvement in the executive branch — the role enjoyed by Dick Cheney and Al Gore — is not only unconstitutional, but also a bad idea.
The reason a statute is needed is because the courts would be unlikely to enforce the constitutional limitation Reynolds perceives. Reynolds bolsters the constitutional interpretation by observing that it would also be a good idea, since it would keep the VP from becoming enmeshed in the sort of presidential problems that might, through impeachment or resignation, bring the VP into the presidency.

I don't really like the idea of Congress telling the VP what to do, and I'm not inclined to buy the constitutional argument either.

The neo-Nazi skinhead plot to assassinate Obama (and shoot/decapitate 88 black people).

[T]he legal documents show, [Daniel] Cowart and [Paul] Schlesselman "planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows."

"Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint states. "Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt."

Ted Stevens, guilty on all charges.

Not surprising, based on what I read about the evidence.

"Maybe my incoherence is for a lack of speaking. I was unable to talk with the guerillas who guarded me."

Said Oscar Tulio Lizcano, upon escape after 8 years of captivity in the jungle.

He did at least have something to read: Homer's "Odyssey." 8 years with no one to talk to. The difference between having "The Odyssey" and not having "The Odyssey" is profound.

"I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago."

That's #112 on Jac's list of 120 "moments" from the 2008 campaign. (He's been putting these up over a number of weeks, and #100-120 just went up today.)

"Obama Bombshell Redistribution of Wealth Audio Uncovered."

Someone emailed me the link to this video, which went up on YouTube yesterday and already has over 400,000 views:

If this alarmed you, chances are, you are not a law professor. Let me tell you that, in this radio interview from 2001, Obama is making the most conventional observation about the limits of constitutional law litigation: The courts will recognize rights to formal equality, but they hesitate to enforce those rights with remedies that become too expensive or require too much judicial supervision and they resist identifying rights to economic equality. Such matters are better handled by legislatures, and courts tend to defer to legislatures for this reason.

Obama was not showing disrespect for constitutional law in any of this. More radical law professors would criticize the courts for not engaging in more expansive interpretations of the Equal Protection Clause and for failing to provide much more expensive, invasive remedies. He did not do that. He accepted the limits the courts had recognized and advised against the unfruitful pursuit of economic justice in the judicial forum. It's a political matter. That is a moderate view of law.

Now, there remains the question of how much he would want the legislative branch to do in the name of economic justice, and obviously, the phrase "redistribution of the wealth" gets people going. But that's the same old question we've been talking about for months.


By the way, Obama does make some legal mistakes in that short clip. He talks about "the Founding Fathers" imposing limitations on what the states can do to people, but he's referring to limitations that come from the post-Civil War amendments, not the founding era. And he cites the Constitution as the source of his right to be free to "sit at a lunch counter," when it took statutory law to ban race discrimination in privately owned restaurants. I'm not suggesting that was a show of ignorance. He was trying to say a lot at once, and his main point was about separation of powers -- what courts can do and what must be left to legislatures. I'm sure he would have readily corrected those glitches if asked.

ADDED: You can listen to the full hour of the show here. I haven't had time to listen yet, but I assume the full context is more favorable to Obama than the clip above, which is intended to be as inflammatory as possible.

AND: There are 2 posts up on Volokh Conspiracy about this radio clip. First, Orin Kerr says:
When Obama says that he's "not optimistic" about using the courts for major economic reform, and when he points out the practical and institutional problems of doing so, it's not entirely clear whether he is (a) gently telling the caller why the courts won't and shouldn't do such things; (b) noting the difficulties of using the courts to engage in economic reform but not intending to express a normative view; or (c) suggesting that he would have wanted the Warren Court to have tried to take on such a project.

My best sense is that Obama was intending (a), as his point seems to be that the 60s reformers were too court-focused. But at the very least, it's not at all clear that Obama had (c) in mind.
Second, David Bernstein says:
... Obama gives a very impressive performance as a constitutional scholar. Even though he was holding down other jobs while teaching at Chicago, he clearly had thought a lot about constitutional history, and how social change is or is not brought about through the courts.
That's a bit overstated. Obama was saying something entirely conventional that I think the average good Harvard law student would articulate.
... Being realistic about the practical effect of Brown is heresy in some circles, but Obama is correct.
"The Hollow Hope" -- which Bernstein refers to -- was published in 1991. Obama was speaking in 2001. I think it was a very standard observation. (Or so it appears to me from Madison, Wisconsin.)
Based on this interview, it seems unlikely that Obama opposes constitutionalizing the redistributive agenda because he's an originalist, or otherwise endorses the Constitution as a "charter of negative liberties," though he explicitly recognizes that this is how the Constitution has been interpreted since the Founding.
He may not oppose it but he doesn't seem to be for it either. Hmm. It's like the opposite of John Kerry's I was for it before I was against it style. Obama approach is to be not for it and not against it. Clever, no? Never commit. This is how many careful lawprofs behave in pre-tenure mode.

Bernstein makes a big assertion:
[T]here is no doubt from the interview that he supports "redistributive change," a phrase he uses at approximately the 41.20 mark in a context that makes it clear that he is endorsing the redistribution of wealth by the government through the political process.
But we don't know how much, so we're back to where we were before we listened to this clip. Obama favors some degree of progressive taxation and some programs to benefit people in lower income groups and so forth ... as do the great majority of Americans, including John McCain.

MORE: Drudge is linking to the video clip with the headline "2001 OBAMA: TRAGEDY THAT 'REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH' NOT PURSUED BY SUPREME COURT." No, no, no, no. That is absolutely misstated. Shame on Drudge! Obama said:
One of the... tragedies of the civil rights movement was, because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think, there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.
He's saying that civil rights activists made a tragic mistake by fighting for their cause in the judicial forum. It's part of his separation-of-powers point. Changes that involve complex economic choices need to be made in the political sphere. He never says he wishes the courts would have done more. He acknowledges the limitations of law and courts.

Let's play fair people. Words have meaning. Read carefully and don't distort.