December 20, 2008


This may be an actual Althousian Emergency...

"Now superimpose on me someone's ugly house...."

Literal video.

UPDATE: I've removed the link, since the video's been taken down -- as has an earlier example of "literal video," which you've probably also seen. The earlier one used "Take On Me," and the one I'd linked here used "Under the Bridge." You saw the band's original video and heard the instruments, but the song was re-sung with lyrics that told you what was happening in the video -- like "now superimpose on me someone's ugly house...." It was very funny, and in both cases, it reminded us of an excellent music video and made us re-experience song, look at the video close closely, and enjoy everything in both the old way and an inventive new way.

UPDATE 2: But wait! Reading the Wikipedia entry for "Take On Me," I find the "Funny or Die" page with the video -- which is by Dustin McLean -- and must have been done with permission. Here. And now I can get the "Under the Bridge" one: Here! Yay!

Here's a link to the DustFilms page in "Funny or Die."


ADDED: I'd intended to delete that (after testing what was causing the problem described here), but since commenters have gathered -- eager to take the professor's test -- I can't delete it now. Maybe in some way this blog is a test, in which case, thank you all for taking it. I will grade on a curve.


... dog.

"Court Strikes Rule That Let Plants Sometimes Exceed Limits."

Well, then. Plants better read that opinion and get in line.


You know, it's not easy being a plant. You try to spread your wings, to break out of that plant box, and someone is always trying to knock you back down. You're a plant, dammit, and that's all you'll ever be.

The dynastic struggle.

Ooh, this is just so frustrating for Andrew Cuomo.
From 1990 to 2003, Cuomo the Younger was married, Montague-and-Capulet style, to Robert F. Kennedy's daughter Kerry-and was close friends with Caroline's brother John Jr., from 1988 to his 1999 death. The marriage ended in a bitter divorce after Cuomo reportedly discovered his wife had an affair with a polo player....

"Incestuous, intermarrying with one another to take over the crown and consolidate power," is how one Nassau pol described the Kennedy-Cuomo relationship....
I didn't follow the divorce hijinx, but if it's true that Kerry cheated on Andy, then it's only fair that Andy should be Senator.

Who's the superior dynastic offspring?
Caroline free polls

Why music? And why so much music?

The Economist asks:
Other appetites... have been sated even to excess by modern business. Food far beyond the simple needs of stomachs, and sex (or at least images of it) far beyond the needs of reproduction, bombard the modern man and woman, and are eagerly consumed. But these excesses are built on obvious appetites. What appetite drives the proliferation of music to the point where the average American teenager spends 1½-2½ hours a day—an eighth of his waking life—listening to it?
1½-2½ hours a day? That seems positively abstemious. I had the impression that many people were listening to music constantly. And why stop at "waking life"? Aren't people playing music all night?

Anyway, The Economist notes 3 theories for the evolution of music in human culture: 1. sex, 2. social glue, 3. accident and invention. All 3 theories are discussed at length at the link, but let me concentrate on the sex theory -- that people make music to attract sex partners. The theory is reinforced by the way musical achievement tends to track the human being's sexual development. One study of jazz musicians found "that their output rises rapidly after puberty, reaches its peak during young-adulthood, and then declines with age and the demands of parenthood."

This may be the best answer to the question my son Jac asked the other day: "Why does every great, long-lived rock band lose their greatness?"

Meanwhile, just yesterday, I was going on and on about how there's way too much music. It's playing everywhere, people are listening on iPods everywhere, and that I hardly ever want to listen to music. There is a lot of music that I acknowledge is good and that I even know I like, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to it. I specifically enjoy the absence of music, and I seek it out. If silence were a track I could have on my iPod, it would be on my most-played list. Etc. etc. etc. Now, I'm thinking: What was I saying???

The most annoying thing about Blogger.

It is way too easy to accidentally publish a post. It happens all too often that I'm only beginning a post and I do something -- perhaps hit the return button twice -- that makes the post publish.

Just now for example, I wanted to do a post on this Economist article about music, and I copied and pasted the whole article into the "compose" window so I could read it and cut it down to a few choice quotes. I then made some mistake that made a post of the entire thing -- with no identifying link or even quote marks to show that it was copied.

Sorry. And Blogger, please fix that.

Christopher Hitchens has a few more problems with Rick Warren as the inauguration prayer-leader.

He asked:
Will Warren be invited to the solemn ceremony of inauguration without being asked to repudiate what he has directly said to deny salvation to Jews?

Will he be giving a national invocation without disowning what his mentor said about civil rights and what his leading supporter says about Mormons?

Will the American people be prayed into the next administration, which will be confronted by a possible nuclear Iran and an already nuclear Pakistan, by a half-educated pulpit-pounder raised in the belief that the Armageddon solution is one to be anticipated with positive glee?

As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.
So who should do the invocation -- assuming we must have an invocation? "[L]et it be some dignified old hypocrite with no factional allegiance."

What Hitchens would prefer, it seems, is what Justice William Brennan called "ceremonial deism":
[G]overnment cannot be completely prohibited from recognizing in its public actions the religious beliefs and practices of the American people as an aspect of our national history and culture. While I remain uncertain about these questions, I would suggest that such practices as the designation of "In God We Trust" as our national motto, or the references to God contained in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag can best be understood, in Dean Rostow's apt phrase, as a form a "ceremonial deism," protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content. Moreover, these references are uniquely suited to serve such wholly secular purposes as solemnizing public occasions, or inspiring commitment to meet some national challenge in a manner that simply could not be fully served in our culture if government were limited to purely nonreligious phrases. The practices by which the government has long acknowledged religion are therefore probably necessary to serve certain secular functions, and that necessity, coupled with their long history, gives those practices an essentially secular meaning.
More recently, Justice O'Connor wrote:
Given the values that the Establishment Clause was meant to serve, ... I believe that government can, in a discrete category of cases, acknowledge or refer to the divine without offending the Constitution. This category of “ceremonial deism” most clearly encompasses such things as the national motto (“In God We Trust”), religious references in traditional patriotic songs such as the Star-Spangled Banner, and the words with which the Marshal of this Court opens each of its sessions (“God save the United States and this honorable Court”). These references are not minor trespasses upon the Establishment Clause to which I turn a blind eye. Instead, their history, character, and context prevent them from being constitutional violations at all.
In my Religion & the Constitution class, I like to say that no one believes in ceremonial deism. It's no one's religion, just a mode of using religion in the public setting. And yet, if anyone is a ceremonial deist, I'd say that person is Barack Obama. I air my suspicion -- and praise that religion of no religion -- here:

December 19, 2008

"I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way."

"I will fight, I will fight, I will fight, till I take my very last breath. I have done nothing wrong."

Looks like Blago is not planning to resign.

We just brushed the snow off the top of the car....


... and backed out.


That reminds me: Bush bails out the auto industry.

Ah, snowy, silver we've missed thee!

No new wheels for you, Althouse? Not even a new TT? (I know you didn't like last year's!)

Maybe for Christmas...

The car is too perfect for me: beautiful, fun to drive, great in the snow and ice. I just can't think what could replace it. See what a 2009 Audi TT looks like. Men must have their mean car face, so Audi lost a customer. I'll be doing my best to preserve my 2005 car -- which has less than 40,000 miles on it and only one very tiny dent.

Some people sneeze when they think about sex.

Who knows why?

Sherman the Monkey. What is he thinking?

Anyway... sneezing and orgasms: compare and contrast.

1. Just thinking about sex might make you sneeze.

2. ...

A message in code from Wisconsin.

ADDED: No, that wasn't it! This is it:


Bristol Palin's possible future mother-in-law...

... arrested on drug felony charges.


1. What drug?

2. Will Bristol Palin ever marry Levi Johnston?

3. Bristol's baby -- a boy -- is due tomorrow. Will Andrew Sullivan stop obsessing about whether Trig -- born April 18, 2008 -- might have been Bristol's baby and not Sarah's?

Operation Santa Claus squelched.

Because the Post Office discovered that one guy -- who probably only wanted to do a good deed -- was -- like 644,000 Americans -- a registered sex offender.

"Coleman leads Franken by just 2 votes."

Do you think that's funny?

What's funnier?
The Minnesota recount
Al Franken free polls

Deep Throat.

Deep six.

Poladroid... Polaroid...

Jen Bradford emails about Poladroid, freeware that turns a digital photo file into an image that resembles an SX-70 type Polaroid photograph.

Here, you can see Jen's adorable doggie, Louise. (Does she also have a dog named Thelma? Or perhaps George?)

Now, I watched the little video demonstration here. It's sort of charming the way the software gives the impression of the image coming out of an SX-70 type Polaroid and developing in stages, but I got annoyed by the simulated shaking of the photographs. I know the song. (It was "spazzy with electrifying multiplicity" -- 5 long years ago.) But you're not supposed to shake SX-70 Polaroid pictures:
"In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause 'blobs' in the picture."...

Polaroid said its film should be laid on a flat surface and shielded from the wind, and that users should avoid bending or twisting their pictures. Of course, "lay it on a flat surface like a Polaroid picture," doesn't sound nearly as cool.
Before the SX-70, the rectangle that emerged from the camera was not a sealed packet containing the chemicals that developed the photograph. It looked like standard photographic paper, and you had to wipe a wet chemical across it to make it develop. [CORRECTION: The wiped-on chemical was the fixer.] People shook it to try to dry it off. But if it's an SX-70 photograph, there's nothing to dry. You look like an idiot shaking it. It's like drying off your hands after splashing around in Koi Pond.

I remember the original SX-70 commercials, with Laurence Olivier, acting like the new device was a landmark in the culture of the western world. I still have the SX-7o camera my parents bought. I haven't opened it up since long before Polaroid stopped making the film.

By the way, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy -- again -- yesterday.

And then there's this guy who started taking a Polaroid picture every day and kept going until the day he died:
Yesterday I came across a slightly mysterious website — a collection of Polaroids, one per day, from March 31, 1979 through October 25, 1997. There’s no author listed, no contact info, and no other indication as to where these came from. So, naturally, I started looking through the photos. I was stunned by what I found.In 1979 the photos start casually, with pictures of friends, picnics, dinners, and so on....
Here's the website with all the pictures. Random example:

There must be thousands of people these days who make a point of taking a photograph every day. I'll bet there are thousands of blogs that have a photo of the day -- even thousands that have a self-portrait of the day every day -- which would be especially easy using Photo Booth on a Macintosh.

But there was a time when the Polaroid camera was the epitome of easiness....

December 18, 2008

"I came with the idea of changing the tone in Washington, and frankly didn't do a very good job of it."

"You know, war brings out a lot of heated rhetoric and a lot of emotion. I fully understand that."

"Reflections by a guy who’s headed out of town... An old sage at 62 ... headed to retirement."

He looks utterly depleted and sad. Look how he slumps in the chair -- drained even of the vanity that it would take to make the slight effort it would take to hide his pot belly.

ADDED: Bush has many defenders in the comments, including people who are chiding me for criticizing him for slumping in a manner that is unflattering to his physique. And I thought I'd written a pretty sympathetic post.

AND: Here's the whole transcript. Excerpts:
I have found that in order to have good decision-making and a White House that functions well, that the President needs to articulate a set of principles from which he will not defer. In other words, a set of principles that are inviolate -- such as the universality of freedom....

Part of the presidency is the willingness to say, no matter how tough the issue may look, if it requires solution, go after it. And we did....

[QUESTION] What advice do you have for political conservatives in the years ahead?

[I]t's important to recruit good candidates who stand on principle. Most Americans believe what we believe -- that government ought to be limited and wise, that taxes ought to be low, that we ought to encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses, and that we ought to have a strong national defense....

40 of the year's best photographs.

Worth a click just for the first one. I love the last one too.

Admit it! You're jealous of Jon Favreau!

"'He looks like he's in college and everybody calls him Favs, so you're like, "This guy can't be for real, right?"' said Ben Rhodes, another Obama speechwriter. 'But it doesn't take long to realize that he's totally synced up with Obama. . . . He has access to everything and everybody. There's a lot weighing on his shoulders.'"

Totally synced up with Obama... a 27-year-old guy... and he's the one writing those golden words.
Three months ago, Favreau lived in a group house with six friends in Chicago, where he rarely shaved, never cooked and sometimes stayed up to play video games until early morning....

Last month, Favreau met for an hour in Chicago with Obama... and they agreed to theme [the inaugural address] around, Favreau said, "this moment that we're in..."
Just like an "American Idol" finale song!
"... and the idea that America was founded on certain ideals that we need to take back."
Claim the Framers for your side. Good move! Make liberalism traditional.
Obama asked for a first draft by Thanksgiving. Favreau explained that he had planned a vacation and promised a draft by this week.
What a cocky guy! Imagine telling Obama -- who's entrusted you with the inauguration speech -- that you've got a vacation planned. Man, I would have just made a mental note to cancel my vacation, wouldn't you?
During his vacation, Favreau e-mailed notes to himself via BlackBerry while visiting friends in Manhattan and talked about structure at his family's Thanksgiving dinner.
Talked about structure at his family's Thanksgiving dinner... uh, okay. I guess that means the structure of the inaugural address. Not just structure, generally. Which is what we talk about chez Althouse. The structure of the universe, the structure of scientific revolutions, the structure of white and dark meat on the avian skeleton, etc.
Favreau... listens to Obama tell stories in his office and spins them into developed metaphors, rich in historical context. When Obama delivers a speech on the road, Favreau studies the recording and notes the points at which Obama departs from the text so he can refine the riffs and incorporate them next time.

In four years together, Obama and Favreau have perfected their writing process....
So he started this mind-merge when he was 23?
[I]n 2004, ... Obama, just elected to the Senate, needed to hire a speechwriter. He brought Favreau, then 23, into the Senate dining room for an interview on his first day in office. They talked for 30 minutes about harmless topics such as family and baseball before Obama turned serious.

"So," he said. "What's your theory on speechwriting?"
Theory! I love that. Now, what would you have said at that point? Theory? Speechwriting has a theory? Uh...
"A speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this stuff," Favreau said. "How do you say to the average person that's been hurting: 'I hear you. I'm there. Even though you've been so disappointed and cynical about politics in the past, and with good reason, we can move in the right direction. Just give me a chance.' "

"I think this is going to work," Obama said.
So, presumably, that was just about the best answer to an interview question anyone ever gave. Or do you think Favreau also has some magical charisma that Obama saw and saw himself in?
Two weeks after the election, Favreau accepted a new job that essentially came with a new life. He moved back to Washington, hired a real estate agent, bought his first apartment and ordered furniture from Pottery Barn that sits unopened in nine boxes lined against his wall. He will need to buy more jackets and ties to replace his preferred outfit of jeans and a sweater. Friends joke that Favreau suddenly turned 40 this year -- but he still shows flashes of 27.

At a party at his parents' house over Thanksgiving vacation, he danced and posed awkwardly next to a cardboard cutout of Clinton.
He cupped his hand over her "breast."
A buddy uploaded photos onto Facebook, reporters discovered them, and suddenly experts were debating Favreau's maturity on television. Favreau called Clinton and Obama to apologize. They told him not to worry, but he still does.
Don't worry, Jon, everyone is just hopelessly -- profoundly -- jealous. It's got to drive everyone crazy that you are 27.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian says:
Jealousy and disgust are not the same thing.

It says a lot about both Favreau and Obama that they apparently find it acceptable to generalize their supposed beliefs as "this stuff". I'm surprised that given Favreau's demographic and apparent lifestyle he didn't say "a speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this shit." Shit, stuff... who can be bothered to actually be specific about any of that "hopey-changey" nonsense? Apparently not even Obama or the guy who writes the crap for him.

In a way, though, this guy is the archetype of the Obama devotee. He doesn't really have much in the way of life experience or wisdom, but he's smart enough and educated enough that he can simulate it. Everything is simply meta-comment, removed from actual experiences, motivations or beliefs. He can cobble together lofty-sounding rhetoric while living in a house with six people, sitting up all night playing video games and then, presumably, sleeping all day while the "average person who's been hurting" is out there trying to pay the bills. He thinks it perfectly appropriate to tell his boss, the next President of the United States of America, that his deadline is getting in the way of his vacation and, amazingly, his boss accepts that. Because why let something trivial like another lofty, empty speech at the Presidential Inauguration get in the way of "visiting friends in Manhattan"? Now, of course, he's rolling in cash so he calls up a real estate agent and orders an apartment and calls up Pottery Barn and orders some furniture so he can set up something approaching one of those "home" things that the "average person who's been hurting" seem to like and want so much. Hell, maybe he should start thinking about getting one of those "family" things that everyone seems to have... Eh, who has time for that now? He's got so much "hope" and "change" to cram into another speech, so many ill-fitting suits to buy, so many raids scheduled in World of Warcraft... and he hasn't even shaven yet!

Jon Favreau: a blank slate writing aphorisms onto another blank slate.
And yet, what is undeniable is that this writing worked in the real world on millions of people. There is a mystery to writing, and some people have a gift, and they can give the impression of understanding all sorts of feelings and experiences that they have never had. I'm thinking of cheeky young novelists and songwriters who somehow make people believe they've tapped the depths. Stuff like this.

Or should I say shit. But I like stuff:

The order of disorder.

The psychiatrists are at it again, defining mental "disorders."
“This is not cardiology or nephrology, where the basic diseases are well known,” said Edward Shorter, a leading historian of psychiatry whose latest book, “Before Prozac,” is critical of the manual. “In psychiatry no one knows the causes of anything, so classification can be driven by all sorts of factors” — political, social and financial.

“What you have in the end,” Mr. Shorter said, “is this process of sorting the deck of symptoms into syndromes, and the outcome all depends on how the cards fall.”...

Experts say that some of the most crucial debates are likely to include gender identity, diagnoses of illness involving children, and addictions like shopping and eating.
IN THE COMMENTS: Henry says:
The article reads like the jury of the 1864 French Salon deciding to let the landscape painters back in. The standard is grand historical disorders (megalomania is always good), but that is hardly fair to the duller lunatics. They too deserve a viewing.

So you let in a few en plein aire disorders and the next thing you know the academy is overrun with fauves.

Long "in the comments" update...

... on last night's Obama-and-Rick-Warren post. You can start a new comment on the comments thread here.

ADDED: And Jack Hawkins collects some leftosphere reactions to the Obama's choice.

December 17, 2008

So Obama has chosen Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration ceremony.

How interesting! A clever choice. It made me go back to my notes on the Saddleback Forum, the hour-long interviews that Obama and McCain gave to Rick Warren back in August. I liked Warren's style and thought Obama had a good little talk with him. Obama obviously has a problem going back to his own spiritual mentors, and this is a good chance to show some warmth to the Christian evangelicals that he offended with his unfortunate remark about bitter Americans clinging to religion.

Andrew Sullivan says "Ugh":
Warren is a man who believes my marriage removes his freedom of speech and cannot say that authorizing torture is a moral failing. Shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now. He won't be as bad as the Clintons (who, among leading Democrats, could?), but pandering to Christianists at his inauguration is a depressing omen. More evidence that a civil rights movement needs to realize that no politician can deliver for us what we have to deliver on our own.
Who needs omens when Obama was always clear that he opposed same-sex marriage? He said so every time he was asked. It's funny that Sullivan is telling other people to "sober up," when he was the one who was most unsober about Obama during the campaign season.

ADDED: "The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle."

IN THE COMMENTS: Blake challenges me:
Wait, didn't Althouse also take similar stances as Sullivan? Not on gay marriage, but in terms of him saying one thing and meaning the exact opposite?

Am I misremembering?
I respond:
Blake, I wrote [the day after the forum]: "Obama garbled: "The reason that people believe there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because, uh, of the concern that, uh, uh, about same-sex marriage. I'm not somebody who's [sic] promotes same-sec [sic] marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not, um, that that for a gay partners [sic] to want to visit each other in the hospital, for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are [sic]." I think all those little glitches, especially the glaring grammatical error "what marriage are," strongly suggest that he is hiding what he really thinks."

I thought about that when I wrote this post, but I think that privately Obama supports gay marriage, but as a political leader, he has chosen to take the more moderate position. I think he was lying about his "core beliefs" there, but I think he was telling us his official answer as he has consistently.

Now, I do understand why people who put gay rights first detest the symbolism of picking Warren. But who do they think he should have picked instead?
Now, here's why I'm not on the same page as Sullivan:
1. Though I voted for Obama, I didn't fall in love with him. Throughout the campaign season, I looked at him with a critical eye and often thought he was playing us. I was never set up for disillusionment.

2. I thought and continue to think that Obama is reasonably compassionate toward gay people, but that he's coolly practical about amassing and preserving his own political power. He has remained the same. I'm sure he'd be all for gay rights if he'd become a law professor, but he's got a more complex task at hand, and I respect that.

3. I think same-sex marriage is far down on the list of issues for the President to concern himself with and think gay people, like everyone else, need to be realistic about where politicians should be investing their political capital.

4. I reject the hostility that Sullivan shows toward "Christianists" who hold traditional values that he wishes would change. They are an important part of our culture, and Obama needs to relate to them in a positive way.

5. I don't believe the image of the angry, spiteful gay is helpful to the gay rights cause.
Back to the comments. Blake responds:
Yes, perhaps that's what I was thinking of.

I seem to recall other occasions -- non-gay marriage related -- where Obama said one thing and you were of the idea that he felt the opposite.

I'm not trying for a "gotcha" or anything. McCain may have been saying what he actually felt, but you never knew how he was gonna feel the next moment.
Definitely. I think the public Obama persona is an elaborate creation -- an impressive one. I try to imagine what the real Obama is like. For example, as I've said many times, I don't think Obama is religious (and that's why he's able to use religious rhetoric well).

Freeman Hunt says:
Where does the belief come from that Obama secretly supports gay marriage? Just a guess? Based on what? I'd be more likely to believe that he doesn't care in the slightest about gay marriage or any other gay issue. I bet such things barely register as blips on his mental radar, and that when they do register, it's only insofar as he has to handle such issues delicately in politics due to conflicting constituencies.
I tend to assume he's like all the liberal lawprofs I know, but I concede that these people may be chameleons. They are seeking power and prestige in their domain. (Why won't I say "our domain"?) But you have a point.

Peter Hoh says:
Though it's not perfectly apt for this situation, I'm reminded of Megan McArdle's First Rule of Politics:

small groups get favors from the politicians they support only to the extent that it does not annoy large groups who voted for those politicians.

I think he's still worth reading, but Andy's getting too worked up over this. Calm and steady wins the race. He admired that in Obama. He should take the same approach with regard to the effort to recognize same-sex marriage.

Palladian writes:
[Quoting Zachary Paul Sire:] "Inviting 'Rick' is not a slap in the face to gays as much as it is a disingenuous olive branch to evangelicals. And they're falling for it!"

So your candidate is a liar and a phony who makes false statements about his religious beliefs in order to garner political support? Classy!

"Obama is all about trying to please everyone with gestures and concessions."

Again, you admit that your candidate is a big phony, a big panderer and a big ass-kisser?

"Until he actually starts enacting policies and putting forth his specific agenda, no one should be freaking out."

So when this mythical policy-enacting phase begins, he'll eschew all these lies about religion and beliefs and his true, godless socialist qualities will shine forth?

"And let's be honest. Warren is, as everyone knows, a tool."

Wait, you just admitted that your candidate is a liar and a phony and only says things for political expediency and you're calling Rick Warren a tool? What makes you think you aren't the tool that Obama is using, my little salami-smoker? [NOTE: Both Zachary and Palladian are gay and have been talking to each other in such terms here for a long time. (Titus too.)]

"We should be proud of Obama for using him as well as he is."

We should be proud of Obama for lying about his beliefs and being too ashamed and afraid to admit his true beliefs and feelings about gay rights? So lying and slinking around in the shadows is now a point of pride? Wow. Furl your rainbow flags everyone! Gay pride now means hiding your true feelings and lying your way into high office!

"If this endears another couple hundred thousand evangelicals to Obama, and thus helps him out in 2012, then that's fine by me."

It's fine by you that Obama is lying, just because you think this will give him some political advantage in the next election, even though you don't actually know what he's going to do or whether you'll actually want him to be re-elected? Lying and selling out my true beliefs and double-crossing my countrymen for political gain is admirable? Wow. Reminds me why I don't belong to a political party. I'd rather be a loser than sell my soul to win.

"Trust me, Obama doesn't give a fuck about Rick Warren."

Wow, how admirable a quality in a President! He selects someone who he "doesn't give a fuck about" to give the invocation at his inauguration! Why that kind of cynicism sounds like CHANGE I CAN BELIEVE IN!
Zachary Paul Sire responds to Palladian:
So when this mythical policy-enacting phase begins, he'll eschew all these lies about religion and beliefs and his true, godless socialist qualities will shine forth?

One can HOPE!

Lying and selling out my true beliefs and double-crossing my countrymen...blah blah blah

You can drop the naive act. As if you, or anyone, ever believed that any politician in modern history didn't lie or mask their true intentions to get elected. Spare me the drama.

I have my suspicions of what he'll do (lead an incredibly balanced, pragmatic administration without ruffling anyone's feathers), and until I'm proven otherwise, I make no judgments about the man "selling out beliefs."

He's playing a game that all of them sign up for, not committing moral suicide.
Palladian says:
"He's playing a game that all of them sign up for, not committing moral suicide."

I don't trust the character judgments of those that are already morally dead.
Zachary Paul Sire says:
I love that Sullivan failed to mention how Rev. Joe Lowery, co-founder of the SCLC and a same-sex marriage supporter, is also on the bill for inauguration day, overseeing the benediction. I guess acknowledging that balance would've undercut his blog post and made his whining look even more childish than it already is (if that's possible).
Titus says:
I am a gay and I don't give a shit if Rick Warren gives the invocation.

How's that for the how some in the gay mafia feel?

None of my gay mafia friends give a shit either.

Now if it was Pat Boone I may feel a little bad... but still wouldn't give a shit.

Rick Warren is physically very repulsive though and for that I do feel bad. I hate seeing a fat man.

He is too fat. He has no chin and he thinks he is funny.
Well, you know, Obama used to be fat. Now, he makes a huge point of keeping rail thin.

The Illinois supreme court rejects AG Lisa Madigan's attempt to oust Blagojevich -- without comment.


She so deserved that thwarting.


Click on my Madigan v. Blagojevich tag if you want any details on why I thought Madigan's attempt to oust Blagojevich was terrible law and terrible politics. For now, I'll just say: Great! I'm glad she lost, and I'm glad she got slammed down decisively.

"In a carefully controlled strategy reminiscent of the vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, aides to Caroline Kennedy interrupted her..."

"... and whisked her away when she was asked what her qualifications are to be a United States senator."

How to strike at the heart of a Democrat: Invoke Palin. Nice move, NYT.

Caroline was making an appearance in Syracuse -- had she ever been there before? -- and she spoke for a mere 30 seconds to say:
"As some of you may have heard, I told Governor Paterson I’d be honored to be considered for the position of United States senator. There’s a lot of good people in this community that the governor is considering. He’s laid out a process and I’m proud to be part of that process."
I'm waiting to hear what Governor Paterson will do, and I'm proud to be waiting to hear what it will be. By the way, why isn't it "and I'm humbled to be part of that process"? People are always saying they're proud of things and humbled by things. Bizarrely, there doesn't seem to be any difference these days.

Anyway, so the NYT has 2 reporters on the story. Did they both go to Syracuse to hear Caroline speak 30 seconds of nothing?
When one reporter asked what she would tell New Yorkers who question whether she has the qualifications for the job, Ms. Kennedy, 51, started to respond. But then an aide stopped her from saying more, and led her to the waiting vehicle.

“Hopefully I can come back and answer all those questions,” she called out as she got into the S.U.V.

It was the first stop in an orchestrated tour of upstate New York. Ms. Kennedy has plans to visit with officials in Rochester and, possibly, Buffalo, a first stab at getting skeptical upstate voters used to the idea of being represented in Washington by yet another down-stater.

The area has already expressed wariness of her, with some officials and newspapers questioning her abilities.
"The area" -- I love that. Here's a map in case you need help visualizing "the area" Caroline needs to win over as she ventures off Manhattan Island:

"Upstate New York" is everything north of the NYC metropolitan area.

"If the sea rises quickly enough, and there is not time for the waves to do their work, landscapes may be drowned entire."

"Only a few meters beneath sea level, and what was the land now lies below the destructive surf zone. A hundred meters below sea level, and even the most violent storm waves can scarcely be felt. So, let the sea flood in, with its level jumping by meters over centuries or decades – or perhaps even years – and there simply will not be time for this wave energy to erode the landscape."

See the up side of rapid global warming and rising seas? Beautifully fossilized archeology sites for the aliens to excavate millions of years from when we've destroyed ourselves.

"'There's no shame in religion,' he adds, as another tiny, shiny g-string shoots out of Mr Nasser's sewing machine."

The BBC reports on Syrian underwear.
What may be a new discovery to outsiders is that Islamic sexual mores are not only about veiling women, segregating the sexes and austerity.

On the contrary, sex is there to be enjoyed to the maximum by Muslims - as long as they are married Muslims - and there are numerous religious exhortations on the importance of foreplay, mutual titillation and satisfaction for both partners.
Sample titillation:

Don't you wish you could wear that without shame?

In Iraq, throwing a shoe at somebody is the ultimate insult.

So the question must be asked: What object, thrown, is the ultimate insult in other countries?
In France, of course, it’s a waffle....

Who’s to say why, exactly? Some say the waffle’s association with Belgium is enough to disgust any Frenchman. Others suggest it is its annoyingly spongy consistency....

[In] Chad... hitting someone with a pair of pants is the highest form of insult....

In the former Soviet Union it is not uncommon, especially among the savage Russian mafia, to throw a 68-ton American-made Abrams M1A1 tank....

In Peru, meanwhile, people throw their voices as a form of insult...

[In] Bhutan... people throw brightly colored tissue paper...
Surely, you can think of some better examples. So many countries. And don't forget the 50 states.

Least surprising "Person of the Year" ever.

Time picks Barack Obama. Duh.

They should have called the issue: Person of the Year Other Than Barack Obama. That would have created some excitement. Could have got the Sarahphiles charged up. The Hillariacs. Might have hopped up the hopes of Huckanuts. Even Mittsmittens like me could have dreamed.

The Kickbee -- a belt worn by pregnant women that sends a text message every time the baby kicks.

This was an NYU class project, so I think it's more of a cool what-if idea than something any sane person ought to want to be at either the sending or receiving end of, but still...
Corey Menscher, whose wife, Ellen, is eight months pregnant with the couple's first baby, wanted to (at least digitally) feel each and every kick their active little pre-born babe was making.
His wife wanted to feel it? How about the old-fashioned way of feeling things by feeling them? What's next? An electronic device to be worn while engaging in sexual intercourse that notifies you when you're having an orgasm? (I know, you're thinking but it could Twitter all my friends, it could record various time and intensity measurements.) [ADDED: Okay, I misread that. I skipped the word "is." Sorry. The idea of putting a belt on a pregnant woman makes me lose my mind.]
"I have a vibrating device in my pocket at all times," says Menscher. "Every time the baby kicks, it uploads a message to the server and I get a text message on my phone as well."...

"It's also great for couples who are away from ech [sic] other a lot." Dan O'Sullivan, an NYU professor who teaches the course for which the Kickbee was made, says the pregnancy belt shouldn't just be construed as silly.

"If it keeps fathers hanging around more, and gets them more involved with their kids, it's a very good thing," he says.
If... always if...

Tell me, would you males "keep hanging around more" if only you were fitted with a buzzer that kept you constantly in touch with your wife's womb?

Joel Achenbach wishes he could be "something other than a detestable, oozing, suppurating lesion on the body of civilization."

He's "the embodiment of all that is wrong with America":
"On weekends I engage in countryside motoring as if it's a form of exercise. Worse, during the week, despite the availability of mass transit, I almost always drive to work, a five-mile jaunt on surface streets past one bus stop after another."
Joel's not about to stop sinning. He likes his car, his "empowerment device," and since most Americans feel the same way, he thinks what we need is some sort of "transformer" car, basically a golf cart with "clip-on parts" or something.

Via Jac, who, apparently, is not amused by Achenbach's comic stylings and disdains the desire for power at the expense of "the planet."

Obama's Secretary of Education pick Arne Duncan says "he gave my sister and I the opportunity to start a great school on the South Side of Chicago."

And what do the kids learn at this great school? How to make the kind of grammatical errors that only people who are trying to speak well make?

(Via SondraK.)

ADDED: The Stump likes Duncan:
He's pushed for aggressive reforms [in the Chicago system] that have at times placed him at odds with the city's education establishment. But he's also managed to appeal to that establishment, averting teachers' strikes like those that plagued the city in previous decades....

He's been a leader in the education reform movement, which supports tough policies on teacher accountability, merit pay, high-stakes testing, and fixing failing schools. And yet, he's also been keenly diplomatic with traditional forces like teachers' unions...

Other critics say that Duncan's selection only solidifies that Obama has yet to come down on either side of the debate between reformers and the education establishment.
So he solidifies gelatinousness? Great!
"[Duncan] is seen as a blank slate in terms of ideology or vision," Elizabeth Green at the New York blog Gotham Schools wrote last night. "Indeed, he hasn't done much publicly to indicate where he stands in the Democratic Party's education wars."
Isn't that precisely what you need to be Obama-ready?
Obama [said]: "He's not beholden to any one ideology--and he doesn't hesitate for one minute to do what needs to be done."
So we're getting the moderate, pragmatist Obama I was hoping for. Again, great.

December 16, 2008

It's "Grande Conservative Blogress Diva" time again.

And once again I'm on the list. You may say, but how can Althouse be the Grande Conservative Blogress Diva when she voted for Barack Obama?

1. I voted for Barack Obama because John McCain was not conservative enough. If we are to have a liberal President, it's better for it to be Obama, for so many reasons.

2. The concept of "Grand Conservative Blogress Diva" is explicitly defined in a way that you know includes me: "She need not be conservative herself (at least three of the nominees below are not), but must by the the power of her prose, the eloquence of her expression and the intelligence of her ideas have earned them the enmity of the angry left and so endeared her to gay men like us who admire strong women who speak their mind, even at the expense of encomia from those in the entertainment industry and the MSM."

3. Since this is about being a diva, your quibbles mean nothing to me.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian said:
How many of the other nominees have gone perfume shopping at Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman with me, this blog's smartest, funniest and best homosexual?! That has to count for something!
AND: Peter Hoh says:
Hey, who anointed Palladian as "this blog's smartest, funniest and best homosexual"?

Oh yeah, Palladian.

Just like Caroline. I'll have none of it.

I'm calling for a special election.
Hmm. So just as Gay Patriot sets up a vote for "Grande Conservative Blogress Diva," you want a poll for "Smartest, Funniest and Best Homosexual of the Althouse Blog"? Really? Is this something that can work as a poll? Well, I don't think polling works in the "Grande Conservative Blogress Diva" process, since diva status is not susceptible to democracy. Anyone is allowed to vote! How is that a test of who's most "endeared... to gay men"? But it's not diva-like to seem to care. It's not diva-like to beg for votes, which is why it's not diva-like to win the contest. And yet you think we should have a democratic process for "Smartest, Funniest and Best Homosexual of the Althouse Blog"?

Still, I might do it. Nominees?

Studying with babies.

Have you ever had a baby by your side when you were studying for a law school exam? I had one -- out of the frame -- when I posed for this photograph. The baby -- my older son, John -- was less than 2 months old, so he took no interest in my ordeal and went about his baby-business as usual.

But maybe you are studying with a baby who's a little older, like this one, who, I'm told, spontaneously dug the Constitution out of a schoolbag and started reading it:

Good luck to all the law students who are studying with babies!

ADDED: A few months later, John did take an interest:

prescient John

IN THE COMMENTS: Skyler says:
My daughter liked to study for the patent exam.
Some serious cuteness at the link. Plus, the daughter is named Elle.

Mcg said...
Somewhere I've got a picture of my infant daughter and [me] watching the dittocam. If I wasn't interested in preserving a modicum of anonymity on this forum I'd post it.

But I am, so I won't.

Instead, I'll post a link this hilarious blog mocking pictures of cute animals.
Forgive me for correcting your grammar, but you Arne Duncanned.

As a Rush Limbaugh fan, you may be horrified to learn that when I created a tag for your pseudonym, Blogger tried to autocomplete "mcg" to "McGovern." But -- who knows? -- maybe you are McGovern. Who knows what celebs lurk behind these pseudonyms?

As for that blog -- Fuck You, Penguin -- I love it. Don't say "fuck you" in front of babies, but I'm totally on the same page as the Fuck You, Penguin blogger: what does this asshole think he is doing?

"If you read these transcripts closely, you’ll find that nobody did anything. People are just talking, and that’s not against the law."

"Bad language doesn’t make you a criminal."

Says Edward Genson, representing Governor Blagojevich. It's true, of course, that "just talking," even in "bad language," is not a crime. Nevertheless, crimes can be committed through statements. But it's smart of Genson to get the meme going that all Blago did was talk, and talking alone is nothing, and bad words are indeed bad, but let's not be distracted -- it was all only words.

"I’ve always loved Camille. Maybe I should have told her."

Dick Cavett deals with Camille Paglia's attack on his attack on Sarah Palin.

Camille said:
... Cavett's piece on Sarah Palin was insufferably supercilious. With dripping disdain, he sniffed at her "frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences." He called her "the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High," "one who seems to have no first language."...

How can it be that so many highly educated Americans have so little historical and cultural consciousness that they identify their own native patois as an eternal mark of intelligence, talent and political aptitude?

In sonorous real life, Cavett's slow, measured, self-interrupting and clause-ridden syntax is 50 years out of date. Guess what: There has been a revolution in English -- registered in the 1950s in the street slang, colloquial locutions and assertive rhythms of both Beat poetry and rock 'n' roll and now spread far and wide on the Web in the standard jazziness of blogspeak. Does Cavett really mean to offer himself as a linguistic gatekeeper for political achievers in this country?
Ha ha. Really. (I say in blogspeak, proving Cavett's a dick.)
I am very sorry that he, and so many other members of the educational elite, cannot take pleasure as I do in the quick, sometimes jagged, but always exuberant way that Palin speaks -- which is closer to street rapping than to the smug bourgeois cadences of the affluent professional class.
Dick says:
Some of what Ms. P. says is so dumb that I assumed, at first, that it was meant to be funny. But I think I’m wrong. It would be strange of her — considering the number of arrows already in her daunting intellectual quiver — to suddenly attempt humor.
That's very old-fashioned humor, you know, Dick. The street rappers of today would never put it like that.


I seem to remember Sarah Palin rapping, though. Oh, yeah, here.
When I say Obama, you say Ayers...

"Explicitly moral, obscenely didactic, showcasing a perversely distorted view of the American legal system..."

"... justice porn is a potent, ubiquitous presence in our lives.... justice porn constantly preaches doctrines of prudence, responsibility, and self-empowerment..."

That doesn't sound very porn-like. Why is Greg Beato analogizing TV judge shows to pornography? Is it like those fliers one occasionally still sees posted around campus that begin with -- in large print -- "SEX" and continue -- in small print -- "now that I have your attention"?

Beato's real point is that the TV judge shows teach people to think of their disputes as lawsuits, and he -- as befits his forum in Reason magazine -- doesn't like litigiousness.
Instead of making us more responsible citizens, more inclined to rely on our own good judgment rather than public institutions, justice porn popularizes the idea that the court system is a legitimate venue for mending friendships, punishing moral (but not criminal) transgressions, and seeking inspirational hugs from stern but caring authority figures. At the same time, it positions judges as unquestionable authorities with unlimited power to scrutinize our lives.
Fair enough. Good point. I'm just distracted by trying to think about how pornography does something like that? It seems to me that pornography teaches men to take care of their problems on their own.

Jeff Probst to future "Survivor" contestants.

"If you make it to the jury, try to just let the anger and envy go and see the big picture. You got your ass kicked – no way around it – now quit being a baby and reward the person who kicked your ass by giving them your vote."

A stuffy scientific journal accidentally prints an ad for a strip club on the cover of its journal.

Like those idiots with their tattoos, the Max Planck Institute was seduced by the allure of Chinese characters:
Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition. Their "enchanting and coquettish performance" was highly recommended....

The Max Planck Institute was quick to acknowledge its error explaining that it had consulted a German sinologist prior to publication of the text. "To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker," the institute said in an apology. "By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offence or embarrassment to our Chinese readers."...

Chinese is a tonal language, which means words sounding the same can often have very different meanings depending on how they are spoken.
Chinese is a tonal language, which means words sounding the same can often have very different meanings depending on how they are spoken? Mark Liberman says:
I guess this is true, if you add an appropriate qualification: "Chinese is a tonal language, which means words sounding the same (to people who don't pay attention to tone) can often have very different meanings depending on how they are spoken"....

But what's really puzzling about this sentence is not its misleading way of describing lexical tone, but rather the implication that Chinese tone is somehow relevant to MPI's unfortunate choice of cover art. Remember that the editors of the Max Planck Forshung apparently couldn't read Chinese, and their expert advisor, asked to find a typical bit of Chinese text to put on the cover, apparently subverted their intent by choosing a strip club ad. However, the fact that Chinese is a tone language is completely irrelevant to all this — exactly the same thing could have happened with material in Japanese, or Korean, or Hindi, or Arabic. For that matter, it could have happened with Hungarian or Swahili or another language written with the Latin alphabet — all that's required is some written material that the editors can't read.
I think the writer of the newspaper article was trying to provide cover for the Institute -- for whatever reason. But his attempt at empathy was inane. A better approach would have been something about ancient, admirable poetry that really is about sexy dancers. If you're inclined toward empathy, that is.

(More about tattoo foolery at the Liberman link.)

"Ban Marriage?" is the title given to a Bloggingheads clip -- with Jack Balkin and me -- chosen for the NYT website.


The clip is also teased on the NYT front page like this:

We're sandwiched between teasers Jay Leno...
... Mr. Leno shocked the television world ... by agreeing to stay at NBC to create a new version of his show, tentatively titled “The Jay Leno Show,” at 10 every weeknight starting next September, moving from late night to prime time.
... and the presidential electors:
In a quadrennial ritual that has been criticized by some as an outdated part of the American political system, 538 electors, chosen for their party loyalty, cast their votes on Monday.... Electors are not legally bound to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, but they generally do.
So it's a NYT sandwich: Bloggingheads... on moldy old constitutional bread and Lenoaf. Yum!

December 15, 2008

Caroline Kennedy.

Wants the HRC Senate seat.

Should she get it?
No. free polls

"Paterson in a Blind Rage over "SNL' Skit."

That's the headline to the NY Post article that begins "Gov. Paterson didn't see the humor in a 'Saturday Night Live' bit that mocked his blindness." Yeah, he shouldn't criticize it if he didn't see it.

Video of the 2 Paterson sketches at the link. Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, is quoted saying:
"We have 70 percent unemployment - and it's not because we can't work. Obviously, the governor of New York is blind, and he's doing the job. Whenever you have a portrayal that calls the basic capacity of [blind people] into question, that's a potential problem."

Danielsen claims "SNL" has a long history of mocking the blind - going back to Eddie Murphy's Stevie Wonder impression and, more recently, a "Weekend Update" one-liner that hybrid cars are dangerous to blind people because they can't hear the engine.
Now, wait, there really were news stories, plenty of them, that reported that hybrid cars were dangerous to blind people. Like this one. Notice anything? It quotes Christopher S. Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind. It looks as though "SNL" may have read his organization's press release... and it got a laugh.

Maybe Danielsen needs to get a sense of humor...

... like Stevie Wonder, seen here standing right next to Eddie Murphy as Eddie imitates him.

And open the door for Mr. Muckle!

Federal laws about cigarette labels don't preempt state fraud claims, the Supreme Court says in the case about the lightness of "light" cigarettes.

The case -- Altria Group, Inc. v. Good -- was just announced. It's 5-4, with the majority opinion written by Justice Stevens and the dissenting opinion written by Justice Thomas. There's no need to spell out the rest of the 5 and 4. If you care enough to want to know, you already know.

I'll have something on the opinions soon.

ADDED: Following the plurality opinion in a 1992 case (Cipollone), the majority said that preemption by the labeling law depended on whether the state law claim was predicated on a "requirement or prohibition based on smoking and health … with respect to … advertising or promotion." And the fraud claims are premised on a duty not to deceive. The dissenters didn't see a basis for distinguishing fraud claims from the failure-to-warn claims that Cipollone said were preempted and wanted "to look at the factual basis of a complaint to determine if a claim imposes a requirement based on smoking and health."

This is one of those cases where state law is preserved, yet no one extols the values of federalism. No one even says the word "federalism," as the liberal Justices decide in favor state power, and the conservative Justices worry about "non-uniformity." The tort plaintiffs will be able to go forward with their case, and the cigarette companies must take their lumps.

It's me and Jack Balkin on Bloggingheads!

Check it out. Balkin is the Yale lawprof who blogs at Balkinization.

They've titled this one "Qualifications and Disqualifications." We recorded this one on December 11th, so the first segment doesn't go as deeply as I'd like into the subject represented by my tag "Madigan vs. Blagojevich" (which you can click on below), but most of the stuff isn't so time-sensitive, and I'm sure, at the very least, you'll want to play the segment they've called "Ann says we need an atheist President who pretends to be devout."

ADDED: In this really short clip -- 22 seconds -- Balkin is asserting that Bill Clinton is deeply religious -- and a sinner -- and I unwittingly bite my lip Clintonesquely.

"Hey man, I love that Burl Ives song, but um, you let Silent Night slip into the mix. That’s kind of awkward because, you know, the Crusades?"

It's so hard to do a Christmas party.

"Admitting my mistakes, when I have been cheated or taken advantage of -- a luxury that should be rarely indulged."

"People may seem to sympathize, really they despise you a little. Weakness is a contagion, strong people rightly shun the weak."

That's a note in a private journal. How would you describe the writer?

1. Someone who is trying very hard "to transcend her limitations, to imagine a different way of existing," who "seems to harbor a secret image of herself as sloppy, idle, and weak."

2. Someone who has decided to exercise power over others.

Obviously, I think #2. #1 is Katie Roiphe, fawning annoyingly over Susan Sontag.

Shoes, Bush.

Do we have to talk about this? Which angle?

1. Why can't the Secret Service fully protect the President? Shouldn't this threat have been anticipated?

2. Shoes are considered a terrible insult in the Iraqi culture blah blah blah....

ADDED: More video via commenter EDH:

You voted. I saw 2 movies: "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Australia."

You could have sent me to "Rachel Getting Married," "Milk," "Synecdoche, New York," or "Let the Right One In," but you chose "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Australia." 

I'll say a few things comparing the 2 movies, and I'll keep this spoiler free.

1. Both movies have an in-your-face sense of place. "Slumdog Millionaire," showing us India, has us running all over the slums of Bombay and touring the Taj Mahal. I get it. It's India. "Australia" fills the screen with the map of Australia and giant red rocks and expanses of dry wasteland. Yeah, that's Australia. 
2. Both movies tell an elaborately plotted story through the eyes of a little boy. In "Slumdog," the boy, Jamal, plunges into a pool of shit to get his story going, and in "Australia," the boy, Nullah, plunges into a water tank to advance the plot. Our hearts are, of course, supposed to mesh with the heart of the central child character. This is a time-worn method of emotional manipulation, but it works pretty well in both movies. Both boys, for all their troubles, are magically lucky.

3. Both movies have lovers who are torn apart and brought together repeatedly, and both have key scenes where there is a lot of violent chaos and the lovers are running around looking for each other as time is about to run out. Both movies have big close-up kisses that seem to be about the cinematic history of big close-up kisses. There's no real fire between the lovers in either movie. They are big, pretty movie-star heads, but I didn't for one second believe I was looking at 2 human beings who were passionately in love with each other.

4. Both movies weave in a very familiar work of American pop culture. The whole story of "Slumdog Millionaire" is framed by a single performance on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." This is the coolest thing about the movie and is extremely well done -- using flashbacks and quiz questions that relate to the past. "Australia" is strewn with references to the movie "The Wizard of Oz" that come and go and don't really pay off very well. Wishing, home... whatever. But it is pretty amusing when Nicole Kidman's character awkwardly and abysmally tries to tell the Oz story and sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the boy and manages to inspire him in spite of her inadequacies.

5. Both movies have bathtubs. I'm slightly obsessed with the prominence of bathtubs in the movies. You'd think the most interesting thing in the world was a woman in a damned bath. "Australia" has the conventional lead actress taking a bath for no good reason. Hmm... 2 characters have to have a conversation. Let's put the woman in the bathtub. Depending on what rating you want, it will either be a bubble bath or it won't. It's embarrassing. "Slumdog Millionaire" has a memorably unusual use of the bathtub, so that was fine.

6. Things "Australia" has more of: cattle, horses, spears, bombs, airplanes, ships, sentimentality, pectoral muscles, drunk guys, fistfights, aborigines, contracts. Things "Slumdog Millionaire" has more of: shit, TV, doing laundry, guns, beggars, torture.

7. "Slumdog Millionaire" was a lot shorter and a lot better. "Australia" was a big epic that was completely old-fashioned except to the extent that there was supposed to be something hip about being intentionally old-fashioned. I'd rather watch "The African Queen" again, and if I need some hipness, let me watch it with hip people and we'll say hip things.

0° in Madison.

Right now, still pre-dawn.

I think of the law students who must endure another 8:30 a.m. exam. The exams are always at 8:30 a.m. -- a tough time for a young person. It's easy for us oldsters to be up and sharp at dawn. I could do an exam at 6 a.m. What's the problem?! But I remember the problem. How do you get yourself to sleep at all, knowing the exam is that early?

But the exam is early, and to make matters worse it's 0° here in Madison. Yesterday, it was in the 40s, and that was an exam day too. Yes, exams on Sundays. In fact, it was my Religion & the Constitution exam on Sunday. We love our ironies.

But better a Sunday exam in the 40s, than a Monday exam at 0. That's what I would think. Or does that zerosity jump-start your brain?

George Brecht composed "Drip Music": "a source of water and an empty vessel are arranged so that the water falls into the vessel."

He'd write an "event score" -- "printed on a small white card that he would mail to friends.... Mr. Brecht said that he did not care if any of his event scores were realized and that he did not think that there was a correct way to perform one."

Back in the 1950s, when Jackson Pollock was painting (doing things with paint), you had to ask yourself: What is the next step? First, Brecht tried painting "using chance operations and materials like bed sheets, ink and marbles." But it's better -- is it not? -- to rid yourself of the paint altogether, and then rid yourself of the work itself: Just write a brief description on a card.

In those days, there were no blogs. But it was like blogging, no? A few words on a blank white rectangle are enough.

And yet, there are all those serious people in that video clip with their microphones and watering cans. Are they any less annoying than mimes? And if you're going to perform this minimal, quiet music, you've got to find a space that isn't horrifically overwhelmed with the mechanical noise of a forced air system that drowns out the dripping.

But the dripping goes on whether you hear it or not, and now the last drop has dribbled out for George Brecht, the Fluxus artist.

Dead at age 82.

If you think Blagojevich was arrested so early in the investigation to stop a crime from being committed, you're wrong.

Says the WSJ. Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation team would have preferred to let the sale of the Senate seat go through and to catch the crime on tape. In fact, the timing of the arrest was dictated by the Chicago Tribune:
At Fitzgerald’s request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.

But editors decided to publish the story on Friday, Dec. 5... : “Feds taped Blagojevich; TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: Adviser cooperated with corruption probe, sources say.”

Blagojevich read the same headline. “Undo” that “thing,” the governor allegedly told his brother, according to the FBI. And just like that, the meeting was off, only one day after it had been put back into play.

IN THE COMMENTS: Darcy says:
I never thought that.

I do have a suspicion that the Tribune didn't want it to go any further, though. Time to warn the Democrats and protect Obama?
A poll -- and I'm deliberately depriving you of the weaselly "both" answer:

What is the main reason the Chigago Tribune decided to reveal the wiretap?
For its own advantage -- to get more readers.
To warn Democrats who were about to fall into the trap. free polls

December 14, 2008

Let's read AG Lisa Madigan's brief against Governor Blagojevich.

Here's the PDF of the brief filed with the Illinois Supreme Court. As explained in previous posts, Madigan's attempt to oust the Illinois governor relies on Article V, Section 6 of the Illinois constitution:
If the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of the term or until the disability is removed.
Madigan needs to establish that Blagojevich's political and legal troubles amount to an "other disability" within the meaning of that text.

The legal argument in the brief is embarrassingly inadequate, quoting the dictionary meaning of "disabled" and saying over and over again that the meaning is "plain" and the "plain meaning" governs. (If I could do a word search on that PDF, I'd count the number of times the word "plain" is repeated. Just for a laugh.)

And that's the extent of the argument about the meaning of the constitutional text.

Madigan sweeps aside a quote from the debate about the provision that shows the framers intended "other disability" to refer to "physical or mental capacity." And she says nothing about the procedural safeguards of the impeachment process or the reasons why courts should or should not involve themselves in political questions.

ADDED: Beldar -- who links here -- says:
Even though it would remove the reins of power from the hands of a crook, using the "disability" provision of the Illinois constitution in lieu of impeachment would be legally, politically, and intellectually illegitimate....

That Blagojevich is a banal, petty crook has been "obvious" to anyone who cared to see such things long before he was indicted and arrested. Under a practical, common-sense standard, that should have been obvious to the voters of Illinois who nevertheless elected and then re-elected him.

But elections have consequences. Among them is the fact that once a crook is elected, constitutional niceties must be observed to remedy the situation.
Exactly! Of course, Beldar also thinks Blagojevich ought to resign, and I certainly agree. And he has a lot more than that to say, which you ought to go over and read. He's critical not just of Madigan and Blagojevich, but also of the legislators and the voters in Illinois who -- as the saying goes -- "got the government they deserve."

I also really liked this comment by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, on this morning's "Meet the Press," on the difference between what Blagojevich is accused of and the sort of trading favors that happens all the time in politics:
Reality check. Pay to play, everybody knows it, even--not just in politics. Office politics, pay to play. You know, if you know the boss and the -- and you, you, you need something from the boss, he's going to look around and find the person going to do him the most good. He's not going to hire -- you know, put somebody in a place of power that isn't doing him any good. That's the world. That's how the world works. But there is a line. You got to know how to play the game. And Blagojevich, Governor Blagojevich was tacky in playing the game. That's what people are upset about. They're embarrassed that this man had the nerve to get caught on the wiretap using foul language, actually giving voice to, you know, the wink and the nod thing. He didn't just wink and nod, he actually tried to shake people down, according to the wiretaps.
Governor Blagojevich was tacky in playing the game. And he got recorded saying dirty words.

"At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid."

An eye for an eye, in Iran.
[A] spurned suitor poured a bucket of sulfuric acid over [Ameneh Bahrami's] head, leaving her blind and disfigured....

Courts usually order families of the accused to pay "blood money" for the crimes. But Bahrami insisted on the punishment. She had several meetings with the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who tends to favor less strict interpretations of Islamic law.

"Shahroudi really pressed me to demand blood money instead of retribution. He explained that such a sentence would cause lots of bad publicity for Iran. But I refused," she said.

ADDED: Surely, Shahroudi must know that Iran gets bad publicity for these "blood money" punishments -- which look more like our tort remedies. It's a crime. Put that man in prison for a long, long time if you want our respect.

The Blagosmear on Obama.

Does O deserve that? Once, new Presidents got a "honeymoon" -- even after they took office. But there's no honeymoon for Obama, who's been plagued all along by one bad friend after another.

(Video via Andrew Malcolm, via Instapundit.)

Yesterday, I let you force me to see the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."

You can read my thoughts on the thing at the update to the post where I took the poll. It's another dreary day here in Madison, Wisconsin -- raining, actually -- and I thought I'd do a new poll and accept another assignment:

The new movie assignment is:
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Let the Right One In"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"Milk" free polls

"You painters do harm, and if you knew the resulting scandal you wouldn’t paint figures such as these, filling our churches with human vanity."

"Do you really think the Virgin Mary went around dressed as you depict her? I assure you she dressed like a poor girl, simply and modestly, and was so well-covered that all you could see were her eyes....”

IN THE COMMENTS: Sir Archy, our 250+ years-dead ghost, makes an appearance.

"Don't be a fool! Close this book at once!"

That's the warning from the title page of "The Book of Bokonon," the sacred text from the made-up religion that is referred to and quoted in various places in the Kurt Vonnegut novel "Cat's Cradle." This website collects all the quotations and, to the extent possible, puts them in order.

"I believe in God and Senator Dodd."

I read the opening lines of Calvin Trillin's op-ed -- written in June 2006, but featured on the NYT website this morning as an op-ed "classic":
MY excitement at the news that Senator Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, is considering a bid for president in 2008 is easy to explain: his name has enormous rhyming potential. We all have our own issues.
And it took me back to the 60s, when Dodd's dad was a Senator and Phil Ochs used the line I've put in my title in "Draft Dodger Rag," which you can listen to here or buy the album "I Ain't Marching Anymore." Lyrics here:
Oh, I'm just a typical American boy from a typical American town
I believe in God and Senator Dodd and a-keepin' old Castro down
And when it came my time to serve I knew "better dead than red"
But when I got to my old draft board, buddy, this is what I said....
The original "chicken hawk" song (I think).

But the subject is poetry and names. Trillin has made his career in part out of writing light verse with a high proportion of famous names:
Someone in my position tends to see Ross Perot and John McCain as two peas in a pod — blessedly iambic candidates with nearly unlimited rhyming possibilities. During my 16 years in the deadline poetry game, though, we've had nobody with a name like Ross Perot or John McCain in the White House. I've had to deal with presidents whose names are an affront to rhyme and meter. Given the rhyming difficulties of Bill Clinton's name, in fact, I believe future historians will think of him as the "orange" of American presidents.
I think of him as the banana of Presidents, but it's all a matter of how you look at things.

Just the other day, in this comments thread to that post about whether lawprofs should call students by their first names, we got to talking about the poetic limitations of some names. I said: "[T]here are no pop songs about 'Ann.' Actually, there are few pop songs with one-syllable names."

With this, Pogo proved me wrong and exposed my inadequate knowledge of the 1960s, to which I'll plead guilty, eschewing the defense that if you can remember, you weren't there.
I looked into your cool cool eyes
I felt so fine, I felt so fine
I floated in your swimming pools
I felt so weak, I felt so blue
If you want to rhyme, rhyme. If you don't, don't. ← inferred Stooge theory of poetry.

Back to Trillin, who despite his name, didn't sing his lyrics (as far as I know). Trillin's had trouble with the current administration:
At times George W. Bush has seemed interested in making my life easier. He must have known before the appointments were made, for instance, that Condoleezza Rice's name fits exactly into the meter of "The March of the Siamese Children" from "The King and I" ("Condoleezza Rice, who is cold as ice, is precise with her advice") and that Alberto Gonzales rhymes with "loyal ├╝ber alles."
And he fretted over the names coming up in 2008:
In my more pessimistic contemplations of the 2008 campaign, I see myself telling some political operative that I've made my peace with the possibility that the Democrats, desperate for some charisma, could turn to Barack Obama — a man whose rhymes I long ago used up in trying to deal with Osama bin Laden.

"But Obama's not the only Illinois contender," the operative says. "There's also the governor."

"The governor?"

"The governor," he repeats. "Rod Blagojevich."
Okay, then. Let's see the poems. Roll out your "-itch" words, you bitch.

IN THE COMMENTS: JohnJEnright composes this:
He desired the joy
of being rich.

He devised a ploy,
but it hit a hitch.

Weep, Illinois,
for Blagojevich.
AND: More commenters are itching for frontpaging. First, bearbee:
Chicago jock itch
Who tried to get rich
By auditioning off a niche
And ended in an FBI hitch
Now when will he turn and snitch
And Palladian (presumably sung to the tune of "The Munchkin Song"):
Blagojevich, you bitch,
Will scratch you where you itch
and name you to the Senate seat that Barry O did ditch.

But wait! Hold on!
There's just a little hitch!
A Senate seat is valuable! He's trying to get rich.

So here's the pitch!
Pay up you fucking bitch!
And just forget Pat Fitz and Lisa Madigan, that witch!

Payola is his niche!
A suitcase full of unmarked bills, nobody's gonna snitch!

But who will stop
this monumental kitsch?
Corruption that would cause even Jack Abramoff to twitch!

Fitch? No, Fitz!
in a prosecutor blitz
will smash the Illinois machine to tiny little bits!