November 11, 2006

Veterans Day, Madison, Wisconsin.

An American woman:

Veterans Day

The Korean war veteran:

Veterans Day

The Young Marines:

Veterans Day

The Patriot Guard Riders:

Veterans Day

After taking these pictures, I go to my usual café, find a table, and start working on getting them uploaded. I hear a middle aged woman talking to the barista:
What is it? Veterans Day? There are soldiers everywhere.

Her voice drops a note on the words "veterans" and "soldiers." She's got a slight sarcastic tone as if she thinks she's saying something funny.

Imagine. Soldiers. In Madison.

IN CASE IT ISN'T OBVIOUS: To all the veterans, thank you. My parents were WWII veterans. I do not exist except as something that came from veterans. We all owe our world to the service of veterans. Your world is more real than ours. Today, I saw a veteran carrying a banner that said, "Freedom is not free." We know we owe that to you. And we are all humbled by your service. I feel that especially, because I know that I would never have lived if my mother had not felt an insipiration to join the Army and met my father there.

Remember, the Democrats have a special obligation to please people like me.

Seeing the letters to the editor today, I realize I missed David Brooks's column "The Middle Muscles In" (which I think you'll be able to get to during TimesSelect free access week):
On Tuesday, 47 percent of the voters were self-described moderates, according to exit polls, and they asserted their power by voting for the Democrats in landslide proportions....

Their disaffection with the G.O.P. was not philosophical. It was about competence and accountability....

So voters kicked out Republicans but did not swing to the left. For the most part they exchanged moderate Republicans for conservative Democrats. It was a great day for the centrist Joe Lieberman, who defeated the scion of the Daily Kos net roots, Ned Lamont. It was a great day for anti-abortion Democrats like Bob Casey and probably for pro-gun Democrats like Jim Webb. It was a great day for conservative Democrats like Heath Shuler in North Carolina and Brad Ellsworth in Indiana....

Realignments are achieved by parties that define big new approaches to problems (see F.D.R.’s Commonwealth Club speech), and neither party has done that yet. In the meantime, if I were a Democrat I’d be like Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman and serial commission member. The country is hungering for leaders like him: open-minded, unassuming centrists who are interested in government more than politics. If the Democrats are smart, this could be the beginning of a new Hamiltonian age.
I said it back here:
If [the Democrats] win because they found moderates to run in key districts, I think they'll have a special obligation to please people like me. I'm going to hold them to the bargain.
Go ahead, lefty bloggers. Throw a fit. Curse me out again. You know it makes you mad because it's true.

Naive? Hateful? Planted like a solid oak tree against the winds of perversion?

When small-time entrepreneurs "choose not to work for homosexuals."

What's wrong with a parent?

Why would a parent allow her child to be photographed and discussed by name in a conspicuous article about psychiatric problems?

Why I love the new Democratic Congress!

Yay! $$$ for meeeee!!!!!

ADDED: Those damned Republicans only want to help the super-rich, while the Democrats' beneficence concentrates on the humble folk in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. Finally, someone's looking out for the working man.

AND: Please, nobody read this mockery to mean that they shouldn't eliminate the AMT. I really want them to do it. How they're going to replace all the money they lose, I don't know. And let me just add that the reason the AMT hurts me so much is that the income and property taxes in my state are so high. Those are the big tax deductions I lose the benefit of. What the AMT does -- certainly in my case -- is to make sure that people who suffer from a really high state and local tax burden still pay their share of federal taxes. Getting rid of the AMT makes it easier for state and local government to maintain high taxes because these taxes will lower our federal taxes. Anyone in a state with low taxes should probably be pissed off at this, because their states do with less revenue while their citizens fork over more to the feds. But presumably those states vote Republican, so who cares? My state votes Democratic, and it's got a lot of people who could really save a lot -- and contribute generously to the Democrats who have tended to us so well. In short: $$$$$$$$$$$$$!

SPECIFICALLY: Last year, the AMT cost me $4900.

"How have students become these self-righteous ‘young authoritarians’? "

Wendy Kaminer talks about free speech on campus (via A&L Daily):
Far from being a site of free thinking and free exchange of ideas, the university seems to have become a laboratory for new forms of censorship and conformism. ‘Kids come to college, and for the first couple of weeks of freshman year they’re in a sensitivity course, where they’re told what they’re allowed to say and what they’re not allowed to say’, says Kaminer. ‘They are subjected to thought-control programmes the minute they arrive. That is not a very good start.’...

How have students become these self-righteous ‘young authoritarians’? For Kaminer, ‘it is partly because they have been brought up in today’s victimised, intolerant culture’. She argues that restrictions on free speech are made not only by the right seeking to quell dissent among their left-leaning or liberal critics, but also by liberals themselves, who have bought into ideas of ‘hate speech’ and ‘harmful speech’....

Kaminer traces it back to the American feminist anti-porn movement of the 1980s, to authors such as Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. They, and others, were among the first, says Kaminer, to articulate the idea that ‘you have a civil right not to be offended or “arguably harmed”, even metaphorically, by somebody else’s speech’. Indeed, Kaminer points out that some of these feminist theorists made little distinction between words and actions: they argued that porn is violence, that to watch porn is to commit a violent act and that watching porn often directly encourages men to commit violent acts. According to Kaminer, this idea has spread widely, so that many more forms of hate speech – from racist speech to anti-Semitic speech, misogynist speech to xenophobic speech – are now seen as being potentially harmful, as encouraging listeners to hate and act violently towards others.
It's been my impression that the MacKinnon/Dworkin way of thinking fell out of favor when the need to support Bill Clinton conflicted with the interest in heightening awareness of things that fell under the rubric "sexual harassment." But there is still a core group of students that shops ideas like this to university administrators, and there are university administrators who feel they need to cater to them.
‘Words have power, of course they do. If they didn’t, why be a writer? Why be an activist? But words don’t cast spells over people. When feminists argue that giving a man porn is like saying “kill” to an attack dog, it implies that men are just dogs on short leashes...
Or cats...
...that they have a Pavlovian response that they cannot control. It ignores the fact that speech is a two-way exchange. The speaker is not Svengali: the audience hears what he says, interprets it, and they make their minds up. The way you combat bad speech is with good speech. You don’t combat it with censorship. That just doesn’t work, and it demeans debate.’
This should be such dogma -- or catma -- by now that it should seem too tedious to mention, but, sadly enough, it's not.

Still reminiscing about that CNN blog party....

I'm just noticing how funny the captions on the photos over here are. ("It was weird, even when the cameras weren’t on her, Jacki Schechner kept talking into the big CNN mic and throwing it back to Wolf.")

And I talk about it a lot in this segment of the new all-female, non-male edition of Bloggingheads.

November 10, 2006

It's me and Amy Sullivan...

... on Bloggingheads!

ADDED: The volume discrepancy between me and Amy has been fixed. What caused it? I think she actually was speaking in a louder voice to overcome the sound of air conditioning in her room, and I had adjusted the volume on my phone so it wouldn't hurt my ear. So it wasn't really a technical problem. I was using a quieter voice because I had a quieter room. The real solution is to turn off the ventilation in the room before recording.

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says with two women, we shouldn't be saying "diavlog" but "divalog."

ADDED: Simon has a lot of trouble with what I've said and written about the abortion case, and he's written about it here.

"But what does a woman of great power look like?"

Robin Givhan asks:
Does she choose her own version of camouflage and, as Hillary Rodham Clinton famously did during her first campaign for the Senate, wear a black pantsuit as a personal uniform? Does she wear stiffly tailored suits and a lapel festooned with patriotic brooches in the manner of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright? Or, like current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, does she mix professorial reserve with a hint of confident sex appeal?

Pelosi had to decide how a woman who will be second in line of succession to the presidency should look. And what she came up with is someone who wears a neutral-colored, softly tailored power suit. One that is accessorized with style rather than rote references to love of country. She looks dignified and serious. And in this case, she also happens to look quite good.
Face it. They all wear suits. Say what you want about how one woman's suits are softer and another's are stiffer. The fact is the main reason they look different is that these women actually look different.

"This defeat is actually an obvious victory for the Iranian nation."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei interprets the American election.
"With the scandalous defeat of America's policies in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, America's threats are empty threats on an international scale."
What will the Democrats do to push back against that?

"She mimicked McGreevey in the act of trying to govern amid a miasma of male genitals."

That's a description of the funniest part of Margaret Cho's act here in Madison last night.
The gag combined the two most prominent motifs of Cho's act: Hilarious, gleefully smutty riffing on gay themes, and political riffing that was pointed but, at moments, altogether less funny. Indeed, the show's least comedically satisfying moments came as Cho served up shrill, humor-free barbs that, in drastically tempered form, could have been delivered by a pandering liberal politician. On President Bush: "I don't know why he hasn't been impeached yet." On Benedict XVI: "The new pope fucking sucks." On right-to-lifers: "Anti-abortion people are fucking idiots, and they're wrong."
Thought you'd like to know. (Note my distinct history of defending Margaret Cho.)

IN THE COMMENTS: In the spirit of "An Exaltation of Larks," readers offer alternative "nouns of multitude" for "a miasma of male genitals."

"Couldn't she see the simple beauty and Dali-esque artistry of the lone Cheeto stuck in a mashed-up cube of Snickers?"

Ha ha.

Did you watch "Top Chef" this week? Unlike Otto, this week's cheaters wriggle off the hook:
As the judges try to decide who should be knifed, Sam lets it slip that there may have been some cheating -- in the form of recipe-twiddling, post-nutritional analysis -- going on. However, Sam won't say who he thinks was getting happy with olive oil squeeze bottles. BUT Mia steps up and points out how St. Betty, the Patron Saint of Teeth and Screaming, made her cookies with sugar instead of the approved Splenda recipe.
Did you buy Betty's claim that she didn't understand the rules? Do you accept them not cutting her? Or do you accept it only because the oil drizzlers were bigger cheaters and they managed to fly under the radar. The only reason they did is because Sam is "not that guy" -- not the guy who identifies the cheaters even though he is the guy who cries cheating in order to save his own skin.

I don't like it when no one is eliminated. I'd have accepted cutting Sam for attempting to balance on the knife's blade of being that guy and not being that guy.

"She walks, talks, sings, smells like Bob Dylan."

Heath Ledger raves about Cate Blanchett's "incredible transformation" into the character of Bob Dylan, whom she plays in the new movie "I'm Not There." Cate is one of a bunch of actors -- Ledger, included -- who play Dylan in the film. But Cate's the best -- "beyond astounding."

I can believe that. If you assemble a lot of actors in a film that's kind of a big acting competition, she wins. I observed this in "Coffee and Cigarettes":
When a movie is broken into a series of vignettes as this one is, critics usually can't resist saying which vignette is the best and grousing that some vignettes are better than others. With an ordinary movie, it doesn't seem worth saying that some scenes are better than others! But with each vignette, you get a new set of two or three actors, so it's hard not to single out, for example, Cate Blanchett. Patty Duke style, she plays two cousins who have the same face, but different hair, clothes, mannerisms, attitudes.

She was utterly fascinating and brilliant.

Listening for the gloat.

Howard Kurtz surveys liberal commentary on the the election, asking "whether they are being magnanimous in victory. Answer: Not."

(Am I giving Kurtz extra credit for ending his column with a quote from me? Yeah, probably. But I still like it for doing something I would have liked to do myself: Listening for the gloat.)

I guess I'd better rake my leaves tomorrow.

It was about 70° on Thursday, but they're saying there will be 4 inches of snow tomorrow, starting at noon. The gap between my first sleep and second sleep tonight is really long, but I can't go out in the middle of the night and do the leaves. That would be crazy!

Why haven't I done them yet? I've been really busy. Doing the leaves is not high on my agenda. It's just: Do them before the first real snow. Those minor dustings don't count. Damn. I do not have time for this tomorrow.

Why don't I hire someone? It's more trouble to do that than to do the leaves, and doing the leaves can be sort of fun if you do them when you're in the mood. But if the mood doesn't strike you before the real snow forces the task on you, then it's not cool at all. And it's not good coming on a day when I'm busy and when I can't sleep in the middle of the night.

In my middle-of-the-night alertness, I'm furiously trying to think of a solution, and I'm attracted to the idea that the predicted snow will turn out to be rain. I can't slot in the raking tomorrow. Certainly not before noon. It's going to simply have to be rain. And if it's not, my back-up attractive idea is: What does it matter if the leaves stay on the ground all winter? I've been here more than 20 years without letting that happen. Isn't it about time I let one thing go like that? And if the leaves ruin the lawn, that's a sign that I should hire people to completely redo the lawn next year. It would be a good thing. They can make it thickly plush, satisfyingly level, and shockingly green.

In my middle-of-the-night furious thinking, I see I've got a whole ambitious set of ideas about the failure to rake.

Outed and out.

Unrelated, presumably. Maher outs Mehlman. Mehlman to step down.

I've always liked Mehlman, but I thought he looked awfully worn out on election night.

So what was Condoleezza Rice doing two days after the election?

Photo-op-ing with Michelle Kwan.

Why is Rice suddenly drifting around in the afternoon TV section of American politics?

Bland inspirationalism for women.

That makes sense?

No.

Oh, why don't you just admit it?

Okay, I'm depressed about the election.

She asks herself a question, then answers it -- Rumsfeldianly.

What is it, exactly?

It's the failure of Americans to support the war. It's the folding and crumpling because things didn't go well enough and the way we conspicuously displayed that to our enemies. They're going to use that information.

For how long?

Forever.

ADDED: This post -- and my feelings -- are not about whether Republicans or Democrats have power. I dislike both parties. I voted for half Democrats and half Republicans. And I am not saying Bush has done a good enough job of fighting the war or defending his policies. You can look back over the last few months of this blog and see how little I wrote that can be interpreted as favoring one candidate or another. The only race I said much about was the Virginia Senate race. Go find those old posts and you'll see that, from "Macaca" on, I was hostile to George Allen, and, in numerous posts, I was positive about Webb.

What I'm concerned about is national security and, consequently, the way the election was fought and is being interpreted. I'm upset because I think we have sent a terrible message to our enemies: Just hang on long enough and continue to inflict some damage, and the Americans will lose heart and give up. You barely need anything at all. You might not be able to hijack a plane with a box cutter anymore, but you can take back a country -- a country we conquered with overwhelming military power -- merely by mercilessly and endlessly setting off small bombs in your own town day after day.

How much harder it becomes ever to fight and win a war again. Only pacifists and isolationists should feel good about the way this election was won.

November 9, 2006

I'm out of touch with my own opinion about the election.

I haven't had the time to settle in and think about how I feel about the new political landscape.

In the last week, I've traveled back and forth to Washington twice, first, to do two days of appointments interviews and second, to attend CNN's election night blog party. The first trip set in motion the second stage of interviewing, when we bring candidates here to Madison for full-day interviews. As the appointments chair, I'm caught up in a whirl of scheduling and hosting.

The second trip took the place of simulblogging the election from my calm TV room, with my customary distance from the political world. Immersed in the blog party, my resistance to politics surged and the usual flow of opinions got stifled. I'm still feeling a little fried from it all.

In spite of that, I recorded a BloggingHeads episode this morning, and I hope that comes out okay. I'll link to that when it's up, which is not yet. (Though you might want to go over there and watch Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus talk about the election.)

Anyway, I finally have a night of serenity, and I want to watch and read some news and see if I have anything to say. Even though I fretted that the Democrats would do dangerous things if they got power, I'm not alarmed. My tendency is to be fatalistic but optimistic. I assume the Democrats will shape up and live up to their responsibilities, and I like the new conservative blood they've transfused themselves with.

As for Bush, it may do him good to work with Democrats. It will bring out something new in him, and I think that so far he's handled himself rather well.

More later. Right now, I need to cook some dinner and watch some TV.

"The proceedings seemed more like a medical school seminar than an appellate argument."

Linda Greenhouse describes yesterday's oral argument in the abortion case.
What exactly was the procedure that the law, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, sought to prohibit, the justices wanted to know. When, if ever, was the procedure necessary? What would be the impact of banning it? What alternatives were available to women seeking second-trimester abortions and to doctors performing them?...

Justice Kennedy’s questioning suggested that he had not made up his mind, despite his strongly worded dissenting opinion when the court struck down Nebraska’s version of the federal law six years ago, and despite his obvious distaste for the procedure at issue. Instead, his questions suggested that he remained open to persuasion that the law placed doctors in legal jeopardy and imposed an unconstitutional burden on their patients’ right to terminate their pregnancies.

One example was his response to the assertion by Solicitor General Paul D. Clement that it was never necessary for doctors to use the banned procedure because a more common procedure, one not covered by the statute, “has been well tested and works every single time as a way to terminate the pregnancy.”

Justice Kennedy responded: “Well, but there is a risk if the uterine wall is compromised by cancer or some forms of pre-eclampsia and it’s very thin. There’s a risk of being punctured.”
Since Justice O'Connor was the fifth vote in the previous "partial-birth" abortion case, we're especially interested in any cues that might have come from Justice Alito, but he said nothing at all. Scalia was "unusually disengaged." Chief Justice Roberts was active:
At times, he appeared to be trying to bolster the defense of the statute by the solicitor general. At other times, the chief justice appeared eager to find differences between the federal law and the Nebraska law. Differences in the way the state and federal laws defined the procedure could be the basis for a decision that upholds the federal law without disavowing a recent precedent.
That sounds as though Roberts was looking for a minimalist theory for upholding the federal law, while perhaps Kennedy was looking for a minimalist way to provide the fifth vote for striking it down.

What Kennedy does is important, and I think the Democrats acquisition of control of the Senate makes it easier for him to assume the position previously occupied by Justice O'Connor and vote against the law. There will be outcry against Kennedy, but those who are opposed to abortion rights can no longer hope for new openings on the Court to fill with solid conservatives. With the new Senate, any new Justices are going to be judges who operate much like O'Connor and Kennedy.

"It is virtually 100 percent that Webb is going to win the race."

So says Chuck Schumer, but the NYT is treating the question of control of the Senate as unresolved:
Democratic Party officials and some news organizations, including MSNBC and The A.P., declared Mr. Webb the winner of the election with a margin of less than one-half of 1 percent out of more than 2.3 million ballots cast. A candidate can request a recount in Virginia if the vote difference is less than one percentage point.

State officials were conducting a rapid canvass of the vote as part of a formal certification of the result. They could be done by Thursday afternoon, officials said.

Members of the Allen camp said earlier in the day that they expected the review would cut into Mr. Webb’s lead, but stopped short of predicting that it would reverse the outcome.

Mr. Allen will speak as soon as the canvass is done, said a senior Allen adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The adviser made it clear that if the margin did not narrow significantly, Mr. Allen would not challenge the result.

“He has no intention of dragging this out,” the adviser said.
I was dreading recounts and charges of fraud and voting machine failures, so it's good that this is winding to a close quickly, even though it must be hard for people to absorb this much change.

What do I think about the Democrats taking over both houses of Congress? I don't have much feeling one way or the other. I mistrust both parties. I'm hopeful that the kinds of candidates the Democrats relied on to win -- people like Webb -- will transform the party and make it into something I can support.

"Is he stepping down? You bet. Does he admit defeat? Not by a long shot."

"Is the country going to miss the way he acted smarter than everyone else and often preempted media questions by interrogating himself as a rhetorical device? Sort of -- the way you might miss your father's spankings."

Losing Donald Rumsfeld -- the style perspective.

I always enjoyed his rhetorical style, but some people haaaated it. Like Calvin Trillin:
[H]e has been amazed at Rumsfeld's ability to be at once brashly know-it-all and disarmingly homespun. "It was a wonderful mixture of arrogance and 'Aunt Harriet' language" like goodness gracious, Trillin says. "I don't think anybody can match that."

... Trillin writes that Rumsfeld conducted his press briefings "as if trying patiently to explain the obvious to a class of slow third-graders. (Might you prefer to be briefed by someone less arrogant and condescending? Yes. Do we always get what we want? Of course not.)"
I like sharp, colorful characters on the public scene. But if you don't approve of what someone is doing, too much style is irritating as hell. Presumably, the new guy will present a blander image, part of the whole new program of making everybody feel better about everything.

Will the new guy do anything different? We shall see.

November 8, 2006

Echoes of last night's blogger party chaos.

"I say, why all the glum faces?"

The President cracks a joke to begin his press conference.

"'Utterly absurd.' Not to mention, utterly un-watchable."

The Columbia Journalism Review blog talks about the CNN blogger party (and quotes me):
[L]ast night CNN hosted a blogging party at Tryst, a cafe on 18th Street in Washington, D.C. The network was careful to invite bloggers from across the political spectrum...

Having crammed their blogger petri dish with crabby pundits of every stripe, CNN producers throughout the night broke away from their otherwise excellent election coverage to wade into the blogging abyss at Tryst. There, surrounded by the dim glow of laptops, bloggers offered CNN cameras loads of dubious wisdom. Occasionally, the cameras would pan across the room, capturing the magic of bloggers in action -- essentially, people typing.

All of which proved, once again, that the act of writing a scorching blog post looks no different on camera than the act of writing the world's most mind-numbing inter-office memo. And neither makes for good television -- a fact that at least one blogger who attended the Tryst party owned up to this morning.

"Waking up this morning in my quiet hotel room, I realize how insanely hard it was to try to watch the election returns at that blogger party at Tryst," writes Ann Althouse. "The notion that we were in some way bringing you the news is utterly absurd."

Not to mention, utterly un-watchable.
Could it have been good television? I think there was a different path that could have been taken, but that is probably not what CNN would dare to do. The party atmosphere was beautifully staged, but to the extent that we were there to be blogging, it falls flat. We're just typing. Plus, the party is wildly distracting. How are you supposed to write or even perceive things that you can write about? I think we should have been miked and monitored, not interviewed and not seriously expected to write anything on the spot. Collect us in a room as bloggers, but then show us in something more like a reality show style. There actually were a lot of great conversations going on, and I think would have been cool and different to eavesdrop on us.

I'm back.

Hi, everyone. I'm back from Washington, with a class to teach in a couple minutes, but I just wanted to drop a post here in case you wanted to start talking about the Rumsfeld resignation, the knife's edge split in the Senate, what the task for the Democrats is now, and other post-election things.

UPDATE: Class is over. Now, I'd really like to see what you folks have been writing. I have over 400 unread comments. Time to speed read.

"Quite damaging, wide-reaching, nefarious and mean-spirited."

Reactions to Wisconsin's "yes" vote on the marriage amendment.
Crystal Hyslop, 55, of Madison, helped rally Fair Wisconsin volunteers for a final late-afternoon push of canvassing... [She] said she's been with her female partner for 26 years. Before Tuesday's results were known, she said she would "just be devastated" if the measure passed. "The first thing I'll think is, 'Why do they hate me?'"

[Julaine Appling, president of the Vote Yes campaign,] said supporters of the ban don't hate gay people.

"For us, this amendment was not personal," she said. "This was about protecting the institution of marriage that we will collectively hand down to the next generation. We didn't see Fair Wisconsin or the individuals comprising it as our enemy, and we do not see them as second-class citizens."

She said she was proud that her side "never fell prey to bashing" people.

ADDED: But it looks as though the gay marriage ban may fail in Arizona. Imagine that! Arizona getting out in front of Wisconsin. So much for the progressive tradition. I just noticed that news via Instapundit, where I'm also seeing that Michigan has voted down affirmative action. After all that litigation defending affirmative action, the people say no.

What happened last night?

Waking up this morning in my quiet hotel room, I realize how insanely hard it was to try to watch the election returns at that blogger party at Tryst. The notion that we were in some way bringing you the news is utterly absurd. We were struggling to watch it -- hear it -- on TV, something you could do not only more directly -- that's always the case -- but also more easily. To be on camera, under the lights, in the middle of a whirl of activity, expected to perform on cue the way you ordinarily perform naturally in the privacy of your home... oh no! The obvious analogy is to a porno movie!

But now, able to read the news in this calm setting, I see in a glance what I was struggling to see all night:
Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives and defeated at least four Republican senators yesterday, riding a wave of voter discontent with President Bush and the war in Iraq.

But the fate of the Senate remained in doubt this morning, as races for Republican-held seats in Montana and Virginia remained too close to call as Election Day turned into the day after. Democrats would need both seats to win control of the Senate as well.

In Montana, Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican, was trailing Jim Tester, a Democrat, by a narrow margin. The race in Virginia — between another Republican incumbent, Senator George Allen, and Jim Webb, his Democratic challenger — was so close that some officials said it would have to be resolved by a recount.

That prospect could mean prolonged uncertainty over control of the Senate, since a recount can be requested only after the results are officially certified on Nov. 27th, according to the state board of elections. Last year a recount in the race for Attorney General was not resolved until Dec. 21.

But the Democrats’ victory in the House — overcoming a legendarily efficient White House political machine — represented a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the party and signaled a sea change in the political dynamics in Washington after a dozen years in which Republicans controlled Congress for all but a brief period.
That's through the eyes of Adam Nagourney. He's seeing drama. I love the way the Democratic victories count extra because there was a "legendarily efficient White House political machine" artificially boosting the Republican side. When the Republicans win -- don't you know? -- it's not because people actually want them to win, but because they have devious ways of jacking up the numbers. That way, if Democrats win even a modest margin, it's a dramatic turnaround, a sea change.

Perhaps it is better to party -- as on an Oscar night -- because the dribble-out of information is so slow. You want to be there, witnessing the news as it becomes available, even though you could read it in a few seconds the next day, but there's just not that much to see. Better to enrich the experience with a lively real-life room that minimizes your screen-staring time. I was there for 8 hours trying and failing to watch the news. I felt overwhelmed by the strange visual noise of two dozen bloggers hunched over laptops under looming, multiple, high-definition Wolf Blitzers striding alongside walls of blue supergraphics. My reaction was to move into the imagery. I couldn't think and analyze. Not at all. I dealt in pictures.

The crazy mix of dark and bright lighting blurred many of my photographs, giving them an expressionistic quality -- very James Ensor -- that reminds me now of how painterly my brain got last night:

Alex and Nick, blurred

TRex, blurred

To answer your question: I had only two small glasses of red wine.

Some folks were collecting Cosmopolitans while others -- notably Jeralyn Merritt here -- kept their writer's minds cooly centered in Language World:

Jeralynn is super-calm

I know. You're thinking: Who are the foreheads? The left-most forehead is Atrios -- Duncan Black -- who seems like a sweet guy. I had a little conversation with him in which I told him he reminded me of Madison blogger Jeremy Freese and that comedian Tom Bodett. Duncan didn't know who either of those guys were. The Easter-Islandish forehead in the lower right corner? I can't tell you who that is. If that's you, claim your forehead. Otherwise it's the Forehead of the Unknown Blogger. And lord knows what fervid thoughts roil therein.

And who are the blurry guys, you may ask. Picture 1 is Alex Pareene of Wonkette, wearing his "no Wonkette" T-shirt and waving a filtered cigarette about, and Nick Gillespie, of Reason Magazine and Hit & Run, who entertained me with his opinions, like about how there are only a small handful of cities left in America that are not culturally defunct. Madison, Wisconsin was culturally vital once, back around 1968. But since then and forever into the future, nothing. Picture 2 is TRex, who wrote about me on his blog -- Firedoglake -- after I blogged a (clear) picture of him last night. He said:
Ann Althouse came by a few minutes ago and took photos of me and John Amato. Amato was nice to her. I just growled under my breath and kept typing.
Ha ha. That's what I expected from half the bloggers: just growling and keeping on typing. It was actually surprising how un-socially-awkward most bloggers are. But thanks to TRex for embodying the stereotype I'd had in mind.

November 7, 2006

"In the grand Althouse plan, keeping everybody humble..."

Glenn Reynolds comments on the Lieberman victory.

You know, Lieberman is the only candidate I can identify with. And it's not as if I love him.

Everything feels very low key right now. I wonder what will happen in the next two years... other than that lots of folks will run for President... and we'll all look on and criticize. No one can possibly do that much in the new set up. The Democrats will be expected to do something -- a new direction! -- but what can they really do?

Ah! I'm very tired. I've been sitting on a hard chair for more than 7 hours, suffering from sensory overload and an ineffective grasping at creativity. It's hard to think here. It's hard to be substantive... Numbers drift in.... you try to say something... But what can you say except there's that new number?

I'll have to rethink this tomorrow, but it seems to me that not much can happen in the next two years. The brakes are on everywhere. The watchword is "humility"... isn't it?

The Webb/Allen fight.

They're showing Webb up now in the Virginia Senate race. Personally, I like Webb. He's an interesting character.

The gay marriage ban passes...

... in Wisconsin.

"Mehlman looks worn out."

"Mehlman's a mess!" I exclaim at 11:34.

Man, that high definition TV is merciless.

Talk to Wonkette.

It's Alex Pareene, AKA Wonkette:

Talk to Wonkette

Other really cool people in this picture are -- left to right -- CNN's Jacki Schechner, Wonkette's Liz Gorman, and -- with that white wine -- the formidable Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine.

"Look at the graphic!"

I say, laughing at the graphic: "Democrats win the house." It's a 40-foot swirl.

"CNN, tell us how you really feel," my tablemate Stephen Warley says.

The women bloggers.

Me, Christy Hardin Smith (of Firedoglake), and Jeralynn Merritt (of Talkleft):

Bloggers at Tryst

Bloggers at Tryst

"The connection's working better..."

I say. (We've been having slow internet service all night.)

"You know why?" Stephen Warley says. "People have been..." He does the universal gesture for drinking.

Tryst pics.

Blogging the election

Blogging the election

The Firedoglake/Crooks & Liars sofa.

Here's TRex (of Firedoglake) and John Amato (of Crooks & Liars), blogging away. They seem pretty friendly. One is much more outgoing than the other.

Bloggers

In the background are Betsy Newmark and Lorie Byrd, with John from Americablog in the middle.

Approaching the ultimate in self-referentialty.

Blogging bloggers on tv on tv.

Photographing and blogging the photographs of the TV coverage of the blog party at the blog party.

ADDED: You know, you can watch all this on the CNN "pipeline."

Wait! Forget the election!

Britney Spears is divorcing Kevin Federline!

... I just realized I'm on camera... looking like a blogger blogging about the election, but I'm blogging about Britney Spears, ha ha, no one knows...

The cameraman startled me when I glanced over and saw the camera a foot and a half from my face. He's really good at sneaking into a space and getting a shot. Either that or I'm so absorbed while blogging that I lose touch with the real world. Here's a picture of the ace cameraman. They used a little clip of me on TV, which I saw. Made me laugh... I don't know why. Is it funny?

CNN cameraman

I'm here at Tryst with all the bloggers.

I got here late and found just about the last seat, next to Stephen Warley of Lost Remote.

See anyone you know?

Bloggers at Tryst

Bloggers at Tryst

Bloggers at Tryst

Whether I can think here or not... we shall see. I've met Betsy Newmark, Jeralyn Merritt, La Shawn Barber, Captain Ed, Scott Johnson...

Voted, blogging.

Voting was easy. There were only a couple cars in the church parking lot. (I vote at a church!) There was a voter leaving just as I was going in and he looked exactly like Dennis Kucinich. And no, you're wrong if you think all the men in Madison look like Dennis Kucinich. I made my way down the stairs to the gym/auditorium, past the guy who was selling brownies and cupcakes to benefit the church school, got in a short line, then realized it was the unregistered voters line, and walked right up to the table with no line at all. I marked my ballot, front and back, voting for a mixture of Republicans and Democrats, and against the marriage amendment and the death penalty. On the way out, I checked out the now long line of voters waiting to register on the spot. They were all about 20 years old.

So I got to the airport earlier than I thought I would, and now I'm having a nice club sandwich at the Great Dane Brewery and splurging on the $7 WiFi.

I'm off.

I've got to vote and then fly to Washington for that gathering of the bloggers, which can't be more arduous than wearing 100 pounds of T-shirts, can it? Here's a partial list of who will be there. I wonder who will be fun to meet and who will be boring or scary... and how much I'll tell you about what I find out.

Wearing 155 T-shirts at one time.

It's a record. And it looks really funny! (Remember, the YouTube still is the middle frame of the clip. So what you see there is the half-way point. It gets funnier than that.)



(Via Metafilter.)

Are married people too taken up with each other?

History prof Stephanie Coontz thinks we've become too dependent on marriage as our source for personal happiness and have neglected our other social relationships. Here's the historical background:
St. Paul complained that married men were more concerned with pleasing their wives than pleasing God. In John Adams’s view, a “passion for the public good” was “superior to all private passions.” In both England and America, moralists bewailed “excessive” married love, which encouraged “men and women to be always taken up with each other.”

From medieval days until the early 19th century, diaries and letters more often used the word love to refer to neighbors, cousins and fellow church members than to spouses. When honeymoons first gained favor in the 19th century, couples often took along relatives or friends for company. Victorian novels and diaries were as passionate about brother-sister relationships and same-sex friendships as about marital ties.

The Victorian refusal to acknowledge strong sexual desires among respectable men and women gave people a wider outlet for intense emotions, including physical touch, than we see today. Men wrote matter-of-factly about retiring to bed with a male roommate, “and in each other’s arms did friendship sink peacefully to sleep.” Upright Victorian matrons thought nothing of kicking their husbands out of bed when a female friend came to visit. They spent the night kissing, hugging and pouring out their innermost thoughts.

By the early 20th century, though, the sea change in the culture wrought by the industrial economy had loosened social obligations to neighbors and kin, giving rise to the idea that individuals could meet their deepest needs only through romantic love, culminating in marriage. Under the influence of Freudianism, society began to view intense same-sex ties with suspicion and people were urged to reject the emotional claims of friends and relatives who might compete with a spouse for time and affection.
And so married people turned to each other. To excess. This peaked in the 1950s, and after that, there was some healthy skepticism of the overly insular family. But somehow we're drifting back into an excessively marriage-focused way of living.

The problem, in Coontz's view, is not only that we deny ourselves the happiness to be found in friendships, but also that by expecting so much from one romantic relationship, we can put so much pressure on it that it breaks. What's worse, if the marriage was our source of happiness, we have nothing.

"For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure."

A NYT headline. Some text (from Adam Nagourney):
For a combination of reasons — increasingly bullish prognostications by independent handicappers, galloping optimism by Democratic leaders and bloggers, and polls that promise a Democratic blowout — expectations for the party have soared into the stratosphere. Democrats are widely expected to take the House, and by a significant margin, and perhaps the Senate as well, while capturing a majority of governorships and legislatures.

These expectations may well be overheated. Polls over the weekend suggested that the contest was tightening, and some prognosticators on Monday were scaling back their predictions, if ever so slightly....

Some Democrats worry that those forecasts, accurate or not, may be setting the stage for a demoralizing election night, and one with lasting ramifications, sapping the party’s spirit and energy heading into the 2008 presidential election cycle.
Hey, I kind of like the idea of everyone feeling like they lost! Keep everyone humble.
“Two years ago, winning 14 seats in the House would have been a pipe dream,” said Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic organization. Now, Mr. Bennett said, failure to win the House, even by one seat, would send Democrats diving under their beds (not to mention what it might do to all the pundits).

“It would be crushing,” he said. “It would be extremely difficult.”

[Political analyst Charlie] Cook put it more succinctly. “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide,” he said.
Wow, calm down people! It's just politics.

Argument tomorrow in the "partial-birth" abortion case.

David Savage details the case. Excerpt:
The replacement of O'Connor with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a conservative and a Catholic, has convinced many legal experts that the court is prepared to uphold stricter regulation of abortion....

After [Congress enacted the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act], federal judges in San Francisco, New York and Omaha conducted trials on lawsuits that sought to overturn it. They heard from doctors who teach in medical schools at Cornell, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Pittsburgh and UC San Francisco.

By the middle months of a pregnancy, doctors remove the fetus with surgical instruments, using the D&X method or the more common "dilation and evacuation," called a D&E. In that procedure, the doctor breaks apart the fetus before removing it from the uterus.

Experts told the three judges that the D&X procedure was not the only safe way to perform abortions after 20 weeks, but was safer than D&E in some cases, especially for women who have a damaged immune system or are in danger of hemorrhaging.

"Congress can 'find' that the moon is made of green cheese. That doesn't make it so," Dr. Nancy Stanwood, who teaches obstetrics at the University of Rochester, said in a recent interview. "When you're doing surgery, shorter and faster is better. If an intact extraction is possible, it's preferable."...

Dr. Jill Vibhakar, who teaches obstetrics at the University of Iowa and performs abortions at an independent clinic in Iowa City, is a plaintiff with Carhart in the suit before the court. She said the justices face the same issue Wednesday that they did when they threw out the Nebraska ban [in Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000].

"Nothing has changed recently in medical practice. The only thing that has changed is that a moderate female justice has been replaced by a conservative male justice," Vibhakar said.
The National Review has an editorial on the subject. Let's see how seriously it takes the central legal problem presented in the case, which is the comparative danger of the D&E. (Both the D&X and the D&E are gruesome and kill the fetus.)
Nobody has ever shown an instance in which a partial-birth abortion was necessary to save the life or health of a woman. The most defenders can show is that there may be instances in which individual abortionists may decide that it is the safest method of abortion.

The sophisticated case is the one made by Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and in lower courts by, among others, Judge Richard Posner. The argument is that nothing morally distinguishes partial-birth abortions from other methods of abortion in the second and third trimester. What difference could it make to a fetus, these jurists ask, whether its feet are in or out of the womb when it is killed? The bans are irrational.

This argument has some force, but even more chutzpah. The Supreme Court, with the eager assent of all of these jurists, has declared that the child within the womb can have no protection. The mother has a right to kill it at any time it is within her. The ban on partial-birth abortion is an attempt to mark an outer boundary to this right.

If that boundary is to fall, one could, with equal force, ask what difference it makes to a child whether it is killed within the womb or entirely outside it. One could, that is, use the Court-enforced legality of late-term abortion to construct a right to infanticide. Surely some abortionist somewhere could be found who would conclude that it is safer for the mother to remove the child entirely from her womb before dealing the fatal blow.
That's shifting the subject. You have to face the fact that breaking up the fetus within the uterus creates dangerous fragments. I understand that a lot of people find both procedures monstrous. But as long as the woman has a right to an abortion, how can government deny her what is the safer of two procedures?

"Will a Democratic victory in today's election suddenly restore the integrity of America's political system...?"

Lawprof John O. McGinnis looks at two books that say American democracy is broken and thinks what he's seeing are two authors who don't like who's winning the elections these days:
In "Does American Democracy Still Work?" Alan Wolfe answers his own question with something equivalent to: if so, just barely and badly at that. For him, American democracy is in radical decline. Americans no longer get the information they need to make decisions properly, and politicians are no longer held accountable for the decisions they make in office. Emotional populist appeals, he believes, block out important facts....

In "Our Undemocratic Constitution," Sanford Levinson locates the flaws of the system in America's founding document itself--the Constitution....

He contends that the Electoral College, the Senate, the presence of two legislative chambers and the presidential veto all detract from "real" democracy. The Electoral College and the Senate give an unfair advantage to voters in less populous states; the requirement that both House and Senate approve of a bill makes it harder to fashion new law, and the veto makes it harder still, privileging the status quo.

Of course, the Constitution's design has a purpose--to make democracy republican and not "direct," to slow it down, lest wayward passions push the country too violently in one direction or another. Time seems to have vindicated the Framers' wisdom on such matters.... Mr. Levinson does not come close to showing why it would be prudent to rebuild this framework and put its redesign up for grabs.

Speaking in tongues, now, with brain imaging.

But what does it mean?
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior....

“The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg.... “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said....

The new findings contrasted sharply with images taken of other spiritually inspired mental states like meditation, which is often a highly focused mental exercise, activating the frontal lobes.

The scans also showed a dip in the activity of a region called the left caudate. “The findings from the frontal lobes are very clear, and make sense, but the caudate is usually active when you have positive affect, pleasure, positive emotions,” said Dr. James A. Coan, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “So it’s not so clear what that finding says” about speaking in tongues.

The caudate area is also involved in motor and emotional control, Dr. Newberg said, so it may be that practitioners, while mindful of their circumstances, nonetheless cede some control over their bodies and emotions.
I'd like a little more analysis and contrasting opinion in this article, which reads too much like a press release from Dr. Newberg. For example: Are these brain patterns similar to dreaming?

"Saddam's fury as hell awaits."

A Daily News headline.

November 6, 2006

In the transgender vanguard.

New York City is considering letting individuals change the sex listed on their birth certificates. No sex reassignment surgery is required:
Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent....

The change would lead to many intriguing questions: For example, would a man who becomes a woman be able to marry another man? (Probably.) Would an adoption agency be able to uncover the original sex of a proposed parent? (Not without a court order.) Would a woman who becomes a man be able to fight in combat, or play in the National Football League? (These areas have yet to be explored.)

CORRECTION: I had the wrong link before. Sorry!

"The most sophisticated right-wing reactionary to run on a Democratic ticket since Grover Cleveland."

It's Jim Webb!
Webb's trick is to adapt this history of white folk to the categories of contemporary multiculturalism. He turns liberalism's assumptions of ethnic grievance and victimization to the service of people who, in more conventional accounts, have themselves been seen as the victimizers. Webb rails against "the wielders of cultural power such as Hollywood, academia, and major media [who] chip away at the core principles that have defined the traditions and history of [Scots-Irish] people." And now his people are fighting back. "In a society obsessed with multicultural jealousies, those who cannot articulate their ethnic origins are doomed to a form of social and political isolation. My culture needs to rediscover itself, and in doing so to regain its power to shape the direction of America." Using diversity dogma to put the white man back on top--it is a marvelous inversion...

[T]he use of multiculturalism to advance the ethnic interests of white people, and the use of warrior rhetoric to discredit the Bush administration's war--might be extremely valuable to Democrats, if they knew what they were doing.

But that's never a safe bet. Webb's right-wing populism and the liberalism of today's Democratic party make for an abrasive fit...
Yes... but isn't that a good thing? I find myself rooting for Webb. I want to see what he will do to the Democrats, who are so deeply invested right now in what he might do for them.

Voting and blogging.

Tomorrow is a voting day and a blogging day. As you probably know, I've accepted getting ensconced in a coffeehouse with a couple dozen political bloggers.

It's funny. I described it to a colleague today, and he just couldn't understand what we could possibly write if all we were doing was watching TV like everybody else. Everyone is watching the same thing, so what are you writing? I had to say, you know, I don't even think about that. I always figure there will be something for me to see and describe that will be different.

But it's a good question. Fortunately, I'm not letting that good question spook me. At the very least, I'll be able to observe the other bloggers.

You know it's very strange to be stuck in a room on election night with people who have different preferences. I'm thinking CNN has a secret plan for us. Of course, they are saying that they want to use our text, our insights. And it's easy to see that we add a hip, cool edge for them. And, of course, we'll all link, essentially to ourselves, and send traffic to their site.

But there's this other thing. We're rats in a cage. We are being subjected to an experiment.

We're very passionate folk, we might kind of hate each other, and the inflow of election results will stress us out. The night will wear on. Who knows how we will act? And CNN's cameras will be trained on us the whole time. I know I'm going to be scrutinizing the scene and describing and commenting. But I'm also one of the scrutinized. What's that going to be like? I've been trying to picture it. And, basically, I'm prepared.

But I'm also relying on you, dear readers. Comment. Email. Give me tips on things to blog about and let me know how my little cage looks from out there.

See, it's not all about the election today.

There was naked man arrested for concealed weapon.

Now, suddenly, I feel free to post about anything.

Thanks, Naked Man!

"Naked man arrested for concealed weapon."

That happened.

"Soldiers in Iraq Say Pullout Would Have Devastating Results."

That's the headline for this Washington Post article. Excerpt:
Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.

"Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it would become a free-for-all," said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, who commands the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment just south of Baghdad. "It would be a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war."...

"Pulling out now would be as bad or worse than going forward with no changes," [Capt. Jim Modlin, 26, of Oceanport, N.J.,] said. "Sectarian violence would be rampant, democracy would cease to exist, and the rule of law would be decimated. It's not 'stay the course,' and it's not 'cut and run' or other political catchphrases. There are people's lives here. There are so many different dynamics that go on here that a simple solution just isn't possible."...

"This is a worthwhile endeavor," said Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Multinational Division North and the 25th Infantry Division. "Nothing that is worthwhile is usually easy, and we need to give this more time for it to all come together. We all want to come home, but we have a significant investment here, and we need to give the Iraqi army and the Iraqi people a chance to succeed."...

Capt. Mike Lingenfelter, 32, of Panhandle, Tex., said that U.S. troops have earned the trust of residents in Tall Afar over the past couple of years and that leaving now would send the wrong message. His Comanche Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment is working with Iraqi forces to give them control of the city.

"We'll pull their feet out from under them if we leave," Lingenfelter said.

"It's still fragile enough now that if the coalition were to leave, it would embolden the insurgents. A lot of people have put their trust and faith in us to see it to the end. It would be an extreme betrayal for us to leave."

It would be an extreme betrayal for us to leave.

Captain Ed comments:
We have heard a lot from the Democrats in this election season about supporting the troops by withdrawing them from Iraq. Terms like "phased redeployment" and "event horizon" have been thrown around by critics of the war. However, the people that will have to execute those maneuvers do not have much enthusiasm for them....

Do I have to remind you once again that I've been a lifelong Democrat? I would like to be able to vote for what was my party, but I am opposed to them on what they have made their defining issue. I fail the litmus test.

"The Democrats appear to be content with losing [the war]."

A hot exchange:
“To pull out, to withdraw from this war, is losing, there’s no question about it,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee [on “Meet the Press”]. “The Democrats appear to be content with losing.”

[Rahm] Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, turned sharply toward Mrs. Dole, his face lined with outrage.

“You should take that back, Senator,” he said. But Mrs. Dole kept speaking over him, creating a minute of partisan cacophony on the television set.

“I will not sit idly by with an accusation that Democrats are content with losing,” Mr. Emanuel said.
Here's the clip:



I like the way Dole stands her ground. I find it annoying, but I admire that, especially in a woman. We risk more being annoying and standing our ground, you know. People think a woman won't lock on and hold like that. Russert tried to shake her off as soon as she started, to give the floor to Emanuel to deny the accusation. But she had the presence of mind not to let that happen to her. She's not the good little girl the boys think they can demand at will.

Spinning the Saddam death sentence.

From the WaPo:
Speaking in the shadow of Air Force One on a Texas tarmac and at later campaign events, Bush called the verdict a "landmark event" in Iraq's transition to democracy, and aides hoped it would be seen as vindication of his decision to go to war. Democrats were quick to agree that justice had been done for a vicious tyrant but argued it would not fix what they see as the debacle in Iraq.
The rhetoric fell into place instantly. The moves were so obvious. But which characterization of the event resonates more for you? Same position you were already in, right? The question is whether anyone's position is changed by the new material.
The timing of the verdict, which had been scheduled weeks ago, stirred anxiety among Democrats who worried it could be a "November surprise" that would persuade Republicans to turn out, much as the release of an Osama bin Laden tape just before the 2004 election was credited with helping to put Bush over the top. Some voiced suspicions that the Bush administration had orchestrated the court schedule to influence the vote, a contention the White House rejected.
Oh, yeah, show your paranoia. American voters love to put their trust in paranoids.

"The most amazing thing was the fact that he was able to deliver it all in a way that the masses could relate to it."

"It" is Pakistan's transvestite talk show, delivered by Ali Saleem -- aka Begum Nawazish Ali:
Flirting and skirting her way through politics, society gossip and plain old sexual chemistry, Begum has become the most popular icon to inundate Pakistani fantasy in a while.

How is this possible in Pakistan where what is acceptable behaviour from female actors is still largely determined conservative Islamic values?
It's possible, apparently, through this particular individual's personality and talent.

What about the politics?
Ali [says] "our politicians have been destroyed under a well thought campaign", adding "I want them to be popular again".

Furthermore, he says that the military - such a powerful influence in Pakistan - have been deliberately kept out of the show.

"I believe that democracy is the only option for us, and this is my contribution to the cause," Ali says determinedly.

He also wants to show what kind of country Pakistan really is, in contrast to the 'Terrorism Central' nation that it is often portrayed as.

"And I will do it," Begum exclaims and, smiling seductively, adds "after all who can resist me?"

November 5, 2006

"A 23-year old named Ali in western Baghdad ... was playing with a PlayStation video game to take his mind off the day’s events."

Oh, no! It's the dreaded Sunni reaction to the death sentence for Saddam Hussein. I'd heard it was going to be horribly chaotic and violent, but this, this is terrible. I mean, I'm assuming it's a pretty violent PlayStation game, probably. Don't you think?

Said Ali:
"It’s just like a comedy play... We’re not surprised."

Perhaps he was seething.

"The most miserable, neurotic and obsessive collection of individuals he had ever met."

That's a description of the students at Georgetown Law School, attributed to Jim Webb (the Democratic candidate for Senator in Virginia). Here's the TimesSelect link to the David Brooks column where I found that.

It's a good column, describing Webb's attitudes:
He began to see an America riven by a social divide. On the one side were people like himself: tough, independent, hard-working traditionalists who know how to shoot, fight and endure; and on the other side were what he has at various times called the “drug-drenched,” “sex-enshrined” narcissists, who cower in their parochial elite enclaves and pass judgment on everybody else.

Webb named his son after Robert E. Lee, and wrote a book, “Born Fighting,” which is a full-throated defense of “Rednecks. Trailer-park trash. Racists. Cannon fodder. My ancestors. My people. Me.”...

“For the last 50 years,” he wrote in “Born Fighting,” “the Left has been doing everything in its power to sue them, legislate against their interests, mock them in the media, isolate them as idiosyncratic, and publicly humiliate their traditions. ...”

Jewish culture produces a lot of lawyers, Webb has argued, but Scots-Irish culture produces fighters, and he has spent his life defending the interests and values of these manly, individualistic, brawling populists. He’s criticized affirmative action and women in combat. He at one time opposed the Vietnam memorial, which seemed to rebuke the warrior virtues. “Watching the white phallus that is the Washington Monument piercing the air like a bayonet, you feel uplifted,” he said. But the “degrading ditch” of the Vietnam memorial seemed to do no such thing.
So why is Webb running as a Democrat?

Can you imagine how the Democrats would rake him over the coals for saying these things if he'd happened to run as a Republican? "Degrading ditch" as the opposite of a phallus? A "white phallus," no less. And you know what color the "degrading ditch" is. I don't have to spell out what they'd be saying about him. "My people"... "racists." Yeeze! And all those "miserable, neurotic" folks at Georgetown...

You might guess he chose to run as a Democrat precisely because if he'd run as a Republican, the Democrats would have destroyed him with material like this. But what's the next step? What happens if he wins? Per Brooks:
So the Democratic Congressional delegation that convenes next year will be different from the ones we’ve seen. It will feature ideologically and culturally diverse people who cannot be silenced or reduced to lockstep party loyalists...

[W]e may be about to learn if the party of Nancy Pelosi can make room for the Jim Webbs of the world. We’ve already learned that the party of George Bush and Tom DeLay did a terrible job making room for its own mavericks and moderates.
I can already hear the true-blue Democratic bloggers yelling: No fair! You see that we're about to win so you're staking your claim to our victory.

When dolphins walked the earth.

50 million years ago, dolphins and whales -- they say -- were four-legged creatures lumbering about like hippos. And now, they seem inclined to evolve those legs again. Scary!

(You don't think dolphins are scary? You need to listen to this, about the evil version of Flipper: Zipper. "Oh, Zipper's surly. He is uncaring.")

Posing with the suicide bomber.

People keep sending me this picture of University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann standing next to a student dressed as a suicide bomber at a Halloween party. (She's dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch.) As you know, I hold people to account for the way they pose at festive events. But I am not going to slam Gutmann for this. Her mistake, only really visible in retrospect, was giving a costume party for students. The lesson of this incident is utterly clear: University administrators must never, never, never have a costume party ever again.

Once students are there and in costume, how could she single out one student to snub? If she had had time to think about it -- and now she says she didn't -- she might have considered that the young man would turn out to be a naive foreign student who meant well and was trying to get in the spirit of America's Halloween. Aren't you supposed to dress as someone evil?

By the way, it is exactly this sort of tolerance and unwillingness to offend a foreigner that Sasha Baron Cohen exploits in the big new hit comedy movie "Borat," which is apparently the funniest movie ever made or the greatest comedy of all time or something.

Bonus discussion question: How will "Borat" affect the election?

ADDED: Eugene Volokh defends Gutmann. (Evil characters for Halloween are the norm!) Glenn Reynolds responds. (Bet she wouldn't have posed with someone dressed as a Klansman!) Eugene responds to Glenn. Glenn "remain[s] skeptical." This interchange, which I read after I posted my observations, brings up the question whether university administrators are politically slanted in their tolerance. More important, I think if a student had arrived dressed as a Klansman, many guests at the party would have reacted vociferously. That student would never have reached the point where he could pose with the president. So what is notable in the Gutmann incident is not so much that she posed with the student, but that other party-goers accepted him into the group without protest. That says something about the political climate at the university.

A Harvard Law School seminar: "What to Wear in Winter Climates."

Seriously:
The seminar, requested by a student from Southern California, drew 62 participants, including students from Iran and India. Hot cider, hot chocolate, and snowflake cookies were served.
At the same link: Middlebury College, with funding from two anonymous donors, is naming a professorship for Chief Justice Rehnquist. There's some controversy over this, naturally:
"After all of Middlebury's talk of wanting to be more friendly and more aware of the needs and rights of minority rights, naming this chair was a big step backward, said Tamara Vatnick , a senior and co president of the Open Queer Alliance, one of several student groups that has protested. Rehnquist, while on the court, opposed affirmative action and supported the dismantling of school desegregation orders.

But:
President Ronald D. Liebowitz defended the professorship, funded by two anonymous donors, saying, "As a jurist, he was conservative, and his politics are not my politics, perhaps, but we are recognizing his great service."
And those great donors.

"People danced and cheered on the street."

Saddam Hussein receives the death sentence.
For many Iraqis, the verdicts represented a moment of triumph and catharsis after decades of suffering under Mr. Hussein's tyrannical rule.

In spite of an intense security clampdown that barred vehicles and pedestrians from the street, public celebration erupted around Iraq. People danced and cheered on the street, sounded car horns and fired guns into the air, a standard gesture of celebration here. Iraqi and American security forces were bracing for a violent reaction among Mr. Hussein's armed supporters, who constitute a significant corps within the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. Iraq's security forces were put on high alert beginning Saturday night and an American fighter plane continuously circled high above the city.