January 12, 2008

Ronald Reagan!

"This Supreme Court is quite clearly the enemy of progressivism.... What is to be done?"

Writes Reed Hundt at TPM Café.

What is to be done? ... there's a phrase.

Hundt goes on:
Congress can launch legislative remedies against much, although not all, of what this Court does. It also can expand access to courts, use the Senate confirmation process to challenge anti-progressive nominations, couple judicial salaries with retirement so as to encourage a new and young generation of law professors to go to the bench.

Mostly, Congress can rise to the challenge posed by this Supreme Court to the American Dream. In an age of rising inequality and irresponsible governance, it is critical that Congress not tolerate the Court's roadblocks to progress.
What got into him? Apparently, he's exercised over the voter ID case, which was argued in the Supreme Court this week. Predictions are that the Court won't stop Indiana from requiring a photo ID. (Yes, I know it's a dispute between two political parties, but Indiana made its choice, and it's not unconstitutional.)

Meanwhile, over on Andrew Sullivan's blog, we see a "Dissent of the Day" from a reader who won't vote for Obama because Obama voted against the confirmation of John Roberts, who was "clearly an outstanding candidate, perhaps one of the best ever nominated."

This makes me look back to what I said at the time of the confirmation:
As to those 22 Democrats who voted no, they have openly embraced an ideological view of the Court from which they can never credibly step back. For them, appointing Supreme Court Justices is a processes of trying to lock outcomes in place, and we shouldn't believe them if in the future they try to say otherwise.

[In my comments persona] Roberts is ... stunningly, brilliantly qualified. You can't vote against what he is without permanently branding yourself an ideologue who does not respect judicial independence. I'm disgusted with all 22 of those characters. They have abused their constitutional power, and I won't forget it when they run for President.

ADDED: Here's a letter the NYT published about the case (from one Mark Kraemer):
That the court would even consider validating these new, onerous voter ID rules exposes the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court today (whatever happened to “judicial restraint”?). It also illustrates that Republican partisanship has infested our legal system at its highest levels. Our nation must act in the next election to fight this corruption of our judiciary.
Whatever happened to judicial restraint?! (And I know why you put it in quotes. You think it's a smokescreen for conservative decisions.) Judicial restraint is about leaving the results of the political process in place, which is exactly what would happen if the Court declined to strike down the state law. So where's the hypocrisy? Corruption? What on earth are you talking about, and why does the NYT publish drivel like that?

"Portuguese opera stars, dressed as vacuum cleaners, singing in English..."

"... about conquering the world."

IN THE COMMENTS: Our house ghost, Sir Archy pays a visit:
Spectatum admissi risum teneatis?

To Professor Althouse.


As the Ghost of a Person dead these 250 Years and more, you may imagine the Vagaries of Taste & Fashion to which I have been Witness. Nowhere is the World chang'd more sensibly than in the noble Art of Musick. In my Day, we thought harmonis'd Musick sweet; whereas the Present World seems continually bath'd in a Cacophony fitter to the Cataract at Niagra, than to sooth and ennoble the Soul of a rational Person.

So it is among the infinite Varities of Musick at the present Time, there are several that may be known as 'Contemporary Classical,' or 'Serious Musick,' or, to the Connoisseur, simply 'Modern Musick.' I will not play the Etymologist, and try Definitions of these upon your tiring Readers; suffice it to say that Musick of these Kinds will be fitt'd out with all manner of Squeaks, Honks, Knocks & Groans, not to mention every odd Thing that may be play'd upon any & all Instruments that Ingenuity may furnish.

I suppose, Madam, that I should be gratified that the Opera, irrational Entertainment as it may be, hath persisted from my Day to this. What are we suppos'd to make, then, of Operas, which were a bad enough Pastime in my Youth, now gone from the harmlessly Ridiculous to a Degree of Absurdity that only a Madman could compass? The Example you quote, Madam, seems to have been written by an Inmate of some Latter-Day Bedlam, but without, perhaps, the Common Sense of many a Lunatick I remember from that Institution. That an Opera may be written after the Manner of Modern Musick mentioned above, fill'd with Shrieks instead of Song, must be either a Sign of Madness, a Comick Pose, or, what is worse, that the Composer is pretending to a Humourous Irony.

The Portuguese are a lugubrious Nation. So it may be that, not having a form'd Taste for the refinements of Satire, they mistake what is Silly for Wit. That Monty Python have caus'd many Another to do so, may have lent Weight to the Pretense that, like the famous uncloath'd Chinese Emperor, Mr. Jones may be a Composer.

Before I close, Madam, I should like to quote Mr. Addison, writing in the Sixth Number of the Spectator, on Mynheer Handel's Opera of Rinaldo:

An Opera may be allowed to be extravagantly lavish in its Decorations,
as its only Design is to gratify the Senses, and keep up an indolent
Attention in the Audience. Common Sense however requires that there
should be nothing in the Scenes and Machines which may appear Childish
and Absurd. How would the Wits of King Charles's time have laughed to
have seen Nicolini exposed to a Tempest in Robes of Ermin, and sailing
in an open Boat upon a Sea of Paste-Board? What a Field of Raillery
would they have been let into, had they been entertain'd with painted
Dragons spitting Wild-fire, enchanted Chariots drawn by Flanders
Mares, and real Cascades in artificial Land-skips?

What a Field, indeed, had they my ghostly Fortune to be entertain'd by singing Kitchen Implements and dancing Auto-Mobiles.

Sensible of the Difficulties of Anyone who would play the Musick Critick,

I remain, Madam,

Your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Changing hotels in Cassis.

Nino saves the day for Nina in France.

And scroll down — she went to Warsaw in January too. Nina has some strange mania — I can't understand it — for going places way out of season. Is it the light, perhaps, for the photographs? I've noticed that bright sunlight is almost always terrible. Or is it something about the animal behavior? Look at that peacock on a park bench, and check out the ears on that red squirrel.



Who knows what the connection is between delicate stone animals and a bank on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn?

ADDED: Wouldn't it be cool if the carvings around the door to a bank were of dollar signs and money bags?

When I saw this I realized something I've discovered over and over.


That there are always details that you've never noticed, even on your most familiar walk. Here I was, walking down Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights, and I'd never really seen that before. So I pushed myself to do that thing I do sometimes — I need a word for it — requiring myself to find one thing after another that I've never noticed before....


To prove to myself that it is always possible to see something new...


... something beautiful.

57. Is there anything interesting about it?

When I tried to think of what was interesting about 57 — I happen to have just turned 57 — the first thing I thought was that it seems like a prime number, but as soon as you test — 3 works — you see that it's not. Consulting Wikipedia, I see that thinking about 57 as a prime number when it's not has a distinct history (PDF):
[Alexandre] Grothendieck had a mathematical style all his own.... [I]t seemed completely different and new. But it is hard to articulate what the difference was....

Although Grothendieck approached problems from a very general point of view, he did so not for generality’s sake but because he was able to use generality in a very fruitful way....

One striking characteristic of Grothendieck’s mode of thinking is that it seemed to rely so little on examples. This can be seen in the legend of the so-called “Grothendieck prime”. In a mathematical conversation, someone suggested toGrothendieck that they should consider a particular prime number. “You mean an actual number?” Grothendieck asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual prime number. Grothendieck suggested, “All right, take 57.”

But Grothendieck must have known that 57 is not prime, right? Absolutely not, said David Mumford of Brown University. “He doesn’t think concretely.” Consider by contrast the Indian mathematician Ramanujan, who was intimately familiar with properties of many numbers, some of them huge. That way of thinking represents a world antipodal to that of Grothendieck. “He really never worked on examples,” Mumford observed. “I only understand things through examples and then gradually make them more abstract. I don’t think it helped Grothendieck in the least to look at an example. He really got control of the situation by thinking of it in absolutely the most abstract possible way. It’s just very strange. That’s the way his mind worked."
Strange, how minds work. I think there is a similar divergence of minds in law and in politics, but it's so nicely clear in that contrast of the mathematical minds, Ramanujan and Grothendieck.

Lacking the subtle joy of living in a prime number year, I have the opportunity to see my life in segments, in this case, 3 segments of 19. (19 segments of 3 is not interesting.) The story of my life does, in fact, divide neatly into 19-year segments, not that I'm going to reveal why the first 2 19-year points look significant from the vantage point of the third. But will the fourth 19-year segment be different from the third? Will I have all 19 years? 19 beyond that? 19 beyond that? 19 beyond that? Surely, not 19 beyond that.

Sunrise with an X.

Sunrise with X

Is it a sign? It's the first thing I see when I open the blind this morning, my birthday.

ADDED: Ruth Anne started a little Althouse blog meme yesterday, and Simon contributes here.

AND: Blake continues the meme.

AND: Sean Wisnieski joins the meme.

January 11, 2008

Sunset with statue.

Sunset with Statue

"Hillary Clinton proposed a $70 economic stimulus package today that would help...."

Whoooa! Just a damned minute! 70 dollars! Take pity on the taxpayer, you crazy tax-and-spend Democrat!

Maybe it's like the butterfly effect. If you took $70 and spent it exactly the right way, it really would stimulate the economy. You just have to be really creative. Think about it. You have $70. How will you jump start the economy?

Blake says:
$70 to "jump-start" a trillion dollar economy.

If it were a little more, say, $7000, I could take some talking heads to a really nice lunch and change their minds.

But with $70 I'd open a cheap website (jumpstarttheeconomy.com) and encourage everyone to send me one dollar, which I would then spend on lottery tickets.

No...uh...I'd set up a pyramid. People like pyramid schemes, that's why MLMs and Social Security are so popular. I'd have plenty of money in no time, and so would the first two people under me who signed up.

An Edjamikated Redneck said:
70 bucks, huh?

I'd spend it at Walmart on books by conservative authors.

Walmart makes a few bucks and can hire another American, reducing both the unemployment figures AND reducing the roles of the uninsured by a family.

The conservative authors make a few bucks, and best of all, their books move a few points up the NYT bestseller list.

This is where I get the best bang for my $70; faced with multiple conservative writers in the top ten, the NYT has a conniption in the editorial pages and has to hire more editorialists, printers, distributors, buy more paper and presses, all stimulating the economy to well over my $70.

"We should have bombed it."

Said George Bush.

Are we seeing an ugly racial edge to the Clinton campaign?

Ben Smith writes at The Politico:
A series of comments from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her husband, and her supporters are spurring a racial backlash and adding a divisive edge to the presidential primary....

The comments, which ranged from the New York senator appearing to diminish the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement — an aide later said she misspoke — to Bill Clinton dismissing Sen. Barack Obama’s image in the media as a “fairy tale” — generated outrage on black radio, black blogs and cable television. And now they've drawn the attention of prominent African-American politicians....

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., through a spokesman, [said:] "Following Barack Obama's victory in Iowa and historic voter turnout in New Hampshire, the cynics unfortunately have stepped up their efforts to decry his uplifting message of hope and fundamental change...."...

Thursday, a key player in black South Carolina politics, Rep. Jim Clyburn, told The New York Times he’d consider endorsing Obama in response to what he considered a lack of respect in the Clinton campaign’s approach to Obama.

“For him to go after Obama, using a ‘fairy tale,’ calling him as he did last week. It's an insult. And I will tell you, as an African-American, I find his tone and his words to be very depressing,” said Donna Brazile, a longtime Clinton ally who is neutral in this race, on CNN earlier this week.
Of course, Obama supporters have a motivation to characterize things as racial that are not, and the Clinton campaign must be frustrated that it's hard to attack Obama, who seems to be getting a free pass. But I don't doubt that the Clintons will use whatever works for them. Insinuations — and even slip-ups — don't work, however, when so many people are so ready to detect racial content. So that is a safeguard against the Clintons stirring up racial prejudice against Obama.

And yet... they won in New Hampshire, doing whatever it is they did.

UPDATE: Bill Clinton went on Sharpton's radio show today:
"There's nothing fairy tale about his campaign. It's real, it's strong, and he might win," Clinton told Sharpton...

"It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war," Clinton said during the rally. He suggested Obama had moderated his anti-war stance during his 2004 Senate campaign.

"There's no difference in your voting record, and Hillary's, ever since," Clinton said. "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."....

Clinton told Sharpton the "fairy tale" remark was only intended to describe Obama's claim to have exercised better judgment about the war, and was not intended as a sign of "personal disrespect."

IN THE COMMENTS: Jeremy said:
The Clintons are nothing if not calculated. Could it be that they're trying to draw out the Sharpton/Jackson crowd? I think Barak has done really well without "Black Leadership's" prominent endorsement. That endorsement seems like it'd be a big turn off to a lot of white voters. Maybe the Clintons want the Sharpton/Jacksons to make some noise?

Freakin. I'm sounding too paranoid.

You can't demonstrate here. This is the Supreme Court.

81 people were arrested for demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court today.


Ruth Anne.

"(The brother and sister) met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction..."

Twins separated at birth meet and marry. The marriage is annulled when the truth is discovered, but it's interesting to see this assertion that that the attraction was "inevitable." Is there something about the close blood relationship that causes attraction, that we only deny because we've learned the incest taboo?
David Alton, a member of the House of Lords, revealed their situation as a way of highlighting perceived shortcomings in the Human Embryology and Tissues Bill which is now going through Britain's Parliament....

"I suspect that it will be a matter of litigation in the future if we do not make information of this kind available to children who have been donor-conceived."
Yes, there are an awful lot of half-siblings out there — the fruit of popular sperm donors — who are going to meet and feel this "inevitable" attraction.

IN THE COMMENTS: Diane writes:
If I discovered my husband was my brother, I'd find a way to hide it. I love my husband, and frankly, I'd be unwilling to give him up. Now, I wouldn't have biological children with him--I'm not that twisted.

Am I alone?

This suggests a follow-up question. If you knew that a happily married couple were — without knowing it — brother and sister, would you hide it from them?

"I think we're slipping toward a recession. A couple of people that I met on the street, they work in construction. They tell me it's slowed down."

Economic analysis, campaign style. That one's from Hillary Clinton, but it's not as if they don't all spout nonsense like that.

"Michigan Democrats should vote for Mitt Romney, because if Mitt wins, Democrats win."

Kos incites mischief. But how can he be so sure Mitt is good for Democrats? I'd come to think he would be the strongest choice for Republicans. Kos's theory:
If we can help push Mitt over the line, not only do we help keep their field fragmented, but we also pollute Romney's victory. How "legitimate" will the Mittster's victory look if liberals provide the margin of victory? Think of the hilarity that will ensue. We'll simply be adding fuel to their civil war, never a bad thing from our vantage point.
Because it's all a big game, right? A big funny game.
"Politics isn't a game. It's about people..."
Oh, that's Hillary. You want Hillary, or hilarity? Or maybe both.

Anyway, Kos's theory seems not to be that Mitt is the weakest Republican candidate, but that a fragmented field is bad. But look at last night's debate. All the serious candidates — i.e., everyone but Ron Paul — looked good and made each other interesting. I think if one candidate had a lock on the nomination, we'd focus on him and get tired of him. And the other party would know whom they needed to attack and they'd frame their own choices accordingly. And that guy would receive all the attacks. Really, Kos, are you at all thinking straight?

"Nothing ever upset Fred Thompson more than the story that he was considering dropping out to endorse McCain."

What lit a fire under Fred Thompson?

So Fred's good when riled. But do we want a President who needs riling to be good? I know you can say that somehow Fred would be good behind the scenes, and he only needs riling to be good in front of the camera, but don't we have to judge him by what we see?

By the way, the rightosphere clearly prefers Fred, according to this poll.

Andrew Sullivan is still touting Ron Paul.

From his wrap-up on last night's debate:
And, yes, thank God for Ron Paul.

No one else, except McCain, copped to the GOP's rank betrayal of fiscal conservatism, limited government, prudent foreign policy and civil liberties. When he was asked to disown the 9/11 Truthers, he gave a revealing answer, and one that reflects on the newsletters issue. It just isn't in his nature to adopt other people's views, or to tell anyone else what to believe or what to say. He doesn't just believe in libertarianism; he lives it. This means that he doesn't have the instinct to police anyone else's views or actions within the law or the Constitution.
Not even the instinct to stop other people from stamping his name on their crap?
I don't think it excuses his negligence in the past, but it does help me understand it better.
And then when you understand it — which seems to entail believing it — what to you say about his competence in a leadership position? Haven't you just conceded that libertarians don't belong in positions where they are supposed to be supervising the work of others?

IN THE COMMENTS: Toby writes:
In a libertarian world, [wouldn't] shame and ostracism be important tools? Sure, live & let live is fine if the guy next door wants to smoke pot, own a bunch of guns & live with his three girlfriends. But isn't the ability to condemn people [going to] be pretty important if the guy next door is holding Klan rallies or hosting NAMBLA meetings? Is it really a good character trait when one's first, instinctive reaction to such such things is to shrug & say it's not my business.

"I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace."

It snowed in Baghdad, where no one remembers ever seeing snow. Symbolism was perceived:
"It's a sign of hope. We hope Iraqis will purify their hearts and politicians will work for the prosperity of all Iraqis."

"Libertarians are incapable of being a racist, because racism is a collectivist idea."

"You see people in group. And a civil libertarian, like myself, see everybody as an important individual."

It's Ron Paul, responding the New Republic article about the odious Ron Paul newsletter. (Note: I transcribed that properly. Ron Paul really does have a strange way of mixing up singulars and plurals — at least — interesting! — when he's talking about whether people are individuals or groups.)

Isn't it funny to think that "libertarian" is a get-out-of-racism-free card? As long as you think of people as individuals, there's no way you could look at an individual, see that he's black, and make a negative assessment? And that's assuming that your official ideology actually does prevent you from thinking anything that doesn't fit the ideology. But how could one always think only of individuals? Even in that short clip, Ron Paul goes on to talk about how "blacks" should support him, because he wants to end drug law enforcement, which has put so many "blacks" in prison. He catches himself (at about 5:10) and refers to "the individual blacks who are being so unfairly thrown in prison." But we all know there are people who present themselves in mixed settings as libertarians, but are racists in private. The Ron Paul newsletter is evidence of that. Somebody wrote it. Somebody subscribed to it.

And I must fault Wolf Blitzer for not following up on why Ron Paul didn't do something to stop the newsletter from using his name. If he in fact repudiates what is in the newsletter — which he says in the clip — then why wasn't he outraged and vigilant about preventing his name from being damaged? Was he oblivious (and is he not therefore incompetent)?

(Video via Reason Magazine, where there is a long discussion thread already. I should, in this context, flag my own past dispute with some individuals at Reason over the way a libertarian ideology can function as a cover for racism. More here. By the way, that dispute involves some mockery of me for crying — and crying is in the news this week — what with Mrs. Clinton's emotional display — so I have a second reason for dredging up the old.)

ADDED: Matt Welch (of Reason) digs up Ron Paul's statements about the newsletter over the years.

Where would you rather be?

What would you rather look at? And can we philosophize about it?

A similar topic: Would you rather be beautiful or have a beautiful mate?

IN THE COMMENTS: "Middle Class Guy wins the 'Most Likely To Be Kucinich' award."

January 10, 2008

Another debate? Oh, okay. Let's watch.

But, first, the national anthem. I've never seen a debate begin like that.

UPDATE #1: McCain recirculates the same phrases over and over. I was a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. And the candidates all seem to be in a competition to say "Reagan" as often as possible.

UPDATE #2: Fred Thompson finally showed some vigor and got a big cheer — for lighting into Huckabee.

UPDATE #3: Ron Paul is asked about his supporters who believe in the 9/11 conspiracy. He says he doesn't believe it which is all that's important, and when pressed to tell his supporters to abandon it, he gets a little pissed and says "Please, can I participate in the current debate?"

UPDATE #4: Huckabee talks tough: Just try to attack us, and the next thing you'll see will be the Gates of Hell. That gets a big cheer.

UPDATE #5: Thompson tries to top Huckabee by saying they'll be "introduced to those virgins they're lookin' forward to seeing." (I've noticed Thompson doesn't take religion seriously. He jokes about it, acting as if the "virgins" belief is true. And in last Saturday's debate, he razzed Huckabee for saying he tried to get rid of death -- when he was a preacher. Thompson was all: Didn't work out too well, did it?)

UPDATE #6: McCain looks terribly pleased after he smacks down Giuliani over Iraq. (Giuliani tried to correct him by saying that he too supported the surge, but McCain's point was that he was the only one who was critical of the Rumsfeld strategy and in support of the surge.)

UPDATE #7: Thompson: "You can tell that the news is good coming out of Iraq because you read so little about it in the New York Times."

UPDATE #8: Romney is going to "move the world of Islam" into modernity. Romney makes a lot of hand gestures, here and elsewhere, demonstrating how he's going to manipulate and reshape everything. I have no idea if he can do this — I tend to doubt it — but I believe him when he says — as he often does — that he fixed the Olympics. Later, he tells us he's going to take Washington apart and put it back together again. It sounds very dramatic, and he makes those hand gestures, so... who knows?

UPDATE #9: Thompson seems to have gotten the message that he can't be lethargic. Finally.

UPDATE #10: Huckabee, asked about his support for the religious proposition that wives must submit to their husbands, says: "It has nothing to do with the presidency — I just wanted to clear up that little doctrinal quirk." And he clears it up well. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but husbands must submit to their wives. God wants both to give 100%. And so Huckabee was good natured about getting probed about religion and he got to make a strong statement in support of marriage, which thrills the crowd and — like he said — has nothing to do with the presidency.

UPDATE #11: Now, the debate's over, and we've got Frank Luntz and his focus group. I love this part. Wow! They overwhelmingly think Fred Thompson won.

UPDATE #12: The focus group loved the Thompson humor. But a couple of the women think he was "flippant." They name the loser too: Ron Paul.

"Hillary Clinton As A Gay Icon."

David Lat points to this 1999 article by Michelangelo Signorile.

ADDED: Based on some of the comments here, I can see I'd better clutter this post with some clues: 1. gay icon ≠ gay, 2. it's a compliment.

NOTE: Signorile's article is titled "Hillary: Viva la diva!"

Camille Paglia thinks Hillary Clinton has "a Nixonian reflex steeped in toxic gender bias."

Camille begins with a review of Hillary's family background. (You can bone up on the subject by reading Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge.") Hillary had a "harsh, domineering father" who abused her "feckless, loutish brothers," and she became "the barracuda who fought for dominance at their expense." Replaying that "ruthless old family drama," "Hillary could barely conceal her sneers" at last Saturday's debate. The other candidates looked like "the wimpy, cringing brothers at the dinner table."

This is rich. Let's read on:
Hillary's willingness to tolerate Bill's compulsive philandering is a function of her general contempt for men. She distrusts them and feels morally superior to them. Following the pattern of her long-suffering mother, she thinks it is her mission to endure every insult and personal degradation for a higher cause -- which, unlike her self-sacrificing mother, she identifies with her near-messianic personal ambition.

It's no coincidence that Hillary's staff has always consisted mostly of adoring women, with nerdy or geeky guys forming an adjunct brain trust. Hillary's rumored hostility to uniformed military men and some Secret Service agents early in the first Clinton presidency probably belongs to this pattern. And let's not forget Hillary, the governor's wife, pulling out a book and rudely reading in the bleachers during University of Arkansas football games back in Little Rock.

Hillary's disdain for masculinity fits right into the classic feminazi package...
So.... you're going to use the word "feminazi"?
...which is why Hillary acts on Gloria Steinem like catnip. Steinem's fawning, gaseous New York Times op-ed about her pal Hillary this week speaks volumes about the snobby clubbiness and reactionary sentimentality of the fossilized feminist establishment, which has blessedly fallen off the cultural map in the 21st century.
Note: Camille does not like the official feminists.
History will judge Steinem and company very severely for their ethically obtuse indifference to the stream of working-class women and female subordinates whom Bill Clinton sexually harassed and abused, enabled by look-the-other-way and trash-the-victims Hillary.
I strongly agree with that.
How does all this affect the prospect of a Hillary presidency? With her eyes on the White House, Hillary as senator has made concerted and generally successful efforts to improve her knowledge of and relationship to the military -- crucial for any commander-in-chief but especially for the first female one. However, I remain concerned about her future conduct of high-level diplomacy. Contemptuous condescension seems to be Hillary's default mode with any male who criticizes her or stands in her way. It's a Nixonian reflex steeped in toxic gender bias. How will that play in the Muslim world?
Go read the whole thing, but let me cut to the bottom line.

Paglia supports Barack Obama "because he is a rational, centered personality who speaks the language of idealism and national unity." This is similar to what Andrew Sullivan said — and, frankly, similar to some things I find myself thinking from time to time... when I'm not talking back to myself about what a disastrous delusion that might be.

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh is delighted by Paglia's attack on Clinton (member link):
Camille Paglia is one of the most brilliant arts professors. .... There's hardly a better writer out there, and her use of language, her turn of phrase... Her point here is that Hillary has no core values.... She stands for herself and whatever she has to do to get where she wants. It's just no more complicated than that....

This is Camille Paglia, a liberal, ladies and gentlemen, writing of Hillary Clinton, on Salon.com.

Intentional and accidental.

Writing before dawn, I keep my eye on the Manhattan skyline. I've been watching the effect of the sun on those reflective buildings for months. I've taken a lot of photographs of the same buildings, but — like Claude Monet looking at the Rouen cathedral — I keep thinking now, the light makes it different. When it does, I pick up the camera and go out on the terrace and take some more pictures of the same thing. This is what moved me today:

Manhattan skyline

But as I was picking up the camera and noticing I'd left it on, aiming at nothing, I clicked the button to test the battery. Later, I see it looks like this:

Accidental abstract

Which amuses me. I upload it and send to the flickr group ROTHKOesque.

Now, why should we read all the articles about why everyone was wrong about New Hampshire?

The reason there's this subject at all is because they were wrong before, so why should I care what they say now. This punditry is an absurd racket. First, they get to make mistakes — scribble, scribble, scribble, making mistakes. And then, that's their raw material for a whole new set of articles. They can look at anything that has already happened and purport to say why it happened. And who's to say they're wrong, since it happened and they've come up with reasons? But when it hasn't happened yet, and they exercise their facility to come up with reasons for things, it's embarrassing when the thing doesn't happen. Unchastened, they keep writing. They have to. They're pundits. But must I read it? The sheer dimension of the New Hampshire mistake has led to a flood of post-mistake writing, and I don't think I'm the only one looking at it from a distance and thinking I'd be a chump to read this. But then, I also think: I'm a pundit too. Shouldn't I get to work contributing to this flood? Don't I have some explaining to do? And you know whenever something needs explaining, I can come up with an explanation. Seriously, tell me something that didn't happen, and I think I could manufacture a reason why it would happen, if it did. Or do you have something better to do?

People are drinking way too much. Blame Crate & Barrell.

WaPo explains. The classic martini is 3 ounces, served in a glass no bigger than 5 ounces — the idea being to preserve the coldness through the entire sipping process.
Bette Kahn, spokeswoman for Crate and Barrel, tells me that "martini" glasses in the 11- to-13-ounce range are the store's bestsellers. When I ask why cocktail glasses have gotten so big, she retorts, "You know how they've supersized the McDonald's hamburger?"...

Even contemporary guidebooks such as A.J. Rathbun's comprehensive "Good Spirits," published a few months ago, acknowledge that traditional cocktails were served in glasses as small as three ounces. "A drink this size, it was thought, stayed chilled through its consumption," Rathbun writes. He even invokes the great Jazz Age bartender Harry Craddock's adage that a cocktail should be consumed quickly, "while it's still laughing at you."
Should we blame the businesses that accommodate to and enable our gluttony? We've lost the ability to perceive a portion size — and not just for martinis. In the 1960s, a normal drinking glass was 8 ounces. A juice glass was less than half that size, appropriate for the squeezed juice of one orange. You didn't slake your thirst with juice. And now, people apparently slake their thirst with martinis — or are those martini glasses mostly full of juice?

"My leaning toward Obama has a lot to do with his even temperament, his ability to listen, his powerful persuasive faculties and his judgment."

"My leaning toward Obama has a lot to do with his even temperament, his ability to listen, his powerful persuasive faculties and his judgment. Those are the qualities I look for in a president."

Andrew Sullivan talks about picking a President the way a lot of people talk about picking a Supreme Court Justice. I say things like that about picking a Supreme Court Justice — but only because the President has the appointment power and the President has been elected by the people. That is, ideology matters in a judge, and that's why the President can, should, and does take it into account when choosing a nominee for the Court, but as long as that nominee has the neutral credentials — judicial temperament, openness to argument, high skill in judgment and written expression — confirmation is appropriate. But how can we say the same about a President?

January 9, 2008

"He portrayed his campaign as a job application for president" with "ads that showed a bored interviewer unimpressed with his dazzling resume."

Well, that didn't work. Richardson is out.

"This could be bad news for Hillary"... or not.

John Horgan and George Johnson — the science guys at Bloggingheads — are talking on January 4th about how — for each of them independently — they couldn't figure out whether they wanted Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee, but then when they looked at the newspaper and saw that Barack Obama had won the Iowa caucuses and felt happy, they realized they were for Barack Obama. Both seem to think that they really already were for Obama and that seeing that he won let them know what was already true.

I say "seem to think" because I haven't watched the whole diavlog, only that clip, which is linked on the front page of Bloggingheads with the line: "Are you on the fence about Obama? You could be rooting for him without even knowing it."

But it seems obvious to me that this is probably an illusion that reflects our capacity to adapt to whatever the situation is. We see that something has happened and we reflexively perceive that it's what we wanted all along — as long as it's within the range of things that are good enough. That's why we're always saying things like: Things happen for a reason, It's for the best, I meant to do that, etc. (A lot of the experiments Daniel Gilbert describes in "Stumbling Into Happiness" illustrate this psychological mechanism.)

I bet Horgan and Johnson didn't know which candidate they preferred, and then when they saw Obama had won, they imagined they were perceiving that they preferred him before they saw the news. They mentally backdated their preference — and are happier for it.

Now, I wonder if when they saw the news today, they "realized" that they had already started to think that Barack Obama was not the best person for the job, somewhere in between Iowa and New Hampshire, their preference shifted to Hillary — and they're still smiling.

Anyway, if you want to be happy, don't firm up your preferences. Stay undecided. Then when you see who wins — whoever it is — you'll feel good that it was your candidate. Could it be that this is why so many people stay undecided? (I include myself!) We're good at keeping happy.

IN THE COMMENTS: We are favored with a visit from our delightful — and long-dead — commenter, Sir Archy:
To Professor Althouse.


It is a wise Observation, indeed, that a temperate Detachment is the best course in Politicks. As the Ghost of someone dead these 250 years and more, I have seen many an Election, and many a Scene attendant upon these Publick Actions, such as this one, very justly depict'd by Mr. Hogarth. It may be observ'd, however, that here Mr. Hogarth paints not the Passion, but the Folly of Electioneering.

Passion and Folly are the Sun and Moon of Election Day. A Person may follow Events keenly; but 'tis not worthy of a Gentleman, nor indeed a Lady, such as yourself, to be too visibly attach'd to one Interest or Another. A calm Disinterest becomes all well-bred Persons who would be Rational.

As the charming impressaria of this Theatre of Topicks, as I call it, you no doubt feel the Call to attract the Publick. It speaks well of You and your Theatre, that You do so without Tricks or Displays of false Passion or Rabble-rousing so commonly found in other Entertainments of this Kind. That some of the Groundlings here may arouse themselves to a Pitch of Excitement may hardly be laid against you, for your Attitude of even-handed Equanimity shows the way of a true Philosopher.

By way of closing, I should quote the Example of Captain Halley, the late Astronomer Royal, who Discover'd the famous Comet that bears his Name. Captain Halley—for he always styled himself by his Naval Title, and was Captain in the Royal Navy before he was Doctor of Laws—observ'd at the time of the Glorious Revolution (when poor King James was unjustly expell'd) that he, Captain Halley, was, "for the King in possession. We pay dear enough for our Protection, and we ought to have the Benefit of it."

As attached as some of my Relatives were, at that time, to the auld Interest, as they call'd it, they shift'd for Themselves, and were, in the end, much the happier for it.

Recommending such a Course to your Readers, I remain ever, Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

"Now I'm back and not ashamed to cry."

That's a lyric in the song that plays at the end of Barack Obama's speech last night.
Like a fool I went and stayed too long
Now I'm wondering if your love's still strong
Oo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!

Then that time I went and said goodbye
Now I'm back and not ashamed to cry
Oo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!
More appropriate for Hillary, don't you think?

(Thanks to my son John for pointing this out.)

Barack Obama's new line: "Yes we can."

The highlight of his speech last night — which got the crowd chanting the refrain. Video. Text:
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea –
Yes. We. Can.
Okay, this strikes me as somewhere between grandiose and cornball. I'm not there in the crowd, where it might have worked very well. But these things are supposed to work on TV and YouTube. I don't want a preacher for President, though — and I know this will sound like a contradiction — I've been excited about the potential for Barack Obama to inspire us and transform us spiritually. But I have a problem with "Yes we can." It means: I can win the Presidency.

That's a very ordinary thing that any candidate wants to say to his supporters, so what makes it deserve this comparison to founding the country, ending slavery, and going to the moon? I've never before noticed that he was saying we ought to make him President so that America can have its first black President. But he seems to be saying that now.

Or maybe he's only saying that he's been inflating people with big hopes and the bad old Clintons have been trying to puncture them and we shouldn't let them.

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds is reminded of this:

But I thought first of this:

But if we're going to talk about children's stuff, there's this:

IN THE COMMENTS: Blue Moon writes:
"Yes we can" = "Si se puede" which was a slogan used by the late Cesar Chavez. "Yes we can" is intended to be code to Hispanic voters and remind them of the United Farm Workers and Chavez's crusade for better wages and better treatment.
Blue Moon cites the upcoming primaries in states with a large proportion of Hispanic voters. Not just Hispanic voters, I'd say, but union members. I see the Chavez theory already enshrined in the Wikipedia article about the slogan:
Sí se puede (Spanish for "Yes, It can be done!") is the motto of the United Farm Workers. In 1972, during Cesar Chavez's 25 day fast in Phoenix, Arizona, he and UFW's co-founder, Dolores Huerta came up with the slogan....

Sí se puede is usually translated in English, colloquially, as "yes, we can." The more literal translation that the United Farm Workers uses is "Yes, It can be done!"

Senator Barack Obama appropriated the English version "Yes, we can!" for his presidential campaign following his second place finish in the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

AND: "Si se puede" was also the chant heard in the huge pro-immigration rallies in 2006:
Organizers said their "national day of action for immigration justice" included events in more than 140 cities in at least 39 states, with drum-banging and flag-waving masses chanting "Si se puede" -- "Yes we can" -- in rallies from coast to coast.

Why were the polls so wrong? Did people lie about voting for Obama?

Was it "the Bradley effect"?

ADDED: Mickey Kaus considers the Bradley effect + 3 other theories:
2. Lazio Effect. No ganging up on the girl! First, Edwards turns on her in the debate. Then Obama says she's merely "likeable enough." Then the press disparages her anger, mocks her campaign and gloats over its troubles. They made her cry! And then that mean macho John Edwards goes and says the crying makes her unfit to be president...
And she was also mocked — I heard it on Rush Limbaugh — for trying to get the Lazio effect going. Which would be a veritable Lazio vortex.
3. Feiler/Skurnik Effect: ... The familiar Feiler Faster Thesis holds that voters are comfortable processing information at the vastly increased speed it can come at them. Jerry Skurnik's "Two Electorate" theory holds that voters who don't follow politics are much less informed than they used to be, which causes polls to shift rapidly when they do inform themselves. Put these two together...

The Feiler/Skurnik Effect magnifies the significance of any events that occur in the final day or two of the campaign.
If this theory is true — or even if the campaigns think it's true — look out! (Good for blogging, though.)
4) The Congestion Alert Effect: I remember when the Southern California transportation authorities installed a state-of-the-art series of electronic signs alongside the freeways to give motorists instantaneous warnings of traffic delays. The signs don't do that any more. Why? It turned out that when you warned drivers of congestion on Route A, they all took Route B, leading the latter to become congested instead of the former. Similarly, independent voters in N.H. were told by the press that the Democratic race was a done deal--so they voted in the closer, more exciting Republican race....
A primary is not an election, so this kind of funny business is always part of the mix. I remember when my father voted for McGovern. He was damned pleased about it and assured me that's what everyone was doing. And here's the final electoral map for 1972. I was crushed. How dishonest!

The Clinton victory speech: She found her "own voice" and did you notice the word she didn't say?

"I listened to you and, in the process, I found my own voice."

"Politics isn't a game. It's about people." This is a new theme, which we heard first in that crying moment on Monday.

Here's the text of the speech, which I looked up because I wanted to do a search and confirm my suspicion that a certain word — a word we've heard over and over lately — does not appear in the speech.

That word is: change.

"Women in New Hampshire did what they did not do in Iowa: rally behind her."

Adam Nagourney analyzes the Clinton victory:
Most strikingly for Mrs. Clinton, women in New Hampshire did what they did not do in Iowa: rally behind her. Women supported her by 47 percent to 34 percent, according to a survey of voters leaving the polls; women voters in Iowa had been evenly divided between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Clinton campaigned in the final days of the contest with her daughter, Chelsea. She emphasized her sex in a debate of the candidates on Saturday night, in which John. Edwards, who placed third here, and Mr. Obama joined forces in attacking her. And in a gripping moment shown repeatedly on television on Monday night, Mrs. Clinton appeared momentarily overtaken by emotion when a questioner asked how she was enduring the strains of the campaign.
Women! So things like this work on us?

January 8, 2008

Let's talk about the New Hampshire primary.

Are you watching the results on TV? What channel? I'm hanging out on MSNBC at the moment. I knocked NBC the other day, so I want to make a point of saying I love listening to Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw, who are on Chris Matthews' show right now. I was doing a little CNN before, but it got a little too Lou Dobbsy, so I changed channels. And let's give Fox News equal time. (I'm back in New York City, and I had a hard time finding Fox News, which isn't clustered with the other news channels the way it is in Madison. The New York cable channels are annoyingly jumbled.)

Anyway, the polls close soon. Are you all excited?

ADDED: Hmmm... Mitt Romney was arrested long ago for sledding on an ice block on a golf course. And he was once in a car accident in Paris in which some French cop wrote "Il est mort" on his passport. (Source: Fox News.)

AND: Fox News is saying Obama wins, but it's not a blowout, so Hillary can claim some species of victory. And McCain over Romney, but "too close to call."

MORE: Zombie! Will Hillary fight her way back?

AND: MSNBC calls the Republican contest for McCain, while the Democratic race is too close to call! Ooooo!

AND: Mitt: "Another silver." He wants the gold, but who's done better than 2 silvers (and Wyoming gold)?

MORE: Wow! What a disappointment for Obama-lovers. Can it be that Hillary and her crying turned things around? Did people see how much Bill Clinton wanted to keep going and feel sympathy? Or is it a case of: New Hampshire voters not wanting to be told what to do? But when I read of the huge turnout, I assumed a big Obama victory. I guess her collapse was quite odd, and the news that it wasn't real makes sense.

AND: Huckabee speaks. Expresses enthusiasm at doing at all well. "This ole southern boy... in New England...."

AND: McCain speaks. The chant is "Mac is back." He can't call himself "The Comeback Kid," because he's not a kid. But it's a great comeback. "I'm going to New Hampshire, and I'm going to tell you the truth.... I talked to the people of New Hampshire. I reasoned with you." Did anyone ever concede like that before? I reasoned with you. Beautiful. [ADDED: Mmmm.... "concede" isn't quite the right word!]

AND: Uuuuggghhhh.... I'm reeling in shock! Hillary overcame The God Obama? Noooooooo!

AND: Did people just get disgusted with the hype?

"President Bush, in a marked shift from his usual upbeat economic assessments, conceded here on Monday that the nation faces 'economic challenges'..."

Reports the NYT.
“We cannot take growth for granted,” Mr. Bush said in a speech to a group of business leaders in which he acknowledged that “recent economic indicators have become increasingly mixed.”
I've become so skeptical of all things political that my first thought was that he's trying to help someone in the primaries (Romney?) — or hurt someone (Huckabee?) — by pushing economic issues into the foreground.

"The bigoted past of Ron Paul."

Look, I said it on Bloggingheads: The things Ron Paul has been saying made me suspect that his libertarianism was a cover for racism. Listen beginning at 8:07 [ADDED: You have to begin in the Ron Paul segment — here — and then go to 8:07]: "I feel like the people who are so enamored with those states' rights positions and that libertarian position... Coming from the South... an older person... who grew up in the segregated South... How do I know he's not a racist? ... I find it offensive, the positions he's taking, but maybe it's the pretty face that you put on the position that is, if not really racist, just insensitive about race?"

Now, James Kirchick has found the shocking evidence:
[L]ong before he was the darling of antiwar activists on the left and right, Paul was in the newsletter business. In the age before blogs, newsletters occupied a prominent place in right-wing political discourse. With the pages of mainstream political magazines typically off-limits to their views (National Review editor William F. Buckley having famously denounced the John Birch Society), hardline conservatives resorted to putting out their own, less glossy publications. These were often paranoid and rambling.... And a few of the most prominent bore the name of Ron Paul....

What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics....

Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began," read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with "'civil rights,' quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda." It also denounced "the media" for believing that "America's number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks."...

Such views on race also inflected the newsletters' commentary on foreign affairs. South Africa's transition to multiracial democracy was portrayed as a "destruction of civilization" that was "the most tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara"; and, in March 1994, a month before Nelson Mandela was elected president, one item warned of an impending "South African Holocaust."

Martin Luther King Jr. earned special ire from Paul's newsletters....

While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke....

Like blacks, gays earn plenty of animus in Paul's newsletters....

The rhetoric when it came to Jews was little better...

Paul's newsletters didn't just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia--specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s....

What's more, Paul's connections to extremism go beyond the newsletters....

Then there is Gary North, who has worked on Paul's congressional staff. North is a central figure in Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates the implementation of Biblical law in modern society...
Read the whole thing.

No word yet from Andrew Sullivan, who endorsed Ron Paul as the Republican nominee back here, with what now looks like exquisitely bad effusion: "[T]hese are principles that made me a conservative in the first place... He's the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds."

ADDED: Based on reading the comments here, I realize I need to stress what I was talking about in that Bloggingheads episode. You can listen to the whole segment. But I'm not saying that every older person who grew up in the South should be suspected of racism. I'm saying that a person who espouses the ideas that Ron Paul does — opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, blaming Abraham Lincoln for starting the Civil War and thinking it should never have been fought — makes me want to know more, and when he is also a man of a certain age from the South, that tweaks my suspicion up a notch. I don't think all libertarians or advocates of "states' rights" are racists, but I think some of them are, and many of them are insufficiently concerned about racial inequity (or they would care to make an effort to explain, when they take these positions, why they are willing to risk unfortunate consequences). Finally, I read in the comments that I grew up in the Northeast. This is not so. I grew up in Delaware, and, while I did not think of it as North or South — it was a border state in the Civil War — every black person I have ever talked to about this has assured me — sometimes after recovering from a laughing fit — that the South starts in Delaware.

UPDATE: Matt Welch collects the Ron Paul blowback. And here's Ron Paul's response:
The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.

In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person's character, not the color of their skin....

This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It's once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.

When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically [sic] taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.
I don't quite understand. Writing went out under your name, but you didn't pay much attention to it? Why not? A casual conclusion is that you generally agreed and enjoyed having your name on it. Are you saying your name was appropriated and the whole thing was a fraud? It doesn't seem so.

AND: Andrew Sullivan says: "I also want to reiterate that those of us who supported the Ron Paul movement find these sentiments despicable." Why are you speaking for others, Andrew? You are not a native American. Why do you assume you channel the beliefs of others?

Everybody loves Obama.

Even the conservatives:
The media overall are being swept up by a wave of Obamamania, in which normally hard-bitten journalists watch the orator in action and come away dazzled by his gifts... The journalistic scrutiny usually visited on instant front-runners has been replaced by something akin to a standing ovation.

What's more, the applause extends even to pundits on the right, many of whom routinely denigrate Democratic politicians and yet are strikingly warm toward Obama. There is gratitude, to be sure, that he seems poised to knock off their longtime bete noire, Hillary Clinton -- especially if he wins today's New Hampshire primary -- but also admiration for his inclusive approach to politics and for his sheer talent.
We'll have to see what happens after the hard work of sweeping Hillary aside is accomplished, but I think everyone really does like him. Not that they won't attack him in the end. In any case, he'll be hard to attack. Ask Hillary.

Song of the day.

"It was like one of those perfect flickers of sadness that won Helen Mirren an Oscar for 'The Queen.'"

Robin Givhan on Hillary's show of emotion. Yeah, I keep trying to guess what excellent actress is coaching Hillary on her vocal inflections — which have become quite good. I hear the voice of a specific actress. Not an English one though — the accent would be a calamity — so not Helen Mirren. Somebody more Californian.

Back to Givhan:
Over the past 17 years, Clinton has constructed a public face that is controlled and largely inscrutable....

She never has come across as wounded....

It's no great leap to wonder whether that cracking in her voice yesterday had been self-consciously conjured up. Clinton got teary-eyed? Really? The disbelief might be cynical, but not unreasonable.

How does she convince observers -- those pesky pundits, the annoying media, the relentless bloggers -- that her husky-voiced emotion was real?
Well, as a pesky, relentless, annoying blogger — especially on the subject of Hillary — I'll just say that to ask the question is to give up the game. If she's trying to figure out how to convince us she's real, she's not being real.

"Game," you say?
"Some people think elections are a game, lots of who's up or who's down. It's about our country. It's about our kids' futures. And it's really about all of us together."
I confess to being one of those people who think elections are a game. Of course, they have serious consequences and affect the real lives of many people, but getting yourself elected is still a game, and it's one that she's trying to play well. And she's losing. She tried to win, and when she found herself losing, she started asserting that for her — unlike those other, shallow people — it wasn't a game. But that was her move... in the game.

"Why do the Democratic candidates refuse to acknowledge progress in Iraq?"

A Washington Post editorial:
AT SATURDAY'S New Hampshire debate, Democratic candidates were confronted with a question that they have been ducking for some time: Can they concede that the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq has worked? All of them vehemently opposed the troop increase when President Bush proposed it a year ago; both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama introduced legislation to reverse it. Now it's indisputable that the surge has drastically reduced violence. Attacks have fallen by more than 60 percent, al-Qaeda has been dealt a major blow, and the threat of sectarian civil war that seemed imminent a year ago has receded. The monthly total of U.S. fatalities in December was the second-lowest of the war.

A reasonable response to these facts might involve an acknowledgment of the remarkable military progress, coupled with a reminder that the final goal of the surge set out by President Bush -- political accords among Iraq's competing factions -- has not been reached. (That happens to be our reaction to a campaign that we greeted with skepticism a year ago.) It also would involve a willingness by the candidates to reconsider their long-standing plans to carry out a rapid withdrawal of remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as soon as they become president -- a step that would almost certainly reverse the progress that has been made.

What Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson instead offered was an exclusive focus on the Iraqi political failures -- coupled with a blizzard of assertions about the war that were at best unfounded and in several cases simply false. Mr. Obama led the way, claiming that Sunni tribes in Anbar province joined forces with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda in response to the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections -- a far-fetched assertion for which he offered no evidence.
Read the whole thing.

If Barack Obama were a woman, we wouldn't see her as presidential material.

Says Gloria Steinem in a NYT op-ed:
The woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?
Vivid. But on paper, Barack Obama doesn't look like a viable candidate either.

Anyway, Steinem is supporting Hillary Clinton, because, she says, "she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule."

An unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House?
Ahem... Gloria? Can you say anything about the feminist issues entailed in a woman running for the presidency on her husband's accomplishments? If not, you're speaking as a Clinton partisan and not as someone who wants to seriously engage with feminism.

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan: "Clinton is comfortable aroound this kind of victimology. Obama transcends it."

AND: Ed Morrissey: "Steinem shows everything that's wrong with identity politics. It's crass, it's irrational, it assumes that people should get "turns", and in the end it's anti-democratic. Obama hasn't played that game like Hillary has — and that may be why Obama's beating Hillary like a bongo drum in Iowa and New Hampshire."

"Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated."

Says a woman who introduced Hillary Clinton in Dover, New Hampshire yesterday.
The comment, an apparent reference to Senator Barack Obama, is particularly striking given documented fears among blacks that Mr. Obama will be assassinated if elected.

Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman said: We were not aware that this person was going to make those comments and disapprove of them completely. They were totally inappropriate."
Do you believe Phil Singer?

Remember the recent incidents of remarks meant to damage Obama that the Clinton campaign disowned:

1. Former Senator Bob Kerrey, endorsing Clinton, said, "It’s probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama." This was widely viewed as an attempt to stir up prejudice based on the false belief that Obama is a Muslim. Kerrey subsequently apologized, saying — oddly — "I am sorry for the insult."

2. William Shaheen — one of the Clinton campaign’s co-chairmen — said that if Obama became the candidate: "It’ll be: 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome."

Here's a sentence from the NYT article about the Shaheen incident: "A Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer, said, 'These comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way.'"

NOTE TO THE NYT BLOGGERS: Add links! People in my comments are dubious about the "documented fears among blacks." I'm almost sure there is an old NYT article about this. Put a link!

ADDED: And then there is the incident of 2 men yelling "Iron my shirt" at Hillary yesterday. Wasn't that a handy way to remind us of the terrible sexism aimed at Hillary? She got to say "Oh, the remnants of sexism, alive and well." Well, who were those guys? I'm sure their chant was not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way.
The two young men were quickly booed by the audience and escorted outside by the local police, and after repeatedly being asked, finally said they were protesting the notion of having a woman in the White House.

They declined to elaborate. One of the young men, who said he is a 21-year-old student, was told he looked too nice to have that sort of attitude toward women, and replied, "Looks can be deceiving."
Indeed. Looks can be deceiving.

January 7, 2008

The first votes from New Hampshire.

CNN reports the results from Dixville Notch:
McCain garnered four votes, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with two and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with one.

Sen. Barack Obama, fresh off a victory in the Iowa caucuses, was a favorite among Dixville Notch Democrats, with seven votes. Former Sen. John Edwards won two votes, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson got one.

Clinton can't catch a break: 0!

"You wanna know what I think? You guys who think 9/11 was an inside job are crazy as hell."

"My wife was the senator from New York when that happened. I was down at Ground Zero. I saw the victims' families. You're nuts."

Said Bill Clinton to some Ron Paul supporters who were interrupting him and shouting that 9/11 was an inside job. A few points:

1. I'm not sure how Hillary's being a Senator from New York and Bill's seeing Ground Zero and the victims' families disproves the inside job theory — though it explains why he's especially outraged by it.

2. What is the connection between thinking 9/11 was an inside job and supporting Ron Paul? Amorphous nuttiness?

3. Why do Ron Paul supporters think it's a good idea to harass people? There's also this other story today that they chased after Sean Hannity. Watch the video at the link — they look like the mob from the movie "Frankenstein," but with American flags instead of torches. (And look at all those commenters at the link — to Crooks and Liars — who seem to think it's just great for a mob to rush after someone and cause for hilarity if they scare him — as long as you hate him.)

ADDED: Bad link fixed. Sorry.

"Only Hillary has my number. It couldn’t have been anybody else."

"I’m at your meeting here. I’ll them that. OK — I love you!"

What's the next stunt for the delightful couple?

"I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards, you know?"

Says Hillary Clinton, in her "teary" statement. It's getting a lot of play, so I'm linking in case you want to talk about it. Is it a phony effort to get your sympathy? (Seems like a bad move.) Is she just really tired? Or was it really something about about the questioner's expression of sympathy — how do you do it? — that brought out a truly vulnerable side? I don't know. But it seems a little like the feminine gesture she made at the debate when she said the her feelings were hurt. I think someone — an excellent actress? — is coaching her in how to display womanly emotion.

But she has plenty to get emotional about. Did you see this?
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that Hillary Clinton’s national polling lead has collapsed. Before the Iowa caucuses, Clinton held a seventeen-point lead over Barack Obama. Today, that lead is down to four percentage points in a survey with a four-point margin of sampling error.
That's the national poll.

UPDATE: Hillary responds.

AND: Here's the original video:

MORE: I just listened to Rush Limbaugh's treatment of this incident. He made much of the fact that there are no visible tears. There's the teary voice, but no real tears.
Folks, this is so calculated, this is no different than the makeup... This is the sympathy play! This is the gender card again! I'm going to tell you exactly what this is. This is the latest version of invading my space. This is a reenactment with tears of the Rick Lazio moment, ladies and gentlemen. Should a man get away with bringing Mrs. Clinton to tears? Should a man, be it me, be it Obama, should a man get away with bringing Mrs. Clinton to tears?... This is purely calculated. This is Bill Clinton coaching her, "Look, don't bite your lower lip like I do, they'll accuse you of copying me, do some fake tears out there, show 'em you really care."

"Even if Mr. Obama runs on an anti-war platform, events have a way of changing presidents..."

"... and if he will pick up the internationalist principles, he could — on the evidence of his eloquence and Kennedyesque spirit — yet become a war leader."

Says The New York Sun (which is completely opposed to Obama's current position on the war).

"I Can't Make Her Younger."

No, Bill's not trying to make us think of his sexual misdeeds.

"I find the manner in which they've been running their campaign sort of depressing, lately."

Obama said today, when Dianne Sawyer asked if he gets angry with Hillary Clinton.
"It was interesting in the debate, Sen. Clinton saying 'don't feed the American people false hopes. Get a reality check, you know?' I mean, you can picture JFK saying, 'we can't go to the moon, it's a false hope. Let's get a reality check.' It's not, sort of, I think, what our tradition has been."

Can't go to the moon = think of me as the new Kennedy.

"She doesn't want the Clinton brand to be damaged with back-to-back-to-back defeats."

The Clinton brand!

Drudge reports:
Facing a double-digit defeat in New Hampshire, a sudden collapse in national polls and an expected fund-raising drought, Senator Hillary Clinton is preparing for a tough decision: Does she get out of the race? And when?!

"She can't take multiple double-digit losses in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada," laments one top campaign insider to the DRUDGE REPORT. "If she gets too badly embarrassed, it will really harm her. She doesn't want the Clinton brand to be damaged with back-to-back-to-back defeats."...
It's only Drudge... but what do you imagine they are saying inside the campaign?

ADDED: As Madison Man notes in the comments "one top campaign insider" might not necessarily be one top Clinton campaign insider.

Driving in fog — a 100-vehicle pile-up in Madison.

The Cap Times reports.
"I braked like crazy but there was just no way to stop," she said. Dietz Slavenas hit two cars in front of her. There were cars and trucks all over the road, some piled up and some separate, she said....

"Most people were very nice and very calm," she said, adding that someone was handing out Christmas cookies. "You run into the nicest people in Wisconsin. I love Wisconsin."
I love Wisconsin too, and people are very nice here, but they do not know how to drive in fog, as I observed when I drove to Milwaukee a couple weeks ago:
... I'd driven over 100 miles on I-94, and the fog had been much worse. I think I was the only driver on the road who was constantly thinking: This is how 50-car pile-ups happen. I drove so I could stop without crashing if I saw an accident ahead, and no one else did. People are crazy.
This is how 50-car pile-ups happen. This is how 100-car pile-ups happen.

Here is an unretouched photograph of what yesterday looked like:


Oh, my goodness! Bill O'Reilly called somebody "low class."

I'd say it's "unhinged" to call this "unhinged." It's absolutely nothing of significance. I am so sick of the way any display of emotional intensity is characterized as a mental disorder. It shows: 1. a prudish concern for decorum and 2. a lack of compassion for those who actually do suffer from mental illness. I would think liberals would reject both things, but again and again — on the web, at least — I see that they don't.

ADDED: I watched O'Reilly's coverage of the incident (on his Monday show), and in it we see that he pushes the man a couple times. O'Reilly had two friendly female commentators on the show to talk to him about it, and one of them tells him the shoving was wrong. The other accepts it — under the circumstances. It seems to me that both the large man doing the deliberate blocking of the camera's shot and O'Reilly with his pushing were acting out in a rude, macho way, but it wasn't crazy. Both were pursuing their own interests and choosing their techniques. My post isn't about right and wrong, but about sane and crazy. They weren't crazy.

Now, there is a further question about whether these 2 sane men who pursued self-interest had good judgment about what they ought to do. Here, I think, clearly, O'Reilly won. It worked for him within the context of what he does. People working for the campaign should not be displaying hostility to the news media, and they should especially not discriminate against Fox News.

By the way, Barack Obama looks great in the final O'Reilly edit. He sees O'Reilly — when O'Reilly calls out to him from back in the crowd — and comes over and shakes hands, seems relaxed and warm, and agrees to meet with O'Reilly after the primary. He's setting a good example for everyone.

"For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone — nobody else."

Musharraf blames Benazir Bhutto for getting herself killed.

"Now, it was clear that a lot of the people in this particular focus group were as dumb as posts."

"One of the guy's Luntz interviewed explained how Mitt was obviously more credible on the pro-life issue than Mike Huckabee. I mean, I had no idea Mitt could do so well bamboozling these folks. Seriously, it was so surreal...."

Josh Marshall marvels at
that Frank Luntz focus group after last night's debate (which we talked about — and you can watch — here).

A light in the snow.


"Obama said things like: 'We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.'"

"Clinton said things like: 'I founded in the Senate the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus.'"

Shouldn't we prefer flat-footed competence to cheerful generalities? Yes, but conceding that you're boring doesn't make you more competent, inspiring people is part of the President's work, and the capacity to deliver a fine oration doesn't entail some corresponding incapacity.

What's the problem with Bill Clinton?

The NYT has this somewhat puzzling report about Bill Clinton's role in the Hillary campaign. We're told that the crowds at his New Hampshire events are "sleepy and sometimes smallish crowds" and that he's seemed "determined to lower his wattage, to eliminate any hint that he might be the headliner." What's going on?
Mr. Clinton’s practiced self-deflation on the stump reflects something of a split within the campaign over how best to use him, campaign advisers say. There is a feeling among one faction that he was overexposed in Iowa, and that his presence became a distraction.
But he can't be willing the crowds to be smaller than the auditoriums where he deigns to appear.

January 6, 2008

A familiar song, sung in English, with an amazing twist.

Keep watching!

ADDED: YouTube Is My Life.

Another debate? Let's watch.

Things are getting exciting these last few days. I'm up for another debate — or forum (whatever). Giuliani looks happy. Thompson grumpy. Huckabee piercing. Romney dashing. McCain — excited and happy as all get-out.

UPDATE #1: I'm a little distracted by these new polls on the Democratic side. CNN has Obama at 39% in New Hampshire, with Clinton a 29%. USA Today has Obama at 41% and Clinton at 28%. Clinton is crashing! What is going on? My theory: I think people want to fall for Obama and want to be free of Hillary Clinton. Iowa has given them permission to do what they already wanted to do. Okay, now, let's concentrate on these Republicans.

UPDATE #2: "You're going to get rid of death?" Fred Thompson says the funniest thing I've ever heard in a debate (after Huckabee says "We oughta get rid of taxes on dividends, capital gains... and death"). Huckabee has the wit to say "I'd like to get rid of death," and Fred is all "Put 'er there," and the 2 men shake hands. Huckabee adds: "In my previous profession, I got rid of death..." [CORRECTION: That last quote should be "In my previous profession, I dealt with getting rid of death..."]

UPDATE #3: Sorry for the lack of updates. I listened — and looked a little. (I was editing photographs, contemplating how much to clarify the fog that filled the 100+ photographs I took on my little walk today.) I thought all 5 men did well, mostly repeating things I've heard before. I'll just cite 2 things that stood out for me (which I'll supplement later with quotes from the transcript): 1. I liked what Rudy Giuliani said about how he dealt with poverty in New York City. 2. I liked when Mitt Romney objected to Mike Huckabee's anti-corporate rhetoric.

UPDATE #4: After the debate, we get Frank Luntz with his focus group, and these people are very favorable to Romney and highly critical of Huckabee, especially his response to the first question. This is strong enough to make me go back and review that part of the debate. Ah, this was when he was asked to respond to Romney's criticism about his raising taxes in Arkansas. Romney, who's sitting right next to him, takes over cross-examining him about the facts (and bragging about the surpluses he produced in his state): "Did you raise taxes in your state by half a billion dollars?" Answer: "We raised jobs. We built our roads." Romney breaks in: "You know, that's political-speak." Huckabee just changes the subject and asks if Romney opposed the 2002 tax cuts. Romney gives a clear no. Romney repeats the question that he's refused to answer "3 times." Huckabee talks about a court order relating to education and attempts, again, to turn it back on Romney: "Maybe you don't have to obey the court in Massachusetts." Kids are important, education is important, blah blah blah. And Chris Wallace breaks in and move the discussion over to Giuliani. Luntz goes on to ask the focus group if they were affected by what happened in Iowa, and this becomes another occasion to trash Huckabee: You might be able to get votes with religion in Iowa, but that's not the way we do things here. Finally, the group says it thinks Obama will be the Democratic nominee and that Mitt Romney can beat him. Frankly, I agree. I think Obama will be the Democratic nominee, and I don't know if the Republicans can win this go-round. (I think we need the presidency needs to shift sides periodically.) But if I had to bet on one Republican to beat the Democrat, I'd bet on Romney.

UPDATE #5: Here's the video of that Frank Luntz focus group:

UPDATE #6: Here are the two things I said I'd add from the transcript. First, Giuliani on poverty:
I took over a city that had 1.1 million people on welfare. I left behind a city with 670,000 fewer people on welfare. I took over a city that had 10.5 percent unemployment. I left behind a city with less than five percent unemployment and I instituted a work fair [sic] program. As Republicans, we don’t do well, including me, all of us. We do not explain to the poor that our programs, our policies are the ladders out of poverty, that they are being denied, by a lot of the Democratic programs, a good job, a good education, the work ethic. So what I did with welfare immediately upon coming into office is I tied welfare to work for anybody who can work. It was called work fair [sic]. It was very controversial. People were very angry at me. The ACLU, I think, sued me, I don’t remember. They sued me a lot. I can’t remember all the times they sued me.

But I stood up and we fought the battle and we ended up with 670,000 fewer people on welfare, hundreds of thousands of people on welfare working, by allowing the basic principles that work in America of work, good education operate in the lives of poor people. And as Republicans, we need to go into the neighborhoods where there’s poverty and explain how our programs work. I would go into the neighborhoods where I was being castigated for work fair and I would say to them, “I’m doing work fair [sic] because I love you more. I care about you more. I care about you more than just being a statistic. I believe that if I can get you a job, I will keep you out of poverty and I will keep you with the dignity to be able to take care of your family.”
(Can somebody tell Fox it's "workfare," not "work fair"?)

Second, Mitt Romney on corporations:
You’re not going to help the wage earner in America by attacking the wage payer in America. It’s an old saying. The truth of the matter is, it really is kind of offensive, I think, when I watch our Democrats, or anybody else, for that matter, attacking corporations that are creating jobs. I’ve spent 30 years in the private sector. I spent my time learning how to build a small business. I built a small business and grew it. I helped go back and turn around a company that was in trouble. I’m proud of the fact that some of the companies we invested in created a lot of jobs. I had some failures, too. I know what it’s like to have to make a tough decision. I’ve seen businesses go under. But I can tell you, I’ve been in the economy, I’ve been there in the real world, and we need a president who knows how the economy works, knows why jobs come and go, understands what the competition from China really means and how to stand up to it. We also need a president who knows how to shrink the federal government, and I know how to take out people that aren’t needed and how to take out programs that aren’t needed, and we need some of that in Washington.