January 26, 2008

Waiting for the South Carolina results.

CNN has an on-screen countdown. 3:09 and counting down!

UPDATE: They plan to project the winner immediately. 22 seconds to go.

UPDATE 2: CNN projects "a strong victory for Barack Obama."

UPDATE 3: CNN shows Edwards and Clinton in a close fight for second, with Edwards getting more of the white vote than Clinton (39% to 36%).

UPDATE 4: There he is! Barack Obama! CNN has just told us that Caroline Kennedy endorses Obama and thinks he's like her father. And now we see Barack hand in hand with Michelle, who's wearing a Jackie Kennedy-invoking pink suit. "We are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again." Chant: "We want change! We want change!" The huge banner in back of him says "CHANGE we can believe in." The lectern in front of him says "Change." People want to tell you that white people won't vote for the African-American, but "we are here tonight to tell you that is not the America we believe in."

Austin protest #2: "Hey hey ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go."

Same afternoon. Austin, Texas. A big, organized pro-life march heads north on Congress Avenue toward the Texas Capitol.

ADDED: I wasn't standing around waiting for this march. I just happened upon this corner and had my little camera in my hand. I couldn't edit this clip, so this is just what I caught. It's just by chance that someone drops the American flag right in the beginning, something I didn't see until I uploaded the clip.

Austin protest #1: 9/11 conspiracy + anti-war + pomeranian.

Anti-war protestors

"WAR is Hell/Heaven is PEACE/can't Support BOTH!"

Anti-war protestors

"It's a FACT at least 7 of the 19 named Hijackers on 9-11 are still ALIVE."

Well, they've got dog on their side.

The interpretation of carpeting.

Remember the way Jeffrey Toobin — in "The Nine" — belittled Justice Anthony Kennedy through the interpretation of carpeting?
[Justice Anthony] Kennedy's vanity was generally harmless, almost charming -- sort of like the carpet in his office.

Understatement was the rule for the decor in most justices' chambers. Everyone had a few personal touches -- O'Connor employed a southwestern motif, with Native American blankets and curios; Ginsburg had opera mementos; Stevens had the box score from the World Series game in 1932 when Babe Ruth hit is "called shot" home run against the Chicago Cubs. (Stevens had attended the game as a twelve-year-old boy.) Kennedy, in contrast, installed a plush red carpet, more suited to a theater set than a judge's chambers. Worse (or better, depending on one's perspective), the carpet was festooned with gold stars -- garish touches that made the office a sort of tourist attraction for law clerks and other insiders.
When I read the book, I wrote:
What the hell? So what if Kennedy has proletarian taste in carpet? Does that mean anything about him? And, supposing it does, why would a man who likes thick carpet and bright colors be less suited to make decisions for us than someone with high-class, refined tastes? Who are these asinine clerks who are trying to take the justice down a peg because of his carpet?...

[Toobin is] promoting the theory that Kennedy -- as the next sentence reads -- "tried hard, maybe too hard, to impress"... Kennedy is a ridiculous man, don't you know...
I'm thinking about that now, as I eat breakfast in the elegant restaurant in a beautiful, historic hotel in Austin, Texas and stare at the floor:


Maybe it's not so much about high and low class taste as it is a matter of Eastern and Western taste. Yes, I know Sacramento (Kennedy's home town) and Austin are far from each other. This hotel reflects the styles of 1886 and the tastes of a cattle baron. Sacramento was a gold-rush town in the 1800s. But some rough, adventurous people got rich in the 19th century. Shouldn't east-coasters like Jeffrey Toobin — he was a New York City preppie — and — I'm thinking — those law clerks — show a little respect for the sweep of American culture?

The NYT endorses Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Here and here. I was going to mention it yesterday, but it's a travel weekend for me and, also, I found it boring.

I do find it amusing that as I was typing the previous sentence — in this restaurant, The Driskill Grill, where I'm eating breakfast — I overheard a man at the next table say: "I like Obama. I like Edwards. I don't like Hillary Clinton."

From the Times:
Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe.
Why does that apply to Mitt Romney, who doesn't seem like the angry type? I think we could sort all the candidates — from both parties — by the level of their emotional heat. Giuliani and McCain are hot. Romney and Huckabee are cool. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are hot. Barack Obama is cool.

(There's a sense in which Mitt Romney is hilariously uncool and utterly not in the same category as Obama, but I'm not talking about that.)

To be fair, the NYT referred not to the emotional style of the candidate, but to the emotional quality of some "small" "fringe" that a President would govern "from and on behalf of." But how does that apply to Romney? Here's their disqualification of Romney:
Mitt Romney’s shape-shifting rivals that of Mr. Giuliani. It is hard to find an issue on which he has not repositioned himself to the right since he was governor of Massachusetts. It is impossible to figure out where he stands or where he would lead the country.
Shape-shifting? In other words: flexibly and pragmatically bending one way or another in an effort to respond to constituents. Isn't that exactly the opposite of "of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe"?

The NYT rhetoric is absolutely incoherent.

Ha, ha, suddenly I don't find the NYT endorsements boring at all. It must be these Texas scrambled eggs and sausage fortifying me.

So let's see why we're supposed to like Hillary Clinton more than Barack Obama. If the idea is to get away from "governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe," isn't Obama perfect?
Mr. Obama has built an exciting campaign around the notion of change, but holds no monopoly on ideas that would repair the governing of America. Mrs. Clinton sometimes overstates the importance of résumé. Hearing her talk about the presidency, her policies and answers for America’s big problems, we are hugely impressed by the depth of her knowledge, by the force of her intellect and by the breadth of, yes, her experience.
Oh, now it's all about experience and expertise.

Why worry about governing "from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe" when it's your small, angry fringe?

"Sometimes you have to be a Leon."

J.B. Smoove.

''Testosterone to me is so important for a sense of well-being when you get older."

''Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it because it increases the quality of your life. Mark my words. In 10 years it will be over the counter.''

Sylvester Stallone recommends human growth hormone.
"HGH is nothing."

January 25, 2008

Where am I?


Where have I gone to celebrate January Christmas? And did you, my dear reader, even notice that my December Christmas got ruined?

"He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man."

The bear that fought in World War II.

"I remember the first time my girlfriends and I admitted that we all felt the same about married sex as parents...."

"... we couldn't be bothered with it and felt guilty for not wanting to sleep with our husbands. It was a revelation. I remember thinking: 'Thank God! It's not just me!'"

Carrie Jones hasn't had sex with her husband in 4 years, doesn't intend to, and has written a book about marital celibacy.

Last night's debate.

I didn't post last night about the Republican debate because I was on an airplane, but since it was a JetBlue airplane I had TV reception and was able to watch the whole thing on the seatback in front of me. Admittedly, I slept through part of it, but I saw at least the first hour of it.

I turned on CNN in my hotel this morning and heard talking heads yammering about how there were "no fireworks." Oh, too bad!

On the subject of the media's ridiculous hunger for emotional outbursts, watch this "Daily Show" clip:

But let's discuss the debate. I thought Mitt Romney was especially good. Beginning with the first question, he let us see some of the depth of his expertise on economic matters.

Meanwhile, John McCain was challenged on a statement of his that conceded he was not well-versed on economics. McCain seemed to deny that he'd said any such thing. I say "seemed" because it was a little hedged: "I don't know where you got that statement." But as TPM makes painfully clear, he has disparaged his own understanding of economics on several occasions.

Romney must be terribly pleased that the central issue in the campaign is suddenly economics.

I'm assailed in the local paper for failing to take the 9/11 truthers seriously.

Oh, the pain! The pain that UW-Oshkosh emeritus biology professor Bill Willers imagines he's inflicting!
On Jan. 21, University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse wrote on her blog, “I don’t know why the University of Wisconsin has not rehired 9/11 conspiracy believer Kevin Barrett to teach a course on the history of Islam. But if we know a person believes something truly nutty, are we not entitled to use that as evidence of his intelligence, judgment, and trustworthiness?”
Here's the blog post in which I set aside the facts I don't know and raise a question designed to help readers work toward a general principle that would distinguish between the discrimination against a political viewpoint and the proper use of evidence of a person's qualities of mind.
This is an amazing statement coming from a professor of law — a position that presupposes a respect for carefully considered evidence.
Presumably, by "position" he means that the position of professor of law presupposes respect for evidence. But it could more aptly mean that the position I took in my statement is, in fact, a recommendation that we ascertain the value of the evidence that a job applicant creates through speaking and thus a position that entails respect for evidence.
Her assault on Mr. Barrett, in which she makes no effort to consider the countless facts backing the so-called Truth Movement, is shamefully flippant — her word choice of “truly nutty” — and unworthy of an academic intent on attacking another.
Professor Willers, calm down and reread. I put to the side the case of Kevin Barrett and said I did not know the facts. Moving to the level of abstraction, I asked a neutral question that was intended to facilitate thinking about what to do in the case of a job applicant who takes a truly nutty position. By the way, it's the work of a law professor to propose hypotheticals to assist students in thinking about legal problems outside of the context of a particular case.
Without going into details easily found on the Internet...
Oh, my! It's on the Internet!
....a considerable army of architects, engineers, physicists, logicians, commercial and military pilots, first responders, military figures all the way to general officer, and government personnel including FBI and CIA agents has amassed a solid case countering the official story. That army is all the greater for the addition of similar experts from countries all over the world.
So, apparently Willers is himself a 9/11 truther. Sigh.
Ms. Althouse has refused to debate the issue in public forum. That being so, how does the objective observer avoid a conclusion of moral cowardice on her part? As a professional, is she not obligated to present evidence rather than indulging in personal attack?
Why would I debate about physics when I'm a law professor? Being "a professional" doesn't mean you're an expert in everything.

And again, I didn't make a personal attack.

By the way, Professor Willers, aren't you making a personal attack? Do you think you had the obligation to read my post with basic understanding before writing a letter like this to the newspaper?
There is irony surrounding Ms. Althouse’s questioning of Mr. Barrett’s intelligence...
Oh, irony! That's really... ironic... because I was just pointing out the irony of your absurd little letter to the student newspaper.
....judgment and trustworthiness, because it leads one to the question, “If we know that a law professor is willing to attack someone for no reason that she could defend in a courtroom situation, would we not be entitled to question her intelligence, judgment and trustworthiness?” And there is little doubt that in a courtroom, in which she would face that army of experts and their facts, she would be reduced to dust on the floor.
In answer to your hypothetical, of course you could take into account that the law professor attacked someone for no reason. I didn't do that, however, so that doesn't refer to me.

Nevertheless, I'm quite willing to have everyone use my rejection of the 9/11 conspiracy theory as a basis for assessing my intelligence, judgment, and trustworthiness.

January 24, 2008

Our "script"... our "reality is pretty brutal and pretty hard-edged like a rough action film," so we need a President "who's been in that."

Sylvester Stallone makes the pitch for John McCain.

So Huckabee's got Chuck Norris. And now, McCain has Stallone. Somebody needs a Schwarzenegger! Wait! Who's that on the phone?!

Churchyard signs.



(Enlarge #1. Enlarge #2.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Inwood says:
STRANGER if you, passing, meet me and desire to speak to me, fuhgedaboudit; get on a blog and we'll write.

The churchyard pumpkin.


"The desire to become 'tragic heroes' on the internet."

"Suicide had become a cool thing in our area."

"I would rather be a cartoon than a genius!"

Says Dolly Parton, reacting to getting named #94 on a list of 100 Greatest Living Geniuses and asserting that "A cartoon character is how I see myself and it's worked for me for 40 years."

And here she talks about fashion (and lets her pop culture genius shine):
"People know I have no taste, no style and no class. If I have any class it's all low.

"Even after I got enough money where I could afford to dress properly, what kind of fun would that be? Hell, they know I look like a w***e. No matter how much I spend or how I dress, I'm still going to look cheap."

It's January Christmas Eve!

Are you celebrating January Christmas? I am!

"Shame on you," says Bill Clinton, if you're worried the Hillary campaign is exploiting race.

So it's all in your head if you think the Clintons are doing anything to use race to beat Barack Obama.

Here's Dick Morris taking the strong position that they absolutely know what they are doing and mean to do it:
If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama's ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It's one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don't read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.

Obama has done everything he possibly could to keep race out of this election. And the Clintons attracted national scorn when they tried to bring it back in by attempting to minimize the role Martin Luther King Jr. played in the civil rights movement. But here they have a way of appearing to seek the black vote, losing it, and getting their white backlash, all without any fingerprints showing. The more President Clinton begs black voters to back his wife, and the more they spurn her, the more the election becomes about race -- and Obama ultimately loses
Here's Mickey Kaus proposing what he thinks is a clever tactic:
He could try to make Hillary the pet candidate of Latinos the way he's being cast as the pet candidate of blacks--but that would require a shift to the right on immigrant legalization that he doesn't seem willing to make.)...

The more obvious move is to find a Sister Souljah--after Saturday--to stiff arm. The most promising candidate is not a person, but an idea: race-based affirmative action. Obama has already made noises about shifting to a class-based, race-blind system of preferences. What if he made that explicit? Wouldn't that shock hostile white voters into taking a second look at his candidacy? He'd renew his image as trans-race leader (and healer). The howls of criticism from the conventional civil-rights establishment--they'd flood the cable shows--would provide him with an army of Souljahs to hold off. If anyone noticed Hillary in the ensuing fuss, it would be to put her on the spot--she'd be the one defending mend-it-don't-end-it civil rights orthodoxy.
Centralize affirmative action as an issue in the campaign? How would that play out? It seems to me that the candidates would like to get race back into the background — but Hillary first must use it to defeat Obama.

IN THE COMMENTS: Our ghostly reader from the distant past, Sir Archy, has favored us with another visit!
To Professor Althouse.


As a Ghost of a former Scotch Elector, dead these 250 years and more, I have seen many an Election, and voted in not a Few. My unfortunate Death put an end to my climbing the Polling Booth steps, as the Franchise was not extended in Scotland in my Day to the Dead. That my Ghostly Condition entitles me to especial Consideration in certain American Constituencies is a piece of welcome Intelligence; I shall endeavor to inform your Readers of the Progress of my Efforts to claim my Place, after these many Years, as an American Elector.

But enough of my Fortunes—let us think on those of Mrs. Clinton: That Mrs. Clinton will be elect'd President, can admit of no Doubt. Consider the Clintons' Past-Mast'ry of arousing Passion & exciting Fear. Consider Mrs. Clinton's prospective Opponents: A Gentleman of good Fortune & Family, but insipid and uninspiring Mien; a half-pay Officer gone into Politicks, who, despite his heroick Past, has anger'd Half his Party; and a former Lord Mayor, who would play Dick Whittington, had he either the Sagacity of the Original, or the Cat of the Character. Are any of these Gentlemen a serious Obstacle to the Clinton Ferocity?

Consider her principal Opponent within her own Party: He should be the only Force that could halt Mrs. Clinton's inexorable Advance upon the White House. He is a fine and accomplish'd Gentleman of African descent, yet his Armour provides the Clintons two Chinks into which to insert the Rapier: The First is that he is a fine Gentleman, and not used to such vengeful Blows; the Second is that he is African, which in America opens him to a variety of Trips beyond the Dreams of any Stiletto-wielding Assassin. The Clintons have him down and are now engag'd in trying the Joints of his Breastplate. We only await Blood upon the Ground as Confirmation of his Demise.

That Mrs. Clinton should be elect'd President ought to occasion sombre Reflection among the American Electorate. The Maxims of a Democratick Nation imply the continual Rotation of Power, and that a Man (or now, a Woman) may answer Ambition with Effort, and rise by way of Politicks. That Power be always the Provinance of one Family or the Other, is a Situation fitter to Spain in my Day, where Hapsburgs & Bourbons contended to oppress an Empire, rather than for a manly Nation, founded on the Principles of British Liberty.

Giving careful consideration to the Qualities of the various Candidates for whom I should vote,

I remain, Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

"She's the one that's been to those little fancy lunches that women of power have, if not of color, and she even bid on Hillary's book..."

"She didn’t get it, but she’s disposed towards Hillary Clinton and probably would vote for her. Except she ain’t."

New York-type husbands and wives disagree and babble about Hillary Clinton in an article I thought would speak to me in my blog zone. Except it don't.

"Blinding you with his razor-sharp acumen...."

1. Keep the razor blades away from my eyes.

2. This is not acumen, John Gibson. This is pure stupidity and ugliness.

3. Even as he mocks the poor Heath Ledger for (apparently) using drugs, John Gibson sounds groggy and slurred. What does it take to overcome your normal inhibitions — whatever residue of humanity you've got inside — and to go on the radio and emit material like that?

January 23, 2008

Fred's exit...

... catapults Romney into the lead in Florida.

(Or so says this one poll.)

BUT: Check out this NYT headline: "Romney Leads in Ill Will Among G.O.P. Candidates."

Barack Obama vs. Rudy Giuliani... with Brit Hume moderating.

"I'm jealous. I can't do it either. I can't cross my legs sitting in a chair like that."

Here's Rush Limbaugh talking about the way Hillary Clinton was sitting in her chair at the debate. (Subscriber link.) (Yes, I subscribe to the Rush Limbaugh website so I can keep track of these things for you.)
There was also -- I'm not going to say -- never mind, I'm not going to say it because all I'm going to do is make women mad, don't want to do that, making women mad is going to send -- all right, I'm going to say it, but I'm going to stop doing this in the future. After the first part of the debate, standing up there at those podiums and then they took a commercial break, and Blitzer came back and they were all sitting in chairs. I'm going to pay for this. See, this is the kind of thing that you're not supposed to say, that when you say this, all it does is drive people to Hillary, women especially. (sigh) But see, I'm not going to tease you, it's really unfair to say I'm going to say something and then not say it. So I'm going to say it now. She was the only one sitting there who could not cross her legs.
At this point, he takes a break and then comes back doing a voice that the transcript calls his "new castrati impression." That is, he affects an effeminate male voice — and he doesn't mind seeming homophobic or not knowing how the singular and plural are formed in Italian. He doesn't care about the pedantic distinction between a podium and a lectern either, we just saw.

Anyway, in that voice, he's all:
"That's just horrible, Mr. Limbaugh! I can't believe you said that. That's just horrible. Why do you even notice things like that, Mr. Limbaugh? I can't believe you!"
Back to the regular voice:
It's very simple, ladies and gentlemen. I'm a leg man. I'm jealous. I can't do it either. I can't cross my legs sitting in a chair like that. I'm jealous of people who can and I'm jealous of other people who don't, and it makes me feel better about myself, okay? I can't do it, either.
So, Rush is fat, and everyone knows it, and some people say it in the most mocking way. And maybe that makes him think he's got license to call other people fat — especially if they're liberals.

Of course, he's being rude for some evil fun. But he's also ignorant, because there is a whole big thing about women not crossing their legs. It's both a health issue and a point of etiquette:

1. Crossing your legs at the knee is reputed to cause varicose veins and hip problems in women.

2. Women — at least women of a certain age — have been taught as a matter of etiquette to cross their legs at the ankles when they sit, and that is exactly what Hillary Clinton was doing at the debate.

I noticed the leg positions at the debate myself, because each of the 3 candidates were sitting differently:

1. Hillary had her legs exactly the way any good image consultant would advise any woman to sit. (It has nothing to do with chubbiness.)

2. Barack Obama — at the point when I noticed — had his legs crossed with the left ankle on the right knee, a position that would look insane if taken by a woman in any remotely serious situation, even if she is wearing pants. It's very casual. Arguably, it was rude for Obama to have his foot way up there with the sole aimed at Hillary.

3. John Edwards was sitting with his legs apart and feet planted on the floor — what you might call a "wide stance." This too would look awful on a woman, even if she were wearing pants. It too seems casual, and many men look crude in that position, which in some situations — such as on a subway car — is inconsiderate because it hogs extra space.

Bonus: Scholarship! "World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits."

IN THE COMMENTS: People are saying it's not about fat at all. It's about testicles. Why did he say "I'm jealous of people who can" cross their legs then? But it is funnier that way.

ADDED: And here I am, the one with the reputation for being the first one to notice when the subject is genitalia. Anyway, as the Althouse Blog Historian Ruth Anne Adams points out in the comments, the photographic record is clear that females my age were taught to cross our legs at the ankles:

Kindergarten class 1957

I'm the one in the white eyelet lace skirt following all the rules. (Enlarge.)

The end of momentum.

Somehow, the laws of political physics have changed.

Mickey Kaus's theories:

1. "[L]ate-focusing voters tune in to what the press is saying in, say, the two days before their state's election, which is usually something different from what the press says in the two days after the previous state's election."

2. "[V]oter rebellion against what the press says--Huck's Hot! Barack Rock Star!--and it's overdetermined."

Surely, we can think up some more theories. I'll start:

1. As long as we think a particular candidate isn't going to win, we feel free to embrace him, but once we see him realistically as President, we get cold feet.

2. When a candidate is first emerging, he has more control over his image and can make us like him, but if he's the frontrunner, his opponents do what they can to make him look bad.

3. ...

January 22, 2008

"Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character."

"It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn."

Dead at 28. Heath Ledger.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo writes:
My 15 year old son was quite shaken by this. He loves the movies. We both liked him in the ones already mentioned.

But he was mostly waiting to see him in Batman, feverishly following all the viral teasers the studio has thrown out over the internet....

I don't know what happened to Ledger; we'll hear soon enough. My son had seen a recent interview that suggested something wasn't quite right with Mr. Ledger, all jittery and picking at his arms....
Here's the video. I knew right away what you were talking about because I was looking for a clip to include with the original post. After watching it, I decided it wasn't the tone I was looking for.

A bomb-making factory is discovered in a Columbia professor's house — 3 blocks from where I live.

From The Daily News (via Michelle Malkin):
Cops evacuated the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood around the Remsen St. home of Michael Clatts, a medical anthropologist, after finding seven pipe bombs fitted with fuses in his flat, police sources said.

The frightening cache was discovered almost by accident - Ivaylo Ivanov, the man living with Clatts, accidentally shot off the tip of his left index finger and sought police help in the street about 1:15 a.m.

When investigators went to the 37-year-old Ivanov's apartment, they found the bombs, already capped on both ends and filled with powder. One of the pipe bombs was inserted into a Nerf football, cops said.

A 9-mm. handgun, two ammunition magazines, a 12-gauge shotgun, silencers, a bulletproof vest, a crossbow and bomb-making equipment, including a drill and threading machine that could be used to make pipe bombs, were also recovered, cops said.

Investigators with the NYPD-FBI were questioning Ivanov, a native of Bulgaria, to determine whether he had any terrorism or Russian Mafia connections, a source told the Daily News.

"Russian Mafia aren't fazed by getting a fingertip shot off - and they certainly don't go to the cops for help," the source said.

UPDATE: What is Clatt's connection to all this?
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers picked up the researcher, Michael Clatts, at John F. Kennedy International Airport yesterday morning as he was returning from Vietnam, where he had been conducting a research project for the National Institute on Drug Abuse....

Customs officers took Mr. Clatts to the Downtown Brooklyn precinct, where he refused to speak with detectives working on the case. Instead, he requested his lawyer be called and was later released....

Several neighbors in the building said they believed that Mr. Clatts would have been unaware of his roommate's alleged involvement in the crimes. Mr. Clatts travels often for his work, his neighbors have said, and he was not believed to be in the apartment this week when the arsenal was found.

Fred Thompson: "Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States."

Good-bye, Fred:
"I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."
Thanks for putting in the effort... to the extent that you did. Now, nestle back into that comfy chair and enjoy the hijinks like the rest of us.

"Bill Clinton "is rather a master of what one might call 'strategic emotion,' the use of tears or anger to comfort voters or intimidate the press."

Blogs Matthew Continetti at the NYT:
During his presidency Clinton lashed out at, among others, then-ABC White House correspondent Brit Hume in 1993; reporters who continued to raise questions about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky in 1998; and the Senate Republicans who rejected the 1999 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

These days the former president’s "outbursts" serve a dual purpose: they lend the impression that Senator Clinton is the insurgent running against the media-supported Obama, while also creating the illusion that it is the former president, not his wife, who is actually the candidate for the Democratic nomination. Far from hurting Senator Clinton — who also understands how to deploy strategic emotion, as we saw before the New Hampshire Democratic primary — former President Clinton effectively has rallied a coalition of Democrats to her cause.

"Hillary can be relentless and like a sledgehammer delivering tendentious but probably effective attacks."

"But whatever you think of those attacks, Obama isn't very good at defending himself."

Josh Marshall on last night's debate.

(My comments on the subject are back here, delivered contemporaneously.)

Oscar nominations — in a few moments.

Are you excited? Vaguely interested? Actively hostile?

UPDATE: The whole list should be here soon. I'll just say that I loved Julie Christie in "Away From Her" — so I'm glad to see she got nominated, though I hope she won't win just because she played a character whose brain was not functioning properly. (The Academites reward that sort of thing too much.) And I like seeing recognition for my 2 favorite actors — Daniel Day-Lewis and Johnny Depp. Let's make a short list of movies to see before the awards ceremony: "There Will Be Blood," "No Country for Old Men," "Juno," and "Atonement." I doubt if I'll bother with them all. And if they aren't going to put on a big show... well, there's so much less reason to bother.

"Despite Blog Support, Flake Bid a Long-shot."

A headline amuses me.

January 21, 2008

Another debate? Democrats... CNN...

Wolf Blitzer is still blabbing... 8 minutes into it! He's stumbling oddly. What the hell?

8:23 ET: Clinton sounds stressed and intense. When Obama speaks, she turns and faces him, as if her sheer presence might intimidate him. When it's her turn, she challenges him on multiple grounds, including his recent praise of Reagan.

8:26: Obama tries to respond, and Hillary interrupts him and denies that she referred to his statement about Reagan. She's trying to throw him off and make him lose his cool. He'd started out the debate seeming quite relaxed, maybe too relaxed. Now, he's sizzling. Edwards is begging to get a chance to speak. But Hillary has been attacked, so she has the right to respond. "We're just getting warmed up," she says with some relish. It gets very tense, but at some point both Hillary and Obama are saying that Reagan's ideas may have been distinctive and transformative, but they were bad ideas. Shaking things up, Hillary throws in the charge that Obama represented a "slum landlord" in Chicago. Obama fails to insist on his right to respond, and Blitzer picks this point to let Edwards in. Obama was wronged there, I think.

8:39: Lots of talk about the mortgage problems, and then Blitzer goes back to the "slum landlord" issue and gives Obama a chance to respond. (Not that he has much to say about it... which is perhaps why he didn't demand response time earlier.)

8:43: "You never take responsibility for any vote," says Hillary to Obama. She keeps up the pressure, accusing him of always having an "explanation" for his bad votes. There are all those "present" votes, she says, and we need a straight answer. Hillary came into this debate well-armed, and she's succeeding in throwing him off. Obama is sweating visibly.

9:04: "Of course, the surge was able to pacify some parts of Iraq" — Hillary slips in the concession that the surge worked, even as she is saying that there is no military solution. It just goes to show you can say everything if you really try.

9:07: Edwards wants to know if the others will commit — as he has — to removing all combat troops from Iraq in their first year. Obama goes first and blows a lot of smoke. I don't hear a "yes." Blitzer doesn't pin him down. Was that a yes or a no? Now, it's Hillary's turn, and she waffles too. But, to me, Edwards is the one with the worst substantive position here. Nevertheless, I must say that Obama and Hillary were asked a simple question, neither answered, and they got away with it.

9:11: After the break: Fisticuffs!

9:15: We return from commercials to see that they are rearranging the furniture. Wolf Blitzer informs us that they are rearranging the furniture. I'm annoyed. They had plenty of time to rearrange the furniture during the commercials. Why am I supposed to watch them rearrange furniture? Of course, the break isn't over. This was pure fakery. We're supposed to be titillated by Wolf's repeated assertions that after the break there will be no rules. So put up with some more break, will you?

9:23: Hillary says she's on a "mission." I think the other 2 said they were on a mission as well. This "no rules" part of the debate seems like squishy blather. Or is it me, losing my focus?

9:28: "A race where you've got an African American, a woman... and John."

9:31: "Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black President?" Funny to hear Obama asked that straight out. Bill Clinton had a great "affinity" for black people, he says. He goes on about white southern men, growing up through changing times in the south. Hillary nods knowingly in the background. Obama: "I would have to investigate more Bill's dancing abilities... before I could accurately judge whether he is in fact a brother."

9:40: Is Bill Clinton too big of a presence in Hillary's campaign? Blah, blah, blah, "at the end of the day," blah, blah, blah, she's the one who is running for President. And "ultimately, it's really not about any of us"... it's about people... and their stories... Total non-answer. Ridiculous.

9:47: Edwards: Who will be tough enough and strong enough? Who can go everywhere in America and compete — head to head — with John McCain? I give him credit for trying. In this context, how is he supposed to say the white man is the best bet?

9:51: Obama says he can beat John McCain too. He can "attract independents and some Republicans." Yeah! Obama is the one of the 3 who's most likely to interest non-Democrats, because he's a different kind of candidate. And Hillary can get some because she's more of a centrist. Edwards is the least likely to get them, I think. For some reason, Obama announces that he's "a proud Christian" and gets big applause. "A proud Christian" — is that a good phrase? I thought "pride" was a sin.

10:00: Doesn't this thing end after 2 hours? One more question... "on this important day." Why would Martin Luther King — if he were alive today, and unfortunately he's not — vote for you? Edwards: poverty, poverty, poverty. This question provided on more opportunity for Edwards to say "poverty." Obama: "I don't think Dr. King would endorse any of us." I like that. Hillary: change, values, blah, blah... And it's over.

POST-DEBATE UPDATE: Here's video — via Instapundit — of that first big interchange between Hillary and Obama:

Obama quote I noticed this time: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes." This was after Hillary claimed she never mentioned Ronald Reagan and brushed off whatever Bill may have said.

CNN: "For these women, a unique, and most unexpected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race, or should they vote their gender?"

Pissed-off black woman: "Duh, I'm a black woman and here I am at the voting booth. Duh, since I'm illiterate I'll pull down the lever for someone. Hm... Well, he black so I may vote for him... oh wait she a woman I may vote for her... What Ise gon' do? Oh lordy!"

ADDED: Based on the first 2 comments, I see I need to use my sledgehammer. 1. Read the linked article. 2. The quote is from one of many women who were annoyed by CNN. 3. It's sarcasm.

Nuances of dog talk.

A dog listens to a recording of himself and a dog-friend barking. About midway through, you can see he's deeply absorbed in the nuances. With a follow-up cartoon:


TPM snips together a great clip show... and saves the best for last. My, but Peggy kicks little Doris!

ADDED: Josh Marshall on Bill Clinton:
What troubles me is seeing the man who is in many respects still the de facto leader of the Democratic party, certainly its elder statesman, inject himself as an attack dog into a intra-party contest. I think it's damaging to him and more importantly I think it's damaging to his party.

If you reject a teaching job applicant because he believes a crazy conspiracy theory...

... have you discriminated against him because of his political viewpoint?

I'm not saying that's what happened in this case. I don't know why the University of Wisconsin has not rehired 9/11 conspiracy believer Kevin Barrett to teach a course on the history of Islam. But if we know a person believes something truly nutty, are we not entitled to use that as evidence of his intelligence, judgment, and trustworthiness?

"By the time Hillary is through with Obama, voters will think his middle name is 'Hussein'!"

Kaus quips.

Dear al Qaeda: Why haven't you attacked the United States again?

Ayman al-Zawahri is taking questions on line.
Some of those posting questions sound worried: Does al-Qaida have a long-term strategy?...

Many appear frustrated that al-Qaida is not doing more.

"When we will see the men of al-Qaida waging holy war in Palestine? Because frankly our situation has become very bad," writes one, with the username "Seeking the Path."...

"I think they (al-Qaida's leaders) were aware (that) ... everyone was no longer buying into the propaganda about how great they are," said Jeremy Binnie of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center. "This was put forward as a propaganda exercise and to make it look like they are responding to these concerns."
Politics is not easy for the terrorists. It's not enough just to blow things up. You have to also explain why you aren't blowing more things up.
"Do you have a body that studies events and reviews them to correct mistakes and assess them?"
Let's have some accountability.

ADDED: An emailed comment:
If only the process was more transparent. Then people would feel that they had more of a say in which terrorists were in charge.

The terror netroots are all about wanting to see more things get blown up, but they don't actually do anything but make noise. Chickenvultures, that's all they are. A serious terrorist leader would be able to get them in line, and be generally more supportive of jihad, rather than undermining it.

And really, al Qaeda's entire campaign is built on what they did on 9-11. Nevermind that prior to that, they were considered very polarizing figures. The truth is, they were in the right place, at the right time, and they've been playing that for all it's worth. And what have they done since? Been using that rep to garner big

How to call Bill Clinton a liar Barack Obama style.

"I understand him wanting to promote his wife's candidacy. She's got a record that she can run on. But I think it's important that we try to maintain some -- you know, level of honesty and candor during the course of the campaign. If we don't, then we feed the cynicism that has led so many Americans to be turned off to politics."


"Bush," the new Oliver Stone movie.

It will be "a fair, true portrait" — and don't be so dubious. His Nixon movie is pretty good. Stone plans to focus on Bush's "relationship with his father, President George H.W. Bush, his wild youth, and his conversion to Christianity."
"It will contain surprises for Bush supporters and his detractors," said Stone.
Who's the right actor to play George Bush? Josh Brolin. (Here's a photo slideshow. See the resemblance?)
[Stone] said Brolin was better looking than Bush, "but has the same drive and charisma that Americans identify with Bush, who has some of that old-time movie-star swagger."

Did Anthony Hopkins look much like Nixon?

When laws meant to help really hurt — and what would it take for the NYT to quote Ronald Reagan on the subject?

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt give some vivid illustrations of the way well-intended laws can backfire: The Americans With Disabilities Act motivates doctors to reject deaf patients, and the Endangered Species Act incentivizes the destruction of anything that might come to be regarded as a habitat for something rare.
[W]ith a government that is regularly begged for relief — these days, from mortgage woes, health-care costs and tax burdens — and with every presidential hopeful making daily promises to address these woes, it might be worth encouraging the winning candidate to think twice (or even 8 or 10 times) before rushing off to do good.
Reading this terrific essay, I thought it should be necessary to acknowledge the famous Ronald Reagan line: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

At first, I thought, well, maybe you can't do that in an issue of The New York Times that features a big Frank Rich essay called "Ronald Reagan Is Still Dead." ("[T]he G.O.P. is running on empty, with no ideas beyond the incessant repetition of Reagan’s name.")

But then I searched the NYT archive. I found the transcript of Reagan's August 13, 1986 news conference that contained the line. [Restricted access link.] Since then, however, the New York Times has never printed the entire Reagan quote and has only used the final 9-word quip on 3 occasions.

1. August 22, 2006:
In the lexicon of American business, “cynicism” means doubt about the benevolence of market forces, and it is a vice of special destructiveness. Those who live or work in Washington, however, know another variant of cynicism, a fruitful one, a munificent one, a cynicism that is, in fact, the health of the conservative state. The object of this form of cynicism is “government,” whose helpful or liberating possibilities are to be derided whenever the opportunity presents.

Remember how President Reagan claimed to find terror in the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”?
This was from Thomas Frank. Of course, the author of "What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" thinks this cynicism is wrong.

2. October 21, 2001:
Since Sept. 11, Washington's sense of itself has changed utterly. ''Washington solutions'' have gone from inherently suspect to indubitably essential. The federal government is now seen not just as capable but also as uniquely capable of performing a great variety of urgent tasks: fighting our enemies abroad, stimulating our flagging economy, rescuing bankrupt airlines, rebuilding the ruins in New York City, protecting us from bioterror and making the skies feel safe again. Reagan's old joke about the 10 scariest words in the English language -- Hello, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help'' -- isn't a joke anymore. It's the literal attitude of Reagan-revering Republicans who toured the devastation at ground zero.

With this can-do attitude has arrived a renewed feeling of self-esteem....
This is from Slate's Jacob Weisberg, who also, obviously, disagrees with Reagan.

3. August 1, 1993:
Unlike the Reagan and Bush Administrations, which opposed most Federal efforts to assist American industry, the Clinton Administration enthusiastically supports technology policy and has selected the National Institute of Standards and Technology as the civilian agency to help manufacturers.

The institute is one of the few Federal agencies where the statement "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you" would not be greeted with derision among most business people....
This is a profile of Arati Prabhakar, the woman President Bill Clinton named director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Again, the context is that the quote is wrong and the government can help.

So, you see, The New York Times has never once invoked that famous Reagan quote for the proposition that the well-meaning government efforts can prove harmful.

Gen. Butt Naked, a terrifying nom de guerre.

Joshua Milton Blahyi, who killed 20,000 people, has returned to his homeland Liberia where — clothed — he will face its truth and reconciliation commission
"I could be electrocuted. I could be hanged. I could be given any other punishment... But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go.

"I have been looking for an opportunity to tell the true story about my life — and every time I tell people my story, I feel relieved."
This story includes — in addition to nude war-making — the pre-battle ritual of killing a child and eating its heart. He is currently an evangelist.

January 20, 2008

Well, then, may Suzanne Pleshette wake up next to God.

The last words of her NYT obituary are an Onion headline:
Arguably Ms. Pleshette’s most memorable television moment was not in “The Bob Newhart Show” but in the final episode of “Newhart.” On May 21, 1990, Mr. Newhart’s character, Dick Loudon, was hit in the head by a golf ball and woke up to find himself in Dr. Robert Hartley’s bed, with his beautiful, unfailingly sane wife, Emily, at his side. The whole second sitcom had been a nightmare.

The episode was considered one of the most successful series finales in television history, partly because it managed to remain a secret until it was broadcast. As time passed, some found the scene a useful metaphor for hopes that a difficult situation might turn out to be just a bad dream. In 1999, a headline in the humor publication The Onion read, “Universe Ends as God Wakes Up Next to Suzanne Pleshette.”
And here's the original Onion squib:
The 15-billion-year-old universe came to a surprise-twist end Tuesday, when God woke up next to actress Suzanne Pleshette. "What a crazy dream I just had," God said to Pleshette at the conclusion of the popular, long-running universe. "I was the Creator of all things, I had this crazy Son who was always getting arrested and wouldn't get a haircut, and My children were always hurting and killing each other in My name." Pleshette reassured God that He had imagined the whole thing and urged the beleaguered, well-intentioned deity to go back to sleep.

Restaurant with warm colors.


Restaurant with cool colors.


When divas shop. (A dialogue.)

This is pretty.

I hate the color.

It's royal blue.

Not royal enough for me.


Some cool smoke photography.

Obama wins Nevada!

If you look at it the right way.

AND: It's getting ugly.

"If you’re a southern conservative and you can’t make it in South Carolina, it’s over."

Said Bill Bennett on CNN, bullying Fred Thompson, who might say that lumbering to a slow start is the right way for an adult to handle a campaign.

John McCain!

A big win in South Carolina. Huckabee's down. But what about Mitt? Are we supposed to see McCain as big favorite now? Actually, it's not a great bet:
... Mitt Romney won the largely uncontested Nevada caucuses, giving him at least the claim of having won two contests in a row. On a more practical and potentially more meaningful level, he also captured more delegates on Saturday than Mr. McCain did.

... [McCain's] first two victories came in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where independents, who often seem more enthusiastic about Mr. McCain than members of his party do, are permitted to vote in the primaries.

The terrain from here is markedly different, starting Jan. 29 in Florida, where the Republican primary is open only to Republicans.

“He still has significant skepticism that he has to overcome in the Republican base,” said Gary L. Bauer, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and is not endorsing anyone at this time. “The real test will be how well he can secure the Republican base as we head toward Super Tuesday.” Mr. Bauer added, “On balance, in most states, to get the nomination you’ve got to do very well among registered Republicans, and that is going to become increasingly important as other candidates drop out of the race.”

An exit poll in South Carolina offered evidence of the challenge Mr. McCain faces: 8 in 10 of the voters in the primary described themselves as Republicans, and just 3 in 10 of them voted for Mr. McCain. The finding suggests what Mr. McCain’s rivals were saying Saturday night: that he might not have won without the help of voters outside his party.
ADDED: Here's Noam Scheiber:
With John McCain's victory tonight, we've finally achieved that belated winnowing. In one quick burst, McCain has effectively knocked Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani from the race: Huckabee because it's not clear where he wins if he can't do it in as demographically favorable a state as South Carolina. (Fifty-nine percent of voters today were evangelicals; Huckabee only won them by a 40-27 margin over McCain.) Rudy because it's hard to see why anyone would perfer him to McCain going forward; both appeal to moderate, security-minded Republicans and McCain is the only one who hasn't been a disaster of late. And Thompson's finished--as if it needed to be said--because even he'd conceded this was his last chance to reverse a debilitating six-month slide. (One interesting sidenote: Huckabee's under-performance among evangelicals probably had something to do with the 15 percent of them Thompson picked off. I have a feeling that won't be Fred's last gift to McCain in this race...)

This is clearly a McCain-Romney race going forward. Romney has the money and may still be the establishment choice over McCain, who's widely disliked in elite GOP circles. The benefit of the latter will be, among other things, to dampen the fundraising boost McCain should receive from South Carolina.


Intermission at the Metropolitan Opera:


The ladies check their cell phones. From "Die Walküre" on Monday to "Jersey Boys" and "Wicked" on Friday and Saturday, I've spent the past week sitting in expensive chairs.

But Althouse, did you enjoy yourself? Review the shows!

Do I review shows? I think you'll find that I do not.

Not a shred of information? Of judgment?

I'm too afraid of being boring. I'm afraid to take those expensive seats because I'm afraid of being bored and I'm afraid to write about them because I don't want to be boring. I will say something about each show, but bear in mind that these are not reviews. These are just a few things I dare to say.

1. "Die Walküre." I never took Fricka seriously before. She seemed like the annoying wife who had to show up and sing once to make God do something he didn't want to do and set the tragedy in motion. But Stephanie Blythe made me really believe her point of view, a rock-solid ban on adultery. And isn't it fascinating to be so outraged by adultery, when there is also that brother-sister incest, which is what shocks the mortals in the audience? There are so many more adulterers in the audience than violators of the incest taboo.

2. "Jersey Boys." If you've been reading this blog from the beginning, maybe you know that back in 2004, I mourned that no one cared about The Four Seasons anymore. Less than 2 years later, a big Broadway show about them opened. But even though The Four Seasons were the first group I loved — and I loved them from the first few seconds of "Sherry" heard on the radio — I wasn't that eager to hear a singer impersonate Frankie Valli. I can't express how sublime that voice seemed to me when I was 11. Does Michael Longoria sound like him? Superficially, yes. But would I go to see a Four Seasons cover band? [ADDED: I mean tribute band.] Of course not. I love all the songs, but I'd rather play the originals. As for the story behind the songs, it's somewhat interesting and quickly told. But I'd rather play the originals and enter the deep emotional space of the past. Must I sit — contorting to see around the melon-headed man in front of me — to stare at the stage and and listen to a little man who is not Frankie Valli, who has a voice but no sex appeal?

3. "Wicked." Great set and costumes and neat, complicated story, but must every song in the show sound like those horrible, overblown pop songs they write for the finale of "American Idol"? Glinda and Elphaba got me thinking about Diana DeGarmo and Fantasia.
I'm through accepting limits
'Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But 'till I try, I'll never know
It's an "American Idol" song. And it goes on and on like that. Pursue your dreams! Be true to yourself! Don't let anyone stop you now! That's fine for you, but what about me?