July 5, 2008

The Saturday vlog.

You gave me questions. I picked 4:

Obama backtracks on late-term abortions.

Does he think we won't notice? First, he limited the health exception to "serious physical" things:
Now, I don't think that "mental distress" qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term...
Then, he switched! He now wants a mental health exception!
Reporter: You said that mental distress shouldn't be a reason for late-term abortion?

Obama: My only point is this -- historically I have been a strong believer in a women's right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family. And it is ..I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions including late-term abortions.

In the past there has been some fear on the part of people who, not only people who are anti-abortion, but people who may be in the middle, that that means that if a woman just doesn't feel good then that is an exception. That's never been the case.

I don't think that is how it has been interpreted. My only point is that in an area like partial-birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously. It can be defined through physical health, It can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don't think that's how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don't think that's how the courts have interpreted it and I think that's important to emphasize and understand.
So as long as a woman can get her "blues" classified by a medical health professional as "depression," she has a right to a late term abortion no matter how strongly the majority of citizens feel about the immorality of destroying a fully viable human entity? And that's rigorous?

Incredible. That would be incredible even without the prior inconsistent statement.

Really. Does he think we are idiots?

ADDED: Jan Crawford Greenburg is dissatisfied because Obama didn't make the health exception big enough:
Obama is trying to restrict abortions after 22 weeks to those women who have a serious disease or illness. But the law today also covers some women who are in "mental distress," those women who would suffer emotional and psychological harm without an abortion.

This standard has long been understood to require less than "serious clinical mental health disease." Women today don't have to show they are suffering from a "serious clinical mental health disease" or "mental illness" before getting an abortion post-viability, as Obama now says is appropriate....

So Obama, it seems to me, still is backing away from what the law says—and backing away from a proposed federal law (of which he is a co-sponsor) that envisions a much broader definition of mental health than the one he laid out this week.

The Court has said the Constitution prohibits states from banning post-viability abortions unless those laws contain a broad mental health exception---one that includes mental distress and severe emotional harm. Abortion rights groups have fought for decades to preserve these exceptions, and I'm awfully curious what they will think about limiting them to women with mental disease or mental illness.
Obama is subject to a huge amount of pressure from both sides on the issue of abortion — and on the meta-issue of whether he's a flip-flopper. And then there's the question of Supreme Court nominations, an issue that comes into focus for a lot of people when the subject is abortion. Is Obama prepared to be hounded about all these things for the next 4 months?

The thirsty photographer.

I can't get enough water:


A closer dive:


You've seen face painting. This is amazing whole-head painting!

More here. (NSFW ads on there.) (Via Metafilter.) I love the inventive use of the features of the head. Check out the gumball machine and the pizza. The dog is the funniest one... and so true!

Coffeehouse and vlog.

I declare this post an Althouse coffeehouse. You can talk about whatever you want.

And I'd like to do a little vlog today, but the trouble is I've got nothing to say. So offer some ideas — preferably odd and as-yet-unblogged things.

Photographing water.

I'm continually amazed by the way water looks in photographs:


I love to enlarge details and am continually amazed at the painterly images that I'm utterly incapable of seeing in person:


That was there? I had no idea!

Religion, free speech, and license plates.

Here is a NYT op-ed about automobile license plates. The writer —Stefan Lonce, who has a book on the subject of vanity license plates — distinguishes 2 forms of religious speech via license plate. First, there are the specialty license plates. South Carolina has introduced a Christian-themed plate that looks like this:

Second, there are vanity plates, and the states sometimes reject the letter/word combinations a driver requests. There is, we are told, federal court lawsuit about Vermont's rejection of a vanity plate that would read JN36NT (which is a reference to a Biblical passage).

It seems obvious that the individual expression in the form of a vanity license plate is the preferable to the state's provision of the religious message on a specialty plate. The "I Believe" specialty plate is almost surely a state endorsement of Christianity that violates the Establishment Clause. (There's no array of specialty plates for different religions and no atheist plate. What would an atheist plate look like?)

But everyone knows that what's on a vanity plate is chosen by the car-owner and doesn't represent the state's point of view. Vermont seems to be overdoing a concern about Establishment Clause and blundering into a Free Speech violation (though, according to Lonce, the federal district court approved the state's decision). The trouble with vanity plates is that at least some of them do need to be censored — there are always some people who want "F**KYU" — so it won't work to have individual choice as the only filter.

Lonce thinks the problem of censoring vanity plates can be solved by setting up a national data base, pooling the efforts of all the states to identify the offending letter/number combinations. An alternative is just to get rid of vanity plates altogether, but states make a lot of money selling them, and people want to buy them.

About those Bloggingheads commenters.

Mickey's right about this:

IN THE COMMENTS: rcocean, the commenter whose comment Mickey printed out and taped to his monitor, comments here:
Just to beat a dead horse about BHTV commentators.

Currently, there are 111 comments on the Micky-Bob Diavlog "squishiness Edition". The comments were made by only 19 people. And of those 19, seven made 80 of the 111 comments.

You have one left commentator, (he boycotts Althouse) whose made almost 3,000 BHTV posts in the last 500 days!
Christy says:
And I think you've hit on one of the many reasons why I never bother to comment over there. They complain about the lack of female commenters and because I'm a fan of the site I want to help them out with the numbers. Inevitably, however, the comments already there make me think "why bother?" and I go away. I rarely even bother to read them anymore.

July 4, 2008

"Iced to meet you."

Some great photos here. That one almost made me cry.

"We played it straight and square. Nay, we simply are straight and square."

"We smiled at the idiotic questions and answered them patiently. We remonstrated that this was no way to help the youth of the world understand the depth and tragedy of our conflict."

How serious, intelligent people get taken in by Sacha Baron Cohen. I don't know what's funnier, the dialogue he — as Bruno — extracted from two experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
“Vait, vait. Vat’s zee connection between a political movement and food. Vy hummus?”

We exchanged astonished glances. “Hamas,” we explained, “is a Palestinian Islamist political movement. Hummus is a food.”

“Ya, but vy hummus? Yesterday I had to throw away my pita bread because it vas dripping hummus. Unt it’s too high in carbohydrates.”...

“Your conflict is not so bad. Jennifer-Angelina is worse.”
... or the fact that they were taken in because the producer who scheduled the interview "had a British accent and seemed serious and professional" and the crew arrived "with its three cameras and large coterie of assistants" and was "serious and very professional."

So the key to pulling a prank is not cracking up. And having a British accent. Cohen's comedy is based on his accents — Bruno has a ridiculous Austrian accent — and it works not just because his accents are funny, but because accomplices maintain that accent that people take so seriously – the old British accent.

2 couples on Picnic Point.

Here's charming couple, sitting in a willow tree on the edge of Lake Mendota:



And look at this lovely couple, stretched out in clover, reading:





The NYT wants "change it can believe in" — and it can't believe this new Barack Obama.

It was all about believing! Don't wound our sensitive credulousness!

What if... what if... he's only a man?

Jesse Helms is dead.

The NYT reports.

ADDED: An obit:
During his 30 years in Capitol Hill, the North Carolina Republican became a powerful voice for a conservative movement that was growing both in Congress and across the country, and he used his position to speak out against issues like gay rights, federal funding for the arts and U.S. foreign aid.

"I had sought election in 1972 to try to derail the freight train of liberalism that was gaining speed toward its destination of government-run everything, paid for with big tax bills and record debt," Helms wrote in his 2005 memoir, "Here's Where I Stand."

"My goal, when my wife, Dot, and I decided I would run, was to stick to my principles and stand up for conservative ideals."...

In 1960, he moved to the executive offices of Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent of WRAL, and he developed a strong following across eastern North Carolina over the next decade by appearing in editorials that ran at the end of each night's evening newscast. The editorials blended folksy anecdotes with conservative viewpoints that blasted the federal government, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other entities he viewed as too liberal. In one noted editorial, he suggested building a wall around the UNC campus, which he called the "University of Negroes and Communists," so that its liberal sentiments could be contained.
Ugh. Mixing "conservative ideals" with racism.... I think that made millions of young people hate conservatism.
[H]e was accused of using racial politics to secure narrow victories. In the 1990 campaign against [former Charlotte Mayor Harvey] Gantt, for example, a Helms television ad showed a white man's hands crumpling a rejection notice from a company that had used an affirmative action program to hire a black job candidate.

His views on race relations – he opposed a national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., led a filibuster against the extension of the Voting Rights Act and called some young blacks "Negro hoodlums" – and social issues sharply divided the public into those who viewed him as a champion of the common man and those who thought of him as a narrow-minded bigot....

"What is unique about Helms – and from my viewpoint, unforgivable – is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans," [David] Broder wrote shortly after Helms announced that he wouldn't seek re-election in 2002.
Did he really die on the 4th of July? The president of the Jesse Helms Center announced that the time of death was 1:15 a.m. on Friday. It has long been considered an important distinction to die on the 4th of July, as, most notably, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams did in 1826. And now Jesse Helms has that distinction.

But death is an end, and the 4th — though it is a famous death day — more properly represents a beginning. In the hope that the era of Jesse Helms is really dead, let's look at another closeup of the Declaration of Independence:

Madonna brainwashes A-Rod with Kabbalah.

She's making him believe they are soulmates. That's what his wife says, according to a friend. Wouldn't it be amazing if God spent his time — I know, God is beyond time, etc., but don't confuse me with that now — pairing up big celebrities?

Okay, Madonna with Sean Penn, that's funny. That's amusing. Now, I'm tired of that. I don't like Sean Penn as Mr. Madonna. Let's put her over here and have her screw Guy Ritchie up for a while. He's been annoying me. He needs some obstacles. Enough of that. That got boring. Wedding with kilts was good, but English estate, children's books, prissing around... blah! Put her with A-Rod now. That'll be hilarious.

Note: I don't really understand Kabbalah or the mind of God. I'm just guessing.

Let's see your best flag photographs.

Here are mine:

Washington Monument

[ADDED: I posted this photograph on July 4, 2005, gave some background, encountered a dispute and responded with the next photo. There's a funny dispute in the comments there, something that relates to this post from yesterday.]


[ADDED: This next photo originally appeared here.]

Veterans Day


Here are Jac's. I've always loved this one. Like my first one, it was done with a film camera. As he explains, it's a little display from a junk shop in Portage.

Secondhand store in Portage, Wisconsin

I probably have my own picture of that, somewhere amongst all my many unscanned film photographs.

Independence Day — a closeup.


To download a high-resolution copy of the Declaration of Independence here.

Read the transcript here.

July 3, 2008

The evening read.


The evening swim.



"Obama Softens on Iraq Withdrawal Timeline."

Good. This is what I was expecting. Weren't you?

Should McCain be asked how his experience in Vietnam qualifies him to be President?

We're told he "recoiled" in "distaste" when asked. Jon Stolz says:
The fact of the matter is that General Clark was absolutely right. McCain's service, while heroic and honorable, is not very relevant when it comes to preparing him to be the military's ultimate commander. His experience didn't involve executive decision making in the military, or global strategy. Very few candidates for the presidency have had the experience in life that prepares them for that role. In fact, McCain said it himself in 2003, that some of our best Commanders in Chief had no military experience at all.
Jac says:
[I]s it true that McCain is "reluctant to talk about" his heroism in Vietnam? I don't know. But he hasn't been reluctant to say "I'm John McCain and I approve this message" in an ad showing footage of him as a POW, intercut with a closeup of McCain with the word "hero" emblazoned on his forehead....

No matter what your opinion is of Barack Obama, I think you have to give him this: he'd never approve an ad that was based on highlighting a specific argument for why he's qualified to be president, but then later try to shut down any rational discussion of that precise point.
I think there are some things that Barack Obama has tried to place beyond debate, such as the things his wife has said in political speeches on his behalf.

Recoiling, disgust, and outrage — it's a response of a kind. A gesture. An expression. It's a move in the debate. The question is whether it works as a good enough statement. You can ask someone a question to which they will respond with an icy "How dare you ask me that?" When are you going to feel chastened and apologize, and when are you going to call their bluff?

I think in the case of McCain's experience in Vietnam, he really is best off not attempting to articulate how it might be a qualification. It's something that he did, something that happened to him, and it is what it is. We all know it and can rely on it to the extent we see fit. There is nothing more for him to say about it. If he were to begin to talk about what it was like and how it has formed him as a man, it would seem immodest and extreme. He would have to put us all in our place, and he might seem like an angry old man of the past. The silence is eloquence enough.

ADDED: Jac has done an update and he links approvingly to this:

Oh, lord! That was such an offensive attempt at a gotcha! MSNBC is a piece of work.

The New York Times comes to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and finds that the radical professors are on their way out.

The radicals are old Boomers nearing retirement and being replaced by a younger generation:
[A] Wisconsin professor, Erik Olin Wright, a 61-year-old sociologist and a Marxist theorist, described it this way: “There has been some shift away from grand frameworks to more focused empirical questions.”

As for his own approach, Mr. Wright said, “in the late ’60s and ’70s, the Marxist impulse was central for those interested in social justice.” Now it resides at the margins.

“I was part of a new wave of hires,” Sara Goldrick-Rab said, peering over the top of her laptop at her favorite off-campus work site, the Espresso Royale cafe. She came to the University of Wisconsin in 2004....
Hey, weird! I'm sitting here reading this on my laptop at the Espresso Royale café.
“My generation is not so ideologically driven,” she said....

“Senior people evaluate us for tenure and the standards they use and what we think is important are different,” she said. They want to question values and norms; “we are more driven by data.”...

As for partisan politics, when she wrote an article in May for Pajamasmedia.com about welfare reform cutting off poor people’s access to higher education, some friends and co-workers were surprised by its appearance on that conservative blog. She said she didn’t know; she had not paid attention to its political bent.
Oh, New York Times? Pajamasmedia.com is not a blog.
When Ms. Goldrick-Rab speaks of added pressures on her generation, she talks about being pregnant or taking care of her 17-month-old while trying to earn tenure. The lack of paid leave for mothers is high on her list of complaints about university life.
If you have paid leave for mothers (beyond a few weeks to recover from childbirth), you have to have paid leave for fathers or it is unconstitutional sex discrimination. Nevada v. Hibbs.

Anyway, bottom line: It's great that the younger generation is more interested in data and science and less interested in political action and ideology. I welcome their contribution — to the University of Wisconsin and to the world.

There's not always a word for the thing you want to say.

But it's slightly maddening when you feel there's a word, and you just can't pull it out of your brain. A colleague of mine is looking for a word that expresses a phenomenon embodied in these 3 examples:
1. I go to the track and place a bet on a horse because its name is the same as my son's and the jockey is wearing #5, which is my son's hockey jersey number.

2. I can't decide what to order for lunch so I decide that I'll order whatever the person in front of me orders.

3. I'm not sure what color car to purchase so I decide to purchase the color of the next car that drives by my house.
Now, I think #1 is distinctly different from 2 and 3, because in #1, she knows what the answer is when she adopts the rule. In #2 and #3, she excitingly adopts the rule and locks herself into a result that is unknown. But all 3 are about adopting a rule to make a decision while knowing that there is nothing about the rule that will improve the quality of the decision. One could superstitiously believe that the rule would make the decision good or religiously believe — in examples 2 and 3 — that God knew you'd adopted the rule and was giving you a sign about what was the right decision. And one could think that the rule would generate randomness where somehow a nonrandom decision seemed bad. But basically, the decisionmaker is being playful or poetic.

So is there a word for this?

And do you have any good examples of using this sort of decisionmaking — colorful and exciting rules you've made for yourself? Obviously, there are a lot of standard ways approaches like rolling the dice or consulting the Magic 8 ball, but how about some weird stuff? Or why not make up a rule for yourself about something right now and do it? Got a decision to make? Make it based on something strange and as-yet-undetermined. And tell us about it.


This made me think of "Slacker" — one of my favorite movies. We see 2 women walking along the sidewalk. One says: "The next person who passes us will be dead within a fortnight." But that's not a case of the phenomenon my colleague means – not unless we're supposed to view the speaker as a murderer choosing a victim. The standard interpretation is that she's a psychic.

ADDED: Someone in the comments mentions Dadaism, and that reminds me of "A Book of Surrealist Games." I think example #3 could be seen as a sort of surrealist game. The more we talk about these examples, the more I think they are 3 different things. Several commenters have said that #1 is superstition, and I think it is either superstition — in the form of overvaluing a coincidence — or a sentimental delight in coincidence. #2 seems to be conformity or a rational bet based on a tiny amount of evidence. Someone who is eating here is eating that, so maybe he knows what's good. Only #3 is surrealist and dangerous — but nowhere near as much as if you'd chosen the color of your car based on something other than the color of someone else's car. Chances are it will be an ordinary car color, and at least someone else has seen fit to get a car that color. That said, I saw a bright purple car 2 days ago. It looked like hell. And I love the color purple. It just looks like hell on a car.

Is it a crime for a gay couple in Wisconsin to go to California to get married?

[A]n obscure state law ... makes it a crime for Wisconsin residents to enter into marriage in another state if the marriage would be prohibited here. The law imposes a penalty for those who enter into a marriage that's prohibited or declared void in Wisconsin of up to $10,000 and nine months in prison....

[The gay rights advocacy group Fair Wisconsin] sent an e-mail to about 10,000 supporters to see if anyone was making plans to go to California to get married. It heard back from two, and followed up to warn them about the law, said Glenn Carlson, executive director of Fair Wisconsin.

"We're telling people, especially if you live outside of Dane County, to be careful," Carlson said. After receiving the warning, one person wrote back that "I'd rather be prosecuted than persecuted."
Would anyone who supports the ban on gay marriage want this criminal statute enforced? Actually, yes:
Julaine Appling, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Family Council, said the statutes are clear and the law should be enforced.

"If it were challenged and the courts decided to basically wink at it, and refused to enforce the law, we have a problem," she said, adding that the constitutional amendment clarified that no marriage other than between a man and woman is legal.
Oh, for crying out loud. It's one thing to have the gay marriage ban in the state and, based on that, for Wisconsin not to recognize the California-married gay couple as in fact married when they return to the state. It's quite another to criminally prosecute them!

I don't think Wisconsin prosecutors would waste public money and expose the gay marriage ban to such bad publicity, but the mere threat of prosecution is oppressive.

Does a woman's nudity in your presence make it legal to videotape her without her consent?

That is what Mark Jahnke — a former high school teacher — is arguing to a Wisconsin appellate court.
Sarah Stillwell, 42, of Stevens Point said it was a flash of a red light from beneath a pile of clothes in her bedroom that sparked the unsettling suspicion that Jahnke, a longtime friend she was seeing romantically for three years, might be photographing her....

Stillwell's complaint to Stevens Point police led to a search of Jahnke's house, where police seized a host of evidence, including 33 audio tapes of the couple having sex and three DVDs, one of the couple engaged in sex, and two of Stillwell nude in her home....

THE 2001 law under which Jahnke was charged makes it a crime for a person to "capture a representation that depicts nudity without the knowledge and consent of the person who is depicted nude while that person is nude in a circumstance in which he or she has a reasonable expectation of privacy."...

Because his girlfriend was knowingly nude in his presence, she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy as the court itself has defined it, Jahnke argued.
The issue is the scope of a criminal statute. This is not a question whether she can sue him for committing a tort, but whether the state can prosecute him. Therefore the language of the statute — not our general ideas of what is right and wrong — is crucial, and ambiguities are traditionally construed in favor of the defendant. (This is called "the rule of lenity.")

Now, Jahnke, according to the article, did not distribute the videos, but the law is not about distribution. It's about taking the photograph — "captur[ing] the representation" — in a particular "circumstance." He captured the representation, but was she in the required circumstance to fit the statute?

What Jahnke was convicted of doing was despicable. (Can you possibly disagree?) But this is a question of statutory intepretation.

July 2, 2008

"I share Ann's affection for bloggers who are trying to observe and understand what they are writing about..."

Writes Jim Lindgren, commenting on my comment on Rush Limbaugh. (Ha ha.) He contrasts this trying to observe and understand what they are writing about — I would say thinking by writing —to "always writing op-eds with a thesis they are trying to prove" and is nice enough to say this is "one reason that I enjoy reading her blog." But he concludes:
Unfortunately, I find that many blog readers prefer strongly thesis-driven posts, which they can either echo or attack point by point.
Many... perhaps. But the best blog readers — and radio listeners — are the ones who want to experience thinking in real time.

Jim seems to be complimenting and critiquing me simultaneously. But I detect some wistfulness, some request for permission to cast aside those strongly thesis-driven posts — to live freely in writing.

What are the 2 words the eyes are saying in that photo?

Ha ha. It was pointed out that I have 2 posts in a row that begin with "Ha ha." So now I have 3. Ha ha. And I'm only saying that to take the edge off the the idiocy of having 3 posts in a row about that Rush Limbaugh article in the NYT. But I was just listening to the podcast of the show today and wanted to start a new conversation about the fact that Rush loves that cover photograph of himself. He said:
That's a great picture. You know, I've had some people say, "How come you let them take a picture of you where you look mean?" Hey, this is how the libs see me. You know what that picture says? That picture says dark, sinister, confident, dangerous; and if you look at the eyes in that picture, it also says something else, two words. (No, not "Tony Soprano.")

It's just a great picture.
He doesn't say what the 2 words are, not because he never gets around to it, I think, but because one of the words is one of the words you can't say on the radio, and the famous 2-word phrase is what he was trying to express to those terrible leftist readers of the New York Times. I'd said I thought the picture expressed the Times' feeling of intimidation. They portray him as sinister because they feel threatened by him. But his version of it is that he — and not the photographer and the photo editor — was the one doing the expressing.

Rush Limbaugh on Bill O'Reilly: "Somebody’s got to say it. The man is Ted Baxter."

Ha ha. I wanted to break that line out of the long post on the NYT article to make sure you wouldn't miss it.

Here's Ted Baxter:

"The cover photo of the TIMES Sunday magazine depicts Limbaugh 'dark and sinister' in a theme of THE GODFATHER."

Ha ha. Well, the Times is expressing its own entirely appropriate feeling of intimidation — for the man who likes to call himself "a harmless little fuzzball." And the hot news is that Limbaugh has signed a deal for $400 million to do his show through 2016.

UPDATE: The NYT has now made the whole article available. (It's from the Sunday Magazine.) I'll read it and write something more in a few minutes.

MORE: The article, by Zev Chafets, describes his entry into Rush's Palm Beach studio:
... I was met by Bo Snerdly — a very large man in a Huey Newton beret — who glared at me. “Are you the guy who’s here to do the hit job on us?” he demanded in a deep voice.

“Absolutely,” I said.

Snerdly, whose real name is James Golden, held my eyes for a long moment before bursting into emphatic laughter.
Chafets describes watching the show.
Unlike Howard Stern or Don Imus, he has no sidekicks with him in the room. He does, however, keep up a running conversation with an unheard voice. I always assumed that this was just imaginary radio shtick. Now I saw that the voice was attached to a human interlocutor, Snerdly, who banters with and occasionally badgers Limbaugh via an internal talk-back circuit.
Yes, you can tell when you listen to the show that someone is talking to him (or perhaps writing to him). Occasionally, it's like a Bob Newhart telephone routine where you have to imagine what is being said on the other end of the line, and that's part of why it's funny.

From the interview:
“I’ve never even met [John McCain], never spoken to him,” Limbaugh said. “I’m sure there are things about him I’d like if we meet. This isn’t personal.” He then delivered a litany of the presumptive nominee’s personal failings — too old, too intense, too opportunistic, too liberal. But, he assured me, he would be with McCain in the fall. “It’s like the Super Bowl,” he told me. “If your team isn’t in it, you root for the team you hate less. That’s McCain.”

It already seemed, when I made my visit, that McCain’s opponent might well be Senator Obama, and I was curious to know how Limbaugh planned to take on America’s first African-American major-party nominee. “I’ll approach Obama with fearless honesty,” said Limbaugh, who speaks of himself in heroic terms on air and off. “He’s a liberal. I oppose liberals. That’s all that’s involved here.”

I asked if he had any specific tactics in mind.

“I haven’t yet figured that out exactly,” he said. “You know, I’ve had a problem with substance abuse. I don’t deal with the future anymore. I take things one day at a time.”
That last line is self-deprecating and (I think) humorous, but I think he knows that doing things day-by-day keeps the show alive and makes it work. It's what works in blogging too. If you have a whole planned agenda and you just crank out the propaganda, people will get sick of you. It's when you are talking/writing to figure out what you think, to find out what you want to say, that you are interesting. (They didn't do that on Air America.)

More to come... I have to shut down this computer so I can unplug it. A thunderstorm is rolling it, and I want to survive.

MORE: Chafets shows some admiration for Rush:
But Operation Chaos was a triumph of interactive political performance art....

Such massive and consistent popularity makes Limbaugh a singular political force....

“Rush is just an amazing radio performer,” says Ira Glass, a star of the younger generation of public-radio personalities. “Years ago, I used to listen in the car on my way to reporting gigs, and I’d notice that I disagreed with everything he was saying, yet I not only wanted to keep listening, I actually liked him. That is some chops. You can count on two hands the number of public figures in America who can pull that trick off.”

Glass compares Limbaugh to another exceptional free-form radio monologist, Howard Stern. “A lot of people dismiss them both as pandering and proselytizing and playing to the lowest common denominator, but I think that misses everything important about their shows,” he says. “They both think through their ideas in real time on the air, they both have a lot more warmth than they’re generally given credit for, they both created an entire radio aesthetic.”
Glass — who is one of the public figures in America who should be counted on those 2 hands — is absolutely right about Limbaugh and Stern. That explains very well why I listen to all 3 men. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Rush, Howard, and I have the same birthday.)

There's some interesting material about his expensive lifestyle:
There are five homes — all of them his — on the property. The big house is 24,000 square feet. Limbaugh lives there with a cat. He’s been married three times but has no children.
Perhaps he'll leave a fortune to his cat.
A life-size oil portrait of El Rushbo, as he often calls himself on the air, hangs on the wall of the main staircase.
Remember, today's blog themes are: wealth, pets, and grotesque.
Unlike many right-wing talk-show hosts, Limbaugh does not view France with hostility. On the contrary, he is a Francophile. His salon, he told me, is meant to suggest Versailles. His main guest suite, which I did not personally inspect, was designed as an exact replica of the presidential suite of the George V Hotel in Paris.
Hmmm... Chafets should have listened to a few more shows! Liking the artwork isn't the same as liking the politics.
His staff lights fragrant candles throughout the house to greet his arrival from work each day.
So he wasn't lying when he was going on and on about jumbo-sized, gardenia-scented candles the other day.

There's some good stuff about Rush's father:
To this day, Limbaugh calls his father “the smartest man I’ve ever met.”

Certainly he was one of the most opinionated and autocratic. “On Friday nights my friends would come over to the house just to listen to my dad rant about politics,” Limbaugh recalls. “He was doing the same thing as I do today, without the humor or the satire. He didn’t approve of making fun of presidents. He didn’t think that sort of thing was funny.”
It's funny how his father's behavior became the idea for the show. Imagine taking your father's cranky rants, making them funny and getting the whole country for your equivalent of the living room. Think about it. Think about ways you can emulate and one-up Dad. Are you replaying your father's routine in your daily work? My father used to trap me into discussions of all the big issues and drove me to tears by applying the Socratic method — he called it the Socratic method. He was all about requiring that I define my terms, recognize that my answers were "semantics," and explain how I was going to get "from point A to point B." And now here I am, a law professor. These things happen.
Dick Adams, Rush’s boyhood friend and high-school debate partner, told me: “Mr. Limbaugh didn’t suffer fools lightly, let’s just put it like that. Many times I was over there when he called down Rush or David in harsh tones. There was usually a string of expletives attached.”
Yikes. Later:
He is less like his angry father than his mature role models, Buckley and Reagan, for whom sociability and fun were integral to their conservative world view.
This is interesting:
Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at The National Review, watched Limbaugh’s tutelage under Buckley, and he takes Limbaugh seriously as a polemicist and public intellectual. “I hired a lot of people over the years, fancy kids from elite schools, and I always asked, ‘How did you become a conservative?’ Many of them said, ‘Listening to Rush Limbaugh.’ And often they’d add, ‘Behind my parents’ back.’ ”
This too:
Limbaugh works extemporaneously. He has no writers or script, just notes and a producer on the line from New York with occasional bits of information. That day, and every day, he produced 10,000 words of fluent, often clever political talk.
I thought he was reading off a script prepared by others much of the time. But he wants you to think this is just what bursts out of his head. It's damned impressive if it really does.

On Limbaugh's drug problem:
Being Limbaugh, he said he believes that most of these shortcomings stemmed from his inability to love himself sufficiently. “I felt everyone who criticized me was right and I was wrong,” he confided. But, he says, he left his insecurities behind in Arizona. “It’s not possible to offend me now,” he said. “I won’t give people the power to do it anymore. My problem was born of immaturity and my childhood desire for acceptance. I learned in drug rehab that this was stunting and unrealistic. I was seeking acceptance from the wrong people.”
How is that "being Limbaugh"? Isn't the need to love yourself stock advice in recovery programs? And doesn't Limbaugh usually ridicule the self-esteem movement?

On Bill O'Reilly:
He hadn’t been sure at the time that he wanted [his opinion] on the record. But on second thought, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.”
He likes Ann Coulter, Camille Paglia, Thomas Sowell, and Christopher Hitchens.

Nice article. A very positive, admiring picture of the man — not at all in keeping with the ominous cover photograph. There's some critique in there, but basically, it's obvious that the reporter had a great time hanging out with Rush Limbaugh.

Barack Obama "is supposed to be the tonic for the culture wars of the 60s."

But, Maureen Dowd says, "it’s Obama who seems trapped, sucked back into yesteryear" (i.e., Vietnam):
Wes Clark joined the growing ranks of troublesome Obama associates when he meowed that just “riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down” is not a qualification to be president. He made McCain sound like a drone aircraft....

Another renowned Marine grunt in Vietnam, Democratic Senator Jim Webb, chimed in on MSNBC, advising flyboy McCain to “calm down” on his promotion of his military service, saying we need to “get the politics out of the military.”
Calm down? The only point of saying that is to piss off McCain. There's nothing more irritating than being told to calm down. And McCain hadn't flamed up over Clark. Get the politics out of the military? It's Clark and Webb who are injecting all the politics into the military right now. Webb is pissing me off. I don't know how McCain can resist taking the bait. Do the Obama people have someone who can be even more annoying than Webb on this subject? They seem to be wheeling out the military men one after the other. Clark didn't do the trick, so up comes Webb. Can they top Webb?

Anyway, Dowd's point is that Obama wants to get us out of Iraq, but he can't even get us out of Vietnam.

ADDED: Instapundit links to this post, calls attention to Obama's "I can’t have fun anymore, it’s not allowed," and quotes Enigmaticore from our comments section:
I still cannot fathom what the thinking is with the Democrats on this one.

It's like they want to have this election fought on questions of character, patriotism, self-sacrifice, and integrity. Oh, and with the attack on McCain for having voted for confirmation of Ginsburg and other liberal judges, of bipartisanship.

This is playing out as if McCain has a mole inside the strategy sessions of the Democrats, guiding them to fight the campaign exactly where their candidate is weakest and their opponent is strongest.

Do they really want people, going into the 4th of July holiday, to be concentrating on the service and sacrifices of John McCain? Really?

The NYT notices that pro-Obama bloggers are mad at Obama over his flip on telecommunications immunity.

James Risen writes:
During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership....

“I don’t think there has been another instance where, in meaningful numbers, his supporters have opposed him like this,” said Glenn Greenwald, a Salon.com writer who opposes Mr. Obama’s new position. “For him to suddenly turn around and endorse this proposal is really a betrayal of what so many of his supporters believed he believed in.”

Jane Hamsher, a liberal blogger who also opposes immunity for the phone companies, said she had been flooded with messages from Obama supporters frustrated with his new stance.

“The opposition to Obama’s position among his supporters is very widespread,” said Ms. Hamsher, founder of the Web site firedoglake.com. “His promise to filibuster earlier in the year, and the decision to switch on that is seen as a real character problem. I know people who are really very big Obama supporters are very disillusioned.”...

“I will continue to support him,” [said Markos Moulitsas, a liberal blogger and founder of the Daily Kos.] “But I was going to write him a check, and I decided I would rather put that money with Democrats who will uphold the Constitution.”
You can't please everybody, and if you want to be President, you really can't please Greenwald, Hamsher, and Kos. Obama is taking the right position now, and he should defend it frankly.

"The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face."

Christopher Hitchens has himself waterboarded.
Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
He has a second go at it:
Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it....
Hitchens concludes: "[I]f waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture." But if Hitchens is willing to submit to it as an experiment, it can't be the worst torture. We can easily think of many tortures that he would not have accepted for journalistic purposes and that no one friendly to him would have perpetrated.

Hitchens doesn't deprive us of the pro-waterboarding argument:
[A] man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.
But Hitchens nevertheless concludes that it is torture and that Americans should not torture, and his argument is chiefly a practical one premised on American interests.

ADDED: Video of the Hitchens waterboarding.

What if federal law allows the death penalty for raping a child and the Supreme Court analyzed "evolving standards of decency" without noticing?

It happened!
A military law blog pointed out over the weekend that Congress, in fact, revised the sex crimes section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2006 to add child rape to the military death penalty. The revisions were in the National Defense Authorization Act that year. President Bush signed that bill into law and then, last September, carried the changes forward by issuing Executive Order 13447, which put the provisions into the 2008 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial.

Anyone in the federal government — or anywhere else, for that matter — who knew about these developments did not tell the court. Not one of the 10 briefs filed in the case, Kennedy v. Louisiana, mentioned it....

Dwight Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who now works for the Air Force as a civilian defense lawyer handling death penalty appeals.

Mr. Sullivan was reading the Supreme Court’s decision on a plane and was surprised to see no mention of the military statute. “We’re not talking about ancient history,” he said in an interview. “This happened in 2006.”
What an immense shame and embarrassment for everyone involved in this case — especially for all of the Justices of the Supreme Court!

Grotesque faces are highly favored by the very rich.

Click here to see the paintings that brought the highest prices.
A 1967 portrait ["Study for Head of George Dyer,"] by Francis Bacon fetched $27.4 million at Sotheby's here on Tuesday night...

... "Untitled (Pecho/Oreja)," a 1982-83 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat... acquired by members of the band U2 in 1989... sold for $10.1 million....
I'm not knocking these paintings, by the way, just noting that both depict grotesque faces and finding it interesting that people with lots of money enjoy ugliness. I'm always jealous of successful painters — and I painted many grotesque faces in my failed-artist days. Reading articles like this one, I have to fight back the delusion that those millions should be mine.

Leona Helmsley has left $5+ billion dollars to minister to the needs of the dog community.

All that money for dogs? People didn't like her, and apparently, she didn't like people. Or do you think she just loved dogs that much? There must have been many days when she looked at her little dog and thought: Only a dog can love me. Only a dog knows what real love is.
Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document...

It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley’s trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley’s will or the trust documents.

“The statement is an expression of her wishes that is not necessarily legally binding,” said William Josephson, a lawyer who was the chief of the Charities Bureau in the New York State attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2004.
Will the lawyers and judges be able to wheedle their way out of of this? Will the force of mega-money and sheer public outrage at spending it all on dogs open a loophole where there is none? Read the linked article, and you'll see that the judge has already been "flexible" about the will that left $12 million to Helmsley's dog Trouble. The dog is only getting $2 million!
[L]ongstanding laws favor adherence to a donor’s intent, and the mission statement is the only clear expression of Mrs. Helmsley’s charitable intentions. ...

... Mrs. Helmsley signed it in 2003 to establish goals for the multibillion-dollar trust that would disburse assets after her death.

The first goal was to help indigent people, the second to provide for the care and welfare of dogs. A year later, they said, she deleted the first goal.
What thoughts went through her head as she deleted the goal of helping poor people? What happened that made her snap?

Now, let's assume the trust stays the way it seems she wanted it, and the money must be all spent on the dog community. How to spend it?
There are many ways the trustees could spend the Helmsley money on dogs. National groups like the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have programs dedicated to dogs, and many smaller local groups rescue abandoned and abused dogs.
Make sure the cats don't get any of it! Why not stop putting the dogs to death? Build huge dog care centers for all the stray dogs. House their caregivers — luxury style — and pay them well. Now, it's a nice jobs program for the best people — the dog-loving kind.
Or the trustees could use the trust’s money to finance veterinary schools or research on canine diseases.
Found schools of dog medicine. (The cats get nothing! Farm animals? Zoo animals? Wild animals? No money for them!) Very generously fund all the professors of dog medicine at these schools.

You know, being a people doctor isn't so great anymore. So all the best students will want to go to dog medicine school — where tuition is free. Make room and board free too. And make it luxury hotel style.

Found dog hospitals. Provide free care to dogs. Cancer surgery — free. Intensive care units — with the best paid nurses. The hospital food? Hire the best chefs.

Build dog cemeteries. Ornate, grand — have the best sculptors carve marble dog statues for the monuments. And let people walk their dogs in in the cemetery and piss on the monuments all they like. Pay some human beings to clean up after the dogs constantly.

Construct beautiful parks dedicated to dogs on the most expensive city real estate. At the gate, post a sign: No human beings unaccompanied by dogs.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo looks for loopholes:
1. The University of Georgia. Go Dawgs!

2. Footwear for the working poor.

3. Plastic surgery for homely girls.

4. A tuition-free Rap school, founded by Snoop.

5. The world's biggest block party, with weiners by Milwaukee's own Usinger's.

6. Fireplace andirons for everybody!

7. Fund the study of parhelions.

July 1, 2008

"Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives."

Says Jonathan Chait, interpreting this study and appropriately and humorously checking himself: "I'm going to wallow in smug self-satisfaction for a few minutes, then go over to the Corner to see if anybody has a rebuttal."

McCain and Obama both criticized the Supreme Court for rejecting the death penalty for the rape of a child, but McCain points to the real distinction.

WaPo reports:
McCain emphasized that he would seek out Supreme Court appointees along the lines of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, saying they're the kind of jurists who will rule in favor of crime victims.

"They will be the kind of judges who believe in giving everyone in a criminal court their due: justice for the guilty and the innocent, compassion for the victims, and respect for the men and women of law enforcement," he said. "In all of criminal justice policy, we must put the interests of law-abiding citizens first -- and above all, the rights of victims."...

While McCain noted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) criticized [Kennedy v. Louisiana], he suggested that Obama would back the same kind of liberal justices who overruled the Louisiana law this month.

"More to the point, why is it that the majority includes the same justices he usually holds out as the models for future nominations?" he said. "My opponent may not care for this particular decision, but it was exactly the kind of opinion we could expect from an Obama Court."
This is exactly the point I wanted to see made. What is Obama's counterattack? From the WaPo piece:
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor questioned why McCain would suggest only "an Obama Court" would produce rulings like the kind the Court just issued concerning child rapists, when the GOP senator backed four of the five judges who just ruled the death penalty was not appropriate for such crimes.

"Senator McCain voted for 4 of the 5 judges who supported this flawed ruling, which is why this attack is particularly disingenuous and nothing more than the same old Bush-style politics that the American people are tired of," Vietor said....
What's disingenuous is Vietor's argument. The role of the President and the role of a Senator are very different when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. The President's nomination identifies one person from the pool of possible nominees and therefore has a tremendous amount of latitude in searching for someone who he thinks will decide cases to his liking, who shares his ideology.

A Senator can only question this one individual and vote up or down. When someone with the qualifications of Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Stephen Breyer is nominated, it is very hard for a Senator to justify voting no, even if he would not have nominated that person. In fact, he should vote yes — out of an understanding of the President's role and respect for the people who elected that President.

Indeed, as I said at the time of his confirmation, it was outrageous to vote against the spectacularly qualified John Roberts:
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.
Of course, Barack Obama was one of the 22.

A year ago, Obama talked about why he rejected John Roberts. Roberts said "he saw himself just as an umpire":
“But the issues that come before the court are not sports; they’re life and death. We need somebody who’s got the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.”

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

“In those 5 percent of cases, you’ve got to look at what is in the justice’s heart, what’s their broader vision of what America should be."
If you really believe that about the cases that are determined by "heart," wasn't Kennedy v. Lousiana a heart case? Writing for the majority, Anthony Kennedy said:
It is an established principle that decency, in its essence, presumes respect for the individual and thus moderation or restraint in the application of capital punishment....

[We] insist upon confining the instances in which capital punishment may be imposed....

As it relates to crimes against individuals, ... the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken....
Surely, this is what Obama wants from a Justice. How can he credibly assert otherwise?

"This image stands in stark contrast to the fairy-tale image of the famous face and chestnut hair that made her modeling's next big thing."

"Geraldo at Large" and at loathsome.

Things you shouldn't say on TV.

"Jesus Christ."

Planning a Chicago shopping trip? The sales tax is now 10.25%!

That's the highest sales tax in the country. I've driven to Chicago many times just to shop. Many of us in Wisconsin do that. And this really makes that trip much less appealing. When things get more expensive, we compensate by buying less or going somewhere else.

"'Mongol' might as well be called 'Braveheart in a Yurt.'"

Ha ha. So writes Michael Phillips. That's what I thought: This is like "Braveheart," right down to the deep, minimalistic love story.

There's a lot in this war movie — the coming of age of Genghis Khan — that women can love. Beautifully photographed landscapes. Fabulous fashion. (Those hats!) Horses galore. Feisty kids. Manly men who sing in that amazing overtone voice. Beautiful women who make the first move, stand their ground, and accomplish daring feats. Lovers separated and united. Bondage. (Do you know what a cangue is?) Tribal customs from the 12th century. Lots of eating and drinking. (Meat carved off the bone and eaten from a knife and endless bowls of (occasionally poisoned) liquid). Also a lot of knives, arrows, and blood.

"Mongol" should count as a law movie too. Temudgin (Genghis Khan) comes up with the big idea: "Mongols need laws." And that related idea: "I will make them obey, even if I have to kill half of them." He also happens to say: "Mongols have the right to choose."

Here's Stanley Kauffmann:
... Immediately we think of... John Ford's The Searchers ...

Other reminders of Ford abound, as well as reminders of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia... Olivier's Henry V and Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky must also be tucked away in [the director Sergei] Bodrov's head...

Should a man wear a tie the color of his wife's outfit... even when the color is orange?

You know, when it's orange, it looks so intentional. So uxorious. But Cindy's got a thoroughly deliberate admiring look, and you can believe it's sincere because her hair is tousled just so.

Should we read the article too? "Campaign Flashpoint: Patriotism and Service." There's Barack, wearing a flag pin and a red-and-white striped tie and waving at us in the company of 3 flags.
“I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign,” Mr. Obama said, speaking over the applause of hundreds of supporters. “And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.”
He'd like to establish a rule not to talk about patriotism. Can we also have a rule not to talk about hope and change?

"Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: ‘A little fatigued.’"

Search-and-replace idiocy aimed at Tyson Gay — AKA Tyson Homosexual.
It's a bit ironic that a right-wing news site [The American Family Association] was the perpetrator of an exuberant search-and-replace, since this phenomenon is typically associated with journalistic PC-ism: everyone seems to know about the apocryphal case of a newspaper changing "back in the black" to "back in the African American."

IN THE COMMENTS: Chip Ahoy writes:
Did you know American Family Association hired me to help edit history? Well they did!

I'm particularly pleased with font selection, adaption, bendage and fading. All that requires teh mad skillz.

Was Google tricked into shutting down anti-Obama bloggers?

That's what the anti-Obama bloggers have charged — and in so charging, drawn immense attention to themselves and furthered their anti-Obama cause.
On Monday, Google would not explicitly rebut the idea that it had been tricked but said that the cause of the temporary blockage appeared to be elsewhere. “It appears that our anti-spam filters caused some Blogger accounts to be blocked from creating new posts,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said in a statement. “While we are still investigating, we believe this may have been caused by mass spam e-mails mentioning the ‘Just Say No Deal’ network of blogs, which in turn caused our system to classify the blog addresses mentioned in the e-mails as spam. We have restored posting rights to the affected blogs, and it is very important to us that Blogger remain a tool for political debate and free expression.”

Mr. Kovacevich would not give further details about Google’s spam monitoring techniques or their relationship to the Blogger service.
Of course, Google can't disclose its methodology. It would tip spammers off. New techniques would be needed. But Kovacevich — unless he's lying — revealed something about the technique. Google monitors email. (Sidenote: You might want to worry about how Google monitors email.) Was there a big mass emailing listing the anti-Obama bloggers that resembled the kind of email that points people to spam blogs? If so, they were crossing into or close to the territory of spamming.

Now, last May, Google saw my blog as a possible spam blog:
Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.
I read its information about why this had happened:
If you make a large number of posts in a single day, you will be required to complete a word verification for each one, independent of whether your blog has been cleared as a potential spam or not. If this happens to you, simply complete the word verification for each post, or wait 24 hours, at which point it will be removed automatically.
So my frequent posting looked spammy to robots. I had to deal with that by doing word verification, which was annoying. If I had actually been barred from posting, it would have really upset me. I don't understand why the anti-Obama bloggers got more than just word verification. Perhaps it is because a mass-emailing with a set of linked blogs is stronger evidence of spam than just posting a lot.

If it is the case that a mass-emailing with a set of links gets the linked blogs blocked, then political opponents do have a way to get Google to censor blogs they hate. They'd have to fake advertise the blogs to do that, and they'd have to be spam emailers too, but it's a little disturbing to know there is that path of attack.

Google needs to make a special effort to protect the political blogs and to let us Blogspot bloggers know it will vigorously protect us. I'm not going to be one of those people who try to punish Blogger by leaving in a huff. I'm too stubborn, and I enjoy being part of the vast Google empire that is taking over the world.

But maybe Google wants us to see Blogger as a place to blog small-time or to get started and expects people like me to break away.

Talk to me, Google! Is that what you think? I'm stubborn, but I don't stay where I'm not wanted.

June 30, 2008

Early summer evening, Madison, Wisconsin.




"Just when you thought there was nobody in the world crazier than yourself..."

"... along come people who believe that we all subconsciously say what we really mean in reverse, through the unconscious but deliberate choosing of careful words which, if played backwards, say what we actually mean."

"Men are lazy and uncaring, while women are overworked and sympathetic."

As presented by the New York Times.

Where are the children?

Of all the things that make me feel as though my time was in the past and I don't understand this world today, first on my list is the absence of children playing outdoors in suburban neighborhoods.


Here in Madison, I go for walks past 20 or 30 blocks of houses — good-sized houses with lovely yards and neat sidewalks. Big shade trees line streets that are too narrow to attract any through traffic. And I don't see any children playing. I see an occasional toy vehicle like the one in the photograph, but not one child. No one rides by on a bike or a tricycle or scooter. Swing sets are empty. No one is playing hopscotch or jumping rope. There are no ball games or frisbees. No kids are running around and yelling. Nothing! Where are they?

It's like Episode 1 of "The Twilight Zone": "Where Is Everybody?" That aired in 1959. A man arrives in a town and finds it devoid of people. The story wouldn't even work today. You wouldn't understand what was so weird about a town without people in it and why the man found it so upsetting. You'd just be yeah, yeah, it's a town. So what? What is that guy's problem?

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O. said"
No children outside? Excellent. It's quiet! I can now get to all those great books I've been meaning to read. I can sit outside on my hammock and read and read and read. I have stacks of books I can now focus on. Hooray!

Oh no! I just sat on my reading glasses. Alas...
ADDED: National Review's Lisa Schiffren responds here. Like many of the commenters on this post, she speculates that the children are involved in scheduled activities or indoor pursuits (like TV and video games). But she also thinks the birth rate is low, especially in Madison, which she says (correctly) "is very blue."

Shiffren then says a few things about abortion. I tend to think that the people who can afford to live in these nice suburban houses are competently using birth control and making their own free decisions about how many children to have. That may be why they send their kids to various planned activities. (Many commenters mentioned camp and pools.) It makes me wistful to see all the unused beautiful yards, and it's less sad if the kids are doing good things like camping. It's more sad if they are staring at TV and computer screens all the time.

And although it's really sad if the birth rate drops too low, but it's still good that people plan their family size, and I would not assume that that they achieve their goals by using abortion.

More importantly, it is incorrect to think that the incidence of abortion correlates with support for abortion rights. It doesn't! Look at the statistics. I haven't clicked on all 50 states, but I clicked on a lot of them and haven't found one with a lower incidence of abortion than Wisconsin's. It may be that people who support abortion rights are well-educated and realistic, that is, better at running their own lives and not getting pregnant by accident.

"Obama's Katrina: The most damaging article about Barack Obama I've read."

Says Mickey Kaus pointing to this piece by Binyamin Applebaum in the Boston Globe:
[A] Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.

Read the whole thing. I'm sure there are many questions, but my first one was: Why didn't Hillary Clinton use this material more effectively?

A bounce-Mitt-igation strategy.

Politico reports:
“Romney as favorite” is the hot buzz in Republican circles, and top party advisers said the case is compelling.

Campaign insiders say McCain plans to name his running mate very shortly after Barack Obama does, as part of what one campaign planner called a “bounce-mitigation strategy.”
Let's call that a bounce-Mitt-igation strategy.

Why doesn't Obama make McCain go first? He can't, because the Democratic convention comes first.
One of the chief reasons the Massachusetts governor is looking so attractive is his ability to raise huge amounts of money quickly through his former business partners and from fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons.
Romney’s other advantages, according to people involved in McCain’s screening process:

— Squeaky-clean and fully vetted by the national media.

— Has presidential looks and bearing and immediately would be a strong campaigner who could be trusted to stay on message.

— Family’s Michigan roots would help in a swing state that went Democratic in 2004.
The main problem is supposedly a lack of personal good-feeling toward Romney.... and a concern about anti-Morman prejudice. Presumably, any voter moved by religious prejudice is currently gravitating toward McCain.

Is this how the McCain campaign is analyzing things: They want the Mormons' money, but they hate to sacrifice the bigot vote?

"Imagine treading water with broken arms and trying to pull the life vest's toggle with your teeth..."

"... as a crowd of North Vietnamese men all swim toward you (there's a film of this, somebody had a home-movie camera and the NV government released it, though it's grainy and McCain's face is hard to see). The crowd pulled him out and just about killed him. Bomber pilots were especially hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time his right knee was bent 90 degrees to the side, with the bone sticking out. This is all public record. Try to imagine it. He finally got tossed on a jeep and taken only about five blocks to the infamous Hoa Lo prison — a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton, of much movie fame — where for a week they made him beg for a doctor and finally set a couple of the fractures without anesthetic and let two other fractures and the groin wound (imagine: groin wound) go untreated. Try for a moment to feel this.... He was mostly delirious with pain for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs were sure he would die; and then, after he'd hung on like that for several months and his bones had mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up, the prison people came and brought him to the commandant's office and closed the door and out of nowhere offered to let him go. They said he could just... leave.... Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would cry out to you at that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer...."

Wrote David Foster Wallace in the essay "Up, Simba" — in this collection and as a separate book under the title "McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope."

"The supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up..."

"... sixty men to each small, unventilated, unheated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations—the floors were covered with cow dung. There wasn't room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year's Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn't."

From a letter from Kurt Vonnegut Jr., dated May 29, 1945, in Newsweek and in his new book "Armageddon in Retrospect."

"If Barack Obama wants to question John McCain's service... he should have the guts to do it himself and not hide behind his campaign surrogates."

Said retired Admiral Leighton "Snuffy" Smith... speaking as a surrogate for the McCain campaign.


1. Is it really so bad to use surrogates to articulate the arguments that wouldn't sound too pretty coming from the candidate's mouth?

2. Is every supporter who makes an argument a "surrogate" for the candidate? I think that "surrogate" implies that the campaign authorized the person to say something on behalf of the candidate and that it should not cover supporters who happen to say things, even when they say things that make you want to ask the candidate whether he would adopt the supporter's statement as his own.

3. Was Wesley Clark sent by the Obama campaign to say that John McCain's military experience — "riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down" — is not the kind of executive decisionmaking that a President needs to do and is therefore not much of a qualification for President? Clark was responding to a question about Barack Obama's lack of equivalent experience, and the point was to minimize McCain's service — which would be stupid — but to defend Obama's qualifications.

4. Wasn't Clark correct on the precise point that he made about executive experience?

5. Wasn't Clark a fool not to see how the other side would be able to use his remark?

6. How should Obama respond now? He has to say something today, and I feel as though I could type out the appropriately Obaman professorial distinctions and explanations that I expect to hear, but this post is too long already.

7. Wesley Clark can't be the VP pick now, right? Or does the uproar over his remarks show that McCain supporters think Clark is a formidable opponent?

UPDATE: The Obama campaign sends a spokesman — one Bill Burton — to say:
"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."
Obama needs to say something himself, something with some passion and less... Dukakitude.

June 29, 2008

"'Sometimes funny has a sexual character.' Sometimes? Nearly always, according to Sigmund Freud."

"The whole point of humor, Freud thought, is to get around our inhibitions."

Jim Holt — author "Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes" — reacts to the story of Judge Alex Kozinski, his personal (but on-line) porn, and his wife's defense of it ("Alex is not into porn — he is into funny — and sometimes funny has a sexual character.")
The very ability to enjoy such humor means that you must be investing a good deal of energy in keeping your animal side in check. You are at least trying to be civilized. A dirty joke is an uprising against the bourgeois morality that enslaves most of us most of the time (and a good thing too). We can rejoice in its defeat only because that defeat is brief and inconsequential. In fact, our laughter itself brings the little uprising to an end. As most of us have discovered, laughter's a pretty strong anti-aphrodisiac.
Holt goes on to discuss sex humor in ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance, and Shakespeare. (For some reason, there are were no paragraph breaks in his longish column, so you'll have to overcome your resistance to reading a long block of text.)

He quotes George Orwell:
"The modern emphasis on what is called 'clean fun' is really the symptom of a general unwillingness to touch upon any serious or controversial subject."
So should we be suspicious of people who don't laugh at sexual humor?
There are two other classic theories of humor in competition with his. One of them is the "superiority theory," propounded in various forms by Plato, Thomas Hobbes and Henri Bergson, which says that laughter is a way of crowing victoriously over the humiliation of others. This theory works well at explaining the appeal of ethnic and racial jokes, of jokes about gays and drunkards and henpecked husbands and lawyers and women ("Why do women wear perfume and makeup?" goes a classic of this genre. "Because they're smelly and ugly.") The superiority theory sees mockery, hostility and aggression at the root of all humor. Morally speaking, it puts sexual humor in a pretty bad light, making it tantamount to verbal rape.
"Verbal rape" sounds bad, but don't forget that comedians love to say "I killed" when they made people laugh. So that would be verbal murder.

I think some mockery, hostility and (verbal) aggression is a good thing. And it's funny. The real question is who are your targets? In other words, what ideas are you expressing? You deserve to be judged for that, not the mocking aggression per se. Judged... and then, perhaps, let off the hook. Because you were joking.
The other time-honored view of humor has a rather sweeter flavor, and a more intellectual one. It is the "incongruity theory," versions of which were held by Blaise Pascal, Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer, which says that we laugh when the decorous suddenly dissolves into the absurd..... One of the images on the Kozinski website that the judge said he planned to delete -- it was "degrading," he said, "and just gross" -- was a depiction of women as cows. That's pure superiority theory, and as obscene as it is banal. But take this joke, reputedly a favorite of George H.W. Bush: "How do you titillate an ocelot? You oscillate its tits a lot." Ostensibly, it falls into the category of raunch, with its use of the not-ready-for-prime-time word for breasts and its winking allusion to bestiality. But it is essentially sheer nonsense, a sonic jeu d'esprit.
That reminds me, nobody supplied the comic answer to the George Carlin question I typed up for you last night (when I was watching hours of the HBO Carlin marathon). Carlin has a nice mix of wordplay and sex, and sometimes it's very funny just because the expected wordplay isn't there at all and it's just flatly sexual. But that the dissolution into the absurd that Blaise, Manny, and Artie were talking about, right?

Joe Raciti sings "All Hail the Great Blue Whale" — and the instruments are all made of cardboard.

More Joe Raciti music videos here.

I love music played on things that are not musical instruments and on toy instruments and instruments made out of nonstandard materials. Here's an old post about that.

"As a Buddhist, how do you reconcile your pacifism with the roles your daughter Uma has played in films like Quentin Tarantino’s bloody 'Kill Bill'?"

A question for Robert Thurman. Answer:
Quentin is kind of obsessed, he’s a wild guy. But he is very brilliant. We trust that his motive is to show people the foolishness of violence rather than to glorify it. I hope that’s true.
Think it is?

Thurman is a professor of Buddhist studies and is ordained as a Tibetan monk (though he is American). I love this answer to the question what does he think about when meditating:
Usually, some form of trying to excavate any kind of negative thing cycling in the mind and turn it toward the positive. For example, when I am annoyed with Dick Cheney, I meditate on how Dick Cheney was my mother in a previous life and nursed me at his breast.

... It’s a fantasy of releasing fear and developing affection. It’s a way of coming back to feeling grateful toward him and seeing his positive side, finding the mother in Dick Cheney....

When I want to feel compassion for an unlikable person, I imagine him as someone’s adored son. Some lamas do that. They say that that’s easier for Americans, because often Americans have personality problems with their moms.
How would you visualize a person you wanted to feel compassion for? And would you want to develop a visualization that would enable you to feel compassion for someone you hated? What public figure would you want to try to start feeling positive about?

Aside from public figures, it does seem like a good idea to find a way to feel compassion for people who one way or another have come to be what people find unlikable. It would not work for me to imagine him as someone’s adored son, because it would only lead me to believe that being adored by one's parent causes a person to become unlikable.

Obviously, I'm not a Buddhist. I'm more inclined to want to understand what has caused these traits that are perceived as unlikable and why, exactly, do we find them unlikable. I don't want to wipe away the perception of unlikability but to know more about it and to perceive it with greater clarity.

"My loony bun is fine, Benny Lava."

Via Andrew Sullivan, the ultimate in misheard lyrics:

Amusingly misheard lyrics can be called mondegreens, as explained here by Gavin Edwards:
Misheard lyrics come with many alternate names, only some of which form compound nouns when joined with the word "boneheaded." Some of the names that have been used: Music Ear Disturbance, disclexia, chronic lyricosis, and Litellas (after Gilda Radner's befuddled Saturday Night Live character). The technical term prized by aficionados is mondegreen. If your dictionary doesn't include "mondegreen," throw it out and buy a better one.

The term "mondegreen" was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen." As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn't realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green."...

Any misheard lyric is an impromptu audio Rorshach test. It can be alarming to discover that significant parts of our brains want pop songs to cover the lyrical topics of cheese, walruses, and clowns....

Some people never learn the words to a favorite song--or transmute them into something more to their own taste. My friend Alma liked Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" because she thought the title was "I supply the fish."
We hear what we love to hear.

ADD: I gotta get my Fred and Wilma. (These song translations are a whole genre on YouTube. Click around.)