August 30, 2008

"This is the mother of all storms, and I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it."

Says Mayor C. Ray Nagin, looking at Hurricane Gustav and ordering the evacuation of the City of New Orleans.

The wild speculation that Sarah Palin is not the real mother of the new baby she presents as her own.

Some people are shocked that a Daily Kos diarist, one "Inky 99," would air doubts about this.

ADDED: If you want to read the comments beyond the 200th, you need to click on "post a comment" -- at the bottom of the post page -- and then click on "newer." And you can still add new comments, but to see them, you'll have to take those extra steps.

What the nonfiction writer promises the reader.

Watch the whole diavlog, based on Richard Preston's book "Panic in Level 4." I especially loved this segment about a genetic disease that causes people to cannibalize their own bodies. They need to be guarded constantly, lest they bite off their own fingers and so forth. Preston tells us to think of a person who compulsively bites his cuticles or chews the skin off the inside of his lip and then imagine the volume turned way up.

ADDED: About that embedded clip. Preston talks about the nonfiction writer's contract with the reader. I don't think all nonfiction authors are really offering what he says and certainly, as a reader, there's nothing about a nonfiction author's offer to tell the truth that makes me agree to suspend disbelief. So it's not a contract with reciprocal duties. And in some cases, I might want to read someone precisely because I am entertained by the very aspects of the work that are not on the up-and-up. (I'm thinking of Hunter S. Thompson.) In most cases, I just know that to get what I want, I have be alert, looking for lies and distortion.

I read a lot of judicial opinions and political writing, and I'd be a chump if I read that writing with the idea that they had offered to tell it straight and I was therefore bound to accept their assertions at face value. But I'm not a chump, and in fact, for me, most of the pleasure of reading that stuff is looking for the flaws and reading between the lines.

Those 100 things to do before you die.

Here's the whole list, printed on the occasion of the death of Dave Freeman, one of the authors of "100 Things to Do Before You Die: Travel Events You Just Can't Miss."

Ugh, it's all travel. Or "travel events," whatever that means.
La Tomatina: Food-fight festival held annually in Bunol, Spai, involving over-ripe tomatoes....

Devil Dancers of Corpus Christi: Locals dressed as devils dance under the tropical sun in church squares all over Venezuela each summer....

Hounen Matsuri: An annual Japanese fertility festival with a 7ft wooden phallus carried to a Shinto shrine....

Chung Yuan Ghost Month Festival: A celebration of dead spirits in Taiwan features the burning of paper money.
I'm perfectly content to allow multitudes of "locals" around the world to have their fun and work out their obsessions and fantasies without having me checking them out.

I'll just burn a few dollars here at home.

"Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested."

The 100 best first lines from novels... or so says American Book Review.

The "truly" is the best part, right? Ah, I'm thinking of this part of Jonathan Franzen's "The Discomfort Zone."
[The teacher, Avery] began to mumble about "three different universes of interpretation" in which the text of The Trial could be read: one universe in which K. is an innocent man falsely accused, another universe in which the degree of K.'s guilt is undecidable... I was only half listening. The windows were darkening, and it was a point of pride with me never to read secondary literature. But when Avery arrived at the third universe of interpretation, in which Josef K. is guilty, he stopped and looked at us expectantly, as if waiting for us to get some joke; and I felt my blood pressure spike. I was offended by the mere mention of the possibility that K. was guilty. It made me feel frustrated, cheated, injured. I was outraged that a critic was allowed even to suggest a thing like that.

Franzen's whole book is worth reading. So is Kafka's.

And "The Trial" is only #13 on that first lines list, which is also worth reading.

IN THE COMMENTS: molly writes:
The "truly" isn't even in the original -- it's "etwas Böses," something bad/evil, which is meant to be a little ironic, I think.

I found my copy, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir, and the first line is:
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.

I guess Willa and Edwin are from the "universe" in which "K. is an innocent man falsely accused." Franzen is reading the untranslated book, and there is a lot in "The Discomfort Zone" about studying the German language.

"Is the Mothers of Invention’s exuberant 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance' a song of joy or a song of comfort?"

"Is Meat Loaf’s 'Bat Out of Hell' a love song, or does its cautionary motorcycle-crash conclusion make it a song of knowledge?"

Questioning Daniel J. Levitin's theory that there are 6 kinds of songs. The types are: songs of friendship, songs of joy, songs of comfort, songs of knowledge, religious songs and love songs.

What about songs of mockery, which is how I always heard "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance"?

Does the Palin pick make it more or less in Hillary's interest for McCain to win?

A fascinating conundrum.

Hillary ostensibly supports Obama, but presumably she still wants to be President. So we might think she secretly wants McCain to win, so she can run in 2012. She'll get to start running immediately upon Obama's loss and will instantly spring back to into place as the most important Democrat, with 4 more years of being in the spotlight as the presidential frontrunner, the glamorous life she's been accustomed to. If Obama wins, she will probably have to wait until 2016, and she'll be older than McCain is now, i.e., really old. [CORRECTION: She'll only be 69, i.e., rather old.]

How does Palin change anything?
[I]f McCain wins, Palin is vice president and at least gets a very good shot at becoming the heir apparent to Republican nomination for the presidency. This would take Hillary's issue -- her firstness -- away from her, and Hillary would become a lot more like just another Democratic pol.
But if Obama wins, he's first-y too, and firstiness will lose pizzazz.

And many liberal women and feminists will be horrified at the idea that the first woman President would be an anti-choice conservative, so if McCain wins and Palin moves forward as the next Republican nominee, support for Hillary could galvanize.

ADDED: I just reread "She'll get to start running immediately upon Obama's loss and will instantly spring back to into place as the most important Democrat, with 4 more years of being in the spotlight as the presidential frontrunner, the glamorous life she's been accustomed to" and felt a surge of support for Obama!

"Will Sarah Palin help McCain's campaign?"

Instapundit has a poll, and guess what the results are?

Here's my rival poll:

If right-leaning voters think Palin was a great choice and left-leaning voters think Palin was a disastrous choice, what does that mean?
Palin was a great choice!
Palin was a disastrous choice!
There's enough good and bad to spin it whichever way you like, and only time will tell. free polls

So I did find a new Obama ad this morning.

On the Politico, which says that the ad shows "how careful they're now playing the Palin selection."

The hell.

What is it with the Obama people?

ADDED: I still get the "unavailable" message in Safari, but I can get it to play in Firefox, so I'll go ahead and embed it:

It's a very tepid ad. But mainly, it just seems that they weren't ready to hit the ground running with new material.

Why don't I post more Obama ads?

I love to post and discuss interesting political ads, but I end up posting mostly McCain ads. One reason is that the McCain campaign has done some pretty amusing, outside-the-box ads. But another reason is that I have a hard time finding the Obama ads. If there's a page somewhere with the ads, I can't find it. If there isn't, is this because ads are crafted for particular localities (or demographic groups) and the campaign is not eager to make them available to the general public?

The official McCain page in YouTube has his ads, and you can check out the newest ones whenever you want. But the official Obama page in YouTube seems to only have video of (pretty boring) campaign events. No ads. I can never find anything to use.

Anyway, I went looking for the Obama ads this morning and, while I couldn't find a page of new things, I did run across the famous 1984 ad (unofficial) from March 2007. It was interesting to watch it again, to watch it knowing that Hillary Clinton had been defeated:

When Hillary was so formidable, that seemed really cool. This morning, to me, it seems awful to throw a hammer into her face and blow it up.

Obama, Biden, McCain, Palin — not one Baby Boomer.

Ruth Anne observes. She -- not a boomer -- is pleased.

Back in April, I wrote:
I had been thinking that if Obama wins, it will mean that we are done with Baby Boomer Presidents, after having only 2 — young Bush and male Clinton. I thought that was rather pathetic for this big, famous generation of mine.
I got a lot of flak in the comments from people who said Obama -- Oboomer -- was a boomer. I was relying on a NYT article, "Shushing the Baby Boomers."
In taking the first steps toward a presidential candidacy last week, Mr. Obama, who was born in 1961 and considers himself a member of the post-boomer generation, said Americans hungered for “a different kind of politics,” one that moved beyond the tired ideological battles of the 1960s....

Mr. Obama calculates that Americans of all ages are sick of the feuding boomers and ready to turn to the generation that came of age after Vietnam, after the campus culture wars between freaks and straights, and after young people had given up on what überboomer Hillary Rodham Clinton (who made her own announcement on the Web yesterday) called in a 1969 commencement address a search for “a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.”...

“In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004,” he writes, “I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage.”
Now, that was written way back in January 2007. We're so much older now! How did that glowing picture of Obama hold up? Speaking of glowing pictures, click through to the Times to see what a caricature of Obama looked like, all those many months ago.

ADDED: The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII. These people thought it was the greatest thing just to have a normal, nice family life. So they had us, and we, who knew nothing but that pleasant life, found it insipid and turned on them, mocked them, and rebelled. Most of us know now what assholes we were to treat them like that, after what they went through, but they made us what we were.

So being a Boomer has to do with who your parents were. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in 1942, so she was more of a Baby Boomer herself, because she was raised by parents who went through the Depression and WWII. She lived through part of WWII herself, but only as a baby. And look how she lived her life. Obama had to build his character in response to that. Now, he did also spend a lot of his formative years living with his grandparents, and that might have produced something of a Boomer personality. But, basically, I'd say Obama is not a Boomer.

By my standard, Sarah Palin is slightly more of a Boomer than Obama, because, although she was born 2 years later, her parents were born earlier, in 1938 and 1940. Still, they mainly grew up in the post-war era, and it was their parents, Palin's grandparents, who had the key experiences that lead a person to place extraordinary value on a normal, ordinary life.

"The analogy would be if John Lennon had died not in 1980 but in 1965."


August 29, 2008

If Alaska were a city, it would be...

Fort Worth.


States ranked by population.

Cities ranked by population.

What people search for when they search for Sarah Palin.

Based on the last few thousand visitors to my blog:


Enlarge this image.

See current Site Meter page (where you can click on the links and see what posts of mine came up on the first page of these searches).

What I said about Sarah Palin on June 12th.

I'd forgotten about this. (Warning: I say "pro-abortion" at one point when I -- obviously -- mean "pro-life.")

ADDED: Here's the Beldar blog post I refer to in that clip.

Is there anything other than Sarah Palin you'd like to talk about?

I guess it's been wall-to-wall Palin today, so here's a chance to raise some new subjects? Is there something I should be talking about that I've been distracted from?

Are you having trouble understanding Sarah Palin's hairdo?

I hear some of the lefty bloggers are having trouble with it, even daring to mock it. Let me help you we a couple reference photos:

Get it?

When's the last time we had a VP with bangs?

And some cheeky people are typing: VPILF. Oh, no! That's so wrong! But, that said, I don't think it would be so unusual to have a VPILF. Why I dream of Dick Cheney every night! j/k.

ADDED: Sorry, I said "a couple" and then had some internet troubles. Here's another:

AND: Here's Palin:

AND: Where I see Audrey Hepburn, Neo Neocon sees a different movie star.

Keep talking about Sarah Palin.

I'm opening a new post, because there are already almost 200 comments on the last Sarah Palin post.

I'm watching CNN, where Wolf Blitzer is chuckling about Palin's high-school nickname, Sarah Barracuda.

Sarah Palin, the VP pick! [ADDED: And the live-blog and profusion of comments continue here.]

10:25: Thought you'd like to see a picture. The handsome guy is her husband (and Bill Clinton's chief competition on the face of this earth for future First Gentleman).

And this post can be used for commenting on the [first] live-blog post, when the comments there hit 200 (and become hard to see).

10:30: Here's almost the whole family. (There's a new baby now.)

Wow. Beautiful. Including the mountain!

10:44: She named her kids Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. Does that seem like something a Commander in Chief would do? Why not? It's bold. Crisp.

10:47: In the comments, Sloanasaurus writes:
Palin is the common man's dream wife. Smart, accomplished, beautiful, was a sportscaster, loves to hunt and fish.

Perhaps Palin is the "post-feminist" woman. She competes in a mans world being governor of the largest state, but she can still be feminine (a mother and wife).

Hmmm... maybe Ann will have fun with this analysis.
It's not perfectly feminist, Sloan, but I understand what you mean, and I think it's something that will appeal to many of the swing voters. As a feminist, I love that she did not leverage herself into power through her husband and consider this an important improvement over Hillary.

10:53: David Gergen -- on CNN -- is saying the media thought McCain was going to make a "safe pick" and that it would be Pawlenty.

11:13: "We're the ones with a babe on the ticket," says Rush Limbaugh, who's been enthusing about the "inspired," "brilliant" choice. "Alaska is about as far away from Washington as you can get."

11:17: McCain comes out. The music is "Right Now."

11:18: Big cheers. "Happy Birthday" signs make him say "Thanks for reminding me," which is an old-guy response to "Happy Birthday." Really big cheers. He's glad to announce in Dayton, where people are "hard-working" and "honest." He's picking up what was the biggest theme of the Democratic convention: Fighting for hard-working people. He wants to "shake up Washington." He's found "the right partner to help me stand up to those who value their privileges over their responsibilities, who put power over principle, and put their interests before your needs."

11:24: He's found someone who's stood up to special interests, he says, fought against government spending, and has executive experience. A huge cheer comes when he says Palin's parents were both coaches who "raised their children to excel at sports."

11:28: She's been a union member and her husband is a union member. "In the week we celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage," she's a "devoted wife and a mother of five." She's got the "grit, integrity, good sense and devotion to the common good" we need today. She doesn't let anyone tell her to "sit down." (Is that a reference to something? Did someone tell Hillary to "sit down"?)

11:31: Here she is, in a dark, skirted suit. (No pantsuit.) Behind her, a daughter is holding the new baby. Palin is wearing a HUGE, glittering flag pin. She's got that trademark hairdo. (Want to wear that hairdo? I'm going to be looking around on campus to see if any of the young women are wearing their hair in the Palin style. If you see me, let me take your picture!)

11:33: She introduces the hunky hubby Todd. And it's their 20th anniversary, and she said she was going to give him a little surprise. He's a fisherman. He's a world-class snow-mobile racer. Four of her children are there with her. The 5th, Track, enlisted in the Army last September 11th. This September 11th, he's deploying to Iraq. McCain won't talk about his sons in Iraq. He's made a principle of it... one that she obviously doesn't share. A "U.S.A." chant. She introduces the kids that are there, including Trig, "a beautiful baby boy."

11:31: She's speaking extremely well, and she's presenting herself as a McCain-style maverick. She seems like his perfect counterpart. She enumerates achievements in Alaska that involve taking "risks" and "challenging the status quo." She rejected "the Bridge to Nowhere." Now, she's praising McCain extremely well, and he's fiddling with his wedding ring, a reflex married people often have. Her speech is amazingly clear and strong, passionate and devoid of any hesitation or filler "uhs." The sign on the lectern reads "Country First." It's fitting, she says, that this privilege of running with McCain has been given to her almost 88 years after women got the right to vote. She wants to honor Geraldine Ferraro, the first (and up until now the only) female, major-party VP pick and Hillary Clinton, who "showed such determination in her presidential campaign." Palin loves to point her index finger and jab it about, a gesture that you don't see that often in a politician anymore and that you almost never see done with a pointy polished fingernail. It's especially striking as she talks about Hillary and urges us to join her cause.

11:49: Wow! Great performance! Fabulous first walk onto the national stage!

11:51: On the radio, Limbaugh calls the speech "magnificent." "Her story is real." She doesn't have to "put any holes" in her story the way Obama does. He's been emphasizing that we should be comparing Palin not to Biden, but to Obama. Biden and McCain are more comparable as long-experienced Senators, and she, as a relatively inexperienced outsider who would be a first, is more comparable to Obama. "Middle America is going to love her. She lives their values." He speculates on questions she'll be asked -- about how to shoot a gun, whether she baits her own fishing hooks, and if, when she found out her unborn baby had Down Syndrome, she considered an abortion "before or after it was born."

12:05: I see we're getting up close to 200 comments again, so I'm going to put up an new post, so please spill over there.

Live-blogging the McCain VP announcement. UPDATE: "MCCAIN PICKS SARAH PALIN."

8:26: I don't know what it says about me, but I got up this morning and didn't think about the McCain VP announcement on my own. It wasn't until I turned on the TV news that the subject occurred to me. On the day Obama announced his pick, it was the second or third thought in my head after waking. This could mean that in my heart of hearts, I really have decided on Obama. It could simply mean that I'm more interested in Obama.

My blogging over the months clearly shows much greater interest in him, and that could be for any number of reasons. Some people might say, I'm just monitoring him, looking for things to attack, but an easier explanation is that he is just more interesting. He's new and different. His ongoing battle with Hillary Clinton made him more interesting. And she obviously also made his VP selection far more interesting.

On TV, on Fox, they are saying what they know is that Romney, Huckabee, and Pawlenty are out. [CORRECTED TEXT: I'd written "is up" for some strange reason.] Ah so, it's going to be a woman. I'm hearing this for the first time at 8:37 Central Time. I will reveal that, instantly, a chill ran through my body when I heard that, and I have broken a sob or two as I write this.

8:37: The Fox reporters are talking a lot about Sarah Palin. Exciting. To continue my theme of why I've been less interested in the McCain VP announcement, it might be that I'm just drained from watching way too much Democratic convention TV or that the Obama announcement was more interesting because it was first. But it might very well be that the Obama campaign had a great idea with its text-message announcement and, in particular, having us go to bed at night knowing or almost knowing that it would come in the middle of the night. That made me think of it immediately on awakening because the thought was: Quick, look at the web, get the answer now. I thought the text-message approach was annoying and dorky, but I should probably concede that Obama got inside my head.

8:52: There's talk about a jet leaving Fairbanks, Alaska late last night, and a woman in her 40s getting on board. Now, here's Charles Krauthammer saying that McCain should pick someone "as bland as possible." He refers to Palin as "a rookie out of Alaska" and says it might make sense to do something like this if he was seriously trailing in the polls and needed "a hail Mary." Krauthammer's idea of bland: Pawlenty would have been best. Second best: Romney. Or even Fred Thompson.

8:52: I haven't heard any talk from these Fox guys about the importance of jazzing up the Hillary devotees. I wasn't a Hillary devotee, as you know, but I am in the demographic group that locked onto her emotionally. Can you understand how we feel about women? I remember when Bill Clinton announced his first Supreme Court nominee. Most or all of the talk had been about males. Bill dragged out the selection process, and finally the announcement came: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I remember a conversation with my neighbor that day when I got home from work:
Neighbor: So what do you think of Clinton's Supreme Court pick?

Me: I'm so glad he picked a woman.

Neighbor: Really. You care about that?

Me: Yeah!

Neighbor: I mean, we already have a woman on the Court. It's not a first. At some point, it's not special to pick a woman. When will you not care about it anymore?

Me: When there are 5 women on the Court -- in proportion to the population. 5, not 4, because women are more than 50% of the population.
That was 15 years ago, and I was more radical then. But the feeling remains. It means something. I was resistant to Hillary (because I think she betrayed women by attacking women to support Bill), but I know the feeling of women my age wanting to see women get through to the top.

9:13: I was just checking Wikipedia to make sure I had the right year for the Ginsburg appointment. Scanning the article, I see that when she went to college (at Cornell), one of her professors was Vladimir Nabokov. Random new fact of the day.

9:21: I've switched to CNN, and at the bottom of the screen I see the words: "Sources point to Palin as McCain's running mate; CNN has not confirmed."

9:33: Here's the WaPo article: "Speculation Mounts on McCain's Running Mate Pick: Alaska Governor Palin Said to Be on McCain's Short List for Vice President":
Three senior Republican sources said they had been told Palin was McCain's choice. But those accounts came amidst conflicting reports about whether Palin had arrived here on a chartered plane last night or was still in Alaska.

Republicans have never nominated a woman for their ticket, and Palin's scant experience would make her a surprise choice. She was elected governor two years ago, and before that was mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6,715).
Yikes. I Google for a list of the states in order of population and see that Alaska is the 4th smallest state by that measure. [AND: I was about to add that we think of Alaska as really big, but it's tiny by population. Only Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota are smaller. Biden's state -- I mean Delaware -- is bigger.]


9:37: "MCCAIN PICKS SARAH PALIN." On the screen. Tears! Chills!!!!

9:42: On CNN now, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who keeps talking about how little we know about Palin, but is guessing that "she'll hold her own." There's some talk about how "we'll all be eating mooseburgers."

9:42: A key puzzle about Palin has to do with abortion. They're discussing this on CNN now. Palin is a woman and may excite the Hillary supporters. But if Hillary's supporters were big on the abortion issue, they shouldn't like Palin, who vividly embodies pro-life. But you know, even people who believe abortion should be legal (like me) can have immense respect for individuals like Palin who live their own lives according to pro-life values, who make their choice to continue their pregnancies. And those who care about the rights of the disabled -- like many liberals -- should have great respect for a woman who did not discard the fetus she knew would be born with a serious disability, as was the case with Palin.

9:47: Oh, good lord, Hutchison is mispronouncing "Palin." She's overtly unenthusiastic!

9:53: The best attack of Palin is, of course, that she is inexperienced. It's a little hard for Obama people to say that, though, because their guy is inexperienced. Does that mean the best attack is silenced? No, it will transmogrify into an effort to catch her saying something that sounds inexperienced. I haven't heard her enough to have any idea whether she has the nerve and the mental capacity to sound right all the time. She's never been exposed like this before. So many people will be salivating at the chance to make her look bad.

10:16: Let's think about Palin in a debate with Joe Biden. How will that work? In the comments, Henry says:
[P]eople with almost not debating chops routinely "win" political debates.

Often these debates are "won" entirely on facial hair and body language. Palin could "win" a debate with Biden just by not looking like a warmed-over stiff.

Even if the debates were real debates, the fact that Palin is inexperienced politically has no bearing on her debating skills.

We know she'd cream Biden in 1 on 1 basketball. The debates have about the same relationship to political experience as that.
I was just reading that in the comments, and now, I notice it's the topic on CNN too. I flip over to Fox for a second, and there's a smiling Palin, in a light green t-shirt and eating a vanilla ice cream cone. Voice over: "People love her."

10:21: More from the comments. This is from Peter V. Bella:
Man, the leftist whackos and nutroots are going to come out of the woodwork like cockroaches. Pallin wears fur, she hunts and eats moose burgers, she is a life long member of the NRA, and the worst, the absolute worst crime -- her husband is a fisherman who works in the oil fields in the off-season. Yep, a regular working stiff. The kind of guy they hate and are jealous of. Not a lawyer or a fuzzy headed policy wonk; not a professor of basket weaving or Mayan Mysticism, not someone who lives off the teat of government grants; but a real, solid, hard core, working man. A guy who gets his hands dirty every day. The average Joe American.

What makes her even more odious is she actually worked with her husband on the fishing boats. She really, actually worked for a living. The Gospel chorus is lining up to rage and rant; “my God, how can he pick someone like that? Working people, why, they, they, they, know too much about real life!”

PETA, the anti-gun nuts, ELF, KOS, MYDD, Huffingglue and probably a host of others will be gnashing their teeth, pounding their drums, shaking their chubby little fists and green tamborines, and going into full, foaming at the mouth, rabid attack mode. They are going to have heartastrokes over this.
10:35: On CNN, they're reading messages off their website, including the statement that McCain "is trying to out-minority Barack Obama." Earth to nameless CNN website commenter: Women are not a minority.

10:38: I'm going back to my first post about Sarah Palin, which was only last June. Excerpt:
Alaska! With Hawaii represented by Barack Obama, it would be cool to give the other latecomer state some respect at this time. It's always troubled me that Hawaii's been so far off and disconnected from the rest of the United States, and it's good that there's another disconnected state to keep it company. (You know when I was a kid in the 1950s, I heard discussion of Alaska becoming a state, and when someone said "I hear Hawaii is coming in too," I thought the islands were somehow floating over and would connect to the west coast.) Alaska's important too: oil-related. We're going to be talking about gas prices, and having the governor of Alaska will resonate.
10:39: We're over 200 comments, so switch the commenting to the new Palin post, here. And I'll carry on there too.

Some late-night calm.


August 28, 2008

Nicole Belle embarrasses herself with a childishly written, dishonest smear.

Detailed in the 7:51 update to this post.

UPDATE: One of my readers tried to defend me over there (at Crooks and Liars) and got instantly banned. Wow. That says a lot. Pathetic.

One more night of convention blogging. The Invesco Field extravaganza.

6:35 Central Time. I tuned in in time to see the end of's "Yes We Can," but no we can't perform that song in a big arena. The great video has an elegance and intimacy and a crafty, spontaneous connection to the recorded Obama speech that is a far cry from the kind of anthem rock that works in a stadium. And we will see, as the night wears on, what works and what does not in this setting.

7:03: The NYT published the Democratic National Committee’s talking points. Fun to read these things because they're so insipid:
*Joe Biden showed exactly why Americans are rallying behind the Democratic ticket to deliver the change the country needs.

* Last night, Joe Biden told it like it is. And everyone at the Pepsi Center—and around the nation—responded. He showed exactly why Americans are rallying behind the Democratic ticket to deliver the change the country needs....
I love all that "exactly." I mean, if I were speaking in reliance on those talking points and someone followed up with the question, "You say he showed exactly what we need, but what exactly was so exact about what he said?," I would melt into a quivering pool of jelly.

7:31: Stevie Wonder!

7:38: He's singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." The stadium looks great -- still in daylight -- full of people, all supplied with flags, so there's lots of waving of flags, which gives a nice energetic movement to the crowd shots. Stevie changes the words: "I know Barack Obama's gonna set this country on fire and a lot of people all over this place are gonna say ooh, baby, here I am...." By the way, that set doesn't look at all like a Greek temple, as the early reports said. Maybe they worked to tone down anything that was temple-like about it.

7:45: Al Gore! If only he'd won the presidency, Bin Laden would be captured by now. The great thing about losing is that you can say whatever you want about what you would have done.

7:51: I said above that I didn't think the set looks like a Greek temple, but I want to remind you that when I originally wrote about it, I said: "So is this stage set going to seem like a Greek temple, with Obama as some phony god — from somewhere in Europe — or is it going remind us of the federal government — with Obama looking simply presidential?" Yet look at this sleazy, lying, underhanded post at Crooks and Liars, slamming me this way:
Never let it be said that Republicans and their counterparts in the conservative blogosphere (yes, Ann “I Like To Drink Wine and Blog About American Idol” Althouse, I’m looking right at you) can’t attempt to manufacture a scandal out of thin air that shows just how stupid they are. ...

So Ann “Liberal Boobies Enrage Me” Althouse whips herself up into a righteous indignation, which is promptly echoed throughout the other sites. (I won’t dignify her with a link, look it up) How dare Obama? Is he trying to suggest that he’s a God or something??? The presumption! Do you see how messianic he is? His supporters are like a cult! (imagine her furious fingers typing away)

But see, here’s the problem, Ann. You clearly haven’t traveled. If you had actually ever gone to the seat of our federal government, Washington DC, guess what you’d see? Columns! Know why? Because most of our federal buildings were designed in an architectural style called…wait for it…Greek Revival. Which means, you know, lots of columns. Like the ones in the front and back of the White House–where Obama will reside in January, by the way. And the ones in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where exactly 45 years ago today, Martin Luther King gave a speech....
Uh, yeah, so you won't "dignify" me with a link because... why? Because it would show that I said all along that it could either look like a Greek temple, as Reuters reported, or it might look like federal government buildings, and we wouldn't know until we actually saw it. Nicole Belle, who wrote that post, is shamefully dishonest. She flaunts her dishonesty by not linking to the text she was writing about because it would show that her post is vicious character assassination. I associate Crooks and Liars with John Amato, who I think is a good person, and I call on him to do something about the sleazy post that is messing up his blog.

8:15: But I do agree with the statement: "Liberal boobies enrage her." My dictionary defines "booby" as: "1. A person regarded as stupid." (2 refers to a tropical seabird, which is probably invariably apolitical.)

8:18: Al Gore is still pontificating. Ah, now he's done. Sorry, I didn't say much about that speech. I was getting pissed off at the underhanded blogger who's been allowed to post at Crooks and Liars. Anyway. I'm over it now. The song playing Al Gore off the stage is "Let the Sun Shine In." I don't get it. If the sun shines in, it will add to global warming. They should have played something like this or this.

8:26: Hey, Biden is back. Why is he talking again? There should be no second orations. He seems to be setting up one of those sequences of ordinary people. If I couldn't pause the DVR and periodically fast-forward, this would be utterly intolerable -- even for me, loving to write, and knowing I have quite a few readers on this post. I find it very hard to believe anyone would watch this part of the show. But, okay, the throng in the stadium must be entertained. Maybe it's just perverse even to attempt to watch this part of the show.

9:00: An introductory film clip. Obama's mother said he needed to understand what it means to be an American. He only met his father once and "was shaped more by his absence than by his presence." His grandparents "weren't complainers." His mother saw his promise and did what she had to do: woke him up at 4:30 to teach him lessons. It makes me tear up to see the pictures of the mother, because she's not alive to see this. Very cute pictures of him as a teenager. Michelle is talking about how weird it was for him to be named "Barack Obama." "Barack Smith" or "Barry Obama" would be okay, but not "Barack Obama." But everyone called him "Barry" when he was growing up, so he must have thought it was an advantage to revive the unusual first name. His mother's death was one of the worst things that ever happened to him. (What were the other things on that level?) It made him realize that life is short and you need to work hard to achieve your goals.

9:11: (By chance, it's 9:11... in the Central Time Zone.) Obama ambles out. He's got a nice square-shouldered suit and a red tie. A flag pin! (Duh!) Flags everywhere, in fact. The background, in the close-ups, is not temple-like at all. It's peach-colored squares framed in dark wood.

9:14: "With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for President of the United States." Big cheers. A wide shot shows the glittering arena, which is not giving off any ominous night rally vibe (such as I've heard talk about).

9:16: Michelle, Malia, and Sasha — he's introducing them now — are wearing coordinating pink flowery sundresses. I like the way the 2 girls are completely different, the older one shyly ladylike and the younger one un-self-consciously cute.

9:20: He wants to keep the American promise alive. If we love the country, we shouldn't want "the next 4 years to look like the last 8." In an allusion to a TV show he probably watched -- his memoir says he watched a lot of TV with his grandfather -- he says "Eight Is Enough."

9:24: The bad economy -- but today's news was good -- is not just a state of mind and people who complain about it are not just "whiners." There is a tremendous stress on helping working people. I don't know that it's at all clear why Obama would help this situation, but he's certainly doing what he can to convince you he cares.

9:30: Good lord, Michelle's dress is completely encrusted with flowers. Are they 3-D? It's kind of making me sad. She's an accomplished professional woman, and it's as though they can't emphasize enough that she's a feminine, motherly helpmeet. And to have her dressed like the 2 little girls? Ooh. That twinges.

9:38: Equal pay for equal work. "I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons." As if his daughters won't have far more opportunity.

9:41: He gets the biggest cheer of the night after saying he invites the debate over who will be the better Commander in Chief. "Don't tell me the Democrats won't keep us safe." He wants to restore the legacy of FDR and JFK. "I will never hesitate to defend this nation." But he'll make sure there is "a clear mission." "I will end the war in Iraq responsibly."

9:46: "Patriotism has no party."

9:48: "We can keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals." All right, then! Can I have an AK-47? I'm not a criminal. He's trying to say we can accommodate gun rights and gun regulations, but he won't admit to anything near the level of gun regulation he'd support, so he ends up sounding silly.

9:57: He ends with perfect timing, after referring to Martin Luther King's speech, which was given 45 years ago. At that time, people could have reacted in a negative way to the "dream deferred." But they didn't. They were hopeful. And we can be hopeful too. Now Michelle and the girls come out, and there are some modest (and very smoky) fireworks. Now, Biden strides out, looking Clintonesque. Confetti falls. Red, white, and blue streamers. We see a long shot, and the brightly lit audience is full of waving flags. Joe Biden squats down and points around in a half circle, like a rockstar. Create excitement, he must be thinking. Now, the streamers hang droopily, and a bunch more people come out. Who knows who they are? More fireworks. Lots of blowing confetti. There isn't much loud cheering, and it's not just that the microphones are turned down, because I hear one guy yell "Our next President!" A sweet closeup of Barack and Michelle nuzzling. As they are walking off the stage, Obama pauses, turns and looks up and around. He claps for the audience, starts to leave, turns back again -- the moment of a lifetime is almost gone -- and claps one more time.

11:22: So was it an improvement to switch to the open-air stadium? I think it wasn't. The enclosed Pepsi Center preserved and amplified the crowd noise. During the tedious speeches in the last few days, you could hear the din of conversation. But for Obama's speech, the people would be paying rapt attention, and the cheers would have had an intensity in the convention hall that was not quite there in the stadium. Also, the background was much more vivid indoors -- a deep, electric blue. In the stadium, we saw a fairly dull background. It looked like a backdrop from a cheap TV studio. Because there's no roof on Invesco Field, we were deprived of the traditional massive cascade of balloons. The fireworks and the shooting streamers and confetti didn't have the classic look and over-abundance that we would have seen inside with balloons. (Balloons! I want balloons!) Finally, we lost the sense of fulfilment that comes when the man we've been celebrating for days finally shows up in the place where everyone's been talking about him. To make up for that loss, Obama put in a perfunctory appearance at the Pepsi Center last night, but that messed up the narrative arc. We should have been aching with anticipation tonight, but we already greeted him last night.

11:47: The best speech of the convention -- it's no contest -- was given by Bill Clinton. No one else came close for me. Second best: Joe Biden. At the next level, I would put Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama.

If there's a VP leak tonight, is it "political malpractice" and "evidence that the McCain campaign is a war room"?

The Obama camp says it is.

John McCain approves another devastating attack.

I'm reeling from this one.

"McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured."

Yeah, guess why. Note that what Time provides here is "an excerpt," so it's not as if the conversation started out this curt.

How many media folks are dying to piss off McCain and get him to blow up and confirm the idea that he's a big hothead? Obviously, he knows that and he's not taking the bait. Yet you still publish an article called "McCain's Prickly TIME Interview," trying to portray it as the blowup you were not able to procure. Lame. Shameless bias.

By request: the McCain VP open thread.

Who will he pick? Who should he pick? Who would be terrible?

What is it? (Who is it?)

It's part of a larger work. Guess before clicking on this link (to something amazing). And don't spoil in the comments.

"If Bill Clinton could run this year, would he be elected?"

A poll.

"How do I manage this, a weekend -- during the GOP convention -- with a Euro social democrat and Karl Popper's son? Avoidance? Giant underpants?"

Pogo has a political/etiquette question:
This weekend I will be hosting two couples. One is very far left, the other libertarian right. Me? Conservative, former lefty.

On the phone to the lefty last night the husband remarked about the DNC (we were not talking politics but food): "I hope someone in Minneapolis gets Bush and Cheney and strings them up."

My resonse was a silent "WTF?" I said. Uh ...yeah. Aannnnnyway, I'll bring the wine.

So my question, a serious one: How do I manage this, a weekend -- during the GOP convention- with a Euro social democrat and Karl Popper's son? Avoidance? Giant underpants? Drunkenness?

Bill Buckley was famous for getting along with ideological opposites. But it seems people are far more polarized and angry than in the past. I dunno. Maybe I shouldn't show up at all.
I'd go meta. Say you asked this very question on a somewhat popular blog, and it was what everyone was talking about last Thursday, and here are some of the cool things they said.

Barack Obama — "He's a Vulcan, no doubt about it. Now the question arises, do we want a Vulcan for president? Are we ready for a Vulcan president?"

Lawgiver says it in the comments to this post, commenting on this amazing NYT article (that I've now linked to 3 times this morning).

Barack Obama has not flip-flopped or betrayed his lefty fans. You need to understand: He's a "visionary minimalist."

Cass R. Sunstein offers up a useful term — so that everyone can always understand everything about Barack Obama:
Of course Obama is a progressive.... But, by nature, he is also an independent thinker, and he listens to all sides. One of his most distinctive features is that he is a minimalist, not in the sense that he always favors small steps (he doesn't), but because he prefers solutions that can be accepted by people with a wide variety of theoretical inclinations.

When he offers visionary approaches, he does so as a visionary minimalist -- that is, as someone who attempts to accommodate, rather than to repudiate, the defining beliefs of most Americans. His reluctance to challenge people's deepest commitments might turn out to be what makes ambitious plans possible--notwithstanding the hopes of the far left and the cartoons of the far right.
He is infinitely complex, people. It's you that need to get up to speed. Readjust. Visionary minimalism makes everything right.

And, no, it's not a new round of triangulation. Don't pin that on the new man:
Just as he resists ideological templates, Obama does not believe in "triangulation"; his skepticism about conventional ideological categories is principled, not strategic.
(Did that hurt, Bill?)
Obama does not follow old-line political orthodoxies. Above all, Obama's form of pragmatism is heavily empirical; he wants to know what will work.
That can't be wrong.
[I]n his empiricism, his curiosity, his insistence on nuance, and his lack of dogmatism, Obama is indeed a sort of anti-Bush--and perhaps the best kind. If the Bush administration has often operated on the basis of the president's "instinct," we should expect to see, from Obama, a rigorously evidence-based government....

The larger point is that Obama's departures from left-wing orthodoxy should not be understood as a betrayal of his own beliefs, or as a kind of "tacking to the center." Instead, they reflect something altogether different: an independence of mind, and a rejection of doctrinal filters, that we do not often see in candidates for public office.
If I could know that's all true, I would vote for Obama. But it could just as well be a guise, a cover, to get me to fall for something I'm not going to want at all. After you do all that listening and evidence-collecting and cogitating, you still have to make the call. It can't be pure science. The instincts will tip the answers one way or the other. But Cass Sunstein insists that there's a rejection of doctrinal filters. I don't know that it is possible to think without something like a "doctrinal filter." But maybe it's possible that Obama does -- or at least comes closer to unfiltered thinking than anyone else is likely to do.

ADDED: This isn't the first time Sunstein has expatiated on Obama's "visionary minimalism" in TNR. Here's his piece from last January.

"Pure violence and stupidity."

A description of the movie "Babylon A.D.," provided by its director, Mathieu Kassovitz.

ADDED: Don't give him too much credit. He didn't say this until after the utterly abysmal reviews.

Barack Obama, the law student, was not like you other law students.

From the same Jodi Kantor piece discussed in the previous post, I had to break out these law school nuggets.
“I thought of him much more as a colleague” than a student, said Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard for whom Mr. Obama worked. “I didn’t think of him as someone to send out on mechanical tasks of digging out all the cases.” Other students could do that, Professor Tribe added.
Other students.
Long before the presidential race, some around him seemed to resent his ability to galvanize a following. “Bluebooking is not important for celebrities,” fellow students joked about him in the law review parody, referring to the tedious process of checking citations.
That's for you other students.

Obama has "developed a self-discipline so complete... that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels."

Jodi Kantor writes in a long NYT piece about Obama's superhuman transcendence of emotion for the sake of political triumph:
He does not easily exult, despair or anger: to do so would be an indulgence, a distraction from his goals. Instead, they say, he separates himself from the moment and assesses.....

But with Barack Hussein Obama officially becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Wednesday night....
Wow, the NYT used the middle name. Can we say Barack Hussein Obama now without raising the presumption that we're out to get him?
There is little about him that feels spontaneous or unpolished, and even after two books, thousands of campaign events and countless hours on television, many Americans say they do not feel they know him. The accusations of elusiveness puzzle those closest to the candidate. Far more than most politicians, they say, he is the same in public as he is in private.
This is the real Obama, then. There is no other. Some will say: Aha, I told you: empty suit. But I'm thinking: The 20th century is over. No more Freud and hippies. No more contempt for the repressed and delving into the subconscious and imprecations to let it all hang out. There is no subconscious. There is no it to hang out. The 21st century man has arrived. Reorient yourself for the future.
Starting in law school, Mr. Obama began pulling together a large cast of mentors, well-connected and civic-minded friends who rose in Chicago and Illinois politics along with him, including a spouse he thought was ideal.

“He loved Michelle,” said Gerald Kellman, Mr. Obama’s community organizing boss, but he was also looking for the kind of partner who could join him in his endeavors. “This is a person who could help him manage the pressures of the life he thought he wanted.”
No, no, don't speculate about the substance of his marriage. That would be too 20th century. What you see is what it is.
If there is one quality that those closest to Mr. Obama marvel at, it is his emotional control. This is partly a matter of temperament...
I told you: he's phlegmatic.
...they say, partly an effort by Mr. Obama to step away from his own feelings so he can make dispassionate judgments. “He doesn’t allow himself the luxury of any distraction,” said Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser. “He is able to use his disciplined mind to not get caught up in the emotional swirl.”
No vortex for him.
It is not that Mr. Obama does not experience emotion, friends say. But he detaches and observes, revealing more in his books than he does in the moment. “He has the qualities of a writer,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I get the sense that he’s participating in these things but also watching them.”...

As a campaigner, Mr. Obama had to learn to sometimes let simple emotion rule. When Mr. Axelrod first devised “Yes We Can” as a slogan during Mr. Obama’s Senate campaign, the candidate resisted: it was a little corny for his taste. “That’s where the high-minded and big-thinking Barack came in,” said Peter Giangreco, a consultant to the Obama campaign. “His initial instincts were off from where regular people’s were.”
Odd that the crowd got so emotional, when he was aloof. What were they looking for in him? And why did they think they saw it?

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian writes:
It's funny how the New York Times seems to think this article makes Obama look good, when it actually makes him sort of seem like a sociopath.

Or like Mr Spock.

But then, Mr Spock would never become a Democrat. Illogical, Captain.

MORE: I've set up a new post on the Obama's-a-Vulcan theme, so comments on that theme would be better over there.

Also in the comments, Amba writes:
You're so 20th century you can't help analyzing him even while commanding us to get over analyzing him.
Ha ha. Yes. I will never get out of that place.
Me too. I found a Jungian twist that kind of fits (it's down at the end of this post.... What's interesting is that the "negative puer aeternus" has trouble ever making commitments. Obama made commitments to his family and (for a while) to his black and Christian identity, as if he knew he needed to be "grounded" even if it did not come naturally.
Fascinating. Go over there and read the whole thing. Snippet:
John McCain, by contrast [to Obama's puer aeternus], is senex, the archetype of the "old man." A Jungian would say (annoyingly) that they "constellate" each other, that is, whenever one shows up it invokes the other.

"You know, I am a believer in … in knowing what you’re doing when you apply for a job. Uh, and I think that..."

"… if I were seriously to consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now there may be some people who are comfortable doing that, but I am not one of those people."

A devastating McCain ad, I think.

And I will remind you that I have taken a vow of cruel neutrality. I want to post devastating Obama ads too. Please point me to some!

"Did the Corps fix the levees?, Is my house going to flood again?... Am I going to have to go through all this again?"

Anxiety in New Orleans.

ADDED: Storm preparation... for the GOP convention.

McCain will reveal his VP pick at 11 ET today [CORRECTION: not today, Friday].

The NYT reports. Perfect timing, tearing us away from the Democratic Convention just as Obama is about to deliver his oration to the multitude. [Except not: The announcement comes on Friday, and today is not, as I thought, Friday. The perils of early morning blogging!]
Republicans close to the campaign said that the top contenders remained the same three men who have been the source of speculation for weeks: former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and, possibly, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.

It was unclear how seriously Mr. McCain was considering his good friend Mr. Lieberman, who favors abortion rights and whose selection could set off a revolt among delegates at the Republican National Convention next week in Minneapolis-St. Paul as well as a furious backlash among Christian conservatives, a crucial voting bloc of the Republican Party. But as recently as Tuesday, Mr. McCain was said to still be entertaining the idea of Mr. Lieberman, who was Al Gore’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2000.
How truly bizarre it would be if Lieberman is a VP pick a second time. What is it about him that inspires this confidence? It must be strong indeed if the opposite party's candidate could consider him. Picking Lieberman would maximize the distraction from Obama. It would really shake things up now, wouldn't it?
[Some] Republicans said they suspected that whatever Mr. McCain’s personal views, his aides could be pushing Mr. Lieberman with reporters as part of a disinformation campaign to stir interest in the selection and to make it appear as if Mr. McCain, a longtime opponent of abortion, was open to all possibilities and was therefore more of an independent candidate.

Some Republicans also said that Mr. Lieberman had not caught fire as a campaigner in 2000 and that he would alienate more voters, particularly evangelicals, than he would attract.
Yes, a crucial point must be that he's not a very good campaigner. He was terrible in the VP debate with Dick Cheney — and Dick Cheney was hardly even trying to be good. I was completely for Al Gore in 2000, and I was mystified to find myself suddenly open to the notion of voting for Bush. (I didn't.)

But I've got to say that I kind of love Lieberman. He's just about exactly where I am on most things. Why should I fret about what evangelicals and staunch conservatives think? It would suit me just fine! It will wreak havoc with my cruel neutrality.

August 27, 2008

Continue the conversation about night 3 of the convention here.

The previous post is approaching 200 comments, at which point the additional comments are hard to view, so let's start a new one.

Emailed CNN "Breaking News": "Barack Obama wins Democratic Party's presidential nomination after Hillary Clinton's motion on the convention floor."

So.... what the hell? I'm sitting here, eating my arugula salad and zucchini "pasta," catching up on last night's "Daily Show," sipping my chardonnay, waiting for it to be late enough to bother to start watching the proceedings at the Democratic National Convention, and suddenly Barack Obama has been nominated by acclamation. The ostensible point of the convention, choosing the nominee, occurs more than an hour outside of prime time? WTF?!

Blah. Damn. I will still update this post and make it the evening's live-blog, but I am disgusted -- disgusted! -- by this in-your-face message that the nominating convention is not a nominating convention at all, but a big advertisement -- a free media barrage -- for the party and its candidate. And, yes, of course, I already knew that. But it irritates me to be taunted with it.

5:51 Central Time: I'm watching CNN tonight and the commenters are falling over themselves trying to say the word "historic." Seriously, I have just heard the word "historic" about 50 times in 5 minutes. I don't think this really helps Barack Obama get elected. He's a specific person whose qualifications needs to prove himself to Americans. It's not just a a feel-good gesture to nominate "a black man." Yes, it's something. But so much more needs to be done with this convention. Finally, at 6:01, John King makes this point.

6:23: I'm reading this in the NYT:
At 4:48 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time, at the urging of Mrs. Clinton, the New York delegation cast its votes for Mr. Obama, and Mrs. Clinton called on the Democratic National Convention to end the roll call and nominate him by acclamation.

“With eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here and right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president,” Mrs. Clinton said.

“I move that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

The crowd in the Pepsi Center roared as one and then began to chant, “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”
Oh. I see. The crowd was chanting "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary." She made it happen like this. When no one was watching. How utterly surreal. This convention is all about the Clintons, isn't it? She dominated last night. She controls the nomination tonight. And the rest of the evening is the lead-up to Bill. How awful for Barack... in his moment of triumph.

6:28: As for me, I'm going to watch the new Bloggingheads, with Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus. Mickey is back at long last. And he's in Denver. "Reviewing the convention speeches ... New Bill Ayers ad deemed highly effective..." Great topics. I'm pouring a second glass of wine and oozing into the delights of the evening.

7:24: Why would any sane person watch tonight's proceedings?

8:01: It's Bill Clinton! Pay Attention! "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow"... and don't stop thinking about the 90s and the tomorrow that will not be. Hillary and Chelsea look blissful. Michelle Obama claps glumly. Bill himself looks pink and youthful. Wow!

8:04: Bill has a way of magnifying the crowd noise, interpreting it into a higher level of love. "Please stop. Sit down. Please sit." "I am here first, to support Barack Obama." Good. That's appropriate. "And second, I'm here to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden." Ow. That must hurt.

8:08: Are you getting tired of shots of Michelle Obama, looking judgmental?

8:10: "Clearly, the job of the next President is to rebuild the American dream and to restore American leadership in the world.... Barack Obama is the man for this job."

8:13: Clinton is talking in a strong, straightforward way about Barack Obama. "He is ready." This is good and effective... and it ought to fend off some of the criticism that he's some sort of snake serving his own ends.

8:15: Clinton turns the topic to domestic policy (which we've read is what he wanted to talk about): "Barack Obama knows that America cannot be strong abroad unless we are first strong at home. People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." That was written to be a famous quote, and I think it will be remembered. "Look at the example the Republicans have set." Great segue.

8:17: I love the shots of Hillary -- her chin pulled in unattractively, but with expressive resolve, her eyes bulging, her lips pressed together in a strong smile. It all says: He's right! My husband is right! Then we see Michelle, who -- though she never ran for President -- is presiding over all of this, monitoring everything. She smiles charmingly when Bill is promoting her husband and has an edgy look when it seems as though he might not have his heart 100% in this.

8:24: Bill Clinton is doing a fabulous job tonight. His superiority to everyone else who has spoken is painfully obvious. "American will always be a place called hope." Brilliant. He's the greatest!

8:26: And, now what is going through his mind? And that's how it's done you losers. Screw you for rejecting, Hillary's. Enjoy your doom, fuckers.

8:38: Following up our brilliant rockstar of a former President is John Kerry. "Time and again, Barack Obama has proven right." And McCain... Kerry has the hatchet man role. What a downer after our Bill.

8:54: I'm reading the comments on this post. Michael H writes:
WTF, indeed, Ann.

I first watched political conventions with my Irish grandfather, a union democrat. We watched the state-by-state nominating process, and he explained the importance of every state the the democracy of the process (an explanation with many comparative references to the "fookin' Russians").

The conventi, usualy [sic] a woman, would call the roll: The Greeeat Staaate of Aaaahlaskah!!!

And the chairman of that state's delegation would reply: The great State of Alaska, America's northernmost state, the second youngest state in our great union, the home of caribou, elk, moose and Denali National Park, the great State of Alaska casts its 4 electoral votes for the next president of the United States, Adalai Stevenson!!!"

The nominations were held in prime time because, after all, nominating a candidate was the purpose of the convention.

I wish it were so today. The most important part of the convention has been relegated to a perfunctory exercise to fill time before the prime time speechifyin' can begin.
Yes. Yes. Yes. The great state of Wisconsin is ... or I, here, am ... nostalgic for the old-style Americana of the political conventions of yore. I remember conventions where there was true excitement in the roll call. I remember 1968, when the conventioneers got overwhelmed by the protests outside and started singing "We Shall Overcome" and took down their vertical state-name signpost and rocked it in the horizontal position. That made me weep when I was 17.... Okay, I'm snapping out of that.

9:00. A film about the military. The young enlistees are presented as idealistic but misled. They speak in depressed tones. "They kind of built it up as if it was going to be a kind of simple peace-keeping mission. Win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, you know. We're going to build schools. We're going to help out in the hospitals. And when we got there, it turned into a fight." Clunking, sentimental piano music. Photos of blood in the street. Talk of battle deaths and suicide bombers. A Marine breaks down and cries. We're told that the soldiers feel afraid, and -- strangely -- that they are able to face fear only because the military is diverse. What a clumsy segue! You mean, back in WWII, when the military was segregated, they weren't courageous? Now, we see the present-day soldiers coming home, hugging their wives and daughters and talking about the difficulties of readjusting to life in America. "You've got all this stuff on your mind and you want to let it out but you just can't." Wheelchairs. Prosthetic legs. Coffins. Tom Hanks ambles out and in a digitally deepened voice tells us "we are there for one another." A montage of soldiers with troubled faces. Sad music. This is the Democratic Party's view of the military, and it is not what I want to see and I doubt that it is what most people who serve want to see.

9:08: "There he is, Steven Spielberg. He put this video together." Well, hell.

9:09: John emails me the link to the video of the acclamation:

9:19: The VP nomination is made "in the name of women," which is a little annoying. Nancy Pelosi comes out to entertain the acclamation. And let me say, she looks great. She's wearing big blue and gray pearls and a blue satin blouse with a very wide shawl collar.

9: 21: A little film about Joe Biden. Obama appears in it and says: "The most important thing that Joe offers is his honesty." Odd. I thought a key problem with Biden was that he was notoriously caught lying about a speech and his academic credentials. Yet the most important thing he brings is honesty?

9:24: Beau Biden speaks. "Delaware can get another Senator, but my boys can't get another father," said Joe Biden, before he was convinced to go forward and serve as Senator after his wife and daughter died. "Some people poke fun at my dad talking too much..." but you need to know that it's somehow a result of a bad stuttering problem.

9:54: Joe Biden gave an excellent speech. I won't detail it, but his delivery was fine and he pounded appropriately hard on John McCain. His wife comes out, announces a special surprise, and it's Barack Obama. Ah, good. It's the last night in this arena. He wanted to come out and have "a little something to say." "Hillary Clinton rocked the house last night," he says. He praises Bill Clinton and thanks him for "putting people first." He blesses us and blesses America.

10:09: A really cute thronging of Biden family in the end, with Joe walking around holding the hand of the little blond grandson.

"Hey, look! It's my giant underpants!"

The man who wrote "100 Things to Do Before You Die" died -- at age 47 -- in a fall at his house in L.A.

He hit his head.

I'm starting a new list of things to do before you die:
1. Be careful!

"Americans are so strange, why are they putting pieces of paper in their cookies?"

Ha ha.

Anne Hathaway on Barack Obama: "I was afraid to trust him and I was afraid to have hope when I first kind of became aware of him."

"I was kind of afraid of Obama the first time I saw him... I was afraid to trust him and I was afraid to have hope when I first kind of became aware of him. It was around the time that he gave his speech on race that I just said 'I can't deny how I feel about you, Barack Obama.'"

Oh, celebrities, please just keep talking. You don't ever need to know how ridiculous you are. We love you this way.

Afraid to have hope
... an interesting fear, really, isn't it? But the human organism produces the fear response for a reason. Contemplate the survival value of the fear of hope.

"Clinton Delivers Emphatic Plea for Unity."

Oh, really? That's not what I heard.

And we're not protecting the flying squirrel anymore.

We've got enough.

"The Ninth Annual St. Hubert Benevolent Society Squirrel Cook-off will be held Saturday, Oct. 18..."

Get ready!

The Obama stage set at Invesco Field: "a miniature Greek temple."

Reuters reports:
The stage, similar to structures used for rock concerts, has been set up at the 50-yard-line, the midpoint of Invesco Field, the stadium where the Denver Broncos' National Football League team plays.

Some 80,000 supporters will see Obama appear from between plywood columns painted off-white, reminiscent of Washington's Capitol building or even the White House, to accept the party's nomination for president.

So is this stage set going to seem like a Greek temple, with Obama as some phony god — from somewhere in Europe — or is it going remind us of the federal government — with Obama looking simply presidential? It's makes a big difference, and you never know what these rock concert type structures are going to look like until you see them in action.

Maureen Dowd picks up "a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution."

At the Democratic Convention.
There were a lot of bitter Clinton associates, fund-raisers and supporters wandering the halls, spewing vindictiveness, complaining of slights, scheming about Hillary’s roll call and plotting trouble, with some in the Clinton coterie dissing Obama by planning early departures, before the nominee even speaks....

At a press conference with New York reporters on Monday, Hillary looked as if she were straining at the bit to announce her 2012 exploratory committee.

“Remember, 18 million people voted for me, 18 million people, give or take, voted for Barack,” she said, while making a faux pro-Obama point. She keeps acting as if her delegates are out of her control, when she’s been privately egging on people to keep her dream alive as long as possible, no matter what the cost to Obama.

ADDED: Dowd ends her column with:
“I’m telling you, man,” said one top Democrat, “it’s something about our party, the shtetl mentality.”
Is the phrase "shtetl mentality" such common parlance that it can be used without explanation (and as the punchline of the whole column). A Google search for the term (in quotes, not just the two words) yields only 1,570 hits, and I clicked on a few without getting anything very useful. Perhaps it's more current chez NYT. I did a search on the NYT site. The top hit was today's Maureen Dowd column. So what else?

There's this, a 1988 letter from a rabbi criticizing something that had appeared in the newspaper:
[Do people fear] the image of Israeli soldiers defending themselves and their homeland threatens the security of Jews living in America? Indeed, if Jews abroad are cast as villains, Jews here become more vulnerable. The ''shtetl mentality'' is still part of the American Jew's psyche, timid and fearful of repercussions.
There's this, a recent article on Orthodox Jews and marriage:
“Matchmakers still have the idea that if you put two Jews together, it will work... But that’s a shtetl mentality. In the shtetl, what else did you know but your neighbor and your neighbor’s daughter? If you’re not sheltered, that’s not going to work. All we have are Marc Chagall paintings of that life. We’re not in the shtetl anymore.”
There's this:
''Bill Gates can't win,'' says Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and a longtime adviser to Gates on the subject of philanthropy. ''It's like 19th-century anti-Semitism. If the Jews didn't mix into German society, people said they had a parochial, shtetl mentality. If they did mix, people said they were trying to pass. More important than why he's doing this is what he's doing. The proof will be in the pudding."
There's this, from a 1995 about the assassination of Yitzak Rabin:
The Zionists of the period of Israel's founding in 1948 were largely secular, sometimes even anticlerical, rejecting what they saw as a submissive, segregated shtetl mentality that allowed Jews to be slaughtered in the Holocaust. In the bustle of the early state, the religious were often looked down on as primitive.
Notice how all those examples include what is essentially a definition of the term, which seems to vary in meaning. Does it mean narrow-minded and insular or fatally blind to the danger of self-segregation? What was Dowd's "top Democrat" trying to say: That the Democrats are hunkering down in Denver but ultimately doomed?

August 26, 2008

Okay. I'm up for it tonight. I'm live-blogging Hillary Night at the Democratic Convention.

6:50 Central Time: My resolve jells.

7:15: I'm watching PBS tonight. C-SPAN last night. PBS has HD + longer coverage than the networks. (I don't have CNN HD.) The introductory material is about how last night somehow had to be soft-focus on Michelle and Teddy. But tonight, we'll have "red meat." Yes, I'm hoping for more excitement tonight.

7:24: A home-care worker is reading a script so robotically that it's kind of ironically human (and nice). Who would feel natural in that situation? Obama spent the day with her once, working at her job, to prove whatever that proves. The sound of talking in the hall almost drowns her out. Now, another working woman. This seems to be a parade of working women — in bright-colored suits that seem to be a tribute to Hillary's many suits.

7:28: That last woman had such a harsh voice. Now, with a deeper voice, it's Governor Janet Napolitano. The bright color for her bright-colored suit of the night is red. She's doing a nice job of laying into John McCain, but I feel these nagging feminist pains. Why is this woman — and why is Hillary — stuck on some special woman's night?

7:53: A man is talking. How is this happening? I rewind to see Jim MacNeil saying, "There's a Republican. Yes, a Republican." He's totally puzzled. It's the mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, Jim Whitaker. Ooh, isn't he embarrassed to be relegated to Women's Night? He seems completely unfamiliar with his speech as he begins "We are Americans first" and pauses so you can tell he's thinking: American's first what? He goes on about energy. He explains why he's here: "to endorse Barack Obamas." That's not a typo. He says Barack Obamas.

8:04: Governor Kathleen Sebelius. John IMs, "I love her symphonies." Her bright-colored suit of the night is the reddest of all possible reds. She's out redding Napolitano. Against the bright blue background, it's like a psychedelic poster from 1968. It's searing my eyeballs. Yet her voice is so insanely flat. She speaks as if she's alone in a room memorizing the speech.The din of conversation in the hall is overwhelming. She's reciting words that were written to ravage John McCain, but with her delivery, it's quite comic. Well, there are actually punchlines all over the place, but I don't know if they'd make me laugh if she had a comic touch. It's funnier this way. But no one is listening.

8:16: Man, is this boring. Bring on the Hillary.

8:31: Lilly Ledbetter. She's surprised and "umbled." Great southern accent with a robotic but somehow impassioned delivery. She was the plaintiff in an important recent sex discrimination case, which she lost because she filed the lawsuit outside of the statutory limitations period. As she puts it, "Our Court sided with big business." But what she should say, to be honest, is: "Our Court declined to rewrite the statute to be fair to me." She goes on to blame the Senate for voting down the amendment that would make it possible to sue if you don't know about the discrimination when it first takes place, but then she says that Barack Obama as President will solve the problem: "As President, he has promised to appoint Justices who will enforce laws that protect everyday people." That doesn't really add up. But she's doing a good job of making us feel that the Democrats will protect the rights of working people.

8:41: The keynote speaker, the former governor of Virginia, Mark Warner. His theme is the future. Technology and economic development are important. He's trying to pump us up about that general idea. It's not at all clear that it has much to do with Obama. He says it doesn't matter if good ideas come from Democrats or Republicans. Now, he's boasting about the things he achieved as governor of Virginia, and it just makes me think about how Obama has no record at all of achievements like that.

9:15: Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachussetts. I'm getting nothing out of this. Reach for tomorrow... "Government is simply the name we use for the things we choose to do together." That's a quote from Barney Frank. Sorry. I detest sentimentality about government. I want more critical thinking and humility.

9:39: Here's the film about Hillary Clinton. It's mainly about the notion that women can achieve. She wanted to be an astronaut. She "dared to reach up." Her mother told her you can be anything you want. Lots of nice, smiley pictures, but it's generic pro-woman material. Let all women feel great. (But she lost!)

9:41: Chelsea Clinton looks gorgeous, with big hair and (finally!) a dark, skirted suit. She introduces her "hero" and her mother, Hillary Clinton. Hillary's dressed in bright orange. We see Bill, glowing and clapping and licking his lips and sticking his tongue out — in a somewhat reptilian way. Now, he's mouthing "I love you" over and over. Hillary is honored to be here, and the crowd goes wild.

10:00: Somewhere in there, Hillary said that she supports Barack Obama, but for the most part, it felt like another one of her campaign speeches. Anecdotes. Lists of problems, principles, and policies. We kept seeing closeups of Michelle Obama, who seemed to be closely monitoring the her husband's wily old opponent. And Hillary didn't do anything wrong, but did she help Barack Obama? She did say, addressing her supporters, "Were you in it just for me?" She answers that they must have supported her because they supported what she believed in and wanted to achieve. And therefore, we need to a Democrat in the White House. She says Obama's name a few times, but it seems to me as if it's just something that follows by reason of the desire to have a Democrat in the White House.

10: 30: And I'm not really sure exactly how she ended it, because I'm one of the viewers who used a DVR to record the show, and she spilled over into the next hour. They should have taken that into account.

"American Prayer" of the damned.

I was just complaining about some annoying web video with low production values, but right after I posted that, I watched this new Obama-promoting video, which has the glossiest production values, and I found it impossible to watch... and I knew I wanted to blog about it so I kept forcing myself, but I had to click stop after a minute and a half:

What made it so insufferable? I admit that I came to it from the Corner, which primed me with the line "Personality on steroids: Obama as the coming, secular Messiah," but I don't think it was that.

It was the the insane discontinuity between the sad-sack dreariness of the photographs and those Hollywood celebrities who were made to look as though they belonged in settings of economic despair. They were photographed in black and white. They made sad faces. There's the normally smarmy Jason Alexander, pressing his hands together in mournful prayer. Jason Alexander! Do you think we will take you seriously because you have that serioso look on your face? The repetition of the word "prayer," with one praying celebrity after another, when you know you're going to be told that the answer to their prayers is Obama.... horrible.

And that miserable song. That vehicle for Hollywood celebrities to express their mourning, depressing, hopeful quasi-religiosity. Am I supposed to know it? I Google and find it described in Wired as "Dave Stewart's 'American Prayer,' featuring the former Eurythmic trying to come off like some sort of cut-rate Bono, as he strums a guitar that's not even audible in the song."
Adding to the video's cringe-worthy nature are celebrity appearances by Forrest Whittaker, Barry Manilow, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg and others, who join forces with on overwhelming level of "We Are The World"-type smugness.

Certain shots are so deeply embarrassing that we had to hit pause a few times just to make it all the way through. Watch at your own risk, and don't say we didn't warn you.
There's a vote over there to ascertain whether it's "the worst Obama song yet?" and it's winning, though not by all that much, which makes you wonder what cringe-inducing, celebrity-infested swill the "no" voters have in mind.

"We Are The World." We had evolved to the point where we all laughed at it, and now, have we suddenly slipped back into that 80s subordination of art to sanctimony? Then, it was for the sake of feeding starving children. Now, that aesthetic has returned in service of a politician. Yet, surely, it's true that we will look back on this election kitsch and laugh. Soon. Like right now.

ADDED: I'm watching this to the end now, and I'm just shaking my head at how counterproductive this is for Obama. These celebrities are so wrapped up in what they appear to perceive as the poignant beauty of their emotions that they don't see that they are beating us over the head with the idea that America is a terrible place. That is: This video is anti-American. That is not the message Obama wants right now!

Also, at 1:35, you can see the display of crosses that I happen to know is on the beach in Santa Monica. I was just there and took this photograph from the amusement pier:

Santa Monica pier

I made it to the end. This video isn't merely terrible. It's a testament to tone-deafness. It resonates in all the wrong ways with the Obama campaign, amplifying the very things that Obama is trying to mute.