January 30, 2010

At the Sunset Café...

... we see the sunset....


... observed by the photographer ...


... observed by her photographer....

"This reminds me of the final scene in the movie Titanic."

Lefauxfrog leaps over the mental block I had when I saw that picture on the White House Flickr page:

It's a spoiler, of course, but the main character in "Titanic" has died and is entering the afterlife:


Samuel Alito and John Roberts experience ecstasy, each in his own way.

Alito, so serenely beatific and floating in the moment ...

Roberts, beset with inner turmoil and straining to keep himself clamped in ...

... as the President arrived to deliver his State of the Union Address:

And so it would be not be the model of judicial restraint, Chief Justice Roberts, whose personal reaction would break the solemn decorum of the holy chamber. It would be Justice Alito, in a moment of selfless abandon, whose spirit would burst forth — open the floodgates — in a harrowing crisis of faith — the dark night of the soul that says not true.

President Obama goes to the GOP retreat and purports to promote the "absolutely essential... the process of disagreement."

I said I was going to watch the the video of Obama's speech to the GOP retreat and the the Q&A session. (Transcript.) Here's my edit with commentary, beginning with the frist thing that made me laugh:
I've said this before, but I'm a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security; that's not something that's only good for our country, it's absolutely essential.

It's only through the process of disagreement and debate that bad ideas get tossed out and good ideas get refined and made better. 
Would the bad ideas have been tossed out of the health-care plan if the congressional Democrats had gone through a "process of disagreement" that included the Republicans? It's way too late to talk about some kind of "absolutely essential" process that the Democrats never even considered following back when they thought they had an invincible supermajority. Republican support is a necessity now, but not because of some dialectical ideal of policymaking proceeding by debate. You need the votes now, and you didn't then.
The only thing I don't want -- and here I am listening to the American people, and I think they don't want either -- is for Washington to continue being so Washington-like.
The people reacted and are continuing to react to what the Democrats did with their supermajority. The objection isn't to discord and obstruction. The objection is to the rule of a single party rule that has seen fit to ram through policies people don't want.

You're telling the Republicans to be more acquiescent, right when they are well-positioned to win elections in the fall. And isn't that what the people want, a better balance of conservatives and liberals in Congress? And isn't that the way to get to real bipartisanship, with a second party that has some voting power? You're only saying what you are now because Scott Brown won in Massachusetts and took away the overweening power of the Democrats in the Senate.
... I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security.
But you really are focusing on reelecting Democrats here. It is about their job security, as you see Republican challengers on the horizon.

Let's dig into the Q&A:
PENCE: ... Republicans offered a stimulus bill.... It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress. And using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President.... [W]ould you be willing to consider embracing... the kind of across-the-board tax relief that Republicans have advocated...?
I cut down that question to its essence, so I've made it look easier to see than it was, but does Obama answer the question? The closest he gets is:
OBAMA: ... 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts. Small businesses got tax cuts. Large businesses got help in terms of their depreciation schedules... [T]he notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs -- why would I resist that? I wouldn't. I mean, that's my point, is that -- I am not an ideologue.... The problem is, I couldn't find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.... There may be other ideas that you guys have....
Pence cuts through the verbiage, and restates he question clearly:
PENCE: Mr. President, would -- will you consider supporting across-the-board tax relief, as President Kennedy did?
Obama's answer:
OBAMA: ... I think is important to note, you know, what you may consider across-the-board tax cuts could be, for example, greater tax cuts for people who are making a billion dollars.... [a]nd... if you're calling for just across-the-board tax cuts and then, on the other hand, saying that we're somehow going to balance our budget, I'm going to want to take a look at your math and see how that -- how that works. Because the issue of deficit and debt is another area where there has been a tendency for some inconsistent statements.
AKA "no."
RYAN: ... [W]hy not start freezing spending now? And would you support a line-item veto and helping us get a vote on it in the House?

OBAMA: ... [I]f you either increased taxes or significantly lowered spending when the economy remains somewhat fragile, that that would have a destimulative effect and potentially you'd see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off....

With respect to the line-item veto, I actually -- I think there's not a president out there that wouldn't love to have it....
Obama cuts Paul Ryan off when he starts to explain why this new version of the line-item veto is unconstitutional. (The Clinton-Era Line Item Veto Act was unconstiutional.)
CHAFFETZ: [W]hen you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn't. I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.

You said you weren't going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did. I applauded you when you said it, and disappointed when you didn't.

You said you'd go line by line through the health care debate -- or through the health care bill. And there were six of us, including Dr. Phil Roe, who sent you a letter and said, "We would like to take you up on that offer. We'd like to come." We never heard a letter. We never got a call. We were never involved in any of those discussions.....
OBAMA: ... I think it's a legitimate criticism. So on that one, I take responsibility.
All right! Guilty as charged. But are you going to do anything about it now? That's what "responsibility" really means. Not just, yep, we did that.
BLACKBURN: [T]hank you for acknowledging that we have ideas on health care. Because, indeed, we do have ideas. We have plans. We have over 50 bills. We have lots of amendments that would bring health care ideas to the forefront....

And if those good ideas aren't making it to you, maybe it's the House Democrat leadership that is an impediment instead of a conduit....

OBAMA: Actually, I've gotten many of your ideas. I've taken a look at them...  If you can show me and if I get confirmation from health care experts, people who know the system and how it works...  I'm game....

If you look at the package that we've presented -- and there's some stray cats and dogs that got in there that we were eliminating -- we were in the process of eliminating.

For example -- for example, you know, we said from the start that -- that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your -- if you want to keep the health insurance you've got, you can keep it; that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decisionmaking. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.
Snuck in...
[F]rankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.
That made me laugh... but he just admitted that things got snuck in, so that does sound like a plot, and "Bolshevik" is just a funny way to say: I know this looks really left-wing to you. The question remains: Is it?
[W]e've got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.

I'm not suggesting that we're going to agree on everything, whether it's on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me.
Now, Obama is known for his rhetoric, and any politician uses rhetoric. The Republicans have to say too much government.  It's very effective, and it matches their ideology. Of course, it's annoying to the Democrats.
It's not just on your side, by the way. It's -- it's on our side as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.
That's a fine point, but scrape away the nasty tone that's sometimes there, and politicians still need to state their ideological positions clearly. People need to know that the 2 parties are different. If Obama really believes in the ideal he stated at the outset, that there is an essential process of "real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security," then there needs to be crisp definition of conservatism and liberalism.

If you're going to say people need to be compliant and lawmaking shouldn't be tough, then you don't what happened to your ideal of the "absolutely essential... the process of disagreement"?

John Yoo and Jay Bybee are cleared of anything but "poor judgment" in a report that was "softened" by a senior Justice Department official.

Newsweek reveals the findings of the report from the Office of Professional Responsibility:
While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) ...

A Justice official declined to explain why David Margolis softened the original finding, but noted that he is a highly respected career lawyer who acted without input from Holder....
So it wasn't a political decision, we're being told. It wasn't that the Obama administration would like  the "torture memo" issue to go away. But consider this new development in the larger context:
For weeks, the right has heckled Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for his plans to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in New York City and his handling of the Christmas bombing plot suspect. Now the left is going to be upset...
And the 9/11 trial isn't going to be in NYC anymore.

Speaking of Shakespeare, what are the theater snacks? Oysters!

Oysters, crab, sturgeon, mussels, whelks, periwinkles, dried raisins and figs, hazelnuts, plums, cherries and peaches, blackberry and elderberry pies.

For the groundlings and stinkards, it was mostly oysters, which was what poor people ate back then. Oysters were the popcorn.

Did Shakespeare ever refer to oysters? Of course, including the most famous oyster-expression: "The world's mine oyster." But there are a bunch more:
I did her wrong/Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?/No/Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house/Why?/Why, to put ’s head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case.

I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster; but I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool. 

Off goes his bonnet to an oyster-wench...

He kiss’d, the last of many doubled kisses/This orient pearl... ‘Good friend,’ quoth he/‘Say, the firm Roman to great Egypt sends/This treasure of an oyster....

He is my father, sir; and, sooth to say/In countenance somewhat doth resemble you/As much as an apple doth an oyster, and all one.

Rich honesty dwells like a miser, sir, in a poor house, as your pearl in your foul oyster.
You can see they didn't think much of oysters then. Presumably, the oysters/shells were thrown at the actors, and these lines inspired humorous punctuating splats of oyster onto the faces of hams.

The people instinctively know what Caesar knew: Don't trust skinny men.

In Shakespeare's telling of the tale, Julius Caesar says:
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
And according to a new study, people consider fat men in politics more "reliable, honest and even more inspiring" than thin men.
[Dr. Elizabeth Miller," a political scientist at the University of Missouri and a co-author] split 120 volunteers into four groups. Each group was presented with descriptions and photos of four separate phony candidates who had the same gender and body type: obese male, skinny male, obese female, skinny female. Within each group, each phony candidate's political views differed.

The study subjects then rated the candidates based on a series of criteria, including honesty and ability to perform. The obese males were viewed 6% more positively than skinny males, while skinny women were viewed 5% more positively than their full-figured counterparts. Overall, obese females were viewed 10% less favorably than obese males.
Yes, the preference was for non-skinny men. Women still need to be thin. "Let me have men about me that are fat." Men. What we trust in men and what we trust in women are 2 different things, then and now.

I'm going to write about Obama at the GOP retreat, but only after tossing a bludgeon of law professor debate at Marc Ambinder.

There's a lot of enthusiasm about Obama's appearance at the GOP retreat — enthusiasm among Obama supporters. I skimmed the transcript late last night without finding something I could say. Obama seemed to be haranguing the Republicans about bipartisanship again, as he did during the State of the Union address, and I didn't see what this added, other than that it was nice/bold of him to show up at their event — give them some face time. But obviously, he's reaching out now because he needs them, as he did not before. Why, then, should I be impressed, and, more importantly, why should the Republicans help him now?

But given the amount of enthusiasm — e.g., Marc Ambinder gushing about "An Amazing Moment" — I decided — now that it's not late at night anymore — to take the time to watch the video and, as I go, blog from the transcript. Since that will take a little time, let me end this post now, so you can get the conversations started. Here's the video of the speech, and here's the Q&A section.

To give you something to chew on, here's Ambinder:
The moment President Obama began his address to Republicans in Baltimore today, I began to receive e-mails from Democrats: Here's an except from one of them: "I don't know whether to laugh or cry that it took a f$$@&$* year for Obama to step into the ring and start throwing some verbal blows... I'm definitely praying at mass on Sunday morning that this Obama doesn't take another 12 month vacation." 
Well, that's a funny contrast to Obama's big theme of bipartisanship!
This e-mail comes from a very influential Democrat. 
Hmm. Who? Some Catholic. Some Catholic who's praying to God that his guys kick the other guys' asses. 
Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months. Debating a law professor is kind of foolish...
Heh heh... bring it on, baby!
... the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama's weakness -- his penchant for nuance -- into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president. (By the way: can we stop with the Obama needs a teleprompter jokes?) 
Okay, I will be looking for the strengthful nuance that knocks down all arguments.
More than the State of the Union -- or on top of the State of the Union -- this may be a pivotal moment for the future of the presidential agenda on Capitol Hill. (Democrats are loving this. Chris Hayes, The Nation's Washington bureau chief, tweeted that he hadn't liked Obama more since the inauguration.)
Got it. The Prez's people loved it. Maybe this wasn't really about inspiring bipartisanship but firing up the base. That's fine. If he does anything well, he deserves credit for the thing he does well. Let's just be clear about what the thing is.
During the presidential campaign, it was John McCain who proposed a form of the British Prime Ministers' questions for the president. It was derided as a gimmick. This is no gimmick. I have not seen a better and perhaps more productive political discussion in this country in...a long time. 90 minutes worth!
Like the spending freeze, it was a joke when it was McCain's idea.
Maybe since Al Gore debated Ross Perot on NAFTA. Republicans may have wished they had spoken to John McCain about what happened to him in the presidential debates before they decided to broadcast this session. 
No, it's the Democrats who shut down the cameras when they think things won't look pretty.
The president looked genuinely engaged, willing to discuss things. Democrats believe that he tossed away the GOP talking points and lack of real plans into a bludgeon against them. 
How do you toss away the lack of something into a bludgeon? To be fair, it was the "lack of real plans." There could have been some fake plans that, when tossed away... but even if the packet of fake plans hit somebody, it wouldn't feel like a bludgeon. Maybe paper cuts.
"The whole question was structured by a talking point," he told Jeb Hensarling....
"He"? Who's "he"? Obama? That Catholic guy? (And sorry about that last link. I thought it was "Hensnarling.") And what "whole question"? Is that a way to refer to all the questions?And is Ambinder's whole blog post copied (sloppily) from a Democratic talking point?

UPDATE: Here's the post I promised to write.

January 29, 2010

At the Tabletop Nightclub...


... you can write your manifesto.

What will Bob Dylan play for Barack Obama?

He's doing the big "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" show at the White House.

"I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama... She gets embarrassed."

Were you paying attention to the State of the Union when Obama focused on Michelle?
And by the way, I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. Thank you. She gets embarrassed.
Let's put to the side the fact that Michelle Obama has chosen — as her signature issue — telling us our kids are fat. (I mean, thanks a lot. Laura Bush was all about telling kids to read. Why did Michelle go with "you're fat"?)

I was struck by the way, when Obama called on her, he had this almost frightened, serious look, as if he didn't know whether she'd play along with this public charade:


That's kind of a smile, but she looks annoyed...


When he got the smile from her, he smiled tightly and clapped... as if she'd performed a trick:


And what's with that other woman giving him the stinkeye?

At the Too Many Laptops Café...


... you can lap up some coffee and conversation.

"No one tried to wiretap or bug Senator Landrieu’s office."

"Nor did we try to cut or shut down her phone lines. Reports to this effect over the past 48 hours are inaccurate and false."

Read the whole statement from James O'Keefe about the circumstances of his widely reported — and apparently misreported — arrest.

"I hope she sees her blog as the thing, rather than as a path to somewhere else."

I put that quote in the banner (for now) because I really, really believe in the sentiment, but the "she" referred to is not me. It's Tavi Gevinson — the "tiny 13-year-old dork that sits inside all day wearing awkward jackets and pretty hats" who is a big star in the fashion world. I'm a little suspicious of the quote, because I think someone who says that about a blogger may really be thinking: I hope she stays in her place and doesn't imagine she can enter the truly important world that is my domain. But for a blogger saying it about herself — I think it's exactly the best way to feel.

I'll leave it to you to extrapolate what that means in the lawprof blogger area of endeavor.

"Dem Consultants: Citizens United Ruling Not Such a Big Deal."

Hmm. Are they saying that because it's true or because it's strategic to say that?
Since the Supreme Court struck down limits last week on corporate-funded independent expenditure campaigns, Democrats and good-government advocates have been quick to warn of a flood of new corporate money entering American politics. But with campaigns already awash in corporate cash, some Democratic political pros doubt we'll notice much difference.
This is coming from TPM, which is a pro-Democrats blog.
"I don't think this is going to fundamentally change the way campaigns are done," said Mike Lux, a prominent Democratic consultant and operative who founded the Progressive Donor Network.

Steve Murphy, a Democratic consultant and former top aide to Dick Gephardt, agreed. "I don't believe this is a dramatic shift," he said.

Both men noted that corporations already move billions into entities that allow them to run hard-hitting "issue" ads. It's true that those ads couldn't directly advocate for the election or a defeat of a candidate. But they said that in their experience, issue ads are more effective anyway. In other words, corporations have long had a potent enough weapon at their disposal to influence elections when they've wanted to....
But the case itself — quite aside from its real effect — is an issue that Democrats might chose to exploit "to paint the Republicans as allies of corporations, and to tout Democrats' populist credentials."
But some in the consultant community see the issue as less than a political winner, arguing that voters don't care about process issues, and will judge Democrats by their substantive achievements.

"I wish Democrats would talk about this a little less," said Murphy. "We've got to produce."

"[P]eople ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president..."

What Howard Zinn wrote, just before he died, when asked by The Nation to cite the "high point" and the "sharpest moment of disappointment" in the first year of Barack Obama's presidency:
I've been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama's rhetoric; I don't see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that's hardly any different from a Republican--as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there's no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people--and that's been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama's no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That's the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he's not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as "suspected terrorists." They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he's not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he's gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he's continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.

I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president--unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.
I agree that a mediocre President is dangerous. But if a non-mediocre Obama would go in the direction Howard Zinn wanted to push, I prefer a mediocre Obama.

"I am infinitely sorry that I killed Ralph Ablanedo... I stole from you and the world the precious and irreplaceable life of a good man."

David Lee Powell's apology for a murder that took place in 1978 comes on the eve of his execution.
Ablanedo had pulled over Powell's girlfriend, Sheila Meinert, near downtown Austin for not having a rear license tag. Powell, who was wanted at the time for misdemeanor theft and for passing more than 100 bad checks in Austin, was riding in the car.
Evidence showed Ablanedo was walking toward the vehicle when he was shot through the back window with the AK-47 in semiautomatic mode. The fallen officer tried to get up and Powell opened fire again, switching the weapon to full automatic mode.
Powell and Meinert were arrested at a nearby apartment complex parking lot following a shootout with other officers. Meinert later testified that Powell gave her a grenade and told her to remove tape from it. She said she became hysterical and shoved it back to him.
Officers testified that Powell threw it and started running away. The grenade was found about 10 feet from a police car but failed to explode because a safety clip hadn't been removed.
How can it take so long to carry out the death penalty? Powell has been tried — and sentenced to death — 3 times. He recently failed in an attempt to get a 4th trial. (You can read the case here: PDF.)

"Why Is Senator Kirk Still Voting on Legislation?"

The answer seems to be: because the GOP isn't saying anything about it. I assume it has a reason. That is, I assume it is competent. Is that wrong?

(Via Instapundit.)

Suddenly, it's obvious that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should not be tried in NYC.

I mean, it was always obvious, wasn't it? But suddenly, Obama can see it. I guess the gesturing was worth it — or would have been worth it if people had enthused sufficiently. But they didn't, and reality actually leaked in. Cool.

Suddenly, everyone wants to go to Cornell Law School.

Applications are up 52% there for some reason.

As long as we're spending money, I love this $8 billion for high-speed rail lines.

Especially the one that connects Madison, Wisconsin to Milwaukee, and Milwaukee to Chicago and Minneapolis. Thanks for the $810 million for Wisconsin.

Much as I hate the proposals to add light rail commuter trains to Madison, I would love some great train lines connecting our midwestern cities. I don't think people will (or can) give up their cars and use rail lines to travel between home and downtown, but I do think people will use rail instead of cars or planes to travel distances in the 50 to 300 mile range. I hate dealing with the airport, and I'm afraid of flying, so I always drive to go to Chicago or Milwaukee. I'd love to use a great train — and I'd make those trips into the city a lot more often.


Here's the White House press release.
This historic $8 billion investment is expected to create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, and rail maintenance and operations.  Over 30 rail manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines – a commitment the Administration secured to help ensure new jobs are created here at home.
Domestic and foreign? But "new jobs are created here at home." What proportion of the jobs are created here at home?

January 28, 2010

At the Winter Sun Hotel...


... let's snuggle up and tell our secrets.

Glenn Greenwald flails absurdly in a lame effort to take down Justice Alito.

Really, it drives me crazy to try to plow through the unedited dreck that Greenwald writes, but I feel compelled to defend Justice Samuel Alito who, when affronted by President Obama's accusation that the Supreme Court violated judicial norms, simply shook his head and mouthed (apparently) "not true."

Greenwald accuses Alito of "a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court." Further! Presumably, you're already against the Supreme Court, and Greenwald isn't using this post to bring you up to speed.
It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with the Court's ability to adhere to its intended function.

There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices -- along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It's vital -- both as a matter of perception and reality -- that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. 
Uh, yeah, which is why Obama's words were such an affront. Obama called the Citizens United case a "wrong," that is, a legal outrage of some sort, but, obviously, Alito's position is that the Court decided the case according to the law, that it said what the First Amendment means, and that its legal expertise is entitled to respect.

Alito's response didn't signify political disagreement. It was simply self-defense — a defense of the Court. It meant: We decide cases according to the law. That is apolitical.
Justice Alito's flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten [the Court's] decline.
Shaking one's head and mouthing 2 or 3 words is "flamboyant"? Alito was sitting in his seat and he evinced a subtle reaction to a severe political attack. That doesn't make what he did "highly politicized." If anyone was "highly politicized," it was Obama. Alito's response was more of a reflex, and it was, I would assume, grounded in a belief that the Court does what it is supposed to do — decide cases according to the law.
On a night when both tradition and the Court's role dictate that he sit silent and inexpressive, he instead turned himself into a partisan sideshow -- a conservative Republican judge departing from protocol to openly criticize a Democratic President...
Oh, bullshit. He's a sideshow because he flinches when hit? He's modestly human and not a mannequin. I remember when Obama expressed a desire for Supreme Court Justices with a more sensitive emotional response. Empathy.
Obama is an elected politician in a political branch and has every right to express his views on such a significant court ruling. While the factual claims Obama made about the ruling are subject to reasonable dispute, they're well within the realm of acceptable political rhetoric and are far from being "false"...
But shouldn't Obama have shown some respect for the members of the third branch of government who honored him with their presence? What is the "acceptable political rhetoric" when one person has the microphone for over an hour and everyone else is supposed to listen respectfully? Really, if it were known in advance that Obama wanted to use the occasion this way, the Supreme Court Justices should have stayed home. Or send over 1 or 2 that do opinions that the big man likes.
While Presidents do not commonly criticize the Court in the SOTU address, it is far from unprecedented either
The link goes to Tony Mauro at The Legal Times, who says that this kind of talk is "almost unprecedented." "Almost unprecedented" = "far from unprecedented"? Come on, Glenn. Your sleaziness is showing.
[Alito] unmasked himself as a politicized and intemperate Republican as well. 
Huh? Alito flinched at a surprising jab. The President told the Justices to their face that they were, essentially, power abusers. It's not "Republican" to believe that your work is dutiful and honest. (Is it?) Alito's gestures meant nothing more than that.
Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin documents that roughly 25% of Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 State of the Union address was devoted to criticizing the Supreme Court and various rulings which struck down his domestic legislation. 
Roosevelt's attack on the Court — quoted by Balkin — was, at the most severe point: "We do not ask the Courts to call non-existent powers into being, but we have a right to expect that conceded powers or those legitimately implied shall be made effective instruments for the common good." Think about how much more respectful that was toward the Court than the blow that made Samuel Alito flinch last night.

Greenwald concludes:
Whatever one thinks of the one paragraph of Obama's address devoted to the Citizens United ruling, it was not "unprecedented."
Who is he quoting there? Balkin doesn't say "unprecedented." Is it Mauro's "almost unprecedented"? For all his annoying verbiage, Greenwald can't get anywhere in this effort to show that Obama was just fine and Alito did something outrageous. Pathetic!

Face piercing with...

... nooooooo!

"It's just news. It's just news."

(Via Boing Boing.)

J.D. Salinger has died.


ADDED: "He was 91"... so a long detailed obituary was ready to go. You can read it at that link. Who here was not entranced by "Catcher in the Rye" at some point in their lives?
“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”...

With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “goddam”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.
And yes, yes, there are all those murderers who have that book in their back pocket. So don't get too entranced by it. Move on, read other things. But don't be a goddam phony.

MORE: A big question is, now that he's dead: Are there unpublished manuscripts that we'll get to see? Will we learn more about his retreat from the world?
In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish, N.H. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”
Or do we you really want to hear about it anymore, now that all these years have passed,  years of a hermit life almost as long as my whole life? (And I'm pretty old.)

Well, there will be no more goddam stupid conversation with anybody anymore for him, but I've got to say I hope he held up some kind of one-sided end of a conversation with us for the past quarter century and we'll get some more readings.
But was he writing? The question obsessed Salingerologists, and in the absence of any real evidence, theories multiplied. He hadn’t written a word for years. Or like the character in Stephen King’s novel “The Shining,” he wrote the same sentence over and over again. Or like Gogol at the end of his life, he wrote prolifically but then burned it all up. Ms. Maynard said she believed there were at least two novels locked away in a safe, although she had never seen them. Quote TK from Salinger’s agent about surviving manuscripts, if any, and plans for them.
Ha ha. That last sentence is now edited out of the NYT obit at the link. Come on, TK!
Mr. Salinger was controlling and sexually manipulative, [Joyce] Maynard wrote, and a health nut obsessed with homeopathic medicine and with his diet (frozen peas for breakfast, undercooked lamb burger for diner). [Margaret] Salinger said that her father was pathologically self-centered and abusive toward her mother, and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other exotic enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture. Mr. Salinger drank his own urine, she wrote, and sat for hours in an orgone box.
Ugh! Maybe I don't want to read anything more.

Tommy vs. Russ.

Oh, my!

ADDED: I voted for Tommy Thompson once, when he was running for Governor, and that is the only example I can think of, outside of a presidential race, where I voted for a Republican. Why did I do it? Because the Democratic candidate was too far left. I have always voted for Russ Feingold, going back to his first race for Senator, when I actually gave him money. He was the first candidate I ever gave money to (mainly because he kept calling me on the phone!), and he's the only candidate I've ever given more than $25 to. But maybe now Feingold is too far left for me. Ah! It would hurt a lot not to vote for Russ!

"Obama's Dull, Cheap, Successful Speech."

"President Obama’s speeches have always been notable for both their exquisite prose and their unusually high intellectual level."

You know what, Jonathan Chait? You are wrong. Obama's speeches have always been bland. Look into your own head to discover why you heard "exquisite prose" and "unusually high intellectual level."

Justice Alito overshadows Obama on the day after the President's address.

You can see that here.

Isn't it fascinating that the lengthy, amplified, magnified speech of the most powerful man in the world with his big captive audience — in the magnificent room and in smaller rooms all over the country — is outweighed by one man's headshake and silent mouthing of 2 or 3 words?

And isn't it ironic that, right when we saw the judge's minimalist expression that overwhelmed the President's torrent of words, Obama was railing about the "powerful interests" that would use their great wealth to speak far too much during election campaigns?

It's not how much or how loud you speak that counts, is it?

ADDED: I've changed the word "are" in the "Isn't it fascinating" paragraph to "is" to correct an error that I noticed after the paragraph got quoted in full at Instapundit and Volokh. Do I write to them and ask them to take the trouble to correct my error, or do I just sit here and feel awful about it? The embarrassing clumsiness was caused by changing "lengthy, amplified, magnified words" to "lengthy, amplified, magnified speech," which I did because I didn't like the repetition of the word "words" — which is the kind of writing flaw that is hardly even embarrassing but absorbs my attention.

"To be a great artist is inherently right wing."

What I said in the previous post reminds me of something I said back in 2005:
To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.
I got a lot of pushback on that, but 5 years later, I still believe it.

"You're looking like a fool" is not the same "message" as "What kind of message is that sending?"

Did Larry "Pants on the Ground" Platt rip off "Pockets on the Floor" by The Green Brothers? (Videos of the songs at the link.)

Certainly, the artists are working the same theme of the proximity of inappropriate pants to the plane upon which the pants-wearer is standing. But I find The Green Brothers' complaint — "The General's song have the same intent, idea and in part the same message" — unpersuasive, though I appreciate the subtlety of "in part."

Surely, the part of the message that is the simple disapproval of giant, saggy pants is the same, but other than that, Platt heads straight for mockery aimed at the pride of the individual. The Green Brothers are imploring young men to become upstanding members of the community, with pants-improvement being merely the beginning or the symbol of an extensive self-betterment project that ought to be undertaken not for the psychological boon to the individual but for the benefit of society.

Platt is an excitable old guy squealing with comic outrage: "You're looking like a fool with your pants on the ground." The Green Brothers, by contrast, sound more like community leaders the public school brought in to lecture to the kids in a musical style the authorities think might reach them about the importance of taking responsibility in all aspects of life to send a message to others about how to be a good role model in the community. The Green Brothers mean well and have come to help, while Larry Platt is mad and venting.

In short, Platt wins in the battle of the pants songs. (And I'm not talking about copyright law. You can't copyright ideas, and even if you could, how could anyone claim to have originated the idea of disapproving of oversized pants?) Platt is more entertaining because he's all about expressing himself, whereas The Green Brothers are earnestly trying to tell other people what to do. And Platt's concern is the dignity of the individual, whereas The Green Brothers want the individual to assume the proper role for the good of the whole.

If this were politics — and it kind of is — we'd characterize Platt as right-wing and The Green Brothers as left-wing. The Green Brothers are kind of Obama, while Platt is McCain.

January 27, 2010

Justice Samuel Alito mouths — it appears — "not true."

See for yourself:

Obama is saying:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
Obama is getting a lot of criticism. But is Alito? Alito didn't yell out his words, the way Joe Wilson did last year, and "not true" is mellower than "you lie." One expects such rigid decorum from the Justices on these occasions that it's really striking when a Justice is anything other than a statue of a Justice. I think that if they knew they were going to have to listen to that kind of in-your-face disrespect, they wouldn't have done the President the honor of sitting there, providing the scenery. But they were there, and I'm not going to criticize Alito for moving his lips and letting us see a silent defense of the judicial branch of government.

I'm reminded of all those articles, back at the time of Alito's confirmation, that said that Alito was less "polished" than John Roberts:
[H]e will never be as polished and camera-ready as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was at his own hearings a few months ago.

"He is not going to be the well-manicured nominee," said one participant in the rehearsals, known as murder boards, at which Republican lawyers have played the roles of interrogating senators. "That is not to say it is going to be worse. It is just going to be different."...

But two of Judge Alito's supporters who participated in the murder boards... said they emerged convinced that his demeanor was a political asset because it gave him an Everyman appeal.

"He will have a couple hairs out of place," one participant said. "I am not sure his glasses fit his facial features. He might not wear the right color tie. He won't be tanned. He will look like he is from New Jersey, because he is. That is a very useful look, because it is a natural look....

What is more, this participant said, Judge Alito displayed a "street smart" New Jerseyan's willingness to talk back to his questioners....
Yeah. It was different. He came from New Jersey, he looked natural, and he was willing to talk back. Silently. But we heard it. Good.

Let's watch the State of the Union.

I'm ready to live-blog. Keep me company!

8:06 Central Time. The room looks shabby. Why is that? Here's the President. Wan applause. Kissy faces. Biden! He's looking lanky and elderly. Michelle is swathed in — what color purple would you say that is? Eggplant? Aubergine?

8:09. Nancy's in lilac. Purple is the color... if you want to appeal to all the reds and blues of America. Obama's got a red and white — peppermint — striped tie, so I take it he means to reach out to conservatives. But how? They say he's going to ask for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, but that can't please conservatives. It can't please the Democrats too much either, really — can it? — as they look toward the fall elections.

8:14. The economy sucks. But it could be worse. Obama reads the letters we write him. Letters from children. They want us to set aside partisanship. The people are resilient. And so, "I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight." First applause line.

8:19. If there's one thing that unites us, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. He talks about the bank fee, which he characterizes as a way of recovering the part of the bailout that has not yet been paid back. I've never understood that, and I don't understand it now. And it's hardly bipartisan, is it?

8:23. He's making big claims about having cut taxes and creating huge numbers of jobs. I don't believe it, but Obama is telling me that I should talk to some small business owner in Phoenix whose name I didn't quite catch. Didn't give the phone number though.

8:26. Small businesses are good. (Come on, talk to them.) Big business sucks though. We want to help small business grow... so it can become big business and then we can hate it.

8:29. China has better trains.

8:31. Biden was smiling a toothy grin but now he's all frowny-face and I'm afraid he's going to cry. Is it because other countries are better than we are? Did Obama call us losers?

8:33. It's time to get serious about solving problems. Like, before? We were clowning around.

8:35. Nuclear power plants! Off-shore oil-drilling! Yay! Really? It's mixed in with a lot of "clean energy" and "climate" talk.

8:38. Let's export more stuff.

8:41. Hey, kids! Do your homework!

8:42. $10,000 in tax credits for college (for the whole 4 years?). And you'll only have to pay 10% of your income, at the most, to pay back your college loans. After 20 years of that, any remaining debt is forgiven.

8:44. Why the hell did I get bogged down in health care reform!?

8:45. Michelle. Oh, my! What does that expression on her face mean? I get a chill and imagine she hates him. I'll go back and get a photograph of this later.

8:47. Obama takes his "share" of the blame.

8:49. We're "in a fiscal hole."  Here's the part about freezing spending.

8:55. Were they laughing at him?

8:56. "Let's try common sense. A novel concept." A laugh line that is a confession of past incompetence.

8:57. He's bitching about the Supreme Court — about the Citizens United case — while the Justices are sitting right in front of him. They all look pretty poker-faced, except Samuel Alito who mouths some words. I'll have to go back and try to lip read that. [ADDED: People are reading it as "not true" and comparing that to last year's "You lie."]

9:00. Obama doesn't like the way politicians are always being politicians. "I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics... We still need to govern." And "we" — meaning, divisively, the Democrats —  have the majority and people expect us to get things done. So the Republicans shouldn't be obstructing. Get it? Be bipartisan. Let's show everybody that "we" — and this time he means the nice, docile Republicans — are able to get things done.

9:04. He doesn't want to "relitigate" the past. What litigation was there in the past? He's referring to the old arguments about who's tougher on national security. He doesn't want us to talk about that anymore. Just accept that we all care about America. Hear that, Republicans? Don't use your strongest issue in this election year.

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Temperature check.
Blah. Okay. Wow.   

9:14. We're gonna repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. And give women equal pay for equal work. And fix immigration.

9:15. "It's our ideals — our values — that built America."

9:17. "No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment." Meade says: "Uh oh. Malaise."

9:19. He didn't say that hope and change would be easy. Yeah. He just said hope and change. And we bought it.

9:21. He's started talking about particular kids, so the end must be near. Oh, yikes, now, clearly, the end is nigh because he's yelling. I mean... getting all inspirational. "A new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit." Yeah, him quitting would have been really weird! "Let's seize this moment. To start anew. To carry the dream forward. And to strengthen our union once more."

9:31. I check Site Meter to see what SOTU-related searches are bringing people to this blog. It's basically all about why everyone is wearing purple. Ha ha.

9:34. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gives the Republican response in the Virginia State House, which looks great. We're told it was designed by Thomas Jefferson. A nice backdrop.

9:37. The federal government is simply trying to do too much. We need to "reconsider and restore the proper limited role of government at every level."

9:40. We're blessed with natural resources "and we must use them all."

9:44. "Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our Founders clearly stated, and we Governors understand, government closest to the people governs best."

9:46: About Haiti, McDonnell directly thanks Americans: "Thank you for your ongoing compassion."

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McDonnell temperature check.
blah. okay. wow.   

"If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States.' That book will knock you on your ass."

So said Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting." Maybe you were knocked on your ass by "A People's History of the United States." Were you?

Howard Zinn died of a heart attack today. He was 87.

Here is a video of his "A People's History of American Empire":

Apparently, I stand alone among conservative bloggers...

... appreciating the conservatism of Obama's decision to decline to stamp new human bootprints into the face of the moon.

"Is Barack Obama headed for some sort of meltdown?"

The Anchoress asks:
Is he clinging to his podium and teleprompters because he has lost his protective shields and does not trust himself without them? The starry-eyed adulation of the press has simmered down to a mere gaze of hopefulness and longing, accompanied by the barest of criticisms, and Obama translates that as the press being “against” him.
She's analyzing a lot of those photos at the WH Flickr page:
... I keep seeing these awful White House approved photos, and they daily jar me because they seem to reveal the president in very unflattering, troubling ways, like the work of an obsessed and Obama-hating photoshop expert.
They are mostly unflattering when seen by people who don't like Obama — admittedly, that's an increasing group. People who like him look at those pics and think they are wonderful.

And this reminds me of something I was saying the other day about liberals. Liberals — I'm generalizing — are so engulfed in their belief that they are the good people, the smart people, that they forget to step back and look at things from the perspective of people who don't agree with them.

Because of that they present not just photographs but ideas in ways that provide raw material for their critics. For example, when Obama enthused about the "blue pill"...

... he made it easy for Sarah Palin to make the devastating "death panel" charge.

Now, you might want to say that conservatives do the same thing — and cite Sarah Palin's "death panels" as an example. But the 2 things are really quite different. Obama thought he was being smart and reasonable and persuasive and imagined everyone feeling lifted up by the enlightenment he bestowed. But Sarah Palin — I think — knew she was inciting the other side. Sarah-haters would grab that stink bomb and run with it. They'd assume that she is an idiot who'd said something terribly stupid. Plunging forward with arguments they believed were — as usual — thoroughly smart and good, they'd propagate a phrase and thereby hurt themselves. Which is what happened.

It's ironic that liberals are the ones who like to say they are nuanced. But it's the opposite of nuanced to be so convinced of the goodness and the smartness of your words and your very being. It's simplistic and cartoonish. And dangerous. It leaves you open to attack when you don't anticipate how your words (and pictures) will appear to your opponents. And then when those opponents take your pretty pictures and words and turn them against you, oh, how it must hurt.

Poor Obama!

When is a bug...

... not a bug?

Did Apple really check whether women would like the idea of a maxi-pad?

I see that Steve Jobs is demonstrating the new product — the iPad — with a "Star Trek" video...

... indicating the answer is no, they did not put a whole lot of thought into appealing to women. When you make something light, you should think about how important the product will be to women, who are touchy about carrying things. Anyway, for our light days, we have iPhones. For our heavy days, we have the iPad? The iMaxiPad? Come on, guys!

And hey, MadTV warned them:

(Thanks to Meade and Zachary Paul Sire for the female-friendly humor.)

It's called the iPad.

What is this thing I must surely want?

ADDED: My first questions: 1. What does it weigh? [ANSWER: 1.5 pounds.] 2. How long does the battery last? [10 hours of video use/1 month standby — great!] 3. Will it mainly just feel like a big, dorky iPhone that I'm never going to prefer to either the iPhone or my laptop? 4. Is it basically good for Kindle-user types who mostly want to read and are not always moving back and forth between reading and writing?

AND: There's WiFi but no 3G wireless. Oh... Bleh. So it's not even a a big, dorky iPhone. It's a a big, dorky iTouch. I don't want one.

MORE: From the previous link (the NYT blog):
“I can take a flight form San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole way.”
Said Steve Jobs, making me think this is especially aimed at the poor folk who spend a lot of time on airplanes.

Hitler reacts to Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

UPDATE: The video is currently unavailable. It was funny while it lasted.

Obama squelches the moon mission.


Why didn't Rielle Hunter have an abortion?

Because she thought that baby was “some kind of golden child, the reincarnated spirit of a Buddhist monk who was going to help save the world.”

"President Obama is so much better when he takes a heated, knotty issue... and talks to the country like adults."

"He is so much better at making us smarter than angrier. Going to war with the banks for a quick political sugar high after an electoral loss will just work against him and us. It will spook the banks into lending even less and slow the recovery even more."

Thomas Friedman said, making me struggle — dumbly — to remember when Obama made me smarter.

"When dancing back to front, all dancers must remain upright — no sexual bending is allowed."

These dance instructions — from a Wisconsin high school — are being held up for mockery by The Smoking Gun and Drudge, but, frankly, I approve. Once you get past the silly term "sexual bending," it's pretty clear that the school officials are trying to protect the students from aggressive sexual touching.
... No hands on the dance floor with your buttocks touching your dance partner.
Think about it. That's a common enough kind of dancing that the school officials specified it? Obviously, some ground rules are needed for a school dance. No one is even saying your bodies cannot be fully touching in that upright position — the extremely sexy dancing that we Baby Boomers remember from high school... back in the days when teachers demanded to see "daylight" between the dancers.

Wisconsin law students get "Above the Law" to talk about them.

There. I hope you're proud of yourselves.

A "market solution" to the perceived problem that is the Supreme Court's corporate speech case.

Bruce Ackerman and David Wu say Congress should create a tax credit for money contributed to political candidates — $50 per person in "presidential years." (Don't presidential candidates have to collect their contributions before the year that has the election in it? But that's a minor quibble. Let's concentrate on the main idea: a tax credit for campaign contributions.)
If each citizen also had a chance to contribute democracy dollars, their donations would overwhelm the sums that corporations are likely to spend under the recent Supreme Court decision.

Under our initiative, candidates will find new rewards by appealing to mainstream interests. If they effectively express the concerns of ordinary people, citizens could respond by sending millions of democracy dollars in their direction. Despite the new financial power granted to corporations, Americans would gain a renewed sense that they could make a difference in politics.
The Supreme Court opinion did not free corporations to make more contributions to candidates. It recognized a constitutional right to speak for themselves. Ackerman and Wu's solution is designed to increase the flow of money to candidates, which would presumably boost the candidates' power to speak and counter this newly increased speech by corporations.

Ackerman and Wu are right that their solution — unlike attempts to rein in corporate speech — doesn't threaten free speech rights, but it's probably not true — as they claim — that it "allows ordinary Americans to compete effectively with corporations." It creates a huge flow of money to politicians so that the politicians can compete with corporations.

So Ackerman and Wu have a "more speech" solution — the classic preferred solution under First Amendment theory — but the "more speech" is going to come from the candidates. The speakers that will be yammering in our ears night and day will be corporate entities and politicians, not ordinary people, though Ackerman and Wu would like us to assume that the candidates that get the money will be those that "effectively express the concerns of ordinary people." So it's kind of like speech, except that somebody else is speaking for you.

Good idea? They're already doing it in "Oregon and other states." I'd like to hear more about how the state-level experiment has fared. Do the incumbents snap up the money and make it even harder for newcomers to get started?

Ackerman and Wu also put forward a new idea: setting up an electronic system that immediately refunds the amount you contribute onto your credit card. That way you wouldn't need to wait until you file your income tax return to get the money back. Ah! How the cash could flow! Just push buttons on line. Is that too easy? Do you worry about corruption? Does it unduly favor the kind of people who use computers and credit cards... or is that really everybody now?

January 26, 2010

At the Winter Light Inn...


... it couldn't have been all that bad.

What's more exciting about tomorrow?

The State of the Union Address or the unveiling, presumably, of the Apple Tablet.

What's more exciting about tomorrow?
State of the Union Address
Apple Tablet
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Avril Lavigne/Katy Perry.

What a contrast! Tonight on "American Idol." 2 guest judges, as the show did the first round auditions in L.A.

First half hour: Avril Lavigne bundled up in a hooded, fleecy jacket while the contestants and the other judges all visibly sweated. Kara DioGuardi was completely bare-armed and bare-shouldered, yet sweating. What was the temperature in there? I had to conclude they had the heat turned up for Avril Lavigne. What was her problem? She also didn't seem to fathom the project of judging the contestants. She idiotically doubted whether a guy who was a pastor could do the competition and still be true to his religion. Hey, judge the singing. Don't nose into their personal lives, or I'll nose into yours. Why were you so cold while everyone else was hot? And yes, her jacket had devil horns. Pure distraction. The important thing was that she was bundled up while the others were sweating. On camera. How did she get the power to make all of them look so bad? They couldn't have liked that.

Second half hour: Katy Perry! She's dazzling in a tight red dress with perfectly pink lipstick and rouge. And even in that getup, she doesn't seem phony at all. She's completely alert. How refreshing to see wide open eyes! And she chides Kara for falling for the soap opera aspects of a guy who grew up in foster care. This is about whether they can sing. Exactly. And when Kara tried to co-opt her into a "girl power" hug, Perry resisted. We're looking for real singing talent. Cool. Beautiful. Smart. Sharp. Great.

No contest: Katy Perry knocks out Avril Lavigne.


Remember when Avril shoved Kelly?

"It’s one thing to pretend to be a pimp when interviewing ACORN employees."

"It’s quite another to pretend to be a telephone repairman to gain access to a U.S. Senate office and its telephone system."

Some people think the the rules don't apply to them... including some people who got big and famous amusing us with revelations of the way some people think the rules don't apply to them. It's so hilarious.

IN THE COMMENTS: Crack Emcee says:
What's wrong with you people? James O'Keefe did America a big favor once, and I'll wait to hear what he was fishing for this time before I condemn him or call him stupid. If he has a legal defense fund, I'm in. Why should he pay for doing what the media refuses to do? That kid's a hero. Investigative journalism ain't no "15 minutes of fame" bullshit, it's serious business - y'all need to get serious as well.

I support good people - not goodie-goodie - and James O'Keefe's contribution to this latest incarnation of conservatism - The Tea Party Movement - can't be overstated. It's bigger than Scott Brown's, though Brown was in a better situation to have an impact, because these were kids - acting when nobody else would - proving to the world we were right about the corruption of ACORN all along. That was the crack in liberalism's facade and you know it.

This young man realigned our political world. Like I said, I'm with him until I hear more. The fact the rest of you have to think about it, or are assuming anything already, gives me pause:

What does loyalty mean to you?
UPDATE: Patterico reads the government's affadavit and finds the early reports misleading.
He's quite critical of the Washington Post:
What is that reporter doing reporting about James O’Keefe? And isn’t it funny that she is leaping to assumptions after she should have read an affidavit that doesn’t back her assumptions up?

Look: I wasn’t there and I therefore don’t know what happened. But O’Keefe has a history of goofy, humorous, over-the-top undercover stunts to make a political point. Wiretapping doesn’t seem like his style. And the facts in the affidavit — especially the lack of reference anywhere to any listening devices in the possession of anyone in the building — suggest to me that’s not what he was doing.

"Tiger wants to go back to being a golf star with major endorsements."

"He wants his clients, who have kids of their own, to think he is a good family man. He had hoped all along that his wife's initial furor would die down so they could discuss the situation and behave rationally."

In short: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

A non-religious reason for celibacy chastity.


Usage pointer:
Believe it or not, you can be celibate without being chaste, and chaste without being celibate. A celibate person is merely unmarried, usually (but not always) because of a vow of celibacy. The traditional assumption is that such a person is not having sex with anyone, which leads many to confuse the word with “chaste,” denoting someone who does not have illicit sex. A woman could have wild sex twice a day with her lawful husband and technically still be chaste, though the word is more often used to imply a general abstemiousness from sex and sexuality.

"Eliminating sex from your list of concerns opens up a tremendous amount of brain and emotional space that the strategizing, analyzing and agonizing over our sex lives often fills."

From "4 Non-Religious Reasons To Be Celibate."

At the Afternoon Light Café...


... don't miss anything.

The Big Freeze.

Obama's serious about controlling spending... or something.

ADDED: But McCain was a madman... with a hatchet.

The Shakepearean actor who played the serious oldest brother on "Bonanza" thought it was "Junk TV"...

... "perpetuating banality and contributing to the dehumanization of the industry."

"I feel I am an aristocrat in my field of endeavor... My being part of 'Bonanza' was like Isaac Stern sitting in with Lawrence Welk."

The gloriously prideful actor, Pernell Roberts — dead at age 81.

And now all the "Bonanza" actors are dead. I was 14 years old when Roberts left the show in 1965. Somehow, Adam — Roberts's character — was my favorite of the Cartwright brothers. Everyone had a favorite Cartwright brother. My older sister liked Little Joe. She also preferred Dr. Kildare, while I was for Ben Casey.

"Are you guys really out here to get me into trouble?"

A very sympathetic presentation — in the L.A. Times — of a man who is found guilty of violating the Endangered Species Act. Jerry Snapp had a "Cabinet of Curiosities" that he displayed at various renaissance fairs and craft shows. He acquired the carcass of an Asian elephant that had been born in Thailand and shipped to the U.S. in 1966 (before the enactment of the ESA) and that lived out its life in zoos.
Snapp paid cash, and a forklift dropped the box onto the truck. Once home in Riverside, he found a corner of his property sheltered from the breeze and added dermestid beetles. Soon he could hear them chewing away, a sound like a child eating Cheetos.

It took two years, and when the beetles were done, Snapp washed the skull with peroxide, named her Tiffany -- the glittery name from a tiara that he had saved from a Halloween costume -- and put her on display.
But, years later, when he tried to sell it across state lines, it was a violation of the ESA.
In the end, [the government agent] wasn't concerned that it had come from the zoo. That it was on the market was enough. It fueled an appetite for endangered species, and his job -- indeed, the government's job -- was to stop the trade of illegal wildlife products in the United States.
And that's the key: stopping the trade to protect the animals. Snapp was only successfully prosecuted because the government was able to convince a jury that "Snapp knew that selling the skull across state lines was illegal and ... he was a regular in the trade."
He may have broken the letter of the law, but as he saw it, he hadn't endangered any species by trying to sell the skull. He saw himself as no different from piano manufacturers who ship antique ivory keys around the country....
Of course, legally, it's not a question of how he sees it. The ESA contains the penalties the government saw fit to enact. Apparently, the theory is that the market in animal body parts endangers the animals that are still alive. A man can convince himself that what he wants to do isn't really the problem that led the government to pass the law, but that doesn't entitle him to do the things that the law proscribes.

The Kiss. El Kiss.

Elkis. Elvis.

January 25, 2010

A monument to the homeless, Austin, Texas.




"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."

Those aren't generally the alternatives... but it's a lovely sentiment, from a man of sentiments... mediocre sentiments.

There is, you know, a John Edwards sex tape, and Edwards "is physically very striking, in a certain area."

"Everyone who sees it says 'whoa.'"

When we were so much...

... younger.

"As for what Obama reads online, his advisers said he looks for offbeat blogs and news stories..."

Oh? Hi!
Obama is the first truly wired president, the first to have Internet access at his desk and to converse regularly via e-mail. This fingertip access sends him "constantly" online, said one senior adviser...

"I don't think time permits him to be surfing all the time," Axelrod said....
Ha ha. Sounds like he's hooked. He's probably in the comments here as a sock puppet.

"Allergy friendly"...

... hockey game.

Justice Louis Brandeis said get out of Washington: "I believe that every man should get back to his hinterland."

From an Anthony Lewis review of a new biography:
Law clerks and other young people who met Justice Brandeis learned how serious he was in his commitment to the states. He would advise them to leave Washington and go home. A lawyer I knew in Washington in the 1950s, Joseph A. Fanelli, told me that he went to Washington from Harvard Law School in 1935. Sometime later he had a telephone call from the justice's messenger, Edward Poindexter, saying that the Brandeises invited him for tea. Fanelli went to their apartment, was handed tea, and introduced himself when the justice came into the room. "What do you do, Mr. Fanelli?" "I'm with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Mr. Justice." "Don't stay too long!" Brandeis said, and moved on.

Fanelli was invited back once a year, and the same conversation occurred. He achieved such seniority that his wife (he had married) was asked to help pour the tea, and Fanelli was determined to break through the formula. When the justice said, "Don't stay too long!" he quickly asked, "Why do you say that, Mr. Justice?" "Because, Mr. Fanelli, I believe that every man should get back to his hinterland." "But, Mr. Justice, I come from New York. I don't have any hinterland." "That, sir, is your misfortune," Brandeis replied. And moved on.

"Joy reigns in Packerland. Brett Favre has struck out."

The take from Wisconsin on last night's game.

"Woman puts the 'ass' in Picasso at Met."

Teaser on the front page at the Daily News for this article about a woman falling into a big Rose Period Picasso and ripping it.

Will "this is your face on meth" software get kids to say no to meth?

It's a great idea to appeal to the vanity of young folk, but if it's going to work, the "face on meth" can't seem cool. NPR put Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz through the software:

I'm afraid a lot of kids (and adults) would look at that transformation and think he got a lot cooler.

"[H]is face had become a smooth, featureless melon of skin and muscle harvested from elsewhere on his body."

"I understand the risks... But if I opt for a transplant, I figure what I've already lived through is far worse."

You'd think an ambidextrous person would be more balanced.

But there's some evidence that the opposite is true.

"If you're not a doctor, step away!" "We're all doctors!"

In Haiti, too many doctors! (The quotes above occurred as 12 individuals crowded around a tiny baby.)

January 24, 2010

At the Little Dog Café...

... you can get all excited and hop up and down.

"My badger's gonna unleash hell on your ass."


Sandra Tsing Loh says: "as the breadwinner, I wish to be the husband, and hence what I’m looking for is a wife..."

"... a loyal helpmeet who keeps the home fires burning and offers uncritical emotional support when I, the gladiator, return exhausted from the arena. Who are the (actively listening!) men without money who can adapt to such a role?"

That essay is getting a lot of play over at the NYT website, and I really think there ought to be a citation to the very famous essay in the first issue of Ms. Magazine, "I Want a Wife," by Judy Brady.

Martin Amis recommends "death booths" as a solution to the "population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops."

"I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years' time. There should be a booth on every corner where you could get a martini and a medal."

A martini and a medal and... death.  Picture it:

Do you think the National Health Service in the UK is denying people the treatments they want?

Think again.
"If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd pay for the operation straight away. But we don't have the money. People can have their own beliefs on whether they think this is a good use of NHS money but I just want what will make my child happy."
This is the case of a 16-year-old boy who "began researching sex change operations last year" after the kids at school "taunted him for being gay and... he was excluded from school after getting into fights."
"The psychologist said she was satisfied that Bradley knew his own mind and was eligible for a sex change and immediately put him on a waiting list for an operation."
What an insane way to solve problems! I suppose it's easier for the government to pay £10,000 for an operation than to deal with the harassment of a gay kid at school. The poor mother is eager to "make my child happy," but why would surgery be the first choice or even any kind of choice if the truth is that the child is gay and surrounded by people who don't know how to behave with any sort of decency? 

Notice how this is a problem with the government running everything — not only the school, but also the medical treatments. When it's all a matter of economics, look at how evil it can get. It's easier to lop off body parts that to persuade groups of young people to treat each other kindly. There is one victim, and there are many harassers, so go after the victim, but call him "patient," and keep up the pretense of a caring, all-embracing government-parent... who only wants to make us children happy.

Tennis in flesh-colored underpants.

Ha ha ha.

"Best Male Actress in a Supporting Role in a Film Not Released Direct-to-Video went to the Nazi."

Male actress... I love this response to the SAG Awards "Male Actor"/"Female Actor" terminology... among other silliness.

At the Right Here Café...


... it's time for a long lunch.

"Coffee contains caffeine, which helps speed up your heart rate and thus helps you burn more calories..."

Are you still running to boost your heart rate when you can just guzzle coffee?

"There is an issue for men of: ‘What is my value here if I’m not bringing in money?...'"

"'... I understand you want a communicative, empathic guy who does housework and parenting, but how much pride can I take in that?'"

"It’s as if borrowers are playing in a poker game in which they are the only ones who think bluffing is unethical."

An analogy.

Could somebody shed some more light on Ellie Light?

I don't get it. Wouldn't a skilled astroturfer be much smarter, varying the letter and changing the writer's name? It's like "she" wanted to get caught... so who's behind this?

"It may have looked like no one was counting, but someone was supposed to."

Suddenly, Haiti is saying that it has collected and buried 150,000 bodies. How many remain in the rubble? Are any still alive? Consider that the internation rescue effort has extracted only 132 live human beings from the wreckage.

"It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America."

In the first 2 sentences of his new column, Frank Rich stakes out the territory of his dreams. The first poll I think of is this new Gallup poll:

Now, I can see Rich's loophole: "one of the most popular politicians in America." All he needs for his statement to be true is for there to be a lot of other politicians who are more unpopular. And then, job approval isn't necessarily popularity. Presumably, Obama still has this personal popularity, which he could somehow begin to use to do things people would actually approve of.

Anyway, Rich goes on to say that Obama is in trouble and must act quickly. He'd like to see Obama "exerting such take-no-prisoners leadership to challenge those who threaten our own economic recovery" and holds up an example of JFK "threaten[ing] to sic his brother’s Justice Department on corporate records" after the chairman of U.S. Steel tried to "break a White House-brokered labor-management contract agreement and raise the price of steel (but not wages)." Rich doesn't identify anything precisely equivalent to the U.S. Steel situation that would make good theater for Obama.

Hmmm. I wrote that last sentence and carefully chose the expression "good theater" without it even crossing my mind that Rich began his career as a theater critic.

I've got to say, I really don't understand what Rich would like Obama to do and how it could help our terrible economy. Here is the text of Kennedy's press conference. Can you extrapolate from that and apply it to today? The most Rich has is:
When it comes to economic substance, small symbolic gestures (the proposed new bank “fee”) won’t cut it. Nor will ineffectual presidential sound bites railing against Wall Street bonuses beyond the federal government’s purview. There’s no chance of a second stimulus. The White House will have to jawbone banks on foreclosures, credit card racketeering and the loosening of credit to small businesses....
So... jawboning... or is Obama supposed to threaten them somehow?