October 13, 2012

At the Garden Angel Café...

Untitled

... there's a seat for you.

"All Stephanie [Cutter] wants is results."

"She is an old-school, take-no-prisoners political operative. Losing is not tolerated."
In her role as Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff during the 2008 campaign, Ms. Cutter (who signed on after Mrs. Obama’s widely publicized comment that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country”) is largely credited for turning the would-be first lady from a potential liability to an enormous asset....

In addition, Ms. Cutter helped develop “Let’s Move!,” Mrs. Obama’s childhood-obesity initiative, and prepared Sonia Sotomayor for her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Ms. Cutter’s prep work involved not only peppering Ms. Sotomayor with sample questions and overseeing media coverage, but also taking on the more delicate task of asking Ms. Sotomayor to tone down her giant dangly earrings.

“She has an attention to detail that builds huge confidence on the part of the people she works for and, I say this parenthetically, especially women,” said Anita Dunn, Mr. Obama’s former White House communications director.
Women. Advancing. Right?

What really happened at the Biden-Ryan debate.

Karl Lagerfeld "said that in the future it would 'unfortunately' be 'OK' for women to be fat..."

"... but that at the moment it was unacceptable." He said runway models are "are skinny but they’re not that skinny. All the new girls are not that skinny. You know, there’s a new evolution." They're not anorexic — "nobody works with anorexic girls.... That has nothing to do with fashion. People who have that, they have problem with family and things like this. There are less than 1 per cent of anorexic girls, but there are over - in France, I don’t know about England - over 30 per cent of girls who are big, big, overweight."

If that irks you, enjoy this description of Lagerfeld written by the late great David Rakoff:
... Lagerfeld’s powdered white ponytail has dusted the shoulders of his suit with what looks like dandruff but isn’t. Also, not yet having undergone his alarming weight loss, seated on a tiny velvet chair, with his large doughy rump dominating the miniature piece of furniture like a loose, flabby, ass-flavored muffin over-risen from its pan, he resembles a Daumier caricature of some corpulent, overfed, inhumane oligarch drawn sitting on a commode, stuffing his greedy throat with the corpses of dead children, while from his other end he shits out huge, malodorous piles of tainted money.
ADDED: The Daumier he might have been picturing:

"Amazon Confirms It Makes No Profit On Kindles."

"We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break-even on the hardware."
"What we find is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle,” said [Jeff] Bezos.... “But they don’t stop buying paper books. Kindle owners read four times as much, but they continue to buy both types of books.”
It's to their advantage, and maybe to your advantage. May I recommend: Kindle Paperwhite.

"Anything as perfect and simple-sounding as this motto is always in danger of becoming a cliché..."

"...  but there’s nothing like putting it in the mouths of politicians to speed up that process."

What's the point of a catchphrase? You want it to catch on and then you want to control it? Speech doesn't work like that. Words have a life of their own. Phrases are born, have their narrative arcs, and sometimes they die — that is, they come to be regarded as clichés, and then no one wants to use them anymore.

The dispute at the link is over the Mitt Romney's use of “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose" from the TV show “Friday Night Lights.”

Hey, remember when Walter Mondale appropriated "Where's the beef?" from the Wendy's commercial? Where was the outrage?

"Two men who say they’re Berkeley, Calif., law school students have been arrested after police say they killed and decapitated an exotic bird..."

"... that was part of a Las Vegas resort attraction."
... Police say the two men were seen Friday laughing and throwing around the body of a dead, 14-year-old helmeted guineafowl at the Flamingo resort-casino. The large bird was part of the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat, a garden area with ponds and streams that houses many types of birds.
Really? These were Berkeley law students? Quite aside from the evil of animal cruelty, this is unfathomably stupid career suicide.

"Obama, weaving around life’s potential barriers smoothly and largely alone, came to regard himself as not only lucky..."

"... but destined, a sensibility that could lead to overconfidence, if not hubris," writes David Maraniss, analyzing the cause and extent of Obama's problem debating Romney. Maraniss — who wrote a book about Obama — sees Obama as a man of contradictions, who "chose politics as his profession while harboring ambivalence about it."
He has played by the conventional rules yet at times betrays a disdain for the game, whether mocking the notion of sound bites or chastising the media for being slaves to a 24-hour news cycle while he thinks in the long term. 
This is in contrast to Bill Clinton, who "could immerse himself in the moment and excel at transactional politics."
Obama is more the participant-observer, self-consciously taking note of the surreal aspects of what he is doing. Clinton’s antennae were tuned to his surroundings; Obama’s are tuned to his interior being. Clinton, a brilliantly authentic phony, could assume any role the circumstances required. Obama yearns to play roles he admires. In the first debate, he was the constitutional law professor, listening, giving ground, offering complex caveats, soberly taking notes. None of that helped him.
Maybe a lawprof is not what you want in a politician. And yet, Bill Clinton was a lawprof. So was Hillary Clinton. And there are different types of lawprofs. They don't all listen, give ground, and offer complex caveats! Here's an old blog post of mine about how different Bill and Hillary were as law professors, with these quotes from Carl Bernstein's book about Hillary):

"Orally urinating turtle boffin in nominative-determinism classic case/Shit Fun Chew probes mouth-excreting chelonian."

Actual headline — not a joke — about actual scientific research.

What's nominative-determinism?, you may ask. Possibly not your first question, but you may get to it. You might have asked, before that, what Google alert does Althouse maintain that gets her there? (Answer: "boffin"!) Anyway:
The theory of nominative determinism suggests that a person’s name can help form their choices in life, influencing the character they develop or profession they adopt.
Examples: "Poet William Wordsworth, caricaturist and Disney animator Mr T Hee, and sprinter Usain Bolt..."

Which reminds me, chez Meadhouse, we're supporting the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, because of Prince Fielder, whom we like not because of nominative determinism, but because he's an ex-Brewer.

Did Biden blame Hillary for Benghazi?

Mickey Kaus thinks so.
Will Hillary now retaliate and protect herself by leaking word that the White House did too know? Will her husband continue to tour the country trying to pull Obama’s bacon out of the fire (as he did at the convention) even as Obama points a finger at his wife? Will they all cut some sort of deal in which Hillary agrees to take the fall and Bill soldiers on … in exchange for, what? Have they already cut a deal?  Is the White House going to try to hang its hat on the idea that Obama and Biden didn’t know, but maybe their staffs knew? Will that really fly? Aren’t they responsible for their staffs? Will the staffs fight back?
That's a lot of internal intrigue to keep under control until the election. What an October surprise!

They October-surprised themselves. 

"On no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason."



Best answer to the question why Paul Ryan — and not Biden (or Obama or Romney) — drank water during the debate. I had 5 suggested answers in my poll:



But the commenters — both in my post here and over at the poll site — came up with some funny answers:
"Hey — you think you're the only one playing a drinking-game during that debate!?"

"Drinking water helped him keep his cool and avoid beating the shit out of that smug asshole Biden."

"Heat generated by combination of Biden's gusty pizza cheese-smelling sighs and the dazzling white-hot glare from Biden's fake chompers led to increased need for hydration."

"Possibly he had come across Enoch Powell's 'Full Bladder technique.' Powell was a British politician of fifty years ago, famous, inter alia, for being a brilliant public speaker. He always made his speeches on a full bladder, on the theory that it helped concentrate the mind."

"Actually, it was a specially devised clear liquid CHEAT SHEET full of rethuglican LIES!!!"
And thanks as well to those who said things like:
Thanks for posting this, Ann. I've long felt that Instapundit was a bit too heavy on links to relevant and/or interesting content.

Wow. That's some hard hitting insightful analysis there, Ann.
I say thanks because it's helpful to me to remember that there's a segment of the population that doesn't get fun. I assume my readers are fun-loving, but there are some people who are essentially fun deaf, and things like this are as annoying as Joe Biden guffawing while Paul Ryan is talking about nuclear war in the Middle East.

Perhaps for some people, the sorrows and travails of this world are so weighty that we ought to demand a somber demeanor at all times — not just from ourselves, but from others. I can imagine a religion that requires grim facial and verbal expression at all times and for everyone, forever. An eternal funeral. After all: People are dying, dying at the rate of one per second. Wipe that smile off your face. Permanently.

Okay. I just wanted to acknowledge that you of the Religion of Grim are out there. And now, why don't you just take it easy, and please make me a drink of grain alcohol and rainwater, and help yourself to whatever you'd like?

"Scary, grown-up thoughts have shriveled his video game sack..."

Masculinity tied to video game prowess tied to the consumption of Slim Jims in this ad, discussed here:
Jonathan Byrne, an associate creative director at Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco, which is creating the campaign, said the ads are intended to balance promoting manliness with hanging on to the joys of boyhood.

“It’s not just about manliness, it’s also bucking responsibility,” Mr. Byrne said of the ads. “Avoiding the growing-up thing is a big part of it.”
Whatever you think of video games and Slim Jims, what do you think of conflating manliness and boyhood?
An animated sequence shows a kidney-shaped organ called a video game sack in a man’s midsection, which collapses as it collides with items like a wedding cake, minivan and baby carriage.
In this trope, actual adult manhood is feminizing. Arguably, this is the point of marriage and the reason why heterosexual marriage is held out to be the building block of society: The overly masculine young man needs to be diluted with femininity in order to do the things that we as a whole want him to do — be economically productive and produce the next generation. In this view, playing video games — and generally camping out in everlasting boyhood — is a preservation of full manhood. A transgressive thought... but that's a big part of advertising, making the consumer feel that they're a big old rebel for purchasing some unremarkable product... this dessicated strip of meat...

What is the most pathetic dessicated strip of meat?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Joe Biden at the debate reminded me of Steve Carrell in "The Office.

Here's something I wrote yesterday under the heading "How would you have reacted to Joe Biden?"
In real life, [t]here are different reactions, depending on how much of a friendship you have and... sometimes you're in a situation where you must maintain your demeanor, despite the other guy's antagonism. For example, in a job interview or a discussion with your boss or maybe when you were a kid and your father was exerting his authority. The VP debate is also, obviously, one of those situations. Imagine if Ryan had given Biden the finger? Ryan is a young man, he had to have been thinking of the various reactions that you'd use in an ordinary social situation, even as he rejected each one and told himself that he had to keep acting as if Biden were not behaving inappropriately.
A discussion with your boss.... It's like on "The Office." The employees are continually repressing their reaction to the boss — Steve Carrel's character Michael Scott. Example:



The boss is having a grand time, and he thinks he's a great guy, and socially, it's utterly dysfunctional, because he gets no proper feedback, because he's the boss. "The Office" has been so extraordinarily popular, I think, because viewers identify so strongly with the employees. Personally, I have difficulty watching the show. I understand the humor, but the identification with the oppressed employees is so strong that it's painful, and since it's the situation of this situation comedy, the pain is chronic.

Here's another "Office" clip:



Key line: "Have you ever been to Scranton Jan?" Scranton! Scranton is Joe Biden's home town!
"My name is Joe Biden and as strange as it sounds, everything important in my life that I’ve learned here in Scranton, I’m serious.... You are the grit, the sinew and the soul of what freedom is all about, sounds corny, but you really are, you are a special group of people, this is a special place and this soul is thick with pride and loyalty."
Picture Michael Scott pestering his employees with a morale-building speech when they just want to get back to work. Back to work... in Scranton... where unemployment is 10%.

October 12, 2012

Why did Paul Ryan drink so much water?

People are asking. Did you not notice that he frequently sipped water? I never noticed Biden drinking water, and at the first debate, I never noticed Romney or Obama drinking water.

What's the best explanation?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Democrats like cartoons, Republicans like reality shows.

According to TiVo-based research.
Over all, the Democratic list contained a lot of animated comedies — “The Cleveland Show,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad” — as well as lightly viewed but critically acclaimed sitcoms like “30 Rock” and “Community.”

The Republican list, beyond sports (Nascar was [in addition to golf, big), was populated with a host of reality shows — “The Biggest Loser,” “Survivor,” “American Idol” and “The Amazing Race."...

At the Puppy Doll Café...

Untitled

... everyone needs a baby.

"It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye."

"No one knows what it's like to be the bad fish, to be the sad fish, behind blue eye."

"Jokes about an eyeball washing up from the sea? Now that's what I call... *sunglasses* ...aqueous humor."

Let's see... what tags do I put on this post? So wrong and yet so right: fisheye.

"FLASH: TV RATINGS FOR VP DEBATE DOWN SHARPLY... DEVELOPING... "

Says Drudge, in all caps, which... isn't that yelling? I'm tired of all this yelling!
CBS 10.4 MILLION
ABC 6.9 MILLION
NBC 6.8 MILLION
FOX 5.3 MILLION

*CABLE NUMBERS LATER TODAY...
**69.9 MILLION WATCHED IN 2008...
As I said, I'm tired of the yelling. I found the debate really hard to watch, but I kept watching because I was committed to live-blogging. Even still, I got catatonic. There was a point when I didn't write anything for 20 minutes and then I said:
Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It's so inappropriate!
The previous post had been:
The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I'm impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It's hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.
That shows how I felt: pain. So here's my question. Ratings were down, I see, but when were the ratings taken? In the beginning? How did the ratings drop off over the course of the 90 minutes? Who was still around when Biden was yelling at Martha Raddatz for 15 minutes? How did the gender balance change over the course of the evening? I'll bet people — especially women — left in droves and the ratings were overall much worse than those already-low numbers say. And for the people that instinctively — with good human sense — clicked away, what was lodged in their mind was revulsion toward Biden. That's what happened to me. But then I stuck around, enduring the (second hand) brow-beating and bullying.

You know, I have an aversion to politics. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember the old subtitle "Politics and the aversion to politics...." That was absolutely sincere. I am one of the many people — sensible people, many of them women! — who naturally withdraw from the political debate. It's just not worth it. Life is short, and much of it is beautiful and full of love. I want to go somewhere else. But somewhere else for me has been writing — ironically, about politics. That's an odd thing about me, but it puts me in a position where I can see some things that typical political junkies don't see. And I think I speak — in some way — for the people who would not watch that debate, certainly not much more than 20 minutes of it, with Biden's childish, clownish rudeness.

"White House: Obama and Biden were never aware of requests for more Benghazi security."

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reports (after his earlier post "Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security," which I discussed at length earlier this morning). Rogin interviewed Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes, asking him "whether Biden was speaking for the entire Obama administration, including the State Department." What Biden said was: "We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there."
Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president and neither of them knew about the requests at the time.

The State Department security officials who testified before House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's panel Wednesday never said they had made their requests to the president, Rhodes pointed out. That would be natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House, he said. Rhodes also pointed out that the officials were requesting more security in Tripoli, not Benghazi.
So here's the harmonization that is supposed to save Biden from the charge of lying. When Biden said there would be an investigation into the security lapses and Raddatz (the moderator) interjected "And they wanted more security there," Biden said:
Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.
That's not a lie because Biden was only talking about himself and President Obama. "We" means just Obama and Biden, per Rhodes. But then what do we make of the line "we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew"? And "That was the assessment"? If Biden knows now that wasn't the assessment and he and the President were not told what the intelligence community knew, he can't truthfully assert that "we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew"... unless you lay a whole lot of weight on the words I just boldfaced. That is, he was cleverly refraining from saying that the intelligence community told us what they knew. We heard what they told us they knew... and they were not telling the truth. They knew other things, but they didn't tell us. But what they told us, they told us they knew.

NOTE: There's another out: the scope of the term "intelligence community."

AND: Another out stresses the word "there" in Biden's "Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there." As Rhodes points out: the requests were for more security in Tripoli and the attack occured in Benghazi.

IN THE COMMENTS: Shouting Thomas said:
Uh... yeah... But, how does that explain the prompt production of the "offensive" video as the reason for the attacks?
Here's my theory. It was 9/11, the last 9/11 before the election, and Obama wanted to do something 9/11-y. His people dug up this offensive video on YouTube for Obama to talk about in some eloquent mishmash that would somehow make him sound like a leader who has made a wonderful connection to the Muslim world. Then the al Qaeda attack occurred in Libya, taking over the 9/11 spotlight, interfering with Obama's planned message, and even tainting his legend as The Man Who Shot Bin Laden. A decision was made to absorb the Libya attack into the planned 9/11 story. It was a bad decision, but they doubled down on it anyway. The election was so close, and the truth could be sorted out later.

Baldwin 51%, Thompson 47%.

A new Rasmussen poll on the Senate race in Wisconsin.

How did Tommy lose so much ground? Did Tammy's DNC speech elevate her? Was it all her negative ads? Is it Tommy not trying enough, thinking he could coast to victory?
Are people looking at pictures of the 2 of them and picking the prettier one?

Are Republicans kicking themselves for passing up the very pretty Eric Hovde?

Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire reclassified as "toss up" states...

... at Real Clear Politics.

"The Joe Biden that you saw last night is the Democratic Party."

Rush Limbaugh, just now. "Biden did exactly what was desired, and in the process hurt himself and Obama.... His job was to excite the base.... They came out of their shell: none of this compassion and understanding... The base wants blood. The base wants rude.... Biden gave them exactly what they wanted."

UPDATE: How it looked, per Rush: "Paul Ryan was a son who was a little embarrassed for his father... trying to tell his dad that the world has passed him by" without subjecting him to public humiliation.

Homeless protest in Madison.

"It’s constant harassment all the time from people walking around the streets looking at us funny to other people stealing our stuff, and now on top of it, even the city people, the police … are throwing our stuff away."

The "stuff" was left unattended on the public sidewalk near the Capitol Square, and the police stored the removed material and even tried to track down the owners.
Tenant Resource Center Executive Director Brenda Konkel said the city’s procedure for removing abandoned property is... "a violation of homeless people’s rights...."

Count back 7 decades to appreciate the euphemistic understatement.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the European Union (EU). The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

How would you have reacted to Joe Biden?

Meade and I were just having a conversation, not about politics. About baseball, actually. I was expressing an idea I had. (It doesn't matter what my idea was, but in case your curiosity is distracting, my idea was that to enjoy baseball, you need to watch the game in real time, with the slow parts left in, and once you start fast-forwarding to the parts that look exciting, it ruins the experience, and you might as well just read a report of what happened.) Meade keeps scoffing and laughing really annoyingly, until I get the joke that he's doing his Joe Biden imitation.... at which point I give him the finger. Suddenly, I realize that is the normal reaction to Biden's antics. Give him the finger.

There are other reactions when someone acts like that, laughing in your face, rolling their eyes, smirking, every time you're trying to say something. It's incredibly antagonizing! In real life, what do you do? There are different reactions, depending on how much of a friendship you have and how much you know about this person's propensity toward physical violence and whether you have a good escape route.

But sometimes you're in a situation where you must maintain your demeanor, despite the other guy's antagonism. For example, in a job interview or a discussion with your boss or maybe when you were a kid and your father was exerting his authority. The VP debate is also, obviously, one of those situations. Imagine if Ryan had given Biden the finger? Ryan is a young man, he had to have been thinking of the various reactions that you'd use in an ordinary social situation, even as he rejected each one and told himself that he had to keep acting as if Biden were not behaving inappropriately.

And what was going through Biden's head? (♪♫What goes on in Biden's brain?♪♫) Did the old man lose control of his bodily functions? Let's assume he had a strategy and was deliberately annoying, distracting, bullying, and rude. Why would he adopt such a strategy? Has he no self-respect? Maybe he's okay with his longstanding "Old Joe" reputation. He's a clown. A gaffe machine. So what? Everyone already thinks that. Flip it! Weaponize clownery. If it was a plan, it was a plan to provoke Ryan. What if Ryan suddenly gave him the finger? Where's your choir boy now, Ryanistas?

Clips from the debate: the montage of Biden laughing at one serious thing after another.

I'm sure many, many people who watched the debate said — as I did — somebody needs to clip together all of Biden's laughing while Ryan was saying something that wasn't funny. The RNC got its montage — a web ad — out before the night was over:



There's the debate, watched in real time, and the effect it has on people's minds. CNN did a poll about that:
Forty-eight percent of voters who watched the vice presidential debate think that Rep. Paul Ryan won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Thursday night's faceoff. Forty-four percent say that Vice President Joe Biden was victorious....

By a 50%-41% margin, debate watchers say that Ryan rather than Biden better expressed himself.

Seven in ten said Biden was seen as spending more time attacking his opponent, and that may be a contributing factor in Ryan's 53%-43% advantage on being more likable. Ryan also had a slight advantage on being more in touch with the problems of average Americans.
Post-debate, we get people reacting to the reactions. (If everyone's saying X won, that makes some people feel like being for X, the winner.) And we get the quotes from the transcript, analyzed. (See my previous post.) And, perhaps most important, we get the video clips, with each side using what's usable. As Peggy Noonan writes in her column about the debate:
Because the debate was so rich in charge and countercharge, and because it covered so much ground, both parties will be able to mine the videotape for their purposes. On the attack in Benghazi, the question that opened the debate, Mr. Biden was on the defensive and full of spin. He pivoted quickly to talking points, a move that was at once too smooth and too clumsy. He was weak on requests for added security before the consulate was overrun and the ambassador killed. "We will get to the bottom of this." Oh. Good.
I look forward to more mining of the videotape. But this first one, from the RNC, is powerful. It's obvious — didn't we all think of doing this? — but they did it quickly, gave us just what we said out loud in our living rooms somebody should do, and they did it well.

VP debate substance: "Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security."

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:
"We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there," Biden said.

In fact, two security officials who worked for the State Department in Libya at the time testified Thursday that they repeatedly requested more security and two State Department officials admitted they had denied those requests.

"All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources," the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, testified. "In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.' I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway."

Nordstrom was so critical of the State Department's reluctance to respond to his calls for more security that he said, "For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building."

"We felt great frustration that those requests were ignored or just never met," testified Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released the unclassified cables containing those requests.
Was Biden ignorant of all this, was he lying at the debate, or did he mean to assert that the State Department officials were lying?

The Libya question opened the debate. Let's look at the transcript:

October 11, 2012

Live-blogging the big VP debate.

6:45 Central Time: Get ready!

7:18: "Paul Ryan's very attractive to a lot of women," opines David Gergen on the CNN pre-show. I have the DVR set to play the debate on CNN, but I'm thinking of changing because they're going to display focus group reactions on screen — colored lines — through the whole thing. I want to form my own opinion!

7:47: CNN commentators are finding a hundred different ways to say that the debate will be affected by having the candidates sitting and physically close together. Somehow, it will be harder to fight, at least in a personal way.

8:03: Game on. First question is about Libya and the absence of protests. Biden goes first, not focusing on the question asked, the massive failure of intelligence. Ryan takes notes.

8:06: Biden talks about tracking down terrorists to the "gates of Hell," as Ryan smiles. Ryan immediately attacks the President for blaming the YouTube video. We should have had a Marine detachment protecting Chris Stevens. We've been "projecting weakness abroad." We're witnessing "the unraveling of Obama foreign policy."

8:09: Biden is being rude, laughing and mouthing words.  And Ryan is talking about serious national security matters. Biden mutters an interruption. When Biden is given a turn, he calls what Ryan said "malarky." Biden stutters and falters and has to say "uh" about 5 times before he can come up with the word "Iran."

8:12: "We weren't told they wanted more security," Biden says, and now it's Ryan who laughs — a little scoff.

8:13: Should the U.S. apologize? Ryan says "yes" re urinating on Korans — which the moderator (Raddatz) mentioned — but not "for standing up for our values."

8:15: Ryan is speaking earnestly about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and Biden is chuckling toothily, his body shaking like Santa Claus. Biden says if Republicans had had control of the sanctions, the rest of the world wouldn't have followed us. These were "the most crippling sanctions." Biden goes on and on assuring us that Iran is far from being able to deliver a nuclear bomb. He accuses the Republicans of "loose talk."

8:19: Biden talks to "Bibi" all the time and so does Obama. What Ryan says is "a bunch of stuff." When Ryan speaks, Biden is laughing clownishly again. It looks just awful. Ryan isn't rattled by it. I think he knows Biden looks foolish.

8:23: Biden is acting as though he cannot physically tolerate Ryan having a turn to speak!

8:25: Economics. Biden grabs the opportunity to push the 47% theme. He's "had it up to here," he says, with wealthy people not paying their fair share.  He sounds really cranky and angry. Ryan: "Joe and I are from similar towns." And in Janesville, his home town, unemployment has gone from 8.5% to 10%. Biden busts out another big grin.

8:29: "The Vice President very well knows that the words don't always come out the right way," Ryan says, getting a laugh, defending Romney from the 47% charge. Instead of taking this graciously, Biden mutters something about how he believes everything he says. Ryan tells some stories about Romney's charity toward the unfortunate, which includes someone that was in a car accident, and Biden takes the opportunity to remind us that his own wife died in a car crash, which is sad, but oddly misplaced.

8:33: Ryan talks about "green pork" in the stimulus, and Biden gets all cranked up about how Ryan sought stimulus money for his district. Biden continually interrupts Ryan in a way I find incredibly annoying.

8:36: While Ryan is talking about Medicare helping his mother and grandmother, Biden sighs long and loud. Sighing! Remember when Gore got in no end of trouble for sighing? How can Biden not know that?!

8:39: "They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare," says Ryan. Biden interrupts. Ryan says: "Mr. Vice President, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think everyone will be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other." I love the politeness of "if we don't keep" — we — when Biden has been an interruption machine and Ryan has barely interrupted and only occasionally has talked over to keep from losing his turn. The moderator, Martha Raddatz has done nothing at all to control Biden, who is, I think, hurting himself. Biden says: "Well, don't take all 4 minutes then." He should have said, "All right" or something reasonably conciliatory.

8:51: The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I'm impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It's hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.

9:11: Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It's so inappropriate!

9:21: They're asked to talk about how their Catholicism has informed their position on abortion. Ryan isn't pro-life "simply because of" his Catholicism. It's also about science and reason. He talks of seeing his bean-shaped unborn child on a sonogram. Biden says "My religion informs who I am." He accepts the Catholic position on abortion that life begins at conception, but he refuses to impose that on others.

9:27: The last question is about negative campaigning. Biden rambles. Paul Ryan attributes the negativity to Obama's failures: he has nothing to run on.

9:34: Wait. That wasn't the last question. There's a question about character: What do you bring as a man? Nothing particularly interesting was extracted by that question.

9:35: Now, closing statements.

9:48: That debate was so annoying! Some of the CNN commentators are talking about how Biden did what he came to do, to fire up the Democrats. "This was not for the independents," says Van Jones. Okay, well, but independents were watching, and Biden was horribly rude. He created this disturbing atmosphere of anxiety.

"The candidates weren’t kind to Jim Lehrer in the first presidential debate."

"The veteran moderator was talked over, interrupted, cut off and ignored. Would they dare to do the same thing to a woman?"

At the Quiet Dog Café...

Untitled

... you can bark all afternoon.

"So what you're saying is that what counts is race above all.... You want underprivileged of a certain race and privileged of a certain race. So that's race."

Said Justice Anthony Kennedy at during the oral argument over the the University of Texas affirmative action policy. UT, following state law, automatically admits everyone who graduates from a Texas high school in the top 10%, a colorblind policy that produces a certain amount of racial diversity, especially since there are many high schools in Texas that have a very high proportion of black or Hispanic students.

So why does UT do any additional affirmative action as it fills up the portion of the entering class not admitted through the 10% program? You've already got a lot of diversity, so why do you need more? The additional affirmative action is precisely to bring in privileged black and Hispanic students, that is, the black and Hispanic students who did not attend racially isolated schools. If white students get too many of the top 10% spots at those schools, then the 10% program does not bring enough of these minority students into UT.
The university says... that the highest-ranked students at a disadvantaged school have lower SAT scores than some in the middle of the pack at a more competitive suburban high school. UT's affirmative-action program aims to open doors for minority applicants from middle-class or professional families. Such students can "help dispel stereotypical assumptions…which actually may be reinforced" by minorities admitted only because of the top-10% plan, UT said in its brief.

Justice Samuel Alito seized on that point. "I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students who come from underprivileged backgrounds, but you make a very different argument that I don't think I've ever seen before," he said.
Actually, under the Court's case law, the diversity that is considered a compelling interest (which is what the state needs to defend race discrimination) is not about boosting the underprivileged. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the majority approved of the idea of  assembling a class that includes "a 'critical mass' of minority students," which does not mean "racial balancing, which is patently unconstitutional" but is "defined by reference to the educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce."
These benefits are substantial. As the District Court emphasized, the Law School’s admissions policy promotes “cross-racial understanding,” helps to break down racial stereotypes, and “enables [students] to better understand persons of different races.”...These benefits are “important and laudable,” because “classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting” when the students have “the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.” ...

The Law School does not premise its need for critical mass on “any belief that minority students always (or even consistently) express some characteristic minority viewpoint on any issue.”... To the contrary, diminishing the force of such stereotypes is both a crucial part of the Law School’s mission, and one that it cannot accomplish with only token numbers of minority students. Just as growing up in a particular region or having particular professional experiences is likely to affect an individual’s views, so too is one’s own, unique experience of being a racial minority in a society, like our own, in which race unfortunately still matters.
If it's about breaking down stereotypes, the 10% approach creates a problem: The minority students in the classroom tend to come from the racially isolated schools, the less privileged Texans. So, it seems, the additional affirmative action is needed to get a more varied group of minority students, in which case, the point is to bring in privileged minority students, because these are the students who — in Grutter terms — might provide the classroom benefit of teaching all the students that minority students don't have "some characteristic minority viewpoint."

Obviously, there were dissenting opinions in Grutter. For example, Justice Scalia scoffed at that idea of the compelling interest: The lesson taught by classroom diversity is "essentially the same lesson taught to (or rather learned by, for it cannot be 'taught' in the usual sense) people three feet shorter and twenty years younger than the full-grown adults at the University of Michigan Law School, in institutions ranging from Boy Scout troops to public-school kindergartens."

I'm not taking a position on whether UT's admissions policy is good or whether it's constitutional. (Do not assume you know what I think. You don't.) All I am saying is that if Grutter is to be applied (and not limited or overruled), an affirmative action program that's all about boosting the most privileged minority students actually makes sense.

Did Justice Alito not see that (or was he mainly expressing disapproval)? Here's his quote (along with Justice Kennedy's), put in context, beginning at page 43 of the PDF transcript:
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students who come from underprivileged backgrounds, but you make a very different argument that I don't think I've ever seen before. The top 10 percent plan admits lots of African Americans -- lots of Hispanics and a fair number of African Americans. But you say, well, it's -- it's faulty, because it doesn't admit enough African Americans and Hispanics who come from privileged backgrounds. And you specifically have the example of the child of successful professionals in Dallas. Now, that's your argument? If you have -­ you have an applicant whose parents are -- let's say they're -- one of them is a partner in your law firm in Texas, another one is a part -- is another corporate lawyer. They have income that puts them in the top 1 percent of earners in the country, and they have -­ parents both have graduate degrees. They deserve a leg-up against, let's say, an Asian or a white applicant whose parents are absolutely average in terms of education and income?

[GREGORY G. GARRE, counsel for the University of Texas]: No, Your Honor. And let me -­ let me answer the question. First of all, the example comes almost word for word from the Harvard plan that this Court approved in Grutter and that Justice Powell held out in Bakke.

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, how that question be no, because being an African American or being a Hispanic is a plus factor.

MR. GARRE: Because, Your Honor, our point is, is that we want minorities from different backgrounds. We go out of our way to recruit minorities from disadvantaged backgrounds.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: So what you're saying is that what counts is race above all.

MR. GARRE: No, Your Honor, what counts is different experiences -­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, that's the necessary -- that's the necessary response to Justice Alito's question.

MR. GARRE: Well, Your Honor, what we want is different experiences that are going to -- that are going to come on campus -­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: You want underprivileged of a certain race and privileged of a certain race. So that's race.

MR. GARRE: No, Your Honors, it's -- it's not race. It's just the opposite. I mean, in the LUAC decision, for example, this Court said that failing to take into account differences among members of the same race does a disservice -­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But the reason you're reaching for the privileged is so that members of that race who are privileged can be representative, and that's race. I just -­

MR. GARRE: It's -- it's members racial group, Your Honor, bringing different experiences. And to say that -- if you took group, if you had an admissions process that to admit from a -- people from a particular background or perspective, you would want people from different perspectives.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Counsel -­

MR. GARRE: And that's -- that's the interests that we're discussing here. It's the interests that the Harvard plan specifically adopts and lays out -­

CNN tried to extract a colorful quote about debate prep from Paul Ryan

Interviewed about his debate prep, Ryan said "I do a lot of reading, that's what I've always done -- briefings and reading," which CNN duly quotes. Then it's on to hunting. How does he prepare for deer hunting? The interviewer has background info from a friend of Ryan's:
The friend said that before Ryan goes hunting he washes his clothes in unscented detergent, takes a shower with unscented soap and sprays unscented material on his boots -- all steps that hunters are known to take generally, but Ryan takes it to a completely different level.

"If you're into archery and bow hunting, that's the way to do it and be successful. I like the strategy of bow hunting and it takes a lot of preparation and I do take it seriously because I am much more successful if I do things properly and prepare the right way," Ryan said.
"I have always just believed that if you're going to do something, do it well."
He's invited to connect this to debate prep (presumably with the hope that he'll say something more colorful than I read a lot):
"This stage is kind of new for me and I'm taking it very seriously," he replied. "I'm just doing my homework and studying the issues and I'll know he'll come and attack us. The problem he has is he has Barack Obama's record to run on."
I think he just mostly said I read a lot again. Nice try CNN. Maybe go interview a friend of Ryan's about Ryan's pre-Biden shower routine. Any relevant aromatherapy? Any "material" sprayed on his shoes? Unscented... scented... Maybe Ryan could stink it up and thereby trick his prey into screwing his face into a disgusted sneer of some kind. We the viewers have television — not the once-dreamed-of smellovision — so the ruse would go undetected. Suddenly, Biden's nice-guy image erodes.

Actually, some of us are still dreaming:



"In the future we will be picking our political leaders at least partially based on their smell," says Weird Al.

Biden "will surely take it to Ryan on... his statement yesterday that inner-city kids need to be taught 'good discipline' and 'character.'"

Writes John Cassidy, in The New Yorker, observing that tonight's VP debate is high stakes.

Cassidy doesn't link to the Ryan statement, which — I found on my own — is part of the video that made the rounds the other day, the one that supposedly showed Ryan being "testy." (We talked about it here.) Anyway, let me put the "good discipline" and "character" remark in context. Ryan was asked the question "Does the country have a gun problem?" Ryan took the position that the problem is crime, not guns, and that we already have enough "good, strong gun laws," which we ought to enforce better.
But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity to the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character. That is civil society, that's what charities and civic groups and churches do to help one another, make sure they realize the value in one another.
Let's try to understand why people like Cassidy think that's outrageous (as opposed to platitudinous).  Here's Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

Even if Obama thought first — or even only — about reelection, how could he have chosen to lie the way he did about Libya?

Mark Steyn writes:
The State Department has now conceded that there was no movie protest at all. and that it was, in fact, one of the most sophisticated military attacks ever launched at a diplomatic facilityBoth these very obvious points were surely known to Washington by 6 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday September 12, by which time the surviving consulate staff had been evacuated to Tripoli. Yet Ambassador Rice, President Obama, et al., were still blaming the video days later. Obama and Secretary Clinton always refer to Ambassador Stevens as “Chris” — Chris this, Chris that — as if he were a treasured friend or intimate. Yet they and the sad hollow men around them dishonor their “friend” in death.
Quite aside from the wrongness of lying, generally and specifically, in this case, and quite aside from the motivation to lie — I'm going to presume, without more, it was campaign politics — why did Obama think he could get away with this lie long enough, and why was he not daunted by the risk entailed in going on and on, doubling down on the lie, and even lying in a U.N. speech? How did he have the nerve to co-opt our U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, and subvert her credibility and honor? How did he get this millstone around the neck of Hillary Clinton, who has such a strong interest in her independent career and who knows a thing or two about the devastation of getting caught lying? (And this lie can't be waved away as as lie "about sex." It's a lie at the very heart of our trust in the President.)

Now, I have a few more questions, focusing on the choice to construct the lie out of that "Innocence of Muslims" video. Here's a montage of statements that were made about the video:
OBAMA:  I don't care how offensive this video was, it was terribly offensive and we should shun it.

HILLARY:  This video is disgusting and reprehensible.  It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.

CARNEY:  Let's be clear.  These protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region.

OBAMA:  You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character, an extremely offensive video.

CARNEY:  The unrest we've seen has been in reaction to a video.

OBAMA:  A crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.

RICE:  It was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response, a direct result of a heinous and offensive video.

OBAMA:  I know there are some who ask, "Why don't we just ban such a video?"  The answer is enshrined in our laws.  Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
Was this just the nearest lame excuse, like the dog ate my homework? The President must have known that the truth about the attack on the embassy would eventually emerge. He couldn't have assumed that those called to testify in congressional hearings would commit perjury. Even if everyone would be willing to commit perjury, how could they think they could credibly pull off lies about protests — vivid public events — that never took place? Maybe Obama's only concern was that the truth not emerge before the election, but given the risk that it would, why wasn't he afraid of how bizarre and outrageous the video story was?

The video story, moreover, put Obama in a position where he had to present caring for the feelings of violent foreigners as something that challenges our commitment to free speech, as if it were a difficult matter to brood over. He made it sound as though he would ban the video — or take the proposal to ban it seriously — if only the Constitution didn't stand in his way. Was he interested in making a show of respect for constitutional law? It didn't come off as too respectful, especially when they arrested the filmmaker (who was, conveniently, on parole and thus arrestable). This was the worst sort of scapegoating. Obama called this man — this erstwhile nonentity — "a shadowy character."

And this inane and unnecessary display of concern for the feelings of Muslims depended on thinking about Muslims as a bunch of idiots and criminals. It wasn't respectful at all to promote this caricature of Muslims as people who look at a stupid video and lose their minds, take to the streets, and work themselves up into a murderous rage. The video story could only work as a cover for the truth if it could be leveraged on an offensive stereotype of Muslims. It is the story about the response to the video — far more the video itself — that has "a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion"! Why didn't Obama care that he was insulting Muslims in this weird charade about caring for Muslims?

Why was any of this worth doing, even cynically? Even if you assume Obama put his own reelection first, how could he possibly have selected this lie and thought it was a good idea? Yes, the planned terrorist attack in Libya hurts the image he would like to have as the vanquisher of al Qaeda, but the truth about that has already come out, with 3 weeks left to go before the election. By handling the matter the way he did, we have — on top of the damage to the vanquisher of al Qaeda image — a glaring lie and plain evidence of extremely poor judgment.

October 10, 2012

"I mean, you know, the debate, I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite..."

"... But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one."

All right, then. Niceness flopped, so be a jerk next time. Oh, I'm kidding. He said he was too nice. Next time he'll be nice enough.

I'm paraphrased by Rush Limbaugh.

On the show today:
A lot of people in the media and some left-wing bloggers are starting to scratch their heads about the inability of Obama and other members of the campaign and the regime to stop talking about how badly he did in the debate.  "Okay, you had a bad night. Forget it; move on.  Why keep talking about it?  Why keep reminding people how badly Obama did?"  Ann Althouse in Michigan has an interesting theory about this, and I'll paraphrase her.
Paraphrasing me all the way to Michigan.
She said, essentially, that the reason the campaign will not let go of how poorly Obama did is that they want everybody to think that's what happened.  It wasn't that Romney was good; it wasn't that Romney was anything special. The reason that debate happened the way it did is because Obama had an off night. Obama was the shock and surprise. Obama was off his game. Obama was pathetic. Obama was pitiful.

You keep repeating it over and over and over again because you don't want people to realize how great Romney was.  That's her theory, and I like it.  It's unique. It's great thinking.
Here's the post, de-paraphrased. I got Rush Limbaugh's "great thinking" stamp of approval, which might get me in trouble out here in the vicinity of Lake Michigan.

My post was also linked in James Taranto's Best of the Web today. He says:
Saying that Obama had a stinkeroo of a night is a way of avoiding the possibility that Romney is simply the better candidate.

If the remaining debates make the latter conclusion inescapable, watch lefties shift their focus to what a stinkeroo of a politician Obama turned out to be (now they tell us!). This, too, would entail a degree of wishful thinking. If Obama is undone, it will be not only because his political skills are lacking, but also because his record is poor.

And his record is poor because his ideas are bad. But as Matt Bai observes in the forthcoming issue of the New York Times magazine: "Political partisans will go to extraordinary lengths to blame the messenger rather than question the orthodoxies of their message."
Here's the Matt Bai piece, which I haven't read yet but will.

Justice Breyer directly asked whether Grutter — the case approving of a type of affirmative action admissions — should be overruled?

He was trying to pin down the lawyer who is challenging the affirmative action program at the University of Texas. Kevin Russell at SCOTUSblog reports:
After some prevarication, he seemed to say no (and certainly didn’t say “yes” clearly).  Perhaps significantly, none of the conservative Justices interrupted to urge him to give a different answer, even though Justice Scalia did just that with respect to other questions and answers during the argument.
Prevarication? I'll have to listen to the audio later, but that's a troubling word choice. I wouldn't use it unless I thought the lawyer was lying or at least being deceitful.  The OED defines the word this way:
Avoidance of straightforward statement of the truth; equivocation, evasiveness, misrepresentation; deceit; an instance of this.
But it also gives a second meaning, which is presumably all Russell meant:
In weakened use: stalling or playing for time by means of evasion or indecisiveness; procrastination, hesitation.
To my ear, "prevarication" represented an inappropriate attack on the lawyer's integrity. I'm guessing the lawyer was just trying to pick the most likely path to victory, but it's weird that in this case he wouldn't already know his answer. Grutter — which permitted race to be taken into account in a subtle, "holistic" fashion — is the precedent in this area, and it can be distinguished, for a small win, or overruled, for an immense win.

Interestingly, there's an obsolete legal meaning to the word "prevarication," which goes back to the 1500s:
The action (esp. in a lawyer or advocate) of pretending to represent or give evidence on behalf of one party whilst in collusion with an opponent.
And there are some other obsolete or rare meanings: "Deviation from a course thought to be right or proper...," "Departure from a rule, principle, or normal state; perversion or violation of a law, code of conduct, etc.; deviation from truth or correctness, error...," "Divergence from a straight line or course. ...," "Breach of duty or violation of trust in the exercise of an office; corrupt action, esp. in a court of law."

UPDATE: SCOTUSblog's Amy Howe after the second half:
Greg Garre, representing the university, repeatedly reminded the Justices that Bert Rein and Fisher were not asking the Court to overrule Grutter....

Solicitor General Don Verrilli, appearing as an amicus in support of the university for ten minutes, also reminded the Court that Rein had not asked it to overrule Grutter....
More at the link. And I'll have more later in the day, when I can get to the transcript/audio.

Only 39% have a favorable opinion of Joe Biden, while 51% have an unfavorable opinion.

Meanwhile, 44% of voters have a favorable opinion of Paul Ryan, with only 40% unfavorable. This is a Pew survey of "1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters," taken conducted October 4-7, released today, the day before the VP debate.

The survey just before the 2008 VP debate had Biden at 53% favorable, 31% unfavorable. Sarah Palin had 51% favorable — much more than Paul Ryan, interestingly — and 40% unfavorable — exactly the same as Paul Ryan. That is, the "don't know" group is bigger for Ryan — 15%, compared to Palin's 9% — which means the VP debate is a big opportunity to reach open minds.

Oddly, 10% of respondents "don't know" what they think of Joe Biden. What's that about? How long must a guy hang around before people know what they think of him? (Maybe it's: everyone seems to think he's nice, but I don't know what he wants do.)

Voter fraud: "Oh, my God. This is so funny. It’s cool though."

Quote from the regional field director for Obama’s Organizing For America, caught on video helping a woman who was obviously trying to vote twice.
Caballero... offers the videographer an excuse to get out of trouble is she gets caught committing voter fraud: “Come up with like if anyone checks say ‘I don’t know.’”
This is James O’Keefe/Project Veritas material, and he says he's got more like that.

ADDED: The link goes to The Daily Caller where the headline — "Obama campaign staffer caught helping activist vote twice" — has an ambiguity that undercuts the power of the story. Maybe it was just a really helpful staffer who helped a woman who needed help and then needed help again.

The State Department tells the Benghazi story — devoid of mobs angry at that video.

ABC reports:
Asked about the initial reports of the protests, the official said that while "others" in the administration may have said there were protests, the State Department did not.

"That was not our conclusion," the official said. "I'm not saying that we had a conclusion."
ADDED: Lots of links at Instapundit (which sounds like the most generic teaser ever, but specifically on this story, check it out).

Millionaire spends $65,000 on 6 matchmakers, goes on 250 dates over 12 years and doesn't find the wife he's looking for.

The NY Post displays Larry Greenfield's pathetic tale of woe:
“I thought he was attractive enough, nice enough. I don’t see why all of these things haven’t worked out,” [said one of the women he deemed inadequate]. “He’s looking for love at first sight, and everyone has imperfections. Talk to someone. Get to know them.

“To find a woman who wants to stay at home and lives in Manhattan, he might be looking in the wrong time period,” Gordon said....

I watched the debate again... and I didn't think Obama was that bad.

Last night — between sleeps — I found the debate in my iPhone and watched it straight through (except for the closing statements). Last week, watching the debate live, I did not think Obama was especially bad, and I was surprised when the liberal pundits, instead of providing the usual spin — ideas about why their candidate was better — all simultaneously collapsed into grief over how horrible Obama was. He was tired, confused, disengaged. It was as if he were not there at all.

And so the aftermath unfolded, with this talking point — which everyone had by the time the debate had ended — got repeated over and over. The New Yorker did a cover depicting the debate with Obama represented as an empty chair.

I watched again to see what I had missed. I was an undecided voter at the time, and to me — you can see it in my live-blogging — Obama seemed low-key and mellow, "rolling out policies, pretty wonkily." That last quote referred to both men. I said: "They're not really attacking each other."

Checking my observations on second viewing, looking to see what all the commentators claim to have seen, my experience was the same. Obama's performance was surely defensible. He didn't hem and haw or pause or look sleepy. He drifted from topic to topic too much and absurdly returned to schools too many times, but it seemed to me he had chosen a strategy, which was to be a decent, thoughtful, moderate guy, perhaps because it would appeal to women (like me) and to moderate undecideds (like me).

Why didn't the commentators who should have defended him defend him on that ground? Even if you think I'm wrong, we're talking about spin. What I'm saying is at least plausible spin, but we didn't hear it. Why? That's the puzzle before me, and I have the answer. There had to have been a coordinated decision to go with the talking point: Obama was terrible. He was tired, disengaged, unprepared. Shocking! But why would Obama's supporters coordinate to tell the story that way? What a weird thing to choose to put in our minds?

Here's why they did it. Romney was so much better than Obama. Romney was vigorous, vividly in command of the facts, principles of economics, free-market ideology. Like Obama, he had a strategy to appeal to moderates, and he jumped into the moderate ground and occupied it — stunningly — with modesty and charm. He radiated competence and readiness to work for us. There he stood, the brilliant candidate, who wants only to help us, knows how to help us, and deeply, passionately cares that we need help. Wow.

Don't let that be the story! Don't look at that! Look at pathetic woeful Obama. He was off his game. That's not good for Obama — as his drop in the polls shows — but it was better than the alternative: talking about how Romney dramatically topped the President — the President, who came to the debate with all the gravitas of the presidency and all the knowledge and understanding that he has through working as the President these last 4 years.

The meme The Bad Obama was — colluding pundits decided — preferable to The Great Romney.

October 9, 2012

"40 Things To Say Before You Die."

With diagrams.

"Sesame Street has asked President Obama's campaign to take down its latest attack ad against Mitt Romney..."

"... which features footage of Big Bird.

"

Oh, no! Obama can't catch a break. Romney attacked Big Bird, and then Big Bird attacked Obama.

At the Autumn Café...

Untitled

... it seems like chaos, but there's opportunity for those who know how to take it.

***

"Café" = open thread. And if you happen to have any shopping you need to do, entering Amazon through this link is a way to send me some love... for what I've done for you. Have you noticed? You've noticed! Haven't you?

"A lot of admissions officers tend to focus on how 'interesting' a student is."

"Being `interesting’ tends to be inversely related to being poor. Doing an internship in Indonesia is incompatible with holding a summer job."

Real Clear Politics has Romney up 0.7%.

I don't know if Romney had ever been ahead in this average of the polls. He was tied a few times in early September, between the conventions, after which he sank until the debate turned things around.

"Taliban says it shot ‘infidel’ Pakistani teen for advocating girls’ rights."

"The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on ninth-grader Malala Yousafzai, who officials said was shot in the head by at least one gunman who approached a school bus in Mingora...."
“Two bearded armed men stopped our school van and asked for Malala and opened fire from behind the van,” the girl, named Shazia, said from the hospital where she and Yousafzai were first taken.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said in calls to the media that the militant group targeted Yousafzai because she generated “negative propaganda” about Muslims.

“She considers President Obama as her ideal. Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” Ihsan said.
The concern about "negative propaganda" is too disgusting to be funny.

Note: Yousafzai is not dead, at least not according to this report.

"Barack Obama in his old community organizer role," doing "what community organizers do... rub people's emotions raw to hype their resentments."

Thomas Sowell writes the pithiest thing that I've seen about the speech Obama gave on June 5, 2007. Remember, Obama told the predominantly black audience that the federal government — motivated by racial prejudice — would not waive the Stafford Act requirement that a city chip in 10% of the amount it would receive in federal disaster aid.
[L]ess than two weeks earlier, on May 24, 2007, the United States Senate had in fact voted 80-14 to waive the Stafford Act requirement for New Orleans, as it had waived that requirement for New York and Florida. More federal money was spent rebuilding New Orleans than was spent in New York after 9/11 and in Florida after hurricane Andrew, combined.

Truth is not a job requirement for a community organizer. Nor can Barack Obama claim that he wasn't present the day of that Senate vote, as he claimed he wasn't there when Jeremiah Wright unleashed his obscene attacks on America from the pulpit of the church that Obama attended for 20 years.

Unlike Jeremiah Wright's church, the U.S. Senate keeps a record of who was there on a given day. The Congressional Record for May 24, 2007 shows Senator Barack Obama present that day and voting on the bill that waived the Stafford Act requirement. Moreover, he was one of just 14 Senators who voted against -- repeat, AGAINST -- the legislation which included the waiver.

PPP poll for Daily Kos/SEIU: Romney 49%, Obama 47%.

Kos says:
That's a pretty disastrous six-point net swing in just a week, and the first time we've ever had Romney in the lead. It is inline [sic] with all other national polling showing Romney making gains in the wake of his debate performance last week....

Among women, Obama went from a 15-point lead to a slimmer 51-45 edge. Meanwhile, Romney went from winning independents 44-41 to winning them 48-42. And just like the Ipsos poll showed last week, Romney further consolidated his base. They went from supporting him 85-13 last week, to 87-11 this week while Obama lost some Democrats, going from 88-9 last week, to 87-11 this week....

... Obama's debate performance was an epic blunder. Romney gave his partisans a reason to get excited about him and they've responded. It should come as no surprise that people like to fight for people who are fighting for them.
That last sentence hints of anger that might be paraphrased as: We gave you a billion dollars and you didn't even bother to engage for 90 minutes.

What's one billion divided by 90? Obama threw away his supporters' money at the rate of over $11 million a minute. (And he wants to be in charge of spending all our money and much, much more for the next 4 years. Do the math!)

Obama makes an O.J. Simpson joke and he can't get the name of the SUV right.

"Elmo has been seen in a white Suburban!"

He turned the Ford into a Chevy. Maybe that was intentional, since he saved General Motors and not Ford.

Or did he pick Suburban because he hates suburbia? Stanley Kurtz has written a whole book on that subject, which he summarizes here. Excerpt:
The centerpiece of the Obama administration’s anti-suburban plans is a little-known and seemingly modest program called the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The “regional planning grants” funded under this initiative — many of them in battleground states like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio — are set to recommend redistributive policies, as well as transportation and development plans, designed to undercut America’s suburbs. Few have noticed this because the program’s goals are muffled in the impenetrable jargon of “sustainability,” while its recommendations are to be unveiled only in a possible second Obama term.
But jokes about "Sesame Street" characters are so much more fun to play around with right now... la la la... as we run up to the election.
Obama’s former community-organizing mentors and colleagues want the administration to condition future federal aid on state adherence to the recommendations served up by these anti-suburban planning commissions. That would quickly turn an apparently modest set of regional-planning grants into a lever for sweeping social change.
Big Bird... tee hee... Elmo... ha ha... woman with a slashed throat... blood everywhere....

Obama 48%, Romney 48% in the daily tracking poll, but Romney pulls ahead in the swing state poll.

The regular Rasmussen tracking poll is the same as yesterday's, but the report includes a teaser for new swing state poll with comes out in about half an hour:
Today’s results will show Romney slightly ahead in the 11 key swing states. This is a significant change. 
Obama was 2 points ahead yesterday, so Romney has gained at least 3 points in one day.

UPDATE: Here's the new swing state poll. Romney is now up 2, after being down 2, so it's a 4 point gain in one day.
The states collectively hold 146 Electoral College votes and include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Let's judge Paul Ryan.

Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski put this up yesterday with the title: "Paul Ryan Gets Testy and Walks Out of Interview."



Buzzfeed has now changed the title to "Paul Ryan Gets Testy And Ends Interview," because he obviously doesn't walk out, and they've also put this up now:
The reporter knew he was already well over the allotted time for the interview when he decided to ask a weird question relating gun violence to tax cuts. Ryan responded as anyone would in such a strange situation. When you do nearly 200 interviews in a couple months, eventually you’re going to see a local reporter embarrass himself.
So... not only doesn't he walk out, he doesn't end the interview.

Maybe Kaczynski is straining to win back lefty friends after he called "handkerchief" on the Romney "cheat sheet" conspiracy theory.

Anyway, let's focus on "testy." Did Ryan get testy? Ryan speaks eloquently about guns and crime and a need to restore "civil society" to the inner cities, which prompts the reporter to ask "And you can do all that by cutting taxes? By — with a big tax cut?" It's not a terrible question, really, but it does reveal the reporter's liberal mentality. Ryan's civil society — the basis for individual "discipline" and "good character" — is "what charities and civic groups and churches do." That's standard conservative ideology, but the reporter, presumably thinking in terms of government finding ways to rebuild individual good character, leaps to the issue of tax cuts. He can't envision the private groups — charities and civic groups and churches — building civil society. He's got the "you didn't build that" attitude.

So he asks a tax question and Ryan responds as if the reporter had made the assertion implied in the question and says "Those are your words, not mine." That's abrupt. He could have said your question shows that you don't understand what civil society is and explained the deep ideological difference between conservatives and liberals, but the reporter isn't his ideological opponent. He's a reporter, supposedly asking neutral questions, and the implied argument about the role of government would need to be spelled out before it could be refuted.

It's late in the interview, and the off-camera voice says, "Thank you very much." Ryan, yanking out his microphone, says "That was kind of strange," as if the question were a complete non sequitur. And then: "Trying to stuff words in my mouth," as if it were not a question. I read this as a dominating tactic, and the reporter goes beta: "I don't know if it's strange." Ryan mellows slightly: "No, but it sounds as though you're trying to answer my question for me. That's a little odd." And the reporter meekly agrees.

Ryan could have been a bit nicer, but I liked this display of dominance in managing the reporters who are looking to get their sound bites out of him. I'm sure this reporter would have loved to show Ryan stymied by contradictory aspirations about fixing the inner cities and cutting taxes. The reporter tried to get on top and got schooled. I'm okay with that.

Focus on Tagg.

The Politico story:
But the biggest change in the [Romney campaign] ecology, according to the [unnamed] insiders, is the more assertive role of Tagg Romney, who has been “making sure that his father’s environment is such that he’s relaxed when he goes up to do things, and making sure that he’s not over-programmed, and is protected from the cacophony of advice,” a family friend said.

“Romney gets buffeted by all this advice because Romney takes everybody seriously,” the family friend said. “He thinks, ‘Well, gee, I’m talking to businessman X or C or Y. They’re really smart. That’s something I need to factor into my thinking.’ Tagg has been aggressive in saying: ‘There’s no more factoring stuff in. Your thinking is yours. Be who you are! And you’ve got to communicate that to people, and don’t be embarrassed by it.’”

The eldest son has been around the campaign’s Boston headquarters more often and keeps his own heavy schedule of media and campaign appearances. His involvement increased gradually in the two weeks before the debate, according to the insiders, after focusing on fundraising for much of the 2012 campaign.

“Unlike anybody else,” the friend said, “Tagg will basically call people out when they have something stupid to say. Because he’s the son, he’s in a different position to be able to really question people’s advice and question the decisions, but — more importantly — to drive them to make decisions, which is one of the problems in Romneyworld. They’re slow to react, in part because of the campaign’s organizational ambiguity. Tagg has helped resolve some of that.”
The Daily News story:
A recent POLITICO story quoted an unnamed family friend as saying Tagg Romney would be working behind the scenes at being “more assertive in making the organization work better, cleaning up some of the organizational dysfunction.”

But Tagg Romney said that’s simply not the case. In fact, he said he hasn't been to a strategy meeting in more than a year, and the last time his father specifically solicited his advice on a campaign issue was in considering his selection of a running mate.

“It sounds like a great story, but it's not based in reality at all,” he said of the suggestion that he’d be the one to broker peace between warring factions inside Romneyland.

“I’ve never approached anyone about wanting to play that role. No one has approached me,” he said. “This is not spin, the team really gets along well. There's no internal squabbling or fighting for territory or turf.”

"You’re an unemployed black woman endorsing @MittRomney. You’re voting against yourself thrice. You poor beautiful idiot."

Twitter pushback against Stacey Dash, an actress who tweeted "vote for Romney. The only choice for your future."

Protestants are no longer the majority in America... and sectlessness doubles.

It's the other Pew survey that just came out — the religion one.

Do you accept the word "sectlessness"? It's pretty much my coinage, but I'm going to promote it as a good, short headline word to refer to the absence of a religious affiliation. I originally had "atheism," but it's the wrong word, because many of the people who say they belong to no religious group also say they believe in God and even that they pray and have what the Washington Post refers to as "regular spiritual routines." I'm trying to picture those routines, and I don't know, I'm just seeing a blank. Hmm. Seeing blankness — that could be a spiritual routine. What do you think? Seems zen, doesn't it? Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm spiritual. Seriously, what do you think these regular-spiritual-routines folk are doing? Anything fancy with bread and wine or just gazing at nature and feeling aglow?

I'm reminded of my father, who when asked (by me) why he didn't go to church, said you can commune with God anywhere, for example, on the golf course. He liked to golf. Sorry, am I being too puritanical? Either participate in some official group ritual or lay off the claims of worship? No, I don't really think that. I'm just skeptical. Hell, I'm skeptical about whether the people who go to church (or other place of worship) really believe what the ritual is supposed to demonstrate. I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing. Maybe the sectless souls with spiritual routines are more sincerely religious.

Ah, well. It's American etiquette to accept whatever people say about their religion and move on to more easily debatable topics. Within that scheme, I'm being rude.

Back to the Pew survey: 79% of Americans named "an established faith group" that they belong to. The 21% — atheists, agnostics, and "nothing in particular" — skew strongly toward the Democratic Party.

Nate Silver allays post-Pew anxieties.

"There are two smarter questions to ask about the Pew poll."
First, is it really likely that Mr. Romney leads the race by 4 points right now? The consensus of the evidence, particularly the national tracking polls, would suggest otherwise. Instead, the forecast model’s conclusion is that the whole of the data is still consistent with a very narrow lead for Mr. Obama, albeit one that is considerably diminished since Denver.

It might be granted that the situation is more ambiguous than usual right now. But our forecast model looks at literally all of the polls; it estimates Mr. Romney’s post-debate bounce as being 2.5 percentage points, not quite enough to erase Mr. Obama’s pre-debate advantage.
There now. Feel better?

October 8, 2012

"Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever?"

"And we are told that when Obama left the stage that night, he was feeling good. That's terrifying. On every single issue, Obama has instantly plummeted into near-oblivion...."

Andrew Sullivan melts down.
Look: I'm trying to rally some morale, but I've never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week...

I'm trying to see a silver lining. But when a president self-immolates on live TV, and his opponent shines with lies and smiles, and a record number of people watch, it's hard to see how a president and his party recover. I'm not giving up....
Sorry, but it's hard not to see this as a lot of posing. A set up for the big announcement that Obama is back. If Obama is any good at all in the next debate or the one after that, we'll be told the man is a miracle.

"Earlier today, certain realms were affected by an in-game exploit..."

"... resulting in the deaths of player characters and non-player characters in some of the major cities," reports the BBC. This is news, right?

Paul Ryan's sparring partner, playing Joe Biden at the debate practice sessions, revealed.

Ted Olson!

Perfect. Ryan should be honed to a sharp edge.

Now, who's playing Ryan for Biden? Chris Van Hollen. Here's Van Hollen's DNC speech in case you have trouble picturing that.

Classical Revolution Madison.



It was very windy here in Madison, Wisconsin, as I was walking home after teaching Conlaw2 today. So I cut through the Institute for Discovery, to make one block an indoor block. I heard music, music too loud to be plausibly piped in, and then I came upon this classical music performance. The flyer says it's "Classical Revolution Madison." What's the revolution? Other than that it's lefty Madison? According to their Facebook page: "Classical Revolution Madison Cooperative performs in cafes, bars and other non-traditional venues connecting classical music with today's public." Long live the beautiful revolutions.

"Ann, I'll be blunt."

Emails David Axelrod.
They are trying to buy this election, and we're the only ones who are standing in their way. Don't wait any longer to take ownership of this campaign.
I.e., send them money. Because they want to outbid the others who are trying to buy the election.

How do you live without your stomach?

I was wondering, after reading about this poor young woman who had her stomach removed to save her life after she drank a cocktail that contained liquid nitrogen:
"This girl is the victim of an irresponsible alcohol industry that's now competing on gimmicks. People should not be playing chemistry in public houses. This is a very, very cold substance and it is similar to subjecting your oesophagus and stomach to frost bite."...
[L]iquid nitrogen - which vapourises at -196C - has been increasingly used in recent years in the preparation of drinks. It is used to chill glasses and is a crowd-pleaser thanks to the dramatic-looking water vapour it releases at room temperature.
I found this article "Life without my stomach" about a women who, at the age of 27, opted to have her stomach removed because she had the gene for a form of stomach cancer that would kill her if she waited for it actually to develop, which was 90% likely, given the gene. So, then, how do you eat?