September 25, 2004

Hitchens on Iraq.

If you missed Tim Russert's CNBC show tonight, try to catch one of the many repeat showings in the next day or so. The guests are Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens and the subject is, unsurprisingly, the current presidential election. It's hard to imagine a more cogent discussion of the election issues. Let me just set out one great exchange:
RUSSERT: What do we do about Iraq? What's going to happen? When American people are confronted, day in and day out -- a thousand soldiers killed -- 7,000 wounded and injured. There's a sense, obviously, in the world, that the United States will eventually say: Enough! We're getting out!

SULLIVAN: I hope to God not. If we need more troops, put more troops in there. ... You've gotta go through with this. And I think there's still a twenty, thirty percent chance of our succeeding.

HITCHENS: Let's take, I mean, let's put the case ... that the election takes place in a form that's not too contemptible, that people will say, okay, it's a good deal better than nothing, and that election is won by a party or coalition of parties that requests the United States to withdraw. What then? I mean, that would persuade me that you probably couldn't hope to hold on in the face of that. If, instead, we are fighting a war against people who are deliberately trying to sabotage the election, then there's obviously no question but that one must stay and mean that, under no circumstances, will we turn over a country of the importance of Iraq with the responsibilities we've inherited there to the Clockwork Orange fascists, the fundamentalists. They'll never go. The day will never come when they will own Iraq, and there will be no one in the United States who will be able to disagree with that even if every one of their sons has been killed in this war. Because it's self-evident. That's why, I think, there isn't more reaction to this combination of gross administration incompetence and these heartbreaking casualties. People know, in some way, that Iraq cannot be given over to Bin Ladenism. It doesn't need any further explanation. The President, actually, doesn't need to add any more. People have got this point.

Hitchens got that right, I think. Bush opponents who are tearing their hair out wondering why people aren't getting more upset about the conduct of the war in Iraq ought to see that.

Milestone.

The Sitemeter--despite recent undercounting--clicked past 300,000 today. That's pretty cool. Thanks to all you readers, and thanks to all of you who like to see the photographs of Madison. Thanks to Instapundit for linking to me today and sending me over 10,000 visitors on what would otherwise be a slow Saturday.

Approaching football.

So I did go take that walk I was talking about in the last post. The football stadium is six blocks from my house. On the third block of the walk, things could not be more peaceful:



On the fourth block, I take a quiet pause and admire the architecture:



It's not hard to guess the architect of that house (in front). It's even easier to guess the architect of the house next to it:



At the fifth block, I pass two little kids selling parking in their driveway for $20. I see the first signs of red and white:



Finally, I see the crowd converging on the stadium. They arrive from the north:



And they arrive from the south:



Some make their way up into the stadium:



Some loll around on the security barricades:



These two ask me to take their picture:



I ask if it's okay if I put the picture on my website, and they say "You can if you write that we're the coolest people you ever met."

Look, even the stop signs are red and white:



Across from the stadium, there are the parties:



Mothers, did you send your boys to college to drink beer while standing on the edge of a roof?



But no one fell, and the overloaded triple-deck porches seemed to hold up under the weight of all the young kids:



And everyone seemed to be having a mellow, happy time:



I guess it's on ESPN. Why don't you watch, and root for the Badgers?

UPDATE: Congratulations to the Badgers on their victory. Consolation to Penn State, with good wishes for their injured quarterback.

Listening to football.

I've been sitting at my dining table all day, catching up on some reading, blogging intermittently, and enjoying the pleasant breeze and filtered sunlight through the open windows. I'm also enjoying the occasional hearty yell that reaches my house from the football stadium a few blocks away. It's a nice feeling to spend the day reading at home but still to feel that you're hanging out, albeit remotely, with 80,000 people.

I decided to check the score before publishing this and was surprised to see the game won't start for another 45 minutes! I'm just hearing pre-game rowdiness. I ought to go for a little walk--I do need to get out the house--and go see what things look like over there. Maybe I'll have some pictures later.

Attention to detail.

Adam Nagourney and Jodi Wilgoren paint an unflattering picture of John Kerry's management style in tomorrow's NYT. Most telling revelation:
[Kerry] spent four weeks mulling the design of his campaign logo, consulting associates about what font it should use and whether it should include an American flag.


UPDATE: The Times story about Kerry set people thinking: That sounds like what they used so say about ...

Poliblog writes that it sounds like what they said about Al Gore, who took it upon himself to redraw the campaign logos overriding the work of the graphic artists assigned to the task.

An emailer wrote: "[T]the Times description of Kerry called to mind for me Jimmy Carter. My recollection is that many faulted Carter for trying to master all the intricate details of an issue--instead of allowing his aides or other experts to do this--and so was distracted. In this way, he was contrasted w/ Ronald Reagan."

It's hard to find a link to back up that statement about Carter, but I seem to remember that sort of thing being said. Nevertheless, let me add, that I think there is some tendency to overdo the classification of personality types. I don't think we should classify people into the "attention to detail" types and the "big picture" types. Any competent person must be capable of multiple levels of perception as well as good judgment about when it's big picture time and when you have focus on the details. We ought to worry about a candidate who can't or won't adjust his level of attention wisely and in tune with the circumstances. It's easy to make Kerry look foolish for "mulling" over the font for four weeks, and if he did nothing else in those weeks, he'd be frighteningly incompetent, especially if he really became lost in mental dithering. But it's likely that he only spent a total of an hour's time thinking about the font and also that he got some pleasure and recreation out of the project. (Jeez, am I going into Champion-of-the-Underdog mode?)

Elsewhere, Instapundit also singled out the mulling-over-the-fonts story for comment, and he compliments Kerry on the good design.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Poliblogger continues the discussion. Also, an emailer sends a good link for the info about Jimmy Carter, an old article by James Fallows in The Atlantic, but you've got to be a paid subscriber: here's the link. Here's a good passage from the article:
If there is any constant in the literature of presidential performance, it is that the President must husband his time. If he is distracted from the big choices by the torrent of petty details, the big choices will not get made—or will be resolved by their own internal logic, not by the wishes of those who have been elected to lead. Carter came into office determined to set a rational plan for his time, but soon showed in practice that he was still the detail-man used to running his own warehouse, the perfectionist accustomed to thinking that to do a job right you must do it yourself. He would leave for a weekend at Camp David laden with thick briefing books, would pore over budget tables to check the arithmetic, and, during his first six months in office, would personally review all requests to use the White House tennis court. (Although he flatly denied to Bill Moyers in his November 1978 interview that he had ever stooped to such labors, the in-house tennis enthusiasts, of whom I was perhaps the most shameless, dispatched brief notes through his secretary asking to use the court on Tuesday afternoons while he was at a congressional briefing, or a Saturday morning, while he was away. I always provided spaces where he could check Yes or No; Carter would make his decision and send the note back, initialed J.)

After six months had passed, Carter learned that this was ridiculous, as he learned about other details he would have to pass by if he was to use his time well. But his preference was still to try to do it all—to complain that he was receiving too many memos and that they were too long, but to act nonetheless on everything that reached his desk.

Presidential Halloween masks.

"Bizarro Gordon" is offering up political commentary as a guest blogger at Venturpreneur, to compensate for regular blogger Gordon Smith's aversion to talking about politics. BG's first post links to the "buycostumes" site, which claims that the sales of masks representing the presidential candidates predicts the outcome of the election. The winner of the election, we're told, corresponds to which mask sold the most. We're urged to buy a mask and thereby cast our vote. Nice sales pitch. But I have three problems. First, the Bush mask looks more like Nixon than Bush. It's just a crappy mask. Second, people go as negative characters for Halloween. They aren't in favor of devils and pirates and witches. Third, sometimes one candidate just looks scarier, weirder, funnier, or more distinctive than the other candidate, and would make the better mask for that reason. A Kerry mask is just more Halloween-y than a Bush mask. The original President mask that really took off was Nixon--and it sure wasn't because he was popular!

Personally, I think the website is just making up the statistics about mask sales to try to lure visitors into spending money to up the percentage for the candidate they support. BG has a different theory though, so go read that.

The UW's almost-great spam filter.

Recently, the UW installed a new spam filter that has vastly improved reduced the flow of email around here. Yet somehow the Nigerian scam letters still come through. How can that be? I don't even have to open these messages to know they are the classic spam letters.

Those wealthy ideologues, that crazy campaign finance reform.

The NYT examines how the McCain-Feingold law has successfully changed the ways of corporations and labor unions, who used to seek political influence through soft money contributions to the political parties and are not too interested in giving money to the independent advocacy groups that are making the 2004 election season so messy and unpredictable. According to the Times, the 527s are fueled by money from extremely wealthy individuals who are hardcore political true believers.

The fact that these people are not motivated by self-interest like the old corporate donors is both good and bad. It's good because they aren't corrupting the politicians by seeking favors and access. It's bad because they are political extremists so they give money to the groups that appeal to their extremist mentality, and these groups crank out advertising that clashes with and undercuts the candidates' own messages. MoveOn.org received an astounding amount of money, which it pours into overheated advertisements intended to help Kerry. Unfortunately for Kerry, MoveOn.org ads appeal to the people who would already vote for Kerry and are quite offputting to the people he might win over but is now losing. But I suppose, after the election is over, what everyone will remember is the Swift Boat ads, and the conventional wisdom will be that they turned the election, and, consequently, everyone will gear up to run bitter, nasty, uncoordinated ads again next time.

Meanwhile, Kerry has heard the siren call of the pacifist wing of his supporters, and I doubt very much if there is anything he's going to say in the debates to allow me to vote for the Democratic candidate as I have in the last six presidential elections. But I will vote for Russ Feingold. The most recent Wisconsin poll, the Badger poll, had Feingold ahead by 15 points. Badger also showed Bush ahead in Wisconsin by 14 points this week. So Feingold is polling 29 points better than Kerry in Wisconsin. Thirty percent of the Feingold supporters told Badger that they were voting for Bush. So we love the super-virtuous Russ Feingold here in Wisconsin. But he did give us this crazy campaign finance law that has skewed this presidential campaign into the realm of the bizarre.

UPDATE: This article by Telis Demos in TNR Online offers some insight into why Feingold is doing so much better in Wisconsin than Kerry:
[T]he problem for Democrats isn't the disappearance of Wisconsin and Minnesota's quirky brand of progressivism; it's the persistence of that unusual political sensibility--and the fact that it has been co-opted by Republicans. … It's not liberals these states love; it's mavericks. Democrats' problem isn't that they have taken Wisconsin and Minnesota for granted. It's that they have taken their own status as the party of maverick progressivism for granted. And while they were doing so, the GOP moved in on their territory.... As for Russ Feingold, he seems less the product of a liberal culture than of an odd-ball tradition that runs much stronger and deeper.

Kerry's final mistake.

Here's what I'd like to read about the 2004 election: an analysis of what happened written ten years from now. Anything written today is part of the events themselves. Writing today, you're caught up in the event of the moment. I feel I've been remiss in not yet posting a condemnation of the Republican's ban-the-Bible letter. Writing today, you're influenced by a hope or fear of affecting the events. And you also don't know how things will turn out. You don't know who will win the election, whether some dramatic event will occur in October, and how the war in Iraq will play out.

I try to imagine how someone looking back on the election will analyze it. If Kerry loses, one question will be, what was the turning point? Did the Swift Boat ads set the campaign on a track that led to defeat, was it Kerry's own choice to make his Vietnam service the central argument that he should be President, or was it a mass delusion--Kerry is electable--that overtook voters back in the primaries? Another question will be: When could Kerry have done something to salvage his candidacy? And: What was the final, fatal mistake?

I'm writing today, so I have all the deficiencies of a person writing today, but I have a prediction of the answer to that last question. The final, fatal mistake was criticizing and contradicting Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi when he was visiting the U.S. Kerry is in a very difficult position needing to criticize Bush's handling of the war, because the criticism itself seems damaging to the war effort. Bringing Allawi to the U.S. and linking him to the Bush campaign message was a powerful political move by Bush, but it was not a checkmate. Yet it forced Kerry into a terrible blunder. The grisly takedown has begun:
BUSH: This brave man came to our country to talk about how he's risking his life for a free Iraq, which helps America. And Sen. Kerry held a press conference and questioned Mr. Allawi's credibility. You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility.

CHENEY: I must say I was appalled at the complete lack of respect Sen. Kerry showed for this man of courage. Ayad Allawi is our ally. He stands beside us in the war against terror. John Kerry is trying to tear him down and to trash all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive."
And the Kerry campaign is now wasting a lot of breath pointing out that it is an election year and the President's conduct of the war must be open to criticism, but what can be said of the attack on Allawi? Kerry will never dig himself out of this one, I think. And any time he makes his old favorite argument that he is much better suited for interaction with our allies, his Allawi blunder will be thrown in his face.

September 24, 2004

A bride and a bridal gown.

The NYT runs a long piece about John Kerry's early political years. I was interested in the material about his first wife, of whom we've heard very little:
Later that spring [in 1970], he married Julia Stimson Thorne in a big Long Island ceremony. The bride wore a gown from a relative's 1786 wedding, at which Alexander Hamilton had been best man and George Washington a guest, and The New York Times's lengthy account declared, "Whether today's wedding becomes a similar footnote to history may depend on the bridegroom."

Ah, but there is nothing more about the elusive Julia. The bridal gown played a more vivid role in the story than the woman who wore it.

UPDATE: Here's a Newsweek article about Thorne from last May. According to Newsweek, she's elusive by choice and she supports Kerry in the race. This is interesting:
Kerry told [biographer Douglas] Brinkley that a big reason he'd volunteered for Swift Boat duty in Vietnam—which is often cited as an example of his heroism—was so he could spend the summer with Thorne before training started. When asked if she'd ever heard that story before, their daughter Vanessa Kerry grew quiet and said, "No, but it wouldn't surprise me."

Why Kerry speaks so incomprehensibly ...

According to Stanley Fish. It's not that he's complex and nuanced:
If you can't explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it's not yours; and if it's not yours, no one you speak to will be persuaded of it, or even know what it is, or (and this is the real point) know what you are. Words are not just the cosmetic clothing of some underlying integrity; they are the operational vehicles of that integrity, the visible manifestation of the character to which others respond. And if the words you use fall apart, ring hollow, trail off and sound as if they came from nowhere or anywhere (these are the same thing), the suspicion will grow that what they lack is what you lack, and no one will follow you.
This implies a deep connection between our language ability and our emotional makeup that gives rise to an amazing practical wisdom in the human animal. If the candidates' speech inherently reveals who is speaking the truth and has a sound moral core, instead of worrying that people vote their feelings and fail to devote enough effort to amassing information and reasoning logically, we should renew our faith in democracy.

UPDATE: Eroding my faith in democracy, John emails "I take it [Fish] thinks that Aristotle and Kant weren't expressing their own ideas."

The fearsome litigation bred by Bush v. Gore.

Jeffrey Rosen, in TNR, describes a nightmare scenario of post-election litigation tapping into that "inexhaustible font of rhetoric and novel lawsuits" that is Bush v. Gore. Rosen resurrects Felix Frankfurter to warn us about courts entering "the political thicket." Wander in there and you'll never get out! Yet Rosen seems mired in the politics of Bush v. Gore itself: He puts a lot of effort into chiding the Supreme Court for getting involved in that particular political controversy. See, now there's hell to pay! Aren't you sorry?

But it wasn't possible for the U.S. Supreme Court to have made a decision to avoid turning the 2000 election into a legal matter. The Florida state courts had already taken hold of the controversy. The decision the U.S. Supreme Court had to make was whether to leave the outcome of the national election in the hands of one state's judges or to take it into their own hands.

Rosen is right that Bush v. Gore is now a precedent that lawyers will use to fight for the goals of their clients, and there is, of course, potential to weigh down American elections with far too much litigation, but it will be the job of the courts to make sensible decisions refraining from excessive involvement in politics. Surely, there are some political matters--such as the gross malapportionment of legislative districts that Frankfurter would have left intact--that deserve judicial scrutiny. The fear that if courts do anything they will have to do everything is alarmist and overstated.

"Security mommery."

Noam Scheiber writes in TNR about the recent news stories about "security moms" going for Bush. (I wrote about the NYT article here.)
Often the stories are larded with a testimonial by a real-live security mom, invariably a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-death penalty former Gore supporter who's convinced only George W. Bush can keep her children safe. All of them conclude that security moms could cost John Kerry the election.

When I read this in The Columnist Manifesto I suspected that I was reading about a fictional character. Urban mythmaking. So I was glad to read Scheiber's piece. Key line:
The stories usually have one other thing in common: They're based on almost no empirical evidence.

Scheiber examines the polls in depth and ends by tweaking Kerry for being "so defensive about it's standing among women."

Note: That's TNR's apostrophe, by the way, left in to entertain my copy-editing-buff readers.

UPDATE: John emails to tweak me about writing "tweaking Kerry" when I was tweaking TNR for writing "it's." "Kerry" is the wrong antecedent for "its," so I should have written "tweaking the Kerry campaign for being 'so defensive about it's standing among women.'" It might be a bad idea to write about grammar or spelling, because inevitably you will make some mistakes yourself. On the other hand, writing about such things gives you an incentive to take some extra care. [LATER: I just corrected two damn little errors that I made as I wrote about the inevitability of errors.]

Kerry's pessimism move.

The NYT reports on Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's visit to the US:
But on a day when Republicans and Democrats used Dr. Allawi to reinforce starkly opposed campaign messages about Iraq, Mr. Bush and his ally presented, over all, a rosy picture of the country. In contrast, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, seized on the visit to paint a bleak portrait of Iraq and a Bush administration in disarray.
Remember--around the time of the death of the famously optimistic Reagan--when the candidates used to compete over who was more of an optimist? Now, Kerry seems to have decided that his last hope is to win us over to his dark view of Iraq. It's a desperate move, and it will be hard to get away from it now. I'm "painting a bleak portrait" of Kerry's future in the polls.

Back when optimism was in vogue, Kerry ended his convention speech with the very rosy line:
It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.
To be fair, he did say "For America, the hope is there." Maybe, once again, we deserve to be chided for not listening. I never said for Iraq, the hope is there. Sometimes these nuances slip right by us.

So maybe it's simpleminded of me to think, Kerry was for optimism and then he was against it. He was always a subtle mix of optimism and pessimism and we were always a little too dense to pick up the message. That's quite possibly true. Yet we simpleminded, unnuanced, unsubtle folk will vote in the end.

Three problems with "The Apprentice."

After last week's "The Apprentice," I wrote, "I bet Stacie J. ends up doing just fine." I could not believe the producers on the show would cast the only black woman for the second season to be a person who would display the same negative characteristics as the only black woman in the first season. My theory was that the first episode of this season was edited to make Stacie J. look strange, to tease us into thinking she's the new Omarosa, but that in the end we'd see how wrong we were. In fact, my belief that a major TV network would not portray black women this way is so strong that I will predict that at some later point in the season, Stacie J. will be vindicated and perhaps even brought back.

Last night, Trump fired Stacie J., not because of anything that happened in the competition we had to watch, but because her teammates once again ganged up on her. They all said she had to go. The teammates were embarrassing and lame. They had all colluded to try to get Stacie J. fired. Lined up in the boardroom, they told the tale of the fateful incident in which Stacie consulted a Magic 8 Ball and then got petulant when the others didn't gather round and enjoy her attempted comic performance. The teammates, all female, asserted that her terrifying behavior that day justified their permanently closing ranks against her. Trump, who ought to have lambasted them, fired Stacie.

So now, unless something else happens later in the season (and assuming viewers don't just leave), the show seems to have a race problem: Stacie J., the only black woman, chosen for a resemblance to last season's only black woman, was ostracized by the group, and then, instead of receiving the benefit of the doubt, like Omarosa, she was fired for being the outsider. That was quite ugly. And it wasn't even funny. Well, maybe you could justify getting her off the show because she didn't make her outsiderhood funny (as Omarosa did). Maybe Stacie J. was a drag, as she chose to get quiet and preserve her dignity. And where's the show in a quiet, dignified outsider? Maybe she needed to be fired because she lacked sufficient entertainment value. But it's racist to assume the black character ought to provide the entertainment, and her presence was making her teammates put on a little show: that sorority-girl-style exclusion routine.

And there lies the second problem: the events this season so far are making us think ill of women. They seem to be irrational, overemotional--that Magic 8 Ball thing was the scariest thing that ever happened!--and cliquish. Stacie J. may be gone, but of those who have avoided getting fired, who is left on the women's team who is any good at all? Who feels like trusting any of them? Maybe women just aren't any good at management. Thanks a lot, Trump!

And here's the third problem: absolutely nothing that happened in the competition part of the show this week had anything to do with why Stacie J. got fired. The same thing happened last week, when Bradford was fired entirely for something he did in the boardroom at the end. So why are we watching the competition and bothering to look for the mistakes the competitors make? Last night's competition was about creating "buzz" for a new flavor of Crest toothpaste: Are we not supposed to notice that the company was in fact using the show to create buzz for the product? We were chumps watching an hour-long commercial.

UPDATE: Miss Alli, at Television Without Pity, puts it really well (as always):
[T]he women -- led by Maria as well as an especially nasty and obnoxious Stacy R., emerging as one of the most distasteful and malicious in a group of extremely classless women -- choose to gang up on Stacie J. in the Boardroom. They begin to ratchet up the accusations from "weird personality" and "hard to get along with" to "mentally ill," and Trump is so flummoxed that he hears from the entire group. And one by one, they claim to have been alarmed, concerned, or -- in Stacy R.'s case, actually frightened -- by Stacie's antics with the Magic 8-Ball. Shockingly, Trump is not smart enough to tell the difference between truth and ass-covering fiction, and in a reminder that this show is just as much about the oddities and limitations of Trump as it is about those of the candidates, he shrugs and fires Stacie. Donald Trump is a weird, weird little man.

On the theory that the show is an exposé of the weirdness of the Donald, Miss Alli gives the episode an A-. By contrast, the TWoP readers give in a C+ and express their contempt in the forums. I guess I was in the readers' camp, disgusted with the show. But maybe I should take Miss Alli's advice and view "The Apprentice" as a horror show about Trump and keep watching. Yet life is short! Maybe I should be watching "Lost." Or just reading TWoP recaps and not watching anything.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Prof. Yin's take on the episode.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Yin covers the extended version of the show that aired over the weekend. My TiVo didn't pick it up for some reason, so I can't give my own version. But Prof. Yin explains why Trump was justified in firing Stacie J. This being the case, Trump ought to fire the show's editors. Actually, I wonder how much control over the editing he's given up. He's got a big stake in his own image, and the show has a lot of potential to make him look like a fool or worse. Ah, but to be on a big TV show! Maybe it's all worth it--for a big ego guy like Trump.

September 23, 2004

Blogger and Sitemeter.

I like the separate post pages that Blogger permits, but the Sitemeter doesn't show up. Is there some way to put it there or is this a flaw in Blogger's post pages function? I tried to find the answer on my own... If you know, please email! I think this problem has only cropped up in the last few days, but I might be wrong.

UPDATE: Blogger reports:
As of last week's build, we've introduced a bug such that the link to a post in an atom feed is now to the archive page rather than the post page. We should have a fix for this shortly.

Does this account for the loss of the Sitemeter?

ANOTHER UPDATE: I now realize that this flaw in Blogger has not only caused Sitemeter to fail to record a good deal of my traffic, but has made me far less aware of links in other blogs, which I would otherwise have read and might have commented on. I just assumed I was in a link drought. How annoying!

Can it be that Bush has a 14 point lead in Wisconsin?

The Capital Times reports today on a new poll that shows Bush 14 points ahead:
The poll, sponsored by The Capital Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, shows Bush with 52 percent support among likely voters, Kerry with 38 percent, and independent Ralph Nader with 4 percent.

When Nader is removed from the choices, his four points are evenly split between Kerry and Bush and the 14 point spread remains. A week ago, a poll showed Bush with only a 2 point lead, well within the margin of error. How could so much change have taken place in the last week?
Badger Poll director G. Donald Ferree Jr. noted that the timing coincided with the revelation that CBS News had received fake documents calling into question Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

"It looked like he was being unfairly attacked," Ferree said, adding that the temporary boost for Bush "could be a bubble" that may burst, particularly after next week's first presidential debate.

Asked about the conduct of the campaign, 29 percent of those in the Badger Poll said they believed Kerry has been "unfairly attacking his opponent," compared to 23 percent who complained Bush had done so.

On the detailed questions Kerry beat Bush only on "protecting the environment." The biggest spread was on what is arguably the most important issue, "protecting the United States from terrorism." Here, Bush had 53 percent, with Kerry at a mere 15 percent--a 38 point spread.

Meanwhile, Kerry is coming here to Wisconsin to do his debate preparation. He's staying in Spring Green at the House on the Rock Resort. The House on the Rock is a great, absurd tourist attraction, a crazy counterpart to the elegant Frank Lloyd Wright attractions that are also in the area. The House on the Rock is an architectural mishmash, patched together, built into the rock in places and teetering way out over it in another. It is conjoined to a maze of a museum that houses a demented collector's overload of junk and minor treasures. It is only too easy to offer up the House on the Rock as a metaphor for the mix of positions and issues and contradictory statements that Kerry has piled together over the long months of striving to make his way to the Presidency.

But welcome to Wisconsin, anyway, Senator Kerry. I hope the people of Wisconsin are nice to you, and that you get a chance to enjoy the beauty of our state, to practice up for your debate, and to recover from your laryngitis, even though--I must say--that lost-voice effect might win some people over by reminding us of our old and well-favored President, Bill Clinton.

UPDATE: Here's a better link for the House on the Rock, from the Roadside American website, which specializes in offbeat attractions. The description begins:
Alex Jordan, Jr. wanted to teach Frank Lloyd Wright a thing or two about architecture. The lesson started years ago.

Jordan's dad, a budding architect, had been dismissed at Wright's Taliesin home, near Spring Green, with the declaration, "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop." Soon after, the senior Jordan chose a pinnacle rock south of Taliesin to build a parody of Wright's fancy-pants architecture, a strange "Japanese house." The ceilings were dangerously low (padded now to accommodate tourists) and the structure seemed to cling precariously to the odd contours of the rock.

There's much, much more, including the "Infinity Room," which seems as if it goes on forever.



Suffice it to say: the House on the Rock is a metaphor goldmine for people writing about the Kerry campaign.

Take me back to Madison.

By popular request, here's a look back into Madison, especially for all you readers who come here for a window into your past.

What does our beloved hill look like today, in late September? Are the kids lying on the ground amid "Free Tibet" signs? Yes, they are:



Are people debating about politics down on the mall? Yes, they are:



Can I still buy food for an al fresco lunch? Yes, more than ever:



Hey, is that Loose Juice? Is Loose Juice still there after all these years? Yes, it is:



Is that poster store still there? Yeah, come on in:



How about that eyeglasses store with the doll displays in the window? Sure, look:



Hey, give me a closeup on that Bucky thing! Okay:



How about the original State Street coffeehouse, Steep & Brew? It's here and has a nice sidewalk café now (and that's Gino's right next to it):



Do they still have Pipefitter? Yes, here it is:



And here are two closeups:





Maybe this obscure State Street doorstep reminds you of another aspect of your sojourn through Madison:



Well, just stop into Sunshine Daydream and buy some souvenirs of your psychedelic past:

"Serious predicament" or lucky break?

Thanks, a minion.

Not only did Instapundit link to me yesterday, giving further weight to the theory that I blog as one of as minions, but he linked to my update thanking him for the link and commented on the whole "minions" concept:
Minions? It sounds so very Ming the Merciless. "Minions! Sieze him! We'll see if Professor Leiter can maintain his trademark self-regard after a few months of grading exams in the bluebook mines of Kessel!"
Hey, I was going to riff on the word "minions" yesterday, and now I'll only look like more of a minion if I do. Why did I delay? I got as far as Googling the word "minions," and then I got distracted by laughter when the results page came up with this ad:
Minions For Sale
Low Priced Minions.
Huge Selection! (aff)
ebay.com

BONUS: Fans of 1980s kids' TV might see if the can guess the Top Eleven Minions of Skeletor.

Draft dodgers.

Yesterday, in my hallway of the law school, we were talking about the connotations of "draft dodging." The subject came up in connection with calling President Bush a draft dodger for joining the National Guard. One thing you can say here, and I've said it myself, is that calling Bush a draft dodger for joining the National Guard offends all the many people who have served in the National Guard. Another thing one could say is that joining the Navy, as Kerry did, is "draft dodging," by the same token, because it is another option men chose in preference to being drafted.

But I was saying yesterday that every young man I knew back in the Vietnam era sought to avoid the draft, and no one felt the slightest need to feel ashamed of doing so. How to dodge the draft was a frequent subject of conversation, back when I went to college at the University of Michigan in 1969, and I heard endless talk of things like getting letters from psychiatrists and getting one's weight below 120 and, as a last resort, moving to Canada. The chant of the time was "Hell, no, we won't go." Students who participated in ROTC were viewed as aliens: who were these people? Draft dodging was completely socially acceptable, encouraged, and applauded.

The only criticism of draft dodging I ever heard in those days was that the least privileged members of society would fill the draft, because they were the least able to exploit the loopholes. The accepted answer to that criticism was that activists therefore should advise these persons on how to get in on the draft dodging action themselves. In any case, it was argued, it was crucial to keep up the resistance to the draft, to destroy it as a workable policy. (Suffice it to say, I'm not worried Bush has a secret plan to bring back the draft!)

I think there are millions of men out there who know they enthusiastically resisted the draft and even looked down on anyone who didn't. I think it must be the younger folks who perceive it as a harsh criticism of Bush to call him a draft dodger. The truth is, he was the sort of person that the people I knew would have scoffed at because he did serve.

But those of us who remember those days are pretty old, and serving in the military is viewed quite differently now. I asked my younger colleagues if they remembered the song "Alice's Restaurant," and I was actually surprised to find out they hadn't even heard of it. Here's a sample of the circa 1969 zeitgeist:
They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York, and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I walked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the psychiatrist, room 604."

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."
To get the full sense of how people thought about the draft back then, read the whole text of this immensely popular Arlo Guthrie song. No one was outraged by Arlo's paean to draft dodging. Arlo was an icon. Recasting Bush as a draft dodger and not a military guy would in those days, for the people I knew, have taken him out of the category of social outcast and made him one of us!

UPDATE: An emailer sends a link to the well-loved "Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No" poster of the Vietnam era.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another emailer sends this link to a picture and some discussion of a proposed Canadian monument to American draft dodgers. Here's the FoxNews report about it. Quite apart from the politics of it all--that is one ugly monument! Who knew the Canadians turned out in the nude to welcome our dodgers with outstretched arms?

September 22, 2004

"All U Can Eat Bacon."

The Madison bar scene, photoblogged by our resident public sociologist. You may think it's frightening and horrible. I was thinking, you can really do the Atkins diet here. Just order a big glass of vodka and help yourself to a free meal of bacon! It's all happening at Wando's.

"To see fake journalism taking off like this."

On tonight's Daily Show, Jon Stewart had this to say (in response to a comment by Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot):
RACICOT: We depend upon journalists. I think that we do depend upon those who observe and commentate and offer searing scrutiny.

STEWART: Now, how has that been? Because there is, obviously, well, what's going on with Dan Rather and CBS News, which, for my taste, by the way ... To see fake journalism taking off like this ... well, to me, it's very refreshing.
Funny. And you can decide for yourself if Racicot's "searing" was a subtle jab at Kerry.

Girl Scout values.

This morning I stopped into the faculty library to fill my coffee cup in the machine that brews one cup of coffee at a time. It was less than five minutes before my 11 o'clock class, so I was feeling a little hurried. But Nina, who also has an 11 o'clock class, was ahead of me with her blue and white striped coffee cup, so I had to go second, with my bright green cup. This gave me a chance to chat with Nina. I said I always have to get to class early because I always need to move the furniture back in place and erase the blackboard. Why don't people put their room in order before they leave? I always erase my own chalkings at the end of class. I'm such a Girl Scout! I believe in that ethic that you should leave the place in better condition than you found it. That's what they taught us about how to treat a campsite in Girl Scouts.
They didn't have Girl Scouts in Poland when you were growing up, did they?

Yes, but they called it Socialist Youth.

Women!

The NYT has an article about Kerry's appeal to women, and I'm having trouble reading it because that picture there with the article is driving me nuts. Why are these women so ecstatic? It strikes me as freakish and scary. I don't even like when people act that way about pop stars. It looks like the way models act horrifyingly happy in ads for credit cards or soda or rental cars. When I see people reacting ecstatically to a politician, I think about terrible things.

The other reason I'm having trouble reading this article is that I detest candidate attempts to appeal to women. You know women, they care about health care. Who knows why? Men don't get sick? It seems to me that it's men, not women who have the problem of a shorter life span caused by illness. Or is it just the word "care" in "health care." Women just care, right? I have a good Kerry slogan to compete with Bush's "W stands for Women": "Kerry stands for Care."

But let's look at the article.
In the last few weeks, Kerry campaign officials have been nervously eyeing polls that show an erosion of the senator's support among women, one of the Democratic Party's most reliable constituencies.

How to explain this development?
Democratic and Republican pollsters say the reason for the change this year is that an issue Mr. Bush had initially pitched as part of an overall message - which candidate would be best able to protect the United States from terrorists - has become particularly compelling for women. Several said that a confluence of two events - a Republican convention that was loaded with provocative scenes of the Sept. 11 tragedy, and a terrorist attack on children in Russia - had helped recast the electoral dynamic among this critical group in a way that created a new challenge for the Kerry camp.

See, you terrorists, what happens when you go after children! It makes women want to vote for Bush. Show me some "provocative scenes" and then some suffering children and, suddenly, I am caught in a estrogen undertow sweeping me to the right.

Help, Mellman! What can be done to save Kerry from the mindless love of children and safety that grips the feminine mind? Don't worry, is the message from Mellman (the Kerry campaign pollster):
"I don't define it as a problem,'' Mr. Mellman said. "I define it as an opportunity.'' He noted that a group of widows of Sept. 11 victims endorsed Mr. Kerry last week and offered that as evidence that the women "thought he was better able to protect the country.''

We'll just get our own grip on that pliable feminine mind! We've already shown our moves on those six 9/11 widows last week!

The campaigns talk about women the way people who thought women shouldn't have the right to vote talked about women.

"Moral cretins and self-important poseurs."

I assume that Rathergate is causing a lot of stray anger and anxiety among Kerry supporters. But you might want to take a deep breath before blogging. Maybe think twice, especially if you're a lawprof, before calling the bloggers who delved into the CBSNews scandal "full of sh*t" (spelled out) in your post title. Check your epithets. For example,"Instaignorance" for "Instapundit" might be instaunreadable without a hyphen--and a bit childish on top of that. And maybe reconsider hitting the publish button if you see that the argument you've written is that other bloggers are "moral cretins and self-important poseurs" because they care about the corruption of mainstream media in a specific current incident affecting the presidential election while at the same time they aren't bothering with a history book about the Japanese internment in World War II. It's a strained comparison--we're not bothering with Kitty Kelley's book either--so maybe you'd want at least to hesitate before writing "Shame on these bloggers ... Shame, indeed, on these moral cretins and self-important poseurs."

And when a fellow lawprof responds and confines himself to pointing out that you've built an argument on a comparison that doesn't hold up well, and he doesn't take you to task for your embarrassing language, why not be gracious
? You mischaracterize him as only not understanding that the history book is a real issue and--imperiously misusing "shall"--write: "I shall help him, because I am a nice guy." And when he responds to you, you might want to think about how it makes you look before going to his comments section and beginning with "Alas, this is getting a bit dreary (at least for my readers), so let me just post something here."

So when you wanted people to pay attention to something it was a big outrage and they were moral cretins not to already be talking about your subject, and then when someone engages with you, but not in the way you wanted, suddenly it's all too boring. The criticism "why did you pay attention to one thing and not to another?" is something I've seen before. One of the reasons I turned off my comments function was that the comments pages were cluttered with expressions of outrage at me--moral cretin!--for blogging about whatever I was blogging about instead of expressing outrage at the war in Iraq. As if bloggers are doing something wrong by choosing their topics instead of blogging about things in the order that they are important!

(By the way, I could imagine a blog gleefully naming itself "Moral Cretins and Self-Important Poseurs.")


UPDATE: A clever emailer suggests shortening "Moral Cretins and Self-Important Poseurs" to "McSips." I love that! Also, thanks to Instapundit for linking (and giving more weight to the theory of the original epithet-hurler that I blog as one of Instapundit's minions).

ANOTHER UPDATE: I don't have a comments function, but Gordon does, and he's got got a lot of them over there now (including one from me). So if you've got something to say about this, you can comment over at Gordon's blog.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Does anyone else find it ironic that the professor who started out by shaming others for onesidedness has now updated his post to publish the text of two emails that attack me and to let us know that he's receiving a lot of email that attacks him which he's deleting? Email attacking him has also been sent to me. Should I print a choice one to balance each one he prints about me? Because it's all about balance in the blogosphere, isn't it Professor Leiter?

September 21, 2004

Kerry on Letterman.

Kerry cranked out a dismal performance on David Letterman's show last night. He alternated between rerunning lines from his stump speech and plodding through scripted jokes. Unlike Nixon on "Laugh-In" and other candidates who've used pop culture shows successfully, Kerry did not use self-deprecating jokes. He attacked Bush and Cheney and used "Halliburton" as a punchline.

Read the abysmal "Top Ten" list written for him to recite, which he did without saying "Number 10 ... Number 9" in the Letterman way, proving that he does not know the show and thus severely limiting the goodwill he might have picked up through association with Dave. The items on the list are nearly all grousing about Bush and Bush people. The only references to Kerry were indirect (#7 referred to his "lustrous, finely groomed hair" and #4 referred to his wife's wealth). Most awkwardly, he caught himself beginning to pontificate about September 11th with a statement to David Letterman telling him to remember how people felt at that time. He then realized that the man sitting next to him had played a prominent role expressing the feelings people had at that time, so he switched to fawning over Letterman. Letterman had a pained wide smile on his face.

I'd love to know what Letterman really thinks of candidates using his show. Is he just wondering if this is good for ratings (because it's such a big deal) or bad for ratings (because the candidate is droning and turning the show into a campaign ad)? Or does he really sympathize with the candidate, who ought to be able to run for office without the indignity of appearing on a late night comedy show and pretending (badly) to be campanionable and funny?

UPDATE: If you'd like to see a good--and self-deprecating--Top 10 list read by a candidate, check out "Top Ten Ways I, Howard Dean, Can Turn Things Around." Number 1 was "Oh, I don't know -- maybe fewer crazy, redfaced rants." Dean read it really well too. Ah ... Dean nostalgia ... How many people have Dean nostalgia?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's how the New Republic summed up the Kerry performance on Letterman: "a long and meandering trip through Hideous Remains of Stump Speech Lane."

"Such proper ideas of doughnuts."

Every week during the semester here at the law school, we have an early session with students and faculty that is officially called "Coffee and Donuts." It's always spelled the "Dunkin' Donuts" way, not the "Krispy Kreme Doughnuts" way. Neither of those companies looks to be oriented toward spelling things properly. Google has "donuts" almost three times as often as "doughnuts," but that may just reflect the prevalence of Dunkin' Donuts. I think the faculty should set a good example about the importance of good spelling. Lawyers must take great pains to avoid misspellings in briefs. Think what a gaffe it is to write "Marberry v. Madison." So I think we ought to spell donuts/doughnuts correctly for official law school purposes. Let's check the literary authorities. Robert Frost (who probably ate frosted doughnuts):
It took my mind off doughnuts and soda biscuit
To step outdoors and take the water dazzle
A sunny morning, or take the rising wind
About my face and body and through my wrapper,
When a storm threatened from the Dragon’s Den,
And a cold chill shivered across the lake.
Willa Cather:
The household slept late on Sunday morning; even Mahailey did not get up until seven. The general signal for breakfast was the smell of doughnuts frying. This morning Ralph rolled out of bed at the last minute and callously put on his clean underwear without taking a bath.
That's a yummy juxtaposition.

Sarah Orne Jewett:
We stopped, and seeing a party of pleasure-seekers in holiday attire, the thin, anxious mistress of the farmhouse came out with wistful sympathy to hear what news we might have to give. Mrs. Blackett first spied her at the half-closed door, and asked with such cheerful directness if we were trespassing that, after a few words, she went back to her kitchen and reappeared with a plateful of doughnuts.

"Entertainment for man and beast," announced Mrs. Todd with satisfaction. "Why, we 've perceived there was new doughnuts all along the road, but you 're the first that has treated us."

Our new acquaintance flushed with pleasure, but said nothing.

"They're very nice; you 've had good luck with 'em," pronounced Mrs. Todd. "Yes, we've observed there was doughnuts all the way along; if one house is frying all the rest is; 't is so with a great many things."

...

"I wonder who she was before she was married?" said Mrs. Todd, who was usually unerring in matters of genealogy. "She must have been one of that remote branch that lived down beyond Thomaston. We can find out this afternoon. I expect that the families'll march together, or be sorted out some way. I'm willing to own a relation that has such proper ideas of doughnuts."
So "doughnuts" it is!

I've been tapped to lead today's session, which begins at 8:30. I meant to set my alarm clock an hour earlier, but somehow I set it two hours earlier. No wonder it was so dark and I felt so bleary. The subject of the session--worked out not by me but by the people who organize the program--is blogging. There are lots of fliers pinned up around the law school that say "BLOGGING" and include my name. Email has been sent to all the students that refers to me as Professor (and prolific blogger) Ann Althouse.

These sessions are casual conversations so I've resisted planning anything to say. It will be interesting to see where the discussion goes. Maybe it will turn to the subject of bloggers versus mainstream media as exemplified by Rathergate. Maybe the subject will be more intra-law school: should students blog? Maybe they'll focus on this blog. We'll see. I'll update.

UPDATE: We had a lively discussion. There was a little what is a blog and why do you blog, but the favorite topic turned out to be law student blogs. There was suprisingly little about politics and the impact of blogs on mainstream media. People were more concerned with questions about starting and maintaining their own blogs. A lot of the students who attended already had blogs. Gordon is also blogging about the session this morning, and Gordon has a set of links to the student blogs he likes best and a set of links to Wisconsin Law School blogs which includes student blogs. He added a few new ones today.

September 20, 2004

Dan Rather on tonight's evening news.

So Burkett gave the documents to CBS News and admits he lied to them about where he got the documents, but still insists he believed they were true. [UPDATE: Transcript.] Rather says Burkett now says he got the documents from "a different source, one we cannot verify." Well, that's very interesting. Let me know when you feel like telling us what the claimed source is. And hurry up, please, because I'm having trouble not assuming it was someone from within the Kerry campaign.

Rather asks Burkett if he's forged or faked anything, and Burkett (whom I can't trust) says no. Burkett could truthfully say that if he were merely used as a conduit for faked documents. The key question remains who Burkett got the documents from (or if Burkett is lying about faking them himself).

After the interview with Burkett, Rather expresses regret while trying to maintain his dignity, but I'm quite bored with that right now. The key question is who is this source behind Burkett? Don't think you got away with any sleight of hand! That's the question now.

AOL Messenger vs. iChat.

I've never IM'd before, but I'm doing a research thing that required it. I figured out how to use iChat, but I couldn't see how to add a new screen name, and I needed a coded screen name, so I switched over to AOL Messenger. I can't believe how ugly AOL Messenger looks compared to iChat! The difference is mind boggling.

UPDATE: Thanks to an emailer for the tip. I didn't realize you could just type over the existing screen name, ignoring the drop down menu. I need to remember that in Mac it is actually easy and to try to do something so obvious that I'm forgetting to see it. The "help" function could be a better. Maybe the assumption is you won't actually resort to it, but when you do, it should be better at perceiving what you're looking for.

Time's take on Rather-dogging bloggers.

Time has a little piece on Rather-related blogging this week, complete with a picture of the Powerline guys, dressed up with matching ties, grinning gleefully while looking at their own website on an iMac that is reflected in one lens of Scott Johnson's wire-rimmed glasses, giving an oddly insane glint to his left eye. Time-style prose is unleashed--"bloggers were waiting to pounce like a pack of hounds behind the butcher shop"--to make the bloggers who cared about the Rather story seem like a bunch of "pugnacious" right-wingers.

Kerry and his advisors.

Newsweek describes John Kerry, "preparing to accuse the president of failing to tell the truth about 'the mess in Iraq'" and seeking the advice of Wesley Clark:
Kerry knew from Vietnam what it felt like to face the bullets without the support of the folks back home. So how, one of his senior staff wanted to know, would Kerry's attacks go down now with the troops in Iraq? "Look, the soldiers are debating it themselves on the ground," Clark reassured Kerry's inner circle. "They're coming back and they're incredibly critical. You have to call it like it is."
Great distinction from Vietnam, General Clark!

At the Newsweek link there is also a handy chart listing Kerry's "Old Guard" and "New Guard" advisors and their strengths and strategies. Newsweek writes of the "Old Guard": "By stubbornly sticking to an 'accentuate the positive' strategy, the Kennedy cadre dug Kerry a hole in the polls." Don't blame the candidate, of course, Newsweek. No reason he'd have an idea about what to accentuate, let alone actual beliefs he might want to express. He was just standing by while those terrible Old Guard advisors were digging a hole for him.

That Old Guard was really bad, so let's click on the "New Guard":
This group of Clinton-era veterans and Kerry loyalists are seasoned fighters who know from experience how to handle Republican attacks. They'll have their hands full, though, with Karl Rove and his take-no-prisoners tactics.
New Guard to the rescue! If they fail, though, we've got the excuse ready to go: Karl Rove is just awful!

Dan Rather's feeble apology.

Here's my read of Dan Rather's "statement on the documents," which I'm going to put in writing before reading what anyone else has to say:
Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question-and their source-vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically.
You could believe they were still authentic and say that! After praising yourself for "extensive additional interviews"--as if you had originally had a decent set of interviews--you're only withdrawing your official "journalistic" seal of approval. Has your research shown that the documents are, to a journalistic standard of proof, fake? If so, say that you now believe them to be fake. If not, say why you've only suffered a loss of "confidence," leading you only to discontinue "vouching." You want to be able to deny that it was wrong to "vouch" in the past. But it was wrong!
I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers.
Oh, what a passive innocent you are. Misled! (Is that anything like John Kerry's repeated "Bush misled us into war," which is meant to keep us from thinking about the fact that he seems to have voted for it?) The bad ones are the misleaders. But why would we ever trust a journalist who isn't on guard against being misled? There will always be sources that mislead, so it must be your responsibility to guard against deceit.
That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.
"Leads me to a point"--again, how passive you are. Always being led places. And, again, look at this effort to preserve the claim of having acted properly in the past. You've now reached "a point," but at an earlier point, the evidence was different, and you behaved properly at that time, you'd like to say. If only you "knew then what [you] know now," as if it weren't your responsibility to know things before you ran with the story.
But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry.
So here is the shred of an apology. You're only sorry for making "a mistake in judgment." But the only mistake in judgment you've alluded so far is trusting your source, who was the real bad actor here. Who is that source, by the way, and why are you protecting it?
It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.
I haven't the slightest idea why I should believe this. One would have to think CBS has a lamblike faith in to goodness of news sources. How could that possibly be the "CBS News tradition"?
Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.
"Please know"? Please. You want us to just believe you, and you think perhaps we will because good people do believe what they are told, they way you, you good, good people, believed that source that turned out to be so bad.

I wonder how much effort went into the careful crafting of this laughable apology.

Open house at the Law School.

There is a group of prospective students at the Law School today. They were just listening to a presentation in the faculty library down the hall from my office, so I know it's a huge group. I believe they'll be auditing some classes today, so it will be interesting to see how many extra faces there are in my Civpro2 class that meets in a few minutes. I'm glad we're on the first day of a new topic (diversity jurisdiction), rather than the last day of the previous topic (where we struggled with the most perplexing thing about the Erie Doctrine). Maybe some readers of this blog will sit in on the class, and if so, feel free to drop me an email and let me know if everyone has been suitably nice to you and whether you think Congress should abolish diversity jurisdiction. Just kidding about the diversity jurisdiction. I'll add a funny story about diversity jurisdiction later. I've got to go to class now.

ADDED STORY: Here's an anecdote I tell at the beginning of an article called "Late Night Confessions in the Hart and Wechsler Hotel" (47 Vand. L. Rev. 993 (1994)):
Chief Justice Rehnquist visited my law school last year to deliver a lecture entitled "The Future of Federal Courts." The University Theater filled: overdressed alumni in the front rows, respectful students in the balcony, camouflaged professors here and there. I sat in the middle and hunched over a folded-up sheet of legal paper. I scribbled notes and hoped for some insight into the tangled mass of problems I had made my life's work. Would the Chief Justice perhaps explain the Court's new habeas corpus jurisprudence? I wanted a little accounting for Butler v. McKellar, in which he had denied federal court relief to a man who faced the death penalty after a conviction based on a confession that the Court's own case law would, without question, exclude.

The Chief told some jokes, elaborated on his ties to Wisconsin, and discoursed at length about the workload of the courts. The issues were neutral, administrative, managerial, structural.

"Did he say anything provocative?" asked a colleague who had missed the speech.

"He never got any more provocative than to say he's against diversity."

My friend was shocked. "He's against diversity! ? "

"Diversity jurisdiction," I said, realizing she was not a proceduralist.

That poll.

Wow, pretty striking results on that poll I took over the weekend. (Here.)

A bar, a word about pronunciation, and the whole subject of me and Texas (including the second reason I owe my life to coffee).

Responding to my Saturday post about my middle name (Adair), an emailer writes:
There's an Adair's Saloon in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. Deep Ellum is a bar/nightclub area east-northeast of downtown Dallas, so named because it's centered along Elm Street (Ellum being a corruption of Elm). Adair's is one block south of Elm on Commerce Street. It's long and narrow like an old-style barber shop, and has black marker graffiti all over the walls and tables. It's a great honky-tonk, with live Texas-style country music most nights of the week. They also serve fantastic hamburgers that come with a whole jalapeno impaled on a toothpick topping the bun.

Adair's is one of the few places in Dallas that reminds you you're still in Texas. ... You should check it out if you ever happen to be down Dallas way.

Incidentally, although I've always pronounced Red Adair's name with the emphasis on the last syllable (red' uh-dare'), I say Adair's bar with the emphasis at the front (ay'-dares). I have no idea why. Maybe it has something to do with the meter.

Here's a link to the page of their website with lots of clickable photos of musicians and customers. And, yes, it does look very appealingly Texan.

Let me add a word about pronunciation and a word about me and Texas.

Pronunciation: I've never heard Adair pronounced the bar's way. Everyone in my family always said Adair the way you'd say "a dare," and that's the way I always heard Red Adair's name pronounced on news shows. The bar's way of saying it seems like a southern/country/cowboy thing, like saying CE-ment instead of ce-MENT (which is an incredibly cheesy insight into pronunciation based on watching "The Beverly Hillbillies"). "Ellum" for "Elm" reminds me of how my paternal grandfather--known to all as Pop--used to pronounce "film"--"fillum." I don't know the geographic range of that kind of speech, but he was from Delaware, which may or may not be considered southern. We certainly didn't think we were in the South when we lived there. Pop also called a gas station a "filling station," which always seemed to me--in kid logic--to be related to calling film "fillum.

Me and Texas: Dallas is probably the largest American city that I'll never set foot in. It's hard to think of a reason for me to go there. In fact, the only place in Texas I've been is Austin, to attend a conferece at the University of Texas Law School. I should say the only place in Texas I've ever been ex utero is Austin, because I spent a good portion of my in utero existence in Texas City, where my parents and sister lived before I was born. Back in the 1950s when I was growing up in Delaware, I always felt sad about missing out on Texas. Delaware seemed so insignificant--no one outside of Delaware seemed to care that we were the first state. And Texas was so magnificent and important--the largest state in those days. Older readers may say, so your parents lived in Texas City right after World War II and before your birth in 1951, then they must have been there when the great Texas City Disaster occurred (in 1947). Yes, indeed they were, and they always taught me not to yield to the temptation to become a spectator at the scene of a disaster. (Read the story at the link if you don't know what happened to people in Texas City who went to watch a spectacular fire that was consuming a ship full of ammonium nitrate.) I have written before that I owe my existence to coffee. (Here's the story of how the smell of coffee caused my parents to meet.) But I owe my existence to coffee a second time. On the day of the Texas City Disaster, my father was working at a desk near a window. He got up to get a cup of coffee, and, while he was away from his desk, the burning ship exploded, sending a shockwave through the city, that drove a huge triangular spear of glass deep into the chair where he would have been impaled had he not gone for that coffee.

ADDED: Rereading this post, I noticed the word "impaled" is used twice. Had I noticed that when I was originally writing this, I would have been sorely tempted to write: "deep into the chair where he would have been impaled like a whole jalapeno on a fantastic hamburger at Adair's Bar in Dallas." And that would have been so wrong!

September 19, 2004

"I'm voting for Dukakis."

Yes, I did finally get out to see "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut." That's the highly promising first line of the film, which is set in 1988, and might be a multilayered tribute to the year 1988. There are many references, I think, to the movies of that time, actually, oddly, to these three really cool 1989 movies: "Back to the Future Part II," "Heathers," and "The Abyss." But I'm sure there's plenty of much deeper theorizing about what this movie is about, because this is one of those movies that pesters you to devote lots of time to figuring it out. I was thinking for a while that Donnie Darko is a symbol of America (what with all those American flags, Dukakis, and the National Anthem), or maybe it was all a dream, or all a young film buff's manic throwing of everything he could think of into one wild melange--especially everything rabbit-related. A good rule of thumb is: if you liked "Mulholland Drive," you should see this; if not, don't.

UPDATE: John emails to remind me that I hated "The Abyss" when I saw it back in 1989. So why am I calling it "really cool"? Am I just lying again? Let me clarify. The references to "The Abyss" that I saw in "Donnie Darko" were to the special effects at the end of the movie, which really were really cool.

Is Stacie J. the new Omarosa?

After finally getting around to watching this week's "The Apprentice," Prof. Yin asks:
[W]hat is it with Mark Burnett's casting of African-American women, anyway? I realize that two data points are hardly conclusive, but doesn't it seem suspicious that each season of "The Apprentice" has had exactly one African-American woman, and each time, she's been completely nuts? (You haven't really [forgotten] Omarosa, have you?) Compare that to the one African-American male cast in each season (Kwame in season 1, Kevin in season 2), who seem like normal, likeable guys.
Here's my theory. Remember the show is edited after all the footage has been produced. Like Burnett's MTV show "The Real World," the editors look through all the raw footage and find story lines they can shape into narratives. The editing we're seeing on the show in any given week is part of a longer story arc that extends into other episodes. In the first two episodes, the black woman, Stacie J., has been presented in a way intended to lure us into thinking she's the new Omarosa. Fans of the show got a big kick out of Omarosa, and the editors know they can get us thinking about Omarosa if they show anyone acting strange, and maybe isolated clips of almost any of the contestants could look strange enough to jog us into thinking: Ooh, this looks good ... this might be weirdness of Omarosan proportions. So they do it with Stacie J. and it's especially easy because, like Omarosa, she's the only black woman.

But I will just bet some other contestant else turns out the real New Omarosa. They are just toying with us at this point in the story arc for this set of characters. Everyone ganged up on Stacie J. this week, and that was actually more Omarosan than anything Stacie J. actually did. (And the extended version of the show reveals that she wasn't as weird as she originally seemed. She didn't decide to call for temp help on her own. She asked the team leader and was told to go ahead!)

Like Prof. Yin, I think it would be rotten for the producers to pick "another Omarosa" to be the only black woman in the cast, and that's why I think they didn't do it. They are just generating interest and story line by making you think that they did. I bet Stacie J. ends up doing just fine.

UPDATE: Chris has this observation in support of the theory that Stacie J. is being edited to seem Omarosa-like:
Another thing to note is how in the premier episode they had this whole thing of showing Stacie "freaking out" and accusing people of ignoring her and being against her, without showing any background leading up to it. We were supposed to conclude that she started acting like this for no reason, completely unprovoked, but it looked very suspicious in that the scene began with the point at which she starts acting strange.

''A star is an animal; you control an animal with love and threats.''

That's a line by Arthur Miller, from another one of his plays about his long-dead wife, Marilyn Monroe. Deborah Solomon plies her wily interview skills in the NYT Magazine:
In conversation, Miller seems fully attentive to the present and its preoccupations. He spoke well of Michael Moore's ''Fahrenheit 9/11'' and lavished high praise on Philip Roth's about-to-be-published ''Plot Against America: A Novel,'' which he was in the middle of reading. (''Philip and I see each other regularly once every three years,'' he noted humorously.) An unreconstructed leftist, he still subscribes to The Nation. (''How can the polls be neck and neck when I don't know one Bush supporter?'' he asked with apparent earnestness.)

But Miller betrays the biases of his generation when the subject turns to pop culture, linking it to the degradation and marginalization of serious theater and the intellectual life of the nation in general. ''It used to be that a play seemed to resonate into the society a lot more,'' he said, ''and now it's simply one more entertainment. Maybe the competition has ground down moral and social meaning. Publicity and advertising are the major arts today. They shape the consciousness of the people far more than actual art does.

"There was a time when people like Fitzgerald or Hemingway or Dos Passos seemed to represent something in the country,'' he continued. ''It's hard for me to imagine that a writer now could be said to somehow represent America.'' It might seem contradictory for a man who married Monroe to claim a wholesale disdain for ''entertainment,'' but then he is hardly the first literary figure who would rather talk about high art than about seemingly unresolved impulses.
Imagine being such an unreconstructed leftist that you'd subscribe to The Nation? But yeah, I really remember when plays were supposed to shake the complacent audience to its very core and awaken us to a whole new way of living. How grand it must have been in those days to be the guy who got to do the shaking! And what could have been better proof of your grandeur than to marry Marilyn Monroe? And what could be better proof of how times have changed than that no one has the slightest feeling that their worldview will be reshaped if you wring another drop of tragedy out of poor Marilyn's dead body? The great irony is that the fabulous persona Marilyn Monroe created in her short life will "resonate into the society" with "moral and social meaning" long after anyone cares about Arthur Miller. Call it "publicity and advertising" if you want to take the edge off your bitterness, but Marilyn was an artist and she changed the world. Solomon wisely observes: "Time has turned her into precisely what Miller sought to create with Willy Loman and his other middle-class Everymen -- a beloved embodiment of American striving and heartbreak."
Today, Miller is even less willing to speculate on the source of Monroe's enduring mystique, and in fact when the subject was raised, he gazed away and said nothing. As the seconds passed and the silence in his living room thickened, you might have assumed he was formulating an unusually nuanced response. Finally, he spoke. ''I'm hungry,'' he said in his gruff voice.

A nice, concise observation.

From James Bennet, writing in the NYT Week in Review:
Mr. Kerry would like to isolate Iraq from Afghanistan and the larger struggle against terrorism, while Mr. Bush wants to connect them. Mr. Kerry would like to connect the war in Iraq to problems within the United States -"It's wrong to be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America,'' he says - while Mr. Bush wants to keep them apart.
Should we make our choice for President based on which man makes the more apt connection?

Talk show strategy.

Did you see P.J. O'Rourke, Cornel West, and Julie Delpy panelling together last night on "Real Time With Bill Maher"? There was a lot of inane yammering, especially by Delpy ("My English is not so good"), and, rather than compete for air time, O'Rourke pursued a finely executed minimalist strategy. Take a look at the rerun, and check out his tiny one-liners. O'Rourke got a lot of mileage out of deadpanning the kind of outlandish opinions that everyone else on the panel blithely attributes to conservatives. I especially liked when he had West for a half-second, after a West rant about drug companies that ended with asking whether you would prefer drug companies that looked for more remedies for sexual impotence or a vaccine for AIDS, and O'Rourke said, "It depends on if I had AIDS."

Fried steak and politics.

John Kerry is still pissed at Tom Harkin for endorsing Dean:
Senator Tom Harkin [is] holding his 27th annual Steak Fry this afternoon in Indianola, Iowa. Even though it's a tradition for Democratic presidential contenders to appear, and even though Iowa is a critical battleground state, Mr. Kerry is not scheduled to be there.
The official explanation is "Unfortunately, we just had other commitments." The New York Times reporter quips that maybe he's "just not in the mood for steak." Or maybe he's turning up his nose at steak crudely fried a la Middle America, as is Rick Lyman, the New York Times reporter who's trying to cover Dick Cheney and getting the cold shoulder:
In a little over two weeks since the end of the Republican convention, I have taken 16 flights totaling 10,496 miles and driven more than 1,000 additional miles to and from distant events. I have changed hotels and rental cars almost every day. I ate burritos in New Mexico, barbecue in Memphis and a steak the size of a hubcap in Minneapolis. My expense account will be a splendid thing. ...

The first post-convention campaign event was a rally in Pendleton, Ore. I left the last day of the convention, missing the president's acceptance speech, flew to Portland (2,440 frequent-flier miles, thank you very much), and then drove more than three hours along the Columbia River Gorge, arriving in rural Pendleton just in time for a chicken-fried steak dinner at the Rainbow Cafe, where the female bartender flirted with a shy, stuttering truck driver. At the Pendleton rally, the stage was decorated with pioneer wagons stuffed with hay. ...
Hay! Hay, no less! Damned politics! Forcing a man of lofty position away from the dear, safe comforts of the East Coast!

France stole my idea.

A while back, I said I'd like to see a reality TV show based on a tough, retro, Socratic, law school classroom. Now I see there's this French reality TV show:
Twelve girls and 12 boys ages 14 to 16 have been sequestered in a former seminary in the middle of France and plunged into the rigid, harsh French public school system of the 1950's.
According to the NYT, the French just love this show and they love it because of their "nostalgia ... for a less confusing age."

(More bad news for Kerry, no? Even the French don't like nuance anymore.)

The end of a long relationship with the NYRB.

Here's the first paragraph of the great piece that appeared in The New York Review of Books when Virgina Hamilton Adair's book "Ants on the Melon" came out in 1996. (As I noted yesterday, Adair died this week.) Unless you're a NYRB subscriber, you have to pay $4.00 to get to the whole article.

Ironically, I just let my long-running subscription to the NYRB lapse. They recently sent me a letter, with a post-paid envelope and a request to re-subscribe or at least write back and explain why I'd given up on them. Really, NYRB was by far the subscription I'd kept up for the longest time--more than 20 years. I loved the surprising assemblage of brilliant essays on all sorts of subjects and the incisive pen drawings of David Levine.

The Levine drawings are still there, but they've been used over and over again to demonize President Bush and the people around him; and, while there are still varied essays, ever since 9/11, they have forefronted the pieces that perseverate against Bush and his policies. I'd meant to flip past these things and read the other essays, but I found I'd been leaving many issues unopened, so I let the subscription die. Too bad! For many years, this was my favorite periodical. I didn't write them back and give them this explanation, but here's your answer NYRB.

"How do you intend to resolve problems by allowing half-nude women to mingle and party with men who dress like women?"

Politics, religion, and fashion in Iran, where the hanged 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi has become a central figure in the women's rights cause. (Rajabi's story was reported a month ago with her name given in the report I read as Ateqeh Sahaleh.)

"I've been shooting people, didn't you know?"

The neurosurgeon/prime minister cracks a joke. NYT reporter John Burns delves into the psychology of leadership in Baghdad. Dr. No is mentioned.