October 23, 2004

Congratulations, once again ...

... to our Badgers.

Actresses 'n animals.

Two items from SF Gate:

1. "Emmy-winning actress Drea de Matteo is so concerned about the treatment of animals when they fly, she wants to start up her own airline for pets. ... 'We wanna have an airline called Pet Jet. My boyfriend wants to do that. We looked into it. No one else is doing it. I wanna do it.'" Imagine that! No one else is doing it!

2. "Animal lover Pamela Anderson [is] urging Queen Elizabeth II to banish the bear pelt hats her guards wear. .. PETA pal Stella McCartney has already got active on the back of the new campaign -- she has offered to design new hats for the guards, providing samples of fake fur to the Ministry of Defense, which is considering the switch."

Kerry to return to Madison.

A few days ago, I complained that it looked like John Kerry was not going to make good on his promise to returning to Madison and do an appearance at the Capitol Square. But today we found two tickets for his October 28th appearance on the Square on our doorstep. So get ready, Madison, for the big Kerry appearance in Madison five days before the election. I guess Wisconsin is that important.

Reunited with his Iceman.

Helmut Simon, who found a prehistoric man frozen in the ice of the Alps, has been found dead in a stream in the Alps.

"There's no doubt in my mind that radiation at moderate levels is beneficial."

BBC News talks to a UW-Madison scientist.

Sinclair Broadcasting throws together an embarrassing mismash to replace "Stolen Honor."

I watched the Sinclair Broadcasting reconfiguration of the controversial "Stolen Honor" documentary, clumsily titled "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media." The poor production values make it hard to take the substance of the show seriously. The set is flimsy and chaotic; stiff, uncomfortable-looking veterans sit side-by-side with no table to relax their arms on; the voice-over announcer sounds amateurish; the host looks like he's doing his first screen test; the camera quality is at a sub-local-news level; the screen is often cluttered with computer graphics that look as if they belong on community access TV. The material from "Stolen Honor" takes up only a few minutes at the beginning, and the rest of the show is a padded mishmash. The JibJab video is thrown in, along with stock footage of bloggers at the convention. We're given a quick refresher on the McCain-Feingold law and a rehash of the Texas Air National Guard material about Bush. There's a segment on political protest demonstrations. The program ends with a Sinclair Broadcasting statement--words that appear on screen and are read to us by a pompous announcer--informing us of complaints have been filed against Sinclair with the FCC and encouraging us to let the FCC know about Sinclair's First Amendment rights.

What a shabbily thrown-together program! Either they should have shown "Stolen Honor" as originally planned or stuck with their regular programming. What an embarrassment! The best part of the whole show was the "No soup for you" commercial for ConsumerFreedom.com -- which aired twice. You can see the commercial at the link. You can see the original "Stolen Honor" documentary (for a price) here.

Checking in with Tommy.

I read the the NYT "Fashion & Style" article about Tommy Lee. Here's a list of things I learned:

Why the spousal abuse that made Pamela Anderson call the police and led him to plead guilty wasn't, per Tommy, really as bad as you might think: he was wearing Ugg slippers when he kicked her.

What jail was like for Tommy: as a celebrity, he was put in "a K-10, a keep-away ... so you're ... in solitary, basically, for months."

What Tommy said to himself while in solitary confinement: "I'm going to take advantage of the silence in prison and just chill and check in with Tommy."

Name of the memoir that emerged from his period of reflection, which is also the name of his house: "Tommyland."

Additional product of his voyage of personal transformation, because a memoir is no longer enough for a celebrity of a certain dimension: a six-part network reality show, in which he goes to college at the University of Nebraska.

How the NYT indicates that the word Tommy Lee just used was not "dating": "the term he used was a bit more brusque."

Crude expression the Times doesn't mind using: "the career is in the toilet."

Person Tommy is considering working with who has toilet problems of his own: Lenny Kravitz.

Quote from a professor: "You lose whatever identity you have and become an appendage of Pam Anderson, or an appendage of all the infinite references to your name. You become the empty center of all those references."

Quote from Tommy: "I was like, dude, I've done it all. There's really nothing else to do. I mean, unless they come out with something new I haven't tried. Which I doubt."

What's with bleak tone this morning?

And 5 posts before 7 a.m.? What's got into you? I don't know, but I will say I got up at 1:30 a.m. this morning. I've been up for 6 hours and it still isn't light out. It's a dark, rainy morning here in Madison, Wisconsin. (Did I mention I'm in Madison?) It's homecoming day. Jubilant Badger fans will descend on my little neighborhood momentarily. The firecrackers that topped off Friday's revelries were heard late into the night. Let's hope the Badgers play well in rain. We're playing the Wildcats. I'm not a sports fan, but I find it aesthetically appealing when the teams are named after animals that you can actually picture fighting. Badgers should be playing Wildcats, not Buckeyes and Boilermakers (whatever those might be).

UPDATE: I was taking a much needed nap at around 9 in the morning when the phone rang. I jumped awake and grabbed the phone and said "hello" a couple times to a dead line. Then a voice barks: "I'm Ann Richards, former Governor of Texas ..." Yeah, I know, you just called me last night. Don't you have anything better to do with George Soros's money? I have been called every damn day to be told to register to vote, to work to register other people to vote, to vote, or to work to get out the vote. Since yesterday, I've been getting the special appeal to women form of the get-out-the-vote nagging. Leave me alone! Don't you know that I'm on the do-not-call list and I would block your call if you bastards hadn't exempted yourselves? Don't you know that I needed that nap?

The final abduction.

Death comes to Betty Hill, who started the alien abduction craze with her 1966 book "The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours 'Aboard a Flying Saucer'" Estelle Parsons played her in the 1975 movie "The UFO Incident."

Thanks, Betty, for your stunning and original contribution to American popular mythology. To your fertile mind, we owe so many cultural manifestations, from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to that "South Park" episode.

Caroline Kennedy comes to Wisconsin.

The Capital Times reports on Caroline Kennedy's visit to Milwaukee (where she appeared with Kerry):
"My mother always told me, if it weren't for Wisconsin, President Kennedy would never have made it to the White House. And now you're going to do the exact same thing for John Kerry," said Kennedy, daughter of the late president.

If there was one topic Jackie couldn't stop talking about, it was Wisconsin. Are we supposed to be so desperately fixated on the Kennedys that we should want to vote for Kerry on the theory that, in some convoluted way, it will make Jackie happy?

New snake in Wisconsin.

That reptile you think is a garter snake may need a new name and a new layer of governmental protection.

And speaking of bleak ...

Congratulations to Bleecker:
UW scientist at center of fall leaf buzz ... This week, botany professor Tony Bleecker was honored with the 2004 Distinguished Researcher Award from the International Plant Growth Substances Association, primarily for his discovery of the hormone mechanism responsible for everything from helping push seeds out of the soil to causing leaves to separate from their branches and fall.

That reminds me of the long minutes spent in my high school English class, prodded by the same teacher referred to somewhere in here, trying to puzzle out the meaning of this:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

Late night DVD ordering.

In an insomniac moment, I bought this. Which I'm going to double feature with this. (On DVD as part of this set.) For those who like the great-actor-alone-in-a-room genre and are in search of a bleak way to fill up the time as the political season stumbles to a close.

October 22, 2004

Feingold versus Michels.

What, no "Joan of Arcadia"? N0! It's Senator Russ Feingold against Tim Michels, in a big debate. The crawl under their faces tries to appease "Joan" fans (like me!). They'll run the new "Joan" some time late at night over the weekend.

The first question is about the the Patriot Act. The phrase "lone vote against" is inevitable. The format is informal, so both candidates try to take the floor. Michels gets control of the floor. Feingold shrugs and lets Michels run with it. Michels reminds me of Bill Murray. He's an attractive candidate. But Feingold is an institution. When Michels is done, Feingold says: "I took an oath to the Constitution ... and that wasn't an oath of convenience." Oh, now that I've said Michels reminds me of Bill Murray, I've got to be fair. Feingold reminds me of Soupy Sales! Nice debate. Nice debate format. But I'm going to vote to return Feingold to the Senate. Sorry, Tim.

Getting out the vote: the motivation and the pitch.

It is interesting to see how niches of voters within a given battleground state are being targeted and cultivated. Here's a story I heard on on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning about the get-out-the-vote effort on Indian reservations in Wisconsin ("Sovereign Tribes a Maverick in Coming Election"). Note that what the persons conducting the effort say they care about is ending the war quickly--and they support Kerry for this reason--but as they go around to varous potential voters, the pitch they make is about tribal sovereignty. Perhaps Wisconsin's ten electoral votes will determine the outcome of this election, and maybe this niche of voters will make the difference. How many other niches like this are being targeted and cultivated? The problem of low visibility niche targeting in battleground states seems to me to be the strongest argument for abolishing the Electoral College and moving to a national vote.

Is Kerry really the stronger candidate on the issue of tribal sovereignty? In that radio story, the get-out-the-vote people going door-to-door are heard saying, "He's got a 20 year record of working with tribes on a sovereign basis." But is that saying anything of substance? I tried to figure out which candidate has a stronger position on tribal sovereignty, but I couldn't find anything on either candidate's website. I do know Bush has an embarrassing sound bite on the subject. According to the Native American Times:
The Kerry campaign [after Bush's embarrassing sound bite] issued a release criticizing Bush’s comments and touting the endorsement they have received from national tribal officials.

"I am proud to receive the endorsement of tribal and community leaders from around the country," said Kerry. "Our Native Americans for Kerry-Edwards effort continues to grow every day and these leaders will play a critical role in helping to energize, organize and mobilize the Native American community as we head towards November 2nd."
In other words, Kerry sees Native Americans as a rich source of votes. I like the way the Native American Times article ends with this savvy comment from a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe:
"From what I read the Democrats are concerned that Bush left out one or two things that they thought were important. Well, the Democrats also leave one or two words out of their speeches. I don’t think the Democrats know any more about sovereignty than Republicans do,” he said. “ I think both parties are reaching out to include Native Americans-and why wouldn’t they? The Republicans are reaching out just like the Democrats.”
One answer to my fears about niche targeting and cultivation may be that people are actually pretty good at detecting political manipulation.

Walking backwards for 12 blocks for Kerry.

A Madison-style protest. (I need to get down to State Street more often. Sorry I missed photographing this one!)

"What we have found here is very rare."

What they have found is, in fact, a toilet. The most famous toilet in the history of the world!

Coming to terms with the "La Dolce Vita" DVD.

I've complained about subtitles before. I like to fixate on the photography of a movie and constantly moving my eyes to the bottom of the screen is quite irritating. I don't mind reading. I spend much of the day reading. But I go to the movie theater to look at the moving pictures. If the pictures are worth looking at, they are worth feeling resentful about being compelled to look away from. There is a special problem with DVD if you have a widescreen television and a widescreen movie. The subtitles are placed on what would be a black band on an ordinary TV. On a widescreen TV, they are off the screen unless you size the movie image so that it has fairly wide black bands on the sides as well as the top and bottom!

I was trying to watch my new DVD of "La Dolce Vita" yesterday. The photography is very beautiful, and I just wanted to stare at it, so I was already annoyed by having subtitles, but it's also a very widescreen picture, and I was forced to watch it sized way down to be able to read the subtitles. I was losing the beauty of the images. And the subtitles are yellow, which was atrocious under the black and white photography. The DVD has no dubbed English track. The assumption must be that the kind of people who watch Fellini movies are the kind of people with the hostile attitude toward dubbing. The only English track is commentary by film critic and historian Richard Schickel, and I tried putting that on. It's not bad, but it brings you down a bit. Plus, he mostly talks about what we're seeing, not what they are saying, so who needs him?

Maybe the best option is just to keep the subtitles off and listen to the original soundtrack, which includes some English along with the primarily Italian dialogue. I do understand a little Italian. "La Dolce Vita" lines like "Ciao, Marcello!" are easy enough to pick up, and it's a sprawling, episodic story, where the images may contain most of the meaning. The spectacle is the thing here: the grand city of Rome, the wonderful face of Marcello Mastroianni, and the entire physical presence of the human divinity Anita Ekberg. Whether you understand the Italian or not, the sound of the language is beautiful (and, of course, dubbing would deprive us of that) and the music soundtrack, by Nino Rota, is perfect. What will be missed by watching the film without understanding the dialogue? Lines like: "By 1965 there'll be total depravity. How squalid everything will be."

And let me add this, since I've been thinking about Bob Dylan, whose "Chronicles" I just finished. I know Dylan took a lot of inspiration from films, so let me point out the two references to "La Dolce Vita" in Bob Dylan songs. The first is from "I Shall Be Free":
Well, my telephone rang it would not stop,
It's President Kennedy callin' me up.
He said, "My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?"
I said, "My friend, John, Brigitte Bardot,
Anita Ekberg,
Sophia Loren."
The second is from "Motorpsycho Nightmare":
Then in comes his daughter
Whose name was Rita.
She looked like she stepped out of
La Dolce Vita.
I think we can see what kind of inspiration Dylan got from "La Dolce Vita." He thought Anita Ekberg was fabulous. And she was. More subtly fabulous is Marcello Mastroianni, who is reunited with Ekberg, much older, in "Intervista." There is a really nice little documentary about him called "I Remember." He's really quite hilarious. I recommend staring at his face the entire time he's on screen.

UPDATE: The problem with the subtitles was cured by going into the DVD settings and adjusting it to correspond to a wide-screen TV.

Who would Kerry appoint to the Supreme Court?

The NYT includes a strong proportion of nonjudge lawprofs in the potential Kerry nominees. No nonjudge lawprofs in the mix of potential Bush appointments. Lawprofs also play a role in this front-page NYT article about the struggles over Bush's judicial nominees:
Then, at a weekend retreat in April 2001, Democratic senators adopted an aggressive new strategy in dealing with judicial candidates. Under Mr. Bush's Republican predecessors, the Democrats believed they could block only candidates with egregious faults. But that weekend, two prominent law professors and a women's rights lobbyist urged the senators to oppose even nominees with strong credentials and no embarrassing flaws, simply because the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction.
The two lawprofs in question--Harvard's Laurence H. Tribe and Chicago's Cass R. Sunstein--are not, however, among the lawprofs the Times speculates are in the running for a Kerry appointment. The lawprofs in question are all deans or former deans at the most elite law schools: Harold Hongju Koh (Yale), Kathleen M. Sullivan (Stanford), and Elena Kagan (Harvard).

Most gratuitous Bush-bash in today's NYT.

It's this letter to the editor (sent from Cambridge):
If the Boston Red Sox go on to win the World Series, the next big question will be, Will the team be welcomed to the White House like other national champions? After all, according to one of President Bush's favorite simple-minded attack lines, they're "from Massachusetts"!

Enforcing strict secularism in France.

The NYT reports:
To enforce its new law banning religious symbols from public schools, the Ministry of National Education has decided to get tough.

This week it held formal disciplinary hearings and began expelling students who violated the law. The goal was to get rid of those defined as hopeless cases before the 10-day All Saints school vacation that ends with a national holiday honoring all of Catholicism's saints.
The classic problem with secularism is the way the majority doesn't notice or care how much it accommodates itself.

Go to the link to see the photograph of the teenaged girl who is shaving her head bald so that she can stay in school. She "showed up for school in Strasbourg wearing a large beret [and was] barred from class by an administrator who called it a religious symbol." What seems to Americans to be a symbol of France, a beret, was construed by a French petty official to be an Islamic veil. Isn't the shaved head on a young girl a much more conspicuous outward demonstration of religious faith?
"They drove me crazy and tried to brainwash me so much that I got fed up and I did it - I shaved my hair off," she said. "Now I feel alone; I feel like a monster. It's like being naked on the street."
The French are pleased at how many young people they have pressured into compliance. Note that the those who will not yield are essentially forced into home schooling, because there is only one Muslim high school in France.

"Heroes for Bush."

It's a blogburst over there at The Truth Laid Bear.

October 21, 2004

Sharon Stone! Caroline Kennedy! In Madison!

Phone call of the night goes to a recorded call from a woman general (name forgotten) from some organization not officially connected to the Kerry campaign (name forgotten), inviting me to some sort of rally at the Overture Center here in Madison on Friday, October 22 at 9 a.m. The big draw is Sharon Stone and Caroline Kennedy. Is it some special event for women? Why do they assume women are hot to see Sharon Stone and Caroline Kennedy? Anyway, the Democrats are really rolling the celebrities for Kerry through Madison. Last week it was not only Michael Moore, but Leonardo di Caprio. Come on, Bush campaign: we want Schwarzenegger!

That 60s mindset.

"No More Miss America!" -- first mentioned in the previous post -- really is quite a fascinating screed, a nice window into the 1960s.
On September 7th [1968] in Atlantic City, the Annual Miss America Pageant will again crown "your ideal." But this year, reality will liberate the contest auction-block in the guise of "genyooine" de-plasticized, breathing women. Women's Liberation Groups, black women, high-school and college women, women’s peace groups, women's welfare and social-work groups, women's job-equality groups, pro-birth control and pro-abortion groups- women of every political persuasion- all are invited to join us in a day-long boardwalk-theater event, starting at 1:00 p.m. on the Boardwalk in front of Atlantic City's Convention Hall. We will protest the image of Miss America, an image that oppresses women in every area in which it purports to represent us.
Back in 1968—back before John Lennon came up with the Plastic Ono Band -- one really did worry about being "plastic." The one word everyone remembered from the 1967 film "The Graduate" was "plastics." Everyone understood why it was so ridiculous for an old man to advise a young man to enter the field of plastic. Frank Zappa was singing to us in 1967, "Plastic people! Oh, baby now, you're such a drag!" The idea that the new generation was going to permanently de-plasticize the human race felt quite real and important.

And note that back in 1968, groups that favored abortion rights went ahead and labeled themselves "pro-abortion."
There will be: Picket Lines; Guerrilla Theater; Leafleting; Lobbying Visits to the contestants urging our sisters to reject the Pageant Farce and join us; a huge Freedom Trash Can (into which we will throw bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs, and representative issues of Cosmopolitan, Ladies' Home Journal, Family Circle, etc.- bring any such woman-garbage you have around the house); we will also announce a Boycott of all those commercial products related to the Pageant, and the day will end with a Women's Liberation rally at midnight when Miss America is crowned on live television. Lots of other surprises are being planned (come and add your own!) but we do not plan heavy disruptive tactics and so do not expect a bad police scene. It should be a groovy day on the Boardwalk in the sun with our sisters. In case of arrests, however, we plan to reject all male authority and demand to be busted by policewomen only. (In Atlantic City, women cops are not permitted to make arrests -- dig that!)
So this was all back before the word "Liberation" was excised from the term "Women's Movement." It fell within that short span of time when people used the word "groovy" nonjocosely.

"Bad scene" was a trendy slang expression of the time. And if you were arrested, it was always "busted." And note: "dig that."
Male chauvinist-reactionaries on this issue had best stay away, nor are male liberals welcome in the demonstrations. But sympathetic men can donate money as well as cars and drivers.

Male reporters will be refused interviews. We reject patronizing reportage. Only newswomen will be recognized.
I tend to think that much of this, like the "demand to be busted by policewomen only," was a pretty effective way to send a message about what was very real employment discrimination at the time. I remember reading "Help Wanted—Male"/"Help Wanted—Female" classified ads at the in the newspaper, and I had an English teacher in high school who informed my class that women could not be TV or radio announcers because of their unacceptable voices.

Next comes a list of ten points of protest, including the one that appears in my previous post. I'll just call attention to a couple more:
The Consumer Con-Game. Miss America is a walking commercial for the Pageant's sponsors. Wind her up and she plugs your product on promotion tours and TV--all in an "honest, objective" endorsement. What a shill.
This really displays a sort of hippie mentality that one still finds in the wit and wisdom of Ralph Nader. What exactly was so wrong with—gasp!--products? You were supposed to already understand that was was part of what made you plastic!
Competition Rigged and Unrigged. We deplore the encouragement of an American myth that oppresses men as well as women: the win-or-you’re-worthless competitive disease. The "beauty contest" creates only one winner to be "used" and forty-nine losers who are "useless."
We know how this idea played out in the culture: let's boost everyone's "self-esteem" with games where everybody wins. I think in 1968, it really was possible to think that people, en masse, were going to "drop out" of the evil, competitive world of commerce. Maybe a nice little life of subsistence farming on a commune -- what do you say?

1968 was really happening.

UPDATE: Speaking of 1968, I was just following an Instapundit link to ReasonOnline's "Who's Getting Your Vote? Reason’s revealing presidential poll," and I ran across this, from P.J. O'Rourke:
Most embarrassing vote: A 1968 write-in for "Chairman Meow," my girlfriend’s cat. It seemed very funny at the time. As I mentioned, this was 1968.
Exactly.

Here she isn't.

On Fox News just now, there was some discussion of the supposed problem of excessively sexy broadcast TV, most notably the big hit show "Desperate Housewives." At the very end of the segment the talking head bemoaned the decision not to air "Miss America": what a sad loss of a family-friendly, cleanly show. Remember when "Miss America" was a big target for feminists? It was scarcely considered a positive image of women then. And now, after all those protests--including the one with actual bra-burning--that never got the show off the air, the show is gone for the simple reason that people weren't interested in watching it anymore. Apparently boredom is a stronger force than anger.

UPDATE: Sorry to repeat the bra-burning factoid. I do know better. There was a plan to burn bras at the 1968 protest, but, lacking a fire permit, the protesters merely threw bras in a trashcan. You can read the accurate story of the protest at this website. Also at that website is the historical text "No more Miss America!" which includes some rich prose, such as:
We protest … Miss America as Military Death Mascot. The highlight of her reign each year is a cheerleader-tour of American troops abroad--last year she went to Vietnam to pep-talk our husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends into dying and killing with a better spirit. She personifies the "unstained patriotic American womanhood our boys are fighting for." The Living Bra and the Dead Soldier. We refuse to be used as Mascots for Murder.

Yikes! That is what 1968 was like, folks.

MORE: "Living Bra" was a Playtex brand name for an ordinary bra, which you can see if you scroll down on this vintage lingerie page.

"Stolen Honor" -- "this ... deeply sad film."

NYT TV critic Alessandra Staley takes a surprisingly positive approach to "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," the controversial documentary that the Sinclair Broadcast Group has now decided to use only in the form of excerpts in a show it is now calling "A P.O.W. Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media."
This histrionic, often specious and deeply sad film does not do much more damage to Senator John Kerry's reputation than have the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's negative ads, which have flooded television markets in almost every swing state. But it does help viewers better understand the rage fueling the unhappy band of brothers who oppose Mr. Kerry's candidacy and his claim to heroism. ...

This film is payback time, a chance to punish one of the most famous antiwar activists, Mr. Kerry, the one who got credit for serving with distinction in combat, then, through the eyes of the veterans in this film, went home to discredit the men left behind.
Staley gives the web address where the full length documentary may be purchased as a videotape or pay-per-view streaming video.

The inevitability of Justice O'Connor.

Lawprof Charles Fried, in a NYT op-ed, delivers a pithy analysis of what's at stake in Supreme Court appointments:
Democrats fear a court that will embrace the constitutional rigidities of its most conservative members. Republicans fear a court that will once again seek to impose in the name of the Constitution the agenda of a liberal elite. I fear an indefinite and incoherent prolongation of a fin-de-si├Ęcle jurisprudence, where the court serves as nothing more than an ad hoc arbiter of issues it finds too difficult to decide in a principled way.
Crude translation: I'm tired of Justice O'Connor.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
But there is some force in the Supreme Court microcosm that produces a moderate center. Fried wishes one or the other of the grand visions would prevail. (Though, clearly he prefers the conservative side, about which he says: "I would call [their doctrines] liberal with a small l, the liberalism of classic individualism... not, as their opponents have caricatured them ... extreme or lacking in nuance.")

I tend to think whoever becomes President will find it difficult to appoint a Justice who will give a decisive majority vote to one side or the other. You may find this balance of extremes with a moderate center an unstable condition that must, sooner or later, give way to one or the other of the clear positions. But perhaps not. Perhaps there is something utterly stable about the current balance. Even as Justice Brennan's replacement found himself drawn into the vacated niche, so may Justice O'Connor's replacement feel compelled to play The Moderator.

UPDATE: Lawprofs Stephen Bainbridge and Jack Balkin also take on Fried. They characterize Fried as making a "simple error" in not perceiving the role Justice O'Connor plays. My reading of Fried is that his piece is all about implying that O'Connor is a big problem that needs to be solved. I'm willing to bet Bainbridge and Balkin that Fried has a sharp comprehension of the situation!

Jubilation.

I enjoyed waking up listening to "Morning Edition" covering Bostonians in a bar watching the Red Sox win the final playoff game. I'll link to the segment when it becomes available. I loved all the great curse-is-lifted lines that flowed out of the fans, like "God changed his jersey."

UPDATE: Here's the link.

October 20, 2004

Flu shots.

Dennis Miller tonight: "Thousands of people are waiting hours in lines [with] hopes of getting ... [a] flu shot. You know, folks, I've had the flu, and if there's one thing worse than getting the flu, it's being in a line with other strangers for hours. Okay? You'd rather have the flu."

Doesn't waiting around in crowds generally increase the chances of passing along all manner of infectious diseases? One benefit I'm seeing to the flu shot shortage is I don't have to listen to a lot of earnest advice that I ought to get a flu shot. I've had the flu once. And it was really bad. It's the sickest I've ever felt in my life. A huge amount of sleeping was involved. But I've only gotten a flu shot once in my life--I know this reveals something about my abject subservience to government--and that was when the President of the United States told me too. So now, the President says, don't get a flu shot, and I'm fine with that. People, just don't touch doorknobs, don't shake hands, and stay out of range of flying nasal fluids. You're going to be okay!

Dylan's "Chronicles": Chapter 5.

Finally, I got around to finishing the last chapter of Dylan's autobiography. I was blogging at the blistering pace of a chapter a day for a while. Chapter 1 is here (and here's the text of Chapter 1 on the publisher's website (via Metafilter)). Chapter 2 is here, and Chapter 3 is here. I kept up at a post a day but not a chapter a day with the first part of Chapter 4 here, and the second part of Chapter 4 here. Now, I've let four days go by, only reading a few pages a day. But this post covers all of Chapter 5.

Why Dylan liked Neil Sedaka more than other big New York songwriters: he performed his own songs. P. 227.

Dylan seems to have gotten some ideas from Harry Truman, whom his parents took him to see when he was a kid: "Truman was gray hatted, a slight figure, spoke in the same kind of nasal twang and tone like a country singer. I was mesmerized by his slow drawl and sense of seriousness and how people hung on every word he was saying." Pp. 230-231.

Dylan and guns: "As kids, we shot air guns, BB guns and the real thing--.22s--shot at tin cans, bottles or overfed rats in the town garbage dump." P. 232. He explains "rubberguns" and how the introduction of synthetic rubber ruined all the fun. Pp. 232-233.

Description of folk music: "It was life magnified." P. 236.

What Woody Guthrie's voice was like: "a stiletto." P. 244.

How Woody Guthrie writes: "like the whirlwind." P. 245.

Goal Dylan set: "to be Guthrie's greatest disciple." 246.

How the goal was thwarted: he found out Jack Elliot had already done it. P. 250.

What Dylan thought of asking John Wayne when he met him, but didn't because it "would have been crazy": "why some of his cowboy films were better than others." P. 250.

Description of Joan Baez: "Both Scot and Mex, she looked like a religious icon, like somebody you'd sacrifice yourself for and she sang in a voice straight to God ..." P. 255.

Interesting talent possessed by Noel Stookey: "He could imitate just about anything--clogged water pipes and toilets flushing, steamships and sawmills, traffic, violins and trombones. He could imitate singers imitating other singers ... [for example] Dean Martin imitating Little Richard." P. 259.

How Wavy Gravy dressed when he was still Hugh Romney: "he was the straightest looking cat you'd ever seen--always smartly dressed, usually in Brooks Brothers light gray suits." P. 259.

What Dave Van Ronk's wife Terri talked about: "highfalutin' theological ideas behind political systems. Nietzschean politics. Politics with a hanging heaviness." P. 263.

What Terri couldn't believe anyone would be stupid enough to buy: an electric can opener. P. 263.

What Dylan drank between sets in his early days in New York City: "shooters of Wild Turkey and iced Schlitz." P. 264.

How Dylan felt when he met Suze Rotolo: "The air was suddenly filled with banana leaves." P. 265.

Why Suze was just his type: "She reminded me of a libertine heroine." P. 265.

Movies Dylan went to see to try to get Suze off his mind for a while: "Atlantis, Lost Continent" and "King of Kings." P. 265.

Song name I wrote in the margin of page 266, where Dylan describes Suze's mother and sister: "Ballad in Plain D."

What Suze's mother said to Dylan: "Do me a favor, don't think when I'm around." P. 267.

Suze's age: 17.

How Dylan furnished his first apartment in NY: he borrowed tools and built furniture. He even made his own mirrors with plate glass, mercury and tin foil. P. 267-268.

What Suze taught Dylan about: artists! Pp. 268-269.

Favorite artist that seemed to express what folk music expresses: Red Grooms. P. 269-270.

Anti-fallout shelter song he wrote early on at his handmade table: "Let Me Die in My Footsteps." P. 270-272. That reminds me, obvious as it is now, when I was an adolescent in the early 60s, I couldn't understand why my parents weren't building a fallout shelter.

How people felt about Communists in northern Minnesota: "People weren't scared of them, seemed to be a big to-do over nothing." P. 271.

Kurt Weill/Bertholt Brecht song that made Dylan think of Duluth: "Pirate Jenny." P. 273-276.

Dylan's description of himself as a child in Duluth, listening to foghorns: "slight, introverted and asthma stricken." P. 274.

Dylan song I'm reminded of by his description of trying to learn a lot about songwriting from "Pirate Jenny": "When the Ship Comes In."
Singer Dylan thought was great--he was right--but couldn't get other folksingers--like Dave Van Ronk--to care about: Robert Johnson. Pp. 282-283.

Dylan's favorite politician: Barry Goldwater. P. 283.

Why: "[he] reminded me of Tom Mix."

Bob Dylan song that mentions Goldwater: "I Shall Be Free, No. 10."
Now, I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want ev'rybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy!
I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
A Bob Dylan political opinion: "I wasn't that comfortable with all the psycho polemic babble. It wasn't my particular feast of food. Even the current news made me nervous. I liked the old news better." P. 283.

Description of Robert Johnson's lyrics that shows what Dylan learned about songwriting from him: "old style lines and ... free-association ... sparkling allegories, big-ass truths wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction." P. 285.

What the second to the last paragraph of the book is devoted to: Minnesotans.

"The Motorcycle Diaries."

Chris saw "The Motorcycle Diaries." How was it?
"It was boring."

"Anything else you'd like to say?"

"It was pointless. It was just a pointless road trip. There was no character development. It wasn't even visually interesting. And the only reason people think it isn't pointless is just that it happened to be about the young version of Che Guevara."

"I could have told you that."

"Well, it got good reviews."

"Yeah, because it was reviewed by people who were impressed that it happened to be about the young version of Che Guevara."

"I think they are just trying to help out foreign movies."

"Yeah, they do overpraise foreign movies."

Intrusive phone call of the day.

The phone rings and it's a young woman with a very chipper Valley-Girl voice:
"Hi, I'm calling from the Human Rights Campaign and I would like to know if you think it's right for employers to discriminate based on sexual preference?"

"I'm not interested in answering questions like that. Sorry."

Aren't you supposed to inquire whether a person who has just answered the phone would be willing to answer some questions before you just lob one at her?

Another poll, of sorts.

I pooh-poohed using presidential halloween mask sales as an indicator of who will win the election. But in case you're wondering: Bush won.

"I love guitar. Oh, God. I mean, you know -- Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffett . . ."

That's John Kerry talking to Rolling Stone. I just don't know what to say about that juxtaposition. Many years ago--in the 1970s--I went to a concert and Jimmy Buffett was the opening act. I tried to sit it out, but I couldn't. I got up and walked out into the fluorescent-lit, concrete lobby and paced around with nothing to do. I can't remember what it was about Buffett that was so distinctly intolerable to me. The attitude? The patter? In any case, I've never listened to the man since then. (I go to his restaurant.)

Notes on Wisconsin.

Things are getting awfully tight in my little 10 electoral votes state, so maybe you readers not in Wisconsin are thinking about us and would like a few notes on Wisconsin. Here goes.

1. They've built some squat posts as a barrier to terrorists outside the sports area named after our senator who is not running for reelection.

2. Other barriers will be erected to stave off the destruction that tends to come with our usual Halloween marauders. There is special concern about the vast windowed expanses of the new Overture Center. This weekend the big show there will be the opera "Turandot," with fabulous David Hockney sets. (Pause taken to buy a ticket over the phone). A play examining the morality of nuclear weapons is playing in one of the smaller theaters at the Overture Center for the next few weeks, and the article about it in the Capital Times--which calls itself "Wisconsin's Progressive Newspaper"--doesn't mention Bush, Kerry, or Iraq. It does note that the UW physics department is collaborating with the Rep company, and the emphasis seems to be on intellectual Madison and not political Madison.

3. The Kerry-Edwards campaign brought former Senator Max Cleland to Madison yesterday to talk to a group of veterans. He told them: "[Bush] is driving more and more veterans away from the health-care system in the VA ... John Kerry has an answer: mandatory funding for the VA health-care system, and if you have a need, you get it covered." According to the linked article, this offer of full health coverage applies to 26 million persons (the number of civilian veterans in the U.S.). What's the price tag on that?

4. Something a UW-Eau Claire student said after listening to John Edwards give a speech: "I agree with everything he said ... The difference (between Bush and Cheney and Kerry and Edwards) is like night and day … Kerry and Edwards are focused on the people at home, the middle class." Thanks for reminding me of one of the reasons I'm voting for Bush. And let me link to this Christopher Hitchens article again. Remember when lefties talked about "the middle class" with a sneer? Now, apparently, they deserve all the benefits. How did that happen?

5. Why burrito-seeking students may switch to the new Moe's Southwest Grill: "When I opened the front door to Moe’s my friends and I received a warming greeting shouted in unison from the entire line of burrito chefs: 'Welcome to Moe’s!' Have you ever been personally welcomed to Qdoba or Chipotle?" Now they'll never be able to stop welcoming customers.

6. We love our football.

7. A little boy was saved from a big fire. The journalist, who lacks an eye for language, writes that the boy is "in stable condition after a barn fire."

8. A St. Norbert College poll, according to the Capital Times, shows: "So-called wedge issues such as stem-cell research, immigration and gay marriage were cited as 'very important' by only one-third or less of Wisconsin respondents, while abortion was named as 'very important' by 36 percent of voters." Is 36 percent supposed to sound like way more than one-third?

9. John Kerry said "I will be back - to the center of town" when rain moved him from the State Capitol square to an out-of-the-way arena last month, "[b]ut he, like Republican President George W. Bush, will be going where his campaign believes the undecided voters are: Green Bay, the Fox Valley, Milwaukee and the Mississippi River communities between Prairie du Chien and La Crosse." Hey, Bush campaign: send Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear at the Capitol on your behalf. He could build a nice speech around mocking Kerry's "I'll be back" and you could get some cool news coverage. [UPDATE: He's already going to Ohio, so stop over here on the way back!]

10. We have five newborn lions at the zoo here in Madison.

Infinitesimally naughty.

Martha Stewart in prison.

"He ... used an epithet for the male reproductive organ to describe Mr. Carlson."

The NYT takes on the "Daily Show"/"Crossfire" controversy. Because how could the NYT ever miss an opportunity to fawn over Jon Stewart? The angle here--by TV critic Alessandra Staley--is that "real anger" is a wondrous rarity in television. So even though "there is nothing more painful than watching a comedian turn self-righteous"--as the piece begins--Jon Stewart was just "lashing out at great smug and self-serving television-news personalities."

If Stewart was great because he displayed real anger at "smug and self-serving television-news personalities," then surely you'll also love the way Zell Miller told Chris Matthews to "get out of my face"?

Uh, no, let's see, I'll go with
: "Mr. Stewart's frankness was a cool, startling, rational version of Senator Zell Miller's loony excoriation ("Get out of my face") to Chris Matthews of MSNBC during the Republican convention." Yes, that's the ticket! Stewart is really angry but he's still cool, he's rational! And Miller's crazy!

Hah! Miller isn't crazy. Miller was just damn mad at the exasperating and rude Matthews. And Miller was way more entertaining in his display of real anger than Stewart was. I'm sorry. I'm going to have to call political bias on the NYT. I mean, look at this:
[T]he Comedy Central star mocks the entire political process, boring in tightly on the lockstep thinking and complacency of the parties and the media as well as the candidates. More than other television analysts and commentators, he and his writers put a spotlight on the inanities and bland hypocrisies that go mostly unnoticed in the average news cycle.

Mr. Stewart is very funny, but it is the vein of "a plague on both your houses" indignation that has made his show a cult favorite: many younger voters are turning to the "The Daily Show" for their news analysis, and are better served there than on much of what purports to be real news on cable.
Do you even watch this show you love so much, or are you so blinded by partisanship that you don't see that the show has become practically an arm of the Kerry campaign?

October 19, 2004

That cross-dressing reality show.

Stephen Bainbridge wants to know what Tung Yin and I think of the new reality show "She's a Lady," a cross-dressing competition for men. Prof. Yin characterizes it as a dumb makeover show. It looks as though they are trying to get some (lame) excitement out of fooling the men:
They thought they were competing for the title of "All-American Man." They couldn't have been more wrong.

This fall, eleven manly men will compete to become...the ultimate lady. And the winner will take home a quarter of a million dollars!
Thanks for informing us that the men are "manly." That reminded me of this Virginia Heffernan critique (in the NYT) of Bravo's "Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model":
When the guys, who have manly names like Tate and Blake, talk, their conversation is about how definitely not gay they are. When induced to strip to their underwear and skydive, each with a male instructor strapped to his back, they get very serious in their complaining that everyone would rather be skydiving with a girl. Got it?
So let's have a reality show about cross-dressing, but let's structure a competition to assure the home viewer that no one is gay. Having a very masculine man dress as a woman is an old comedy theme, though. The oldest example that springs to mind is Cary Grant in "I Was a Male War Bride." It was Milton Berle's game. And everyone remembers Gene Hackman in "The Birdcage." Cross-dressing actually is a field of endeavor that lends itself to humorous competition, and by using contestants who (we are assured) aren't otherwise interested in cross-dressing, the audience can stay in its comfort zone.

Another harmless TV confection. I'm not offended, really. But I certainly won't watch.

"28 Days Later."

I watched about half of the movie "28 Days Later," partly just to check out how my new widescreen HDTV looked with HDHBO. I thought the film had a great chimpanzee-filled beginning, which was followed by the title, cleverly setting up the next scene, the mystery of a naked man waking up in a hospital bed. The man yanks out various medical tubes, puts on some clothes, and begins to try to figure out what has happened to him. The hospital and the city around it (London) are deserted. This part, which I quite enjoyed, was very much like a "Twilight Zone" episode (especially the first episode, "Where is Everybody?"). After a while, the man finds some people and figures out some of what has happened and the movie becomes more of a survivalist/road trip story. It was getting late, so I turned it off. But I checked out the DVD on Amazon just now, and saw that the extra features include:
Alternative theatrical ending with optional commentary
Alternative ending with optional commentary
Radical alternative ending with optional commentary

Of course, I didn't see the original ending, so that's four endings left for me to see. And one ending is radical.

Hmmmm .... so you didn't care enough to keep watching to see one ending, and now you're thinking of spending $25 to see four endings. What's the logic in that?

It makes a lot of sense! If there is one ending, then you watch thinking the ending better be worth slogging through all the padding in the middle. But if there are four possible endings, the investment of watching the middle section pays off fourfold, and at least one ending is likely to satisfy. Plus, there's the fun of deciding which ending you prefer, arguing with others about which ending is best, and checking out the "optional commentary" to see what the director and the writer thought were the comparative pros and cons of the four endings. Ending x 8. For people who really like to experience endings. But maybe I'm only into beginnings ... as evidenced by my loss of interest when the middle section got under way.

UPDATE: Thanks to About Last Night for linking to this post. ALN liked "28 Days Later" and calls it a "flesh-eating-zombie flick." Were those zombies? As noted, I didn't stick around for the ending, but I thought they were pre-dead "infecteds." They did have the way of the zombie about them though--except that they could move quite fast.

How many ways is this not a Nirvana reunion?

Entertainment Weekly reports:
John Kerry is touting his diplomatic skills as a reason to vote for him for president; for example, he's managed to reunite the surviving members of Nirvana for their first public appearance in more than a decade. Dave Grohl announced that he and Krist Novoselic will both attend a rally on Tuesday in Las Vegas, in the parking lot of the Stardust casino, to kick off a Kerry campaign bus tour aimed at motivating college students in the last couple weeks before the election. Bassist-turned-activist Novoselic, who has a new book out, Of Grunge And Government, will speak, and Foo Fighters frontman Grohl will perform; alas, they're not expected to perform together.

Celebrity corsets.

Check out the celebrity-designed corsets. (It's an auction to benefit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.) Not that I'm bidding, but may I recommend the Julianne Moore? And note the Eve Ensler. It's really Eve Ensler-y.

UPDATE: Chris emailed me that link, by the way, which he found at The Dent, a Tori Amos news site. Tori has a corset in the show. It's bee-themed.

ADDED: Chris adds: "The corset benefit is for an organization that Tori Amos runs. Also,the bee theme is a double reference that her fans would get--one of her best B-sides is called Honey."

"Why is it it's only liberals that boo?"

Former New York mayor (and Democrat) Ed Koch asked last night on "The Daily Show," where the audience booed him when he said he was supporting Bush. Jon Stewart nicely chided the audience: "Don't make me come out there." (By the way, Stewart, who began the show explaining the big "Crossfire" incident, seems to be trying harder to make fun of both sides. Keep it up, Jon. I'll notice.)[UPDATE: He's right about "Crossfire"--the partisan yelling is horrible. I would add though that Paul Begala is at least as annoying as Tucker Carlson.]

Here's some news coverage of Koch's announcement:
"While I don't agree with Bush on a single domestic issue, they are all trumped by the issue of terrorism, where he has enunciated the Bush Doctrine and proven his ability to fight this war," said Koch. "The Democratic Party just doesn't have the stomach to go after terrorists." ...

"I saw Kerry [at the Democratic National Convention] surrounded by radical politicians like [former President Jimmy] Carter and [Sen. Ted] Kennedy. ... I know Kerry will succumb to their pressure if elected. They are with Kerry not because they like him, but because their true candidate Howard Dean couldn't get elected, and they wanted someone who they can have elected and dominate," charged Koch.

"As long as Kennedy and Robert Byrd are considered major leaders of the Democratic Party, and while we're seeing radical candidates like Howard Dean, whose radical-left supporters have been described by the press as 'Deaniacs,' the Democratic Party will be limited in its ability to serve the country well in times of crisis and war like we face now."

Well put.

UPDATE: Brian O'Connell thinks I'm being too kind to "The Daily Show." He notes--and I don't disagree--that Stewart is still far from treating both sides equally.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stewart certainly has his defenders. Look how Jim Treacher's comments went wild after he offered a sound criticism.

What will you blog about when the election is over?

I've been asked that more than once, as if this election is my lifeblood--my blogblood. But I think the best thing about blogging is starting off the day secure in the knowledge that you will blog, but not knowing what you will blog about. I like the daily discovery of what it is that I'm interested in. There's less of that when there's one ongoing matter that always pushes to the front of the line.

October 18, 2004

Need a job?

But want to live somewhere kind of cool? Did you know the unemployment rate in Madison, Wisconsin is 2.3% (the sixth lowest of the nation's largest metropolitan areas). The problem here is trying to fill all the jobs we have. Consider moving!

UPDATE: And for everyone who's emailed me to ask when I'm going to get around to blogging the last chapter of Dylan's "Chronicles," let me just say that this post made me want to quote you this Dylan quote:
Well, there's fist fights in the kitchen
They're enough to make me cry
The mailman comes in
Even he's gotta take a side
Even the butler
He's got something to prove
Then you ask why I don't live here
Honey, how come you don't move?

Vanilla Swiss Almond.

If you're looking for an easy and delicious dinner, may I recommend a pint of Vanilla Swiss Almond Haagen-Dazs?

Google ads versus Blogads.

I've had Blogads for a few weeks, and I'm really happy with the way they look. Today I added Google ads, a bit further down in the sidebar. Google has some fancy but automatic way to decide what ads to place, and I can't help but notice that I'm getting pro-Kerry ads, presumably because I mention his name so much. Maybe my epithet-free mode of expression keeps Google's sophisticated methods from detecting my dissaffection for the man, but maybe its methods just aren't that sophisticated. In any case, my new Blogad (the one with that forlorn young woman who is pining for a date from a blogging "news junkie") also seems to see me as a blog of the left. I guess they aren't reading Jeremy enough.

UPDATE: Wow! This post changed the pro-Kerry ads to pro-Bush ads. I guess Google really is brilliant!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Or maybe not so brilliant. The ads seem to change back and forth. Like a certain candidate ...

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I clicked on one of the ads myself, and it checked out as a lefty blog, but I just want to say I love the design. Really pretty! Nice name too (and I get the reference).

POSSIBLY THE FINAL UPDATE: Two days after adding Google ads, I have removed them. I think the Blogads are much better. They are much better looking, and I can reject what I don't like. Google ads pay based on click-throughs, yet Google kept giving me ads that my readers were quite unlikely to click on. So enough! I'm for Blogads.

Disrespecting the W.

The Badger Herald (one of the student papers here at UW-Madison) reports on Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising Tour," which hit the Union Terrace on Saturday night:
Wearing a red Badger hat, with the “W” in back to prevent sending mixed signals, Moore urged students to represent what he sees as the majority viewpoint in the country — liberalism.
I speculated the other day that the nonvoters he was trying to reach would probably be out celebrating the big football victory but 4,000 persons attended.

Some Bush-supporting students did show up, however. Moore reached out to them with "a profane tirade against the Bush sympathizers, blaming them for sending 'poor kids from Milwaukee' to fight in Iraq, ... [and calling them] 'pathetic assholes,' among other expletives."

UPDATE: The article in the other student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, is much nicer to Moore.

"Dream team" of lawyers.

Is it really such a good idea for a political candidate to brag about his "dream team" of lawyers when he's campaigning--especially when the candidate and his running mate are lawyers and he's taken pains on other occasion to deflect the criticism that he's too closely allied with the interests of lawyers? I realize Kerry is trying to encourage people to vote and there may be some sense that people don't vote because they don't believe their vote will be counted, but really--I am a lawyer and I cringe when someone conspicuously assembles a crowd of lawyers in advance of an event that is not itself litigation.

My take on the new gender gap.

Kausfiles writes:
[S]omething more than Security Momming would seem to be required to explain the 10 point reverse gender gap. (The poll followed a debate on domestic policy, after all.) Maybe something about how Kerry reminds women .... not of their first husband so much as of a guy who never got to be their first husband because he bored them on their first date so he never got a second one. Meanwhile, for men, Kerry actually out-machos Bush in debate if you turn off the sound (and maybe even if you don't). ...
Speaking as one person on the female side of the gap, I'll say that I've never forgotten this exchange, which occurred on September 13, 2001:
QUESTION: Could you give us a sense as to what kind of prayers you are thinking and where your heart is for yourself, as you work on that?

BUSH: Well, I don't think about myself right now. I think about the families, the children. I'm a loving guy. And I am also someone, however, who's got a job to do, and I intend to do it. And this is a terrible moment. But this country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America.
I still remember how he said "I'm a loving guy." I just came out of him--pure expression. It's insulting to women to say that we are evaluating the two men as potential husbands, but it may be that women are responding in some way to their love--that presidential sort of love that is a deep feeling of love for humanity, solidly connected to a commitment to do what one perceives as necessary. I have never heard Kerry express anything like that kind of love. Even if I don't like every component of Bush's moral core and even if I don't agree with everything Bush thought was needed and the way he went about doing what he thought was needed, I feel a strong connection to this man and what we've been through together. Seeing the two men side by side in the debate, Bush still seems to me to be the "loving guy" who did what he said he would do. Who is this Kerry who would unseat him? He looks like a cold, deliberate power-seeker to me. And if that's the feeling you have, that "daughter who is ... a lesbian" remark--along with the heartless insistence that he was actually being quite nice--is really rather repellent. It's hard to generalize, but maybe my response says something about the new polls and the new gender gap.

UPDATE: This post reminded an emailer of this news story. Quite apt.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another emailer sent in this link, also apt.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a very well put observation from one of my wonderful emailers:
John Kerry is a very measured speaker who speaks each word distinctly and leaves a space between each word in that NPR style that drives me crazy. Even after his commas, Kerry leaves a distinct gap that most people would use between paragraphs. With one exception.

When Kerry referred to Mary Cheney being a lesbian he broke his normal speaking rhythm, paused, and then said "daughter who is ... a lesbian." Without even a slight pause he then immediately rushed into the next sentence. I got the impression that he felt as if he'd managed to accomplish the dirty deed and now just wanted to get out of the cesspool he'd created.

Those scary conservative Supreme Court Justices.

Adam Cohen rants, as an "editorial observer" on the NYT editorial page, about the horrible, frightening Supreme Court that might result if Bush is reelected:
Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear.

What's that about family and medical leave?
Justices Scalia and Thomas are judicial activists, eager to use the fast-expanding federalism doctrine to strike down laws that protect people's rights. Last year, they dissented from a decision upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one. They said Congress did not have that power.
Excuse me a minute while I go into full lawprof mode. The dissenters in the Hibbs case did not say that Congress lacked the power to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act. In fact, they assume Congress has that power under the Commerce Clause. The case was only about whether Congress also had the power to subject the states to lawsuits for retrospective relief if they violate the FMLA. To be able to do this, the act had fit into the legislative power given by the Fourteenth Amendment. That is, it needed to be portrayed as a remedy for the violation of the constitutional right of Equal Protection.

The majority--in an opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist--had to stretch quite a bit to fit the FMLA into the Court's Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence. What violation of Equal Protection by the states was remedied by a family and medical leave entitlement? I've written an article on the subject, and I am quite convinced that the majority dismantled its own established doctrine as it stretched to uphold the right to sue the state in this case. Justice Kennedy--one of the moderate conservatives--certainly thought so and dissented.

UPDATE: My article is “Vanguard States, Laggard States: Federalism and Constitutional Rights,” 152 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1745 (2004). The Law Review is only up to issue 5 on their website, and my article is in issue 6, so presumably it will be up soon. If Lexis links work, this is the Lexis link.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just focused on "which guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one." A loved one? Spare me the sentimentality! The feds have mandated a leave entitlement to care for family members even if you hate them, and if they aren't in your family, there's no benefit even if that person is the love of your life (which, I note, embeds discrimination against gay persons in federal law).

Reporting from Kerry's mind.

Adam Nagourney, of the NYT, reporting--that is, political memo-ing--on the daughter-who-is-a-lesbian story:
In Mr. Kerry's mind, he was stating a well-known fact. Ms. Cheney is openly gay, and her father mentioned it at one of his rallies before the Republican convention. More significant, calling someone a lesbian in this era is hardly an insult in Mr. Kerry's mind, his advisers said.

Bush's bulge "has become what literary critics call an objective correlative."

Elisabeth Bumiller, in the NYT, gets rather intellectual about the bulge under Bush's jacket.

Draft training.

I don't know if this is going on elsewhere, but in Madison, two draft training sessions were held over the weekend. (The October 15th session, by the way, took place at what is the most architecturally significant building in Madison.) Wisconsin Public Radio had did a long piece on one of these meetings in their morning news. (No clip on their site yet.) [UPDATE: The audio clip of the story is there now.]

I was a bit disturbed that WPR stoked the opinion that the draft would come back, but its story did include a clip of Bush saying clearly that he wasn't going to have a draft, and the explanation of why some think the draft is returning was that the military was "stretched so thin" that either candidate would need to move to a draft. Still, covering the story at all would seem to help Kerry who is trying to leverage his candidacy with fear of a draft. Wisconsin is, as we all know, a battleground state, efforts are being made to encourage voting by the large numbers of students in our state, and the draft is the issue designed to scare otherwise apathetic students into voting.

What might not have been a justifiable story for WPR may have become one simply because groups were willing to hold these sessions. One of the many reasons why I think there will never be another draft (unless there is a cataclysmic war) is that resistance to the draft would make it far less effective than the alternative of vigorous recruitment (with improved pay and benefits). That resistance gets under way with an unfounded rumor is only a hint of what would be to come. On the other hand, maybe these sessions were merely held to procure media coverage for the issue, in order to affect the election. Only fifteen persons attended the meeting WPR covered.

October 17, 2004

"The Daily Show" is dropping in the ratings.

Drudge has the story that the ratings for "The Daily Show" have dropped, despite "jumbo hype from media writers and a bestselling book." I would add that the presidential campaign should also be heightening interest in the show. But it does not surprise me at all that Jon Stewart is losing some of his audience, because he has become a one-sided partisan. Not only does he miss opportunities for humor that might be had at the expense of the side he favors, but his live audience is now packed with lefty overlaughers--people who laugh uproariously at anti-Bush snipes that are hardly jokes at all. If you don't hate Bush, it really cuts into the fun.

Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time" has the same problem, along with the usual Bill Maher show problem of having celebrities talk about political subjects in ways that make you instinctively change the channel, like last night when Alanis Morissette started to rail about the situation in Iraq. In a contrast to that, I really rather liked Sean Astin on Bill O'Reilly's show the other night. O'Reilly wanted to needle Astin about celebrities doing politics when they don't really know what they're talking about, and Astin was so modest and unopinionated that O'Reilly was reduced to saying "Come on! Have at me!"

By the way, that Drudge link also includes the transcript for the notorious Stewart appearance on "Crossfire" the other day. I've watched the streaming audio of it that is available elsewhere. I think Stewart is kind of funny, but also peevish--not as nimble at turning things into fun as he used to be. He becomes a bit of a plodding scold as it goes along, and I get the impression that he has decided he needs to demonstrate how serious and important the political situation is by sacrificing comedy. But Jon, we need you to be funny. That actually is the most important thing for you. Otherwise you're just Alanis Morissette blabbing about Iraq and I'm going to have to change the channel.

UPDATE: An emailer makes some good points about the ratings:
On August 9, Stewart had Bill Clinton as a guest on the Daily Show and drew 1.9 million viewers. Later that month, he had John Kerry and got 1.5 million viewers. With only 12-16 or so new episodes a month, the disproportionately high ratings for those two episodes are more than enough to account for the entire difference between August and September.
Lots of emailers are agreeing with me that the show has gotten a lot less funny as it has gotten more partisan. Personally, I had watched ever show for years, but now watch only occasionally and often turn it off before the end. I especially dislike the sycophantic interviews.

An October drive.

I took a drive into the country today, out to Highway J, which the Law School faculty survey indicated was a good place to see the fall foliage. After the strong winds yesterday, I wasn't expecting the height of color. The music on the radio seemed to go with the winding, rollercoaster road; and I said to myself, whatever music this is, this is the kind of music I love. Later, I heard that it was the Lawrence Chamber Players--live at the Elvehjem Museum in Madison--playing Prokofiev: Quintet, op. 39. Then, as the Players took a break before playing Puccini: Crisantemi, there was an interview about a show at the Elvehjem: Xu Bing's paintings "The Glassy Surface of a Lake." An expert was talking about the importance of black ink in Chinese paintings and tolerating the interviewer's incapacity to stop calling paintings drawings. I pulled the car over and took this picture from my car window.



At first, I had my digital camera on the wrong setting, and I accidentally took two tiny movies of that view, complete with a snippet of the radio voice talking about black ink. A little further on, horses:



Then, fall foliage along with the beginnings of a new crop of Christmas trees:



I passed a yard full of metal sculpture that had this Tin Man mailbox:



Soon enough I found myself in the Wisconsin town with my favorite town name: Black Earth. Often people drive out to Black Earth just to go to the Shoe Box, which has a sign that says it's the largest shoe store in the Midwest. Inside, in addition to a lot of shoes, there are TVs showing the Packer game, fish tanks, and birdcages with noisy birds. I look at some shoes but I don't buy anything. I'm intrigued by all the stickers on the door and the shadows they cast on the doormat, so I take a lot of pictures.



I finally tear myself away from the spectacle that is the Shoe Box vestibule, and I take some pictures outside, where there is not only this lovely cow but there is also that brat sale going on over there. (It is a common occurrence in Wisconsin for retailers to enhance the shopping experience by setting up some grills outside and selling brats nice and cheap.)



When I get home and get out of my car, I look around and see new beauty in the trees in my own yard:


Shrum versus Mehlman.

Once again, neither candidate is on "Meet the Press." I suppose they just can't risk it. So I resign myself to watching Ken Mehlman (Bush's campaign manager) and Bob Shrum (Kerry's chief campaign strategist) wielding their powers, getting the message across. Tim Russert is my favorite TV news interviewer. (I also really like Chris Matthews, whose "Fox News Sunday," I may TiVo-blog later.) [UPDATE: I mean Chris Wallace! Sorry.]

Russert puts up his first graphic: all the recent polls showing Bush pulling back ahead. (This was before the devastating new Gallup poll.)

Shrum? Oh, he says just what you'd expect: there are actually other polls showing Kerry ahead, and then there are the internals. Roll out the conventional wisdom: a President can't get reelected if his approval rating is below 50%. Yawn! Of course, Shrum has to say that.

Mehlman? Well, what do you expect him to say? The polls show how much people like Bush and don't like Kerry!

Next question: what are the key issues in the campaign? Shrum reels out a bunch of things (like health care coverage) and then slows down to deliver this big shock: "this extraordinary statement in the New York Times Magazine this morning, that as soon as he's inaugurated, the President wants to rush to--and this is his word--privatize Social Security." (Interestingly enough, Joe Lockhart, on "Fox News Sunday," expressed shock at this proposal, which he portrayed as some sort of invidious secret plan.)

Shrum and Mehlman go back and forth about Social Security policy, and Shrum annoyingly tries to dominate by interrupting and talking over Mehlman, and even resorting to chanting "finish! finish! finish!" while Mehlman is trying to make his point (even though Shrum had already talked longer than Mehlman). Shrum was bright red when this discussion began and now he seems to have entirely lost his cool. He keeps banging his hands--and his giant round cufflinks--on the table. Mehlman's smiling. He's got the polls, why shouldn't he be calm and collected? Shrum speaks again, uninterrupted, then as soon as Mehlman begins his response, he's back to interrupting. One thing I love about Mehlman is that he never wastes any time saying "let me finish" and "I didn't interrupt you, now don't interrupt me"; he just gets his points in and lets Shrum look like a jackass.

Russert asks about Iraq, and here Shrum's whole response is about how Osama bin Laden attacked us and Iraq is a distraction. Mehlman, who has just emphasized the importance of seeing the Iraq conflict through to success, now takes the opportunity to say "Tim, you heard something here: it's called a pre-9/11 worldview, the notion that America should just respond when we're attacked." If Kerry cares at all about Iraq, Shrum disserved him terribly here. This is the determinative issue for me, and Shrum gave me absolutely zero.

New video clip: "We're all God's children, Bob." Yes, it's Kerry smarmily allying himself with God as he gratuitously drags the Vice President's daughter's private life into the policy debate. I'm struck, as I was when I first heard the third debate, by the way Kerry pauses and lowers his voice before he says "a lesbian" (in the sentence, "I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter ... who is ... a lesbian"). I called that "creepy" when I simulblogged the debate. Was Kerry ashamed of himself for saying it? Was he trying to make some listeners feel that being a lesbian is a bad thing, even though, of course, he wasn't saying it was? I get the feeling Kerry was deciding to go for some perceived political advantage here, even though it's not the sort of thing he would normally bring up. He doesn't even talk about his own private feelings. How weird for him to talk about someone else's sexual feelings!

Should Kerry apologize? Shrum: no ... and Kerry won all three debates. And people have attacked Kerry's war record! And Kerry wants to do something about health care!

Next clip: Cheney, asked by a citizen to say what he personally thinks of gay marriage, talks about his gay daughter. Question to Mehlman: if Cheney himself talks about his daughter's sexuality, why can't Kerry? Mehlman: it's wrong to use the Vice President's daughter to make a political point. Shrum, heated up, knocking a cufflink onto the desk repeatedly, re-asks Russert's question, then asserts that because Bush lost the debate so badly, the Republican spinners picked this bogus issue because it was all they could come up with.

Amazing how easy it was to use that one thing--quite successfully--to overshadow Kerry's big (supposed) victory in that debate, isn't it? Look at those poll numbers! Kerry used the debates to pull himself back into the running, and now the debates are over, and precious days are being lost over Kerry's foolish misstep, which his people have decided to dig in and defend as just something really kind and sympathetic that Kerry was nice enough to say. (I'm sure Mary Cheney is sitting around thinking: isn't he a lovely man for caring so much about me?)

Mehlman uses Kerry's minor misstep to paint a big picture:
Remember the famous Dean scream? The famous Dean scream was seen as relevant because it was a window into something that people thought was bigger. And I think what you saw with John Kerry, when he brought that point up in the debate: it was part of a larger pattern here, a pattern of someone who is literally willing to say anything in order to win."
Mehlman then connects the remark about Cheney's daughter to Edwards's statement that if Kerry is elected people like Christopher Reeve will walk again and Kerry's warning that Bush will bring back the draft. The point is: these people will say anything to get elected. Shrum, ever ready to interrupt, grumbles "he has to finish his prepared speech"--as if Shrum's remarks are all off the cuff. (Did I mention Shrum is wearing the largest cufflinks in the history of the world?)

A few questions later, Russert shows the clip from the debate in which Bush says "Gosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden" and then the two embarrassing clips from 2002 of Bush saying that he's "not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden. Mehlman just emphasizes the successes against al Qaeda. Shrum complains about various failures in Afghanistan--how could Bush have failed to wipe out opium!--and ends with what he thinks is a big kicker: "Bush keeps talking about the schools he's opened and the fact that women voted in Afghanistan. Well, I think that's good, but I wish the President would care about women's rights and education in this country as much as he does in Afghanistan."

Finally, Russert asks Mehlman to explain the bulge in Bush's jacket. Mehlman makes a couple jokes, and still doesn't explain it. Why don't they just explain it? Is it some kind of trick to get Bush's opponents to waste their time on something that has no significance?

All in all, an excellent confrontation. I think Mehlman clearly got the better of Shrum, in both style and substance. But maybe people who really want Kerry to win will find a way to convince themselves that Shrum and his cufflinks really mopped the floor with Mehlman.

A big game and a big windbag.

Here's the local newspaper's coverage of the big game last night, when the Badgers beat the Boilermakers. But not all Madisonians were home watching the game on TV and out celebrating afterwards. Michael Moore came to town for an 8 pm show aimed at getting out the vote--the "Slacker Uprising Tour." Great timing, Michael. I could be wrong, but I think anyone who would go to a Michael Moore show at 8 pm on the night of the big game would probably already be planning to vote. And--I'm sorry but I haven't been paying much attention to Michael Moore's logic--but what's the connection between being a slacker and wanting to vote for Kerry? Is it just that slackers don't vote, and we'd really like more people to vote? I don't believe that. I think you've got to be thinking that if only these nonvoters would vote, they'd vote for Kerry. But why, really?

Kerry's "sort of" and Bush's "you know."

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg (in the NYT) observes that John Kerry says "sort of" a lot:
Mr. Kerry's fondness for "sort of" may contribute to the perception that he's reluctant to commit himself or fearful of being held to his exact words. But it's also the mark of someone who's aware of how imperfect the fit is between words and things, and of how hard it is to do verbal justice to the corrugations of experience.
So even inarticulate verbal clutter counts for nuance now? I've known some prominent academics who've thrown "sort of" into almost every sentence. To me, "sort of" is exactly the same thing as "like." Take that educated person who is trying to impress you with the subtlety of their thinking, and translate, to yourself, every "sort of" into the teenager's "like," and you'll be even more irritated by his lazy verbal meanderings than you were before.

Nunberg notes that Bush's verbal filler is "you know." I thought Nunberg was going to say that each man's verbal tic represents his fundamental outlook on the world. Kerry has his nuanced vision, while Bush has his certainty. But Nunberg's observation about Bush's "you know" is that it either reaches out to the audience with an acknowledgement of shared knowledge or pushes the audience away by imposing on it the burden of figuring out what it is we all know.

I wish both candidates--and all public speakers--would break their dependence on verbal filler by developing the capacity to pause when they need to think a bit to get to the next useful phrase.

See, I told you we're attacked from both the left and the right!

The NYT public editor, Daniel Okrent, repeats his position, stated last week, that the NYT is not biased because it is criticized for bias from both the right and the left. The restatement of the position comes in the guise of opening his column to his critics, as he splits his column into a response from a critic on the left and a critic on the right.

UPDATE: An emailer makes very clear a point that I meant to imply:
On Okrent being attacked from the left and the right, it seems to
me that Todd Gitlin's is not an attack on the bias of the NYT but an
angry screed about them not being even tougher on Bush. He really
offers no evidence that I can see about bias, just a position that they
aren't bashing Bush as much as he would like in the way he would like.
That sounds to me like a plaint that they may be biased, but not enough.

Women in Afghanistan.

Amy Waldman, in the NYT, interviews two Afghan women who are devoted to finding ways to advance the interests of women in the aftermath of the Taliban: "The restrictions on women now come from the men in their families, some of whom seem to have internalized the Taliban's dictates, many of whom are simply following the practices of generations."