September 4, 2004

Who says "strong"?

Joe Klein on Tim Russert's CNBC show this evening:
One thing I'd like to do is check and see how many times the President used the word "strong" or "strength" in his speech ... on Thursday night. I don't think it was very many. John Kerry used it again and again and again. Only someone who, kind of, on some level thinks he's weak or thinks the public thinks he's weak is going to use the word "strong" so often.
This is a good point, but I can't understand why Klein, if he was planning to make this comment, didn't locate the text of the speeches and actually do the count. Here, I'm going to do it, over here on my little blog. Bush said "strong" twice, neither time referring to himself (the references are to the Prime Minister of Iraq and to military families). He said "strength" four times, again, never referring to himself (the references are to Americans, to his wife, to "American strength" (which should be used "to advance freedom"), and to military families). Kerry says "strong" or "stronger" 21 times, also not directly referring to himself, and "strength" five times. That took less than five minutes to figure out. Come on, Klein!

UPDATE: Typo corrected: I had "Joel" for "Joe," as an emailer pointed out. Sorry.

Kerry's late night speech.

I've been trying to capture a clip of John Kerry giving that late night speech after the convention closed on Thursday. I wrote about the NYT article about the speech and made fun of the Times's characterization of the speech as "roaring," so I really wanted to see some actually footage of the event. Why aren't we seeing it? Did he look too ridiculous? I TiVo'd hours of news analysis shows on three cable news networks on Friday, and no one had any film of it.

Anyway, I was just looking for the text of his remarks, which I didn't find, but I did find an additional quote from the speech that struck me:
"With two months to go, the choice could not be more clear," the statement continued. "A president who sides with the special interests or the Kerry-Edwards team who will put middle-class families first."

When and why did we start assuming that government should "put middle-class families first"? Why not children? Why not lower class people who would like to make it into the middle class? Or is "put middle-class families first" now what politicians say to oppose those they accuse of putting the "wealthiest Americans" first when they are afraid of making of voters worry that tax money will be channeled to the underprivileged? (And it's always "families" now. Has anyone ever heard a politician offer to lift a finger for single people?)

UPDATE: There is streaming video of the event at the C-Span website. So now I've watched it. Kerry seems looser than usual, grinning happily in the beginning. Words here and there are dropped and some words are garbled. At least twice he says "our guntry" for "our country," and he says "I dink" for "I think," and "attack" for "the fact." He refers to "the sunset goin' down"--not to be confused with the sunset goin' up. It's late at night and he may be quite tired. But it's not especially embarrassing. It's not that exciting either. It's a long speech that is basically the stump speech, punched up a few times with references to the Republican Convention. These references are what the press has excerpted and printed in the articles. There's a large banner behind him that reads "A Stronger America Begins at Home." A tad isolationist for my taste. He calls this "the most important election of a lifetime," which of course it is for him, but I'm tired of hearing that assertion. There are plenty of important elections, and it's a distortion to assume the one closest to you is so much bigger than the ones farther away.

The event begins and ends with the blaring of Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender": "Well, we busted out of class, had to get away from those fools/We learned more from a three minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school." Is there a more anti-education song this side of "School's Out" and "Another Brick in the Wall"? I guess he doesn't want to be the Education President. And why would you blast the lyric "had to get away from those fools" just as the two candidates are walking out on stage? Anyway, here's a quiz that made me think up:



ANOTHER UPDATE: The Sunday NYT has a funny collection of old quotes making the "most important election" assertion. The truest quote comes from George W. Bush. Asked by Larry King whether this is "the most important election ever," Bush said "For me it is."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The correct answer to the poll is discussed here.

How to film a remake: more character development ... for King Kong.

So you're remaking "King Kong," and you're Peter Jackson. Why remake a classic? Others might say, because of the computerized special effects now available. Jackson's idea is more character development, especially for Kong:
"He's a very old gorilla and he's never felt a single bit of empathy for another living creature," Jackson said.

So a lot of thought has gone into exploring what would happen if there were a relationship between an old, brutalized gorilla and a young woman.

"You introduce this other person into his life which initially he thinks he's going to kill and then he slowly moves away from that and it comes full circle," he said. "That's what we're exploring and its really fun to go into that psychological depth with it."

Who knew Kong was old? So his interest in the girl is of the dirty old man variety. These Hollywood movies: they always put an older male with a much younger female. Or is Jackson going to de-sexualize the story? Maybe a war and peace allegory? Kong is the victim of empire, driven to terrorism. The girl, Ann Darrow, then somehow affects him so that he throws off his terrorist ways (and falls from a tall NYC building). But what is Ann in this War on Terror allegory? The U.N.?

UPDATE: Can you imagine how different the history of the United Nations would have to have been before it would work to have a remake of King Kong in which the building he falls from is the U.N.?

"Barking mad."

I've been trying to chase down the "barking mad" meme. Wonkette has a post a couple days ago about Googling "Zell Miller" and "barking mad": only 16 hits at the time, but it was still early. It's up to 74 now. But it's not just a reaction to Zell Miller. On "The Daily Show" in mid-August, Maureen Dowd called Dick Cheney "barking mad." Since then, I've been noticing the phrase, which I think is funny, because I have a literal mind, and I picture the person actually barking. There's a great section of Spalding Gray's "Monster in a Box" where he describes going a bit mad and literally barking. But it seems to have become the standard way to call someone crazy. When did that happen? I used Nexis to try to trace the meme down, but unfortunately I was using a newsgroup file that included British and Australian newspapers. I could barely see the American examples! Clearly, the phrase has a British origin. But why the sudden outbreak here? And it's not just that people have gotten crazier lately, so don't try to sidetrack me. I know everyone likes to call people crazy in this election season, especially since "he's crazy" worked to down the most promising of the Democratic candidates in the primaries. Maybe it will work again: Cheney's crazy! Bush is crazy! Wolfowitz! And they're not just crazy, they're barking mad!
I'm going with the suspicion that Maureen Dowd is the American infection point. (Email me if you have another suspect.) Here's the Google result for "barking mad" and "Maureen Dowd." 213 results. I see she made a big impression a year ago, after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger. She wrote:
The dissent is a clinical study of a man [Clarence Thomas] who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received. It's poignant, really. It drives him crazy that people think he is where he is because of his race, but he is where he is because of his race. Other justices rely on clerks and legal footnotes to help with their opinions; Thomas relies on his id, turning an opinion on race into a therapeutic outburst. In his dissent, he snidely dismisses the University of Michigan Law School's desire to see minority faces in the mix as "racial aesthetics," giving the effort to balance bigotry in society the moral weight of a Benetton ad. The phrase "racial aesthetics" would be more appropriately applied to President George W. Bush's nominating convention in Philadelphia, when the Republicans put on a minstrel show for the white fat cats in the audience.
Ah! But the Maureen Dowd "barking mad" infection point could be traced even farther back, as a Nexis search revealed. I found an October 14, 1999, piece in The San Francisco Chronicle interviewing the writer Edmund Morris (author of the Reagan biography "Dutch") about what he thought about Dowd calling him "barking mad." (He said "Like all barking mad people, I feel perfectly normal.")

Well, I don't claim to have solved the mystery of the "barking mad" meme. My sketchy research leads me to think Dowd has only labeled three persons "barking mad": Morris, Thomas, and Cheney. And she's already dealt with Zell Miller's speech, and she did not call him "barking mad" or even "mad." She said:
Zell Miller, playing Cotton Mather behind the cross-like lectern, made Mr. Cheney seem rational, with a maniacal litany of weapons he said Mr. Kerry had opposed that can destroy any mud hut in any third world country: B-1 and B-2 bombers, F-14A Tomcats, F-15 Eagles, Patriot and Trident missiles, and Aegis cruisers.
She did imply Miller was way beyond "barking mad" though, if he made the "barking mad" Dick Cheney seem rational. I guess Miller was so crazy, in her view, that one cannot speak directly of that craziness but can only indirectly approach the topic with a comparison to another person already established--in Dowdworld--as "barking mad."

And speaking of memes, is it Dowd who got the lectern-looked-like-a-cross meme going? "The Daily Show" used it later the same day. No, here's an earlier reference (in the NYT). I wrote about the lectern on the second day of the Convention, and, though I said it reminded me of a pulpit, I didn't see the cross. But clearly we can't blame Dowd or the NYT for setting off the observation that the lectern looked like a cross. How do I know? Because a Google search using the word "lectern" produced 409 hits, and a Google search trying the misnomer "podium" produced 7,350 hits.

First sign that it's a football Saturday.

I don't go to football games, and I don't keep track of the Badgers' schedule, but I do live about five blocks from the stadium. I'm sitting at my dining room table, next to open windows that look out on my quiet street in University Heights. Rarely does a car even drive down my street, because it's a very slow route: there are stop signs at each end of the block, and it's a two-way street that is so narrow one car has to pull over to let another car pass. So I hear the footsteps and the quiet conversation of anyone who walks by. And they all look in at me. They aren't nosy. People just can't help it. The window is close to the sidewalk, because the front yards are very small in this old neighborhood, in the style that was considered suburban in the early part of the twentieth century. I hear the shuffling footsteps of a slightly large group of pedestrians--maybe six. I look over. I see red and white clothing. Okay, it's a football day. Over the course of the next few hours, the pedestrian traffic will increase, the people will be wearing a lot of red and white, and every parking space on my street will be taken. If I wanted to make fifty dollars, I could repark my car on the street, and let people park up my long driveway. My kids used to do that years ago. Good luck to the Badgers and to all Badger fans. If I hear a cheer drifting over from the stadium, I will feel a mild half-second of pleasure.

UPDATE: This surprised me:
Today, the entire season is already sold out and the Badgers will draw over 81,000 for their 2004 opener against the University of Central Florida. This will mark the 70th consecutive crowd of at least 70,000.

I really had no idea that many people were converging on my neighborhood.

From "gauzy-sounding talk" to "slashing indictment."

The NYT continues its effort to cheer up Kerry supporters. Today's front page piece by David M. Halbfinger tells us that John Kerry has issued "a slashing indictment of President Bush's record on jobs and health care, saying he had misled the United States into war in Iraq and left a trail of broken promises and worsened problems at home." Yes, that indictment really slashes.
Mr. Kerry has for the most part avoided harsh political attacks on the president, instead emphasizing his expansive plans and offering gauzy-sounding talk of sunrises and grabbing onto dreams. But he returned to the offensive after his character, voting history and even his patriotism were questioned by Republicans in New York this week, and after Democrats faulted him for a hesitant, halting response last month to televised attacks on his military record.
You know how gauze sounds, don't you? In fact, some folks would rather listen to "a thin, loosely woven surgical dressing" than the Senator's drone. But don't worry, he's got a whole new approach. He wasn't actually on the offensive before, because he's too big a man to attack the President just as a way of campaigning to defeat him. But now that Bush has dared to question him, now he's going to fight. Isn't it great that the NYT doesn't clutter its print with too many quotatation marks, such as around "even his patriotism"? You all know the Republican Convention was an outrageous, low, unfair, personal attack on Kerry's character and patriotism, don't you?
Criticizing the Republican convention as bitter and insulting one moment, then calling Mr. Bush dishonest the next, Mr. Kerry attacked against what he called his rivals' distortions and said the president's address Thursday made clear he "will literally say anything and do anything in order to try to get re-elected" - a line stolen from Mr. Bush, who used it regularly against Al Gore.
Bush absurdly misused the word "literally"?

Unlike bloggers, by the way, the NYT has editors, who polish the writing on every page, but especially make the front page perfect. For example, they won't let a sloppy writer get away with saying "Kerry attacked what he called his rival's distortions" It will be "Kerry attacked against what he called his rivals' distortions," because you need to establish that he didn't "attack for," he "attacked against." Every misplaced apostrophe will be moved to its proper position.
Mr. Kerry was upbeat and feisty on the attack, even noting "this lonely voice over here" of a Bush supporter on the periphery of his rally. When his supporters yelled, "Two more months!" at the man, Mr. Kerry did their barb one better.

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste, ladies and gentlemen," he said, laughing.
Stop, you're literally killing me with these upbeat, feisty barbs!

September 3, 2004

"Every Picture Tells a Story."

I don't know what got into me, but I'm listening to my vinyl LP of "Every Picture Tells a Story" tonight. "Night time is only the other side of day time."

I think there are a lot of people who first heard "Amazing Grace" here.

The "therefore" symbol.

Have you ever stopped to think about how different everything would be if the "therefore" symbol (a triangle of three dots) were one of the standard symbols on a keyboard like % or # or @? I think we would be more rational, and "the world would be a better place," as Jackie DeShannon once sang ... not about the "therefore" sign, or rational analysis, but ... Jackie DeShannon is a wonderful artist, so when she crosses my thoughts, even to take them astray, I feel like giving her some credit.

UPDATE: Tony Rickey emails html instructions, so let me try:
&there4

But that doesn't satisfy me, because it's still easier to write the word out. And I'm interested in how the long-ago choice of which symbols to put on the number keys has shaped our world. Many years ago, I used to wonder why @ was chosen. Obviously, it was not on the level of & or $ or * as a useful symbol. But then email addresses were created and @ earned its place. But if, instead of @, long ago the choice had been made for &there4 , who can know how things would have turned out?

"Kerry has been given a little favor."

On Fox News this evening a panel of commentators was asked about the supposed problem of Clinton's surgery and Hurricane Frances overshadowing Kerry's attempt to fight back after the Republican Convention. I was struck by Morton Kondrake's response:
I actually think that Kerry has been given a little favor, because ... what Kerry said today diminishes him, actually. His response to this soaring speech ... of President Bush's was a petty, small response, talking about Dick Cheney's draft deferments and how his patriotism had been questioned, which his patriotism had not been questioned. You know, Zell Miller delivered some low blows, but they weren't questioning his patriotism. And for him to start out, out of the box, resuming the campaign, with that as the lead story, I think, would have undercut him. So, he's probably lucky ..."

The interviewer, Brian Wilson--he's good, sitting in for Brit Hume--posited that John Kerry's people were just "crazed" by the Clinton surgery development.

UPDATE: At the end of the interview, Brian Wilson asks the panel which speaker helped Bush the most. Was it Miller? Schwarzenegger? Giuliani? McCain? Everyone on the panel says it was Bush himself. Interesting point not mentioned: the poll they were discussing, which showed Bush with an 11 point lead, was completed before Bush gave his speech.

Coronary bypass surgery.

Instapundit mentions that his grandfather died from complications of early coronary bypass surgery. My grandfather had one of the earliest bypass operations, in, I believe, 1954, and he lived another 15 years as a result. He was fortunate to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan where the surgery was being developed. I'm sorry I don't know the specific history of the development of the surgery. But I remember that my Grandpa Beatty died in 1969, and that the family always said he lived 15 more years because of the new surgery. I remember being a little kid--I would have been 3 in 1954--and seeing my mother prepare to fly to Ann Arbor to see her father, having been told "If you want to see your father alive again," you must come immediately. That said, both of my own parents died in Florida, where, I believe, inferior medical care deprived them of many years of life. In fact, I believe medical malpractice caused both of their deaths. And let me add that no lawsuits were possible. Suffice it to say, I don't cheer when arguments about "frivolous lawsuits" are bandied about. It would be pleasant to believe that there are too many medical malpractice lawsuits, as our President does, but highly disturbing to find out that there are too few. From my personal experience, I feel there are far too few. That said, I also think it is very hard to be a doctor, and mistakes are part of what happens. I am thankful good people go into medicine, even though they will go on to carry the burden of seeing their own mistakes grievously injure people. But there are also people who are not so good, who lay their hands upon human bodies every day. It is easier to whine about lawyers than to think about them.

UPDATE: Regular readers know that I voted for John Edwards in the Democratic primary. This post contains some of the reason why I respect him.

Two things about the Clinton bypass story.

1. It's 8 Central Time, and Salon is still running the retracted story that a Bush crowd booed when the President asked that people pray for Clinton. Drudge has been reporting all afternoon that the booing story was retracted. Instapundit is linking to this. My question: Was the false report an anti-Bush dirty trick or an honest mishearing of the soundtrack? I've heard the clip a few times on radio and on TV, and there is a confusing sound in the beginning of the crowd reaction that might be people saying "no" or something, but there is a positive crowd sound after that and certainly nothing to justify tarring Bush for failing to chide the crowd. It is such an easy dirty trick to go to the rallies of the candidate you don't like and act like a jackass in one way or another.

2. Do you think it's in bad taste to cover the Clinton surgery story in terms of the effect on the Kerry campaign? Two points I've heard more than once on TV tonight: Clinton won't be able to campaign for Kerry and the Clinton story today is messing up Kerry's chance to respond to the Republican convention. New spin potential: Kerry's lackluster campaign is Clinton's fault. Or, what the hell, why not Kerry's poor campaign is the fault of the fast food industry that put Clinton in his current condition? (And I'm hearing similar commentary about the hurricane: everything that happens can be characterized as depriving Kerry of the opportunity to have his message heard, because anything in the news is keeping Kerry from finally getting his chance to speak to us.)

UPDATE: I'm ashamed of myself for thinking about such things, but I wonder if the Kerry and Bush campaign people are brainstorming about how Clinton's death would affect the campaign. Are the Kerry people speculating that a Clinton death would create warm feelings that would radiate onto Kerry and weighing that against the negatives: that a Clinton death would absorb an immense amount of attention and lead to the replaying of Clinton's best moments that would be so obviously more attractive than Kerry? Are the Bush people running through their own version of the analysis? Are they planning ways to revive the Reagan death story and thinking about the beautiful role the current President would play in any Presidential funeral? Sorry. I love Bill Clinton and want the best for him. When Bush said pray for him, I contemplated praying for him. When Kerry said yell for him, I contemplated yelling for him. Good luck to dear, sweet Bill and to everybody, everywhere with a heart problem or any medical problem of any kind.

For Democrats looking for ways to spin the devastating Time poll.

I emailed the link to the Time poll to my son, John Cohen, and he wrote back what seemed to me to be a fine effort at putting the best face on it. So, with his permission, here it is:
Clearly Bush has a really good trajectory. Remember that in 2000 Nader got surprisingly few votes. There might be a lot of people defecting from Nader to Kerry at the last minute out of pragmatism. Nader has 3%; assuming (arbitrarily) that two-thirds of Nader voters will end up defecting to Kerry, then we should consider Kerry to be at 43% right now instead of 41, which would mean we should consider the split among likely voters (which is the headline of the story) to be Bush 51 / Kerry 43. The margin of error is 4%, so that's a statistical tie. (Even if you don't buy my calculation about Nader voters, it's still CLOSE to a statistical tie.) So I would consider this one poll obviously a great sign for Bush, but it's not proof that Bush is in the lead. Bush can only be considered to have a strong lead if other polls corroborate this one.

He adds:
The poll was done from Aug 31 to Sept 2. It will be interesting to see what the numbers are like after the convention. As I've said before, considering that Kerry got almost no bounce from the convention, I think it will be terrible news for Kerry if Bush gets a significant bounce out of his convention, since people's views of Bush are more solidified. If Bush doesn't get much of a bounce out of his convention, then you could say that both conventions were ineffective for reasons unrelated to the specific candidates or parties (the country is polarized, the conventions got relatively little coverage, etc.).

Yes, when Kerry got no bounce, the spin was: conventions don't really produce bounce anymore. So what can you say now? I predict: the Republicans did very bad things at the convention and thereby unfairly obtained the bounce that they got; if they had conducted an honorable convention, like the Democrats, there would have been no bounce.

UPDATE: An emailer observes:
I wanted to note this:  a 51/43 split with a margin of error of +-4 is not a statistical tie.  It does indicate that there is the possibility that there is a statistical tie in the actual populace, but there is no reason to think that the likelihood of this possibility is any different from the likelihood of a 55/39 split in the actual populace (which would render Kerry about as significant as I am in the coming election).  Moreover, neither of those extreme possibilities is as likely as a 51/43 split in the actual populace.  Similarly, rolling a sum of 2 on two dice is as likely as rolling a sum of 12 is, but neither is as likely as 7.  Obviously, the dice rolling is not correlated in the same way that the polling is, and while this correlation does support your son's comment, it does so only weakly.

I agree, definitely. But what I like about my son's comment is that it's amusingly in the vein of what would Susan Estrich say if she had to figure out something positive to say. I'll see if John comes back Estrichishly and re-spins.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If you want to shore up your knowledge of what "margin of error means," go here. And Matthew Yglesias argues about that here. I don't think you really need to invest a lot of time in studying all that, but if you're bummed out about the poll, it might cheer you up. Especially the first link. I'm pretty sure John is literally correct about the meaning of the term "statistical tie." At the same time, the emailer is right about likelihood of different results. But if you were trying to spin the bad news, you would avoid pointing that out. Indeed, I think Yglesias, who supports Kerry, was saying what he was saying because he was enjoying polls that showed Kerry ahead and he didn't want his pleasure spoiled by people wielding the "statistical tie" concept.

Finally getting around to TiVo-blogging last night's convention.

I wasn't really properly simulblogging the Convention last night, and I'm told that I had my priorities straight. Yikes! Going over to Vodkapundit for that last link, I saw this new poll information. Wow! That's distracting me from my plan to watch the TiVo'd night 4 of the Convention. An 11 point lead for Bush now! "57% trust Bush to handle the war on terrorism, while 36% trust Kerry." I'm surprised but also not that surprised. I predicted a landslide for Bush a long time ago. Well, let me nevertheless record a few observations about last night.

1. I was a total sucker for the film about the Bush twins. Showing the home movies is a little exploitative, but they are so damn cute! I like that one of things they love about their dad is that he didn't come around to politics until fairly late in life. That is usually held against him--proof he's a lightweight. But I like the other side of the argument: the best person to trust with power is someone whose psychological makeup does not contain a needy urge toward power. Kerry, of course, is usually portrayed in a positive light for rising into the limelight of leadership early in life, but obviously there is a negative way to portray that history.

2. After all the bad music, they have a really great singer doing "Dancing in the Streets," but the camera can only show her from a distance. She's standing down with the band and is not identified.

3. Seeing the arrival of President Bush's motorcade, I stop and think how good it has been that both conventions (and the Olympics) took place without a terrorist attack.

4. Now Donnie McClure is singing, along with a bunch of really cute kids. He's great!

5. Pataki gives a decent speech. Somebody seems to have coached him in how to use that passionate whipering effect like a cornball actor. Did he say "With supreme guts and rightness"? That's a rather awkward turn of phrase.

6. The short film. The in-person narration--by the sublimely resonant and folksy-sounding voice of Fred Thompson--is very effective. The framework of the film is a series of vignettes about Bush and another man : Bush and the firefighter (he put his arm around him as he did the megaphone speech); Bush and the dead police officer whose badge was given him (and whose mother remains Bush's friend), Bush's invitation of a man who'd lost his leg in the war (the two "ran the track three times, three laps on the White House lawn, and then they just hung out for a while"); Bush and Derek Jeter (Jeter goads him into pitching from the mound, and Bush took up the challenge, not mentioning that he was wearing a heavy bulletproof vest and could "hardly move his arms"). These vignettes convey the message that Bush is a man that admirable, manly men relate to in a very natural way. Bush comes across as modest, compassionate, and manly.

7. After the film two flag panels move across the stage from opposite sides, and after they overlap and pass by each other, Bush is there standing in the center. It looked like a magic trick. Kind of comical.

8. The speech itself is quite good. He is forceful and clear and with almost no flubs--and no embarrassingly funny flubs. Nothing makes me laugh out loud, like Kerry's "senators and menators." That still makes me laugh.

Bush has lots of specific details, making it seem as though he has a well-thought-out plan. Biggest applause line (it seemed to me): "We must make a place for the unborn child." A couple complaints about too many lawsuits. The amendment banning gay marriage is characterized as protecting marriage "from activist judges."

A woman protester is dragged out kicking--we see Bush's face: he winks. I love that calm, subtle confidence, like the time during the debate with Gore, when Gore was weirdly invading his space and he turned to Gore and gave a little friendly-style nod.

His main theme, woven through the domestic and foreign policy: freedom. "Free" or "freedom" appears 23 times in the speech. [And "liberty" appears 11 times.]

I liked this line:
So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear. We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.

That contains a subtle slap at Kerry, who is attacked for playing a leading role in depriving Vietnam vets of honor when they returned home. I cannot help but think of the Swift Boat Vets criticisms of Kerry, though Bush says nothing against Kerry's war record. The implication seems plain: if Kerry is President, somehow he will arrange things so that Iraq war vets will come home, after all of that effort, and be seen as the bad guys. Bush never says anything like that. But enough was said to make me think that, and I don't believe I'm alone. This passage, somewhat later, made a similar impression:
I've met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. 

Where does that strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost.

Funniest line: "Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'"

9. Minimal balloonage. I think the idea was let's not show off that we can do balloons so much better than they can. Confetti! Upward shooting streamers: the crowd loves them. Bush pays a lot of attention to how Laura feels, I think. It's a big moment, and they all know they really only have to make this look right, and maybe pretending to care about whether she feels okay is part of making it look right, and maybe I'm a chump, but I think he really cares.

The Kerry that roared.

The New York Times begins a news article about a Kerry speech this way:
Roaring back at his Republican rivals, Senator John Kerry called President Bush "unfit to lead this country" for "misleading'' America into war in Iraq and said Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney avoided fighting in the Vietnam War.
I didn't hear it. I'm just reading it. But I don't know what it would have been about Kerry's speech that would have constituted "roaring"--aside from the Times's dear wish that Kerry would turn into a lion-like fighter. I suppose it took some courage to bring himself to say the word "unfit," so searingly used against him in recent weeks. But what is this roar? It's this:
"For the past week, they have attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief ... Well, here is my answer to them ... I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could've and who misled America into Iraq."
So, your big answer, after all of these attacks, is that you somehow "will not have" any questions. I simply will not have it. You hear that? He does not want to be questioned. He went to Vietnam, and therefore, he simply will not have any questions about whether he has the qualifications to be President. Come on, that's a roar, isn't it?

And by the way, any man who didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam who was of age at the time--all you Baby Boomer men who had student deferments or even if you served in the National Guard, I mean were in the National Guard--you were all refusing to serve.

Give 'em Zell.

I was going to write a post about how a lot of people commenting on Zell Miller's speech the other night took advantage of the Zell/Hell rhyme to go for some easily within reach wordplay, but the first example I found was Jonah Goldberg commenting on how everyone was doing Zell wordplay:
First off, as a journalist, let me take the time to do what no other pundit has been willing to do: thank Georgia Senator Zell Miller for being named Zell. It’s been a long time since a politician offered such euphoria over euphony in political commentary. From the conservatives I’ve already heard “Give ’em Zell!” and “Zell it like it is!” and “Zelling it Old School!,” and from the other side of the aisle we’ve had “Zellotry” and “Zell-out.” Who the Zell knows what else is coming down the pike — Zello-Dolly?

September 2, 2004

Day 4 of the Republican Convention.

I see that Instapundit advance-linked me, before heading off to a poker game. Yet here I am at Nina's, consuming a glorious gourmet meal, eating the last of the chocolate torte with the cassis creme anglaise, with a glass of cognac. We've put the Bush speech on. There's a little postage-stamp-sized TV on the counter and now we're all blogging. No one is throwing things at the screen. Occasionally, I put in a good word. Nina is saying "Come on, oh, come on!" Anyway, here are some pictures from earlier in the evening. I'll try to get it together to say something more apt about the President's speech later, but my general sense of the speech, overhearing it through a cognac-haze is that he's saying the things he always says with the speech mannerisms he always has.











I've got to say, getting those pictures up, under the influence of the cognac, has been really really hard. I hope you appreciate the look of this dinner party and forgive me for not minutely dissecting the speech. I will need to do that later. Ah! There is our President and Our First Lady all in orange-red. Now, let's just sleep on all of this speech-making, and wake up tomorrow and begin to take the details of all of these arguments seriously.

UPDATE: "There is our President and Our First Lady ..." That was not a subtle allusion to "Is our children learning." That was just me, blogging under the influence! And what's with the religiously tinged "Our First Lady"? What does that mean? I have no idea at all. Anyway, here's how I looked as I was making these mistakes:



That's from Tonya, whose account of the dinner can be found here. She's got a closeup of the torte and pictures of Jeremy and Nina looking surprised. I forget why. Jeremy has the most dinner coverage, the only real play by play. Good comments section too. Nina, because she did all the cooking--she love to cook! she wanted it this way!--was restricted to after-blogging. And there's another picture of me there too.

The first day of school, the last night of the convention.

Today was the first day of law school, and I had my first "Religion and the Constitution" class. It seems like a lively group. After some preliminaries, we had a nice discussion about a 19th century case that refused to find a religious exception to a ban on polygamy. That class, like my other class, Civil Procedure II, meets at 11 am and runs for an hour, so I'm looking forward to the consistent rhythm through the week. Today, it was a bit hard because we had a long faculty meeting that began at 12, and I had not planned ahead and packed a lunch. So my usual antsiness at long meetings was exacerbated by hunger. But today is a good day for hunger, because Nina is cooking dinner for Tonya, Jeremy, and me. And it is the last night of the Convention I've been simulblogging all week. So unless some frightful breach of dinner party etiquette occurs, my convention blogging will get a later-than-usual start. I probably won't comment on the early evening doings, such as how they performed the National Anthem and what the cleric giving the invocation was wearing. But I'll have my TiVo'd convention to review and I intend to stop back here later and hit the high points or say whatever I happen to think. Now it's time to hop in the car, stop at Steve's to buy some cognac, and make my way over to Nina's.

UPDATE: Okay, live from Nina's, let the record show, Jeremy and Tonya got their computers out before I did. Nina's doing all the cooking, so she's not blogging. Outrageous! I can believe Jeremy is blogging this, but Tonya? Tonya! She's the one who called us on what a breach of etiquette it would be if people blogged at a dinner party. Ah! I took some pictures of Nina rattling the pots and pans. She fried sage leaves in olive oil and they came out like sweet potato chips or some such un-Atkinsy snack, but they're totally Atkins-compliant. Other things that are not so Atkins-compliant include gougere. And now, haricots verts. Nina's a master chef of some kind and now she's ordering us to put away the computers. She's got another course coming. It's tomato, basil, etc. risotto.

What is a "personal" attack?

I see there is a lot of fallout from the Zell Miller speech last night. And "fallout" is an especially good image if you take Chris Matthews seriously ("[I]t‘s as if somebody dropped the atom bomb on the Democratic Party"). Unfortunately, I missed the big fight between Miller and Matthews last night. So I read the transcript (previous link), and I'm not going to call the shots there except to say that I think Miller really did mishear Matthews at a key point. [ADDED: Since I'm about to get picky about language usage, let me point out that "call the shots" is the wrong expression there! I mean I'm not going to dissect it.] What I want to talk about is the "personal attack" meme. First, Tim Russert says:
[T]he question is, will Zell Miller‘s comments attract the so-called Bubba vote that Democrats, Republicans call it down South, particularly in north Florida, or will it turn off swing, independent voters or proportionally women who don‘t like negative attacks, because it was very, very personal?
(I love the way he sees us all as Bubbas or faint-hearted females or some such thing, reacting only to the tone of things.) Russert's "personal attack" meme infects Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, who repeat it several times. At one point, Matthews says:
That attack about Ted Kennedy and John Kerry was personal. Nobody is going to step back and say it wasn‘t. The idea that this guy is going to shoot spitballs in defense of country that he risked his life to defend some years ago is a personal attack on the guy. This is serious business. I want to ask everybody, did Democrats make a mistake in not shooting at their opponents?
Okay, I just want to step back and say it wasn't personal. Aggressively pointing to the deficiencies in a politician's political record is a political attack, not a personal attack. A personal attack aims at the candidate's personal or family life or addresses some more intimate matter outside of his political actions. Miller certainly attacked Kerry last night, and it was powerful and harsh, but it was not about personal matters. It was effective precisely because it pointed to and characterized the candidate's political record. You can complain that it was exaggerated, that it was incorrect or slanted, but it wasn't personal. It was political! There actually is a difference!

Now I'm sure plenty of people will tell me that "personal" ought to include anything that specifies an individual person. That would fit with one dictionary definition of the word. But why should we have a problem with a political argument that specifies an individual when that individual is the candidate? He's the candidate; we're allowed to single him out! So the attack wasn't personal in any way that is illegitimate in a political battle. I think the reason the attack was called personal is that it would be lame to admit the real complaint: the attack was strong. The Kerry campaign and the various people who support it, like Matthews, spend a lot of time expressing outrage that their opponents are fighting hard. But it is a political fight. Fight back! Don't whine that it's somehow unfair for Miller to point to your record. Defend your record. Presumably, you've got arguments. If you don't, you deserve to lose.

A NYT headline to disapprove of.

Here's the main point of this article about the police in NY this week:
[I]t appears that the New York Police Department may have successfully redefined the post-Seattle era, by showing that protest tactics designed to create chaos and to attract the world's attention can be effectively countered with intense planning and a well-disciplined use of force.

It sounds to me as though the police deserve lavish praise for their work. So what's with the headline?
Tactics by Police Mute the Protesters, and Their Messages

It sounds as though the police set out to squelch free speech. And who knows what those tactics were?

Who's got the nuance?

The NYT editorial page approves of President Bush's acknowledgement of the complexity in the idea of "winning the war on terror":
President Bush was absolutely right when he said it was impossible to win a war against terrorism - it's like announcing we can win a war against violence. Terrorism can only be minimized and controlled ... The president has been honest about saying we will never be totally safe. ..."

Of course, the editorial is full of criticisms too, but that's not my point here, so I've elided them. The Times and its columnists usually slam Bush for the "lack of nuance" in his thinking. He thinks he knows the right answer and then he doggedly sticks to it. And that's bad. Kerry, on the other hand, has all the nuance and complexity, we're told. He sees all sides. And that's good.

But what is this?
"I absolutely disagree with what he said in that interview in a moment of candor," Mr. Kerry said here at the American Legion's national convention a day after Mr. Bush, before the same audience, retreated from a televised comment in which he said he did not think the United States could win the war on terror.

"With the right policies, this is a war we can win, this is a war we must win, and this is a war we will win," Mr. Kerry said. "The terrorists will lose and we will win, because the future does not belong to fear, it belongs to freedom."

When Kerry sees an opportunity to make some headway against Bush, where's the nuance? He claims to be the one who can get to the "right" answer, he predicts the future, and he predicts victory. Well, the whole "nuance" theme of this election has long seemed phony to me. It's a buzzword thought up to knock down Bush and excuse Kerry's record of taking multiple positions. But Kerry doesn't even seem to want to be Mr. Nuance. So can we please stop saying "nuance"?

Medical news from Madison.

The front page of the Wisconsin State Journal reports: "UW-Madison researchers think they've found a protein that could stop Alzheimer's disease in its tracks."

September 1, 2004

Day 3 of the Republican Convention.

Here I go again. As before, I'll keep all my commentary in one post and use numbered paragraphs to indicate the updates.

1. A Baptist choir sings a terrific version of the National Anthem (even if they did quite clearly sing "Whore the land of the free..."). The Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios, wearing beautiful vestments, gives a beautiful invocation. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle gives some introductory remarks. She's wearing a lei, and Chris complains about it. I defend it as an emblem of her state. Chris rejects the defense: "Would the governor of Wisconsin wear a big cheesehead hat?"

2. Senator Rick Santorum: a boo is heard in the room here in Madison. He has a smug, wise-guy attitude, and I don't think I'm saying that solely because I disagree with his attitude about gay rights. "The torch of marriage is dying out." Do we want the federal government to pay for marriage counseling? Even if it is religious? That's a hard question. He has a good line: "[Kerry] says he is concerned about the separation of church and state. Senator Kerry should worry more about the separation of children from their fathers."

3. Wisconsin, for some reason, and I don't object, is recognized to make a motion to proclaim Dick Cheney the VP candidate by acclaimation. "And the motion is agreed to." A little "Cheney" chant breaks out.

4. I caught up to the live feed and I needed to let TiVo get back out in front of me to re-enable fast-forwarding, so I went upstairs to fold laundry, and I put on the upstairs TV--the TiVo-less Sony Wega (where the colors are always so comparatively crisp)--and I caught a little of Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff, and Jeff Greenfield on CNN. And what were they punditizing about? It was practically word-for-word taken from this Instapundit post, from way back this morning, about manipulating the Iowa markets!

5. Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. You can tell he's from Wisconsin because he clearly pronounces Wisconsin "Wi - SCON - sin," not, as I say even after 20 years here, "Wis - CON - sin." [ADDED: They're really playing up to Wisconsin tonight, aren't they? It must be something in the polls.]

6. I think it's a good sign that there is so much amateurish material. The party really isn't that slick. So much bad music! The faux interviews with community leaders. That lame comic segment with Barney the dog (who at one point had a debate with a white French poodle puppet dog named Fifi Kerry). I think 20 years from now the political convention will be a seamlessly acted entertainment extravaganza that everyone will watch and enjoy. But right now, we still live in the real world, because everything's a little bit pathetically ragged.

7. The tribute to Reagan. Beautiful. Many beautiful images. Reagan's voice: "We got America to stand tall again."

8. Is there some rule that every woman has to wear a light blue suit?

9. Finally, Zell Miller. It seems silly to say that and an indication of how much filler we've had to put up with tonight. I like Zell Miller and think he's a good speaker. He's speaking quickly for some reason. "My family is more important than my party." Only Bush is good enough for his family, he asserts. Then he reels back to the story of his life: he's a little boy, FDR is President, there's an "overriding public danger." He brings up Wendell Wilkie, with whom he clearly identifies. He's making a plea to overcome partisanship in a time of danger. He condemns the Democrats of today for putting their partisan politics above the nation's security. His voice trembles with anger as he says: "Nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling America's troops occupiers rather than liberators! Tell that to the one half of Europe that was free because Franklin Roosevelt led an army of liberators, not occupiers!" Similarly, Eisenhower and Reagan. The soldier, not the protester, has given us our freedom. Don't dare to think of being President if you don't think of our soldiers as liberators! But the leaders of the Democratic party see America as the problem! They blame America. They believed in Carter's pacifism. "And no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry!" Miller is unleashed. His opposition to his own party erupts here tonight. Kerry voted against so many arms programs, so what would he mean to be Commander in Chief of? "Spitballs?" Kerry would wait for the UN to approve of military action: "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending." He would "outsource our national security." His opposition to Kerry slams down heavily. John Kerry would give terrorists "a yes/no/maybe bowl of mush." Bush would clamp down hard and not let go! He admires that Bush believes God "is not indifferent to America." He's like an old-fashioned preacher. He speaks with straight conviction, with almost a defiant sneer on his face. It's very effective!

10. Lynn Cheney introduces her husband, who, as a teenager in Casper, Wyoming, did not, like the other kids, cruise back and forth between root beer stands. He did not do the twist. She knew he was the guy for her. Imagine Dick Cheney as the love of your life! That's the way it is for them. Who are we to question love? Now, here he is. The grinding, grim flatness of Dick Cheney is just what it is to be Dick Cheney. He is what he is. It doesn't play to the big hall terribly well, especially not after the great revivalist Miller, but what did you expect? Perhaps even less. He lays it out. And you can take it or leave it. He's not doing the twist. He's Dick Cheney.

11. "A Senator can be wrong for twenty years without consequence to the nation, but a President always casts the deciding vote." Cheney is warming up as he lays into John Kerry. He's amusing himself. He chuckles: "Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself. ... Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two Kerrys." A man in the audience is seen rhythmically waving two flip-flops.

So you think you're a film buff of the loftiest type?

Living in Madison would put you to the test. Look at what is playing at the Madison Cinemateque this semester. Here's your chance to see 20 Ozu films. And don't say you don't have the money: admission is free, at the terrific screening room at Vilas Hall. The great Wisconsin film studies professor David Bordwell was recently asked by my son (a UW student) what the best films of all time were, and his answer was that what you should do is to see all of the films the very greatest directors, and then he proceeded to name perhaps three directors, and one of them was Yasujiro Ozu. So, film people of Madison, you have your work cut out for you.

Scary bloggy proposition.

So Nina's cooking dinner tomorrow for Tonya and Jeremy and me, and I broached the subject "we're not bringing computers and simulblogging the convention, are we?"

Nina responds, "There are few limits as to what you can/ can't do once you arrive! I do have wireless, though very basic cable. We could take a pause for THE speech if people are so inclined."

Then both Jeremy and I respond, each before seeing the other's response, that we ought to just all four of us simulblog the dinner too. I add, Nixon-like, "but it would be wrong." But Jeremy's all: "OMG! Four person simultaneous co-present political simulblogging! Although I think we should blog throughout dinner as well. We've never had this kind of wireless possibility before."

No word from Tonya yet, but perhaps she'll stake out the you-people-are-all-crazy position.

Meanwhile, I rue the lack of a webcam to project the bizarre excess of bloggery, and Jeremy notes that we can take digital photos and post them. I think we've all posted photos of half-eaten food before.

Dick Morris on the "female state of the union address."

I don't consider myself to be in some kind of special position to say whether Laura Bush came through last night and said what women need to hear about the presidential election, so let me consult this column written by Dick Morris:
Her incredible speech reached women voters in a way that other speakers at either convention have failed to do.

Unlike her husband, the first lady drew explicitly the connection between the offensive operations in the War on Terror and the work to defend our families from the threats that haunt them

Her speech was almost a female state of the union address — taking each of the administration's policies and relating them to the concerns of the half of the electorate that the male political establishment doesn't understand and rarely appeals to.

Women, you see, can't really grasp foreign policy unless you restate it and couch each point in terms of the effect on the family. Men—other than Dick Morris, that is—really don't understand that.
Like presidents do in state of the union addresses, she brought Bush's policies home to each of us by naming real people, real families and real soldiers working for our freedom.

Dick, if you're going to praise a schoolteacher, use good grammar!
George needed to relate his education reforms to the average parents worrying about their children in school. Laura did it.

George had to explain why sending troops to Baghdad protected our families at home. Laura did it. …

Thanks for making appealing to women sound like translation for the mentally challenged.

Unlike the shrill sloganeering of Hillary Clinton and the ritualized comments of other wives of presidents, Laura Bush explained her husband's policies with a clarity and simplicity that reached everyone who watched it — except for the shortsighted and self-involved male commentators who didn't get it and put her down after it was over.

See, I would not have known that without the help of the un-self-involved commentator, Dick Morris. Here she was, reaching out to everyone, and I was thinking about where they got that crazy shower curtain backdrop and whether her amateurish delivery was charming or just boring. But apparently, she said a lot of things about children and family that really had a big effect on my half of the electorate.

Ted Koppel on "The Daily Show."

Was Ted Koppel the worst guest ever on "The Daily Show"? I know there's some sort of feud in the past between Stewart and Koppel, but why go on the show unless you want to patch things up or look good in some way. Koppel was strangely snippy on Stewart's home turf, and as soon as the segment ended, he jumped up and stalked off.

WiFi city.

I see (via Drudge) that Philadelphia is considering making the whole city a WiFi zone. What an effective use of tax money. The cost is low ($10 million), it provides a great benefit to citizens (WiFi phones are part of the plan), and it is excellent PR for the city (Philadelphia seems hip and cool!). As my local politicians push for a $53 million twelve-mile rail line (an "exciting new technology" that will have "rails embedded into the street pavement so that train cars would use the same paths as cars"), I'm really jealous of people in cities that are thinking a lot more clearly about what people would actually enjoy having.

UPDATE: Madison (and Dane county) residents ought to take a look at the Houston experience with light rail: there have been a surprising number of collisions with cars.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader asks whether Madison's mayor is reading my blog.

The new iMac design.

Sorry, I prefer the old iMac design to this new one with the processing unit fattening the screen. The old one (which I have at work) has that hemispheric base and, at the end of a manipulable steel arm, a very thin screen. The new design is touted as making the "box" disappear, but what kind of wonder is that? On every laptop, the box "disappears" into the keyboard. What's the charm of having the box disappear into the screen? We found a new place to hide the box? But the screen is an unsatisfying place to hide the box because it makes the design top heavy. It gives it that tipping-over feel. On the older iMac (my iMac), the screen floats elegantly, and the processing unit provides weight and stability--a base--in a form that is not at all boxy. The new iMac has an unstable-looking foot under the top-heavy, clunky screen, which is, of course, rectangular: a box. The new design might appeal to businesses that think the old hemispheric base is too toy-like and unserious. I can picture this new iMac on an airline counter or some such place where playful cuteness is the wrong message--not that playful cuteness is really the right message for a law professor's office.

"He was much less uptight as a Democrat."

So says Ron Silver's 21-year-old daughter, quoted in this NYT article about the actor who spoke at the Republican Convention Monday night.
[H]e is still a registered Democrat, and Mr. Silver told his convention audience that he has not disavowed the left's social agenda. But at the moment he represents a particular slice of the American political spectrum: voters who put national security before ideology and want to keep President Bush's hand on the nation's rudder.

"I'm a 9/11 Republican," he said. "If we don't get this right, all the other things don't matter worth a hill of beans. I'll live to fight another day on health care, environmental concerns and sensible gun legislation. But this is such a predominant issue that it towers above all others, and I'm not certain both parties are capable of handling it the right way."

Well put. I think a lot of people agree with him.

August 31, 2004

Day 2 of the Republican Convention.

Okay, here we go again. I'll simulblog and keep all my comments in one post with numbered paragraphs to indicate updates.

1. Observation #1: My first observation last night was about the look of the set, and there's one other thing I've been wanting to say about the set, so I'll begin with this. Look at that humble wooden lectern! What is that all about? It's like a pulpit in a Protestant church that puts great stock in avoiding ornamentation. I can't remember what the Democratic Convention lectern/pulpit looked like--I tried to find a picture--but I think it was extravagant and florid and flag-oriented. The Republican lectern is aggressively plain, perhaps to avoid upstaging the speaker or perhaps to avoid upstaging the dramatic video screen behind the speaker. Maybe they considered using one of those almost-invisible plexiglass lecterns used in Hollywood awards shows, then rejected that as too reminiscent of Hollywood awards shows, and plain, plain wood was the fallback alternative. [ADDED: Here are some shots of the Democrat's lectern.][ADDED 9/4: I finally got a good look at a photograph of the Democrat's lectern. It has a large medallion right under the speaker's microphone that says "America 2004" on top and "A Stronger America" at the bottom. In the center is is a waving American flag, and there are little stars circling the whole arrangement.]

2. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson introduces the singer of the national anthem, Gracie Rosenberger, and my initial reaction is: what is this saccharine, sentimental, mawkish glop? But twenty seconds into it, tears are rolling down my cheeks. Damn! Stop that! The undulating flag on the giant video and the C-Span closeups of guys in VFW hats complete the effect.

3. A Christian minister does the invocation tonight and doesn't stop at just praying in Jesus' name (which I can understand might be necessary for some ministers in order to make the words a prayer), he goes on at some length about the crucifixion and the need to believe in Christ. Afterwards the colors are retired, and on the big screen we see the Statue of Liberty, with the words "Live--Statue of Liberty." Chris says, "Why do we need live footage of the Statue of Liberty? It's not going to do anything."

4. Princella Smith, a young black woman, winner of an MTV essay contest, talks about rejecting the label Generation X, which seems to have a lot to do with inspiration provided by George W. Bush. She posits "Generation EXample." Immediately afterwards (unlike any of the other speakers), Smith is interviewed backstage. The interview is projected onto the big screen for the whole hall to see. Smith effuses about her wonderful experience, and in there amongst the effusion is the stray line "I certainly didn't think I'd be twenty years old." She's informed she gave "a fabulous speech."

5. Roll call. The TiVo fastforward function is employed to good effect.

6. Uh! Wisconsin! Stop! The official icon of Wisconsin: a cow. The chairman of the Wisconsin party invokes the names of the "beloved" former Governor, Tommy Thompson, the Badgers (yay, Badgers), and the Green Bay Packers. Wisconsin is the pioneer of school choice and welfare reform, he tells us. Forty votes cast for George W. Bush.

7. Elizabeth Dole offers up a stilted peroration: "blue skies of freedom ... we believe in life ... marriage is important ... between a man and a woman ... those not yet born ... Republicans will defend ... the treasured life of faith ... two thousand years ago ... I have the freedom to call that man Lord, and I do ... activist judges ... freedom of religion, not freedom from religion ... values ... virtues ... truths ... the shared truths of the American people ... " As the speech progresses, she warms up, not like Giuliani last night, of course, but she essentially fills her role of expressing the night's "compassion" theme in terms that are particularly appealing to the social conservative sector of the party that is not to be heard in prime time this evening.

8. George P. Bush: wooden ... something about immigrants and entrepreneurs. He's cute though. Then, "God Bless America," sung by Dana Glover. She's okay, like someone who'd be voted off "American Idol." She's pretty and quite dolled up. Next, Miss America. What is this? The good-looking-people section of the show? The screen banner says "People of Compassion." It's horribly dull. Yes, yes, good people are good. And pretty people are pretty. My TiVo has caught up with the live feed and I can't fast forward. Aaaah! [ADDED: An emailer quips: "What you need is one of those hi-tech TiVos like Lewis Lapham's. "]

9. Dr. Frist: he's tedious and ignored by the convention crowd until suddenly he says the phrase "trial lawyer" and the audience erupts. The name John Edwards comes up. Now he's airing the stem cell research issue. This section of the convention is terribly slow. Oh, good lord, they're bringing out Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the nonentity component of "The View." She's talking about breast cancer. What does this have to do with Republicans? Health care policy is important, but she's not talking about that. She's doing a public service announcement: do self-examinations, get check-ups. I don't get it. Is it just the idea that Bush cares? Because they assert he cares? Compassion night is not proceeding along the confident arc that security night (last night) swept us along.

10. Finally, Schwarzenegger. He starts off with some bad jokes, then the story of immigrating. Amazingly, he praises Nixon. How strange! He heard Humphrey and Nixon debate in 1968 and decided right then, what that man is, I am. Startling! Best press for Nixon in decades. Like Giuliani last night, he stresses that you don't need to agree with all of the party's positions. Giuliani emphasized supporting Bush, despite some disagreement. Schwarzenegger stresses supporting the Republican Party. The core of the party, as portrayed by Schwarzenegger is none of the things Elizabeth Dole spoke about a while ago.
"If you believe that this nation and not the United Nations is the best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican. And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican. Now, there's another way you can tell you're Republican: your faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie men!"

Huge cheer.

11. Jenna and Barbara Bush: They have nice comic delivery. They are fun and self-effacing. They razz their parents. "We had a hamster too. Let's just say, ours didn't make it." They introduce their dad, on the big screen, and he introduces his wife. Laura walks out to the tune of "Isn't She Lovely."

12. The actual speech given by Laura Bush? She seems sweet and pleasant, but there was no content that struck me in particular. She loves her husband.

Iraqi talk radio.

Sabrina Tavernise writes, on the front page of the NYT, about Dijla, the first all-talk radio in the new Iraq. Huge numbers of people call in, many simply to express frustration about the lack of garbage collection and things of that kind. But there is also the torrent of political opinion that flows when the radio host poses a question. What should be done with Saddam Hussein? "Most people wanted him executed." I found this striking:
The program director and host, Majid Salim ... asked listeners what they thought about the insurgency that has roiled Iraq, claiming most of the energies of the new interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and putting the American occupation in danger of failure.

"We asked them, is it terrorism or is it resistance," he said. "A very large proportion, almost 100 percent, said terrorism. They did not like it."

Interesting. The American media always seem to speak of "rebels" and the "resistance" or, as in this Times article, the "insurgency." How different it would sound if the reports were of "terrorists" and "terrorism" in Iraq. If "almost 100 percent" of the Iraqis perceive the violence as terrorism, maybe our reporters, who seem to care about Iraqi self-determination, should adopt the Iraqis' terminology.

Madison, not Madison Square Garden.

It was fun blogging Madison Square Garden from Madison, Wisconsin. Thanks to Instapundit's linking last night's snipe at Ron Reagan and the ten-part convention simulblog that followed, I had the strange and fascinating experience of having thousands of people hearing the comments I made thoughout the night, which--before blogging--I would have just said to whoever happened to be in the room. So here I was sitting in my TV room in Madison, watching a huge crowd of people in Madison Square Garden, but probably more able to watch the proceedings than someone who was actually there in the crowd, because I had the camera view and the ability to pause and rewind, and I was more able to make comments than if I had been watching with a big group of people (most of the time I was alone), because I had my blog and my Instapundit link. In fact, if I had been watching with a big group of people--which would have been more fun, I'm sure--there is no way that we would have paid attention to all of the speeches: we would have had to talk over the speeches and become engaged in back and forth talking with each other. So my strange and fascinating experience consisted of being separated from two large groups--the people in Madison Square Garden and the people who were hearing my comments. You could say, what a shame that we live in this internet world where we are so alienated that I was not at the convention and I did not have live human beings to interact with last night. But internet or no internet, I wasn't going to any political conventions and being alone and in possession of a TiVo, I was able to get some writing done and to find a readership immediately. That was wonderful!

August 30, 2004

Day 1 of the Republican Convention.

(I'll put all my observations for tonight in this post, with numbered paragraphs to represent the updates.)

1. I love the grand video screens behind the speaker's podium. They showed a live view of the New York streets as the flag was presented, then a huge waving flag during the National Anthem (which was sung by a young green-eyed girl from Michigan) and the invocation (given by a Muslim). Now the screens are gone, and a platform rises up with a band and what I've got to assume are Broadway performers, who proceed to sing a medley of rock-solid old favorite Broadway songs (e.g., "Seventy-Six Trombones"). These songs have no discernable political content. Following that is a really well-done intro in the style of "Saturday Night Live," complete with blaring saxophone, Don Pardo [style] voiceover ("Arnold Schwarzenegger!"), and snazzy video clips of Manhattan at night. Now we're back in Madison Square Garden for the roll call, as a fabulous and comical animation of a trunk-flailing elephant appears on the giant screen behind the speaker. As each state is called, the video screen shows an image befitting the state--a little like the state quarters: Maine gets a lobster, Maryland gets a crab, and so on. Okay, I get the idea. Nice production values, but I'm going speed through this.

2. Hastert: too dull to blog about.

3. The Cheneys are introduced and we watch them walk to their seats in the stands. With them are two cute little girls, presumably granddaughters. The younger one is very lively and dances to the song, which is "You're All I Need" (possibly squelching rumors that Cheney will be replaced as the running mate: "There's no, no looking back for us/We've got a love and sure enough it's enough"). We see the Bush twins: they look great, very natural and adorable. Next to them is a young woman I don't recognize, who is wearing one of those "Carrie Doesn't Speak For Me" T-shirts.

4. A cute Austin band, Dexter Freebish, plays. Lyric that jumps out at me: "The world is your playground." In the end, the lead singer holds up a "We salute our troops sign."

5. The New York actor Ron Silver introduces the subject of the 9/11 attacks. He yells: "We will never forget. We will never forgive. We will never excuse." At that, a huge cheer bursts out ("Yeah!"). The camera scans the crowd and shows George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush laughing and nodding and clapping. Following the long cheer, Silver quotes General MacArthur: "At the end of World War II, Douglas MacArthur ... said, 'It is my earnest hope, indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion, a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world found[ed] upon faith, understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.' The hope he expressed then remains relevant today." There is no cheer, but Silver pauses and waits for a cheer, and a short cheer ensues. But definitely, and disturbingly, for this crowd "We will never excuse" was a much more popular sentiment than the hope of a better world. Later, he gets another heartfelt cheer: when he says "This is a war in which we had to respond." He criticizes his fellow entertainers who catalogue the world's wrongs but are unwilling to fight against them. He says, emphatically, "The President is doing exactly the right thing."

6. Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico presents the subject of war dead in terms of courage and individual choice to serve in a cause worth fighting for. She introduces a film showing veterans interviewed aboard the the U.S.S. Intrepid. The veterans are lively and proud. George Bush Sr. is there, paying tribute, citing "a timeless creed of duty, honor, country."

7. A chorus rousingly sings the full-length anthem for each branch of the military. I don't know that I've ever heard the Coast Guard Anthem sung before, but this is quite a military display. I especially like the Air Force anthem. Well, they didn't do this at the Democratic convention.

8. I'm skipping over much material. Now: here's John McCain. He defends the war in Iraq against "a disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe ... [Michael Moore is there and he's mouthing 'Thank you.' The crowd boos, then begins a 'four more years' chant] ... that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace when, in fact, it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture, mass graves, and prisons. ... The mission was necessary, achievable, and noble." This last part is, of course, what the convention needs to do: make the case that both wars Bush took us into were right and good. McCain offers his own credibilty for Bush as he says that Bush is the right man to see us through what he took us into. McCain says, "I salute him," calling up memories of John Kerry saluting as he "reported for duty" at the Democratic Convention. The idea is: if McCain, clearly a greater war hero than Kerry, salutes Bush, then the Kerry salute is nullified. McCain's theme is that what we have fought for is worth fighting for. Here is his final crescendo: "Take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals and our unconquerable love for them. ... We fight for love of freedom and justice--a love that is invincible. Keep that faith! Keep your courage! Stick together! Stay strong! Do not yield! Do not flinch! Stand up! Stand up with our President and fight! We're Americans! We're Americans and we'll never surrender! They will!" Brilliant!

9. A September 11th memorial follows McCain. Three women tell stories of family members who died. It's very moving and genuine. "Amazing Grace" is sung. Then: Rudoph Giuliani comes out and welcomes the crowd to New York. His rhetoric is built upon the "hear from us" line in Bush's famous ad lib at Ground Zero. Our enemies have heard from us, and if we keep Bush in power, he argues, they will "continue to hear from us." He doesn't get too embedded in sadness about September 11th. The three women who preceded him carried that weight. He's lively and good humored. He expresses pleasure at seeing so many Republicans in New York. He says: "I don't believe we're right about everything and Democrats are wrong. They're wrong about most things. [Big laugh.] But seriously, neither party has a monopoly on virtue. We don't have all the right ideas. They don't have all the wrong ideas. But I do believe there are times in history when our ideas are more necessary and more important and critical and this is one of those times when we are facing war and danger."

Next, he talks about seeing a human being jumping from the World Trade Center tower and other experiences of September 11th. He says that on that day he said, "Thank God George Bush is our President," and he repeats that declaration tonight. He speaks emphatically of the weak response of the German government to the Olympic terrorists in 1972, which became a typical response to terrorists over a long period of years. "Terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community, and too often, the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement, and compromise. And worse, they also learned that their cause would be taken seriously, almost in proportion to the horror of their attack." This is how Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize, he says. Bush is the one who realized we must take the offensive. Bush changed the direction, announcing the Bush doctrine. "Since September 11th, President Bush has remained rock solid. It doesn't matter to him how he's demonized. It doesn't matter to him what the media does ... Some call it stubbornness. I call it principled leadership. ... President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is."

He turns here to John Kerry, who has no clear, consistent vision. He says this isn't a personal criticism of Kerry and that he respects Kerry's military service, which draws spontaneous applause from the crowd. But the two men are different: Bush sticks with his position, and Kerry changes. Kerry voted against the Gulf War, Giuliani says, and when the crowd boos, he ad libs, "Ah! But he must have heard you booing," because Kerry later supported the war. Giuliani is animated and comical as he talks about Kerry. He quotes Kerry's famous voted-for-it-voted-against-it line and does a cool New York shrug with perfect timing. He has a punchline: maybe that's what Edwards means by "the two Americas." Giuliani is having a great time. He's passionate about fighting terrorism, biting as he criticizes Kerry.

His speaking style is far more engaging than McCain's--and McCain did well. Giuliani seems to be speaking extemporaneously and really talking to us. Now, he's talking about New York construction workers talking to Bush on his trip to NY after 9/11. He's describing a huge man grabbing Bush in a big bear hug and squeezing him--Giuliani does a vigorous physical demonstration of the maneuver--and a Secret Service guy saying to him, "If this guy hurts the President, Giuliani, you're finished." The crowd is laughing like mad and so is Giuliani. He thanks everyone for the support they gave New York back then, and he ties this to a desire to be unified today.

He talks about Saddam Hussein and the Middle East in general. He's going a little long now, and the audience is getting a bit restive. But he's still cooking. President Bush is the man! Giuliani is willing his beliefs into us. I'm not sure he has a way planned out of this speech. Freedom! Mission! Wait, I think he's coming in for a landing. He's got a final approach: "We'll make certain that they have heard from us." And a final line: "God bless America." Great, great speech.

10. And suddenly, it's the video screen: Frank Sinatra! "New York, New York."

Things about the Republican Convention I'm already sick of.

It's just starting, and I will be blogging, here in Madison with my iBook and my TiVo'd C-Span, but I'm just watching a little MSNBC Chris Matthews-moderated pre-show, and I realize I'm about ready to scream from the over-repetition of a single tedious-the-first-time observation: Republicans don't seem to belong in NY. Let me quote a choice example, as spoken exultantly by a commentator I was sick of the first time he opened his mouth, Ron Reagan:
In Boston, of course, the Democrats were home, you know, Boston is a Democratic city, like New York is, but here we have people like we just saw on television, the woman with the very large cowboy hat, plunked down into the middle of Manhattan, which has gotta be like droppin' somebody onto Mars for these people. Can you imagine her walkin' by, you know, an ad for the Vagina Monologues, and just freakin' out. That's what's interesting.
As if "The Vagina Monologues" hasn't been playing outside of New York. It has been playing everywhere, for years! What planet is he on? The only one "freakin' out" is you, Ron, from the sight of a woman in a cowboy hat. Do you think you could pull together a slightly more cosmopolitan attitude of ennui?

Mind your Ps and Qs and Rs.

Nina recounts an email thread about planning dinner in which she disguises the identity of three participants with the code letters P, Q, and R, which don't have anything to do with our real initials. Regular readers of this blog may be able to decipher which one is me. (And scroll down for some photoblogging of New York City and New Haven.)

UPDATE: No, it's all New Haven. I saw a hot dog vendor and just assumed. ("A hot dog makes her lose control.")

"Welcome Admitted Students"

So says the sign on the door leading into the Law School. Why not just "Welcome Students"? The people we didn't admit aren't really "students" at all, are they? Or is it "admitted" in the sense that they are willing to openly proclaim their student status--like an "admitted drug user" or an "admitted adulterer"? But we welcome our students whether they're keeping their student status a secret from the rest of the world or not.

Feeds.

I'm not interested in technical things about computers, and this whole Atom vs. RSS controversy is really not the sort of thing I want to spend time understanding. But my praise for Blogspot the other day brought email that made me think I had to do something to get an RSS feed. I tried Feedburner, and I have the impression I solved some technical problem that I really don't want to think about anymore. I hope this helps in some way (that I don't want to have to understand).

UPDATE: I don't think this worked. If you know how to get a Blogspot blog to produce an RSS feed, please email me some simple instructions.

FURTHER UPDATE: Columbia law student Tony Rickey helped me figure this out and wrote up a nice post to help other Blogspot bloggers get some good RSS feed going (and to explain why this is worth doing).

Booing the Kerry daughters?

I saw on Drudge last night that Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry were booed at the MTV Video Music Awards, so I set the TiVo to record the repeat presentation of the show during the night. Fastforwarding this morning, I saw that Jon Stewart was also on the show, so I kept an eye out for his appearance too. His spot preceded the Kerry kids, and I stopped to take a look. Piped in from the New York set of "The Daily Show," he did his trademark comic sputterings as he carried out his role of inviting viewers to vote for the Viewer's Choice Award. This little performance had many points where a "Daily Show" audience would have laughed a lot, but the hall itself--in Florida--was completely unresponsive.

I don't think this audience was the political type. So, it isn't really surprising that the crowd did not enjoy having its fun interrupted for a public service message about how important it is for young people to vote. It might not have been a particular dislike of Kerry or his daughters, I think, because the Bush daughters were also introduced and they appeared on a large video screen at the same time. But the Kerry daughters are significantly older, and they took a long time sashaying in high heels down a staircase before Vanessa began to speak, which she did ploddingly, in the political manner. Then Barbara and Jenna Bush spoke. They were dressed in a much more youthful, hip way, and they read the teleprompter the way an average person would read a teleprompter, stiffly. I don't think they were aware of the audience response. Then Alexandra, who looked incredibly sad, spoke. It must have been awful for them, because the whole thing went on for a long time, yet they knew from the outset that the audience did not want to hear from them at all. It's really MTV's fault for stopping the party for a public service message (which was repeated later in the show by the thuddingly unglamorous John Mellencamp).

Vodkapundit has this comment (based on reading Drudge):
There comes a time to, ah, lay politics aside. And that time, uh, comes when hotties are on the stage. And the brunette daughter, whose name I'm sure is either Alexandra or Vanessa, is a hottie.

I'm convinced that at least half of what wrong in politics in this country is due to people too concerned with politics to stop and appreciate the scenery. The Kerry girls (at least the brunette one) deserved better.
Yeah, but you should have seen the rest of the women on that show! I was only fastforwarding, but the Kerry daughters were much less attractive that the extremely glamorous, glitzy women that filled the rest of the show. By the way, I think Alexandra (the brunette one) looks like Laura Nyro. But women in music today, at least the ones on MTV, are not like the music women back in Nyro's day. And the political theme doesn't seem to fit as well with the music either.

You could conclude that it's a shame that these young people today don't care about politics, but that's not the impression I got. I think it's politically savvy to reject an attempt to usurp a music party for a political purpose. It's a solid political opinion to believe that politics don't belong everywhere.

UPDATE: A reader astutely connects the VMA booing with the booing that Hillary Clinton endured when she appeared on stage at the "Concert for New York." Like the VMA show on MTV, that concert, on VH-1, was a Viacom event.

Some people see a gathered throng as an opportunity, and it's a good thing for them to learn that individuals who become a throng for one reason do not appreciate being treated like a general-purpose throng. Note: I'm still mad about the 9/11 Memorial at the University of Wisconsin that drew 20,000 people to the Library Mall three days after the attacks. Appallingly, the speakers harangued us about war and racism, subject matter which, if announced, would have drawn virtually no crowd on that day.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a beautiful Laura Nyro page. I've linked to that in the past and should have remembered it. So go there and see if you agree that Alexandra Kerry looks like Laura Nyro, or just forget about Alexandra Kerry and discover or rediscover what a brilliant and beautiful artist Laura Nyro was. I especially love the album "New York Tendaberry."

August 29, 2004

"Donnie Darko."

Apparently, I've just got to see "Donnie Darko" (the director's cut version, now in theaters). That's what I've been told!

A very grand project.

Here in Madison, what was once a block that included, among other things, an arts complex called the Civic Center, is being transformed, segment by segment, into a very grand arts complex called the Overture Center. Lord knows what arts events the city is going to pull in that will justify an arts center of this magnitude, but a very generous benefactor gave the city $205 million dollars to glorify the arts. You know those American Girl dolls that a lot of folks go wild over? That's where all the money came from. Our lovely benefactor's wife, Pleasant Rowland, thought up the dolls that created the fortune, but she stays in the background now as the husband, Jerry Frautschi, is the public face of the extravagant philanthropy. The architect Cesar Pelli was given the project, and Madison people got fussy--Madison-style--about preserving some existing State Street facades (and one grand old interior), so these had to be incorporated into the project. The project is being completed in segments over the years, so that the center can stay in use. Right now, part is gleamingly finished, and part is a gaping hole. I walked around the project today and took some pictures.

Here is one completed side of the building, showing the clean lines used in the parts of the building that do not contain preserved old facade:



Around the corner, the elegant, sharp lines continue:



Construction vehicles park along the street:



Turn the corner and walk down halfway down the block, right across the street from the federal courthouse, and you see part of the old Civic Center that has not yet been torn down. I find random junk like this picturesque:



At the end of the block, there's a big gaping hole where a large chunk of the old building has been demolished:



Turn the corner and walk up State Street, and you can see, next to the gaping hole, the preserved facade of the Oscar Meyer Theater, a relic of the days when the philanthropy flowed from the low-priced meat and not the high-priced doll sector of the local economy:



At the end of the block, you can see a finished part of the building that has already incorporated an old facade, the front what was a department store, not really all that distinguished of a facade, but it was old, old, I tell you, so you can't tear that down, I don't care how famous your architect is!



On top of the old facade, the architect mounted a glass dome:



So now we have two beautiful domes within steps of each other: