October 2, 2004

"The Opposite Direction."

Faisal al-Kasim talks about his Al Jazeera talk show, "The Opposite Direction," in the November issue of The Atlantic.
His goal? "To change the status quo, which is horrible politically, religiously, economically, in every way."

Al-Kasim's first show, he says, "dissected" the Gulf Cooperation Council (the league of oil-rich monarchies and emirates that are responsible for some of the most closed regimes in the Middle East) "like a corpse," and since then The Opposite Direction has addressed an array of previously unmentionable questions in the Arab world, in terms ranging from the contrarian to the outlandish. Is Arab unity an unattainable myth? When was life better, under colonial or Arab rule? ("Eighty-six percent of our viewers who called in said they'd rather be re-colonized," al-Kasim told me. "The Algerians would welcome Chirac, if he decided to return.") Was King Hassan II of Morocco an agent of the Mossad? Should polygamy have a place in the modern Arab world?
On one show, viewers were asked "Are Arab regimes refraining from condemning the abuse in Abu Ghraib because they're committing far worse atrocities in their own prisons?" 84% of the viewers said yes. A guest on that show, Khaled Chouket, director of the Center for the Support of Democracy in the Arab World, spoke of:
"standard daily practices" in all Arab prisons, which he depicted as "man-made hells" where prisoners hang by their ankles and are skinned alive; where savage dogs "rip chunks of living flesh from inmates' bodies"; where torturers tear out their subjects' fingernails and hair, administer electric shocks, hack off body parts, deprive prisoners of food and sleep, and submerge them in dungeons filled with icy water.
Terrific article.

"Lest we forget, while you're writing, you're not living."

Bob Dylan talks to Newsweek about his autobiography, which he did not enjoy writing, because he had to tell the truth straight, unlike in his songs, where he told everything through "symbolism and metaphors."

He says one thing that is very much the way I feel: "I don't think music is ever going to be the same as what it meant to us. You hear it, but you don't hear it." Maybe that's what everyone says when they get old. It's what my parents--thinking back to the Swing Era--said to me in the 1960s when I devoted any stray moment to thinking about what Bob Dylan was saying to me.

By the way, I can't agree with the statement, "while you're writing, you're not living," though I can see how it expresses something about how Bob Dylan felt that writing out the truthful story of his life was dragging him away from his real writing, his songs, thus stealing time out of his life. I think one may quite likely feel most alive while writing, and I would guess that that is true of Bob Dylan when he is writing his songs.

"She travels with her own sommelier."

So says the chef de cuisine of L'Etoile Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, who was called out to Spring Green to cook dinner for John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry. He cooked them some tenderloin, medium, and brought some wine to go with it, but, he reports, "she travels with her own sommelier and so they drank their own." Nina, UW's lawprof and L'Etoile's wiry forager, has the whole story here.

UPDATE: Nina's taken down the quote I linked, which makes my blog the end of the line for this nugget of information. Nina emails that the chef was only joking. Think what you will, dear readers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a local newspaper article about the local chefs who cooked for John Kerry and his wife during their recent stay in Spring Green, Wisconsin. This article includes a lot of quotes from Patrick O’Halloran, the owner of Lombardino's, a restaurant that is a few blocks from where I'm blogging: "After a Secret Service background check, the campaign put O’Halloran up at the House on the Rock Resort, while Kerry stayed in a condominium up the road." O’Halloran, not the chef quoted in the title of this post, prepared most of the meals for the candidate. Foods the article indicates the Senator likes: lamb, roasted chicken, rabbit, duck, beef barley soup, and chicken noodle soup, and, generally, "straightforward food ... nothing too fancy." O'Halloran says that Kerry made a point of meeting with him and “He was really, really nice, a sweet guy. He said he really enjoyed everything and shook my hand.” By contrast, the L'Etoile chef, who is mentioned, does not serve up dishy quotes. Nice detail: Kerry was barefoot during the meeting.

ALSO: That article says Kerry's favorite food is mashed potatoes. Not potatoes Lyonnaise anything French, now, you hear? So just forget that part about the sommelier! He likes straightforward food--mashed potatoes and plain roast meat. He goes barefoot indoors. He's not French! Nothing French here! Now, move along.

BUT YET: Rabbit???

Overhearing the Kerry/Bush debate again.

Chris is rewatching the presidential debate, and I'm just overhearing it. Hearing and not seeing can be instructive, especially if you pay attention. One often hears it said that those who listened to the Nixon/Kennedy debates on the radio in 1960 thought Nixon won. I remember listening to the Iran Contra hearings on the radio when Oliver North began his testimony and finding it not very impressive. Then I sat down to watch the testimony on TV for a few minutes, and I immediately saw how compelling the man was.

But I'm not really paying much attention to the debate right now. Nothing stands out in the difference between the two candidates in the sound-only mode. I did notice that Kerry pronounces Colin Powell's name wrong. Is that out of ignorance or disrespect?

On not watching the Feingold-Michels debate last night.

I was planning to serve up some juicy observations on the second biggest political debate of the week (as seen from Wisconsin): the big Tim Michels/Russ Feingold debate that aired last night. But I got a late start watching the TiVo'd debate, and I fell asleep somewhere in the first few minutes. I was very impressed by Michels' opening statement. The man is a good speaker, very smart and confident, and he knows what he stands for. I'm committed to Russ Feingold out of sheer respect for the virtue of the man. I think he deserves to keep his place in the Senate. I disagree with a lot of his positions (a lot!) but I want his voice in the mix. Still, I will watch the whole debate and give Michels a shot at winning me over. I didn't follow the primary, and I had just assumed the Republican candidate would not be able to compare to Feingold, but Michels looked pretty impressive, right before I lost consciousness.

So why did I wait until so late to start watching? Well, first I called my sister and had a long talk with her about the after-effects of the hurricanes. She lives in Apopka, Florida, near Orlando. Nothing major happened to her property, but there are a lot of branches on the ground and in the pool. Hey, it takes a long time to talk about that. And her son, Cliff Kresge, was playing the last few rounds of golf at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. He needed to make up one stroke to make the cut, then he got an eagle, and we were thrilled. With an extra stroke cushion inside the cut, he had two more holes to play. He made par on the second to the last hole. Then on the final hole, he had a nine-foot putt to make par. And I said, "But he doesn't have to make par to make the cut." She responds, "Oh nooo! They moved the cut! The cut is four under now!" She was watching on PGA Tourcast, an internet service that lets you follow each stroke of any player as it occurs, well before it shows up on the scorecard that I watch. Oh! He misses the putt and thus misses the cut. Damn! Remember how great we felt when he got the eagle?

Then, I wanted to watch the newly TiVo'd episode of "Joan of Arcadia." I love "Joan of Arcadia" and have since the first episode last fall. Amber Tamblyn is a fascinating actress. Sometimes I see Sally Field in her, especially in the sound of her voice. One story line this fall that's driving me up the wall and ought to be driving any lawyer up the wall (if lawyers are watching), is the lawsuit brought by the driver of the car that crashed and left Joan's brother Kevin paralyzed. The driver, Kevin's former best friend, is trying to hold Kevin liable for not stopping him from driving that night. The friend's only injuries are emotional. The family is forever going on about how bad it is for the ex-friend to sue them when they refrained from suing him. Quite aside from what theory would allow suit against Kevin's parents in addition to Kevin, why doesn't anyone ever talk about a counterclaim! If you refrain from suing someone, but then they go ahead and sue you, that's the end of your restraint and time to assert the counterclaim. That's the reason, aside from the ethics the show likes to agonize over, that the ex-friend should have refrained from suing Kevin. Kevin hadn't sued him yet, but if you sue, he will bring his counterclaim, and his damages are far, far greater. And what jury will feel moved to make Kevin pay the physically uninjured ex-friend? Bringing the lawsuit was not just an ethical lapse by the ex-friend, it is also a financially disastrous attempt at selfishness. Oh, okay, I know ... when lawyers watch television ... I'll pretend not to notice such things and enjoy the rest of the show.

I also watched a few minutes of "Lost," which I'd TiVo'd largely based on Television Without Pity's high grade last week. The actors seemed to have all been chosen for their good looks. Not only was the acting bad, but it was also impossible to believe these people just happened to get on a plane together. I know plane crashes are very unlikely, but it seems far more unlikely that a plane would happen to have nothing but good looking people on board.

So "Lost," didn't detain me long, but nevertheless, I did not get very far into the big Senatorial debate. I will update here later with a better report.

October 1, 2004

"The right-wing blogs apparently went nuts with disappointment."

On "The Daily Show" last night after the debate, Jon Stewart interviewed Wesley Clark, who was speaking from the spin room in Coral Gables. Stewart asked Clark whether he sensed "a certain disappointment" among Bush's people. Clark came out with this:
Well, first of all the right-wing blogs apparently went nuts with disappointment about Bush's performance early on in the debate. And now there's all kinds of efforts to find ways in which John Kerry might have misstated something...

Was Clark reading blogs during the debate? Were Bush's people monitoring blogs to try to figure out how to do their spin?

You had to hear the contemptuous tone in Clark's voice when he said the word "blogs." But if he were a blog, he'd have links for that statement. Which blogs is he talking about? The simulblogging at The Corner seems happy enough a half hour into the debate.

UPDATE: An emailer writes:
Being a right-wing crank, myself, I read a lot of weblogs that I think fall into the right-wing camp, and I don't/didn't see that - Heck, Hugh Hewitt (I mean, Hugh's blog just has to be right-wing) was calling it a Bush victory in the early innings. The Northern Alliance and the Corner (NRO) were seeing it as either even or slightly pro-Bush. On the other hand, General Clark is usually speaking from an alternate reality, so maybe. ...

IMPORTANT CORRECTION UPDATE: I had the title to this post as "all the right-wing blogs apparently went nuts with disappointment," which was an incorrect way to pull out a segment of the quote, which began: "first of all the right-wing blogs apparently went nuts with disappointment..." Obviously, the "all" is part of the phrase "first of all," so I've deleted "all" from the title. I don't think the meaning is really changed, but it is somewhat less emphatic done correctly. Sorry.

Now you're really fired.

A couple days ago, I wrote about the incident on this week's "The Apprentice," in which the contestant who was fired expressed hostility to two restaurant customers, whom she referred to more than once as "two old Jewish women." Now, WNBC News reports:
An official with the Manhattan firm where [Jennifer] Crisafulli was a real estate agent told the Times-Union of Albany that she would not be welcomed back because of comments she made on Wednesday night's episode of "The Apprentice."

Crisafulli -- an Albany native living in Manhattan -- made remarks that were perceived by some as anti-Semitic. She has said she did not mean to offend.
That is a real danger of appearing on a reality show. Not to excuse Jennifer's remarks, but I feel a bit sorry for her. She lost control over how she would be edited and used to advance the story, and this version of her, crafted for entertainment value, was seen by millions of people. And there's little she can do to fix her reputation.

"I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."

Justice Scalia is quite good at getting press coverage, isn't he? I was going to complain the other day that he keeps getting press write-ups for saying things that he always says, but I've got to hand it to him: he came up with a new one this time. I don't have the text of the whole speech, but I see from the article that he was "challenged about his views on sexual morality," after giving a talk at Harvard, and I assume his talk said the usual things about how judges need to follow the Constitution as it is written and not turn it into a vehicle for imposing their own values on everyone. That position naturally leads to the question he was asked at Harvard, which is, don't you really have that conservative morality that your opinions, limiting the scope of constitutional rights, allow states to impose on people? Don't your constitutional opinions thus work for you as a vehicle to get what you want because, by finding no constitutional rights in a particular area (such as gay rights or abortion rights), you are leaving in place state laws that do things that you like? His response, which I take to be somewhat jocose, essentially says: I may very well approve of all sorts of things things that would shock you. You don't know me, because I don't reveal what I personally think through my constitutional law opinions.

UPDATE: The AP version of the story sledgehammers that Scalia was, as indicated above, being jocose.

Debate style.

Go somewhere else if you want substance. This post is about style.

Both candidates were different from their usual selves at the debate last night. Kerry had his skin-tone properly readjusted for the TV cameras, and his hair was less obtrusive than usual, less bulbous, leaving his long, lean face looking razor-sharp. He often laughed when Bush was speaking, which was just one of a number of things that made him seem well-rested and completely up for the debate. His voice sounded better than usual, crisper in a way that makes me less likely to write "intoned" or "oratorical" and words like that.

I think the time restrictions helped Kerry a lot, even if he's the one who didn't like them. And those three little lights on the front of the lectern helped too: you knew they would come on, and when the first one came on, your heart lifted, you knew he would stop, and that made it much less likely that you'd start thinking "When is he ever going to stop?"

(By the way, that lectern was awfully ugly. It's fine to use wood, but pick something other than oak, with its offensively loud grain pattern. And did the lectern need to be so bulky? The candidates looked like they were packed into big boxes. And speaking of the set: who picked out that garish old-fashioned eagle with the banner in its beak? Ridiculous patriotism kitsch! I wonder if the 32-page debate agreement provided that the eagle would face Kerry rather than Bush.)

Bush was different from his usual self in that he lacked much if any of the impishness and humor that he displays at campaign stops. He seemed irritated and annoyed, as I wrote last night, and others have written. Yet if he had displayed his usual light-hearted facial expressions, people would have accused him of smirking, of not taking a sober enough attitude toward the deadly serious matters of war and security. Chimp analogies would have been made. So even as Kerry seemed lighter than normal, Bush seemed heavier than normal. And he looked tired, as some have noted.

Why was Bush so much more tired than Kerry? Maybe because his regular job is far more taxing than Kerry's. How much effort does Kerry put in at his Senator post these days? Bush is and should be preoccupied with his duties as President, and if he looked too well-rested we might say he's just trotting around campaigning and not taking his role as President appropriately seriously. He let it show last night that he didn't like having to stop by and share the stage with the Senator, and he'll have to forfeit a few style points for that.

UPDATE: An emailer writes:
[Y]our comments about Bush seeming more tired and maybe having a harder job got me thinking about something else I'd read today: There was a pretty big assault on Samarra last night that probably was happening during the debate. Could that have been on Bush's mind? Could the reality of what he had probably authorized (that was happening right then) vs. the theater of the debate been weighing on him? Some wouldn't want to give him the credit, but personally I think that's silly. Anyway, it seems plausible. I kind of liked the anger and the passion he showed. Seemed more like the way a real person would behave - like how I would be if I was defending my family from something deadly and someone came along and told me I didn't know what I was doing.
ADDED: At some point, a President would have to cancel the debate. At some point a President shouldn't be out campaigning at all. But if the demands of office are invoked, the opponent will respond with predictable criticisms. The derisive phrase "Rose Garden strategy" will be deployed, and the strategy itself has a bad track record:
Jimmy Carter complained President Ford was using [a "Rose Garden strategy"] in 1976. That year, Ford basked in the glory of the White House, signing bills, making pronouncements, getting free publicity, while Carter had to fight for attention. Carter used the same Rose Garden tactic four years later; They both lost.

"Wrong war, wrong time, wrong place."

"Wrong" was the key word in last night's debate.
President Bush threw Kerry's phrase "wrong war, wrong time, wrong place" in Kerry's face six times. Bush was intent on saying that this recent Kerry campaign mantra is the wrong message for a President to send to the troops and to the world. This was, in fact, Bush's most prominent point, and he, characteristically, stayed doggedly on message throughout the night. Harping on Kerry's recent, heavyhanded anti-war message, rather than on the usual "Kerry's a flip-flopper" was an effective strategy.

At one point, Kerry came out with a line I suspect was preplanned: "I've had one position, one consistent position: that Saddam Hussein was a threat, there was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way."

"Wrong way"? Yes, I remember when "wrong way" was Kerry's catchphrase, but for most people focusing on the debate last night, what would be echoing in our heads is "wrong war, wrong time, wrong place," and that is far different from merely the "wrong way," the phrase Kerry uses to explain his various conflicting votes and statements about the war. "Wrong way" is the defense against the inconsistency charge, but Kerry's own words "wrong war, wrong time, wrong place" destroy the sense of the old "wrong way" explanation.

My first Blogad ... Hawaii.

One of my blogging specialties has always been, as my subtitle above says, "the way things look from Madison, Wisconsin." Now, I seem to be all about Hawaii! Well, what a pretty little ad. Welcome, sponsor.

Myself, I've never been to Hawaii, but, to continue the theme of my previous post--me in 1960 at the age of nine: like a lot of people, I loved Hawaii, back then, when it was getting so much attention for becoming a state. I had a distorted perception of the United States, back then when Alaska and Hawaii entered the union. For one thing, a few years before Hawaii became a state, I heard someone talking about prospective statehood say, "I hear Hawaii is coming in." I thought the islands were literally moving toward the west coast and would attach themselves to the mainland! I added this knowledge to my unreliable knowledge bank. And I contemplated the knowledge and analyzed things, I came up with the notion that year by year, new places would become states. Every place, I assumed, was lining up to join the United States. One year, Alaska, next year, Hawaii. I thought it was too bad it would take so long, what with only one new state per year. Why, it would take fifty years to add fifty more states. Too bad we couldn't go faster.

In third grade, I had a teacher we all adored, Mrs. Lynam, and she had recently taught school in Hawaii. So she was always talking about Hawaii, having us make Kleenex into flowers to string into leis, teaching us the hula, and generally giving us the impression that fulfillment in life had to do with getting to Hawaii. Yet, after all these years, I remain unfulfilled. Nevertheless, I'm gratified to get such a pleasing image for the first ad.

September 30, 2004

Who won?

When I was nine years old, I watched Nixon and Kennedy debate. I barely had any understanding of what anything was at that time in my life. I remember reading newspaper headlines and puzzling over who this Krushchev was. Somehow I thought Tchaikovsky was the same person. Basically, nothing political made any sense to me. But I got the feeling that the debate was important. My parents--who almost never watched television--watched it intently. So I watched too. Somehow I thought I understood it enough to see that it was a competition, and when it was over, I asked my parents, "Who won?" With their usual amusement at the inadequate comprehension of children, they informed me--making me embarrassed for thinking in such childish terms--that it wasn't the sort of thing that anyone actually won. I hated feeling embarrassed and resolved to try to figure out what the hell the world was all about. Politics was something these adults had a handle on, and I had better get up to speed if I wanted to avoid the dreaded, humiliating condition of embarrassment. Forty-four years later, I hear other people going on and on about who won the presidential debate, and I wish I could send a message back to my nine-year-old self, that lots of people, plenty of whom are adults, think it is a game to be won or lost. I can't do that, but I can turn off the horrible spinning that follows the debate, the embarrassing assertions of partisans hoping to to affect the minds of those who might somehow find themselves in the condition that I found myself in when I was nine years old and looked to the nearest authority figures to tell me who won.

UPDATE; Rereading this post Friday morning miraculously revived an old memory. "Somehow I thought I understood it enough to see that it was a competition," I wrote. But now I remember why I thought that. It wasn't that I was able to perceive that the two men were in a winnable competition, it was that I had heard the commentators speaking over and over about who would win, just as commentators spoke about last night's debate. I aspired to grown-up understanding when I was nine, and I especially wanted my parents to give me credit for it. So I thought I was pretty precocious when I said "Who won?" I was saying what the people on TV were saying, feeling certain that I was speaking like an adult. My parents' instant rejection of my attempt at adulthood was crushing, and I realized that this adulthood business was going to be hard: there was some discrepancy between what the people on TV were saying and what the adults I depended on understood to be true. Embarrassed and bewildered as I was at the time, I can see now that they were teaching a lesson about consuming media that remains useful to this day.

My take on the big debate.

I watched the big debate live, without benefit of TiVo pausing, and that means I can't give the impression of simulblogging here. I will admit that I nodded off at one point, somewhere right before the closing statements. I will say that I was watching along with one of my sons, who wanted to watch the post-show on MSNBC with Chris Matthews, and that when I saw Ron Reagan Jr. was one of the commentators, I grabbed my laptop and ran out of the room. I put on FoxNews in my bedroom, and I ran a hot bath. I listened to a bit of Brit Hume's post-show as I took that hot bath and tried to think if I had anything helpful to add to the whirlpool of post-debate spin.

I thought both men held their ground. Senator Kerry put on a more polished show, while Bush seemed to struggle to contain his passion. At times, when Kerry spoke and the camera showed President Bush, I thought Bush looked truly incensed. I said, more than once, "Bush looks like he hates Kerry." I didn't listen to enough of the post-debate spin to hear how much people may have said that Kerry threw Bush off; but to me, Bush seemed to be overwhelmed with feeling, maybe even haunted by knowledge of what he had been through and resentful that Kerry would challenge him. Bush often paused for a disturbingly long time while speaking. Kerry misspoke and bumbled at times, but never, I think, because of any real feeling that gripped him. Kerry seemed aware that this was his big chance to make a move toward victory, and he did what he needed to do. Bush seemed put upon, genuinely irritated that he should be asked to account for himself. Kerry seemed to engage with the opportunity presented by the debate, while Bush seemed more annoyed that his hard work these last four years had not been understood and appreciated.

The nerd's brain.

A nice, nerdy girl is tested for coolness by brain-mapping scientists, told she's somehow especially cool, but later they call her back and say, no, really she's not. Though the heading of the article gushes about brain studies--"why brain mapping is the new trend spotting (and the hottest trend in brain science)"--the author's conclusion feels quite different:
Even in carefully focused studies, however, there's still the problem of what is actually being seen. For example, no one really knows what it means when the amygdala - the brain's emotion processor and one of its most studied regions - lights up. Is it recognizing fear, anger, or happiness? Or deciding how to respond to it? Or is it merely deciding whether to respond? Despite the new fMRI technology, cognitive function remains a black box. At this point, researchers can't even say for certain whether the amygdala is activated primarily by aggression or equally by emotions like despair and joy.

The sentimentalists among us may rejoice that the human mind is still a mystery.

Side point: If you cover yourself with enough tattoos, you may not be able to have an MRI, because "tattoo ink contains trace amounts of metal, which can act like tiny lightning rods in the strong magnetic field of an MRI machine."

Surprising student email of the day.

I have an album coming out in the Spring, and I sampled part of your Fed Jur lectures.

Would you like to hear? The album will be released in both Europe and the US. A few majors have approached us, but we have declined.

Permission to quote the email was granted, along with the request to plug the group's name: Cougar.

Restaurants and WiFi.

There's a restaurant I like on State Street where sometimes I've picked up a WiFi signal and sometimes not. Today, I opened my laptop and checked for the signal before ordering. If I had not picked up a signal, I would have gone to the place next door, which always has WiFi.

The rule is: casual restaurants need to have WiFi.

Justices' names to appear in the oral argument transcripts.

It's about time. Since we're already listening to recordings of the arguments, the identity of the Justices is hardly disguised. It was sometimes diverting to try to recognize the voices. I could always tell O'Connor, Ginsburg, Rehnquist, Breyer, and (if only he ever spoke) Thomas. But Scalia, Souter, and Stevens were a little hard to tell apart from the voice alone.

Kerry fades out of Wisconsin.

Slate's "Election Scorecard" map shows Wisconsin in solid red now. And here's the local paper's coverage of Kerry taking his leave of Wisconsin yesterday:
His mid-afternoon departure Wednesday drew fans and detractors along the 50-plus mile motorcade route from the resort to the airport. About 100 people cheered him at an intersection in Dodgeville, and supporters near a farm implement dealer along Highway 18-151 in Iowa County held up three large signs that said "DeBate," "DeBunk" and "duh- Bush."

Elsewhere, a farmer gave the motorcade a double-fisted middle-finger salute, and on Stoughton Road in Madison, the motorcade passed the local headquarters of the Bush campaign, where a Bush supporter was dressed like a giant flip- flop. Kerry has been accused of changing his positions on issues.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Gordon Smith stopped in at Shubert's, the folksy Mount Horeb restaurant where Kerry did a photo op on Sunday. Gordon is struck by the framed photograph, dating back to 1960, of John Kennedy [visiting Shubert's], which is hanging just inside the front entrance:
Conspicuously absent from the restaurant was any evidence of Kerry's recent visit. Not even a photo from Monday's newspaper. As I paid my bill, I prompted the owner for some thoughts on Kerry's visit. He responded with obvious disdain, "Lots of television cameras."

When a local business owner who's maintained a shrine to Kennedy for 44 years feels no glow from your visit there two days ago, you've got a problem.

The death of a voice.

How many, many hours we spent listening to the voice of Scott Muni. He was there in the early and mid 1960s, alongside Cousin Brucie, on WABC-AM, playing the Top 40 singles of that era, pop songs that can never be equaled. Looking back, I feel lucky to have been an adolescent in those days and to have those songs playing in my head for a lifetime. In 1966, he was the voice of the new FM radio on WOR-FM and then WNEW-FM, back when terms like "progressive radio" and "underground radio" were in vogue.

From the NYT obituary:
"Scott was the heart and soul of the place," said Dennis Elsas, who was hired by Mr. Muni and became WNEW-FM's music director; he is now a disc jockey at WFUV. "We were all kind of making it up as we went along."

Musicians were constant guests at the station. During one interview, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin collapsed in mid-sentence; Mr. Muni played an album, revived the guitarist and finished the interview with Mr. Page lying on the floor. In another interview, Mr. Muni played cards on the air with members of the Grateful Dead.
Thanks for everything, Scott!

Race, anti-Semitism, and sex on "The Apprentice."

"The Apprentice" last night began with a gesture at solving what some perceive as the show's race problem, by running a long clip of Kevin (the only remaining black contestant) mildly ranting at the women when they return from the boardroom, where last week they achieved the end of their conspiracy to oust Stacie J. (the other black contestant this season). Kevin does not mention race, but since he's black, it quite clearly seems intended that we should read his scolding as criticizing the women's team for racism. But, neatly, the show does not have to take any responsibility for actually calling anyone racist.

Later in the show, Jennifer is fired, after doing any number of stupid and irritating things. Because Jennifer has made herself such an obvious target for firing, Trump fires her without ever calling on Stacy R. to tell the tale of how Jennifer detested two elderly women customers at the team's restaurant and repeatedly called them "two old Jewish women." Stacy R., who identifies herself as Jewish, is righteously irked, and when Jennifer, this week's team leader, picks Stacy R. as one of the two women who will join her in the boardroom in the end, we see Stacy R. reacting with a knowing smile and a little nod. During the commercial, we anticipate Stacy R. accusing Jennifer of anti-Semitism, but we never do hear it. I'm sure it was said, but edited out. Maybe we'll hear it if there's an extended boardroom show over the weekend, but I'm thinking the show's producers think they must walk a fine line, showing the antagonism among the contestants, including some behavior we may easily interpret as racist or anti-Semitic and allowing us to see the offenders punished in some way, but editing out the inflammatory labels.

Meanwhile, the show's woman problem rages on. Here's Prof. Yin's take. Miss Alli shows no pity as she scoffs that the women are "sure to have an easy time ... now that the bothersome troublemaker has been banished." The women are an awful group who seem to beg us to think all sorts of bad things about women. The men are a much more appealing group. On the positive side, at least it was the men this week, not the women, who decided to use their sexuality to win. Well, maybe the women did it a bit too, by wearing little black dresses as they milled around in the restaurant, looking like extras in a Robert Palmer video on a break. (I love the way the men all agreed who among them was the best looking. Would women ever do that?)

Oh, the poor clueless women! They are trying to use their prettiness the way the women last season did quite successfully. And they all dressed alike this time, and that worked so well for the boys the time they all put on bow ties and sold ice cream. Their real problem is a complete failure ever to come up with a single creative idea or even to notice that they should. Then they resort to the short-term strategy of attacking each other to get someone fired, which only makes things uglier when they go back to their rooms. Next week, Pamela, the woman who early on was sent to the men's team, is reunited with the women. Hopefully, she'll change the dynamic in some exciting new way--maybe by pointing out exactly how awful they all are.

September 29, 2004

A new TV arrives, DVDs are deployed to test its quality, and, a propos of Kerry's new tan, the subject of disease perceived as health is discussed.

As noted a while back, my old television gave up on the color red, and I ordered a Sony HDTV. Waiting for it to be delivered, I kept watching my old TV, where everything was green and yellow and blue and gray and black. When I wrote about Kerry's new orange spray-on tan yesterday, an emailer reminded me that I wouldn't be seeing it on my TV. That would have been true, except that my new TV arrived today, via Sony's free premium delivery service, which entailed two nice young men taking the set out of the box outside, bringing just the set in, and putting it in its place in the big room. They did a great job delivering the TV, even introducing themselves and shaking my hand after I answered the door. They didn't have to, but they did take out my big old broken TV, which became a topic of conversation:
Does it work?

It just doesn't have any red. It might be good for someone who only likes very old things, things in black and white.

Or colorblind. My uncle is colorblind.

I think the TV could help noncolorblind people see what it's like to be colorblind.

I can test that on my uncle -- if he's the right kind of colorblind.
Assuming there is a form of colorblindness where you just can't see red, my TV would let a normally sighted person see what that was like. And I assume for that colorblind person, my TV would be the same as a color TV. But it's hard to think what kind of an impression my bad TV would have on someone with the more common sort of red-green colorblindness, where red and green look the same. I think if I were partially colorblind, I might prefer to turn the color off altogether and watch in black and white. Yet I did not do that with my bad TV. For some strange reason I preferred the wrong color, even though a black and white picture was more aesthetic.

When I got all the stray cords hooked up into reasonable places in the back of the new TV--ignoring for now the weird new things like card slots--I wanted to test the picture with a DVD. I picked "Apocalypse Now" and got all mesmerized. Chris took over and tested the TV with DVDs of:
"The Birds"
"8 1/2"
"Moulin Rouge"
"Titanic"
"Ghost World"
"The Two Towers"
"Mulholland Drive"
"Tori Amos: Welcome to Sunny Florida"
"The Sopranos"
"Labyrinth"
"The Cranes Are Flying"
"Spirited Away"
"Blue Velvet"
The picture was pronounced spectacular. The built-in sound--carefully checked in the engine room scene in "Titanic," right after the iceberg is hit--was declared superior to the separate speakers we used with the old TV.

So--in short--I will be monitoring the debate tomorrow night in thoroughly beautiful color and excellent sound.

And on that subject of Kerry's getting overtanned for debate purposes: Kerry, like Gore before him, seems to think it's good to be tan for a debate, a belief can be traced to Kennedy's appearance in the 1960 debate. But we know now that Kennedy's tan appearance was in fact a symptom of his Addison's Disease.

The subject of disease perceived as health is an interesting one. Here are three other examples:

1. I remember reading an essay some years ago written by a woman who had been suffering from cancer, who heard many people tell her how great she looked. They were only seeing that she had lost a lot of weight. (Send a link to this essay if you know it.)

2. There is a terrific essay by Oliver Sacks in "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" (one of my favorite books), about a 90-year-old woman with syphillis, which she called Cupid's Disease, who enjoyed the lively, tipsy way it made her feel and did not want to be cured: "I know it's an illness but it's made me feel well."

3. In the Tennessee Williams play "The Glass Menagerie," the character Amanda makes having malaria sound fun: "I had malaria fever all that Spring ... just enough to make me restless and giddy."

NYT pronounces UW lawprof "wiry."

It's R.W. Apple writing about the Wisconsin Farmers' Market. The wiry lawprof in question comments on the appellation here.

The last time the NYT called anybody "wiry," it was the cinematographer of film director Wong Kar-wai:
Christopher Doyle, a wiry 50-year-old with bright blue eyes and a shock of mad-scientist hair, simultaneously zoomed out and moved the camera for a kind of reverse corkscrew effect, from closer in to a stopping-point near the ceiling.
That's how wiry cinematographers behave. Nina writes compellingly--here--about why Poles blog so much (twice as much as Americans). Go read that and find out what drives wiry Polish, female, lawprof bloggers.

Links in high places, where readers don't seem to be the click-through type.

Even though I check Sitemeter a lot and see who's linking to this blog and sending traffic this way, I very well might not have noticed that the official Bush campaign blog linked to my "How Kerry lost me" post yesterday. It just didn't produce much traffic. Links yesterday from Volokh and Allahpundit brought more. The most recent link from Instapundit brought much more. Just being the top link on Vodkapundit's "top shelf" brings seems to bring more on a given day. So what's going on? Either few people read the official campaign blog, or the people who do just aren't the click-through type.

Let's assume the people who read the official Bush campaign blog just aren't the type who click through to read the original. My anti-Bush editor snipes: Of course they're not the click-through type! They like their big-picture, incurious George because they too want to be reassured in thinking what they already think and don't want to be troubled by disturbing details!

In fact, the Bush blog chose two paragraphs of my long post and set these out in full. The intro to the first paragraph quoted is:
For months, blogger Ann Althouse was an undecided Wisconsin voter. In this post carefully weighing her decision in November, she reaches the conclusion that John Kerry is simply the wrong choice. First, she remembers being impressed with the Republican National Convention, which offered substance and an agenda for winning the war on terror ...
So the Bush blog reader knows I'm a woman, previously undecided, and from Wisconsin. They don't know I'm a law professor. I just seem to be one of those women voters in a swing state everyone has been talking about. Maybe a soccer mom turned security mom. Later, the Bush blog refers to me as "Ann," not Ms. Althouse or, properly, Professor Althouse.

Was my post "carefully weighing [my] decision ... [and] reach[ing] the conclusion that John Kerry is simply the wrong choice"? No! My post was conceding I'd been expressing a lot of hostility to Kerry lately, then going back over old posts to trace the origin and history of my discontent. I wasn't weighing my decision like a generic voter, I was trying to understand myself and using the resource of my own old blog posts.

Was the first thing I wrote about the Republican National Convention? No, it was the twelfth thing I wrote about!

Did the convention impress me because it "offered substance and an agenda for winning the war on terror"? I never said that. I wrote about being impressed by the passion and conviction about national security as expressed by Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Ron Silver.

The Bush blog quotes only one other paragraph of my post, which was over 25 paragraphs long. I don't mind linkers picking out the paragraphs they like, but if people don't click through and read, they aren't going to see whether those quotes were taken out of context.

UPDATE: Thanks to all who emailed to say they didn't click through from the Bush blog because they had already seen the post as regular readers of this blog. Regularly returning readers are ideal, I think all bloggers would agree.

September 28, 2004

Blogads!

I've signed up for Blogads. So here's your big chance to be the first to advertise on Althouse!

Nader off the Wisconsin ballot.

Madison.com reports:
A Dane County judge Tuesday kicked Ralph Nader off the Wisconsin ballot, prompting an immediate appeal by the independent presidential candidate with the state Supreme Court. While Judge Michael Nowakowski ruled Nader should be left off the ballot, he also prohibited the Elections Board from sending county clerks a certified list of presidential candidates until Wednesday afternoon to give Nader’s backers a chance to appeal. There was no immediate word from the Supreme Court whether it would accept the case. ... State Democrats sued to kick Nader off the ballot, claiming he had failed to comply with state law that requires presidential candidates to list 10 electors on their nomination papers. The statute says the electors shall include one from each congressional district and two at-large. One of Nader’s electors listed as living in one congressional district actually lives in another. Electors cast ballots in the electoral college to decide the presidential race.
Well, what's the excuse for making a mistake like that? I know the Nader people worked hard to get him on the ballot, but what can you do? A rule's a rule! (I'm no expert on this law, and maybe there's a pro-Nader angle I'm missing. Email me info you know.)

UPDATE, OCTOBER 1: For Wisconsin, change "a rule's a rule" to "close enough."

The "Bush volunteered for Vietnam" story.

The Columnist Manifesto has decided that new reports that Bush volunteered to go to Vietnam do not require that he reconsider his take on Bush the "draft dodger." Why? He just doesn't believe it:
Why hasn’t the White House previously offered us the assertion that Bush “volunteered for Vietnam?” I mean, what, did Bush simply forget about that episode? Or has he been silent about it because he realizes it’s kind of lame to say, “Gee, I asked about going to Vietnam once, but they wouldn't let me”? This isn’t like Winston Churchill asking General Eisenhower’s permission to ride out with the Normandy assault troops on D-Day. I’m sure if Bush really wanted to go to Vietnam, he could have pulled some of the very same strings he used to get into the Texas Air National Guard in the first place and gotten himself over there.

Or has the “Bush volunteered” story not come up before because (like the Kerry didn’t deserve his medal’s story) it’s untrue?

But it's never been established that Bush pulled strings to get into the TANG. One could just as well read his failure to get assigned to Vietnam as evidence that he did not rely on string-pulling to get what he wanted. As to why Bush never raised this point before: Perhaps it's because Bush has never used his military service for self-promotion. You might say that's because he has little to brag about, and surely volunteering to go to Vietnam when you don't meet the eligibility requirements is not an especially strong basis for bragging. But generally, those who've served in the military refrain from using their service for self-promotion, don't they? And one reason the Swift Boat Vets came forward when they did was that Kerry began to use his claim of military heroism as the centerpiece of his campaign.

Personally, I'm willing to accept Kerry's medals as the final judgment about what Kerry did in Vietnam and Bush's honorable discharge as the final judgment that Bush fulfilled his duty to the Guard. I'd rather talk about more relevant things. Kerry supporters like The Columnist Manifesto can't let go of this argument that the man who has fought in a war is better prepared to make decisions about war. But you know damn well they'd rather have Bill Clinton.

UPDATE: An emailer sends this link to a 1999 interview with Bush that appeared in the Washington Post. The information about Bush volunteering to go to Vietnam is clearly stated there. If it was untrue, I feel quite sure someone would have skewered him about it by now. The interview is also interesting for its clear statement of Bush's intent to become a pilot:
Why did you do the Guard instead of active duty?

I was guaranteed a pilot slot. I found out – as I'm sure you've researched all this out – they were looking for pilots. I think there were five or six pilot slots available. I was the third slot in the Texas Guard. Had that not worked out no telling where I would have been. I would have ended up in the military somewhere.

You meant to join the Guard when you took the pilot's qualifying test?

Or the regular Air Force. I was just looking for options. I didn't have a strategy. I knew I was going in the military. I wasn't sure what branch I was going into. I took the test with an eye obviously on the Guard slot, but had that not worked out I wouldn't have gotten into pilot training. I remember going to Air Force recruiting station and getting the Air Force recruiting material to be a pilot. Then I went home and I learned there was a pilot slot available.

The emailer notes:
George Bush has a father that served as a Navy pilot during WWII. I also had a father that served in the Navy during WWII. I think that, to a certain extent and at some level, both George Bush and I wanted to be our fathers. If you were a boy during the fifties and early sixties, and loved and respected your father, this was a very normal thing. My father was not in Naval aviation. So the thought of flying, while appealing, was not at the top of my list of things to do. I tried to be a Naval officer, but they wouldn't take me since I wear glasses.

George H.W. Bush was a Naval combat pilot. George W. Bush would have heard stories about that all his life. That, I think, is why wanted to be a pilot. Getting to be a military pilot then was not easy. There were just so many slots. The active duty pilot slots filled up quickly with military academy and ROTC graduates.

Based upon what I remember from the times, I could easily believe that there were no available fixed-wing flight school slots for active duty officers when George Bush was looking for one. The Guard, however, could easily have been another story. Much has been said about George Bush jumping the queue of 150 other people to get a slot in the TANG. This has been used as proof that he used favoritism to get into the Guard. There were 150 people on "the list" (as if there were only one list) and George Bush got into flight school. QED...

What has not been said is that few, if any, of those 150 people would have been applying for pilot slots. A non-flying slot would have meant, at most, about a six months commitment of time. About six to nine weeks in basic training followed by another six to ten weeks in a technical school. Then back to your home unit for some on-the-job training and then release from active duty. For the next four to six years, it's just one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Get your 50 points a year and then get out.

A pilot slot was a much different story. A one and a half to two year commitment to active duty was the norm. That's just about the same time commitment as for those who were drafted. At least the first year to year and a half would have been spent away from your Guard unit. You would spend that time on an Air Force base, wearing an Air Force uniform, and doing Air Force things with Air Force people. You might even think you were in the Air Force during that period.

Much has been made of George Bush's claim (and this is strictly hearsay since I never heard him say it) that he served "in the Air Force" when he was actually "only in the Guard." Well, as someone who was "there" at the time, I think they would have had trouble telling him apart from the "real Air Force" during his time in flight school. "If it looks like [an Air Force officer], and walks like [an Air Force officer]..."

Going orange for the debate.

So John Kerry seems to have gotten one of those dark spray-on tans. He's done this before. Back when he was on "Meet the Press" in April, Chris commented:
He has the Charlize Theron tan. You realize it's like a major Hollywood fad. All the big Hollywood celebrities, especially the female celebrities, are getting an orange tan. Britney Spears got it. ...He's gone way too far. I mean, it's hard to even take him seriously."

Well, he's gone and done it again!

You just know it's his debate look. Whenever presidential debate season comes around, the one thing you can count on pundits to talk about is the 1960 debate when Kennedy looked tanned and rested and Nixon looked pasty white. There are any number of reasons why Kennedy was more appealing on television than Nixon, but the one thing Kennedy had that anyone else can get is a tan.

Other more recent debate memories have faded. Why don't Kerry's people remember how Al Gore was ridiculed for looking way too orange in the first debate in 2000? Here's what Camille Paglia had to say back then (this link and those that follow are to Salon, so prepare for an ad if you click):
As for Al Gore, if I had had any doubt about whether he deserves my vote, he managed to run right over it with his out-of-control, ham-laden 18-wheeler. What a loathsome, smug, preening, juvenile character! The supposedly great debater babbled out of turn; snickered, snorted and sneered; panted and sighed like a bellows; and rocked to and fro and ripped paper like a patient in a mental ward. And Gore looked positively repellent with his dark mat of dyed hair, garish orange makeup and flippantly twisting, strangely female features: I kept on thinking of the bewigged, transvestite Norman Bates as Mother in "Psycho."

Yeah, the part about orange is in there. Here, let me highlight it. Hmmm.... amusing. Paglia had quite a number of problems with Al Gore there, didn't she? I suppose I could have found a quote more focused on the orangeness of Al Gore, but it would not have been have contained as many fascinating words. Like "ham-laden" and "bewigged." Aw,poor Al didn't deserve all that. On the other hand, come back Camille! That was fun to read.

Here's Ben Stein's ridicule of Gore's looks:
Gore was comically overmade-up, I guess because he was so nervous about sweating. I work in show business every day, and I don't think that I've seen that much makeup on anyone besides a Las Vegas showgirl. I kept waiting for his false eyelashes to fall off.
Orangeness aside, Gore's first debate offers many lessons that Kerry might want to learn. Here's Andrew Sullivan summing up the first 2000 debate in a few sentences:
The best way I can think to describe the last hour and a half is assisted suicide. Gore was wooden, condescending, boring, preachy, very liberal. Bush was a human being, good-natured, reasonable, smart, sane. It was a knockout.

I have a feeling those sentences, with the appropriate changes, will probably be reusable after this week's debate.

Murray Mall!

Here's the new campus project:
UW-Madison is unveiling details of its proposed $10 million East Campus Mall that will run from Regent Street to a grand esplanade opening on a view of Lake Mendota.

The seven-block mall will include special pavement; places for public sculptures, fountains and places to sit, study and socialize; ornamental planting beds, signs, lighting and more.

I'm excited about this but one phrase in there scares me: "public sculptures." It's possible to have a great campus sculpture, but in recent decades, extremely unlikely. They just don't make them like this anymore:


"He kind of made it sound like Bush wasn't thinking straight the last four years."

That's a 13-year-old's summary of John Kerry's presentation to a middle school yesterday (as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal). Meanwhile, over at the high school the kids are a bit irked: "I thought it was stupid that they went there - none of them can even vote." The high school talk continues:
"For this hick town, it's a big deal," said senior Parker Gates, 18 ...

"His wife's been seen walking around," said junior Davon Noltner, 17.

"Is she hot?" asked Gates.

Some high school kids did attend the rally at the middle school, like 17-year-old Erin Brander, 17, who wore a button that read "Except for ending slavery, fascism, Nazism and communism, war has never solved anything." Her assessment of Kerry: "He tends to insult Bush a lot."

UPDATE: Emailers tell me the slogan on the button is from protestwarrior.com.

Sex, lies, and psychology studies.

The NYT reports on a study by Gordon G. Gallup Jr., a psychologist at the State University of New York at Albany:
When researchers asked volunteers to listen to recordings of people counting to 10 and rate the attractiveness of the voices, they found that the voices rated highest belonged to people having more active sex lives. Moreover, their physical characteristics (broad shoulders and narrow hips in men, narrow waist and broad hips in women, and symmetry in both) conformed to conventional notions of attractiveness.
The article doesn't detail the results enough to overcome my skepticism about the accuracy of this finding. I do note that it says "the voices rated highest belonged to people having more active sex lives," not the most active sex lives, so I suspect that we might find that some of those with the most active sex lives did not necessarily have highly rated voices. We're just not seeing the overall correlation between good and bad voices and active and inactive sex lives. And we can't tell if good voices are attracting more sexual partners, or if (as the article suggests) the human voice conveys information about a person's sex life. But more importantly, we need to account for lying. Maybe the voices of liars are rated more highly, and of course, a subject people are quite likely to lie about is their sex life.

Former prosecutor: an impressive credential for Kerry?

Beldar has a nice post analyzing the limitations of John Kerry's credentials as a former prosecutor. ("He's always been a prominent member of the subspecies Lawyerus Politico.") I wonder how much people really are thinking of voting for him on the basis of that short period of his life? I suppose that "former prosecutor" image is used like "Vietnam veteran" to make people think he's tough in some areas where people tend to think Democrats are soft.

Unlike Beldar, I don't care at all that Kerry hasn't kept his legal license current. He's not a practicing lawyer anymore, but he's entitled to rely on his earlier experiences as he runs for office. A Senator doesn't need to have an active legal license. I'm a lawprof, and I don't keep my membership in the New York bar active, because I don't practice law. The only possible problem with retiring from the practice of law is the implicit statement that you plan never to return to practice. An elected official might want to disguise the fact that he sees himself as a career office-holder.

The main problem I have with Kerry going on about his prosecutor days (and his Vietnam experience) is that it means he isn't resting on his more recent and relevant experience as a Senator. Other than the talk of his votes about the war, I've heard almost nothing about his accomplishments in the Senate. You'd think the Senate is just a holding chamber for presidential candidates--which is especially pathetic considering that it's been 44 years since a Senator won the presidency.

September 27, 2004

Horse sense.

John Kerry came to town yesterday, and here's the report of his doings that appeared in the local paper, the Capital Times. It's worth going to the link to see the picture of him raising a beer mug, while sitting next to a local guy who was just hanging out in a Mount Horeb bar, trying to watch the Packers game, when Kerry dropped in to make a photo op out of him. I'd bet Kerry made a point of saying the name of the Packers' stadium a few times as he was waving that beer glass around. Today, the article says, he spoke in a middle school in Spring Green (where he is preparing for the debate):
Kerry said a Madison man told him yesterday that he feared voting for Kerry because he didn't want to change horses in mid-stream.

Kerry told the man, "When your horse is headed down the waterfall, or when your horse is drowning, it's a good time to change."

"May I also suggest we need a taller horse. We can get through deeper waters that way," Kerry said.

We'll never hear the end of this horse in the stream business. It just keeps getting new frills. So we need a "taller horse," because the current horse "drowning" as we go into "deeper waters." And now we've added a waterfall. So I guess we need a special kind of horse that's especially good at surviving a precipitous drop, which you'd really want in a situation where two horse were simultaneously going over a waterfall and you decided your horse was less crashworthy and that it would be a good idea to try to get onto the other horse while you were still in the waterfall. That's quite the metaphor.

How come we don't hear about Kerry's penchant for poetry anymore? (Here's an old post of mine making fun of Maureen Dowd's column about Kerry's interest in poetry. Key line: "Maureen, the man isn't a poet, he's a windbag!") Who even remembers when--or why--there was an argument that Kerry was better than Bush because of his interest in poetry?

What we're not talking about.

It's been a strange election season. Though it's gone on way too long, a huge amount of energy has been wasted on matters unrelated to the next four years, chiefly the sickly obsession with Vietnam. The talk about Vietnam perhaps occupies the space that would otherwise be devoted to more general blather about character. We're also hearing a lot of punditry about what women are doing, often in the form of whether Soccer Moms became Security Moms. (Have you ever noticed that these specialized labels are always about white people? No one ever talks about, say, "Security Blacks" or some such group. Would it seem offensive? If so, maybe you should worry about offending women with such labels. If not, why isn't it done? Is it because people believe racial groups do and/or should vote as one?) And there's always room to talk about things that affect the finances of older people (like medicine). (If young people voted more, maybe the government would bend over backwards to help us pay tuition. Can't we at least get the interest deduction for student loans back?)

But what is not being talked about that you would have thought you'd hear plenty about?

Supreme Court appointments! This was a huge issue in the 2000 election, when we were told the next President was sure to appoint two and maybe even three or four new Justices, and we--especially we women--were encouraged to feel quite alarmed about it. Here's speculation about particular appointments, in the October 4 Newsweek (including the ridiculous notion that President Kerry might appoint Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court). The Sacramento Bee today asserts that "All Eyes" are "on Aging Justices," which, first of all, is not true (no one seems to be bothering); and second of all, is offensively ghoulish. (Why are we so solicitous of the needs of old voters, but openly take a deathwatch attitude about old Justices?) The Bee article is not based on statements by the candidates and notes that Kerry hasn't made the issue a "centerpiece" of his campaign. It quotes those who would like to see the issue on the front burner. Here's an AP article noting the absence of candidate attention to the issue.

I see there's a Daily Kos piece from Saturday, "Crank up The Supreme Court as an Issue in this Campaign!"
Is there any reason the Kerry campaign isn't making the Supreme Court a HUGE issue? ...

There's been a lot of talk recently about a possible decline in support amongst women for John Kerry. How about ratcheting up the Roe v. Wade/Supreme Court issue in the last few weeks?
As if the Kerry campaign might somehow have just forgotten about abortion and the standard way to make it a big issue. (Those Justices aren't getting any farther from the grave!)

Why don't the reporters delve into the question why the Kerry campaign decided to drop the issue? I could speculate, here in my dining room in Madison, Wisconsin: Some research showed the issue hurt Kerry. But why don't the professional journalists reveal the actual strategies of the campaigns? The AP reporter--prompted by Kos?--just dusts the cobwebs off the old deathwatch warnings heard in the 2000 campaign and calls up the head of a "liberal-leaning" group and a "conservative-leaning" group for some stock verbiage.

UPDATE: The parenthetical at the end of the first paragraph makes it look as though I consider myself a young person. I'm not. But I am quite involved in paying tuition! And sorry about not doing a better job of copy-editing this post earlier. I've touched up some gaffes (like "a AP article").

ANOTHER UPDATE: There is some kind of interest deduction for student loans, as an emailer pointed out. Sorry for the misinformation. Back when I had student loans, you could deduct all the interest (you could deduct your credit card interest too!). Now there is some kind of complicated approach that phases out the deduction as you make a higher income.

September 26, 2004

How Kerry lost me.

I started this blog in mid-January, and I've devoted a lot of words since then to analyzing the presidential campaign. I've said many times that I'm not going to pick my candidate until October. Yet I find myself expressing an increasing amount of hostility to Kerry, so I thought I'd go back and trace the arc of my antagonism through my various posts.

Here's my first statement about Kerry and the Iraq war, made on April 9th. (It was Good Friday--scroll up [actually, click here] to see the man preaching from a cross.)
I think it makes a lot of sense, after the primary season, to ignore the Presidential campaign as much as possible. There's no reason for a moderate like me, who might end up voting for either candidate, to follow the campaigns right now. For one thing, it's not fair to Kerry, because I find him a boring speaker and I'm really going to get tired of him if I pay any attention to him. For another thing, I can't think about him seriously until I know what he plans to do in Iraq, and he hasn't said what he will do. (Will, meaning, in the future. How the past might have been different is not going to determine my vote. And don't try my patience by telling me that I can infer what he will do in the future from what he asserts he would have done in the past.) He has no motivation to take a position on Iraq until closer to the election: why should he pin himself down when events are in flux?

Six days later, I got irked at him for the first time, for saying "You're not listening" to a man who wanted to know what his position on Iraq was. Back then, Kerry was saying things like "We shouldn't only be tough, we have to be smart. And there's a smarter way to accomplish this mission than this president is pursuing." My question was: "If you still don't know what he would do differently from Bush, do you deserve to be snapped at for 'not listening'?" I've linked back to this old post of mine a number of times, because I never forgot that he got testy and accused a man of not listening, when in fact Kerry had never expressed himself clearly about what he would do in Iraq. I had been willing to wait a long time for a clear answer, yet here he was criticizing us for not having heard his answer yet. All I had heard was "smarter way," which just seemed like a placekeeper for a plan to be submitted later.

On April 19th, Kerry appeared on "Meet the Press," and Tim Russert asked Kerry exactly the question I wanted an answer to: What would you do differently from Bush in Iraq?
Kerry's "response" is to launch into an anecdote with no apparent connection to the question (about a Vietnam vet--of all things) and gradually work his way toward something that will seem to be an answer. The strategy is to put the "answer" as far from the question as possible, in the hope that you'll forget the question and accept the proffered "answer" as an answer (or just hope that he'll stop talking already). Does Kerry ever answer the question about the future of Iraq? He always substitutes assertions about mistakes in the past. The most I'm hearing about the future is that Kerry will pursue all the same goals, but in a "smarter way." I'll just do it better. Trust me! Why? Because Bush hasn't been good enough.

On April 28th, I complained about a Kerry appearance on "Hardball." I'm irritated by meandering non-answers and robotic repetition of lines from his stump speech. I offered Kerry a deal:
It's on and on about the medals and ribbons. This is incredibly irritating. I agree with Kerry that it's pointless to quibble about whatever it was he threw away when he was an young man with an issue to fight for. But let's make a deal then: stop using Vietnam as an argument for why you should be President. The whole issue is a waste of time. I'm willing to accept that both Bush and Kerry are good people with good character. Now, get on with it! Give me some substance!

After the first commercial break, Kerry is smiling--with teeth showing oddly. Someone told him to smile, so he's taking stage directions. Oh, I'm so hopelessly tired of Kerry.

And that was back in April! Little did I know then that he would keep robotically delivering clips from the stump speech and would make Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign! Looking back, I can see that the "Meet the Press" and "Hardball" interviews were crucial in turning me against him. Notably, Kerry thereafter steered clear of serious interviews.

May 1st was an important day, when Kerry responded to the news of Abu Ghraib. I complimented him and expressed a hope:
Kerry may choose to do something more with this issue later, but [his comments today show] complete forbearance from opportunism. I want Kerry to demonstrate that he would never allow his political ambition to override the interest in the successful completion of our efforts in Iraq, and I have worried that he would pursue the strategy of uniting Bush and the war in the public's mind, creating a single entity (BushWar), and then use every opportunity to find fault with something done in the war to attack BushWar. What a disaster that would be.

Perhaps Kerry's statement only represents the astute political understanding that he needs to avoid appearing not to support our soldiers--especially important for him because of his Vietnam era statements--but I hope there is something more to this restraint, that there is a real commitment to the success of the mission. He is in a tough position here. Should he criticize Bush for not acting swiftly and harshly against the accused soldiers? For now he's chosen to refer to gathering the facts and providing "appropriate" process to the accused soldiers and preserving the rule of law. That may be too tame, part of his characteristic dullness, but it may be the surface of what is a competent commitment to the success of the war effort.

Nine days later, I wrote about Abu Ghraib again:
If Bush doesn't find a way to do something comprehensive, he deserves to be replaced. Whatever deficiencies Kerry may have--and I have not been a Kerry supporter--I would like to see him moved into the Presidency to make clear statement of the thing that Bush himself keeps going around saying: this is not what Americans are.

This was the point of my strongest support for Kerry.

On May 29th, I was pretty sympathetic to Kerry and defended him against attacks that he took too many positions:
One can easily portray Kerry as a man who takes so many different positions in such a confounding mix that no one--no one with any real potential to actually vote for him--ever gets too upset. Yet, obviously, Kerry has a careful balancing act to perform, and he seems sensible about trying to hold on to the middle. For the antiwar side, he seems to be offering only a feeling that he's going to wind things down more quickly and effectively than Bush, but Bush is trying to reach the same goals Kerry is stating. (This is why I'm not deciding between the two candidates until October: I'll see what Bush has actually done between now and then.) Kerry is urging ... that we get away from "partisan politics" and "just think common sense about our country, about what it should be doing." I don't argue with that. It's hard for him to get specific about what he would do, since he wouldn't be starting to do anything until over eight months from now. How can he use common sense to figure out what should be done that far in the future when things are changing every day so far out of his control? That's the downside of not being an ideologue.

Ironically, on this day I was dealing with nasty commenters on my blog (right before I turned off the comments function), who couldn't stop telling me what a louse I was for not condemning the war.

In June, two things happened that I wrote a little about: Reagan died and received a lavish funeral, and "Fahrenheit 911" came out and was loved and hated. I watched a bit of the funeral and avoided the movie. Various people used the occasions to stoke extreme partisan feeling. I felt my usual aversion to all of that. On July 1st, I complained about "ugly political imagery."

On July 31, I was very impressed by a Christopher Hitchens article that attacked Kerry for criticizing the war in Iraq for using money that we could be spending on our own people at home. Like Hitchens, I found that argument repugnant. Kerry further alienated me by repeating that argument many times.

Right after the convention, in early August, I questioned the assumption that Kerry is especially smart and call him "a cipher who went to Vietnam":
[M]y questions about Kerry's intelligence do not arise solely from my inference that he had a poor academic record and low standardized test scores. My questions are also based on his exasperatingly convoluted and unclear manner of speaking. This has been excused as a propensity for "nuance" and "complexity," but could also be caused by a lack of mental capacity. It could also be willful evasion. I'd really like to know. ... I've been listening to him talk for a long, long time, and I'm not impressed at all. And I'm sure not impressed by the mere fact of someone managing to hold a Senate seat for a long time!

I realize people who truly despise Bush don't care about any of this. The fact is Kerry's the candidate, so there's nothing more to say. Unite behind him, whoever he is. It's too late now. And please don't say anything bad about him. Shhhh! But that doesn't work for people, like myself, who don't despise Bush. I am actually trying to assess Kerry! Where is the material? It certainly wasn't presented in the convention last week, and Kerry's speeches and interviews are not exactly brimming with information. I've been looking for an answer to what he plans to do in Iraq for a long time ... and I still can't figure him out. It seems to me we're being asked to make a cipher President. A cipher who went to Vietnam. And isn't Bush. Is that enough? If you hate Bush, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" It isn't enough for me.

Next came the Republican Convention, which I watched much more closely than the Democratic Convention. I had TiVo'd the C-Span coverage of all nights of both conventions, but the Democratic Convention bored me and the Republican Convention gripped me. The speakers that made a real impression on me were: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Ron Silver. These men all spoke well and with conviction. I listened to every word they said. I will admit to feeling deeply struck by Silver's line: "The President is doing exactly the right thing." Silver was open about being a liberal on the social issues--as I am--but passionate and clear that national security trumps other matters. I agree! I even enjoyed Zell Miller's old-style preacher speech.

How did Kerry try to claw his way back into the running after the convention? He was getting a lot of conflicting advice and being told to fight harder and attack. This post, written on September 5th, was pretty sympathetic to Kerry:
Of course, Kerry does seem to be on the path to defeat right now, so his supporters can't help panicking and find it hard not to yammer a lot of (conflicting) advice at him. But I think his best chance lies in continuing to be the lumbering, dull but solid and grown-up guy that he is, so that when election day finally comes and the excitement-seeking is over, people will look at him and say--perhaps: Yes, he's a frightful bore, but put him in the office and he'll probably earnestly work hard and make a decent share of good-enough judgments, which is all we really ever hope for anyway.

I could still have accepted Kerry at this point. But Kerry decided to go for the hard Howard Dean-style criticism of "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." In these last few weeks, he has battered us with negativity about the war, but still without offering any realistic positive solutions that are different from Bush's, and raising worries that he will simply give up on Iraq. And then he disrespected Prime Minister Allawi when the man was in the country and speaking to Congress. Yesterday, I wrote of Kerry's treatment of Allawi as his final, fatal mistake. I meant only to say that he had sealed his fate with voters for that, but, realistically, thinking about it today, I have to say he sealed his fate with me personally. Rereading this post, I see that the hope about Kerry I expressed on May 1st is completely lost.

UPDATE, MONDAY EVENING: After devoting much of Sunday to tracing the arc of my antagonism, it was nice to get so many visitors today. Thanks to Instapundit for starting the traffic, to Allahpundit for the cool quip ("[A]fter several months of looking at the menu, Ann Althouse decides she's not in the mood for Waffles."), and to lots of other people who linked and emailed.

Untame my hair.

Let's ask the experts about the deep meaning of the presidential candidates' looks. That's sure to be helpful. Caroline F. Keating is, according to the NYT, "a professor of psychology at Colgate University who has studied status cues transmitted by facial features." She worries that Kerry's "droopy brows and hooded eyes send an unwelcome signal of age and lethargy," and that he ought to "show more animation and smile more." You can make up for your tired, old eyes not only with smiling, but also with "exciting hair," which Prof. Keating thinks Kerry has. She says "This wild, untamed hair is something we associate with youthfulness." But what do we associate a sculpted, lacquered helmet of hair with? Because that's what some of us see topping the craggy Kerry face. Maybe it's not that seeing the hair affects what we think of the man, but that what we think of the man affects how we see the hair.

That NYT Magazine article about bloggers.

I suppose the New York Times thinks that by writing about bloggers, it can force all us bloggers to link to it. I already link to them much more than to anyone else (because I begin every day interacting with the paper NYT). I was going to shun the blogger piece, but I won't, because I wanted to comment on this:
[I]n 1999, Mickey Kaus, a veteran magazine journalist and author of a weighty book on welfare reform, began a political blog on Slate. On kausfiles, as he called it, he wrote differently. There were a thousand small ways his voice changed; in print, he had been a full-paragraph guy who carefully backed up his claims, but on his blog he evolved into an exasperated Larry David basket case of self-doubt and indignation, harassed by a fake ''editor'' of his own creation who broke in, midsentence, with parenthetical questions and accusations.

That paragraph makes me realize our culture has indeed changed dramatically--not, because of blogging, but because the NYT could write out an observation like that and not feel compelled to drop in the word "postmodern."

This is interesting too:
The blogs that succeed, like Kaus's, are written in a strong, distinctive, original voice. In January, a serious-minded former editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education named Ana Marie Cox reinvented herself online as the Wonkette, a foulmouthed, hard-drinking, sex-obsessed politics junkie. Joshua Micah Marshall, in his columns for The Hill and articles for The Washington Monthly, writes like every other overeducated journalist. But on his blog, Talking Points Memo, he has become an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol aimed at the president...
Which persona is the invented persona? Wouldn't it make more sense to conclude that the dry, dignified version of Kaus/Cox/Marshall was the playacting and the vivid personal voice is the real person? Isn't self-expression the incentive to blog? Well, yes, but that self-expression can include escaping from your usual, socialized-to-get-along-well-with-others persona and finding the edited version of yourself that is readable, bloggable. It can't be bland, but it doesn't need to be nasty. The bloggers I've come in contact with--with a rare exception--are decent and fair. I'm struck by how rational and orderly the world of blogging is. You really can't get away with just "spitting vitriol." As the Times writes in its inelegant phrase, it must be "well-crafted vitriol" if you are to hold readers, and then it isn't really spitting at all, is it?

Interesting fact about Josh Marshall: He drinks a very large Coke and a very large iced coffee at the same time. The Times thinks it's interesting that he "sometimes even" writes in bed. Well, who in possession of a laptop doesn't write in bed sometimes? Does he blog naked? That might be interesting. Or not.

Interesting fact about Kos: When he was 17, at 5' 6" tall and weighing 110 pounds, he joined the Army, where he learned to fight back after years of being bullied. Also, Kos cares a lot about bloggers getting respect, and when he talks about it, though he smiles, the New York Times perceives "all the veins ... pulsing in his neck." I like this Kos quote: "If I care about something, I'll write about it. It's the essence of blogging." He displays a very tough attitude, then he expresses a fear of his own high traffic and a guilt about not linking to other bloggers enough. Kos has the most spirit and angst about blogging. If you wanted to make a documentary or a biopic or a fictionalized film about a blogger, Kos would make the best subject.

The Overture celebration.

Last night was another open house at the big glamorous Overture Center here in Madison. Here's how the inside of the dome looks at night:



Here is how our beautiful Capitol dome is framed in the immense windows of the Overture Center:



Here's a glimpse of the complex interior paths of the Center:



Last night, there was a big concert (Dave Brubeck) in the big Overture Hall. We did not have tickets, so we couldn't check out the Hall. It's said to have fabulous acoustics. I hope so. We stopped in to two free concerts that played in two of the smaller performance spaces. Later, a salsa band played in the cavernous lobby area. Lots of townsfolk were there, and plenty of people danced happily.



Even though none of the music I heard was the kind of music I like, I enjoyed seeing the community gathering in a beautiful space. I especially love the grand tradition of everyone coming to a big dance, which is the way human beings have enjoyed the gift of life for millennia.