October 7, 2004

"I loved Dick Gephardt because every time I saw him he would sit down and eat a pie."

That's a quote from Alexandra Pelosi, whose documentary about the Democratic primaries premieres on HBO Monday. That and similar nuggets appear in Cathy Siepp's article about the film. I greatly enjoyed Pelosi's "Journey's With George"--about Bush's 2000 campaign--and eagerly await the new film. In 2004, Pelosi liked pie-eating Gephardt the best, and I get the impression--from her film diary at the HBO site--that she did not get much good material about John Kerry, because he just wasn't the type to goof around in front of the camera. I don't think HBO is planning to reshow "Journeys With George" to go along with the new Pelosi movie, but it is available on DVD and highly recommended. Quite sweet and funny, with a lot of material about what people ate while traveling around on the campaign. Seems like the new one has a lot about food too. Food is Pelosi's idiosyncratic humor theme.

Things Mimi wouldn't understand.

Yoko Ono (in today's NYT) explains why John Lennon's early drawings were surrealistic, but his later ones realistically depicted domestic life:
"In the beginning, when he was doing the exaggerated stuff - the monster-looking people, and all that - those come from a time when he felt that Mimi was always looking over his shoulder," she said, referring to Mimi Smith, Lennon's aunt, who raised him. "He said that was how he came to surrealism. He would write things in his diary that he wouldn't want Mimi to understand, and the drawings were an extension of that. He was getting into an unreal, illusory world.

"Then when he met me, he felt that reality wasn't that scary anymore, so he began drawing us. And eventually, because he was learning Japanese, his drawings were a reflection of that experience too, but the more prominent change was that he began doing a lot of animals, and that was for Sean."
Oh, I think there is a lot more to surrealism than hiding from Aunt Mimi. Ono also says that in the early days of their relationship, talking about art, Lennon said "I think of myself as Magritte." The fact is, the early surrealistic line drawings are much more interesting. If his surrealism was about hiding from the female authority figure of his early life (Mimi), why should we not view the later realistic domestic scenes as mollifying the female authority figure of his later life (Ono)?

The Times article relates to the "When I'm Sixty-Four" gallery show, the title of which I complained about at some length here. There's a slide show of Lennon's drawings at the first link above.

UPDATE: Here's a link for Magritte, whose work really isn't very much like Lennon's surrealist line drawings. Lennon's work is far more similar to Jean Cocteau's drawings.

"The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position."

From a NYT piece on Kerry and Religion:
Careful not to question the sincerity of Mr. Bush's faith or to criticize the mobilization of conservative religious forces on his behalf, Mr. Kerry nonetheless suggested his opponent's campaign had gone over the line with the way it frames some issues.

"I think you have to draw that line, so the answer is yes, they reached beyond that line, and in my judgment they're trying to exploit certain issues," he said. "The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position. But they're out there misleading people and exploiting it."

Isn't the gay marriage issue also exploited, in different quarters, by Kerry supporters who--if the positions really are the same--also mislead people?

The NYT piece is also interesting for a quote by Kerry in what the Times calls "the left-leaning Catholic tradition of helping the poor and criticizing the war":
"If you look at Catholic teaching, ... it teaches about the environment, our responsibilities to the next generation. It teaches about poverty, our responsibility to the poor. It teaches about fairness. It teaches about peace and brotherhood and a whole series of things which I think this administration is failing on."

How different the campaign would feel if Kerry openly embraced a deeply principled, committed dedication to helping the poor. It's considered such a political liability to be a liberal, that the liberalism that does appear is desiccated and devoid of passion.

UPDATE: Both Instapundit and Kausfiles link to the Times article via this blog (thanks!) and call for Andrew Sullivan to pay attention to it [the article, not this blog], which he does here:
I have never trusted Kerry on gay civil rights, still don't, and wrote a piece earlier this year for the Advocate, warning gay voters not to trust him. So, yes, Mickey, I am aware of his slippery, unprincipled and vacuous stand on civil rights for gay couples. (This, of course, is indistinguishable from his slippery, unprincipled and vacuous stand on almost every other issue as well).

But Sullivan's for Kerry, remember. To be fair to Sullivan, let me acknowledge that he goes on to talk about a key difference between Kerry and Bush: Bush has spoken in support of amending the U.S. Constitution with respect to gay marriage. It's fine to make that distinction, but if you want to rely on that, how can you read Kerry's statement above as anything but shameless opportunism?

Air Madison.

Al Franken's Air America broadcast live from the Great Hall of the UW Memorial Union yesterday. With him on stage were "Gov. Jim Doyle, The Capital Times Associate Editor John Nichols and Alta Charo, a UW-Madison professor of law and bioethics. U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D- Madison, and U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, joined the show by telephone from Washington, D.C." (Note the Wisconsin lawprof in the group.) He had this to say in an interview:
"We do a different kind of show. I'm not the mirror image of Rush Limbaugh. I do a totally different kind of show. I don't bloviate for three hours and pull stuff out of my butt and mislead and lie. We're very scrupulous about our facts. I'm proud of that."

He did go for three hours though. I didn't attend (or listen on the radio). If you did and you have any information on whether he did in fact bloviate or anything else bloggable, email me.

October 6, 2004

"You're our Michael Jordan, you're everything."

So said Sirius to Howard Stern. Stern says: "Sirius — the future of radio — will take this dream to a whole new level as I bring my fans my show my way. It will be the best radio they will ever hear." He also said this on air: "The FCC ... has stopped me from doing business. Clear Channel, you (expletives), I will bury you."

Well, why shouldn't satellite radio be the equivalent of HBO? Get rid of the commercials, free the speech, and run with it. I'll subscribe. Good for Stern for drawing attention to this new technology. Broadcast radio has its place, and I'm not criticizing the FCC for keeping it decent, but I love the alternative!

Swastikas in Madison.

A few days ago, the Capital Times reported:
A west side backer of President Bush found a large swastika in his yard Thursday, right next to a Bush-Cheney sign. ...

[A police spokesperson] said the 8-foot-by-8-foot swastika was probably made by pouring some chemical over the green grass, causing it to turn brown.

The resident also reported other political vandalism in the area, but police haven't confirmed any other cases, Samson said.
And here's the Wisconsin State Journal, reporting on last night's Vote for Change concert (featuring the Dave Matthews Band) at the Kohl Center. The band was promoting Kerry, and one concertgoer, a 48-year-old man, wore a T-shirt with an "image of the president and a swastika." Another concertgoer said he had been planning to vote for Kerry but would now vote for Bush to counter the guy with the shirt.

Kerry seems to have a good number of supporters who are not helping his cause at all.

UPDATE: That this sort of thing hurts Kerry makes me wonder if it's an anti-Kerry dirty trick. Maybe neither swastika-wielder in these stories was a Kerry supporter. I note that the vandal in the first story seems to have used herbicide to burn the swastika into the grass. I would expect hard left anti-Bush types to be more environmentalist in their choice of hate-speech writing tool. [ADDED: In that last sentence, I had "anti-Kerry" when I meant "anti-Bush" and I've corrected it. Sorry.]

Madison politics.

Here are a few signs seen in and around the UW campus this week. In Madison, there's a vivid dialogue:



There are those who put up "Liar" stickers and those who respond by scratching out Bush's face. It's a little ambiguous. Are the sticker defacers Bush supporters?

Then there's the forthright bumper sticker:



Here's another:



Sunshine Daydream is selling "Psychedelic Republicans" cards, like this one of Laura Bush:



Kiosks provide space to tape up fliers. The secret plan for a draft is a big topic today. Someone has written "false" on all these fliers with a light blue marker:



There's a chalking announcing a meeting of Feingold supporters:



And the Catholic student center is offering an alternative take on current issues:



The morning after the debate.

Lots of visitors in the last 24 hours! Thanks for stopping by. It took me more than three hours to get through that debate, with my "simulblogging" operating on a TiVo delay. It was strange but cool to see that I was getting over 4,000 visitors an hour as I was setting my reactions to Cheney and Edwards in writing. I watched some debate analysis shows, talked to Chris, called up John, reproofread my debate posts, and found it was well after midnight. I had to get up a 6:30 the next day, because I'd made one of those early morning dentist appointments. I hate waiting in the waiting room, so I take the earliest appointment, even though I also hate an early morning appointment. Getting to sleep at 2 meant that my middle of the night wake-up took place at 5, so I just got up. That gave me time to half-read the paper and check out some of the blog reactions to the debate. Vodkapundit has a lot of good observations. I liked:
7:10. Know who Edwards reminds me of? Bush on a good debate night. Repeat your points, stay unruffled, sound folksy.

He was drunkblogging. I started out with my glass of wine with dinner. A bit later, I could feel my energy flagging and, what with 4,000 visitors an hour and the domestic policy section of the debate coming up, I figured I'd better drink a big Diet Pepsi--one of the reasons I was up until 2 and then back up at 5. Ah, now for the tedious trip to the dentist. I'm sure the hygienist will be perky and talkative, which is hard enough in any case--how can you converse when she's got all those instruments in your mouth?--but it's sure to be pretty irritating this morning.

UPDATE: The hygienist was pleasantly less chatty than hygienists of past visits. She did ask me if I watched the debate. Why yes I did. How about you? Who did you think won? She didn't know. In fact, she hasn't really been following the election and doesn't know much about the candidates yet. Well, you still have plenty of time. Cheney and Edwards really have very different images, though, don't they? "Yes," she said, "And so do Bush and Kerry. Both of those ... couples ... are very different."

And let me just say, in case you're planning to take me to task for asking her who won or for saying at the end of last night's long post that Cheney clearly won, that I'm not disqualified from discussing who won by my "Who won?" post from last week. I won't annoy you with a lawyerly style parsing of that post to demonstrate why. Suffice it to say that I could. And that it would be annoying.

October 5, 2004

May the best man of the best man win.

I'm going to simulblog the Vice Presidential Debate , so I'll number my posts, with each new number representing an update.

1. Bremer's not-enough-troops statement leads off, in a question to VP Cheney. Cheney plugs in his prepared statement about Iraq: Iraq was "the most likely nexus between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction." The war in Iraq was "exactly the right thing to do," and he'd recommend it all over again if he had the chance. Pay no attention to that Bremer behind the curtain! Cheney had nothing to say about Bremer at all.

2. Edwards, similarly, plugs in his prepared material about Iraq. (Poor Bremer is not getting the attention he might have wanted ... or not.) Edwards says lines I think I remember Kerry saying last week. "We lost more troops in September than we lost in August, we lost more troops in August than ..." The litany of defeatism. People have died, people have died. When I turn on NPR in the morning, the first thing I hear is nearly always the number of persons who just died in Iraq, almost never in a context connecting those deaths to what they fought for, just dismal, hopeless death. Edwards takes that tack. "Iraq is a mess"--the grand simplification. A mess! And McCain agrees with me--Edwards asserts. McCain's not there to protest, but Cheney will do it for him most likely. [He never does.] Edwards does have a line in there about Bremer. But most of it (as with Cheney) is the phoned-in prepared Iraq material.

3. Cheney rebuts, and the split-screen shows Edwards blinking furiously. Nervous? Or just contact lenses? Edwards then gets rebuttal time and he seems all charged up as he says there's no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, which is, again, totally phoned-in, because Cheney said nothing about the connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Cheney spoke only about progress in Iraq (the refutation of "Iraq is a mess.")

4. Gwen Ifill--who's wearing a terrific blue jacket with dramatically curved lapels--asks Edwards--who's wearing a standard dark gray suit, red tie, and, for originality, light blue shirt--whether, if he and Kerry had been in office, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Good question, but of course he has to say no. The only interest here is in how artfully he frames his no. Like Bush last week he mixes up the names of the nemeses: "Saddam ... I mean ... uh ... Osama bin Laden ..." How did bin Laden get into the answer? He plugged in his material about botching the war in Afghanistan, which is tangentially related to refocusing attention on Iraq. But allowing the Northern Alliance to take the lead in Tora Bora was not done because of Iraq. It was simply the preferred strategy for Tora Bora (even if, in hindsight, it was bad). Edwards characterizes Iraq as a diversion, as if that is why we failed to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora. This seems to say that we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, finally approaching Ifill's question. Now, he's getting all harsh on the no connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11th point, but he's the one who dragged Osama bin Laden into the answer to a question that was only about Iraq. And, most importantly, he never answered Ifill's question! He never said whether he and Kerry would have left Saddam Hussein in power. He never even got in that "no" I assumed he'd have to say. He just wandered over to something else he wanted to talk about and hoped we wouldn't notice.

5. Cheney: "They are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror. ... A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign or as part of a Presidential debate cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues. And they give absolutely no indication, based on that record, of being willing to go forward and agressively pursue the war on terror ..." This is the first blow that lands in this fight, I think.

6. Ifill, showing her scripting, raises the question of Afghanistan, which Edwards just pre-answered. But this question is to Cheney, who points out that Afghanistan is four days from an election, and that two and a half years ago, Edwards announced that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and chaotic. So: Edwards was defeatist, calling Afghanistan a mess too soon, and (we may infer) he's prematurely giving up on Iraq. Edwards cocks his head to the side and gives a quick smile. He needs a comeback. But Edwards merely repeats the accusation that Tora Bora was handled wrong and that Iraq was a diversion. He then consumes the rest of his time defending John Kerry over the "global test" proposal made in last week's election. But I want a response that has something to do with the GOOD Dick Cheney just claimed we achieved in Afghanistan. It's as if Edwards is programmed to keep telling us that everything went bad. But is nothing good? Is it not good that there will be an election in Afghanistan and that women will vote and so forth as Cheney just said? Ah--Edwards pooh-poohs the "rosy scenario" that Cheney paints about Afghanistan (and Iraq): Afghanistan is growing 75% of the world's opium! There are warlords! Not every place is secure! Cheney slams back, comparing Afghanistan to El Salvador: we succeeded against terrorists there because people aspire to democratic self rule. Edwards responds to this by suddenly switching to the topic of Iran, and I'm thinking that Ifill is cursing Edwards to herself, as he introduces another topic that she had planned in her questions.

7. Ifill's next question, to John Edwards, is about Kerry's "global test" proposal, which Edwards has already addressed out of place in two previous questions. There really is a clear answer on the "global test" point, but Edwards is not making it crisply. Cheney is gathering steam now. His arms are crossed on the desk and his head is down and wagging from side to side as he makes each point. Some of his points are preplanned (voting for the war and against the war; wrong war, wrong place, wrong time). Now he's marking out his points, patting with his palm in spots along the surface of the desk. "There's no indication at all that John Kerry has the conviction to successfully carry through on the war on terror." Edwards rebuts: this is a "complete distortion." The proof? "The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night." So, yes, Kerry did a good job in the debate last week, and he said strong things, which, if that was all we knew, would make us think he was going to be tough on the war on terrorism. But Cheney's point is that if you look at Kerry's long record, it doesn't back up that tough stance. Edwards is saying: ignore that record, remember how Kerry won the debate last week?

8. Would it be dangerous to have Kerry as President? Ifill asks. Cheney: he's not aggressive enough! He was against fighting Saddam Hussein in 1991. He voted against funding of the current Iraq war because he was caving in to pressure from the Dean anti-war candidacy in the primaries. If he couldn't stand up even to Dean, how can we trust him to be tough enough?

9. Is it believable that Kerry can bring together a coalition of foreign nations at this late point in the war? Ifill asks Edwards. His answer is scattered. How can it not be? Who believes there is anything that Kerry could do beginning in January that would bring in more allies? Edwards--using the politician's pointing thumb--switches to another topic. Lack of body armor! Cheney: "It's hard, after John Kerry referred to our allies as 'a coalition of the coerced and the bribed' to go out and persuade them to send troops and participate in the process." You can't say "wrong place, wrong war, wrong time" and "oh, by the way, send troops." Of course, this is exactly what Bush said last week, but Cheney's solidity here is impressive. Now, he plays what I consider his ace: our most important ally is Allawi, and when he was here, speaking to the Congress, Kerry "demeaned him, challenged his credibility." Edwards answer is, first, about money. The first Gulf War cost five billion dollars, he says, holding up five fingers. The current war, "200 billion and counting." Second, 90 percent of the casualities are American. Cheney's answer: "He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of our Iraqi allies." This fits with the point about Allawi: you want allies, the Iraqis are our allies! John Edwards looks upset by this response, but he does not get a rebuttal.

10. Edwards uses the next question for rebuttal of the previous question, but it is an unmemorable mix of previous points about how badly things are going in Iraq. The question on the table is about intelligence. The next question is about sanctions on Iran. I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for Edwards. Cheney is an intimidating presence, and, frankly, he's kicking Edwards's butt. Ah, the first mention of Halliburton. Cheney: Halliburton is a smokescreen. Go to Factcheck.com for the facts! [ADDED: That should be Factcheck.org.]

11. In answer to a question about Israel, Edwards tries to tell what he characterizes as a personal anecdote. It's the story of Israelis killed by a suicide bomber. Children are killed. Cheney goes back to Halliburton, but then he doesn't really. He just says Halliburton is a smokescreen (again) and Edwards has an undistinguished record as a Senator. Just forget about Ifill, why don't you? She wanted to talk about Israel, but screw it! Let's just plug in the material about all the votes Edwards missed as Senator! Cheney is in the Senate, as the President of the Senate, almost every Tuesday, and the first time he ever met Edwards is tonight! Ouch! Edwards successfully stifles any reaction. Cheney deigns to answer Ifill's question about Israel: Saddam Hussein paid Palestinian suicide bombers' families. Edwards rebuts: Cheney voted against Headstart back when he was in the House! Against Meals on Wheels! Against the Martin Luther King holiday!

12. Finally, the foreign policy section is over. And the question is: what are you going to do about Cleveland? (They are in Cleveland.) Cheney cites No Child Left Behind; education is key. Edwards subtly scoffs at Cheney for talking about education when the question was really jobs and poverty. Of course, Cheney probably really does think education is the right approach to the problem, but Edwards is somewhat successful at making the education strategy seem cold and heartless. Edwards asserts that the administration is "for outsourcing jobs." They think it's good! Cheney's rebuttal praises tax cuts. Edwards rebuts bringing Iraq back into the picture to fit with a planned punchline: "I don't think the country can take four more years." He leans over toward Cheney with an insouciant smile on his face. Cheney glances back and gives him the stink eye.

13. Taxes. The usual positions are taken.

14. Same sex "unions." Cheney: traditionally it's been an issue for the states, but Massachusetts has acted, and the President thinks it's the "wrong way to go, and I support the President." Edwards has a great opening here, but he loses momentum by going back to tax policy, which was (I think) dully batted around on the last question. Now, Edwards goes on about Cheney loving his gay daughter and Cheney looks like he might lean over and take a bite out of Edwards. Finally, Edwards gets to the best point: we shouldn't amend the Constitution to exclude people from equal treatment! Ifill wisely comes in with the next question challenging Edwards (and Kerry) about their opposition to gay marriage. Edwards now has to say "marriage is between a man and a woman," and the distance between him and Cheney dwindles into a technicality. Now, the constitutional amendment is no longer actively offensive, it's just "unnecessary" (the theory being that one state's recognition of gay marriage is not going to exert any pressure on the other states and that there is no concern that courts might force other states to recognize that first state's marriages). And let's talk about health care and Iraq!! Cheney's "rebuttal" is just to thank Edwards for his kind words about his daughter.

15. Medical malpractice. Cheney tries to shock us with the fact that a doctor in Wyoming must pay $100,000 a year for malpractice insurance. Somehow, I don't find that number shocking. Edwards agrees that there should be fewer lawsuits and recommends an independent review of malpractice cases before they can be filed. He's against frivolous lawsuits too. This is an area where Edwards might be attacked or might also do well, but it comes off as a fairly technical issue and I don't think either man makes any headway over the other.

16. AIDS. This is a subject that does not allow either man to make much headway. Both express concern; Edwards tries to broaden the question to be more generally about the need for healthcare.

17. Ifill asks Edwards how, given his inexperience, he has the qualifications to handle the Presidency. What can Edwards do here but babble about good judgment? When it's Cheney's turn, he says, do you want me to talk about his qualifications, and he can barely suppress a grin. It's the happiest we see Cheney all night. He says, I know I was chosen because of my experience and my ability and that it had nothing to do with political ambition.

18. Why is Dick Cheney like John Edwards? That's the question now. Cheney refers to his humble beginnings. Edwards is writing a lot during this answer. At one point, he noisily rips a sheet of paper off his pad. This question seems a bit weird and pointless. A ground rule of the question is don't say the name of your running mate: Edwards breaks the rule twice. But who cares? The question seems nonexistent. Cheney doesn't even want his rebuttal time!

19. What's wrong with "a little flip-flop now and then"? This is another bad question that Edwards uses to throw out a variety of statements that he might have said at any point. Cheney, naturally, uses it to list all the inconsistent things Kerry has said and done that he can think of. Edwards might have talked about the importance of nuance and adjustment to changed conditions and new information, but he utterly ignores that opportunity, perhaps wisely.

20. How to "bridge that divide" and bring the country together? I'm getting pretty tired at this point and don't like the abstraction of this question. Nevertheless, I'm a bit irritated when Edwards says a word or two in answer to the question and then just plugs in a lot of material about health care. I've noticed Edwards has looked for as many opportunities as possible to say the words "health care."

21. Finally, closing statements! Edwards says "I have grown up in the bright light of America, but that light is flickering today" and expresses a hope of bringing that light to us all. Cheney rattles off a pre-planned speech with many references to the war on terrorism.

22. Conclusion: a clear win for Cheney.

UPDATE: Here's the full transcript of the debate.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As has been widely noted, Cheney was wrong about not having met Edwards before. Why would he say that? Even assuming for the sake of argument he's willing to lie, it's so easily shown wrong that it utterly backfires. My guess is that it wasn't a preplanned zinger, at least not a carefully preplanned zinger, and that Cheney just didn't remember meeting Edwards. Even that doesn't make that much sense. Normally, you don't assert you haven't met someone, you ask if you've ever met him or you act as though maybe you have met. This is a very common social situation: people know to be careful about assuming they haven't met someone.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Looking at this clip again (via "The Daily Show"), I get the impression that Cheney could be seen as saying that he never met Edwards in the context of the Senate. That is, "met" could mean "run into" as opposed to "be introduced to for the first time." Still pretty lame, but possibly defensible on a very technical level.

Goodbye to Rodney Dangerfield.

Thanks for all the laughs for so many years. I remember looking out my office window and seeing you standing in the middle of Bascom Hill, surrounded by cast and crew and a hoard of onlookers as you filmed "Back to School." I remember when we first became aware of you back in the 60s, when you were on "The Tonight Show." We all imitated you and laughed. And you were pretty damned terrifying in "Natural Born Killers." Nice work!

On not subscribing to Wired.

The Wired that just arrived (see previous post) is not the newest issue, but the September issue. Wired does that annoying thing that magazines do when you subscribe, which is to send you an older issue, even though you might very well have bought that issue on the newstand. This practice makes subscribing to magazines less of a bargain than the card in that copy you just bought makes it seem.

Yet, in fact, I did not subscribe to Wired. I did something even more foolish. I paid for the premium subscription to Salon.com, because I figured I'd go there often enough that it was worth buying off the commercial they make you watch to get through to the content. But Salon turns out to be less enticing when it isn't walled off with a commercial. Anyway, the subscription to Salon included free subscriptions to Wired and U.S. News & World Report, magazines I now feel that I must at least flip though. Wired and U.S. News & World Report each sent me a postcard offering to cancel my subscription for a $12 (or so) payoff, but I missed my chance. Now I receive these rather silly publications in the mail and waste time looking at them.

I knew it was dumb to say "awesome," but Wired helps me stay hip by advising me to replace "amazing" with "audacious." That's asinine. And Wired's coverage of politics is fatuous. Little sidebars in the September issue identify problems with American politics. Problem #2 is: "The electoral college is broken." A checked box appears next to "SOLUTION." There is a half column explanation of the amazing, audacious solution Wired's genuises have hit upon:
Move to a popular vote. And make it count with instant runoffs. In this system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If the first "winner" doesn't get 50 percent of the vote, the least favorite candidate is dropped, and those votes go to the voters' next favorite candidate. You do a new count, and repeat the process until someone gets 50 percent. This way votes aren't wasted: If voters don't get their first choice, they get something close - their second or third choice. It also allows third parties to emerge without "spoiling it" for like-minded candidates. In 1992, for example, many votes for Perot would have transferred to George Bush Sr., and Clinton might never have triumphed. (The reverse applies to Gore and Nader.) The system hasn't been tried partly because the big parties selfishly don't want to encourage competition, and partly because all that recounting is logistically tricky. But now that we're moving to electronic voting, "the technological barrier vanishes. Computers can do those recounts in an instant," says Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. Digital tech could usher in an age where your vote finally matters.
Do you think you might come down for a moment from your high-tech high and apply some of your intelligence to thinking through the ramifications of how this system would play out? Without the Electoral College system, we would have completely different candidates and many more of them, including many strange niche candidates and extremists who would have unpredictable clout. You want to give a chance to a third party candidate? Your solution gives a chance to a tenth party candidate! You think the "big parties" are just being selfish? Have you ever tried to understand the beneficial moderating effect of the two party system?

I recommend Alexander M. Bickel's book Reform and Continuity: The Electoral College, the Convention, and the Party System, published in 1971, which I reviewed, a propos of the 2000 election, in "Electoral College Reform Déja Vu, 95 Northwestern University Law Review 993 (2001). People spent a lot of time considering abolishing the Electoral College in the decade that followed the very close 1960 election and discovered important safeguards it provides that would be lost with a switch to the superficially appealing popular vote. In any case, given the difficulty of amending the Constitution, especially when shifting the states' power is concerned, it isn't going to happen.

Tom Waits: "Real Gone."

The new Tom Waits album came out today. I'm enjoying the tactile cover design, which you can see at the link, but you need to feel to fully appreciate. I want more tactile graphic design! No sooner do I write that than the afternoon mail drops through the slot and onto the floor. It's the new issue of Wired, the one with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover, and it's nicely tactile too. Mmmmm!

"I just don't want to die on the street."

The NYT reports on Afghan women's reluctance to vote, based on a distinctive fear of dying outside of the home:
There is a saying in the culture, [one woman] said. For a woman, a death in the home - with purdah, which literally means curtain - is a death of honor. A death outside the home is a death with dishonor. ...

Roshana, about 30 and the mother of a 14-year-old son, agreed. She envisioned lying in the street missing a head or a limb, being viewed by strange men. It would be an insoluble stain on her family's reputation.

"Law porn."

Gordon explains why he's getting so much of it lately.

Most interesting fact about Bob Dylan

revealed in the NYT review of his autobiography: "he now owns a bumper sticker reading 'World's Greatest Grandpa'"--or so he says.

Mysterious personal reaction to Dick Cheney.

With the big vice presidential debate tonight, let me say something about the vice presidential debate four years ago. In 2000, I supported Al Gore from the beginning, I voted for him, I stayed up late into the night on election night waiting to hear that he had won, and I monitored each phase of the post election legal battle hoping for Al Gore to find a way to victory. On the Friday when the Florida Supreme Court ordered the full-state recount, I felt stunned by joy. I remember going to see a performance of Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt" at the Music School that night and thinking about Al Gore throughout the performance. The whole time I was listening to the story of Exodus, I was also thinking about Al Gore. Lines like "He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies and lice in all quarters" blended in my mind with images of hanging chads and Floridians eyeing punchcards. When the oratorio was over--"Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously"--and we got up to leave, the first thing I said was: "Al Gore!"

In short, I was for Al Gore.

But there was one point when I was surprised by the anomalous thought: maybe I should vote for George Bush. Within the long period of commitment to Al Gore, the contrary thought that Bush might be the right choice flared up briefly, shortly after Dick Cheney began to speak at the vice presidential debate. (Transcript.) Astounding! Why would that be? Lieberman made the first opening statement. It was warm and folksy, thanking "wonderful people," naming his wife, saying that his 85-year-old mom had called him that day to tell him to be positive. How could the charmless Cheney compare? Cheney began with a quick thanks, an agreement about being positive, and an ad lib about Lieberman's singing, then said, in that flat, warmth-free Cheney manner:
I think this is an extraordinarily important decision we're going to make on November 7. We're really going to choose between what I consider to be an old way of governing ourselves of high levels of spending, high taxes, an ever more intrusive bureaucracy, or a new course, a new era, if you will. And Governor Bush and I want to offer that new course of action.
Well, what is the great appeal in that? It's a bit of a mystery to me. Did I find the very flatness refreshing? He was saying: look, there are two ways of doing things, and you people are just going to have to choose. Not: I'm charismatic, love me. Just: here's the deal; decide.

UPDATE: Gerry Daly of Daly Thoughts tries to solve the mystery:
Obviously, I do not know your mind beyond your writing on the blog, so the possibility I am floating here would be offered to anyone saying that the reaction was a mysterious one.

As you probably have guessed from my blog, I am a bit of a poll junkie. Over the years, I have learned a few things following the polls. One thing is that people lie (or maybe it would be better stated that people often answer in ways that cannot be reconciled with reality). An example is this is how often polls show that people are disgusted with the way politics are conducted. They hate the negativity. They hate the pandering. They hate the money. They hate the disingenuousness. Yet time and again, it is proven that the negativity works, that the pandering works, that the money works, that the disingenuousness works, and the way politics are conducted works. The public does not like it, yet the public acts as if they do like it; they are persuaded by it, and when it is not there they complain about how boring and uninspiring the candidates are.

A second thing I have learned is that even when the public lies, there is some truth involved. And I believe that people really do not like the negativity, the pandering, the money, the whole kit and kaboodle. Time and again, the reformist mindset shows polling appeal when it is properly tapped by an aspiring politician. The public just hates when the views they hold lose, more than they hate the crud that goes on. They believe that both sides do it, so why punish the guy they agree with for doing it?

Now, read Lieberman's offering. It was nothing like what Al Gore has become, what Howard Dean is like, or anything of the sort. As you put it, it was "was warm and folksy", and positive. It was prepared. It was political. Not that there is anything wrong with that; the world would be a better place if politics were conducted more like Senator Lieberman approached it that night.

But Cheney's was a little different. It offered a glimpse beyond politics. It provided a glimpse of the world if, instead of us making political decisions, we made decisions on how we wished to be governed.

Sadly, I think that Cheney is gone. I have not seen him since 9/11. It is almost like since then, he has decided that it is just too important to lose, and that he must play the politics game. I am not sure that is what has happened. If it is, I am not sure he is wrong.

But I wish that Cheney was back, and I wish that mindset was the predominant one. Here's how it is. Choose. And then get back to living life rather than playing these silly games.

Well put. We'll see soon enough which Cheney we will get in this year's debate. My new TV is being set up with HDTV reception today, and I will be testing it out tonight with the wonderfully contrasting mugs of Edwards and Cheney. I'm hoping for some high definition in their substantive positions as well.

ADDED: I've got the title ready for my simulblog of the debate: HDVP.

ANOTHER UPDATE: First, thanks to Instapundit for linking to this. Second, I'm told the debates are not shown in HDTV, so that dashes my hope of getting the chance to inspect every well-shampooed strand of John Edwards's hair and to use my planned title. Third, more than one emailer has observed that two out of three of the components of the "old way" have survived in the Bush Administration.

October 4, 2004

City with the best abs.

San Francisco! Worst abs: St. Louis! According to Men's Health, based on what methodology I don't know.

Phone call just now.

"Hello?" I say, assuming a human being is on the line.

"Hi," says a woman who sounds nice and friendly. But she goes on: "Twenty-two thousand single women didn't vote in two-thousand ..." I slam the receiver down. Who listens to these calls? I've even gotten some where I say hello and I get: "I'm John Kerry ..." and I hang up on him.

When John Lennon is 64.

I see from an ad on page D2 of the paper NYT, that a gallery in New York is having a show of John Lennon's artwork titled "When I'm Sixty-Four," "in honor of" John Lennon's 64th birthday. We don't really need a special occasion to get interested in John Lennon, but even if we did, this one would rub me the wrong way. Is there a more McCartneyish Beatles song than "When I'm 64"? Did John even like it?

UPDATE: My son John emails:
One of the Beatles books that's in the house---probably either Tell Me Why or Revolution in the Head--points out that near the end of When I'm 64, John plays some very idiomatic guitar, which seems to cause Paul to laugh audibly. So maybe John did like it.

And doesn't John do some nice harmony singing?

On the other hand, this is emailed by a reader:
Oddly enough, if my random-trivia books serve me as well as I hope they do, John wasn't a big fan of the song. It was, in fact, written by Paul when he was just a teenager, and was put on the album to honor is father (who, oddly enough, was indeed sixty-four years old at the time). The story goes that Paul's father never did like John, and this didn't make him like the song much more.

So, a mystery emerges. Email me if you have some answers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm checking out the home library of Beatles books, and I see John's memory is right. "Revolution in the Head," footnote on page 176, has this to say about "When I'm 64":
Apart from backing vocals, Lennon contributes some anomalous folk-blues guitar picking to the final verse/chorus (2:17-2:29)--a style joke that provokes an audible grin from McCartney (2:23).

The same page of the book also says that "When I'm 64" was one of Paul's earliest songs and that it ended up on "Sgt. Pepper" because his father's turning 64 made him remember it.

Another emailer sends this link to a Playboy interview, with this quote from John, who was asked who wrote "When I'm 64":
Paul completely. I would never even dream of writing a song like that. There are some areas I never think about and that is one of them.

He may nevertheless have liked the song, but as indicated, it wasn't his sort of thing at all. I stick by my original opinion that "When I'm 64" should not be the name of a John Lennon art show.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Yet another emailer provides this:
Some years ago, I read a short story by sci-fi author Spider Robinson wherein, after Lennon was shot, his body was (secretly) put into (cryogenic?) storage of some kind. The punch line being [spoiler alert!] that, upon successful resuscitation / reanimation, he and Paul realize that they are both, indeed, sixty-four...

I like Spider's writing in general, and though this was a slight story, I guess it was sort of memorable! After brief Googling, it seems to have been "Rubber Soul" published in Omni magazine in 1984. It seems to have been reprinted in at least two short story collections, "Melancholy Elephants" and "By Any Other Name"... Check the sci-fi ghetto of your neighborhood library.

"Kerry's hard-line, right-wing, unilateral, pre-election policy epiphany."

William Safire on Kerry's new hawkishness, as seen in the debate. Safire notes that Bush supporters have opted to ignore it:
Instead, the president focused on the Democrat's sugar-coating of his first-strike pill of prevention: his assurance that his pre-emption had to be one that "passes the global test" to make it legitimate. By ridiculing Kerry's notion that such a surprise attack had to have prior world-public approval, Bush was able to prevent his opponent from out-hawkishing him.

October 3, 2004

Sims 2.

Conversation at Cheeseburger in Paradise:
I'm very involved with Sims 2.

Do you love the characters?

Kind of ... yes ...

Do you feel that Sims is more like life than life itself?

No.

When they die ... do you ... cry?

... no ...


UPDATE: Here's a much nicer Sims 2 link. I'm told the prime improvement of Sims 2 over Sims 1 is that the characters go through all the stages of life (from babyhood to death--before, they were frozen in time). Another innovation is that each character has an overarching aspiration in life (popularity, romance, money, knowledge, or family). And "there are a lot of random weird things that can happen," for example, you can be abducted by aliens, your house can be haunted by Sims who have died, if you aren't very good at cooking, you can set the kitchen on fire and die, and if you get lonely, a large imaginary bunny may come and socialize with you.
Sounds like Donnie Darko.

But it's a friendly bunny. It's not a mean bunny.

ALSO: I'm told all Sims are bi-sexual.

"A T-bone moment."

Fooling around with my new TV, I turned on the closed captioning (which my old TV didn't have). I was watching the tail-end of my TiVo'd "Fox News Sunday," where they had just shown the clip from the debate with Bush snapping that he knows that Osama Bin Laden attacked us. Juan Williams comments:
Well, I think, if you look for a TiVo moment ...

Closed captioning had:
Well, I think, if you look for a T-bone moment ...

"A T-bone moment"--I guess that's when a candidate gives us some of that "red meat" we keep hearing about.

A minute later, Brit Hume, refers Bush's demeanor as "peevishness," and the caption is "peacefulness." Two minutes later "neutralize" is rendered as if it were a guy's name: "Newt Ramize."

On the other hand, there are times when the closed captioning is more accurate than the spoken word. In the first episode of this season's "Joan of Arcadia," Joan's boyfriend Adam is telling her about his summer spent working full-time in a hotel and the caption reads: "What do you want to know about plaster, grout, or unclogging toilets? And don't get me started on caulk 'cause that's my passion." But the actor clearly mispronounces the screenplay's word "caulk" in the most hilarious way possible. I mean, look at that line. It's hard to believe the whole thing wasn't set up as a joke. With the help of the TiVo, we got many laughs from that T-bone moment.

The Sunday shows: rechewing the debate.

I'm reviewing what the TiVo dragged in this morning: the Sunday news analysis shows. The old "who won the debate?" question is provoking predictable talking points. The Republican favorite: whether Kerry won or not, he made some statements that can be used against him ... and now let me use the rest of my time to use those statements against him.

The real reason Bush will win Wisconsin.

Bizarro Gordon has made a discovery.

Our new Islamic law scholar.

The Wisconsin State Journal has a nice piece on our new lawprof Asifa Quraishi (who has the office next to mine):
The California-born scholar of Islamic law, who also worked as a death penalty law clerk for the U.S. appellate court covering the West Coast, was a sought-after prospect in her first crack at a post in academia this fall.

Too often, though, prospective colleges and universities seemed to see her as either an oddity or a token, she said. Many interviewers found it hard to get past her personal background - questioning how she could be a Muslim, an educated woman and an American - while other places seemed attracted to her expertise in a flavor-of-the-day way, driven by the notoriety surrounding recent world violence wrought by radical Islamic movements.

But at UW-Madison, she said, her future colleagues were more interested from the start in exploring the specific ideas in her specialty, which involves comparing the American and Islamic legal systems.

"I felt like I was coming home ideologically," she said.

"It wasn't one-sided," she added. "They critiqued me and I had to work. But I was really into the meat of my ideas. It was right there."

There's much more on Asifa in the article, including her Iraqi-born actor husband and her brief on behalf of a Nigerian woman, an unwed mother sentenced to flogging (she lost, but there was at least some willingness [ADDED: on the part of the Nigerian courts] to listen to the arguments, because they were based on Islamic law).

UPDATE: I've had to deactivate the link because the WSJ took the article down. Too bad!

"The chronic vice of blogs."

The NYT Book Review takes literary websites--the kind without a print counterpart--seriously. Actual links provided. This jumped out at me: "the chronic vice of the blogs -- has she mentioned her fellow bloggers? And how clever they are? And how much she really, really likes them?"

Hmmm.... Well, I'm just sitting here in my dining room trying to make my way through the Sunday Times. For some reason, I'm starting with the Book Review, which I usually toss onto the far corner of the table and mean to read last. The truth is, last week's Book Review is still on the table, unread. So I can't explain my choice of entry point this morning. But I'm thinking, is that the chronic vice of "the blogs"? Surely, there must be other chronic vices capable of challenging that vice's entitlement to the honor of "the chronic vice." Maybe there should be The Seven Chronic Vices of the Blogs. If enough people email me with good candidates for Blog Vices, I'll add a list here later.

UPDATE: I see a complexity in the analysis of blog vices. There are the secret vices and the vices on display to the reader, like the fawning over other bloggers that annoyed the NYT. An emailer suggests two related vices, which are secret vices:
•constantly checking to see who visited your blog via NedStat, Sitemeter, etc. AND whether they are linking to you.

•feverishly tracking/commenting on how well "connected" your blog is through services such as the Blog Ecosystem and Technorati.

Perhaps in these private vices we see the root of the public vice observed by the Times.

A SECOND UPDATE: Another emailer offers two more vices:
•Sneering. A really juvenile, off-putting form of discourse. The blogosphere is slathered with it.

•Opinion incest -- only reading or linking to those who agree with you (or to the "other side" only for purposes of sneering). Has the effect of digging everyone deeper into their ideological ruts/trenches.

Irritating best-seller formula.

Joe Queenan hilariously slams A. J. Jacobs' "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World." Queenan seems perhaps jealous that he didn't think up this formula for cranking out a $25 Simon & Schuster product: "drift through the encyclopedia [Britannica, which you claim to have read cover-to-cover], yank out an entry, tear open his Industrial-Strength Comedy Handbook and jerry-build a lame wisecrack." Queenan is particularly annoyed by the way Jacobs reports amazing facts seemingly unaware that "educated people" have heard it before (e.g., Marat was killed in his bathtub): "Jacobs constantly seeks to bedazzle the reader with his latest shocking discoveries, unaware that things he perceives as riveting arcana are common knowledge in many quarters."

In Jacobs' defense, let me say, there is always someone who hasn't heard history's fascinating facts yet. This might be a great book for a young reader, assuming they can stomach the cornball humor.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner also flags this review, noting Queenan's strange aversion to Entertainment Weekly and the reformatting of the print version of the NYT Book review to drop the line about the reviewer's background (which he finds interesting in Queenan's particular case).

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.