May 26, 2007

"If the United States withdrew its forces from Baghdad’s streets this fall, the murder and mayhem would increase."

According to a NYT study:
The New York Times interviewed more than 40 Iraqi politicians and citizens and consulted recent surveys of public opinion in Iraq. The views of a broad range of senior military officials, American intelligence experts, politicians and independent analysts who have recently returned from Iraq were also solicited....

Sheik Ajmi al-Mutashar, an agricultural engineer and businessman from Salahuddin Province in central Iraq and a Sunni, said he worried that an American troop pullback would lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government. “If the government falls it will be impossible to form another one,” he said. “We will have small emirates or cantons divided on sectarian and ethnic lines.”

Several Shiites also agreed that an American pullback would severely weaken the already fragile Iraqi government and lead to an upsurge of fighting among armed factions. “Without a strong and visible American presence, the government would collapse,” said Abu Fayad, an aide to a leading Shiite member of Parliament. “Of course there will be many different wars. Basra, Diwaniya, Baghdad. Everyone will try to control Iraq’s fortune. The Americans failed, but they should stay.”

Salah Sultan al-Obeidi, 39, a government employee who lives in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City but says he holds secular views, says he worries that moderate elements of Iraqi society would be even more vulnerable if the Americans were to leave. “In Baghdad there will be fierce fighting between Sunni and Shiite extremists. Sunni terrorists will kill all the Sunnis who took part in the political process.”...

“I think the Sadr tide will rule the country,” said Muhammad Qasim Ali, a suitcase salesman in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Karada. “They are the majority and they have a good background, and that gives them a chance to take control. Once we take power, we will be merciful with Sunnis. Our way is to kill somebody only when we suspect he has a link to insurgents.”

"Clinton, Giuliani in a strange way may be helping each other."

Writes Marc Humbert:
While the [New York] endorsements came as no real surprise, the Giuliani camp made it clear there was a multilayer agenda at work. Besides demonstrating to other GOP contenders that he probably had New York locked up and they should keep their distance, Giuliani was also sending a message to Republicans nationwide that he was the one GOP contender who could put New York and other states in the Northeast in play for the party.

"This time we are not giving up on New York. This time we are going to win New York, and we are going to win California, and New Jersey, and Connecticut and Pennsylvania," he said in Syracuse. "We are going to contest this election in every state and not give away half the states before the election even begins."...

Such numbers, according to a top Clinton ally, show not why Republicans should pick Giuliani, but why Democrats need to pick her.

"You cannot win the White House as a Democrat without New York. It would be like trying to win the White House as a Republican without Texas. It just can't happen," said David Pollak, co-chairman of New York's state Democratic Committee.

"I don't think you could make the case that the others are bad candidates, I just think Hillary is by far in the best shape right now against Giuliani if he is the nominee because he does put New York in play," Pollak added. "I'm not saying he wins New York, but he puts it in play."
I realize she's the Senator from New York, but that doesn't mean she's all that much stronger than the other Democratic candidates in New York. Clearly, Giuliani is the only Republican candidate that has a chance in those big blue states. This has been one of Giuliani's big arguments. The question is whether Hillary can take that argument -- which is a good one -- and leverage an argument of her own -- which is not so obvious.
[Clinton and Giuliani] were opponents in the 2000 Senate race in New York until Giuliani dropped out in the face of prostate cancer and a disintegrating marriage. Polls at the time showed the two running about even.

That was also, of course, the year that saw the disputed presidential election being decided by court rulings that gave the Electoral College victory to Republican George W. Bush after Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote.

"It would be a twisted version of 2000 if Barack Obama won the presidential vote by a million votes, but lost the Electoral College because he didn't win New York," said Pollak.
Thanks for reminding us of Al Gore, who would not have lost in 2000 if he had won his home state.

"We like the United States of America, but we do not like your Waschbaeren!"

Nazi raccoons.


A timeline.

The term "snowclones" was coined 3 seconds before 10:57 p.m., January 15, 2004, in Northridge, California.

"In the future, it could get wrapped around a lamppost or a person's wrist, even worn as clothing. Perhaps it can be put up like wallpaper."

You want thin screens? Yes, we want the surface of everything to come alive with video.

"What is the single strangest thing I can do with ketchup?"

[A] teenage boy rubs ketchup over his face like acne cream, then puts pickles on his eyes. One contestant chugs ketchup straight from the bottle, while another brushes his teeth, washes his hair and shaves his face with Heinz’s product. Often the ketchup looks more like blood than a condiment.


"When you say redploy, you mean withdraw." That's an interesting typo, by Andy McCarthy, over at National Review. "Redploy" ≈ communist plot.

The context:
Senator Obama says: "It is time to end this war so that we can redeploy our forces to focus on the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and all those who plan to do us harm."

Senator Obama, are you proposing that we move U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, where you guys keep saying the "real" War on Terror is?

There is also a very good chance that bin Laden and some al Qaeda hierarchy are in Pakistan. When you say "redeploy," are you suggesting that we invade Pakistan?

Folks, let's not let these guys get away with this. By "redeploy," they don't really mean move the troops to where they say al Qaeda is. They don't want to fight al Qaeda. If they wanted to fight al Qaeda, al Qaeda is in Iraq — that is indisputable. Bin Laden has said repeatedly that Iraq is the central battle. ...

If you really believe al Qaeda is not in Iraq — that the real al Qaeda is only in Afghanistan and its environs — then you're on drugs. But, sure, fine, "redeploy" our troops ... to Afghanistan. But can we please have five seconds of honesty? You guys don't have the slightest intention of doing that. You don't want to go to Afghanistan. You want to go home.

When you say redploy [sic], you mean withdraw.
Quite aside from the Freudian typo -- and isn't it funny that the communist plot reference comes from a guy named McCarthy? -- he's right about this. "Redeploy" is such an obvious euphemism -- like "ethnic cleansing" -- that it has -- or should already have -- lost its power to gloss over what is really being said.

There should be a term for this. Maybe there is, but since I don't know what it is, I'm going to call it a screwphemism. This is a euphemism gone bad. Not only do we see through it and know that you're saying the thing you were hoping to downplay, but we know you were trying to manipulate and deceive. So we know what you're really saying, and we mistrust you for not saying it straight.

"Yes!!! I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me..."

"... and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it … and some that don't."

Those are words
which may or may not have been written by Dr. Laura's son Deryk, who is in the Army and stationed in Afghanistan.
Matthew D. LaPlante, the Tribune reporter who broke the story about the Army investigation, had drawn a rebuke from Schlessinger for an earlier article in which he quoted her as saying Army wives should stop "whining."

She posted a reply on her website stating that her position was taken out of context. As a "military mom," she added, she whines to her husband about how scared she is for her son, but "I never whine to my son when he is able to call between missions" for fear of distracting him from his life-and-death duties.
Here's LaPlante's story about the whining wives:
Raging radio human relations guru Laura Schlessinger, in Salt Lake City on Friday to speak to Army families at Fort Douglas, said she was tired of hearing the complaints of lonely and overwhelmed military wives whose husbands are deployed.

"He could come back without arms, legs or eyeballs, and you're bitching?" Schlessinger asked before taking the stage at the base theater to host her daily program on ethics, morals and values. "You're not dodging bullets, so I don't want to hear any whining - that's my message to them."

Schlessinger boasted that she once talked a young woman out of marrying a soldier, noting that "warriors need warrior wives" and that she felt the girl was unprepared.
What a tangled mass of hostility.

ADDED: What did I mean by "What a tangled mass of hostility"? Well, Dr. Laura was hostile to the military wife, and LaPlante was hostile to Dr. Laura and her son. As for the son, there is an ongoing investigation, and it's unfair to say much about what was written at a website that may not be his. But the website expresses hostility, and if it really is Deryk's, then there are some deep things in that mother-son relationship. She has built a public persona around her grandiose vision of her excellent motherhood. This gives him awesome power to hurt her if he is so motivated.

May 25, 2007

Uh-oh, I made Eugene Volokh talk about ladies' periods and look what happened!

So he's all:
[C]oncerns about long-term health effects are quite sensible. But [after quoting one of my commenters] I don't see any justification for the feeling that it's not "right to sidestep" something that's "part of being a woman." I suppose it could be some esthetic judgment that argument won't much drive; but setting aside esthetics, why on earth should we want to accept natural but painful or unpleasant things?
Screetch. I have an aesthetic judgment. Please, use the spelling "aesthetic." Humor me on this one, Everyone in the World. Back to Eugene:
Disease is a part of being a human. Headaches are part of being a human. Excruciating pain in childbirth is part of being a woman. They are bad parts.
And to mention the most obvious: death.
A good part of being a human is being able to prevent disease and to ease pain. Why embrace the harmful, painful, or uncomfortable parts of human nature, and reject those parts of human nature — our species' intelligence and resulting scientific acumen — that diminish harm, pain, and discomfort?
Then, Eugene makes a post out of one of the comments, some doofus who conflates pregnancy and menstruation:
It's been amazing seeing my wife and other women deal with her first pregnancy. Immediately upon announcing to the world she's pregnant, my wife was part of the "in crowd." Every mother--whether she knew my wife well or not--could smile and talk about morning sickness, or finding out the baby's gender, or feeling bloated, etc.

So, it is not aesthetic. Humanity derives meaning from shared experiences, and deleting one of the most universal and central of all female experiences can subtract perceived meaning from people's lives. In that regard it is very important.
Oh, for the love of.... like it's a big, fun sorority. I'd rather be able to use my own body to write my name in the snow. You know, you can't do that with menstrual blood. Not too damned easily anyway. So Eugene responds to this Human Meaning expert with:
Humanity does derive meaning from some shared experiences — but not all. Shared experience that you bond over: pregnancy. Shared experiences that you don't bond over: hangnails, nearsightedness, tooth decay. Shared experiences that people sometimes seem to bond over, but that I'm sure they'd be much better off without: various illnesses or operations that some elderly people stereotypically discuss with each other, but which they'd be glad to avoid without any worry about lost "meaning."

My sense is that menstruation falls within the second (or, less likely, third) category of experiences rather than the first. To many women, pregnancy is a harbinger of their joy in becoming a mother, an affirmation of their fertility (something many women worry about before they become pregnant), a sign of a growing bond with their husbands, and more. Menstruation, it seems to me, is far removed from that...

But let's hear from some people who actually menstruate, and have been pregnant. When you menstruate, do you feel that you're part of the "in crowd"? If you chose to stop -- not because of menopause, which is a marker of age and of lost fertility, but voluntarily and reversibly -- would you feel "out"? Do you smile and talk to your friends about the cramps, the mood swings, and the like?
Aw, come on, that's typical smartest-guy-in-the-blogosphere Volokh getting it as right as any guy should even want to get it. But screw him, right? He's a guy.

Hey, all you law students writing the parody lyrics for next year's law revue shows, start here:

... and just let it... flow....


So, the women -- I mean the people who actually menstruate -- hear the call and go after our Eugene. I'm tracking this down via Robert J. Ambrogi, because he linked to me (though he did also go on to confuse me with another Ann). So over at Feminist Law Professors, Ann Bartow is being mean to Eugene:
I think Eugene needs to be educated gently and incrementally...
Somehow I picture him showing up for the first class wearing one of these...
Wow! What's with the violence? Eugene is the one who thinks it's okay not to have your period. Why aren't you PMSing after the pregnancy-jealous, out-crowd doofus?

Taking a more gentle approach is the -- inaptly named -- Christine Hurt:
[P]regnancy and childbirth make women part of a very large club whose members have something very important in common.... Menstruation is similar. When girls begin to menstruate, they do join sort of a club, but it's much more underground....

I do think that the natural end of menstruation usually comes with some sadness. It is an end of an era. Some women may be liberated by the end of that era....

I don't think this pill is really about discomfort, hygiene or convenience. I think it's about casual sex....
Oh, good lord. I think the pill is about liberation. If there's a health issue, it should be taken seriously. But if there is no health problem -- and consider whether all this excessive menstruation in the modern world is itself a health probem -- then go ahead and free yourself from all the pain and mess and inconvenience.

I have more to say, already recorded on video. Oh hell, I'll just give it to you, to be contextualized later:

ADDED: Eugene tries to understand why Bartow got so pissy:
What sort of feminism is it that faults people for asking actual women about their experiences, and for trying to start a public conversation in which women's opinions are actively solicited, on the grounds that the questioner should instead have gone to the library or taken up the time of his colleagues?
Dr. Helen thinks Bartow is violating her own research-before-blogging principle. And what a repressive principle that is!

UPDATE: To see the video clip in context, watch this segment of the new Bloggingheads.

"When painting there is a point u must step away from the canvas as the work is done."

That's Rosie O'Donnell's way of saying she's leaving "The View" before her contract expires. She just can't deal with that vicious harpy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck. If you've seen the video of their supposedly gigantic collision, that you know it all started when Rosie said: "655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?" and then, when some right-wingers had the gall to read that as calling our troops the terrorists, Hasselbeck did not step forward and defend her.
"You said nothing and that's cowardly."
Eh. If Rosie's ready to light into dear sweet Elisabeth and tar her as "cowardly" for the mere failure to speak, that only makes it more likely that she'd slap the label "terrorists" onto our troops for the civilian deaths. She's wielding her big brush with Abstract Expressionist fervor. She steps back, admires her painting and declares it a masterpiece.

In case you missed the video:

Okay, let's go check Rosie's blog. Here's her own post about the original "Who are the terrorists?" dialogue with Elisabeth. She provides the transcript:
O’DONNELL: …… I just want to say something. 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?

HASSELBECK: Who are the terrorists?

O’DONNELL: 655,000 Iraqis — I’m saying you have to look, we invaded –

HASSELBECK: Wait, who are you calling terrorists now? Americans?

O’DONNELL: I’m saying if you were in Iraq, and the other country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?

HASSELBECK: Are we killing their citizens or are their people also killing their citizens?

O’DONNELL: We’re invading a sovereign nation, occupying a country against the U.N.
Oh, for the love of Baba. She's obviously calling the Americans terrorists. How mindcrushingly absurd it is for her to come back and bully Hasselbeck for holding her tongue. Hasselbeck should be credited with bending over backwards to be nice to Rosie.

Hillary Clinton and Obama on the Iraq vote.

The Democrats and the war:
Democrats looked to the upcoming votes after losing a bruising battle with Bush on an emergency war spending bill. Lacking the two-thirds majority needed to overcome another presidential veto, Democrats dropped from the legislation a provision ordering troops home from Iraq beginning this fall.

Congress passed the revised $120 billion spending bill on Thursday, providing $95 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The House voted 280-142 to pass the bill, followed by a 80-14 vote in the Senate.

Democratic leaders said they hoped to ready the bill for Bush's signature by this Memorial Day weekend.

Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the bill.

''I fully support our troops'' but the measure ''fails to compel the president to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq,'' said Clinton, D-N.Y.

''Enough is enough,'' Obama, an Illinois senator, declared, adding that Bush should not get ''a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path.''

Their votes continued a shift in position for the two presidential hopefuls, both of whom began the year shunning a deadline for a troop withdrawal.
Should I avert my eyes so that I can preserve some chance of voting for Clinton or Obama in 2008? Both candidates have calculated that this is the position they must take to go forward toward the primary. I'd like to think they both know they are wrong but are doing what they need to do as a means to an end. And I believe that at least Clinton does. Obama, I suspect, is simply weak on national security (which is why he was against the war all along).

"You're referring to the Notorious Greenhouse Effect."

David Lat has notes on a law firm lunch talk given by Linda Greenhouse.
She discussed various predictors (attributed to various scholars) regarding ideological movement, including whether the justice is new residents to the DC area (those who have prior DC experience are less likely to change their positions in the context of DC culture), whether the justice has prior executive branch experience (those with prior experience are less likely to change their ideology), and any life-changing events that the justices have experienced (e.g. Justice Thomas's confirmation hearings). She indicated that Justice Thomas is unlikely to become more liberal over time because his defenders on the right during his confirmation hearings so firmly anchored him to that ideology. Her conclusion seemed to be that Justices Roberts and Alito are unlikely to change their ideological stances over time based on the first two tests (both have prior DC experience and both worked in the executive branch)....

On the idea that justices become more liberal as they get older because they're tired of being criticized in the media and they want people to write nice things about them: "You're referring to the Notorious Greenhouse Effect." "This is the idea that justices become more liberal as they get older because they want the east coast liberal media, such as the New York Times, to write nice things about them in their obituaries." She was skeptical of this as an explanation for ideological movement.
Maybe it's for the law professors.

Are real-life lawyers starting to think they can act like those lawyers on TV?

Yesterday we were talking about that lawyer who told a judge she was "a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal." Beldar wonders if television has warped their minds. Beldar says he's been a big fan of the lawyer show "for a long, long time, all the way back to Perry Mason days," but you've got to realize these shows are fiction and that they've got to concoct endless dramatic spectacles. How incompetent to lose your bearings and think that because these TV lawyers mouth off to the judge and suffer no serious sanctions that you can too!

Me, I don't watch the TV lawyer shows. I didn't watch "Perry Mason" back in the 60s, and aside from a couple of episodes of "L.A. Law" -- enough to see I didn't like it -- haven't watched any in the last 30 years. I accept that the shows exaggerate and overdramatize to entertain people, but it just doesn't work on me.

But there was once a TV show about lawyers that I loved: "The Defenders."
The series concerned the cases of a father-and-son team of defense attorneys, Lawrence Preston (E.G. Marshall), the sharp veteran litigator, and his green and idealistic son Kenneth (Robert Reed)....

As Rose pointed out a 1964 article, "the law is the subject of our programs: not crime, not mystery, not the courtroom for its own sake. We were never interested in producing a 'who-done-it' which simply happened to be resolved each week in a flashy courtroom battle of wits." Rose undoubtedly had in mind CBS's other celebrated defense attorney Perry Mason (1957-66) when he wrote these words. Although both were nominally "courtroom dramas" or "lawyer shows," Perry Mason was first and foremost a classical detective story whose climax played out in the courtroom, while The Defenders focused on the machinery of the law, the vagaries of the legal process, and system's capacity for justice. Although the Prestons took on their share of murder cases, their aim in such instances was to mount a sound defense or plead for mercy, not unmask the real killer on the witness stand.

Certainly The Defenders exploited the inherent drama of the courtroom, but it did so by mining the complexity of the law, its moral and ethical implications, and its human dimensions. Rose and his writers found much compelling drama in probing the psychology of juries, the motives of clients, the biases of opposing counsel, the flaws of the system itself, and the fallibility of their own lawyer-heroes. The series frequently took a topical perspective on the American justice system, honing in on timely or controversial legal questions: capital punishment, "no-knock" search laws, custody rights of adoptive parents, the insanity defense, the "poisoned fruit doctrine" (admissibility of illegally obtained evidence), as well as immigration quotas and Cold War visa restrictions. The Defenders avoided simple stances on such cases, instead illuminating ambiguities and opposing perspectives, and stressing the uncertain and fleeting nature of justice before the law.
Can we get a show like that now?

May 24, 2007

Two new books about Hillary Clinton.

Anything new?
"A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton," by Carl Bernstein, reports that Clinton as first lady was terrified she would be prosecuted, took over her own legal and political defense, and decided not to be forthcoming with investigators because she was convinced she was unfairly targeted. While in Arkansas, according to Bernstein, she personally interviewed one woman alleged to have had an affair with her husband, contemplated divorce and thought about running for governor out of anger at her husband's indiscretions.

"Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., reports that during her husband's 1992 campaign, a team she oversaw hired a private investigator to undermine Gennifer Flowers "until she is destroyed."...

According to Gerth and Van Natta, even before the Clintons were married they formulated a "secret pact of ambition" aimed at reinventing the Democratic Party and getting to the White House. The authors cite a former Bill Clinton girlfriend, Marla Crider, who said she saw a letter on his desk written by Hillary Clinton, outlining the couple's long-term ambitions, which they called their "twenty-year project."...

The authors report that the Clintons updated their plan after the 1992 election, determining that Hillary would run when Bill left office. They cite two people, Ann Crittenden and John Henry, who said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer prize-winning historian and close Clinton friend, told them that the Clintons "still planned two terms in the White House for Bill and, later, two for Hillary."
I'm not troubled that a husband and wife would discuss their shared ambitions, but putting a "secret pact of ambition" in writing seems really disturbing. But is it true? Unless I see the document, I'm not going to get any more exercised over it than I already am about the prospect of a President who's already had his two terms getting back into the White House through his wife.

There's some interesting material at the link about Bill Clinton's affairs, which you'd think would be a very tired subject by now. Bernstein writes about Marilyn Jo Jenkins, "a power company executive he fell in love with and almost left his wife over":
Jenkins ... was spirited into the governor's mansion at 5:15 a.m. for a final, furtive meeting with him the day he left for Washington to assume the presidency -- [and] Bernstein's account makes clear her pivotal role.

Bill Clinton wanted to divorce his wife to be with Jenkins in 1989, Bernstein reports, but Hillary Clinton refused. "There are worse things than infidelity," she told Betsey Wright, the governor's chief of staff.
The key question now is what these things about Bill mean about Hillary. It's not a hard question to answer, though, it seems. The narrative is ambition, and Bill Clinton is what he is. On balance, he's quite useful to an ambitious plan. But who knows the real truth? Who knows what the two of them have said to each other? We can't know, and yet we must form opinions about her.

Volatile Republicans.

In the 2008 campaign there's a way in which the Democrats and Republicans are alike (according to William Kristol, writing in Time):
[T]here's a top two—Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democrats, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain for the Republicans. There's a third-place candidate on the edge of the first tier—John Edwards and Mitt Romney. There's a big jump down to the next tier of declared candidates, none of whom seem to have much of a chance. And there is a possible late entry (Al Gore) or two (Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich), any of whom would join the first tier.
And a way in which they are different:
The Democratic campaign has been amazingly stable. In late February, if one averaged half a dozen national polls, Clinton was at about 35%, Obama had about 25%, and Edwards and Gore trailed with about 13%...

The Republican race has been more volatile....

[W]hereas three-fifths of the Democratic vote now goes to the two front-runners, fewer than half of Republicans support Giuliani or McCain.... The door is open far wider for Thompson—and perhaps Gingrich—to enter the G.O.P. race than it is for Gore to join the Democratic contest.

And the G.O.P. race features real differences among the candidates on important and salient issues [like abortion and immigration].
Kristol wants to think the more volatile condition is better. But is it?

Blog survey.

If you have a few minutes, please take this survey about blog reading. It's for academic purposes and has no questions about commercial products (like the last one I linked to). It's mostly trying to find out why people read blogs. (Warning: I don't think it works in Safari. I had to use Firefox.)

Dust and death.

Americans are still dying from the 9/11 attacks.

"I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal..."

The judge does not laugh it off.

Good news.

From Iraq. From Afghanistan.

How Bush won the confrontation over Iraq....

Carl Hulse writes:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.

Some lawmakers favored sending Mr. Bush another bill with a timetable for withdrawal and risking a second veto, the senior Democrats said. But they said they had questioned whether such a measure could pass the Senate a second time, raising the possibility that Congress would be left sitting on the bill and carrying the blame....

In allowing the war money measure to reach the floor with indifferent backing from her own party, Ms. Pelosi is breaking one of the cardinal rules of her predecessor, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, whose mantra was to legislate with the majority of the majority party.

When Barbara Walters met Louie C.K.

I loved this AV Club interview with Louis C.K., which has a lot about why his HBO comedy "Lucky Louie" failed. The part about Barbara Walters is rich:
AVC: How did The View initially approach you to come discuss Lucky Louie? Did they say "Barbara Walters has seen your show, she thinks you're the antichrist, you're vulgar, and we'd like to have you on so you can defend yourself"?

LCK: Oh no. Wouldn't that have been nice, if that's what they did? I actually reached out to them, because I had been on the show before. Joy Behar used to do a thing called "Comedy Corner," where you'd sit with her and she would set you up and you'd do your jokes. They asked me to do that a bunch of years ago and I said no, because The View is not my crowd. But the producer of the show called me at home and said, "What are you doing Tuesday that you can't take a town-car and just go be on a ladies' TV show?" So I said sure, and I did it, and I had a great time. The thing about the audience there is, they're very enthusiastic, positive people. And I like ladies. I like all ladies of all different ages. Ladies 40-plus, they're a great target for Lucky Louie. They come up to me in droves on the streets. That's a big demographic of who comes up to me to say they love my show, these older ladies.

So I said, "Let's get on The View," and we called them, and they said sure. The producer told me, "Oh we got the tapes, and the shows are great. It's a great show, it's going to be so much fun, we're excited about it." And then I get there, and I meet Fonzie. He loves the show, and everybody keeps coming—people with headsets and in suits and clipboards keep coming by my dressing room to say that they just love the show. And then the segment producer comes in my dressing room and says, "Okay. I have to talk to you. It turns out Barbara and the ladies didn't really watch it 'til last night, and they were horrified, and Barbara's going to say something about it in her 'Hot Topics' moment." Then she turns on the f*cking monitor and I'm watching her, live, saying that it's a terrible show. So it was a bit of a sandbagging. I didn't expect it.

AVC: It wasn't just her saying, "I watched your show, it's not really my cup of tea," it was her saying it's vulgar, it's disgusting what your character does with his wife, the whole idea was sexist and racist…

LCK: Yeah, that made me really mad. She said that, and they told me this before, too, that her objection to the show was that we're having sex and my wife looks bored. This is what's f*cking wrong with c*nts like her, is that she thinks women should be depicted, you know, the way my wife on the show makes fun of. Like, with her hand on her head, "Oh, it should be romantic." And the idea of letting a woman—and, by the way, it's her story, it's the wife's story—letting her show what it's like to be bored in bed with your husband and trying to find something in bed without cheating on him, like f*cking Desperate Housewives and all these whorish shows that people like Barbara love… They love shows about cheating, they love soap operas, and on the segment before me, they're telling women how to eat malnourishing food while keeping their figure. I mean, it's just all so obscene to me. They do nothing for women, and then she goes and calls [my show] sexist. And yeah, we do an episode where we confront race, and we talk about the awkwardness of race relations, and she calls it racist. So inside, I was shaking. I was like, "I f*cking hate her right now."
(Asterisks added.)

They love my show, these older ladies. Yeah, Louie, I loved your show. Though I kind of hated it at first because it replaced "The Comeback," which was another great HBO comedy that not enough people got, and HBO didn't keep around long enough to let more people figure it out or just to support edgier sitcoms that some people love.

By the way, it's her story, it's the wife's story... Yes, isn't it interesting that people don't want to see the gritty reality of a married woman struggling with an inadequate sex life and not demanding more romance?

It's just all so obscene to me.... He's talking about "The View"!

ADDED: Video of the "View" appearance: Part 1 and Part 2.


... 66.

Okay, I'm putting that behind me now.

If you're sick of "American Idol" or hated it all along, don't go away. I'm not going to talk about it anymore. Except maybe down there in the comments. Let's move on.

Still trying to recover from that horrible "American Idol" last night...

Entertainment Weekly has some good advice for next season's final show:
Don't allow any non-Idol performers to take the stage — unless they agree to duet with one of the 12 finalists. Think about it: Instead of piping in a ''live'' feed of Gwen (who appeared to have a giant flower attached to her derriere) performing ''4 in the Morning'' with utter detachment, you could've forced her to show up at the Kodak and duet with Chris Richardson on ''Don't Speak,'' a number he'd already nailed earlier in the season. Can you imagine the watercooler buzz you'd have scored if Kiki had rescued Bette midway through her abysmal, convulsive ''Wind Beneath My Wings''? And for cryin' out loud, Tony Bennett's ''For Once in My Life'' was taken from his album Duets, and Melinda Doolittle's Memphis audition number was...''For Once in My Life.'' Do I really have to do the math for you?
Yeah, and end on time. Were they deliberately trying to screw us TiVo-users? Just because I fast-forward through all the commercials (and much of the music), you don't care about me? This is from the Village Voice's "running diary" of the show:
I got home a bit late tonight, so I'm not watching this show live; I'm seeing everything on DVR about ten minutes after it actually happens. But the show actually runs over, which means my DVR cuts off right before they reveal the goddam f[]cking winner of the season. Seriously, don't the producers know that some of us are watching this on DVR?
I'm going to say they do know, and they are not so much punishing us but training us to use the TiVo to record into the next time slot to hurt the other networks. It's a way to turn TiVo into a ratings weapon.

Here's a good line from the EW story:
And was I the only one envisioning Gladys Knight assessing the top six ladies at dress rehearsal and declaring, ''Only Melinda and LaKisha are allowed within three feet of me!''?
So true, both as an observation and as an appropriate attitude for Gladys Knight.

Anyway... I'm fine with the outcome, which I predicted back on March 21, when we were down to the final 10:
Let me just try to pick the order that they will leave (and we can look back and see how wrong I was): Chris R., Gina, Hayley, Phil, Chris Sligh, Sanjaya, LaKisha, Blake, Melinda, Jordin. So: Jordin to win.
So I'm fine that Jordin won, but now the show needs to go away for a long time so we can all forget how insufficiently enjoyable it was and, like the ninnies we are, start watching again next year. Or will some of us snap out of it?

Ah, I see that as I was writing this Jacob at Television Without Pity finally got his mini-recap up. For some crazy reason, he gives the show an A+:
The very excellent, very long night begins with a shouty, flirty duet... Ryan's "good friend" GWEN STEFANI, looking pants in a weird Astro Boy bubble tutu dress... KELLY CLARKSON!... Blake reveals that he has like fifteen powers of awesome beatboxing we didn't even know about... CARRIE UNDERWOOD, in a cute dress over pants... Carrie gives an awesome speech about her wild success. A huge contingent of awesome bald African kids... Sanjaya is compared to both Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, then performs "You Really Got Me" with Joe Perry in a wind tunnel... GREEN DAY ... ROOOOBEN... BETTE EFFIN' MIDLER sings "The Wind Beneath My Friggin' Wings" in a leather skirt and is one Parliament and a late night out from turning into Marianne Faithfull once and for all; it's cheesy and very very American Idol and unending. Randy and Paula, at this point, start making out down in the audience, while Bette Midler sings poorly and interjects God into every other line of the song, for some reason....
Blah! Well, I get it. If you watch the show, you watch for the crappiness of it, and since they over-the-top maximized the crappiness, it gets an A+. The A+ is logical. If you don't like this, why are you watching? This is the whole point.

May 23, 2007

"American Idol" -- the winner is (I hear) announced... and the theme is: cruelty.

"But I'm only human..." Did everyone in America crack up simultaneously when Phil sang that line in the top-6-guys rendition of the Smokey Robinson song "Ooh, Baby, Baby"? It had to be a cruel trick to assign that line to him, after all the snarking about him looking like Bat Boy/Nosferatu. Hey, Smokey's here! I love him. I saw him in person one time, in one of those Las Vegas performances. It was nice seeing Sanjaya again. Nice seeing Chris Sligh too. Inspired me to start blogging.

The show so far: Jordin and Blake sang a Beatles song ("When I Saw Her Standing There"), No Doubt, Kelly Clarkson, and a horrible "Best Presentation" award that went to a kooky fat lady who -- in keeping with tonight's cruelty theme -- tried to crush Ryan to death.

Now, Ryan acknowledges that people are pissed that last night Blake got cheated out of the chance to beat-box, which is what he does best. They bring out Blake with -- we're told he's legendary -- Doug E. Fresh to do a big beat-box number together, and he shows off nicely. And it's more than impressive, it's genuinely entertaining, unlike nearly everything else on this damned show.

They give a vocalist award to a bad singer, and then they ask him to sing "Silent Night," which he sings with the line "All is prom..."

Now the top 6 "girls" do "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and Gladys Knight comes out and joins them. This must be fun for Jordin, who totally knows she won. In fact, I think Blake had a lot of fun in that beat-box number because he didn't have to worry about the possibility of winning. It's really cool to see Gladys with LaKisha and Melinda singing "Midnight Train to Georgia."

Tony Bennett sings "For Once in My Life." We see Paula -- the show's embodiment of all womanly emotion -- swaying ecstatically. But guys love Tony too. In the audience, we see Justin Guarini and Smokey Robinson, beaming nuttily.

A best duo award. Among the nominees, Simon and Ryan, and they have a montage of all the rather lame humor about whether they might be a gay couple. The award goes, quite rightly, to Jonathan and Kenneth, two young men who seem perhaps mentally disabled. Funning with them was deemed by some to be cruel, and maybe they'll think it's cruel to bring them back and give them an award, but who are you to say they weren't into it and aren't having a great time? Ryan asks Kenneth how he felt about Simon's insult -- "bush baby" -- and he says at first he was hurt, but he's gotten famous over it, so he forgives him. Fame conquers all. He says, "Lighten up. I have." Hear that America? But that doesn't me you can all go out and mock the disabled, because you don't have fame to bestow in exchange. They display a picture of a bush baby, and it really does look like Kenneth. "I'm just being honest" is one of Simon's favorite sayings.

Ryan awards Jordin and Blake the keys to new Mustangs and Blake does a Borat imitation: "High five! I like that!"

TiVo'd past: Carrie Underwood, doddering, blabbing Clive Davis, African children's choir. And now, a special tribute to Sanjaya. He performs with Joe Perry (for some reason). "You Really Got Me." Crying girl is in the audience.

TiVo'd past: Taylor Hicks. Next: Jordin sings with Ruben Studdard. Next: Bette Midler???? Yikes! "Wind Beneath My Wings." Well, that expresses the "American Idol" aesthetic. Ugh! Who canceled and left her in this spot?

Hmmm.... another Beatle thing: a tribute to "Sgt. Pepper." (Must mean next season will have a Beatles show or two.) It's Joe Perry playing guitar and Kelly Clarkson singing the title song... quite rousingly. Then, Taylor Hicks doing "Day in the Life." Carrie does "She's Leaving Home." The first two are very nicely down. Carrie kind of scares me though. Makes me want to run away from home myself. I suddenly realize Paul should be there, like Gladys and Smokey. Ruben sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." There's a group sing of "A Little Help from My Friends." I get ALL excited over the impendingness of Paul, and Paul never arrives. So, I guess Paul canceled, which is why we got Bette.

Something truly screwed up happened here!

Tons of commercials, and we're getting perilously close to the end of the TiVo recording, despite the added on 3 minutes. Here they are. Ryan blabs about how many votes there were. And the recording ends.

So, great. 2 hours, and I didn't get to see the few seconds that matter. As if I don't know Jordin won. Well, I said the theme was cruelty. Paul wasn't there. Bette Midler was. The TiVo misses it.... grrrrrrrrrrr......

ADDED: A distant saying from the past reasserts itself: Paul is dead. If he's not, I'm sergeantly pissed.

Murder on State Street!

The Cap Times reports:
The victim, Austin David Bodahl, 23, of Waconia, Minn., was pronounced dead early this morning at UW Hospital.

Daniel A. Kelly, 31, of Madison has been charged with second degree intentional homicide, police spokesman Mike Hanson said in a news release....

A witness at the scene said he saw five guys who were "pretty wasted" on the sidewalk near the City Bar....

Anthony Paltz, 20, a UW-Madison pre-pharmacy student who was walking down State Street at the time, described the arrested man as "unkempt" and said he was wearing a kilt.
A kilt!

The news story has comments. Check out the second one:
I worked as a bouncer at a club in Milwaukee.

I hate to sound like a misogynist but typically (of course not all) these types of incidents happen after women reject men in a nightclub setting. I saw it all the time at the nightclub I worked at. Typical scenario: hot women in the nightclub reject and/or ignore a bunch of guys and eventually by the end of the night the guys start fighting one another.

You couple the rejection with a guy who then has to 'save face' in an incident coming on the heels of his rejection, and presto, you have violence.
Women! If they would just have sex with men, we wouldn't have these problems.

The police can't stop a driver for weaving, as long as he stays in his own lane.

Here in Wisconsin.

Fie on fluorescent.

Maybe fluorescent bulbs meet your needs, if you have meager lighting needs, but some of us care how things look and expect some glow, some shine. Just because you don't notice the inadequacy doesn't make it okay to force those of us who do. If you think it does, I'd like to find the thing that you like to do that I don't care about and force you to go without it because it's no trouble for me to do without it.

Via Instapundit, who's been pushing these damned things, which is just fine for people who are able to take it. Let me make my contribution to environmentalism by using dimmer switches, turning off the lights when I leave the room, getting up at dawn to use more natural light, and sitting in nearly dark rooms at night when I'm not reading something on paper.

I hate this fluorescent oppressiveness -- the bullying and the light itself.

ADDED: I bought an LED reading lamp, by the way. It sounded great in the catalogue description, but it is absolutely impossible to read under. It's not bright enough, and if it were, the color would drive you insane. Some crazy blue.

MORE: A literary reference, from "A Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams:
Look, Mother, do you think I’m crazy about the warehouse? You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that - - celotex interior! with -- fluorescent tubes?! Honest to God, I’d rather somebody picked up a crow-bar and battered out my brains -- than go back mornings! But I go! Every time you come in yelling that Rise and Shine! Rise and shine!! I think how lucky dead people are! But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever!
(Copied from my old high school script.)

Monica Goodling testifies: "I may have gone too far in asking political questions..."

NYT reports:
Ms. Goodling said that in the course of her five years at the Justice Department, she interviewed hundreds of job applicants, most of them for positions subject to partisan political appointment. “But some were applicants for certain categories of career positions,” she went on, alluding to workers who are supposed to function free of naked political considerations.

“In every case, I tried to act in good faith, and for the purpose of ensuring that the department was staffed by well-qualified individuals who were supportive of the attorney general’s views, priorities and goals,” she said, before acknowledging that she might have gone too far in asking overtly political questions of some career applicants.

Time management expert does an interview with me and considers it "a bust."

Because unlike everyone else she selected to interview, I didn't produce a list of time management tips. Well, now I have one: If you're looking for a list of tips on time management, don't interview Ann Althouse.

Anyway, she seems to acknowledge -- six months on -- that I may have had some "philosophical tips" in my seemingly useless interview. Though I don't remember giving the interview, I think I can reproduce what I said better than she does. In fact, I think she quite misunderstood me: She thinks a quote of mine -- "You can’t like everything you do" -- means that I don't like blogging about subjects other than constitutional law!

I'm sure my point was that if you do something that you love, that is intrinsically rewarding, you don't have to think of making time for it. It makes its own time. The trick is to find your way into a life where you do what you love, something with intrinsic value for you. I blog about what interests me; blogging is a process of being interested in things. If I threw in "You can’t like everything you do," it was only an acknowledgment that some parts of my job -- certain meetings and so on -- and certain necessary tasks -- like cleaning the bathtub -- are not very intrinsically rewarding and I still have to slot them in.

Clearly, I am not on the same wavelength as a time management expert. Which is fine.

IN THE COMMENTS: The time management expert -- Penelope Trunk -- stops by and does one of those nonapologies: "I'm sorry that you didn't like how I wrote about our conversation." She also sends us to a post of hers about why people "feel misquoted." Okaaaay. Let's look at it:
The reason that everyone thinks journalists misquote them is that the person who is writing is the one who gets to tell the story. No two people tell the same story....

Journalists who think they are telling “the truth” don’t understand the truth. We each have our own truth. When you leave out details, you might leave out what is unimportant to you but very important to someone else, and things start feeling untrue to the person who wishes you included something else.
This is a good time management tip. Say what you want, use what you want, pick your favorite interpretation and run with it. If anyone demands "the truth," just brush them off as shallow for not understanding the rich, multiple dimensions of this thing we simplistically call "the truth." Job accomplished! Wasn't that efficient?

Fiction and nonfiction daddery.

Cameron Stracher has a new book called "Dinner With Dad." Here's some discussion of it:
[H]e chronicles his path from a corporate workaholic to a dad who’s at home, cooking dinner for his wife and kids five nights a week.

Even though his schedule changed, Mr. Stracher writes that he still found his Type A personality hard to reign [sic] in. He scaled back at work, but Mr. Stracher’s energies went elsewhere — into making ambitious dinners, airing strong opinions about where the carrot peeler and spatulas should be kept, harping on his son’s messy homework and lecturing his daughter about not putting the caps on her markers. He writes that over the years, “my natural tendency to control things has become more pronounced . . . the only saving grace, from [my wife’s] perspective, has been my absence.”
I got a copy in the mail, and I'm actually going to read it. It's of special interest to me, because -- as you may know -- I was married to a writer back when my sons were young, and he not only stayed home with them, but he wrote a novel about the experience. Since it was a novel... and I know you're thinking so this is the reason for Althouse's anti-fiction program... since it was a novel, there had to be all sorts of personal conflicts, and I don't mean arguments about making dinner. I mean what's the first thing you think of happening, if you're thinking like a novelist, if the man stays home with a small child, let's say, in Park Slope, in Brooklyn. He takes the child to the playground, and all the other parents are women, and then.... Come on, it's Novel World! What happens? You know what happens. (And, no, that's not the reason we're divorced.)

I was trying to use Technorati to get a page of all the discussion of my recent posts about having young kids learn reading from nonfiction books and look what I got, which made me laugh. Let me approach this more scientifically: here.

And here's Cameron's blog, Dinner With Dad. I note that the blog like the book is nonfiction. Nonfiction, I tell you. WOOOOOO!

Sorry, just trying to scare the English majors again.

My screaming problem.

I don't know what it is, but I have this problem -- it started a year ago or so -- of sounding like I'm screaming when I sneeze. It's just absurd to suddenly and seemingly for no reason let out a blood-curdling shriek. It's not the only annoying thing I do, but it's the only one I'm going to tell you about in this post.

That immigration bill is bringing out the vicious language... or at least reports of it.

The other day we heard that John McCain said "f*ck you" and "chickenshit" over the bill, and now here's John Boehner calling the bill "a piece of sh*t."

Eh, why does it seem okay to write out "chickenshit" and not "sh*t"? It's no mystery, the whole point of "chickenshit" is that it's tiny.

Anyway, as I've said before, the issue here isn't why are they talking like this now, it's why are we hearing that they are. I think we know why. It's a big contentious issue, number 1. Number... uh... another thing... is that the bill and the problem it tries to solve are so complex that it's just easier to talk about how they're talking... as I'm doing right now.

The death penalty for the rape of a child: "Short of a first-degree murderer, we can think of no other non-homicide crime more deserving."

Yesterday, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the death penalty for the rape of a child under the age of 12.
The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling on a case from Georgia in 1977, held that the death penalty for rape violated the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. But the high court said repeatedly that its ruling applied only to adult victims....

In Tuesday's 62-page opinion, Justice Jeffrey Victory ... wrote that the Louisiana law meets the U.S. Supreme Court test requiring an aggravating circumstance — in this case the age of the victim — to justify the death penalty.

As early as 1996 the court had said that the law was constitutional, ruling in pretrial matters in other cases. Tuesday's ruling was the first time it upheld an actual death sentence for someone convicted under the law.
Patrick Kennedy is the only person in the United States on death row for rape.

Is Gore running for President? "If he drops 25 to 30 pounds, he’s running."

That's Donna Brazile's tip on how to tell if Gore is running, as quoted by Maureen Dowd. (TimesSelect link.) Gore is out and about with a new book, so he's at least forcing us to talk about whether he's running. And yet:
[James Traub of The New York Times Magazine] said that, as he followed the ex-vice president around, the Goracle was “eating like a maniac: I watched him inhale the clam dip at a reception like a man who doesn’t know when his next meal will be coming.”
Does that mean he has no plans to run? According to Dowd:
If Al Gore is really unplugged and uncensored, as Tipper and his fans say, then he is no longer bound by the opinions of gurus, mercenaries and focus groups. He can be himself, and inhale away and still run if he wants....

Doug Brinkley, the presidential historian, said that even though the fashion now is for fit candidates, after the Civil War, there was a series of overweight presidents. “It showed you had a zest for life,” he said. (The excess baggage may make Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson look roguish, but unfortunately, too many cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes make Mr. Gore look puffy and waxy.) “Maybe,” Mr. Brinkley suggested, “Gore can sit in Tennessee and do it via high-definition satellite — like McKinley, just eat and sit on the porch.”
So, go ahead and be fat if you must, Al. It makes it harder for you scold us about about overconsumption and global warming, but actually, my read of "An Inconvenient Truth" is that you're just telling everyone to take global warming seriously and do some things that we can do. Some people can do some things and some can do others. If you can't stop overeating, you're like an awful lot of us. There are millions of Americans who can empathize about fat. And for that matter: hypocrisy. If you've got to be fat, try to be good fat, zest-for-life fat. If you've got to be a hypocrite... well, aren't we all?

As for the front-porch strategy, go ahead! Not only is it a good idea in these days when we have no time to go to campaign events because we're too busy hanging out on the web and because of the insanely front-loaded primary schedule. It's environmentally friendly. As you do lots of web-based campaigning, you could put up a nice web page that keeps a running tabulation of the fossil fuel burnt by each of your opponents as they jet and bus all over the place.

ABC reveals that Bush approved plan to destabilize the Iranian government.

Here... and note the extremely harsh comments. For more commentary, start here. From Captain Ed:
ABC reports that Dick Cheney preferred the military option, but that Bush overruled him in favor of the covert action instead....

Thanks to the loose lips at Langley and ABC, that option may have to go back to the top of the list....

Or, at least it was high time. Someone in the CIA or in the larger "intelligence community" can't keep their mouths shut. Thanks to them, we may wind up with no other option against Iranian nuclear ambitions except the military strike.
It sounds terrible, of course, but it's hard to tell on this one whether part of the plan isn't letting them know this much.

Stemming the red tide.

Why not? The pill that ends menstruation got approved.

Was it hard to come up with the title for this post? Yeah!

Is there some deep psychological/sociological/feminist angle to this story or is it obvious that everyone should obviously want to avoid something that's so inconvenient and annoying and that the only serious question is whether the pill is safe? We discussed this back here, based on a news story of the pill's pending approval. Some folks get into the idea that if something is natural and not an illness, it's wrong to do something to yourself to avoid it. As if there aren't a thousand examples a day of the use of artifice to avoid natural things that don't seriously injure you.

ADDED: There are some hilarious things at that second link. Scroll way down for slang from various foreign countries. I like the ones that convey political opinion. From Vietnam: wearing the red beret. From Spain: the Communist guest. From Russia: Japanese flag.

Why is Giuliani able to sit back and watch McCain and Romney pummel each other?

Strange, no?
It is an unusual dynamic, to have the candidates placing second and third in most national opinion polls engaging one another fiercely, while allowing the front-runner a wide berth. But campaign officials and outside political consultants said that McCain's willingness to directly engage Romney appeared to stem from a combination of tactical, political, and, to a lesser extent, personal considerations.
Tactically, McCain and Romney are in direct competition because they have both invested enormous resources to compete in the early nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Giuliani, though, seems to be leaning toward competing more heavily in the large states, including California and New York, holding their primaries on Feb. 5. Several state-by-state polls have shown Romney gaining ground — even holding leads, in some — in Iowa and New Hampshire.....

On top of that, Romney and McCain are competing for conservative support....

Add to that the personal factor. McCain and Giuliani have something of a political friendship. Giuliani bucked much of New York's Republican establishment in 2000 when it tried to keep McCain off the primary ballot. The two men have taken in a number of ballgames together, not to mention meals in Little Italy.

May 22, 2007

Justice Scalia presided over a wedding here in Madison this weekend.

Except not officially. He had to hand the man-and-wife pronouncement over to Shirley Abrahamson -- Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court -- because he's not authorized to perform weddings in Wisconsin.

"If you don't like your life, change it."

Just an intriguingly simple bit of advice from Laurence Olivier, who, had he lived, would turn 100 years old today.

"American Idol" -- finale.

Of course, you're watching.

1. Blake wins the coin flip, but instead of saying what everyone always says, that he wants to go second, he asks Jordin if she wants to go first. She shakes her head no, and he says he'll go first. Wow! Unselfish, gentlemanly. We love him. Ryan tells us they'll each be singing 3 songs: 1. their favorite that they've already done, 2. a new song, 3. a song by the winner of the songwriting contest. I'm glad they've done a songwriting contest, because in the past, the original songs they've done in-house have sucked. But, that said, I note that the winner of the songwriting contest has come up with something called "This Is My Now," and it really, really seems that what has happened is that they've picked something that's most like the in-house crap they've come up with in the past. Time for Blake. He's doing "You Give Love a Bad Name." This is very entertaining, his beat-box version, and a lot of the goodness of it is the percussionist on stage with him. Audience goes wild. Randy: likes the beat-boxing but not the singing. Paula: love, love, love. Simon: "You're not the best singer in the competition, but you are the best performer."

2. Jordin's first song is not the song from a previous show but the song she's never done before. It's: "Fire," a Christina Aguilera song. I don't know the original. Is it this overbearing? Relationship-related histrionics. A mellower midsection seems frantic and inelegant. Oh, am I showing my preference for Blake too blatantly, too blake-antly? Randy: stellar, brilliant. Paula: stellar, awesome. Simon: shrieky. "What a surprise I'm being booed." But when he calls Round 1 for Blake, it's nothing but cheers. [ADDED: Apparently, the name of the song is "Fighter," not "Fire."]

3. Back to our Blake, doing his new song, Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved." "Look for the girl with the broken smile." No beat-boxing. Just pretty natural. Randy: "Great song and a very nice vocal." Paula: "You really got into the ease of the song." (Great Paula comment.) Simon: "Good. Safe." He thinks the song wasn't a good choice because it's not showy, and you've got to see that Paula's comment expressed better taste. Spare me the bellowing. Get into the ease of the song. In the colloquy with Ryan, they talk about how Blake has never seen an "American Idol" finale.

4. Jordin's song that she's already sung is Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing." Randy: you're talented and young. Flawless. Paula: Great. Simon: "Now, that was good."

5. Now we see the winning songwriters. Blake Lewis sings it first. I can't stand the song, which is exactly what you'd expect to win the contest. Nice enough performance. Randy realizes this isn't a great song for him. Paula also comments on how it's not a good song for him. Simon: "It's not the type of song you would normally sing." Well, damn! THEY picked it. Why did they pick a song that would fit one type of contestant and not another? It's like they fixed the competition through the song contest judging. But I think America will rebel against this. [ADDED: Commenters remind me of what I must have heard 100 times this season: the song was chosen by an open voting process. I never cared... until I had to listen to the garbage. The producers must have been pleased to discover that "America" actually likes exactly the kind of crap they'd been writing every year for the finale. This is the show that forces us to see we are actually getting the pop music we want.]

6. Jordin now sings the song the way this sort of song is supposed to be sung. But I hate this kind of song, and so I end the competition feeling chafed by the limitations. I expect the judges to slobber all over this and declare her the winner. But look out, that sort of thing can light a fire under "American Idol" voters. But I don't want to be too pissy about all this. The girl is 17. She ends the song like the words have really touched her and it's the definition of schlock. Randy: "You were the best singer tonight." Paula: she says "frickin'" for the second time tonight. Does breaking your nose cause that? Simon: "It is a singing competition and you just wiped the floor with Blake on that song." So, okay, let Jordin win. Blake will be fine. It will be better this way.

7. With 4 hours of voting and such strong support for Jordin in the end, I think enough dogged Blake fans may spend the whole time voting to put him over the top. And now they bring out Chris Daughtrey -- my favorite contestant from last year -- to sing that "going home" song they've been using all season to soothe the losers on the way out. And the show ends with Blake and Jordin in a sweet embrace.

8. And let's remember what was the coolest thing that happened all season:

American Muslims are "happy with their lives and moderate in outlook."

According to a new Pew survey:
"Clearly, this public comes across as much more moderate than much of the Muslim public in most of the world," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. "They are decidedly American in outlook. Seventy-two percent say hard work can get you ahead in the society, and that is even a larger segment than the general public in the United States."

Should museums display shrunken heads?

Should they accept an artist's offer of his own head -- when he's done using it -- in exchange for the museum's return of their collection of heads to their place of origin -- the Amazon -- for burial?

I was once shown around a museum after hours. Look here, in this drawer. Shrunken heads! We can't display them anymore. Not politically correct.

When Reagan met Thurgood Marshall.

From the newly published Reagan diaries:
"From there to a meeting of Jewish leaders & 3 refusniks we succeeded in getting out of the Soviet U. I told them of how we intended to get more Jews released & hopefully better living conditions & freedom for all Soviet Jews. Then my sneeze shot & upstairs to a meeting with Justice Thurgood Marshall. I'd asked for a meeting because of his public statement to Carl Rowan that I was a racist. I literally told him my life story & how there was not prejudice in me. I have examples of my relations with Minorities in school, as a sports announcer & as Gov. I think I made a friend."

How did Paula Abdul break her nose?

Bzzzzt. Wrong. She was stepping over a Chihuahua.
''I took a nasty fall ... trying not to hurt my dog. I bruised myself on my arm ... my chest, my waist all the way down to my hip. All from my little chubby Tulip."
My little chubby Tulip. You might think that sounds really cute or you may think that sounds really dirty. That says more about you than about our girl Paula.

Hey, the big show's tonight. You know you're watching. Paula and her nose will be there.

If you like Blake more than Jordin -- as I do -- should you want Blake to win or Jordin? I kind of think Jordin.

When Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz tried to hit on...

... Condoleezza Rice.
By the end of the meeting he was babbling. The Pakistanis were shifting uncomfortably. And his voice visibly changed.

"Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn."

This line, from yesterday's blogger conference, is making quite the sensation. And rightly so! McCain hilariously combines two embarrassing things about Romney:
McCain made his comments after he was asked his opinion about GOP rivals opposing the Senate measure.

Referring to Romney's stance, McCain said: "Maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes because it's changed in less than a year from his position before."

Then, with a chuckle, he made his cutting quip that referenced two embarrassing episodes for Romney in the past six months.

Romney has faced criticism for calling himself a lifelong hunter even though he joined the National Rifle Association in August and officials in four states where he has lived said he never took out a hunting license. Defending himself, he said in April, "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints, if you will."

Also, The Boston Globe reported late last year that several illegal immigrants, including at least one from Guatemala, worked at the lawn care company that worked on Romney's two-and-a-half acre property in a Boston suburb for a decade. His aides have said that Romney was not aware of the workers' status, and that the owner was in the country legally.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said his boss' opposition to the immigration measure has been clear. Madden counter-punched McCain, saying: "It seems that certain candidates who brokered this flawed plan are having a very difficult time grappling with or coming to terms with the political fallout that has ensued in a substantive manner."
Hey, that "counter-punch" isn't even mildly amusing!

How much can a great joke help a candidate or persuade people about an issue? Can you think of some good examples of jokes that worked beyond just being funny? The main one I think of is Reagan's line: "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. " That defused the serious issue of his age (or so they say).

McCain's great joke is kind of different, because it initially strikes us as bizarre. You need to know about two news stories to get it. And it's got the image of threatening to shoot people, which can disturb and confuse anyone who doesn't understand the joke and which resonates badly with McCain's own negative.

Reagan's joke was warm and flipped his own negative to a positive. It wasn't the slightest bit nasty toward his opponent, Walter Mondale, who wasn't too young himself. Saying it, Reagan seemed entirely good-hearted. McCain said something negative about the other guy, and it seems to express McCain's own negative aspect of anger. The joke puts a picture a crazy gun-waving character in your head. The ordinary person, who is more likely to know McCain's reputation as a hothead than the varmints and Guatemalans background stories, may instinctively put McCain's face on that crazy guy.

When I heard the joke, the part that seemed most discordant to me was that it named a specific ethnic group. Normally, in the immigration debate, we speak of Hispanic people. Why is it suddenly Guatemalans? Once you read the background news stories, you know exactly why he said that and it becomes especially funny. But all those things you think in the lag time between hearing the joke and getting the varmints-and-Guatemalans background are a big drag on the political effectiveness of the joke.

IN THE COMMENTS: Froggyprager thinks the need to explain the joke is the reason it will be politically effective:
The bloggers will talk about it, people need to figure out what it means, then the main stream media will highlight the problems with Mitt that McCain wants to point out to the world.
So the joke's weirdness gets your attention, then you require an explanation, and then everyone -- like me, here -- has to talk about the joke and how they understood it, and that generates a new story about how everyone's been talking about it. And the two stories that are harmful to Romney get retold and retold in the process.

John Stodder writes:
The joke is very "inside-baseball." It's perfect for McCain's real audience, his erstwhile supporters in the media who "get" all the references. The mind that gestated that joke is the same mind behind McCain's misguided political strategy. He's such an admirable guy, but unfortunately, he is afflicted with the same inability to talk to normal people as the other longtime senators in the race, Biden and Dodd.

Romney is starting to remind me of someone I'm sure he'd rather not be compared to: John Kerry.
Uh-oh. From Massachusetts too.

Ann Romney presents us with a cardboard cutout of her husband, Mitt.

(AP photo.)

ADDED: I don't know if you realize this is a standard function of political wives.

May 21, 2007

"If I had known she was going to die at 19, maybe I would have raised her differently."

"I always taught her to be good."

This is incredibly sweet.

This guy is pretty cool too.

(Via Metafilter.)

Everyone's using the on-line dating services these days...

... and everyone is so repulsive and presumptuous and idiotic.

This is the woman's list of mistakes men make. (It's Rachel Lucas, who's back to blogging.) I'm sure you men can come up with plenty of things (you think) women do wrong... many of which are the same things she says men go wrong.

I mean, here's a comment on an old Ask MetaFilter question:
[T]he best advice I can give for women on [is:] Don't be vague in your profile! Keep away from that crap of "I like to work hard and play hard! I am equally comfortable in hiking clothes and a fabulous evening gown! Family and friends are very important to me." I mean, my god. It's as if there is a generic woman mad lib template out there.
And here's what Rachel is telling men:
When composing a headline for your profile, never use the phrase "Work Hard, Play Hard!". There are no exceptions to this rule, unless you find a clever way of being sarcastic about it. Such as "Work Hard, Play Hard! my pants." Otherwise, you sound like a tool.
The verdict is in: No one should ever say "work hard, play hard." For some reason, it seems to really get on people's nerves. Maybe because it makes everything sound like way too much trouble.

ADDED: I found Rachel's blog via The Other Shoe, who noticed that I called Bill Quick "kind of a dick" and who said that now that I'm saying things like that and Rachel's back, it's time to rename the blogosphere. And here's a good place to note that Bill Quick calling me "pathetic" for calling him "kind of a dick," because of the "kind of" and the way he hates moderation. So, fine, he's a dick. Happy now?

MORE: Dave Copeland says there's really only one item of online dating advice men have for women.

If no news is good news...

Is news that you thought already happened good news? Feels the same.

ADDED: Now, I'm actually reading the article and seeing something that is news to me, and indeed, that I find so shocking that I must strike the person who had been my favorite of the Democrats entirely off the list:
Breaking with some of his fellow candidates, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Mr. Richardson pledged to “leave no troop behind in Iraq. No airbases. No security patrols. No embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces.”
The Democrats seem to have plunged hopelessly into a contest to see who can shirk responsibility in Iraq most quickly and completely.

Another blogger conference call with McCain.

Starting momentarily. I don't have a question planned. Too busy getting that podcast up and so forth. I'm not going to ask why he said "f*ck you" to Senator Cornyn, or why he thinks people aren't going to think that he's too much of a hothead to be President, or whether he actually is too much of a hothead to be President, or what he would say to the face of whoever it was who tattled about his saying "f*ck you" -- presumably "f*ck you" -- or whether he wasn't in fact trying to bully people about the immigration bill, or didn't he know this would piss everyone off -- but I can't say "piss" to a Senator -- or wasn't Cornyn right that he was parachuting in? Maybe: Isn't there a problem running for President while trying to play an effective role in the Senate and doesn't this put you at a terrible disadvantage running against Giuliani and Romney (and Fred Thompson)?

Now, I'm on hold, listening to music... which includes some Huey Lewis and the News ("If This Is It"). I'll type out some notes as we go and update with numbered additions:

1. McCain says message today is government reform. We need to be "careful stewards of our tax dollars." And he is saying that the reports of his exchange with Senator Cornyn were "a bit exaggerated." "Every day kind of hard words are exchanged from time to time, and I'm sorry that YouTube wasn't there" to show us the whole thing. And the immigration system is broken.

2. I got my question in first. Surprising, because I wasn't trying to get in first and was rather shocked to have to go first. After his answer, they didn't bring in a second questioner, as I expected them to. There was a long silence. I was still on, and McCain said, "Anything else?" which left me to follow up, I received a longer answer, and had time to follow up on that as well.

3. A question about Ron Paul's interest in a new 9/11 investigation. McCain is disturbed if people get too interested in conspiracy theories, but it's healthy up to a point. A lot of this talk really reflects hostility toward George Bush.

4. I've missed taking notes on a few of the questions. Several questions on immigration. Here's a question about how Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney are using the immigration issue against him. "Maybe I should wait a couple of weeks," he says, and see if he changes. "Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn." [ADDED: There's some talk in the comments about this wisecrack. I think it means that Romney has nothing but a lot of stupid tough talk meant to appeal to the Republican base. Being a rich guy, Romney probably has plenty of illegal immigrants doing his yardwork, and to picture him getting out his small varmint gun to drive them away is to lampoon his empty tough talk.][UPDATE: I'm emailed this news story: Illegal Guatemalan immigrants really did work for Romney. In that context, I think McCain's remark is f*cking hilarious.][And here's the story that's the source for the reference to the "small varmint gun": "'I'm not a big-game hunter,' said Mitt Romney, campaigning in Indianapolis. 'I've made that very clear. I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.'" Who says "varmints" and "if you will"?][MORE: Politico has the actual audio from this part of the phone call. Based on that, I've changed the quote to say "his solution will be to get out" instead of "he'll get out" and "those Guatemalans" instead of "the Guatemalans."]

5. He acknowledges the difficulty of presenting his position on immigration because it's so complex. It doesn't fit a sound bite. And people are very emotional, more emotional than on any other issue he's seen (except abortion). He hopes "maybe some of the emotion will die down and cool off a bit." The intensity of the emotion surprised him, because he'd thought the President's support would make things go more easily. [As a commenter notes, this notion is inconsistent with his earlier statement about all the hostility toward Bush. I thought of that when I wrote this point, but decided not to mention it because I think the idea is that it's hard to put together a solution to such a complicated problem, and having the President on board signals that this is our real chance to get something passed. Obviously, there is a huge problem here though. They seem to have adopted a strategy of making it look like a done deal -- and even the only possible deal -- and the bluff was called. Now what?]

6. David Brody (of CBS) notes McCain is "getting it" from the right and the left on immigration. Is the greater pressure from the right or from the left? I don't expect him to choose which and he doesn't. "We need to appear and actually be humane" on the immigration issue, because Republicans need to appeal to Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters have good reason to go Republican, because they tend to be involved in small business and to oppose abortion.

7. "I'll do this every week if you want to," he says at the end. He says that he realizes the immigration matter is hurting him politically. And he brings up YouTube again, saying that next time they have a close-door meeting he wants to make sure YouTube is there to record "any fireworks that may ensue" because it would be "entertaining." It's sort of hip to refer to YouTube, but he doesn't seem to know that YouTube doesn't go around filming things. If you want to something on YouTube, Senator McCain, you can make that happen. When are the candidates going to start carrying around their own cameras and doing some clips in a DIY-style and to put on YouTube. It would be like that part of "Journeys With George" when George Bush takes the camera from HBO documentarian Alexandra Pelosi and starts interviewing her. It was quite charming and cool... back in the 2000 campaign, oh, so long ago, when Bush could seem rather charming and cool....

8. Okay, let me get my head together and try to remember my conversation with McCain. I asked whether it isn't a problem to try to run for President and play an effective role in the Senate at the same time. I noted that it seemed to put him at a disadvantage running against his opponents. His first reaction was that he thought he'd already answered that question, which I think was a response he'd prepared to say if anyone tried to ask him anything about the Cornyn incident. He then switched to talking more generally either about immigration or repeating what he'd said in the introductory statement that was supposed to have preempted my question. At that point, I thought, okay, fine, he's not going to answer. Then silence, with me expecting the next questioner to come forward. He then says, "Anything else?" So I said, I accept the point about harsh language, but I was interested to know what he thought about how people are trying to hurt him with it and, more importantly, about the difficulty running for President when he needs to work with other people who may quite legitimately think that he actually is just "parachuting in." I'm not sure there is anything he can really say to that, now that I think about it more. What can he say? Yeah, you're right -- I'm f*cked. His response was about how much he's worked on the immigration issue -- and many other issues over the years -- and how much he can do off-site. I then said that I respected his work and the difficulty of the issue and that I'd defended him about the language use. My concern was only the way this was affecting the campaign. I can't remember if he said anything new after that, but he did speak again. It was interesting to get to talk to him that long. I hadn't planned to do that and found it rather stressful!

9. One thing that I thought during my question-and-answer was: Maybe he'll get mad at me. Frankly, I think he did, but he didn't tell me to go f*ck myself. I note that the conversation was all recorded at their end. Unlike with the last conference call he did with us, we were told at the outset that it was going to be recorded and invited to hang up if we didn't consent. Whether this is a new precaution because of the Cornyn incident, I don't know, but I think it is a very important precaution when talking with bloggers, because we might write up inaccurate or out-of-context quotes. I note that the L.A. Times used quotes I produced after a Giuliani conference call. I try to be scrupulous, but if I were a candidate, I wouldn't trust bloggers.

10. Hey, no one picked up on his government reform issue of the day. Crushingly dull, I guess.

Audible Althouse #84.

It's a podcast. Evil birds, where not to meet men, using nonfiction books to teach kids to read, Mad Magazine, finding the mummified body of the previous owner in the house you just bought... and screwing around with the theme song.

You don't need an iPod. You can stream it right through your computer here.

But all the rebels subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse



Notes in preparation for a second viewing of last night's "Sopranos." [With second-viewing additions scattered throughout.]

Speaking of Amba, she already has a lot to say about last night's "Sopranos." Lots of spoilers over there. Me, I can't write about a "Sopranos" episode until I see it twice. The first time, I'm just getting used to it, seeing the lay of the land. I only really get it the second time around. But I will say a couple things. Spoilers here now.

Two days ago, I spent 5 hours writing about the previous episode, "Kennedy and Heidi," exploring a theory that turned out to be wrong. So I have some resistance to this new episode, "The Second Coming." All that weird stuff in Las Vegas turned out to just be an actual trip to Las Vegas. The peyote revelations evaporate into nothing.
TONY: "Sun came up."

SIL: "Oh yeah?"
Just like the day after any given idiot's psychedelic trip.

Much as I love "The Sopranos," I often get the feeling that the shows are parceled out as separate units, assigned to writers who work out a story arc for that episode. There are threads that go through the whole season (and the whole series), but there are a lot of things that seem to be there for the sake of the story within a single hour. The "Kennedy and Heidi" story had a big ending, but last night didn't take it from there.

Now, again, I'm bad at appreciating the show after only one viewing. The first time I saw "Kennedy and Heidi," I was disappointed. I thought: So, they needed something for Tony to do and they dragged in another beautiful woman character for him to have sex with. She means absolutely nothing to us. And because we've seen so many scenes of Tony having sex -- ugh! -- they threw in some drugs for a little variation, and it was like the big cliché that was in seemingly every movie circa 1970s. A guy takes drugs and sees things a different way. Big deal. But looking at last night's episode, it's like my attitude after the first viewing was right. "Sun came up." "Oh yeah?"

But this is what I'm saying about "The Second Coming" after the first viewing. [ADDED: And now I've watched it a second time, so I'm just going through and putting additions like this in. Actually, writing these notes brought together a lot of my thoughts, causing the second viewing to be less revelatory than I had thought it would be.]

Now, there were lots of things that drew me in and made me excited about getting to my second viewing so I can see what's really there. The title comes is the title of the poem by William Butler Yeats. A.J.'s lovely teacher read us the first verse in class:
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
A.J., in bed, reads us the second verse:
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
[ADDED: Actually, they didn't read the whole text of the poem. More like about half.]

You need to study the poem as you rewatch the episode. It's not enought to say "Things fall apart... Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world," so there's going to be an all-out war between Tony and Phil. Or "somewhere in sands of the desert... what rough beast... Slouches towards Bethlehem," so all that talk about the Mideast and terrorism is going to have to be part of the series dénouement. There must be endless depths there. You're just getting started.

Perhaps Tony will find his humanity (or is he the "rough beast"?). He gives an expensive watch to Carmela, which is typical for him, but what was that inscription? He tries to connect with the guys talking about his peyote visions, but he fails. He tells Phil he wants to talk to him "on a human level." Which also fails. He saves his son from drowning. ("blood-dimmed tide... innocence is drowned.") The water imagery from last week. He cradles the son he saves. Mother imagery from last week. He starts saying "poor you," the way his own mother Livia did. More mother references. Before saving his son from drowning, he eats the "Lincoln log" food Carmela made to try cheer up A.J. Imagery carried over from last week: mother, phallus, assassinated President.

Speaking of Presidents and the Middle East, A.J. is worried about Bush bombing Iran, and he's taken to reading al Jazeera. (Is he in on the terrorism plot that better be cooking up after all the references?)

Carmela kills me. Her son is completely depressed, and she makes him Lincoln logs. That's like saying "You need to grow a dick." Then she announces inanely, "I'm going to Nordstrom's." After his suicide attempt, she says, "He was always so happy. He was our happy little boy." Edie Falco is a brilliant actress to be able to fascinate us with a character whose primary trait is utter blindness. She makes emptiness seem so full. She does throw the watch though. Is she going to find her humanity?

Then there's the conversation between Dr. Melfi and her therapist, who tells her -- in one of the least ambiguous things ever said in the series -- that talk therapy validates sociopaths, that they learn how to shape their souls. [ADDED: I misread my handwriting. It wasn't "shape their souls," but "sharpen their skills."] But how does that fit with Tony's grasping after humanity? Considering that Tony -- along the way -- tries to be a good father to Meadow by smashing a guy's teeth out and sits through his son's therapy session with one of the bloody teeth stuck to his pantleg, I'm guessing that he's shaping his soul in preparation for some big sociopathic adventures.

I scrawled notes in the dark, and some of them I can't quite place: "It's all a big nothing." Did someone say that? [ADDED: A.J. repeats this as something Livia once said to him.] "You're at the precipice of an enormous crossroads." Someone said that. But who? [ADDED: Carmine says it to Tony.]

And some of those notes... well, can you read them?

handwritten notes

Click here to enlarge the notes. I will enlarge on these thoughts after a second viewing.

PRIMARY NEW OBSERVATION ON SECOND VIEWING: The biggest mystery is what was wrong with the FBI agent who showed Tony the photographs of the suspected terrorists. He was having stomach trouble and referred to a "microbe." I'm going to guess that the terrorism is a kind of bioterrorism and -- going out on a limb here -- it involves tainted meat. There are references to meat: the steak pizzaiola and the Lincoln logs, A.J.'s little speech about meat sprayed with virus, the FBI agent's refusal of meat in a scene at the meat store. There are references to bad chemicals: the asbestos, A.J.'s "self-medicating," Sil's diagnosis of A.J. as having a "chemical imbalance." Admittedly, all this imagery of meat and taintedness suits the general theme of the show -- death, evil, decay, corruption. But I can't get over all the references to terrorism all season and the ominous "microbe."

In the comments, some people wondered that I thought A.J. would be involved in the terrorist plot. (Some people seemed oddly outraged as if this wasn't fiction and I was violating his rights by accusing him without the evidence.) I sort of see the point. He's very depressed and inert, and now he's hospitalized. With only 2 episodes to go, you may think this character has had his big episode, and now he's over. But his story has been linked thematically to the terrorist story over and over. I find it hard to believe that won't pan out in some way. And it should be noted that the black bicyclist who got beaten up in the "Kennedy and Heidi" episode was Somalian. It's possible he'll get together with A.J. inside the hospital. Hospitals have provided the setting for some important doings over the years on this series, you know.