February 5, 2005

Simulblogging the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

7:05 (Central Time): Glenn Close wins for TV Movie Actress, beating, among others, Charlize Theron, who looks really cool in slick black hair. Close gasps about how daunting it was to do a role made "iconic" by Katharine Hepburn (in "Lion in Winter"). In the tradition of Screen Actors Guild Awards, Close speaks in terms of acting as a field of labor. Close is wearing a yellow, spaghetti-strapped gown, and her upper chest glistens with sweat. You can see her freckles. I've always had freckles, so I'm always pleased to see the freckles shining through a beautiful person's makeup. In the preshow, I could see that Jamie Foxx has freckles.

7:10: Now, for the TV Movie Actor. Geoffrey Rush (and not the freckle-faced Jamie Foxx) wins. Rush fondles the little naked man that is the statuette and says he deludes himself into thinking that when he's naked he looks like that little guy.

7:18: Jamie Foxx is the next presenter, and the teleprompter malfunctions (or he does). He comically calls for a do-over, and screws up again, and has to comically call for another do-over. He introduces the clip from "Ray." I haven't seen the movie, but is it all about how he cheats on his wife? Who needs to see that? The next award is for movie supporting actress. Based on the clips, I'm for Laura Linney. Cate Blanchett wins, creating the second opportunity of the night to talk about Katharine Hepburn (the character she plays in "The Aviator"). She talks about freckles! She thanks the makeup artist who painted every freckle on her face. Katharine Hepburn was another freckle-face. Freckles! It's a night in celebration of freckles! Now, there's a cool tribute to stunt people and puppeteers and voiceover artists and extras and dancers. They count as actors too in the Guild's way of structuring things. "Extras," in this way of thinking about things, are called "background actors."

7:33: Male actor in a comedy TV series is the next award. I don't watch any of these shows, so I don't care. Tony Shaloub wins. Sandra Oh is one of the presenters of the next award, and I love the way she looks and her green dress. The award is for actress in a TV series, and here I do know one of the shows: "Sex and the City." So maybe I hope Sarah Jessica Parker wins. But what do I know? Teri Hatcher wins. Sandra Oh, by the way, is in "Sideways," which I haven't seen, because when I went to go see it, I crashed my car and didn't make it. Teri Hatcher is wearing a weird, breast-smooshing black dress. Like most of the actresses, she's wearing extra-long dangly earrings. Paul Giamatti comes out to introduce the clip of "Sideways," and he gets a ton of applause, presumably because he got passed over for the Oscar. Now: Ellen Degeneres, giving the comedy series ensemble award. I love the ensemble awards. She tells some jokes and is pretty cute. "Arrested Development" and "Desperate Housewives" look great in the clips. "Desperate Housewives" wins. The women are all sheathed in such tight dresses that they have trouble walking to the stage. The guy that makes the speech -- some producer or whatever -- uses the opportunity to denounce reality TV, which he's "ringing the death knell" of -- a cause dear to the people in the room.

7:52: Mel Gibson comes out and does a bad job of reading the teleprompter. He's giving a lifetime achievement award to James Garner. Shots of Garner in the audience show him giving what looks to me like the stinkeye to Gibson. "Such low level crap they're celebrating," I say as they show the Garner clip show. He just doesn't seem to be an important enough actor to be getting this treatment. To his credit, he doesn't seem at all egotistical. He talks of doing his best. And you have to admit, he was a very handsome man when he was young. Oh, this is going on WAY too long. We're eight minutes into this! Garner comes up and says he's "umbled" to receive an award. Now, we're eleven minutes into it. This is insane! He's touched deep in his heart. Can you believe it? He loves his wife! "Actors are very special people." Can't go wrong with that in this room, but you people are on television. Finally, after thirteen minutes, the segment is over. Unbelievable!

8:08: Melissa Gilbert, president of the Guild, comes out to say some general things. She's wearing a pink dress, inflated breasts, and what looks like a boa of giant black ashes slung over her shoulder. Next is Don Cheadle, introducing the "Hotel Rwanda" clip. Now: Kate Winslet -- a big favorite chez Althouse. She's wearing a tight light blue satin dress. The clips are for movie supporting actor. The clip for Thomas Hayden Church has him saying "asshole" totally unbleeped. (The show is on "E!") [CORRECTION: The show was on TNT.] Morgan Freeman wins. The crowd goes wild! Standing ovation! The actors love this guy. He sings the "Maverick" theme song, because, I guess, the tribute to James Garner just did not go on long enough. Freeman thanks everybody on the face of the earth. Laura Linney comes out in a horrible blackish dress. She introduces the memorial to dead actors segment. First: Ronald Reagan! Big cheer for Rodney Dangerfield. Also for Ossie Davie, who died a couple days ago. Also for Jerry Orbach, Ray Charles, Christopher Reeve, and Johnny Carson. Surprisingly not so much for the greatest actor who died this past year: Marlon Brando.

8:25: Actress in a TV drama. They all look great. Jennifer Garner -- who seems pretty surprised -- wins. She's got a cool silvery dress. The small-breasted women are looking especially good in their dresses tonight. I hope that will be the new style. I'm quite tired of the balloony look. Actor in a TV drama. A chair thrown through a window is featured more than the actor in one of the clips. The dead man, Jerry Orbach, wins. His wife accepts, and she runs up to the stage. "How bittersweet, but it's still sweet." Clint Eastwood comes out to introduce the clip of his own movie, "Million Dollar Baby," which he briefly forgets the name of. Glenn Close introduces the award for TV drama series ensemble. I only watch "Six Feet Under" and "The Sopranos." "CSI" wins, which bores me. But, again, what do I know? I don't watch that show. The clip looked dumb.

8:42: It's the beautiful Johnny Depp! He's introducing the best actress award. It's between Kate and Hilary. Depp is all in black: black suit, shirt, and tie. He must want Kate, who starred with him in "Finding Neverland." (Kate's nomination is for "Eternal Sunshine.") Hilary Swank wins. Depp darts away -- the man is so shy. I'm glad to see Swank win, because I think she doesn't get so many roles, which I think is, frankly, because she is not as good looking as the main actresses who get the roles she ought to get. When she's gotten a great script, she's been great. Her mom's there. She thanks everyone. Leonardo Dicaprio and Cate Blanchett come out to introduce the clip from "The Aviator." Charlize Theron is next -- sporting the excellent new tiny breasts look. She's a bit late coming out, and she runs to catch up. The award is best actor in a movie. The award goes to the gloriously freckle-faced Jamie Foxx.

8:58: Chris just emailed me this link, showing that Charlize Theron is making a movie about the landmark sexual harassment case, Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines. The final award is announced, for movie ensemble: it's "Sideways." Another chance to see Sandra Oh's fabulous green dress. She does the speech too. "This has been such a pure filmmaking experience." Ah, her green dress and my green car, the greenness of destiny! I like that they are having Oh speak, because she's the only one of the four actors who did not get singled out for any nominations. Tim Robbins romps out to say, "Good night, everybody!" And that's the show! End of post! It's been a great privilege, simulblogging for you this evening!

UPDATE: A next-day realization.

Wisconsin mysteries.

After the walk up to St. Mary of the Oaks, site of mysteries of the religious kind, we took a second, flatter path and encountered a different set of mysteries.

Why do men sit out on the ice and fish?

And why do they leave at midday?

What motivates the lone skier?

Why are these tree stumps red?

And why -- no, I couldn't take a picture of it! -- was there a a deer leg on the path when we retraced our steps? Interesting, I said, how the hoof is so perfectly neat and elegant, and the leg is gnawed off at the other end. Nina points out that the leg wasn't there when we walked the same way earlier, and my fascination with the leg is suddenly replaced by thoughts of the sort of animal that must have come by with that leg so recently.

The world is a frightening place:

Don't stare into the abyss too long!

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the photos for this post were saved at Mac.com — an Apple service I paid for and which Apple later made unavailable, before I figured out how to save the photos. I'd like to reconstruct this post, but I so far, I can't.

When criminal defense lawyers give Michael Jackson fashion advice.

So should Michael Jackson wear a conventional, conservative suit and tie as he goes to trial for child molestation? Criminal defense lawyers have their
standard fashion advice for criminal defendants:
"Particularly in a case of this type," said William B. Moffitt, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, "what you don't want the jury thinking is, 'This guy is weird, and he's so weird he might have done this.' Would style play a role in that perception? Sure it can."
The trip back from weird is just too, too far for Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson in a gray suit would just be weird in a weird new way. And Michael Jackson's lifestyle, which will come out at trial, is terribly strange. He can't return from strange. His best hope, it seems to me, from my distant perspective, is to present himself as the strangest man in the world, a lost boy in a fantasy retreat, an asexual child, who surrrounded himself with children, whom he thought were his friends, but who had parents, who could see his money and succumbed to the temptation to bring him down. I have no idea what really happened, of course, and I loathe child molestation as much as the next person, but I would love for it to be true that Michael is innocent. For that to be true, given what we have heard so far, he must be a very weird person. So he really must continue to dress like the fantastical character he created for himself.

St. Mary of the Oaks.

We drive Silvio through the twisty Wisconsin back roads up to Indian Lake. The sign at the foot of the steep path to St. Mary of the Oaks:

There's a pale winter light shining through the trees:

The many birch trees remind me of my mother, who would exclaim over the beauty of even the most spindly suburban birches:

We see the chapel at the top of the hill:

We go through the gate:

Open the door:

The altar:

Someone has placed a small photograph of a boy in Mary's arms:

There are many notebooks on the altar. The last three entries are: "Dear Mary, Jesus, and God, Thank you for your continual blessings...,"Great Spirit, Thank you for my courage to accept who I am..," and "Allah Akbar."

There is a small side window.

We move on to the overlook:

The overlook:


"Christ did not come down from the cross."

That is what Pope John Paul has said in response to those who have used his suffering as a reason why he should retire. The NYT
article contains this analysis:
Some insist that this final stage of John Paul's papacy has its own deep importance in his 26 eventful years on the throne of Peter, imbuing it with a spiritual dimension, which, they argue, cuts to the essence of Christianity.

"Christianity exists precisely to give significance to suffering," said Vittorio Messori, an Italian writer who spent time with John Paul during their collaboration on the pope's 1994 book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope."

The pope now "offers his suffering as a testament," Mr. Messori said, "and that is more useful than having a young leader. Not that this pope was not useful when he was young, and he does have some trouble administering the church. Certainly many things that he used to do, his collaborators have to do now."

"But at the same time," he added, "Christians don't have a strong god. They have a poor man attached to a cross."
It's not for me to say. This is a very profound matter. But what does it matter if the Pope can't carry out all his responsibilities and others have to cover for him? The difficulty is really that those who see him suffer feel a deep need to rescue him. But he has made his decision to do something he deems meaningful and important.

My other '08 Presidential pick.

Yesterday, I wrote about my preferred '08 Democratic candidate for President, Russ Feingold. (And check out my update there. I did not mean to make my recommendation seem lukewarm!) Today, let me say that for a Republican candidate, I want Condoleezza Rice. Have you noticed the change in her demeanor in the pictures from her current European trip? I have always liked her, but I think she is taking on a new energy and dynamism as Secretary of State. Look at this picture of her with Gerhard Schröder (from whom she extracted a pledge to do more to help Iraq).
Mr. Schröder, one of Europe's most implacable opponents of the Iraq invasion two years ago, appeared with Ms. Rice at a convivial news conference after an hourlong meeting here on Friday. He said he, like Mr. Bush, was ready to move beyond the debates of the past and work together on several matters, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort.
Do you have a problem with Rice saying that Iran's human rights record is "something to be loathed"? Here's Schröder on the subject:
In his comments on Friday, ... Mr. Schröder dismissed the idea that talk of bringing about democracy in Iran was unhealthy or damaging to negotiations with Iran on nuclear matters. "Not at all," he said with a laugh, when the question was raised at his news conference. "No, no, absolutely not."

The chancellor then said he had "listened to the president's address very eagerly" and "taken from it that his heart is very keenly with the democrats, irrespective of what country we're talking about."

"I couldn't agree more, actually," he said.

But he added carefully that there should be a discussion about what "tools" would be used to achieve reform in Iran.

A senior State Department official traveling with Ms. Rice, amplifying her comments further, said Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice had lately "made it more explicit that we support the aspirations of the Iranian people to control their government."

Another administration official suggested that Ms. Rice was trying to reassure Europe, warn Iran, establish her identity as different from her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, and not least, send a positive signal to the administration's conservative wing, whose members advocate at least raising the possibility of "regime change" over Iran.

"Sometimes a mixed message is the message you are trying to send," he said, noting that European anxieties needed to be assuaged at the same time that the Iranians needed to be told of American seriousness toward Iranian conduct.
Don't you have the feeling that Rice can do everything? Not to hero-worship or anything, but I would love to see Feingold and Rice as the candidates in '08: two truly strong, worthy candidates.

A new Wisconsin tourism slogan.

A new Wisconsin tourism slogan is, of course, a heads-up to jokesters everywhere. Dummocrats has a list of ten (like: "Come for the cheese and brats, stay for the world class UW heart clinic"). The best alternate Wisconsin tourism slogans tend to contain cheese, and perhaps nothing will ever top the 80s-era alternate tourism slogan: "Eat cheese or die."

So what's the new slogan? It's "Wisconsin -- Life's so good." Hopefully, people who hear the new tourism ads will get the message that "life's so good" here in Wisconsin, as opposed to: "Life's so good" but what's that got to do with Wisconsin? Or: "Life's so good" so I need to plan a nice trip out of Wisconsin.

"Radical Middle."

I appreciate being included on this list ("Great Radical Middle Political Blogs"). I just hope Kevin Drum enjoys being on the list with me. (Here's my description of my experience with Drum calling me a "wingnut.")

February 4, 2005

It's Friday night.

Ooh, I got riled up over that last post. You know, it's one thing when your opponents use boneheaded arguments and distortions, but quite another when people who are trying to support a truly earthshakingly important cause that you care very much about do the same. What is The Nation trying to do? I suspect it of wanting to preserve a hostile, crazed elite readership. Why win on some issue by making the eminently persuasive, powerful arguments that are right there begging to be made? What would we do after that? Why not make bad, divisive arguments that fire up our hardcore readers? Then, we can go on forever!

Well, now, I really must calm down. It's Friday night, the beginning of a lovely February weekend in Wisconsin. Time to mellow out and enjoy life. I can't control what The Nation does. I'm going to watch a little television, read and write, and think about a good route for a nice, long drive in my new sports car. Tomorrow, with camera in hand, I will seek out the twistiest backroads and come home with some nice photographs for you, dear readers. No college guys in gorilla and bunny suits seeking hugs from college girls. Some real Wisconsin photography!

The Nation, not helping the argument for separating Church and State.

There's an article called "Our Godless Constitution" in the current issue of The Nation. The author, Brooke Allen, sets out to expose a Bush Administration "whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles." If you're going to begin an article by accusing the President of being a big liar, it's probably a good idea to show a lot of fidelity to the truth, so let's see what we've got here. The article is largely a collection of decontextualized quotes of various founding fathers saying things that are antagonistic to religion. I'm not going to pick through this whole article, just point out one egregious distortion that jumped off the page at me. Allen writes:
James Madison ... spoke of the "almost fifteen centuries" during which Christianity had been on trial: "What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."

Here is the real context of that quote, from James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, which is not an argument against religion but an argument against the government establishment of religion:
Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?
Madison was not denouncing Christianity, but government established Christianity. He's arguing for the separation of Church and State. It's not Christianity that produces "pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, [and] in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution." It's the government's alliance with a single, chosen religion! The Nation has outrageously misrepresented Madison's quote, in this bizarre effort to expose Bush Administration's lies.

What is so pathetically sad about this effort is that there is no need to push away religious believers to justify the separation of Church and State. This article is harmful to its own cause, by making it seem as if one has to hate religion to support the separation of Church and State. Atheists and devout believers alike should want the same thing. Look at Madison's argument: he's saying Christianity had its "greatest lustre" back when it lacked the support of government. At the beginning of his Memorial, Madison premises his argument on religious values:
Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." [Virginia Declaration of Rights, art. 16] The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.

That is a religion-based argument against compelled religion, not a hate-spew against religion. Elsewhere in the Memorial, Madison argues that establishment isn't needed to support the Christianity, and in fact it is "a contradiction to the Christian Religion":
[E]very page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.
Madison's Memorial makes a brilliant appeal to religious people to see the importance of separating Church and State. Convincing religious people to want to see religion separated from the government remains one of the very most important efforts in the world today. The Nation is not helping!

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren at Volokh Conspiracy takes me to task for using the expression "separation of Church and State" instead of "disestablishment": "What Madison wanted in the 1780s was disestablishment of religion and equal liberty for different religions, not a 'wall of separation.'" Of course, I did not mention a wall, and I am only trying to read Madison's "Memorial" closely, not bring forward any more elaborate history. But I do I stand by my position that Madison's "Memorial" is a brilliant argument for the separation of Church and State. I am not attempting in this post engage over the subject of how extreme the separation ought to be, but I don't see the ground for objecting to the word "separation" simply because it may not be absolute. We refer to "separation of powers" when speaking of the three branches of government in constitutional law, even though the Constitution permits some interplay between the branches. Lindgren refers to recent historical work that attempts to tie modern day notions of separation to 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. I'm in no position to refute that story -- I'll leave that work to historians. I'm only reading Madison's text and connecting it to the debate about religion and government that exists today. I won't hide the fact that I think the separation of religion and government is one of the most powerful and important ideas, both in the United States and in the world.

Get a hug from a bunny or a gorilla.

What's happening down on Library Mall in Madison, Wisconsin today?

"Show some interest in ASM and get a hug from a bunny or a gorilla."

Bunny notices the camera.

Girl shows some interest.

She chooses the bunny.

Aw. Gorilla needs a hug too.

I seem to be skewing Democratic this morning.

I wonder if any lefty bloggers will notice and give me some positive reinforcement and if my usual rightish linkers will do anything other than ignore me. No, those last two posts are not really a way to test out the thesis I bandied about here. It's just what I happened to notice this morning.

I think you ought to run for President.

Russ Feingold wants somebody to say "Hey, we think you ought to run for president."
The Wisconsin Democrat is known for staking out staunch liberal positions on some issues and for crossing party lines on others. But in the interview [with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel], he suggested that the Democratic Party's prospects for victory in 2008 would have less to do with tacking to the left or to the center, what region its nominee comes from or whether the candidate is from inside or outside Washington than with choosing somebody who can "connect" with voters.

He mentioned President Bush, former President Bill Clinton and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as three politicians with different backgrounds and politics who shared that ability. He also acknowledged that the Democrats' past two nominees, Kerry and Al Gore, were perceived as lacking that touch.

"It's the person people can relate to, the person that makes them feel comfortable, seems to be sincere, maybe has some of the straight-type qualities of McCain," Feingold said.

"That's the kind of person I want to be our nominee. Whether or not I would ever fit that bill I think is a very open question," said the senator, although he said, "I hope that's my strength."

Saying Democrats have a tendency to "talk about wonky lists of issues instead of the real pain that families are feeling," Feingold cited the 1994 Republican Contract with America as an example of effective communication. "I didn't agree with them, but they had this nice direct way of talking about how the average person really feels about their government. And about common-sense solutions . . . It was a way of talking about things that made you feel that they had actually listened to people first."...
Do the Democrats have anyone better? I don't think so.

UPDATE: I don't mean that last question to imply that the Democrats are so bad, Feingold is the best. I really think Feingold is a great candidate. Anyone can consult the results of the last election and figure out that many people voted for Bush and for Feingold. So Feingold's argument quoted above really does make sense. Feingold might be more liberal than Kerry -- according to the usual way of totting up votes on various things -- but plenty of Wisconsin voters who rejected Kerry voted for Feingold. That includes me. Those of us here in Wisconsin have seen a lot of Feingold. I've watched him in a number of debates. He is an extremely strong and charismatic candidate. If I had to guess who is the smartest Senator, I'd guess Feingold. If I had to guess which member of Congress or Governor has the best plainly demonstrable record of good character and integrity, I would say Feingold. If I had to say which member of Congress or Governor would I be most willing to watch on television in debates and speeches and interviews over a long campaign season, it would be Feingold. In sum, Feingold is a great candidate.

Coffee and complaints about Social Security.

The first article I noticed on opening up the NYT this morning directly addresses what was the first thing I yelped about after listening to the President's State of the Union address. Here's what I said:
I did note that when Bush assured "older workers," that he defined "older workers" with an age break that just barely left me out.
I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.

For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time.

So that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I'm one of the "younger workers"?

Let's see what the Times has:
"I'm not in the 65-year-old group which he says will keep the benefits and not in the 25 group that gets to invest all their money," said Mr. McEwen, a 50-year-old lawyer who was having coffee and reading a paperback in a Starbucks here on Thursday morning. "So I'm the most affected of all."...

Most of the people interviewed in a day's snapshot of middle-aged opinion - one morning, one city and the chance encounters of a reporter and photographer - said that politics, at least to a certain degree, colored their views. People who voted for Mr. Bush tended to be more optimistic about his plan, while people who did not generally took a dimmer view.

Oh, they just walked around looking for fiftyish people to get a reaction from. I guess I'll have to wait to hear analysis. But it sure was helpful to know some lawyer was having coffee and reading a paperback at Starbucks. Come on! I need information! What paperback was he reading? And he was just "having" "coffee"? Please! Was he sipping or gulping? Was it a latte or a cappucino?

I got some email yesterday from someone who supports Bush's plan and said he was disappointed to be just above the 55-years-old line. Supposedly, the new plan is so good that it's better to get in than to be cut out, even if you are far along in your earning years. I wrote back that I felt I was being forced to figure out a lot of new things just to keep my full benefit. My emailer insisted I'd be better off. My response:
Well, if it's better to be outside of the line than inside of the line, why have the line at all? So the geezers won't bitch?

Unfortunately, all I've been able to hear about the plan so far is that if you voted for Bush, the plan is good and if you voted against Bush, the plan is bad. Well, I voted for Bush, and though I have no idea if the plan is good, I am incapable of seeing the connection between the supposed financial crisis and the way the plan addresses it. All I hear is: there's a big crisis (or not) and here's this new way to structure benefits (which you might find appealing, whether there is a crisis or not).

But what I really need to know is what one guy at Starbucks has to say off the top of his head. And look, there's a guy over there. He looks about 50. Wonder what he thinks?

February 3, 2005

Getting to love satellite radio.

Driving around in my new sports car, I'm getting to love satellite radio. (I chose XM over Sirius.) I've always preferred radio in my car. When I first got a nice CD player in my car, in 1999, I thought I'd listen to it all the time. But the truth is, I'd listen to talk radio, whatever was on -- advice about pets (though I have no pets), tips about health (though I abhor fussing over ailments and dietary particularities) ... whatever. I like the feeling of being tuned in and connected.

So I love the satellite radio in my new car, with all the 170 or so channels. It's fun finding my way around. I set it to scan among the news channels or maybe the rock channels. I use the preset buttons to get to my early favorites: the "Decades" channel where it's always the 60s, "Deep Tracks" where it's always classic rock (today, I was driving on Mineral Point, listening to Led Zeppelin, thinking how strange it was that so much intense emotion was expended over a line like "We're gonna go walkin' in the park every day"), "Fred" (alternative music of the 70s and 80s), "Bluesville," and "Soul Street."

I'm going to gradually collect my favorites and dedicate my preset buttons, but today, I enjoyed clicking through the channels, happening upon what amused me. I don't normally care about country music but I liked "Hank's Place," the traditional cowboy-style channel, and "Bluegrass Junction," the bluegrass channel. And I see there's "The Village," where Bob Dylan resides in amongst the country offerings. I'll have to check that out. And I haven't begun to explore all the talk channels. Today, I happened upon a channel that played soundtracks from movies: they were playing dialogue from "The Great Escape."

How fun to see what's on the radio!

Rules are rules.

The legalistic argument did not win on "The Apprentice" tonight. Ah! How I wanted Michael to be fired. Here's the situation, in case you did not watch. Michael was given immunity last week because he was the team leader, and his team won. That meant he could not be fired this week. He then took advantage of his immunity to act like a jackass throughout this week's task. He took advantage of his immunity! How absolute is this immunity that is given to each week's team leader? Is the person with immunity allowed to behave so badly that he causes his team to lose? Ha, ha, I don't care. I can do whatever I want, and only you, not I, am at risk! There must be some end to this immunity!

In the boardroom, the lawyer, Erin, made an argument -- which I liked -- that there is a limit to immunity, that there are things you can do that forfeit immunity. Danny, the team leader, brought the immunized Michael into the Boardroom, exposing him to firing, on the theory that there is a point, as Erin the lawyer argued, when you have waived your immunity. But in the end, Trump said "rules are rules," and he wouldn't fire Michael, and Danny took the blow. I was disappointed. Immunity can't go on forever. And Danny was a strong and unique character. In the beginning of tonight's show, Danny was the one who cared for Verna, the woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and everyone else was hard-nosed and competitive. Danny impressed me, not that he didn't show a weakness now and then. He was the heart of the show, and now he's gone.

I liked the way Danny used the taxicab send-off segment to play on his guitar and sing a nice song about his experience. We all love Danny. I don't know who all these other people are, other than I can't stand Michael and I'm pulling for Erin, despite her folksinger hair, but Danny was really a cool guy, and we'll miss him.

UPDATE: Hey, Nina took my advice and simul-blogged, which is especially interesting because she'd never seen the show before: "Sixteen candidates are left. Who will be fired next? Oh. We only lose one tonight? Fifteen to go? To be resolved in fifteen weeks of shows? The Apprentice seems terribly long suddenly. Like a commitment to a semester of classes." Oh! Nina poops out early. I should have told her, you have to hang on for the Boardroom scene. It's all about the set up for the big Boardroom showdown! That, and the nice shots of NYC.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rereading this Friday morning, I see I "corrected" something in the Nina quote that wasn't a mistake. I've de-miscorrected it. Apologies for Nina, who once observed that I don't blog in the evenings. That was back in the days when I was being more careful. Now, I'm willing to toss things up on the blog even when I'm kind of tired, which I was at 9 o'clock last night, having been up since 4 a.m.

Anyway, another thing about the show last night. As usual, the task was a big bore. Typical product placement garbage: develop an ad campaign for a new product by some company using the show as a big, long ad. At least, if you're going to subject us to product placement, make the competition different in some way. We've seen the ad campaign thing way too many times. Bizarrely, both teams used irritating huckster-y street promotion and giveaways to push the new product, which didn't make any sense, because the product was an upscaled Nescafé coffee that the company needed to associate with luxury and elegance and because the teams were not going to be judged on the number of coffees sold that afternoon, but on how well the company's message was conveyed. Both teams failed get the right message across, but the team that the Nescafé people judged the loser -- Magna -- at least tried to connect the product with something that has an upscale image (an iPod). The team that won -- Net Worth -- had an incredibly stupid and annoying cornball Americana Uncle Sam theme and just gave away money. Why did they win? My answer: because the show's producers knew it would be way more interesting to get the Magna people in the Boardroom this week, given the footage they had with Danny, Verna, and Michael.

State of the Union versus "American Idol."

I don't know why Drudge is flipping out that "'AMERICAN IDOL' TOPS NETWORK COVERAGE FOR STATE OF UNION," as the current banner over there says. "Idol" ended several minutes before Bush began his speech. Why would you expect that many people to watch all the extra talk on either side of the speech? I TiVo'd "American Idol" and not any news coverage. Most of that news talk was pretty tedious!

Actually, "American Idol" was kind of bad last night. I suppose they thought San Francisco would produce some colorful contestants, but it didn't really. I had my laptop out and would have TiVo-blogged, as I usually do with "American Idol," but I was uninspired. The only thing interesting was the way that one woman looked -- the one with the really big hair.

Anyway, I see Drudge is writing: "The U.S broadcast TV audience would rather watch freaks sing out of tune than President Bush and Democrats wax politics, overnight ratings show."

"Wax politics"? Presumably, "wax political" was intended.

Anyway, the ratings only show we'd rather watch "American Idol" than another hour of talking heads jabbering about the State of the Union. I'd say that shows excellent judgment on the part of the "U.S. broadcast TV audience." And I note that a large number the people who really like to watch news analysis shows would be over on the cable news channels, not the broadcast TV.

Finally, I object to the description of "American Idol" as "freaks sing[ing] out of tune." That fails to comprehend the fascination with the show. You never know when you first see a contestant -- who may look freakish, ordinary, beautiful, or awful -- what voice is going to come out. Much of the suspense and humor comes from the mismatch between voice and physical image. Hearing bad singing sharpens your appreciation for the good singing, and seeing the people who haven't worked hard enough, are just fooling around, or are in the grip of a terrible delusion, prepares you to really care about the few young people who really are wonderfully good or are sympathetic for some other reason.

UPDATE: Here's the Television Without Pity mini-recap of last night's San Francisco episode, which calls the woman with the big hair "incredibly magnetic and beautiful." Her name is Nadia Turner, by the way. Actually, that recap is reminding me of some fairly interesting things I'd blocked out. I think there was an idea that, being in San Francisco, they'd have a gay theme, but then, because it's a family show and because a lot of things would be too cruel or in too bad taste, they couldn't really push it to the point where it would be entertaining.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an MSNBC critic displaying zero understanding of the show: "If 'American Idol' was truly about showcasing talent, why not actually focus on those who have a chance? ... For the sake of attempting to create an interesting segment, a producer nearly sacrificed Rich's chance at realizing his dreams. .... For a show that pretends to be a singing contest ... There's no excuse for this distorted focus ...." These sound like the sort of complaints a rejected contestant might come up with. The "focus" is only "distorted" if the point of the show were really fixed on one specific thing, as opposed to entertaining us in any number of different ways, using -- in the pre-live show phase -- the footage produced by the auditions.

A question chewed over last night.

Nina phrases the question that was one of the questions discussed over burgers last night:
In a search for meaningful relationships in life, which is the better choice: a passionate engagement with a person who has obvious faults, ill-suited to your needs and temperament, or a calm and steady affection for someone who inspires little else?

UPDATE: This makes our little dinner sound like an episode of "Sex and the City," with Nina in the Carrie role, phrasing the over-arching question. Or I guess, it's more a parody of an episode of "Sex and the City," where Carrie went to Yale Law School and comes at her English language style -- like Nabokov -- via a foreign language.

MORE: I note that Carrie, like Nina, would go home after her encounters with her friends, get out her laptop, and compose a question that summarized their conversation. But Carrie wasn't blogging! She was writing a column for a newspaper. Isn't it obvious that if the show were being made today, Carrie would be a blogger?

STILL MORE: Please note that the question is specifically framed so that "both" is not an answer! You're not allowed to change the question into something that can be answered "both." Everyone knows the banal wish "I want it all!" Each of Nina's options contains a condition that is incompatible with the basic premise of the other option. Don't you realize Nina is a law professor? If this were a law school exam, and you changed the question like that you would get a terrible grade. And really "neither" is also not an answer, because the question is which is "better," as in: would you rather be buried alive or boiled in oil?

AND YET MORE: Actually, people are right to want reclaim control over the question. Obviously, Nina's stacked the deck, making everyone want to say neither or both. The real life question involves some combination of the two in the lover/friend mix -- how much of one without the other are you willing to accept and for how long? So maybe you'll accept 95% lover, 5% friend for one night, and 80% friend, 20% lover for a lifetime monogamy commitment. It's your call.

AND, FOR YOU "SEX AND THE CITY" FANS: 95% lover, 5% friend for one night = Samantha. 80% friend, 20% lover = Charlotte. I note that the characters on the show, other than Carrie, do not (except in the later seasons of the series) represent the way a real person would think, but one of the options the real person -- represented by Carrie -- would contemplate. Miranda was the just-say-no position. Miranda was what Carrie -- and you, the viewer! -- had to worry about turning into. That really did give you something to think about. Unreal though the show was in many respects, it laid out a very realistic relationship problem for women to use to think about their own lives.

February 2, 2005

"How can you call yourself a political party?"

Here's a dialogue from last night's Hardball that really struck me. Host Chris Matthews is talking to Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio‘s “Democracy Now":
MATTHEWS: Amy, just think right now. I know this is freeform thinking and it‘s right on the spot. But think of who you think of right now as having the true voice of the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. List a couple of people you think are the true voice of the heart and mind of the Democratic Party right now in 2005 in February.

GOODMAN: Well, I don‘t think it is so much about individuals. I think it is about positions. It is about people taking strong stands.

MATTHEWS: No, who? Well, give me an example of somebody you think speaks for the Democratic Party right now.


GOODMAN: Like against Alberto Gonzales, like against Condoleezza Rice.

MATTHEWS: But who? Who do you trust now? Who has the true voice of the Democratic heart and mind right now? Who is it? Who do you recognize? Give me three or four names of people you think are true Democrats.

GOODMAN: Well, I‘m not going to give names. I would talk about positions.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

GOODMAN: Because I think it is positions that matter. And we shouldn‘t focus on personality.


MATTHEWS: If you can't say who your leaders are, how can you call yourself a political party? I mean, what are the Democrats if they don‘t have a leader?


GOODMAN: I think it is about—I think the Democratic Party...

MATTHEWS: Who speaks for progressive America?

GOODMAN: I think the Democratic Party, what we should be talking about is positions that have to do with preserving Social Security, that have to do with being against torture.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, that‘s why you‘re losing. Why you‘re losing. now is, you can‘t even point to your leaders.

At least George Bush is the leader of the Republican Party.

GOODMAN: It‘s not about my leaders. It‘s about...

MATTHEWS: Name a leader. Name a leader that you trust.

GOODMAN: It is not about my position. It is about not my thoughts about people.


GOODMAN: It is about positions. And I think that‘s what counts.


MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s the problem. If the Democratic Party is tongue-tied about who their leaders are, that‘s the beginning of the problem.

The State of the Union speech.

My dinner ended in time to catch the State of the Union speech live. I haven't been simulblogging, in part because I've been simul-folding-the-laundry and simul-taking-a-bath. Generally, I think Bush sounds strong and confident, giving one of his better performances.

I listened to the long section on reforming Social Security, and I have no idea whether some big change is needed now as opposed to just making up the shortfalls with increased taxing as needed, and I have no idea, if I assume some big change is needed now, whether these private accounts represent any special prospect of curing the problem. The proposal seems to be more of a policy preference for how to structure benefits, not a way to restore financial stability to the system. I did note that when Bush assured "older workers," that he defined "older workers" with an age break that just barely left me out.
I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.

For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time.

So that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I'm one of the "younger workers"?

I noticed that Bush played off two groups of lawyers. Tort lawyers must beware: he's planning to cut into your livelihood. But he reached out to criminal defense lawyers:
Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice, we need to make sure Americans of all races and backgrounds have confidence in the system that provides justice. In America we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit - so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.

Of course, there is more to criminal defense fairness than DNA evidence, but this section of the speech was pro-lawyer, not usual lawyer-bashing.

It's very touching when the President introduces Safia Taleb al-Suhail:
One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. 'Thank you to the American people who paid the cost' but most of all to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country - and we are honored that she is with us tonight.

She stands and holds her fingers up in the peace/victory sign, then rotates it around into a single index finger, the inkable voter's Finger of Democracy. Later, Bush introduces the parents of Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood, who was killed in Iraq. Norwood's mother, Janet, is standing right behind al-Suhail and, at one point, the Iraqi woman turns around and embraces the American woman. The embrace goes on for a long time, and we imagine al-Suhail is thanking Janet Norwood for what her son gave to the Iraqi people. This long, symbolic embrace leaves a deep impression, beyond any words in the speech.

Purple fingers of democracy at the State of the Union.

Driving home in the car today -- attempting to assume the "aggressive competence" persona I'm told fits my new car -- I was listening to CNN and heard a report that there would be jars of purple ink for members of Congress to dip their fingers in to show solidarity with the Iraqis who had to dip their fingers in purple ink to vote last Sunday. One newsman asked if the Democrats were going to go along with it, and the other answered that some were saying it was just a political stunt. The first one then grumbled something like: after all the Americans who have already died in Iraq, how much more solidarity do we have to show?

You know, maybe it is a bit of a stunt, but it is so good-hearted and for such an important ideal, that the Democrats are political fools if they choose this as a place to push back against the President. I'll be interested to see how it turns out. I bet Hillary dips!

Here's a link to an L.A. Times story on the subject. And here's my colleague Gordon Smith's post from last Sunday, saying President Bush should have a purple-inked finger during the State of the Union.

UPDATE: The big finger showdown did not take place. They must have talked it out and decided it wasn't going to work out well.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I take that back. Apparently, at some point, there was some finger waving. I wasn't looking at the screen the whole time.

Must the entity comprising car and driver try to avoid having a split personality?

A colleague, asking me how I like my new car (an Audi TT Coupe), reminds me that when I first got my New Beetle, I commented that I felt compelled to drive with extra consideration for others -- e.g., smiling and nodding at drivers who yield to me, obligingly changing lanes to allow other drivers plenty of room to merge into traffic. There was something about the overall image of the happy -- smiling -- car that required the driver to have a matching personality. It's always bad to be a selfish or angry driver, but any touch of these admittedly human qualities is really going to stand out if you're driving a Beetle. It's like getting into a fistfight while wearing a peace sign. After driving the Beetle for five and a half years, I'm now faced with the notion of merging with a different car's personality. It's quite a different sort of car. Is it me? Driving, do I form a single personality with my car? But it's not so obvious what the Audi TT personality is. It's a subtle process of self-discovery. What am I like as a driver of this car? What is the integrated Ann/Audi persona? If I can't discover it, Ann/Audi will be a split personality.

The Milwaukee tire-slashing case.

Here's the latest on the case against five Kerry-Edwards campaign staffers accused of slashing the tires on 25 Republican Party vans last Election Day. Two of the defendants are sons of prominent Democratic politicians. The vans, parked next to the Republican headquarters in Milwaukee, were to be used to get voters to the polls.

Purple ink for voters in the U.S.?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel continues its investigation into possible fraud in last fall's election. It also notes this development:
[O]n Monday, Republicans in Madison renewed a push - which failed two years ago - to require all voters to show photo identification.

On Tuesday, Rick Graber, head of the state Republican Party, challenged his Democratic counterpart to appear at a hearing on the matter Thursday so together they can condemn "the fact that potentially thousands of voters across Wisconsin had their legally cast ballot disenfranchised by fraud and abuse."

Linda Honold, state Democratic Party chair, said she was unsure if she would attend the meeting but added that if she did go, she would do so to oppose the bill.

"If I'm there, I'm not going to be arguing what he wants me to argue," she said.

Others, including the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the group Wisconsin Citizen Action, condemned the voter ID proposal.

"The way to prevent fraud is more and better poll workers," said Larry Marx, co-executive director of Wisconsin Citizen Action. "We want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The photo ID bill makes it harder to vote and harder to cheat."

Easier to vote and harder to cheat? How about if we dip our fingers in a jar of purple ink? That seems to be a stylish new way to prevent fraud. But I am certain that if such a proposal were seriously made in this country, it would be denounced as an outrageous infringement of individual rights, plainly unconstitutional. In order to exercise the right to vote, a person is forced to go about with a visible stigma, compelled to go about saying, in essence, "I voted." I'm sure those who oppose the war in Iraq would find the finger-dipping unusually irksome, because it would also seem to symbolize the positive side of that war. But it would be easier than a photo ID. You have to go to some trouble to obtain a photo ID (though it's only a problem for people who don't drive), and virtually everyone has a finger to dip in a jar. But I'll bet we'd never even get close to adopting such a measure here.

UPDATE: Sneaking Suspicions proposed ink dipping for Milwaukee last Sunday. An emailer writes: "As long as one party or the other sees advantage in maintaining cheating-friendly procedures, they will fight a simple cheap solution of any kind. And of course, there are solvents: ink might not work here."

ANOTHER UPDATE: An emailer writes: "The nice thing about using ink is that cheaters can be recognized by the skin falling off their fingers. Using solvent to clean a finger 100 times or more in a day will 'leave a mark.'" I don't know how harsh these solvents are, but if the effects were that strong, you could not only catch the would-be fraudulent voter but prove their intent to commit a fraud. Right now, there are few prosecutions for fraudulent voting because -- I think -- defendants just say they thought they were allowed to vote twice. Put more mildly, having to get rid of the ink would deter voters from doing something they might otherwise take somewhat lightly. It seems similar to the way someone might be willing to trespass by opening an unlocked door, but refrain from breaking and entering.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A emailer notes that absentee voting undermines the inked finger solution.

A "unique" opportunity to repeat himself.

There's a lot of news coverage this morning prepping us for the State of the Union speech tonight. I find it a little hard to get excited about a State of the Union speech that follows so soon after an Inaugural Address, and the coverage of the State of the Union I'm reading this morning is saying things like:
Previewing the speech to reporters, a senior administration official said it is a "unique" speech in that it so closely follows the president's second inaugural address, and offers Bush an opportunity to build on the "ideals" outlined in that speech and make clear his specific goals and legislative blueprint for the second term.

I love the selling point that it's "unique" because it's a repetition. There's nothing new! Don't you get it? That's what makes it unique! Oh, okay, I'm being too mean: it's a repetition PLUS padding. Hey, you were going to stop being mean! Okay, so maybe there will be new details, new specificities:
[T]he signature domestic theme will be Social Security, and without offering any new specifics themselves, senior aides promised Bush would give a more detailed outline of how he envisions major changes to the program, including an option for younger Americans to divert some Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts.
(My italics.) So, "a more detailed outline." It's still an outline, still a blueprint, but it's going to be a more detailed outline. Possibly with some "new specifics."

As to foreign policy:
In the half of the speech dedicated to international issues, Bush will claim progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, in combating terrorism and advancing freedom.
Really? Actually, I have dinner plans. I'm going to miss the speech, which I'll read afterwards, in a fraction of the time it would take to sit through it and all the tedious clapping. I don't think President Bush cares all that much about the delivery of speeches. He gets through them, and this one he's under a constitutional duty to make. I am, of course, under no constitutional duty to listen.

February 1, 2005


I'm finally getting around to watching last night's Letterman show, the tribute to Johnny Carson. God, we loved that man! And David Letterman does such a good job with a show like this. He's got that sweet, funny humility of his. David does a monologue and then reveals later that all the jokes were written by Carson and sent on to Letterman. One guest on the show talks about how, after his retirement, Johnny read the newspaper and wrote jokes for his own amusement. Somehow the choice was made to send the jokes on to Dave.

Hugh Hewitt on "The Dennis Miller Show."

Hugh Hewitt was on "The Dennis Miller Show" tonight talking about his book "Blog." Miller defines a blog as "a sort of online stream-of-consciousness thing." There are all these millions of blogs, but Hewitt says the "top tier, two, three hundred of them make a difference." Hewitt was good at fast talking a lot of facts about things blogs are doing these days, but it all went by pretty fast, in a bit of a blur.

"American Idol," in Cleveland and Orlando.

We're in Cleveland: The first performer is Jacklyn Crum, who's only 16 and who tells Paula she loves her because she's pretty. She's obviously scared but she sings beautifully. Simon and Randy start hedging about her inexperience, but guest host LL Cool J says you've got to start somewhere and, with Paula's yes, she makes it.

Up next is one of the least attractive women ever to appear on the show. I assume she's going to be great, because otherwise it would be too mean to shine the spotlight on her. She looks 50 but she's only 18. LL Cool J laughs out loud. She's singing "I Could Have Danced All Night" with no pop quality at all. They all like her voice, and Simon lectures her about how you just can't go into pop music and look as bad as she does. They are nice to her as they reject her. LL gets up out of his chair and goes over and hugs her. So far, LL is a total sweetheart, a male Paula.

There's a big montage of bad singers. Then we get Scott Savol, who talks a little like that Sling Blade guy. He sings "Superstar." He says his dad doesn't think he can amount to anything. He's got a lovely voice, but again, lacks the looks. "You've just proved your dad wrong," Simon says. He makes it.

A mime is next. She silently mimes an Aerosmith song. Lotsa jokes about how she's better than most.

A farm boy comes out in overalls and sings the Charlie Chaplin song "Smile," which he identifies as a Nat King Cole song. They love him.

The Jackson sisters. They are very large, but charismatic. First, Lashunda. No! She cries. Leandra is next, crying, knowing her sister didn't make it. She sings "Summertime," but it's all off key, much worse than Lashunda. They are nice to her. LL gets up again to hug her and they all get up and hug her. We see her come out crying.

Briana Davis is next, dressed in lots of stripes, singing "Phantom of the Opera" beautifully ... until she gets to the high notes, which are a horror. But they all like her and she gets through.

"Aw, we all love this boy," I say about Anthony Federov. I've seen him on the teasers and thought was going to be the new Clay. They start saying he reminds them of Clay Aiken. As a boy, he had a tracheotomy and was told he might never speak again. Okay, we love him.

For the second half of the show, we're in Orlando. First up, Marissa Ganz sings "White Boys" from "Hair." She's white, so ... what is really the point of this song choice? She's horrible. They are aghast. "I don't know if that's good or bad." It was bad. She's followed by some other terrible people.

Vonzell Solomon sings "Chain of Fools." She fancies it up beyond belief, but she's good. She's trying touchingly hard. They love her.

Dezmond Meeks tries to do James Brown, "I Feel Good." He's wearing two-tone shoes. Paula loves him. Randy is not convinced. Simon thinks it's stagey and says no. So Paula "feels like quittin'." Paula asserts that he did James Brown better than James Brown, which is so not true. Simon has said no. Randy agrees based on Paula, and he makes it. He seems like a sweet kid. He overdid it, but how was he supposed to know where the line was between overdoing it and performing? Our hearts go out to him.

Note that they put two cities together tonight. I guess Cleveland and Orlando were the worst cities in the auditions. Tomorrow's San Francisco. Just one city. So presumably better than tonight's slightly subpar show.

Continued fallout from the "Quick, change that headline!" post.

On Sunday, I posted about the NYT changing a headline on an article about the voting in Iraq. Its original headline had been "Amid Attacks, a Party Atmosphere on Baghdad's Closed Streets," which took us to an article by Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns that began:
After a slow start, voters turned out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as Iraqis here and nationwide turned out to cast ballots in the country's first free elections in 50 years.

American officials were showing confidence that today was going to be a big success, despite attacks in Baghdad and other parts of the country that took at least two dozen lives. The Interior Ministry said 36 people had been killed in attacks, Agence France-Presse reported.

But the violence did not seem to have deterred most Iraqis. In Baghdad, Basra in the South, the holy Shiite city of Najaf and even the restive Northern city of Mosul, Iraqi civilians crowded the polling sites, navigating their way through tight security and sometimes proudly displaying the deep blue ink stain on their fingers that confirmed they had voted.
That original headline represented the article fairly. I praised the Times's headlines earlier that day as "a subtle mix of positive and negative," giving us "a sense of the importance of what is happening [without allowing] the bad to overshadow the good." A number of prominent bloggers, linking to the Filkins-Burns article, drew special attention to the "party atmosphere" language in the headline. Later in the day, I noticed that the headline had been changed to "Insurgent Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Kill at Least 24," which completely failed to convey the gist of the article, the text of which had not changed. (The headline became even more negative later: "Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Reportedly Kill Several Dozen.") I thought the headline change was worth blogging, along with my observation that it was "pathetic" -- pathetic to pick out the negative from an article full of positive.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly somehow saw fit to launch into an attack, calling me a "wingnut" and delivering an irrelevant lecture about how newspaper headlines are written and websites updated. You certainly can't tell from reading his garbled post that I was writing about changing the headline on the same article and changing it to something that did not fit the article. I've exchanged some emails with Drum, who has an elaborate justification for putting an inappropriate headline on one article so that the whole mix of headlines on the main page that day would not be excessively positive. There was violence in Iraq, the theory goes, so one of the headlines needed to refer to violence, and since there was some reference to violence in the Filkins-Burns article, that was a good place to put the negative headline. I think that may be the best thing that might be said in defense of the Times, though I still have a problem with it. But I have much more of a problem with Drum, who -- despite his lecture about how websites can be frequently updated -- has not seen fit to update his post and make it clear that he misrepresented my post. Frankly, he owes me a public apology, on his website, for calling me a wingnut and for ridiculing me based on his own misreading (or deliberate misrepresentation).

Now, I see that Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post has reprinted Drum's post, nearly in its entirety, without any criticism of it, passing along Drum's insult and distortion. I know it's in quotes, but I'd really prefer not to see myself referred to as a "wingnut" in The Washington Post!

UPDATE: Poliblogger writes that Drum should apologize.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Kurtz quotes part of this response in his Wednesday column. He also quotes this post, which says something I really do care very deeply about.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: One of the comments over at the Washington Monthly link abuses me for not allowing comments on my blog, which is just rich: I was forced to cancel the comments function over here because I had no way to block the commenters who were resorting to abusive, ugly forms of expression that I did not want on my blog. You can go over there and see the kind of comments that are being made about me, which would be smeared all over my blog if I had comments. Here, I explain why I cancelled the comments. It's a little funny to me to reread that post today, where I summarized the nasty things that commenters were saying about me, becuase some of the comments over there at Washington Monthly fit the categories I came up with last spring, especially: "I claim to be a moderate, but I'm only posing as a moderate for some nefarious reason."

Some people who haunt comments pages are parasites: Why don't they have their own blogs and just link? Because they aren't good enough on their own to attract visitors. Some of them are so bad it's almost funny, like the one today who is saying:
Professor Ann Althouse is a faux moderate in the style of Jeff Jarvis and Michael Totten. She has discovered that the Right pays a hell of a lot better than the Left, and is promoting her own fortunes as fast as she can by sucking up. Like Totten. And like Jarvis. And like them, she has absolutely nothing good to say ever about liberals or liberalism, while making googly eyes at those big strong conservatives, while expressing dismay at the criticism she gets from the left. It's a transparent pose. She completely lacks integrity. Winnable? Anyone who can look at the bunch of criminals in the White House currently and remain neutral is stupid. Someone who just pretends they are in order to line their pockets is beneath contempt.
I hope Jarvis and Totten know this character is on to our little game of sucking up to right wingers for those big cash payouts.

Those crazy jury verdicts.

I wonder when we'll ever hear the end of this.

Things retrieved from a car wreck.

Nine days ago, I wrecked my car. I was physically and mentally together enough to retrieve some things from my car -- my handbag, the hang tag for parking on campus, the registration and insurance materials. But there were still some things left. Yesterday, we went over to the towing company's car lot and had a chance to empty out the car. A man who worked there helped me eject the cartridge from the CD player, and I was glad to find a shopping bag -- from Soulman -- in the trunk to stuff all the various items in. Today, I dumped all these things on my living room floor:

There's the gold flower that was in the vase by the steering wheel and landed on the car's floor after the crash. Dumped out of the Soulman bag, it lands on top of the image of an autumn leaf on the cover of the atlas, where it looks so fallen, so over. Simultaneously, a man comes to the door to deliver a bouquet of flowers. It's from the man who sold me the new car, the car I must transfer my love to. Do I feel a new thrill with my new love, Silvio? Ah, I'm still a bit shaken from the accident. I bought Li'l Greenie to replace a boring old car (a Honda Civic), and I felt such a happy thrill as soon as I started driving him around. People would smile at the cute fun car. It was July, and I drove with the windows down and the moon roof open, and played music that went with the car: the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Kinks, even Herman's Hermits.

My new car is so much more adult. But it's a sports car! It should be a big thrill. I'll tell you something about a sports car, something I didn't really understand before. It does not give you an exciting sensation of speed. What it gives you is a feeling of solid ordinariness at a high speed. Seventy feels like thirty-five. Silvio gives me security, along with a sense that now I -- and not just those other people -- have a luxury car. So, quite the opposite from the feeling I got from Li'l Greenie, Silvio gives a feeling of privileged adulthood, serious maturity. But perhaps it's too soon after the accident to feel overwhelmed with thrills and fun. We need to go on a long honeymoon together, Silvio and I.

I pick up the atlas from the living room floor and look for some routes out into the beautiful landscapes of the west.

A February morning.

Welcome to February everyone. It's another gray day here in Madison. I'm trying to get around to reading the newspaper, but I'm also preparing for my 9:30 Fedjur class. The subject is the "independent and adequate state ground doctrine," and that means Bush v. Gore has come up again. Last time I taught it, I commented on the impossibility of teaching it properly, because it's so complicated, and everyone comes to it with deeply entrenched convictions. I feel a little mellower about it at the moment, perhaps because the subject is coming up in the upper level course and not the first year Conlaw course.

It may seem as if I haven't been posting this morning, but in fact, I've been hanging around in the update sections of recent posts. So if you are looking for some fresh new Althouse material, check the updates here, here, and here.

January 31, 2005

Right and left: my sad experience

I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a political moderate. More than any ideology, I care about rational discourse. In the year that I've been blogging I've taken a lot of different positions, some left and some right. What I've noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you're evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times you've written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad.

UPDATE: My colleague Nina, a self-confessed "lefty," writes that she has been slammed from the right. And I'm reminded that I should say, I don't think all the irrational blogging is on the left. I'm just saying that I'm struck by the way the right perceives me as a potential ally and uses positive reinforcement and the left doesn't see me as anything but an opponent -- doesn't even try to engage me with reasoned argument. Maybe the left feels beleaguered these days, but how do they expect to make any progress if they don't see the ways they can include the people in the middle? If you look around and only see opponents and curl up with your little group of insiders, you are putting your efforts into insuring that you remain a political minority. I also want to add that the many lefties I live and work around in Madison are perfectly friendly to me. I get email saying, it must be terrible for you there, you must be the target of so much hostility. I always write back and say it's not like that at all.

But do read Nina's whole post. She goes on to agree with me about the problems of blogging in general. Here's an excerpt:
I, too, am saddened by so much of what I read in blogs, and comment threads are even worse. It's as if writers are grabbing the mike and running to the stage without having once practiced the song they are about to force onto the audience. At first it seems funny and then it just seems sad, desperate, irresponsible.

The blog is a stage and unfortunately anyone can grab the mike. And I admit, sometimes, in fascination, I log on and listen, mesmerized by the lack of restraint, a demonic pleasure derived from seeing someone so exposed, so childishly out of control. But the experience always leaves me feeling empty. Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter. And most often, it pushes the boundaries of meanness.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Poliblog weighs in on the subject. And here are two different emailers who say something very similar (and quite provocative):
As someone who made the move from liberal to conservative in his mid to late twenties, what I found is that conservatives were much more tolerant of me as a liberal, than liberals are now tolerant of me as a conservative. I'm speaking as a whole not to a person. Conservatives always wanted to reason with me, talk me out of it. Liberals question my intentions and decency. Out here in Hollywood when I would come out of the conservative closet, liberals were shocked because "I'm such a sweet guy" they had no idea. Those people remain nice to me but something changes. It's like having sex with a friend. You can't go back. And it's all awkward now. A shame really. Never had that problem with conservatives. And it's not that liberals are beleaguered. This was happening before the Republican take-over in 94.

[DIFFERENT EMAILER] I think that certain there is a certain type of "leftishness" that predicates its view of the world on some special insight into reality which one can only share or not. I think, for example, this was the principle informing such sixties talk as "raising one's consciousness," or such notions that one is "good" by virtue of mere sincerity or proper beliefs, regardless of one's actions. If one shares the insight or subscribes to it, one is part of the virtuous elect; if not, one is evil. Civil discourse by contrast, presupposes that one can communicate, persuade, and, importantly,be persuaded, which in turn requires at least some degree of modesty in insisting that one is right, that there is a possibility that one is wrong. This of course can appear on the right, but does not do so as much because, I believe, the presuppositions of civil discourse accord more closely with "rightish" values.
I have noticed that a good portion of people on the left proceed on the theory that they are the good people. Of course, there's a segment on the right that does that too. I have a big problem with all of them. Even if you are the good people, the policies you propose might still be bad. But politics should be about communication and convincing people with the quality of your ideas, not claiming to be a good person and demanding that others join you or they are not good. I steer clear of cultish people like that!

YET MORE: A reader emails: "I've heard it said that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics." Actually, it's probably more fun to be a heretic ... in a free country, at least.

AND MORE: Right Wing News weighs in here.

EVEN MORE: Baseball Crank responds. Here's a key insight:
I think a lot of liberals, particularly the more vocal ones on the internet who grew up in blue-state cities and went to blue-state colleges and got into blue-state occupations like the law or academia, just don't have the same formative experience of having had to reconcile themselves to political disagreements with people they otherwise like or respect, and it shows.
AND YET STILL EVEN MORE: Sissy Willis responds. She thinks there is something inherent in left and right positions that produces this different behavior. I am trying to reach out to the left and say: Behave better! Engage me! But I read her as telling me that's hopeless.

Paying our last respects to Li'l Greenie.

Eight days after the car crash, Tonya and I go over to Schmidt's Towing to get the last few things out of the car.

Ah! Li'l Greenie looks so stark over there in the muddy lot.

I'm sorry. I really am.

Tonya says, "It looks like its eyes popped out of its head," as she goes to take a look at the passenger compartment.

You can see that it's perfectly intact, save for the deployed airbags.

It looks pretty good from this angle too:

Oh, but it's bad.

It's really bad:

Li'l Greenie gave his life for us. Goodbye, Li'l Greenie!

UPDATE: An emailer writes:
Seeing those photos of Li'l Greenie on your blog was very painful. It was like looking at an old lover who you have tossed aside 'cause he is a little banged up. One mistake and he is out with no hope of repair or reconciliation. Sitting there in his green overcoat, pain in his crossed eyes. He was so good to you, but no. It was all about the appearance wasn't it?

And now you are galavanting around with, who is it, Silvio? European? Too attractive for his own good, flashing his sculpted rear as though every road leads to Eurodiscoland and all eyes are on him. His seats, his heart, as black as a turtleneck on an Italian playboy. For shame. And you a lawyer. I am glad he completely thrills you, but, this Audi, this beast, slick and silver, will leave you longing for days past.

I have to look away, for there is a li'l greenie in all of us men thus rejected, and it is to painful to behold.
Wow, if you only knew how much resonance that actually has in the facts of my own life, you would not have dared to write that!

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes in about the "pretty good from this angle" picture to note the crumpling in the section behind the door. You have to look closely at the picture to see that, but I can verify that that area of the car had an overall crumple to it, though the door closer to the impact zone was completely smooth. That is a matter of deliberate engineering, presumably, as the passenger seats are protected and the impact is absorbed elsewhere in the car. I knew the New Beetle was an especially crashworthy small car, and I want to thank Volkswagen for the good work.

"Don't live in fear."

So read a sign in Baghdad, yesterday, encouraging voters, according to CNN.
"We are defeating the terrorists as we are coming here," Saad said, pointing his index finger into the air. "We want to be and live like all people, like all human beings."...

A Kurdish woman wearing a black scarf said simply, "This is the happiest day of my life."...

"This is the greatest day in the history of this country," Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told CNN.

He said voters had defied loyalists of Saddam Hussein and terrorist leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. "I think we have sustained a very big blow on them -- at least psychologically -- today," Al-Rubaie said.

Throughout Iraq, voters' fingers were marked with ink to prevent them from voting more than once.

At a voting center in Baghdad, one man dipped his son's finger in ink.

"This is our badge of pride," he said....

Voters nationwide said they were coming to defy the insurgency, to cast ballots for their nation's future and to take part in the first free elections of their lifetime. Many brought their entire families, and the general mood was one of celebration.

A sign on a wall in Baghdad read: "Don't live in fear."

This reminds me of the way Americans responded after 9/11, going back to doing the things that were part of our usual way of life on the theory that otherwise the terrorists would have won. Many of the things we did in those days, like getting on a plane again, were not all that risky, but we did need to conquer the fear the terrorists meant to enfeeble us with. Following the same sound logic, the Iraqi voters faced much more imminent threats yesterday. What a great accomplishment for the people of Iraq! They acted for their own benefit, but it took a lot of courage. They have our deep admiration.

UPDATE: I wrote about Al-Rubaie a while back, here.

Milestone sighted.

Hey, I'm kind of closing in on the millionth visitor over there on the Site Meter!

UPDATE: Milestone reached, sometime there when I wasn't looking. How cool! Thanks to all the readers who have made blogging so interesting and so fun. I wonder who the millionth reader was.

UW researchers make human motor neurons out of stem cells.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
The feat, which took more than two years of trial and error, is seen as an important step in the dream of creating spinal nerve cells in the lab for use in replacing cells damaged by spinal cord injuries or by diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's disease.

January 30, 2005

Jury blogging.

Don't miss the new Jury Blog. There should be lots happening over there this week with the big Michael Jackson trial starting up. The new blogger, Valerie Hans, is an old hand at jury studies, with 30 years of experience.

The blue finger of democracy.

My colleague Gordon Smith writes:
I love the ink-stained index finger as a symbol of democracy. If I were George Bush, I would hold up an ink-stained finger in the State of the Union address this week.

It was only a few days ago that there was talk that the ink-stained finger would be a dangerous identification, that would mark people for retaliation, that people would need to hide it. Now we see the pictures of people actively displaying what was devised as a utilitarian safeguard, turning it into a proud new symbol of the love of democracy.

UPDATE: Thanks to Virginia Postrel for linking to this post. She subtly reminds me that the ink is more purple, not so much blue. Maybe it's the same ink used in those old mimeograph machines (the fragrant ink us kids in the 60s used to inhale with delight). An emailer wonders how the lack of an ink-stained finger is regarded today in Iraq.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:
"Maybe it's the same ink used in those old mimeograph machines (the fragrant ink us kids in the 60s used to inhale with delight). "

A positively Proustian figure. However, allow me to offer a clarification. That ink wasn't from Mimeograph [sic; it's their trademarked name] machines. In fact it was from Ditto machines -- an entirely different copy process.

Mimeographs used what amounted to a stencil on a drum, through which ink (almost always black) was pressed onto the paper. Ditto used masters typed with a special "carbon" paper which actually deposited aniline dye upon a master sheet, in the shape of each letter. This master was then pressed against blank sheets that had been dampened with a special solvent.

The small amount of the dye that transferred to the solvent-dampened sheets left the imprint of each letter that was on the master.

This dye was almost always purple, although a rather wretched red was also available.

The solvent was a chemical something like benzene or xylene, I believe: a ring-shaped molecule that chemists in fact call an "aromatic". The slow effluorescence of this solvent produced that odor you remember so vividly.

The advantage of the Ditto process was that it was far less messy than Mimeograph, which demanded the frequent handling of viscous black ink that had to be poured into the machine's drum. Hugely messy. Not so with Ditto. Still, if you were careless enough to touch the dye-letters themselves on the master, you'd come away with a purple finger. Which brings us delightfully back to those Iraqi fingers, doesn't it?