September 23, 2006

"Copy editors do the line editing and Dummifying."

"It’s a word we use to talk about how to make text comply with our style guide.... We address the reader as you — you can, next you do this — we don’t talk about we... We try to be funny, or at least lighthearted.... We don’t use future tense, we don’t use passive voice, we don’t have long chapters. A 26-page chapter is getting pretty long.”

Yeah. I agree. Keep it short. But write a lot: There are over 1,000 "For Dummies" titles, with 200 new ones coming out every year, and a list of "For Dummies" things that could be written that's too long ever to get through.

CORRECTION: 1,000, not 1,500 titles.

"Do you really think that's the place for a thousand words of pitchfork-waving, tax-cut-hating, populist agit-prop?"

Howard Dean is asked by Kevin Drum, who reminds him "Dude. You were writing in the fucking Wall Street Journal." Quite aside from what one ought to say in the Wall Street Journal, Drum is anguished that the Dems seem to be turning away from the idea of making national security their central issue. Liberal bloggers seem to be freaking out about it.

The notion that it's wrong to celebrate birthdays.

I'm interested in the notion that it is wrong to celebrate birthdays. Some religions proscribe the celebration of birthdays. Do you know which ones and why? If you had to develop the argument that it is wrong to celebrate birthdays, what would you say? Have you ever encountered an argument between religious sects or between individuals about the propriety of celebrating birthdays? What was the nature of the argument?

Clinton, he's red-faced and angry.

Bill Clinton has been injecting himself into the news a lot lately, and it inevitably gives his critics a new opportunity to go through the case against him. Criticisms that would seem stale and be ignored suddenly get the spotlight. (But some Clinton critics are tired of raking over the past.) Anyway, everyone's waiting to see the hot interview with Chris Wallace that airs tomorrow. Here's the transcript.

Clinton is trying to present himself as a wise and kindly philanthropist these days. From the beginning of the transcript, before Chris Wallace asks him about bin Laden:
So what you can do as a former president, you don’t have as wide a range of powers so you have to concentrate on fewer things. But you are less at the mercy of …events. If I say look we’re going to work on economic empowerment of poor people, on fighting aids and other diseases, on trying to bridge the religious and political differences between people and on trying to avoid the worst calamities of climate change and try to revitalize the economy in the process, I can actually do that. Because tomorrow when I get up and there’s a bad headline in the papers, it’s President Bush’s responsibility and not mine. That’s the joy of being a former potus. And it is true that if you live long enough and have discipline in the way you do it — like this [Clinton Global Initiative] — you might be able to effect as many lives as you did when president.
He said almost those exact words to the same question-prompt when he was on "The Daily Show" this week. He wants to be the mellow, above-the-fray ex-president, but he really can't control the presentation. And now that he's shown how raw and angry he is about the criticisms, it's not going to get any easier.

Actually, I don't mind seeing him angry. He should be angry about this. I'd like to think that when he was in office he had this kind of edge and was not good-natured and relaxed. Of course, he's pissed at his critics, and it's fine for him to be the kind of guy who gets pissed. That doesn't mean his critics aren't right about a lot of things, but there's nothing really wrong with him getting angry like this. I assume a good part of it is that he's angry at himself for the opportunities he can now see he missed.

It's just unusual, as Chris Wallace says at the end of the interview, for anyone -- anyone important -- to act like that on TV.

UPDATE: I'm just watching Chris Wallace on FoxNews talking about the interview. He says, "I've been in the business a long time, and I've never seen anything quite like this, certainly not involving a President or former President." He notes that this is the first time Clinton has given FoxNews a one-on-one interview and that it was subject to the requirement that half of it be about the CGI. After talking about the CGI, Wallace introduced the subject of going after bin Laden, which, Wallace says, you'd think he'd be prepared to talk about, but: "He went off." Wallace, "mindful of the 15 minute rule," tried to bring him back to the subject of the CGI, but he wanted to go into Somalia and the USS Cole. Brian Wilson, who's interviewing Wallace, says that the short clip from the interview reminded him of Clinton's oft-seen, finger-wagging about "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Wallace responds that he didn't think he was badgering or baiting Clinton, but "he just seemed set off," perhaps because of the "Path to 9/11" documentary. "He just feels ill-used on the issue of how much he did to go after the war on terror, and he lets it all spill out on 'FoxNews Sunday."

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've changed the link for the transcript to the official Fox News transcript. And I wrote about watching the interview here.

"Saudi security services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead."

According to a leaked French intelligence document:
"The chief of al-Qaida was a victim of a severe typhoid crisis while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006," the document says. His geographic isolation meant that medical assistance was impossible, the French report said, adding that his lower limbs were allegedly paralyzed.

You will probably be given an antibiotic to treat the disease. Three commonly prescribed antibiotics are ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and ciprofloxacin. Persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days, and deaths rarely occur. However, persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20% may die from complications of the infection.
How hard would it have been to get him antibiotics?

If it's true that bin Laden has died of typhoid -- and I hope it is -- he joins this list of illustrious men felled by the tiny bacterium: Alexander the Great, Pericles, William the Conqueror, Franz Schubert, William Shakespeare.

ADDED: How long will it take before people start saying this is a scheme to help Republicans in the coming election?

UPDATE: "Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had no evidence that Osama bin Laden had died...."

"What has this social experiment taught us? All races hate fat musicians."

Oh, you're just including "musicians" to keep from facing the reality of prejudice against the fat. How unsettling that must be to the folks at home watching the show. We've seen two episodes the new racially divided season of "Survivor," and each time the losing team has ousted the fat guy. Oh, all right, the fat musician guy. And in the case of the second ousted fat musician, Billy, the team deliberately lost so they could rid themselves of him as soon as possible. They weren't just ready to vote him off if they lost, they despised him so much they planned to lose and dawdled through the contest as they made sure even the slowest team got way ahead.

What was the point of staying on to watch the tribal council? (And, I've got to say, I feel silly typing out "tribal council," just as I'd feel silly typing out the tribe names and even the word "tribe," but, whatever....) Actually, the rest of the show turned out to be quite fun. Yul, exiled, read his clue and deftly discerned exactly where to dig for the idol. (And I feel silly typing "idol.") And then at the council, where the outcome was obvious, we're all surprised -- and dissolved in hilarity -- when Billy announces that he's found love, with a woman on another team, whom he delusionally believes is in love with him.

I haven't been watching "Survivor" over the years, so I didn't know whether it had been established in the past that throwing a challenge is an effective strategy. Tung Yin seems to think it's better to keep your bad tribe member around so you'll have him to eliminate when someone must be eliminated, but it made some sense to me. Billy was getting on everyone's nerves and ruining the team spirit. They need to cohere and figure out how to work together. You have to overcome a big dysfunction, and then he'll be gone and there you are, evolved into a style of doing things that was adapted to a problem that doesn't exist anymore.

Anyway, each of the four teams began with three women and two men. [CORRECTION: Actually, only the blacks and whites had three women and two men.] Each losing team got rid of one of the men. We've focused on the racial division, but there's something interesting about the gender division. Not only was each team structured with women outnumbering men, but, I suspect, each team was given one man who was supposed to present special problems. Two teams got a fat guy, and not just a fat guy, but a fat guy who was much less athletic and energetic than everyone else. The other two teams don't have a fat guy, but they have a guy who was probably intended to make it hard for the team to form a solid group. On the Asian team, Cao Boi is not just older, but he's seems wacky. His real identity group, he tells us, is hippies. But his skill at curing headaches by smooshing your head about and leaving a red mark between the eyes is helpful. On the white team, it's less obvious that there's an odd man out, since all the tribe members seem rather lame and since the odd one is -- unlike the other team's odd man -- quite good looking. (It's Adam, the guy who doesn't think a floor is worth the bother.)

September 22, 2006

And we will know you by your font.

Wow. Howard Bashman figures out that Richard Posner wrote the per curiam opinion in a case by knowing his propensity to use the Book Antiqua font. That's the coolest nerdy law thing ever.

Another Unplayable 45, this time: vlogged!

Oh, my friends, are you in for a treat. Today's Unplayable 45 is vlogged.

Unplayable 45

And what a very vloggy vlog it is:

Some links to help you with that vlog. Here are the lyrics to "Here Comes the Night." And here are the lyrics to "Brown Eyed Girl," the song that came on the 60s channel as I emerged from the parking garage this evening and made contact once again with the satellite. Here's the episode of with David Corn and Byron York arguing about "Hubris" that somehow has something to do with this. And here you can find and explanation of what "snowball sampling" is. Hey, it all fits together in the vlog.

Anyway, back to the 45. Since I can't play it, I wanted to buy it on iTunes to relive the experience of listening to it, but all they had was a karaoke version of the Them recording. That was disappointing but enough to make me remember why I liked this enough to buy it. The guitar hook is quite profound. But I remember regretting spending my money on this, because I didn't like the sound of Van Morrison's voice. I never learned to like it later. I don't doubt that he's an excellent singer. There's just a tone to it that I find unappealing.

And I especially didn't like it back when I was a teenager. He sounded too much like an adult, like those soul singers with their heavy voices who were always singing about way too serious adult relationships. The ultimate example of a song of that kind for me was Percy Sledge singing "When a Man Loves a Woman." I could tell it was good, but I could not identify with what was going on there, with people deeply emotionally distraught about love problems. The adult quality was -- judged by the hippie ethic of my generation -- square. Love, love, love -- it should bring joy and universal good will -- none of this grasping and suffering.

Mad Cat.

Mad Cat
Just a Madison building that amuses me.


Have you been reading the blog Political Bite, which is "hosted" by Ana Marie Cox (formerly of Wonkette)? Well, go read it now, because I just wrote something for it: here.

Hello, Sausalito.

Home of the 6 millionth visitor to this blog. You arrived on the Electoral College post from an unknown URL. Whoever you are, thanks for clicking the first digit over to 6. Onward to 7.

The compromise on the detainee legislation.

It's not easy to evaluate the compromise on the detainee legislation. You've certainly got to look beyond the President's conspicuous concession to see what was really decided. Marty Lederman offers this:
The fine and careful folks over at Human Rights First are painting it as a significant victory for McCain, going so far as to argue that "the language in today’s agreement makes clear that ‘alternative interrogation procedures’ such as stress positions, induced hypothermia and waterboarding are not only prohibited by the treaty, they are war crimes." I would really like this to be true. But, as of now, at least, I don't quite see it. And, what's far more important, obviously the Administration doesn't see it that way, either....

[T]he more serious problem is not so much the delegation of some unreviewable interpretive authority to the President (troubling though that is), but instead that the legislation itself would define "cruel treatment" far too narrowly, so as apparently to exclude the CIA's "alternative" techniques, no matter how cruel they are in fact. I hear word that Senator McCain thinks the bill's definition of "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 covers the "alternative" CIA techniques. I hope he can make that interpretation stick somehow, but on my quick [first two] readings of the language, it still seems to me as if it's carefully crafted to exclude the CIA techniques. See, most importantly, the limiting language defining "serious physical pain or suffering," which is carefully drafted to exclude the CIA techniques such as Cold Cell and Long Time Standing....

[The legislation] would preclude courts altogether from ever interpreting the Geneva Conventions -- any part of them -- by providing that "no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories."...

If I'm right, and if this is enacted, the only hope would be the prospect of the Supreme Court holding that both the habeas cut-off, and the "no person may invoke Geneva" provision, are unconstitutional.
Much more at the link, with lots of updates incorporating new arguments. Read it.

It's important to analyze the text of the legislation closely and to understand the relevant case law (about, for example, Congress's power to limit judicial review). Plenty of people have lots of different motivations to make claims about this compromise. Don't let yourself be spun.

Is the depiction of crucifixion offensive?

Some people are taking great offense:
Anatomist Gunther von Hagens will use a real body to show how people died when crucified in the 90-minute film.... Although Channel 4 insists the body will not represent Christ specifically, a memo leaked to the Evening Standard states that it would indeed portray Jesus.... Director Stephen Green said: "This sounds gratuitously offensive and blasphemous. It could well be we would want to take some action against it."
I don't quite understand. Museums and churches are full of graphic depictions of the crucifixion. Many sculptors and painters have for centures wielded their skills to demonstrate the extent of Christ's suffering. Some of these images are as graphic as the artists could make them. Isn't it way too late to call this gratuitously offensive and blasphemous? UPDATE: Here's my old post favorably reviewing the von Hagens exhibit of plasticinated corpses, "Body Worlds 2," which I saw in Cleveland last year. ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's von Hagens's response to critics:
Though Dr. von Hagens declines to participate in nearly all the proposals sent his way, he enjoys engaging in intellectual discourse with the creative protagonists of these ventures. Such was the nature of his discussions with Nick Curwin, producer of Firefly Films and a collaborator on several previous projects. As an anatomist inspired by the Renaissance, Dr. von Hagens is fascinated by the curious alliance between the Church and anatomists from the 1500s, and interested in expanding the boundaries of discussion about anatomy. Thus, he welcomed the lively exchange with Mr. Curwin about anatomy, anatomists, religion, death, God, and most interestingly, crucifixion's place in history and anatomy, and the crucifixion experiments of Pierre Barbet and Frederick Zugibe. What followed was an extended hypothetical discussion about a hypothetical program showing the most common method of execution practiced by the Romans, which, according to historical records, claimed the lives of as many as 2000 people a day. While Dr. von Hagens enjoyed the sparkling dialogue and banter about the filmic possibilities of such an endeavor, he did not at any time agree to participate in staging a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, nor is he planning to do so in the future.
Okay, so you're not "staging a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ." It might help to say what you are doing.

A fantasy scenario of trying Bin Laden.

Lawrence Wright, author of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," was asked by a "member of the intelligence community" to use his screenwriter skills to concoct a futurist scenario of what we would do if we caught Osama bin Laden. That got him thinking, and he wrote this op-ed:
First, don’t kill him....

And, please, don’t send him to Guantánamo or torture him in an undisclosed location.....

But don’t bring him to the United States to answer for his crimes, at least not at the beginning....

We should, instead, offer him to the authorities in Kenya, where, on Aug. 7, 1998, a Qaeda suicide bomber murdered 213 people in the attack on the American Embassy....

Then take him to Tanzania, where on the same August morning Al Qaeda hit another American Embassy, killing 11 people, most of them Muslims. ...

Thus exposed as a mass murderer of Africans who had no part in his quarrel with America, Mr. bin Laden would be ready to stand trial for the bombing of the American destroyer Cole and, of course, 9/11. By treating him as a criminal defendant instead of a enemy combatant, we could underline the differences between a civil society and the Taliban-like rule he seeks to impose on Muslim countries and eventually the entire world.

Mr. bin Laden could go on to many other venues to answer for his crimes — Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid, London, Islamabad — but in my opinion there is an obvious last stop on his tour of justice: his homeland, Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of his countrymen and expatriate workers have died at the hands of Al Qaeda. There he would be tried in a Shariah court, the only law he would ever recognize.

If he were found guilty, he would be taken to a park in the middle of downtown Riyadh known as “Chop Chop Square.” There, the executioner would greet him with his long, heavy sword at his side. It is a Saudi tradition that the executioner personally beseeches the audience, composed of the victims of the condemned man’s crimes, to forgive the condemned. If they cannot, the executioner will carry out his task. After that, Osama bin Laden’s body would be taken to an unmarked tomb in a Wahhabi graveyard, as he would have wanted.
I don't quite understand this scenario. Why would he proceed past the death penalty as a consequence of the first trial? And what makes you so sure the Saudi "audience" wouldn't forgive him? And wouldn't his followers all along be figuring out their own strategy, pursuing their own ends, as their leader held the public spotlight? Wright is so focused on how to use the symbolism of trial to convey the right message to the world, which is fine as far as it goes. But he seems seduced by his own idealism and hope. I'd like to see a second scenario, where idealistic officials embrace the Wright plan, and everything that can go wrong does. Now what?

"When people complain that it’s an end run, I just tell them, 'Hey, an end run is a legal play in football.'"

So says John R. Koza, a computer scientist who thinks he's devised way to bypass the Electoral College by statutes. But law isn't football, and judges like to see things for what they really are, especially when legislators openly admit to illegitimate ends and devious means. The Electoral College is a structural safeguard, built into the Constitution. If you want that changed, you need to change the Constitution.

Should you want the Electoral College abolished? One way to think about it might be to look at who supports reform right now:
[California Republican assemblyman Chuck] DeVore said, “I just took a look at who was behind the movement, and they were left-wing partisans.”

Dr. Koza acknowledged that he had been a Democratic elector, twice, and his living room is festooned with photographs of him beside former Vice President Al. Gore and former President Bill Clinton.
His living room? I'm sorry. I can't accept the judgment of someone who has a lot of pictures of himself with politicians in his living room.

It is -- I hope you see why -- utterly foolish to think that because Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, he would have won the election if only we had had a system of election by popular vote in place at the time. Many people in safe states don't bother to vote, and the campaign would have been entirely different if the goal had been to win the popular vote.

The popular vote in 2000 probably favored Gore -- we don't know for sure because there were no recounts in states with safe margins -- but there is no reason to conclude that because of that, in future elections, the Democrat would do better if the method of election were by popular vote. Candidates and issues would be chosen in a completely different way. If the Democrats are now good at "winning" by a set of rules that don't apply, that may simply mean that the Republicans are better at focusing on the rules that do apply and functioning effectively in the real world. Why wouldn't you expect the Republicans to focus on whatever new rules actually apply and to adjust their behavior to keep winning?

September 21, 2006

Don't you have anything from the 80s in that stack of unplayable 45s you won't throw out?

Why yes I do:

Unplayable 45

And I will stand by this recording as one of the best pop singles ever. Nice video too. And it holds up over time so much better than that other song + video we enjoyed so much in the summer of 1984, when we moved to Madison, Wisconsin and got MTV for the first time: "The War Song." ("War war is stupid and people are stupid/And love means nothing in some strange quarters" -- remember that?)

But "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"... what a brilliant song! You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.

And for all you B-side fans, wondering what's on the B-side. It's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Instrumental)."

The right to die, not just for the terminally ill anymore.

Why not for people who just don't want to live anymore, for whatever reason they find sufficient in their own scheme of thought?
Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, the Zurich-based organisation that has helped 54 Britons to die, revealed yesterday that his group was seeking to overturn the Swiss law that allows them to assist only people with a terminal illness.

In his first visit to the country since setting up Dignitas, the lawyer blamed religion for stigmatising suicide, attacking this “stupid ecclesiastical superstition” and said that he believed assisted suicide should be open to everyone.

“We should see in principle suicide as a marvellous possibility given to human beings because they have a conscience . . . If you accept the idea of personal autonomy, you can’t make conditions that only terminally ill people should have this right,” he told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

“We should accept generally the right of a human being to say, ‘Right, I would like to end my life’, without any pre-condition, as long as this person has capacity of discernment.”

"I think it is extremely important to defend the autonomy of art, and of literature."

Said the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, who was charged with the crime of insulting Turkishness, for things the characters said in her novel, "The Bastard Of Istanbul." The news today is that she has been acquitted.

It's a very limited defense -- isn't it? -- to say: I didn't express the opinion myself. Don't hold me responsible for what my fictional characters say. It reminds me of the Pope's it's-a-quote defense. You wrote those characters. You chose that quote. It means something. It's crafty. You get to say something and deny that you've said it. It drives your opponents crazy. The thing you are saying enrages them, and the crafty way you found to say it further enrages them, which allows you to say they lack basic comprehension skills, which further enrages them. A strong thinker and writer understands this dynamic.

I hasten to say that whether a literary device is used or a statement is made directly, there shouldn't crimes like "insulting Turkishness" and people shouldn't become violent over the expression of ideas. But this notion that writers who use indirection have no connection to their statements is not credible.

"There may come a time when a lass needs a lawyer..."

Don't you wish you ended up with $15 million worth of jewelry to auction off when the relationship crashed?
Ms. Barkin said the marriage was founded on genuine affection. “I loved Ronald Perelman,’’ she said. “I can say that unequivocally.’’ Mr. Perelman, she suggested, had struck a cooler bargain.

In his mind, she said, “I was an accessory, being accessorized, the perfect one — age-appropriate, the mother of two children, successful in her own right.’’
Yes, well, apparently, she acquired some accessories too.

Get that ice, or else no dice.

ADDED: "I was an accessory, being accessorized." That really is a clever phrase, isn't it? Those accessories she acquired? They weren't really for her. They were add-ons to his accessory, that is, her. So he was really buying them for himself, like you might buy outfits for your Barbie doll. They aren't really for Barbie, they're for you. And I love the idea that she just happened to fall in love with a billionaire, while he was materialistic one. She had beauty and he had money. Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? But, go ahead. Re-tell what is an old, old story. Try to make it new. And congratulations for getting the ice and getting a sympathetic write-up in the NYT.

Madonna's new look.

I'm getting a lot of traffic to this post from last year about "Madonna's new look." I'm sure it's because people are Googling "Madonna's new look" because she has a new new look. I love the new cut. It's something you could move about wearing in the real world, not like the hairstyle it replaced, the retro Valerie Cherish thing that would require you to have Mickey scampering after you everywhere, touching it up constantly.

As for the new color. Use your judgment. Doing the roots every week could get expensive... and boring.

"This should be an industry of beauty and luxury, not famished-looking people that look pale and sick.”

Said David Bonnouvrier (who runs a top modeling agency). There's a lot of talk about too-thin models lately, with calls to ban models who fall outside the World Health Organizations definition of normal. There are concerns that the models are damaging their own health and that they are inspiring other women to take up health-impairing practices. I note that articles on this subject, like the linked one, always include a photograph of a super-thin models who has freakishly shaped legs.

But I'm especially interested in Bonnouvier's statement. The fashion industry invites us to indulge ourselves and spend large sums of money on beautiful clothing. But it also constantly shapes and reshapes what is seen as beautiful. If this wasn't changed all the time, we wouldn't need to buy so many new clothes. The industry must be about changing our perceptions of what clothes are beautiful, and along with that comes the ability to change what we think about how the models look. Hair, makeup, facial features, body shapes -- these are all part of fashion and all part of the idea of the beautiful that the fashion industry shapes. Most of the criticism of the ultra-thin models says that it is evil for the industry to convince us that something unhealthy is beautiful. But this kind of chiding can make thinness seem rebellious and transgressive, and that will stimulate some thinsuasts.

So let me focus on this idea that to be thin is not luxurious. It doesn't fit with the invitation to self-indulgence. We're asked to love pleasure and to deny pleasure. The very thin woman embodies extreme self-denial, discipline, and abstemiousness. If we really believed in the values her thin-seeking behavior represented, we would become skinflints about spending money on luxuries. We'd become clothing minimalists. That would not be in the interest of the fashion industry.

Instead of looking at these models and trying to think up a very extreme, rigid diet for your nutrition, why not think up an extreme, rigid diet for your wardrobe? There's much less suffering involved, and you will save time and money.

September 20, 2006

"I'm in the middle without any plans..."

"I'm a boy and I'm a man..." I've chosen "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper as today's Unplayable 45 I Won't Throw Out:

Unplayable 45

Wow! Is that in bad condition! It even has paint on it.

What got me thinking about this one is that Bob Dylan ended this week's "Theme Time Radio Hour" with an Alice Cooper song. The theme today was school and the song was "School's Out" -- get it? -- because it was the end of the show. Lyrics: "School's out for summer/School's out forever/School's been blown to pieces." That doesn't resonate well these days, does it?
"Fantasy used to be a lot more effective than reality," said Alice Cooper...

Now "you cannot shock an audience anymore. Audiences are shocked - and I'm shocked - by CNN. When you're seeing a real guy getting his real head cut off by real terrorists on television, and then you see Alice Cooper get his head cut off in a guillotine that's an obvious trick, well, it's not very shocking."...

Thirty-four years and the Columbine shooting later, Cooper stills fends off accusations that his music, and the music of other artists such as Marilyn Manson (who counts Cooper as a big influence), is somehow responsible for the actions of disturbed teenagers.

"I think any time that you're a personality that goes against the grain, you're an easy target," Cooper said. "If I wrote a song that said, 'Go out and buy yourselves some guns and go to your school and go kill everybody that you don't like and it'll be OK,' well, yeah, I think I'm responsible if somebody does that. But if I say, 'School's out,' I don't think that 99.9999 percent of the people will go, 'Yeah, school's out; I hated school, too; (I'm going to kill someone).' "

But, as Cooper acknowledged, "you're always going to have that 1 millionth of a percent that goes, 'Yeah, I know what I'll do ...' That person's going to do something horrible no matter what they hear."

Though he might have strong opinions, you won't hear Cooper giving his political views in his lyrics. For Cooper, rock 'n' roll and politics were never meant to be bedfellows.

"You won't find any political songs, excepted for 'Elected,' which is a satire, on my records. You're never going to find me promoting this candidate over that candidate because I'm sitting there going, 'Why should people who like my music ... vote for the guy I'm voting for?' " Cooper said. "Asking me who to vote for is like asking the guy who makes your pizza who to vote for."
I don't know. He sounds pretty sensible. Maybe we should consult him about who to vote for. Back in 2004, we got a glimpse of his political opinion:
Alice Cooper, a shock rocker back in the old days and now a fan of President Bush, says rock stars who've jumped on the John Kerry bandwagon -- Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen among them -- are treasonous morons.

"To me, that's treason. I call it treason against rock-and-roll, because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics," the 56-year-old [said]....

"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal." (We think he meant watching C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," or maybe he meant perusing the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, but either way you get the idea.)

"Besides, when I read the list of people who are supporting Kerry, if I wasn't already a Bush supporter, I would have immediately switched. Linda Ronstadt? Don Henley? Geez, that's a good reason right there to vote for Bush."
Back to "Eighteen." Why is there only one "t" in the word "eighteen"? Why have I never noticed that before? Anyway, I kind of doubt that I bought this 45. I think it's probably my brother's. He's three years younger than I am, and he liked a lot of things that I and my friends looked down on -- notably Grand Funk Railroad (they were an American band) and Emerson Lake & Palmer (yikes, that is one retro website). Looking for some links about Alice Cooper the first thing I hit in Google is my own old post. At some point in a blogger's life, searching for something in Google is like wracking your own brain for memories, except that it's easier, and you can cut and paste:
[I]t's pretty random that I even went to see Alice Cooper at all. It was a long, long time ago, by the way. It was back when "I'm Eighteen" was a hit (1971). I'm not even sure if "School's Out" was out yet (1972). It was the summer of either 1971 or 1972, in an obscure part of southern New Jersey, and my younger brother wanted to go to the concert. Even though I thought it was embarrassing to go to an Alice Cooper concert--people my age (20 at the time) considered him a joke--I loved the single "I'm Eighteen," so I went. There was an elaborate stage show, which I can't remember anything about. I do remember, I think, that at one point he stripped off a layer of his costume and had on a skin-tight gold lamé body suit, and that was the sort of thing that just wasn't done at the time by anybody my friends would respect. In fact, I remember Iggy Stooge performing on campus (at the University of Michigan) in 1969 or 1970 and everyone shaking their heads and expressing pity for this late-stage has-been who was taking off his shirt, writhing on the ground, and suddenly stooping to the pathetic ploy of renaming himself Iggy Pop. How astounded we would have been if we could have known that 35 years later these two would still be around and would be respected and that Iggy would still look good with his shirt off.

...One of the reasons we thought Alice Cooper was a joke was because he was seen as a Frank Zappa side project, a Zappa prank. The album I listened to every day back then was "The Mothers Live at the Fillmore East," which includes some comical references to Alice Cooper:
Well, it gets me so hot
I could scream
You can read all the lyrics here. [Not for the faint-hearted.] I still love that album! People who love the song "Happy Together" but don't know "Live at the Fillmore East" are missing a key perspective.
Sorry about calling the song "I'm Eighteen." It's just "Eighteen," you can clearly see from the record label. Anyway, I'm embarrassed that I was embarrassed to go see Alice Cooper back then.

"I do hope we can somehow 'get' Althouse."

At first, I assumed that meant they were trying to understand me, but apparently not.

Meanwhile, there's the new Liza-dear-before-you-go-assailing-your-betters lefty blogger screwup.





Of oversized things, MSM, and the internet.

Mustachioed WaPo columnist Robert J. Samuelson types out a lot of words about how "the Internet has unleashed the greatest outburst of mass exhibitionism in human history." Wait. Why are you mentioning his mustache? He's complaining about exhibitionism, and I'm just noting that he's displaying a photograph, exhibiting himself. And looking at it, I see that he's a man with a huge mustache, and -- let's be fair -- huge glasses. Perhaps his stylist advised him that adding a couple large things to his face would make his receding hairline seem like a normal-sized forehead. It's all about relative proportion. But why the hangdog expression? And why position the glasses so we can't see your eyes? But let's disengage from this photograph and see if he's got anything to say that hasn't already been said by all the MSM types who don't like the way free-spirited internet writing has diminished their grand stature:
We have blogs, "social networking" sites (, Facebook), YouTube and all their rivals. Everything about these sites is a scream for attention. Look at me. Listen to me. Laugh with me -- or at me....
Blah blah blah. I was going to include more apt lines after that first ellipsis, but nothing struck me. Samuelson, as a columnist, unlike a blogger, had a word requirement. He thinks people writing on the internet are writing too much, trying to establish a big exhibitionistic profile. But the truth is that good bloggers, assuming they would write about this old topic at all, would be much more concise. You can't trim the prose because you've got to fill the expanse of MSM paper. Sorry to increase your anxiety about the future, but internet writers threaten you not only because we write so much, but also because we write so little.

"The White House had blinked first in its standoff with the senators."

That's the NYT's reading of the "suggestion," as the White House gives up on getting specific about what the general language in the Geneva Conventions means. But there's more to the legislation than that:
Several issues appeared to remain in flux, among them whether the two sides could agree on language protecting C.I.A. officers from legal action for past interrogations and for any conducted in the future. Beyond the issue of interrogations, the two sides have also been at odds over the rights that should be granted to terrorism suspects during trials, in particular whether they should be able to see all evidence, including classified material, that a jury might use to convict them.
So there's a complex negotiation, and the question of saying what is and what is not “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" is a conspicuous part of it. Is this a compromise where the President gives in on the issue that people notice and feel emotional about but gets what he wants on the tedious technical issues that people ignore but that actually have more effect on the real world?

September 19, 2006

"If nominated, Oprah Winfrey will serve..."

"...a cease and desist letter." Is she not justified in preventing people from appropriating her name and image to promote themselves?

"The greys will eat anything, leaving few hazelnuts for the red, which also like beech mast and the seeds of pine cones."

"Unfortunately, although large areas of Wales were planted with conifers, they were not pines, so the red squirrel could find no comfort there."

Are you following the troubles they are having in England with bad American squirrels squeezing out their good squirrels?

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out: #5 in a series.

Let's look at this obscurity from 1967:

Unplayable 45

"The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" was written by Norman Greenbaum, who had a big hit a few years later with "Spirit in the Sky," a song we heard all the time at The Halfway Inn in East Quad, all those many years ago (in 1970). But back before I went to college, when I was playing 45s on a record player that closed up like a tiny suitcase, I liked this Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band song. It fit in with the Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band and Lovin' Spoonful kinds of things that I was quite fond of. Boy, Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band... that is such a thoroughly hippie name for a group that it makes me feel all bad inside for a thousand amorphous reasons. Ah, snap out of it! Let's look at the lyrics:
You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he's still hungry, the whole country's doomed.

He came from outer space, lookin' for somethin' to eat.
He landed in Chicago. He thought Chicago was a treat.
(It was sweet, it was just like sugar.)

Norman then, Norman later:

A YouTube search for Norman came up empty, but so what? It gives us a chance to listen to the Jim Kweskin Jug Band: here.

Have a good evening listening to some old hippie music.

UPDATE: Well, apparently my YouTube search skills suck, but Sippican comes to the rescue. Here's "Spirit in the Sky."

Yeesh! That's a primative music video.
I've never been a sinner
I've never sinned
I've got a friend in Jesus

It was really early Christian rock.


For motorcycles.

"Despite its pedigree, the programming remains anodyne and apolitical."

Writes Ginia Bellafante about that Gloria Steinem/Jane Fonda radio project (called GreenStone):
To listen to it in anything but thick wool socks and toasty pajamas seems a betrayal of its comforting purpose. Thus far all the hosts are genial female comics — Lisa Birnbach; Mauren Langan, Cory Kahaney and Nelsie Spencer, who make up “The Radio Ritas”; and Mo Gaffney and Shana Wride, who call themselves “Women Aloud.”

But a humor of complacency stands in for a language of subversion, and the extent to which you will find the shows funny seems dependent on how seriously you ever considered buying tickets to “Menopause: The Musical.”
Ooh, that's mean. Delightfully so.
... GreenStone too easily obliges the idea that debate is just a synonym for bad manners, and in doing so suggests that the only corrective to invidious discussion is no discussion at all — or, rather, lots of little discussions about hosiery and slumber parties....

At one point during “The Radio Ritas” last week, I found myself wondering if I were actually listening to Phyllis Schlafly radio. Ms. Spencer, talking about a study indicating that there were possibly negative effects to having children too young, remarked that maybe it was a good idea to wait after all.

Ms. Langan responded emphatically: “Let me tell you, it isn’t. Listen to Aunt Maureen, it isn’t. Get married at 30, have fun in your 20’s and have kids between 32 and 35. Don’t wait until your late 30’s or early 40’s, because you’re going to have somebody else’s egg, you’re going to have to get an Asian baby, which is fine,” she said before pausing. “I’m just saying there are different options.” It was at that moment that I recalled that Mrs. Schlafly had a daughter at 40.

GreenStone is not a renunciation of Ms. Steinem’s beliefs, as some will surely suggest, but an apt expression of the convalescent feminism she has advocated for nearly two decades: the idea that a better world can be achieved by feeling better. In her view epistemology is no substitute for emotion.

Ms. Steinem always disdained intellectualism, saying of academic feminists, in a 1995 interview with Mother Jones, that “nobody cares about them” and that their work was “gobbledygook.”
This rings true. The academic feminists I have known snorted in derision at the name of Gloria Steinem. She was just working on a women's magazine after all. I remember seeing the first issue of Ms. magazine, displayed by a not-too-hip girlfriend of a friend's father. After she left, we made fun of her for thinking some dorky women's magazine would mean anything to the new generation.

UPDATE: Here's the GreenStone website, where you can see what's on and also listen to the shows. For example, the Radio Ritas have these signature segments:
Trendspotting – Where they, get this, spot the trends!! So you can be … trendy!!!

Shallow Corner – Do you have too much self esteem to read those heinous women’s magazines? Have no fear the Radio Ritas are here and to catch every vain, vapid moment in the fashion and beauty.

Foodie at Large – The Ritas span the globe for the cheesiest news in the world of food.

Whad'ya Do??? Moral dilemmas, etiquette faux pas, or everyday advice...there is no need to look any further, The Ritas know what’s best for you.

What’s Up With Guys? The Ritas invite men to weigh in on what matters to them…sports, breasts, size and panties.
Hmmm.... don't get me started! Breasts are a big topic? Who could have imagined! Anyway, I love the idea that they have a special "shallow" segment as if it's in relief of... of what?

Christopher Hitchens weighs in on the Pope.

He's not a fan.

Muslim speed-dating.

Except don't call it dating, because dating is hell.


Uh-oh. Bush is up in the ratings. What did he do? Or are people just getting tired of hating him? Oh, it's just the damned gas price, isn't it? People are soooo shallow!

“A work environment in which 'anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a "wife" is at a serious disadvantage.'”

This is one of the reasons -- along with "unconscious but pervasive bias" and "'arbitrary and subjective' evaluation processes" -- given for the underrepresentation of women in academic science and engineering, according to the report of a panel convened by the National Academy of Science. Innate differences between men and women were rejected as a cause.

I can't see what the methodology of the study was, so I'm not going to critique the conclusion, but it's hard not to suspect the panel -- which included a psychology professor "who has long challenged the 'innate differences' view" -- of gravitating toward causes that seem to have solutions. To focus on innate difference is to promote complacency, the idea that there's not "underrepresenation" at all, but that things are the way they ought to be.

But is there a solution for the lack of a traditional wife? I'm sure there are plenty of things, like the scheduling required events and providing on-site childcare. It would also solve the disparity -- not that family related benefits wouldn't still be good -- if men no longer had traditional wives. And I wonder: Do many men in academia have traditional wives anymore? (And what's with the quotes around "wife" in the phrase "traditionally provided by a 'wife.'"? Traditionally, it really was a wife, wasn't it?) In law schools, it doesn't seem that men have the kind of traditional helpmeet who keeps the home and family in order and entertains colleagues. (I'm not doubting that women do more than half of the homemaking.) Maybe in the sciences, in some places, that sort of thing still goes on.

When I think of that traditional model, the first thing I think of is "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," where the traditional academic wife is royally fed up with the whole routine.

The second thing I think of is the classic 1971 essay "I Want a Wife," by Judy Syfers:
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying.
Read the whole thing, if you haven't already. It's quite clear from reading it that not only will a woman never find a man who would act like that, but also that wives shouldn't be doing all these things either. Thirty-five years later, do they?

September 18, 2006

"The 150 men ... were told to pick a copper ring from a cauldron of boiling oil."

"The council elders then announced that the 50 who refused the order must be behind the crime."


Football Saturday

Here are the people who flow into my neighborhood on certain Saturdays in the fall. I took this picture as I was walking home, but the evidence that it was a football Saturday was first glimpsed back on Bascom Mall:

Football Saturday

Now that we're back on Bascom Mall, let me show you a picture of my beautiful law school:

Football Saturday

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out, #3 and #4.

You may have worried that I wouldn't keep up this series. Fear not. Some glitch at Flickr led to the lapse. Suddenly, they were saying I'd used 100% of my bandwidth, which wasn't true, but had me all upset that I'd be photoless here on the blog until October. Quite unsettling! But I've been reset to 0%, so let's revive the old series with a double entry today.

First, we've got "Epistle to Dippy":

Unplayable 45

You can just imagine all the Donovan singles I must have bought if I have "Epistle to Dippy." Come on... who has "Epistle to Dippy"? That's some serious Donovan idolatry. Let's look at the look at the lyrics:
Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk meditating rhododendron forest
Over dusty years, I ask you
What's it been like being you ?
Through all levels you've been changing
Getting a little bit better no doubt,
The doctor bit was so far out.
Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.
Doing us paperback reader
Made the teacher suspicious about insanity,
Fingers always touching girl.
I'm never really sure what Donovan is talking about. Is this teacher suspicious about insanity? No, no, you have to hear it in music. Or wearing crystal spectacles or something. It makes perfect sense. Or, if it doesn't, try changing to another level.

Second, we've got "Lil' Red Riding Hood" -- and don't chide me about the placement of apostrophe. Check it out:

Unplayable 45

This song played all the time on the radio the summer I took all the hundreds of tiny pictures off my bedroom walls and painted the room dark blue. You know, not only were the walls covered in pictures of rock stars clipped from 16 Magazine, but I and my friends had also written all over the walls in pencilled graffiti. Can you believe my parents never criticized me about this? They would actually say -- in 60s lingo -- "Whatever turns you on." They also let me paint my own room and paint it dark blue. Remember when it was suddenly the thing to paint rooms very dark colors? Nearly everyone's parents painted all the rooms in the house white, and then all the 60s hippies discovered liberation and painted everything dark blue and red and green. Wouldn't that freak out the old man? But chez Althouse, not so much. My parents themselves loathed the all-white look that prevailed in those days. I remember the time my father painted the recreation room dark gray and took some delight in saying he really wanted to paint it black. Which would be a good idea for an unplayable 45 song title.

Anyway, back to "Lil' Red Riding Hood." Could this be a mainstream song today? I know they say all kinds of crude things in popular music these days, but look at these lyrics, which, like many songs of the era, show a much older man going after a too-young girl:
Who's that I see walkin' in these woods
Why, it's Little Red Riding Hood
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything a big bad wolf could want
Listen to me

Little Red Riding Hood
I don't think little big girls should
Go walking in these spooky old woods alone
I think people are too alert about pedophilia to accept this today. Well, maybe you couldn't even get away with "Fingers always touching girl" today, especially if you were also "mad about fourteen."

Last time I did unplayable 45s, people wanted to know what was on the B-side. In today's world, I guess the B-side question seems exotic. The B-side of the Sam the Sham single is almost too boring to mention, "Love Me Like Before." But the B-side of "Epistle to Dippy" is the terrific, very jazzy song "Preachin' Love":
I'm preachin' love
Straight from above
I know what to do, yes I do.
Well, I'm breathing love
Straight from above
I mean about what I said.
Well, I understand my congregation
Is made about the finer sex.
Well, I don't know about any segregation -
Anyone may read the text.
Seems like something Prince would come up with, doesn't it? But there are probably enough religion-is-sex songs to do a "Theme Time Radio Hour" show on the subject.

September 17, 2006

Audible Althouse #65.

Finally. It's the podcast.

Every week it's another dustup in the blogosphere. Sometimes I'm the one who's kicked up the dust. Sex and politics... people get so worked up about it. Me, I'm serene, just making a few observations, dropping a sarcastic comment, causing a big political freak out.

Stream it right through your computer here. But the sublimely serene listeners subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

CORRECTION; Listening to the podcast, I note that at one point, in describing the blog Feministing, I say that the images there show bras. That's wrong, and I apologize for saying that. The images on Feministing show women in tight T-shirts with closeups focusing on the breasts and, prominently displayed in the banner, silhouettes of (apparently) naked women with very large breasts, the mudflap image that has enraged women for decades. And I do realize the women are giving the finger, but this, of course, reinforces the point that the blogger enthusiastically employs sexual imagery for effect. I wonder if the Feminist Law Professors, who felt injured by the fact that David Lat uses sex playfully on his blog, also feel injured by the way Feministing exploits sexuality? Oddly, no. They condemn me for calling her on it.

"Seriously, the blogosphere strips argument of logic and rhetoric down to the naked emotion behind it."

So says Lee Siegel, the media critic axed for sock-puppetry on his TNR blog, when the ace NYT interviewer Deborah Solomon comes up with "What are you talking about?" as the follow-up question after he says "putting a polemicist like myself in the blogosphere is like putting someone with an obesity problem in a chocolate factory."

The real answer to Solomon's question was that he was trying to set up one of those addiction theories. It's a disease, you know. But he backed off from his own bullshit. Fortunately. But there are probably self-help books and treatment programs for blogoholism already, right?

Wisconsin, the necrophiliac's playground.

It's not illegal. (Digging up the grave is, however, criminal damage to property.)

Pursued by boobs.

Trying to get some distance from my opponents, who've been pursuing me all weekend, I nevertheless drop by the comments section of yesterday's "Comments, comments, comments" post to talk back to some character who proclaims me "demonstrably flayed" and another who demands "an apology just for [my] flawed logic without speaking to [my] bitter tongue." I say:
I continue to stand by my comments and to assert -- with ever increasing confidence -- that my opponents all have some combination of: poor reading skills, lack of a sense of humor, anti-feminism, calcified political hackitude. Moreover, they've got some scary blindness about the way to help poor Hillary Clinton, who was the whole reason they were wrangled into Bill's presence in the first place. Bumbling all weekend over Jessica's breasts? You people are boobs.
I mean, is this what Peter Daou hoped to achieve when he gathered those bloggers around Bill, supposedly -- I think -- to reward them for their faithful service shoring up Bill's tantrum over that ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11"?

Last week, the lefty bloggers maladroitly focused attention on the issue of whether Clinton mishandled the terrorism threat, which caused many people to watch a film they wouldn't have bothered with and to marshall the evidence that he, in fact, had screwed up. Then, the bloggers who performed that dubious service were lured by lunch in the presence of the ex-president, and when they went back to their blogs and enthused about his blue eyes and how delightfully charmed they were by his aura and, doing so, provoked a tiny sprinkle of mockery, they flipped out for days on end. Their freak out just got everyone talking about Bill's old sex problems again.

As they cranked up into a higher and higher pitch -- doing their damnedest to show Bill they really, really like him -- they let loose with the most horrendous sexist and ageist slurs, laying them open to the unanswerable charge that they are political hacks at heart whose commitment to feminism is thoroughly laughable.

The boob-blogging continues apace. You've got to wonder what they'll bobble into next.

IN THE COMMENTS: We talk about an image that I say I couldn't find. Many months later I see it here.

"What Would the Democrats Do?"

Honestly, though that title for a Week in Review piece by John M. Broder grabs me, it was the illustration by Steven Brodner that made me want to open the old "create post" window. I love this exuberantly distorted image of various Democrats ... though I had to read the caption to tell that was supposed to be Biden. It kind of looked like Henry Jackson. What would Henry Jackson do in the current situation? I wonder. The James Webb caricature is especially cool, reminiscent of John Tenniel's Tweedledee (or is it Tweedledum):

John Kerry's head has the look of a toby jug, set off in the background. Hillary Clinton has Little Orphan Annie irisless eye dots. And Ned Lamont -- hilariously drawn with a long neck and a pointy nose -- stares off to his right and points left.

But let's see what Broder has to say:
“It’s a dog’s breakfast,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which has done extensive polling on public attitudes toward the war. “The reason that Democrats aren’t talking about specific plans to end the war is because it’s hard to figure out what to say without alienating a broad swath of the electorate.”
Distractable me: What exactly is "a dog's breakfast"? According to this, it's a poor job, a mess. Presumably, it's a wisecrack about how bad dinner is, right? One source says it's a variation on "a dog's dinner," but here we see that "a dog's breakfast" and "dog's dinner" are two completely different phrases. "The dog's dinner" means "Dressed or displayed in an ostentatiously smart manner." (Can't say that about the Dems plan for Iraq.)
Why a dog's breakfast is synonymous with mess or muddle and dog's dinner with smartness isn't at all clear. It appears that the two phrases were coined entirely independently of each other.

'Dog's dinner' is first cited in ‘C. L. Anthony's play 'Touch Wood', 1934:
"Why have you got those roses in your hair? You look like the dog's dinner."
See also: the dog's bollocks.
See also the dog's bollocks? Really! No Clinton jokes! "The dog's bollocks" means excellent. Just an update on "the bee's knees." Would that the Democrats had some ideas that were the dog's bollocks. We're advised at the link that polite -- and rhyme-loving -- folks can say "the mutt's nuts."

But enough of this linguistic digression. We can't be all scholarly all the time here. We've got to pay some attention to the goofy world of politics some of the time. (And lord knows, it does bring the linkage.) So, back to Broder:
Among the Democrats trying to find the right message on Iraq is Eric Massa, a United States Naval Academy graduate who spent 24 years on active duty and then worked as a staff member in Congress. He is challenging a freshman Republican representative, John R. Kuhl Jr., for a seat in western New York State. Mr. Massa offers a thought-out critique of the Bush policy in Iraq, based on his years in uniform and his service as a senior NATO officer dealing with the civil warfare in Bosnia.

“We will never be successful in creating a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq at the tip of a bayonet,” he said. “That’s a fool’s errand. The longer we try it, the more dire the consequences.”
Linguistic detour: "a fool's errand."
The Kuhl-Massa debate, if you can call it that, illuminates the difficulties at least some Democrats are having talking about Iraq. The more specific they are in proposing solutions to the impasse in Iraq, the more they open themselves to Republican charges of defeatism, or worse....

A Pew Research Center poll released last week found that Democratic candidates attract strong support among Democratic voters by advocating immediate withdrawal, but that position tends to repel independents. The safest position appears to be supporting a timetable for withdrawal, which independents favor by 35 to 20 percent.
Calibrating your policy like this doesn't really inspire us moderates.
Bruce W. Jentleson, a professor of public policy at Duke University and an official in the State Department’s office of policy planning under President Bill Clinton, said ... “Many of them think it’s enough to run on negativity on the Bush policy. I’m not convinced that’s true. That feeds the perception that Democrats know what they’re against but not what they’re for.”
So, yeah, it's a dog's breakfast.