Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Day 2 of the Republican Convention.

Okay, here we go again. I'll simulblog and keep all my comments in one post with numbered paragraphs to indicate updates.

1. Observation #1: My first observation last night was about the look of the set, and there's one other thing I've been wanting to say about the set, so I'll begin with this. Look at that humble wooden lectern! What is that all about? It's like a pulpit in a Protestant church that puts great stock in avoiding ornamentation. I can't remember what the Democratic Convention lectern/pulpit looked like--I tried to find a picture--but I think it was extravagant and florid and flag-oriented. The Republican lectern is aggressively plain, perhaps to avoid upstaging the speaker or perhaps to avoid upstaging the dramatic video screen behind the speaker. Maybe they considered using one of those almost-invisible plexiglass lecterns used in Hollywood awards shows, then rejected that as too reminiscent of Hollywood awards shows, and plain, plain wood was the fallback alternative. [ADDED: Here are some shots of the Democrat's lectern.][ADDED 9/4: I finally got a good look at a photograph of the Democrat's lectern. It has a large medallion right under the speaker's microphone that says "America 2004" on top and "A Stronger America" at the bottom. In the center is is a waving American flag, and there are little stars circling the whole arrangement.]

2. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson introduces the singer of the national anthem, Gracie Rosenberger, and my initial reaction is: what is this saccharine, sentimental, mawkish glop? But twenty seconds into it, tears are rolling down my cheeks. Damn! Stop that! The undulating flag on the giant video and the C-Span closeups of guys in VFW hats complete the effect.

3. A Christian minister does the invocation tonight and doesn't stop at just praying in Jesus' name (which I can understand might be necessary for some ministers in order to make the words a prayer), he goes on at some length about the crucifixion and the need to believe in Christ. Afterwards the colors are retired, and on the big screen we see the Statue of Liberty, with the words "Live--Statue of Liberty." Chris says, "Why do we need live footage of the Statue of Liberty? It's not going to do anything."

4. Princella Smith, a young black woman, winner of an MTV essay contest, talks about rejecting the label Generation X, which seems to have a lot to do with inspiration provided by George W. Bush. She posits "Generation EXample." Immediately afterwards (unlike any of the other speakers), Smith is interviewed backstage. The interview is projected onto the big screen for the whole hall to see. Smith effuses about her wonderful experience, and in there amongst the effusion is the stray line "I certainly didn't think I'd be twenty years old." She's informed she gave "a fabulous speech."

5. Roll call. The TiVo fastforward function is employed to good effect.

6. Uh! Wisconsin! Stop! The official icon of Wisconsin: a cow. The chairman of the Wisconsin party invokes the names of the "beloved" former Governor, Tommy Thompson, the Badgers (yay, Badgers), and the Green Bay Packers. Wisconsin is the pioneer of school choice and welfare reform, he tells us. Forty votes cast for George W. Bush.

7. Elizabeth Dole offers up a stilted peroration: "blue skies of freedom ... we believe in life ... marriage is important ... between a man and a woman ... those not yet born ... Republicans will defend ... the treasured life of faith ... two thousand years ago ... I have the freedom to call that man Lord, and I do ... activist judges ... freedom of religion, not freedom from religion ... values ... virtues ... truths ... the shared truths of the American people ... " As the speech progresses, she warms up, not like Giuliani last night, of course, but she essentially fills her role of expressing the night's "compassion" theme in terms that are particularly appealing to the social conservative sector of the party that is not to be heard in prime time this evening.

8. George P. Bush: wooden ... something about immigrants and entrepreneurs. He's cute though. Then, "God Bless America," sung by Dana Glover. She's okay, like someone who'd be voted off "American Idol." She's pretty and quite dolled up. Next, Miss America. What is this? The good-looking-people section of the show? The screen banner says "People of Compassion." It's horribly dull. Yes, yes, good people are good. And pretty people are pretty. My TiVo has caught up with the live feed and I can't fast forward. Aaaah! [ADDED: An emailer quips: "What you need is one of those hi-tech TiVos like Lewis Lapham's. "]

9. Dr. Frist: he's tedious and ignored by the convention crowd until suddenly he says the phrase "trial lawyer" and the audience erupts. The name John Edwards comes up. Now he's airing the stem cell research issue. This section of the convention is terribly slow. Oh, good lord, they're bringing out Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the nonentity component of "The View." She's talking about breast cancer. What does this have to do with Republicans? Health care policy is important, but she's not talking about that. She's doing a public service announcement: do self-examinations, get check-ups. I don't get it. Is it just the idea that Bush cares? Because they assert he cares? Compassion night is not proceeding along the confident arc that security night (last night) swept us along.

10. Finally, Schwarzenegger. He starts off with some bad jokes, then the story of immigrating. Amazingly, he praises Nixon. How strange! He heard Humphrey and Nixon debate in 1968 and decided right then, what that man is, I am. Startling! Best press for Nixon in decades. Like Giuliani last night, he stresses that you don't need to agree with all of the party's positions. Giuliani emphasized supporting Bush, despite some disagreement. Schwarzenegger stresses supporting the Republican Party. The core of the party, as portrayed by Schwarzenegger is none of the things Elizabeth Dole spoke about a while ago.
"If you believe that this nation and not the United Nations is the best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican. And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican. Now, there's another way you can tell you're Republican: your faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie men!"

Huge cheer.

11. Jenna and Barbara Bush: They have nice comic delivery. They are fun and self-effacing. They razz their parents. "We had a hamster too. Let's just say, ours didn't make it." They introduce their dad, on the big screen, and he introduces his wife. Laura walks out to the tune of "Isn't She Lovely."

12. The actual speech given by Laura Bush? She seems sweet and pleasant, but there was no content that struck me in particular. She loves her husband.

Iraqi talk radio.

Sabrina Tavernise writes, on the front page of the NYT, about Dijla, the first all-talk radio in the new Iraq. Huge numbers of people call in, many simply to express frustration about the lack of garbage collection and things of that kind. But there is also the torrent of political opinion that flows when the radio host poses a question. What should be done with Saddam Hussein? "Most people wanted him executed." I found this striking:

The program director and host, Majid Salim ... asked listeners what they thought about the insurgency that has roiled Iraq, claiming most of the energies of the new interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and putting the American occupation in danger of failure.

"We asked them, is it terrorism or is it resistance," he said. "A very large proportion, almost 100 percent, said terrorism. They did not like it."

Interesting. The American media always seem to speak of "rebels" and the "resistance" or, as in this Times article, the "insurgency." How different it would sound if the reports were of "terrorists" and "terrorism" in Iraq. If "almost 100 percent" of the Iraqis perceive the violence as terrorism, maybe our reporters, who seem to care about Iraqi self-determination, should adopt the Iraqis' terminology.

Madison, not Madison Square Garden.

It was fun blogging Madison Square Garden from Madison, Wisconsin. Thanks to Instapundit's linking last night's snipe at Ron Reagan and the ten-part convention simulblog that followed, I had the strange and fascinating experience of having thousands of people hearing the comments I made thoughout the night, which--before blogging--I would have just said to whoever happened to be in the room. So here I was sitting in my TV room in Madison, watching a huge crowd of people in Madison Square Garden, but probably more able to watch the proceedings than someone who was actually there in the crowd, because I had the camera view and the ability to pause and rewind, and I was more able to make comments than if I had been watching with a big group of people (most of the time I was alone), because I had my blog and my Instapundit link. In fact, if I had been watching with a big group of people--which would have been more fun, I'm sure--there is no way that we would have paid attention to all of the speeches: we would have had to talk over the speeches and become engaged in back and forth talking with each other. So my strange and fascinating experience consisted of being separated from two large groups--the people in Madison Square Garden and the people who were hearing my comments. You could say, what a shame that we live in this internet world where we are so alienated that I was not at the convention and I did not have live human beings to interact with last night. But internet or no internet, I wasn't going to any political conventions and being alone and in possession of a TiVo, I was able to get some writing done and to find a readership immediately. That was wonderful!

Monday, August 30, 2004

Day 1 of the Republican Convention.

(I'll put all my observations for tonight in this post, with numbered paragraphs to represent the updates.)

1. I love the grand video screens behind the speaker's podium. They showed a live view of the New York streets as the flag was presented, then a huge waving flag during the National Anthem (which was sung by a young green-eyed girl from Michigan) and the invocation (given by a Muslim). Now the screens are gone, and a platform rises up with a band and what I've got to assume are Broadway performers, who proceed to sing a medley of rock-solid old favorite Broadway songs (e.g., "Seventy-Six Trombones"). These songs have no discernable political content. Following that is a really well-done intro in the style of "Saturday Night Live," complete with blaring saxophone, Don Pardo [style] voiceover ("Arnold Schwarzenegger!"), and snazzy video clips of Manhattan at night. Now we're back in Madison Square Garden for the roll call, as a fabulous and comical animation of a trunk-flailing elephant appears on the giant screen behind the speaker. As each state is called, the video screen shows an image befitting the state--a little like the state quarters: Maine gets a lobster, Maryland gets a crab, and so on. Okay, I get the idea. Nice production values, but I'm going speed through this.

2. Hastert: too dull to blog about.

3. The Cheneys are introduced and we watch them walk to their seats in the stands. With them are two cute little girls, presumably granddaughters. The younger one is very lively and dances to the song, which is "You're All I Need" (possibly squelching rumors that Cheney will be replaced as the running mate: "There's no, no looking back for us/We've got a love and sure enough it's enough"). We see the Bush twins: they look great, very natural and adorable. Next to them is a young woman I don't recognize, who is wearing one of those "Carrie Doesn't Speak For Me" T-shirts.

4. A cute Austin band, Dexter Freebish, plays. Lyric that jumps out at me: "The world is your playground." In the end, the lead singer holds up a "We salute our troops sign."

5. The New York actor Ron Silver introduces the subject of the 9/11 attacks. He yells: "We will never forget. We will never forgive. We will never excuse." At that, a huge cheer bursts out ("Yeah!"). The camera scans the crowd and shows George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush laughing and nodding and clapping. Following the long cheer, Silver quotes General MacArthur: "At the end of World War II, Douglas MacArthur ... said, 'It is my earnest hope, indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion, a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world found[ed] upon faith, understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.' The hope he expressed then remains relevant today." There is no cheer, but Silver pauses and waits for a cheer, and a short cheer ensues. But definitely, and disturbingly, for this crowd "We will never excuse" was a much more popular sentiment than the hope of a better world. Later, he gets another heartfelt cheer: when he says "This is a war in which we had to respond." He criticizes his fellow entertainers who catalogue the world's wrongs but are unwilling to fight against them. He says, emphatically, "The President is doing exactly the right thing."

6. Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico presents the subject of war dead in terms of courage and individual choice to serve in a cause worth fighting for. She introduces a film showing veterans interviewed aboard the the U.S.S. Intrepid. The veterans are lively and proud. George Bush Sr. is there, paying tribute, citing "a timeless creed of duty, honor, country."

7. A chorus rousingly sings the full-length anthem for each branch of the military. I don't know that I've ever heard the Coast Guard Anthem sung before, but this is quite a military display. I especially like the Air Force anthem. Well, they didn't do this at the Democratic convention.

8. I'm skipping over much material. Now: here's John McCain. He defends the war in Iraq against "a disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe ... [Michael Moore is there and he's mouthing 'Thank you.' The crowd boos, then begins a 'four more years' chant] ... that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace when, in fact, it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture, mass graves, and prisons. ... The mission was necessary, achievable, and noble." This last part is, of course, what the convention needs to do: make the case that both wars Bush took us into were right and good. McCain offers his own credibilty for Bush as he says that Bush is the right man to see us through what he took us into. McCain says, "I salute him," calling up memories of John Kerry saluting as he "reported for duty" at the Democratic Convention. The idea is: if McCain, clearly a greater war hero than Kerry, salutes Bush, then the Kerry salute is nullified. McCain's theme is that what we have fought for is worth fighting for. Here is his final crescendo: "Take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals and our unconquerable love for them. ... We fight for love of freedom and justice--a love that is invincible. Keep that faith! Keep your courage! Stick together! Stay strong! Do not yield! Do not flinch! Stand up! Stand up with our President and fight! We're Americans! We're Americans and we'll never surrender! They will!" Brilliant!

9. A September 11th memorial follows McCain. Three women tell stories of family members who died. It's very moving and genuine. "Amazing Grace" is sung. Then: Rudoph Giuliani comes out and welcomes the crowd to New York. His rhetoric is built upon the "hear from us" line in Bush's famous ad lib at Ground Zero. Our enemies have heard from us, and if we keep Bush in power, he argues, they will "continue to hear from us." He doesn't get too embedded in sadness about September 11th. The three women who preceded him carried that weight. He's lively and good humored. He expresses pleasure at seeing so many Republicans in New York. He says: "I don't believe we're right about everything and Democrats are wrong. They're wrong about most things. [Big laugh.] But seriously, neither party has a monopoly on virtue. We don't have all the right ideas. They don't have all the wrong ideas. But I do believe there are times in history when our ideas are more necessary and more important and critical and this is one of those times when we are facing war and danger."

Next, he talks about seeing a human being jumping from the World Trade Center tower and other experiences of September 11th. He says that on that day he said, "Thank God George Bush is our President," and he repeats that declaration tonight. He speaks emphatically of the weak response of the German government to the Olympic terrorists in 1972, which became a typical response to terrorists over a long period of years. "Terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community, and too often, the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement, and compromise. And worse, they also learned that their cause would be taken seriously, almost in proportion to the horror of their attack." This is how Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize, he says. Bush is the one who realized we must take the offensive. Bush changed the direction, announcing the Bush doctrine. "Since September 11th, President Bush has remained rock solid. It doesn't matter to him how he's demonized. It doesn't matter to him what the media does ... Some call it stubbornness. I call it principled leadership. ... President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is."

He turns here to John Kerry, who has no clear, consistent vision. He says this isn't a personal criticism of Kerry and that he respects Kerry's military service, which draws spontaneous applause from the crowd. But the two men are different: Bush sticks with his position, and Kerry changes. Kerry voted against the Gulf War, Giuliani says, and when the crowd boos, he ad libs, "Ah! But he must have heard you booing," because Kerry later supported the war. Giuliani is animated and comical as he talks about Kerry. He quotes Kerry's famous voted-for-it-voted-against-it line and does a cool New York shrug with perfect timing. He has a punchline: maybe that's what Edwards means by "the two Americas." Giuliani is having a great time. He's passionate about fighting terrorism, biting as he criticizes Kerry.

His speaking style is far more engaging than McCain's--and McCain did well. Giuliani seems to be speaking extemporaneously and really talking to us. Now, he's talking about New York construction workers talking to Bush on his trip to NY after 9/11. He's describing a huge man grabbing Bush in a big bear hug and squeezing him--Giuliani does a vigorous physical demonstration of the maneuver--and a Secret Service guy saying to him, "If this guy hurts the President, Giuliani, you're finished." The crowd is laughing like mad and so is Giuliani. He thanks everyone for the support they gave New York back then, and he ties this to a desire to be unified today.

He talks about Saddam Hussein and the Middle East in general. He's going a little long now, and the audience is getting a bit restive. But he's still cooking. President Bush is the man! Giuliani is willing his beliefs into us. I'm not sure he has a way planned out of this speech. Freedom! Mission! Wait, I think he's coming in for a landing. He's got a final approach: "We'll make certain that they have heard from us." And a final line: "God bless America." Great, great speech.

10. And suddenly, it's the video screen: Frank Sinatra! "New York, New York."

Things about the Republican Convention I'm already sick of.

It's just starting, and I will be blogging, here in Madison with my iBook and my TiVo'd C-Span, but I'm just watching a little MSNBC Chris Matthews-moderated pre-show, and I realize I'm about ready to scream from the over-repetition of a single tedious-the-first-time observation: Republicans don't seem to belong in NY. Let me quote a choice example, as spoken exultantly by a commentator I was sick of the first time he opened his mouth, Ron Reagan:

In Boston, of course, the Democrats were home, you know, Boston is a Democratic city, like New York is, but here we have people like we just saw on television, the woman with the very large cowboy hat, plunked down into the middle of Manhattan, which has gotta be like droppin' somebody onto Mars for these people. Can you imagine her walkin' by, you know, an ad for the Vagina Monologues, and just freakin' out. That's what's interesting.
As if "The Vagina Monologues" hasn't been playing outside of New York. It has been playing everywhere, for years! What planet is he on? The only one "freakin' out" is you, Ron, from the sight of a woman in a cowboy hat. Do you think you could pull together a slightly more cosmopolitan attitude of ennui?

Mind your Ps and Qs and Rs.

Nina recounts an email thread about planning dinner in which she disguises the identity of three participants with the code letters P, Q, and R, which don't have anything to do with our real initials. Regular readers of this blog may be able to decipher which one is me. (And scroll down for some photoblogging of New York City and New Haven.)

UPDATE: No, it's all New Haven. I saw a hot dog vendor and just assumed. ("A hot dog makes her lose control.")

"Welcome Admitted Students"

So says the sign on the door leading into the Law School. Why not just "Welcome Students"? The people we didn't admit aren't really "students" at all, are they? Or is it "admitted" in the sense that they are willing to openly proclaim their student status--like an "admitted drug user" or an "admitted adulterer"? But we welcome our students whether they're keeping their student status a secret from the rest of the world or not.


I'm not interested in technical things about computers, and this whole Atom vs. RSS controversy is really not the sort of thing I want to spend time understanding. But my praise for Blogspot the other day brought email that made me think I had to do something to get an RSS feed. I tried Feedburner, and I have the impression I solved some technical problem that I really don't want to think about anymore. I hope this helps in some way (that I don't want to have to understand).

UPDATE: I don't think this worked. If you know how to get a Blogspot blog to produce an RSS feed, please email me some simple instructions.

FURTHER UPDATE: Columbia law student Tony Rickey helped me figure this out and wrote up a nice post to help other Blogspot bloggers get some good RSS feed going (and to explain why this is worth doing).

Booing the Kerry daughters?

I saw on Drudge last night that Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry were booed at the MTV Video Music Awards, so I set the TiVo to record the repeat presentation of the show during the night. Fastforwarding this morning, I saw that Jon Stewart was also on the show, so I kept an eye out for his appearance too. His spot preceded the Kerry kids, and I stopped to take a look. Piped in from the New York set of "The Daily Show," he did his trademark comic sputterings as he carried out his role of inviting viewers to vote for the Viewer's Choice Award. This little performance had many points where a "Daily Show" audience would have laughed a lot, but the hall itself--in Florida--was completely unresponsive.

I don't think this audience was the political type. So, it isn't really surprising that the crowd did not enjoy having its fun interrupted for a public service message about how important it is for young people to vote. It might not have been a particular dislike of Kerry or his daughters, I think, because the Bush daughters were also introduced and they appeared on a large video screen at the same time. But the Kerry daughters are significantly older, and they took a long time sashaying in high heels down a staircase before Vanessa began to speak, which she did ploddingly, in the political manner. Then Barbara and Jenna Bush spoke. They were dressed in a much more youthful, hip way, and they read the teleprompter the way an average person would read a teleprompter, stiffly. I don't think they were aware of the audience response. Then Alexandra, who looked incredibly sad, spoke. It must have been awful for them, because the whole thing went on for a long time, yet they knew from the outset that the audience did not want to hear from them at all. It's really MTV's fault for stopping the party for a public service message (which was repeated later in the show by the thuddingly unglamorous John Mellencamp).

Vodkapundit has this comment (based on reading Drudge):

There comes a time to, ah, lay politics aside. And that time, uh, comes when hotties are on the stage. And the brunette daughter, whose name I'm sure is either Alexandra or Vanessa, is a hottie.

I'm convinced that at least half of what wrong in politics in this country is due to people too concerned with politics to stop and appreciate the scenery. The Kerry girls (at least the brunette one) deserved better.
Yeah, but you should have seen the rest of the women on that show! I was only fastforwarding, but the Kerry daughters were much less attractive that the extremely glamorous, glitzy women that filled the rest of the show. By the way, I think Alexandra (the brunette one) looks like Laura Nyro. But women in music today, at least the ones on MTV, are not like the music women back in Nyro's day. And the political theme doesn't seem to fit as well with the music either.

You could conclude that it's a shame that these young people today don't care about politics, but that's not the impression I got. I think it's politically savvy to reject an attempt to usurp a music party for a political purpose. It's a solid political opinion to believe that politics don't belong everywhere.

UPDATE: A reader astutely connects the VMA booing with the booing that Hillary Clinton endured when she appeared on stage at the "Concert for New York." Like the VMA show on MTV, that concert, on VH-1, was a Viacom event.

Some people see a gathered throng as an opportunity, and it's a good thing for them to learn that individuals who become a throng for one reason do not appreciate being treated like a general-purpose throng. Note: I'm still mad about the 9/11 Memorial at the University of Wisconsin that drew 20,000 people to the Library Mall three days after the attacks. Appallingly, the speakers harangued us about war and racism, subject matter which, if announced, would have drawn virtually no crowd on that day.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a beautiful Laura Nyro page. I've linked to that in the past and should have remembered it. So go there and see if you agree that Alexandra Kerry looks like Laura Nyro, or just forget about Alexandra Kerry and discover or rediscover what a brilliant and beautiful artist Laura Nyro was. I especially love the album "New York Tendaberry."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

"Donnie Darko."

Apparently, I've just got to see "Donnie Darko" (the director's cut version, now in theaters). That's what I've been told!

A very grand project.

Here in Madison, what was once a block that included, among other things, an arts complex called the Civic Center, is being transformed, segment by segment, into a very grand arts complex called the Overture Center. Lord knows what arts events the city is going to pull in that will justify an arts center of this magnitude, but a very generous benefactor gave the city $205 million dollars to glorify the arts. You know those American Girl dolls that a lot of folks go wild over? That's where all the money came from. Our lovely benefactor's wife, Pleasant Rowland, thought up the dolls that created the fortune, but she stays in the background now as the husband, Jerry Frautschi, is the public face of the extravagant philanthropy. The architect Cesar Pelli was given the project, and Madison people got fussy--Madison-style--about preserving some existing State Street facades (and one grand old interior), so these had to be incorporated into the project. The project is being completed in segments over the years, so that the center can stay in use. Right now, part is gleamingly finished, and part is a gaping hole. I walked around the project today and took some pictures.

Here is one completed side of the building, showing the clean lines used in the parts of the building that do not contain preserved old facade:

Around the corner, the elegant, sharp lines continue:

Construction vehicles park along the street:

Turn the corner and walk down halfway down the block, right across the street from the federal courthouse, and you see part of the old Civic Center that has not yet been torn down. I find random junk like this picturesque:

At the end of the block, there's a big gaping hole where a large chunk of the old building has been demolished:

Turn the corner and walk up State Street, and you can see, next to the gaping hole, the preserved facade of the Oscar Meyer Theater, a relic of the days when the philanthropy flowed from the low-priced meat and not the high-priced doll sector of the local economy:

At the end of the block, you can see a finished part of the building that has already incorporated an old facade, the front what was a department store, not really all that distinguished of a facade, but it was old, old, I tell you, so you can't tear that down, I don't care how famous your architect is!

On top of the old facade, the architect mounted a glass dome:

So now we have two beautiful domes within steps of each other:

Cognac, again.

A while back, I had a post about Cognac, provoked by this post in which Tonya razzed me for ordering a cognac and said: "I don't think I've ever seen anyone even order a cognac. My only association with cognac is remembering that it was a favorite drink of former DC mayor Marion ('The bitch set me up!') Barry." But I've got to do some more cognac-blogging after reading this article in the Business section of today's NYT about Navan, the vanilla-flavored cognac put out by the same company that makes Grand Marnier, the great orange-flavored cognac. The article begins this way:

JUDGING from its prodigious intake of Cognac, the hip-hop generation doesn't seem to share the White House's antipathy toward France. Inspired by the lyrical tributes of rappers from Nas to Ghostface Killah to Busta Rhymes - the last of whom penned the 2002 hit "Pass the Courvoisier" - young urban consumers have taken a shine to the drink. They are largely responsible for its stellar American sales, which climbed 13.8 percent from 2001 to 2003, according to the Adams Beverage Group. ... The rap duo OutKast had this to say about it in the 1998 song "Mamacita": "To the front, to the back, there's Cognac/Got my throat burnin' like burlap."
Well, maybe there are hugely popular rap songs--I wouldn't know--about the Margaritas and Cosmopolitans the rest of you were drinking that night, but if not, I am going to rely on this New York Times business news article as a mark of coolness.

Our sublime First Lady of love and respect.

Here's the portion of the Time Magazine interview with Laura Bush that deals with gay rights. Note that the Time interviewer, Matthew Cooper, introduces the topic with an invitation to speak from the point of view of someone who disapproves of gay people:


I was curious if there are ways that people can help those who have gay people in their own lives and be supportive of them, even if they maybe disapprove—


Well, I think everyone should be treated with dignity. And I know the President thinks that too. That's something he says all the time.

And we're all different. And I particularly think that from having been a teacher, [one learns] to treat every child in their classroom with dignity and with respect.
Laura Bush neatly and astutely interrupts as soon as Cooper says the word "disapprove." She instantly recrafts the discussion in terms of "dignity," defends the President from what was at most a completely vague indirect criticism, and portrays herself, as always, as a benevolent teacher.

Next Cooper introduces the gay marriage topic:


And did you have a take on this gay-marriage question?


Well, I think it's a debate. People want to be able to debate the issue, and that's exactly what the call for a constitutional amendment does. It opens the debate up. The people of the United States didn't really want the Massachusetts Supreme Court or the San Francisco mayor to make the choice for them. And we're seeing a debate on it. And I think that's good.


Did you have a take on the amendment yourself?


I also think there should be a debate on the issue. People want to be able to talk about it—and come to terms with it, if that's what people decide.
Again, instead of responding to the question in its own terms and taking a position on the specific issue, Laura Bush reframes the subject in terms of something good, this time: "debate." And I see a hint of what her real position is: she supports gay marriage! Where do I see that? I see that in the phrase "come to terms with it." Even though the amendment seems hostile to gay people, it will create a debate on the subject and people will talk and think. The amendment process--which will, of course, ultimately fail--will turn America into the schoolroom of the benevolent teacher. Her vision is this: through the process of debate, with respect for difference, and dignity for all, Americans will "come to terms" with gay marriage. She softens that prediction with "if that's what the people decide," lest anyone who is opposed to gay marriage feel left out and dispirited by a forgone conclusion.

The interviewer persists:


Right, but are you of an open mind about the amendment?


A one-word answer, but one that does not match what the President has said in public. The interviewer shifts to a clever question:


Have you ever had a gay couple stay with you in the White House or in Texas?


I'm sure we have.
"Stay with you" strongly implies staying overnight and presumably sharing a bedroom, so if Laura Bush is "sure" that has happened, that's saying quite a lot. Cooper seems surprised by the answer and doesn't blurt out a gay-sex-in-the-Lincoln-Bedroom question. Look at his next question:


You wouldn't have any objection?
Why "wouldn't"? Why not "didn't"? Didn't you hear that she just said it's already happened? I think Laura Bush was a couple steps ahead of Cooper all along. He seems to have wanted to find a way to invite her to express disapproval of gay persons. Surely, she'd draw a line at allowing a gay couple to sleep together in her own home! But she says:


No, of course not.
Yeah, Time. How could you even imagine that Laura Bush would feel anything but love and respect for the dignity of all people?

Did the media fall out of love with John Kerry?

Instapundit connects my "lame" post from yesterday to this post from Captain's Quarters that I was halfway through writing a post about last night before I became overwhelmed with pity for John Kerry and deleted my draft. CQ writes:

After waiting weeks for the mainstream news media to cover the collapse of John Kerry's narrative on Viet Nam, and waiting out the media attack on the testimony of over 200 combat veterans, two bellwether media outlets have suddenly reversed themselves and reported on Kerry's lies and prevarications in their news sections ...

I expected the media to eventually get closer to the truth on the Swiftvet group and John O'Neill, although I never expected the Los Angeles Times to take the lead in doing so. I am stunned that the Post has, after six months of silence, started reporting on the Phoenix Project. It signals the end of the media's honeymoon with John Kerry and serves as a call for open season on the Democrat's campaign narratives.

So what happened? Did the media reach a tipping point in the last few days and, if so, why? Here's my theory.

The media are looking ahead and imagining how the history of the 2004 presidential campaign will read and how their performance will measure up. The first chapter of that history was the Howard Dean story, and the mainstream media brimmed with stories about the wonderful Howard Dean, explaining why he had all the magic. Then, they looked at bit silly when he deflated, and they quickly shifted to shining their light on Kerry as the candidate who would come out on top, and that light even influenced the voters to select him--he's such a winner--now that they had to slough off Howard Dean. So Kerry rolled into the nomination, and the media were prepared to keep a steady flattering light on him until he ascended into the presidency in November. They thought the Kerry ascendancy would be chapter two of the history of the 2004 election, and they thought they were looking good and getting the story right.

But what if chapter two was the story of Kerry making Vietnam the centerpiece of his candidacy setting off an out-of-nowhere takedown by a bunch of veterans who have been pissed off at him for 35 years? No, no way could that be the story! We aren't going to talk about that. No, no… wait a minute. Check out these polls! The ads are making an impression. The ads are seriously wounding Kerry. This looks like the turning point of the whole campaign, and it seems that from here Kerry will fall into defeat. This is chapter 2 of the history of the 2004 election, and we are going to look ridiculous if we aren't actively involved in telling the story of what happened in the 2004 election. Time to pile on John Kerry! Our interests have now officially diverged.

UPDATE: Will Collier at Vodkapundit responds, speculating that, in the end, the media will write the history in terms of the "low-down, dirty, nasty, meaner-than-we-are Republican[s]."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

"That was a mistake - we need to seize on it."

Adam Nagourney reports in the NYT that this is what President Bush said to his aides after Kerry said he would have voted to authorize the President to go to war even if he had known that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. The linked article is long, but it's a long hammering of the same point: that Bush is very involved in his reelection campaign.

New "email this" feature.

I just noticed that Blogger has a new little feature, so I turned it on, which accounts for the little envelope icon there. More clutter, but possibly useful.

ADDED: And there is another new feature, which you can't see, that lets the author click directly from a blog post to a window to edit that post, something that used to take several slow-loading steps. I'm impressed that Blogger keeps improving! Maybe I'm missing something, but I can't see why people don't prefer Blogspot blogs.

Graphing politics.

Professor Bainbridge recommends Chris Lightfoot's political survey (which he especially likes because it aligns him with Margaret Thatcher). If you're ready to slog through 75 questions, take the survey. Here are my results:


UPDATE: Email exchange with a person who read my question and answer page:

QUESTION: You disagree that "Aggressive foreign policies can put a stop to international terrorism"?!!

MY ANSWER: I took the word "stop" literally!

This goes to show that there is a lot happening at the level of question interpretation. In fact, I picked the "no opinion" answer to many questions, because I did not think the question could be answered without more information or a clarification, which I'm sure dragged me toward dead center (where I would have been happy to have ended up!).

FURTHER UPDATE: I want to abandon the notion that the center of this graph represents moderation. Just look at where Stalin appears on that graph. How did that happen? Someone with a particularly toxic mix of right and left ideas and of idealism and pragmatism, quite extreme ideas in all four categories, could average his way into the center. That's a huge problem with visualizing political ideas spatially!


Last night, David Letterman had Maureen Dowd on his show. Here's a striking exchange:

LETTERMAN: Just tell me your thoughts generally about the Democratic candidate. What about John Kerry? What comes to your mind there?

DOWD: Lame. I think, uh, [laughs] very, very lame [winces].

LETTERMAN: [giggles] You said, "lame." Is that right? Lame? Uh-huh. ...
Later, they reprised the theme:

LETTERMAN: Do you think, looking at it right now, uh, John Kerry can overcome his lameness?

DOWD: Um, looking at it right now, I don't think so. No. I don't know.
UPDATE: A propos of the Instapundit link to this post, I've got some comments here.

Contracts and the Kerry Vietnam archive.

The Washington Post has an article about Douglas Brinkley's book about Kerry, "Tour of Duty." I found this interesting:

The Kerry campaign has refused to release Kerry's personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, saying that the senator is contractually bound to grant Brinkley exclusive access to the material. But Brinkley said this week the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control.

"I don't mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything," he said. "If he wants to let anybody in, that's his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone." The exclusivity agreement, he said, simply requires "that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book."
So Kerry, preparing to run for President and planning to lay great emphasis on his service in Vietnam, makes a contract giving exclusive access to his personal records to an author who proceeds to tell the story in the desired heroic form. Then when opponents raise questions and make people want to check the record, Kerry points to the contract he made with the hand-picked hagiographer. That turns out to be a too-neat device for suppressing the materials.

Brinkley now acts as though he's not part of the suppression of the record, but he is still demanding that Kerry meet the terms of the contract by requiring "that anybody quoting any of the material" cite his book. How could Kerry possibly make everyone do that? The various reporters and other writers aren't bound by the contract. Does Kerry have to get all of these people to sign agreements to cite Brinkley's book? It seems that Brinkley either isn't thinking this through clearly or he's being disingenuous. It seems to me that if Brinkley doesn't give up his contractual rights, he is responsible for suppressing the records.

Kerry is also responsible for the suppression. Even if Kerry can honestly say now that he'd like to release the records, he made the deal in the first place, he stood to benefit from the glowing biography that flowed from it, and he went on to make his Vietnam story the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Now the public is expected to say oh, okay, he made a contract with an author? Clearly, Kerry should give reporters access to the record, even if it means breaching his agreement with Brinkley.

Those poor celebrities.

The NYT has an amusing article today about celebrities attempting to manage their interaction with the world of politics. Some of them are just tired from too many parties, and some need help figuring what the right parties are.

"If you're going to the Oscars and trying to go to parties, you know what all the good ones are ... But here it's brand-new territory."
And some celebrities saved up the treasure of their endorsement for such a touchingly long time that we ought to really, really care when they finally bestow it on anti-Bush:

Bruce Springsteen is probably the biggest name to be recruited by the left this campaign season, having announced his participation in a series of anti-Bush fund-raising concerts. A fellow performer said that Mr. Springsteen told him recently that he had long felt like the "Switzerland of political endorsements.''

Mr. Traub said that getting Mr. Springsteen to attend an anti-Bush event in New York would be "like getting J. D. Salinger to come to a literary conference."
But we don't care, do we? Or does the near-unanimity of celebrity endorsement for anti-Bush create a deep-seated feeling that all the cool people are on the left?

Friday, August 27, 2004

How different is Cheney from Bush on gay marriage?

There has been a lot written about the difference between President Bush and Vice President Cheney on the issue of gay marriage, but let's look at what Cheney actually said the other day at that town meeting in Iowa when he was asked what he thought about gay marriage:

Well, the question has come up obviously in the past with respect to the question of gay marriage. Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them. They're both fine young women. They do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us. And we are blessed with both our daughters.

With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free -- ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction, or approval is going to be granted by government, if you will, to particular relationships. Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled.

The President has, as result of the decisions that have been made in Massachusetts this year by judges, felt that he wanted to support the constitutional amendment to define -- at the federal level to define what constitutes marriage, that I think his perception was that the courts, in effect, were beginning to change -- without allowing the people to be involved, without their being part of the political process -- that the courts, in that particular case, the state court in Massachusetts, were making the judgment or the decision for the entire country. And he disagreed with that. So where we're at, at this point is he has come out in support of a federal constitutional amendment. And I don't think -- well, so far it hasn't had the votes to pass. Most states have addressed this. There is on the books the federal statute Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. And to date it has not been successfully challenged in the courts, and that may be sufficient to resolve the issue. But at this point, say, my own preference is as I've stated. But the President makes basic policy for the administration. And he's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue.
Clearly, Bush has stated his opposition to gay marriage, as has Kerry for that matter. But did Cheney say he was for gay marriage? No. He said he was for leaving the definition of marriage to the states. Now, obviously, in the last part of his statement, he's holding back from saying everything he thinks, but at that point, the issue is whether there should be a constitutional amendment. Cheney refers to the concern that the actions of judges in one state will take away the ability of the individual states to continue in their traditional role of defining marriage for themselves. In that context, there is a debate about whether a constitutional amendment is needed to preserve the states' traditional role. Cheney notes the existence of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the suggestion here is, I think, that that may be enough. I think there is also a suggestion here that the amending the Constitution is a bad idea, and the point where Cheney really seems to bite his tongue is "I don't think -- well, so far it hasn't had the votes to pass." He knows (and I'm sure Bush knows) that the amendment is never going to be adopted. So what really is the difference between Bush and Cheney on this issue? The difference is over the willingness to use support for the (dead on arrival) amendment for political purposes.

We could speculate forever about what Bush and Cheney (and Kerry) really think about gay rights. But on the surface, both Bush and Cheney rely on the same leave-it-to-the-states approach that Kerry embraces. It is worth noting that Kerry was one of 14 Senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, but even then he expressed his opposition to the Act (in part) as "a power grab into states' rights of monumental proportions."

UPDATE: I really am missing an important point here. Bush did say, when he spoke in support of the amendment, that "[t]he amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage." So Bush does seek to deprive the states of an aspect of their traditional role, and the first sentence of Cheney's last paragraph is expressing a disagreement with that when he says "he wanted to support the constitutional amendment to define -- at the federal level to define what constitutes marriage."

"Persepolis 2."

I went over to Borders today to have some coffee and read a manuscript but took some time first to browse. That picture on the cover of Premiere magazine of Colin Farrell pretending to be Alexander the Great made me laugh, but--ah!--what is this? The second volume of Marjane Satrapi's beautifully drawn memoir has come out! I take it with me to my table along with my manuscript and my mug of Borders blend coffee. I read the first chapter slowly, savoring the crisply drawn, Bushmilleresque pictures of the feisty Iranian girl starting her new life in Austria, where she soon enough ends up in a boarding school run by nuns. Oh, this is too good! I could read the whole thing right now! I close it up, read half of the manuscript, finish the coffee, and go buy the book, which I will carefully consume in small, picture-gazing doses.

The marching band.

There is something new in the air this morning and I feel it pulling me into the Fall Semester: the sound of the UW Marching Band. It's a sound of the season woven into my life for twenty years. The band practices down in a field over by Lake Mendota and something about the acoustics of the lake and the hill of University Heights where my house sits transforms the marching music into something ethereal and poignant--a bit like a Czechoslovakian emigré composer in Canada rearranging "The Star Spangled Banner."

Two articles about politics and art.

As I've said before, politics and art usually means bad politics and bad art. A lot of people favor keeping religion separate from politics (with good reason!): I favor keeping that other sublime thing, art, separate from politics. Every once in a while there's a Guernica to provide the counter example. But Guernica is to art and politics, as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is to religion and politics.

So these two articles caught my eye this morning:
The High Art of Highbrow Protest: Antiwar hacks invade New York, by Eric Gibson in the Wall Street Journal

Caution: Angry Artists at Work, by Roberta Smith in the New York Times.
Both articles cover artists reacting to the Republican conventioneers coming to New York City. Be sure to click over to the Smith article if only to see the reproduction of the painting of John Kerry that makes me give thanks once again that the English language contains the word "bathetic." But most of Smith's lengthy article is a round-up of the various art shows in town that have snagged a big write-up in the Times by being about the election.

Gibson's much shorter piece refers briefly to a few of these shows and is, to my liking, much more barbed:
There is ... a deadening uniformity of manner and outlook. The same bugbears appear over and over: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, the Patriot Act--even the supposedly hawkish media. The work fairly seethes with dire assessments of our current condition, expressed in trite cliché.

Two categories of Vietnam draft avoiders.

Did you know that those who found ways to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War ought to be put in two categories? There is one category, which President Clinton belongs in, and one category, which President Bush belongs in. What are those two categories? Democrat and Republican? No, as Neil Sheehan, Pulitzer Prize-winner, writes in an op-ed in today's NYT:

One must be careful in pointing a finger at those who avoided service in Vietnam. Many, like President Clinton, had moral objections to the war. The gimmicks they used to stay out of it were tawdry, but they acted from motives of conscience. Mr. Bush - like his father's vice president, Dan Quayle, who sheltered in the Indiana National Guard, and his own vice president, Dick Cheney, who obtained five draft deferments - are in a different category. From what can be discerned, none of them opposed the Vietnam War. Had the younger Mr. Bush not stood aside from the central, transforming event of his youthful years, his performance as president might have been closer to that of the wise and capable commander-in-chief he claims to be but has not been. He might have learned a lesson from Vietnam - do not become involved in an unnecessary war.
Yes, one must be careful, because you wouldn't want to create an argument that will be used against the many, many men who did what they could to avoid service. Don't be so short-sighted in your efforts to promote Kerry! You need a more nuanced argument, an argument that will allow us to continue to sneer at Bush and Cheney and future Republican candidates and still preserve the path to power for the many Democrats who avoided service. Here's the concept: we'll divide up the Vietnam-service-avoiders (including those who served in the National Guard) into those who "acted from motives of conscience" and those who thought only of their personal safety and comfort. In this analysis, Clinton gets to be the man of conscience, because he opposed the war, and Bush, despite his service in the National Guard, is the selfish one, because we can't discern from the record whether he opposed the war.

In fact, let's even divide up the men who did serve into the same two categories: the ones who participated in the "transforming event" of their time and opposed the war and the ones who did not:

Unnoticed in the controversy over the Swift Boat group's accusations is an undercurrent that lingers from the war. The men who fought in Vietnam and survived came back as divided as the public at home. Most suffered in silence, then picked up their lives and went on. But some, like John Kerry, were so disillusioned that they felt they had to do something to stop the war. Another minority persisted in their faith that the war could be won, that America is an exception to history and can do no wrong.
(Unless you were with those who wanted an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, you believed America can do no wrong?) Sheehan goes on to say that Vietnam was an "unnecessary and unwinnable war, a tragic, terrible mistake" and that all the veterans deserve respect for their valor even though they had the "ill luck to draw a bad war." He titles his op-ed "A War Without End," suggesting that we need to get past Vietnam, but he is introducing a new litmus test for candidates: did they oppose the Vietnam war when they were young? Let's comb over the old record and see if we can discern anti-war activities, and if not, we'll say you were out of touch with your transformative time and you failed to learn the lessons needed to qualify you for leadership. At that rate the "War Without End" will never end.

Two observations about Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Last night, like many people, I watched the C-Span presentation of Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I found this opening line a bit strange:

I would simply like to speak in very general terms. I apologize if my statement is general because I received notification yesterday you would hear me and I am afraid because of the injunction I was up most of the night and haven't had a great deal of chance to prepare.
The "very general" remarks turn out to be an elaborate and eloquently written statement. The Committee Chairman, Senator Fulbright, seems to accept the image of Kerry dashing off the statement at the last minute: "You said you had been awake all night. I can see that you spent that time very well indeed." This draws a laugh from the crowd, and it made me laugh too. Hearing it last night, I couldn't help but think that Kerry has an intense drive to make a myth out of himself: he's a man who, sleep-deprived, can, at the last minute, jot down what turns out to be a brilliant and devastating speech (written out longhand on a yellow pad?). But it isn't really very funny: the urge to self-mythologize is not a desirable quality in a President.

Of course, I also see the deniability written into the statement. He doesn't literally say he wrote the speech himself during the night, only that he didn't have "a great deal of chance to prepare." If pressed, he could easily concede that the speech had been written well in advance and that he merely meant that he hadn't had a chance to practice delivering the speech. I'm not saying he lied, only that he crafted his words to create a heroic image of himself.

Another things that struck me that Kerry said right at the beginning of his testimony was:

I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony.
The Swift Boat Veterans' second ad has been criticized for taking Kerry's testimony out of context and not making it clear that he was only quoting other people. But look at Kerry's introduction: it is a grandiose assertion, claiming to say what all veterans would say. Senator Fulbright proceeds to accept his statement as the statement of all veterans ("Mr. Kerry, it is quite evident from that demonstration that you are speaking not only for yourself but for all your associates, as you properly said in the beginning"). I can see how that might create a simmering anger in the veterans who felt their own stories were preempted, an anger that boiled over when Kerry premised his presidential campaign on his status as a war veteran. Kerry's portrayal of the Vietnam experience, which he claimed was every vet's story, was one of atrocities and war crimes and the realization that they had fought for nothing:

I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.
Kerry took it upon himself to say what millions of men felt, and it is not surprising that a good number of them resented being characterized as a tiny subcomponent of an angry "monster." Kerry contributed to the painful stereotype of the Vietnam vet as a crazy, violent misfit.

Kerry was, I think, "laser-beam focused" on stopping the war. His words were well-received by many who put that goal above all else, because those words powerfully expressed complete negativity about the war. I think there are many people today who oppose the Iraq war the same way and who use the same rhetoric: everything about the war is abysmally, hopelessly wrong. Yet the situation then as now was more complex than will be admitted by many who have formed a firm belief that they know what the right outcome is. Those who choose to express themselves this way, however, can create a lot of angry opponents as well as a lot of ammunition for their opponents' arguments. Of course, taking the position that the war is actually a complex problem--as Kerry has done with Iraq--creates another set of opponents and arguments.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Soccer gold.

"Running with Scissors"--the movie.

I'm glad to see there's going to be a well-cast movie of the book "Running with Scissors." Here's the relevant portion of the Black Table interview with the author Augusten Burroughs:

[Black Table interviewer LITSA DREMOUSIS]: Hey, what's up with the film version of "Scissors"? Julianne Moore is in it, right?


LD: Is that finished? Is that in post-production now?

AB: No, no, no. It's not finished yet. I think it's going to start shooting--I think Ryan Murphy told me it's going to start shooting in January, I think. The first draft of the script is done and he's going to make some revisions on that. I've read it and he did a great job.

LD: Is he the guy who writes and directs "Nip/Tuck"?

AB: Yeah. That's his little baby, one of them. I like him a lot. He's not an established film director, but I just have a gut instinct about the guy. To me, that's just as important. And he had a similar mother, so he totally got her [Augusten's mother]. I mean, it's different, the treatment of the book is different because it's a whole different media, you know? And I wasn't expecting it to be slavishly devoted to the book, but it's a lot closer than I expected, actually. A lot of the dialogue is just lifted up from the book.

He's switched some stuff around and made it great. It's going to be a great film, I think. I think it has a chance to be a great film. I mean, Julianne Moore, though, she could just sit there. She's got one of those faces that's just very interesting to watch.

LD: Anyone else we'd recognize?

AB: I don't know who else has agreed officially. I think, Cate Blanchett. I think she'll play Hope. Like I said, I'm not sure, though.

I'll just go out on a limb and say Julianne Moore will finally win her much-deserved Oscar. The role in question has everything an actress could ever want.

UPDATE: I wonder who is in the running for the fabulous role of the crazy psychiatrist Dr. Finch? I would think Tom Hanks, perhaps, or Robin Williams.

Forced Wisecrack of the Day.

ABCNEWS.com reports this reaction from Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt to Kerry's proposal that there be weekly debates between the candidates:

There will be a time for debates after the convention, and during the next few weeks, John Kerry should take the time to finish the debates with himself. This election presents a clear choice to the American people between a President who is moving America forward and a Senator who has taken every side of almost every issue and has the most out of the mainstream record in the U.S. Senate.

The repopulated Law School.

It was fun to walk into the Law School atrium today and find it suddenly brimming with people! The new students are here. The old students are back. Life in Madison shifts into fall mode. Welcome as summer is, fall always feels great.

A developing wave of revulsion.

David Carr (in the NYT) reports, amusingly, on the disgust New Yorkers are feeling about the approaching Republican conventioneers. The best quote is from The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash:

They can say that they won't even know we are here, but they will. We will plunk down our garment bags in their hopelessly trendy hotels, standing out like Good Humor men in our summer-weight khaki suits while all those hipster squirrels scramble for our tips. ... They needn't worry. The contempt is mutual."

I also liked this, from Details editor Daniel Peres:

I don't want to see a lot of bad Men's Warehouse suits and a lot of badly parted hair walking around my neighborhood. All Republicans part their hair the same way.

Note the assumption that all Republicans are not only repulsive, but male. Or do Republican women have Trent Lott hair too?

The article also contains an interesting comparison between the way power operates in in New York and in Washington, which is connected to the feelings of mutual contempt. The theory is that Washington power is all about what position of power you hold, but New York power is less "hierarchical" and more "dispersed": In New York, you can be powerful through physical beauty or controlling access to a trendy place. The notion seems to be that people who have succeeded playing one city's power game find it quite unsettling to share physical space with the set of powerful persons produced by the other city's game.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hardball: Max Cleland and the Chairman of the FEC.

On Hardball tonight, Max Cleland (he of the undelivered letter) fast-talked his way through a series of accusations against Bush, most notably that it was absolutely clear that Bush had broken the law by having connections to the Swift Boat Veterans. Chris Matthews loved Cleland's rant and told him he was more articulate than Kerry. Later, Matthews brought out Bradley Smith, the Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and asked him why the Democratic lawyer, Robert Bauer wasn't in the same position as Ginsberg, the Bush lawyer who quit today. Smith's answer was enlightening:

People have to decide how they want to handle their own affairs, but I was surprised to see, for example, Senator Cleland be so aggressive on saying that's proof that they're violating the law, because clearly a lawyer can advise two clients. What he can't do is transfer inside information from the campaign from one to another.

MATTHEWS: Why'd Ginsberg quit if he did nothing wrong?

SMITH: Because he thought appearances were perhaps bad. I mean, the thing is if that's the standard, merely having the same lawyer, then the Kerry campaign and a lot of these Democrats have a big, big problem on their hands for the reasons you've already suggested.

MATTHEWS: So you think that on its face, prima facie, there's no case to be made for coordination, simply by the presence of a shared lawyer.

SMITH: That, in and of itself, wouldn't be enough. Now, it might be something that might be enough to trigger an investigation into various ties between the groups, but that's going to be sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

MATTHEWS: How do you prove that some guy like Bob Perry didn't get a call from somebody like Karl Rove or anybody else in the Bush world and said, you know, we could use a little money. Shake some money loose for these vets? ...

SMITH: Well, this is very hard stuff to prove. How do you prove that Americans Coming Together isn't coordinated with the Kerry Campaign? They've got offices next to one another. Kerry's former campaign manager runs one of these groups ... These are fact-intensive investigations. ... I'm surprised to see how aggressive the Kerry folks have come out on this.

Smith notes that the FEC will investigate if it receives a complaint, but it must take 60 days before issuing a finding, at which point it might impose a fine. I guess that shows why aggressively asserting that there are legal violations might work as a political argument: the FEC's finding will come too late to undercut those assertions. Meanwhile, the mere fact that Ginsberg has resigned will be waved around as proof that there was a violation. Quite deceptive. But will people see through it, or will they just say: oh, it's a big, weird legal tangle, so let's forget about all of this Vietnam stuff? That's the "swirly mass of confusion" strategy I theorized Kerry was following, and it irks me no end to see these spurious claims of legal violations being thrown about. The campaign law is already burdening free speech, and the ease of making these accusations seems to be causing people to restrict themselves even beyond what that law requires. The law didn't make Ginsberg quit: people's willingness to sling accusations about did. Cleland's performance on Hardball tonight was a very low sort of partisan politics, which I hope will be ineffective.

UPDATE: Ginsberg appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight and, not surprisingly, stated emphatically that he hadn't violated the law, that he was entitled to have several clients, and that he didn't pass information from client to client. He quit, he said, because he'd become a distraction. This was his parting shot, in answer to O'Reilly's question "Do you think Kerry's an honest man":

I don't know that. I think that the tactics that they've taken towards the Swift Boat Vets and, frankly, towards my role in this controversy is far from honorable and far from honest.

And speaking of Millet ...

There's this Millet and this proposal for the Nebraska quarter, which Jeremy is blogging about. [UPDATE: Sorry I had the wrong Millet link before!]

Jeremy directs us to a website for Nebraskans to vote on the quarter designs, and let me just say that I love the state quarters project, but I keep being disappointed by the choices. No state has yet equaled the fine Connecticut coin, which came out in the first year of the series. Connecticut did it right: it picked one thing, and the thing looked right on something small and round. The first state to do a bad job, also in the first year, was Pennsylvania, which introduced the terrible idea of including the outline of the state, especially bad if you've got a state with a boring shape. I can understand Texas falling for the state outline choice, but Pennsylvania should be penalized.

For Nebraska, I like design #8, because it commits to a single distinctive element, however I'd be a little afraid to pick a natural rock formation, given what happened in the aftermath of the New Hampshire quarter.

Innovative blogging: "Law & Entrepreneurship."

My colleague Gordon Smith has started a Law & Entrepreneurship blog, which you'll definitely want to keep track of if you're interested in law and entrepreneurship, but is also generally interesting for anyone interested in professor's blogs, because he's recruited a group of students to do the writing, with each student assigned to cover a particular topic: Alliances, Bankruptcy & Debtor/Creditor, Blog Reviews, Comparative Entrepreneurship, Contracts, Copyright & Trademark, Corporations, Employees, Family Businesses, Franchising, International Trade, Patents & Technology, Securities, Small Businesses, Taxation, Unincorporated Entities, Venture Capital, Wisconsin. From what I can tell, this a pretty innovative (and entrepreneurial) approach to blogging. Congratulations to all involved!

Here's Gordon's individual blog, where he's got a nice post today about how to become a law professor. (He's chair of the Appointments Committee this year at Wisconsin Law School.)

And let me just add that the Law & Entrepreneurship site looks good, and the choice of Millet's "Les Glaneuses" to illustrate entrepreneurship is really interesting. Though some may see this picture as expressing pity for the lot of the lowest class, the picture really can also be seen as beautifully idealizing hard work at the individual level.

12 observations about John Kerry on "The Daily Show."

Assorted observations made while watching John Stewart's Daily Show interview of John Kerry. (Full transcript at Wonkette.)

1. John Kerry has a sheepish look on his face as he lumbers out, which I interpret to mean that he thinks it's a bit odd for him to be on the show. As he's walking he spreads his arms open a bit, as if to say, here I am. He claps once, which I interpret to mean: I am here to have fun.

2. Rather than wait for Stewart's first question, he says, "I didn't understand it. Turf, trees and boxes," which refers to a pretty funny segment earlier on the show and reinforces my belief that he really wants to show he's having a great time. It sounds a bit forced, but so what? He prolongs it with: "That's why I'm running for President. We're stamping them out. Turf, trees and boxes. ... And agencies I--" Stewart cuts him off--mercifully?--so we don't get to find out where he was going with that "I." Actually, it might be fun to hear where a liberal Senator would go with the idea of "stamping out agencies" ... but probably not that much fun. Better to let Stewart steer us into the fun.

3. Stewart opens with "I watch a lot of the cable news shows. So I understand that apparently you were never in Vietnam." Kerry leans his head back and laughs heartily, because he's having fun, you know? Even though there's no way this matter can be fun for him. He says his line--"That's what I understand, too. But I-- I'm trying to find out what happened ... That part of my life. I don't know."--with a smile, but not such a broad smile. It's a bit of a wince. When he says the last part he puts his hand out, palm down, and gives the little back and forth rotation gesture that normally signifies: I'm not quite getting this right. He then clasps his hands in his lap, and his forced smile falls away, as Stewart launches into the next question. Kerry rubs his nose with his knuckle.

4. The "overtalk" in the transcript after Stewart asks "Is it-- do you-- do you-- is it hard not to take it personally?" is in fact easy to understand. Kerry says: "They said that too." That means that the interchange that follows--Stewart's "Oh, with you as well?" and Kerry's "Yeah"--refers to Stewart's previous joke, that the Swift Boat problem is like having your friends say that 35 years ago you "had cooties."

5. Stewart tries to get Kerry to talk about how this attack makes him feel, which is a little like the old what-if-your-wife-was-raped question asked of Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential debates. And Kerry, like Dukakis, ignores the opportunity to show passionate feeling. (By the way: I liked when Dukakis did that. I don't want a hothead President, and it was an opportunity to display rationality and deep-rooted oppostion to the death penalty. No one else seems to think so, however.) Kerry simply plugs in the argument that Bush is relying on these attacks because he doesn't want to talk about his record. This plugged-in argument bugs me because: 1. Bush does not control the speech of the Swift Boat Vets and 2. Kerry just used the whole Democratic Convention, which he did control, to talk about his Vietnam record and not anything more recent.

6. The transcript at this point says:

You know what it is, Jon? It-- it-- it's disappointing because I think most Americans would like to have a much more intelligent conversation about where the country's going. And-- (APPLAUSE) yeah, I think that-- you know, and-- and, yeah, it's a little bit disappointing.
There's a pause after "going," and there is no reaction from the audience. Kerry starts to slowly say "and," at which point there's a sudden cheer from the audience. I'd like to see the long view of the set at that point, because surely, an applause sign or human cheerleader was required for that response.

7. Stewart asks him if he was "surprised" by the attack. As I've written a couple times in the last few days, Kerry should have seen the attack coming. He says:

Sure I'm surprised. But surprised in a sense. But now that I begin to see the web and the network, I'm not surprised. I think-- you know, it's politics. And for whatever reasons, the-- the-- and I think Americans will discover it as we go forward in the next four or five weeks, George Bush doesn't wanna talk about the real issues. I mean, what's he gonna do? Come out and say we lost 1.8 million jobs? ...
The web and the network. It's a veritable skein of connections, isn't it? And only now can he see it. And then he fumbles back to his big talking point: Bush doesn't want to talk about the issues.

8. As he goes into shopping list mode--jobs, health care, the environment, everyone in the world being angry at us--Stewart interrupts with what is for some a serious question but what Stewart surely sees--as his finger-wagging and tone of voice reveal--as another example of a distracting non-issue:

Sir, I'm sorry. Were you or were you not in Cambodia on Christmas Eve? (LAUGHTER) They said-- you said five miles. They said three. (LAUGHTER)

Kerry throws his head back and laughs. At "they said three," he scratches his left thigh quite vigorously. [CORRECTION: right thigh!] Stewart leans way forward, resting on his crossed arms, in comic imitation of a stern interrogator, and stares straight at Kerry. Kerry gets the idea and does a mirror-image pose, with their faces five inches apart, which is either cute or scary, depending on who you're planning to vote for in November.

9. Stewart asks "Are you the number one most liberal senator in the Senate?" and I realize that this is the exact point where I fell asleep last night when I was watching the show live in the room without a TiVo.

10. Kerry keeps plugging in his stump speech and it isn't very lively or fun or personal, which seemed like the idea of going on "The Daily Show." Stewart leans forward to make a quip, and Kerry reaches out with both hands and grabs him and mutters something unintelligible. I think Kerry could see that he needed to give Stewart a chance to make the situation fun. Stewart's question was, "Can-- can you get me on a network?" which I find really funny, in part because it's typical of the jokes we make around the house when listening to one of Kerry's lists of promises: Will you come over and pay my bills? Can you help me with my homework?

11. Wonkette got a big kick out of this line:

Well, you should hear some of-- I'm telling you. The-- the-- no, I-- I shouldn't go into that out here. But I've been in some-- some-- you'd be amazed the number of people who wanna introduce themselves to you in the men's room.
In case you're wondering where the hell that came from or was going (he didn't get to finish), I'm certain it was a reference to the GQ article, "A Beer With John Kerry," which begins with an anecdote about the author being treated coldly by Kerry when he tried to talk with him as he was coming out of a men's room. (Who wants to shake hands with a guy that just came out of the men's room?) I'd guess that Kerry sees "The Daily Show" in a way similar to the "A Beer" article: a chance to get personal and to show he's a regular guy. But Stewart has to stop him, because he's running out of time and he really does have a lovely ketchup joke. Kerry takes the joke gracefully.

12. After Stewart ends the interview and the audience applauds, Kerry turns to the audience and SALUTES! He doesn't wave, he salutes. The kids love that.

Lawyers and the campaign law Catch-22

One strategy to make the Swift Boat controversy go away might be to refocus on a topic so eye-glazingly tedious that people will prefer to talk about anything else. That topic is lawyers and the requirements of campaign finance law. Here's the front-page story in today's NYT about the travails of a lawyer--Benjamin L. Ginsberg--who specializes in helping people comply with the complicated campaign finance law. Is campaign finance law a Catch-22, where it's so complicated you need a specialist lawyer to avoid violating it, but if you go to the specialist, he will then be a hub that connects you to other people who are trying to comply with the complicated law, and that in itself will be the violation of the law?

According to the NYT, Ginsberg has a counterpart, Robert Bauer, who advises the Kerry campaign as well as groups that are not supposed to coordinate with the campaign. Both sides need to get technical legal advice to attempt to comply with the law, so shouldn't both sides avoid calling foul over every line that can be traced from a 527 group to the candidate's campaign through through a lawyer who specializes in campaign law compliance? The law requires that there be no coordination between the campaign and the 527 group. I'm no specialist in this area of law, but to "coordinate" means "[t]o work together harmoniously." We shouldn't be so ready to call every connection coordination unless the real goal is to deter the independent groups from operating at all. Of course, President Bush has openly embraced that goal--which I think contravenes free speech principles--and Ginsberg himself, as the article describes, was involved in using a strong interpretation of campaign law to control the 527s that were working against Bush. Poor Ginsberg looks hypocritical now that the pro-Bush 527s are finally kicking into gear. But I don't see how the pro-Kerry forces can complain about Ginsberg when they have Bauer.

I think a terribly complicated problem has emerged here, as everyone tries to win political advantage and everyone takes every opportunity to exploit the campaign law to his advantage. The campaign now threatens to devolve into a dispute about lawyers and legalistic matters. That's likely to turn everybody off.

UPDATE: And now, Ginsberg has severed his ties to the Bush campaign. Bauer?

Weirdest link of the day.

Sadly, No has an odd reaction to my post from yesterday about the Times reporter who seems to think all blondes look alike. And check out some of the comments! One hears about the "dumb blonde," but this reaction seems to indicate that blond hair is disabling to the mind of the beholder.

UPDATE: Jeremy comments, using formal logic notation!

Philosophy and terror.

I would love to hear more of the story of Micah Garen, who, John Burns writes in today's NYT, "spent 10 harrowing days this month, as a captive of Islamic militants who took him hostage in the southern city of Nasiriya and threatened to execute him unless American troops withdrew from Najaf."

[H]e had resolved at the most threatening moments of his kidnapping ... not to allow what he called the "moments of terror" to shake him out of a cool, rational appraisal of his situation.

To that end, he said, he spent his days held captive in a date palm grove, with his hands tied behind his back and his eyes often blindfolded, discussing Hegel and other scholarly topics with his fellow captive, Amir Doushi, an Iraqi English teacher working as his interpreter. ...

There were a few moments of terror," Mr. Garen said, "but my main thought was to keep my mind clear so that we could figure out what the people holding us were going to do, so that we could try and control the situation. My thinking was that we should be ready, so that if they said, 'We're going to kill you,' we'd have at least a chance of fighting back."

What a profoundly beautiful and inspiring commitment to learning and rationality!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


It was nice to get linked today by the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web, which I've enjoyed reading for years. I see BOTW's James Taranto refers to me as "Blogress Ann Althouse." What do I think of that? Well, first, I see "ogress" in it, and that makes me think maybe a male blogger should be called "blogre." Second, I realize Google will come in handy, since it's an unusual word. Calblog complains about the coinage here (reacting to a usage by Best of the Web). I see some people have used the word "blogress" to refer to blog progress. And here's Boi From Troy noting that Best of the Web called Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox a "Left-Wing Blogress," but not really objecting. Regular BOTW readers know of Taranto's thing about getting people to use the word "kerfuffle," so maybe "blogress" is another one of his projects. Ah yes! So it is! Oh, well, if it's good enough for Wonkette .... if Wonkette is good enough for Wonkette.

Not blogging on trashy TV shows anymore?

I'm really in the mood to blog about trashy TV. Ah! For the days of "American Idol 3" and "The Apprentice." I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm not watching any trashy shows at the moment. I've given the Olympics high priority on my TiVo "wish list," and there's really not much to say about the Olympics, other than it's getting a bit tiresome, even with TiVo--or maybe especially with TiVo. I've got all those old "episodes" to watch. It's really grueling getting through all those rounds of gymnastics. How many stuck and unstuck landings do you need to see? The mind drifts. I find myself wondering why the men wear long, roomy stirrup pants and the women wear high-cut leotards. Does it have anything to do with the fact that the women have substantial, muscular legs and the men have strangely undersized legs (at least in proportion to their gigantic upper bodies)? And racing: What's to watch, really? Somebody or another is going to get there first. There are no fancy antics on the way. Ennui sets in! Are the team sports better? Not for me. I care least about the team sports. There's the vague amusement at the large amount of airtime given to women's beach volleyball, but to me it drives home the point that much of what we are doing as viewers is ogling extremely specialized, well-developed bodies. That's slightly fascinating for a while. And yet, at this point, I'm quite tired of it all. I've gotten to thinking that it will be fun to watch the Republican Convention next week, which is really rather an absurd thing to think.

Out of vogue word.

You don't normally notice when a word everyone used to say a lot falls out of favor. Then sometimes someone uses that old word again and you notice. Today, I heard a man use the word "interface" to refer to making a phone call, and I thought, yeah, it's nice that people don't say that anymore ... except that guy.

That three strikes Purple Heart rule.

Sam Schechner, writing in Slate, answers the pressing question: How do you get a Purple Heart anyway? Citing various military texts, he paraphrases: "a Band-Aid boo-boo is fair game, so long as enemy action is somewhere obvious in the causal chain." He concludes with the Slate "Explainer" sign-off: "Next question?"

Okay, I have a question. If it is so easy to get a Purple Heart, how was the military able to have that rule allowing you to go home early upon winning three? Three "Band-Aid boo-boos" and you can go home? How did that work exactly? How many people left early that way? How eagerly did people write up scratches in the hope of escape? As I write that, I worry that I'm insulting the people who went to war and did their duty and did not look for an out. But is that not what Kerry did? I don't particularly blame him, because virtually all the young men I knew--I went to college in 1969-1973--openly and on a day-to-day basis looked for ways to avoid Vietnam.

Did the three Purple Hearts rule work because when you were in action, fighting with a group of men, peer pressure would keep you from pursuing that out? If so, and if Kerry overcame the pressure and took the out, then the Swift Boat Vets are the peers returning to express the very anger that those swayed by peer pressure strive to avoid.