Monday, October 31, 2005

A little on Alito

From what I read a good pick. A turn to the right to be sure and perhaps not as much as some who are more results oriented might like but definite right turn from O'Connor (and I am guessing Miers.) His mother tells us that he is against abortion, the inflammatory issue driving much of the judiciary politics. He is qualified regardless of what you think of his ideology. His whole career is headed toward this position. (I don't know -should we distrust this drive in judges like we might in someone running for president?) Most commentators think he will get the votes similar to Roberts. In fact, I think from my reading he seems more like Roberts than Scalia.

An all around fair guy

I didn't realize it was a news organization's job to tell us, "there was irony in that."

GOP lawmakers sounded relieved to be rid of the Miers appointment, which collapsed last week after it became clear she faced an uphill climb in winning confirmation.
"Let's give Judge Alito a fair up-or-down vote, not left or right," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
He was one of several Republicans to say so, and there was irony in that.
After battering Democrats for years about denying GOP judicial candidates yes-or-no votes, Republicans eagerly acquiesced in Miers' withdrawal without either hearings in the Judiciary Committee or a vote on the Senate floor.


Powerline quotes that hack Fournier, a contributor to the above story, directly as saying, "With no sign of irony, Republicans demanded that Alito get a vote in the Senate - something they denied Miers."

You know, Ron, this really isn't that hard. Just report the facts; we'll get the irony if it's there. If you really want to go in the tank for your friends, then go ahead and juxtapose, here, Miers for Alito. But don't throw in the "irony" line. Your guts will twist in a knot, because you'll so badly want to. And that, Ron, is the feeling that tells you you're a biased hack.

Did it come before or after the Harriet Miers climax?

Which is it?
The Miers denouement shows the power of the new media.
or
The Miers denouncement shows the power of the new media.

Help Me With This

So I wake up, turn on the radio, and hear the President has nominated Judge Ito for the Supreme Court. Is this a good idea?

ColumbusGuy adds: Please don't feel too embarrassed, but you've confused him with his Muslim cousin, Al-Ito. He's from the Taliban wing of the Republican Party.

Rogers Brown watch

How long before the announcement? Two hours? A day? Alito cruisin' along at 41.5, Luttig 19.5, who are the rest of these guys?

ColumbusGuy adds: Half an hour later, the first signs on Free Republic that it's Alito. Nothing on AP yet, at least according to Google. News by 7 a.m.?

UPDATE: 6:30 a.m. tradesports has alito at 99.7. NPR led the 7 a.m. broadcast with it.

UPDATE: Okay, here's the plan: Dems, flush with power, fight like hell to kill Alito. Bush, to his credit, pulls a Thomas and actually fights (he's done it before; remember that 30-day plus election in 2000? Or that little tete-a-tete where he established a constitutional democracy in some Middle East hellhole, Ratherstan or something?). This time, though, Bush loses. The Dems and the Manhattan media take Alito down. Big scandal comes out. Didn't pay a quarter mill property tax in 1979 on a 10 foot segment of land that overlapped a neighboring school district. Turns out, 15 percent of the students were minorities who would have qualified for free and reduced lunch. Bush has to go to the well a third time. He pulls out . . . JRB! Has to fight like hell, but the ghost of Rosa Parks appears to announce she voted for Reagan, twice. Cryin' George Voinovich casts the deciding vote in her favor. "Over my dead body will I allow the New York Times to attack this woman or my president," Voinovich says.

Could happen.

Smile When You Say Liberty

Stephen Breyer, the soft-spoken Justice, has made some waves with his book Active Liberty: Interpreting The Constitution.

The work expounds on his judicial philosophy. It's at least in part a response to Antonin Scalia's book, A Matter Of Interpretation. Scalia believes judges should strictly interpret legal text, following the original meaning of the words. Legislative intent should not be used--if the legislators intended something, they should have written it down.

I find Scalia's approach both insufficient and extremely difficult to do properly. (I note it's extremely difficult because many act as if strict interpretation is a piece of cake. In fact, the one time I spoke to Scalia he agreed his approach was not meant to be easy.) But I'm here to write about Breyer's methods, which I also find faulty. What is the right approach? I don't know--I hope some day I will.

Breyer believes we should use a document's underlying values to aid in our understanding. I generally agree. There will always be ambiguities and we need something to help us interpret the language. But there is also danger in this approach. It's easy enough to get the words wrong--it's easier still to get the values behind them wrong. This approach invites extremely wide variation, allowing one to go so far as use words against themselves if you believe the people who wrote them would agree with your outcome (and as long as you're reading their minds, why wouldn't they?).

Specifically, Breyer believes in "active liberty." He believes those who created the Constitution had an underlying belief in promiting citizens' participation in government. At least Breyer has laid his cards on the table. There are two obvious problems here: one, he's wrong (or at least may be) and two, even if he's right, what to do with text that seems to go against him--ignore it? interpret it away? grudgingly accept it?

When I read the Constitution, especially the Framer's version, what I see is as much a fear of public participation as an embrace. The Founding Father's put in plenty of buffers to prevent "the people" from having too much say. Of the three branches of government, only one-half of one is chosen by direct voting. Now one may claim the Constitution has changed since then (and I believe the Constitution evolves, whether you like it or not, but that's a separate argument), but it sure seems like Breyer's already on shaky ground.

Worse, though, is Breyer's application of his theory. In practice, it seems to make him favor programs liberals like and disfavor programs conservatives like. (Scalia, many would claim, has this problem in reverse.)

Some note that Breyer, showing he believes in active participation in government, defers to legislators more often than most of the others Justices. This sort of "judicial restraint" can be a fairly meaningless stat. Because the present-day Court leans to the right, it's more likely to question laws the left likes, hence we'd expect Breyer to leave things alone--when laws the right likes come before him, he has no trouble striking them down.

Let's look at Breyer's opinions. Remember, he's trying to "promote democracy."

When it came to campaign finance reform, Breyer upheld the McCain-Feingold law that regulates a system that creates a lot of political speech. Some might have thought the "no law" clause in the First Amendment meant "no law," but this doesn't faze Breyer. He believes that reducing the influence of money (or at least trying to ) in our politics will help build public confidence in the system overall, thus encouraging democratic participation. It's not that Breyer's wrong about the effects of the law--though he is, he is--it's that this is the sort of social engineering considerations a legislator should make, later to be judged against the constrictions of the First Amendment.

Then there's affirmative action. Once again, Breyer has a "just so" tale to make it agree with his thesis. It turns out allowing affirmative action promotes the public's belief in institutions. There are two obvious problems with this. It doesn't, and if it did, so what?

But at least one could claim these two examples show a Justice willing to defer to legislators in tough cases. Let's see how he performs on laws that liberals traditionally don't like.

He disallows school vouchers on religious grounds, on the basis they might create disagreement among sects, against the unifying intentions of the First Amendment. Once again, he's carefully selected his view of both our history and the present-day situation, this time to strike down what many legislatures want. Then there's abortion, which Breyer backs all the way, even when the vast majority of the public would like to pass laws that don't make abortion illegal, but merely create certain hindrances. Is there a single issue in the history of the United States where public participation has been more notoriously denied, and with such little textual justification?

I have serious questions about Breyer's approach, but perhaps someone should actually try it before I reject it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cooled Cats

I was gonna write about Michigan's convincing victory over Northwestern, but I think Fielding Yost sums it up pretty well.

Old Oldies

Let's look at the Billboard album chart, shall we? I like album charts because they're more egalitarian than movie grosses. The big films open big, the small films open small. On the album charts, you can be a nobody with a song that people like and suddenly you're on top after months in the wilderness.

Anyway, amidst all the modern acts that the kids love so much--Ashlee Simpson, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson--there are some artists who were number one before these kids were born, maybe before their parents were born. In other words, 60s acts!

Look, there's Paul McCartney with a new gold album. There's Neil Young, still following his own path. There's Stevie Wonder debuting in the top 5.

But the one I don't get is Rod Stewart. He's one of those acts like Elton John who just keeps charting, except now he's doing it with...well, with music that was popular before the grandparents of today's fans were born. Rod is at #2 with his fourth volume of The Great American Songbook.

Now Rod's done a lot of fine work, especially, oh, about 35 years ago. But as a stylist interpreting Rodgers and Hart, I'll take my chances at the local caberet. Paul and Stevie and Neil have grown through the years, but they've always done their own kind of music. Rod, it seems to me, is out of his comfort zone.

I'm sure he's thrilled to have struck gold (or platinum) this late in his career. It's just too bad that so many may think this is as good as these songs can sound.

Spring Forward, Fall Back

I hope you changed your clocks last night, Daylight Savings and all that. Personally, I think it's madness.

At least in the old days, you'd just move the hour hand back an inch or adjust your watch. Now you've got to figure out how to change the time on you car radio, microwave, answering machine, VCR, DVD player, TV, etc. You need an advanced degree in engineering to get through it.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Professional media

You cannot get any more dishonest than this:

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."

vs.

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

The NYTimes are simply hack propagandists for the Democrats. James Dao, you, your editor, or both, suck. That you still work for the NYTimes after something like this confirms that you, personally, suck. You've got your story line -- the gambler's lament, "Ooh, if only he hadn't done it that one last time" -- your bias against Republicans, your obstinate refusal to see that the war is not even arguably a failure but is a wild success, and by God you're going to run it, and run it and run it. You, James Dao, are a liar and a partisan holding yourself out as a competent paid reporter.

This Isn't Last Week

The last two weeks I've been quietly hopeful the Wolverines would win, and I was rewarded with two victories. I don't feel so hot this week.

We've beaten tough teams, but Northwestern just seems tougher to me. They're at home (it's homecoming, in fact) and they've been at their best lately. In their last three games, all victories, they've scored 134 points. Michigan has had a lot of problems this season, and the biggest has been the inconsistency of the defense. After watching Northwestern recently take apart MSU 49-14, you feel like this could be the first loss of the season that's over before the last quarter.

But I'll be rooting with all the other Wolverine fans just the same, just a little less confident than usual. One nice thing, though--the game starts at 4 p.m. PST. That means I'll get plenty of sleep and even have time to run a few errands before kickoff.

Friday, October 28, 2005

2nd term limits?

Given that the presidency is a marathon, that the second term is known for lethargic policy and the obligatory scandal and that the second term is really just a reward for a good first term, should we consider limiting our presidents to one term? I am not calling for a law here. And I do recognize that getting your guy into the presidency is hard enough that keeping him in for a second (when certainly that is easier) seems like a good idea. But isn't there some way we could change the tradition? (e.g. insert the VP as a candidate for the second term, thereby carrying the momentum but bringing fresh ideas and people.)

That is enough run on sentences for one morning. Discuss among yourselves.

Rogers Brown watch

Since LAGuy insists: McConnell rockets to the top at 15.4, Lutting close behind at 12 something. High volume but no prices at the moment for the usual suspects, Brown, Owen, Gonzales. This time, I gotta go with McConnell. They're probably discussing sex change with him right now. (But when I'm nodding off to sleep, I'm still murmuring, "Janice . . . Janice . . ."

LAGuy adds: Please, President Bush, pick someone soon, before ColumbusGuy hijacks this blog once again.


ColumbusGuy adds: Someone, don't remember who (maybe the article I linked about Miers' role in judicial selections) said Alito was the close choice who lost to her. Tradesports seems to validate that at the moment, with Alito at 40-plus. Luttig holds at 15, everyone else running low, but Brown, Gonzales, one or two others have high volume. Tradesports was useless on Miers; will it do better this round? And if it does, what happens if Bush bases his choice on Tradesports? Will the world go into an infinite loop?

So it's true

Seeming to verify a ColumbusGuy speculation, this article says (although passingly and not necessarily convincingly, "She had run the judicial selection process, and impressed Bush and Vice President Cheney in private sessions by pressing to make sure candidates were conservative enough."

If that's true, then there's a good chance the opportunity to move the court right just passed. My level of comfort that it's true? 50 percent. Maybe less, given that the reporter seems to be working it for a nice theme.

It's Just As Easy To Get These Things Right

The NYT pans the Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick Odd Couple.

USA Today critic Elysa Gardner is even tougher to please--she thinks the Neil Simon work isn't funny enough. Wow! Elysa, I'll give you a week to write something as funny as any random page of this play.

Gardner at least liked the Pigeon sisters. Howard Kissel at the Daily News felt nothing worked except the poker players.

The Post loves it. Of course, their critic is Clive Barnes, who was a champion of Neil Simon when the original production opened.

None of this matters. The whole run of the show is sold out. I'd be happy to see it, good or bad.

I read a few articles about the production. Some stated Felix Ungar is a photographer. That's the TV series. Following the theme of this blog, in the play he writes the news for CBS.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Politician tells truth

This may be the first time a politician has told the truth when they said, "I have been greatly honored and humbled by" blah blah blag.

Is this a good thing for the court? Who knows. A coin flip with Miers, or a coin flip with the next one -- unless (but I've lost enough faith in Bush to doubt this will happen) -- he actually nominates someone who will stand on principle and precipitate an open fight in the senate over things that will make George Voinovich cry.

UPDATE: Daily prayer: Lord, next month, please let me forget Trent Lott's name.

a man of great character

"CBS News President Andrew Heyward announced Wednesday he would be leaving his post when his contract expires at the end of the year. Heyward will be replaced by CBS Sports President Sean McManus. "

Perhaps it would have been more fitting had he been replaced by a guy named Buckhead wearing pajamas with Little Green Footballs on them. Still this will do.

The Other Critic

A few weeks ago, I noted that The New Yorker's theatre critic Hilton Als is about as bad as they come. But we try to be balanced here at Pajama Guy. Let's look at this week's theatre review in The New Yorker by John Lahr, who's even worse.

He discusses a revival of A Soldier's Play, a minor work later turned into a minor movie. But this review is more an excuse to show off his "sophisticated" worldview. For you see, John Lahr is a modern liberal. This means he feels every decent person understands America is a vile, monstrous place. In fact, expressing this often, as well as casually (casually because there is no serious counter-argument) is what makes one a decent person. (Lahr's first thought regarding 9/11--and I give him credit at least for admitting it--was that our government's behind it.)

Thus, he sums up:
At the end of the play, [white Captain] Taylor eats a little Jim Crow. “I was wrong . . . about Negroes being in charge,” he says. And [black Captain] Davenport has just the right heroic last word. “Oh, you’ll get used to it,” he says. “You can bet your ass on that, Captain—you will get used to it.” This kind of hollow progressive bravado is for the movies, not for life. As the federal government’s response to the hurricane in Louisiana showed the world, institutional racism is a concept that white America has yet to acknowledge.
That darn white America.

In fact, what Davenport says is true--casually true. There have been tremendous strides in racial relations over the past several decades, and things are almost incomparably better than they've ever been. Seeing an African-American in a position of authority is simply not a big deal anymore, in the armed forces or anywhere else.

Old-fashioned liberals would glory in the progress that's been made, but not a modern liberal. To admit any progress at all in this hateful country sticks in their throats--perhaps every now and then they'll admit we've moved forward a small amount, but only to draw attention to how much further we have to go.

To John Lahr, white Americans still gnash their teeth every a successful black man walks by, at least when they're not busy high-fiving each other for the good work they did on Katrina.

Lahr is a tough critic to please. Reading him, you might think the last place you'd want to be stuck is in a New York theatre. Me, I'm just glad I'm not stuck in John Lahr's reactionary mindset.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Card him

Andrew Card should be excommunicated, deported and put on double super secret probation.

Who's the bigger oxymoron?

What's the bigger oxymoron:
"Word of Mouth Marketing Association"
or
"Worth of Mouth Marketing Association Code of Ethics"?

Disgust

Our local news headline: "2000 dead; Iraqi charter approved."

At some point, you can only call them traitors.

NPR just ran a story about mothers of "two of the 2000." Pure Oprah: crying moms telling about the moment when the "gray government car" came to the door.

Unless you believe no war is justified, this is useless. This kind of coverage ought to be part of every war, to be sure, but it is useless to the question, is the war good? When you run it out of context -- when you don't stand for or against the war -- then you are conveying that hte war is not good. This is traitorous. When Hillary has her adventures, NPR won't be doing this. They'll be running stories of dancing Palestinians giving their mothers candy and singing songs. But there will still be two mothers who are crying over their sons.

The Blame Game

According to the Chicago Tribune, some Pakistanis see the terrible devastation in the wake of the October 8 earthquake as a message from up above. What is this message? Some say that there's too much filth on cable TV. Others that President Pervez Musharraf is wrong to support the U.S. war on terror and lead Pakistan on a path to modernization.

That some will see a heavenly hand behind natural disasters is as predictable as it is sickening. But just one question. How can these people be so certain what the message is? Couldn't they at least consider that the earthquake is a sign of displeasure with their extremism, their support of Bin Laden, and their intolerance?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Posting On The Post

It's one thing to get stuff wrong occasionally, but to have flagrant contempt for the facts, when it can be easily checked, is just stupid. I'm referring today to the latest entry on Joseph Wilson in the Washington Post. In what is supposed to be a balanced piece, Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus get basic things so wrong I'm wondering why the editor didn't spike it.

Let's cut to the heart of the article:
Wilson's central assertion -- disputing President Bush's 2003 State of the Union claim that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Niger -- has been validated by postwar weapons inspections. And his charge that the administration exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq has proved potent.
Let's ignore the second sentence, which is more editorial than reportage, and concentrate on the first.

Now it's not as if Bush's 2003 SOTU is classified. I just looked it up. He's what he famously said about Iraq seeking nuclear material: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

First, the British government had claimed this. Second, I believe they still stand by this piece of intelligence. Third, notice something missing? Right, "Niger." The claim deals with all Africa, not a particular negotiation in Niger; the Post has had almost three years to get this right and still can't manage it.

Then there's the odd claim that "postwar weapons inspection" validates Wilson's claim. I'm confused. How could weapons inspections disprove that Iraq sought uranium elsewhere?

The article goes on in the same fashion--rather than recounting known facts, it presents a brief for the defense of Wilson. But if it can't get the central claim right, why go on reading?

ColumbusGuy adds: Contrary to your statement that it's stupid -- could anyone reasonably consider Millbank and Pincus stupid? Not impossible, but unlikely -- why do you resist considering this a grade A, prime example of Manhattan media bias? (We all know D.C. is merely a bedroom community).

Conservative Cultural Critiques

Often, when conservatives discuss pop culture, it's with a tin ear. This is because they are (or think they are) outsiders, and simply don't "get" what's going on. They're trying to interpret what's foreign to them, so something gets lost in the translation.

This is what hit me when I was reading Thomas Hibbs years ago on Seinfeld. I bring this up now since AnnArborGuy recently posted about Hibbs. A-Squared-Guy said (in response to my noting Hibbs called Seinfeld nihilistic) "Admittedly I know nothing about Hibbs, but wasn't the point of Seinfeld that it was about nothing. The creators? Didn't they claim it was 'a show about nothing'?"

Well, a show about nothing is a far cry from nihilism. When they said it's a show about nothing, here's what they essentially meant: Most shows, even good ones (like, say, M*A*S*H), for all the laughs they provide, generally have a moment (often called the MOS) where someone in the cast learns an important lesson (usually "be true to yourself"), and where two or more cast members forgive each other and hug. Seinfeld's creators, Jerry himself and Larry David, had a "no hugs, no lessons" ethos. In other words, the shows would be about "nothing"--except making people laugh.

And since that was their sole purpose, I think it turned out the show was more life-affirming than countless other sitcoms weighted down with the pat moral lessons learned by their paper-thin characters suffering from TV problems. In fact, with Seinfeld's finely detailed and often surprisingly realistic concentration on the small things, one might even go so far to say the show is a joyous celebration of everyday life.

Hibbs would do well to recall H. L. Mencken: "One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent."

I'm not saying Hibbs is stupid. At least he recognizes Seinfeld is funny. Much worse is someone like Martha Bayles, who writes off wide swathes of modern music in Hole In Our Soul, thus shutting herself off from almost limitless amounts of beauty and power.

If you want to read a conservative critique of popular art (I think it's conservative, anyway) that's quite brilliant, check out Gilligan Unbound by Paul Cantor.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Get The Gross

Recently-departed Don Adams used to tell a story about his series, Get Smart. It ran for five years in prime time and even longer in syndication. Adams had net points in the show but never received a check. About ten years after it had been canceled, he asked for an accounting and was told the show is still in the red.

Now we have a more recent example of this classic tale. Frasier, the most celebrated sitcom in Emmy history, has taken in an alleged $1.5 billion, but, the owners claim, is still $200 million in the red. Some net participants are suing to discover how can this be.

No one doubts Frasier has made a lot of cash, so why don't the books show it? Because then the gross participants would have to share more of the pie, and that won't do. It's easier for the accountants to shift the numbers around until there is no net. In fact, there seems to be, in Hollywood anyway, no actual technical meaning to "net profits."

I have many writer friends who have net points in shows and movies. Heck, I've signed contracts promising me a portion of the net. We all sort of know it means nothing. Still, it should be interesting to see how this lawsuit turns out. Alas, it'll probably be settled out of court.

Writers think they're the most creative people in town, but really it's the accountants.

Naming Names

Legal notice: The following is merely my opinion. When I declare someone an idiot, it is not in any way meant as a technical term, but rather a childish insult, itself based on extremely limited information. I could very well be wrong. Who knows, maybe I am the idiot.

Anyway, I don't usually go off on regular letters to the editor, since it's just a chance for the average person to have his voice heard. And even when I do, I usually don't mention the name of the letter-writer (unless the name is well-known) because why beat up on someone who doesn't have a forum to argue back and will probably never be heard from again?

Nevertheless, I must say, Frederic W. Grannis Jr, MD of Long Beach, you are an idiot.

The content of his letter to the LA Times I don't really need to get into. It's just more of the anti-Big Tobacco blather that we've heard ad nauseam for the past few decades. It's whom he blames for letting tobacco companies off easy (!) that made me shave double-figures off his presumed IQ. You see, the problem, according to Grannis, is the "neocon-dominated Supreme Court."

People who falsely blame neocons for things where neocons have some influence tend to be extremely stupid, so you can just imagine how dumb you gotta be to blame neocons where they don't even exist.

PS I figured a blowhard like Dr. Grannis can probably be found on the internet. Sure enough, there he is at "global tobacco control."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Over?

Chuck Schumer may not be a genius, but he's wily enough not to make obvious errors. That's why it would seem the Harriet Miers express has been derailed.

Otherwise, why would this member of the minority party publicly announce Miers doesn't have the votes, either in committee or on the floor? He's gotta be pretty confident--if this were merely a political ploy, it could backfire too easily.

So the Bush White House must be in reverse mode. Bush may be stubborn, but he's not stupid (no matter what you heard). With all their other troubles, they now have to figure out whether to get a black eye fighting it out, and probably losing, or getting a black eye by pulling out--as gracefully as possible, of course. The latter is the more likely choice. Bush can fight the Dems all day long, but when a good portion of his own party revolts, it's time to reconsider. (Miers probably wants the job pretty bad, but if President Bush tells her to fall on her sword, that's that. Though it may stop the flow of love letters.)

In the past I've written against her nomination, so I can't say I'm displeased. I admit I'm surprised at how quickly things turned around. It took some (though not a lot--let's don't get carried away) courage for individual conseratives to speak out against their President's choice, but it seems to have paid off.

Bush now has a huge roster of clear conservatives--the kind with paper trails--to choose from. Doesn't even have to be a woman; he can say he tried that. It may be a tough fight, but at least his base will be energized.

The biggest irony is Bush probably chose Miers in the first place because he felt assured it'd be a quick, easy nomination.

The Turned Corner?

A lot going on in the world, but let's keep talking Michigan football. They beat the Hawkeyes 23-20 and have given Michigan fans hope that the season won't be a total washout. (Okay, we got some tough games coming up, but I have a week to dream, so don't wake me.)

Though we won, I have to admit that during 90% of the game, I (and the other Wolverines gathered 'round the TV) was cursing Lloyd Carr and Chad Henne. I agree with AnnArborGuy--Henne may be Lloyd's pick, but he's not mine. He still doesn't have it, and he's lucky that he's got players like Hart, Breaston and Avant to make him look good.

What's been most amazing this season is every Michigan victory has been last-second (and so were most of the losses). It's getting hard to take. But we were lucky to stay in the game so we could get a last-second (overtime) victory. We were outplayed by Iowa most of the way and they could easy have opened up a wide lead. Worse, when we finally looked like we might win with about five minutes left, we made the same mistake we made last week and played it safe! Predictably, Iowa got the ball back with plenty of time and almost beat us.

Tough day in Iowa. We broke their 22-game home streak, and won the first overtime game every played in Kinnick stadium. I'll even admit the refs made some questionable calls favoring the Wolverines, especially in the first half. But Iowa more than had its chance to defeat us in the end, so they were tested and failed.

So I'll be floating around for another day or two before the reality of a tough Northwestern (can you believe that's today's reality?) starts getting close.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Turning The Corner

No, the title is not about Harriet Miers (though I think she turned the wrong corner this week). It's about the Wolverines and their rotten season. They've had a lot of close games, so if they can just put it together, they can turn the Ls into Ws.

That's why today's game at Iowa is crucial. If nothing else, it would show Michigan can actually win two in a row. It could be the turnaround game, where the team goes from mediocre to mediocre/good.

If they lose...I don't even want to think about it. They'll have three more games, two of which are very tough wins. In other words, a loss at Iowa could mean a losing season. What would Fielding Yost think?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Imagine there's no international law

Anonymous confuses the pretty words of the Declaration of Independence for law. Then he goes on to confuse international law for law. This is a common enough mistake; even LAGuy makes it and he should know better. It's a naming problem. "International law" has about as much relation to law as law does to the laws of physics. But, since international law and law both involve governments and law professors, a lot of people become confused easily (including law professors, althought I have to think many of them are cynical, not confused).

Law presupposes government, which itself is based on a monopoly over lethal force. Government has also generally been associated with geography, although this association is weakening, to the point we now have a war on terror that seems to have no geography.

Even treaties are not law, nor, certainly, are any of the metastasizing so-called international courts. These things can and do become law, but only when a government adopts them as such. It's the difference between "model codes" adopted by various lawyer's committees, which are merely interesting academic and policy exercises, until such time as a state adopts them as law.

Lots of people get their knickers up over this, wondering how it's possible for nations to relate to each other without "international law." The answer is, they do use international law, but it's custom, not law, because it's not enforceable and there is no government to enforce it. What this leads to, often enough, is war. Is there anyone out there who wants to claim war no longer exists?

Actually, yes, there is. But of course Kofi and his boys are shouting into the wind, pretending that the U.N. Security Council holds any monopoly on the use of force.

Today we find ourselvses at war in Iraq and on a war footing around the world. That's a good thing, because there are fascists who need killing. In Iraq, we are winning fabulously, and so are the Iraqi people. Around the rest of the world it is less sure, but this is as much because of Kofi Annan and those who want a world government (by which they understand only a weakening of U.S. power, not a limit to their own use of power) are more concerned about a powerful, free people than they are terrorists. This is understandable enough; both bureaucracies and terrorists work from a fascist instinct. And in any case, we are indeed largely prevailing in the world at large, too, despite the relatively small if vocal coalition of the UN, the French and Germans and the Manhattan media.

Oh, and we are also at war with Spain. It's not likely to break into a shooting war, although if they ever laid a hand on a U.S. soldier it certainly should.

All of this could certainly change, of course. Ultimately any government works only by submission of the governed, and many people are working overtime to give up U.S. sovereignty. Really, we're within an administration of doing it, I'd say. But we haven't so far.

UPDATE: For anyone who doubts that there are people working to give up U.S. sovereignty (which is to say, your individual rights and freedoms), here's a nice little bit about people protesting Colin Powell this week, when he spoke the obvious truth (albeit one misrepresnted by the Manhattan media) that Iraq and the world is a success for the U.S.

Powell did not refer to the February 2003 speech during his hourlong address to the university. It was a primary topic, however, among the roughly 50 protesters who gathered outside to denounce Powell, Bush and the war.
"We're sorry so many people think he's a celebrity. We think he's a war criminal," said James Ulrich, a university photographer who held a sign: "Colin Powell, Have you no shame?" "He should be fighting against the war," said Valerie Niederhoffer, one of a half dozen members of a group called the "Raging Grannies" who sang anti-war songs.
The university did not disclose Powell's speaking fee for the address. "Anything is too much for someone who has done as much damage as Colin Powell has," said James Holstun of the UB Progressive Alliance, whose members handed out fliers questioning Powell's record outside the venue. Most headed inside declined to accept them.

Make no mistake. The Manhattan media, the Democrats and the war protesters all want a world in which U.S. leaders and soliders are subject to arrest by someone other than Americans. The only question is, by whom?

Party Time

I just got back from a party. There were a lot of old friends who work or worked at Reason magazine, including Sara Rimensnyder, Matt Welch, Jesse Walker and Brian Doherty.

As someone with a libertarian bent, I'm used to being outnumbered whenever a political conversation starts. So it's a weird feeling to be surrounded by so many people who are in general agreement. It felt wrong. (Not that libertarians always see eye to eye--I'd guess most of the people in the room opposed the Iraq war, for instance.)

As it turned out, we didn't talk about politics. The main topics were music, TV and poker.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Annual re-read

Thomas Hibbs at the NRO (pointed by Powerline) talks about To Kill A Mockingbird. He allows the occasion of a new DVD version of the movie to review the important lessons of the novel/movie and why it "works." (The movie is a remarkably faithful adaptation and therein lies its strength.)

I like to read this novel about every year. I think it is the best American novel, though I admit Huck Finn covers more territory. One of the reasons I like the novel so is that it does kids so very well. It also lives in its little town so well and yet has so many universals. (Hibbs raises this point pretty well in his essay.) Apparently the town was based on Monroeville, AL, Lee's own hometown. Also of interest is there is a band named in tribute to Harper Lee, with the goal of having a blazingly glorious first album and then retiring to obscurity. All was well until they got successful and . . . now they are on their third album.

LAGuy can't resist adding: I like the book, but I wouldn't put it in the same class as Huck Finn. On the other hand, as beloved as it is, I've never thought much of the film. Furthermore, I think it's dated poorly (the racial and sexual politics in particular).

Hibbs as a critic has certain blind spots. He's sometimes too taken by the purpose of the work to fairly note its quality. After all, the guy made his reputation attacking Seinfeld for being nihilistic.

If you're a fan of Harper Lee, you might like the movie Capote. Catherine Keener portrays Harper in an understated performance. I didn't realize she helped Truman Capote do his research for In Cold Blood.

Hrmph

I probably wasn't first. But still.

Reap What You Sow?

Did President Bush create the Harriet Miers fiasco by sowing distrust among conservatives with his support of Arlen Specter? I don't know whether all of the important conservative players against Miers were active in the pro-Toomey and then N0Specter campaigns. But it sure seems some of the biggest anti-Miers folks were among those at least sceptical of Specter. NRO, for example, linked to anti-Specter blogs, etc. The mistrust started way back here, I think. Both times these agendas lost to Bush's will. (There did not appear to be any administration attempt to patch things up with these groups. And maybe this was the biggest error.) Then when Miers was picked, that mistrust erupted quickly.

My own feeling is that Miers was an uncourageous pick, as stated before. I do not agree with the vitriol aimed at her, regardless. I have no idea how good a Supreme she would make, though I think it certainly helps to have more constitutional law experience. A perfectly great doctor, for example, might make a terrible Surgeon General if (s)he did not have any public health or health administration experience. Could that person grow in the job? Sure, but unless it were necessary for some extraordinary reason, I would pick someone who already has more familiarity with the job. Maybe Bush felt he had some extraordinary reason. (In the pre-selection process, I thought it was not smart for some to be calling for candidates with non-judicial experience.)

So, will Miers get the job? It seems that the anti-Miers people on the right will unfortunately have to rely on fire from the left, if they are to succeed. This will not probably serve them well with the next pick, as Bush seems to be rather stubborn.

ColumbusGuy adds: According to this post, my speculation that Miers was a brain behind Bush's excellent 2001 judicial picks is anogo. Of course, lies are as thick as flies among those people, but nonetheless I'm tempted to believe the worst, that she had little hand in that excellent work. So who was it? Gonzales?

My man Tom

As I've noted before, I can take or leave Tom Delay. It's only when the media and the Dems (not to mention RINOs) start attacking that I'm inclined to defend him. This isn't a statement against him; only that I'm not much interested in him, perhaps unjustly, since he has undoubtedly been important to Republican success.

Regardless, this is exactly the advice I would have given Delay for his mug shot. Good for him. Use it in your next campaign lit drop, I say.

UPDATE: All in the plan.

Hearing Impaired

Whether or not the Miers' nomination is in trouble I can't say. I've been assured by several Republican friends she will sail through, but they've been sounding more shrill lately. One thing everyone is saying is let's wait and see how she does in her hearings.

No thanks.

I'm not impressed by hearings. It's a chance for the candidate to be on her best behavior, saying whatever she thinks she has to say to win approval. As far as I'm concerned, we shouldn't even publicly question the candidates. (We didn't used to). Let's just go over their record and decide if we have someone we want on the Court.

ColumbusGuy adds: What I don't get is how Democrats can do anything but oppose her party line. How do they support someone who campaigned for an amendment on abortion? One not merely overturning Roe, but one prohibiting abortion? This isn't algore running for president; this is the woman who, a la LAGuy, writes the laws.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Play/Off

A friend of mine writes at a Michigan football blog. I think he's just done his best piece--a fine refutation of college football playoffs. Check it out. (If you don't want to read it, the essence is now every game is special. If we have a "regular" season, then all the games will just be "regular.")

Garbage On The Curb

An interesting, if extremely wrongheaded, piece on Larry David by Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer.

I'm not going to go over the whole thing. For instance, Rosenbaum spends a lot of time explaining why he didn't like Seinfeld. Except for the part about not finding Kramer's entrances funny, I think he's completely off. He takes the show far too personally, when all it was about was trying to be funny. It wasn't about "smugness" or "self-satisfaction"--if anything, the lengths the show would eventually go to make the characters unsympathetic was quite impressive. But none of it would have mattered if the show didn't have brilliant bits about the minutiae of life (the specialty of Seinfeld and David) and enjoyable, if fanciful, plots.

(Rosenbaum:
What I couldn't stand about Seinfeld was Jerry's smarminess, which I don't think was a parody of smarminess, but the real 100-proof thing. His painfully insipid 'observational humor.' That Jerry actually thought he was doing breakthrough humor!
So Rosenbaum's not just a critic, he's a mindreader. Moreover, he didn't watch the show very closely, as it not only dropped the observational humor hook, but started to regularly take swipes at Seinfeld as a comedian, with characters even stating his act was tired and obvious.)

But now Rosenbaum is turning on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He liked the first four seasons but is worried Larry David is becoming self-satisfied. (Rosenbaum is sure prickly on this point.) He thought Curb originally was about a socially inept character stuck in embarrassing situations, but feels David is now getting smug and showing off.

Personally, I think Rosenbaum is missing the point. Like many, he seems so bothered by the idea of a rich man gliding through life as the center of a show that he has to make him the bad guy or he can't laugh. Everyone has problems, big and little. And while David generally plays a jerk--not because he telling deep truths, but because he can't leave things alone--he's also generally sympathetic, as circumstances conspire against him.

Rosenbaum's main error is seeing Curb as something different from Seinfeld. Sure, in some ways it has to be, with one main character, played by the dyspeptic David. But for the most part, it's a continuation of what he was doing at NBC: it's mostly about the unspoken rules and regulations of life, and what happens when you break them, with an overarching plot where everything dovetails, even if that means things are a bit ridiculous. The characters on Seinfeld could change on a dime, because the show believed in laughs, not lessons. Same for Curb, but poor Rosenbaum is left searching for the message.

Plus, Rosenbaum wants it both ways. He thinks Larry David falsely believes (there's the mindreader again) he's brave by being so politically incorrect. Then Rosenbaum is offended by how David treats his Latino employees.

I agree so far this season has been relatively weak (time, and repeats, will tell--shows often seem weaker than the memories you have of them), though I thought the second episode with the Muslim detective was pretty good. We'll just have to see how it continues. But if it does fail overall, it's because David is getting tired, not because he's getting smug.

PS. Rosenbaum states the phrase "jump the shark" has jumped the shark. Let me congratulate him on being the millionth customer to make this observation.

Humor Test

A decent piece in The New Yorker on Sarah Silverman. I like her act, though a lot of it is the effect of a sweet-looking girl saying such outrageous stuff.

A few years ago she got in trouble for a joke that used the epithet "Chink." (Read the article for the joke.) The joke was not racist, but a comment on racism. Neverthless, some people considered it their job to be offended.

She later defended her joke on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, but her opponents weren't having it. I knew they didn't think it was funny, but what I couldn't tell was if they understood it.

So I think that's a good test. From now on, if someone is offended by a joke, they at least have to explain why the joke is supposed to be funny before they're allowed to hate it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Don't Mess With Me, I Know Melville

Weird editorial in the LA Times by Melville biographer Andrew Delbanco. Figuring his literary expertise gives him a clearer view of the war in Iraq, he brings up Melville's "Benito Cereno."

"Benito Cereno" is a story about an American captain who boards a ship with Spanish officers and African slaves. Only eventually does he realize it's the slaves who are actually in charge.

The story is a masterpiece. Alas, Delbanco tries to tie it into today's political situation. This is easy enough to do, I suppose, but not particularly illuminating. It's the sort of pat analysis that diminishes both Melville and Delbanco. (Melville can take it.)

One can claim Bush is out of his league, but one could just as easily say the well-meaning American captain is Delbanco (the character's name is Delano--spooky!), who thinks he sees things clearly but is too hopelessly prejudiced to understand how the world works. (Extra credit: compare Bush to--Ahab, Billy Budd, Bartleby.)

I'd normally ignore this editorial. It's just another guy who--following the beliefs of his social set--has come up with a fanciful argument against the war, to be published just as most Iraqis go to the polls to fight for their own freeedom. But it gets ugly near the end. Delbanco states "...it is impossible today to read 'Benito Cereno' without a 'shock of recognition' (Melville's phrase). The story even concludes with the sort of show trial scheduled to take place this month in Iraq..."

No, Mr. Delbanco, this is not a show trial, any more than Nuremberg. It's a real trial where one of the most brutal dictators of our time will actually have to answer for some of his crimes. Before that sentence, I just thought you were naive, but really you're a creep.

ColumbusGuy adds: We trust it won't be a show trial (although NPR made a valiant effort yesterday to suggest it would be), but let's not fool ourselves: It's not law, either.

There is no law here, unless Saddam violated his own law, which might actually be fairly likely, unless he was droll enough to include an "except me" clause. (Actually, that will be something to watch out for: Will they be charging him with violations of a code that existed during his rule? It'd be awkward, given that that government no longer exists, but at least it's colorable.)

Don't get me wrong. I fully approve of cobbling together some procedure and then shooting him. But let's be clear. Like Nuremberg, it's victor's justice, nothing more, nothing less. All the law professors in all the world can't change that, any more than can the bloviators at the New York Times. So, let's hear it for victor's justice, a fine, and inevitable, tradition, and one perhaps as valid as any other.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I Can See The Cliff, But Where's The Hanger?

The West Wing had the dullest cliffhanger in the history of television a few years ago. At the end of the season, the question was will President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) run for a second term. I won't insult you with the answer.

I haven't watched the show in a while, but now that Bartlet is finishing his second term (oops, gave it away) there's to be a face-off between Vinick and Santos. Alan Alda may be charming as the Republican Vinick, but the cast regulars are working, directly or otherwise, to see Jimmy Smits as Santos take office. Pretty clear to me who'll take it.

However, this season offers a true cliffhanger. Will the show, now in a bad Sunday slot, and with a completely different storyline, be canceled?

Letters, They Get Letters

Predictable letters this week in The New York Times Book Review.

Arthur Schlesinger's foolish essay on Reinhold Niebuhr receives self-righteous agreement. People who mistakenly claim Bush and the neocons get not only Niebuhr wrong, but also the Guy Upstairs, write in to smugly state that Neibuhr, and the Guy Upstairs, are on their side.

Even better are the letters attacking Nathan Glazer for daring to attack professional scold Jonathan Kozol and his views on education. Glazer (as far as I can tell) makes the plausible claim that since we spend more on public education than any other country and seem to get less bang for the buck, the solution is not more money, but spending it more wisely. This infuriates the letter-writers, who leave no doubt that the only solution is, and always will be, more money.

Empathy

Hmm. I wonder what it felt like to be a Notre Dame fan this weekend. Or an Angels fan. Sorry, I just can't manage it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Just don't let them vote

Yet another conservative "grows" in office.

Doin' the frog march

This AFP story is just priceless. These poor reporters are addicts. "C'mon, Seven!"

(A few fun excerpts:
With suspense building as to whether Rove or other top officials will be indicted . . . Speculation is mounting over whether Rove, known as the mastermind behind Bush's political strategy and election campaigns, will be indicted or emerge unscathed . . . Wilson promptly pointed to Rove as the likely source.
"At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs," Wilson said.
"And trust me when I use that name, I measure my words." Any indictment of Rove would deliver a damaging blow to Bush, who is already facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.

Suspense is building alright. That poor reporter's going to have an orgasm and do the Dean Scream.)

How Sweet It Is

Pardon me for not writing at length about yesterday's great game. Not USC and Notre Dame--let the rest of the country marvel at that. The Michigan versus Penn State climax was all I could take for one day. It's not that AnnArborGuy (and a bunch of other Ann Arbor guys) have written and spoken so much already. It's just that I'm still busy savoring it to try to analyze it.

One note, though. I was watching with a bunch of Wolverines, and though we supported Lloyd fighting to get a few second back on the clock at the end, we were mostly mocking him. But that little moment (after Michigan blew a bunch of other seemingly crucial moments) turned out to be the difference when the last play began with one second left on the clock.

I know there was a lot of revelry in the Big House, but it probably didn't beat the joy we had watching it in LA at my friend's house.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Giant Killers!!

They won! They won! They played awfully but they won. I watched one of the hardest to watch Michigan games I have ever seen. And in the end our team won. Henne was awful most of the game running the right slant pass play whenever he passed and the give it to Hart off tackle on every other play. Oh yeah, I forgot about the third play where he keeps the ball and runs just the other side of the line of scrimmage. He tried a variation of that last play late in the game in which he then handed the ball to a Penn State player. Somehow (perhaps because they are not really that good a team) we managed to win in an admittedly very exciting fashion. And credit to Henne, he did eventually learn a few other patterns. I am hoping that Mr. Carr and the boys don't revel in the afterglow of this victory but do some serious talkin' about how this talented team is coming too close in games that should be wrapped up.

Hope Springs Eternal

Today's game of Michigan versus Penn State is a big one. It's big for PSU, of course, since they're a top ten team still trying to prove themselves. This is one of their biggest roadblocks left.

But it's bigger for Michigan. It's been a long time since they started out so excruciatingly bad. A record of 3-3 with a tough schedule ahead makes you wonder if they're even Bowl-worthy. If they drop below .500, you'll see millions of Wolverine fans finally giving up on them.

And yet, as I go to watch the game (thousands of miles away out here in L.A.) I can't help but feel they're going to win. I don't get it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Free market equinox

Ah, every spring and fall I feel this sense of renewal. What happens at those two times and no other? Yes, that's right, the NPR affiliates, for just a moment in time, suddenly discover the enduring power of the free market. You must enjoy this moment, because you won't hear it the rest of the year in their endless stories on taxes and troubles everywhere that can be alleviated only by, not merely spending, but government spending.

For some reason, buying coffee seems to be a regularly recurring analogy. You'd think every NPR listener spends every day standing in line at Fourbucks. Here's yesterday's fundraising plea, asking you not to freeload:

"You can't just say I'm going to pay 10 cents for this coffee, and you can't turn to the guy in line behind you and ask him to pay for it."

Unless, of course, it's Medicaid, Medicare, education or the environment.

LAGuy notes: But, of course, this isn't your normal free market. They offer their services for nothing and then ask you to pay for them. To quote Monty Python, that's not good business. In fact, let me excerpt a large portion from the "Merchant Banker" sketch:

City Gent: How do you do. I'm a merchant banker.

Mr Ford: How do you do Mr...

City Gent: Er... I forget my name for the moment but I am a merchant banker.

Mr Ford: Oh. I wondered whether you'd like to contribute to the orphan's home. (He rattles the tin.)

City Gent: Well I don't want to show my hand too early, but actually here at Slater Nazi we are quite keen to get into orphans, you know, developing market and all that... what sort of sum did you have in mind?

Mr Ford: Well... er... you're a rich man.

City Gent: Yes, I am. Yes. Yes, very, very rich. Quite phenomenally wealthy. Yes, I do own the most startling quantifies of cash. Yes, quite right... you're rather a smart young lad aren't you.

Mr Ford: Thank you, sir.

City Gent: Now, you were saying. I'm very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very rich.

Mr Ford: So er, how about a pound?

City Gent: A pound. Yes, I see. Now this loan would be secured by the...

Mr Ford: It's not a loan, sir.

City Gent: What?

Mr Ford: It's not a loan.

City Gent: Ah.

Mr Ford: You get one of these, sir. (He gives him a small flag.)

City Gent: It's a bit small for a share certificate isn't it? Look, I think I'd better run this over to our legal department. If you could possibly pop back on Friday.

Mr Ford: Well do you have to do that, couldn't you just give me the pound?

City Gent: Yes, but you see I don't know what it's for.

Mr Ford: It's for the orphans.

City Gent: Yes?

Mr Ford: It's a gift.

City Gent: A what?

Mr Ford: A gift?

City Gent: Oh a gift!

Mr Ford: Yes.

City Gent: A tax dodge.

Mr Ford: No, no, no, no.

City Gent: No? Well, I'm awfully sorry I don't understand. Can you just explain exactly what you want.

Mr Ford: Well, I want you to give me a pound, and then I go away and give it to the orphans.

City Gent: Yes?

Mr Ford: Well, that's it.

City Gent: No, no, no, I don't follow this at all, I mean, I don't want to seem stupid but it looks to me as though I'm a pound down on the whole deal.

Mr Ford: Well, yes you are.

City Gent: I am! Well, what is my incentive to give you the pound?

Mr Ford: Well the incentive is - to make the orphans happy.

City Gent: (genuinely puzzled) Happy?... You quite sure you've got this right?

Mr Ford: Yes, lots of people give me money.

City Gent: What, just like that?

Mr Ford: Yes.

City Gent: Must be sick. I don't suppose you could give me a list of their names and addresses could you?

Mr Ford: No, I just go up to them in the street and ask.

City Gent: Good lord! That's the most exciting new idea I've heard in years! It's so simple it's brilliant! Well, if that idea of yours isn't worth a pound I'd like to know what is. (He takes the tin from Ford.)

Mr Ford: Oh, thank you, sir.

City Gent: The only trouble is, you gave me the idea before I'd given you the pound. And that's not good business.

Mr Ford: Isn't it?

City Gent: No, I'm afraid it isn't. So, um, off you go. (He pulls a lever opening a trap door under Ford's feet and Ford falls through with a yelp.) Nice to do business with you.

Pinter Splinter

After more controversy than usual, the Nobel committee gave the Literature Prize to Harold Pinter. While there is some talk he got it due to his anti-Iraq War stance--a form of childishness in award-giving which has already tarnished the Peace Prize--let's concentrate on his writing. (To his credit, Pinter admits his politics may have helped him.)

There's no question Pinter is one of the most famous living playwrights. And his style, all menace and pauses, was revolutionary. But he's always struck me as the emperor's new clothes. His plays feel like something is happening, but there's nothing there. (To be fair, I have only read his plays--I've never seen a production. Some playwrights act better than they read.)

I'm not saying he has no talent, I'm just saying it's a mediocre talent. Plays like The Birthday Party or The Caretaker are somewhat interesting because of the style, but add up to less than the sum of their parts. Worse are his later plays, like No Man's Land or Betrayal, where his style is trickier and more polished, but even emptier.

Compare Pinter to a true talent like Samuel Beckett. Not only was his style more revolutionary, but his work had greater depth and power. I think within a generation or two, Pinter will be considered a curiosity. The Nobel people have bet on the wrong horse.

How Many People Work Here? About One In Four.

Gee, I take it easy for a day and the place falls apart. Since when do ColumbusGuy and AnnArborGuy get Jewish holidays off?

ColumbusGuy reverse-albomizes: Take that.

LAGuy sets things right: Nice try, ColumbusGuy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Steamboat Willie goes cochlear

So Apple's riding that iPod toboggan at top speed. They've introduced one with video, so we can watch now.

Big deal. I'll be impressed when they introduce the iPod Implant(tm).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Day Off

There's a little more blogging than usual today since I'll be taking tomorrow off for Yom Kippur.

ColumbusGuy says: Funny, you don't look Neo-con-ish.

I'll Take My Ibsen Straight, Thank You

Odd goings-on at The New Yorker. Theatre critic Hilton Als has some bizarro things to say about the most significant playwright of the past 150 years. As he puts it, "Henrik Ibsen: so necessary and yet so boring." If you find Ibsen boring, perhaps you shouldn't be in the theatre-reviewing business.

Oh, but Ibsen doesn't have to be boring, Als reassures us. All you have to do is hide him behind a flashy, shallow production and Hilton can bear it. But I can't put it better than Als:

...the contemporary theatre world in New York—its producers and directors—[ ] ha[s] let let us down, by failing to reimagine Ibsen’s work in a way that would make it relevant to today’s audiences. There are, of course, exceptions—for instance, Lee Breuer’s brilliant conceptualization of “A Doll’s House” at St. Ann’s Warehouse, a few seasons back, in which the male characters were played by dwarfs and many of the women were nearly six feet tall; and the Dutch director Ivo van Hove’s controversial staging of “Hedda Gabler,” complete with videos and tattoos, at the New York Theatre Workshop, last year.

Got that? Productions faithful to the actual meaning and text are boring and irrelevant. Als doesn't want Ibsen, he wants a circus.

Perhaps it would help if Als had a clue as to what Ibsen is about. He feels "musty productions" that stick to the script "obscure[ ] one of the playwright’s notable ambitions: to expose the uncomfortable truths about women and about the nature of power." Well, these are among Ibsen's themes, but we don't need six-foot women towering over dwarves to make the point clear.

Als notes "Ibsen’s writing tends to be hefty and naturalistic." A strange statement, not only because Ibsen constantly reinvented his style, but because when he was hefty he wasn't naturalistic, and when he was naturalistic, he wasn't that hefty.

When a pitcher gets tired, they put in a reliever. Perhaps when there's a new Ibsen production The New Yorker should bring in a reviewer who can stand it.

ColumbusGuy adds: Who'da thunk it? LAGuy, originalist: "Got that? Productions faithful to the actual meaning and text are boring and irrelevant. Als doesn't want Ibsen, he wants a circus."

Is Hugh Kidding Me?

On of Harriet Miers biggest defenders is Hugh Hewitt. Fine. She can use all the help she can get.

But I heard that someone suggested he didn't like her because of her religious background and Hugh replied that was illegal under Article VI, Clause 3 of our Constitution, stating "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Some have attacked Miers for reaching 60 without having a theory of, nor understanding in general, consitutional law. Hewitt's surprising defense has been Con Law is easy, so what's the big deal. Considering how easily Hugh misconstrues the religious test, perhaps he should reconsider this statement.

It is true, no one can pass a law stating you must or must not be a certain religion to hold public office. However, when it comes to deciding on how to vote for a particular candidate, anyone is allowed to take whatever they find relevant into account. Say you favor the death penalty and a candidate notes "due to my religious belief, I will do whatever I can to make sure no one is put to death by the state." (Or the candidate doesn't say it explicitly but you strongly suspect it.) You may vote against this candidate for any office, judge or otherwise, without running afoul of the Constitution.

ColumbusGuy adds: How does the great Homer say it? "It'll be the law soon enough."

He's A Literal Boy

Henry Meller reports on a minor slight by Yoko against Paul. No big deal, really. She claims McCartney's songs got covered more than Lennon's because John is a hard singer to copy and he wrote more complex songs while Paul wrote simple June/spoon stuff. (The truth is he got covered more because his songs tend to be more melodic.)

What fascinates me about the piece is how literally Meller took Yoko. The terms "June/moon/spoon" have been used since before Yoko was born to symbolize silly love songs, but Meller feels it necessary to note Paul never actually rhymed "June" with "spoon." In fact, he quotes the entire first verse (mistaking "wonders" for "wanders") of "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" to show the closest Paul ever came, which was rhyming "spoon" and "lagoon." This is missing the point completely. A June/spoon rhyme represents mindlessness, while the spoon/lagoon rhyme, in context, suggests mind-altering drugs of some sort.

That's Just Your Opinion

Pretty dumb review of Zathura in The Hollywood Reporter. It's a near rave, saying director Jon Favreau, whose last film, Elf, was a blockbuster, has done it again. But for some reason, the writer can't stop taking cheap shots at Jumanji.

I haven't seen the film, but I've seen the trailer. At first I couldn't believe what a Jumanji rip-off it is, until they admitted it's essentially a sequel. This is why the Reporter is so concerned at distinguishing the two, saying Jumanji "rubbed many viewers the wrong way" and "suffered from unappealing special effects and a too-menacing vibe."

Yeah, Jumanji, a film that made 265 million worldwide, in 1995. Personally, I thought it was the best film of the year--partly because the filmmakers decided to make it truly menacing. If the Reporter reporter hates it so much, I don't really trust his taste enough to hear what he says about Zathura.

Sixties Roll Over, Die

I just saw an ad showing 60s radicals, saying what a great job they did and how great they still are. I honestly can't remember what they were selling, but it completed the recent sell-out hat trick that should make it obvious, if it weren't already, that whatever the 60s introduced to America has been competely co-opted.

The other two? Well, there's Paul McCartney, who apparently isn't rich enough, shilling for Fidelity. Their slogan: "The key is: Never stop doing what you love"--especially if it's writing songs that make billions.

And then there's Kaiser Permanente, everyone's favorite HMO, licensing Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Indeed. It's never been my favorite song anyway, but as a jingle it jangles my nerves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The curse of Hillary!(tm)

The Great Taranto makes a Great Observation: The Yanks haven't won a World Series since Hillary!(tm)* was elected. Let's go for keeping the Yanks out for two whole senate terms, otherwise known as eight years.

* Mrs. Bill Clinton.**
**Hillary Clinton***
***Hillary Rodham Clinton

Does she or doesn't she?

"You never worried that Marty might be privately upset with you."

For a mid-level journalism class I once did a bias study of a series of articles and an editorial, all on the same topic. One conclusion was the editorial was far less biased. The reason? The stories all omitted a major perspective, so that it was not addressed at all. The editorial covered the major perspectives, though it did so in the form of shooting one of them down. Thus, an uninformed reader of the editorial knew the sides at issue, and could take or leave the arguments. An uninformed reader of the stories would never know of the alternative perspective.

I Vouch For This Argument

I don't think this blog has ever mentioned school vouchers, though my guess is most of the Guys favor them. But I ran across this blog which had an interesting post about "Katrina and School Choice." Actually, I'm mostly linking because the piece is written by my old friend Tom Berg. (My only objection to his profile is it doesn't tell you what a great singer he is.)

Proposition opposition

Ah-nold, tired of fighting the Dem-led legislature and the unions they represent, is taking his case to the public. In a special election this November, he has successfully placed (after a tough fight) five propositions on the ballot which he believes will help the state of California become more fiscally responsible.

Some people seem a bit too sanguine about these props passing, due to a recent survey showing each initiative is highly popular. If you look at the poll questions, while their descriptions of each prop is not inaccurate, they are phrased in ways pleasing to the "yes" vote; People will always favor new rules that make it easier to fire incompetent workers, or limit state spending.

But that's not how the debate works. The unions have been going all out for quite a while to discredit both Schwarzenegger and his plans. The war chest is open and the sky's the limit--even now that Ah-nold's side is finally putting on a few commercials, they're still being massively outspent.

And as far as I can tell, it's working. The Guv's popularity is way down, so one would guess his ideas are in trouble, too. The ads Californians see several times a day suggest if Ah-nold has his way, he'll lock up union member if they speak out, toss sick patients out on the street and steal first-graders' milk money to give to corporate sponsors.

The Dems will make an all-out effort to get out the "no" vote. Moreover, a confused public votes for the status quo. Right now, I'd like to see what a real poll shows.

Monday, October 10, 2005

We May Have A Fight On Our Hands

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I do think the President made a horrible choice in nominating Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. As it is I don't like stealth candidates, but you'd at least think he could pick someone who's developed some sort of judicial philosphy in 60 years. (If I were a conservative, I'd be even more opposed. Here's a woman who's supported Democrats not so long ago and fought for affirmative action. I wouldn't care how much President Bush assures me personally, not when there's a stable of well-known conservatives on federal courts right now who would probably be confirmed.)

I agree that this was an unforced error on Bush's part. He probably figured on a huge win--a woman, a true conservative (he's sure), a friend (forget she may have to recuse herself on a bunch of cases) and easily confirmable (even Harry Reid likes her).

Not unlike Alberto Gonzalez, there are strong reasons for both conservatives and liberals to oppose her. Bush's job right now is to keep his own people in line. So far he's failing. Meanwhile, the Dems have to wonder, as the right splits, do we want her or not? (Don't forget, half of them voted against someone last month who was clearly qualified, so who knows with Miers.) I actually hope we at least have a fight. Perhaps Presidents will stop nominating people only if they have no paper trail.

So the hearings may make a difference. Personally, I don't care about the hearings--people will say what they have to. I even wonder if this newfangled idea of questioning the candidate is worth anything. Look into the candidate, sure, but you don't have to waste time with cross-examination.

A Drop Of Water In The Desert

The Sunday LA Times Calendar has a feature on plays about (read: against) the Iraq war. It's a longish piece, featuring the safe, limited politics of playwrights and their social set. One surprising sentence shone out amid the posturing and smugness: "Many of these scripts will surely have a short shelf life." I've seen a few of them, and can only add "many" is far too kind.

Nature Abhors A Sports Vacuum

Now that the Wolverines are 3-3, I'm at a bit of a loss. The season seems as good as over. I need something new to concentrate on.

So what should I do? Worry about the baseball playoffs? Watch Tiger Woods win every week? Get excited about the NHL again? Any suggestions?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A disappointment

60 Minutes' big expose on Louis Freeh's "My FBI," attacking President Hillary I, was a letdown. The first six minutes of the 12 minute segment were about Clinton, dancing around the edges of the obvious and fundamental truth that Billy was a corrupt buffoon, while the last six minutes were tepid attacks on Freeh, along the lines of "but the self-aggrandizing hacks on the 9-11 commission said your computers stunk; why did they stink?"

I'm paraphrasing.

Best part -- indirectly quoting Sandy Burger in defense of Clinton, without using any phrase like "Sandy Pants," "Sandy Burglar," "Are those classified documents in your pants, 0r are you just happy to see me?" Burglar should be a felon, but unhappily he's copped only the misdemeaner.

Is blogging productive?

Perhaps we have an answer to the question whether blogging is a worthwhile pursuit for law professors. (Of course, much turns upon whom you give the power to decide what is "worthwhile.")

LAGuy's ready for his prenup

I have to agree with LAGuy. Sexierexie has a site worth reading, in a genre that's hard to carry off.

An analysis worth preserving

This analysis is worth keeping for the ages. It can go along with this one.

Bringing It All Back

I finally caught Martin Scorsese's documentary on Dylan's early years, No Direction Home. If it weren't someone famous like Scorsese, he'd just be called the editor, since all he did was arrange old footage.

I enjoyed it, but if I weren't a fan, I wonder how I'd feel. I was recently watching The Dreamers, a so-so film by Bertolucci, and "Queen Jane Approximately" came on the soundtrack. Suddenly, there was more magic onscreen for a minute or two than anything in the documentary.

I believe some eras have better music than other--it's not just imprinting and nostalgia. At one point in No Direction Home, we see the charts when Dylan's biggest hit, "Like A Rolling Stone," hit its height at #2 in 1965. Without comment, except to say the quality and diversity was not unusual for the period, here's the top ten that week:

1. Help
2. Like A Rolling Stone
3. California Girls
4. Unchained Melody
5. It's The Same Old Song
6. I Got You Babe
7. You Were On My Mind
8. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
9. Eve Of Destruction
10. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me

PS I recently read the overview of Dylan's career in Entertainment Weekly. They told you which albums were essential, for collectors or worthless. One album they give the back of their hand to is Street Legal. It may not be as brilliant as the albums that preceded it, Blood On The Tracks or Desire, but this 1978 work may be Dylan's best that slipped through the cracks. It's also more soulful than usual, especially the first cut (remember when cut order used to matter?), "Changing Of The Guard," truly one of his best songs.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Humbled

This is the kind of lede that would make any good journalist want to shoot themselves in the head: "Chief nuclear inspector Mohamed El Baradei has said he felt "humbled" after being named winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize."

Ack. I have a rule that I don't, except under duress, write any quote that is both stupid and false, unless of course it serves a function in the story to show the speaker is stupid and false. "I'm just thinking of the children" rarely cuts muster.

NPR played Mo-Al's press conference, talking about how he danced around his living room after seeing his name announced on television. You see, because it was late, and he hadn't been called to learn he had won, he had inferred he had not won, because he knew the practice was to inform the winner ahead of time. These are not the thoughts and acts of a man humbled; these are the thoughts of a man delighted and proud.

What Mo-Al should be humbled by is letting his role diffuse from mere fact finder into partisan outcome promoter (although Blix was worse, I thought), for participating in the sham to begin with, for holding himself out as able to do something he wasn't able to do, and for interfering in true solutions to the problems he was supposed to be handling.

Oh, and the reason he didn't receive the traditional call advising him of the win? As Mo-Al said during his press conference, it was because he and his agency were known to be so untrustworthy and incompetent that the Nobel committee knew the information would leak to the press. (The competence and trustworthy parts, of course, are merely necessary implications.)

Down The Hatch

As noted a few weeks ago, Dr Gergory House attended University of Michigan. In fact, he was a bit of a legend back then.

Now we discover, on Lost, that the creators of the mysterious hatch were colleagues at Michigan.

Watch out, the Wolverines are taking over.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Some blogospheric echoes

Apparently PajamaGuy isn't the only one to notice that the Washington Post put forth an unlikely proposition about a hearsay reporting of a conversation between the dread Leahy and the unlikely Miers.

(Indeed, as I write this update, the Post article no longer appears. Perhaps this is a simple occasional Internet service glitch, but more likely some editors have been belatedly asking the question, "What exactly did you mean by 'several sources'?")

The original Post article, quoted in the link above, strongly implies that Miers is stupid or stupidly dishonest or both.

But in addition to PJG, Powerline (and His Virtualness) and The Volokh Conspiracy and other cited by them have all raised suspicions. My guess is this link (National Review through the VC) is most likely the truth:

Miers was asked about Justices she admired. She responded that she admired different Justices for different reasons, including Warren — interrupted by Senator Leahy — Burger for his administrative skills.
Reasonable people could ask whether Burger was a great administrator, but the comment is taken out of context by the Washington Post. Miers didn't express admiration for his jurisprudence.


Yet another demonstration that mere reasonable editing, and avoiding outrageous bias, easily avoids easily avoidable problems. If something sounds too good to be true . . .

"Julia? Julia Roberts?"

Goodness, the Post boys are showing some attitude today. Here's a description that's hard to credit:
In an initial chat with Miers, according to several people with knowledge of the exchange, Leahy asked her to name her favorite Supreme Court justices. Miers responded with "Warren" -- which led Leahy to ask her whether she meant former Chief Justice Earl Warren, a liberal icon, or former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative who voted for Roe v. Wade . Miers said she meant Warren Burger, the sources said.
This just isn't credible. Anyone with the intelligenceof a rhesus monkey would know that saying "Warren" would lead someone to think of Earl Warren. You couldn't say this without intending a trick. ANd if Pat Leahy can figure out your tricks, you're dumb as a box of rocks. So, either we believe Mier intended a deception that is so broad it can only be considered a lie, but then gave up the ghost right away, or that we're reading a bit of "soft" but convenient reporting.

I wonder what these interviews are like? "What would you say is your biggest weakness?" "Well, senator -- and let me say, that's some PAC you've got there -- it has to be that sometimes I simply care too much."

BTW, let's get LAGuy to tell us the joke that begins,
"I'm putting together a movie. Steve's going to direct it."
"Steve? Steve Spielberg?"
"No, no, Steve Ellman, a friend of mine from college . . ."

LAGuy fills in: I won't tell the joke, but I'll explain it. In the original form, it's about putting on a Broadway musical. Every time you mention who you got, the other guy assumes it's a big name, but instead it's a nobody with a similar-sounding name. Finally, you say "And to star in it, we've got Goulet." "Bob Goulet?" "Yeah."

ColumbusGuy adds: This demonstrates why I'll never be paid to be a comedian. Obviously the joke is better as "Spielberg? Steve Spielberg?" "No, no, Karl Spielberg."

"Come on, Seven!"

The liberals' hope that Democrats can win back the presidency by drawing sharp ideological contrasts and energizing the partisan base is a fantasy that could cripple the party's efforts to return to power, according to a new study by two prominent Democratic analysts.

So begins an article from the Post.

UPDATE: Yikes. Here are a couple of other gems.

Their recommendations are much less specific than their detailed analysis of the difficulties facing the Democratic Party.

Consultants everywhere are cringing. And here's a brutal line:

They suggest that Democratic presidential candidates replicate Clinton's tactics in 1992, when he broke with the party's liberal base by approving the execution of a semi-retarded prisoner, by challenging liberal icon Jesse L. Jackson and by calling for an end to welfare "as we know it."

Did Algore say anything about that? "And an-other-thing . . . we should ex-e-cute a few more re-tards, like we did back when my party was in charge." Not that I'm not enjoying it, but as an editor, I think I'd give this story an attitude review.

Two Speeches

Bush and Gore both gave major speeches recently. If nothing else, they should make us happy about the 2000 election result.

Bush made the case, yet again, for staying the course in Iraq. The argument is so obvious that it almost shouldn't be necessary. (I've been over it several times in this blog, so I won't repeat it--here's a transcript.) Yet, because there's such constant, mindless sniping against the war, it's always good to hear it made, and made well, especially at the top. (Unfortunately, though it's widely available, most people won't hear it or read it. This is the way it goes in a democracy, as confusing as that is to George Clooney or Al Gore--it makes you wonder if they'd prefer a system like Venezuela's or Cuba's, where the leader completely takes over all communication any time he feels like it, and feels like it often.)

To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, we have Al Gore's speech at the Media Conference in New York. Now I admit to a prejudice against Gore. But after reading this speech, where he is only a step away from a raving lunatic, I must ask if he's always been a crackpot or if it's a recent addition to his bag of tricks.

I don't have time to Fisk the whole thing--and it's rich enough that each paragraph deserves attention--so I'll try to stick to the highlights.

He starts off saying our democracy's in grave danger due to our faulty public discourse. The grave danger line, putting it charitably, is hyperbolic. And while the marketplace of ideas never functions with 100% efficiency, whining about it is the hallmark of the loser.

Unbelievably, he's still dining out on that years-old poll where a large portion of Americans who supported the war said Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. As usual, he misreports the results--actually, the poll showed about 1/3 believed Saddam was behind it, 1/3 thought he might be, and 1/3 thought he wasn't. At the time, those numbers made sense. A lot was uncertain. (For instance, Senator Gore sure was insistent on removing all the WMDs from Iraq--and who knows, he may have been right.) Gore claims to have newer numbers which I can't confirm (he refers to a couple of studies not specifically named), but that's neither here nor there. The main point is those against the war tend to believe falsities which reassure them as well. It would be just as easy to devise a poll showing such people are woefully ignorant of the connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, or Saddam and WMDs.

This much is obvious if you think about it. Gore has chosen not to think about it. Instead, he uses the pointless results to show something is wrong with our marketplace of ideas. As if people in Democracies have always been well informed until recently. The truth is the general public has always had trouble getting their facts straight, and there are different pockets of ignorance among different groups. It makes no sense for average people to spend hours and hours studying all the issues, since they only get a vote now and then and not much more. They have lives to lead, which take up enough of their time already. Sure, politicians and pundits spend a lot of time keeping up to speed (and even then greatly disagree with each other on many issues), but that's because it's worth their time.

I know enough about, say, my computer, or my car, or even my body, to work with it and even fix it if something's obviously wrong. But I'm not an expert--I have better ways to spend my time, and if I need special help, I'll hire an expert. I wouldn't expect Al Gore (even if he invented the internet) to be an expert on fixing my computer. So why does he expect everyone to be an expert in his arena?

Let me put this in a way that even Al can appreciate. If you really think, due to faulty public discourse, that people don't understand what's going on well enough--and that this is a NEW problem--then let's give people current events tests before deciding if they can vote. The Democrats wouldn't take a state in the next election.

Then he bemoans the lack of debate before the invasion of Iraq. Funny, I remember people and politicians talking about it at great length for about a year. Perhaps Gore was out of town. (Of course, we'd been talking about it vaguely since the Clinton-Gore administration, when overthrowing Hussein became our official national policy.) We certainly gave Hussein plenty of warning. Too bad he trusted his French friends at the UN, who told him they'd make sure we didn't do much.

Gore feels we're lethargic as citizens, and no one feels they're taking part in what the government does. However, there is a sign of hope. As he puts it:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face.
Get it? At a time when the media, big and small, were wrong in almost everything they reported, we finally were doing a great job. The subtext is obvious--Bush-bashing is good at any cost.

Who does he quote to back himself up? You won't believe it:
As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."
Yes, poor Dan Rather, "forced out" of his job because he tried to put over a massive fraud on the American public--and still won't admit it. (Why should he admit it, when important people like Al Gore are either so dishonest or ill-informed that they can pretend it was the White House that did him in?) Gore, in general, believes the media are intimidated by Bush, which puts him in the category of people who haven't read a paper or watched TV in three years.

Gore wants an America where the people openly converse. This is odd, since he backs campaign finance reform, which allows the government to directly regulate where and how people can make political points. Furthermore, Gore thinks we're at a point where the people's voice can't be heard. This is pretty funny, since we're in the internet age, where anyone can put out their views for everyone to see. Gore instead is nostalgic for the old days--I guess he means when you were told the truth by the three networks, and if you didn't want to listen to Walter Cronkite, you had nowhere to go.

Forget the internet, Gore still believes the airwaves are where we get our info. Fair enough. So you'd think he'd cheer the rise of a new media on radio, where an alternative to the mainstream is being heard. But you'd be wrong. Gore actually wants the return of the Fairness Doctrine, where the government can (and has) effectively shut up any significant discussion of politics.

As to TV, you might think he'd cheer that news coverage is better than ever, with several stations going 24 hours a day, so no one has to wait for a spoon feeding from the networks (unless they choose to), not to mention the no-nonsense C-SPAN format. But you'd be wrong. Aside from Jon Stewart, who mostly makes jokes from a Democrat's standpoint, Gore has surveyed the situation and seen nothing he likes.

This is why he's starting a channel, to let the people speak. Of course, we already have this. It's called public access. No one watches because no one cares, whereas other alternative formats have been wildly popular because they gave the public what they wanted, not what Gore wanted.

See, the trouble is logistical. Though we watch a lot of TV--too much, really--there are about 300 million of us. No matter how hard you try, you can only hear a small percentage of what people are saying. You need some sort of gatekeeper, because if everyone gets to talk, it'll just be a lot of noise. If Gore thinks he can break through all the noise, good luck--though I'd say it's already being done on the internet. Just remember, everyone can talk, but only a few can be at the top--that's a real free market, Al.

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