Thursday, August 31, 2006

An historic day

After today, everything will be different. Kofi Annan has saved us, nearly effortlessly. As Madeleine Peyroux might say, it's going to be lonesome when he's gone.

Good news for Nevada

Hey, congrats to the tax base in Nevada, Oregon and even us poor folks in the Midwest. I hear Ford has plans to implement the emissions cuts even sooner than the law requires.

You Don't Understand What They Understand, You Just Think You Do

Nothing like mindless sneering to show how ignorant a person is. Not the sneering part--that just shows they're rude. It's the mindless part that tells you how little they know. (And since they're being condescending, it makes for great irony.)

Just a couple examples (easy enough to find) over at Slate.

David Plotz is blogging the Bible. He reads the latest installment of the Torah and then tells us what he thinks.

At one point, he's unhappy with the Israelites' slaughter of the Midianites. Here's how he puts it: "Going after the Midianites to punish a Moabite crime is as nonsensical as the United States invading Iraq to teach al-Qaida a lesson. (Oh, wait. We did that.)"

Just couldn't control yourself, could you, Plotz?

We invaded Iraq to bring down a despotic regime led by a monster. We weren't there to destroy the Iraqis, we were there to liberate them. (I think we did, by the way, but that's beside the point.) In any case, we may have gone into Afghanistan to teach al-Qaida a lesson, but we went into Iraq to fight a wider war against terrorists. (We also ended up killing a lot of al-Qaida members there.)

Amy Sullivan makes an even sillier (and more ironic) swipe in her piece on Democrats and religion. Once again, it's parenthetical: "If you say anything enough times on Fox (see: Saddam Hussein, role in 9/11 attacks), you can get some people to believe it."

Both sides love to accuse the other of the Big Lie technique. It's such a common tactic I hardly notice it any more. But did Fox (News, one presumes--I doubt she's referring to The Simpsons) keep saying--or ever once say--that Saddam was behind 9/11? Rather than just repeat this "fact" you've apparently heard so many times you now believe it, how about some proof?

She's probably referring to the poll of Fox viewers (or conservatives, or people who supported the war, or whatever--who cares?) that came out not long after the war started. It showed about a third thought Saddam was behind the attack, about a third weren't sure and about a third thought he wasn't behind it. (The data are usually reported much more negatively--why let facts get in the way of a great anecdote?)

1) It wasn't Fox who claimed there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11. And it certainly wasn't the Bush administration (though they're usually the target for this piece of nonsense). What happened was for years the Clinton/Gore administration made speeches about Saddam and his WMD, and how dangerous he was to us, and how we had to do something. They were correct. The media reported all this, and noted (once again, correctly) that Saddam had WMD. Furthermore, the Democrats in the Senate sent a tearful letter to Clinton demanding he do something about Saddam's threat (which Clinton did, though it wasn't enough). Saddam was not central to Bush's first year in office, but his people certainly agreed with Clinton. It's understandable, then, that after 9/11, many jumped to the conclusion that Saddam was responsible. We didn't have a lot of information to go on and he certainly was a reasonable suspect.

2) As we've been over before, people who supported the war (Fox viewers supported it in higher numbers than CNN viewers) were more apt to have mistaken beliefs that favored the war. Just as true, those who opposed the war were more likely to have mistaken beliefs that were against it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Truer words III

"But in a nation of nearly 300 million people, the physical, financial and mortal burden of the current conflict is being borne by an exceedingly small number of American families."

He's right. It's a travesty that the top 1 percent of income earners pay more than twice the share of income taxes as their share of income.

Mad Max And Meathead

Rob Reiner has recently got some attention for calling on Mel Gibson to apologize not just for the comments he made after being arrested, but also for The Passion Of The Christ (which I haven't seen).
When he can come out and say, you know, 'My views have been reflected in my work and I feel bad that I've done that,' then that will be the beginning of some reconciliation for him. I believe that people can be redeemed and people can change, but that's going to be a very long process.
There's no doubt what Gibson said is incredibly ugly. Still, what Reiner said is pretty pompous.

The obvious comeback: "I'll apologize for The Passion Of The Christ if you'll apologize for North."

Everybody Must Have Influences

Interesting appreciation of Bob Dylan in this week's The New Yorker. But this non-Dylan bit stood out:
Musicians don’t follow roads. Most of them have much more eclectic musical interests than their fans do[....]Muddy Waters had more songs in his repertoire by Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, than by any blues musician;[...]Louis Armstrong’s favorite band was Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians;[...]Robert Johnson played Bing Crosby songs. “If I had only one artist to listen to through eternity,” Chuck Berry said, “it would be Nat Cole.”
It makes sense--fans listen to an artist for a particular sound, not for the sounds the artists likes. This is a good reason not to put down any particular type of music; all music is related, and liking one type will lead to liking another, and into the entire world of sound.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Painful Parody

I was so annoyed by the poor nominations that I didn't plan to write about this year's Emmys. But now there's controversy.

The show opened with a filmed bit where host Conan O'Brien is in a plane crash. Some felt it was insensitive, since 49 had died in a crash earlier that day in Lexington, Kentucky. The head of NBC's Lexington affiliate, Tim Gilbert, was horrified, but since the show was live it aired before he could do anything about it.

He wants an apology. "They could have killed the opening and it wouldn't have hurt the show at all. We wish somebody had thought this through. It's somewhere between ignorance and incompetence."

He'll get his apology, no doubt, but I'm inclined to cut NBC and Conan some slack. It takes months to plan such a show and making changes at the last second are extremely difficult. (This is assuming the people running the show even heard the news.)

I'm not saying they shouldn't have cut or somehow changed the bit. It's too bad they didn't. I'm just saying it's a mistake, but not a horrible one. And Tim Gilbert is wrong. The plane crash was the beginning of a lengthy piece that had Conan running in and out of popular TV shows. Conan then washes up on a Lost's island, and is soon traveling through The Office, 24, House and South Park. It was well done, and no doubt quite troublesome and expensive to create. Without it, the show would have had a ten-minute chunk of nothing. Gilbert may run shows on his station, but he doesn't understand how they work. (Or to be fair, was probably too emotionally involved to understand what he was saying.)

Sports Round-up

Tiger Woods just won his fourth tournament in a row. I think it's safe to say he's the greatest golfer ever. He's so good he even has people like me watching golf.

From Tiger to Tigers. The Detroit Tigers still have the best record in baseball, but they've been in a slump lately. Luckily they'd built up such a lead they're still pretty solidly in first. I only hope the recent losses woke them up. What worries me most is all the runs they've been giving up--is their staff tired?

From one Detroit team to another. I've been paying so much attention to the Tigers I missed the other Motor City winners, the Detroit Shock. They're about to play Sacramento in the WNBA finals. They almost got to face the Los Angeles Sparks, in which case I could have caught a game.

This weekend, college football starts. Michigan versus Vandy. I'm sure I'll be commenting, but the real blog to go to is The M Zone.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Everybody Must Get Stoned

Sometimes I worry that my old professor, Geoff Stone, is losing it. Rather than rationally voicing his opposition to the Bush Administration's policies, he inveighs against them as if this were some titanic, unprecedented battle over the soul of America. (I know pundits regularly talk this way, and shame on them. Academics should have more taste and intelligence.)

Look at the University of Chicago Law School's Faculty Blog for the evidence. (Stone, by the way, taugh me Evidence). Even a blog should have some standards.

On July 22nd, he declared Bush's veto of legislation authorizing federal funds for stem cell research showed "reckless disregard for the fundamental American aspiration to keep church and state separate." place his own sectarian, religious belief above the convictions of a majority of the American people and a substantial majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate? In my judgment, this is no different from the President vetoing a law providing a subsidy to pork producers because eating pork offends his religious faith. Such a veto is an unethical and illegitimate usurpation of state authority designed to impose on all of society a particular religious faith.
I'm not even gonna bother criticizing the main argument. I do want to note, however, that Stone sees fit to mention the veto was unpopular with the public and much of the House and Senate. Was there some word quota you had to fill that day, Geoff?

Now, in Stone's latest outburst, he applauds Judge Taylor's decision against Bush's surveillance program. No surprise. (Okay, maybe a little surprise, since even if you like the result, you might question the reasoning.) But Stone goes on:
I have to admit I was surprised by the decision. It takes a good deal of courage for a judge to hold unlawful a program that the President of the United States maintains is essential to the national security.
Stop, you're killing me.

Columbus Guy says: Losing it? It was unclear to me that he ever had it. But I must defer to men and women such as Posner, who will occasionally sit in the same room with him.

My favorite Stone story was during this same evidence class, when Stone visited Case Western for two weeks (maybe one) as a guest lecturer. Upon his return, he felt the need to lecture the class that, on the whole, Case students were as bright, as hard working, as interested in the material as we were.

(You could feel the hackles of 80 people rise at that moment, I'll tell you.)

In fact, Stone said, but for a college grade here, a test score, a letter of recommendation there, those students could be where we were, and we could be where they were. That was significant, he said, because, while we would have jobs essentially a year before we graduated, one-third of Case students would have jobs at the time of graduation, another one-third would find them within a year, and essentially one-third would never work as lawyers.

So, Stone concluded, whenever we meet a student from Case, it would behoove us to think to ourselves, "There but for the grace of God go I."

LAGuy took this to heart. "Whenever I see Geoff Stone," he said. "I think, 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"

LAGuy adds: There's actually more to the story, including a moment where I raised Stone's hackles. Perhaps some day I will tell it, but I'm not sure that Pajama Guy is the place for war stories.

I should add I didn't find what he said particularly insulting.

Columbus Guy says: Insulting, hell, it was insightful. But that was decidedly a minority view, as the majority found it inciteful, I'd say. Fellow grad and witness Anonymous has it right: A pompous, blustering blowhard, but an enjoyable pompous, blustering blowhard.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

That's Rich

Rich Lowry has a piece in National Review Online where he wonders how Democrats can claim to represent average people and at the same time condemn Wal-Mart. After all, millions of regular folks shop there every day.

He concludes the Dems "populism" is pretty snooty, but that's not what caught my eye. Listen to this:
Attacking the company[...]isn’t populist, it’s perverse. A mom struggling to make ends meet might be angry at spending another $2-a-gallon to fill up at the pump. She’s not going to be so exercised by getting a great deal on diapers.
Rich, I don't know where (or when) you're living, but I'd be thrilled to get gas for only two bucks a gallon.

Columbus Guy says: I question whether you've got this one right, LAGuy. For one thing, it seems literally wrong: He says "another $2-a-gallon," not "another gallon at $2." And even if he did mean $2 gas, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Walmart sold it for that. It's dropping into the $2.40's here retail, and plenty of big boxes sell it for discounts. I think you snooty LAFolks don't see enough Walmart yourselves to appreciate its finer cultural points.

LAGuy ripostes: You may have a point about Lowry meaning two bucks extra, but all across America $2 a gallon is still a bargain.

(By the way, I'm no fan of populism, which too often amounts to playing to people's worst instincts. I always love it when a candidate is asked how much does a gallon of milk or a loaf or bread cost. The answer tells us nothing about how he'll perform as a steward of the economy, but it sure seems important to a lot of folks. I'd just say sorry, I'm lactose-intolerant and allergic to wheat.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Is JK OK?"--no, make that "PS I Don't Love You"

I recently saw an article about how the masters of science are shutting creationism out of our classrooms because they're afraid of criticism. (It even used Ann Coulter as an expert witness!)

It was written by Jack Kemp, which disappointed me. I never had any strong feelings about him, but I always thought he was a fairly rational guy (by both political and football standards).

Then I saw the exact same piece, but this time by Phyllis Schlafly. Great minds think alike?

Turns out I wasn't the only one to notice. Carl Zimmer at The Loom also spotted this amazing coincidence.

Ultimately, the mystery was solved: the essay is by Schlafly and was used to fill in for a vacationing Jack Kemp. JK, you're still OK. But maybe you'd like to clear things up when you return.

Friday, August 25, 2006

If A Tree Falls In The Forest, Does It Only A Make Sound If There's A Tremendous Amount Of Publicity?

I never watched Katie Couric on The Today Show. (Too early.) Now she's moving to the CBS Evening News, another show I don't watch. (Why should when I can get the news whenever I feel like it?)

Since she's only going to be reading the news, I really don't get why this is such a big story. What interests me more is what the reviews will say. In fact, just how does one "reviews" an anchor?

Blog It, Sister

Here's an interesting blog, Sports & Spice...and everything nice. It's run by Becky, who's a fan of the Tigers and the Wolverines. I think I'm in love.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hannibal: The Sequel

I got an interesting response from a reader on my "Hannibal" post:
Wonder if they will include the part about him dying as an obscure forgotten mercernary in Asia Minor somewhere. Regnery press published a not bad historical novel which was OK (I have no idea if it's accurate)--its told through a sort of "fair & balanced" lens rather than the "politically correct" slant. Hogwash from a different perspective, maybe.
Here's my response:

Such a film should concentrate on the most important parts of a life. I don't care if it has a happy ending--in fact, it almost certainly should end in Hannibal's defeat. Nevertheless, Hannibal's sad final years would probably be anticlimactic.

I could see a prologue with Hannibal as a child begging his father to go to war, and being required to swear he'd fight Rome all his life.

Flash forward to a young adult Hannibal, already a great commander, with his troops in Spain. He makes the brave, unexpected choice to cross the Pyrenees and get to Italy, taking on the Romans where they live.

There'd be a long section showing the tremendous hardships he faced as he traveled through Gaul and northern Italy.

Already an amazing story, we'd have to take him through the battles of Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae. No Hollywood compression here--each is a major set piece.

Then trouble sets in as he can't or won't attack Rome. He's forced to return to Carthage, where he loses at Zama to Scipio Africanus, whose father he had previously defeated.

His later years aren't as interesting, though perhaps we could have an epilogue, much later, where he commits suicide rather than surrender.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When your house is my resource

"Supporters argue that charter schools improve public education by creating competition with traditional public schools, but opponents say they drain resources from traditional public schools."

Does that sentence belong in an AP story about a study saying charter schools aren't serving students as well as public schools?

I understand the motivation. You want to add context. You're afraid the rubes just don't get it.

But it's such a trivial observation, is it worth it? And the rubes know more than we give them credit for.

And besides, "opponents argue they drain resources"? How does that work? If the kid isn't there, aren't they *saving* resources? All that argument boils down to is "we want a monopoly."


Lately, I've been reading up on Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general. For years Hollywood had discussed making a picture based on his life (probably starring Vin Diesel). The great thing is unlike Troy, or even Gladiator, this is a true story, one so exciting that no embellishment is needed.

Hannibal is most famous for crossing the Alps with elephants, but that was just a prelude to the great battles he fought against the Romans. If the film is an epic, I'd put this event at the end of the first act. (Or if it's a two-part epic with an intermission, like films they made over 40 years ago, perhaps have the successful crossing end the first half.)

What they shouldn't do, but probably will, is change around facts so the people have attitudes and prejudices closely mirroring those of today. That's one of the ways they ruined Kingdom Of Heaven. An historical epic can be entertaining, even relevant, without dumbing it down.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Saving it up for later

Nothing to say about this, but what with constitutional(!) limits on the 16th Amendment and original meaning jurisprude, it's like soup in the beard.

Next up: Down goes the 17th!

Race to the bottom

The predictions of this handsome ladies man are coming true. I hope it all reaches fruition before the Apocalypse.

Or are they riding together?

Missing New Orleans

Spike Lee is in the LA Times talking about his HBO documentary on Hurricane Katrina. He's willing to name names.

One of them is Condoleeza Rice. He attacks her for shopping at Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue during the crisis. He doesn't care that as Secretary Of State this wasn't her jurisdiction. He also doesn't care that even during a crisis in New Orleans, life will go on elsewhere. As he puts it:
People died. When you're going to buy shoes while people are standing on the rooftops, waving brooms, you're part of the problem. [Yes, if only she'd put off buying shoes for a week, or perhaps bought a cheaper brand, we'd all be better off.]. She has a particular relationship with most African-Americans, which is—she's really suspect.
Aha, it's because she's black. So let this be a warning to all prominent African-Americans--Spike Lee knows how you're supposed to act, so don't get out of line.

Lee also has residents of the city saying the government blew up the levees. I can see using such footage to show how they feel, but he takes them seriously:
As an African American, I wouldn't put anything past the U.S. government. [Spoiler: very bad reasoning to follow, featuring a faulty premise and an unearned conclusion.] After things like the Tuskegee experiment, you can't just dismiss what these people believe as hocus pocus.
Hmm. I'd expect Spike Lee to have a point of view. I just hope he doesn't use it to drown the truth.

Monday, August 21, 2006

There Ought To Be A Law

"Godwin's Law" has it that whichever side is the first to invoke Hitler or Nazis in a political argument loses. There was a time, before the Third Reich, when people would regularly invoke the fall of the Roman Empire to warn against trends they didn't like.

There are many theories as to why the fall happened (some even claim there was no fall), but it's not as if the cause or causes are known for sure. So we need a name for this convenient, cliched comparison.

In his latest, Pat Buchanan starts by comparing the trouble the West is having with illegal immigration to the fall of Rome. I know, let's call it Buchanan's Law.

Ready To Rumble

Well, I'm back, as promised, and already disagreeing with ColumbusGuy (who did step up admirably while I was gone).

Here's a bit from his discussion about impeaching judges: "It's one thing to maintain judicial independence; it's another to enable judicial incompetence...."

We have an obvious solution for incompetent legislators, but federal judges are there for life. I think there's a reason for that. In fact, I don't see how you can maintain independence without protection for the incompetent, since impeachment for incompetence would soon collapse into impeachment over disagreement.

One small step

Finally, a Lebanese official lays down the law to Hezbollah.

Of course, it's just words, but words are important-up to the moment they are not enforced.

And at least it's better than the French.

I guess I'm drug-free, then

"Possession of a large sum of cash is “strong evidence” of a connection to drug activity, $84,615 in U.S. Currency, 379 F.3d at 501-02, and Gonzolez was carrying the very large sum of $124,700."

Shazzam, Gomer, that's almost a year's salary-if you're a federal judge. Diggs Taylor has nothing on these guys.

UPDATE: I thought the new headline beats the previous one, "I guess I'm safe, then"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Feeling motes

Just incredible. Kofi Annan pipes up to say that Israel violated the idiotic cease-fire. (But note AP doesn't give the actual quotes, which shows they're incompetent, and also leaves us without knowing what he really said, or at least, what AP said he said, the best we're able to get, unfortunately.)

Then Lebanon says the same thing.

What the dickens is wrong with these people? Where's the "Hezbollah violates the cease-fire" story? WHere are the soc-called international troops? And what the Hell besides nothing are the ITS going to do when they get there?

Forget Hezbollah. Forget Iraq. Forget Iran and N Korea. Let's send the Marines to the United Nations and take it out first.

Let me be the first to not call for impeachment

Apparently, we enjoy the services of a long-sitting federal judge who is incompetent. When the Washington Post editorial board writes, "Unfortunately, the decision yesterday by a federal district court in Detroit, striking down the NSA's program, is neither careful nor scholarly, and it is hard-hitting only in the sense that a bludgeon is hard-hitting. The angry rhetoric of U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt grab headlines. But as a piece of judicial work -- that is, as a guide to what the law requires and how it either restrains or permits the NSA's program -- her opinion will not be helpful," something is amiss.

Other competent folks weigh in, too, at various places, collected by the P-Boys.

Of course it's unfair to rely on only one decision, particularly a high profile one, but it's also unlikely that the quality of the work is an outlier, unrepresentative of the body of work.

So there are a couple of things to note, the first about the Manhattan Media, and the second about the judiciary and legislatures.

The first is, when does a federal judge, JonBenet-like, get his or her picture plastered all over the front pages, and her name in the stories, and when does the story limit itself to reporting, not the person, but the omniciscient, impersonal "judge." That is, when is the actor merely "the court," and when is the actor a personalized hero? Perhaps it is only a function of the newsworthiness of the case, but don't be surprised if ideology is an independent variable in the function, too.

Second, let's assume that the judge is indeed the wack-job she appears to be, holding herself out as the sole surviving protector of the Constitutiona, children, etc., while righteously criticizing others for proclaiming themselves the sole protector of the Constitution, children, etc. There is an easy and, really, sole cure for this: impeachment.

Don't panic. This isn't an argument that Diggs Taylor should be impeached. If impeachment were an active governing mechanism, that is, one used ordinarily and routinely, to maintain quality, instead of only extraordinarily to cover up embarrassment, and I were a legislator on a standing impeachment committee, I would not accept an impeachment resolution against her based on this decision. I would vote against it, if this were the sole grounds. Any judge can have a bad day or a bad decision, and ought not be removed because of it.

But if I am not arguing for impeachment of this judge on this decision, I am arguing against the views of legislatures and the judiciary generally. It's one thing to maintain judicial independence; it's another to enable judicial incompetence and supremacy. Judges, and feckless legislatures, would rather have incompetents among them than allow themselves to be reviewed on the merits. They are like any union, or any profession, business, or customer.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Asian enrollment up in elite New York schools

"In Elite N.Y. Schools, a Jump in Asians"

No, that's not the headline, which was "In Elite N.Y. Schools, a Dip in Blacks and Hispanics," but maybe somebody could explain to these Manhattan Media elites the formula, y = 1 - x.

Here's their helpful graphic:

Maybe the Times has a new motto: "Don't bother us with no stinkin' slopes"

I'll take "kill them" for $800, Alex

Mona Charen asks, "How do you fight people who are not afraid to die?"

Hmm. That's a toughie. We'll get back to you on it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Model attribution

In its entirety:

Aug 18, 9:36 AM EDT

Ford to Slash N. American Production

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. will cut North American production by 21 percent in the fourth quarter, requiring partial shutdowns at several plants in the U.S. and Canada.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Yes, the copyright is longer than the news. Well, almost.

So Long, But Not Too Long

I'll be gone this weekend, so don't wait up. But I promise I'll be back in a few days.

Meanwhile, enjoy what ColumbusGuy tosses your way, or perhaps enjoy our archives. And feel free to take some time for yourselves.

Democracy In Connecticut

Many on the left have been complaining about Joe Lieberman's decision to run as an independent after losing in the Democrats' primary. (Those on the right are mostly sitting back and smiling.) I'm no fan of Joe, but their complaints go too far.

Look at this editorial by David Sirota. He accuses Lieberman of "undemocratic chicanery" and says "he's behaving like a Third World autocrat."

I see--hurting Democrats hurts democracy.

Partisans forget our two-party system is not part of nature, like molecules and gravity. Heck, it's not even in our Constitution. Democrats and Repulicans alone deciding who the public can choose, that's undemocratic chicanery.

You can't get there from here

Uh, is this argument as stupid as it sounds?

But the wiretapping program is not preventing anyone from speaking on the phone. Quite the opposite--if the terrorists stopped talking on the phone, there would be nothing to wiretap. Perhaps the plaintiffs should have sued the New York Times, as it was that paper's disclosure of the program that created the "chill" on "free speech" that Judge Taylor laments.

We should all thank our editors, one more time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Taking Sides

I was a surprised by a full-page ad in the LA Times. It stated we "need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs" and was signed by 85 people, mostly Hollywood types. They lay the blame for the casualties in Israel and Lebanon at the feet of terrorists, as they should.

First, I'm used to wincing at such ads, since they're usually about how evil some democracy (America or Israel) is. Second, I wouldn't think strongly opposing terrorism and supporting countries who stand up to it would be a partisan issue, but for some reason, this view has become associated with the right. Third, along with well-known "Hollywood conservatives" (Bruce Willis, Pat Sajak, Patricia Heaton), it's good to see a number of liberals (Larry Gelbart, Dennis Hopper) and--to me, anyway--unknowns (Nicole Kidman, Danny De Vito and most of the others) speaking out.

I guess we have to add them all to the list of members of the International Zionist Conspiracy.

PS I see "Kristin Chenowith" signed the statement. I wonder if she's any relation to Kristin Chenoweth. (Maybe the list is just people with the same names as celebrities, and this was the closest they could get.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just the contrails, ma'm

We have a Missile Defense Agency? Cool.

Not until the Democrats are in power, anyway

"It's not going to be smiley-face happy news."

So says Katie Couric, explaining that she's going to do more smiley, happy-faced news.

Go Get 'Em

I hope I didn't jinx the Tigers by posting on how well they're doing. Since then, they've been in their most serious slump this season.

Here's a good piece in Slate that goes into more detail.

The AK Of NK.

Saddam is on trial and we're concentrating on Iraq now. Let's not forget North Korea, the third member of the axis of evil.

Leader Kim Jong-il is one of the greatest humans to ever live, just ask him.

And he may just be the greatest artist since Nero. For one thing, he's written the six best operas ever. Now he's directed yet another award-winning film, one that's certain to get 100% on the tomatometer (if they can find tomatoes in North Korea), Diary of a Student Girl. Is there no end to his talent?

I think it's time Mike Wallace interviewed him so we can find out why he's so wonderful.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Democracy is the best

I ask you, don't pollsters have a code of ethics? I ask you, are they not professionals?

Respondents were far more familiar with the Three Stooges -- Larry, Curly and Moe -- than the three branches of the U.S. government -- judicial, executive and legislative. Seventy-four percent identified the former, 42 percent the latter.
And BTW, how can the margin of error be only 2.9 percent when at least 40 percent got the wrong answer to each question? Huh? Tell me that.

Michigan, My Michigan

There was a potential terrorist threat to the Mackinac Bridge. After hearing this nugget mentioned by several pundits, I feel I must add something. Something that most don't know but every Michigander does:

The final "c" is silent. Pronounce it "Mackinaw." You have no idea how silly you sound.

Michael, Mel and Michael

Sometimes you're fulminating so hard you forget what you're saying. In the last few days, I heard someone: denouncing Mike Douglas for his softball questions (he didn't mean the recently-deceased mild-mannered TV host, he meant Mike Wallace); attacking Mel Brooks for his anti-Semitism (he meant Mel Gibson); and questioning Roger Moore's patriotism (he meant Michael Moore).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mary, Mary, Mary

My favorite sitcom ever is The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was going through some old papers (they're lying around all over my place) and found a salute I planned years ago if the Museum Of Television And Radio ever asked me to prepare one.

I figured I'd have a series of three-episode programs, each highlighting a different aspect of the show. Every episode would have to be a good one, of course.

I went through a ton of permutations before coming up with the following. It's a bit Mary/Lou/Ted heavy, but I'm going for what I think are the best.

1. Transitions:

"Love Is All Around" -- The pilot, where Mary moves into her apartment
"Mary Moves Out" -- Mary moves to another apartment
"The Last Show" -- The final episode where new management fires most of the gang

2. Parties:

"The Dinner Party" -- Mary hosts a disastrous party for a congresswoman
"Happy Birthday, Lou!" -- A surprise party annoys Lou
"Mary's Big Party" -- Johnny Carson is coming to Mary's party when the lights go out

3. The Teddys:

"Put on a Happy Face" -- Everything goes wrong for Mary on the day of the Teddy Awards.
"Ted Baxter Meets Walter Cronkite" -- Ted arranges to win a Teddy and then, you guessed it, meets Walter Cronkite
"Murray Can't Lose" -- Murray thinks he will finally win a Teddy

4. Taking Their Shot:

"An Affair to Forget" -- Ted convinces the newsroom he and Mary are having an affair
"Murray In Love" -- Murray tells Mary he loves her
"Lou Dates Mary" -- Lou Dates Mary

5. Off Series:

"Bess, You Is My Daughter Now" -- Mary babysits Bess for a few days. There is a sequence shot on location without dialogue where Mary and Bess bond
"The System" -- Ted has a successful football betting system. This episodes takes place over an entire football season with titles letting us know what week it is
"Mary's Three Husbands" -- Lou, Murray and Ted fantasize about being married to Mary.

6. Mary And The Law:

"Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?" -- Yes, she will. Mary refuses to reveal a source and spends a night in jail,
"You Try To Be A Nice Guy" -- Mary helps a prostitute she spent the night in jail with
"Mary Gets A Lawyer" -- Mary is up on charges again for not revealing a source. Unfortunately, her lawyer falls in love with her.

7. Mary And Dan:

"Room 223" -- Mary dates Dan, her journalism teacher
"The Courtship of Mary's Father's Daughter" -- Mary dates Dan again but she's not ready to fully commit
"One Boyfriend Too Many" -- Mary must choose between old flame Dan and her current steady Joe.

8. Show Within A Show:

"The Good-time News" -- Mary updates the news show but Ted doesn't cooperate
"The Outsider" -- A consultant disconcerts the gang with his changes to their operation
"The Critic" -- An arrogant critic joins the news team

9. Oh, Mr. Grant:

"Baby Sit-com" -- Lou babysits Bess
"You Can't Lose 'Em All" -- Lou doesn't want the Albert Mason Award which he feels is for washed-up people
"The Happy Homemaker Takes Lou Home" -- Mary fools Lou into going on a date with Sue Ann

10. The Story Of Ted And Georgette:

"Rhoda Morgensterm: Minneapolis to New York" -- Rhoda plans to go back to New York (but doesn't). This is the episode where Ted and Georgette meet
"Ted's Wedding" -- Ted gets married on the fly in Mary's apartment
"Mary Midwife" -- Georgette gives birth in Mary's apartment

11. Ted Baxter, Newsman?:

"Farmer Ted and the News" -- Ted starts doing ads, which drives Lou crazy
"We Want Baxter" -- Phyllis convinces Ted to run for office
"Ted's Moment of Glory" -- Ted auditions for a job as a quizmaster

12. Classics I:

"Toulouse-Lautrec Is One of My Favorite Artists" -- Mary dates a considerably shorter man
"Lou's First Date"-- Lou dates an 80-year-old woman
"Operation: Lou" -- After Lou has an operation he and Ted become best friends

13. Classics II:

"Lou's Place" -- Lou and Ted buy a bar
"Almost a Nun's Story" -- Georgette plans to enter a convent
"Better Late...That's a Pun...Than Never" -- Mary gets in big trouble for writing a humorous obituary

14. Classics III:

"Two Wrongs Don't Make a Writer" -- Ted steals Mary's ideas in a creative writing class
"Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcasters' School" -- A con man fools Ted into starting a fake school
"Chuckles Bites the Dust" -- You all know it

15. Classics IV:

"Ted's Change Of Heart" -- Ted survives a heart attack and life becomes precious (for a few days)
"Sue Ann Gets the Ax" -- Sue Ann is fired from her show and asks Mary for a job in the newsroom
"Hail the Conquering Gordy" -- Former WJM meteorologist Gordy returns, now a big network star, which bothers Ted quite a bit

Sunday, August 13, 2006

After All

Yes, as reader Lawrence King guessed, the third Best Picture Oscar winner with "All" in the title is All Quiet On The Western Front. But what I meant to ask was Best Picture Oscar winners with "All" as the first word. If it can be any word, you'd not only have All The King's Men and All About Eve, as mentioned earlier, but also A Man For All Seasons.

Also, "all" is within Annie Hall and is backwards in Million Dollar Baby.

I thought someone might guess All The President's Mens or All That Jazz or even All This And Heaven Too, all of which were nominated for Best Picture.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

At a certain age, journalists make certain unattributed assertions

"At a certain age, people tend to stop learning from new events and begin seeing them solely as confirming beliefs and prejudices they already hold."

Maybe. This is a popular theme with LAGuy. Back in the days when he didn't believe in press bias, he felt this explained the widespread view that the Manhattan Media was biased: It wasn't the reporters; it was the readers applying their filters.

It's a great thesis and doubtless there's some interesting truthiness to it. But why should we take the word of the P-boys for it?

LAGuy notes: I have not changed my views on media bias. And I see ColumbusGuy is still obsessed with the issue.

That's All

I was in Westwood recently. On one block they have these little monuments to the Best Picture Oscar winners built into the sidewalk. It starts with the first winner, Wings, and stops suddenly with Annie Hall. Did they intend to keep digging up the sidewalk every year but ran out of money in the late 70s?

The saddest thing is construction has covered up the winners for 1949 and 1950. For the record, they're All The King's Men and All About Eve.

Only one other winner has "All" in the title. Can you guess it?

Friday, August 11, 2006


Sad to say, I do not expect the press generally to get numbers right. They get too many much easier things wrong, after all. (True story: my first day on my first journalism job, the desk I was assigned had been completely cleaned out by the previous reporter who was no more, except for a single 3x5 index card, upon which was written, "new - old" over a horizontal division line, underneath which was written, "old.")

But I do expect more out of Rich Lowry, who reviews "The One Percent Doctrine," describing a supposed Cheney "axiom," that "if there is a one-percent chance of a nuclear bomb going off in an American city, the U.S. government has to respond with all the urgency as if there is a 100 percent chance of such an event."

I have enough confidence in Cheney to believe that if in fact he said such a thing, it was because he had so little confidence in his audience that he felt he couldn't state the proposition accurately. Lowry doesn't write for that audience, however.

Don't these people realize the catastrophe of which they speak? It's not a one percent doctrine. It's not even a tenth of a percent doctrine. It might be a hundredth of a percent, but frankly I suspect it's more likely a thousandth, or even less.

LAGuy, Lieberman, Little Love Lost

While the Lamont victory may signal unfortunate things for the Democrats, it's not as if Lieberman is any prize. I was going to write a little piece on one of the most annoying Senators around, but I see my semi-friend Tim Cavanaugh has beat me to it.

PS. Yet another reason to read Pajama Guy before anyone else:

On Thursday, Mickey Kaus wrote:
So if Lieberman wins as an independent, and the Democrats pick up six seats in November, doesn't that mean Lieberman gets to decide which party controls the Senate?
Then Kaus realizes James Taranto said it on Wednesday:
Suppose the Democrats do win all contested Senate races on Nov. 7, and Lieberman beats Lamont in Connecticut. That would, as we said, give Democrats a 51-49 advantage in the Senate. In order to be elected majority leader, Reid would need every single Democratic vote--including Lieberman's.
And here's PJGuy way back on Tuesday:
[If] Lieberman wins... [w]ill he take back his "independent" status and say he's a Democrat again?....This issue is especially important if he can put his party into the Senate majority.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Testing, testing

Courtesy the P-Boys, we're experimenting today. Please have some patience.

You Know What?

Things go in cycles. I probably went a year without writing "you know what," but I see over the last two days I've used it three times.

I'll try to hold off for a while before you see it again.

Take Ben Stein's Money

In a rather silly and pointless New York Times piece, former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein admits he's easily confused. But let me concentrate on one particular question he asks: "Why should the very rich not pay their fair share of the burdens of government?" I couldn't agree more. The rich should pay their fair share. So should the middle class. So should the poor. So should dogs, cats and eating utensils.

The trouble is Ben never quite gets around to explaining what a fair share is. He hints at what he'd like, and even why he'd like it, but doesn't really explain how to measure this "fair share." He apparently thinks since politicians can get away with this rhetorical trick, so can he.

Ben, by definition everyone should pay their fair share. Your job is to prove what "fair" means in this context.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is That What It Looks Like?

Warning: Today's link is short and profane.

People who use Word are probably familiar with the paper clip that flies down, says "It looks like you're writing a letter" and offers help.

Often I'm not writing a letter. And you know what? Even if I were, I wrote many of them successfully before I owned any Microsoft products.

Has anyone ever accepted the help of that paper clip? I've never heard of such a thing. I bet just sending the clip away has wasted thousands of hours.

Burning Bright

Now that the season is two-thirds over, it's pretty clear the Tigers are the best team in baseball. They didn't flower early, only to fade--they've kept it up throughout the season. I'm not sure if they've even lost three in a row yet.

They have such a solid lead in their division--over the World Series winning White Sox, a team that would be first in most other divisions--that it would be a disappointment if they didn't make the playoffs.

Detroit has had its share of winners lately, such as the Pistons and the Red Wings, but it's been so long since the Tigers were even a threat, I fear if they go all the way there might be damage (it's a local tradition). You know what? I'm willing to risk it.

Restore The Roar.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Green Footballs

The new media has once again found its niche - fisking the main stream media - and this time its international. Many bloggers have discovered photoshopped, staged or inaccurately annotated photographs in the recent 'news' coverage of the Hizbollah/Israel wars. Bloggers were all over this like a pack of old media journalists. At what point is the responsibility to have parallel reporting rather than just critiquing others? Does the MSM have the ability or desire to reform? Can AverageGuy ever trust another photograph? Could we (new and/orMSM) develop systems to ensure the veracity of what we are seeing? Would more transparency help?

Mind Your Own Business

Lately, when I go to the movies, the ticket-seller, or ticket-taker, or popcorn person, tells me to "enjoy the show."

You know what? I paid my money, I'll decide what I'm going to do, thank you very much.

Lamont, Lieberman, Little Love Lost

According to the latest poll, Ned Lamont will defeat Joe Lieberman in today's Connecticut primary. We'll know soon enough.

A few comments.

1) You gotta admit, Lieberman saw the writing on the wall. He was still leading when he decided he should prepare for a run as in independent.

2) This bizarre race is a useful snapshot of the Democratic party. Things are looking pretty good for them this upcoming election, and the last thing they need is to come across as too extreme.

3) Most pundits are saying Lieberman will still win the senatorial race because he's comfortably ahead in three-way polls. Hey, wasn't he comfortably ahead in the Democrat polls, too?

4) Let's say Lieberman wins, but not as a Democrat. Will he take back his "independent" status and say he's a Democrat again? I hope someone asks him this, since he'll need a lot of independent votes to win. This issue is especially important if he can put his party into the Senate majority.

Monday, August 07, 2006


We at PJG hope none of these noble American cheese workers opted that fateful day to spend their dollar on a coffee instead.

He Who Rules The Law Makes The Rule Of Law?

According to Justice Kennedy, people who live in authoritarian regimes are watching the US closely to determine if they want to make the switch to democracy. He argues "the meaning of the phrase 'rule of law' must be made clear in order to spread the cause of freedom to other countries."

Maybe so, maybe not, but I hope one thing is clear: Justice Kennedy's part in this "rule of law" business is to interpet the laws passed by his fellow citizens, not to fret about how those interpretations might look to foreigners. That's for those who make the laws to worry about.

From Bad To Verse

Last week I noted "The Boys Are Back In Town" has a great verse but a rotten chorus. It got me thinking--it makes the song feel...lopsided. The chorus is supposed to be the highlight, where the "hook" is, so it feels weird when you like the verse better.

I started wondering if any other songs I like that had this property.

There's Outkast's "Hey Ya." Admittedly, the chorus is pretty catchy, but what really drew me to the song was the original verse. In fact, I'm disappointed when the second verse doesn't closely follow the style of the first, and that halfway through the song the group essentially drops the verse.

Paul McCartney's "Listen To What The Man Said" suffers from this problem even more. The song starts with two verses but then goes into the rather insipid chorus. Worse, at that point, McCartney dumps the verse and just keeps repeating the chorus. What a disaster.

Then there's Martha Reeves & The Vandellas "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave." It's my favorite Motown song, yet everything that makes it great is in the verse. The chorus almost seems like an afterthought.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


"Mideast war rages on despite UN peace resolution"

Really? Is that even possible? It seems not logical. Didn't the UN clearly state that it wants peace? Can't somebody do something? Madeleine? Bill? Write a letter, maybe?

Oh, wait a minute. I've jumped the gun. It's only a draft resolution. Hasn't been voted on yet. Those rascally Reuters boys fooled me.

Plus, "a second resolution is envisaged a week or two after the first is adopted, setting down conditions for a permanent ceasefire and authorizing an international force in the area."

Whew. For a moment I thought we were going to have to call in Kofi to bust heads.

Single-sex education

"Texas school district bans cleavage"

I guess girls and boys with advanced energy storages systems need not apply.

I Can't Stand Pat

Pat Robertson, living through this scorching summer, has decided global warming is real.

Great. Last year he didn't believe it for bad reasons, this year he believes it for bad reasons.

At least he no longer believes that Katrina's a sign of the apocalypse.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pop This Up

A friend of mine was taking a sexual harassment course on-line. (He'd done nothing wrong, it was just part of a new job.)

To get to the material, he had to open new windows on his screen. This meant he had to disable his pop-up blocker.

So he took the course, passed the test, and shut down the window. He realized then that a new window had opened up when his defenses were down. It was a porn site.

Now those are people who recognize their audience.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Giving credit where it's doo

I just want to say, that it's almost certain that this was the best post in America this past week.

I can't wait for my next edition of Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary.

But it was close

I thought the best line was, "I knew there was no good going to come out of it," but that was before I reached, "My main concern was not the tournament." No, that was probably secondary. Once you lose the chance to pull the Marlin AND your son out of the water, you may as well cut the line and take whoever comes first.

Arthur Lee

Arthur Lee just died. He was the main man in the 60s band Love. They never sold a lot, but their Forever Changes is perhaps THE album of the psychedelic era. It used to be hard to find their stuff, but in this day and age it's no trouble. Let me recommend their greatest hits.

Lee also did some fine solo work. In particular, you should check out his self-titled album released by Rhino Records.

What's Not Wrong With Kansas

Last year the Kansas Board of Education adopted what were essentially anti-evolution standards. Happily, Kansas voters have changed the makeup of the board and it now has at least a slim majority that will not force teachers to pretend the basics of evolution are scientifically controversial.

I guess this is good news, though it's sort of sad when good news means they'll be teaching science in science class again.

PS Jerry Coyne has a piece in The New Republic on Ann Coulter's attack on evolution. While he gets the science right, some of the other arguments are harder to prove.

Coulter thinks evolution leads to immorality. Here I agree with Coyne--this is nonsense, both philosophically and historically.

Coyne also claims that learning about (and believing) evolution does not make you godless. This is true as far as it goes, but does that end the issue? There's at least an argument that evolution is hard or impossible to square with a not insignificant number of people's religious viewpoints. (This doesn't harm the argument for evolution, but it does help explain the controversy.)

Finally, Coyne believes that Coulter is putting us on. He "conclude[s] that the trash-talking blonde bit is just a shtick (admittedly, a clever one) calculated to make her rich and famous." He even doubts she believes what she says. This is going too far. Sure, she may exaggerate for effect, but unless I know otherwise, I'll take her at her word.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Better than a stupid and perpetual one

So The Region is "braced for a bitter and long war" between Israel and some sort of entity that might be Lebanon or might be a group that operates in Lebanon but in a weird apart-from-it-but-can't-be-apart-from-it status.

Well, better that than the mind-numbingly stupid idea of a cease fire that isn't a cease fire. Yes, war is Hell. May the good guys win and the bad guys be killed, dispersed and discredited, in no longer time than is necessary, and no shorter. (I nearly wrote disbursed, which might be correct, depending upon what is being paid.)

Gower Power

I just read Before The Parade Passes By*, John Anthony Gilvey's bio of Broadway director-choreographer Gower Champion. (What a great name he had.)

Champion has gotten a lot less attention than contemporaries Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse and Harold Prince. This is probably because his stuff is seen as simpler and "happier" while the others were more edgy and "artistic."

But Champion was as successful as anyone during his heyday in the 60s. He directed four hits in a row, Bye Bye Birdie (the original "High School Musical"), Carnival, the monumental hit Hello, Dolly! and I Do! I Do!. Broadway recognized his talent and he won a bunch of Tonys.

After a string of flops, his life had a Hollywood ending--ailing, he directs 42nd Street, dying the day the smash opens (which isn't that far removed from the plot of the movie 42nd Street).

The only live show I ever saw that he directly worked on was 42nd Street. I can't say I liked it. For one thing, I love the Busby Berkeley films it's based on and it suffers in comparison. Also, I felt the actors were playing down to the material, treating the 1930s plot as camp. My attitude is when actors think they're better than the play, if they're right, get a new play, if they're wrong, get new actors.

* This is a link to the book on Note the Publisher's Weekly blurb where they claim Champion did Mame. I realize the show feels like a knock-off of Hello, Dolly!, but Champion had nothing to do with it.


Maybe quarter-bright. Only 24 percent of the American public can name the party that controls the House of Representatives, the secretary of state and the Russian president.

What gives me the chuckles is that, while not quite half of Rush Limbaugh's audience can do it, not quite four in 10 NPR listeners can do it. (Quick, America: Which audience scores higher? Answer: Why, the PajamaGuy audience, of course.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sullying A Joke

Andrew Sullivan makes an argument that, in its generic form, is common yet (almost always) bad. It's part of an attack on "the theocon right (and fellow-travelers)" for defending their boy Mel Gibson. (Sullivan may have a point, though the examples he gives are pretty weak. If I were more important Sullivan might even attack me, even though I don't agree with the religious right and don't believe I defended Gibson.)

Sullivan writes "...David Frum...suggest[s] Gibson's anti-Semitism qualifies him to become head of the U.N. Can you imagine him taking such a jocular approach if, say, Louis Farakhan had been ranting similar things about Jews?" Yes, of course I can. In fact, mocking hateful people by saying they should be head of the U.N. or writing editorials for The New York Times is a pretty common gag among conservatives.

Has Sullivan gotten so pro forma in his attacks that he doesn't think about what he's saying any more?

Columbus Guy says: You're still reading Sullivan?

Columbus Guy steps on his joke: And aren't we theocons actually mocking the U.N. and the NYTimes, by strongly implying that they're run by hateful people? The hateful people themselves don't need mocking; they're already self-mocked.


Snickers has a new ad campaign. They use the familiar logo but replace SNICKERS with newly coined words. Just yesterday I saw SATISFECTELLENT on the sides of two buses.


Some people know how to mix two words together--Lewis Carroll took "furious" and "fuming" and came up with "frumious." SATISFECTELLENT is apparently a joining of "satisfaction" and "excellent," and it should make the people who paid for it frumious.

The first part of the word is closer to "satisfactory" than "satisfying," not nearly good enough for the most popular candy bar of all.

The second part sounds a bit like disinfectant.

But worse, much worse, the word it most reminded me of is "feculent." Even if you haven't seen the Baby Ruth scene in Caddyshack, it's obvious the last thing you want to associate a small, brown chocolate bar with is feces.

Now a good dump, that's satisfeculent.

Sandler's people

I blew five bucks a few days ago to pick up some obsolete VHS of Patton and Punch-Drunk Love. to play on our obsolete VHS machine. ColumbusGal and ColumbusDaughter fired it up while I worked on something last night, and God is PDL fabulous.

And little did I know that LAGuy was living under a pseudonym.

LAGuy adds: The only thing worse than Adam Sandler trying to be funny is Adam Sandler trying to be serious. I remember seeing Punch-Drunk Love on opening day with a packed arthouse crowd panting for PTA's latest, and boy did the air go out of that balloon fast. The sense of disappointment was almost tangible.

Columbus Guy says: Yeah? That's a good way to describe the NPR gang, "almost tangible," but even so, it's nothing compared to how fucked up Sandler's indubitably tangible audience found it.

But it was still great.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Cue

Over at Reason's "Hit And Run" blog, Jacob Sullum notes there's been "a crackdown on khat, a stimulant plant popular in some Arab and East African countries..."

I only mention this because "khat" is also spelled "qat." That may not sound significant to you, but if you play Scrabble, it's damned important.

There Shall Be No Night

I recently saw Lady In The Water, a disastrous miscalculation by writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (though Nina Jacobson, the Disney exec who turned it down, was the one who got cashiered).

Night is coming off four hits (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village) but I can't say I think much of his work. I like his directing style, where he often holds the shot so we can watch the actors act, but I'm not as big a fan of his writing.

Still, I'll give the guy credit. He has a vision and he's willing to stick to it, even fight for it. In a town where most of the films are sequels or remakes or based on proven properties, he's willing to try something different. That's what the critics always say they want (until they get it).

Some are suggesting Shyamalan try something different--a big-budget spectacle with someone else's script, even a James Bond or superhero film. I say stick to it, Night. Better to fail gloriously than succeed at something plenty of others can do.

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