Friday, October 31, 2008

If It Talks, Regulate It

My friends Jesse Walker, good as always, on the regulatory regime we can expect from the FCC over the next four years.

Mixed Feelings

So the Beatles' music will be used in a video game. I guess that's a good thing, isn't it?

Cold Reception

Record cold temperatures are sweeping through Florida. There's only one explanation. Al Gore has gone out there to help Obama.

What's The Deal?

When you tape or TiVo a game, you have to be very careful not to catch any of it before you rewind. Just a glimpse could give you the score which would make watching the points up to that point pointless.

Which is why I don't get Deal Or No Deal. I recently watched it in real time (a mistake) and, before the commercial break, they actually showed how much money was about to be offered later in the episode. Shouldn't they at least warn you they're about to ruin what's coming up?

I don't even like when fictional shows start with what's happened in past episodes since it tips you off which plotlines will matter, but this is just out and out giving you the scoop that you're about to watch in the next ten minutes anyway. (The worst giveaway I can recall for a fictional show was Coach, when they had a great gag where Jerry Van Dyke's character goes to a family reunion and Dick Van Dyke walks through--this only works if you don't know it's coming, but ABC promoted this moment so much you'd have thought Dick was the star of the show.)

Slim And None

There's not much point in talking about the election odds, since I think it's over. There are a ton of polls and they all show Obama ahead, most with room to spare. Even if he were ahead only two or three points in all the polls, he'd be the big favorite.

So what's the scenario where McCain can win? You need to make four assumptions, each unlikely. 1) The closer polls have better modeling, so Obama's lead right now is less than 4 points. 2) Obama's get out the vote machine isn't as great as claimed and McCain's is better than expected (this is related to 1, but not quite the same). 3) There'll be a move to McCain at the last second when push comes to shove because the public still has doubts about Obama. 4) There'll be close votes in the swings states, and McCain will win all the big ones (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina) and most of the others and/or he'll take Pennsylvania and only lose a few others.

What are the odds of all this happening? I'd put it at less than 1 in 20. Except perhaps for point 3, however, there's no easy way to check them till after the election.

Have A Jazzy Halloween

Let me leave you this Halloween with two of my favorite spooky songs. I couldn't find a video by Lambert, Hendrick & Ross, but this performance of "Halloween Spooks" isn't bad:

And here's a modern version of a real oldie, "Mysterious Mose":

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Did It Work?

I didn't watch it, but Mark Steyn doesn't think Obama's Big Night did the trick:

For what it's worth, I don't think the night worked for him. The last time anyone did this — Ross Perot — it was so weird a world unto itself (strange-looking guy with pie charts) that, beached between Cybill and Murphy Brown (or whatever it was back then), it had a kind of integrity and distinctiveness. This time round, The O Show followed by the Phillies followed by Jon Stewart cumulatively undermined the candidate.

He concludes with:

This is an amazing race. The incumbent president has approval ratings somewhere between Robert Mugabe and the ebola virus. The economy is supposedly on the brink of global Armageddon. McCain has only $80 million to spend, while Obama's burning through $600 mil as fast as he can, and he doesn't really need to spend a dime given the wall-to-wall media adoration. And tonight Chris Matthews' doctors announced that his leg tingle has metastasized leaving his entire body like a vibrating cellphone whose ringtone is locked on "I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy."

And yet an old cranky broke loser is within two or three points of the King of the World. Strange.

He's Mad

AMC owns the show Mad Men, but not its creator, Matthew Weiner. They're in negotiations right now to see if he'll continue runnning it.

Weiner is asking for $10 million. Mad Men is the first basic cable show to win the Emmy for best drama, but its ratings are not spectacular. $10 million is probably more than AMC can pay anyone.

Still, Weiner is the show. He's a control freak (I've heard) who oversees every aspect. And the show has put AMC on the map. I think AMC should give him as much as they can afford. The question is how much can they afford?

Burn Before Filming

In Anthony Lane's pan of Synecdoche, New York we get this parenthetical comment:

The best gag in the film is that Hazel’s home is forever on fire; she lives there quite cheerfully, never explaining the flames, and barely noticing them. Buñuel would be proud of her.

I think the burning house is a good bit by itself, but does't work in the film. The story was already so filled with surrealistic touches, that to have yet another, seemingly separate from everything else, was a touch too far.

Freedom Of Suppress

In Fahrenheit 451, "firemen" start fires. Now, a newspaper seems to believe its duty is to suppress news.

I'm talking, of course, about the controversy over a tape the LA Times possesses that shows a public event with Barack Obama and his close acquaintance, Palestinian partisan Rashid Khalidi.

The Times claims they won't show the tape because they promised their confidential source they wouldn't. (Do newspapers usually cut this sort of deal--not to protect their source, but to hide information?) They also claim they've already reported what happened, so what's the big deal? Here's how they characterized the event.

In reporting on Obama's presence at the dinner for Khalidi, the article noted that some speakers expressed anger at Israel and at U.S. foreign policy, but that Obama in his comments called for finding common ground.

Okay, fine, that's what the LA Times thinks, but others claim Obama's statements were...more wide-ranging than that.

According to one source, Obama

congratulates Khalidi for his work saying “Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine” plus there’s been “genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis.”

If this is true, it sounds pretty newsworthy to me, and also sounds like the LA Times, for whatever reasons, isn't giving us the complete story. Why can't they pressure their source, who, after all, thought it okay to leak the tape in the first place, to allow it to be shown?

Failing that, there is another way--the Times could release a transcript of the tape. Why would it be okay to discuss the contents of the tape but not put out a transcript and clear up the mystery?

Let's Getty Out Of Here

The Getty museum has a commercial out where people are walking around with pieces of art instead of heads. Their slogan is "it sticks with you."

It's effective CGI, but would be more suitable in a horror film.

It's No Single Guy

NBC has a long history of having trouble finding a good sitcom to sandwich between the 8 and 9 pm shows on Thursday. I guess the streak continues with Kath & Kim. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm getting the feeling if I don't watch soon, I may never get another chance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Farewell Gifts?

Now is the time, or rather, last chance, for October Surprises. Putting on my conspiracy hat, I note that both Ahmadinijihad and Kim Jong-Il are both under the weather- leaders of 2/3ds of the axis of evil. (Who is the third nowadays? OBL? ) Would anyone think that the guys who have expressed their strong belief in the need for "dark side" tactics and who are supposed to be on their way out the door (won't believe until see) and seem to have pretty close to nothing to lose might opt for the Blaze of Glory option.

Naw. But its a fairly good premise for a thriller that should have already come out last summer

Spreading? Bad. Sharing collectively? Good.

“[W]e’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” As usual, please read the whole article.

Bad Reasons

Here's Tim Cavanaugh with a rare honest endorsement.

Taste Of Chicago

With the rising popularity of early voting (which I think should be mostly illegal), I have a question. What happens when someone votes, then dies before election day? Is the vote still valid?

On Call

TV pilots are first drafts that sometimes need to be fixed. For instance, Bill Cosby's house and number of kids changed once his sitcom eased into its first season.

In the Mad Men pilot, they made a point of showing the gals at the switchboard, and pointed out how important they are. Then they dropped the whole thing completely until the second season's finale. And then, it was former secretary Lois giving useful information in return for a ticket back to the secretarial pool. I guess being an operator isn't such a big deal after all.

A Quick Review

Being a Michigan sports fan teaches you character. And I would have said that even before this football season. For example, the Best Damn Sports Show had "100 Mind Blowing Moments." Four of them dealt with Michigan and all of them were embarrassing.

First you've got this:

This was an instant classic:

Of course, you knew they'd have this one:

And I'd almost forgotten this one:

NP Says NP

Nancy Pelosi says if the Dems control the House, the Senate and the White House, they will be "more bipartisan."

You know, when you can force everyone to agree with you, it always feels bipartisan.

If It's Good Enough For Ovitz

Not sure if I get Ari's arc this season on Entourage. They're making a big deal about whether he'll sell out and become the head executive at a studio. How is this selling out? How is being a "suit" at a studio worse than being a wheeler-dealer agent? I'd guess most people would find it a step up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


John Kerry wants more government to respond to new economic crises: "We’re operating with old institutions that are incapable of responding fast enough, dealing with vast sums of money that cross boundaries in different financial centers.”

Government can't respond too fast, that's its nature. Making it bigger will not necessarily make it quicker, but can almost guarantee it'll be more intrusive.

Vote Our Way, You Jerks

Here's an ad against California's parental notification law, Prop 85. Their slogan is "think outside your bubble." I have no idea if this works, but is it really a good strategy to insult the voters you're trying to bring aboard?

Pete, Peggy And The Present

Fine season-closer for Mad Men, but one thing--early on, Pete tells Peggy he's "waiting on" a call. Last week I wrote how this has replaced "waiting for." But Mad Men is set in 1962. With all the care they take on getting the period detail right, one misplaced preposition puts me right back in the present.


I understand why sports uniforms were created--when two teams take the field, they need to tell each other apart. That they've grown into symbols and colors we root for is secondary. (For an enjoyable tour of ugly uniforms, go here.)

So I was thinking--why don't they let volleyball players wear whatever they want? There's no chance of anyone confusing who's on what side.

Do The Dip

Looking over the list of major newspapers losing circulation (and it is impressive, if that's the word--The New York Times will soon dip below a million), many conservatives have a grand theory that says they're all losing readers due to their outrageous bias.

I think the explanation is less conspiratorial than that. In fact, you're looking at it right now.

(I should leave it there, but to avoid accusations of arrogance, I don't mean Pajama Guy. I don't even mean just blogs. I mean the easy and convenient access to news and opinion available on the internet at no extra cost.)


Clint Eastwood's latest, The Changeling, is getting mixed reviews, but what I noticed is the running time. The story sounds slight, but Clint takes 140 minutes to tell it.

His past few films:

Letters From Iwo Jima - 141 minutes

Flags Of Our Father - 132 minutes

Million Dollar Baby - 132 minutes

Mystic River - 137 minutes

In fact, Eastwood has shot 16 features in the past 20 years, and only 2 of them are under 120 minutes. I know Clint likes to shoot fast and cheap, but maybe he should stay in the editing room a few more weeks.

All Is Vanity

Saw this plate on a Toyota Echo: FREAKER

I guess it makes sense, but do you really want to pay to let the world know? (Do his other cars read FREAK and FREAKEST?)

I also saw a big black Beamer with this: SHVUSLU.

I'm not sure what that is, but it sounds Jewish.

Then I saw a Honda truck with this: POSTLGC.

I was thrilled. I thought here's a guy with a PhD in philosophy. Then I saw it was a company truck for Post Logic, a local company that works in film.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Obama Audio Snippet

I found it here. Again, it's just a small snippet, with no date or context attached. But still, "...reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day..." makes me want to know more.

Thanks But No Thanks?

Sarah Palin says the expensive wardrobe isn't her property. A McCain advisor responds by telling the press "the comments about her wardrobe 'were not the remarks we sent to her plane this morning.'" The story is stupid, and I don't blame her for being pissed off about it refusing to die, but this dissension is becoming too public, and McCain really needs to rein in his campaign staff.

Consistently The Best Campaign Coverage This Year

Website I'd Like To Correct

From Power Line:

I don't think there is any precedent in our history for the shameful manner in which the Left has treated Sarah Palin. Left-winger Andrew Sullivan gleefully posted a particularly disgusting example of the phenomenon today; it's a YouTube video titled "Red, White and MILF." Watch it only if you have a strong stomach. If you don't know what "MILF" means--I'm sure most of our readers don't--Google it.

This is shocking. A writer at a high traffic spot on the internet doesn't believe his readers know what MILF means? Everyone knows what a MILF is.

Heroic Change

Entertainment Weekly has five problems with Heroes, and ways to fix them. I made my list a few weeks ago.

Here are the EW points:

1. "Too many heroes" I don't know if it's the quantity so much as the quality. They also suggest more single-character episodes, which I generally oppose--let every hour add to the arc.

2. "Absurd plot twists" They say the characters should be smarter. Sure, though part of this is cleaning up their powers, since when they can do too much, they can always get out of trouble.

3. "Overheightened reality" I'm not sure what EW means--this show by very nature has a heightened reality. They're bothered by a character who can create black holes. How is that sillier than a character who can change time and space? On the other hand, I agree that the characters should have one foot in real life, like they did in the first season. But how to go back? (This was actually a problem in the first season, when I complained that the conspiracy kept getting wider and deeper, so that by the end of the season, everyone was involved and everyone had powers.)

4. "Stale Storytelling" This is true--they keep having the same set-ups--knowing a disastrous future--and the same problems--struggling to control a power. It's hard to be original, but even when you get back to your roots, you've got to come up with a new way of using the heroes.

5. "Too disposable" What EW wants is a huge arc and a guaranteed ending for the series. I couldn't disagree more. If a show plans it from the start--Lost, Babylon 5--fine. It's too late for Heroes. Heroes doesn't need stand-alone episodes, but it should have a separate storyline for each season (like the first) and see how far it can go.

Are You Positive?

My book group once read the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I remember it started out pretty good, listing a lot of negative rights, where the state had to leave you alone or, if it had you in its clutches, treat you properly. (I admit the UN hasn't followed up well on these rights, but at least it had them as an ideal.)

But then it got into a more modern concept of rights--all the stuff the state owed every citizen. This is where I got off the boat. It's nice to get stuff, but I don't think it's a right. It may even sometimes be a good policy, though the further you go, not only the worse it can get--it can go so far as to deny you many of those negative rights (including property rights, which are in the Universal Declaration).

I get the feeling Barack Obama is a big supporter of negative rights. He'd let the courts see to them if he could get away with it. But he definitely believes the government should get involved--in sharing the wealth, as it were.

Obama's economic ideas would sound to many like a fairly large departure from what we're used to. Who knows, maybe the public would support it. (Whether our negative rights should protect us from this majority is a separate question.) But I get the feeling the public isn't quite aware of just how radical Obama's politics have been on this issue, or, for that matter, how readily a Democratic Congress might go along.

Why? You could blame the media--you know, all those people who complain we don't talk about substance. But it says something about the McCain campaign that they haven't been able to get across the Obama that you can hear in the video above, an Obama that's never been hidden if you looked for him.

I Went To A Marvellous Party

I was at a party recently and everyone was talking politics. As you might expect, they all supported Obama.

I was particularly fascinated by the loathing Sarah Palin inspires. Someone was saying, in essence, how cretinous her supporters are. I noted that they cling to their guns and religion and hatred of people who aren't like them. I don't think this person got the Obama reference, and simply nodded in agreement. (BTW, I was surprised to see SNL mock John Murtha. Not that he isn't a ripe target--I just wasn't sure he was big enough.)

I also spotted an early trend. They were already making excuses for Obama. They said things are so bad, he'll be unfairly blamed for what happens over the next four years. So I guess he can't lose.

(This reminds me of my favorite Norm MacDonald joke--that Paula Barbieri broke up with O. J. Simpson because she was afraid if they got married she'd be murdered and he'd be falsely blamed for it.)

20 Years At The Opera

Broadway will be a little less fun next year. Spamalot of Hairspray are both set to close in January. It happens to every show sooner or later. But why hasn't it happened to The Phanton Of The Opera yet?

Repeating This A Million Times Makes It Okay

This parable has been making the rounds:

In a local restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08″ tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference–just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I’ve decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

I'm sure there's something unfair about this story, but I can't figure out what.

Still Silly

Happy birthday, John Cleese, 69 today.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Do You Believe?

An interesting post from Carnal Reason about the difference in perception between Barack Obama's and Sarah Palin's religious beliefs: (h/t David Thompson)

The theory that the earth is only 6000 years old appears to be pre-scientific nonsense. It contradicts known facts about the rates at which radioactive materials decay. By the same token, a corpse coming back to life violates the laws of thermodynamics, and walking on water violates the laws of gravity.

So far as I know Palin is not a Young Earther. But if she were, her belief would be no more at odds with science than is Obama’s stated belief that Christ is Lord. I suspect those who mock Palin’s belief without mocking Obama’s do so because in their hearts they imagine that Obama does not actually believe. He just says what he has to say to attain power. And they’re ok with that. They mock Palin because they imagine she means what she says.

As always, read the whole thing.

Watching TV Religiously

"The BBC will tackle Islam differently to Christianity, admits its Director General."

I don't see how this is good for Christianity, Islam or the BBC.

It's be nice if the people had a say in it, but across the pond, their job is to shut up and pay for the privilege.


House is one of my favorite shows, but boy is the USA channel repeating the heck out of it. Yesterday, they had seven episodes in a row.


Many are saying, assuming Obama wins, that Sarah Palin will be the Republican nominee in 2012. (Some are saying she will be even if McCain wins.)

I wouldn't be surprised. Right now, no one else excites the base like she does. But four years is a long time.

I guess it depends if you think she's closer to Ronald Reagan or Dan Quayle.

Compared To What?

Andy Klein's review of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York starts thus:

Charlie Kaufman is perhaps the closest thing in contemporary Hollywood to an “auteur screenwriter.” And, while his work may have connections to the likes of Pinter and Beckett, he’s singular nonetheless.

Surely this is wrong. Pinter and Beckett are noted for being spare. Kaufman throws everything he's got into his screenplays, so much so that they start bending into themselves. If I'd compare him to anyone, it would be a self-referential ponderer like Borges, or maybe Stanislaw Lem.

You Gotta Do Better Than That

We know the American Thinker wants McCain for President, so perhaps it's not surprising they make an argument about why he'll win. It amounts to this: there are plenty of Democrats who support McCain. No doubt true, but so what? The question is what percentage of Dems support McCain, since it's easy enough to find anecdotes.

Right now the polls show Obama with an imposing lead--over 5%--and he's had it since just about when the financial meltdown began. How does the Thinker explain these numbers?:

It's inevitable. It's his election to lose. What proof does the media offer? Public opinion polls that supposedly show Obama "winning" the race. (But see here and here.)

That's it. No more talk about the polls. The linked arguments do discuss the polling, and essentially say though they all show Obama in the lead, they don't all show him definitely winning if you take into account margin of error and undecideds, and they're weighted poorly to boot. Pretty thin stuff.

I'm sure there are a lot of imaginative ways to show why McCain should win. But unless someone can explain convincingly why the polls are, or will be, wrong, it's hardly worth the effort.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oh, Man

I got chills...

...they're multiplyin'...

Why I'm Pushing It

Okay, this one is going to be tough to express without doing my own unintended race-baiting, but I think the issue is interesting so I'll give it a shot.

VG and I have been having a very enjoyable and informative (for me, anyway) back and forth about the Ayers/Obama connection and whether it means anything, should mean anything, etc. Read the whole posts for context, please, but what I take to be the gist of the good VG's perspective is that there's enough "there there" in the Ayers connection to give reasonable people "a moment's pause and a slight case of anxiety," about Obama, particularly when considered in the context of Obama's very short, thin, liberal resume of public service. Speeches don't count nearly as much as actions, and we don't have nearly enough of Obama's actions, and the actions we do have are already pretty far to the left. I get that and I respect it.

I won't repeat my perspective on the broader Ayers issue, but one point that I keep harping on is that if you do feel anxious about Obama, it's important to think about precisely what it is you're anxious might happen. I think that's key because it's a necessary part of deciding whether your anxiety is rational -- i.e. based on legitimate concerns about issues of governance, political judgment, fitness for office, etc

Why is it important for folks to analyze that? Because if you don't, you're at some risk of falling into this trap. However coyly phrased, what John Moody did was use a racial attack between two private citizens to attempt to tap into people's unspecified discomfort with Obama being black, while soothing them that in reconsidering their support for Obama, it wasn't because they were racists "but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee." As it turns out, there was no attack, Ms. Todd is obviously disturbed, and I hope she gets help. The police here, by calmly investigating the case and finding out the truth, proved that we've come an incredible distance in color-blind criminal justice in this country, and are to be applauded. But Mr. Moody is a smart, sane, politically savvy guy, and it's worth thinking about the angle he was taking. He's aware that there are a lot of white people who, while wishing no harm to black people, simply do not feel completely comfortable being around them. That's not racism in a way that should make people feel ashamed of themselves, but it's certainly irrational, and no good basis on which to pick a president.

My concern is that the strategy of pushing vague innuendo about Ayers "raising doubts," rather than expressing precisely what it is you're afraid would happen, similarly opens the door for people who are not so deeply involved in this election to simply fall back on their unconscious prejudices or discomfort with black people rather than considering each candidate as an individual. If you follow the train of thought and get to "well, no, I don't really believe that it's possible Obama's going to follow Ayers' political views if he's elected," maybe reconsider whether the anxiety really is justified.

Please note that I am NOT trying to say that VG is being racist here -- unconsciously or otherwise -- or that he himself has any discomfort with black people for any reason. I have zero reason to believe either of those things. He has expressed more than enough good, rational reasons to oppose Obama's candidacy. And if this all sounds like white-guilt navel-gazing, feel free to ignore it. I probably haven't expressed the thought well enough to get past that. But maybe before you do, just consider what you think would have happened if a large black man actually had attacked a small, white college student based on her support for McCain and carved a B in her face for Barack.

Speed-the-Plow On-the-nose

When I heard Jeremy Piven was starring in a Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow I thought "that's a bit on the nose." Piven's Ari Gold, the conniving agent on Entourage, sounds just like S-t-P's Charlie, another fast-talking hustler who fights to get his film off the ground. But it turns out Piven has been cast as Bobby, the producer with greenlight power. It might be interesting to see how Piven handles the other side of the desk. (Actually, on Entourage right now, it looks like he may be kicked up to that sort of role.)

Speed-the-Plow is a fun ride, but pretty thin--a good reason for major productions to go for star power. The original Broadway version starred Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver, and, in the underwritten role of Karen, Madonna. A recent London production had Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum.

The new production also features Elisabeth Moss. This seems a bit on the nose, too, since her Peggy in Mad Men, just like Karen, is a mixture of naivete and calculation. On the other hand, there's not a single critic who doesn't think she's doing a better job than Madonna.

Barrel Half Full

With all the bad economic news (and some claim that's the only kind), shouldn't we at least celebrate the nosedive in oil prices? If someone had told us three months ago the cost would be cut in half, we'd have thrown our hats in the air.

What A Deal

I don't know if I should feel sorry for this guy or hate him. (Don't turn the sound up too high since people shout around the 50 second mark.)

Just How Stupid Is West Pennsylvania?

After calling his constituents racists and rednecks, John Murtha appears to be slightly ahead in his Congressional race. I wondered why the voters put up with this rhetoric. My answer came via Wikipedia (whose content I trust):

The 12th Pennsylvania congressional district is located in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is a heavily Gerrymandered district. [....] The district was drawn specifically for Murtha, including many heavily Democratic regions, while leaving more right-leaning Pittsburgh suburban regions to the 4th or 18th district, and rural conservative regions to the 3rd or 9th district.

New England Guy knows a little bit about this area. Perhaps he can explain further.

Friday, October 24, 2008

We'd be Better Off to Drop Down Dead

I'm at a law conference in South Florida today and the keynote was by an economist. While reasonable-sounding and more upbeat than most of the prognosticators, he was fairly bleak about the next 6 months. Fred Barnes spoke too and was equally gloomy (but that was about President Obama)

I honor of the current economic climate if LA Guy could be prevailed upon to print the lyrics from the bankruptcy lawyer song he performed in a U of Chicago Law School Musical. (Was it called "There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner?")

Snippets keep coming back to me while I'm watching the market tank everyday ("Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Suff'ring and Dismay!")

The More Things Change...

...the more they remain the same.

Wait a minute. What's that you say? From 1974 to 1997, that's 23 years. Bill Ayers is now a respected teacher and author, accepted by the academic community and the world at large as a former radical who no longer espouses violence as a legitimate means to change American society, isn't he? Well, perhaps.

It is true that Ayers no longer - publicly, at least - advocates blowing people up as a method of addressing the evils of American Capitalism/Imperialism. But have his goals changed or is it just the means? First, let's take a look at a passage from page 41 of Prairie Fire:

Socialism is the total opposite of capitalism/imperialism. It is the rejection of empire and white supremacy. Socialism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the eradication of the social system based on profit. Socialism means control of the productive forces for the good of the whole community instead of the few who live on hilltops and in mansions. Socialism means priorities based on human need instead of corporate greed. Socialism creates the conditions for a decent and creative quality of life for all.

Now let's look at a description of a new book - also written by Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn - and due to be published shortly after the election: (h/t Protein Wisdom)

White supremacy and its troubling endurance in American life is debated in these personal essays by two veteran political activists. Arguing that white supremacy has been the dominant political system in the United States since its earliest days—and that it is still very much with us—the discussion points to unexamined bigotry in the criminal justice system, election processes, war policy, and education. The book draws upon the authors' own confrontations with authorities during the Vietnam era, reasserts their belief that racism and war are interwoven issues, and offers personal stories about their lives today as parents, teachers, and reformers.

Doesn't sound all that different, does it? In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this book doesn't receive a glowing review from one of their more prominent neighbors, either. Oh, before I forget, note the whitewashed biographies:

About the Author
William C. Ayers is a distinguished professor of education and a senior university scholar at the University of Illinois–Chicago. He is the author of To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher and Fugitive Days, a memoir about his life with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn. Bernardine Dohrn is the director of the Children and Family Law Justice Center and a clinical associate professor of law at Northwestern University. She is the coauthor of A Century of Juvenile Justice and Justice in the Making. They live in Chicago.

But what does any of this mean? Let me illustrate it another way. Take a look at the following two videos. (h/t Belmont Club) It's okay, they're short and won't take much of your time. And the music is appropriate, I think. It could almost be the theme song of the Obama Nation.

Pretty cool, huh? 1968 to 1993. Wow, that's 25 years. And yeah, the years have taken their toll - man, that bass player sure lost a lot of hair, didn't he? - but if you close your eyes and listen, the song sounds pretty much the same, doesn't it?

So, what does any of this mean, especially as it applies to the election of our next President? Probably nothing. But if any of this gives you a moment's pause and a slight case of anxiety, just pull on your ruby slippers, tap them together three times and repeat the mantra:

There's no place like Queens
There's no place like Queens
There's no place like Queens...

Against The Odds

The first season of Mad Men was set in 1960. This season it's 1962--the final episode takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Overall there are five seasons planned (just like Star Trek, which can be referenced starting in season four), ending in 1968.

I've heard some fans complain the show will miss JFK's assassination. I disagree. Drama set with that backdrop has become a cliche Mad Men would do well to avoid.


Why is this called the "Immaculate Reception"?

It's actually pretty messy.

We're Number One!

Proving once again that the South Side of Chicago is the baddest part of town, the post office has suspended service on Marshfield between 151st and 152nd streets. No courier wanted to be appointed to this round. They may put up with rain and snow, but not gunfire. Though that is the sort of thing that makes for swift completion.

I used to drive through this general area back when I was in law school. The South Side is interesting, because it's so run down now, but decades ago, before everyone starting moving north and west (and not letting African-Americans follow them too easily), it was the place to be. And you can still see the odd old building that gives you a hint of the glorious past.


The IBD/TIPP poll says Obama's ahead by 1.1%. This result is absurd. Not because it disagrees with all the other polls, but because of the internals.

Look at the 18-24 age bracket (which they admit fluctuates wildly because of small sample size)--McCain leads 74% to 22%! It's almost impossible to believe Obama is losing among the youngest voters, but the idea he's behind 3-1 cannot be taken seriously.

Then there's ideology. McCain wins easily among conservatives, but Obama wins solidly among moderates and crushes McCain among liberals. What kind of modeling do they have that could still make it so close?

It's hard to say which poll out there is accurate, but toss this one in the garbage.

You Make The Call

Ben Brantley reviewing a revival of All My Sons in The New York Times:

[Director Simon] McBurney has staged Miller’s tale of a self-deluding, guilt-crippled American family with the ritualistic formality and sense of inexorability of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Would that he could summon the primal power associated with those ancients.

[....] But to bring out this aspect of the play as literally as Mr. McBurney does is to underline not only what’s obvious but also what’s awkward in a work that relies heavily on mechanical plotting and bald speechifying. And to transform its characters into archetypal puppets of destiny is to deprive actors of the chance to create richly human portraits.
[...] Mr. McBurney sustains this particular distancing device by having the ensemble members sit, within our view, on the sidelines. The production has other ways of reminding us that what we’re watching is a sort of mythic (and artificial) theatrical rite. Tom Pye’s set is a rectangle of green, green grass, with a screen door in the middle, behind which hovers a ghostly Magritte-like image of a house.

Words announcing changes of scene are projected, as is video footage portraying factory assembly lines, soldiers at war and, for the conclusion, that vast sea of humanity (embodied by a contemporary street crowd) whom we must acknowledge as our responsibility.

[...] The leading performers make their entrances and exits glacially, in robotic profile, across the back of the stage. When they speak, they often find themselves competing with anxious, portentous music, which might as well be a floating road sign marked “Doom Ahead.”

[...] Mostly this vaunting interpretation falls into that same limbo between intention and execution where so many of Miller’s baffled American souls find themselves.

Hilton Als in The New Yorker:

The characters in “All My Sons” are essentially ideological constructions; one can barely feel the blood beneath the rhetoric. As a result, the show is a directorial challenge. It’s a stretch to imagine anyone doing a better job with it than Simon McBurney does here. He draws out the play’s emotional and intellectual content by removing it from its naturalistic fustiness. The only set to speak of in his staging is the rear wall of the Keller home, and a tree that has fallen in the yard, a symbolic metaphor for the Keller family. McBurney’s production reminds one of Jed Harris’s influential 1938 take on Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” and of Lars von Trier’s 2003 film “Dogville”—works in which we were made acutely aware of the stage as a stage, of the set as a set. The action of “All My Sons” doesn’t begin with a raised curtain. Instead, the actors walk onstage together. They gaze out at the audience as Lithgow reads the stage directions—“The back yard of the Keller home . . . August of our era”—and then disperse to the wings, where we can see them, waiting to come on and watching the action unfold with us. When an actor gets his cue, he walks toward the stage slowly, expressionless. Only on joining the action does he become fully animated, a “character.” McBurney isn’t overemphasizing the play’s theatricality—he’s giving the production the only theatricality it has.

The great thing about being a critic is you're never wrong.

PS Here's another line from Brantley:

It’s understandable that producers would think this is an auspicious time to revive “All My Sons,” a heartfelt condemnation of capitalist greed and its concomitant lack of moral responsibility.

It's always an insult to call an old play timely (since it implies it didn't mean as much earlier and won't mean so much later). But I must ask Mr. Brantley when, in the 61 years since the original production, has there been a feeling in the theatre that now is NOT a good time for a heartfelt condemnation of capitalist greed and its concomitant lack of moral responsiblity?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's All About The Sample

The Reader's Digest Presidential Election '08 Global Poll found that the rest of the world pretty heavily favors Barack Obama. It's interesting reading, although I'm surely never going to base my vote on what non-Americans think America needs. But I couldn't help suspecting their choices of which countries to poll biased the results in favor of Obama. I mean, Russia instead of Israel? Finland instead of name-your-favorite-former-SSR? Color me skeptical.

It's A Sign?

I'm not one for finding the face of Mary on a piece of toast, but it's mildly amusing how much this graph of Proposition 8 polling resembles the Jesus fish.

My Thoughts Exactly

From the WSJ:

The primary discomfort with Gov. Palin is the notion that she doesn't have sufficient experience to be president, that Sen. McCain should have picked a Washington hand seasoned in the ways of the world. Such as? Here's an opinion poll question:

If as Joe Biden suggests the U.S. is likely to be tested by a foreign enemy next year, who of the following would you rather have dealing with it in the Oval Office: Nancy (of Damascus) Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe (the U.S. drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon) Biden, Mike Huckabee, Geraldine Ferraro, Tom DeLay, Jimmy Carter or Sarah Palin?

My pick? Gov. Palin, surely the most grounded, common-sense person on that list of prime-time politicians.

As always, read the whole thing.

Tallies Folly

The polls taken together show Obama with a solid lead. All told, however, they vary greatly. Much of this is due to different modeling, and since no one knows how many Dems and Repubs are gonna show up, there's no way to know which poll is most reliable. You can't really count on previous elections, since they change so much.

Look at the last three. 1996 was boring, everyone knew Clinton was going to win and no one was excited by Dole, so the total number of votes between them was 87 million (considerably lower than the previous, three-way election). Then, in 2000, with a close race for a new president, the total number of voters for Bush and Gore rose to 101 million. That seemed like plenty, but the next election, due to high interest and, I assume, better get-out-the-vote methods, had bush and Kerry win a combined total of 121 million votes.

With excitement high over this election, there's simply no guessing how many are going to turn up, or what their make-up will be. If only the polls were closer, it could have made for an exciting night.


When Sarah Palin appeared in SNL, she said she wasn't going to do the rap they asked her to do, so Amy Poehler did it.

In a recent interview, Lorne Michaels explained there was no plan for Palin ever to do the rap. I wasn't aware anyone thought for a second there was. It's not the sort of thing a candidate does, and it's also the sort of thing only a professional could pull off with a short rehearsal period.

Mac Versus PC 2.0

There's a new Mac commercial responding to the latest Microsoft campaign. Neither of these ads would make me buy the product, but it's fun to watch the shooting match.

Out To Launch

The LA Times recently wrote there was "no recorded basis" for the claim that Barack Obama launched his political career in Bill Ayer's living room. After they received recorded basis for the claim, they moved the goalposts, saying no correcton was necessary since the new information (created by a pro-Obama source who later tried to hide it when it became embarrassing) didn't prove the claim.

Beyond the specifics of where and when Obama "launched" his political career, the whole trouble with this is the sin of omission. When Obama and Obama supporters deny this launching party, they don't generally follow it with "but he was introduced early in his political campaign to a lot of new faces at Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn's place." Instead, they basically try to give the impression there was no meet-and-greet at Bill and Bernardine's, and that these two didn't think of lot of Barack and weren't interested in launching his career.

I don't think people should make too much of this connection. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't get the facts.

Odd Odds

There are some who claim the polls showing Obama clearly ahead are wrong. It's true different polls use different methods, so some of them must be a little off, but they can't all be wrong. I'd say every poll being way off is about as likely as McCain winning right now.

PS One of the more positive polls for McCain is this one, but I wouldn't call it reliable. Listen to this: "[McCain is] also gaining momentum in the suburbs, where he's gone from dead even a week ago to a 20-point lead." Do you believe that? Would anyone?

Courting Disaster

My old pal Richard Posner is in the news. He wrote a piece in The New Republic arguing Justice Scalia's opinon in the Heller Second Amendment case went too far. As he puts it:

...Scalia and his staff labored mightily to produce a long opinion (the majority opinion is almost 25,000 words long) that would convince, or perhaps just overwhelm, the doubters. The range of historical references in the majority opinion is breathtaking, but it is not evidence of disinterested historical inquiry. It is evidence of the ability of well-staffed courts to produce snow jobs.

Posner is essentially saying Scalia, in finding an individual right to bear arms, is doing the kind of judicial interpretation he's attacked in the past. This debate was broadcast further by The New York Times: "Ruling on Guns Elicits Rebuke From the Right." Posner, along with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, argues that Heller is the right's version of Roe--both decisions try to resolve a controversial issue by circumventing the political process.

Posner is arguing for pragmatism--that courts should be aware of the effects their opinions have in the real, political world. He may be right, I really can't say. But does the kind of "loose" interpretation he favors add up to a pragmatic approach? Perhaps it's best to let the democratic process work things out, but don't the words of the Constitution mean something, and don't the Courts sometimes owe the public--on pragmatic grounds alone--a clear statement of what that is?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Is Not Good

Every year, I try to get through October without turning the heat on. The last couple of years I've managed, but this year - with temps dropping into the 20's in the last week - I've been forced to crank it up early. Right now, as I look out my window, wet snow is falling in my yard.

This does not bode well.

That's Some Correction!

Editors' note from The New York Times:

An article in the Itineraries pages last Tuesday reported about the increasing stress on business travelers, and cited the findings of “Stress in America,” an annual survey of the American Psychological Association. That survey found that economic factors were the leading causes of stress levels in 2008, but it did not say, as the article did, that “the crisis on Wall Street was the No. 1 cause of anxiety,” nor did participants in the survey say they felt most vulnerable to stress “in the office and on a business trip.”

The survey included data from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, 2008, a period of volatility on Wall Street, but none of the questions in the association’s survey referred to Wall Street or any economic crises. Participants were not asked how business travel affected their stress levels or where they felt most vulnerable to stress. The author of the article distorted the survey’s findings to fit his theme, contrary to The Times’s standards of integrity.

The article also quoted incorrectly from a comment by Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Wilmette, Ill., who told the author that, “In my 20 years of practice I’ve never seen such anxiety among my patients,” not “among my banking and business patients.” While Dr. Molitor does have patients in banking and business, she did not single them out as being more anxious than her other patients.

Here's the original article (with editors' note) if you want to read it. (h/t Donald Luskin)

Barney the Dinosaur Speaks

I love you, you love me,
give me all of your money...

About Time

It took twenty years, but it's good to see the Dead Kennedys' compilation Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death finally has gone gold.

Rest In Peace? I Doubt It

Rudy Ray Moore, of Dolemite fame, has died. Haven't heard of Dolemite? This trailer will fill you in. (Guess I should warn about the explicit language.)

Jane Mania

When they ran out of Jane Austen novels to film they started working around the fringes.

Just yesterday on TV I was watching Becoming Jane, about Austen's early days, and when I switched to the next channel, there was The Jane Austen Book Club.

Good Old Reliable Nathan

So Oliver Platt will be Nathan Detroit in the upcoming Broadway production of Guys And Dolls. Usually a smaller man plays the role--there's even a reference to his size in the play--but Platt seems like a good choice.

I don't know if he can sing, but it's not necessary, because when the original, Sam Levene, couldn't sing, Frank Loesser gave all his songs to henchmen Benny Southstreet and Nicely Nicely Johnson.

You're Getting Warmer

One of the neat things about old literature--doesn't even have to be great literature--is it gives you a sense of perspective. You can understand what concerned people at different times and places. (I don't trust historical novels to do this--they too easily incorporate modern views.)

What you sometimes learn is people had very different views. More often, you realize how similar we all are.

For instance, I was just looking at Kaufman and Ferber's 1932 play Dinner At Eight (made into an even more famous movie in 1933). In the final scene, all the characters gather and make small talk.

Here's one line--remember, it's meant as a cliche: "But the trouble with children today is that they're blase at fourteen. They've been everywhere, they've seen everything, they've done everything."

This sentiment has been heard at least since the days of ancient Greece, yet every generation makes it anew.

But this really caught my eye: "They say it's getting warmer every winter. It's on account of the Gulf Stream. They say there'll be palm trees growing where the Empire State is."

Wow. I didn't know anyone worried about global warming in the 30s. I knew there was a warming trend in the first half of the 20th century, followed by a cooling trend that had people worried about a new ice age around the 70s. And everyone now knows there have been ups and downs in temperature throughout history. But I honestly didn't know anyone was concerned about it until fairly recently. I figured they all had the "everybody talks about the weather..." attitude.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Score One For McCain On ConLaw

As I've said here several times before, I'm a one-issue voter on civil liberties issues this election cycle. Well, I've found one civil liberties issue that I believe both McCain and Obama have right, even though they come to seemingly opposite conclusions (how's that for a lawyerly lede?): presidential signing statements.

McCain has said "Never, never, never, never. If I disagree with a law that passed, I'll veto it."

Obama has said "The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation. . . . [But] no one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives."

McCain's absolutism is refreshing -- "I'm not George Bush," indeed. Obama's more nuanced, wordy position is what you'd expect from a conlaw prof. Indeed, as long as it is, it's probably just shorthand for Prof. Tribe's formulation. My gut says McCain's view is better -- when something has been abused as badly as these, there's going to be a stink about them that needs some major disinfectant. But either one is a sufficient repudiation of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush progressive escalation of "unitary executive" signing statements into a constitutionally deplorable usurpation of power.

As a mildly interesting aside, I only just learned about their respective positions this week from The Rachel Maddow Show, which certainly says something about the low signal/noise ratio of this election contest. She mentioned it just before another unbelievably wearisome segment on "the Bradley Effect." I'm just waiting for Classic Sports to have a segment on "the Bradley Effect," discussing whether it was Dollar Bill, Clyde or Willis Reed who was the primary catalyst that led the Knicks to win two championships in the early 70s.

Express Purposes

I've been dipping into Fierce Pajamas, a collection of humorous writing from The New Yorker.

There's a piece from 1935 by Frank Sullivan, "The Cliche Expert Takes The Stand." In essence, it's an expert witness responding to a series of questions with cliched figures of speech. It's funny, but it's also of etymological interest, because we can see how a lot of cliches haven't quite survived the passage of time

Most of them we still know: Live to a ripe old age, broaden your horizons, frightened out of your wits, beat a hasty retreat, throw caution to the winds. A few are (to use a cliche) teetering on the brink, like a pretty kettle of fish or shot with luck. But some of them you just don't hear any more, such as fat, fair and forty, or drunk as a coot, or brown as a berry, or apple-pie order, or gay dog. It's good to know even cliches go out of fashion--to be replaced by new ones, I suppose.

I'm Alright Jacob

Matt Welch of Reason is far too kind in his dissection of Jacob Weisberg's predictable attack on libertarianism. Still, it's a pretty good general discussion--there's hardly a sentence in Weisberg's argument that can't be refuted, and Matt didn't have the space to go into every detail.

Perhaps the best line in the piece (which is so short you might as well read it all):

No doubt he [...] wants to use a second blip in a quarter century of consistent growth and worldwide poverty-reduction as an excuse to pretend that capitalism is fundamentally flawed, or that libertarians ever had anything to do with George W. Bush.

I can only hope that politicians won't use Weisberg's claims as an excuse to put us in a worse position.


Thanks to an Instalanche, we got to 90,000 hits (since we started counting) faster than usual.

Considering the feedback, maybe I'm wrong about how divided the red and blue states are. Or maybe people are still exaggerating the division, especially before an election.

And I am aware that there's a difference between the French and American Revolutions. I'm just asking people to consider the similarities.

Mad But Not Stupid

Amidst all the troubles of Don, Peggy, Joan, Betty, Roger and Pete, I was glad to see the latest Mad Men showed a little more love for Bertram Cooper. In the first season, he was eccentric, but as the leading name in the firm, one assumed he had some mastery of the ad game.

In the second season, howerver, he's too often been a punchline. His last few appearances were often little more than his being a crank or a buffoon. I don't like it when characters are cheapened that way. It was good to see in the next-to-last episode of the season that he had several scenes where he seemed to have a certain amount of control and intelligence--even if he realizes selling the agency might be a big mistake.

Warhol Gallery

I caught Factory Girl, a mess of a film about the sad life of Edie Sedgwick. What interested me was it's another picture featuring a portrayal of Andy Warhol.

Warhol had such a specific look and voice that he must be fun to play. In The Doors, Crispin Glover got the part. In Basquiat, it was David Bowie. In I Shot Andy Warhol, Jared Harris. And now, in Factory Girl, it's Guy Pearce, of all people. Pearce has such a physical presence, whereas Andy Warhol was practically ethereal.

I wonder who'll play Andy when someone makes the story of the Velvet Underground? Until then, someone should make a mini-festival out of these four films.

PS Factory Girl also features an absolutely horrendous Hayden Christensen as the "Musician." He's obviously supposed to be Bob Dylan, but the producers didn't want to be sued, so he's never named.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brother Can You Spare A Ruble?

Well, it was probably pretty clear beforehand whom the Russians would prefer as the US president. But if there was any doubt....

Tunnel Vision

Some are saying we're in for the worst recession since the early 80s. While I hope it doesn't get that bad, let's remember that even those bad days lasted around 18 months and then we pulled out and had about 18 years of solid growth (with a slight recession thrown in--the one Al Gore said was the worst since the Depression). We can't always predict the future based on the past, but we have good reason to believe, as long as we keep out heads about us and don't do anything crazy, we'll come out the other end okay.

Wait For It

From an article about the fall TV season:

Welcome to network TV’s latest reality: Mediocre is the new good and good is the new great. And "great"? Well, everyone’s still waiting on that.

So that's it, then, "waiting on" has actually replaced "waiting for" as preferred usage.

Cause And Effect

From an otherwise forgettable article on Obama's chances, we get this odd argument:

Political scientists have found little evidence for the Bradley effect over the past 15 years. America is becoming less racist and therefore less self-conscious about appearing to be racist.

Isn't that backwards? I'd think the less racism there is, the more self-conscious one would be about appearing racist.

Only $10 Million, How Can I Live OnThat?

Interesting piece in Variety on how stars' salaries are finally coming down (a bit). Maybe they're right, but I've heard this song before. In fact, it seems this article comes out every few years.


I saw the trailer for Doubt. A very impressive production, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Still, it didn't look too good.

You can't really tell from a preview, but so often, a piece that holds the stage doesn't adapt. Shows that excite critics, like Proof (also won a Pulitzer) or History Boys, just lay there when you take them out of their natural habitat. I'm not saying adaptations never work (though I might be saying they're never really better than the original theatrical experience), just that the two media seem so similar in certain ways that people are fooled into thinking what works in one will work in another.

Sam And Dave, or What Is Art For?

I saw What Just Happened over the weekend, a movie about the problems of a Hollywood producer. It's based on the book by producer Art Linson, with, alas, a screenplay by Art Linson. It's also got a big name director and star, but I'm not going to mention them. Why? Because critics have taught us all that matters is the director, and moviegoers seem to care most about the star. It's nice to see a focus on the producer, even in a not-so-great film.

I'm reminded of an old interview with David Lean at the AFI. Turns out he was unhappy with some edits producer Sam Spiegel made on the final cut of The Bridge On The River Kwai. (A lot of directors turned the film down until Lean, who up till then wasn't noted for "big" films, got the assignment.)

In Lean's version, there's no question Colonel Nicholson wants to blow up the bridge. But in Spiegel's cut, there's ambiguity as to whether or not it's intentional.

These days, we treat directors as gods, and believe their version of a film is the true version, and producers are just suits trying to crush artistic freedom. In this case, I think Spiegel made the right call. Score one for the producer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Notes From The World Of Finance

This is interesting.

Neal Hefti

Neal Hefti is dead. I've always been a fan, and have written about how much I love his theme to Lord Love A Duck.

He's another one of those unknown composers who wrote melodies that everybody knows.

For instance, there's this (with some rarely heard vocals):

And this :

(If you want to hear Sammy Cahn's intriguing words, check this out.)

And above all, this bagatelle:

She Loves The Theatre

I once wrote a little note about Gypsy and got some great feedback, including a comment from someone who'd seen the Patti LuPone revival. And now I see she's written an article on how there's no replacement for live theatre, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Time Will Tell

Walking past a newsstand, I saw Obama on the cover of Time, with words to the effect "How The Economy Trumped Race."

This is pretty shameful. The actual story, if Time cared, would be "How The Economy Trumped Foreign Policy." (And if they really really cared, it would be about how foreign policy is actually more important, and how there's no way to know which candidate's economic cures will work better anyway.)

Instead, they have to bring up race. No one else brought it up, but Time--a news magazine, I've been told--has decided thanks to the economy, Barack Obama can win despite all the racism. And if he does lose, we'll know why.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Count Me In

Changing the World... plumber at a time.

There was a carnival atmosphere among the crowd of some 4,000, who almost drowned Mr Obama out as he reached his crescendo and said: "I promise you. We won't just win New Hampshire. We will win this election and, you and I together, we're going to change the country and change the world."

At least he's not just phoning it in:

"With just 19 days left until the election, Barack Obama warned supporters today to guard against overconfidence," Tina fey of Saturday Night Live reported.

"Then he boarded Air Force One, blasted 'We Are The Champions' and shouted 'I'm King of the World'."

Levi Stubbs

Levi Stubbs has died.

Of all the great singers at Motown, I don't know if any had a tougher, more emotional voice than Levi, lead singer of the Four Tops. But why explain it when I can show you:

Friendly Persuasion

I have no idea if negative campaigning works. I only know it usually does. And that both sides do it.

So I'm amused when Obama's people speak out against McCain's negativity. Or maybe I'm more amused with how they phrase it. "Hey, don't you know your negative campaigning isn't working? SO STOP IT NOW!"

Oui Monsieur

Monsieur Verdoux is getting a rerelease and critics, old and new, seem to like it. Truth is, they've been trying to pump this up into a classic since James Agee went overboard on its original release.

Chaplin, a great performer but not as great a director, was baffled by sound. The film is a mess, but because it's a harsh comedy about a murderer that strains for significance, critics have been able to read depth into it. Unfortunately, it fails on even the most basic level as entertainment.

Chaplin made some of the screen's greatest classics in his silent days. If he hadn't, I find it hard to believe anyone would have much good to say about his talkies.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If You're Going To Buy Obama Futures On This Election

Buy 'em at Intrade. There's someone pushing the prices way out of line with the other books. I can't imagine why anyone would be upset -- he's basically giving away money.

A Very Good Moment

Last night's Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner was one for the ages. Because of disputes about his relationship with the Catholic Church, Kerry wasn't invited in 2004, and the church felt it would be unfair to invite GW Bush without him. I remember the event in 2000 as showing both Bush and Gore in a far better light than usual, but neither Bush nor (particularly) Gore were very funny. Last night McCain was undeniably funnier -- he's got excellent comedic timing and his material was quite good. Obama did a reasonably good job as well, once he allowed himself to get into the self-deprecating spirit of the event. So far as I know, this is a uniquely American tradition, though it would be easy to imagine the Brits having something similar. In any event, I think it's a wonderful tradition, in that it highlights an important distinction: while the candidates must be opponents, they need not be enemies.

We've Gone Beyond It

Fringe debuted to much fanfare not that long ago. Is anyone even talking about it any more?

Dr. Gillespie

My old pal Nick Gillespie does an unfortunately necessary takedown of the silly arguments being made against free markets these days.

Who's Joe?

A lot of people are saying "Joe The Plumber" isn't a plumber. (They're not jumping so fast to note the legendary shout of "kill him" at a Palin rally seems not to have happened--I wonder why?) Turns out Joe is "an unlicensed and unregistered employee of a small plumbing and heating company."

Same difference.

But the real point is, it's not about Joe's profession. It's about Senator Government telling the public he wants to "spread the wealth."

When a lot of Americans hear that, a chill goes down their spine.

Is It Possible?

Color me unimpressed.

Some are pointing to some tracking polls showing a closer race than last week. While it's certainly possible there'll be some tightening in the final weeks, I don't see how there can be enough to make up for a 5% or greater difference. You'd need some major positive for McCain or negative for Obama to bridge that gap.

Plus, as I've noted before, all the factors seem to be going for Obama. The economic crisis, above all, moves support to Democrats in general. (Without it, I think we'd have a tight race.) Obama is outspending McCain 3-1 in advertising, and will be pounding home his message in all the swing states every day until November 4th. He's also got a great on-the-ground get-out-the-vote machine. And there seems to be more enthusiam in his base. (Speaking of which, I'm ignoring the "likely voters" polls since I have my doubts anyone can identify who's gonna vote this time around.)

In addition, McCain has to take almost all the swing states. If the polls were even, I'd still give Obama the edge. (And no, I don't believe in the Bradley Effect.)

The best hope McCain has this late in the race--short of some unforeseen gamechanger--is there's a surprisingly large number of Obama supporters who still feel uncertain about him. If, in the privacy of the voting booth, enough have a change of heart (or as John Murtha might claim, return to their native racism), then McCain has a shot. But I wouldn't count on it.

Edie Adams

Edie Adams, who died on Wednesday, was one of those beautiful women who was willing to make fun of herself. I remember seeing her on old Ernie Kovacs shows, parodying Marilyn Monroe. We're so used to thinking of Monroe as an icon it's hard to remember how odd her oversexed style must have looked to many when she was alive.

Adams could sing and dance, and appeared in two Broadway shows, both 1950s hit musicals, Wonderful Town and Li'l Abner. Not bad. In the first she played lead character Ruth Sherwood's beautiful kid sister, Eileen. (The show is based on the hit play My Sister Eileen.) In Li'l Abner, she won a Tony as Abner's love, Daisy Mae. Her voice can still be heard on the original cast albums.

She married TV pioneer Ernie Kovacs in 1954 and worked regularly on his show, sometimes shuttling back and forth between the studio and the stage. He spent lavishly on her, and they had a great marriage, but when he died in a car crash in 1962, he left behind over a half million in debt. She worked off every penny of it.

She appeared several memorable movies. She was Fred MacMurray's spurned secretary in The Apartment. She was Sid Caesar's beleaguered wife in It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. And she was a tough as nails wife of Cliff Robertson's ruthless politician in The Best Man. She also did a lot of TV work in later years.

But for anyone who lived through the 60s, she was best known as the Muriel Cigar girl. Her commericals were quite sexy, and she was famous for the catchphrase "why don't you pick one up and smoke it some time?" a la Mae West, as well her version of "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity, with the line changed to "spend a little dime with me."

(Sorry for all the videos, but you can watch them in about three minutes.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Out Of The Kitchen

It was cold in California last weekend, but the heat returned yesterday. This is the third time it's gotten too hot again after I thought things had cooled down for the winter. I'm hoping this is the last time, since "cold" in Los Angeles is just right.

It's Not Just A Good Idea

David E. Kelley has a commitment from NBC to create a new legal drama. Does he really have another legal series in him? Seems like the well has run dry.

Jail House

So we finally found out how House and Wilson met. It was too cute by half. They were both rowdy at a medical convention in New Orleans and met in lockup.

It's often best just to ignore the past in these stories, since such origin tales tend to offer simplistic takes on how we got to where we are. But if we must know, I would have prefered something conventional, like they'd merely been colleagues, or worked on some project, and got to know each other.

Born To The Purple

Here's a Dennis Prager article claiming America has two irreconcilable sides, the red and the blue. He's been beating this drum for a while, but I don't think his evidence is too convincing. I know we have solid conservatives and solid liberals, and I have plenty of friends who so strongly identify with the Democrats or Republicans that the idea of voting for the other side nauseates them.

But when it comes to actual issues, most people I know are part column A, part column B.

Almost all of Prager's examples are weak, exaggerating our differences. Let's look at a few:

The left wants America not only to have a secular government, but to have a secular society. The left feels that if people want to be religious, they should do so at home and in their houses of prayer, but never try to inject their religious values into society. The right wants America to continue to be what it has always been ["what it has always been"--he can't help but argue even when he makes comparisons] – a Judeo-Christian society with a largely secular government (that is not indifferent to religion). These opposing visions explain, for example, their opposite views concerning nondenominational prayer in school.

"Nondenominational"? Prager generally tries to make his side (the right, in case you were wondering) sound more reasonable, but if this is the battleground, it sounds to me like we're arguing over a much smaller patch than you'd see historically: neither side wants an official state religion (as opposed to many of our enemies, and even some of Europe) and, if Prager is to be believed, no one even wants a public prayer where you actually pray as you would in your place of worship.

The left subscribes to the French Revolution, whose guiding principles were "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." The right subscribes to the American formula, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The French/European notion of equality is not mentioned. The right rejects the French Revolution and does not hold Western Europe as a model. The left does. That alone makes right and left irreconcilable.

This is news to me. 1) I don't really see that many leftists using that slogan of the French Revolution. 2) Perhaps the French Revolution has a bad name now to a lot of conservatives, but its principles, even if they haven't always been honored, don't strike me as being so different from that of the American Revolution. 3) Equality has long been an American principle. 4) I've known a fair number of conservatives who have a far more circumscribed concept of "the pursuit of happiness" than many liberals do.

The left envisions an egalitarian society. The right does not.

America is one of the most egalitarian societies of all, and has been since its founding. Certainly we're less class conscious than most of Europe, and Americans generally like it that way.

The left values equality above other values because it yearns for an America in which all people have similar amounts of material possessions.

This is socialism. The left may move us closer to it, but most of the American left would still stop far short of it. (I might add unless Prager has some quotes from the left where they say they want everyone to have similar amounts, and not just sufficient amounts, he should refrain from reading minds.)

The left wants to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples for the first time in history [I like how he can't stop himself from adding those last six words]. The right wants gays to have equal rights, but to keep marriage defined as man-woman. This, too, constitutes an irreconcilable divide.

Once again, we see the ground shifting, making us wonder just how deep the division is. Fifty years ago, presumably when we didn't have an irreconcilable divide, there was no question of gay marriage, or even civil unions. The main question about gays would have been should they receive counseling or a prison sentence?

So if both liberal and conservative opinion can change so much, maybe it won't be so irreconcilable for conservatives to accept gay marriage after all. (And I have a dream that some day both conservatives and liberals will support free markets.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

(Your) Money Is Like Manure

Obama explains to people whose taxes will be raised that the idea is to "spread the wealth around."

So there you have it, it's the government's money, not yours, and they can decide how best to use it. (And maybe you shouldn't complain too much, since they can always ask for more to spread.)

Meanwhile, he unveiled his four-point plan to save the economy by saying "it's a plan that begins with one word that's on everyone's mind, and it's spelled J-O-B-S."

So he thinks jobs come from the government. I guess that makes sense, since all the money belongs to the government.


Someone sent me this. It told me something about voters I already knew, but don't like to think about.

But mostly it made me miss Howard Stern. For years he was a part of my life, and then he left free radio and I didn't follow. But if I ever did pay for it, it would be for a show like his. (Not that there are any other shows like his.)

Sending A Message

My Representative, Xavier Becerra, is running unopposed. I realize no one has any chance of beating him, but it would be nice for keeping up the appearance of a race that someone else actually be listed on the ballot.


Maybe it's time to give up on Heroes. It just keeps getting more ridiculous.

Hiro does one stupid thing after another, as does Peter.

The relationship between Claire and HRG, not to mention Sylar, isn't really working.

Mother Petrelli seems to have no plan, and while I like the actor Robert Forster, I don't really care about Daddy Petrelli.

Parkman is like Hiro last season--out of sight, out of mind.

New Nathan and Tracy make a much less interesting couple than Old Nathan and Niki. (We know Tracy won't make it, because there's a third part for Ali Larter to play.)

And nothing on the show has ever been as bad as BrundleMohinder.

If they had just set it up more easily--no future, the bad guys escape, and it's one group another with a few unclear loyalties, it might have worked. Instead they got stuck in all sorts of pointless alleys.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

F Troop

The long awaited Troopergate report is out and, as October Surprises go, this one's about as exciting as the prospect of a Ray's-Phillies World Series. Over at, Beldar's done the heavy lifting for us so let me just summarize:

First of all, despite what you may have read, the report does not represent the opinion of any member of the Alaskan State Legislature (with the possible exception of State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat and Obama supporter, who commissioned the report and hand-picked the investigator, Steve Branchflower). The entire 263-page report is the opinion of Mr. Branchflower. As Beldar points out, the report:

...hasn't been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body.

It is, at best, a public Op-Ed or, at worst, a political hit-piece, take your pick.

The report boils down to two contradictory findings: 1) That Sarah Palin abused her power and violated a statute of the Alaskan Executive Branch Ethics Act (in the firing of Walt Monegon, the then Alaska Public Safety Commissioner) and 2) That the firing of Mr. Monegon was: a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

Now, I don't know about you, but I remember my Sesame Street and one of those sentences is definitely NOT like the other. You cannot simultaneously have a violation of ethics and a lawful exercise of constitutional and statutory authority. It's either one or the other but it can't be both.

Of course, your mileage may differ.

Coming soon, the Wasilla librarian names books!

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