Sunday, July 31, 2005

It was fun while it lasted
Bonus, headline award: "Bottom falls out of the thong market"
Fashion experts believe the thong is being rejected because women are looking for more comfortable and less revealing alternatives, such as cut-off “boy shorts”. It is part of a move away from overtly sexual clothing such as push-up bras, crop tops and low-cut jeans.
It's true. If I had to use one word to define youth culture today, especially with regard to female sexuality, it's "prudish." Must they all dress like nuns nowadays?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bush don't need no stinkin' Senate confirmation
Appointing Bolton next week without the Senate.

Friday, July 29, 2005

So, like I said before, I'm sick (scroll down. I'm too weak to link). Just started the antibiotics (which only cost $5! Thank you, Blue Cross/Blue Shield!) As is my duty as a sick American, I'm sitting down to a bowl of good old, standard, no-frills Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. Did I miss where it's triple-the-salt month? I mean, I'm not much of a salt adder, I'll admit, but did I really eat this stuff when I was a kid and not notice that salt was the main ingredient?
Do Not Call
The Direct Marketing Association, which keeps the master list used by its member telemarketing firms, has announced a new initiative. If you want to have a deceased family member removed from their rolls, you may, for a $1 fee.

So....if you're alive, you can have yourself removed for free through the federal do not call list. If you are dead, it will cost you a dollar. As the CNBC interviewer I just heard pointed out, isn't it doing the DMA a favor to let them know the deceased members, who after all could not possibly be a customer any longer? Shouldn't they be paying us a dollar for each deceased person we help them remove from the list?

It's just further proof of how much they must know their calls are annoying. Now, bribing us for a dollar to stop bothering us. Hilariously, DMA explains that this program is designed to help families deal with the grieving process.
Floundering Frist Flip-Flops
Now, he's for stem cell research. Does this guy have any idea what he stands for?

Meanwhile, Ambassador nominee Bolton can add "lying to Congress" to his resume.

I suppose this means we can expect some Presidential support for both of them. Bush so likes to give awards/appointments/raises to the biggest screw-ups. He can identify.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Be careful who you believe
That's the message I should have heeded when I posted a link to the awful story of 2 Irani teenagers supposedly executed for being gay. John at AMERICAblog has reason to doubt the accuracy of the story, though to be sure, 2 teenagers were apparently executed, just perhaps not for being gay.
So, I'm sick. Fever, sore throat, yadda yadda. As someone who's rarely sick, I have to tell you--the plethora of potential otc medications is daunting and confusing. Decongestants, antihistamines, they sound to me have opposing functions, and yet lots of medicines contain both. What gives? Add to the confusion the fact that I probably will have to register with the state just to purchase the damn things, due to recent legislation that moves some otc meds (that happen to also be home-brew meth ingredients) behind the counter, so I'll have to get some kind of permission.

When I heard about that law, it sounded reasonable, but now faced with the requirement of an interview by the local pharmacist just to slow down (or speed up, i don't know what I'm supposed to do) the mucus crawling over the back of my throat with what must be microspic back hoes digging in, the whole procedure seems like a pain in the ass.

Plus, can't determined drug makers just drive to Kentucky or Illinois, or any of the surrounding 7 states, and load up? Seems like anyone with the ingenuity to cook up the stuff can figure a way around this restriction. I mean, cocaine has been coming in from Central and South America for years, and we think we can dissuade someone from bringing a sackful of Sudafed (or whatever it is) across the KY-TN border?

State officials are feeling good that it's working:
The number of methamphetamine labs seized by authorities in Tennessee during May and June decreased significantly — 49% statewide — compared with the number of busts from the same months in 2004.

The decline is attributed to Tennessee's stringent anti-meth legislation, which became effective May 1, according to the Governor's Task Force on Methamphetamine Abuse.
Isn't it kind of early to celebrate? If I was a committed drug maker (for the record and benefit of the Internet police, I'm not), I would just be biding my time and developing a new strategy. What do we think they will do, turn from a lifetime of intoxicating, lucrative recreational drug-cooking and go back to school to learn a new trade? Because they just can't get their hands on enough tylenol?

My guess is all we're doign is thinning the herd. The dumb ones haven't figured out yet how to cope. The smart ones will flourish. And of course, because they're the smart ones, meth lab busts are sure to decrease. At least in the old days we had a chance to catch the biggest morons.

Anyway, thanks to our Governor gutting the state medicaid program, pharmacists have alot more to deal with in coming days. How much can they even be paying attention, given the "chaos" that awaits them here in TN?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

In a new Quinnipiac poll, Bush's approval numbers are down to 41%, the lowest of his Presidency, compared to 44% 2 months ago. If only the election could be this November, instead of last. Other interesting findings (via DKos):
American voters support the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision 65 - 30 percent, the highest level of support in two years of national polls by the independent Quinnipiac University.
and this:
By a 61 - 32 percent margin, American voters say U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts should publicly state his position on abortion, but voters are divided on whether the Senate should refuse to confirm Roberts if he doesn't speak up, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. While 43 percent say the Senate would be justified in voting against Roberts if he doesn't explain his position, 47 percent say the Senate would not be justified.
Of course, this won't happen. I'm guessing 80+ Senators will vote for him, to not look like obstructionists, despite the smoking gun evidence that Roberts has had bona fide conservative activist intentions in his legal work.
Roberts presented a defense of bills in Congress that would have stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over abortion, busing and school prayer cases; he argued for a narrow interpretation of Title IX, the landmark law that bars sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletic programs; and he even counseled his boss on how to tell the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow that the administration was cutting off federal funding for the Atlanta center that bears his name.
He should have the nerve to argue these things before the committee. He would still probably get confirmed, plus not look like such the truth-hiding weasel.
"Hillary vs. the Xbox"
Today's LA Times ran an open letter to Senator Clinton from Steven Johnson, the author of that book that says popular culture is good for us.
I'm writing to commend you for calling for a $90-million study on the effects of video games on children, and in particular the courageous stand you have taken in recent weeks against the notorious "Grand Theft Auto" series.

I'd like to draw your attention to another game whose nonstop violence and hostility has captured the attention of millions of kids — a game that instills aggressive thoughts in the minds of its players, some of whom have gone on to commit real-world acts of violence and sexual assault after playing.

I'm talking, of course, about high school football.
The rest of it makes some great and insteresting points(and it's not really about high school football). He makes the case that today's video games require much more of children's minds than anything we played, or anything else they're likely to do if we refuse them their games.

Personally I draw more of a distinction than he does between participation in (fictional) sadistic anonymous violence, and participation in organized aggression like football. That doesn't mean I know which one's worse for you, just that they seem different. As for the video games, smart as they make you, I still worry about the isolating effects of being mostly alone in your own self-created world for so long and with such priority--we don't want them all growing up to be single middle-aged bloggers and such.
(via boingboing)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mel Gibson's next movie will be set 500 years in the past and will be spoken in Ancient Mayan. No really. Who's creepier, Mel or Tom?
Measuring Stick [UPDATED]
A special congressional election will be held next week in Ohio in a markedly conservative district. The Democrat, Paul Hackett, is an Iraq War veteran. The Republican's campaign is in trouble. Still, by all accounts, she should win. A close race, or even better a miracle Hackett victory, would say much about the mood of the country towards the Republican congress and the Iraq War, and whether their dissatisfaction translates into votes. At DailyKos, DavidinNYC points out that the right-leaning Cincinnatti Post has had enough and has endorsed Hackett. Should he win, his campaign may also be an important lesson for Democrats on how to run against the incumbent party.

It's something to keep our eyes and crossed-fingers on next week.

Atrios has more Hackett, responding to charges from his opponent that he--of all people--should be supporting the president and the troops: "The only way I know how to support the troops is by going over there." He doesn't hesitate to criticize Schmidt's support of the war: "All the chicken hawks back here who said, 'Oh, Iraq is talking bad about us. They're going to threaten us' -- look, if you really believe that, you leave your wife and three kids and go sign up for the Army or Marines and go over there and fight. Otherwise, shut your mouth."
Republican Jesus
The General's latest installment is a perfect review of Rove-apologist's "didn't say her name" defense. Hilarious.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Lewberry recommends the documentary "Devil's Playground", even though he admits it has an HBO doc feel. I'm thinking something along the lines of their, uh, brilliant series "Hookers and Johns." (Not that I ever watched all of those one weekend)

Faux Faulkner
Hemispheres, the magazine of United Airlines, holds a yearly Faulkner imitation contest. This year's winner took jabs at the Bush Administration, which is probably why it didn't make it into the magazine. You have to read it online. Even if you, like me, don't remember the Sound and the Fury well enough to recognize it, it's still funny.
“Dont you worry about him. He ll be ready,” Condi said. Condi stood up from the desk. Her legs were long and she smelled like the Xeroxed copies of the information packets they give me each day.

“Hello Georgie,” Condi said. “Did you come to see Condi?” Condi rubbed my hair and it tickled.

“Dont go messing up his hair,” Dick said. “Hes got a press conference in a few minutes.”

Condi wiped some spit on her hand and patted down my hair. Her hand was soft and she smelled like Xerox copies coming right out of the machine. “He looks just fine,” Condi said.
No sense in parodying Steinbeck that way. Apparently he was already a pretty good militaristic caricature of himself during the Vietnam War, if a recently unearthed letter to Jack Valenti--which was then passed on to Robert McNamara--is any indication.

Densmore v. Krieger and Manzarek
The Doors drummer won a suit last week against the other 2 surviving band members, requiring them to stop using the band name "The Doors of the 21st Century" (which is a pretty crappy name anyway).
"It's a sweet little democracy that Jim orchestrated with no lawyers, in a garage in Venice, California," Densmore told Rolling Stone after filing the suit in 2003. "And he included veto power in case anybody didn't like what went down. I'm just trying to keep the integrity of what we did a long time ago."
They can continue playing Doors songs with his blessing (not that he could stop that anyway). Since it's Media Monday, that reminds me of one of my favorite fast reads, the Morrison bio "No One Here Gets Out Alive."

Morris on DVD
IFCFilms is releasing a box of Errol Morris documentaries on DVD tomorrow, including The Thin Blue Line, one of my favorite all-time films, one of the most amazing acts of accounting for a miscarriage of justice that you will ever see. I'm hoping there will be interesting extras, but not optimistic. The set also includes Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida. Not sure why they can't get a Brief History of Time on DVD.

If you've never seen an Errol Morris film, take a weekend and watch The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time (on VHS) and Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. Your brain will be filled with enough to think about for months.

New Bob Mould
Out Tomorrow. No better place to read about it than his own blog, Boblog.

Weekend Box Office
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. Wedding Crashers
3. Fantastic Four
4. The Island
5. Bad News Bears

In the love it or hate it category, Hustle and Flow won the audience award at the Sundance Festival but received an avoid at all cost rating in the Nashville Scene. And I've seen a couple of raves and pans for Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects.

I still haven't heard Frank Black's new album(waiting until I'm making a bigger Amazon purchase), but our local paper had a Sunday feature on it. It was recorded here in Nashville with the idea of imitating the approach of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde.
"I could sit around and learn how to play all the songs and imitate Bob Dylan all day," Black says, "but that's not really what everyone's going to be looking forward to, myself included. We want some new original expression."

And how do you build that?

"All you gotta do is say, 'Well, what did Dylan do?' " he says. "He went down to Nashville and worked with a bunch of cats. Enough.
Producer Tiven collected the veteran musicians who appeared on the album,including organist Spooner Oldham and bassist David Hood (who both played in the legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section), renowned soul guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the MG's and drummer Billy Block.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Modesty and Stability
I just don't believe him, Judge Roberts. I can't believe someone so involved in the law, so close to the world of politics, and married to an activist, does not already have a keen interest and desire to either strengthen or weaken protections in controversial subjects. Still, he seems poised to make a savvy argument that his motivations and categories as a jurist are not what we would assume. Writing in the NYTimes, Senator Arlen Specter says:
In my discussion with Judge Roberts last week, I asked him if he would feel comfortable with any of the customary labels - liberal, moderate, conservative. Rejecting those categorizations, he said he would strive for modesty. His goal was to be a modest jurist on a modest court that understands its place in the balance of powers inherent in our Constitution.

He also emphasized the importance of stability. His focus on modesty and stability provide comfort that he would not be an activist but would respect Congressional action and judicial precedent.
Considering I assume him to be a raging conservative, I hope he's telling the truth to the Senator. Either way, it sounds perfectly distinguished enough that I expect to hear those words--stability and modesty--in his explanations before the committee. It's a nice line. But I have to ask: why would a person that intelligent enter such a fast track up the judicial career ladder, with the clear purpose and hope of being named to the Court, and then strive to have no real impact, to dream of going essentially unnoticed, with a goal of lessening the power of the elite institution he wants to join? I don't buy it.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Must Read
Former CIA officer Larry Johnson, a classmate of Valerie Plame's, delivered these remarks to a Democratic congressional hearing on the matter today. No need to quote. Read the whole thing.
Weekend Decisions
So many fabulous things to does one decide between:

The 4th Annual Lebowski-Fest in Louisville, KY featuring They Might Be Giants, bowling, beverages, bands, contests, white russians, and what-have-you...

and the 3rd Annual Paul Reubens Day in San Francisco.
Better off than 10 years ago?
The Centers for Disease Control has released a fascinating (to me) national report on "human exposure to environmental chemicals." It contains good news about things we know alot about: lead and second-hand smoke. Blood and urine samples were taken to measure the presence of 148 different chemicals (pdf).
For the period 1999–2002, 1.6% of children aged 1–5 years had elevated blood lead levels. This percentage has decreased from 4.4% in the early 1990s.
Cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine, and serum cotinine levels track exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in people who do not smoke. Higher cotinine levels indicate more exposure to ETS, which is a human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Serum cotinine data for the U.S. population are available for 1988–1991 from previous work at CDC, and with this Third Report, data are now available for 1999–2002. From 1988–1991 to 1999–2002, median cotinine levels in nonsmokers decreased 68% for children, 69% for adolescents, and about 75% for adults.
75% seems like quite a big decrease, a victory owing to the increase in no-smoking regulations. The bad news is that they show increased levels of chemicals whose effects are less certain to scientists. "Cadmium" and various "phthalates" (which come from plastic) have all seen increases in our bodies. We will have to stay tuned to find out just what havoc those wreak on us. You can read some or all of the report at the CDC website here.
Google's Moon Pictures
Thanks to a reader for sending this link, offering the first ever confirmation to the moon's true makeup. View Google's moon photos, and zoom in as far as you can.
Rove on the ropes
How much more of this can Bush take? Is being loyal to Rove that important? 2 days ago we got our first supreme court nominee in 8 years, but the story is back on the questionable activity, and likely criminal cover-up, of an unelected partisan hack. Even a friend of Bill would have fallen on his own sword at this point.
McClellan continues to get the business:
Q White House officials have been very clear through their attorneys or through other leaks to make it known that it was essentially journalists who educated them about who Valerie Plame was, what she did, and her role in sending her husband to Niger. It has now come to light that in fact White House officials were aware, or at least had access to a State Department memo that the President's own Secretary of State at the time had with him when he was traveling on Air Force One to Africa, which indicated both who she was, what she did, and her role in the Niger trip. So did the White House, in fact, know about her through this memo, or not?
The NYT:
At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative's identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa. . . .Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.
Bloomberg (via Think Progress):
Lewis “Scooter'’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.
Kos Diary:
Olberman reporting that there will be a piece in WSJ tommorow stating that the Memo was marked "Top Secret", and that it was not to be shared with other nation's intellegence agencies, no matter how how friendly.
So, let's get this straight. Rove and Libby saw the "top secret" memo, needed a hammer to question Joe Wilson, told Novak, Russert, Cooper, probably Miller, and maybe many others about Wilson's wife, and then told the grand jury under oath that, no, the journalists had told them. If the 2 of them worked together on this coverup lie, does that add a conspiracy count to the indictment?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bernard Goldberg, mean-spirited dumbass
I caught Bernie hawking his stupid book on the Daily Show a few nights ago and thought Jon made great points, but gave him mostly kid-glove treatment, which is understandable considering how much horseshit, on its face, the book is. But Bernie didn't have such a good time on Donny Deutsch's show apparently. Why Goldberg thinks there is anyone not on Fox News who would take his side in writing a book about 100 people "screwing up America" that includes Barbra Streisand is beyond me. But when he couldn't take the heat of a 5-person panel who all thought his book was foolish, he lost it. Jeff Jarvis, who was on the panel, has the story. Crooks and Liars has the video.

I hate this "both sides of every issue" nonsense. When the side that you are on is that insane you don't deserve to have equal time. You deserve to be called on it. One day, when America is ruined, and it is shown that Ms. Streisand is to blame, Bernie can have the last laugh. Until that day, he deserves all the scorn he finds. Kudos to Deutsch for questioning his ideas and moreso for scolding his bad behavior.
Writing in Tapped, Matthew Yglesias says that despite all the sky-is-falling culture-hating on the right, indicators suggest otherwise:
(J)ust the other day the government released "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2005." The news, which has received almost no coverage, is almost uniformly good. "Teen births are at an all-time low" despite Desperate Housewives. Illegal drug use is down. Smoking is flat after several years of decline. Alcohol consumption is flat. In 1993, for every 1,000 juveniles, 52 committed serious violent felonies. In 2003, the most recent for for which data is available, it was down to 15 offenders per 1,000. This despite the Grand Theft Auto series.

Liberals and conservatives alike "know" that our public school system is failing and only drastic changes can turn it around. Except they aren't failing; NAEP scores are up in both the short-term and long-term views. What has gone up in recent years is child poverty....
Poverty is the obscenity too many children experience day and night, not gangsta rap and video games.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I guess it didn't work
One day later, Rove back on page 1.
A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.
Gay Marriage [UPDATE]
It's now legal in Canada. Will God swallow up the entire country into the Earth's fiery core? Start picking off hockey players with lightning bolts? Or perhaps He will ruin all the straight marriages to teach all canucks a lesson? Leave your predictions for the eternal doom facing the Great White North here.

[UPDATE: TalkLeft reports that Iran is demonstrating its evil attitudes in this area. Barbarians indeed. Warning: read only if you're willing to have your day ruined.]
Where's my excuse?
Forbes magazine says "Don't invest after sex"
Investors exposed to oxytocin, a hormone commonly released during childbirth, breast feeding, and sexual activity, start acting like dupes in financial matters, says a study just published in Nature. Swiss-led researchers let test subjects play a simple trading game with real money. Those administered a dose of the hormone were twice as likely to overcome any fears of betrayal and display 'maximal trust level.' meaning they were more prone to being hosed by an opponent
Notably, this study offers no explanation for my own investment foolishiness.
Is Roberts a Conservative?
Ann Coulter has her doubts and thinks Bush has sold conservatives down the river (warning: Drudge), though her support is the lack of evidence to the contrary. But Peter Rubin offers up at least one convincing reason (via ACSBlog), in Roberts' decisions as a judge, to align the nominee's interpretive philosophy squarely with Scalia's.
Roberts wrote that the Metro's mandatory arrest policy was not unconstitutional in part because it would not have been "regarded as an unlawful search or seizure under the common law when the Amendment was framed," that is, under the law as it stood in 1791. He described this inquiry as "the usual first step" in assessing Fourth Amendment cases, but really it is not. Instead, it is part of an approach to the law put forward by Justice Scalia, one that has been used inconsistently at best by the Supreme Court, garnering a clear majority's support in only one Fourth Amendment decision. It is an approach that would in essence freeze our rights as they were in 1791.
Of all the "mistakes" George Jr. is unlikely to repeat from his father, a Souter-like screwup is at the top. Liberals hoping that his lack of a track record may hide a reasonable protection of our rights are falling right into his trap.

But does it matter at this point? Short of a plagiarism scandal or some such thing, there is zero chance he will be denied. Still, highlighting his clear conservative credentials is the best chance--if slim--of keeping Bush off the deep end when it comes to replacing the Chief. We can't have him get away with saying "I replaced O'Connor with a moderate, so we'll replace Rehnquist with a conservative now." We can't stop Bush on this one, but there is potentially value in at least accurately framing what he's doing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Roberts completes the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Supreme Craptacular:
those who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.
The Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Bush-appointed Rehnquist-successor will be a scary conservative quartet intact for maybe the next 15 + years. After Rehnquist, the next to go are likely to be Stevens and Ginsburg. If we don't start winning elections and soon, we're not much going to recognize our privacy or first amendment rights by the time 2020 comes around.
It's not Clement [UPDATE: It's John Roberts]
So says ABC, "confirmed" by NBC's David Gregory. If it's Gonzalez, Bush is at war with conservatives, if he picks Edith Jones, it's pretty much the worst possible for Democrats--it will mean Bush is asking for a war, and thinks our side will lose. We probably will. Tradesports puts Edith Jones at about 2:1 90 minutes before the announcement.

[UPDATE: Bush is nominating John Roberts. Not much of a track record as a judge, but authored losing briefs on the side of abortion protestors and the side of clergy prayer at graduation. TalkLeft has more including Senator Reid's initial response: essentially "we'll see."]
Stanley Fish on Interpreting the Constitution
I love reading Fish - one of my thinking heroes, although he can be maddening. He has a piece in today's NYT about the words we commonly (mis)use in evaluating judicial temperaments. There's not enough space there for him to work his typical rhetorical magic, in which he announces a counterintuitive notion (like "there is no such thing as free speech, and it's a good thing"), applies an essentially simple argument to it over and over until you realize--oh shit--he's right. So quoting out of this brief piece will be especially unhelpful, and this is far from his most compelling ideas, but here's a taste:
(I)f interpreting a document is to be a rational act, if its exercise is to have a goal and a way of assessing progress toward that goal, then it must have an object to aim at, and the only candidate for that object is the author's intention. What other candidate could there be?

One answer to this question has been given by Justice Antonin Scalia and others under the rubric of "textualism." Textualists insist that what an interpreter seeks to establish is the meaning of the text as it exists apart from anyone's intention. According to Justice Scalia, it is what is "said," not what is "meant," that is "the object of our inquiry."
Justice Scalia has it backwards: if you're not looking for what is meant, the notion of something being said or written is incoherent. Intention is not something added to language; it is what must already be assumed if what are otherwise mere physical phenomena are to be experienced as language. Intention comes first; language, and with it the possibility of meaning, second. And this means that there can be no "textualist" method, because there is no object - no text without writerly intention - to which would-be textualists could be faithful.

And if there is no object - no plain and lucid text to which interpreters could be faithful - neither is there an object to which interpreters could be unfaithful. Consequently, "judicial activism," usually defined as substituting one's preferred meaning in place of the meaning the text clearly encodes, becomes the name of a crime no one could possibly commit. After all, you can't override a meaning that isn't there.
His books, "Is There a Text in this Class?", "There is No Such Thing as Free Speech", "The Trouble with Principle", "Doing what Comes Naturally", and "Professional Correctness" are all fascinating reads, if you're willing to rethink some of the cliches you have come to depend on as supporting (what you think are) your most deeply held principles. I'm glad to loan you my copy of any of them.
Bush will announce pick tonight [UPDATE: It's John Roberts]
8 pm central time. Speculation and some info about Edith Brown Clement, the presumed selection, is below. I can't believe they would have the nerve to leak one name and then pull a surprise at this point, so it's probably Clement. Being his first pick, I assume they wanted to let it sit in the public for a day and make sure public reaction didn't surprise them. I suppose there could still be a switcheroo. [UPDATE: Deception indeed. It's John Roberts.]
Edith Brown Clement
Atrios says CNN is saying, sort of, that the President's pick is Clement. I'll bet Bush doesn't have any trouble getting to the bottom of that leak. When I find out more about her, I'll post it here.

UPDATE: The Wash. Post says "At Clement's office in New Orleans, a man who identified himself as a law clerk said the judge was not available. 'That's what I've been instructed to say,' he told a caller who asked if she were in Washington."

Slate has profiles of many potential justices, including Brown Clement: "Clement doesn't provide much ammunition for opposition groups, but perhaps not much for conservatives to get excited about either. She hasn't written anything notable off the bench (or at least nothing that's come to light yet), and most of her judicial decisions have been in relatively routine and uncontroversial cases." Really builds confidence.

More from WaPo story on Clement:"She has stated that the Supreme Court 'has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion' and that 'the law is settled in that regard.'" If she really means that, it could get interesting.

Monday, July 18, 2005

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

Upcoming CD Release this week
Frank Black--"Honeycomb"
I own all his solo releases, and the last 3 or 4 really run together. I like his sound and his formula, but it has become just that. I'm hoping to be surprised this time, but even if I'm not, I'm sure it will be a good, fun listen.

Christian Music Anomaly
I don't really understand the idea of "Christian" music. It's certainly no genre or style. It's a marketing niche to be sure, but beyond that the point of it escapes me. And the fact that I recognize its "uplifting" chord progression cliches as, in fact, uplifting is truly infuriating. So, needless to say, I don't listen to it on purpose. Ever. That's why I've never heard the songs of Ginny Owens, despite having been her instructor for a semester of, I think, ear training several years back. She is the only blind student I ever had, and I'm sure that showed. I should have had to personally give her tuition money back--not that she even really needed that class given her considerable talents. She suffered through it with grace and I've been glad to hear of her success in the weird industry I don't get.

So, that's why I bothered to read her interview in today's City Paper (I usually would have turned the page as soon as I saw "Dove Award winner"), and maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but she actually seems like an interesting and mostly reasonable person, considering that she's a "Christian artist" whatever the hell that means:
Because of the way Christians have been portrayed in the media, and because of a few people who "represent" Christians in politics, the general population assumes we are all alike: we sit around singing together, we eat testaments, we love each other but not the environment, we condemn people who drink, we only listen to Christian music. These hilarious misconceptions have often made my affiliation with the Christian music business an incredibly interesting adventure.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a bit of a nut with a pretty goofy sense of humor. I'm also quite a rebel. A harmless one, but a rebel nonetheless.
And, well, now that I've come to some new level of appreciation for her as a rebel (even though I have no idea what "eating testaments" is) I really can't go listening to her songs. I'm afraid it will ruin it. I know, that makes me a terrible person.

But if I can find some contact information for her, I may see if she remembers me so I can congratulate her on her success and see if I can coax any more thoughts out of her on the relationship between her customer base, her songwriting, and the people who, as she says "'represent' Christians in politics." I'll let you know if anything comes from it.

The Smiths: The Musical
This can't possibly be a good idea. What's next: The Cure on ice?

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I was in a quaint little community called "Squirrel Hill" where everything you need is in walking distance. Immediately after seeing David Cronenburg's film, "Crash" (not to be confused with the one in theaters now)one night, I walked--fairly confused but curious--to the bookstore across the street and bought the JG Ballard novel, hoping for some immediate answers. It's a gripping read but left me similarly wide-eyed, frightened, feeling a little dirty (and kind of liking it). What it didn't leave me with, apparently, was the desire to read any more of his books. All of that to say the next thing I read of his was his recent review of the TV show, CSI, in the Guardian (via BoingBoing):
Given that there are no interesting characters, no car chases or shoot-outs, no violently stirred emotions and no dramatic action, why is the C.S.I. series so riveting? What is it that grips us to the end of the episode, which is scarcely more than an elaborate crossword puzzle with human tissues in the place of clues? My guess is that the answer lies in the inner sanctum at the heart of all three series - the autopsy room. Here the victims surrender all that is left of their unique identities, revealing the wounds and medical anomalies that led to their demise. Once they have been dissected - their ribcages opened like suitcases, brains lifted from their craniums, tissues analysed into their basic components - they have nothing left, not even the faintest claim on existence.
That's the next-to-last paragraph. If you want to read the haunting conclusion, and you should, then have a look at the whole thing. The review doesn't so much make me want to watch CSI (I've seen it maybe once), but it does make me want to read more JG. Anyone out there familiar enough with his work to make a non-Crash suggestion for where to go next?

Italian Music Month
Over at David Byrne's playlist, he's limited it exclusively to 3 Italian artists. They are all distinctive and fabulously interesting. Have a listen.

Kids and Art
I agree with Kate Kellaway (and it's easy to since I am not a parent myself) writing in the Guardian that we have become a culture too protective of children when it comes to experiencing art--in the form of literature, theater, and film especially. She points to an effort by the British Film Institute to combat this by recommending 100 must-see films for children under 14 Although the debate is billed as controversial, none of the films listed that I have seen seem like they would bring argument, but the issue is still an interesting one. I watched R-rated films rented on video when I was 15 and 16 once I had indicated an interest in film. Kate tells of sneaking a read of Lolita when she was 13. As she asks, "when are kids ready?"
Prescription is pointless, but recommendation is a good thing. Children need to be introduced to art, film and literature - and then make up their own minds. . . I do worry about exposing children to literature, films and theatre before they are ready - and I am particularly jumpy about violent films. But how do you decide when a child is 'ready' for a film? It is fascinatingly ambiguous. The extraordinary thing is that works of art - especially books - change according to age. A book read at 18, reread at 48, may seem entirely different. Age is part of what we bring to a work of art. . . .

One of my eight-year-old sons has just finished Pullman's Northern Lights. He didn't really understand it. But it gripped him. And he was incredibly proud to have read it. Maybe he will reread it one day. If he doesn't, he will have missed a fuller, more sophisticated pleasure. But I know I was right not to stop him. Children grow up by reading aspirationally - they don't need to understand everything. They unwrap the world this way. Last summer, my son Leo, 13, played Cobweb in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now, he knows the play off by heart - and while there are lines he does not understand, the language is in his head and will grow up with him.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Self-titled debut album is scoring as high as any CD has all year on Metacritics. Haven't heard it yet but I'll be on the lookout for a cheap copy. Can anyone testify?

Weekend Box Office
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. Wedding Crashers
3. Fantastic Four
4. War of the Worlds
5. Batman Begins

Depp-Burton-Dahl should really be an inspired collaboration, but the well-known tradition of the Wilder version has me a bit skeptical. The best line I've read about it is from our own Nashville Scene. Jim Ridley says "it's an ideal beddie-bye movie, if your kid is Dennis Hopper."

As for Wedding Crashers, given the mostly positive reviews I've seen, it looks too funny to pass up. Still, John at AMERICAblog was unhappy with one aspect:
It's okay, if you like dumb guy comedies, except that there's a gratuitously homophobic thread running through the movie that's kind of surprising for a movie made in 2005.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Is anyone more annoying than Nancy Grace? For me, hell would be spending eternity alone with a TV that played nothing but her shows.
Frank Rich
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

So put aside Mr. Wilson's February 2002 trip to Africa. The plot that matters starts a month later, in March, and its omniscient author is Dick Cheney. It was Mr. Cheney (on CNN) who planted the idea that Saddam was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." The vice president went on to repeat this charge in May on "Meet the Press," in three speeches in August and on "Meet the Press" yet again in September. Along the way the frightening word "uranium" was thrown into the mix.
Sadly, as fun as a Karl Rove perjury conviction would be, we're never going to get proper political justice for the more serious crime of fixing the facts to go to war.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Coming Soon: Just 49 states?
Before you take that new job in sunny South Carolina, you might want to visit to learn about your likely neighbors. (via Huffington Post)
Praying is for the one who prays
Of course, this is all dubious because God would know that He was being used for a test of His powers and wouldn't play that game, but scientists nonetheless attempted to find out if praying for someone else's health has a positive impact.
The researchers enlisted 12 congregations of various Christian denominations, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists around the world to pray for some of the patients, giving them names, ages and descriptions of the illness. The researchers then divided the patients into four groups. The first quarter had people praying for them. The second quarter received a nontraditional treatment known as music, imagery and touch (MIT) therapy, which involved breathing techniques, soothing music, touch and other ways to relieve stress, such as calming mental images. The third group received both prayer and MIT, while the fourth received nothing.

The researchers then followed all the patients for six months to see which patients suffered serious complications, were re-hospitalized or died from heart problems. Overall, there was no difference among the four groups, the researchers report in Saturday's issue of the Lancet medical journal.
So, it can't hurt. And there's reason to believe that, like meditation or relaxation, it can be healthy for the person doing the praying. Not sure if that's ironic.
Red Sox Nation
Putting Schilling in the bullpen is a mistake--not because he doesn't know how to pitch in relief, but because clearly he's not ready to pitch. Doesn't look like he'll be strong enough the rest of the year. The Sox are in trouble. They need to pick up a flame-throwing pitcher and some base-running speed. How about the Pirates' Jose Mesa? Isn't it about time for that hapless team to give up the year and start unloading? In the meantime, why not throw Wakefield in some middle relief and let Embree and Timlin finish games off? Either way, can't do that to Schilling again. Last night he looked like he couldn't push with his back leg at all.
Trans Fat?
No crazes are as hysterical as diet/nutrition crazes. A quick check over the grocery store this week shows that each and every item claims to have 0 trans fat. Is there such a thing? Does anything contain it? I'd never heard of trans fat before I started noticing all the foods not containing any of it. Did the food industry just make it up?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I get mail
I thought the Article 19 crowd could help with this, or would at least enjoy it. Longtime readers will remember a heated discussion about Alan Alda some time back. Today I received this email:
I love alan alda, but I was wondering if you had any information about him being a real jerk in real life? Any articles or knowedge of people who have experienced negative encounters with the man? Thanks.
Once, while Alan Alda and I were working together at a summer camp, we got one of the counselors so drunk he passed out, and Alda insisted we drive his limp body down to the bus station and prop him up on a bench next to some homeless people. I thought we should at least leave him some phone money in his pocket, but Alda was all like "no way! let him figure it out." He came back to camp the next afternoon and told us Jamie Farr had stopped by on a homeless run and helped him out with some clean clothes and a ride. I don't know if that makes Alda a "jerk" or just a practical joker, but that Jamie Farr is a saint. But if you know of any talk of Alda being a jerk, post it here and I will pass it along to this interested reader.
Wrench-quist [UPDATED]
Wouldn't Bush love nothing more than to distract the media attention away from Rove by coming on out with his Supreme Court nominee? And why hasn't he? Surely, he's waiting for the Chief Justice's status. Picking 2 would have a completely different political calculus than picking just 1. I have little doubt that if Rehnquist were firmly in or out at this point, Bush would have already named someone. In the meantime, with the Chief still waddling around, Bush and Rove twist in the wind together on page 1.

[UPDATE: Nevermind. Rehnquist says we're going to have to drag him out in a pine box. He's not going anywhere.]

More on that story: Matt Cooper plans to write all about his testimony; and Joe Wilson went on the attack on TV this morning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

There's no social security reform, no John Bolton confirmation, no bin Laden, no sufficiently trained Iraqi police force or acceptable infrastructure, no blanket rejection of the filibuster, unemployment is still 5%, the Iraq War has obviously not made Britain or the US safe from terrorist attack, nobody wants to join the military, and nobody is left in the National Guard reserves. The public now blames Bush for the war, thinks it wasn't worth it, disapproves of his presidency, and now a record-low 41% say he qualifies as honest, while his Adminstration is mired in a scandal that's slowly painting his most trusted and loyal advisor as just this side of a traitor.

I'd say Bush's second term is going pretty well, wouldn't you?
Does anyone care?
Hockey is back! It's the sport with the ice and the fights. Sounds like the players got creamed, but I doubt there was any other way to try and run a league that big.

From my vantage point, any competitive boost the new deal gives to the Predators will be more than offset by the dropoff in fans the first year. They had better be a winning team, or it will last more than a year. And if they're smart they will give me a break on my season ticket. Wouldn't that be proper fan relations? But somehow I foresee neither happening. Things may get much worse for hockey before they get better.
Shock--Republicans lie and misdirect on Rove
In full contact sport mode, they are really unbelievable. Josh documents the lie, and it's a brazen one; and he quotes the misdirection which is, essentially "mind your own business."

Since when did White House officials lying to a grand jury, obstructing justice, and exposing national security secrets become none of the people's business? I seem to remember Republicans being very concerned about the first 2 of those not so long ago. Something about the rule of law.
Democrats Add One Senate Seat [UPDATED]
It may be slightly early (16 months) but I believe I can safely project Rick Santorum has lost his bid for reelection. He seems to have lost his mind (via CapitolBuzz).
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, refused yesterday to back off on his earlier statements connecting Boston's "liberalism" with the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal, saying that the city's "sexual license" and "sexual freedom" nurtured an environment where sexual abuse would occur. . . .

"I was just saying that there's an attitude that is very open to sexual freedom that is more predominant" in Boston, Santorum said yesterday. Reminded that the sexual abuse occurred across the country, Santorum said that "at the time [in 2002], there was an indication that there was more of a problem there" in Boston. . . .

US Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, called Santorum "a jerk" and pointed out that the senator tried to use the levers of the federal government to block the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, an act that Santorum likened to "execution." An autopsy found that Schiavo's brain was half the normal size and that she could not see anything.

"This is one of those people who claims to have had eye contact with a blind woman," Frank said.
Poll numbers at DailyKos today show Democratic candidate Robert Casey, Jr. ahead 50-39. If the good people of PA can't see straight on this one, after everything that has happened during Rick's 6-year term, there's no hope for any of us.

[UPDATE: Ted Kennedy weighs in]

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tax Revenue...
This year's budget deficit is going to be significantly lower than estimated, due to a boost in tax revenues. That's good news. At only $251 billion for the first 9 months (can you believe it's possible to describe a $251 billion 9-month deficit as "only"?), we're not likely to approach the full-year estimate of more than $425 billion. Last year's deficit was $412 billion.

So, what is driving this new intake? A brilliant economy? The NYTimes proposes 2 reasons: 1) "higher stock market gains and the business income of relatively wealthy taxpayers"; and 2):
the expiration of a temporary tax break that allowed companies to write off their investment in new equipment much more rapidly than normal.

That tax break reduced revenue by about $61 billion in 2004, but it merely postponed taxes that companies would have to pay once their equipment was fully depreciated.
So, capital gains of the wealthy and corporate taxes on loan from last year kept us out of the range of record-setting obscene debt, instead frolicking openly in the arena of the merely obscene.

Really makes you feel like we're experiencing an economic recovery helping the incomes of average workers, doesn't it? Decidedly no. Instead of building the revenue base through increased wages across the board, we get a stock-market spike and an accounting shift in the tax code, and get to compare it to 2004, the largest national debt in the history of humankind. Congratulations everyone, in barely beating it. Still, this dubious set of accomplishments brings my July nomination for understatement of the year, in the same article:
A senior White House official cautioned that it was too early to make definitive judgments about whether the tax cuts had fulfilled the promises of "supply side" economics, a Reagan era concept that posits a direct relationship between lower tax rates and faster economic growth.
Ya think? Nice of them not to declare absolute victory.
Juan Cole on Rove
The actions are those of a traitor. What is the difference between Robert Hanssen revealing key secret information for money to the Soviets and Karl Rove revealing it to the proliferators for political gain for the Republican Party and the Bush White House? Both are traitors who traded secrets for gain.

A man who would do what Rove did should not be in the White House in any capacity.
Via Truthout
My Favorite Moment
From today's briefing, McClellan can't stop his auto-pilot Rove response when one reporter decides there may be something of a pattern emerging:
Q [Ed] Does the White House have a credibility problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: Ed, these are all questions that you're bringing up in the context of an investigation that is ongoing --

Q [Ed] I'm not asking about that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's clear that this is coming up in the context of news --

Q [Ed]We could talk about WMDs, a whole range of issues.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- in the context of news reports. And I appreciate those questions. And I think you're trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports and --

Q [John] But they're news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove's attorney, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, you can keep jumping in, but I'm going to try to keep going to other people in this room, as well. And we can have constructive dialogue here, I think, but that's not the way to do it.

Q [John] It's not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry.
Harry Potter Silliness
I know there is a big day coming, the new book hitting stores and all. And I know they have tight lids on the supply with the idea of keeping the contents of the book secret until it is released all at once on Saturday. But, this seems a bit overboard.
[A Canadian store] slipped up and sold 14 copies before realizing its mistake.

"It was an inadvertent error on behalf of one of our staff," said Geoff Wilson, a spokesman for the Real Canadian Superstore. He said the books were quickly removed.

Justice Kristi Gill last Saturday ordered customers not to talk about the book, copy it, sell it or even read it before it is officially released at 12:01 a.m. July 16.

The order also compels them to return the novel to the publisher, Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd., until the official release.
We're not dealing with nuclear secrets here (or the identity of undercover CIA operatives)--it's a children's book. I haven't read any of them, but what kind of secrets can it have that necessitate unsuspecting shoppers get a court order?
McClellan Thought
I don't have much to add to all the blog circling around the heat beign taken in White House press briefings today and yesterday. You know the press is proud of themselves when news channels start showing briefings live--shades of the Lewinsky scandal days. But I am wondering what kind of questions Jeff Gannon would be asking if he could be there. Don't you think McClellan would like to be able to call on his buddy Jeff today?

Monday, July 11, 2005

[Thanks for the posts Doug! Everyone, if you don't already, keep up with Doug's blog: Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death. It's good stuff, and usually on subjects even more interesting than donuts.]

What have you been listening to, reading and watching?

Classical Music gets a Facelift in Florida
This doesn't surprise me one bit. I'm a bit nervous here in Nashville over a new symphony hall downtown and the prospect of trying to lure a big name young conductor. I usually like the symphony as much as the next person, but it's generally too expensive and too antiseptic an artistic experience. So it makes sense that the small ensemble chamber music scene has begun to flourish in South Florida now that the Symphony has disbanded. It's where they should have been focusing their attention all along.

Weekend Box Office
1. Fantastic Four (I'm surprised... was predicting a bomb)
2. War of the Worlds
3. Batman Begins
4. Dark Water
5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith

I haven't seen a flick in a while--can anybody report? Matthew Yglesias points out that in picking one to see, you could choose the Spielberg film and give your money over to a crazy cult, or pick Dark water and send money to the Yglesias family.
Restoring Dignity to the White House--Update
Everybody may be aware of this by now, but for those workaholics from the last thread who still haven't made it home from the office yet (or those who, like Don, are just vacationing too heavily), the Rove/Plame debacle is all of a sudden going into overdrive. The White House press corps, perhaps finally getting tired of being set-up like patsies by this administration, took it to Press Secretary Scott McClellan today, demanding to know why they'd been lied to for two years about Karl Rove's involvement in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Not that McClellan had a response or anything. I haven't seen the press conference video yet, but apparently it's TiVo worthy. Everybody who's anybody is blogging about the newly empowered press and other new developments, so you can catch up with Atrios, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, AMERICAblog, or choose your own favorite. And if anyone wants to vent, you know where to click.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

All-American Vacations
Since Don's off on yet another vacation (since I don't know how hard he's been working, I don't know if I can call it "well-earned" or not), I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about our vacation habits in the U.S. versus those in Europe. This has been a bit of a hot topic among various blogs over the past couple of weeks. Matt Yglesias started it off by citing a paper from the Harvard Institute of Economic Research, "Work and Leisure in the U.S. and Europe: Why so Different?" (abstract here). The main thrust is that Europeans have traded lower annual salaries for several more weeks of vacation. Kevin Drum jumped in, which prompted this response from an American living in Germany and enjoying his leisure. On his way out of town to start his own five-week vacation, Pascal Riche, Washington bureau chief for Libération, also weighed in. He pointed out that Americans work more hours each year than people in any other industrialized country: two months more than the Europeans, and even two or three weeks more than the stereotypically workaholic Japanese. He also mentions (citing this graph) that working Americans toil for 20 percent longer than we did in 1970 (while the French and Germans work 23.5 and 17.1 percent less, respectively).

So how do we feel about all work and not-so-much play (we've all seen The Shining; we know what that can lead to)? Who'd give up some of our consumerism for a little more leisure time?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I'm off again for the weekend, and less promise of Internet access than last week. All former guest posters please feel free to keep the blog post-happy. And to my Chicago-based readers, I have a 3-hour layover there in the morning. Is there any thing I can/should accomplish in that amount of time or am I pretty well confined to the airport?
This is going to be messy:
I'm hearing that Rehnquist announces between 10 and noon tomorrow morning. Oh, lordy, the summer just got complicated.
This would be a disaster:
In the last half hour the new rumor that is keeping political geeks awake: Rehnquist and Stevens resign tomorrow.
Dear Almighty Deity, go ahead and send the bird flu now. Love, Article 19.
Sadness and Restraint [UPDATED]
I agree with Kevin. It would be nice to shut down the political scoreboards for at least an hour or 2.

UPDATE: Josh is right: the Mayor of London's statement is moving and perfect for the moment.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

We're really doomed
After reading the book about the 1918 flu pandemic that wiped out about 5% of the world's population, I've tried not to become overly paranoid about the Asian bird flu. Compared to our capabilities in 1918, we are in a much better position to know and understand what's happening, even if we're not, at this point, in much better shape to do anything about it if when it mutates to become human-to-human contagious (if it hasn't already). But experts at this week's UN conference are starting to lace their growing nervousness with a sense of urgency:
Dr. Shigeru Omi of the World Health Organization said at the opening of a three-day UN conference on bird flu that the virus has "tightened its grip" on the region and is capable of springing major surprises.

"We believe we are at the tipping point. Either we reverse this trend or things will get out of hand," Omi said. "We must have an all-out war against this virus."
Does the public even have a clue how influenza viruses are passed? How best to protect ourselves once human contagion is confirmed? What signs to look for that would indicate we are infected? What to do after that if we start showing those signs? I starve a fever, and feed a cold (I think...) but what the hell do I do when the hospitals are overflowing, the nurses are all sick, and I'm paralyzed by fever and pain and blood is coming out of my ears?

Maybe it's time the media, and the government, got their collective heads out of their asses and started educating the public before it's too late for a change. The bird flu need not be a tsuanami story in which the wall-to-wall coverage is all after-the-disaster. We know this one is coming, unless some concerted steps are taken and successful. Instead, it feels like we're making many of the same mistakes that were made 87 years ago, when public officials and much of the media chose not to speak the truth for fear of causing a panic. And so the ensuing inevitable terror was exacerbated by a silence that did not comport with the disease-laden reality.

Luckily, right now, we're ahead of that curve. We at least know it's out there. But most ho-hum media reports about it seem glazed over with our typical, foolhardy, childlike expectation that smart people somewhere will eventually do something to keep us regular, innocent, civilized folk safe. Meanwhile, with each cell that is inhabited by the virus creating 10,000 new virus-inhabited cells that are capable of reproducation, the mutation those smart people dread could happen tomorrow, today, or may have happened yesterday. And by the time we realize it, trans-continental flights may have sent infected, contagious humans to every corner of the globe.

Consider my paranoia boycott lifted. If yours is too, you may want to check out this blog devoted to the bird flu.
NYTimes Reporter sent to jail; Time reporter off the hook [UPDATED]
I'm dying to know where this is going. Very strange. Matt Cooper--the one whose notes apparently implicate Karl Rove--was contacted and released from confidentiality by his underlying source, so he's going to testify. Judy Miller was not. So she's going to jail.

Different sources? Was Rove not Cooper's underlying source? Does this development exonerate Rove and show that he did not in fact reveal classified info? Does it question Rove's grand jury testimony? Will Miller's source stop being such a coward and release her?

I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. I don't like the idea of reporters going to jail. I also don't like the idea of journalists allowing themselves to be used for criminal/treasonous purposes in a game of political back-stabbing. In Miller's defense, and I'm no fan of hers, she never actually reported the information; she just knows something about who was trying to get the info out there. But for the reporters that did, why are they not at least somewhat culpable for knowingly revealing classified information? If Rove told them troop movement details, can they pass that along with impunity too? I doubt it. UPDATE--Doug in the comments reminds me that the law only holds government officials are responsible for revealing classified info knowingly, so that explains that. Whether that still constitutes an ethical lapse on the part of a reporter, to reveal such information for no better reason than to further a political vendetta, is maybe another question. But that answers the legal question--thanks Doug.
It's London
I thought for sure Paris would get the 2012 Olympics, but London won the prize. New York never really had a chance. Given the European domination of the Olympic Committee and the soured US-Europe relationship, why would they ever locate the games in the US again? We're not especially supportive of the events anyway. We probably deserve to be shut out for a good long while.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Media Monday Tuesday
What have you been reading, listening to or watching?

Doug seems ho-hum on Stage Beauty.
Steven P, who I'm convinced never sleeps, heartily recommends Michael Cunningham's new book, Specimen Days

What makes that American sound?

I love this story. Even though I knew many American composers were gay, I hadn't really put this together, but can't wait to bring this up next semester to my 20th century theory class in front of all those conservative kids. From the Dallas Morning News (free reg. req'd, but you can always use; password = dailykos)
Along with the boom of rockets and crackle of firecrackers, the sounds of the Fourth of July include the brassy flourishes and drum-poundings of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is playing it today at City Hall Plaza, along with Copland's Outdoor Overture. The composer's Lincoln Portrait and Billy the Kid Suite are being performed this weekend by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

More than half a century on, and 15 years after Copland's death, these works still define a distinctively American sound. Rodeo even backs James Garner's growl, "Beef. It's what's for dinner." It's hard to imagine a movie about the American West without music inspired by Copland's wide-open sonorities. Copland's scores are part of our national mythology. Their wide-eyed clarity and tunefulness radiate working-class idealism and traditional family values.

Ironically, these celebrations of outdoorsy, big-sky Americana, and of WASP home and hearth, were created by a homosexual Jew from Brooklyn....Copland was one of a group of composers who, starting in the 1930s, cultivated a new nationalist – or at least populist modernist – style. And most of them were gay, including Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, David Diamond, Lou Harrison, Paul Bowles, Marc Blitzstein and Ned Rorem....By contrast, most of the pricklier modernists, including Charles Ives, Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions, were straight.
The piece points out that Copland's work was recently featured in a US Army promotion...

Live 8 Concerts
I haven't said much of anything about the Live 8 concerts because, as much as I wish I had attended 1 or 2, as a political statement I just don't really understand the goal or strategy. It may very well be brilliant and effective (at something), but until that's demonstrated, I associate myself with Doug's remarks. He followed up with some thoughts after watching a bit of the coverage:
I guess we now get to relax for another twenty years until we again notice that Africa remains in utter poverty and we all get together to do it again.
That sounds about right to me. But I hope we're both wrong.

Article 19 Book Recommendation: Moral Politics by George Lakoff
*********** (11 out of 19)
Another book I started several months ago and just now got around to finishing. It asks a simple question--what holds the standard conservative, and liberal, positions together? What is the fundamental belief and priority underlying each side that explains and even predicts the position a conservative or a liberal will take over the spectrum of political issues. He offers a brilliant, insightful answer: that our models of family, and the rich metaphors that give them shape are the same perspectives that drive and unite our political positions. Specifically, conservatives bring to their attitude of government a "strict father" philosophy that values maintenance of the moral order through reward and punishment. Liberals counter with a "nurturant parent" moarlity that emphasizes empathy and self-fulfillment.

So, why only 11 stars out of 19? Because after the first 120 pages, in which this theory is adequately and convincingly presented, the remaining 280 say essentially the same thing, over and over. It would have been just as powerful at about half the size. I don't mind the academic style so much because I'm accustomed to it, but I refuse to believe that academic must be tedious. And much of this, presumably in the name of rigor, qualifies as tedious even to my nerdy ears.

Still, if you want to know how that theory works, I strongly recommend the first third.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Batman Begins
*************** (15 out of 19)
Thought it was awesome. Fun, exciting, dark, inventive. But best of all was an amazing cast. Michael Caine, Rutger Hauer, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Gary Oldman (what can't he do?), Morgan Freeman. It all made Katie Holmes seem pretty juvenile and a bit out of place. Do we really need a young face that bad? Someone Christian Bale's age would still be plenty young. My only beef with the plot was that I never really had much of a handle of the evil least the "why" of it.

Weekend Box Office
1. War of the Worlds
2. Batman Begins
3. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
4. Bewitched (after seeing commercials now I'm confused. Is this a film version of the TV show? Or a movie about the making of the TV show? Or a weird combination of both?)
5. Herbie

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Holiday
I'm on the road home finally on the 4th. We'll have Media Monday on Tuesday this week, so ready your raves and your pans from the last week. I've got a book, a movie, and an album to rate. As for this Independence Day, let's celebrate living in a country that allows for the questioning of our leaders, and the mechanism to peacefully, if slowly, change course as an expression of our right to self-govern, in order to form a more perfect union, and all that.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bush sends clear message to Blair and Europe
Piss off.

Why does he even go to the meetings?
Truck-stop Love
Random thought from the road (more free wireless at the hotel! woohoo!): I may be showing my ignorance of the ways of the highway traveler, but what really is the purpose of the condom machine dispenser in the restrooms of interstate stops? Do truckers just know where the sex is? Is there a hookers-for-18-wheelers society I don't know about? Are truckers arranging rendevouz via CB radio? If they're on their way home, are they just so desperate for action that they can't bear another stop at the drugstore? Are they too embarassed to purchase at a counter like everyone else? I guess what I'm asking, seriously, is what is the common consumer plan, or scenario, that makes selling a condom pack in the restroom a lucrative business model?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

It's not the sex, it's the lying [UPDATED]
Lawrence O'Donnell reconfirmed his outing of Rove as the traitorous leak source and claims Newsweek is working on an "it's Rove" story. And Jon at AMERICAblog reminds us that Republicans should still be against lying to the grand jury.

Relentless pressure should be applied to this White House to make them explain why Karl is still a government employee if the President takes this as seriously as he claimed several months ago. If the media lets this get away due to a Supreme Court nominee, or a missing white girl, or a shark attack, I'll be pissed.

[UPDATE: The Newsweek story is online--a bit of a letdown frankly, but should be the start of something if any reporters decide to get off their duffs and do some work.]
Plame case turning a corner
Now that Time Magazine looks like it will turn over its reporter notes regarding the Valerie Plame leak, I'm hoping that the story can revert to the really important, and forgotten angle: not whether reporters can refuse to disclose their sources, but whether government employees can disclose the identity of undercover CIA agents with impunity. Returning to that--the real story in the case--would be especially nice now that we know the source of the leak seems to be Karl Rove himself.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Blue Lagoon 1, Risky Business 0
Brooke Shields puts the smackdown on Tom Cruise in the New York Times (I'm sure he reads it.).
[C]omments like those made by Tom Cruise are a disservice to mothers everywhere. To suggest that I was wrong to take drugs to deal with my depression, and that instead I should have taken vitamins and exercised shows an utter lack of understanding about postpartum depression and childbirth in general.

If any good can come of Mr. Cruise's ridiculous rant, let's hope that it gives much-needed attention to a serious disease. Perhaps now is the time to call on doctors, particularly obstetricians and pediatricians, to screen for postpartum depression.
I guess we can put Ms. Shields in the category of people, like Matt Lauer, who don't know "the history of psychiatry" like Tom does. He's teetering on the edge of some real serious celebrity weirdness, let alone the stupidity.
We're Doomed
O'Connor retired first?! Rational thinking would lead us to hope that Bush will nominate someone as "moderate" as Justice O'Connor was, saving the big fight until the inevitable Rehnquist retirement. But Rove/W rarely follow the logic playbook. We'll probably get the fight now, in an attempt to make Democrats unreasonable and obstructionist. Then he'll give us a second right-wing kook to replace the Chief Justice, on the grounds that Rehnquist himself was very conservative. Pray for Justice Stevens. A Breyer, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy 5-some can at least keep the most outrageous things from happening, although women's health rights will not likely be saved.