Friday, September 30, 2005

Lost Hath No Fury

David Fury, perhaps the best writer on the staff of Lost (he wrote the Emmy-nominated "Walkabout"), has left. Reports claim he's saying the producers are making it up as they go along. While I'm sure this is an exaggeration, I'm also sure there's a lot of give in the show, particularly since they don't know how long it'll run.

I think most Lost viewers are patient. Nevertheless, if they ever suspect there's no controlling vision, and they're just being jerked around, they will abandon the show in droves.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Extravagant Plan

Before I forget, here's an interesting reply from Anonymous to my recent post on Rathergate:

"I think if I ever were drawn to public service and wanted to cover up something horrible I've done in my past that a lot people might know about, I'd create some false document essentially implicating me in the wrongful act (but with some details wrong). First I'd discretely publicize the fabricated document among my detractors and then wait for it to be shown to be false (admittedly easier said than done) and claim I was being persecuted by false evidence. I.E. make the story be the bad evidence (and not the underlying bad conduct that the evidence is concerned with).

"I promise I am not a recently -fired head of a disaster relef agency out for revenge."

After The Fact

I tend not to get too mad when politicians perform poorly under extraordinary circumstances. In those cases, 20-20 hindsight is a bit too easy. It's when they peform poorly during normal, everyday situations that I get concerned. Somehow, though, that's just considered, well, normal. Certainly not enough to make the front pages.

Rogers Brown watch

As Roberts is confirmed as chief, Williams is in front for the next associate justice at 14.6.

No other candidate breaks 9.0 (Gonzales and the newbie Miers are close) and after that no one breaks 7.0. Our girl Janice hangs low at 3.0 just now (although Drudge includes a nice picture of her, along with two women who could be Clement, Owen, Jones or Miers or just about anyone who wouldn't have been allowed to vote in Switzerland until 1971).

So did the press

So Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco appeared before a Senate committee to respond to charges made by Mike Brown, former FEMA director, that she acted incompetently during the recent hurricane. Given the extensive unbiased, neutral "news" coverage, including from the Chicago Tribune through this link, and given that she was invited to respond to the claims, what do you suppose happened?

"She asked not to be questioned about it and the senators agreed. "

Rogers Brown watch

Some have speculated today is the day for the next nomination. Although Miers reached at least 34.0 last night, at this moment three are essentially tied: Jones 13.0, Miers 14.6, Williams 12.9.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Best of the Beatles

I am currently watching this odd PBS show in which family members and friends of Pete declare the Beatles wouldn't have made it without him. Notwithstanding the fact that they DID, they then go on to give us a detailed birth to beyond biography. Watched it out of boredom. They did not make the case.

Beatlemaniac LAGuy adds: They dumped him when they finally got a recording contract. They must have had a good reason, the most likely being he just couldn't cut it (which George Martin seems to agree with). His defenders claim he didn't fit in, or they were jealous (he was the best-looking), but if that was so, why not dump him earlier? The got rid of him precisely at the point when they knew they had to be at their best musically.

Different day, different, er, stuff?

I suppose I like and admire the Powerline boys as much as anyone, but how did we get from "Good Lord. That resume was padded? It's hard to imagine how it could have been much weaker" on Sept. 2 to "Brownie kicks butt" yesterday? Much less to "I thought it was a mistake when President Bush cashiered Brown, and his performance tonight validates that judgment" from "I think Brown's padding of his resume constitutes sufficient reason for him to resign or be removed." (Okay, that last link was from a different powerline boy, but the first two are the same guy.) Note this, too: . . . there really was no excuse for having a director with as weak a background as Michael Brown's. I hope the administration understands that now."

Nonetheless, the powerline entry beats the pants off this partisan drivel from the Chicago Tribune. If you can't see bias in that piece, you're not competent to read a newspaper (First graph: Michael Brown, the Bush administration's ousted emergency management chief, went before Congress on Tuesday unbowed by fierce criticism of his handling of Hurricane Katrina, admitting few errors of his own and laying most of the blame for the debacle of early relief efforts on local officials in Louisiana." Can *you* find the judgement words?)

Rogers Brown malaise

General malaise at Tradesports. Apparently Bush is doing a good job keeping his choice under wraps, perhaps even by not having made one yet.

I thought the big value of these sorts of exercises, though, was in anticipating what was going to come? It's true enough that I'm no market wiz -- I average 19 percent investment return, consistently, whenever I make a payment on my Mastercard -- but all I can see on the Big Board is confusion.

None of the people who have been leading, Jones, Owen, Williams, is looking dominant, and numbers are down across the board. Miers did make the board today, but all that shows is somebody read Drudge in the prior 12 or 24 hours. Not exactly lightning-speed transmission of information by the market, if you ask me.

Anyway, our girl Janice continues to rank in a second tier, numbers-wise, at 7.9, while Jones is 13.0, Owen 12.7 and Williams 11.3. (At least Gonazales has cooled in recent days.)

Question of the day

So far as I know, no one grilled Roberts on the big question: Will he keep the racing stripes on the robe of the Chief Justice of the United States that were added by Rehnquist during Clinton's first term? (A bit beside the point, but was Rehnquist inspired by Cinton's 1992 "boxers or briefs"?)

Will all chief justices from now on wear them? Or will this be a personal quirk that will fade into history?

(Say, LAGuy, has anyone done much of an analysis of those stripes? Seems like there might be some meat there for someone in that line . . .)

Here's a really lame attempt to say Roberts won't use them.

Here's a better look at the question.

Here's a quite interesting look at an ethics and tax question by the inimitable Kaus. (Lovely line: "How much is Judge Ito's gavel worth?")

Brave

I consider the Becker-Posner blog a must-read. Not only because they intelligently discuss a new issue each week, but because they are fearless. Perhaps this is what lifetime tenure or a Nobel Prize can do for you.

This week is an excellent example. They take on the elite education of women, and say things you won't likely hear elsewhere. I might add that I don't think I agree with Posner this time. But the debate over at their blog is always lively.

Check it out. Don't you want to argue with a Nobel Prize winner?

Story's Over, But Enjoy The Music Video

A number of TV dramas seem to be stretching things out a bit. The story reaches its climax and instead of a quick denouement, they play a slow, sad song and show the various characters reacting to recent events. This has, in fact, become a cliche.

I know TV requires a sort of cookie-cutter writing, with so much time for each act, and little cliffhangers to keep the viewer interested, but this new, "arty" type of ending has about zero entertainment value. Let's stop it, shall we?

Ted Hawkins

There is a natural suspicion whenever anyone picks a relative-unknown as a favorite. How can someone so good stay under the radar? Does the reviewer think he is too cool for regular 'greats'?

I make no claims to discovering Ted Hawkins. I believe it was Schoolkids Records (late of A2)that put me on to him. (One of those little informational signs that they were famous for) Based on the many positive reviews at Amazon, numerous others have discovered him as well, some soon enough to have seen him live. So, what makes him my favorite?

Ted Hawkins is my favorite because he owns every song he sings, his voice is a blend of the best of soul and country, and the songs are eminently listenable and singable.

Ted Hawkins 'owns' his songs. He does not always change them significantly. He gives mostly respectful interpretations of anything by Sam Cooke, in fact most soul songs. Yet Ted's version is often the one I now prefer to hear. Knowing a bit about his history, I think his power over the songs is that he has enough world experience to be able to place himself in the character often better than the original. His original compositions have tragedy and humor but also reflect a deeply spiritual side. Though he recorded a lot of soul music, his range is amazing as he covers Doris Troy's Just One Look, Simon and Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge, even a TWA ad, always giving each song a fresh appealing shine.

Like many great soul singers he has wonderful range without leaving his own person. He can rumble deep and fly high in the same song, even repeating the same verse. His voice captures the 'truth' of the song. He sang on Venice Beach for years and his voice pleads for the inattentive audience to listen. He draws you in. His soul voice is smooth enough but not Jerry Butler smooth. He Will Break Your Heart is an amazing song performed by Jerry Butler, who wrote it thinking of all the men he hurt as he picked up girls from town to town. Jerry Butler's voice is technically better, but Ted Hawkins IS the scorned lover.

Harder than picking Ted Hawkins as my favorite is picking my favorite of his songs. Ladder of Success has saved my life more than once, so that has to be #1. But the humor in Bring It on Home Daddy and Bad Dog are quite infectious and the reggae beat and insistent questioning on Who Do You Love? rank close behind.

Good info at:
http://guterman.com/
guterman_clips/guterman_Ted_Hawkins/guterman_ted_hawkins.html

House Rules

Being a Wolverine (as is AnnArborGuy and--sorry to out you--ColumbusGuy), I was pleased to discover in the latest episode that Dr. Gregory House's alma mater is Michigan.

Unbelievable

This blog was born out of Rathergate (see upper lefthand corner). If you check our earliest archives, you'll see it's our main topic.

What I found infuriating at the time was not that CBS had done a Bush-bashing story based on fraudulent documents (or even that the story if true was irrelevant), but that it took them so long to apologize. Any impartial (or partial but intelligent) person could see the evidence and tell they were fake. Yet, today, over a year later, Mary Mapes and Dan Rather still pretend they could have been right--even probably were right.

Now it is true that they are surrounded by friends who very much wanted the documents to be true. And that the Thornburgh-Boccardi Report, while essentially showing the fraudulence of the documents, decided (for some political or Jesuitical reason) to stop short of the officially declaring them counterfeit. And that certain supporters, such as The New York Review Of Books, wanted so intensely for the whole thing to work out that they were reduced to insanity.

I'm not going to repeat all the evidence that shows the documents were forged. You can check out the archives at LGF for that. For that matter, let's forget that even if the forgers had done a better job, the rest of the evidence, on balance, still works against Mapes and Rather.

All I want is for someone who knows Rather or Mapes to sit them down and explain if you have a story based on newly discovered military documents, and these documents are in crayon and look like they're written by a four-year-old, your first response shouldn't be "well, the content does seem to fit what we know."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Proving it

Dan Rather is a lunatic. Here's his comment about his story that Bush was a deserter and a ne'er do well (run seven weeks before the election) on forged documents:

"To this day no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not."

You know what, Dan? To this day, no one has ever proven whether it's true or not, as the National Enquirer reports every election year, that aliens have come down and advised the president what to do, either.

Oh, and Dan also says the test (presumably, of good journalism) is whether the victim of the smear has denied it. Sorry, Dan. You're just demonstrating what a hack and a fool you are.

Miers to you

A couple of hours ago Drudge linked to an AP story saying Bush is pretty much done with his selection for the next justice and is only waiting for Roberts to be sworn in.

The story recites Thompson as a pick. Sure enough, he had been hanging around Tradesports at 1.0, but two hours later was up to 4.3. Still negligible, but up, no? Miers, on the other hand, a non-judge, had yet to show up. We'll see if she's there tomorrow.

Otherwise, the AP story just shot guns the names, throwing out enough that they hope, apparently that the nominee is on the list.

Our girl Janice Rogers? Up a bit, as of a bit ago, anyway. But still not in the big leagues, as Owen is at 17.9.

LAGuy Adds: We'll know Bush's pick soon, but the Dems have already done some of the hard lifting. 1) Due to earlier opposition, the near-automatic choice of Miguel Estrada is off the board. 2) Due to earlier argument, the filibuster option is not only on the table, it hardly even seems radical.

ColumbusGuy adds What kool aid are you drinking? A filibuster will appear wildly radical. And if Estrada is off the table, it's only because of Bush. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Bush were to nominate him.

LAGuy reposts and ripostes: People who read a mild piece by George Will and then announce he's had a brain aneurysm shouldn't talk about Kool-Aid.

ColumbusGuy adds But this is exactly the point. The piece was so "mild" there was nothing there. In fact, "mild" is wild hyperbole. What sort of extremist are you, using that kind of language?

The key to it all

I don't know quite how to link it, but a transcript of a New York Times editorial meeting with the secretary of state captures a key point that is almost entirely lost in Iraq:

Unidentified NYTimes reporter: I mean, I can imagine a few other countries where [the process of introducing western political culture into the Middle East outside Israel] might have started with greater ease.
SECRETARY RICE: No, but look, we were still in a state of war with Saddam Hussein.

That's pretty much the be-all and end-all of it. It's not "weapons of mass destruction" or anything else. We were at war with Iraq. It's just that we pretended we weren't for 12 years.

And of course, to say there weren't WMD's is ridiculous. There was clearly desire, and an unsustainable and failing system of "keeping Saddam in his box" as Madeleine Albright might say. If there weren't WMD's today, there would have been soon enough.

But the main thing is, we were in a state of war, yet caught in this terrible Clintonian, Annanish, George Herbert Walker Bushist state of pretending we weren't. What would Bush have done about it without Sept. 11? Who knows? But we had Sept. 11, and suddenly the nation grew some spine. Thank God for it.

Trivia Question

What Broadway musical officially had Harold Prince, George Abbott, Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse working on it? (Hint: it was a hit.)

UPDATE: Someone got the answer -- 1954's Tony winner, The Pajama Game.

Rogers Brown watch

Goodness. Williams and Owen lurching up today, breaking new numbers at 17.9 and 17.8 respectively. Brown recovered to 10.1, apparently, then dropped again to 6.5 right now. Clement hanging at near customary 10.3, but Jones feels the pain of third place for the first time since Rogers Brown watch began, hanging at 11.1.

Serenity Now!

At the last second, my book group canceled. This made it too late to order a free pass to the local blogger showing of Serenity.

I trust ColumbusGuy will tell us all about it in due time.

Got Smart

Most sitcoms in the second half of the 60s were pretty silly. It's almost as if after The Dick Van Dyke Show left the air, TV decided to wait out the rest of the decade. Shows about country folk in Beverly Hills or mortals married to witches carried the day.

Get Smart was silly, too. But it was also clever. A parody of James Bond, with weird weapons and bizarre criminals, there was a lot going on. And in the center was Don Adams. He played the title role, Maxwell Smart. (That pun is a good example of the lengths they'd go to for a joke.) He even won three Emmys as Agent 86 (another pun, sort of--to 86 someone is to throw him out). The character didn't have a lot on the ball, much to the consternation of Chief and Agent 99, but he was smart enough to catch the crooks each week.

I first discovered the show in reruns. I was a huge fan. Its specialty was catch phrases: "Would you believe...," "Sorry about that, Chief," "The old [something lengthy] trick, and I fell for it," "Missed it by that much," "I asked you not to tell me that," "...and loving it!" My favorite was when Max would insult a criminal, calling him a gorilla or something, and punch him to no effect. Then he'd put his arm around the guy's shoulders and say "hope I wasn't out of line with that gorilla remark." Perhaps Don Adams' death will remind someone to start showing Get Smart again.

PS It brings back a lot of childhood memories. The show starts with Smart walking through a series of steel doors to a phone booth where he drops out of sight (presumably to HQ). My brother and I would stand behind a chair and drop along with him. He had a phone in his shoe. I would pretend anything I was holding--say an apple with a bite out of it--was a phone.

I was also surprised to read that, like myself, Cathy Seipp had a Get Smart lunchbox growing up.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rogers Brown watch

Hard core drop for our girl Janice, from 10.1 to 6.0. Plus a lot of activity: 127 contracts, the last one (maybe all of them?) traded at 9:58 BST, British Summer Time. What legal and White House lights are in Britain right now?

Only four above 10 points: Jones holding at 16.0, the dread Gonzales continuing to climb at 14.4, Owen at 12.9 and Clement at 11.0

Come Now

Over at Drudge, the main headline reads "Cindy Sheehan Arrested At White House In Cunning Stunt." I don't know who writes his material, but this is half of a very famous pun. Does he think no one will notice?

UPDATE: Somebody grew wise. The new headline is "Fun: Cindy Arrested At White House."

Best Don Adams quote

From Free Republic:

"First Bob Denver, now this . . . If I'm Larry Storch, I'm a little worried right now."

Geoge Will suffers brain aneurysm

It's tragic, of course, and not pretty. Look only if you have a strong stomach, and don't say I didn't warn y0u. The formula has killed many writers better than Will: good idea, deadline, and nothing to say. Let's have a moment of silence for a man who knew his baseball.

(Maybe Will could improve his average if he stopped writing about anything remotely related to legal topics. It's radical surgery, but worth a shot.)

What the...?

Being literally behind the Time(s), I just read last week's issue. The cover--"Iraq: Is It Too Late To Win The War?"

Huh?

Maybe I missed something, but we won the war. The dictator who ran the joint is now in the dock, and a coalition of Iraqis have written a constitution and held elections. The country's not fully set up yet, but that takes time.

True, there are maniacs and sore losers who would like to return Iraq to its days as a torture chamber, but they are a minority, even within the Sunni population where they mainly come from. They are fighting with loser's tactics--small attacks here and there where they can manage--but they can't do much more than create havoc; it's not the kind of fighting that leads to taking over.

They know how miserably they have lost, and realize what a huge win the war has been for the other side. That's what's driving them crazy. They see the only true chance they have is psychological--tire out the opponent until he doesn't want to fight back any more. It must be tough. But every time they feel defeated, they can see something like Time's cover and figure it's worth going on.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Giving the lie

When Mrs. Bill Clinton, the state governors and Medicaid and Medicare officials, insurance companies and doctors and hospitals all tell us health care costs are uncontrollable, remember this. Introduce an ounce of competition, and suddenly they'll find ways to control costs, all right.

Check the last line: Thayer, the retired farmer, has a suggestion for India: to anchor a cruise ship in international waters off Los Angeles -- "One deck for orthopedic surgery, one deck for cardiology. We need a change in America, we need cheaper medical treatment. We need a big hospital ship from India."

Fighting for principle

Courtesy Drudge, we are reminded that Mrs. Bill Clinton is a dangerous person. I wonder what "lie" it was she wanted to defend her reputation against? That Bill's semen was on some 23 year old's dress? It is pretty scandalous.

Never mind that it turned out to be true. It's the principle that Mrs. Bill Clinton is fighting for.

Faith and Charity, is there a connection?

Roy Hattersley seems to think so.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5283079-103677,00.html

His conclusion appears drawn from the historical evidence that most relief organizations have a religious background and name. I imagine that out of the estimated one billion dollars of private dollars some significant number was donated by people who have little or no faith, even if it went through organizations that have a religious moniker. While this author takes plenty enough shots at people of faith, his main focus of attack is on his own. He comes just short of calling for an Atheist Widows and Orphans Fund.

Rogers Brown watch

Rogers Brown hangs on to a nominal fourth place at 10.1, effectively the same as Owen at 10.0. Ahead are only Clement at 11.0, the dread Gonzales at 13.0 and Jones at 16.0 Behind are Williams at 9.0 and Luttig at 8.0, then the middling crowd.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

One for LAGuy

This MRC post about a CBS News producer's comments on Manhattan media bias is priceless.

"We simply reported it because the former President SAID it."

America's oldest civil rights organization

His Virtualness notes that a federal court has stopped arbitrary gun confiscations during New Orleans time of peril. Good for them. And good for the NRA.

(I've not caught the NRA tagline before: Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen's group. I love it. But they should just cut to the chase: "The National Rifle Association is America's oldest civil rights organization."

Well, she's tall enough, anyway.

I've seen the promos for ABC's Commander In Chief, starring Geena Davis as America's first female president. I don't get it. The idea of a woman in the top position is hardly startling. This might have been controversial 30 or 40 years ago, but we've seen women rule other countries and hold almost every other major position here.

The forgettable Lawrence and Lee play First Monday In October, about the first female Supreme Court Justice, debuted in 1978, three years before the real thing. Perhaps ABC is rushing their show on the air to beat Hillary to the punch.

ColumbusGuy adds: We rented the video with Walter Matthau and Jill Claburgh. Whew. What a stinker. At least the first half hour, which was all we could bear. I assume it was faithful to the play.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rogers Brown fade

As the week ends, our girl Janice drops to seventh. Luttig stages a comeback at 12.1, up from 8.5 yesterday, clement up to 12.5, Jones steady in the lead at 14.5, Williams jumping to 10.0, and Owen hanging at 10.5. The troublingly persistent Gonzales hangs close at 11.8.

Free speech after McCain-Feingold

Powerline has been blogging about Sen John McCain's response to questions about the impact of McF on the internet. Apparently Sen McCain takes the naive view that it should have no impact. "He replied that he wanted no government regulation of the internet." (Powerline thinks it is important to note that this is not a verbatim quote.) But if the essential meaning is there, then McCain is either a fool or a liar. McF must ultimately have the same impact on internet communication as on television or radio. The Supremes not overturning McF was much worse in my opinion than the recent eminent domain rulings.

ColumbusGuy addsYeah, you got that right. And Bush should be hanged for signing the thing.

Battle joined?

So Hillary!(tm) has announced a vote against Roberts. Lord, I'd love to have heard the negotiating sessions on this: "Pat, you vote yes in committee, all with those Red-state Wisconsin guys, and I'll lead the no's on the floor. Teddy . . . Teddy, put that down."

So the Dems are hitting fairly hard against a man who is pretty, qualified and came off well. Along with Bill's silly little shots, does this indicate that they've climbed aboard the liberal toboggan and are ready for the ride? It seems likely the next confirmation fight will be a tougher one, so I have to admit I'm surprised Mrs. Bill Clinton didn't hedge by giving Roberts a "yes."

LAGuy helpfully adds: No one's gonna be punished for voting against a guy who gets in--who cares either way? (unless he overturns Roe before 2008). Essentially, for the Dems, this is a free vote. Certainly this'll have no effect on Hillary's popularity as she runs for Senator.

So her actions are hardly beyond understanding. She's been hawkish to prove (among other things, one hopes) she can be tough--the one area where a woman might have to worry. (See my post above.) But, like John Kerry, while it seemed to play well at the time, now it's an albatross. Hillary's got a base threatening to lock out anyone who's not expressly anti-war.

The solution, then, is to tack left whenever possible to prove her bona fides. A vote like this is a no-brainer.

ColumbusGuy adds: These people are entirely about perception. We're talking about the woman who, seven days after the election, said the Dems need to go to the churches (the Republican ones). Her problem is everyone knows she's a liberal; she needs to show she's a credible moderate. Votes like this will kill her, giving the lie to all her efforts to tack right. If she's decided she doesen't have room to do that because of her base, then it's pretty much game over. Her only hope then is that suddenly the country is ready to go 1968. (Say -- who was elected president that year?)

Where's the newbie?

So does AnnArborGuy work only weekends? Or is he modeling Pajama Guy?

Rogers Brown watch

Penultimate day of the likely penultimate week of the next nomination, and Janice isn't looking strong. Numbers are still low across the board, but Gonzales is persistenting at 12.0.

Brown down to 8.5, tied with Luttig, behind Clement and Owen at 10.5 and Jones at 14.5. Williams is near behind at 8.0, then the drop off to the middling crowd.

Don't Know Why

Is it just me, or has all of TV suddenly become the Weather Channel?

No Wonder

I enjoyed March Of The Penguins, though I'm shocked by its success. It's beautifully shot and tells a compelling story, but no nature documentary has ever grossed anything near what it's made ($71 million and counting).

I suppose it's not surprising that such a success has various groups reading it their way. A celebrated article in The New York Times suggests conservatives have claimed it for their own. I think they're stretching it a bit, but the part that had me scratching my head the most was those who see the film as an argument for intelligent design.

Then it hit me. This is why so many people believe in ID--they don't have a clue as to what Darwin was talking about! If they can look at this film, which is about absolute textbook evolution, and think it argues against present-day science...well, no wonder.

If anything, this movie, where Emperor penguins march 70 miles, lose their young to predators and almost starve to death, is yet more evidence for cruel design.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Look for the anti-union label

Mickey Kaus on fire today, talking about unions. I realize how important unions are in the Dem coalition, but I don't understand why we don't get more realistic pundits like Kaus when it comes to economic policy. As he points out, it's the Dems on his side, such as those in Clinton's administration, who win national elections. Meanwhile, mainstream (forget radical) leftists pundits act as if Mondale and Harkin are the way to paradise.

Sometimes Kaus has been so harsh people wonder if he actually is a liberal. Some even call him conservative. I remember talking to him a few days after the election. He'd been almost non-stop anti-Kerry and I said Come on, you're not really unhappy Bush won, are you? but he assured me he was. His criticism has always been because he wants his party to rise above itself.

Rogers Brown watch

Our girl tanks, dropping into sixth at 9.0 at the cost of Gonzales moving to 12.0. Otherwise, though, general pessimism across the board: Jones 14.0, Clement, 12.5, Owen, 12.0 and Luttig 10.0. As has been the case for several days, the drop off after Brown is sharp, to the middling crowd.

Unwanted Advice

Everyone in Hollywood thinks they know how to fix a failed show. I would never be so presumptious. However, I think I can tell them what won't work.

Joey, now going into its second season, is a spinoff of Friends. This is already a bad idea. Spinoffs have the advantage of a protagonist you already know and like, but they have the bigger deficit of using that character outside the magical situation that made the previous show a hit.

Friends, more than most shows, was an ensemble piece, with six equal characterers. Most of the fun was the interplay. Stripping any single member away was not a great recipe for a show; and using either of their two most extreme characters--Joey or Phoebe--was especially bad.

Joey started with great ratings, but as the audience realized the magic wasn't there, the numbers fell. The show was lucky to be picked up. So to goose the ratings, the ads are saying Joey, the actor, who's been struggling so far, will become a movie star. I don't think this will save the show.

What drove the audiences away last season was they were watching a cliched sitcom. The old Joey occasionally enjoyed success as an actor, but just as often was a lovable loser. Making him popular within his series will have nothing to do with fixing what has made his series unpopular.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Blame Game

I just watched, with millions of others, the Jet Blue flight with faulty landing gear touch down in LAX. Happily, no one was hurt.

I had a friend who was a pilot, and whenever there was something like this in the news, I'd ask him if it was human error or mechanical error. He said "It's always human error."

Columbus Guy says: Fair enough. But I be the problem is 98 percent of people, lay people out of ignorance and the priesthood out of malice, treat this as the same thing as "pilot error." My guess is your friend was speaking much more broadly than the pilots -- at least, for pilots who do not own their own planes, commercial or otherwise.

Original Thinking

One of our more intriguing constitutional scholars is Akhil Reed Amar of Yale. He has a pretty good piece in Slate today, on how liberals should take another look at originalism. I'm not saying I'm convinced--his viewpoint runs the risk of requiring "just so" stories, and he's a bit too dismissive of alternatives--but it's well worth reading.

Columbus Guy says: Careful, LAGuy. Two more steps down that road and you'll be stuck arguing Plessy was a bad decision.

NPR watch III

Morning Edition today was hilarious. In a story pushing tax increases to pay for Katraina, by repealing some of Bush's earlier tax cuts, the reporter babe stated that Republican Tom "Delay said it would be a tax increase on the rich."

That's one of those snorters that you know isn't true. But I'll give NPR credit; they at least played the tape, and sure enough, what Delay said was it would be a "tax increase." Nothing about the rich at all.

How deep in are these people? Is the reason for press bias that they're simply stupid, that they have no idea what arguments other than their own are? Does it occur to them that defining "rich" is problematic, that taxes can only be paid, or cut, by or for people who pay taxes? And just as a matter of reporting basics, do they think it's good practice to add Democrat talking point emphasis to their stories, rather than just accurately report? Here they've documented not only their bias, but their unprofessionalism.

I heard this on the 5 a.m. hour but did not hear the similar segment on the next hour. I wonder if it's something that was "rough draft" and they took the liberty of editing out?

Lost Odds

Lost makes its second-season debut tonight. There's probably been more written about this series, lately, than any other, even Desperate Housewives. (By the way, I didn't like it at first but it's become my favorite show since then.) It's certainly had more influence than DH, with every network premiering a Lost knockoff or two.

The first season was well-received, but now everyone wonders if they can keep up the mystery and answer questions at the same time. But this isn't what I meant to discuss.

The show is about castaways on a strange island. To show their plight was serious, the producers killed off one of the main characters in the first season. The rumor is they will do it again this season. (If nothing else, this must mean it's tough to be an actor on this show--if the ratings don't kill you the producers will.) The question is who?

There's always that chance they'll introduce a new character and kill him off. They even did it in the first season, where they had Arzt (Daniel Roebuck) apear a few times before they blew him up. But that's a cheat.

Another possibility is there's an actor wants to leave anyway, so why not kill him? But as far as I understand, the actors are quite happy to be on a hit.

More informative is in the regular they did kill, Boone (Ian Somerhalder), they avoided killing any of the more popular or central characters. I had nothing against Boone, and his episodes with the character Locke were giving him some depth, but he was far removed from the central triangle of Jack-Kate-Sawyer, for instance. Essentially, he was one male-model too many on the islasnd.

So who's next? Let's list the characters, alphabetically, and their chances.

Naveen Andrews as Sayid. Fairly Safe. One of two Emmy nominees. He's their Third World poster boy and a strong character who offers many plot possibilities.

Emile de Ravin as Claire. Not safe. She was a rare Australian on the Australian flight. She's also cute, but there are plenty of hot babes on the island, and the show can add more. Her main character trait in the first season was being pregnant, and she's had the baby.

Matthew Fox as Jack. Safe. If there's a lead, he is. He may not be the most intriguing character, but he's the moral center of the show and leader of the island (at present). The producers wanted to kill him off in the pilot, and realized it wouldn't work.

Jorge Garcia as Hurley. Fairly safe. Hurley is well-beloved and essentially the only comic relief they've got.

Maggie Grace as Shannon. Fairly safe. She's one of the babes and has a character with a long way to grow. The two things that protect her most are 1) they fake-killed her in the first season, so it'd be weird to kill her again, and 2) they already killed her brother, so it'd be cruel to kill off the whole family.

Josh Holloway as Sawyer. Safe. He's not only part of the central Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle (which might be less important in the second season), he's also the bad boy who's become the favorite of the ladies. Killing him off would make a lot of woman stop watching.

Malcolm David Kelley as Walt. Fairly safe. I'd have said not safe at all, since he's a kid who'll be growing up faster in real life than the plot allows, except I heard the producers say they had a way of taking care of it (short of killing him). Also, though he's been kidnaped, he seems to have mysterious powers that have yet to be explored.

Daniel Dae Kim as Jin. Not safe. While having a Korean couple adds to the diversity of the cast, losing one would still allow for the other to stick around. And since Jin can't speak English and his wife can, he may be more expendable. Also, his character is liked, but I don't think he gets the amount of swooning fan letters that the other handsome men get.

Yunjim Kim as Sun. Somewhat safe. She could be killed for the same reason they can afford to kill Jin. In either case, a death opens up plot possibilities. But she does speak English and has been, I'd say, on the whole, the more intriguing character in her marriage. It helps that she's a babe, but as mentioned before, there are other babes around.

Evangeline Lilly as Kate. Safe. She's the female lead of the show (if there is one), the babe of all babes, and the face of the show. If anything, one would expect the producers to explore her more this season, not kill her.

Dominic Monaghan as Charlie. Fairly safe. I think they did a lot with this character and I'm not sure if the audience wants to see that much more. In his favor, however, is he may be the most famous actor in the show (due to his work in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) and therefore helps with its international popularity. Furthermore, he was fake-killed in the first season, and it would be cruel to kill him again.

Terry O'Quinn as Locke. Safe. One of the two Emmy nominees, and the heart of the show. He was the most intriguing character in the first season and the second season is setting itself up to be the battle of faith (Locke) and reason (Jack). More than anyone, Locke is the spice that makes the show special, and killing him would be quite a blow.

Harold Perrineau as Michael. Not safe. While one of the most respected actors in the cast, he never quite found his footing, certainly not as well as Sawyer or Sayid did. Might be tough to lose the single black adult character, but not impossible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

You pay for that?

Lots of people are remarking the New York Times pay scheme for Dowd, et. al.

Heck, all this does is remind me that I wouldn't even go to the trouble of registering for thing, much less pay for it. They filtered me out years ago.

LAGuy Adds: Though I do find all the registration stuff for so many papers annoying, I have been happily receiving the gratis NYT online for years now. Being a leading website has only helped it continue in its capacity of the paper of record.

I've written about setting up a monetary firewall around their editorialists (of all people) in the past. Now that it's finally happening, it still seems like a horrendous mistake. Why would anyone pay when they can go elsewhere on the 'net and get opinions just as informed (and slightly less crazy) for free? It's as if the NYT is voluntarily bowing out of the national conversation.

However, perhaps the damage will be slight. They'll make a few bucks and everyone else will read other sites that copy and paste anything of interest.

Janice Rogers Brown watch

Lotsa Luttig going on today, with 34 contracts traded. Among the top five, Clement is next highest at 7 trades.

Our girl Janice is still running fifth, at 10.9, a slight drop from yesterday's 11.3, while Luttig jumped to 13.0, now bunched with Owen at 13.0 (a slight jump) and Clement at 13.9, a drop of nearly two points. Jones continues to lead at 16.1, essentially unchanged from yesterday.

Personal Emmy Recap

Not too many of my favorites won, as the Emmys generally played it safe, voting old winners new awards. (I personally think once you've won for a role, you should be taken off the board.) No show dominated, not even Everybody Loves Raymond waving bye-bye.

The biggest disappointment was Hugh Laurie losing best dramatic actor to James Spader (who won last year, by the way). But the Emmys did a good job in the writing categories, with episodes from House and Arrested Development winning for best drama and comedy. The latter is really amazing, since AD had three nominations in the category and was up against Raymond and the wildly popular Desperate Housewives.

Ultimately, any disappointment I had was wiped away by Lost winning best drama.

ColumbusGuy addsHow can you write about the Emmys and not mention Dan Rather?

Noel Knows

"Noel Hurley" has been busy reviewing stuff over at Amazon.com. He's obviously a put-on, though people who catch him one review at a time might not get it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rogers Brown watch

Tradesports has Janice Rogers Brown running fifth at 11.3, up from 10.9 this morning, moving up on Owen (12.3), and behind only Luttig (recently jumped to 11.5), Jones (16.0), and Clement (15.7).

C'mon, George, you can do it. Give us our girl.

Big Te(leve)n

Our big ten teams had a good week as they prepare to go after each other. 9 of 11 teams won. Northwestern predictably lost and Illinois actually made a game of it with ranked California. Michigan came close to going overboard with their 55-0 win over the hapless EMU. (The EMU offense is called the spread offense, which essentially means 'everybody go out for a pass'.) But the headline grabbing victory was MSU over 10th ranked ND, who was fresh off their big win over UM. MSU has a great team and a very talented though injury-prone quarterback. MSU almost let it slip away as they did in the classic triple overtime game with Michigan. This time though they kept it together. It will be interesting to see where MSU is in the rankings.

Trust but verify

Early news reports from China have some good news about the six member nuclear negotiations with N Korea. Essentially it appears that an important part of the negotiations was a statement saying that the US has no intention of nuking N Korea. The N Koreans appear to have agreed even to inspections and dismantling of any nukes they now have. Of couse this is all general and the devil may be in the details. Still reason for hope.

Chris and George

The debate on Iraq between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, staged in New York last Wednesday, was lively, to say the least. While the audience was mostly anti-war, the debate seemed to me pretty much one-sided--Hitchens wiped the floor with Galloway.

(This is a separate topic, and I've been meaning to write on it, but the antiwar crowd has been, in the main, a great disappointment--with rare exceptions, they're more into jeering and name-calling than actually discussing what's going on.)

It's been repeated a few times on CSPAN2--you might want to check their schedule if you haven't seen it. Or you could read the transcript.

The Hollywoodization of Emily

The Exorcism of Emily Rose has become a decent hit, partly because audiences believe it's based on a real story. But basing movies on real stories is often an excuse for extreme dramatic license. Soon, perhaps, the real story will be replaced by the reel story.

This week's commentary at James Randi's website discusses the actual facts of the case in ways that might be a useful corrective to the film. Here's a portion:

"The fictional Emily Rose was, in real life, Anneliese Michel, a Bavarian. She was born September 21, 1952....

"A few years after she was first afflicted with [epilepsy], her parents began taking her to various priests to request an exorcism. They were rejected and given recommendations that the now 20-year-old girl should continue with the prescribed medication and treatment...

"In 1974, after supervising Anneliese for some time, Pastor Ernst Alt requested an official church permit to perform the exorcism. The request was at first rejected, and the recommendation was made that Anneliese should live even more of a religious lifestyle in order to find peace. The attacks did not diminish, and her behavior became more erratic. She became insulting, she beat and began biting other members of her family, and refused to eat because, she said, the demons would not allow it. She slept on the stone floor, ate insects and coal, and began destroying religious objects such as crucifixes, paintings of Jesus, and rosaries.

"Then, having in some way verified to his satisfaction the genuine nature of the possession in September of 1975, Josef Stangl, the Bishop of Wurzburg, ordered Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Alt to perform 'The Great Exorcism' ceremony on Miss Michel. Their examination had determined that the young woman was inhabited by several demons, including Cain, Adolf Hitler, Judas Iscariot, Lucifer, and Nero, as well as a disgraced priest from the 16th century and some other souls which had 'manifested' through her. From then until July 1976, exorcism sessions were conducted weekly....

"In spite of all this heavy intervention, the attacks did not stop. In fact, Anneliese would often fall into paralysis and unconsciousness even more often than before. The relentless exorcism continued over many months, with prayers and incantations flowing freely. For several weeks, Anneliese refused all food. On the last day of the exorcism, totally emaciated, suffering from pneumonia, and with broken knees from the 600 genuflections she performed during the daily ceremonies, Miss Michel fell unconscious. She died the following day, July 1st, 1976. Soon, charges of negligent homicide were brought against Anneliese's parents and the two exorcists, Renz and Alt.

"....According [to] the forensic evidence, Anneliese had literally starved to death....

"....Anneliese’s parents and the exorcists were found guilty of manslaughter due to negligence and failing to administer first aid. They were sentenced to six months in jail, and probation.

"A church commission later declared that Anneliese Michel had not been possessed, but superstition carried the day; her corpse was exhumed – eleven and a half years after her burial – to confirm that it had decayed as would have been expected if she’d not been possessed."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tin Ear

So the first President Hillary Clinton has decided to embody a high profile, Democrat talking points cipher. Who does he think he is? Cindy Sheehan? The only thing that makes it a surprise is that he's avoided it in the past.

His vaunted political radar must be out of plumb. Probably got distorted by having his head swelled at the "Clinton Global Initiative."

UPDATE: The last link was broken. Now it's fixed. Damn 'pooter. 'S supposed to stop me from doing things like that.

laughing at violence.

"I laugh at anyone who calls videogames "provably harmful." Mostly they're fun." --LAGuy

Provably harmful would be something that is proven (by scientific study) to be harmful to a significant number of participants. If a study or series of studies showed (proved) that video games were harmful, would LAGuy still laugh? BTW there are MANY things that are mostly fun but also provably harmful. If LAGuy chooses to unscientifically reject these studies, he will remain quiet or he could explain what specifically is wrong with them and what study he would design.

Understand that Pinker ("science's agent provacateur") gives almost no blame (or credit) to learning or parental modeling in development of violent personality. The nature (only) side of the nature/nurture debate has been seriously wounded by many many studies that do show how important early development is to a person's later personality. For the record I along with most of science are neither nature alone nor nurture alone. Moreover new studies are showing even near Lamarkian changes in genetic expression based on the intrauterine environment. Most importantly, one would have to be fully subscribed to the idea that environment is completely without any affect and thus disavow all sociological studies to use Pinker in one's argument. The argument is not that we are blank slates or that video games are the ONLY cause of violence. The argument is that scientific studies, many of them show that exposure to violence leads to increased violent actions and practicing violent actions does so more dramatically. If this is just one of many factors, it is very possible to have an overall decline in violence while one causative factor is on the rise. Sociologic studies are hard to do it is generally agreed because behavior has many contributing factors. Most such studies aim to control or eliminate confounding variables. Many different studies coming to the same conclusion despite many diverse methodologies strengthens the validity of the results.

LAGuy answers: I noted obsessions with anything can be harmful, but saying many things are provably harmful is silly. If you throw a videogame at someone, that's harmful too, but it's still silly to call it provably harmful for that reason.

These statements make me laugh: "Three Stooges shorts are provably harmful," "Peanut butter [which I admit can kill people] is provably harmful," "Baseball is provably harmful," etc. etc. People who waste our time in political crusades by calling certain things--ESPECIALLY CERTAIN THINGS THAT AMOUNT TO INFORMATION THE BRAIN MUST PROCESS-- "provably harmful"--when the standard is so laughable that you can count just about anything harmful, are essentially caught up in hysteria that make them dangerous to society; i.e., these people are provably harmful. The worst are so-called experts, often acting outside their actual degree of expertise, pretending to know how to cure society's ills and counting on others to respect them for knowledge they not only don't have, but for knowledge they have that is essentially wrong.

Not that it matters, but Pinker is noting others who have reviewed all the relevant research and found the so-called effects so often trumpeted to be either extremely minor or, in fact, non-existent.

He also sees that humans have always been violent, and that violence was a much bigger problem in tribal societies, before comic books, rock and roll and videogames. Anyone with a basic working knowledge of recent events can note the lowering of violence in our society while we got more violent media. Or that Japan has less violence in their society than ours yet has incredbly violent media. Or hundreds of others of examples where things didn't work out as expected by simplistic models. And they can also note the foolishness of those who would prescribe what we should specifically do when they are dealing with phenomena they barely understand. It doesn't matter to them how "muted" some alleged effect is by other factors, they have a blind faith not only that it exists, but that something should be done about it, and in a way they prescribe.

So you're neither nature nor nurture alone. Congratulations, you now agree with aboslutely everybody else. As for your point about intrauterine development, since there are no videogames down there, or teenagers playing them, I don't really care. (I won't get into how the claims about "early development"--which are actually strongly disputed--argue strongly against your side, since by those standards, by the time you're playing violent videogames, it's far too late.)

I'm not going to bother to list the prominent flaws of most of the "studies," or the incorrect inferences made about these studies (often from people who either haven't read them or haven't understood them), or the fact that, actually, there are huge disagreements among the studies themselves. I'm also not going to mention that much of the modern soft science that creates these studies comes to conclusions in other areas that AnnArborGuy blithely disagrees with.

I'll just note that, for whatever fuzzy scientific conclusions you can draw from the studies, and the minuscule effect they show compared to other factors (especially considering the vast amount of time wasted concentrating on them), it has almost nothing to do with figuring how to go about dealing with the problem in society, much less through legislation, which requires an entirely different kind of thought process and expertise.

Nevertheless, I still think we can safely conclude that people who make statements such as "videogames are provably harmful," should be laughed at.

PS The title of your post seems a bit misleading.

The Emmys

Tonight are the Emmy Awards, and for the first time in years I'm actually interested. There are enough new nominees to have me tuning in.

I won't bother to make any predictions, since there are too many shows and performances I didn't see, plus a lot of categories I have no strong feeling about. But I will tell you who I'm rooting for.

Animated Program. Year after year in the 90s, The Simpsons was the best show on TV, but I think now Family Guy is the one to go with. South Park isn't bad either.

Lead Actor in a Drama. No Martin Sheen or James Gandolfini this year, so the field is wide open. It'd be great to see Hugh Laurie win for House. Unlike ER or Grey's Anatomy, House isn't an ensemble piece, it's Laurie's show. I said I wouldn't make predictions, but I think he's done a memorable enough job to be the favorite. (And those who know him from British comedy can also appreciatee how different he is in House.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy. This seems to be the year of Desperate Housewives, though with three nominees they might cancel each other out. (Word is Teri Hatcher's the favorite). Even though it's the last chance to vote for Patricia Heaton on Everybody Loves Raymond, it would be nice to see Jane Kaczmarek finally recognized for the excellent job she does on Malcolm In The Middle.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy. It's hard to go against Jeffrey Tambor, who always does great work, but I'm rooting for Jeremy Piven, so memorable as Ari the agent in Entourage.

Suport Actor in a Drama. A bunch of fun actors here, including William Shatner, Oliver Platt and Alan Alda (who's already won a ton of these). But I'm rooting heavily for Lost to win. In this case, they have two nominees. (When an ensemble show is the hot new thing, it usually gets multiple supporting emmy nominees--Hill Stree Blues and L.A. Law used to own this category.) They could have as easily nominated Jorge Garcia and Josh Holloway for their memorable work as Hurley and Sawyer, but they chose Naveen Andrews as Sayid and Terry O'Quinn as Locke. Though Andrews is great (and he's putting on an accent as much as Hugh Laurie is, though a lot of voters might not know that) it's an easy choice for me--O'Quinn as Locke is perhaps the most interesting character on television. I just hope he and Andrews don't cancel each other out.

(Note I'm not rooting for anyone in the miniseries or made-for-TV-movie categories. That's because the few that I did watch, such as The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers and Empire Falls, were disappointments.)

(Another note. Cloris Leachman, who is not unknown to the Emmys, is nominated as a Guest Actress in both a comedy and a drama. She deserves to win for the comedy--Malcolm In The Middle--but not the drama--Joan Of Arcadia.)

Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (sure are a lotta categories in the Emmys). The surprise here is my top two choices, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien, are not nominated. While Jon Stewart regularly does a decent job, I lean toward Hugh Jackman's one big night at the Tonys.

Comedy Series. Of the five choices, this is easy. I don't care if no one watches it, let's give another Emmy to Arrested Development.

Drama Series. Lost.

Variety, Music or Comedy Series. Here we have Letterman and O'Brien, but not Leno. Still, a very competitive category. I got nothing against Bill Maher, Jon Stewart or Ali G, but to me both Letterman and O'Brien are the standard against which we measure others. Letterman might be getting a bit tired, lately, and O'Brien is always trying new things, but I think I still give it to Letterman. (I'm not sure if O'Brien's show has ever won this award--if not, it certainly deserves it sooner or later.)

Nonfiction Special: All the nominees are well-chosen, but I liked the Cary Grant special and the show on the first five years of SNL best.

Nonfiction Series: While far from perfect (mostly because it should have been longer), I'm rooting for the PBS series on the American musical.

Reality Program. Penn and Teller's unprintable show. I'd like to see if they announce these nominees on the Emmys. Previously I would have chosen Project Greenlight, but the third year was weak.

Reality Competition Program. There's American Idol and there's everything else.

Writing for a Comedy Series. Any of the three nominations for Arrested Development, though it'll be hard for any single episode to stop the onslaught of the last Everybody Loves Raymond.

Writing for a Drama Series. This is the toughest choice. While the Lost pilot was pretty good, it's the episode "Walkabout" that made everyone realize the show is something special. On the other hand, House was reliably good, but then it had a "special" episode--"Three Stories"--that actually was special. I'd be happy if either won, but I guess I lean slightly toward Lost in general, so I'll give it to "Walkabout."

Writing for Variety, Music or Comedy Program. I gave the edge in show to Letterman, let's give the edge in writing to Conan.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

ViolenceBackInDaStreets2(now even more violent!)

The title of LAGuy's post seems to imply that perhaps by having violent video games we might be lowering the amount of real (non-virtual) violence that occurs in the world. The body of the post does not elaborate on that.
Leaving aside for the moment the legal question, can we first focus on whether it is an actual bad thing for kids to practice violence on a video game? Where I come from, it is not a good idea to put forward such a notion unless there is evidence to back that up. As it turns out there is such evidence and it comes from many studies. (expecting an onslaught from LAG here).
Returning to our legal argument, I have to say that I am quite ignorant of the law (which I understand does not serve well as a defense in a court of law), but why can't something that is provably harmful to minors be limited by law?
The article cited has the Entertainment Software Association claiming that it is impossible to determine what is violent content. I assume these are the same people who rate their own games based on their violent and sexual content. How dumb do they think we are?
Agreed ahead of time that this problem would be BEST SOLVED by parents helping their child make right choices (or making them for them).

LAGuy predictably replies: People always refer to all these "studies" on violence in the media and in the real world. I've seen a lot of these studies and they are underwhelming. If sociologists were racists and sexists (as they used to be) they'd instead constantly be referring to tons of studies that show whites are smarter than blacks and men are smarter than women. If people were honest about today's studies, they'd admit they prove very little. (See Steven Pinker in Blank Slate about this, by the way. He's not the only scientist who admits the weakness of the studies, but enough of a popularizer that he's worth quoting.)

Let's talk about minors. For as long as they've been around, they (particularly males) have played games that have near-endless amounts of pretend violence. But somehow now that it's on a video we should be concerned. (They also play games that include lots of real violence that causes broken bones and even some death, but this doesn't quite excite people so much as the chance to censor things.)

Let's talk about today's minors. If you look at the stats, in fact, the general trend in the last ten and even twenty years, has been less violence, even as violent videogames and gangasta rap has come to the fore. This doesn't "prove" anything, except that maybe people are too concerned about the wrong things.

As far as rating violence, it is abolutely correct no one can truly do it. This is not like asking for sodium content. It's an artistic judgment. What's more violent, Die Hard or Jackie Chan or The Three Stooges? There's more violence in a Bugs Bunny cartoon than in Reservoir Dogs, but different types of violence (please note when I use violence in this context, I'm talking about representations of violence, not real violence) have different artistic effects (on different people, too). I'd call all the violence in video games fairly cartoonish, much like blowing away people on the playground with imaginary rayguns--not as harmful, say, than shooting with something that looks like a real gun at things that look like real ducks at a carnival--but that's my judgment, everyone must make their own call.

I laugh at anyone who calls videogames "provably harmful." Mostly they're fun. Sure, if you waste too much time on them, they're probably no good--time better spent studying or playing with friends. Any obsession could be harmful.

But I realize parents don't always practice common sense when it comes to kids, and don't mind destroying a lot of freedom just to play it "safe." (It reminds me of how some wanted to blame Columbine--which happened during the present downtrend in high school violence--on The Matrix, as if the kids who were killed weren't fans as much as the killers.)

What if a study showed that kids who spent more than two hours a week reading the Bible were more likely to grow up and beat their kids? Can we take action then? No, because we're still protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment makes it clear that ideas are not to be compared to garbage or poison gas when it comes to regulation. Ideas are different, even for kids. It is possible that bad ideas will lead to bad consequences, for adults as well as kids. The First Amendment represents an experiment where we admit we don't all agree on what's good or bad information, and we'll take the chance that the best way to go about it is to leave things up to the individual (and in kids' cases, also their parents) and hope that the good drives out the bad. It's an experiment I'm proud to be part of, and I'm always saddened to hear about people so sure of themselves that they want to take a short cut, not just for themselves, but for everyone, whether they like it or not.

Columbus Guy says: Keepin' it short there, are we? (Although I have to admit, it's tough not to comment that John McCain, George Bush and Ruth Bader apparently wouldn't have a problem restricting the Bible . . .

A picture of a bigot

Remember Nina Totenberg challenging Evan Thomas over his calling NPR liberal? Today Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz was a guest on Waddya Know. You could not ask for a more perfect model of a bigot. She made sure to announce she was from the "blue" part of the state, she apologized for the last election, and in general thought it was sufficiently entertaining to just announce that she didn't support Bush . . . or Republicans . . . or conservative church goers.

The best part was, she liked to accuse . . . "them," I guess, of being intolerant, while demonstrating the most outrageous bigoted behavior herself. But hey, she's a Pulitzer winner.

LAGuy asks: How can you link to a show and not spell it right?

Columbus Guy says: Where you from? Nahlons?

Art And Religion

In a so-so essay in the New York Times Book Review on Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. makes this curious claim:
One imagines a meeting between two men - say, for example, the president of the United States and the last pope - who have private lines to the Almighty but discover fundamental disagreements over the message each receives.
I don't know what the Pope believed, but when did the President claim he's got a direct connection to heaven? (I mean, beyond the trivial belief that anyone who prays will be heard.) I would love to see a precise, verified quote where Bush says not that he prayed for guidance, but that he, and he alone, understands divine will on some issue.

It sure doesn't sound like anything Bush would ever say. But it sure does sound like something Schlesinger would assume without proof.

Let's put violence back in the streets where it belongs

Michigan has just passed a law criminalizing violent video games sold to minors. No word yet if carnival shooting galleries will be outlawed, or if kids who play cops and robbers will be picked up for questioning.

A similar law awaits approval in California, pending Governor Schwarzenegger overcoming his aversion to hypocrisy.

In Union There Is Strength

Ah-nold has, to no one's surprise, announced he will run for re-election. But that's next year's news. Here in California, we've got a special election this November 8 to deal with.

Among other things, there'll be propositions dealing with public employee union dues and school spending. Needless to say, this is giving the unions conniptions.

The teachers and the public employees are among the most powerful groups in this state and they are flexing their muscles. For months we have been inundated with ads, every day, everywhere, where they complain that the Guv has been stealing money from them. And there's almost no pro-Guv ads anywhere. All this months before the election.

I can understand why they're unhappy. Our teachers are the highest paid public teachers in the country. And though our schools may not be number #1, we do (though very few seem to know this) spend over half our gigantic budget on education.

And the rest of the public workers have plenty to worry about as well. They are, once again, the highest paid in the nation.

Who wants to drop to number two? So with their enormous war chest, it's important to outspend opponents by huge ratios to complain how they're being cheated (not will be cheated--are being cheated right now).

I expect this strategy to work, and neither Arnold nor any governor in the near-future will be able to stand up to these groups.

Friday, September 16, 2005

New Arrival

Thanks for the invite. I hope to be brief in my posts. I will also try to be regular. (Its the fiber.)

Where you when?

. . . the towers fell? I was watching my basement get poured and heard the initial reports on a worker's radio. I rushed home. I could sense we were living in a different world.

. . . the blogosphere solved Rathergate? Lurking through every step.

. . . don't remember JFK, got sent home from school for RFK.

It's later than you think

So computers as powerful as the brain will be here in 55 years.

Big deal. The question will be settled before then. I'd say the key event will be when speech recognition technology works at a 95 percent accuracy for 85 percent of voices. Networks, searching and continual processing will more than make up for the lack of nominal processing power.

So when will we have such speech recognition capability? No idea, but I bet it's less than five years. After that, all bets are off.

Elementary, My dear His Virtualness

His Virtualness has captured a damning quote from Judge Roberts that suggests he buys into the New Deal view of the Commerce Clause (that government power is unlimited). It all turns over cloning, whether Congress would have the power to ban it.

ROBERTS: But it would seem to me that Congress can make a determination that this is an activity, if allowed to be pursued, that is going to have effects on interstate commerce. Obviously if you were successful in cloning an animal, that's not going to be simply a local phenomenon. That's going to be something people are going to...
SCHUMER: We can leave it at that. That's a good answer, as far as I am concerned.


Yes, it's a damn good answer for a self-important lasagna like Schumer. Reynolds dislikes it on two grounds: he prefers cloning be left alone along with most other science, and he prefers that we have a Constitution. Both are good points, although I admit I share widespread discomfort with where science must lead us.

But moral and quasi-moral stuff like this has always led us astray when it comes to government power. A lot of people think the Commerce Clause was blown up by the New Deal. Truth is, it was the Lottery Cases that started us down this long path to unified government.

Robert Wise

Robert Wise just died. He'd been around and done so much a lot of people were probably surprised he was still alive.

Wise was one of Hollywood's top directors. His films both won awards and attracted the public. His biggest was The Sound Of Music (1965)--he won two Oscars, as director and producer, and it's the third-biggest grossing film adjusted for inflation, with a domestic take in today's dollars of $911 million. Another huge hit (adjusted gross $358 million) and winner of 10 Oscars was West Side Story (1961), which he co-directed with (actually took over from) Jerome Robbins.

I can't say I'm a big fan of Wise. Neither of the musicals above do much for me--at best they're respectful adaptations that I don't relish watching again. But he's got a lengthy filmography, and made several films that are worth checking out.

Wise started at RKO, where he worked sound on such classic films as Top Hat and The Informer. He eventually became an editor and did some of his most important work before he directed a single film. He edited Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), generally considered the greatest film of all. He also edited Welles' second film, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), though in this case, his edit was for the studio bosses and against the wishes of Welles. Some movie-lovers have never forgiven him.

His first directing job was for producer Val Lewton--The Curse Of The Cat People (1944). It's a spooky film that still holds up. He worked regularly and five years later directed one of the best boxing films ever--the brutal, real-time The Set-Up (1949). Robert Ryan plays an over-the-hill slugger trying to prove he's still got it in a rigged sport. Not as famous as many films Wise made later, it's probably his best work.

In 1951, Wise directed The Day The Earth Stood Still, one of the most beloved and influential sf films of the era. Its story of aliens on Earth, ending with a plea for peace (or else), is still compelling.

Another gritty Wise film is Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan (again), it's a late film noir--a caper film with a racism angle. It also features great New York location shooting.

Wise also worked on a lot of other well-respected and/or hit films--Executive Suite, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Haunting, The Sand Pebbles, The Andromeda Strain (which I loved as a kid) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I have to admit, most of them don't do much for me.

Still, Wise had a lengthy, honorable career, and as long as there are film-lovers who seek out cool Hollywood films, he'll be remembered.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Non sequitur

Do you really have to be a lawyer to see how silly this sentence is?

Federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. told senators yesterday that laws restricting the government's power of eminent domain are legitimate, despite a landmark Supreme Court decision earlier this year that broadly expanded that authority.

Maybe -- maybe -- I'd accept that the general public might not follow the relationship between what the court does and what the legislature does, but I cannot accept that reporters and editors fail to understand it. It's an embarrassment.

Do the Communist Chinese know this?

So Reuters and the rest of the world run a photo of Bush or Condi telling the other they've got to pee (one could wonder, are these two too close?). What I want to know is, are news organizations routinely able to photograph the president's notes, even as he's writing them? I'd expect this from the KGB, the DNC or the NYT, but from a "news" organization?

The downside to Scientifically Engineered Negligible Senesense

The downside to scientifically engineered negligible senescence:

"When I left office, I was in a quandary," [former U.S. president Jimmy] Carter told U.S. News in a telephone interview. "I was 56 years old, and I knew I had a life expectancy of 25 years or more. I began to wonder what Rosalynn [his wife] and I could do in the international world."

First it Gallups up, then it Gallups down

For any PajamaGuy readers who know what "validity" means in polling (and soon, if not already, we hope that's everyone), Jim Miller has two nice posts here and here.

Happy Anniversary!

Exactly one year ago, Pajama Guy the blog was born. What was the first item? Something about Rathergate. This only makes sense, since our name comes from Jonathan Klein's response to blogs uncovering the nonsense that Dan Rather broadcast (see upper left hand corner).

Since then, Klein has left CBS to run CNN (into the ground, some would say). More mysteriously, Pajama Guy has left the Pajama Guy blog. He was as regular contributor the first few months, but hasn't been seen here for quite a while.

Come back, Pajama Guy. All is forgiven.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pretty much

Responding to opportunistic challenges about government spending -- surely Katrina and its 10,000 dead mean we must keep the estate tax, withdraw troops from Iraq and exhum Reagan's corpse so we can burn it -- Tom Delay announces that the government is in tip top shape:

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

In truth, this is pretty much a foul ball. Obviously the question is argumentative, since not even a New York Times reporter believes even a Clinton government runs at top efficiency, so the odds are too high that DeLay was making a joke, and even if he wasn't, it's just not particularly good quality. Although most national political reporting is all about gotcha (has Bush admitted a mistake yet? I don't know; why don't we ask him?), good reporting isn't.

But it's still a ridiculous thing to say.

Responsibull

So George Bush has taken responsibility for...well, for whatever it is his people may have done wrong in the Katrina crisis. ("To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility.") I feel better already.

It generally annoys me when politicians admit responsibility. First, it's almost always a result of political calculation. Second, it's a meaningless gesture. I don't care if they feel responsible. What I do care about is if they'll make future mistakes, or whether they'll continue doing a poor job and thinking I care if they apologize again.

The Mystery Of Dave Continues

Dave Chapelle has explained to the press he won't produce more episodes of his cable show, despite a $50 million contract, because he didn't like the direction it was going. As I've stated before, this is an odd explanation, since, as far as anyone can tell, CHAPELLE WAS COMPLETELY IN CHARGE OF THE CONTENT OF THE SHOW.

Either I don't get it or Dave doesn't.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mr. Roberts

There was enough hot air in Washington to start another hurricane, as Senator after Senator made empty speeches about the meaning of the judiciary. John Roberts mostly sat there, knowing if he waits patiently a few days, he'll never have to worry about employment again.

The Roberts' hearings are a waste of time. With 55 Republican Senators, unless Roberts screws up, or has some impressive skeleton in the closet, he'll sail through. The only question, if it is one, is will the Dems dare pull a filibuster. Probably not.

Roberts himself appeared properly humble. I wasn't impressed, however, with his analogy of judges to umpires: "Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them." This might make sense in a civil law system, but we still operate under common law. Judges, in essence, do make law, whether they want to or not--especially on the Supreme Court. The analogy breaks down when you realize that no umpire ever refers to a decision another umpire made several years ago to prove he got it right.

Columbus Guy says: As LAGuy knows, the common law is not what anyone is talking about here. Common law is only an interesting and important subset of law, not the bulk of it, at least not in these days of state and federal legislative grandstanding. In fact, it's probably much more a state law function than a federal one.

In any case, it's the idea of a constitution that is being talked about, including the idea of developing policies through democratically elected legislatures (note, those two ideas are themselves in conflict, but in both cases the courts have a duty to defer to some idea beyond their own preferences). The umpire analogy is spot on and will stand through the ages. Its only difficulty is it's a bit, er, common.

LAGuy ripostes: The umpire analogy is rotten not only because it's so weak, but because it's classically been used, in fact, to differentiate between civil and common law.

Roberts (and even ColumbusGuy) knows that Supreme Court members will write opinions that then become the law of the land--this is what common law means. This is their job, whether they like it or not. They will answer questions like "How does the First Amendment apply to broadcasting?" or "How does the Fourth Amendment apply to buses?" etc, etc. And not just question about new technologies, but questions about basic though complex areas that arise under the Constitution, such as who has various war-making powers, or whether the states or the federal government can regulate certain activities.

Once these opinions are published, no matter how much ColumbusGuy may hide his head in his pillow and deny it, they become the law of the land. All those thousands of little "umpires" in the lower courts will no longer simply look in the "rulebook" represented by the latest legislative statutes to determine what the law is, but will need the Supreme Court Reporter for dispositive answers.

Columbus Guy says: There, there, LAGuy, it's alright. If you don't understand what common law is, it's okay. Roberts does, and the country will be just fine.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why he deserved to be fired

"I think it's in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president to do that and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me."

So says recent FEMA Chief Mike Brown, in an article headlined, "Firefighter to Replace Brown As FEMA Chief".

I'm glad he did it, so now they can focus on the incompetent Bush.

Huntin' ducks

His Virtualness continues his "pack, not a herd" meme, noting something that newspaper editorialists, government officials and police unions don't understand (or that they understand all too well). Note, however, the policeman mentioned in the story seemed to understand just fine: "Honey, I don't blame you."

(Direct link in title line seems to work directly sometimes and other times it goes to a registration page.)

Emily Rose

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose did surprisingly well over the weekend. It was expected to be number one in a lackluster session, making 15 or perhaps 20 million. It grossed 30 million, a huge amount made more surprising by the low budget and lack of star power.

The reviews were middling at best, so what can explain the turnout?

First, this is horror. When a basic concept catches the fancy of the audience, it's not unusual for a minor film to open big. Look at last year's The Grudge. It starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, cost about half of Emily Rose, and opened with 39 million.

More important, Emily Rose greatly benefited from "underground" Christan advertising. The word was sent to many religious groups that this film took them seriously. For example, my friend over at Rene's Ramblings was invited to a pre-release screening. (He liked it, though thought the film took a Catholic view while he's a Protestant.)

I haven't seen the film, but it's apparently being sold as a battle between faith and "cold" science. Needless the say, the winner is never in doubt.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

229 years ago today

Donald Rumsfeld picks out an interesting date in history: Sept. 11, 1776.

Agreeing with Kinsley

"We fight the last war because hindsight is all we really have."

Rule of decision

Hard day on the Big Ten. Michigan goes down at home to Notre Dame, Ohio State goes down at home to Texas, and normally ineffective Iowa State hammers normally tough Iowa. Since LAGuy roots for Michigan first and any Big Ten team second, might I suggest, given his performance, that he root for Ohio State come time for the Big Game?

Four More Years...And Then Some

It's hard to believe, but it's been four years now. I guess the best news is we've yet to have any similar attack, or worse, on our own land since then. And we shouldn't pretend that's nothing.

The trouble with a war on those who would terrorize America--America and much of the rest of the world--is it's hard to tell when you're succeeding. At best, nothing is happening. The fear is either you're fighting when and where you shouldn't, or you're getting complacent. I fear the latter more, and think we should remember every day, not just today, that there are a lot of people out there who, for reasons that don't deserve to be debated, would gladly kill us if they could.

We have a long-range strategy, dedicated, on a number of levels, to getting rid of this threat. Because the problem was so deeply rooted, it could take a long time--even decades--for the strategy to fully bear fruit. In general, the public is not so patient.

We need debate about the strategy, of course, but what I hope we don't get is one party (or both) dedicated to not fighting this war--until we get another 9/11, this time far worse.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Misunderstood

In the latest Entertainment Weekly, while reviewing the Pretty Woman 15th anniversary DVD, Karen Wilson states we can see the wrap party where "the 23-year-old [Julia] Roberts, swigging from a bottle of beer, sings a priceless off-key rendition of Elvis Costello's 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood,' accompanied by [Richard] Gere and [Garry] Marshall."

Perhaps Julia is singing Elvis's version (unlikely), but let's never forget, the song belongs to The Animals.

Touchdown Jesus

Well, LAGuy can't be too happy about this, not that I am either. Notre Dame continues one of the great rivalries, knocking Michigan off at the Big House. But at least it's nice to see Notre Dame climb back into the power leagues (or, alternatively, it's depressing to think Michigan could sink so low).

Meanwhile, we live about four blocks from Ohio Stadium and ColumbusGal and I cannot stand the party crowds. I like to see the Big 10 do as well as anyone, but come 8 o'clock, I'll probably be rooting for Texas and overturning cars parked in our spaces. Maybe I'll go find some porch couches to set on fire.

LAGuy adds: I was gonna write about the Michigan game, but instead, I'll just be quiet and drive my car into a telephone pole.

As for Ohio State, I will follow my rule of rooting for any Big Ten team when they play outside the conference.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Can we get rid of Congress, too?

Here's Mickey's argument for getting rid of federalism:

When things screw up, these days, we hold the president and the federal government responsible. It follows that the president and the federal government should have the power to stop things from screwing up.

I just don't understand these arguments. "Government will screw up, so to prevent that we need a government." Or, "Since some mistakes will be made, we need to eliminate all actors but one."

I guess, he believes that eliminating freedom and diversity creates such a high degree of quality that the change is justified. If so, somebody should explain the terms "robust" and "my ass" to him.

Still beatin' the drum

Mickey demonstrates he still doesn't get it:

Does Coulter want to somehow privatize disaster relief? How does that work? Aren't there some things the government just has to do itself? The 82d Airborne, for example. Would a privatized relief agency be free to tell the governor of Louisiana to get lost in a way that President Bush can't?

Can the private sector tell the government to "get lost" in a way the president can't? Hell, yes, Mickey, that's exactly the point. The private sector is allowed to do whatever it wants at any time, in the absence of a reason for a restriction. The government, in contrast, is not allowed to act unless it has a justification for acting. This is an arcane, not to mention archaic concept called "freedom." (To be fair to Mickey, he may be thinking of a situation of, essentially, war, where the president or the governor has sent in the troops; but to be fair to Ann, and Mickey is competing on her territory with this point, we're already talking about *privatized* relief.)

Crashing The Virgin

Two surprise (well, kinda surprise) hits this summer were the R-rated comedies Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year Old Virgin. They're both "old-fashioned" hits in that they opened well but then stayed bouyant due to word of mouth.

To my surprise, a number of friends have expressed a preference for the latter film. I enjoyed both, but I definitely preferred Wedding Crashers. When I asked a friend why he liked Virgin better, he said Crashers had no third act.

I admit Crashers meandered a bit near the end (before it rallied) and could easily have dropped 15 minutes, but, in fact, the reason it's superior to Virgin is its story. Until it stumbles near the end, Crashers is an enjoyable ride not merely due to its characters, but the increasingly difficult predicament they find themselves in.

Meanwhile, Virgin has no story. It has a set-up (the title), followed by a bunch of comedy sketches. Even the poorly integrated "plot" with Catherine Keener stops and starts like an old car. You could easily cut a half hour out without anyone noticing anything.

Columbus Guy says: Hmm. Does Animal House have a story? It seems more like an excuse than anything else. Brilliantly written, of course, but that doesn't imply story.

UPDATE: Anonymous writes: Animal House indeed has a story: The class struggle between the Omegas and Deltas. Dean Wormer and the Omegas want the Deltas gone. Will they succeed? While certainly episodic for pure comedy, things do escalate and the conflict between the two sides is going somewhere at all times. The fall and rise of the Deltas in the third act is certainly entertaining - at least in part because of the strong storytelling.

Columbus Guy says: Color me persuaded. (In my defense, I think I was distracted by all the sex. And if I watch it again, I will be again, too.)

Sleeper Wakes Someone Up

Here's a not-unexpected reply from Roger Kimball to Jim Sleeper's essay on Allan Bloom in The New York Times Book Review.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Another brick in the wall

More reason to celebrate: We can now take pictures of molecules undergoing process.

[T]he long sought after but hitherto unrealized quest for ultrafast electron microscopy has been realized . . . [Among other processes,] biological changes at longer times have their origin in the early atomic motions. It should be readily apparent that such dynamical evolution is critical to function. It does not escape our notice that UEM is a significant advance for this purpose…we foresee the emergence of new vistas in many fields, from materials science to nanoscience and biology.”

I'll live to be 100, but I'll be saying "Let me out."

Medved Infects Epstein?

Edward Jay Epstein's essays in Slate on movies and commerce are generally interesting, even though they often seem to miss the bigger picture. But his latest uses bad stats, trusting a faulty study that I've only seen used (or misused) previously by Michael Medved.

Epstein claims "[t]he most prolonged decline in Hollywood's history [was] from 1963 to 1973, in which the weekly audience dropped from 43.5 million to 16 million..." This is simply false. He also states yearly declines have been the norm for the past 56 years. Also false. Actually, there was a huge, near-continuous drop from the high point of the mid-40s to the mid-60s, as television was introduced and became more popular, followed by a stabilization just when Epstein claims there was the biggest decline.

Average weekly attendance dropped from 84 million in 1944 to 47 million in 1954 to 20 million in 1964. Starting in the mid-60s, the numbers started flattening out. In 1963, the weekly audience was not 43.5 million, it was 22 million. The lowest point was 1971, when attendance was 16 million. By the late 70s and 80s, attendance was back to 20 million or more per year, often matching the 22 million of 1963.

Word On The Street

If the latest Gallup Poll is any indication, the people have got Katrina mostly right: the government screwed up, but it's hard to blame anyone in particular, and there was only so much that could be done anyway.

But I hear rumblings on the street. Today I walked into a local DVD shop and heard a man screaming at a clerk. No, he wasn't fighting a late fee. He was screeching out a monologue against this country. He hated Bush. He hated the government. He was embarrassed to be an American.

What was bothering him? The response to Katrina. But not just any part of the response. What was literally driving this man crazy was how rescuers were leaving animals behind.

So there you have it. Politicians should never forget, animals don't vote, but animal lovers do.

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