Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Saddam's Left Hand

I finally purchased the July issue of GQ (yes, the one with Jessica Simpson on the cover), featuring Lisa DePaulo's mesmerizing interview with the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who supervised Saddam Hussein. Specialist Sean O'Shea summed it up best when he wrote in his diary, "Part of me wanted to punch him in the face. Another part wanted to know what was going on in his head." And while the former didn't happen, O'Shea and his fellow soldiers learned more than they ever imagined from this bloodthirsty, megalomaniacal dictator.

Some highlights:

"Never Froot Loops. Saddam loved Raisin Bran Crunch, but sometimes they'd run out. It was one of the few times Sean ever saw him defeated--when he'd bring him the wrong cereal. 'No Froot Loops!' Saddam would say."

"And his favorite food was ... Cheetos. He was nuts about Cheetos. One of the guardsmen turned him on to them, and before long he would get grumpy if they ran out.... Then one day they gave him Doritos instead, and Saddam never went back.... He'd eat a family-size bag of Doritos in ten minutes.... When they'd give him a bag, he'd smile, thank them profusely, and retreat to a corner of his cell. Then he'd sprinkle a few drops of water into the bag and eat."

"His English kept improving, and he liked to tell jokes. There was one about a sheep and three men. 'You couldn't always understand him,' says [Specialist] Jesse [Dawson], 'but he was laughing, so you'd start laughing, too."

"When Sean told him that Reagan had recently died after a long battle with Alzheimer's, Saddam got quiet for a minute, then said, 'Yes, this happens.'"

Saddam has been working on his memoirs as well as his poetry. But when he translated it from Arabic into English, it didn't always make sense. Said Corporal Jonathan Reese, "It would be like, 'There's a blender in the street.' And we'd be like, 'Beautiful!'"

But perhaps the most disturbing detail, which seems to go against Saddam's germaphobic tendencies, is that he apparently doesn't use toilet paper: "He wiped with his left hand and had a hose next to the toilet that he used to wash himself off."

Being in Saddam's presence--even as the men reminded themselves constantly of what he did to his people--it became hard to avoid a conversation with him. (Hermann Göring was supposedly the same way in prison.) According to the soldiers, Saddam still believes he is president of Iraq and is waiting to return to his palace. He's in for a rude awakening.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

When He Sits Around the House...

As I ate my sandwich of pastrami, cole slaw, and Russian dressing on a sub roll with a side of Cheetos and a Diet Coke, I read the Washington Post story about John Keitz, the 39-year-old man from Dundalk, Maryland, who has been bed-ridden for about seven years. Keitz weighs 625 pounds.

The profile, by David Montgomery, is, well, engrossing. Keitz had always been a big guy, weighing 100 pounds even in first grade and 250 pounds at age 18. (He believes his morbid obesity stems from a bad metabolism and not simply large portions.) As Montgomery explains it:

He lies on his front, because if he were to lie on his back, rolls of flesh would press on his windpipe and suffocate him. His head never touches sheet or pillow. At night, his left cheek nestles upon a soft white pile of shoulder and breast meat.

The last time Keitz stood, he was in the midst of preparing a mac 'n' cheese dinner for himself and his wife Gina. Just as he was slicing the Velveeta, it happened.

Keitz knows what people think: "How could someone get so fat? How could someone allow himself to be bedridden for seven years? How is it someone his size has sex?" (Okay, that last question was mine. And based on a friend's account of an obese couple she knows well, I do know how it works, the details of which are not suitable for publication under any circumstance.)

The story of John Keitz is a sad one. Yes, he has lost some weight--he once weighed 781 pounds--and he is trying to literally get back on his feet. But he still has a long way to go, and must simultaneously battle diabetes, arthritis, and sleep apnea. Let's hope David Montgomery does a follow-up next year.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Great Raid

Last Friday I had the opportunity to catch a screening of The Great Raid, about the liberation of a Japanese-controlled POW camp in the Philippines during World War II. (I'll have a more extensive review of the film when it comes out August 12.) But in the meantime, let me just say this is a movie you should not miss. Based on the books The Great Raid on Cabanatuan and Ghost Soldiers (the latter of which I reviewed), The Great Raid is one of those powerful reminders of human sacrifice and, in particular, the sacrifices made in the Pacific campaign. Americans and Europeans are very much used to films treating the Holocaust such as Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful, but are seemingly not as well acquainted with similar instances in the Far East. The Japanese still have a difficult time coping with atrocities such as in Nanking and the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.

The Great Raid does not flinch in its portrayal of horrific crimes committed by Japanese soldiers against both the innocent and Allied prisoners. In fact, I contemplated walking out after the first three minutes, which showed actual black and white footage of the death march. (Full disclosure: My father, who was just a boy during the war, was almost executed by the Japanese.) But luckily my emotions settled down and became downright numb after experiencing Connie Nielsen's acting job. There also seems to be a deficiency in character development--most likely because there are too many characters to cover. The music tends toward the overly dramatic and sweeping when silence could've been more effective.

On the plus side, James Franco has finally got himself a solid role and Filipino actors are given their due. Credit should also be given to the Japanese actors who no doubt made a courageous decision in accepting the roles of ruthless killers. And who knows if the film will ever be shown in Japan? (Thanks to its distributor, Miramax, the movie should get some good press stateside.) Unlike The Thin Red Line, there are no moral ambiguities here. It is quite clear the occupying power did some really bad things.

The Great Raid will help spread awareness of the valor of Americans and Filipinos alike and, again, remind us of that terrible price of freedom.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Break Me a Fucking Give, Part II

In case you're late in getting to this week's New Yorker, you're in for a ride. David Remnci, unsurprisingly, has a brilliant Talk of the Town item on Mike Tyson. And then there's Anthony Lane.

I've been reading Lane's very excellent book, Nobody's Perfect and i thought, for a moment, that I had figured him out as a writer, that I was beginning to be able to pick out the seams. Bugger that.

Lane reviews Yes, and insipid looking movie starring Joan Allen.

He reviews it in verse.
By the end, we know what Potter hates:

Bigots, God, and the United States,

And Anglo-Saxon men in suits and ties

Who seem unable to control their flies.

And here’s the hook: I guess it could be worse,

But—brace yourself—the whole damn thing’s in verse.

Rhyming couplets, five-stress lines, the lot:

A Michael Bay production this is not.

“Do make yourself at home. Come; sit by me,

Something to drink? Perhaps you’d like some tea.”

You may get off on this enthralling stuff,

But after half an hour I’d had enough.

I have a secret hunch that Potter knows

Her tale is skimpy; that is why she goes

For multiple dissolves, CCTV,

And endless slo-mo: all the devilry

That smart directors use to fill the time—

Think George Lucas, minus droids, plus rhyme.

Whenever you feel the urge to make fun of Tina Brown, count ten. And remember she's the one who plucked Lane out of obscurity for the New Yorker.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Liberal Briar Patch

Expanding on the Law Jedi's observation about Karl Rove's latest statement, has the goods from Ken Mehlman: A long, damning list of statements from, Michael Moore, and George Soros underscoring exactly Rove's point.

As a factual matter, this is an open-and-shut case.

Here's where the Rove trap is sprung: Democrats as a whole, did not behave like the far-left establishment in the aftermath of September 11. Democrats acted like pretty much everyone else in America.

It was the far left--the group which has hijacked American liberalism--that reacted with such sourness. But in the intervening years, the far left has somehow convinced us that they and the Democratic party are one in the same--all numerical and electoral evidence to the contrary.

To be sure, Republicans have tried to help sell this notion, but now it seems that the Democratic party itself confused as to who it really is. Rove has just goaded them into self-identifying with a bunch of nuts who really don't represent the party's mainstream.

I mean, do Democrats want to keep losing elections?

P.S. Thanks to Al for catching my Freudian slip.

And Another!

Also, I notice that Danny Glover has a new blog up at National Journal's Tech Daily, called Beltway Blogroll. It should be a great contribution.

Two Welcome New Additions

I've been very remiss in not noting the two biggest--and best--additions to the web in a very long time.

The first is 610 WIP. After years of waiting, Philadelphia ex-pats can now get 610 on their desktops. It's only the best radio station in America. Go ahead, give it a listen. Just not during Howard Eskin's show. If only 610 could replace him with Tony Kornheiser . . .

The other new site--and this will be of much greater interest to most of you--is, a very smart project being run out of the University of Chicago by a group of liberal students interested in taking religion seriously, instead of using it as a punching bag. I'd be surprised if anything but good comes from their experiment.

Another Rove Trap?

The Law Jedi thinks that Rove has set a trap for Democrats--and that they've taken the bait by reflixively identifying themselves as "liberals."

You Think You're Tough?

Via another Daily Standard comes this story:
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said Wednesday.

Peasant farmer Daniel M'Mburugu was tending to his potato and bean crops in a rural area near Mount Kenya when the leopard charged out of the long grass and leapt on him.

M'Mburugu had a machete in one hand but dropped that to thrust his fist down the leopard's mouth. He gradually managed to pull out the animal's tongue, leaving it in its death-throes.

"It let out a blood-curdling snarl that made the birds stop chirping," he told the daily Standard newspaper of how the leopard came at him and knocked him over.

The leopard sank its teeth into the farmer's wrist and mauled him with its claws. "A voice, which must have come from God, whispered to me to drop the panga (machete) and thrust my hand in its wide open mouth. I obeyed," M'Mburugu said.

As the leopard was dying, a neighbor heard the screams and arrived to finish it off with a machete.

This goes right up there with the Russian in North Carolina a couple years ago who scared off a shark by beating it with his severed arm.

Klein Watch

Television's biggest jerk is now moving the goalposts. After claiming that his mismanagement of CNN would pay dividends in a year, he how says the network will have to wait 18 months to harvest the fruits of his genius.

Ah, Jon Klein. Maybe we won't be able to properly appreciate his greatness until he's gone.

Score One for Horowitz

A group of colleges and universities today released a statement proclaiming their commitment intellectual diversity and freedom of political conscience in the classroom. This is response to David Horowitz's push for an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure and these and other rights. Inside Higher Ed—an excellent resource on the academic scene—has the story here.

Is "Redskin" Pejorative?

Just came across an interesting article, from the American Indian perspective (sorry to be so PC), concerning the ongoing litigation over the Washington Redskins name. Harjo et al had persuaded three trademark judges on the substance of their grievance in 1999; in 2003, a district court overturned their finding. This article cites some detective work by Geoffrey Nunberg of Stanford on the point.

Suzan Shown Harjo

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mr. Excitable

It's not a Magpie Watch, but it's pretty great. Best of the Web has a nifty little selection of Andrew Sullivan quotes about torture, under the headline Mr. Excitable.
Before we happily close the case on the missing boy in Utah, now found and with his family, we should give pause and thank God for returning him alive after those grueling four days ... that he no doubt spent aboard an alien spacecraft.

You think I'm joking? Let's look at what we know so far. According to the fittingly named Forrest Nunley, who found 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins, he "turned a corner and there was a kid standing in the middle of the trail...." As if he was just dropped off. The boy said he ate and drank nothing for those missing days. The aliens do not know what we eat or drink! Summit County sheriff David Edmunds also said Brennan "was in no mood to give us a lot of details..." That is because he has no details to report. They wiped his memory! Almost immediately after getting his necessary human nutrition, Brennan then "wanted to play a video game on one of the searchers' cell phones." Just like with a Speak & Spell, he was obviously using the phone to communicate with his new masters. Authorities also described the boy as delirious. Wouldn't you be after visiting Alpha Centauri?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More Michael Schiavo

The Law Jedi makes an important point about Michael Schiavo:
Michael Schiavo lists her date of death as the date of her collapse on February 26, 1990, and that she finally met peace in 2005, after being "peacefully" dehydrated to death, of course. So is Michael admitting that the few years he kept her alive in order to collect on a medical malpractice verdict was a deliberate denial of peace to make some money? And just so it's clear, you get more money if the person is alive and incapacitated than if they are dead, because you can recover the future costs of care, which are exorbitant, especially when you promise that you will completely rehab the patient.

The final line on the marker states "I Kept My Promise." But to which promise is he referring? The one mentioned above that he made to the jury which was the basis for their award? The promise to remain faithful to her in sickness and in health? All that twaddle about love, honor, cherish? If anyone has a clue which one of those, or any other I may have missed, was kept, please let me know so that I can appropriately credit him. . . .

But it a fitting epilogue to this very sad story. Because Terri's story was never really about her. It was, like this marker, about Michael Schiavo. Terri was unloved in health, abandoned except for her financial value to Michael in sickness, a memorial to Michael's neglect in her decline, and a snicker to her family who loved her in her death.

The Schindlers need not visit the gravesite where their daughter's ashes lie and where a cruel marker mocks the open wounds of their hearts. Terri is not there. She is elsewhere. Far from the grasp of the man whom she condescended to marry.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Our good friends at Davids Medienkritik, the indispensable blog for "politically incorrect observations on reporting in the German media," will be demonstrating next Monday, June 27, at Lafayette Park, across from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The reason for their assembly is Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's visit to Washington where he will be meeting with President Bush as well as business leaders. How very typisch of Schröder, in the heat of an election, with his approval ratings below 30 percent, and critics charging him with anti-American and anti-business rhetoric, that he would now come to meet with Bush, emphasize the need for transatlantic cooperation, and speak to those heartless capitalists. Davids Medienkritik isn't fooled either. And while the focus of the demonstration will be "against anti-American bias in German media and politics and for German-American friendship and cooperation," it would also be a fitting sendoff.
The latest issue of GQ features a fascinating story by Lisa DePaulo about the National Guardsmen who recently guarded Saddam Hussein. In the excerpt, we learn the ex-dictator is a fan of Ronald Reagan ("Reagan and me, good") and dislikes both Bushes ("The Bush father, son, no good"). Clinton was just "okay." But perhaps most interesting is Saddam's dislike of Froot Loops (maybe he's an Apple Jacks guy) and a love for Doritos (I'm guessing Cool Ranch).

Michael Schiavo

Patterico has a soul-shaking post on Michael Schiavo's continuing campaign against his former in-laws. Do not follow the link if you're already having a bad day.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pop Quiz: Sullivan or Kos?

Who says:
It is this administration that has brought indelible shame on America, it's people like Dick Durbin who prove that some can actually stand up against this stain on American honor and call it what it is. Good for him. Thank God for him.

Andrew Sullivan or Markos Moulitsas?


Behind the Scenes with Matthew Lesko

You know Matthew Lesko, the guy with all the question marks yelling about free money from the government. Dave Jamieson has a fantastic profile of him in the Washington City Paper this week.

Durbin Delights

Mark Steyn makes the good point that, strictly as a factual matter, Dick Durbin's claim:
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.

Is ludicrous. Even if you believe--which I don't--that every cell in every American detention facility looks like what Durbin describes, only someone who has never read accounts of life in the prisons of Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot could mistake this treatment for the living hell those men created. I mean, forget the death toll, the actual day-to-day treatment bears no similarity. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot did not simply play with the temperature, blast bad music, and let prisoners pee on themselves.

That said, I'll be surprised if anything happens to Durbin. Hugh Hewitt suggests that the Senate should censure him while Bill Kristol thinks it's more appropriate for the Democrats to remove him from leadership, particularly following the example of how the Republicans handled Trent Lott.

But I'll be surprised if that happens. You see, the key difference is that conservatives and Republicans in general disagreed with the sentiment Lott was expressing. So far it looks as though liberals and Democrats believe Durbin's thoughts to be true.
Bill Whalen has an excellent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on how Gov. Schwarzenegger can stop the slide: the California version of the nuclear option.

Kos Straw Poll

It's worth keeping an eye on Daily Kos's straw poll for 2008. With 3,662 votes cast, Wesley Clark is leading the field at 21 percent, with Hillary Clinton far behind at 9 percent.


Michael Wilbon hits the mark with his description of Robert Horry as a "closer."

I've long been a member of the cult of Horry because he's one of my favorite kind of player--the Winner.

Winners aren't aren't Stars--they're a much smaller, less imposing subset--but to me they're more interesting. The Winner is the marginal player who is always lurking around championship trophies, not contributing much of anything except for big plays down the stretch (think Danny Ainge). Horry is, even historically speaking, the Best of Breed.

Horry's career average is only 7.5 points per game, yet he has five, going on six, championships and you could make the argument that his contributions to those victories have been so significant that at least half of those teams might not have won their titles without him on the roster.

What makes a Winner? Beats me. The psychology is so different from that of the Star player. That mystery is part of what makes him so interesting.

Side note: You could argue that two Stars--Jordan and Russell--were mixed breeds who were part Winner.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thoughts on the Marriage of Pete Mitchell and Joey Potter

Look, even if it is a sham marriage, maybe it'll be a good sham marriage and both Cruise and the future Mrs. Cruise will get what they want out of the relationship. Nothing but best wishes to the happy couple.

Still, I can't help but think that we're responsible for this engagement, and by "we," I mean you, me, and everyone else in America who has been sniggering about the couple for the last few weeks.

Time was, Hollywood produced sham couples, the public realized it was a stunt, and everyone played along. The Cruise-Holmes affair has been mocked by everyone in America--even by CNN anchors--since Day 1. In public, in private, on blogs, on TV programs, in newspapers. No one has pretended for even a moment that this might be the real thing.

And so Tom Cruise, confronted with a hostile public and press, decided he had to take it up a level:
You don't believe we're dating? Fine, well we're in love!

You don't believe we're in love? Fine, we're thinking about getting engaged!

You don't believe we might get engaged? There's the ring, bucko. Let's get nuts!

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George has lied to his future in-laws about his house in the Hamptons and, rather than concede what they all know is a lie, he keeps upping the stakes, driving them out to the beach in the middle of the night, describing the atrium, going all the way to the end of the island, and then, finally, setting off on foot to the dunes, crying, "LET'S GET NUTS!"

This is where Cruise is now, and if we don't all start going along with it, poor Katie will have to get pregnant on their wedding night.

Kinsleyism Run Amok

Slate publishes a piece defending the art of Michael Bay.

How counterintuitive!
Yesterday's Washington Post reported on a bizarre story of a Maryland fisherman who discovered a crab that was both male and female, as evident from the one orange and one blue claw.

The story failed to mention the crab was picked up on its way to an alternative nightclub.

It Wasn't Called Joey's Creek, Was It?

Poor James Van Der Beek. I mean, really, can you imagine? He stars in Angus, gets a TV show centered around him, eats the whipped-cream bikini, even does the scary, toss-off, art-house film to turn serious . . .

But noooooo, you don't see Tom Cruise proposing to him, do you?

When he stumbled out of his shopping-cart tent this morning under the Figaroa Street overpass and heard the news, he must have gone all kinds of crazy.

Update, 3:45 p.m.: You don't see this nugget attached to most of the wire stories:
Holmes, who claims to be a virgin, was formerly engaged to 'American Pie' actor Chris Klein but spilt from him in March after five years. [emphasis added]

Where is The Superficial when we need him most?

Victims of Verizon

Kate O'Beirne is not alone, for I too am a victim of Verizon incompetence.

Not only is my phone line down, but according to its files, I turn out to be a woman named Theresa Lyons. I first tried calling the folks at Verizon last week when I learned our apartment's land-line was down. People trying to reach us only receive a busy signal. But I quickly gave up the phone route to Verizon because the entire conversation is conducted with a computer. The voice on the other end (at the so-called Repair Resolution Center) actually responds with "Do I understand you have a problem with your phone line?" and "I'm sorry to hear that." The voice also tells me Verizon can be reached online, which is my next step.

After plugging in the necessary information, I notice in capital letters after "Customer Name" appears the name Theresa Lyons. Nevertheless I schedule an appointment online and learn a repairman will be available the next day. But a few hours later a technician calls and says there's no need for him to enter my apartment—the problem was on the outside and the line should be working by the end of the night. So he cancels the appointment.

The next morning the line is still not working and people calling in continue to get a busy signal. So once again I schedule an appointment, on the phone, and the computerized voice on the other end replies, "I'm sorry to hear you are having a problem so soon." It then tells me they can send a technician back to my place tomorrow between the hours of 8 A.M. and 4 P.M. That day a repairman calls me just after 5 P.M. and says he is on his way. But he never came.

That night I return to the Repair Resolution Center. I ask to speak with a human being. (The key word is "agent," which I say three or four times until it actually clicks. The funny thing is, the voice on the other end actually sounds a little hurt that I no longer want to speak with it.) And so they connect me. And the phone rings. And rings. And rings. And then it disconnects me.

I call them back and this time finally speak to a human being named Kristie. She's friendly enough and confirms that Theresa Lyons is the name attached to my number. So how do we fix this? It seems I need to call a separate customer service number—when they open the next morning.

The good people at customer service were as dumbfounded as I was that some other woman has my number. But they weren't able to change the name on the computer. It seems to be locked in and some higher authority would have to change it. A repairman calls me, saying, "Is this Mr. Lyons?" No, I tell him, and my phone hasn't been working for a week now. He asks me for my telephone number. Then he calls me later, saying the problem of the names is fixed and rattles off my telephone number to confirm. Except that the number he has is still not mine, but rather the one belonging to Theresa Lyons. ("How do you know it's her number?" he asks. I tell him I looked it up in the phone book.)

I patiently (though a bit louder) tell him what my number is. And he says, "When we tried that number, we got a busy signal."


The phone line continues to be down. And Verizon repairmen have been in my building for the last three days. But they are apparently incapable of going to my actual apartment until their computers replace Theresa Lyons's name with mine. Which they are unable to do. However, they have made trips to Theresa's apartment and say her phone line is working just fine.

I am also certain Verizon's computers will have no problem sending me my monthly phone bill electronically and successfully taking the money out of my bank account. But not for long, as I plan on cancelling my service—as soon as I figure out how. It shouldn’t take me more than a few weeks.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The heart-breaking story of Susan Torres, first told to me by an acquaintance of the family, has made it onto the pages of USA Today. Torres, a 26-year-old mother, slipped into unconsciousness after suffering a stroke last month--the result of an undiagnosed brain tumor. Doctors say her brain is no longer functioning. But Torres remains on life support because she is seven months pregnant. Her husband Jason hopes she can be kept alive long enough until the child is deliverable. There are few more emotionally wrenching stories than this.

Lane Smith, 1936-2005

This past Monday Hollywood lost one of its great character actors, Lane Smith, who died of Lou Gehrig's disease at the age of 69. Smith appeared in dozens of movies and on television shows, including Red Dawn, V, and The Final Days (as Richard Nixon), not to mention (quite literally) the Paulie Shore vehicle Son in Law. Of course many of us will remember Smith as Daily Planet editor Perry White in Lois and Clark, though he began his acting career in the 1950s (having attended the Actors Studio). Smith won a Drama Desk Award for Glengarry Glen Ross. As Galley friend B.F. pointed out, "Lane Smith belongs with J.T. Walsh as one of the best known 'Hey, it's that guy' actors in history."

Just Asking . . .

If, hypothetically, James Dobson started speaking out about the Michael Jackson verdict, would the left become instantly pro-Jackson?

Bolton, the Senate, and Hypocrisy

Not that you care--because really, why would you?--but I have an op-ed up at the Philadelphia Inquirer about John Bolton, badly behaved senators, and the merits of hypocrisy.

I wouldn't mention it, except that it's the first time I've written for the Inquirer, my beloved home-town paper; and that makes me kind of happy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


From Slate: "He's taught me a lot about creative compromise."
--Steven Spielberg on George Lucas


Galley Friend K.T. sends along this link to the LA Times's new editorial redesign. The oddest part:
Watch next week for the introduction of "wikitorials" — an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials.

Boy, the management at newspapers must really be spooked.

The Best & Worst Batman Villains

Sure, it's not like you had better things to do with your afternoon.

P.S.: A really cheeky writer would have included Superman on this list, since we all know that eventually it will come down to Bats and the Big Red Boy Scout.

P.P.S.: And we all know who wins that fight.

Liberal Blog Ascendancy

I've been casually following the rocket-like trajectory of the liberal blogosphere for almost two years and now Chris Bowers has another serious treatment of the phenomenon:

By comparison, right-wing blogs have pretty much only one means of finding a new voice in the blogosphere: when someone starts a new blog. The inability to operate within a community must be the primary reason behind the large number of conservative blogs in the second, third and fourth quintiles of the Blogads traffic rankings. In fact, of these 120 blogs, 77 of them are openly conservative / libertarian. There are swarms of new conservative voices looking to breakout in the right-wing blogosphere, but they are not even allowed to comment, much less post a diary and gain a following, on the high traffic conservative blogs. Instead, without any fanfare, they are forced to start their own blogs. However, because of the top-down nature of right-wing blogs, new conservative blogs remain almost entirely dependent upon the untouchable high traffic blogs for visitors. In short, the anti-community nature of right-wing blogs has resulted in a stagnant aristocracy within the conservative blogosphere that prevents the emergence of new voices and, as a result, new reasons for people to visit conservative blogs.

Unless right-wing blogs decide to open up and allow their readers to have a greater voice, I expect that the liberal and progressive blogosphere will continue its unbroken twenty-month rise in relative traffic. Conservative bloggers continue to act as though they are simply a supplement to the existing pundit class, without any need to converse with those operating outside of a small social bubble or any need to engage people within the new structure of the public sphere. In the formulation of Stirling Newberry, they view themselves existing on top of a pyramid rather than in the middle of a sphere.

This is a much more in-depth analysis than the simple hive vs. herd analogy. Worth reading.

Update, 5:17 p.m.: After thinking this over for almost five whole hours, and reading thoughts from Polipundit and Mark in Mexico, it strikes me that it's possible that reading blogs might be the intellectual equivalent of going out to protests. (Secretly, I've always thought that reading--and writing--blogs was more worthless than that even, but never mind for now.)

It could well be that the liberal temperament is more predisposed to blog-reading than the conservative temperament is in the same way that, for instance, modern American liberalism is more predisposed to protest marches than modern American conservatism is.

The size and number of protest movements, of course, means very little. In the 1990s, there were relatively few mass protest movements, but Bill Clinton was winning elections. Since 2000, there have been many big, impressive protest demonstrations by liberals--yet they've been shellacked at the polls.

(Come to think of it, maybe there is a correlation between liberal protesting and conservative electoral success?)

In any case, while it's certainly possible that the success of the liberal blogosphere is a harbinger of an important growth in liberalism, it's also possible that it's a meaningless indicator.

None of which, by the way, invalidates Chris Bowers's very thoughtful and interesting initial post on the subject.

Watch The Inside Tonight

Just a reminder that The Inside airs on Fox tonight. I wouldn't have to keep pushing this show on you if the executives at the network would just give it half the promotional support it deserves, but whatever. Just watch the show. I promise, you'll love it.

And if you're interested in reading a little backstory on how The Inside found its way to the small screen, read my piece here. It's a saga worthy of Altman.

The Artist's Dilemma

My favorite singer-songwriter, Billy Cerveny, has a funny, true observation:

Sitting here working on songs for my new record, I was struck by a thought:

If I were to die today and go to heaven, God would give me a golden guitar and tell me that I get to sit in the corner and write songs for the rest of eternity.


If I were to die today and go to hell, the devil would give me the same golden guitar and tell me that I had to sit in the corner and write songs for the rest of eternity.

P.S. Billy, when's the new albumn coming out? I'm thirsting for it.

Frum on Sullivan

Galley Friend B.W. notes that David Frum has taken the gloves off:
So count me un-fisked - and unimpressed.

And maybe irked enough by Andrew's continual personalization of this matter to adventure one further point. I began this debate by observing that for all the furious clamor in favor of a legal right to same-sex marriage, once the right was won in Canada, Canadian homosexuals showed scant interest in making use of their new opportunity. Let me in my turn be personal. Andrew mentions in the same column in which he scolds me that he is about to take his annual vacation in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he owns a home and could, I suppose, easily qualify as a legal resident. Andrew has often argued that Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriage for a year without any immediately catastrophic result. But one could reply that there's something else that has not happened in this historic year: Andrew Sullivan has never quite gotten around to marrying that boyfriend he so often mentions in his column. Isn't his own example strong proof that my alleged "sloppiness" was in fact precisely correct?
I've not posted much lately because, well, I'm lazy, but also because my computer has grown extremely tired with age, making me crynical and ironic whenever someone mentions the "instantaneous" world of online publishing. But I have written a poem this morning, about life in Washington, which I do humbly offer you now.

I’ve not been to Café Milano
The Georgetown hot-spot
Where all the TV people hang out
The bookers, the producers
The talent.
That’s what they call people in front of a camera,
As if they’re the definition of.

I’ve not sipped Cosmopolitans
With Movers and Shakers.
After work I go home
To feed the kid, and kiss the wife
You’ve noticed, or at least you suspect—
I do believe this makes me better than you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Situation

Tucker Carlson's new MSNBC show, The Situation, premiered last night to very kind reviews.

In other news, it's now official: Jon Klein has been worse for CNN than AOL was.
Galley Brother B.J. points out that someone has finally created a real-life T.G.I. McScratchy's. Scroll down the page for SynCity and you'll find:
Saturdays: New Year's Eve in SynCity with a champagne toast and balloon drop.

New Year's Eve every Saturday night? That must be the greatest place in the world to work!

Oscillating Orwell

You may have grown tired of the Kaus-Sullivan fight, but I haven't. Kaus's latest blow is pretty rough.
This morning's Washington Post reports that 26-year-old Katie Holmes, who once was a nice Catholic schoolgirl from Ohio, is leaving the Church to join the Church of Scientology, to which her current beau, Tom Cruise, 42, belongs.
It seems our favorite paper, the New York Post, went with a more conventional headline:

Boy, oh, Boy!

However, a supporting tagline on the lower corner and inside does in fact read: "HE BEAT IT" along with that trademark Macauley Culkin face from Home Alone. (Meanwhile, the headline for Diane Dimond's column reads, "They didn't lay a glove on him and now he's untouchable.")

Thanks to Galley readers for their own worthy suggestions.

Fetish Watch

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this Sal Paolantonio column about Terrell Owens. It's got nearly all of my fetishes wrapped up into one neat package: Philly sports, Donovan McNabb, Howard Eskin, 610 WIP--even Stephen A. Smith.

So for the three of you who care--B.J., Dude from Philly, and M.G.--enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Blinq sends us to the video of Triumph going to the Jackson trial mob.
Now that Michael Jackson has been acquitted on all ten counts, it is time to guess tomorrow's New York Post front-page headline:






Nanoo Nanoo

How could I forget to mention last week the most provocative and emotionally gripping show on television this season? No doubt many readers were let down by this inexcusable lapse and for that I offer my most humble apologies. Yes, I am talking about NBC's Behind the Camera: Mork & Mindy.

Just by chance I happened across the show, in the midst of actor Chris Diamantopoulos portraying Robin Williams doing stand-up. Diamantopolous can sound like Williams and act like Williams, but it's still quite unseemly. In fact, at times, it was downright cringing to watch. Daniel Roebuck (who once portrayed Jay Leno) played a caricature of producer Garry Marshall. You had other actors playing the roles of Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Henry Winkler, and John Belushi. And still I couldn't turn away. But why not? Because even in a trainwreck of a show, you can always come away learning something. Such as:

Network executives tried ridding Mork & Mindy of its older actors Conrad Janis and Elizabeth Kerr, and brought on Jay Thomas and Gina Hecht as that young Italian couple to spice things up. But Janis and Kerr returned for the final disastrous season that included Jonathan Winters.

The show's writers and Williams, in particular, were constantly scrutinized by the censors and Williams had to tone down his act considerably. But while those on the show decried censorship, they also looked at the media's descent into "jiggle" TV with disdain.

Pam Dawber was always a nice girl.

John Belushi did a lot of drugs.

One writer describes the set of Popeye as a "Roman orgy."

But one question remains: Did Diamantopoulos have on extra body hair in order to truly ape Williams?

Mother of the Year

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.

Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.

She said she was worried about the male dog, Rex, who was acting possessive because the female, Ella, was in heat.

"I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me."

Nicholas apparently found a way to open the basement door.

Despite her concerns about Rex that day, Faibish told the newspaper: "My kids got along great with (the dogs). We were never seeing any kind of violent tendencies."

Faibish found her son's body in a bedroom. He was covered in blood from several wounds, including a major head injury.

No charges have been filed.

"It's Nicky's time to go," she said in the interview. "When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time."

The Superficial: Alberto Gonzales in Disguise?

The Superficial comes out as being pro-torture:
This week, Time magazine “reports on the interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay, who is widely believed to be the so-called 20th hijacker, a compatriot of Osama bin Laden and a man who had tried to enter the U.S. in August 2001 to take part in the Sept. 11 attacks . . . The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when (al Qahtani) dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.”

Thanks a lot pussy liberals. This is actually a awesome idea - considering the son of a bitch plotted to kill thousands of Americans - except replace the words “dripping water onto” with “slammed a hammer into” and replace “playing Christina Aguilera music” with “execute”. Honest to God, if I see any electronic equipment brought into a room with a guy involved with 9.11, I better hear the phrase, “Red is positve, black is negative” and “no, we’re not gonna need any KY.”

Sigh. Isn't this exactly what Andrew Sullivan has been warning us about lo' these many months?

Friday, June 10, 2005

In case you really want to know more about the current state of political turmoil in Germany, read my latest in The Daily Standard. I also mention a possible replacement for Ambassador Dan Coats that is sure to drive conspiracy mongers insane.

Why Do We Need Gitmo?

Chapomatic has a depressing set of links to stories about people who want to do the United States harm. The most depressing is this Washington Post story, which is a stunning rebuke to those who think that all of the detainees at Guantanamo are nice fellows who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time:
The thundering F-16 and A-10 warplanes reduced the fighters' compound in Afghanistan to smoldering rubble. No one could still be alive, figured the U.S. soldiers crouched nearby. But inside, saved by a half-standing wall, a lanky 15-year-old waited as the wary soldiers neared.

As the Americans recount it, he leapt up, threw a grenade and was cut down by the soldiers' fire. The grenade scored: A 28-year-old sergeant was mortally wounded.

The boy was not, however. Blinded in one eye, his chest ripped opened by bullets, Omar Khadr lay on the ground and asked the soldiers to kill him -- in perfect English.

He was a Canadian.

"Everybody who walked by wanted to put a round in him," said Master Sgt. Scotty Hansen, who was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor after the battle in 2002. "But we all knew that's not the way we do it."

Omar Khadr survived. Today, he is 18, a prisoner at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and an increasingly awkward presence there for the Canadian government. His mother, sister and brother Abdurahman -- who was briefly imprisoned with Omar at Guantanamo -- have become what Omar's lawyer calls "the most despised family in Canada."

Abdurahman has publicly declared them to be al Qaeda members. His sister has said they all wished for martyrdom. Family members have spoken scornfully of Canadian society, as they receive medical care and welfare payments that keep them in a pleasant apartment in Toronto. . . .

But as Omar's confinement at Guantanamo grows longer, he has begun to gain grudging support from constitutional experts and editorial writers. They are pushing the government to demand that the United States either put him on trial or release him.

"Regardless of how much the Khadr family is despised here, Canada's lawmakers cannot look the other way when a citizen is held in foreign custody for years, under abusive conditions, and denied due process," said an editorial in the Toronto Star in February. "That makes Ottawa a silent partner in human rights abuse." . . .

"Canadian citizens should not be left beyond the reach of law," said Alex Neve, head of the Ottawa office of Amnesty International, a human rights group.

[The Khadr family lawyer Dennis] Edney neither confirms nor contests the U.S. soldiers' account indicating that Omar threw a grenade at them. He has called for a trial that would bring the evidence out in the open, allow cross examination of witnesses and deal with the question of Omar's age. Under international law, he is a minor.

The entire story is worth reading.

Paul Krugman: Jerk, Part II

Showing what a fine colleague he must be, Paul "Wolfman" Krugman takes another shot at Daniel Okrent today:
It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.

These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Comic Genius of Antonin Scalia

In an otherwise obscure passage to Justice Scalia's opinion on the case Alaska v. United States (which concerned a dispute over who controlled submerged lands in Glacier Bay), Nino gets off a pretty fantastic joke:
The only part of the Court’s opinion on Glacier Bay that displays genuine enthusiasm is its Ursine Rhapsody, which implies that federal ownership of submerged lands is critical to ensuring that brown bears will not be shot from the decks of pleasure yachts during their “distressing[ly] frequen[t]” swims to islands where they feast on seabirds and seabird eggs.2

That footnote leads us to this fabulous bit:
2It is presumptively true that the seabirds consider these visits distressingly frequent, and demonstrably true that the brown bears do not. It is unclear why this Court should take sides in the controversy.

Who said the law couldn't be fun? Many thanks to Galley Friend T.K.

In Praise of The Inside

Erasmus has caught the bug and has been, at least temporarily, won over to The Inside.

Turkey for Dinner

I was looking forward to writing about my dinner last night with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey. But as the 25 or so guests assembled around the tables at the Willard Hotel, one of the first things Turkish ambassador Logoglu declared was that the conversation would be off the record. It's a shame--you won't believe what they have planned!

Of course I am kidding. But the sad fact is it gives me not much to report. So here's what we had for dinner: wild mushroom soup (far and away, the highlight), spinach feta in phyllo triangle (isn't feta Greek?), field greens with walnut vinaigrette, roasted black angus beef tenderloin (a bit overcooked), gratin potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and caramelized pearl onion sauce. Dessert was a fine selection of Turkish pastries and vanilla ice cream. (And no, no matter what you think, it was not baklava!) They also served an exquisite 2001 Robert Mondavi Cab--not that the Turkish delegation had a drop to drink. In addition, the waiter who served Mr. Erdogan was a nice looking burly man with a bushy mustache, presumably trained in the use of firearms.

It was a hearty dinner and the off-the-record "conversation" was pleasant, even if it required the use of earpieces to hear the translator. (Mr. Erdogan also tended to keep his microphone on, so we had the bonus of occasionally hearing him slurp his soup, gulp down some water, and, in one instance, grind his steak knife across the china, sending a shiver up my spine.)

When I said farewell to the prime minister, he kindly looked at me with his sharp eyes, glanced at my necktie, lifted it for closer inspection, and said through his translator, "These are the colors of my favorite team."

Magpie Watch IV

Commenter arrScott notes that Andrew Sullivan's exploration of Jesus Christ and family values is heavily drawn from Julia Sweeney's monologue on This American Life, which aired, coincidentally, on NPR last weekend. Here's Sweeney on This American Life:
I have to say the most upsetting thing to me about Jesus is his family values. Which is amazing when you think how there's so many groups out there who say they base their family values on the Bible. I mean he seems to have no real close ties to his parents. He puts Mary off cruelly over and over again. . . . Jesus actually discourages any contact his converts have with their own families. He himself does not marry or have children. And he explicitly tells his followers not to have families as well and if they do, they should just abandon them. . . . So that's the New Testament family values for you.

And here's Sullivan from yesterday:
And yet, when you read the Gospels, you find something very strange. Jesus barely mentions marriage. He never married. He demanded of all his disciples that they abandon their own families and wives, without even saying goodbye. He was openly contemptuous toward his own mother and father in adolescence and early adulthood. His fundamental response to adultery was forgiveness of the adulterer and suspicion of the morally superior. His contemporaries must have regarded him as illegitimate, since he was conceived out of wedlock. So this illegitimate, single man who broke up family after family, whose closest female friend was a childless former prostitute, who scandalously stayed alone in the home of two unmarried women, who offended every family value of the time ... has been turned into the chief architect of "family values!"

As we've seen before (and before that and before that and before that), Andrew Sullivan has made a habit of this sort of thing. It isn't plagiarism. But shouldn't the former editor of The New Republic know better?

Great Moments in Reporting

Even wire reporters sometimes find time to do a funny bit of writing:
Karla Irving's husband, David, who was taking a shower upstairs, heard the commotion and called 911. Sheriff's deputies let the bear out through a back door. It has not been seen since.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Andrew Sullivan on the Christ and Family Values

And yet, when you read the Gospels, you find something very strange. Jesus barely mentions marriage. He never married. He demanded of all his disciples that they abandon their own families and wives, without even saying goodbye. He was openly contemptuous toward his own mother and father in adolescence and early adulthood. His fundamental response to adultery was forgiveness of the adulterer and suspicion of the morally superior. His contemporaries must have regarded him as illegitimate, since he was conceived out of wedlock. So this illegitimate, single man who broke up family after family, whose closest female friend was a childless former prostitute, who scandalously stayed alone in the home of two unmarried women, who offended every family value of the time ... has been turned into the chief architect of "family values!"

How you like them apples?
Since my colleague decided to bring it up, I discovered a terrific site for anyone who spent time on the Jersey shore and either had enough courage to visit Brigantine Castle or is still traumatized by the commercials. (I would be in the latter.) Enjoy.

Spring Break Shark Attack: NJ

This story about a Great White shark attack at the New Jersey shore makes an obvious error:
Great whites are not uncommon off New Jersey. Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said he believed great whites frequently come to Brigantine Bay to give birth in the spring.

Obviously the Great Whites are drawn to Brigantine not by an urge to spawn, but by the evil pull of that town's famous haunted castle.

Inflate the Grades!

Galley Friend L.B. sends along this Washington Post story on grade inflation, a subject about which I'm quite conflicted.

On the one hand, my undergraduate career was somewhat hampered by attending a university which did not truck much with grade inflation--my graduating class's mean GPA was something near 2.70, meaning that one could graduate in the top 10 percent of the class and still be barely at a 3.5.

Many is the time I've cursed grade inflation and the grade-grubbing runts who chase after it.

But on the other hand . . . what good are undergraduate grades, anyway? The only use they really have is as a metric for graduate school admissions (any employer who cares about your undergrad grades isn't worth working for) and here grade inflation makes sense. As a for instance, take medical school.

Med school admissions are conducted on nearly a straight by-the-numbers points scale made up by combining an applicant's GPA and MCAT scores. So a 3.98 from Southwest Saginaw State or Goucher College counts for much, much more than a 3.45 from, say, Harvard or MIT.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the girl with the 3.45 from MIT doing my triple bypass.

So at the elite universities, they'd be crazy not to grade inflate. If Harvard were to start throwing around C's, smart high-school students who wanted to be doctors (or lawyers) would be doing themselves a real disservice by going there. In order to continue attracting the best students, elite schools must--and should--inflate grades.

And if the elite schools inflate grades, then chances are the crummy schools will, too. But that's okay. Because if all colleges have roughly the same obscene level of grade inflation, then GPAs cancel each other out, and grad school admissions will become more a factor of test scores--which are standardized, and a much fairer (if still imperfect) indicator of academic success.

There are other arguments for grade inflation, too--which I won't get into here. I'll merely say that college isn't what it used to be and for the outrageous fees being charged by institutions of higher learning, one could reasonably argue that parents aren't buying "education," they're purchasing a fungible documend. And a retailer who sells that document but mars it with bad grades doesn't really understand the business they're in.

Remember, it was the colleges themselves who decided they were in a business--and not a public service--when they began charging as much as the market could bear for their product. It's no accident that grade inflation tracks nicely with the inflation in the cost of a college degree.

The Inside on Wednesday Night

Because I'm a moron, I mistakenly noted last night when The Inside debuts--it's TONIGHT, at 9:00 p.m. on Fox. Not on Thursday.

If you were looking for more reasons to watch, showrunner Tim Minear also has the amazing Jane Espenson and David Fury working on the show with him. Throw in a fat guy and a tree and it's Christmas.
Meryl Yourish has a fascinating interview up with Darth Vader. Since the Darth Side is closed for business, we need all the Vader we can get these days:
MY: So what else did Lucas get wrong?

DV: I have never in my entire life-until now-ever uttered the word, "Yippee." When Qui-Gon bought me out of slavery, I believe my words to Watto were more on the order of "[bleep] you, you stinking sack of [bleep] [bleep] [bleep]!"

MY: Whoa, family blog here!

DV: Edit it out, you [bleep].

MY: Lord Vader, how did you come to the dark side of the Force? What was it that really turned you bad? Was it truly your inability to find a good anger management class?

DV: Oh, don't be ridiculous. The Sith Lords are no darker than your average Republicans.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Set Your TiVo for The Inside!!!

You may have forgotten (because Fox executives haven't given it nearly enough ad support), but The Inside premiers on Fox Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m., eastern.

The Inside is the brainchild of Tim Minear, who's only one of the five best minds working in television today. If Minear's track record--Angel, Firefly, Wonderfalls, doesn't inspire you, well, go back to watching Yes, Dear.

So go. Make an appointment for The Inside, Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. est. Great TV still exists, despite Fear Factor. You won't be disappointed.

Amnesty International: Nothing New Here

Not to be a killjoy, but Amnesty International has been peddling it's anti-Americanism since the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003. That April their website proclaimed: "Iraq: Fear of War Crimes By Both Sides." The "war crime" Amnesty International feared from the United States? The coalition's targeting of one of Saddam's state-run TV stations. Said AI's Claudio Cordone, "The bombing of a television station simply because it is being used for purposes of propaganda is unacceptable."

That AI release about the "war crimes" being comitted by both sides spent five paragraphs on American "attrocities" and four sentences denouncing Iraq actions (which included shelling civilians and having Iraqi soldiers dressing in civilian clothes in order to carry out surprise attacks).

The Straight Story

My friend who saw the low-flying plane over Washington last night was kind enough to email his full description of what exactly he witnessed. Note my original item was wrong about the time of the sighting:

As planes were belatedly descending into Ronald Reagan Airport at around 1:15 AM, all of a sudden a big plane appeared over the National Cathedral, banking slightly left and rapidly moving towards Massachusetts Avenue right in the direction towards the White House.

I could see that very clearly, since I was just going to write my daily memo to my editor, and my desk faces West/Northwest on 22nd Street in the direction of Cathedral Heights, on the uppermost (tenth) floor. It's a great view.

The plane descended further and banked to the right approximately over Kalorama, at about 150-200 yards altitude. I had already jumped to my feet and was leaning out the window, when the plane sharply and noisily accelerated, getting beyond my point of view over the rooftop of my building. It was either a Boeing 737 or an Airbus 321, most probably Boeing, and it was flying right over Mass Av/Phillips Collection at that point of time.

I ran onto my balcony, facing P looking south, expecting the plane coming into view again over Dupont Circle, but that did not happen. It had obviously turned northeast in a frenzied angle. I heard the noise fade and disappear quickly.

Guess the pilot had mistakenly followed Rock Creek Park Valley, thinking he'd been over the Potomac Valley all the time.

That plane came probably within mere seconds of being taken down with the missiles on top of the New Executive Building. This was the closest ever a low-flying big civil plane got to the White House thus far. Even on 9/11, the Pentagon plane was much farther away from it than this one.

No Daylight Between Edwards and Dean

Daily Kos points us to John Edwards' press-release-blog where he retracts his distancing last weekend from Howard Dean:
Howard and I have been saying the same thing about this for years. Hear that? The same thing. For years. Have I ever put it some way that Howard wouldn't agree with? Probably. And he put it in a way, once, just the other day, that I can’t agree with, since I come from a place where hard-working people, who are better served by the agenda and passion of the Democrats, somehow still vote Republican.

What's Happening With Russell Crowe?

Throwing phones works great for dramatic effect. You see it all the time in movies. But in reality, if you throw a phone at, say, a hotel concierge, which is exactly what Russell Crowe recently did, you can wind up in serious trouble. No doubt the concierge has got himself a good lawyer and Crowe will have to settle, after lacerating the hotel employee's face. Crowe claims he was frustrated in his attempts to call his wife Danielle Spencer. And here's where I thought this would make a good item, considering his blonde actress wife has the same name as the woman who played Dee in What's Happening? I was ready to throw out my references to Mabel King and Shirley Hemphill, No Roger-No Rerun-No Rent, What Doobie You Be? Alas, the brilliant minds at UsedWigs had beaten me to it and from quite some time ago. (Scroll down to their Corrections Dept.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Beware the Polish Plumber

Claire Berlinski sums up quite well why the French voted against the E.U. constitution in yesterday's Washington Post. One of her best explanations comes from personal experience:

Over the past few weeks, the pro-Europe talking heads on French television have been busy poking fun at French fears of the "proverbial Polish plumber" who is ready to steal jobs from the locals. But how the pundits can argue that he is only proverbial is beyond me. If you want to test the theory, try living in a Paris apartment that needs repainting, as mine did a few weeks ago. Get estimates. French workmen will propose to do the job for 10,000 euros. The Polish painter? He can do it for 800 euros. Tomorrow. He doesn't ask for health insurance or social security, either. And this in a country where there is already 10 percent unemployment.

If I were a French house painter or plumber, I would have voted non, too.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Iron Frau?

In this coming Weekly Standard I've broken down the recent state election results in Germany, what it means for Gerhard Schröder, and the prospects for Angela Merkel, who could become her country's first female chancellor.

There's been much talk about Merkel as Germany's Margaret Thatcher. But that would be inaccurate--the chairwoman of the CDU/CSU isn't facing anything as daunting as Thatcher faced in the early 1980s. In addition, as one German told me, Merkel's aim is not to make Germany "great" again. (And you know what I'm talking about.)

On the other hand, comparisons of Gerhard Schröder to Bill Clinton are more accurate, according to Michael Werz of the German Marshall Fund: "trailer home, single mom, white trash, and [Schröder] had to make his way up into the higher echelons of society." Not to mention his love for the ladies. (Schröder has been married four times--a fact that did not escape his rivals who printed bumper stickers that read: "3 out of 4 wives can't be wrong.")

My friend Matthias Rüb of Frankfurter Allgemeine says that if Merkel wins, her challenge will be considerable: "It takes a true political leader to tell Germans, still spoiled by the experience of the Wirtschaftswunder of the 1960s and still pampered by the rampant welfare state known from the 1970s, what they will face, to revive the economy and to restore self confidence." For Galley Slaves readers who understand German (there must be at least a few of you!), I recommend Matthias's book, available at

New Hotness

From The Superficial's interview with model/actress/whatever April Scott:
Q: I heard that you’re so hot, a boy actually died after kissing you. And that’s why you had to leave Missouri. You’re like Rogue from the X-Men. You went on a quest to understand and harness your powers. Powers of hotness. Is that true?

Friggin' awesome.

And later:
April: And I am shooting my own swimsuit calendar right now. So that's exciting.

Q: Wow, all you, just you?

April: Just me.

Q: I’m not gonna lie to you . . . I’m very much interested in seeing that.

It's like someone melded Matt Labash and Greg Gutfeld.


The silly, pie-in-the-sky question I've always wondered about the European Union is: What is the E.U.'s stance on secession by a member nation? Would they go to war to keep a member state?

The answer I'm normally given is that the E.U. wouldn't fight the secession of a country, but that, practically speaking, secession becomes impossible since going off the euro is too complicated. But what if it was possible to transition out of the euro?

Italian minister Roberto Maroni now says that Italy should hold a voted about going back to the lira. It's interesting to wonder what happens if the United Europe project fails.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

610 WIP

Blinq reports on the big fight brewing at the offices of 610 WIP--America's best sports-talk radio station.

It seems that morning host Angelo Cataldi has taken his fight with night-time host Howard Eskin out of school and onto his personal website. Non-Philadelphia natives will find this tiresome, but really, what do I care? I don't make you sit through listings of my TV appearances, so you can indulge me.

It seems that after being suspended from the station, Eskin has returned and started taking shots at Cataldi and his co-hosts, Rhea Hughes and Al Morganti. Cataldi has rushed in to defend their honor. (Read his long, intemperate post here. It certainly has the smell of truth to it.) Good for him.

Cataldi isn't a serious sports heavyweight, but he's good people, as is Hughes. For his part, Morganti may be the smartest guy at WIP. For Eskin to pick a fight with him is the height of idiocy.

But then again, that's Howard Eskin's long suit. Eskin has been a fixture in Philadelphia sports for as long as I've been watching the Sixers lose. He is oafish, loud, abrasive, and incredibly self-satisfied. He reeks of corporate favoritism--it is simply inconceivable that he produces any kind of numbers for WIP and he has bounced around so many jobs in town that clearly no one wants to keep him as a franchise.

Everyone knows someone like Eskin: The guy who sucks up to management and keeps being allowed to fail. The guy who thinks that his imperviousness to the consequences of his failures is a sign that he has no shortcomings. That Cataldi has finally called him out, in public, is something that everyone who loves WIP should celebrate.

Let's hope the management at WIP finally come to their senses and dump Eskin the way everyone else in town has.

PS: For those of you who care, Cataldi also says that June 21 is the date WIP will start broadcasting on the web.

10 Worst Album Covers Ever

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this link to Pork Tornado's list of the 10 Worst Album Covers of All Time.

Number 10 on the list is a little weak, but if you keep scrolling down you'll get enough funny to last you the rest of the day.

Just Asking . . .

Would you like me to start blogging a list of free the stuff I get sent in the mail by book publishers, TV networks, film studios, etc.? I mean, that would be really useful for you, the reader, wouldn't it?

For example, a couple weeks ago Dyson sent me a big multimedia presentation about their new "Ball" vacuum cleaner. Then a French journalist sent me a book he just wrote. Then a publishing house sent me a couple books on Gen-X religion. Then National Geographic sent me a few videotapes of upcoming programs.

Isn't this edifying for you? Isn't this what the promise of the blogosphere is really about? Isn't it high time we had Citizen Journalists show the Old MSM how to do the job right?

I mean, Michael Dobbs never tells us what's in his mailbag, or when he's going to be on Kudlow & Company. And it's that kind of elitist arrogance that's going to bring down the Old Media.

Welcome to New Jersey

Driving up to NJ last weekend, I noticed a strange billboard right after the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It read: "Welcome to New Jersey, a Horrible Place to do Business."

I wondered what the story was behind it. Now the AP has all the details.

Magpie Watch III

Galley Reader P.G. sends in these two clips, which are related to our ongoing Magpie Watch:
6/1/2005 5:16pm: I MIGHT AS WELL BE THE FIRST: One analysis of the Dutch referendum result: They are the Knights that say "Nee!"
--Andrew Sullivan

6/1/2005: 11:30am: Here is what we say to those who support the EU constitution:

"NEE! Nee! NEE! NEE! NnnnnEE! Nee! Nee!

We will say 'nee' again to you, if you do not appease us. The country that says 'nee' demands...a shrubbery! One that looks nice. And not TOO expensive."
--Huffington Toast

Update, 2:33 p.m.:
06/01/05 01:24 p.m. Dutch: We are the Knights who say . . . Nee
--Captain's Quarters

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Opera for Dummies

Sadly we've come to the end of opera season and only now do I come up with the idea of posting an "Opera for Dummies" weblog. I decided to get the tickets for me and the Mrs. (as opposed to my usual purchase of Hoyas b-ball and Redskins/Cowboys tix) as a way to improve on my culture--currently at a rate of 43 per turn. (I won't even explain that joke.) It is true, I came to enjoy opera from my study abroad days in Vienna (when tickets only cost $5--so I pretty much saw everything). But just because it is old, and in Washington, D.C.'s case, run by Plácido Domingo, doesn't mean it's always good. For instance:

1. This year's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore featured tin-foil looking swords, which performers clashed against each other out of sync with the orchestra--the swords were actually quite heavy, as I tested it backstage during a tour. (I would have loved dragging it around the city. Along with my cape.)

2. Billy Budd. Whoa! Must repressed homosexuality always manifest itself in murder? I know it's a long voyage, and Billy is quite a strapping dude, but did you have to kill him? Does it make you feel any better now? Master and Commander has a whole new meaning.

3. A few seasons ago I saw Bellini's I Puritani, the story of a woman madly in love with her man--so much so she becomes paranoid that he is cheating on her--he isn't--and when all is resolved, she still manages to go insane. But wait, she's better now. I think. They should have called this one I Crazy Bitch.

But there were some highlights too:

1. There is no other word to describe Mozart's The Magic Flute than silly. It's a fantasy that seems to take place in the land of the Smurfs (minus the Smurfs but with an overgrown man-bird). And with a happy ending, it is a refreshing change from your traditional final acts, in which the jealous lover kills his wife's friend, who turns out to be the long-lost brother, so she kills the lover and then jumps off a parapet.

2. Speaking of jumping off parapets, I saw the season-ending opera Tosca last night. This was a tremendous performance. If there is one name to remember, it's Salvatore Licitra, who played Cavaradossi. This guy may very well be the next Pavarotti. (Interestingly enough, it was when Pavarotti fell ill back in 2002 at the Met that Licitra stepped up--in the same role in Tosca.) This is as classic an Italian opera (Puccini no less) as they come, filled with romance, deceit, torture, murder, and suicide. Bring it on!

Girl Scout Esteem

Kathy Nelson has a frightful post about the latest trend in Girl Scouting: treating low self-esteem with a "Uniquely ME!" program.

The Girl Scouts have even created a "getting-to-know-me game" called "Me-O-Meter."
Ross Douthat has the best, most pertinent observation about the Deep Throat revelation: John D. O'Connor is "grade-A yuppie/Bobo scum." I won't recount Ross's schtick, but if you don't follow the link and read it, it's your loss.


Even Newsweek is piling on Tom Cruise:
The film's [Batman Begins] star wattage grew even brighter in May when Katie Holmes, who plays Bruce Wayne's imperiled lover interest onscreen, began playing Tom Cruise's love interest off it.

Gawkerist: Anatomy of a Self-Promotion

I've gone almost a full week without saying something nasty about the blogosphere, so let's get back to speed. If the first failing of the blog world is the tendency of bloggers to fall, trance-like, into a state of circle-jerk self-absorbtion, the second failing is the temptation towards sickening self-promotion. (Hey! Next Thursday at noon I'll be on Iowa Free Radio, 610 AM, for five minutes! Listen in! Please love me!)

Today's exhibit A is Chris Mohney, aka the Gawkerist. A few weeks ago Mohney started a blog dedicated to poking gentle fun at Gawker Media and Nick Denton. Last week he gave us this post: Nick Denton Finally Pays Us to Stop Blogging:
about a month ago, I decided to try something stupid, which, obviously, became Gawkerist. I won't bore you (without an advance check) about all the details that went into constructing this blog, but rest assured it was more deliberate than it may seem. . . .

Many correctly guessed that Gawkerist was a stunt to attract attention and finagle work through nontraditional channels. What I didn't necessarily expect was that the first people to guess this (on day 2 actually) would be everyone at Gawker Media.

Fortunately for me, their acute self-knowledge was no defense against assaultive flattery by way of meticulous attention, and as a result, I'll be lashing myself to the mast of Gridskipper next week. Drop by, won't you. I may still post here occasionally, but now that I've sold out, I've lost all credibility that I earned through three weeks of intermittent labor as an anonymous nobody blogger with an extremely narrow focus. I'll just have to console myself with better tequila.

Ah, the wonders of the blogosphere. All hail the New Media.

Paul Krugman: Jerk

Power Line points us to this astounding back-and-forth between Paul Krugman and Daniel Okrent.

I'm a big believer in character over politics and this exchange makes Krugman look like a jerk and a bully. Key graph from Okrent:
I offered him only three examples of “shaping, slicing and selectively citing” (for some reason, he’s left one out of his rebuttal) because I was at home when he began bombarding me with outraged demands for retraction and apology; I’d completed my tenure as public editor the preceding week, and did not have any files with me. When I had the chance to consult some of my reader mail later in the week, some of his greatest mis-hits immediately came to the fore.

If you've spent any time in journalism you know people like this: The crazy person who calls 15 times a day and demands retraction for an "error" which is really a difference of opinion.

Krugman look more like a nutty letter-to-the-editor writer than a columnist. And not a particularly gracious colleague, either.