Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Republicans in Yankee Stadium: An Genuine Exclusive

A couple of months ago I happened to learn of something bizarre in the offing: The RNC was planning to hold the first night of their NYC convention in Yankee Stadium. (No, not during a game. The Yanks are off Monday, August 30, the date in question.) This struck me as likely to backfire nationally; to identify yourself with baseball is one thing, but to identify yourself with the really rich team that thinks itself entitled to win every year, and has top-level hissy fits when it doesn't...well, you see. Nevertheless, this was a serious plan for quite a while. Eventually it was dropped for logistical reasons.

Then again, after this:
During the singing of "God Bless America" in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. It was greeted with booing, so the Yankees quickly removed the image.
...well, it looks like a plan better abandoned, all around. (OK, I guess the plan wasn't really to let the general public in at the same time to show their love. But still.)
Movie theaters invaded by arachnids [UPDATED below]

Gosh, I hope I can get a seat at Spider-Man 2:

Showcase Cinemas Lowell
32 Reiss Avenue
Lowell, MA
10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:30 am, 10:30 am, 10:30 am, 10:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:50 am, 12:55 pm, 12:55 pm, 12:55 pm, 12:55 pm, 12:55 pm, 1:25 pm, 1:25 pm, 1:25 pm, 1:25 pm, 1:25 pm, 1:55 pm, 2:50 pm, 3:55 pm, 3:55 pm, 3:55 pm, 3:55 pm, 3:55 pm, 4:25 pm, 4:25 pm, 4:25 pm, 4:25 pm, 4:25 pm, 4:55 pm, 6:05 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 11:00 pm, 11:50 pm, 12:00 am, 12:00 am


Showcase Cinemas North Attleboro
640 South Washington Street
North Attleboro, MA
10:15 am, 10:15 am, 10:15 am, 10:15 am, 10:45 am, 10:45 am, 10:45 am, 10:45 am, 11:40 am, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:40 pm, 1:40 pm, 1:40 pm, 1:40 pm, 2:40 pm, 4:05 pm, 4:05 pm, 4:05 pm, 4:05 pm, 4:35 pm, 4:35 pm, 4:35 pm, 4:35 pm, 6:05 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:05 pm, 7:05 pm, 7:05 pm, 7:05 pm, 7:35 pm, 7:35 pm, 7:35 pm, 7:35 pm, 9:00 pm, 9:30 pm, 9:55 pm, 9:55 pm, 9:55 pm, 9:55 pm, 10:25 pm, 10:25 pm, 10:25 pm, 10:25 pm, 11:50 pm, 12:00 am, 12:00 am


Showcase Cinemas Randolph
73 Mazzeo Drive
Randolph, MA
10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:40 am, 12:10 pm, 12:40 pm, 12:40 pm, 12:40 pm, 12:40 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 1:10 pm, 2:50 pm, 3:20 pm, 3:50 pm, 3:50 pm, 3:50 pm, 3:50 pm, 4:20 pm, 4:20 pm, 4:20 pm, 4:20 pm, 4:50 pm, 6:05 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:10 pm, 9:40 pm, 10:10 pm, 10:10 pm, 10:10 pm, 10:10 pm, 10:40 pm, 10:40 pm, 10:40 pm, 10:40 pm, 11:10 pm, 11:40 pm, 12:00 am, 12:00 am

UPDATE: Well, it looks like this is some kind of mistake in the listing system; in reality, each of those duplicated times is only happening once. So at Randolph, immediately above, it's really "only" on 5 screens (official running time 2 hours 7 minutes, so the one at 6:05 overlaps everything through the 8:00...) Still!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Trial Balloon

Nick Confessore at TAPPED:
The New York Times is reporting that the new Iraqi government will put Saddam Hussein on trial "in the next few months."

I.e., before Election Day. Obviously, the president and his aides have been looking at the same poll numbers Kevin Drum has.

What makes this such a good manuever is that it is perfectly plausible on its own terms -- why not put Saddam on trial as soon as the new government gets on its feet? And having the former dictator in a courtroom, subject to justice, militates against earlier images of President Bush as a cowboy bent on getting his man dead or alive. Expect the trial to make frequent appearances in Bush's stump speech this fall and likely at the Republican convention, as the incumbent proclaims that he has made the world safer from terrorism by bringing down Saddam and forcing him to face justice at the hands of the formerly ruled.

Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog:
Yes, but doesn't a trial of Saddam potentially cut both ways? If, as the U.S. election approaches, Saddam is on trial, or convicted, or even executed, and the violence in Iraq continues unabated, doesn't that reinforce the sense that driving Saddam from power did nothing to make the world safer?
-- to which I add, we might see more than the Bushies would like us to about our pre-1991 relationship with Saddam, and those notorious chemical weapons. (Yes, I know...the French! the Russians! Perfidy to be revealed! Well, as the lawyers say, never ask a question in court whose answer you do not know. And I don't know that anyone knows these answers well enough for comfort.)
A Legal Mystery

From the Scott Peterson trial:
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) Scott Peterson talked to a friend nine years ago about how he would dispose of a body if he killed someone, saying he would weight the body down and dump it in the ocean so the fish would eat it, a detective testified Tuesday.

''He said he would tie a bag around the neck with duct tape,'' weight the body down and toss it into the ocean and ''fish activity would eat away the neck and hands and the body would float up, no fingers, no teeth,'' making it impossible to identify, Detective Allen Brocchini said.

Brocchini did not elaborate on how he learned of the 1995 conversation.
Wait...a detective can "testify" that someone said something 9 years ago...without saying how he comes to know that? I Am Not A Lawyer, and presumably Peterson's defense team is made up of people who are, but this doesn't even sound like it rises to the level of hearsay.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Oscar Prospects

In case anyone's wondering, I just checked the rules and I see no reason that a documentary's director can't win the Best Director Oscar, so Michael Moore might be in the running. For that matter, The Passion of the Christ remains the #2 box-office hit of the year; I can't really imagine Mel Gibson being nominated for Best Director for it, but you never know. Now that would be an Oscar night.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Bradbury, Moore, and My Comic Store

As has been widely reported, Ray Bradbury is steamed at Michael Moore for Moore's allusion to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in the title Fahrenheit 9/11. The comic store The Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, MA, better keep its head down. (Also named after a Bradbury story was a well-known comic store in England called "Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed", which really doesn't roll of the tongue so well. A web search indicates that they went bankrupt around 1982.)
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Bring back Instapunditwatch, Dammit!

From Insty:
Yes, had Gore won, I think we'd be hearing about the nobility of the Electoral College, and the dangers of populist democracy[...]
Assuming Reynolds means "if positions were reversed, and Gore had won an EC majority without a popular plurality", then may I remind him of this, from the New York Daily News on the day before the 2000 election?
[W]hat if Gore wins such crucial battleground states as Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania and thus captures the magic 270 electoral votes while Bush wins the overall nationwide popular vote?

"The one thing we don't do is roll over," says a Bush aide. "We fight." How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course.

In league with the campaign - which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness - a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Eugene Volokh has this reasonable question:
Why do some people think that it's more polite to say "Jewish people" than "Jews"? I've heard some people say that "Jews" is somehow considered rude, and "Jewish people" is better, but I just don't see why.

Does anyone know the story here? People don't generally say "black people," "Catholic people," or "female people." Why should they call us "Jewish people" rather than just "Jews"? I don't quite get it.
I also note that when Lieberman was nominated, a fair number of papers used in their headline some variant of "First Jew on Major Ticket"; this was seen by some as offensive -- I imagine by the same people who cause Eugene to ask the question.

Anyway, quick, unfair answer: These are people who use "Jew" as insult, so to them it's an insult. Painting with less broad a brush, perhaps they've just spent time listening to those people, which would have the same result. Or, as the link above about the Lieberman headline suggests, they've confused "Jew" as noun -- nonoffensive -- with two other uses: as an adjective, as in "The Jew Senator"; and as a verb, in the lovely expression "to Jew someone down". (I've started to see the latter, online, as "chew someone down", which, whether it started out as a guilty bowlderization or a true miscomprehension, makes some sense on its own terms and may have legs.)

(I once read that Ed Koch was asked "Why is 'Jewess' considered antisemitic?" and replied "Because only antisemites use it.")

Finally, something in my head remembers that there's some PC thing about not using an adjective as a noun -- that is, say "gay people" instead of "gays". But this should only apply to real adjectives, which "Jew" is not...although that may be a little circular, since all that means is "Jew is a noun that should not be used as an adjective." Compare, in American politics, "Democratic Party" (correct) with "Democrat Party". (But to muddy the waters further, "Liberal Democrat Party" is apparently the correct name of that British party.)
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Another Reason Not to Not Pick a VP

OK, today the skinny is supposedly "Gephardt or Vilsack".

First, let me calm down from the excitement.

Second -- as a followup to the previous posting -- here's another thing we hear that makes no sense to me: that so-and-so would be a good choice because he "has no ambition to be President". Now, if Dick Gephardt, who's been running for President since Reagan was in office, is on the short list, that theory's probably out the window anyway. But let's proceed. First off, for God's sake, what are you afraid of -- that your VP is going to develop his own power base and turn against you? If you, as President of the United States, are going to be worried about that, your VP's not the problem -- you are. On a day-to-day basis, the VP is as powerful as you let him be. Cheney's power in the current administration is because of GWB, not despite him. It true that, as the end of the second term approaches, your strong VP is going to need to distinguish himself from you. Maybe, though, June 2004 is not the time to worry about infighting in the years 2011 and 2012. (And, again, if he's challenging you from within at the end of your first term -- he ain't your problem.)

Anyway, nothing gives someone the idea of being President like being Vice President, or even a candidiate for same. See Lieberman, Quayle, Mondale, Dole, and Muskie, all of whom were granted legitimacy as Presidential candidates by their previous runs -- winning or losing -- for the VP-ship. No matter who you pick, you're gonna have a VP with big ideas.

Finally, note that the last two two-termers, Clinton and Reagan, picked VPs -- Gore and Bush I -- who had run for the top spot in the past, and unsurprisingly turned their new positions into Presidential nominations. So they did fine with it.

Sunday, June 20, 2004
A Solid Number Two

Conventional wisdom on the veepstakes is that Kerry either should avoid, or is taking care to avoid, picking someone who'll "upstage" him. We hear this at least once every cycle, and I say it's hooey. It's one of those double-flip ideas whose cleverness exceeds its validity. On general principle, I find it hard to believe that a great politician, or a very popular one, would hurt any ticket. And although it's hard to find strong examples of upstaging -- after all, the guy at the top of the ticket just won a primary campaign, so he must have something going for him -- a lot of this talk is guaranteed to have come from the other side, which floats the idea as a way of insulting the guy at the top of the ticket.

In fact, the first time I can remember hearing this concept was in 1988, when Republicans kept tsk-tsking that Lloyd Bentsen was so much better a candidate than that Dukakis schmuck. Now, even stipulating to the truth of this, let's remember that, when Bentsen flattened Dan Quayle with "You're no Jack Kennedy", it was pretty much the only good thing that happened to the Democratic ticket after Labor Day.

(Incidentally, for those who don't know, Bentsen showed a better-than-average ability to quit when he was ahead: supposedly, the line -- scripted, of course -- was to continue "...and George Bush is no Ronald Reagan." Bentsen, however, knew not to try and top about 15 seconds of laughter, applause, and even a little "Got me there" look from Quayle.)

So go ahead, John: pick Edwards, if that's who you think is the strongest candidate. You're about 19 for 20 against him anyway, so what are you worried about?
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Wandering off their regular beat

Sullywatch argues that OJ Simpson was flat-out innocent. The piece is, as the author says, "contrarian". It's also long, and worth reading.

I will say that the one post-OJ book I read was Dershowitz's Reasonable Doubts. Dershowitz was a member of Simpson's team in the sense that he would have worked on the appeal had that been necessary; nevertheless, as I recall his book, he takes the not-uncommon position that the LAPD may have attempted to frame a guilty man, which has the advantage of justifying the verdict without insisting on Simpson's factual innocence.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Two More Years!

(Or, the reason I've obviously been scouring music news today:)

Paul McCartney arrived in Russia's second largest city of Saint Petersburg, his 62nd birthday, where he is due to give a weekend concert as part of his summer tour, local administration officials said.

Elvis is Everywhere

Infodump from Elvis Costello's PR department:
Elvis Costello has set a Sept. 21 release date for the simultaneous release of two new albums.

A new rock album will be issued by Lost Highway, while "Il Sogno," his first full-length orchestral work, will emerge via Deutsche Grammophon.

Largely recorded at Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Miss., the as-yet-untitled rock album features Costello backed by his band the Imposters -- Attractions drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve and former Cracker bassist Davey Farragher.

The disc also includes guest appearances by Lucinda Williams (news) and Emmylou Harris (news), who give voice to characters in the song "The Delivery Man." Also featured is pedal steel guitarist John McFee (Doobie Brothers), who previously appeared on Costello's 1977 debut "My Aim Is True" and 1981's "Almost Blue."
As for "Il Sogno," it was recorded in 2002 by the London Symphony Orchestra after being originally commissioned by Italy's Aterballeto dance company for an adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
The 52-member Metropole Orkest will reprise its performance with Costello July 13 when it makes its North American debut at New York's Lincoln Center Festival 2004. Costello will play the event two nights later with the Imposters, and on July 17 attend the continental premiere of "Il Sogno," performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Nieve and Costello will also perform several songs accompanied by the orchestra during the second half of the evening's program.

Expanded reissues of "Almost Blue," the 1984 set "Goodbye Cruel World" and 1995's "Kojak Variety" will arrive Aug. 3 via Rhino. Costello is also featured performing "Let's Misbehave" on the soundtrack to the Cole Porter biopic "De-Lovely." Released Tuesday by Sony Music Soundtrax, the collection features Costello's new bride, Diana Krall, as well as Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Cole among others.
Good God, I'm worn out just from the cut-and-paste job.

UPDATE: Douglas Wolk at Slate has nothing good to say about Costello and Krall's mutual musical influence, based on her latest, The Girl in the Other Room, and his latest/previous, North. As an EC guy from the beginning, I'll note that I listened to North twice and then wished it had never been made. Also, according to Wolk, Elvis's set lists nowadays run to pre-1987 material, plus whatever the current album is that he's pushing. Which, now that I think of it, squares with my recollection of the show I saw last summer.
Not Polly Esther?

Madonna Chooses 'Esther' As New Name:

NEW YORK - Call her Esther: That's the Hebrew name Madonna has chosen for herself as a follower of Kabbalah.

"I was named after my mother. My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and ... I wanted to attach myself to another name," the singer says in an interview on ABC's "20/20," airing at 10 p.m. EDT Friday. "This is in no way a negation of who my mother is ... I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name."

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Choosing his words carefully

Fred Kaplan at Slate has a detailed examination of Bush's not-quite-totally-lying technique as applied to the Saddam-Al Qaeda question:
In his May 1 address aboard the Lincoln, he came close to crossing the line but stopped just short. "The battle of Iraq," he said, "is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001. With that attack, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got."

This passage could be read as equating the toppled Iraqi regime with the terrorists of 9/11 or at least with their supporters. But that's not the only possible reading. Read the sentences, even the individual clauses, not as a logical stream but as separate thoughts. Iraq did support terrorists (not al-Qaida, but terrorists), so the war could be seen as part of a war against terrorism. The terrorists of 9/11 did declare war on the United States (though those were different terrorists from the ones Saddam supported). And war is what the 9/11 terrorists got (in Afghanistan).

See? The president didn't say that Saddam was tied to 9/11. He just made some observations in a way that people might interpret them to mean that Saddam was tied to 9/11.
I think this kind of word-by-word analysis of political deception is sorely needed, and I'd like to see more of it.

Here's a golden oldie of the deniable implication genre -- G.H.W.Bush on Clinton, 1992:
"Maybe I'm old-fashioned, Larry," Bush told King Wednesday night. "But to go to a foreign country and demonstrate against your own country when your sons and daughters are dying halfway around the world -- I'm sorry, I just don't like it. I think it is wrong. I think it is wrong to do that."
"Larry, I don't want to tell you what I really think because I don't have the facts. But to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, (and) not remember who you saw in Moscow. ... I'm just saying level with the American people on the draft, on whether he went to Moscow, how many demonstrations he led against his own country from a foreign soil. Level."
Based on what the elder Bush said here, plenty of people went away thinking that Clinton had protested against the Vietnam War in Russia; those protests were, of course, in England, which is indeed "foreign soil", but it's in the same sentence as "whether he went to Moscow", so of course the confusion is sown. And this same artful juxtaposition lives on today, this time from the ever-charming Ann Coulter:
A frenzy of “McCarthyism” arose again in Bush’s next presidential campaign against noted patriot Bill Clinton. While a Rhodes scholar, Clinton joined anti-war protests abroad. One year after the USSR crushed Czechoslovakia, Clinton had taken what the media called a “sightseeing trip to Moscow.” For mentioning Clinton’s anti-war protests abroad, Bush was called a nut and a McCarthyite.
Impressively, Coulter's purified the slander into only two sentences, which I've bolded here. Factually, they're totally unrelated; their proximity creates a lie out of a series of small truths. And Coulter, of course, knows the facts of the matter, all the while carefully mentioning Moscow, but not England. (She's also got 2 smearettes packed into the one sentence on Moscow -- the mini-juxtaposition of Moscow with Czechoslovakia, taken from the source material, and the scare quotes around "sightseeing trip".) Two sentences. I'm sure she was quite proud.

Sunday, June 13, 2004
Body Sealed in Tomb the entire headline, online, of this story in the Calgary Sun. You'd think they'd mention whose body it is. (Hint: some recently dead US President.)

(Hint to other bloggers: Google News is an endless source of odd stuff, since the page is allegedy made with no human intervention. It's like Wheel of Fortune!)
Friday, June 11, 2004
Thinking Things Through

Among other possible Reagan renamings, Bill Frist wants to rename the US Missile Defense Agency -- that is, the agency in charge of the still-imaginary SDI system -- after him. I'm not sure he's taken into consideration the possible headline Reagan Shield Fails: Chicago Destroyed.

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