FauxPolitik

Monday, October 31, 2005

Some Fairly Unrelated Halloween Thoughts: Urban Halloween is a sight to behold. Here are just a few of the unvarnished demographic observations from this rather mixed-ethnicity neighborhood.

Black people will trick or treat and almost any age. A white parent will almost never bring his or her own bag. Almost every black parent does. Some of them say it's for their baby at home. Please. Just admit you want some candy, all right?

Black high school girls are the funniest, becuase they don't say "Trick or treat!" They don't even ring the doorbell. They just stand on the step and beep their cell phones until you come out.

Hispanic mothers bring their sons and push them up the steps, saying, "Go on, baby, you do it." Hispanic fathers bring their little girls, all of whom are dressed as princesses, and hold their hands all the way. It's terribly sweet. You want a friend for life? Tell Julio his little princess looks beautiful. Even better: get your son to say it in Spanish.

Older kids will say thank you, but only as they leave, facing away. The little kids always look in your eye and say it, even if mom or dad has to prompt them.

Jewish homes rarely have chocolate. (This may have something to do with keeping kosher, but I suspect it's mainly revenge for Halloween being the most crypto-religious holiday.) They give out Smarties (predictable jokes are invited).

The Koreans across the street pretend that they don't notice what's going on, but they are clearly freaked out. The older ones anyway. They peer out occasionally, through the blinds, but everyone knows to avoid their houses. Sometimes I wonder if they have a bowl of sweet bean paste cookies, in case some little rugrats brave the darkened front steps.

At my house, I give out the standard Kit-Kat/Reese's assortment, while I nibble the chipotle chocolates. Washed down with port.

Alito Shuffle: Arrrghh! You dick! Can we just agree that this one is qualified? I mean, look, I didn't carp when Ginsburg and Breyer were overwhelmingly confirmed. Sure, they're as liberal as Dick's hatband (note last week's full frontal fellating of Breyer in the New Yorker; fawning doesn't come close), but they were, in fact, qualified. The GOP at least had the glancing familiarity with reality to admit that they lost two straight to His Royal Pantslessness and hence had to roll over for Bill's Supremes picks. But the Dems will fight till the cows come home to convince us that, despite previous Alito's confirmation to the federal bench at 100-0, he is, in fact, an unqualified, dangerous crypto-fascist. So they won't dare let the will of the electorate run its course.

In the end, that's what galls the Democrats so: They just know, dammit, know that they're right. Those dumbasses in the red states should learn that democracy is best when tempered by the judgement of their betters. (See Iran, Islamic Republic of.)

For the Record: Just to forestall any lefty MSM hysteria on Judge Alito, he does NOT believe that women are the property of their husbands.


Which is a shame really.

Friday, October 28, 2005

And Yet . . .

Scooter Takes the Bullet: Reynolds has a good roundup here. And Jeff's "preliminary thoughts" have exploded into a full-blown update-o-rama here.

What is there to say? Nobody on the left will be satisfied with this outcome. On the right, they're in a bind. What are they going to say? That a charge unrelated (or only tangentially related) to the investigation is illegitimate? Explain to me again exactly how Monica's blowjob was related to Whitewater.

I'll bet Scoot will be exonerated, else pardoned as Dubya leaves office. For now, let's have this be the end of the special prosecutor culture in DC. For chrissake, I'm surprised Harriet Miers wasn't indicted for impersonating a judicial nominee.

He knows her heart: Now that the Miers debacle is over with, we can move on to guessing the next nominee (I have my pick, below).

By the way, all this MSM hoo-ha about the "extreme" right wing pushing her out the door, while certainly partially true, as usual, misses the entire point. The "extreme" right wing didn't want her because they were terrified of her incoherent, and let's face it, somewhat lefty-sounding, constitutional "history." But that shouldn't cover up the fact that she was totally unqualified for the job. Sure, Senator Reid wanted her in b/c he was afraid of what is around the corner (some slobbering intelligent design pusher no doubt). He figured Miers would be at worst an O'Connor voter (without you know, the intellect), but at best, Ginsberg's best buddy. Or maybe she and Souter would do a little robe-swapping and hey, things are looking up. Anyway, it would have been an example of sheer political cynicism from both sides. Good riddance.

Anyway, what I'm suggesting is something totally different. Bush still wants to nominate a woman. He still wants to nominate someone he knows and trusts. Hmmm, maybe someone he really knows and trusts! What's that? ... No. No! I wasn't going to say his wife, Laura Bush. Silly (although she does look very poised in that picture).

I meant his daughter, Laura Bush. After all, W has known her for her entire life! Think of the jurisprudence: eradicate the drinking age as unconscion...unscient...inconvenient; inalienable right to lip gloss; eminent domain over keg parties. Specter would crumble before her.

Indictments afoot: How do you know you're about to be indicted? You suffer a traumatic injury to your lower-most extremity.

To wit: Councilman Mariano in my fair city of Philadelphia. Mr. Mariano is being indicted on taking bribes (gasp!) in return for steering business (gasp! gasp!). The fun was last week when the news went public, Mr. Mariano decided to take a tour of the bell tower of City Hall, right across the street from my office. Unfortunately for Mr. Mariano, the observation deck is enclosed in plexiglass. Bonus points, however, for him being a licensed gun-carrier, which caused a mad scramble of police and rescue types. Nonetheless, he calmly walked out and said he was just "clearing his mind" -- a task, that for him, should have been accomplished on his first step up the tower.

Now comes: Scooter Libby. We'll know today for sure, but he took the precaution of hobbling himself just in case.

Me: I'm taping up the ankles.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And Adios, Harriet, For Good Measure: I'm feeling like I should weigh in on this, although there really isn't much to say. (Like that's ever stopped me . . .) There are really only two ways to look at this, two scenarios to explain the mess from the White House.

1. Harriet Miers was, from the start, a sacrificial lamb, intended to show the Jesus-loving base that Bush "gets it." Hence the sloppy defense of her that amounted to religious-flavored nudges and winks. In other words, Bush had someone else in mind, but first he had to say "Well, I tried" to the theocrats. (Sidenote: Bush has always been portrayed as a "strong Christian," but I think a lot of it is show for the invisible friend crowd. He's certainly religious, probably more so than his pop or Reagan, but he's certainly not been a crusader againt abortion or gay rights. One sensed, when he spoke about a marriage amendment, that he was halfhearted. Note, too, the lack of follow through on that issue.) The next nominee will show what the headfake was about.

2. This really was a dropped ball. What with the Plame investigation and the constitutional referendum in Iraq, the administration fumbled and, stupidly, didn't fall on the ball. Bush, distracted, heard some mutterings from the other side that the chick he picked to vet his nominees might be acceptible to Harry Reid, so he jumped at it. He'd hit a home run with Roberts, so he might as well bunt on this one.

Beats me which scenario is closer to the truth. The left wing that thinks of Rove as an evil genius might just buy into the first. I might agree this time, though I generally think of Rove as a poor man's Lee Atwater, and without the good musical taste. But, as I've said before, since Roberts sailed through untouched, the Dems were out for blood. It's as good a time as any to throw a headfake. I mean, surely a candidate with as big a glass jaw as Miers couldn't really get past Rove, Cheney, and Andy Card, right? Again, the next nominee should give us at least some clue what this sad intermezzo was all about.

Withdrawal: For the life of me I don't understand what Bush can be thinking. I don't know anything about Ms. Miers, but, politically speaking this makes absolutely no sense. I mean...

Whoa, sorry there. Force of habit.

So "Trust me" didn't work, eh George. Wow, I can't imagine why.

Some will say that this hurts the Republican party or the conservative movement or some such, but I think this actually is quite a good thing. I think it's good for "parties within the party" to have these dsiputes about what it's priorities really are. The Republican party has gotten incredibly lazy and drunk with power since 1994 and they needed a swift kick in the principles. It was either going to happen now or at the polls in 2006. It may still happen at the polls in 2006, but they can't say they haven't been warned. This was a good shakeup, and it only wasted a few weeks. Compare that to the waste of time we're gonna have now, when Bush nominates Cheney to the SCOTUS.

Ding Dong the Witch...well, okay that's a bit harsh: Let's just say the nomination is dead.

What a colossal waste of time that was. I hope Bush is happy. Whatever Miers had hanging over his head, I hope the nomination took care of that for him so that he can concentrate, you know, on all that other "background noise [dead soldiers, indictments, rising debt, no viable social security, GOP in revolt -- little stuff like that]."

As Bugs would say: "What a marrrrooooon."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Religion of peace: Via Right Wing News:

Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran on Wednesday entitled 'The World without Zionism'.

But of course it's all Israel's fault. Sharon, that murdering, hard line bastard. Concede all the land you want, it doesn't matter to people like this.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The $$$ rolls in: Apparently linking to any article on the WaPo gets you linked on the page. My post on Eugene Robinson's editorial currently has the Fauxpolitik tag on it. Guess that's why our little baby here could be paying for little Eno's and little Razor's education.

Your blog, href="http://www.business-opportunities.biz/projects/how-much-is-your-blog-worth/?url=www.fauxpolitik.blogspot.com">http://www.business-opportunities.biz/projects/how-much-is-your-blog-worth/?url=www.fauxpolitik.blogspot.com, is worth $1,129.08.

More Race: Robinson, like the rest of the civil rights establishment, will only acknowledge failure. Do you know how long he will think of black people as not "fully . . . insiders in this society"? As long as they're black. For him, race defines everything.

Moreover, you know the progressive line that "nobody is free as long as one person is oppressed"? (You know, the maxim they bring up whenever a right-wing junta takes over a Latin American country, but conveniently forget when someone like their buddy Saddam rules a country like Nero.) Well, the modern civil rights establishment says that America is a failure as long as one person is a bigot. The hell with that. Bigotry is part of the human condition. And skin color has no more to do with it than any number of other reasons, viz Northern Ireland. Holding out for perfection is simply a way of lying to yourself that you're being fair while secretly rooting for failure.

Finally, what Robinson writes is simply the polished-up version of what the real black hatemongers say, and which Robinson clearly agrees with: Rice (and Colin Powell, for that matter) is in his world "inauthentic" because her parents tried to protect her from the worst of Jim Crow; she has committed the unforgivable sin of serving in (gasp) a Republican administration; that she is a "race traitor" who still sees the white man as "the massa."

Folks, you want to see what is wrong with race relations in our society? Gene Robinson is all you need to look at. When you make it your business to tear down, smear, and spew filth at successful blacks, you make your own bed. Take a wild f*cking guess who taught young black males to see crime and bastardy and misogyny as "authentic" and education and advancement as "acting white." Black men like Gene Robinson.

He can go to hell.

Race in America: Apropos of Ms. Parks' demise, this editorial in the Washington Post, by Eugene Robinson, looks at why Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice doesn't seem to have the same perspective on America and questions of race as her black brothers and sisters. After all, she eagerly and effectively works for a president who garners only a 2% approval rating from the African-American community. Robinson tips his hand early, in the first paragraph, as to how fair a shake he's prepared to give somebody who he doesn't have the same authentic black experience as himself and the other 98% of the black population.
Like a lot of African Americans, I've long wondered what the deal was with
Condoleezza Rice and the issue of race. How does she work so loyally for George
W. Bush, whose approval rating among blacks was measured in a recent poll at a
negligible 2 percent? How did she come to a worldview so radically different
from that of most black Americans? Is she blind, is she in denial, is she
confused -- or what?

I mean, come now, isn't it at least possible that Rice's worldview might have something valuable to offer black Americans. No, she must be "blind, ...in denial,...confused--or what?" What's that Mr. Robinson? Or white? Oh, no, what. Sorry, they sounded alike just there for a sec.

Robinson describes Rice's childhood thus.

Rice's parents tried their best to shelter their only daughter from Jim Crow
racism, and they succeeded. Forty years later, Rice shows no bitterness when she
recalls her childhood in a town whose streets were ruled by the segregationist
police chief Bull Connor. "I've always said about Birmingham that because race
was everything, race was nothing," she said in an interview on the flight home.

Not being part of the black experience, authentic or otherwise, I can't say for sure, but this sounds like how a lot parents try to raise their children, protect them from harm and hope they grow to be happy, healthy and productive individuals. Is he criticizing Rice's parents for being somewhat better placed than many other blacks, and, worse, using that status to better shield their daughter from some of the worst examples of racism and bigotry? The nerve of them. They should have known they'd be preventing her from fully internalizing the hatred and bitterness so necessary to succeed in the world today. What a handicap.

The struggle of black people from the despicable institution of slavery, into the only slightly better Jim Crow era, and eventually to a place where one of their own can hold one of the most powerful positions in our government has been long and hard, and is arguably still incomplete. The question Robinson should be asking is "What is it about Rice that's allowed her reach such heights despite being raised in the time and place that she was? What can be learned from her path?"

Robinson doesn't ask those questions. I'm not sure if he doesn't want to hear the answers, or what? He'd rather cast Rice as somehow less than qualified to represent real blacks. If I were her I'd be insulted.

Adios, Rosa: Rosa Parks, an avatar of the civil rights movement, possibly even more so than MLK, is dead at 92. Sadly, within her lifetime the spirit and dignity of the movement was trampled by its own second generation (first, if you count Jesse Jackson), and the power the movement gathered was debased by trivial use (e.g., "health care is a civil right" or "abortion is a civil right" or "living my life without hearing anyone say something disagreeable is a civil right").

That's right: The moral force of poor, oppressed black people struggling against tyranny (yes, Jim Crow was a selective tyranny) was hijacked to justify lifestyle choices of middle-class white liberals. And the civil rights establishment went right along like a lapdog. The NAACP, if it still has a shred of self-respect, can put that in its pipe and smoke it this week.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Wilma Update: My wife (that's Mrs. Enobarbus) is home from Florida. The city of Miami may now officially wash out into the Atlantic.

Thoroughly Confused: But not as confused as Harriet Miers. What the hell's going on here?
Asked to describe the constitutional issues she had worked on during her legal career, Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers had relatively little to say on the questionnaire she sent to the Senate this week.

And what she did say left many constitutional experts shaking their heads.

At one point, Miers described her service on the Dallas City Council in 1989. When the city was sued on allegations that it violated the Voting Rights Act, she said, "the council had to be sure to comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause."

That's not the answer of an "originalist." That's not even the answer of a chuckleheaded ABA hack. There are wild-eyed, reparations-demanding members of the NAACP who don't believe the Equal Protection clause even suggests proportional representation, let alone requires it.

I sometimes wonder about Bush's -- and Karl Rove's -- potential for duplicity. Could this all be a ruse? What does he gain by having a moderate torpedoed in committee? As the above article suggests, a quick vetting by some of the big brains at the White House could have kept a dumb answer like this from making it out. Where did that process break down?

This will only get more fascinating to watch as it progresses. For a while I was agnostic on Miers's qualifications, and I was pretty sure a trained seal could handle the associate justice slot. At this point, though, the trained seal is looking a lot better by comparison, just as long as it's not a seal related by blood to Dave Souter.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Bond: The best thing thay could do is to forget making Bond "relevant." The stories are period pieces. So treat them as such. Make a movie that actually takes place at the height of the cold war. Casino Royale would work. A real treatment of Moonraker would be great, and certainly still "relevant" considering the Norks and Iranians threatening to Hugo Drax us.

Did you all see Tailor of Panama? That was how the Bond stories should be treated. Gritty, no cardboard heroes, lots of intrigue, minimal gadgetry. In the books, Bond is a hard-boozing, chain-smoking, thoroughly bigoted male chauvinist pig. No sense trying to make him otherwise. Let's not play dumb: it was what made the character work.

More: Massie's take is not without merit, though he does not explain how he would "return to the roots" of Bond without making period films. (He also mentions Bond's "double first in Oriental Languages at Cambridge," another idiotic detail that the script writers made up for "You Only Live Twice." James Bond would never go to Cambridge! Besides, the Oxbridge life was closed to him after he got kicked out of Eton for getting one of the housemaids in a family way.)

On earlier discussions: Alex Massie tackles the "Blond Bond" question on NRO that Eno addressed recently. He's slightly more optimistic, though for not any particularly legitimate reason, but fully cognizant of the problems plaguing the Bond film series.
That should serve as a warning: The new Bond film's producers' talk of more
character and fewer gadgets will not necessarily count for anything. The sad
truth is that, with a couple of exceptions, the Bond movies have flattered their
fans as a prelude to letting them down, slipping too quickly from mindless
entertainment into moronic pandering to the lowest imaginable common
denominator. A charitable estimate might be that only half a dozen of the 21
movies are really worth watching.
The formula desperately needs to return to
the spirit of Fleming's books, not so that Bond can be "relevant" (a dreadful
word and concept in itself) but simply so he is at least somewhat plausible. I'm
not sure if it is reassuring or not that Paul Haggis, writer of the shockingly
overrated Milion Dollar Baby, has been brought in to doctor the script for
Casino Royale. But his hiring at least demonstrates that the movie's producers
are taking their responsibilities more seriously than they have in the past.

Eh, we'll see. I haven't seen the past three or four at least, anyway, so I'm not particularly concerned. Massie has a good sense of what makes Bond tick, though, and for that it's worth hearing what he has to say. And he even threw in that Million Dollar Baby bash for you, too.

I enjoyed the books quite a bit, almost as much Eno, and would like to see a better Bond. But I won't be hurt if it doesn't happen.

The Important Stuff: The Plame case? Saddam's trial? Harriet Miers? Hell, no! The new Ferrari! I have been a fan of Giugiaro's Ital Design for years. (I've even owned several of his, er, more democratic designs.) This one, though, looks like crap to me. It looks like a car for Italian-Americans, not Italians. It looks like something GM would come up with for a self-consciously "forward-looking" (meaning "throw every gimmick we have at the wall") Cadillac coupe. Reminds me of his hideous Maserati Bora.

Mickey Kaus is also unimpressed. He calls it "a hack pastiche of styling cliches," although he goes on to cite among Giugiaro's "magic" designs the De Tomaso Mangusta, a car designed exclusively for teenage boys to wank to. Speaking of hack pastiches, note the chrome key cylinder, the overused "shark-gill" style air intake, and the silly side-mirror design. Why not cite this clean, elegant puppy instead. Granted, if you've got a hard on for curvy, feminine-looking Italian cars, particularly Ferraris, Giugiaro's not you're guy.

My friend who took me for the ride in the 550 Maranello e-mails, re: Giugiaro:

50 years in the f*cking business, and the most notable design feature is that they managed to make a hatchback trunk that is bigger than a Camry's.

It is a testament to the spirit that presided over Ferrari in years long past that there is still a spark deep in the cars. Even though they are made for rappers and golfing bond traders, when a normal person gets his hands on one, it is more Italian than you would hope. I don't mean to get teary-eyed, but god damn they make a good f*cking car.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Checking In: Lots to say, no time to say it. Playing the single dad this week while the wife (that's Mrs. Enobarbus) tries to finish up at her conference and find a way out of Miami before the shit n' brimstone rains down. (I've been to Miami, friends, and I'm not moved to express great confidence in either their public works or the fixity of law and order down there. If Wilma hits hard, Miamians have it easily within their grasp to make the Yats after Katrina look like the Sisters of Christian Charity.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

This Is How You Go On Trial For Genocide: So, the big news in Iraq in addition to the constitution ratification, is the appearance of Saddam in a court of law. But you have to hand it to man, after his humiliating "spider hole" incident, he's doing his best Goering imitation ever since.

To wit:
The deposed dictator, who used to live in first one and then another of the marble palaces he built, gave little appearance of a man on trial for his life.

"Who are you? I want to know who you are," he asked the top judge.

"I do not respond to this so-called court, with all due respect to its people, and I retain my constitutional right as the president of Iraq," Saddam said, as the judge tried to interrupt him. "Neither do I recognize the body that has designated and authorized you, nor the aggression - because all that has been built on false basis is false."

After berating the judge some more, he decided he hadn't gotten his due:
Throughout Wednesday's stormy three-hour session, Saddam continued to argue with the judges. Then, as a break was called, he got into a scuffle with guards.

First he stood and smiled before asking to step out of the room. When two guards tried to take his arms, he angrily shook them off. They tried to grab him again, and he struggled to get free. During the ensuing scuffle that lasted about a minute, Saddam and the guards yelled at each other.

The scuffle ended with Saddam getting his way: He was allowed to walk out independently, with the two guards behind him. He did not appear harmed.

When the break ended, the judge announced that the session was adjourned until Nov. 28.
Three hours of proceedings and the judge had to adjourn for another 40 days. Hmmm, it seems the Iraqis really are modeling their judicial system after ours...

Slowly going crazy: What started as a annnoyed has proceeded right past vexed, lingered over frustrated and is now approaching pissed. Why oh why, mister maintenance man must you set the pressure washer right outside my office window, for the entire three hour courtyard-cleaning process? The windows at the other end of the courtyard are for empty offices. Couldn't you take your "License to Thrill" t-shirt-wearing ass down there? Just for a while?

Upside: No more goose shit in the courtyard.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Help Me, Rhonda: A couple of months ago, NYT scribe Judith Miller was a hero of the first amendment, bravely going to jail in the face of calls to give up her sources. Now, apparently, she's just a right-wing shill, since she hasn't (as far as we know) stood up in a courtroom, pointed to Scooter Libby, and said, "That's him, your honor! That's the traitorous bastard!"

I don't get it. Sure, every reporter has a bias, and Miller might just be a flaming neocon of the first water, ready to hitch up the mules for an imperialist ride into whatever benighted territory is in need of a little shock and awe. So? Forgive the banal comparison, but a journalist protecting a similar source within the Clinton administration would be a secular saint by now. How transparent and frivolous can this profession be?

I said, how transparent . . .

As for the actual legal proceedings, you can't tell the players without a scorecard. It's hopeless. Let's just indict somebody so we can get to some serious smearing and character assassination.

More: "Crimes Against Journalism!" cries Editor and Publisher. I'm sure they all think this is roughly equivalent to "crimes against humanity." Here's E&P's Greg Mitchell:

[Miller] calls Scooter Libby, who helped take the country to war based on false evidence -- with a big assist from Judy Miller and her paper -- "a good-faith source who was usually straight with me."
Yeah, god forbid a reporter use a Republican as a straight source -- you know how they're all liars and pederasts hiding behind their Jesus-love. No, if you want to source the inner workings of a Republican administration, best you go straight to the horse's mouth -- the DNC -- like all the other DC journalists do.

So that's a maybe, right: Condi Rice would make a great politician. She's got that non-committal, go with the strongest wind thing down cold.

Pressed by host Tim Russert, Rice said, "I don't know how may ways to say no."

"So," asked Russert, "no ...?"

A few seconds of silence followed. "Tim," Rice said, "I don't know how many ways to tell people that I have no interest in being a candidate for anything. ... No."


Fine, Ms. Rice. Play coy if you must. Wink's as good as a nod to a blind man.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Literary Blogging: Gack! We're driving away our audience!

Well, Wolfe's stuff was written since 1955, and is certainly not "post-modern," whatever the hell that term means anyway, and I love it. To keep things from getting oversimplified, I have to note that I've done the contemporary "literary" fiction routine: my undergrad honors thesis was mainly about Auster's "New York Trilogy." I've done DeLillo, Dennis Potter, Haruki Murakami -- and liked them, though they all get stale and repetitive after a while. These are the fair-haired boys of post-modern fiction, or they were when I was in school.

What I dislike is writing in which the style becomes the story, in which the way that the story is told becomes the focus. It's authorial narcissism. Baroque, ironic, and self-referential narrative artifice, particularly in a first-person story, like Eggers's "Heartbreaking/Staggering," simply tells me that the author needs ridiculous amounts of attention, and that writing straight fiction means not getting to be the star of your own book.

All that said, the wife picked up John Irving's latest tonight, and I was reminded that he's just about the best there is. Lots of literary types like to dimiss him ([NYRB]"Oh, he's fine if you like "popular" fiction"[/NYRB]) but he is our era's Dickens. Add in Wolfe, V.S. Naipaul, and Richard Russo and you've got the varsity team.

From Movies to Books: Here's a sampling of things I've read over the past couple of months (in no particular order):

1. "The Virtues of War" Pressfield, Steven. This guy wrote "Gates of Fire" which was a mostly historically-accurate account (I should note his books are fiction, but heavily grounded in reality) of the last stand by the Spartans at Thermopylae. Very interesting and informative. This one is about Alexander's rise to glory and his conquests along the way during his short life. It's told from his perspective and is very very interesting. A mix of battle plans, political maneuverings, and his imagined passion and drive for both. Pressfield knows how to make "history come alive" and is very well informed. Not too long either; it gets the Razor Recommendation (RR)tm.

2. "Choke," "Survivor," and "Haunted," all by Chuck Palahniuk. I went on a bit of tear there mid-summer. He of "Fight Club" fame (which I won't read given I've seen the movie). Palahniuk practices a form of verbal terrorism -- hitting you over the head with some of the most grotesque, yet gripping images and themes that you'll ever likely read. I can already hear Eno express his distaste for creeping post-modernism, which since Palahniuk wrote a book after 1955, he must be guilty of. There's no questioning his PM credentials, and one can certainly allege that this guy goes for shock value, but he's very creative, and you don't easily put his books down. Of the three, "Haunted" stays with you the longest, but Survivor was the best story.

3. "The Know it All," Jacobs, A.J. -- As the sub-title tells you, it's about "one man's humble quest to become the smartest person in the world." Basically, this guy who works as some sort of editor at Esquire, decides to read the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica over the course of the year. It's breezy reading, full of pop and ancient culture, but the author's editor, wisely kept the focus on the author's life during his travails, including his appearance on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," trying to successfuly impregnate his wife, and generally annoying people with bits of useless trivia (finally, something Eno can get behind!). Fun read.

4. It Must Be Something I Ate, Steingarten, Jeffrey -- Steingarten, the food editor for Vogue, is well, the best food writer ever. He is obsessive yet witty, well-traveled yet far from a snob. He doesn't just critique restaurants (in fact he doesn't do that at all), but introduces the reader to food both familiar and foreign -- and then spends 20 pages breaking it all down for you from how to cook it, how to eat it, and from whence it comes. He also wrote "The Man Who Ate Everything" which was an earlier assemblage of his Vogue columns -- which is what "It Must Be Something" is as well. Still, you'll never be as well informed about what you're putting into your craw as when reading Mr. Steingarten -- or as hungry.

5. "Oblivion," by....by....yes...wait for it....David Foster Wallace -- okay, Eno, you can go jumping from your ledge now. If it makes you feel any better, it's a compilation of short stories, with only maybe a couple dozen footnotes in the whole thing. DFW still hasn't learned to engage the hard return on his keyboard, and run-on sentences remain his milieu, but there's a couple doozies in there, as well as one or two that even in my opinion flopped. Nonetheless, good to see my boy back in action.

6. "I Am Charlotte Simmons," Tom Wolfe -- I just about wanted to marry "A Man in Full" so I was eager to read Wolfe's latest installment (although I waited for the paperback), and I'm only halfway through presently. Here, Wolfe takes on the college campus. As usual, he grabs onto three or four main characters and pushes you into their lives. At first, I was ready to bolt. Seeing Wolfe use what he presumes to be au courant college lingo (although he reportedly did tons of first-hand "research") can be painful. Like your parents asking you about this "M&M guy"...but once you get past the devices, and into the minds of your protagonist and supporting cast, you're as good as hooked. I'm very happy with the read so far and the tension that is building inside and between the characters promises (I hope) for quite the ending.

Totten, Michael J. Totten: Perhaps we've found a new Bond in the making that Eno could live with. He's not blond, at least.

Doesn't sound like he wants the job, though. Of course, Daniel Craig denied it for a long time, too.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Million Dollar Bullshit: Warning: Spoilers in here! I have to agree with you here. The stock characters were embarrassing, the film cliches were appalling, and the long shots of Eastwood, face partly shadowed, brooding, were a poor substitute for actual character and emotion in the role. I was disappointed with Clint's previous directorial effort (also much praised), Mystic River. It had the same sense of actors not inhabiting their characters, but going through the motions to work us through the plot, doing things with no other motivation than to, apparently, advance the story.

I called it emotional pornography at the time, and I think that's true of Million Dollar Baby, too. It's all formulaic -- the backstory, the foreshadowing, the characters -- intended to give your feelings a workout. But I felt very little for these characters, probably because they were thin as tissue paper. The gruff, brooding old trainer who keeps his hopeless protege at arms length and hides his heart in insults and sarcasm? See Merideth, Burgess, in the aforementioned Rocky. The wise-old-hand narrator, beaten down by circumstances, who provides the moral compass for the movie? As you said, Freeman can just Xerox his Shawshank character. And the fighter who paralyzes Maggie? She just has to be a dirty, remorseless violence machine, right? No way you'd want to, you know, complicate that with any human emotions, would you? It's just lazy film making, honestly. I need a little more than this to get interested in the characters, to give a crap whether Clint pulls the plug at the end.

Speaking of movie icons: Mrs. Razor and I finally got around to watching "Million Dollar Baby" -- the Clint/Morgan/Hillary vehicle that everyone was so breathless about at the Oscars last March. While it was nicely filmed and certainly more than competently acted, I could not divine from whence the lavish praise and epic comparisons emanated.

Most of it was stock. First, you have Morgan Freeman narrate. It was great in Shawshank -- stupid to a fault in this movie. At the very, very end we are shown why he's been narrating the tale of Clint and Hillary (or Frankie and Maggie as portrayed in the film), but really, all it did was remove the intimacy and make you the passive viewer even more passive -- here's the dramatic part, here's the funny part, here's the sad part, here's the wrap-up. Really Clint, are you reduced to this?

Ms. Swank, playing the down-on-her-luck-since-the-day-she-was-prematurely-born-to-white-trailer-trash-waitress-with-the-heart-of-gold-plus-a-granite-jaw, certainly can do the southern accent, and makes you believe that ummm, life is hard and all, but her emotions are limited to plucky and then at the end, pathetic. Two notes are not what Oscars are supposed to be about.

Clint plays his own worst stereotype -- cranky yet loveable; cynical yet noble. See, he reads Yeats!! He is trying to learn Gaelic! We never know why he's such the intellectual, nor do we learn why he's estranged from his daughter, nor do we really know why ... oh there's too much we don't know. And that can be okay, I don't need to be spoonfed in every movie, but when you spoon-feed everything else, why stop with the director's character?

Back to Morgan. I mean, he does Red from Shawshank perfectly, and let's face it, when you want Red, you don't go get Martin Lawrence. You get Morgan Fucking Freeman. He's wise, he's world-weary, yet he retains his optimism in the human spirit. In other words, he doesn't exist, but this is what movies are for. Still, I was surprised that Clint wanted such an obvious caricature, and that Morgan agreed to provide it.

The point is, this movie only got its props because of Teri Schiavo. If you don't know what I mean, then I certainly don't want to give away the "surprise," but for my money, go watch "Rocky." "Raging Bull" is too depressing...."he said sarcastically" -- thanks Morgan!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Name is Bond: A friend, who knew me when I was a James Bond fanatic, e-mailed to ask what I think of the new James Bond, Daniel Craig. I'll give it to you as straight as I gave it to him.
Christ, I so do not care. 20 years ago Pierce Brosnan might have saved this franchise from total self-parody. Now he looks nearly as old and effete (not to say homosexual) as Roger Moore did back when, flitting around as some ridiculous, over-the-hill "superspy" who's supposedly a sex machine with all the chicks. ("Hold on there as second, Fanny Spreadeagle. [Not a bad name for a Bond girl, eh?] You can seduce me after I unhook my colostomy bag.")

No matter who they get to replace him, this character is done. They've milked the humor to the bone, and the action you can get anyplace now. There hasn't been a decent Bond flick since "For Your Eyes Only," and that was the first decent one following a decade of crap. ("Moonraker"? "The Spy Who Loved Me"? Jesus. Did anyone at the home office bother to read these abortions they called scripts?)

So thanks, but no more helpings of this shit-n'-humiliation casserole for me. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just stay at home, with my kleenex boxes on my feet, and watch my DVD of "The Man with the Gold(en Gun) Fingers Dr. No's Thunderballs" (or whatever) again.

Uh, me? Bitter? Why do you ask?

Or, as I remarked to Razor:
A blond Bond? They might as well have picked a chick.

One For Macca: Did we all get Yoko's oh-so-subtle slam on McCartney the other night? Here's a somewhat tangential return of serve, from Mark Steyn's review of the Ono-backed Lennon on Broadway ("this show comes to us 'by arrangement' with Yoko Ono"), which he dubs "Yoklahoma!"
"Imagine" is an amazing song: an article of faith for people who have none, it's astonishing how deeply it's penetrated in a mere three decades to every corner of the culture. At my daughter's school a couple of Christmases back, it was the grand finale of the holiday concert. The music department had thoughtfully printed the lyrics on the program, and the teacher, inviting the parents to sing along, declared the number summed up what we were all "praying" for: "Imagine there’s no heaven/ It's easy if you try/ No hell below us/ Above us only sky/ Imagine all the people/ Living for today."

Ah, that's the message of the season, isn't it? Happy holidays! The next time I heard those words was when I switched on the TV a few months later and saw a half-Jewish/half-Muslim choir backing Bill Clinton, who was up on stage crooning them down the cleavage of some hot Zionist babe as the top-of-the-bill lounge act at Shimon Peres' birthday party. I am not making this up. I wish I were. But I doubt any "creative writer" would ever create such a scene: Too implausible -—or rather, all too plausible but too obviously tacky. Yet it happened. And there's more imagination in President Clinton’s staging of the song than anything in Lennon.

I don't doubt that Ono, if she needed the money, would dig up and auction off Lennon's very bones. She should can it with this pestering McCartney bit.

No Sé Por Qué: Che Guevara on a t-shirt.
It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth. (Many Rastafarians would renounce Haile Selassie if they had any notion of who he really was.) It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth—except the young Argentines who have come up with an expression that rhymes perfectly in Spanish: "Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué," or "I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why."
Read the article, if you have the time. It would be if funny if it weren't, you know . . . not funny at all.

Via A&LD.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Music Stuff: My latest musical purchase is Nullius in Verba, by Nicholas D'Amato's Royal Society. My take on the disc is there, the only review up at this point.

Tough night for this sports fan: Flipping between this and this made for too many ups and downs for me.

The Yankees just never had it in them this series, drained from the struggle just to get to the playoffs. I think the same thing happened to the Red Sox. We just make the battles in the regular season so important, both emotionally and statistically, that there's nothing left come October anymore.

As for the Steelers, they looked solid, if not as fantastic as the first couple games this year. Losing Big Ben will be a problem, but let's just hope it's a 2-4 week thing at the worst. Young as he is I'd rather have him back than go to the playoffs with Tommy Maddox or Charlie Batch.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Quote of the day: Wrapping up the Lileks Screedblog:
It shouldn’t bother anyone that she gave money to the Gore campaign. As Sen. Feinstein reminded us, compassion and pity are just the qualities we want in a jurist.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Goddammit! Don't look now, but the Norwegians are screwing around in our referrer logs again. One more time and they're getting lumped into the axis of evil . . .

Oh, You Can't? Via Tim Blair, a malapropism that everyone would be talking about had Bush said it.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?

DEAN: Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege. But in the this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can’t play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it’s called.

Tim got this from Are You Conservative, who says:
No, Chairman Dean, you're thinking of another president - and it wasn't a salami, it was a cigar.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: And let the baseless slanders fly!
In a decision hailed by free-speech advocates, the Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court decision requiring an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of an anonymous blogger who targeted a local elected official.

In a series of obscenity-laced tirades, the bloggers, among other things, pointed to Cahill's "obvious mental deterioration," and made several sexual references about him and his wife, including using the name "Gahill" to suggest that Cahill, who has publicly feuded with Smyrna Mayor Mark Schaeffer, is homosexual.

I'm reminded, tangentially, of Tom Lehrer's ode to the Supreme Court, "Smut."
Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately
I've got a hobby, rereading Lady Chatterley

But now they're trying to take it all
Away from us unless
We take a stand, and hand in hand
We fight for freedom of the press, in other words -- Smut

I love it
Ah, the adventures of a slut
Oh, I'm a market they can't glut
I don't know what
Compares with smut
Hip, hip, hooray
Let's hear it for the Supreme Court
Don't let them take it away

Hollywood revisionism: George Clooney's new movie, Good Night and Good Luck gets a thorough review in Slate, in a piece by Jack Shafer. Shafer is kind to Clooney, complimenting him as a director, but very critical of his cherry-picking of historical evidence.

A terrific movie about the Murrow-McCarthy duel could be made, mind you, but Clooney and company ignore the material that might argue against their simple-minded thesis about Murrow, the era, and the press to produce an after-school special. It's a shame, too, because Good Night and Good Luck's unbeatable production values and sharp performances constitute key ingredients of a great historical drama. Plus, Clooney is an able director, artfully meshing the original documentary film footage from Murrow's weekly CBS series, See It Now, with recreations of the studio end of the broadcasts.
He accuses Clooney of essentially hero-worship when it comes to Murrow, and crafting a piece that is intentionally disregards any facts that don't support the impression of Murrow as a lone voice for liberty standing up against a crackpot Senator. While Shafer isn't an apologist for McCarthy by any stretch, he provides much back story that complicates Clooney's vision.

In truth, I don't think Clooney has a hero worship problem with Murrow, so much as he's the most pseudo of all Hollywood pseudo-intellectuals. The story probably came across his coloring-book covered desk and some flunky showed him how he could spin it as a "cautionary tale" that would boost his street cred with the intellectual left. It will take a lot more than this to make anyone take him seriously, other than MoveOn types who'll proclaim him the hero-of-the-week for Speaking Truth To Power. If Shafer's right, though, all Clooney's done is direct another dumbed down look look at history because anythng else would fracture his tiny little brain.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More cheers to me: I believe I win a portion of our football picks with this news:
Lady luck struck Alex Smith last week at Warriors Barron Davis’ Foundation
Casino Fundraiser event. The rookie quarterback stockpiled enough chips at the
blackjack table to go home as the grand prize winner of a $15,000 trip. Good
fortune again found the first overall pick again on Tuesday with 49ers head
coach Mike Nolan naming Smith as the team’s starting quarterback in place of Tim
Rattay.
Others have been injured, but I believe Rattay is the first QB benched purely for monumental suckiness. So bring me all your finest meats and cheeses. And let Green Bay win at least a couple. 'Cause that pick's not looking so hot.

Cheers, Flyer: You pulled in our first appearance in the MSM. Click soon, before it's gone.

The Will Piece: Flyer (and, as he noted, lots of others) excerpts the George Will dismissal of Harriet Miers. Like I said, I'm getting shakier by the moment on her. But I read Will's piece and found it a lot less devastating than most. In fact, I found it fussy, elitist, and easily dismissed. I had planned, in fact, to dismiss it. Then I read Steve's take, and figured I didn't need to say much.
George Will may not realize that many lawyers interpret the Constitution every week. It's not a dusty old document no one pays any attention to in real-world practice. It's extremely handy for beating people with otherwise good cases. Criminal lawyers use it to get rid of compelling evidence. I've used it in employment cases to get rid of people my clients shafted. The Constitution is highly useful to ordinary real-world lawyers, and we are perfectly capable of understanding it.

I don't know what George Will's real beef is, but he is beyond wrong on this one. He ought to retract his ridiculous argument before it becomes a source of embarrassment.

I'm not a lawyer. I was, for a time, a humble paralegal in a small practice. In the summer, when the law school clerks would show up, the partner I worked (mainly) for used to test them against me at a variety of research and writing tasks, along with grunt work like title searches, tax lien searches, and process service (which the clerks always thought was below them). They always lost, after which he'd call them into his office and give them his talk, which usually went something like this: "Look at this jerk-off who just kicked your ass. He's never seen a moment of law school, he's wearing socks that don't match, he probably had three drinks at lunch, and has likely spent the better part of the afternoon surfing internet porn on the firm's T-1 line. And you've spent a year at G-town Law. You should be ashamed."

The partner had been a f*ck up himself, barely got out of college, ended up in a very small law school. Naturally, he took a liking to me. But he was smart. He knew that "the law" consisted mainly of shit you could look up if you needed to. He preferred to have me, the uneducated paralegal, do his research because I hadn't been to law school. Honestly, I was a more creative thinker than any of the DC-law-school brats that clerked there. That was of more value to him.

It's possible that Bush feels this way about Miers. (Like I said, I have my doubts.) I'm curious to see how she handles herself at the hearings. If she's a sharp thinker, who cares if she's never been on the bench? (Smart people can figure out just about any job on the planet.) Honestly, the average auto mechanic needs to keep a lot more relevant technical information in his head than the average judge. Not just more but more complicated information, in fact. Lawyers like to think of themselves like scientists or surgeons, practitioners of a complicated and esoteric body of skill and knowledge. The fact is, if they'd drop the silly Latin crap, a smart high schooler could practice law pretty successfully. I think that it chaps their ass to see someone like Miers get the nod. I mean, what have you been hearing? Didn't write for law review. Didn't go to a top school. Law practice was not at a top-tier firm.

F*ck it. We'll see how qualified she is, but most of this noise is BS. Honestly, it's just not that hard a job, as evidenced by some of the poorly reasoned opinions that flow from the court with alarming regularity.

More: I'm also reading in various places that, to paraphrase, "even if Miers is conservative, there are plenty other conservatives with judicial experience who would be better nominees." But nobody gives any names, so I dismiss it as posturing. Honestly, with the current climate in the Senate, who can you pick that doesn't have a paper trail? I think a lot of the GOP, as I said before, just wants Bush to stick it to the Judiciary Committee, and to the Senate, on principle and make them filibuster. It's dumb.

Okay, this may mean nothing: Doing a little checking on my NC senators' reaction to the Miers nomination, if only to do a little meaningless projection. First Senator Dole. Is there a marked difference between this

“I commend President Bush for the very deliberate way in which he arrived at the decision tonight to nominate Judge Roberts to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Judge Roberts is an outstanding choice. His demonstrated intellect, experience, and integrity will serve him well on the Supreme Court. It is my hope that the Senate will move expeditiously and with civility through confirmation hearings to a final up or down vote on the Senate floor, as has been the tradition in this institution for more than 200 years. North Carolinians and the American people deserve no less.”
and this
“As the nomination process moves ahead, I look forward to reviewing Ms. Miers’ qualifications and her views on the proper role of the federal judiciary. I am hopeful that the confirmation process will be both fair and civil.”

Sounds like she is being at least very guarded on Miers, if not explicitly skeptical.

How about Richard Burr?

“I welcome President Bush’s nomination of Judge John Roberts for the Supreme Court. As his nomination moves forward, I remain hopeful that Judge Roberts will be treated with dignity and fairness, in the best of Senate traditions. I look forward to Judge Roberts’ confirmation hearing and his nomination receiving an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”
Vs.
“I welcome President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. As the confirmation process begins, I will carefully review Ms. Miers’ qualifications and I look forward to meeting with her personally.

I am hopeful that she will receive a fair, honest hearing followed by an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”

Lickspittle, suck-up, apple polishing Bush apologist. Screw you.

Maybe that's a little strong.

Everybody, I'd like you to meet my buddy Larry: From the Wahington Post:

President Bush said yesterday that he is looking for a successor to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan who would be seen as politically independent and who would inspire global confidence.

"The nominees will be people that, one, obviously can do the job, and secondly, will be independent," Bush said in his first public comments on the subject. He said he has not yet seen any of the names of possible nominees gathered by his staff. "It's important that whomever I pick is viewed as an independent person from politics."...
...Recently, White House officials have received positive responses from Wall Street when they floated the name of former Fed board member Lawrence B. Lindsey, who was Bush's key economic adviser in the 2000 presidential campaign. Lindsey was a chief architect of Bush's economic program in the early days of the president's first term and ran his National Economic Council until late 2002.

Lindsey may want to take his phone off the hook.

The American Way: Nice to see the Judith Miller story panning out as predicited. "Suffer" "nobly" in public eye, go to jail, get out of jail, get book deal.

Quick, somebody tell me something so I can withhold it from a grand jury.

George Will advance copy: Confirm Them has an advance copy, apparently, of George Will's next op-ed and it ain't pretty for Bush or Ms. Miers.

The crowning absurdity of the president’s wallowing in such nonsense is the obvious assumption that the Supreme Court is, like a legislature, an institution of representation. This from a president who, introducing
Miers, deplored judges who ‘‘legislate from the bench.’’ Minutes after the president announced the nomination of his friend from Texas, another Texas friend, Robert Jordan, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was on Fox News proclaiming what he and, no doubt, the White House that probably enlisted him for advocacy, considered glad and relevant tidings: Miers, said Jordan, has been a victim. She has been, he said contentedly, ‘‘discriminated against’’ because of her gender. Her victimization was not so severe that it prevented her from becoming the first female president of a Texas law firm as large as hers, president of the State Bar of Texas and a senior White House official. Still, playing the victim card clarified, as much as anything has so far done, her credentials, which are her chromosomes and their supposedly painful consequences. For this we need a conservative president?

I'm doing my best to withold judgement on her as a candidate (you already know my feeling on the politics of the pick) but it's hard to see anything positive about her. The conventional wisdom is that, at best, she's slighltly right of Sandra Day O'Connor. If, as Eno's earlier post may suggest, all that means is she's a Pro-Life SDO, then it's a complete loss for those of a libertarian bent.

The trouble is, both sides have gone to great effort to see that nominees can sing the Boy From Ipanema under their breath for three days, tell the committee their favorite color is blue and stroll onto the bench. I understand the reasons for a nominee not telegraphing potential votes, but how much will it hinder efforts to get at her understanding of relevant legal precedent. With John Roberts it wasn't that big a problem, since his resume and obvious intellectual heft made being qualified a non-issue. With Miers, sad to say, it is an issue.

I think presidents should have a lot of leeway in who they appoint to even positions as high as the Supreme Court, and I don't even have a problem with cronyism per se (it's a fact of life and politics, so go ahead if you can get away with it or it's worth the fight), so I'll hold off calling for her rejection by the Senate for now. But she should be questioned hard on anything that's fair game and be forced to prove that she's studied for this test. And Republicans who feel she hasn't passed that test should feel no compunction in voting her down.

Via Radley.

Update: Or rather a clarification. The post on Confirm Them was, obviously, from yesterday. Since everyone and their brother is quoting the Will piece today, it's hardly an advance copy to anyone getting it from this post. So....yeah. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Remorse Setting In: OK, just saw this at Drudge.
By 1979, Harriet Miers, then in her mid-30s, had accomplished what some people take a lifetime to achieve. She was a partner at Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely, one of the most prestigious law firms in the South.

But she still felt something was missing in her life . . . "She decided that she wanted faith to be a bigger part of her life," [colleague Nathan] Hecht said. "One evening she called me to her office and said she was ready to make a commitment," to accept Jesus Christ as her savior and be born again, Hecht said. Miers became an evangelical Christian and began identifying more with the Republican Party than with the Democrats who had long held sway over Texas politics.

So much for my hope that we might get "the closest thing" to a libertarian. I bet she'll try to install Judge Roy Moore's 10 Commandments rock in DC.

I'll wait for the confirmation hearings to make up my mind, but this makes me suspect that Bush didn't base his decision on political calculation or on cronyism, but on who's in it for Jesus.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Is She That Good? To your point, Flyer, honestly, I doubt she's that good, but she may surprise. The point is that his pick is a very clear statement. Bush picked someone with no paper trail. In other words, he's ducking the fight. If you think he's being spineless, I'll give you that. Razor might have come close by saying "lazy." It even shows misplaced priorities, since what counts as judicial disqualification (Dems: Conservative + pulse = disqualified) is a fight that we must have at some point.

Face it, the Dems will massacre anyone who even dresses to the right. You either go with someone with no paper trail, but whom you trust, or you roll the dice on another Souter, and really burn your base for the next 30 years. Bush's choice is the smarter choice.

Jonah on Miers: Jonah Goldberg at NRO:
Bush has a history of running against the wind of his strongest critics, which is one of the things I love about the guy. For example, people said Bush was too unilateral and hostile to the international community, so he appointed John Bolton. But, either by accident or design, this time around he seems bent on countering a different kind of criticism. He's been getting beaten -- somewhat unfairly -- for his alleged cronyism of late. This appointment seems like the Bolton approach; "Oh yeah, you think I'm into cronyism? Well here's my former personal lawyer from Texas!"

But there's a key difference. Hosility to the international community and "unilateralism" (code for protecting America's interests first) are principles Bush wins respect by defending. Cronyism is not a principle, or at least one not easily defended. Miers may be great stuff, but I don't think anyone can doubt Bush picked her because she's his gal Friday.

Bush's instincts about where his principles should be are often right. But in this case the principle seems to be that Bush's instincts are principle enough.

That's similar to what I've been saying.

A Question for the Both of Youse: So if you're so goddamn smart, who would you pick? Remember, the Dems are going to filibuster anybody seriously conservative (because they lied when they said they wouldn't), PFAW is going to call them a Nazi (because that's what they call anyone to the right of Steve Breyer), and your conservative "base" is going to abandon you in droves (because trying to figure out what counts as a solidly "conservative" judge among the base is like trying to catch a greased hog).

G'head, let's hear some names.

More: Color me kneejerk, but I'm suspicious when I hear the left telling Bush he's making a mistake. (Via Jeff.)

Let me be clear. I don't know if she's qualified, brilliant, whatever. My point is that Bush would get bitching from the same quarters no matter what.

Razor's Comment, Re: Cronyism: Oh, come on, Razor. Where was your outrage when Clinton picked crony (and felon) Webb Hubbell to run the DoJ? (Let's not even pretend that Clinton ever expected Reno to issue the orders. She was a beard, present simply because Hubbell was too shady for the top spot.)

Liberals always seem to have the scales fall from their eyes when Republicans do something fairly mild, but are blind when someone in their own party does something comparatively hideous. Remember Bob Packwood? I mean, who was a bigger threat to the demure professional females of Capitol Hill, Binaca Bob or Slick Willie? Guess whose dalliances amounted to a "firing offense"?

[Want a current example? Liberals are shocked, shocked! to hear of Tom DeLay's "scandalous" fund raising connections. But Al "No Controlling Legal Authority" Gore was just the victim of a right-wing smear job. And who gets indicted?]

Of course she's a crony. That's how people get jobs in Washington. Hell, at least with this president, unlike some others I could name, we can be pretty sure that he's not doing this because he gave her Herpes.

Nomination politics: If you've got a nominee so good you can just taste Ruth Bader Ginsburgs tears, f*ck the base. If you've got so much political capital you don't know what to do with it, f*the media. If all you've got are sagging poll numbers and criticism from both sides (some of it legitimate, some purely crap) you may have to say f*uck your friends.

I was never a fan of the "nuclear option" in the Senate so I sympathize with the need to nominate someone confirmable. I just think Bush got played like a banjo on this one. The left gets to look all cooperative and shit by (grudgingly) approving another nominee and showing how bipartisan they are, while the press plays the cronyism tune for three weeks. All to get a justice that may make Sandra Day O'Connor look like a fantasy pick in The Corner.

Whether it's laziness, as Razor charges, or Bush's political tin ear still ringing from Katrina, I think this is a misstep for the admin. Not the first or the last, but probably the most avoidable.

Flyer's Comment: Running or not, Bush has to face the legislature with his agenda, or be a useless lame duck for 3 more years. Clinton's legacy is that his second term might as well have not happened. It's a bigger risk for the minority, but they can make a president's legislative agenda rot on the vine, too. I'm not sure Bush wants to spend the next 3 years at the ranch, although you never know.

As far as the politics qua media politics, Bush could pick Mario Cuomo and still get hammered. No pick is a good pick for a left-leaning media covering a GOP president. Crony, schmony. JFK made his brother the AG and nobody in the press worried their little pea brains about it. So f*ck the media.

As for the conservatives, they're equally hard to please. Nominate anybody, I mean anybody, and you'll get a certain segment of the conservative movement pissed at you. So f*ck the base.

From a coldly calculated perspective, it comes down to this: As you noted, Bush doesn't have to face his base at the polls again. (He has no heir apparent to protect, either.) But he does have to face Congress every day for the rest of his term. So, to recap, f*ck the base and f*ck the media too. How much goodwill this will buy from Harry Reid is an open question, but that's the goodwill he needs. If the Dems turn around and filibuster a compromise candidate, it just proves them to be the moribund, useless sack of horses asses we already suspected them to be.

Shining: It's the movie that could hae been Jack Nicholson's tear jerker.

Takes a minute to load, but watch the trailer when you have a chance.

Miers: Flyer, you may be right about this being a bad pick. My fear is that an untested conservative jurist is a liberal jurist in the making. However, as to the politics of the pick, this article indicates that she might be an up-front compromise candidate:
Democratic and Republican special interests groups had been braced for a political brawl over the pick, but they may not get it. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had urged the president to consider Miers, according to several officials familiar with Bush's consultations with Congress.
I'm guessing she's comfortably moderate, perhaps quietly pro-choice. Something like that. It's possible that Bush looked at the Democrats (bristling because they had no real way to Bork Roberts, now spoiling for a real fight) and lost his nerve. He doesn't have a whole lot of political capital right now, you may have noticed. I heard a lot of right-leaning comment to the effect that Bush should now try to "ram through" an ideological nominee, perhaps even one of those that the Dems have already filibustered at lower court posts. That's the dumb move. If Bush were still riding a first-term, post-9/11 patriotic surge, he could nominate Lemmy and make it stick. Right now, though, he has to choose people who can at least pretend to be moderates.

Miers might turn out to be a solid conservative, but who the hell knows. Right now she's just a brain for hire. Until these bastards actually get on the bench, you can't which ones will be able to handle the power and which ones will use it to advance an agenda.

In the end, I'm actually pleased. Bush will end up, I think, having to pick right-of-center law geeks (like Roberts, perhaps Miers) over fire-breathing Jesus geeks. He'll appease the base as much as he can, so we can be fairly sure that another Souter is not in the offing. So we end up with judges who are politically (perhaps methodologically) conservative, but socially more moderate. It ain't the same thing as libertarian, but it might be as close as we get.

Bush picks Miers: The Republican base is livid over this bit of cronyism, and with much justification. I would have thought Bush's political instincts would be better than this. A moderate candidate would have been enough to set the fire, but another long time insider is even worse.

That said, I know nothing about Miers' judicial capability and nothing about her past rulings, since there aren't any. So I can't say whether she'll be a good or conservative justice or not. I'm willing to wait and see. But it's a dumb political move either way.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Five Words I Never Expected to Say: I agree with Harold Ickes. Surprising, not least of all to me, but he's right that the Dems are being stupid by frontloading even more primaries for 2008.
Longtime Democratic activist Harold Ickes of Washington argued that the current calendar moves too quickly. Ickes noted that Democrats worked for a faster selection process of a Democratic nominee in 2004, and by March the party had all but nominated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

"We wanted to shut down the system and get our candidate out early," Ickes said. "If ever there was a foundering ship that was it. The longer we went on, the lower we went down in the polls. If we'd had a year we'd have been down around zero."

Worth mentioning, naturally, that part of the problem was the candidate himself. They wanted a lot of time to "introduce America to the candidate," but that's more effective if you pick someone America won't get sick of so quickly. Also, it gave Kerry extra time to contradict himself.

Another interesting note:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has not offered the commission his preference for the calendar, but may do so before its last meeting in December, when final recommendations are due, said co-chair Alexis Herman.
I can't wait to see which way the Howardly Lion goes on this. He knows full well that the tight schedule was created, in part, to keep dark horses like him from getting traction. Now that he has some significant power in the party structure, will he choose to make it harder for "outsiders" to win?