Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Standing Pat

Fox Keeping 'Idol' on Tues., Wed. Nights

This is all fine and dandy--but if Fox isn't moving Idol to Thursday nights, why would it cancel Reunion? Nothing else will bring better numbers in the 9/10 PM time slot on Thursdays.

I will grasp at this straw and hope someone at Fox is reconsidering...


White Sox, Konerko agree on 5-year deal

Hmm. A lineup with Konerko and Thome in the middle, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski straddling the twin sluggers, and Scott Podsednik leading off? Plus four starting pitchers who threw complete games during the ALCS and a fifth (Brandon McCarthy) who showed tremendous promise as a starter? The only sad thing about this news is that it leaves Frank Thomas with nowhere to go. The rest of the White Sox, however, should start pondering another World Series...

Help Me Out

Keep Reunion On Air Petition

Do me a favor and sign the online petition above. I can't live if I don't find out who killed Samantha! (And how Craig ended up in a wheelchair, and how Will went from being a jailbird to a soldier to a priest, and...)

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bending Over Backwards

Panda Cub Makes His Debut at National Zoo

Even in dark times, there is something about this panda cub that can make me smile. I highly recommend that you watch the video to see Tai Shan (or Butterstick, as Wonkette would prefer we call him) play for the cameras.

Increasingly Worrying

Homosexuality destabilizes society: Vatican paper

Anyone who wondered why I didn't take communion during my grandmother's funeral this weekend, look no further:
The Vatican newspaper said on Tuesday that homosexuality risked "destabilizing people and society," had no social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman.
That's right: my relationship of six years, and all of the efforts both of us have put into it, have no social or moral value. Years spent caring for one another and sharing life with one another in the context of a loving partnership have no social or moral value, and in fact risk destablizing society.

I salute you with two middle fingers, Mr. Ratzinger. You chose a name of peace for your papacy, but in publishing this new document on homosexuality, you have declared war. You will not win it.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Highway 290 Revisited: George Gets It

OK, so Bree didn't quite kill George--more like allowed him to kill himself by only pretending to intercede--but she did find out about his role in Rex's death and that was her motivation for allowing him to die. I think this qualifies as an accurate prediction, don't you?

I was also wrong about Desperate Housewives going on a post-sweeps break, but I'm more than happy to be wrong about that!


Part of Supreme Court facade collapses

Which part? The one where we pretend Alito won't vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or the part where we pretend it's improper to ask him about it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Taking a Break

I had planned to continue posting through the holiday weekend. However, my father's mother died early this morning after a long eight-year struggle with Alzheimer's. I'm going to take a break from work, from school, and from this and be with my family. I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

George Gets It

Bart Dispenses Creepiness on 'Housewives'

I have no spoiler info on this, but the sudden appearance of articles profiling Roger Bart, who plays creepy pharmacist George on Desperate Housewives, has got me believing we're about to see his departure from the show. Bree isn't stupid--she knows he's crazy, and now she's seen him flip out and steal and burn the car of a man with whom she merely danced at dinner. I predict that next week she figures out George's role in the disappearance of Dr. Goldfine, realizes that he killed Rex as well, and finishes George off in the final minutes before the show takes a post-sweeps break.

None of the Above

Too Many Choices - Why seniors won't sign up for the Medicare prescription drug plans. By Barry Schwartz

For the two years that I've been writing about the new Medicare drug plan for work, I've thought that someone could write a great article about how this is a Paradox of Choice situation, where too many choices will cause seniors to ignore the program altogether. Now the author of Paradox has done just that. And he makes a great comparison between the drug plans and the myriad investment options many employees must choose among in their employer-sponsored retirement plans. In both of these cases, and in many others, having too many choices leads people not to make a choice at all--which is, in effect, the worst choice they can make.

If only I could convince all of America to read the book...

Monday, November 21, 2005


Fuzzy, cute and a sellout in two hours
Tickets to see National Zoo's panda cub now being hawked on eBay

The mainstream media are so casual in their ignorance of the real story sometimes. Take this breathless paragraph:
By early evening, a dozen tickets were being hawked on eBay. One seller was asking $500 for six tickets, promising 10 percent would go to the ASPCA. Another wanted $199 for two tickets, with a percentage going to Greenpeace.
Wow! Someone is asking $100 a ticket to see the cutest baby panda alive!

What's more astonishing is what some people are offering for a ticket:
I just love pandas! I really, really, really want to see Tai Shan.

If you can get me a ticket to see Tai Shan between now and December 30, I will (I can't believe I am saying this) give you a handjob, with my hands. Maybe, if you are cute, a BJ. I am serious about this. I really want to see this panda.
Are you telling me that the fact people are offering sex for panda tickets isn't more interesting than people offering to donate the proceeds of their ticket sales to charity? Or the fact that someone else has offered up two tickets for exactly the service this desperate panda lover is offering in exchange?

The subhead to the AP story above shouldn't be about eBay--it should be about Craigslist. That's where the real panda ticket action is.

And who can blame the Craigslisters for wanting to see this guy?

All Brand New

A new era dawns. Caesar is dead. The Harry Potter movie series is more than halfway completed. I have written my 1,000th post, and today I will greet my 25,000th visitor.

So I have made a few changes to the blog today. I've moved the books I've read recently closer to the top of the page, and sorted them so when I finish one, it moves to the top of the list rather than the bottom. The next big change should come next month, when I post a top ten albums list for the year and relegate the rest of my 2005 purchases (currently listed in the order in which they were made on the sidebar) to the dustbin of history.

Hope you enjoy the changes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Beyond Mediocrity

America's Least Wanted - Another Bush earns his place on a Rushmore for the rejected. By Bruce Reed

The Has-Been puts the Bush family achievements in perspective:
It's an awesome achievement for one family to produce two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern times. If there were a Mount Rushmore for rejection, the Bushes would have half the place to themselves.
Only two presidents in modern times have had disapproval ratings higher than the Bushes, who are tied at 60 percent: Richard Nixon at 66 percent and Harry Truman at 67 percent.

There's an important difference, though: When each of the other three hit his personal low point, his term was about to end, one way or another. Truman's worst approval ratings came just before Eisenhower replaced him in 1953. Nixon's darkest hour was just before it dawned on him to resign in 1974. And Bush I was at his worst in 1992, just before Bill Clinton sent him back to Kennebunkport for a long vacation.

But this Bush threatens to stay in the White House for another three years, barring an impeachment or resignation. I realize that, after deducting his vacation time, this only means he'll be spending another six weeks in D.C., but still: That's a long time for things to get worse. Two months ago, Reed notes, Bush's disapproval number was 56; now it's 60. Will it be 64 in two more months? 68 in four? With 36 months until the election of his successor, Bush has time to flirt with a disapproval rating above 100, if only such a thing were possible. He can certainly give Truman and Nixon a run for their money.

No Kidding

Harry Potter Poised for Box Office Victory

I can verify this headline--as if anyone would have trouble believing it. We were planning to see the movie Saturday afternoon in an IMAX theatre; it was supposed to be a birthday treat. Guess what? Sold out. But not just on Saturday afternoon: Every single bloody IMAX showing for the entire weekend. Including the ones that start at 9:30 AM.

Has anyone seen the movie yet? What did you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wee Wee-Wee

Mini-Porn Could Be Mega-Business

This alleged new trend I simply cannot understand. Under what circumstances, exactly, would one want to use a cell phone or an iPod as a porn-viewing machine? Despite the arguments made for this trend's success in the article above, I'm dubious for a pair of reasons. First, I don't know how a screen that's two inches by two inches will offer viewers anything they actually want to see. Second, I don't see how making porn more portable will appeal to most people. Does one really get a hankering for some good S&M while riding the train home from work? And if one did, where would one watch it? Certainly not in the middle of the train, where the passenger in the next seat over could watch. No, one would be in the bathroom, holding the tiny screen close to one's face with one hand while using the other for...

Ahem. I think you can see my point: Even if there is a demand for portable porn, it's hardly a demand that, once met, will lead to anything good. I have no problem with people watching porn in the privacy of their own homes--and doing what they will while watching it. But we hardly need to encourage people to take this private activity into commuter train bathrooms and workplace bathrooms and, my goodness, the possibilities are endless. If you're so aroused that you need to relieve the tension in one of these locales, you don't need porn to help you.

Flailing Away

Another Set of Scare Tactics

E.J. Dionne has the president's number--57 percent of the American people think he misled us into a war in Iraq. And he brings up a point that has been absent from the debate as Bush calls those who question the war unpatriotic:
There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-Sept. 11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised.
Dionne notes that few Democrats had the courage to stand up to Bush (Paul Wellstone did, but his plane crashed). And while Democrats should be chastised for that failure of courage, it's also fair to remind people that when he forced a vote on the war in Iraq weeks before the 2002 election, Bush had an astronomical approval rating, and the nation was still in a post-9/11 mood for blood that is only now beginning to retreat in favor of reasoned debate.

But Bush is in a different position now, and his ranging attacks on anyone who dares to criticize the way the war began just won't play with the public. The folks who said, last year, that Bush deserved to be re-elected so he could be called to account for his first-term actions may have had a point. It's not worth letting the Supreme Court turn into Vatican West, but there is a certain consolation in getting to watch this terrible president, and his terrible crew of cronies, forced to deal with the mess they've made.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Violent Night

HBO: Rome - Episode 11: 'The Spoils'

We were down to two shows rather than three last night, as The West Wing is gone for the rest of November. But two was definitely enough.

On Desperate Housewives, creator Marc Cherry returned as a writer and director, and the results were both exquisite and surprisingly violent. I saw it coming, but it was still shocking to see George hit Dr. Goldfine over the head, smash his skull into a stone railing, and throw him into a river. Will Bree catch on to this pattern of everyone who stands in George's way ending up dead?

Worse than that was the spectre of Eva Longoria falling down the stairs as she tried to escape an ice-cream starved Caleb, possibly losing her (suddenly desired) baby in the process. The last fifteen minutes of the show gave her character a new depth, one I hope she retains. Of course, losing the baby could provoke bigger changes--how will Carlos react? I can imagine the fight now.

No amount of DH violence could have prepared me for the bloodbath that was Rome. The show began with a killing in broad daylight and proceeded to an ending that foretold blood in next week's finale, as Brutus agreed to hold the knife that will end Caesar's dictatorship. In between, the attempted execution of Titus Pullo turned into the bloodiest scene I've ever seen on television, with arms, legs, and heads cut off by Pullo as he defended himself (and the honor of the 13th legion) and a final bloody stake driven through the torso of an executioner by Vorenus when he finally decides to come to the aid of his onetime partner in soldiering.

These two episodes set up a night of reckoning six days from now. Bree will surely notice the disappearance of her trusted adviser, Dr. Goldfine, and Gaby's pregnancy status will also surely be resolved. And in the finale of Rome, we all know that Caesar will meet the blade of Brutus, but what role will Vorenus, whose participation in Pullo's escape was specifically forbidden by Caesar, play? How will Octavian respond? And how will the show set up its second season? As Rome has gone on, it has improved by leaps and bounds, finding a stride so quick and well-measured that I'm tempted to call it the best show of the year. Here's hoping the first season finale will live up to the high standard the series has set.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Already? Music: Best of 2005

Amazon has already released its list of the best CDs of 2005. I'm happy to report that I own six of their top ten, and that three of them will make my own top ten next month. (And yet I only own 17 of the top 100...)

Enjoy the first of many lists to come!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Utter Disaster

FOX Poll: President Bush's Ratings Continue to Suffer

Last week CBS had Bush's approval rating at 35; this week Fox has him at 36. Either way, that's bad, and approaching my bet that Bush's approval rating would drop to 33 percent in a major poll.

Internally, it's more bad news: Bush has the approval of only one in ten Democrats, one in four independents, and only 72 percent of Republicans. 84 percent of Democrats say they disapprove of the job Bush is doing. That's practically off the charts.

And look! The Republican agenda is falling apart. The House had to delay a budget vote. Alaska drilling is suddenly off the table again, though we're not in the clear on that yet. Social Security "reform" was deemed dead until 2009 by the Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Iowa's Chuck Grassley.

And it's not getting better for Bush. Having Scooter Libby on trial gives Democrats a constant excuse to remind the public of the lies that led us into war, and that war continues to grow more unpopular as it drags on. High energy prices this winter will leave the public in a grumpy mood; instead of the political arguments at holiday dinners that were all the rage a year ago, many families will be united by their anger at the current state of affairs and the president who brought us here.

Oh, yes, 33 percent may not be the floor for this president. He needs some good news, and quick, or we may be talking twenties.

Anticipation Builds

Potter franchise heats up with 'Fire'

This review promises that Goblet of Fire will be a feast for Harry Potter fans. Only a week to go!

One line worries me, however. I know a certain John Williams partisan who will not be pleased to read this:
Patrick Doyle contributes the best musical score of the series, one richly symphonic yet with a pop overlay that reminds us we are in a world of fantasy.
Oh well. We finally get to see Voldemort! What's a new composer compared to that?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

WMD at NYT No More

Times and Reporter Reach Agreement on Her Departure

Judith Miller is done at the NYT.

First Democrats win all over the map, then the woman who helped push bad (and by bad I mean not faulty but flagrantly untrue) intel into circulation through the nation's best newspaper packs her bags. Is this a great day or what?

Voters to Bush: Go to Hell

St. Paul: Coleman sweeps Kelly out of office
DFLers punish Mayor Randy Kelly for standing with President Bush, and usher in Chris Coleman in a 69 to 31 percent landslide.

The results of yesterday's elections shouldn't be all that surprising, but Democrats have grown so used to election night bloodbaths that it's difficult to resist the impulse to rejoice at the nearly clean sweep we witnessed yesterday. Yes, quasi-Republican Michael Bloomberg retained the mayor's office in New York City, and Texans added a ban on gay marriage to their constitution. But in Virginia a gubernatorial candidate who got help from Bush on Monday went down in flames on Tuesday, and in New Jersey Democrats consolidated their hold on the state a year after McGreevey's indiscretions made that hold a bit tenuous.

The best news, to me, is the news I've linked above: In St. Paul, the "Democratic" mayor, who endorsed Bush in last year's election, was ousted in a 69-31 landslide by another Democrat. Denizens of the quieter of the Twin Cities got quite loud in their anger at Randy Kelly's betrayal of his party and the sentiments of his citizenry (St. Paul went for Kerry by a margin of 3-1). Here's hoping other politicians get the message and continue the process of distancing themselves from Bush even as he and Cheney come out swinging against those who accuse them of condoning torture and intelligence manipulation. These guys deserve to be left twisting in the wind for the next three years.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stop the Madness

Why Am I Still Getting E-mails from John Kerry?

Emily Messner is keyed in on an issue that seems earth-shattering every time I open another long-winded, donation-link-laden e-mail from John Kerry, an experience that I've had about once a week for the past year. (I delete the messages from my work account as soon as they come and yet I still have 12 hiding in my inbox.)

I would have been thrilled to see you win, John; just last night I saw a snippet of Fahrenheit 9/11, where Bush dresses up like a fighter pilot and declares victory in Iraq, and wondered how stupid the rest of the world must think we are for re-electing the doofus. But that doesn't mean I want to keep being reminded of it by you. Go about your business in the Senate. Come up with some great legislation and get yourself some actual cosponsors rather than pretending that the people on your e-mail list can cosponsor a bill with you. If the pain of losing our attention is too great, you can always buy yourself some happiness with Teresa's money.

But please: stop sending me e-mails. You had your chance in 2004 because we couldn't find anyone better. In a mission that should have been simple--dump the doofus--you failed. It's someone else's turn now.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Crazy Canadians

North of border, gay marriage spurs social revolution

Katherine Kersten is the Star Tribune's answer to accusations that it's a liberal rag. In this case, however, the cure is far worse than the disease. Every few days, a new example of Kersten's line-toeing mendacity appears on the paper's Web site, screeding against this or that bit of the "liberal agenda" or "setting the story straight" regarding the war in Iraq or the benefits of going to church or having 11 children.

Today she's claiming that gay marriage in Canada is destroying the very fabric of our enlightened northern neighbor's society. She draws this conclusion from one conversation with a like-minded zealot so she can close her piece with this bit of nonsense:
If someone tells you same-sex marriage won't affect your marriage, tell them to look north. The evidence is building.
No matter what Kersten and other scaremongers like her tell you, the only marriages same-sex marriage will impact are mine and others like mine. The reasons for this were neatly (and extensively) outlined by Dale Carpenter last week in an excellent series of posts at The Volokh Conspiracy. They're quite long, but well worth reading, especially if you plan to spend the holidays with more "traditional" members of your families and would like to discuss this topic without resorting to shouting. Carpenter lays out an excellent path for same-sex marriage advocates to follow in convincing the hesitant but fair-minded among us that this change, while it may appear radical and scary, can be viewed as both logical and as part of an effort to rejuvenate the idea that marriage is the ideal status for adults. If that's not an idea that can appeal to the most tradition-focused among us, what is?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Numbers Game

CBS News | Poll: More Bad News For Bush

A few other items of note from the CBS poll that put Bush's approval rating at 35 percent. The poll has Bush's favorable rating at 33 percent, with Cheney's falling all the way to 19 percent. That's right--only one in five Americans view Dick Cheney favorably. Cheney's unfavorable rating is 44 percent, while Bush's is 51 percent. More than half the country not only disapproves of the job he's doing, but actually views Bush unfavorably!

Of course, the links at the bottom of this poll have headlines including "Majority believe in ghosts" and "Majority reject evolution," so it bears remembering that a lot of the people being polled are, well, morons. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see that even the morons are coming around...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

An Amendment I Can Support

The Right to Privacy—Stick It In!

Dan Savage makes a suggestion that is so splendid someone should have thought of it sooner: If we're going to spend so much time arguing about whether the Constitution includes a "right to privacy," why not simply amend the Constitution and explicitly add one?

As Savage rightly notes, such a right would be quite popular, and it would be fun to watch Republicans try to explain their non-support. Yet by supporting it, they would alienate their base of social conservatives, who believe that none of us have an inalienable right to have sex in the privacy of our homes, or watch porn in the privacy of our homes, or use birth control. Finally--a wedge issue that works for Democrats! Between this and stem cells, we could once again be the majority party!

This may be the best strategy I've yet heard for reversing our nation's present political woes and expanding liberty at the same time.

I Love the Nightlife

CNN Ousts Evening Anchor and Embraces Rising Star

Goodbye, Aaron Brown. Just looking at you made me think of stale, old-man coffee breath.

Hello, Anderson Cooper, you silver-haired devil, you. Two hours every night? Maybe this will give you more time to tell Jerry Falwell about the fact that we pay taxes, too...

You'll certainly give me a reason to consider watching CNN from 9 to 11 at night. Because who wouldn't like to drift to sleep looking at a face like this?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Getting Close

CBS News | Bush's Job Approval Hits New Low

Remember when I bet that Bush's approval rating in a major poll would slide all the way down to 33 percent? You should all be glad you didn't take me up on it.

Tonight's CBS poll shows Bush at 35 percent. It's only a matter of time now...

Reason to Believe

HRC | Alito’s 1971 Gay Support Raises Hope

Well, this is a shocker. A paper written by a committee chaired by Alito during his senior year at Princeton included the following statement (the emphasis is mine): "The Conference voted to recommend that the current sodomy laws be changed. The Conference believes that no private sexual act between consenting adults should be forbidden. Of course, acts of a coercive nature, acts involving minors, and acts which offend public decency should still be banned. Discrimination against homosexuals in hiring should be forbidden."

If Alito continues to agree with his statement in 1971--and I find it hard to believe that someone who was for gay rights in 1971, when it was barely being discussed, is against them now--this would be very good news. Elsewhere in the paper appear the words "privacy is a value of fundamental importance" and a long statement about how privacy, while little-discussed before 1971, is a value that has much to do with liberty and toleration, and also sometimes comes into conflict with the value of community. Thus, the paper states, "we regard it as one important value among many."

How Alito construes privacy in his jurisprudence will be among the most important decisions he makes. Does he continue to believe in privacy as not only a value, but a right? Does it still extend to homosexuals? Would he have voted with the majority in Lawrence v. Texas? These are important questions that I hope he will answer before he becomes a justice. Because while we may not be able to stop him from significantly restricting Roe v. Wade, it matters a great deal what logic Alito and his conservative colleagues use to do so. To put it vividly, the Right seems to regard the right to privacy as bathwater in which babies have been drowned, as the holding in Roe was based in large part on that right. If Alito can find a way to save the baby without draining the bathwater, though, it may not be ideal to pro-choicers, who will have to fight state-by-state to protect a woman's right to control her own body, but it will be a lot cleaner for us than a world without the tub of privacy in which so many other important cases--Lawrence and Griswold v. Connecticut among them--currently soak. An Alito who respects the right to privacy as fundamental and emanating directly from the text of the Constitution is a justice far less frightening to me than he otherwise would be.

Heady Times

Lick for the Stick? - Wonkette

I thought I'd seen it all when Octavian slept with his sister on Rome this weekend. But this tops it: A Craigslist poster is offering his two hard-to-get tickets to see the National Zoo's new baby panda in exchange for "a discrete blow job from a cute young lady." And he, um, boasts: "It'll only take 5 minutes or so of your time."

Hmm. Five minutes to see this cute face up close:

Of course, "Butterstick" (his real name is Tai Shan) would probably let out a roar if he knew about this. (Be sure to check out the photo gallery WaPo has kindly assembled--he's really growing up!)

Crony to the End

Pardon My Perjury - The secret of Scooter's confidence? By Mickey Kaus

Mickey makes a great point about the elaborate nature of Libby's lying. He made up an incredible story, in every sense of the word, because he knew there would be no consequences if he was caught in his lie:
Who would take such an idiotic risk before a much-feared special prosecutor? One answer: Someone who knows he'll be protected in the end. Someone who knows, for example, that he'll be pardoned.
Kaus points out that Libby defended Marc Rich, who was eventually pardoned by Bill Clinton as he left office. Does anyone really believe that Bush won't offer a similar pardon to Libby as he departs office, and to anyone else who may be swept up in the Fitzgerald net? Second-term presidents on their way out of office are accountable to no one but themselves...especially after the November election is over. If Libby isn't acquitted, look for multiple appeals to keep him out of prison, followed by a December 2008 pardon. You heard it here first!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

White Men

Another Lost Opportunity

The New York Times writes about Sam Alito this morning in less than glowing terms, but it saves the real wrath for the man who nominated him:
...this nomination is yet another occasion to bemoan lost opportunities. Mr. Bush could have signaled that he was prepared to move on to a more expansive presidency by nominating a qualified moderate who could have garnered a nearly unanimous Senate vote rather than another party-line standoff. He could have sent a signal about his commitment to inclusiveness by demonstrating that he understood his error with Harriet Miers had been in picking the wrong woman, and that the answer did not have to be the seventh white man on the court. But he didn't, any more than he saw Sept. 11 as an opportunity to build a new, inclusive world order of civilized nations aligned against terrorism.

Anyone who imagines that the indictment of Lewis Libby and the legal troubles of Karl Rove will be a cue to bring fresh ideas to the White House should read the signs. With more than three years to go in this term, the bottom line is becoming inescapable. Mr. Bush does not want to change, and perhaps is not capable of changing. The final word on the Supreme Court is yet to come, but the message about the presidency could not be more disheartening.
Hard to imagine another three years of this, isn't it? Hard not to think about becoming an expatriate for a few years, even...