Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Sunday, September 29, 2002
Jay Caruso has responded to my Gore post below. I'm going to skip over what Jay wrote in my comments and address the more extensive arguments he made in his blog.

I wrote:When Al Gore talks, conservatives listen. And then they lie. And they never, ever, apologize or retract. They just play up one lie until it's discredited, or long after, and then go on to the next one. Conservatives pundits have been doing so for years. And their younger brethren in the blogosphere have learned the same rules.

Jay: Well, there you have it. Conservatives lie. Conservative pundits lie and conservative bloggers lie. Nothing like starting off a screed with a good ole dose of ad hominem! Don't actually try to refute anything said, just start off with what has become a left wing staple of late -- shout "LIAR!!!" and then try to explain it.

"Lie" is a harsh word. But to say it's justified in discussing the attacks on Gore, not just this one but the group of smears that conservatives have been using for years now, is a huge understatement.

One of the great things about debate in the blogosphere is that sometimes, if not often enough, people on both sides are willing to re-examine their views and especially are frequently willing to step back from bad arguments. I've pretty much given up any hope of seeing this among professionals, whose job it is to spin like mad and distort reality to push their cause, and who seem to lack any sense of either personal or professional obligation to the truth. But the fact that I do see it in bloggers gives me the more reason to get upset when bloggers caught in a false claim keep trying to push it.

While both sides can be guilty of this, it really does seem much more common on the right. For instance Jay, just before his post criticizing me, made a post complaining about a phony Bush picture that was being circulated "on many left wing blogs". This photo was exposed as a fake only a few days ago, not long after it started circulating. One of the first to label it was an emphatic leftist. Charles Kuffner also mentioned that it was phony. In fact, I've looked around, only a few days after this was exposed, and I can't find one liberal blog anywhere mentioning or showing the photo uncritically. I didn't find it on any liberal site either, but I looked mostly at blogs.

Compare this to the treatment of Gore. Charles Kuffner's post explicitly links to numerous conservative attacks on Clinton and Gore rehashing long-discredited smears. As I mentioned in my post, the Gore "Internet" lie, now 3 1/2 years old and exposed immediately after it started circulating, is being used by anti-Gore pundits to this day. It was also rehashed by a blogger in a post that Jay links to in this very piece. You could write a very sizable list of Clinton-Gore smears, either proven false by evidence or supported by no evidence, which have circulated for years and still do.

Well, the substance was ignored largely because it completely lacked any substance. Really. Gore's speech was nothing more than a rehash of what liberals having been saying now for months. It's all about what we shouldn't be doing, but doesn't say a word about what we should be doing. No ideas. No alternatives. Just a bunch of crowing about President Bush and what a bad boy he has been. However, if Alex wants a damning rebuttal to all of that 'substance' he can go and read what Virginia Postrel had to say about it.

Postrel did address the speech seriously and even made some good points. Stephen Green also took a shot - on the rocks, presumably. Both made incorrect criticisms, but that's another post, and I'll try to get to it later.

I also disagreed with Kelly's assertion that the Taliban has been destroyed. Jay replied:

Alex Frantz must be leaving on a different planet than you or I. The Taliban hasn't been destroyed? What did I miss? If it is false to say the Taliban has not been destroyed perhaps Frantz could point to a single source that would support his claim. Al Gore doesn't either. They don't because it's made up crap.

You want sources that the Taliban still exists? How about this, this, this, this, this, and this?
Frantz then goes on to support Al Gore's ridiculous statement that "The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized" by pointing to a list put put by the FBI last October 10. Problem is, Frantz then goes on and contradicts his own conclusion by saying, "While it is true that most of those on this list were probably not directly involved in 9/11, this is the government's own list of the most critical and dangerous Al Qaeda activists..." Hello McFly!! If that is indeed true, than what Gore said isn't!

The essential problem with Jay's critique is that nobody knows how many people other than the terrorists who directly carried out the attacks had some involvement in 9/11. There might have been a handful of people, or hundreds. And a lot depends on who you count as involved - would you count all al Qaeda people who contacted or trained the terrorists, even those who didn't know what their mission was?

So we don't have any credible list of who was involved, or any real idea of how long such a list might be. And besides, it's irrelevant - we're at war with all of Al Qaeda, not just those personnel directly involved in 9/11. So I used the government's own list of the most wanted Al Qaeda terrorists, although I don't know how many had direct involvement, and probably the CIA doesn't either.

Incidentally, Jay's last sentence quoted above asserts that the fact that most of those on the list were not directly involved proves that most of those who were have been caught, a basic error in logic.

Jay also points out, correctly, that Gore (and I) misquoted Andrew Card. What Gore said, and I quoted, was "From an advertising point of view, you don't launch a new product line until after Labor Day." What Card really said was, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Mickey Kaus has, as Jay points out, convinced himself that this is a major difference. He doesn't convince me. His argument might be more persuasive if he didn't make the assumption, without any factual foundation, that Gore deliberately rewrote the quotation to make it worse. He could also have done without the absurd conclusion that the New Republic, having criticized the speech, should now apologize for having ever printed pro-Gore articles. (And incidentally, if he's planning to get excitable about minor dating carelessness, he shouldn't have posts dated "Wednesday, September 26, 2002 ".)

The remainder of Jay's post affirms that Jay still backs the claim that this speech contradicts one Gore made in 1991, without addressing the arguments made in the sources I cited, which blow away this claim to my satisfaction.

Note: The Instaman, in his first notice of this blog, suggests I won't approve of this shot at Gore. It's an interesting theory, but if Al Gore and Seymour Skinner were separated at birth, wouldn't the same also apply to their nemeses?

I have to admit, there are a lot of striking resemblances. Looking at some of Bart's blackboard exercises, Matt Groening might have guessed this all along:

  • They are laughing at me, not with me

  • I will not get very far with this attitude

  • I will not sell land in Florida

  • I will not hide behind the Fifth Amendment

  • I do not have diplomatic immunity

  • Nerve gas is not a toy

  • "The President did it" is not an excuse

  • Grammar is not a time of waste
  • I am not the acting President
  • I will not scare the Vice President
  • Genetics is not an excuse
Friday, September 27, 2002
Janet at Beyond Corporate has a War on Terror poster which is a satire - at least so far. She also has a link to this article which is intriguing, but mighty vague about what the software it's talking about actually does. This company page tells a bit more.
Sports Notes

The Oakland A's tonight clinched the AL West title with their 100th victory after being given a good run by the Anaheim Angels, who will be the AL wild card entry. The Giants continue to look very good for at least a wild card in the NL.

Meanwhile, I may have to back down on my earlier prediction that St Louis would have a good season in spite of their poor start. I know losing a player like Faulk (he'll be back on Sunday) has an impact on a team, but that's when other stars are supposed to step up and deliver. They aren't supposed to look like an Arena League player who's wandered into the big time, the way Kurt Warner did. Warner knew that with Faulk out he had to complete passes, but apparently nobody told him that when you complete a pass to a linebacker or DB, it doesn't count. Tampa Bay's defense only scored four picks, but I saw at least eight passes that could easily have been intercepted, and I missed some of the game. At one point at the beginning of the Fourth Quarter, three out of four passes were picks waiting to happen.

But then, the way his line was getting pushed around, it was impressive that Warner was able to stay on his feet long enough to throw interceptions. And this is supposed to be the best offense in the league? God, I'd hate to see what the worst looks like.

Randy Moss spent the night in jail after this incident where he struck a traffic cop while making an illegal turn and pushed her half a block. Witnesses at the scene reportedly were able to identify Moss because he stayed in first gear the whole time and gave up right away. Jay Leno tonight said, "How bad is that? He couldn't beat a meter maid in single coverage."

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Unpatriotic Gore

When Al Gore talks, conservatives listen. And then they lie. And they never, ever, apologize or retract. They just play up one lie until it's discredited, or long after, and then go on to the next one. Conservatives pundits have been doing so for years. And their younger brethren in the blogosphere have learned the same rules.

Gore's latest speech on Iraq has brought forth an entirely predictable string of attacks. As usual, the substance of the speech is being pretty largely ignored - if you consider substance, Gore generally looks good, because, unlike his critics in the media or the man who 'defeated' him in 2000, Gore actually is a man of substance. But there are plenty of other ways to attack a speech.

One good way to view the attacks on Gore is as projection. Pundits lined up to accuse Gore of being a liar and exaggerator in 2000. Unfortunately, the number of untruths they could find, although they searched his considerable record of public statements going all the way back to the Carter administration, was shockingly paltry, and what there was was generally ludicrously trivial. No problem - they just lied and exaggerated.

If Michael Kelly is projecting in his attack on Gore's speech, dishonesty is the least of his problems. He may possibly not be projecting, but what he surely isn't doing is providing a reasonable or honest response. Kelly has run through a whole theasaurus before he gets to a single specific criticism: Gore is "distasteful... beyond [the] decent politician...dishonest, cheap, low...hollow...bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas...breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension ... wretched...vile...contemptible. But I understate."

Damn, that sure does sound like Michael Kelly. And a lot like this Kelly column.

What Gore said, in essence, was that the war against al Queda has not been won and should be the nation's first priority. An attack on Iraq, especially if carried out unilaterally, will be at best a distraction from fighting terrorism, at worst, it may lead to reducing the international co-operation without which that war is unwinnable. And it shouldn't be undertaken until more careful thought than any we have evidence for has taken place concerning the real problem, which is not defeating the Iraqi military, but building a stable state after Saddam has been overthrown. These are at the worst reasonable criticisms, so unsurprisingly Kelly either ignores them or takes them out of context to distort them.
Here is Kelly's first actual complaint:

Gore uttered his first big lie in the second paragraph of the speech when he informed the audience that his main concern was with "those who attacked us on Sept. 11, and who have thus far gotten away with it." Who have thus far gotten away with it. The government of Gore's country has led a coalition of nations in war against al Qaeda, "those who attacked us on Sept. 11"; has destroyed al Qaeda's central organization and much of its physical assets; has destroyed the Taliban, which had made Afghanistan a state home for al Qaeda; has bombed the forces of al Qaeda from one end of Afghanistan to the other; has killed at least hundreds of terrorists and their allies; and has imprisoned hundreds more and is hunting down the rest around the world.

Most of this is true, some of it, such as the claim to have 'destroyed' the Taliban, is plainly false. While the Taliban and al Qaeda were damaged, probably significantly, by the Afghan campaign, neither one is gone by any means. Gore specifically pointed this out in his speech: "Unfortunately, when the Russians left [in 1989], we abandoned the Afghans and the lack of any coherent nation building program led directly to the conditions which fostered Al Qaeda terrorist bases and Osama Bin Laden's plotting against the World Trade Center. Incredibly, after defeating the Taliban rather easily, and despite pledges from President Bush that we would never again abandon Afghanistan we have done precisely that. And now the Taliban and Al Qaeda are quickly moving back to take up residence there again. "

Well, perhaps Gore was talking loosely. No. He made clear in the next sentence this was a considered indictment: "The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the coldblooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized." If there is a more reprehensible piece of bloody-shirt-waving in American political history than this attempt by a man on the sidelines to position himself as the hero of 3,000 unavenged dead, I am not aware of it.

It seems that it was just yesterday that we were told that September 11 had changed everything, and that we must continue the war against al Qaeda for as long as it takes. Now, Bush has decided that he prefers to finish off Saddam, and asserting that we still need to continue the war against Osama is not merely reprehensible, but the single worst act of demagoguery in the history of the nation.

But is Gore wrong when he says that that "The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized"? Well, of the 22 known terrorists on the list issued on Oct 10 last year, I could find no evidence on the FBI's own web site that a single one has been confirmed as killed or captured. (Mohammed Atef has been reported as killed, but is still listed as wanted by both the FBI and the State Department. There is also an uncertain report that another key figure from the list is in custody.) While it is true that most of those on this list were probably not directly involved in 9/11, this is the government's own list of the most critical and dangerous Al Qaeda activists, and from zero to two have been put out of commission after a year. This seems like less than an overwhelming success.

Kelly knows better, however:

The men who "implemented" the "coldblooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans" are not at large. They are dead; they died in the act of murder, on Sept. 11. Gore can look this up.

So there's the proof that the War on Terrorism has been a complete success: the 9/11 terrorists died on 9/11, so obviously al Qaeda is beaten, due to the genius of George Bush! Apparently Kelly is borrowing his rhetorical style from the Vonnegut character who noted:
Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules -- and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.

This is the essence of Kelly's indictment, weak as it is to support the vituperation Kelly makes it with. But he does have a feeble sally or two left.

Although Gore knows that Bush has been publicly trying to move the nation toward war with Iraq since at least January, he pretended to believe the president was only now -- "in this high political season" -- pushing for war in order to gain electoral ground for his party and to divert attention from his administration's failure against al Qaeda by attacking "some other enemy whose location might be easier to identify." I see -- Bush is risking his presidency on a war with Iraq because it is the easy thing to do.

So Bush has been trying to move all year towards war with Iraq. His own aide said of the plan: "from an advertising point of view, you don't launch a new product line until after labor day." And yet when suddenly, in the middle of September, Bush for the first time asks Congress for what he has wanted all yerar, and asks for it befroe the elections, Gore suspects a political motive. How reprehensible.

Although Gore knows that Bush is also seeking, as Democrats also demanded, United Nations approval, he pretended this represented a failure of leadership as well because "thus far, we have not been successful in getting it." True enough -- because the Security Council hasn't voted. Thus far. Cute.

The Security Council hasn't voted partly because Bush has spent most of the year insisting that he didn't care about it. And because Bush has insisted so long that he isn't interested in a Security Coucnil resolution, the chances of getting one are probably decreased. God knows what Gore is upset about, that sure sounds like leadership to me.

The other entirely predictable attack is that Gore lied. The first public appearance of the attack in this case was from Brit Hume of Special Report, who claimed that Gore's latest speech misrepresented the stance he took in 1991. Hume's guests all had extensive records of aiding previous equally false Gore smears - Bill Sammon of the Moonie-owned Washington Times actually invented one of the less successful ones, falsely claiming that Gore had arranged a massive and environmentally harmful water release for a campaign photo op during the New Hampshire Primary. Unsurprisingly, they all went along with the story:

HUME: How do we explain that, as against what he said yesterday?

BILL SAMMON: It’s inexplicable. It’s puzzling why he would flip-flop on something so easily checkable.

MORTON KONDRACKE: He invented the Internet. He’s got a bad memory.

You have to look closely to appreciate the sheer gall and the breathtaking level of dishonesty on display here. Sammon expresses shock that Gore would distort "something so easily checkable". Kondracke then implicitly agrees, and cites the completely checkable, thoroughly discredited, "invented the internet" lie. And nobody blinks! This smear has been in wide circulation for two years, and Kondracke either knows it is a lie or is a total incompetent. But that's no problem: flat-out lies about Gore and total incompetence are both things that nobody in the media will call you on. And he's right; nobody does.

This latest smear has been shown to be a lie by Bob Somerby and by the excellent blogger Hesiod. Timothy Noah noted that the smear originated as a memo sent from the RNC.

The blogosphere was as enthusiastic about this story as the pundits. Henry Hanks repeated the lie So did Jay Caruso. Stephen Rittenberg used the out-of-context quotes to claim Gore was a 'post-modernist'. Glenn Reynolds linked approvingly to both Stephen and Henry, although also linking to a pro-Gore piece by Max Sawicky. And none of these bloggers has posted any sort of retraction.

By now this is a story of tiresome predictability. It isn't exactly a shocker that yet another story of Gore lying turns out to be all hot air. It's about as unexpected as a report on a group of cultists gathering to celebrate the end of the world being followed by a story noting that, notwithstanding the most careful exegesis of the Book of Revelations, the world is still turning.

But lies quite simply do work in politics, as long as the lie gets more circulation than the truth. They work in the media, when the media would rather spread them than expose them. And they seem to work in the blogosphere too.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Buffy Blog Burst

The following is part of a blogburst, a simultaneous, cross-linked posting of many blogs on a single theme. This blogburst concerns Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff series, Angel. For a guide to other Buffy/Angel articles, go to The Buffy BlogBurst Index.

There is much interesting reading in the work of the bloggers already listed on the Buffy BlogBurst index. NZ Bear has a discussion with an unnamed but easily identifiable visitor from Sunnydale. Irongall has written a good piece whose highlight for me was a pun dropped in so casually I'm not even certain it was intentional. Mac Thomason is utterly hilarious. And there are others I haven't yet had an opportunity to read while busy writing this. I may be posting some remarks on these later.

Just about all of this discussion has focussed on Buffy and Sunnydale. That's appropriate, since Buffy is the first and usually the best of the shows, and the season premiere of Buffy is the occasion for today's blogburst. But I decided to go against the flow and write primarily about Angel, looking at where Angel stands after three seasons, and how some of the same themes, often religious, play out in Angel's LA and Buffy's Sunnydale.

Labels don't count for much in LA, where the good guys (Doyle, Lorne, and now Cordelia) are often demons and evil (Wolfram and Hart, Holtz) regularly comes in human form. Authority isn't reliable - Wes is led astray by ancient prophecies that are ultimately discovered to have been rewritten by a demon. Even virtue isn't always trustworthy - Gunn's group of vampire hunters is corrupted into a mindlessly violent gang, while one woman who has dedicated herself to helping the needy is unknowingly used as a tool by Wolfram & Hart. The Powers That Be are too distant, oracular, and mysterious to be depended on.

But the Buffyverse is never without a moral center, and there is one guide to the perplexed in LA, which was explicitly stated by Angel in Season 2, where Angel's night of sex with Darla led, not to losing his soul as Darla had expected, but to his understanding that:

if nothing we do matters... then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do....If there isn't any bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.

This is repeatedly described in the script as an 'epiphany', which means: "A usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something." The term goes back to a traditional Christian festival to commemorate the revelation of Christ as Messiah to the Magi, an instance of Whedon, who is said to be an atheist, using explicit religious themes to express the ethics underpinning the struggle of good and evil in the Buffyverse.

There was more religious imagery in the season finales. In Sunnydale, the world was saved by a carpenter preaching forgiveness and unconditional love. In LA, Angel was locked in a coffin and cast into the ocean, while Cordelia was ascending into heaven. (There were similarities in the previous season finales. Buffy gave her life to save the world, died, and was ultimately resurrected. In the closing episodes of Angel's second season, Cordelia and the group fought against evil priests who wanted to use her to fulfill their prophecies. But the cultural referent most visible in the adventure was, ironically, 'The Wizard of Oz'.)

As the new seasons open, Willow in Sunnydale and Wes in LA are both seeking redemption for their acts of the previous year. Willow, losing her sanity in her own grief and rage, nearly destroyed the world. Wes, not trusting Angel or his other allies, handed Angel and Darla's son over to Holtz. (Lilah directly compared him to Judas.) Angel's infant son Connor went with Holtz into a hell dimension, emerging a few LA days later (time isn't consistent across dimensions) as Steven, a superb adolescent fighter raised to accept Holtz as his father and vowing to kill Angel.

Forgiveness is a central idea here. Wes hasn't been entirely forgiven by his friends for taking Connor, and is bitter over their mistrusting him. Angel isn't even slightly interested in forgiving Wes, and, after brooding in his underwater coffin all summer, is reportedly going to be returning as partly or entirely the evil Angelus.

Holtz illustrates where the inability to forgive leads. His struggle against vampires was once a battle against evil. Angel killed and turned his child, leaving him (Holtz) consumed by no thought except vengeance. When Holtz is assembling a team of fighters in LA, he seeks out others who have lost loved ones to vampires and tests Justine's capacity to be his second in command by torturing her. His crusade is now about vigilantism, and the original purpose has been lost. It's the cost of fighting a war for bitterness instead of compassion. This is the path that Buffy has been able to avoid by her closeness to the Scoobies, as Angel has avoided it by his connection to the Angel Investigations crew. He came closest to it in Season Two, when after leaving Darla and Drusilla to make a buffet out of a large chunk of Wolfram & Hart, he fired his friends and was slipping into darkness until his epiphany.

Faith, who will be making return trips to both Sunnydale and LA this season, fell all the way because she lacked the support that Angel and Buffy had. Her watcher was killed, and she was never able to accept the Scoobies because of her jealousy of Buffy. She rejected Buffy's repeated overtures, and her inability to form other relationships was symbolized in her violent and promiscuous use of sex. Ultimately, she had to seek out Buffy's enemy to find acceptance.

WIllow is likely to have an easier return, precisely because her ties to both Xander and Buffy are so deep. Wes has a harder path, because his ties to the group are less strong, and perhaps also because he betrayed them secretly instead of openly and is now less trustworthy.

Where these conflicts will go in the new seasons I don't know, or even want to - it would spoil much of the pleasure of seeing them evolve. This is likely to be the last season for Buffy, since Sarah Gellar's contract will be up and she is in considerable demand for movies. Angel is in almost as much danger in the real world as in the fictional; it has a deadly time slot against the similar and deservedly popular 'Alias', as well as a completely dissimilar hit, 'Malcolm in the Middle', there's a weak lead-in from the so-so Buffy/Charlie's Angels clone, 'Charmed', and Joss Whedon is likely to be focusing more on his new show, 'Firefly', than the old ones. This could be the last year for one show or even both, but with the strength of the creative teams that make them, it is sure to be another satisfying one.

Monday, September 23, 2002
Sisyphus Shrugged has a good article up on Robert Erlich, the 'moderate' Republican running against Townsend for Governor in Maryland. It turns out that Erlich wasn't always such a moderate - you might even say he has been re-inventing himself, but of course only Democrats do that.
Lawrence Simon is now planning the personnel for his all blogger cabinet. Between my rather liberal perspective and my modest readership, I don't expect to qualify for any of the good jobs. So far, he hasn't even found anything for Josh Marshal, although his fellow Texan Charles Kuffner made the cut. But maybe, if the Ambassadorships to all those nice sunny islands are already spoken for, I can get a shot at Deputy Undersecretary of Silly Walks. There should still be a few jobs left over after all the right wing bloggers have been rewarded.
Gene Volokh has an interesting post on excesses in prescriptive grammar and his preference for descriptive (how people actually speak) over prescriptive (how some people believe you should speak) grammar. His example is 'ice cream' which, it turns out, was considered a linguistic outrage back when the term was first coined by those who insisted that the adjectival 'iced cream' was more appropriate.

'Ice cream' is actually less of an innovation than Volokh believes, because the phrase uses a popular and prolific English construction rule of joining two nouns together to form one noun. Professor Volokh presumably would approve of this construction since examples include gun metal and machine gun, along with log book, school bus, fat farm, summer camp, phone book, string bikini, taxicab, fleshpot, and blogburst. So the idea that nouns have to be matched with adjectives instead of other nouns is simply wrong.

Side note: it pretty much has to be two nouns, but there is one, to my knowledge only one, standard English expression in which two verbs are joined to form one noun, which can also be a verb. Universal acclaim and an exciting prize will not be awarded to the first person who figures out what it is.

Many prescriptive rules which still hold force in some circles are entirely useless. A classic example is the prohibition against splitting infinitives, which isn't a principle of Emglish grammar at all, but an import from the grammar of Greek and Latin, in which infinitives are indicated by a prefix or suffix instead of a distinct word and so can never be split. It was the absurd notion of some early grammarians that English grammar ought to resemble that of the classical languages, so a rule with no roots in the English language was invented, and unfortunately caught on. The idea that a sentence shouldn't end with a preposition has the same origin.

I encountered recently an interesting example in Rex Stout ('Might As Well Be Dead', 1946) of how rapidly usage can change.

"It's about my son. I want to find my son. About a month ago I put ads in the New York papers, and I contacted the New York police, and - What's the matter?"

The above paragraph contains something that Nero Wolfe, and presumably Rex Stout, considered a grammatical indecency. Not only will very few modern readers share Wolfe's indignity, I suspect that most will not even be able to guess what he objects to.

"Wolfe had made a face. I, at my desk, could have told Herold that unless his problem smelled like real money he might as well quit right there. One man who had made 'contact' a verb in that office had paid an extra thousand bucks for the privilege, though he hadn't known it."

I do often writhe when I see egregious examples of nouns like 'incentive' (the business world seems to be particularly guilty here) used as verbs. Maybe someday 'incentive' as a verb will be as utterly unnoticable as 'contact' or 'market' is today. Will that mean the language has grown richer and more flexible, or sloppier and uglier?

The world may be collapsing, but for at least one group of people, Bay Area sports fans, times have rarely been better. Sunday morning the Giants won their third straight, keeping a decent lead on the Dodgers, with even a remote shot at catching the suddenly slumping Diamondbacks. In the afternoon, I watched the A's complete their sweep of Texas, gaining a solid 3 game lead in the AL West and crushing the hopes of certain pro-Angels bloggers. With the 3rd lowest payroll in the major leagues, in their first season after losing a league MVP to free agency, the A's are in a position to end the regular season with the most wins of any team. It's a feat that has even caught the eye of the New Yorker, which has an interesting explanation of how it was possible.

Meanwhile, the 49ers won again, bringing the 49ers/Raiders combined record to a solid 4 -1. With both the As and Giants legitimate World Series contenders, it looks as if the 49ers and Raiders will both be Super Bowl challengers. (I think the 49ers are probably the better team of the two. For the last few seasons they've had the youngest defense in the league - actually younger in 2001 than the starting defense of BYU - which I think has been just a few players and some added experience short of being outstanding. And this season they may very well get there.) And during the commercials in the afternoon games, I was able to switch over to ABC and watch Stanford alumnus Tiger Woods win the Amex Championship with an amazing 25 under par.

Sunday, September 22, 2002
First Thoughts on 'Firefly'

[Warning: minor spoilers]

'Firefly' is the latest show from Joss Whedon, the creator of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', which any regular reader of this space knows by now I am a major fan of. It has some similarities to the legendary and brilliant British SF show, 'Blake`s 7', but the likeness is not overwhelming. Set several centuries in the future, it tells the story of a fairly ragtag crew aboard the space ship Serenity, eking out a precarious living by performing ad hoc and mostly illegal contracts while trying to stay ahead of the Alliance, an authoritarian government trying to bring all human worlds under their control.

It isn't really fair to judge a new show after only one episode. The premiere had to spend a lot of time establishing back story; it invested even more time setting up plot lines for future use, most notably involving a character who the crew see as insane but will clearly be shown in future shows to have powerful psi abilities, or something similar. In spite of those handicaps, it told a solid and interesting story with some good twists, while using the story to show us the characters.

After writing that and thinking about how much 'Firefly' tried to do, and actually did, in the first episode, I'm more impressed than when I started this review. Still, I have to rate the episode overall as good, not terrific. When I saw the premiere of 'Buffy' it grabbed me from the first show, in fact, almost from the first scene. In what I think was the second scene, Buffy meets a guidance couselor on the first day at her new school. The counselor pretentiously announces that at Sunnydale High, troubled students are given a new beginning and an opportunity to put their past problems behind them. To make his point, he begins tearing up Buffy's discipline record from the school she was previously kicked out of. But then he happens to read a bit of the report, reads a little more, and then grabs some scotch tape and begins piecing it back together. It was a terrific scene and I've been hooked from that moment. Nothing in 'Firefly' worked quite that well.

The main story line has the crew being hired to steal a mystery shipment on a relatively backwards planet. There are unexpected obstacles to overcome in the actual theft, but the biggest obstacle is when Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) finds out what he has actually stolen, and has to choose between his conscience and the risk of not only losing a large payoff but also deeply offending his distinctly nasty employer.

The cast is entirely unknown and near unknown performers, but looks solid. Probably the best so far is Morena Baccarin as Inara the 'companion', basically a high class courtesan, who's reasons for being aboard Serenity in the first place are less than clear. However, some of the other regulars had minimal roles in the premiere and may emerge as standouts later.

In sum, 'Firefly' showed me more than enough to make me want to come back for future episodes.

If Diane thinks that somebody out there doesn't like her, she's right. On the same day that Mac Thomason (permalink not working) got a hit on the string `"letter from gotham" bigot*`, I got one on `diane letter gotham insane`. Anybody else seeing anti-Diane strings in their referral logs?
Friday, September 20, 2002
There are only 4 days left before Meryl's Buffy Blogburst, and I haven't got a clue what I'm going to be writing about for my entry. It seems that I have Buffy Blogburst Blogger's Block, and I can't shake it, or even say it fast. I will, however, be blogging tonight or tomorrow morning with a review of the premiere of Firefly.
Confirmation Class

There is an interesting debate among liberal bloggers over whether McConnell should be conformed for the 10th Circuit. Nathan Newman is emphatically opposed along with Yglesias. Jeff Cooper says it's the wrong fight, and Sam Heldman seems to be having trouble deciding.

I would lean towards opposing, although I believe in the end the nomination will go through. The principal reason is that I simply think Democrats can and should fight on judicial nominations, and given that 77 have been approved and only 2 rejected, it seems that on this issue as on most others Congressional Democrats have been more guilty of rolling over for Bush than excessive partisanship.

I don't doubt that Mr McConnell is highly qualified, but that is not, after all, why he was nominated. Many highly qualified people haven't received even the slightest consideration from this President and won't because they don't fit the rather narrow ideological requirements he places on potential nominees. Given that he was nominated for political reasons, his strong qualifications being more a bonus than a determining factor, I see no plausible reason why a confirmation vote shouldn't hinge on the same grounds.

The arguments against such considerations seem dishonest. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among conservatives when the nomination of Priscilla Owens was voted down, and it was described as an unprecedented event. While I believe it is true that the Republican Senate in the Clinton years didn't actually reject any nominees other than Whyte, the act of giving a nominee an up or down vote seems far more respectful to both the nominee and the process than the preferred tactic from the Clinton years of letting nominations gather dust for years on end, refusing to act simply because some Senator didn't like the nominee but nobody could find a plausible reason to oppose. So it isn't at all an increase in the partisanship surrounding nominations, it's just an increase in the honesty employed to gain partisan ends.

The argument that there is an urgent need to approve judges because of the many current vacancies is even weaker. Setting aside the fact that the people arguing this point tend to be the very people who are responsible for all those vacancies, this quite simply isn't a good government issue. If that was the real concern of Bush and his supporters, they could solve their problems today: along with Bush's nominations, renominate a group of Clinton nominees who are known to have been well qualified. This easy compromise would make it possible to eliminate the excessive number of vacancies almost immediately. The reason they don't take or even consider this step is that their objective isn't to ensure the smooth running of the federal court system, it's to pack it with right wing ideologues.

Family Values

Even if Woundwort thinks otherwise, I am moved by this display of family togetherness. Many of my readers probably have teenage children, and most of those kids, being teens, presumably dedicate many of their spare hours to various forms of illegal, embarassing, and stupid activities. But how many of those teens trust their parents enough to involve them in their illegal acts? This is clearly an unusually close-knit family.

I know I'll always treasure my memories of those summer evenings as a kid when I accompanied my father to go out to the game, cheer for the home team, drink a few beers, eat hot dogs, drink some more beer, take off our shirts, grab a concealed weapon, and jump the first base coach. Ah, the joys of simpler times.

Andrew Sullivan is quoting Bush I's memoirs to try to minimize the differences between the generations of the Bush dynasty, and especially their attitudes towards unilateralism. This describes Bush's response to the Kuwait invasion:
A few minutes later, I was on the phone with Tom Pickering, our U.N. ambassador. While I was prepared to deal with this crisis unilaterally if necessary, I wanted the United Nations involved as part of our first response, starting with a strong condemnation of Iraq's attack on a fellow member. Decisive U.N. action would be important in rallying international opposition to the invasion and reversing it.[Emphasis in Sullivan.]

Sullivan comments: "Methinks the contrast between 41 and 43 is overblown."

Doesn't this quote prove pretty much the opposite of what it's being cited to argue? What is more significant here than the offhand hypothetical is the fact that one of the first officials Bush I contacted during the crisis was his UN Ambassador, and it was that conversation, rather than one with the Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser, or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that gets mentioned in the memoirs. I have a strong suspicion that Dubya has hardly ever spoken directly to his UN Ambassador without going through Powell.

Incidentally, an item shortly below this on Colin Powell is a rare example of Sullivan saying something I agree with. I find the shrill denunciations of Powell which often pop up in the right-wing media and among the most pro-war warbloggers to be pretty silly. Colin Powell may be many things, but he is definitely not a loose cannon. If you don't like his policies, blame the guy who put him there and can fire him any time he wants to, instead of pretending that Powell (or Mineta) snuck into the Cabinet by some mysterious means without the President's permission.

Sullivan is probably also right in suggesting that Powell's Iraq policy isn't so clearly anti-war as some people seem to think.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
What's in a Blog?

It's certainly becoming fashionable to put up web content labelled as a blog. The Nation recently redesigned its home page to do so. But the blogs don't have links and so far aren't being updated frequently - in other words, they look pretty much like columns being given a trendy name.

In checking on Joss Whedon's new series Firefly, I found a Firefly blog on the official site, but again no links. It's essentially a sort of mix between teasers and gossip, but is still worth checking out for Buffy fanatics like yours truly.

I was also struck by this Firefly cast picture. I'd be surprised if Whedon doesn't come up with something original for the new show, but I was amused by how much this cast resembled a grown-up version of the Buffy cast. You have several women, all hot enough to melt iron. There's several guys just as good-looking as the women, one guy who looks kind of geeky, and one man who is distinctly older than the rest with an avuncular look.

What - Me Subversive?

It isn't exactly surprising that J. Edgar Hoover didn't get MAD magazine. Cursor has links to a story and the actual FOIA files.
Monday, September 16, 2002
Our Omniscient Experts

NFL Insider assembled no fewer than 10 football experts to predict the outcome of the 2002 season. The consensus was that St Louis would defeat Pittburgh to win the Super Bowl. After two weeks of play, the consensus Super Bowl picks have a combined record of 0 - 4.

St Louis has actually played well, and is very likely to turn their season around. I watched most of Pittsburgh's home loss to Oakland, and I really have my doubts about them. They didn't look at all like a good team.

The only non-expansion team in the AFC not picked by any expert to at least make a wild card was the San Diego Chargers. They are currently 2 - 0, with 58 points scored against 9 given up. Admittedly, they had an easy start, playing expansion Houston and Cincinatti (6 - 10 in 2001). Upcoming games against New England and Denver should show if they're for real.

Carolina, picked by 9 of 10 experts to finish last, is also at 2 - 0. One of the wins, however, came against Detroit, which is starting out where it left off last year, as the worst team in the league.

Friday, September 13, 2002
I feel more comfortable on the whole with Bush's Iraq plans after reading the transcript of his speech. I've never been flatly opposed to military action in Iraq; if anything, I lean towards supporting. I was disturbed at the attitude the administration seemed to be taking for most of the summer that it was unnecessary to make the case for an intervention either to the nation or the world. There is now clearly a retreat from that position.

There is no disputing that Iraq is in material violation of numerous Security Council resolutions concerning the development of WMD, the admission of weapons inspectors, and perhaps even the return of POWs from the Gulf War. If Iraq cannot be persuaded to comply, a military response, as dangerous as that is, would be fully justified. But the better option, if it is available, is re-admission of inspectors and the peaceful dismantling of Iraqi WMD.

Josh Marshall is right in pointing out that the speech is a real policy change, although a subtle one. It is plain that there is still an iron fist backing up the diplomatic language, and equally plain that you can't deal usefully with Saddam Hussein on any other terms. It is probable that the US is still prepared to move without formal UN approval. But the willingness to seek that approval has already been a diplomatic success because it changes the discussion from the excesses of American power to the very real need to address the Iraqi situation.

The government is corrupt, children have disappeared, and promises to hold democratic elections no longer have credibility. Max Sawicky says it's time for a regime change.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
One of the many faults of modern conservatism is that it sometimes gets so bizarre as to frustrate satire. When I first encountered this rant in Atrios, I genuinely thought it was one of his satires of far right nuttiness, but it turned out to be real. It was written by one Ben Shapiro, who is all of 18, but still published on, which apparently has no minimum standards either for age or ability.

America has divided into two factions: those who fight evil and those who do not believe in evil. The dividing line is religion.

Those who believe in a Judeo-Christian God know the difference between good and evil because they know the value of human life...

They realize that terrorists who smashed airliners into buildings were not provoked by American foreign policy -- the terrorists were seeking death because they were part of a culture that loves death. Deeply religious people knew what America had to do in response: kill those responsible for the terrorism and those who supported them, and prevent the evil from growing.

The other faction does not believe in God, at least not actively. There is no good, and there is no evil, these people believe. If God has no purpose for man -- as they believe -- then life is meaningless, and the death of thousands of Americans has no more meaning than the death of a colony of ants....

Thank God it's all so simple. Imagine how difficult it would be if there were complicating factors, like people who don't believe in God and still have moral values, or people who plant bombs in abortion clinics because they believe in God and think that's what He wants them to do.

No one can mention that the terrorists of Sept. 11 were Muslim without automatically having to state that "not all Muslims are terrorists," for fear of being labeled racist.

And making a distinction between Muslims and terrorists is bad because?

Schools around the country teach students about Islam, promoting it as a "religion of peace" without discussing its more violent adherents. The National Education Association preaches anti-Americanism, telling teachers to indoctrinate students with stories of American imperialism.'''

Some of us who believe in a Judeo-Christian God might object to spreading this lie. But that's only because we haven't paid proper attention to the new and improved Ninth Commandment, which explains that bearing false witness against liberals is kosher.

If we pillory those who defend traditional moral values, we seem weak. Why would any terrorist fear a country that treats the Boy Scouts like the KKK? If we treat the moral as trivial, if we make it seem as though our lives have no value, how can we expect others to respect the value of our lives?

I bet that was just the way the discussion went:

Mullah Omar: But Sheikh, consider the dangers of attacking a nation as powerful as the United States.

Osama: Don't be ridiculous. Haven't you heard that some schools are banning Boy Scout activities until gay scouts are admitted? What do we have to fear?

Omar: Then surely it is as you said, and their lives have no value.

Osama: Even so. Our jihad shall triumph, for our prophet has said so.

Omar: Really? I must have missed Oprah that day.

Michael Kelly has been spinning longer and is too smart to be as blatantly absurd. But his column (via Yglesias) on how Bush's 'limitations', a euphemism for stupidity, is actually a strength, is making a similarly absurd point.

George Bush's furious critics see him entirely in terms of limitations, but limitations have their place. Bush's response to Sept. 11 was very limited: It's war, good against evil, us against them, choose your sides, we're going to win. This worked, where a more intellectual, considered response would have failed....

There is going to be a war, and it is going to be supported by Congress and probably by the United Nations. The reason for this is simple enough. No serious person disagrees with the idea that Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to American and global security and that something should be done. All that resolve required was a coherent argument that something must be done and can be done.

Bush is now making this case, and he is going to succeed in making it, because he is a limited man. All he knows is that this has to be done, so he is going to do it. And so will we.
The theme here is that Bush can feel and communicate moral clarity precisely because he is 'simple'. A more sophisticated man apparently wouldn't be able to make up his mind about which side to be on. After all, Winston Churchill obviously could never have led England through the war if, instead of being a simple man, he had been some kind of intellectual who spent his spare time writing histories of the English-speaking peoples and obscure colonial wars.

Update: Poor Ben Shapiro must feel like he's right back in High School. All the cool kids are kicking his ass. Some have been doing it for months. And the Principal just looks on and winks.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
The Rest is Silence

I made some feeble attempts at a commemorative 9/11 posting, and found I had simply nothing to say that felt fitting. NZ Bear and Avedon Carol were both up to the challenge. Meryl Yourish has links to several other essays, Dawn Olsen has a lovely letter to her daughter, while Ted Barlow has the most terse memorial.
Sunday, September 08, 2002
I would like to wish Rosh Hashanah tovah and a joyous 5763 to all my readers and fellow bloggers.

The Nuisance celebrated the new year by recording its 10,000th visit on Friday night. Number 10,000 came here from Atrios, which is appropriate. In addition to blogrolling me, Atrios has been kind enough to link to this blog several times. Due to those links and his deserved high traffic, Atrios is the number one referrer to this site.

I'm grateful to all those who read this site, the many readers who have sent me encouraging e-mail, and all of my fellow bloggers who have linked this site and sent readers my way - even ones who may have recently demoted me from "Daily Read" to "Regular Read".

The Norah Vincent article below was quite popular, and brought me my first link love from Media Whores Online - also links from Ted Barlow, Win Fitzpatrick, and Jeanne d'Arc. I am pleased with the linkage and kind words, but despite MWO's suggestion this blog most definitely is not and will not become "Norah Vincent Watch". I'm so over that that I won't even mention this artful Jeff Jarvis trashing of Vincent's most recent column on 9/11 that I found on Yglesias.

The theme of the Public Nuisance will continue to be what it has always been: "So what do I feel like saying today?" Is this worth my time to write or yours to read? Hey, 10,000 readers might possibly not be wrong.

Friday, September 06, 2002
Some of us have started to suspect that the current administration doesn't really have any long-term ideas for what it is trying to accomplish with the War on Terrorism. Uggabugga has the proof that we're wrong.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Riffraff and Wannabes and Bottom Feeders - Oh My!

New blogger Norah Vincent is discovering that our bloggy little corner of the internet can be a dispiriting place:

But, I must say that the so-called blogosphere, liberating as it can be, is—as I have had the misfortune of discovering in recent days—also full of nasty riffraff and wannabe pundits who because they haven’t an earnest, original idea in their heads, fill their empty existences sniping impotently at legitimate targets. By legitimate targets I mean people who have actually had some measure of success in their professional lives, people who get published regularly in the mainstream press because, yes, they have a certain degree of talent, but moreso because they have something more to say on a weekly basis than “boo hoo” or “look ma, no hands.”...

All of this has made me regret one of my earliest posts on this site in which I took a hatchet to Maureen Dowd. I was wrong to do so. It was a perfect example of the kind of parasitic, attention-getting crap I’m talking about. The truth is that I, like every other opinion journalist on the planet, would kill to have her spot on the NYT page. I envy her. I also find her snarky attitude irksome, but that, my friends, is my problem, not hers. Nobody is forcing me to read her.

As for my expressed dislike for her, it was tripe. I apologize to her and to you. You deserve better. Besides, there’s nothing more loathsome than someone who blames her own career shortcomings or dashed ambitions on the successes of someone else. There’s also nothing more toad-like than someone who uses another person’s fame to raise her own profile, or uses righteous indignation as an excuse to pass off pure small-minded bitchiness and cheap sarcasm as real critique. Maureen Dowd may be taking up space, but she’s not keeping anyone else down. If we’re all as good as we think we are, then we’ll rise of our own accord. Dowd’s incumbency at the Times has nothing to do with it.

There are plenty of constructive criticisms to be made of Dowd’s opinions, and I will, no doubt, make them here from time to time. But I am determined to do so civilly and with the respect due anyone who labors under the heavy burden of producing two columns a week for the newspaper of record. ...

I, therefore, make the following vow. I will not vituperate against my peers. I will argue, express my disapproval, my dismay, my dissent, and all other opinions of others’ work in a manner worthy of mature public discourse. But I will not rant like a frustrated queen about other journalists’ supposed lack of talent.

As for the aforementioned—though unnamed—blogmonsters, I have hereby railed enough against your poor and shallow tactics and will do so no more. You haven’t earned respect from anyone, but I’ll at least make an effort not to berate you any further. Instead I’ll ignore you. So back to the swamp with you and the deserved obscurity from which you slithered.

Vincent is upset partially because the Rittenhouse Review implied that she was a plagiarist, an accusation that I thought was rather overblown, but generated extensive discussion in blogland. Vincent's rant in response draws a sharp distinction between "legitimate targets.. people who have actually had some measure of success in their professional lives, people who get published regularly in the mainstream press", and her critics who are "blogmonsters", "bottom feeders", "nasty riffraff and wannabe pundits" who, "fill their empty existences sniping impotently at legitimate targets". Ms Vincent clearly places herself in the first group and, with a proud assertion of class privilege that would delight an 18th Century Parisian Marquise, exiles us "back to the swamp... and the deserved obscurity from which you slithered."

Ms Vincent wants to have it both ways. Although she makes regular appearances on the editorial pages of the largest and most respected paper west of Chicago, she likes to think of herself as an oppressed Conservative rebelling against the overwhelming power of the ominpresent Liberal Media Establishment. At she same time, she is insistent on the privileges of her position. As a paid journalist, her opinions Matter. Insignificant amateur bloggers are permitted to admire, but only if they have the decency to know their place and not insult their betters. Clearly, Vincent's only regret for the nasty attacks she makes on bloggers who dare to criticize her is that she has been forced into the unpleasant position of publicly acknowledging their existence, an act which she vows not to repeat.

An entirely different ettiquette applies to her professional peers. Vincent apologizes abjectly to the abysmal Maureen Dowd for having had the temerity to criticize her. (Either from embarassment or lack of blogging know-how, Vincent doesn't link to her criticism, but I will.) If you read the actual criticism it is, although rather clumsily written, almost entirely fair. Dowd really is bitchy, irritating, and pointless. Vincent doesn't deny this so much as apologize for pointing it out. Doing so is "a perfect example of the kind of parasitic, attention-getting crap I’m talking about".

Vincent also says that, "Besides, there’s nothing more loathsome than someone who blames her own career shortcomings or dashed ambitions on the successes of someone else." Aside from the fact that this is simply sloppy - some of us might consider such a person substantially less loathsome than Saddam Hussein or Ted Bundy - there is nothing in the original critique that implies at all that Vincent is blaming Dowd for her (Vincent's) own failings. Bob Somerby has noted many times that never speaking harshly of another member of the club is a universal if unwritten rule of the commentariat. The only way I can understand this sentence is that Vincent's daring to insult a more successful fellow member of the clique is such untoward behavior that she feels required to admit to the sordid motive of jealousy for doing so, sort of like a Maoist self-criticism.

It is particularly ironic that in her self-criticism Vincent declares her contempt for, "someone who uses another person’s fame to raise her own profile, or uses righteous indignation as an excuse to pass off pure small-minded bitchiness and cheap sarcasm as real critique". This is an impressively pithy and apt summary of several years of Dowd mockery of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore that made her a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Vincent does say that, "there are plenty of constructive criticisms to be made of Dowd’s opinions, and I will, no doubt, make them here from time to time". How can she square this with the far more honest anonymous criticism in the earlier article, "She’s been writing since the mid-90s, and I can’t tell you a single thing she stands for"? You can't criticize a person's principles unless they have some, and Dowd, unless bitchiness and sarcasm are now ethical stances, doesn't. It seems the consistency is that Vincent doesn't retract or apologize for the one part of her critique that is patently ludicrous, labelling Dowd as a "DNC faithful". So while Vincent has vowed never again to cast an unkind eye on Dowd's very real shallowness and pointlessness, we can look forward to future shots at her entirely imaginary liberalism and unquestioning support of the Democratic Party line. It would surely be too much to hope that this future criticism will explain why a "DNC faithful" made her reputation attacking Democrats.

Blogger does have some bugs, but the 'bug' in blogging that Vincent considers the worst is precisely what I and most other bloggers see as the core feature. The firm dividing line between consumer and producer of opinion that she is so respectful of becomes profoundly permeable. It still exists, although some bloggers would like to think it has been obliterated; the very fact that Vincent, within days of starting her site, was getting 500 hits and up a day illustrates that Old Media names still enjoy an inherent advantage in finding a New Media audience. But what was a Berlin Wall has become a permeable border.

A columnist who writes for a major newspaper is essentially different from a reader who sends in a response . The paper can edit the reader's letter as they choose without those who see the letters column ever knowing that it was edited. In most cases, they will simply not publish it at all. If you want to criticize what the paper is saying, you are entirely dependent on their willingness to let you use their columns to make your case. No such difference exists between Norah Vicent's professional blog and my amateur effort to throw some honesty back at the commentariat whose crap I've been listening to for years. Blogjam gets more traffic than this site and probably will continue to, but still both are blogs. Regardless of the difference in the size of the megaphones, what was a one-way conversation has become irreversibly two way.

Update: It's a bottom feeding frenzy! Via Matthew Yglesias, I found some similar discussion on Win Fitzpatrick's blog. Also worth note is this post on Body & Soul, a really excellent blog I don't believe I've linked to previously. And now even conservative bloggers are joining in.

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

The Nuisance Global Headquarters happens to be located only about 10 miles away from what was, last night, the center of the baseball world. I had the good fortune to be at the scene, along with 55,527 others, when the Oakland Athletics looked to stretch their incredible win streak to 20, an American League record and the 2nd best in major league history. (I consider the official record of 26 to be invalid, because one game was called for darkness and ended in a tie. 25 wins and one tie is an impressive achievement, but it isn't 26 consecutive wins.)

I came early and was lucky to buy a ticket at under face value from a man who had extras. The crowd was easily the largest and the loudest for any game I've been to in the Coliseum, and turned out to be the largest ever for a regular season game in Oakland. I made my own contributions to the noise and am still quite hoarse today. Of the many posters I saw, I particularly liked two apparently connected ones that said, "20 straight money can't buy", and, "For everything else there's Yankees".

The As were hot when the game started. After Tim Hudson retired the Royals in order in the top of the first, Durham opened the bottom of the first with a triple to the right field corner. After two more singles, a hit batter, an error by Ibanez, and another triple from Dye, the score was 4 - 0 before the first Oakland out. KC starter Paul Byrd is a quality pitcher as shown by his 15 - 11 record, far better than his team's 55 - 84. But after he gave up two more doubles for a total of 6 hits, 4 extra base hits, and 6 earned runs in the first inning, he wasn't invited back for the second, the earliest he has been chased this year.

After Hudson sent the Royal down quietly in the 2nd, Mabry greeted long reliever Darrell May with a leadoff homer in the home side. The As batted around again in the third, running the score up to 11 - 0.

With what looked like an unbeatable lead, the stands were already a celebrating a new record. Unfortunately, the same attitude spread to the dugout, and the A's proceeded to give a clinic on bungling baseball fundamentals. After 14 of the first 22 hitters reached base, the Oakland bats went silent. Dye struck out to end the 3rd, and over the next 5 innings, Oakland never had a serious offensive threat, with only 2 runners getting on base, both after 2 outs.

The lack of further offensive production was paired with sloppy defense. Miguel Tejada is having a superb season, and is an MVP contender who made game-winning hits in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the 18th and 19th victories of the drive. But last night he was the worst offender. When KC had 2 on and none out in the fourth, Mayne hit a grounder to Ellis that should have killed the rally. Ellis took the ball cleanly and flipped to Tejada for what should have been an easy double play. Instead, Tejada dropped the ball and failed to even get the force at second, opening the gates for 5 KC runs that made a comeback possible.

In the following innings, KC was generating scoring opportunities while Oakland wasn't. Although the margin stayed at 6 runs, the game felt closer than that, with the frequent KC runners keeping open the possibility of an incredible 11 run comeback.

In the 8th, Bradford, a pitcher with an unusual sidearm delivery and generally excellent control, walked the first two batters. A ground ball by Perez to first should have been the first out, but Bradford stayed on the mound instead of covering first. Perez beat Mabry in a race to the base, and the bases were loaded with no outs. Ordaz grounded to Tejada, who should have conceded the run and gotten the easy force and possible double play at 3rd. Instead, Tejada threw home and threw poorly. Mayne beat the throw and everyone was safe with a run across, the bases still loaded, and no outs. The As got two outs, giving up one more run in the process. But Sweeney hit a two out home run to tighten the score to 11 - 10.

In the top of the ninth, Koch came in for the save opportunity. Randa singled and Mayne sacrificed him to second. With two outs, Alicea singled and the pinch runner scored to tie the game. Oakland had become the first team since the 1976 Chicago Cubs to squander an 11 run lead. Alicea reached second on a wild pitch, but it was KC's turn to make a stupid mistake, and he got picked off to end the inning.

For the third conseutive game, the As needed heroics in the bottom of the ninth. After Dye flew out, Scott Hatteberg, playing his first season as an Athletic after a fairly indistinguished career with the Red Sox, came through with a blast to left center that landed well into the stands and clinched the record.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Besides, Nobody Else Has 'The Real Beverly Hillbillies'

Why does the rest of the world envy Americans? Neal Pollack has the true answer.
Monday, September 02, 2002
A marvelous tidbit from Joe Conason, spotted by Atrios . Here's how the 'party of responsibility explains divorced senator Tim Hutchinson: `A county GOP leader in Arkansas explained that "we all have things that occur in our lives that are unfortunate."`

Heck, anybody can appreciate that. Sometimes, you just wake up and discover that you've dumped your wife after 29 years of marriage to have an affair with a younger woman. These things happen; there really wasn't a thing you could have done to prevent it.