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Caesar’s Bath
Awesome. Jeremy Lott has given in to my pathetic arm-twisting and passed me the Caesar’s Bath meme.

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.”

I’ve noticed some people accidentally writing about things which flat-out suck, and that’s probably easier but not as fun. I’m going to try and stick to things that most of my friends have opinions on, too.

1.)24. I have watched the entire first season of this show, and episodes from all the other seasons, and … meh. It’s certainly better-written and cast than your average action series, but it’s still a damn action series. And in order to meet its weekly adreneline quota, it jerks the characters around to a level that’s just plain annoying. One kidnapping I can understand … one “I’ll trade my life if you let so-and-so go” is good. Not several of each in a 24-hour period.

2.)Chicago. I chose my alma mater (Northwestern) blind, partly because of the assurances that I’d be close to a “world-class” city. And that may be right. After all, Brussels is a world-class city. It’s also boring. The same can be said of Chicago. I think it’s cumbersome and hard to get around in – the city is longer than it is wide, and cool neighborhoods are absurdly hard to reach from the suburbs. If you’re trying to reach something west of the Chicago river, you travel all the way downtown and transfer to a train that takes you back north. If you’re trying to reach Hyde Park, you take the red line all the way through the city, then hop on another train altogether. Mind you, this is mostly a problem for college kids living in the northern suburbs. But while I wouldn’t turn down a chartered limo taking me to key music stores, the city’s still sprawling and mostly dull, unless you’re a business consultant who wants to pick up other business consultants in Wrigleyville. And did I say it’s cold? It’s cold.

3.)Rock concerts. You’d figure I’d love going to concerts, since I spend all of my surplus cash on music and now have around, oh, 2800 CDs. But the rigamarole of a live concert is just unbearable. Admit it. Do you enjoy running ahead of your fellow fans to elbow up to the stage? If you’re alone, do you enjoy drumming your fingers on said stage for 2 hours until the opening act comes on? If you’re with friends, do you enjoy SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF YOUR VOICE to keep some kind of conversation going? Do you enjoy silently, cooly scheming to grab the set list as a dozen other hipsters hatch their own plots beside you? Pretty often a concert will be kickass enough to make you forget this stuff, but for me the huge waiting period before a concert is enough to scare me away from most shows I could see. “But Dave,” you may ask. “Aren’t you just bitter that your girlfriend broke up with you after a concert?” Maybe that’s part of it.

4.)Instapundit. Actually, I reckon most people in my “circle of friends or peer group” are pretty split on Instapundit, and few would argue that he’s totally awesome. But few would argue, as I do, that he’s gotten plain mediocre. It was bound to happen – when blogs were new and the world was green, Glenn Reynolds had plenty of time to scan the small blog universe and post everything he found interesting. But the blog world has expanded, and blog hype has expanded expontentially, giving Reynolds lots of distractions and some obvious sense of triumphalism. The site has ceased to be a go-to blog aggregator. Now, it’s the journal of a center-right law professor with some famous friends (Hugh Hewitt, Mickey Kaus, James Lileks). This isn’t bad – it’s just not very compelling, and nowhere good enough for the level of popularity and cred that Reynolds continues to enjoy.

5.)The Washington Monthly. There seems to be this consensus that the WaMo “came to life” in the last few years, and it’s heads and tails above other liberal magazines. Yes and no. It did get more interesting around 2001-2003, but it seems to have taken a turn for the boring since Joshua Green left, with too few breaking stories and too many analyses of well-trod topics. I couldn’t find anything much of interest in the last issue with the Lindsey Graham cover and, remember the “Bring back the draft!” cover package? Yeah, I thought so. As liberal magazines go, it’s not even one of the three best – I’d say The Nation is actually the most entertaining these days, followed by the American Prospect, and then TNR, whose interminable “LIBERALS SUCK GRAHH” editorials are cancelled out by the terrific reporting and reviews. TNR and The Nation seem to take a lot more flak than the Monthly, and I don’t think that’s fair right now.

I pass the baton to John Tabin, Ellen Shapiro, and Shawn Macomber.

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Balls
I think that’s what you call this.

This is starting to remind me of the second act of “Eight Men Out.” I wonder if Bush put a huge bet against his Social Security plan on Tradesports, and stands to make a ton if it goes down in flames.

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Our first lesbian president
Tim Graham is right, damn him. The choice of Cynthia Nixon to play Eleanor Roosevelt in HBO’s new FDR movie is insanely flattering to the former first lady.

Here’s Cynthia Nixon.

And here’s — augh! Turn it off! Turn it off!

Also, if you’ve been buying any magazines with house ads for this movie, did you notice the new ads digitally insert a cigarette holder into Kenneth Branagh’s mouth? Golly, I hate that. The last really creepy example of a digital mulligan happened with Julia Stiles’ sorta-hit “The Prince and Me.” Here was the image used in first-run publicity.

And here’s the manipulation they used for the DVD release. Note how a picture of Stiles’ head from an entirely different situation was slapped on her neck.

Dunno why, but this bugs me.

UPDATE: Oh, I should’ve known – Graham managed to work some MRC paranoia into his post after all. He calls this HBO’s “latest” FDR biopic and snarks “I’m sure it will be just as nasty as that Showtime film on the Reagans, right?” This is stupid. The movie is called “Warm Springs” – it’s about FDR’s futile struggle to walk again after getting polio in 1921, and it ends in the late 20s, when he re-entered politics in a run for governor of New York. In that 1928 race, FDR was seen by many as a token candidate – his crippling was widely-gossiped about, and people wondered whether the Democrats were giving up on the race by fielding a guy who, presumably, couldn’t campaign hard, in a year that Republicans (under presidential candidate Hoover) were going to win New York state anyway. But FDR campaigned like a bastard and won. It’s a fascinating human story that is in large part responsible for FDR’s enduring appeal (not just the 1928 race, but the fact he lost the use of his legs and came back stronger than ever). I think Bob Dole’s personal story, about his injury in Italy in 1945, is also responsible for Dole’s appeal – Dole is considerably more popular and warmly regarded than any defeated presidential candidate in memory.

Graham probably didn’t consider then when he posted – regardless, it’s a stupid comparison to make.

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Wishes do come true
“The more the president goes out there, the worse his numbers,” says Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who opposes Bush’s plan. After Bush visited Cedar Rapids, a statewide poll by the Des Moines Register showed just 26% of Iowans approved of his Social Security plan; 65% disapproved.

Harkin jokes that Democrats have advice for Bush: “Extend the 60-day tour to 120 days.”
USA Today, April 24

“President George W. Bush’s strategy for wrapping up his 60-day, 60-stop tour to whip up support for revamping Social Security is simple: ignore the calendar and keep on stumping.

As the scheduled May 1 conclusion of his speaking tour approaches, Bush is planning to extend his campaign-style travels across the country in an effort to reverse the dwindling public support for his plan.”
Bloomberg, April 26

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Look out honey ’cause I’m using technology
No one ever answers my technical questions, but I currently have two, so let me float them once more.

1.)My iPod has an annoying dent on the back. Is there a way to get this fixed without replacing the whole thing? Is that iPodmechanics site worth a shit?

2.)I lost the cap on my SanDisk Cruzer Micro, and their website won’t sell me a replacement without a Commerce.MtsTxPipeline error ‘80020101’. Where can I buy a new cap?

Thanks in advance.

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The end of my Michelle Malkin-bashing
She really is pathetic, isn’t she? I’m guessing she can’t have gotten so far in journalism with a low IQ, so she purposefully dumbs herself down in order to become a high-profile pundit, and that’s even worse. I mean, look at this dumb shit.

ACCENT ON LIBERAL BIGOTRY

File this under Party of Tolerance follies: A Democrat candidate for governor in Virginia is apparently mocking how people in his state talk.

No, he isn’t. Tim Kaine is running for governor of Virginia (where I now live) against Jerry Kilgore, a youngish Attorney General who has a thick lisp. Probably for this reason, Kilgore has not been speaking in his own radio ads, whereas Kaine has been speaking in all of his. And Kilgore’s ads are the usual negative boilerplate – Kaine is a liberal, he’ll raise your taxes, he doesn’t share your values. So Kaine released a radio ad which features him saying this.

“I’m Tim Kaine and I’m running for governor. If I have something to say, I’m not afraid to say it myself. But Jerry Kilgore has been making things up about me and letting slick radio announcers do his dirty work. Virginia deserves a leader who says what he believes, himself.”

(And then the usual campaign talk.) So the ad doesn’t mention Kilgore’s accent at all. It doesn’t mention any accent. The point is that Kilgore is being a wimp and not dishing out his attacks personally. And the Kilgore campaign very cleverly saw a 2-day press release factory they could craft out of this, based on something Kaine “implies.” They’re trying to turn a weakness into a strength, which is smart, because I seriously believe Kilgore could lose some votes from people hearing his voice and thinking he’s gay.

Now, what gets me about Malkin is that she (along with the GOP officials in the links) wants to use this as proof of liberal intolerance and elitism. This is hypocritical, because conservatives use regional prejudice like a giant hobnailed club and don’t get called on it. When it was announced that the Democratic convention would take place in Boston, Dick Armey – who was then the retiring House Majority leader – said “If I were a Democrat, I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, in America.” This was a joke of sorts, but it’s pretty much Republican policy to bash Boston and Massachusetts. Do your own googling and see how many laugh lines Bush got out of it in 2004. Now – try to imagine a Democrat saying “if I were a Republican, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in Alabama than, say, in America.” You can’t, because it’s not how they politick. Oh, and it would be suicidal.

In summation, Michelle Malkin is wrong and stupid, but mostly wrong. Well … like 59% wrong and 41% stupid.

(He’s not a Republican politician, but may I point out that James Taranto is still deriding John Kerry as “French-looking” five months after the election? Ha, ha.)

UPDATE: John Tabin tells me to go after Larry Sabato, who is quoted in one of the cited Washington Times articles. But Sabato is right. He says: “This relates to the Southwest Virginia accent. It shouldn’t be a handicap, but it is. There is a prejudice about it. The implication of the accent, as it hits the ear of supposedly sophisticated suburbanites, is that it belongs to a country hick.” But that doesn’t mean Sabato agrees with the ridiculous claim that Kaine was mocking peoples’ accents. Sabato is saying the reason Kilgore isn’t on the air is because his voice may actually be a political handicap. This is the difference between saying “John Kerry’s anti-war activities could become an issue” and saying “John Kerry hates Vietnam veterans.”

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Little Green Fuddy-Duddy
I think it’s just cute that Charles Johnson is whipping out the Hate Stick for Maggie Gyllenhaal, for her crimes against the state … namely, saying “I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy with which it’s dealt allows that to sort of creep in.”

For some reason I picture Johnson as Sinead O’Connor in that career swan-dive on Saturday Night Live, ripping up a picture of the Pope/Gyllenhaal and saying “Fight the real enemy!”

And what sort of American Patriot could hate this?

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Iowa low
The Des Moines Register has this for us:

President Bush’s job approval ratings in Iowa are sagging like never before, with Iowans particularly critical of his drive to change Social Security and his handling of the federal budget.

A new Iowa Poll, conducted for The Des Moines Register, shows that 42 percent of the state’s adults approve of the job that Bush is doing as president, while 53 percent disapprove and 5 percent are undecided.

A sensible person may well ask, “so what?” And he or she might continue, “Bush isn’t running again, you jackass. And Democrats aren’t going to get anywhere if their 2006 election strategy is ‘Bush sucks!'”

All true. And it’s worth remembering that the only successful performance of an incumbent president’s party, in his second midterm election, was Bill Clinton’s Democrats in 1998. They faced Republicans whose basic theme was “Clinton sucks and let’s impeach him.” Oh, and the election is still 19 months away.

I bring this up because severe weakness for the president and his agenda will be crucial for Democrats in 2006. The key to Republicans’ 2002 success was Bush’s popularity, and his (and Cheney’s) tireless stumping in swing states like Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire and Missouri. Bush nationalized the campaigns of candidates who might have otherwise fallen short, and replaced their attributes with his own. The National Exit Poll showed 66% approval for the president, which ticked up to 71% on the “war on terrorism” and even 58% on the then-shitty economy. Overall Republican support (adding up the votes from all federal races) went from 50-50 in 2000 to 53-47.

But no one expects Bush’s approval to hit 66% again anytime soon, and no one expects the issue cocktail of 2002 – homeland security dept., Iraq invasion – to be replicated. Imagine the field for Democrats if his approval sits where it is now – mid-40s nationwide. Bush is essentially taken out of the game in states that voted for Kerry but are holding tight-ish Senate races, like Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey and Maryland. In the last three states I imagine his approval is actually in the 30s. Bush would be a drag on Republican candidates. If the Social Security battlefield keeps sliding away from him, Bush’s stumping power is limited in Florida, too. He can raise money for candidates, sure. But he won’t have the power to push candidates over the top via making their races votes in confidence for his leadership.

Even more promising for Democrats is the basket of issues that could be on the table. If Iraq is going well, or even if Osama bin Laden is caught, Bush’s best issue fades into the background. Democrats will probably run first and foremost against Social Security privatization, which is not only unpopular, but unpopular among the huge bases of reliable senior voters in most swing states. That holds promise even if Bush’s approval ticks back up. Remember, in 1986 Reagan had a 63% approval rating (National Exit Poll again) and had just won every single state except Minnesota and the vast majority of counties and congressional districts. (Compare the 1984 county map to the 2004 one. For Pete’s sake, Reagan won every county in Vermont.) By Michael Barone’s thinking, Reagan should have picked up dozens of House seats and a veto-proof Senate. Quite the contrary – he campaigned harder than any president in history for a midterm election, explicity said that voters were voting on his agenda, and lost seats in both houses.

So I think Bush’s approval numbers will continue to matter, although they’ll only be one component of a possible Democratic success.