Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday Stylin': This one is just ignorant

Apparently unfamiliar with the vacationing habits of the Nineteenth Century robber-barons and their European counterparts, the Sunday Styles section in today's New York Times pretends that there's something new in the social cachet associated with a person's summer vacationing locale.

This was clear to me when I was a second grader who heard vague accounts of the people with cottages on Gull Lake.

Next week's scoops: ladies like big diamonds on their engagement rings; men with mid-life crises behave erratically; and many people find puppies cute.

I wish there were more to bash about the article, but that's it.

Iraq update

A friend of both bloggers is reporting from Iraq, and recently filed this piece on Falluja for Mother Jones. It's as uplifting as most news from Iraq, which is to say not at all.

More widely read blogs than this have also taken note.

Also, because we do on occasion thump the tub for the projects of friends, here's where you can learn more about the book he wrote after the invasion.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Cracker is a truly dignified cat

I got such a good response to my photo of Lily, the devoted Michigan fan, I thought I'd come up with a pretext to post photos of more animals. Well, I never came up with one, but here's Cracker, anyway. He appeared on the doorstep of my aunt and uncle in Santa Ana, Calif., one day, and accompanied them on their drive across the country. I'm told he enjoyed sunning himself in the car's rear window. I've never met a more unperturbable cat. If he tires of you, he just gets up and langourously ambles off. No claws, no hissing. He is especially fond of shrimp, which my uncle will dice for him on special occasions.

Top: Lounging in the dust. I hear it's the latest Sunday Styles trend. Middle: Cracker has now tired of my company. Bottom: I saved my best work for that still life with cole slaw in my last post, apparently.

Thursday Stylin': an extra-cynical critique

The Times ran a lengthy article on Thursday about cagefighting between troubled men in the rural Midwest. When I read it online, I assumed that it was part of Thursday Styles. It had all the hallmarks: It was about a bizarre trend (entertaining crowds with brutal fistfights) with a commercial hook (these fights occur at bars and have business sponsors). It had descriptions about health and fashion. ("His ponytail is graying, his tattooed torso beginning to sag.") The article predicts that cage fighting may be the next big thing. (To quote: As he sees it, cage fighting is poised to take off in Sioux Falls. "You know what we got? We got a bunch of bars and a state park," he said. "This is good.") I wondered whether this activity had caught on yet in my hometown.

The article wasn't in the Styles section. The Styles Section is exclusively for extremely rich people with frivolous tastes. Today's Styles section included articles about the popularity of boots and expensive custom-fit jeans. It's typically disgusting.

This post isn't arguing that there's any merit when a story is placed in the Styles section, or that cage fighting should be considered trendy. But it's one of those small editorial moments that shows the Times's skewed view of the world. In the news section, there's an article about the popularity of drunken violence in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; these people would brutalize the denizens of the meditation-promoting skin therapists in the latest inane Styles section article. I'm sure they're wearing boots and jeans in South Dakota, too, but not the kind that Alex Kuzynski endorses. If there's anything proved by comparing the Styles section to the article about cage fighting, it's that one man's crazed, redneck brutality is another man's idea of a hip, trendy night on the town.

The cage fighting article did not make me sentimental for the Midwest. But compared to that article, this week's Thursday Styles brought to mind the party at the start of The Masque of the Red Death.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bad manners

Among his many other faults, the President also is a very rude man. Click thru the link to see why.

The invaluable site Raw Story has an account of a different kind of rudeness. An Ohio mother with two kids fighting in Iraq was told to "fuck off" by a local mothers' support group after she expressed strong misgivings about the Iraq venture. I highly recommend frequent visits to Raw Story. Also, this story confirms a thesis I've had for my entire life: Midwesterners are just as abrasive as Easterners, it only comes out in weirder ways.

The Gooseberry Redemption

Sometimes, a missed opportunity is clear only in heartbreaking retrospect. Sometimes, you can look back and see a moment when if only you'd done something, your whole life, and possibly those of people you know, could be different.

It's become clear to me that an innocuous decision I made some time ago has clearly set in motion a painful chain of events.

I speak, of course, of my fateful decision to purchase a Cleveland Indians hat at the airport as I left town over the Fourth of July weekend. Since that fateful day, the Tribe has lost 14 of 20. But on the day I left Cleveland, the Tribe was 10 games over .500, had just taken a ringing doubleheader from the Tigers, and I had enjoyed one of my best July Fourth holidays in memory. It began with a visit to my beloved Jake with blog groupie and good friend tommyo. Travis Hafner homered ... twice. Then I went over to the turn-of-the-century farmhouse my aunt and uncle own in the Cleveland suburbs, for grilled meats and ice-cold beer. After that, I listened to Coco Crisp hit an inside-the-park homer, followed by His Pronkness' third homer of the day. Life was good.

And now, the Indians are three and a half games out of the wild card spot. It's all my fault. Gooseberries, you're totally off the hook. Put it all on me.

My July 4 repast. Those ribs were better than you can imagine, the deviled eggs had avocado and cilantro in them and that slaw was homemade. It's a family recipe, as you might imagine.

Restraint on Roberts

Geoffrey Stone, a liberal constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, has an op-ed in The Chicago Tribune explaining why the Senate's Democrats should hold their fire on attacking John Roberts. It hits many of the points I've made on this site, and while drunk at bars. Stone also argues that the Roberts nomination was itself a victory for Democrats, who had every reason to expect the nomination of someone far more extreme.
But it is also the case that Roberts has never embraced the vacuous ideology of "originalism" and, frankly, he seems too smart to do so. Roberts is too good a lawyer, too good a craftsman, to embrace such a disingenuous approach to constitutional interpretation. Everything about him suggests a principled, pragmatic justice who will act cautiously and with a healthy respect for precedent.

This does not mean, of course, that he will not vote to eviscerate Roe vs. Wade or reject the rights of homosexuals or narrow the scope of affirmative action or expand the role of religion in public life or endorse the so-called "new federalism." He may vote to do some or even most of those things. But if he does, it will be in an open-minded, rigorous, intellectually honest manner, rather than as an ideologue whose constitutional principles derive more from fiction and faith than from legal reason.

Moreover, like many conservative appointees, there is every reason to believe that a Justice Roberts will gradually drift to the left, following the footsteps of Justices Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, John Paul Stevens, O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. Appointed as conservatives by Republican presidents, each of these justices evolved over time. Because they were not tethered to an inflexible ideology, they remained open-minded and continued to learn and to grow during their time on the court. And what they learned was important.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Big Brother update

The subway-search Maginot Line continues apace. On Monday, I went into a station through an entrance with two sets of turnstiles in an L-shape. Officers were stopping commuters in front of one set of turnstiles, but people poured through the other bank unobserved. Would this have stopped anyone with evil in his or her heart? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. But as I watched, I noticed a photographer with a professional-grade camera snapping pictures. So perhaps the intended purpose was being fulfilled, after all.

I don't have anything against being safer, I'd just prefer that the NYPD spend more resources on measures that might actually make it less likely that people get killed. Until then, I still plan to refuse any search. Unless people suddenly wise up, I feel like it's only a matter of time. You see, I frequently carry a backpack, and we all know how subversive those can be.

High-kicking, low-scoring action

While I'm on the subject of my more esoteric pursuits, I might as well go ahead and admit that I went to see the United States soccer team play on Sunday afternoon. The U.S. team was playing Panama in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is the championship for the international soccer region encompassing North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Or, as the area is better known, the beige countries in Risk.

The less said about the actual game, the better. A friend posited that it epitomized why Americans don't like soccer. After all, it was a scoreless tie. The United States won 3-1 on penalty kicks, after failing to finish roughly 217 scoring opportunities. It got bad enough at one point that one of the friends I was with remained seated when everyone around him stood for a near goal, reasoning that he'd just be sitting back down again, disappointed. He was right.

The penalty kicks redeeemed the match somewhat, as did the uniquely goofy fun of watching the actual Gold Cup _ the world's most pointy sports trophy _ as it was toted out onto the field by two uniformed New Jersey state troopers.

If the heat were making me more testy, I'd point out that Sunday was also the day that, in the name of "security" a busload of tourists was debarked at gunpoint in Times Square, Penn Station was evacuated for a bomb scare and one member of our soccer excursion was denied entry into Giants Stadium for possessing what she was informed was "clearly a backpack." (Fans with purses, however, were being waved right along.) Despite our ire being drafted into security kabuki theater, we cooled off once we made it to our seats before the anthems, and didn't allow the stupidity of others to mar our day.

Lit up with anticipation

I often amaze my friends with my aviation-related dorktitude. But most of my useless and random knowledge on the subject tends to be in the area of commercial aviation. Space flight, while awesome in the truest sense of the word, has never really been my thing. That said, I've made a point of watching the space shuttle launch today. We're inside 10 minutes now, and I've got a little hum of anticipation going. This means a bit more to me than normally, because I was in Paris when Columbia broke up upon re-entry, and happen to be the only person I know who learned of the disaster on Sky Sports TV. I spent the flight back the next day reading about the disaster from the comfort of a DC-10. Anyway, we're about to launch, and I'm going to stop typing and watch. Needless to say, I'm hoping for a flawless launch and orbit for the entire crew.

Update: OK, that totally ruled. For a whole lot of reasons, I was kind of nervous, and actually felt like cheering out loud watching Discovery leave the pad. And the camera installed on the fuel tank was outstanding. I now can imagine what it would be like to be abandoned in space by the shuttle. Eep. All that last shot was missing was Slim Pickens to ride the tank down. And maybe Dave Chappelle to say "Mars, bitches!"

Monday, July 25, 2005

Nonfiction, music and more!

It's supposed to be hot as a mother on Tuesday. Regular readers know what that means: neither of us will have the energy to post. Maybe Flop will surprise us.

Here are some reading and music recommendations to hold you over.
  • David Enders, Baghdad Bulletin. This book splits into two themes: on the one hand, there's his first-person account of being a college senior who heads into Baghdad intent on starting Iraq's first English-language newspaper. On the other hand, there's his reporting about Iraq in the first 18 months of the American occupation. The former reads like the reporting of a young Graham Greene in hell; the latter is toughminded and has an eye for human detail and tragic absurdities. Enders, who is a social acquaintance, is presently back in Iraq, and updating his blog semi-regularly.
  • Linda Greenhouse, Becoming Justice Blackmun. Whatever her intentions, Linda Greenhouse's book makes Harry Blackmun look like a flighty, oversensitive, occasionally petty man. Still, I learned a lot about Roe v. Wade (an opinion that the justices didn't expect to explode like it did) and the strange ways personality factors into judicial decisionmaking. Also, Justice Thomas really liked Justice Blackmun, but Justice Blackmun grew to hate his former best friend, Justice Burger. It's like Heathers with old dudes in robes.
  • Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale. This history of evolution begins with humans, traces back through hippos and rodents, and eventually eubacteria. This is a huge book, alternately interesting and boring. It made me like Madagascar and dodo birds; I learned that the hippo's closest living relative is the whale; that human males are prone toward polygamy; and that gibbons are monogamous. It also settled a raging debate in this blog's comments sections as to whether squirrels are rodents, which means it has practical value. As the book extends farther back, it becomes increasingly dense and theoretical, such that my generalist mind struggled to keep up. I recommend it nonetheless.
  • Mark Tushnet, A Court Divided. Written by a constitutional law professor at Georgetown, this book aims to explain the Rehnquist court to non-lawyers. I liked the first half of the book, which breaks down the jurisprudence of individual justices (Scalia's First Amendment; Anthony Kennedy and Gay Rights) but the focus on constitutional doctrine in the second half is probably tough sledding for anyone who hasn't attended law school and uninformative for people who have.
  • Sufjan Stevens, Illinois. A couple months ago I decided I wasn't going to listen to any more soothing music, and would henceforth insist on rocking. This album doesn't rock, but it's beautiful, a series of short stories and personality sketches set to pretty music that's ultimately is unsettling. I didn't like his Michigan album, but this works for me. His song about John Wayne Gacy creeps me out every time -- disturbing lyrics, punctuated with high-pitched, wailing lilts.
  • Six Feet Under. Hell, did Nate die? Now I'm going to feel guilty for badmouthing his show for the last two seasons.
  • Entourage. Johnny Drama beat up a car. A season and a half, and it's the first time anything interesting happened on the show. Man, I can't stand those guys.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sunday Stylin': waiting for Stephanie Rosenbloom's call

New York Times Styles section writer Stephanie Rosenbloom is a subject of some interest at Cole Slaw Blog. For one thing, we're pretty sure she's read us at least once, when she googled herself in preparation of a moderately endearing article about how google makes a person's past pretty transparent. For another, many of her articles are unintentionally hilarious, discussing things like makeup and how people like nicely fitting tennis shoes.

Today, she writes about a blogger named Stephanie Klein. Stephanie Klein appears to be a pretty lady with a penchant for emotional exhibitionism, writing about all kinds of incidents in her life that I wouldn't tell anyone, let alone the general public. Apparently, her blog is highly popular.

Like most Styles section articles, this one is geared toward frivolous young women. Since starting this blog, I've learned that some otherwise-sensible and educated young ladies enjoy the Times styles section. So be it. I like GameDay on ESPN, but ESPN isn't part of the country's most important newspaper.

I digress. Given Stephanie Rosenbloom's newfound interest in blogs and the internet, it's only a matter of time before Flop and I get an e-mail asking us to sit down for a Sunday Styles profile. Modeled on today's article, I figured it would be helpful to write a first draft for the Sunday Styles profile of Cole Slaw Blog:

"It's excessive," blog pin-up Brian said. "They write too much. There's no compassion. There's foolishness. There's misery."

Mr. Brian, 29, wasn't describing a hot new edition of The New Republic but a blog about the childish habits, complimentary appetizers and jurisprudence of two young New York City men named CrimeNotes and Flop.

Since March 2005, Messrs. CrimeNotes and Flop have been blogging about the intimate details of their lives, from an affinity for crenshaw melon to the similarities between The Real World-Road Rules Challenge Inferno II and the nominations of federal appellate judges, including the episode where Abram drove a scooter off a dock.

Today the blog has a readership numbering literally in the dozens with fans who recognize the authors when they see them stumbling around Manhattan, and who find parallels to their own lives in the site's candid, freewheeling rambles.

Cole Slaw Blog is a raconteur's playground, replete with anecdotes about Monkey Clap Dance Parties and spying on Hans Christian Andersen. But the allure is muted somewhat by lengthy expositions on current events in law and politics, criticisms of Times reporters, and hyperbolic concert reviews. Nothing, it seems, is too inane or lofty to share with readers.

And that is exactly how they like it. While a handful of blogs have legions of followers, Cole Slaw Blog's daily readers number in the moderately plural.

"I have to read it every day," said Evil Girl. "I have to know that they're doing stupid things and making asses of themselves. I want bad things for them."

Their blog, called Cole Slaw Blog, takes its name from a popular free appetizer. The title is tongue in cheek because while some of the entries involve fruits and vegetables, an undercurrent of indigestion runs through them -- something fans cling to when regurgitating their own bile. "I want to be able to not just cry over your foolishness but rise above it with triumph just as you've done," a reader named Bonsai, 27, once thought quietly to himself, as he shed a single, perfect tear.

"Here are guys that have got everything. I mean everything," said Crunk Raconteur, 28. "And yet they struggle to find a perfect balance between preserving the filibuster without approving judicial extremists. Us single people, we all struggle with that. We can all relate to that."

Although their love lives are not discussed on the blog, Mr. CrimeNotes clearly is the more dashing of the two bloggers, similar to a young Robert Redford with healthy doses of David Souter and Vanilla Ice. Yet it is Mr. Flop, with his resemblance to George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, who is often observed by the general public while Frenching pretty ladies. Mr. Raconteur confirmed the general consensus when he attributed such success to "pheromones."

"It's a strange feeling when you're trying to buy an Old Speckled Hen and the lady bartender is like, 'I love you,'" Mr. Flop said.

In addition to the solidarity readers feel with the bloggers' ups and downs, many say Cole Slaw Blog offers a glimpse of a glamorous-seeming urban life. Just as "Home Improvement" attracted viewers outside suburban Detroit who felt dumber by proxy while watching, Cole Slaw Blog offers its own vicarious pleasures.

"It's like following the obnoxious next-door neighbor on a 1980s sitcom," said Winston, 28. "They do things that some people don't have the opportunity to do. They can throw coasters in bars and they can bodyslam in front of stopped cars. I mean, I can go to football games and that's about it."

"When you're honest," Mr. Flop said, "you're never boring."

On a warm summer night, Messrs CrimeNotes and Flop and several friends met for drinks at White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street, where at one point, Mr. CrimeNotes broke away from the group to snatch a stranger's jalepeno popper.

"Excuse me," a lady said.

"I'm sorry. I thought you ordered these for everyone," Mr. CrimeNotes replied.

"Mostly, I'm into the appetizers," Mr. CrimeNotes said later. "The hamburger, it's on its way. Sometimes patience pays off. I'm all about fighting over John Roberts at the afterbar."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Seeing orange

Dude, it's been Policy Week at Cole Slaw Blog, which sucks in a way, but also has been kind of fun. There's a lot more to be said about John Roberts (I'm in favor) and the unconstitutional and ineffective subway searches (I'm opposed). These are troubled times, such that even Spinachdip, the more palatable vegetable dish, worries that he's sounding bitter.

No worries. We'll soon be back to writing about favorite fruits and eccentric friends, with intermittent Roberts breakdowns.

But Policy Week wouldn't have closure without a little more rantin' and ravin' about the totally half-assed and ill-conceived justifications for the NYPD's standardless, arbitrary, and unlawful satchel searching.

First off is Mayor Bloomberg. I've liked Bloomberg for a long time, despite lapses in judgment like the West Side Stadium and his refusal to denounce Karl Rove's slander about liberals and 9/11. But those lapses weren't unconstitutional. As quoted in the Times:
"I hope that we have established the right balance here, providing the kind of security we need while not being too intrusive and not violating their rights," he said in his weekly radio program on WABC-AM. "The way we've done this is: You can walk away if you don't want your bag searched; you just can't get on the subway. So we do it outside the turnstile. And there's no profiling."
It's clear under established law that a cop can question anyone without suspicion, provided that the person is permitted to decline and go about his or her business. This is different. It is coercive. Under this rationale, the NYPD could post cops on every street corner, demand to search people and their belongings, but claim it was okay because you're free to turn around and walk back to your apartment.

As far as the "no profiling" remark, this is a two-edged sword. "No profiling" is a way of saying that the searches are wholly standardless and arbitrary. But if there were to be profiling, it would likely be discriminatory. With these types of searches, they're bound to be either ineffective or unconstitutional. The current system manages, horribly, to achieve both.

They're taking notes about the people they're searching:
At Woodlawn-Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, riders like Shauna Murray, 23, were directed to a white plastic table like the ones used at airport security checkpoints. One officer pointed a small black flashlight into Ms. Murray's black Adidas bag, while another made a notation on a sheet of paper.
This might be totally benign. The notation might be a check mark recording how many searches made that day. But for all we know, notation might make note of the person's race, the contents of their bags, etc.

But why suspect the worst?
At Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, officers were seen asking riders to show a driver's license or other identification and writing down the personal information. Several of the riders - whose bags were searched but who were not detained or told they had done anything wrong - said in interviews that they felt their privacy had been violated.
The article goes on to note that this was an aberration on the part of some officers who got carried away. As if that's comforting. God knows that the NYPD doesn't have a history of being given an inch and taking a mile.

What galls me more than my suspicion that this rampant fear-mongering is a Bush-like ploy on Bloomberg's part to spread fear in order to be perceived as a protector (the success of this move is underscored the many sad, paranoid, terrified people who support this) is the City's failure to provide a plausible explanation for why they're doing this. They've said things about wanting to make potential terrorists think twice, wanting to reassure the public, dropping allusions to London, as though that clarifies how something suddenly changed on Thursday that was different from the last three years. It certainly doesn't offer a reasonable explanation for why they're conducting these searches, and what the nexus might be between this specific system of searches and any security threat.

The bumpersticker justifications would be cute and cool if this were a non-intrusive move, like posting more plainclothed cops on subway platforms. But it isn't. At its most benign, it's a misuse of resources and public harrassment; at its worst, it's a flagrant violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments.

And with that, I'm off to a Mets game.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Give me Cole Slaw or give me death

Well, this certainly has been a shit week for freedom, hasn't it? Let's review: First, George W. Bush nominates someone to the Supreme Court. John Roberts could be the next Souter or he could be the next Dread Pirate Roberts, but either way, does a Bush nominee sound like a good thing for liberty and freedom?

That by itself might not be too noteworthy, but then today we learned that New Yorkers will be subject to search any time they want to use public transit. Already, I've seen folks on the internets sneering at how public transit is a choice, blah, blah, blah. Maybe it is in the Los Angeleses, Cincinnatis and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplexes of the world. But in New York, it's a choice the way having a job is a choice. Technically, you can choose to sit at home, watching CNN until you cower under the bed, but at some point, you're not really living anymore, are you?

Look, in this country, the police don't get to search you unless you do something that warrants it. Going to work, or to meet your friends, or just getting out of the house because it's a nice day and you want to walk around and people watch and be glad you're alive is not a reason to suspect someone. End of story.

And after the City of New York gave its residents the finger, the House of Representatives decided to do the same to its own constituents, renewing the cynically named USA Patriot Act. (Read about some totally responsible and not at all galling legislative chicanery here.)

You know, after the election in November, everyone was talking about how we were going to have to re-fight the Enlightenment all over again. Turns out maybe those of us in the reality-based community will have to re-argue the Bill of Rights instead.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thursday Stylin': Alex Kuczynski's house of mirrors

In a slightly abridged version of the stylin' roundup, we follow New York Times investigative reporter Alex Kuczynski on her visit to Target.

You know it's going to be an awesome installment of The Critical Shopper when Alex Kuczynski, queen of conspicuous consumption (or "HMQCC"), begins an article by quoting the Buddha on material possessions. Buddha, it seems, thought that material possessions stood in the way of enlightenment. This makes Alex Kuczynski the yin to his yang: she's the Antibuddha,.

AKucz treks to Mt. Kisco, hometown of friend-critiquer and L.A. wildman Bonsai. Mt. Kisco is mistaken by some as a small principality on the border of France and Germany, renowned for the low self-esteem of its citizens and famous for its Kiscan bread.

AKucz isn't going there for any Kiscan bread. None of that! She likes Target because it appeals to low-income shoppers as well as high-income shoppers. AKucz is egalitarian like that. She notes the "hip note" bestowed to Target's apparel lines, which, apparently, are linked to famous designers. She thinks this is "well intentioned," cuz nothing swings AKucz's moral compass like famous designers. She's righteous.

For a paragraph, her scribble reads like the Times's series on class in America, as written by a character from Heathers:
This is the problem of the class-and-mass approach: There will always be rich people, and there will always be poor people, and they can happily mingle in economic anonymity in the aisles of Target. But at the end of the day you'll be able to tell one from the other by who is sitting at the Starbucks counter drinking a $5 latte.
After that insight, she leaves Target with more shit than any person needs:
a large mirror to hang on a guest bedroom wall and six other smaller ones for around the house; a leather lamp; a silk lampshade; two pairs of hiking shorts, a pair of Mossimo camouflage pants and three pairs of underwear for my stepson; seven pairs of underwear and a pair of Hello Kitty flip-flops for my stepdaughter; Mossimo blue jeans for me; 20 sturdy wooden hangers; a box of Ritz Bitz cheese crackers, half of which I ate in the parking lot and the rest of which I threw into the garbage before I could eat any more; a copy of People magazine; a bottle of water.
First off, what kind of person leaves Mt. Kisco without some famous Kiscan bread? Heathen. Second: seven mirrors? I'm shocked.

Welcome to the police state

News broke this afternoon that New York will begin "random" searches of passengers' bags in subway stations.

I don't know what law enforcement officials think they'll get out of this. The best they can hope for is a deterrent effect. But if a coordinated group is intent on pursuing a series of London-style bombings, the "random" searches will at best catch one or two of these bombers, because there's no way they would catch all of them. These "random" searches would only up the ante for any such coordination -- maybe instead of four bastards trying to bomb subway cars, there will be a dozen of them playing the odds that some will get caught, but most won't.

How much information can cops glean from these "random" searches? Some of these explosives are so small in size that the "random" searches would probably require full-scale airport-like bag dumpings akin to what other idiots were doing at airport gates just after 9/11. If you've got a suitcase or a large backpack, the only way these "random" searches will work is to dump the contents and sift through every individual item.

Even if these "random" searches could be effective (which I'll never believe) they're unbelievably intrusive. No cop should be able to search your bag of sweaty gym clothes. I'm also willing to venture that people have items that are more sensitive: What if you have porn in your bag? What if you're a lawyer with privileged legal documents, or a banker with sensitive information on a corporation? What if you have a dime bag? It's not that you have any constitutional right to carry a dime bag, but you have a right under the Constitution not to be searched by the police without reasonable suspicion. Are millions of commuters now subject to the same deprivation of rights that people sacrifice when they go to the airport?

Lastly, this remark by police commissioner Ray Kelly is disgusting:
"We're going to alert our passengers on the subways as well as the commuter rail lines that their packages are subject to inspection," he said. "It's a safety issue. People don't consider any measures that you take for safety to be an inconvenience. This is New York City."
Basically, Kelly's saying that no one should care if their rights are undercut, as long as half-witted law enforcement officials justify their intrusions as safety measures.

So enjoy, my fellow New Yorkers. You can sleep safe at night knowing that law enforcement enacted a useless symbolic measure that will, at its most benign, impose great inconvenience to people who've done nothing wrong. Enjoy the stories from your stoner buddy from college about the close call he had riding the F-line, and from the secretary down the hall about how embarrassing it was when the cops searched her bag containing paraphernalia for her half-sister's bachelorette party. We'll all rest easy when the London-style attack comes here, knowing that we're not any safer and that our civil liberties got snuffed in the process.

Update: The superlative site Gothamist posted about this, and the comments are livid. Glad to know I'm not alone. I hate New York right now.

How you know it's hot

A friend sent an email about listening to a classical music station at work, and being jealous when the DJ announced:

"This next piece is the Piano Quintet in A Major, Opus 81, by Antonin Dvorak, played in its full 40 minute splendor."

Now, my friend's point was that this was a nice way to get a little mid-day break. And I agree. But unfortunately, all I could think of was "Man, I bet that studio's air-conditioned. Must be nice."

Which is my way of saying that it's been way too hot for me to have much to say lately. The judiciary is all well and good, but it doesn't whet my bloggy appetite quite the way it does Crimenotes' so posting from me is going to remain sporadic until the weather stops sucking so bad or I move somewhere less hot and humid, like Singapore.

Bush jokes

If you find the following joke funny, I suggest the entire list at McSweeney's, as authored by someone named Matt Alexander.
A doctor, a lawyer, and an accountant all die and go to heaven on the same day. When they get to the Pearly Gates, they are greeted by St. Peter. St. Peter says, "Scott McClellan is a lying sack of shit and I'd tell him so myself if he weren't going straight to hell when he dies."

Peeling an orange with your teeth

I love The Godfather almost as much as I love judicial nominations. Hence, I double love this analysis from Whiskey Bar, as excerpted on Daily Kos:

The Dems don't want to be like Fredo -- weak, insecure and eager to earn the good will of people who are inevitably going to be enemies of "the family." (That's where too many of them are at now.)

They shouldn't be like Sonny -- impulsive, emotional and a few quarts short of a full crankcase. Shrub is like that and it's usually what gets him into trouble. ("Bring 'em on!")

The Dems need to try to be more like Michael -- cool, analytical and totally pragmatic. "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business." Sometimes that means ordering a hit, sometimes it means biding your time. Sometimes it means striking with everything you've got [...]

Sometimes it means offering to talk peace, while secretly preparing to wack the guy. Sometimes it means just plain talking peace.

But it has nothing to do with fairness or open-mindedness or listening to opposing points of view. It has to do with what's best for the "family" -- which in this case we can define broadly as those groups and constituencies in American society who oppose the GOP machine and want to see it destroyed (or at least kicked out of power.)

Karl Rove is totally Mo Green, and Joe Lieberman is banging cocktail waitresses three at a time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Who's uncivil now, bitch?

During John Roberts's prior confirmation hearing, the following exchange occurred between Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.):
"Some [of his questions] I totally disagree with," Hatch of Utah said. "Some I think are dumbass questions, between you and me. I am not kidding you. I mean, as much as I love and respect you, I just think that's true."
A stunned Schumer asked if he heard the chairman correctly, to which Hatch said yes. Again, Schumer asked Hatch if he would like to "revise and extend his remark," congressional speak for change his mind.
A former trial attorney, Hatch replied: "No, I am going to keep it exactly the way it is. I mean, I hate to say it. I mean, I feel badly saying it between you and me. But I do know dumbass questions when I see dumbass questions."
Quoting an article from Fox News. (I know, sorry.) Dumbassery also duly noted at How Appealing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John G. Roberts

Please approve him, Democratic senators, and do it without a lot of fanfare. Ask tough questions in the confirmation hearings, don't brook any bullshit, but don't take your eyes off the flaming sack of Rove. If you do, you're handing the president a victory.

Judge Roberts is fine. There are some people who would have been better, but others who would have been much worse. Two would have prompted the North to secede.

Democratic senators, if you pitch a fit because Roberts was involved in a government brief highly critical of abortion, you'll be acting like demogogues and fools. Lawyers take positions on behalf of clients. He was representing a conservative administration. If you disqualify him because he advocated a troubling argument in his role as a lawyer, you'll be disqualifying all criminal defense lawyers and all deputing solicitor generals who served in the opposing party. It would be like condemning a heart surgeon who operated on a murderer, a reporter who covered a KKK meeting, or an evangelical high school teacher who taught a class on evolution. People's jobs aren't necessarily a reflection of their internal philosophies. So ask him about it, but don't hold it up as conclusive evidence. It might mean nothing.

Other than that, Democratic senators, you've got no argument. Roberts clerked for Henry Friendly, one of the all-time great American judges, and no radical. (Check out the Polaroid factors. They're awesome, and so was Judge Friendly.) So far as we know, Roberts hasn't acted like a jerk in public, and unlike Janice Rogers Brown, he hasn't made any deranged remarks at activist forums.

Meanwhile, the White House is in the middle of spectacular acts of self-destruction in its defenses of Karl Rove. It's been beautiful. It would be a victory for the White House if the Democrats focused their heat on this particular Supreme Court nominee -- it would rally the right-wing base and give all the president's men a platform for sounding reasonable.

Walking home tonight, I had a growing sense of dread that Bush would nominate one of the real psychos to fire up his crazies and distract the press. But he didn't do that -- he nominated a conservative dude, but not a radical. So be it. The nuclear fallout from some of the other prospective nominees would have harmed all three branches of government. You want better than Roberts? Let's nominate a kick-ass Democrat for president in 2008 and settle shit for real. Meanwhile, you spar with the corrupt right-wing lunatics you have, not the detached Republican moderates you want. It would be political seppuku for the Democratic senators to throw gasoline on the Supreme Court while the outhouse that is Karl Rove has just started to go up in flames.

And here I was with a thick packet of print-outs about Edith Clement. I had the transcript of her 2001 Senate confirmation hearing, and even her financial statements. I decided that she might have been mildly awesome, if you think a former maritime lawyer on the Supreme Court sounds cool. Now I'm just hoping that the Democratic senators keep this nomination as boring as possible.

Hot pin-up birthday heat

Happy birthday to blog pin-up Brian, who turns 29 today. As I was explaining to Flop in some cranky e-mails, the scorching, all-encompassing heat of the day makes it tough for me to head out. (I'm delicate in this weather, and I'm not alone.) Weather notwithstanding, best birthday wishes to Brian, and royal greetings to HMQ2K5.

Fresh slaw

Today's the kind of day that Cole Slaw Blog lives for.

First, during a little late-morning web surfing, I saw that The Drudge Report had put up a post linking to an article involving an old friend. The article is about proper footwear etiquette when visiting the White House. I was the first to alert her to the news about her newfound fame. Needless to say, she's thrilled, and I'm happy for her. And I'm going out after work to buy my first pair of flip flops.

As if that wasn't enough, news broke this afternoon that the president will announce Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement at 9 this evening. Huzzah! If it is, indeed, Edith Clement, I hope the Democrats stay chill unless and until something egregious comes out about her. She's better than I expected from this president. The early efforts to cast her as an extremist are sort of laughable -- this rundown from the American Constitution Society engages in the kind of oversimplification I've come to expect from Fox News. She may not be the ideal, but speaking for myself, I can handle someone who has described Roe as a settled issue of law.

I'm just hoping that after the president introduces her, the first question from the press is about Karl Rove.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Outsourced Sunday Stylin'

Apparently, bile and outrage prompted by the Sunday Styles section in the New York Times is a zero-sum game. Since we put our bile on hiatus last week, other blogs posts about the section have seemed to have a bit more of an edge to them.

This week, Atrios himself, has taken up the cause, via Pandagon

In short, this Sunday's "Modern Love" in the Styles section is apparently a lengthy justification for firing her nanny because she didn't like the things the nanny wrote on her blog. How this is exemplary of Modern Love, or even worthy of putting in the New York Times is beyond me. Just another look at the baffling world of the Styles Section.

OK, if I write any more on this topic right now, I'm going to start ranting about the repugnant values evinced in the section and all that, and even though it's Sunday, I'm no preacher. I think I'm going to enjoy the rest of my day.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cole Slaw Blog Endorsement: Crenshaw Melon

Back when our ancestors lived on a diet of roots, bark and the occasional treat of charred squrriel, this must have been what made them believe in a higher power.

There's nothing more I can say except to try some _ possibly after a night of moderate drinking or rodent barbecuing _ and see for yourself.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Celebrate the thesaurus

Flop e-mailed me today, using the phrase "That's what I'm talking about, motherfucker." We then exchanged the following:

"Such is of what I speak, humper of matrons."
"Thus is which I have discussed on previous occasions, M.I.L.F. requiter."
"I recently locuted on that precise topic, copulator of she who bore fruit."
"My point exactly, he who pleasures moms."

To which I now add, "I addressed that in my previous comments, fertile-ladies penetrator."

Update: "Please refer to my earlier points; you're a cuckolder, or you bed single mothers."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Supreme Court update

Rehnquist is staying. I just won a bunch of arguments at work.

Also, in today's column, David Brooks mentions Mary Ann Glendon as a potential nominee for O'Connor's seat. Glendon would probably vote to overturn Roe and is on the record as being hostile toward gay marriage. Even so, I think she'd be great. She's a tremendous scholar who has written extensively on human rights, international law, and legal ethics. I assume that Roe is otherwise secure, and would expect that on most major issues, she would be reasonable and pragmatic. I expect that, unlike Scalia and Thomas, she would respect stare decisis, and be a model of true judicial restraint.

That said, I estimate her age as somewhere in the mid-sixties, which would disqualify her under the conventional wisdom. I'm curious as to whether Brooks was freelancing when he mentioned her, or whether he's floating a trial balloon on someone else's behest.

Our best google hit yet

"little people" Prospect Park village of midgets

Dear Hillary: Stop sucking.

The junior senator from New York has turned her attention to the important issue of sex in Grand Theft Auto.

Goddamn, when she's not parroting neocon rhetoric on foreign policy, she's cosponsoring legislation with the likes of Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, and Joe Lieberman to investigate the corrosive effects of video games on children. When did the Lady MacBeth of Little Rock decide she wanted to be the next Jean Kirkpatrick? What kind of idiot Democrat will support her in the 2008 primaries? (Probably the same idiots who backed John Kerry in the 2004 primaries.)

I mean, I don't expect to agree with every Democratic official on every issue, but when I disagree, I'd like it to be over something respectable. Get off your ass and investigate Abu Ghraib -- who cares if C.J. is banging the ho's of San Andreas? Pat Moynihan wouldn't have been caught dead talking about this bullshit.

Click here for an overview of her demagoguery on this issue. I also recommend regular visits to Raw Story, where I learned about this.

Update: she now has officially called for an FTC investigation into a video game. All of her future campaign mailings go straight to my trash. What a fraud.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My city by the lake

Last week, while home in Cleveland, I spent some time with an old friend. Oh, sure, I saw beloved commenter tommyo, and a broad range of family members, old neighbors and the like. But on Sunday, I had the day free and my dad didn't have a tee time, so the two of us headed down to The Flats, the gritty alimentary canal of Cleveland. The following is a look at Cleveland in all its crumbling, industrial glory.

Here's an old lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River. As the name suggests, the bridge just rises up when freighters need to pass. At each end there was a little gatehouse, disused and with broken windows. On one side, the door had been forced open and I was able to shoot the interior. I think these used to be where the bridge operators worked, but now they have a little room that actually rises up with the span.

A shot from on the bridge.

The bridge operators' "office."

I think this was a gatehouse. Nothing but old lockers and debris inside now. A plaque mounted above this doorway noted a major bridge improvement project took place in 1940.

Downtown Cleveland through the ironwork.

After this, we drove out to the part of the Flats called Whiskey Island. It's no longer an actual island. The Cuyahoga used to run parallel to the coast for a long way before it actually emptied in to Lake Erie. But a long time ago, they cut through to shorten the trip. The old mouth of the river is now gone, but the peninsula is still called Whiskey Island. Apparently, there's plans to make it into a park, but for now it belongs to salt mines and gravel companies. We were shooed away shortly after snapping a few pictures. Apparently, it's private property.

Big piles of gravel.

I'm proud of this shot because I snapped it from the window of my father's car. I thought the yellow railings would look cool, and they do.

Two of Cleveland's sports venues, Gund Arena and Jacobs Field, as seen from the Tremont neighborhood. Both great places for games (although my last trip inside the Gund was for a concert).

In point of fact, it was an excellent day for a Guinness. Tremont is a great neighborhood, and where I would live if I moved back there. One of the neighborhood's many Orthodox churches is famous from a scene in The Deer Hunter, as well.

I love Charles Sheeler. Can you tell? I really need to come back in the winter, when the light will be all thin and watery.

I think a steel mill used to be here.

Lily is the world's best dog

I was back in Cleveland over the Fourth of July weekend, and I took the opportunity to take some photos of my home town to better share the full Cleveland experience with you, the reader(s) of this humble weblog.

This originally served as a test posting, to see if I could get the photo thing down. But now that I've got that taken care of, I rather like keeping up the homage to Lily. Also, photographing black dogs is really hard, and I'm happy with how this came out.

Lily enjoys chomping on tennis balls, having her ears scratched and the occasional sliver of salami. At one point, she had mastered a trick wherein you could ask her to choose between being an Ohio State fan or dropping dead, and she'd take doggie seppuku every time, falling to the ground and rolling over to emphasize her point. Sometimes, she'd bark at the very idea.

Good girl!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Friend of the Week update

Bonsai gives us the first Friend of the Week standings. My self-nomination backfired, but Flop lost a point, too.

I encourage all readers of this site to visit the Friend of the Week blog and e-mail your nominations. Even if you're not a part of the contest's seven-year history, it's never too late to be a good friend.

Editors' note: the Times styles sections

Both of us hate the New York Times styles sections. Since this blog's early weeks, we have posted twice-weekly critiques that parse and condemn the styles sections' linguistic and substantive atrocities.

But spending so much time on the styles sections sucks. We hate these sections. We're talking serious hatred here. It's not fun to spend 10 or 11 hours at work, and then spend another couple of hours lambasting Etros shirts and mocking the travails of cokehead hairdressers. Time after time, the once-great New York Times has sacrificed its credibility to appease high-end advertisers. Our point is amply proved, and we're both sick of making it.

Hence, we are taking a hiatus from our twice-weekly, line-by-line parsing of the styles sections. We will continue to monitor and attack the styles sections, but instead of the current encyclopedic approach, we will post more limited and efficient critiques.

To aid future social historians studying the decline of America's journalism and the fall of its middle class, here is the authoritative index of Cole Slaw Blog's styles section roundups:
-CrimeNotes and Flop

Wishful thinking

Walking home today, I started thinking about how if William Rehnquist steps down, maybe there will be an opening for Bush to name an honest-to-God, talented, prolific, respected judge. Maybe it would ease a little pressure on the O'Connor slot, so instead of naming Al Gonzalez or worse, Bush could name Frank Easterbrook (brother to Gregg), Richard Posner, or (my own favorite) Alex Kozinski. Alex Kozinski would be the most qualified Supreme Court nominee since Brandeis or Holmes. All three of them are legal geniuses and real judges' judges, not the political tools and right-wing conjurers whose names are being bandied about.

Thinking about the likely nominees, it's a little amazing how they're not judges taken seriously in the legal community. They're the fringe, wacky characters that make people roll their eyes. Naming them to the Supreme Court would be like casting Hamlet with professional wrestlers. Ideology aside, it's a little painful.

Still, in my tiny law-dork heart, I'd be at peace with a Michael Luttig nomination and a Chief Justice Scalia if Alex Kozinski is nominated as a trade-off.

I'm not expecting any of this to happen. The best-case scenario is a potentially benign, relatively dim hack like Gonzalez to balance an aggressive conservative superstar like Michael Luttig or Edith Jones. But a dork can dream.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

More evidence that the Brits are saner than us

If you've watched any domestic coverage of the London bombings and compared it to what's on the BBC, you reach one conclusion: American TV news is batshit insane.

Compare Britain's coverage to America's, and you'd think someone bombed the U.S.S. Maine, and that a piece of shrapnel grazed a runaway bride. American broadcasting loves fear. It draws the following lessons: Be very afraid. This is a frightening time of frightful fear, and if you're not scared by the frightening scariness, stay tuned until after the break, because the frightening implications are scarily terrifying.

The news broadcasts should replace the pompous instrumentals with Coldplay's "Yellow." Or maybe Donovan's "They Call Me Mellow Yellow." Works on at least two levels, right?

Also, they're obsessed with drawing parallels between 9/11 and the transit bombings. Because Britain is reacting like a nation of grown-ups and America seeks inspiration from JoBeth Williams's performance in Poltergeist, the comparisons are strained. NBC's resident bitch boy and David Drier clone John Seigenthaler said on Saturday that the two bombings "are different in many ways, but they're the same." Do you think he realized that he was directly contradicting himself? I don't, because I don't think he believes in proofreading.

CNN accidentally featured a great moment. Amid self-congratulating vignettes in which CNN personalities discussed where they were at the time of the bombings and how they personally reacted, Christiane Amanpour reported live from a London street. Midway through her report, a local stood behind her, pointed at the camera, and demanded that CNN tell the truth about Iraq. He wouldn't leave, and CNN didn't cut away. Pathetic that the only honesty a person can see on CNN comes from a belligerent English pedestrian, but I'll take it where I can find it.

On at least one issue, Rush Limbaugh is a voice of reason. As transcribed on Media Matters (for a completely different reason), the bastard discussed London Mayor Ken Livingston and said, "And it was such a great contrast to what we're seeing in our own media this morning with the hand-wringing I was speaking about and the 'Oh, woe is us' and 'Oh, what did we do to cause this?' and 'Oh, does this mean we're going to get hit?' and 'Oh ...'" These comments were surrounded by idiocy, but that just makes it all the more inspiring. Left or right, we are united on one thing: contempt for the five dollar crackwhores on our screens.

*Note: this does not apply to our friends and readers in the press, all of whom work in print. In case there's any doubt, have I told you lately that I love you?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Like Metropolitan Diary, but with annoying Yankees fans

Thursday night, I attended the Indians' game at Yankee Stadium, along with a friend of mine who shares my Cleveland roots.

Everything was fine for a couple of innings. The Indians fell behind early, but the awesomely named Jhonny Peralta homered in the top of the second and things were going just fine until we had one of the strangest run-ins with a fan I've ever had in decades of going to sporting events. Bear with me, because this a story that's probably best told in person, but, as a service to our readers, I've tried to recreate it as best I can in blog form.

It was about the top of the third or so, and my friend and I had spread out over the row in front of our assigned seats. Our original row had two seats on the aisle right next to two more occupied by a couple of affable brothers from Jersey who could have played offensive line at Teaneck High, easily. In the cramped, lower level seats at Yankee Stadium, we all felt it wise to spread out. I moved forward a row, my friend took the third seat over from me, and one of the brothers took the fifth seat, leaving his brother in the original row. (This is important.)

So A father and his son arrive, and have tickets for the seat that one of the other dudes is occupying. But because there's still plenty of open seats in that row, so the one brother and my friend ask if they would mind sitting a few seats over. They don't. So no problem, right?

That's when it happens. A 50-something guy behind where the father and his son were going to sit, The new arrivals, it seems, would block his wife's view. He would like us all to squeeze back into our original seats so that he and his wife can have unoccupied seats in front of him. My friend asks him if he's serious. He is. My friend asks him if he realizes that he's asking four people to be uncomfortable so that he can have an empty row in front of him. He is.

It should be noted that this guy is wearing a Yankees-logo denim bucket hat.

My friend still can't believe that the guy is asserting a right to the empty seats in front of him. Politely, he asks him what he planned to do if someone with tickets for those seats were to show up. And why he didn't just purchase those seats if unimpeded sightlines were so important to him.

They carry on like this for a minute or two, but without any real recourse, the four of us squeeze into our original seats. My friend, who has the uncommon ability to sustain a clear and cogent argument without losing an ounce of cool, continues to politely engage Bucket Hat, who having gotten his way, probably should just shut up.

Instead, he stands and summons an usher and a police officer over to our row. He starts off by pointing and saying "these people were where they weren't supposed to be."

Of course we are now, so the officer, an attractive, 20-something black woman whose tolerance for bullshit isn't much higher than my friend's, cuts him off and asks if someone's sitting in his seat.

He admits no one is.

"So what's the problem? she asks.

As this is going on, the guy keeps leaning across one of the brothers, who puts his arm up and gently moves Bucket Hat's body off of his own.

"Did you see that? He touched me!"

"You were leaning on him," the officer says, annoyed now.

She asks him again what the problem is.

"Well, he keeps talking to me because I asked them to move," he says.

After ascertaining that we are, in fact, in our proper seats, she informs him that we paid for the tickets, and that talking is, in fact, permitted at Yankee Stadium.

"Enjoy the game, sir," she says, before apologizing to us.

Of course, after that bout of stupidity, there was no way the Indians were going to win. And of course, they didn't. I blame the gooseberries.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thursday substance: happy thoughts for the weekend

Flop and I face a frequent dilemma: should a site that celebrates the humble gooseberry and loves zombies address life-and-death issues? Answer: no. We don't want to make major events seem frivolous in comparison, so we opt for restraint.

Rather than directly address the London bombings, I have a request for friends on both the right and the left: Stop acting like assholes.

Not to get all David Broder on your ass, but what struck me today was the acrimony going on between both sides of the American political divide. The right-wing bastards are talking about how this works to "our" advantage. A Fox News thug says that the London bombing shows why the Olympics should have gone to Paris. (Apparently, he's hoping for an American/Al Qaeda alliance against the French.) Meanwhile, my own fellow travelers haven't even waited for the blood to dry before pointing out the obvious: that the president's military fuck-ups are going to cause a blowback.

Way to show restraint, guys.

This is a teeny, tiny preview of what's coming. When the U.S. gets its Madrid-style, London-style attack, this country is going to go batshit insane. There isn't going to be much rally-'round-the-president sentiment from those of us who cut him slack the first time. As he famously said, "Fool me -- won't get fooled again." Things are partisan now: just wait until Patriot Act Deluxe and the future anti-Saudi military actions in Iran/Syria/Indonesia. Look forward to xenophobia, war rallies, anti-war rallies, crackdowns, interrogations, jailed dissidents -- you name it.

I don't think I'm exaggerating. When an attack abroad inspires political guttersnipes within 12 hours (including right-wing fantasies about suicide bombers in Paris) it underscores that the rhetorical fallout from an attack here will make the 2004 election feel like a game of Red Rover.

Incidentally, I love Red Rover. If you haven't played it recently, give it a shot. It's the recess game that never gets old.

With that, we now resume our regularly scheduled slawing.

Addendum: Yes, I realize putting this after the Red Rover comments is somewhat self-defeating, but I've just been floored by the scumbaggery on display from the Fox News weasels. I know that it's not exactly out of the ordinary when they act like members of the J.V. Republican Club, but I can't believe people admit to thoughts like this to their friends, let alone on TV. Here's one more example. Also, I'd like to point out that John Gibson, the gloating author of the two pieces about why Paris should have gotten the Olympics, looks like a malicious turtle. I'm serious, I could have nightmares. Also, kickball is a far superior sport. I was one of the few kids in my fourth grade class who could regularly put the ball on the roof of our school where Joe the janitor would have to fetch it. -Flop, 12:04 a.m.

Addendum update: This seems to be the week I hand out bloggy Valentines, so I might as well point out that James Wolcott _ a writer I admire for his dead-on word choices, arch snark and broad, varied interests _ is just as appalled at the Fox kids as I am. I say this because for those of you who know how much I am a fan, I don't want you to think I channeled his dudgeon. I came by this bit of bile honestly. - Flop, who really should be asleep at 1:29 a.m.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cask o' Slaw

One of the main reasons for starting a blog dedicated to a side dish was because I often find myself fascinated in stupid shit that doesn't matter. For that reason, long before I fancied myself a blogger, I really loved a blog called Incoming Signals.

Incoming Signals is the blog for random shit you didn't even know interested you. For someone like me, it can be a huge time-waster. Past entries have included a history of Scrooge McDuck's hometown of Duckburg, the story behind Murphy's Law, why rats can't vomit, ancient Sumerian poetry, a theory that Mrs. Warren Harding fed the president poisoned crab and tons of cool historical maps throughout.

The blog's author also on rare occasions shows a sly, snarky side. For example, on Feb. 2, he said:

Today would have been Ayn Rand's 100th birthday. In celebration, I'm going to bake a cake and then not share it with anybody.

His other posts that day included a gallery of more than 2,000 U.S. Civil War maps, a photo gallery of Hong Kong apartment blocks and a gallery of secret writing.

What finally put me over the top and made me realize I needed to put Incoming Signals on our list of blogospheric fun was today's link to a truly bizarre and wonderful photo montage inspired by Edgar Allan Poe called "The Telltale Signs."

It's brimming with awesomeness. It makes me want to redo "The Cask of Amontillado" with pictures of me stuck behind a wall of bricks while persuing Crimenotes' special "cavern-aged" slaw. (He'd totally let me out. I'm no Fortunato.)

Nemo me impune lacessit is basically Latin for "Punk Rock, bro!" right?

Culture of Life

One of my favorite law blogs (I have only one favorite Slaw Blog), Talkleft, has the story about the movement to speed up that whole Death Row thing. Basically, by limiting Habeas Corpus appeals.

You know, as I've been watching this country throw the Constitution out the window ever since the Patriot Act was rushed onto the books, I've kind of idly wondered when they'd get around to stripping rights from the death penalty.

As ardent slaw fan crunk raconteur once said, I suppose we won't stop until we really are the rootin'-est, tootin'-est, summarily executin'-est nation in the whole world.

Or, if you prefer an actual, identifiable statesman, here's what Virginia Rep. Rep. Bobby Scott (D) said about it.

"The House has been very supportive of anything that would strip the innocent of a fair hearing. This bill will ensure that more innocent people will be put to death."

Just like Gen. Curtis E. LeMay would have done it

Just now on CNN: Footage of an F-16 and the information (in caption form) that Dutch F-16's have now joined the search for that missing white girl in Aruba.

This immediately sparked a debate between me and a friend. Do you call in the F-16s because a speeding supersonic jet is the best way to find a small object on the ground? Or do you do it because when they find her, they'll want to shoot her out of the sky.*

Of course, my friend pointed out that I was forgetting that "the most critical factor in white girl search-and-rescue operations is establishing air superiority." Which is totally true, and I'm embarrased to have forgotten. I love when the news is so ... newsy.

* The F-16 is also a capable air-to-ground attack platform, so maybe they'll just be deploying some laser-guid bombs or Maverick missiles into the search-and-rescue fray. Seriously, what the hell is going on?

Late-night addendum: I see Larry King Live is about the "controverisal debate" over UFOs. I know he's got tenure, but seriously? Rather conveniently, I'm drinking a Harpoon UFO at the moment, too.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Friend of the Week returns

As pointed out in a comment below, Friend of the Week is back, and this time, it's a blog.

Visit Friend of the Week and nominate a friend. You know the old motto: "Making friendship count for something: petty competition." It's a little like Pay It Forward, only the goal is self-aggrandizement.

Thanks to Bonsai for starting this up. On a related note, the voice of evil has finally spoken.

Teenage Rebellion and the Supreme Court

We don't have a president so much as we have a teenager-in-chief.

I don't know what you were like in high school. If you were like me, when your freshman year English teacher said you couldn't do a book report on a Jim Morrison biography, not only did you write up that Jim Morrison biography, you carried around a book of his poems and did a dramatic in-class reading that involved repeated utterances of the phrase "ride the snake." When you got in trouble for causing chaos at a pep assembly, that only meant that your plans for the Christmas assembly became all the more extreme. The underlying goal was to let these people know that they couldn't boss you around.

For the past four-and-a-half years, the president has been having a series of similar fits. Whether it's the United Nations, Congressional Democrats, or cliquey White House correspondants, the president has a simple philosophy: if you tell me not to do something, I'm going to do it.

Now, the teenager-in-chief has his metaphorical family on his back. They don't want him to go to the party with Al. They think that Al is a little wild and unpredictable. At the homecoming dance freshman year, Al and the class slut grinded to Billy Idol's cover of "Mony Mony." It was pretty risquee. The chaperones were displeased. Al listens to Snoop Dogg and The Grateful Dead. He plays Grand Theft Auto. He got suspended from a wrestling meet because he mouthed off to the coach. One time, his eyes were reportedly bloodshot.

Don't get me wrong. The family likes Al okay. The teenager-in-chief is welcome to have Al over to the house any time he wants. The family will leave them a little money so the boys can order some Domino's and pick up Bad Boys II at Blockbuster. But what's clear is that the teenager-in-chief cannot go to that party with Al, where there might be alcohol, girls, and a little substantive due process. Consarn it, if they find out that he went to the party with Al, the teenager-in-chief will be grounded, and the family will be very, very disappointed.

The teenager-in-chief has always played by the family rules. He took Janice and Priscilla to the dances. Not that he didn't like Janice and Priscilla (he thinks they're pretty hot) but the reason he asked them out in the first place as because his pushy aunt set them up. The teenager-in-chief started a war to make his family happy. He wasted his Spring Break going door-to-door, trying to sell that stupid Social Security plan even when all the old ladies slammed the door in his face. Really, he just wanted to go on a bike ride with Condi and Al.

The teenager-in-chief will be damned if his family's going to start acting like a bunch of assholes when all he wants to do is drive out to Nino's party and have a couple Natty Lights with his buddy Al.

This all became clear in a recent USA Today interview. "Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine," Bush said in a phone interview. "When a friend gets attacked, I don't like it."

If the president were a grown-up, he might have said something about having high regard for Al, and being dismayed by misinterpretations or distortions of Al's record. He could have avoided the issue altogether by saying that he hasn't narrowed his list, or that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion even if the final decision is the president's.

As much as the dude makes me nuts, he really does see things in black-and-white. Like France, the United Nations, and Harry Reid, the radical right of the Republican Party is now telling the president that he can't do what he wants. They've gotten up in his craw and delivered an ultimatum. The teenager-in-chief does not like ultimatums. He reacts to them emotionally. What's so frickin' cool about friends like Condi and Al is that they never boss him. Frequently, they let him copy their quizzes and spot him a couple bucks for lunch at McDonald's. And when you're the teenager-in-chief and someone tells you that you can't do something, and then talks shit about your buddy, what's your reaction?

It depends.

Some days you rebel by making a point of ignoring Abu-Ghraib. Other days, you nominate Al.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Keep your powder dry

Remember the scene in Do the Right Thing when the D.J. played by Samuel Jackson screamed into the radio microphone that everybody needed to chill the fuck out? That's how I feel about the impending Supreme Court nomination. Mookie's throwing trash cans through windows before Sal has the chance not to put a brother on the wall.

We're not shy about beating dead horses on Cole Slaw Blog. When the time comes, the Cole Slaw Blogarrhea about this nomination will be voluminous. For now, the matter has been notable mainly for truly terrible newspaper reporting, and unwarranted spazzing by right-wing and left-wing groups. If Bush nominates Michael Luttig or Edith Jones, I'll go apeshit. Unless and until that day, focus your anger on Karl Rove's smears about 9/11, or the president's incompetence in Iraq.

For now, here's a little bit of Times bashing. Jeffrey Rosen is often very good in his Supreme Court reporting, but this article in the Times's Week in Review section was hideous. Rosen took some broad categories of conservative thought and then positioned (either inaccurately or inappropriately) potential nominees into those categories. The article taught nothing about conservatism or the judges; it was pure tautology. I felt embarrassed for Rosen. The article is representative of the bullshit "analysis" being given to the nomination, in which the press appears to think that it's handicapping American Idol.

Also, we're less than a week in, and the phrase "activists on both sides" has become parody. If a TV reporter talks about "activists on both sides," s/he is pimping a manufactured storyline and not talking about anything important. S/he is treating you like an idiot.

Much, much more to come.

Going to Ellis Island on July 3

Ellis Island is the kind of place I'd never visit if it weren't for out-of-town guests. So when a high school friend made a spur-of-the-moment trip to New York for the weekend and the only tourist activities she wanted to do were a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and a visit to Ellis Island, I was happy to oblige.

This isn't a post about Ellis Island. It's about what it's like to get to Ellis Island.

If you ever want to get up close and personal with your fellow Americans, this is a great trip. There was an hour-long wait in line to get tickets, followed by another hour to get into the ferry, culminating in a security check more appropriate for LaGuardia. Every time we thought the wait was about to end, there was another extremely long line. Then, the ferry was crammed with people. It was a real cross-section: we saw people in T-shirts for Michigan State and Wyandotte High School; grumpy teenagers; families speaking Hindi, Spanish, and Italian. Little kids held onto my legs so they wouldn't fall when the ferry swayed with the waves. One of them goosed my friend.

After the initial impatience, it turned into a great day of peoplewatching. It might have been the most diverse crowd I've seen in one place. The Midwestern families were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with the Puerto Rican families, and the Hasids were scrunched next to Dutch tourists. Everyone was relatively cheerful and patient. Nobody bitched about a future Supreme Court appointee, and no one complained about all the B.O. Really, nobody complained the whole time.

It was all a little, uh, sweet and inspiring. I doubt that the Parks Services mean for the trip to be a two-and-a-half hour microcosm of the lines and bureaucracy experienced by all the old immigrants, but by the time we finally stepped foot on the island, it felt like we'd accomplished something. Then, you get to the island, and there's everybody: all the recent immigrants and all the sixth- or seventh-generations learning about the hurdles and red tape that a not entirely dissimilar collection of characters navigated a century back. It was great symmetry. By the time we got back to Manhattan, I adored my fellow citizens.

I mean, seventy percent of the time, you think about America, and the image involves B-52s dropping jesusbombs on an Iraqi village while TV's Alf takes a dump on the Louvre. Want to feel better about where we're living? Burn your afternoon and wait around for the ferry to Ellis Island.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue

OK, so President Bush is going get to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, now that Sandra Day O'Connor has stepped down. I'll leave comment on her legacy and possible successors largely to my co-blogger, who loves the jurisprudence. (Punk rock, bro!)

But what does the rest of Cole Slaw Nation (as it were) think about this? I've had CNN on for less than an hour, and I'm already sick of hearing right-wing spin points about activist judges.

With apologies to Ted Striker from Airplane! (which turns 25 this weekend): When Crimenotes hears about this, the shit's going to hit the fan.

Stylin' Addendum: This week's Stylin' roundup is being pre-empted by the holiday weekend. The section is as trying and stupid as ever, and we may yet make some comment on it later this week. Until then, feel free to critique the ridiculosity yourself. And have a great weekend.

The Ten Greatest Americans

Our fellow Americans: Happy July 4th weekend. In honor of the occasion, Cole Slaw Blog has assembled its list of the 10 greatest Americans, inspired by the Discovery Channel series that was heavily promoted earlier this month. Obviously, there have been a lot of great Americans. Of the millions of candidates, we had to name 10. Not all of you will agree, but that's the beauty of the First Amendment.

10. Ol' Dirty Bastard. May he rest in peace.

9. Jodie Sweetin. America's sweetheart -- or, as some would say, its "Sweetin" heart. As noted on the Sweet Shop at "From commercials with Sizzler to fame with the hit show, 'Full House,' Jodie Sweetin is and will be one of the most talented and beautiful actresses in television history." She was the last great child star, in a tradition that included Gary Coleman, Shirley Temple, and humble little Tabatha fr0m Bewitched. Born in L.A. in 1982, she starred in Full House from 1987 until 1995. It's worth noting that Jodie's fans are true patriots: the message board at a Sweetin fan website is dedicated in memory of September 11, 2001. Encouraging to know that the Sweetin fans are still enthusiastic, and that they cherish freedom.

American values embodied: cuteness; wit; style; love of celebrities.

8. Bill Veeck. Bill Veeck represents the American entrepreneurial spirit, and allows us to pay homage to our national pastime. Veeck -- who was born in 1914 and died in 1986 -- is best known for his renegade antics as owner of the Chicago White Sox. As a teenager, he sold concessions at Wrigley Field, and devised the idea to plant ivy on its outfield walls.

All of that is swell. Veeck had a long and illustrious career in Major League Baseball. The reason Bill Veeck earns a place on our list is that he's the man who gave us a midget ballplayer and Disco Demolition Night. On June 12, 1979, 90,000 people showed up at 52,000-seat Comiskey Park for an evening of crazed whitetrash anarchy, Midwest-style. Veeck owned the White Sox at the time, and greenlighted his son Mike's idea to invite all the neighbors over to destroy their disco albums. A sports riot ensued. As described by ESPN: "The White Sox wore batting helmets and hid in their dugout. ... Vinyl 45s whistled through the air. ... A crate of records was obliterated in centerfield. Fans roared." There was smoke, there were injuries (six of them) and there were arrests (39). And Bill Veeck -- baseball fan and marketing genius -- was only left to observe that sometimes, a promotion is too successful.

American values embodied: business savvy; resilience; creativity; rowdiness.

7. HMQ2K5.We fought a revolution to escape the specter of royal tyranny. In the waning years of the 20th Century and the early years of the 21st, it's become clear that America, in fact, loves royalty. How else to explain the Bush dynasty and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton? The royal bloodline is alive and well. Here at Cole Slaw Blog, we have our own kind of royalty, and her name is Her Majesty the Queen of 2005 ("HMQ2K5"). As you can see from the accompanying photo, she was formally coronated. To this day, she proudly wears the tiara. It happened shortly before the stroke of midnight on January 31, 2004, just before an apartment was trashed with silly string, long before rooftop greetings were shouted to confused pedestrians, but after plastic swords were broken amid swashbuckling adventures. HMQ2K5, if you were Queen of England in 1776, there's no way those colonists would have rebelled! To our readers, if you're walking around Brooklyn and see a cheerful young lass in a tiara, don't forget to bow or curtsy, as appropriate. God (and Slaw) save the Queen!

American values embodied: fondness for royalty; obsession with celebrity.

6. Edith Wharton. Before there was Alex Kuczynski, there was Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Born into a wealthy New York family in 1862, Wharton was educated in Europe. Wharton is most famous for her masterpiece The Age of Innocence, in which incredibly wealthy prig Newland Archer opts for a rotten marriage over the love and passion he felt for Countess Olenska. It's a book about how much it sucks to be rich, and the way rich people do stupid things in order to remain popular with their friends. Moral of the story? Don't act like stupid snob, or else your life will get messed up. Also served as an early prequel to Martin Scorsese's The Gangs of New York.

Some people claim that Wharton's other masterwork, Ethan Fromme, directly inspired the Quad City DJs song "Come 'N Ride It (The Train)."

American values embodied: good grammar; wealth.

5. Axl Rose. From the heights of "Welcome to the Jungle" to the dull, pudding-like ballad "November Rain," Mr. Rose (a distant relative of Jim) was an essential cultural bridge between Henry James and Kid Rock. As described in an article on Salon, "Axl Rose has hit his own fans with glass bottles, told Jon Bon Jovi to suck his dick, compared Indianapolis residents to 'prisoners in Auschwitz' and canceled concerts without warning. He has also paid out more than $1 million in legal settlements. Critics have labeled both him and his music racist, homophobic and asinine."

After all of that, why does Axl earn a place on our list? Because even Americans are crazy, and if you're going to be crazy, you might as well put together some kick-ass rock songs. Love it or leave it, baby. Also, his kick-ass rock songs and bad behavior gave us something to aspire to in sixth grade, back before either of us vomited in a pitcher, vomited in intersections, or learned the joys of a spontaneous monkey-clap dance party. Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

American values embodied: craziness; rock music; substance abuse; plainspoken views.

4. "Winston." Winston is the pseudonym chosen by a frequent Cole Slaw Blog poster. In reality, Winston is a chick. When you get into law school, she makes you Long Island Iced Teas and watches you eat flowers. Once, she led a conga line that disappeared up Packard Street in order to drive away a chainsmoking 16-year-old Willie Nelson fan named Scott. For a period of several weeks in 1997, she chaired an elite panel known as Executive Session, considered by some to by an early forerunner to Policy Roundtable, which was, itself, an ancestor to this humble blog. If HRHQ2K5 is Cole Slaw Blog royalty, Winston is its matron saint. Because Cole Slaw Blog loves America, Winston is, by extension, the nation's matron saint.

American values embodied: leadership; empathy; mixed drinks; college football.

3. Ulysses S. Grant.Ulysses S. Grant combines three great American traditions: war, political corruption, and alcohol abuse. If we were to rank the craziest presidents, he would come in fourth (after Andrew Jackson, Warren Harding, and George W.). Like a little warfare to go with your fireworks? Grant pretty much modernized the concept of the war of attrition. Tempted to bribe the cop when you get in trouble for setting off bottlerockets from your rooftop? You could have been in the Grant Administration! There was the Whiskey Ring scandal (Republican politicians skimmed off millions of dollars in liquor taxes), the Sanborn Incident (where the Treasuary Secretary let a tax collector keep half of his collections) and an incident when his Secretary of War took bribes for selling Native American trading posts. His private secretary was indicted in the Whiskey Ring, and Grant pardoned him, just like a good Republican.

After the presidency, Grant became president of the National Rifle Association. He died an impoverished drunk. Basically, before Grant, the Republicans were the party of Lincoln; after Grant, they were the party of corruption and sweetheart deals. Thanks, Ulysses S. Grant!

American values embodied: corruption; warfare; alcohol abuse; favoritism; guns.

2. Spuds McKenzie. The official party animal, Spuds debuted in a Bud Light beer commercial during the 1987 Super Bowl. Spuds ascended to the position of senior party consultant for Anheuser-Busch, and originated the phrase, "This Spud's for you." Hobbies included waterskiing, skateboarding, blondes, and glamor.

But scandal arose when it was revealed that Spuds was a lady dog. Confronted with the image of a bitch cavorting mischieviously with buxom babes, America's uproar over the Spuds controversy foreshadowed the 21st Century's gay marriage debate and Rick Santorum's denunciation of man-on-dog sex. Spuds became a target of mothers who worried that she promoted underage drinking. Spuds, whose real name was Honey Tree Evil Eye, died in 1993. She was 10.

American values embodied: alcohol abuse; pets; anthropomorphism; commercials; alternative lifestyles.

1. Thomas Jefferson
What did you expect? It's the Fourth of July, my peeps! Thanks for putting pen to paper 229 years ago, T.J. If it weren't for you, Bigfoot would have been in this spot.

Also receiving votes: Harry Anderson; Andre the Giant; Andrea Barber; Blog Perv Danielle; Moses Cleaveland; Cool Papa Bell; Bitey; Clarence Darrow; P. Diddy; Hugh Downs; William Faulkner; Craig Finn; Benjamin Franklin; World B. Free; Morgan Freeman; Elbridge Gerry; Evil Girl; Alexander Hamilton; Harlan Hatcher; Hiawatha; Desmond Howard; Montell Jordan; Estes Kefauver; Bernie Kosar; Abraham Lincoln; Shirley McFee; James Madison; Chief Justice John Marshall; Richard Moll; Oprah; Chris Perry; Charles P. Pierce; Markie Post; Elwood Reid; Franklin Roosevelt; Babe Ruth; Charles Sumner; Uma Thurman; Mark Twain; Marsha Warfield; Chief Justice Earl Warren; George Washington; Ralph Williams.