February 6, 2010

At the Chartreuse Hotel...


... we can settle in for the night.

"The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling 'My Way' in karaoke bars..."

"... over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the 'My Way Killings.'"

At the Yellow Orchid Nightclub...



... we'll have a beautiful night together.


Men's clothes in NYC.

I love all these guys.

Yellow green.


At the Closeup Café...


... we couldn't look away.

If you love orchids...

... and you're in Madison, don't miss Orchid Quest 2010.

Sarah Palin was a blithering idiot until she became a devious genius.

So here's Mark Leibovich, writing in the NYT, about the powerful political position Sarah Palin has devised for herself:
Ms. Palin represents a new breed of unelected public figures operating in an environment in which politics, news media and celebrity are fused as never before. Her growing cast of advisers and support system could be working in the service of any number of goals: a presidential run, a de facto role as the leader of the Tea Party movement, a lucrative career as a roving media entity — or all of the above. Whether she ever runs for anything else, Ms. Palin has already achieved a status that has become an end in itself: access to an electronic bully pulpit, a staff to guide her, an enormous income and none of the bother or accountability of having to govern or campaign for office....

... Ms. Palin is quietly assembling the infrastructure of an expanding political operation....

Ms. Palin has also enlisted a small team of policy counselors to guide her through the substantive areas in which many deemed her to be lacking in 2008....

People with knowledge of the daily briefings say they are conducted by phone or e-mail. They typically include information on the day’s news, material that could be relevant to an upcoming speech, or guidance about a candidate Ms. Palin might endorse....

[T]he question of Ms. Palin’s ambitions and abilities remain as much a mystery now as when she first stormed the national consciousness 18 months ago. They warn against any notion that she has any grand plan beside keeping faith that God would help her recognize “the next open door” (a favorite Palin refrain).
What I love about all this is the extreme contrast to the way Palin was mocked when she resigned as Governor of Alaska. I, myself, did not think it was stupid, because I pictured her doing something like what she is actually doing, but I certainly remember the derision. Her political career was over. She was "toast."

A big difference between what I pictured and what she's doing is that she's staying in Alaska. I thought she needed to get out of Alaska (in order to run for President). It's innovative the way she's staying in Alaska. As a blogger, operating from my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, I love that she's working through Facebook and staying rooted in Wasila, Alaska. Fox News is building a TV studio in her house in Wasila. That's so not toast.

How many people are reading about the snow paralyzing Washington...

... and thinking: good?

"I can tell you the only true happy moment in my life was when Jude was born."

"He was all the love I ever had in my life. He was the only thing that made me feel life was something of beauty, ever."

Note from a failed suicide/murderer.

ADDED: "Jesus said it's a sin to murder. He also said to follow him you to have to lay down your life for your brother. I hope he understands."

February 5, 2010

At the Stuffed Dog Inn...


... you can have your fill of conversation.

"Just turn off the... blogs," says Obama.

Ha. We're bothering the President of the United States.

Winter frisbee.

The view today, from my office window:

Did you notice that one guy?


He defines the new exemption from the Althouse "men in shorts" rule: winter vigor.

Bruce Ackerman defends "Democracy Dollars" — the proposal to empower everyone to donate $50 to political campaigns.

Remember this post of mine about a WSJ op-ed by Bruce Ackerman and Congressman David Wu proposing a $50 tax credit for people to donate to presidential candidates? It was presented as a kind of antidote to the Citizens United case, which recognized a First Amendment freedom for corporations to engage in political speech.

I had some questions about the proposal because, for one thing, it's about enabling people to channel money to candidates, which is different from doing your own speaking. I worried about those immediate electronic refunds:
Ah! How the cash could flow! Just push buttons on line. Is that too easy? Do you worry about corruption? Does it unduly favor the kind of people who use computers and credit cards... or is that really everybody now?
Professor Ackerman emailed me to say that he had answers to my questions in his book  "Democracy Dollars" (co-written with Ian Ayres and not with Wu), and I asked for some electronic text, which he sent. From pages 69-70:
In our brave new world, Americans simply go to their neighborhood ATM and vote their Patriot dollars under three ground rules.  
Vote. Presumably in the lingo of the book, the $50 donation is equated to a vote. You get a donation to channel to someone, which is sort of like voting.
The first gives each voter five days to change her mind. This not only encourages sober second thought but makes a black market tough to organize. To see why, suppose that a fraudster offers Citizen X $20 in private money if she allows him to accompany her to the ATM and watch her transfer 50 Patriots to his favorite candidate. X accepts the offer, executes the transaction, takes the $20 — and then returns the next day to countermand the order!
That assumes Citizen X cares about politics... and isn't afraid of the fraudster. I think a lot of people would gladly pocket the $20 and not give a damn about where the $30 went. It's not like they have a way to get their hands on the $30. They have to give away the $50, so there will be endless schemes to get hold of those millions of $50s.
Not a good deal for the fraudster, especially if we add two rules. Patriotic contributions should be anonymous — making it impossible for the fraudster to contact his favored beneficiary to see whether the transaction sticks.  
Citizen X would need to believe that anonymity is secure.
And the ATM will accept only Patriot accounts linked to standard electronic cards. This prevents the fraudster from demanding possession of X's ATM card for the five-day cooling off period, thereby making it impossible for her to change her mind. While X might give away a free-floating Patriot card, she will refuse to surrender a standard credit card to somebody who is not, by definition, very trustworthy. If she ever gets her American Express back, she may find not only that her Patriot account is empty but that the fraudster has used it to finance his trip to Las Vegas!
Does everyone have a credit card? Do we really want a government program bound up in the operations of private credit card companies? Will the credit card company get a cut of all these transactions? Or are we going to end up with a government credit card company?
As a final anticorruption safeguard, all Patriot accounts will expire after six years. Renewal will be easy — a citizen must simply vote once during the period, and swipe his card once again through the electronic reader available at his polling place. Regular renewal prunes the files of dead and incapacitated cardholders-cutting out another source of fraud. To be sure, it also eliminates people who fail to vote once in six years. But this seems entirely acceptable. Nonvoters can regain their patriotic status simply by reregistering.
I also asked whether "incumbents [would] snap up the money and make it even harder for newcomers to get started." And Professor Ackerman pointed to this, at pages 78-79:
Fundamental fairness may be compromised if one candidate conducts an expensive primary battle while the other doesn't. The problem is at its maximum when a sitting president is running for reelection. The man (or woman!) in the White House comes to the table with such great advantages that he may avoid a significant challenge in the primary. This will allow him to stockpile the pool of Patriots from members of his own party while challengers raise and spend large sums for the privilege of running against him in November. By the time the out-party selects its candidate, the successful nominee may confront a serious problem raising patriotic donations from the party faithful. Many will have spent their wad during the primaries, leaving the challenger to face an incumbent sitting on a large patriotic stockpile. It is tough enough ousting a sitting president without giving him this further advantage.
The problem is of constitutional dimension. After Franklin Roosevelt's four-term presidency, the American people said "never again," and enacted a constitutional amendment checking the power of incumbent presidents by limiting them to two terms in office. Our approach to Patriot is guided by this decision. In the case of incumbents running for reelection, we divide the 25 Patriot dollars allocated to each presidential account into two subaccounts-allocating $10, say, to the primaries and $15 to the general election. This will permit the out-party to wage a fierce struggle over the nomination without compromising its capacity to run an effective race in the fall.
The system is infinitely tweakable. I note that it will be tweaked by incumbents and the party in power. Why would they "permit the out-party" to do anything they don't want? Once the system is in place and all that money is at stake, the game will be played by ambitious politicians, not by neutral wise men (and wise women!) trying to perfect democracy.

I also asked about what was going on in the states that had programs like this. Here, Professor Ackerman quoted a law review article by Thomas Cmar, "Toward a Small Donor Democracy: The Past and Future of Incentive Programs for Small Political Contributions," 32 Fordham Urban Law Journal. 443, 462-75 (2005):
Oregon has the highest participation rate in the country for a political contribution incentive program, and in large measure this is due to the state providing the credit for contributions to PACs as well as candidates and parties. Many PACs solicit credit-eligible contributions aggressively, promoting the credit as a central aspect of their fundraising appeal. The result is that in recent electoral cycles, a substantial portion of contributions on which a tax credit was claimed went to PACs rather than to parties or candidates. ... Data from Oregon suggests, however, that Oregon's higher participation rate is driven by the mobilization efforts of contribution recipients."
PACmania. Comments? Personally, I'm terrified of all that money flowing around.

"Women with one name, they’re all pretty much alike. It’s the ultimate patricide."

Warren Beatty, disrespecting Madonna.

It's an interesting observation, but not all women who want to be called by one name are lopping off the father's contribution. (Call me Althouse.)

"I felt like an oyster in a slot machine."

How Joan Collins, at age 26, felt having sexual intercourse 4 or 5 times a day with Warren Beatty (who was 22 at the time).

An oyster in a slot machine, eh? Is it shucked or unshucked? It's fucked, but is it shucked? Seriously, I'm having trouble understanding the simile. He's the slot machine, right? She's like the coin you put in the slot, except she's an oyster? Is the shell on or off? Because that would really affect the feeling — for the oyster and the slot machine. I'm not getting the whole male-female anatomy of this. Shouldn't the woman be the slot machine and isn't the man, if he's the oyster, presumably shucked, not doing too well sexually?

I Google "like an oyster in a slot machine," and — aha! — it's an old George Burns joke about an old man having sex: "Have you ever tried to put an oyster in a slot machine?"

The author of that new biography of Warren Beatty — reviewed at the first link — may have had his leg pulled quite a few times. Like maybe 12,775 times.

Now, let's do lunch with oysters and 12,775 olives.

Tom Tancredo at the Tea Party convention: "Thank God John McCain lost the election."

"In Tancredo’s view, the Tea Party movement would never have been sparked under a McCain administration because Republican Party leaders and activists would have been muffled from criticizing their president. Meanwhile, McCain would be cutting deals with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

Ha. This has resonance for me. On October 8, 2008, I abandoned the "cruel neutrality" stance I had maintained throughout the campaign season and explained my reasons for rejecting McCain:
McCain never presented the conservative alternative to Obama....

McCain has lost definition. He's stumbling along to the finish line, hoping to achieve his lifelong ambition, to seize the crown at last. But why? To show he can get along with Democrats? I worry about what awful innovations the new President will concoct in league with the Democratic Congress, but at this point, I'm more worried about McCain than Obama....
On October 16, 2008, I said:
Is there some sort of idea that if you think McCain is too liberal, you still have to vote for him, because if he's too liberal, then Obama is really too liberal? I don't buy that. Better a principled, coherent liberal whose liberal choices will, if they don't go well, be blamed on liberals than an erratic, incoherent liberal whose liberal choices will be blamed on the party that ought to get its conservative act together.
On October 30, 2008, I said:
Usually, I prefer divided government, but that doesn't mean I need to support McCain. I've seen McCain put way too much effort into pleasing Democrats and flouting his own party, and I can picture Obama standing up to the Democratic Congress and being his own man. What, really, will he owe them? McCain, by contrast, will need them. And we've seen that he wants to be loved by them.

Sometimes, I think that letting the Democrats control everything for 2 years would work out just fine. Let one party take responsibility for everything. When they can't whine and finger-point, what will they actually step up and do? It will be interesting to know. And it will do the Republicans good to retool and define themselves, with an eye toward the 2010 election. I'd like to see this clarification after so many years of obfuscation.
After the election, summing up my 4 reasons for voting against McCain:
3. He never defined himself as a principled conservative.
Think about it. You may not like Obama, but picture, realistically, what would have happened with McCain.

"A 12-year-old Queens girl was hauled out of school in handcuffs for an artless offense - doodling her name on her desk in erasable marker..."

Headlines The Daily News. Why make a star out of a kid that defaced school property with graffiti? She's an especially cute girl, willing to pose with her wrists together in the handcuff position. I'm sure some readers appreciate the entertainment on that level. Do we know the whole story of why she was arrested and why handcuffs were deemed necessary?

The girl and her mother dish up the quotes:
"I started crying, like, a lot," said Alexa. "I made two little doodles. ... It could be easily erased. To put handcuffs on me is unnecessary." Alexa, who had a stellar attendance record, hasn't been back to school since, adding, "I just thought I'd get a detention. I thought maybe I would have to clean [the desk]."

"She's been throwing up," said her mom, Moraima Tamacho, 49, an accountant, who lives with her daughter in Kew Gardens. "The whole situation has been a nightmare."
Is stoking the victimhood feelings of your child like this a good idea? The girl did wrong, as she knows. She should apologize, straighten up, and rededicate herself to schoolwork. The mother should not tolerate the child's sickly overreaction — even if she believes the school is too harsh in its response to crimes committed by kids in school.
A class action lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union last month against the city for using "excessive force" in middle school and high schools. A 12-year-old sixth-grader, identified in the lawsuit as M.M., was arrested in March 2009 for doodling on her desk at the Hunts Point School.
Fine. Let the courts review the patterns and, if the schools are violating the law, provide a remedy congruent with the legal violation that leaves room for the schools to preserve discipline and good order.

Finches rock.

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot gave the birds their guitars. (Via Jac.)

Maybe I'm the first to think: The Fynches.

Do you like the idea of Howard Stern as the replacement for Simon Cowell on "American Idol"?

Can Stern-DeGeneres byplay make up for the loss of Simon and Paula?

Please don't clutter the comments with statements about hating "American Idol" and not getting why anyone but an idiot would waste time watching it. That opinion has been thoroughly aired here and does not meet the interestingness standard anymore. I'm looking for real discussion of Howard Stern and what he would mean for "American Idol" and how important Cowell is to its success.

TPM takes a screwy Citizens United angle on the subject of Larry Kudlow vs. Chuck Schumer.

Evan McMorris-Santoro raises the alarm:
Kudlow has expressed some interest in mounting a bid. One of the men who's urging him to run, self-proclaimed "Wall St. guy" and Kudlow friend John Lakian, told me today that Kudlow is at "the 70 or 80 or 90% tipping point" toward throwing his hat in the ring. According to Lakian, one of the men behind the Draft Kudlow movement on Facebook and the web, the time is right for a man with Kudlow's extensive Wall St. connections to make a run for office.

"There's no question we'd be an underdog," Lakian said when I asked him how tough it would be for Kudlow or any other Republican to challenge Schumer's considerable war chest. But Lakian said that the new campaign finance rules set down in the Citizens United case would help close the money gap for Kudlow quite quickly.
Citizens United is not about campaign contributions. It's about independent spending. McMorris-Santoro would like his readers to think that corporations can fill up a "war chest" for a Republican challenger to match that of the long-time incumbent's. Alito-like, I'm mouthing the words: not true.
 ... Schumer is a formidable fundraiser who's sitting on $19 million in campaign funds. The DSCC did not respond to a request for comment about Schumer potential vulnerability.
So "Citizens United case would help close the money gap for Kudlow quite quickly" and the gap is $19 million?!

February 4, 2010

At the Year-Ago Café...

The White Tree

... we remember the details of the past and their deep roots in our lives today.

6 reasons not to give a Pulitzer Prize to the National Enquirer.


"Boa Sr epitomised a totality of humanity in all its hues and with a richness...."

The last link of a 65,000-year-long chain.

MORE: Here, including an audio clip, described — accurately — as "haunting."

"If my colleagues would let me talk..." — Justice Thomas jokes about why he doesn't speak at oral argument.

Scroll to 33:40 in this video of Thomas's Q&A with University of Florida Law School students.

Clarence Thomas loves to hang out with law students "at their joints, with dead animals on the wall, and old tags... and food I can't eat."

And for law clerks he chooses "the kids I like," with "a preference for non-Ivy League law clerks," because "I'm not part of this new or faux nobility."

ADDED: The discussion of law clerks begins about 39 minutes into this video of Thomas's remarks at the University of Florida Law School. He says he thinks it's important to have diversity, and his idea is to concentrate on his circuit, the 11th Circuit. So he'll look for law students who are near the top of the class in schools in that circuit (which includes Florida).

He's explicitly scornful of the bloggers who refer to the students at the less highly ranked law schools as "TTT" or "third tier trash." It's interesting to me that he's paying attention to the blogs (and, of course, I'm not one of the bloggers who would ever use that term). He also speaks of wanting to visit law schools in his circuit. He has a touching dedication to the southeastern United States.

By the way, this talk at UF consists entirely of responses to student questions, and the questions are excellent. If you go to that 39 minute mark and watch the part about law clerks, keep going. The next question — at about 42:30 — is about natural law.

AND: The material about hanging out with law students is at about 46:30 in the video. He goes on to say "I don't dislike the professors, but I come to law schools to see the students." He doesn't like big events, and he thinks it has something to do with his desire, long ago, to be a priest. He speaks with a real passion for spending time with students.

Rush Limbaugh is "just saying"... what?

From yesterday's show:
State-Controlled AP: "Obama Backs Down After Anti-Vegas Remarks." By the way, I'm just saying, just a little side note here, but gambling is forbidden in the Koran. Just a little aside. Just saying. President Barack Obama known for having a way with words but some lawmakers from Nevada wish he would pipe down about trips to the city after sparking a firestorm of criticism from Nevada's elected officials for suggesting that people saving money for college shouldn't blow it in Vegas. Obama told US Senate majority leader Dingy Harry in a letter he wasn't saying anything negative about Las Vegas. I was making the simple point that families use vacation dollars, not college tuition money to have fun. And no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country's great destinations. Obama says he always enjoys his visits to Vegas. He's going out there this month or later this month. White House spokesman referred to Obama's letter to Reid, said the administration had no further comment. And again the Koran prohibits -- gambling is forbidden in the Koran, I'm just saying.
Now, I listen to the show enough to know this is the sort of thing Rush would — especially if challenged — call a "media tweak" — perhaps even his "Media Tweak of the Day" (though there was some big competition in yesterday's show):
You know, what we do here on this program is, purposely, play the media like violin, like a Stradivarius. And I love tweaking them.  I love irritating them, and I love upsetting them and all you do is take words uttered by liberals and apply them to current events.  It was Harry Reid who looked at Obama and said he's a "light-skinned" guy that "doesn't speak in a Negro dialect."...
Before I said all of this I made a prediction, because this was my Media Tweak of the Day -- and it's getting too easy.  I mean, you're illustrating how easy it is to outrage these people.  I enjoy it.  This is a great success.  When people start squealing like pigs is when I know I've hit a home run.  This is what I said yesterday...
The people that listen to this program laugh and chuckle every day at this stuff, because we're just needling the media. They talk about me all the time and I can create it any time I want.  It's made you mad, and you believe things they take out of context that don't completely say what I fully said, and you get mad.
That gambling/Koran remark — used twice — was clearly designed to stoke the notion that Obama is a Muslim. And obviously, Rush never said that, so there's really nothing to deny. He can say he's "just" throwing something out there to bait his haters in the media, who will rip his remarks from context. But he really is responsible for stirring things up. He knows — and must intend — that his remarks will fuel the Obama-is-a-Muslim theory.

And his repeated use of the inane non-qualifier "just sayin'" makes me... makes me want to show you that time Jon Stewart did that "Just Sayin'" routine, which — like Rush — took a shot at mainstream media:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN's Just Sayin'
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

By the way, the competition for yesterday's "Media Tweak of the Day" was the Rahm Emanuel monologue, a tweak that peaked with:
Normally if you call somebody a retard, you apologize to them for calling them a retard.  But he has apologized to the retarded people for daring to lump them with Democrats.  It's hilarious.  So in an effort, ladies and gentlemen, to quell rising questions about the endless apologies necessary from Democrats, Obama is taking a short bus, little yellow bus full of "retards" -- "F-ing retards" -- to Las Vegas for the weekend.  Senator Harry Reid expressed appreciation for the gesture and hoped that none of the "F-ing retards" spoke with a Negro dialect.  Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, will also be with the delegation in Las Vegas, bringing some undereducated children from Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.  The goal is to teach them not to gamble with their college fund.  I mean that's what we have learned from what is happening with this administration.  If this were Republicans making these statements, there wouldn't be any forgiveness.  There would be calls for resignation.  There would be calls for public humiliation.  There would be calls for fines.  
He later took a call from a woman who complained about the use of the term "retarded," and his explanation went like this:
But the point I was making was that Emanuel compares Democrats to retarded people and then apologized to the retarded people, which, in turn is not a complimentary thing to say about the Democrats, either.  It's sort of like if I would compare Obama to a rat and somebody said, "Don't do that, you're insulting rats."  This is the same thing.  Rahm Emanuel is comparing Democrats to retarded people.  People say, "Don't insult retarded people that way."  That's my take on it....
Now, if you read the whole thing — and especially if you listen to the whole thing — you can tell that Rush is taking devilish delight in saying "retard" and "retarded" over and over again. He was a bit undone by the female caller, who — like Sarah Palin — has "a son with developmental disabilities." He tried to cover it up with bluster, but I think I could tell that he knew he'd gone too far, had too much fun in a way that really did hurt people like her.

UPDATE: Did Sarah Palin understand Limbaugh's game?
I asked Palin spokesperson Meghan Stapleton for comment on Rush’s rant, and she emailed me this:

“Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful.”
That's too generic to answer the question, and I don't accept the title of the blog post I'm linking to: "Palin Camp Rips Limbaugh, Hits His 'Retard' Comment As 'Crude And Demeaning.'"

Meanwhile, Limbaugh crowed about the media taking his bait... and claims Sarah Palin as a fan:
[O]ne of the years I'm out at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic a guy comes up to me and says, "My daughter is a huge fan, would you sign a book for me?" and it was a copy of my book and it was to Sarah Palin, long before she was governor of Alaska.  I've had a couple chats with her... So they're trying to goad her into denouncing me like they did Emanuel, but she knows that all I'm doing is quoting Emanuel and highlighting that it's these people who say this kind of stuff.  
She knows? Somebody tell her spokeswoman.

"Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith... or, for that matter, my citizenship."

Birther humor from Obama... at the National Prayer Breakfast.

"Obama ... turned down high-paying jobs after graduating from Harvard Law School and became a community organizer," says The Washington Post.

This is in an article that struggles to show why "Despite his roots, Obama struggles to show he's connected to middle class."

And indeed, it is a struggle to figure this out when you are getting your facts so wrong. As John B. Judis writes in TNR:
He didn’t become a community organizer after graduating from Harvard Law School, but after graduating from Columbia. He left community organizing to attend Harvard Law School. After graduating from law school, he joined a prestigious Chicago law firm with offices just off Michigan Avenue. In 1991, he began teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He was chair of a Chicago branch of the Annenberg Foundation.
As Judis shows, Obama belongs squarely in the professional class:
Obama’s parents were professionals—his mother was an anthropology PhD and his father was a Harvard-trained economist. How much money they made was immaterial. His grandmother, who raised him in Hawaii, was a bank vice-president. He went to a fancy private school and to prestigious colleges (Occidental and Columbia) that turn out professionals and managers. He clearly was not obsessed with making money, but with performing a public service—yet that doesn’t distinguish him from other professionals or other Columbia graduates. It does distinguish him from a working- or middle-class American for whom being a civil rights lawyer or professor or politician is at best a passing fantasy.

It is admirable that Obama spent three years after graduating as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, but many graduates of elite colleges spend several years after college doing something unusual, before returning to graduate school or settling into a profession. Some travel around the world; some join the Peace Corps; some try to write novels.... Afterwards, they usually return to more sober and sedate occupations appropriate to their social background and education. That’s what Obama did....

Once out of law school, Obama lived and worked over the next decade in a grey area between the very upper reaches of professional America and the country’s managers, owners, and rulers. He didn’t just have access to more money and live differently from ordinary Americans; he possessed power and authority that they didn’t have.... 
Judis really embarrasses the WaPo here, but I've got to give credit to the WaPo for picking out some hilarious quotes that show Obama trying — tryin' — to sound like a working class guy:
"I just like gettin' out of the White House, and then I like tooling around companies that are actually making stuff."
Is he driving a car inside these factories? I think he was searching for the right word and rejected "puttering around" because it was too golf-y, and golf is not the sport of the working class.

Justice Thomas presents the notion of First Amendment freedom for corporations in a sympathetic light.

"If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association. If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association. But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?"

Why wasn't here there at the State of the Union address, mouthing "not true" along with Justice Alito?
I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there. There’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.
One of the consequences [presumably of Alito's display] is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.

John Yoo gets a sympathetic ear...

... from Right Wing News.

The embarrassing expression of outrage at an elected Senator demanding to be seated...

... to displace an unelected man who would otherwise continue to sit in the elected man's seat and vote in the United States Senate.
Democrats were scrambling to respond to [Scott] Brown's gambit. By tradition, Vice President Biden would be the one to swear Brown in, but any number of folks could do it. And Democrats who are wary of being seen as hyper-partisan might not be able to come up with an excuse to deny Brown the seat.
Gambit? The notion that it's a "gambit" that the Senate Democrats are too pusillanimous to parry is based on a previous agreement to do the swearing-in on February 11th.

Brown's reason for moving the date up is, according to a source, that the Senate was "moving forward with controversial issues and nominations... votes where his vote is the deciding one." With the unelected Paul Kirk voting as if he still represented the people of Massachusetts!

Whatever the extent of the agreement about February 11th, it could not displace the responsibility Brown owes to the people who elected him. They should be outraged at Kirk's illegitimate occupation of their seat.

The Senate Democrats "might not be able to come up with an excuse to deny Brown the seat"?! There's no decent excuse. The failure to seat Brown immediately would not merely be "seen as hyper-partisan." It would be hyper-partisan — and a shameful abuse of power.

How will Yale close its $150 million budget gap?

"Yale University announced on Wednesday that it planned a number of steps to close a remaining $150 million budget gap, including cutting staff, freezing salaries for deans and officers, reducing the number of graduate students — even turning down all thermostats to 68 degrees."

Even turning down all thermostats to 68 degrees? Even?!

Sorry about your budget gap, but why the hell did you have winter thermostat settings above 68°? Even — even — if you have money to burn, you should want to keep temperatures at least that low for health and comfort. And I do not believe that the people who run Yale think that there's such a thing as anthropogenic global warming worth worrying a damn about. In fact, if you actually thought cutting carbon emissions was important, your thermostats would already be at 62° or lower. If you thought AGW is an emergency — of the sort Al Gore warns us about —you'd set the thermostat at 52° or lower.

Good lord, you're firing people from their jobs! Why are you still roasting the place to 68°?!


A literary reading:
Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to sit by it. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second nature. By proper Shelter and Clothing we legitimately retain our own internal heat; but with an excess of these, or of Fuel, that is, with an external heat greater than our own internal, may not cookery properly be said to begin? Darwin, the naturalist, says of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, that while his own party, who were well clothed and sitting close to a fire, were far from too warm, these naked savages, who were farther off, were observed, to his great surprise, "to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such a roasting." So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked with impunity, while the European shivers in his clothes. Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man? 

February 3, 2010

Oh, no, not the Prius too!

This is a brand crash of Tiger Woods dimension.

"The odd genius of the ad is that it is so weird that you will click on it online, and bloggers like me will link to it. The message is delivered."

Time Magazine's Michael Scherer passes on viral video then updates to act as if he's enlightening us about the fascinating phenomenon of viral video — as opposed to — oh, I don't know — apologizing for being an idiot.

"We exist! We exist! Please, let this mean something!"

Stephen Colbert being especially brilliant:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Cognoscor Ergo Sum
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy


... manslaughter.

Why Clarence Thomas went to law school: "I was lost."

Said yesterday, in answer to a student's question, at Stetson University College of Law.

"If the Democrats let health care reform die, they'll be looking at a turnout cataclysm."

Says Jonathan Chait, reading the tea leaves that come in the form of the Illinois primary results. ("GOP primary turnout is up 11% over 2004. Democratic turnout has dropped 29%.)

Liberal commentators doggedly push the theory that whatever happens, the heathcare bill must be passed. Ezra Klein works that theme here:
Today's televised session between Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats wasn't encouraging to those of us hoping the Democrats are spending their time worrying about how to pass the health care bill. There were questions on the deficit, on jobs, on partisanship, on energy and on judicial nominees. No one bothered to ask about health-care reform....

To Obama's credit, he valiantly twisted questions on things like jobs and partisanship into opportunities to talk about health-care reform....

If we don't pass this, he told the assembled Democrats, "I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys."...
Without healthcare, you don't know the difference between Republicans and Democrats?! There are 2 ways to respond to that:

1. National security, taxes, social issues, that $3.8 trillion budget, etc. etc.

2. Since people are drifting toward the Republicans, won't being more like them help you (despite what Jonathan Chait says)?

"[T]echnology has subverted the original idea of America."

Says Robert Wright:
The founders explicitly rejected direct democracy — in which citizens vote on every issue — in favor of representative democracy. The idea was that legislators would convene at a safe remove from voters and, thus insulated from the din of narrow interests and widespread but ephemeral passions, do what was in the long-term interest of their constituents and of the nation. Now information technology has stripped away the insulation that physical distance provided back when information couldn’t travel faster than a horse.
Yes, one wonders what the Framers might have thought of free speech.

Do we Americans really want our President doing "Question Time"?

I wonder how that would go. Should the President be spending his time like that? Would it undermine the independence of the second branch of government? This isn't Britain, you know. I think we should be careful about getting too jazzed up about Obama's performance at the Republican retreat last week.
"The thing that made Friday interesting was the spontaneity," Axelrod said. "If you slip into a kind of convention, then conventionality will overtake the freshness of that."
Yes, the Prez would get unfresh. That is: tired. And we need him to be doing things that are not done in front of cameras. American politics is already too much of a show. That's why we ended up with Obama as President in the first place! 

Anyway, there's this petition, "Demand Question Time." David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, says:
"None of us are naive and believe that implementing Question Time will cure what ails our country and our political process. We do realize that if QT does become a Washington routine, politicians and their aides will do what they can to game it to their advantage. But even though there are problems with the presidential debates — which have been taken over by the political parties and a corporate-sponsored commission — those events still have value. If you want more Question Time — even if only for its entertainment value — you can saddle up with dozens (and maybe it will turn into hundreds, thousands, and millions) of your fellow Americans in calling on our elected representatives to show us their best stuff on a regular basis."
That's an endorsement? It has some value. Bleh.

"[T]he BBC has become this country's most pernicious climate-change-denying media outlet in the UK."

"The BBC is continually painted as some liberal-left dominated haven, but it remains deeply institutional and rightwing."

Abdulmutallab is talking to the FBI.

FBI agents traveled to Nigeria and enlisted the help of his relatives, who "disagreed with his efforts to blow up American targets."

ADDED: Let's not forget all that criticism about telling Abdulmutallab about his Miranda rights:
Why are we reading Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights instead of taking him somewhere and forcibly finding out where he got the explosive underwear and whatever else he might know about Al Qaeda? Isn’t this, as well as the forthcoming federal court trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, proof that the Obama administration doesn’t really regard the war on terrorism as a war?...

Republican critics like Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich have raised these questions in the past few days....
There were ways, apparently consistent with American criminal procedural rights, to milk Abdulmutallab for information. If the first-linked story is true, the success of the method used must be acknowledged and taken into account by those who say that terrorist suspects/enemy combatants must be treated differently from those accused of ordinary crimes.

Did any newspaper report what Ayaan Hirsi Ali actually said in her lecture at the University of Wisconsin last night?

If I had attended — and I'm sorry I didn't — I would have taken copious notes and reported details of the things she said. I would like to read a report like that, and I certainly can't find anything in the local papers. The stories all report what they reported before she spoke, that she's controversial and various people don't think she should have been invited at all:
The decision to invite Hirsi Ali and pay her $10,000 speaking fee drew criticism from both Muslim student organizations and other groups.

"I see this as people slowly becoming suspicious of Islam, and suspicion leads to hatred and much worse things," said Rashid Dar, president of UW-Madison's Muslim Student Association.

"You shouldn't take Muslims as a subversive fifth column group that is planning to one day take over and start cutting hands off. We're normal people, too."
I think that article has more about what the students think than what the distinguished lecturer thinks. And it's not even what the students thought of what she said in the lecture. It's what they thought all along. And, ironically, what they keep saying is that they are afraid of generalizations and stereotypes. Why don't they pay attention to specific things that she, an individual, said in the particular talk that she gave to them?

ADDED: Isthmus has some detail about the talk:
She said there is a distinction between Muslim believers and the ideology of Islam, the latter of which she finds fault with. But she said that in the West, Islam has attained a special sort of protection, with intellectuals afraid to question or criticize the religion’s beliefs.....
She said that Islam would benefit from scrutiny and criticism and looking at other cultures and belief systems. “The Muslim mind can be opened by looking outside of Islam and then retaining what people find valuable about Islam, like hospitality,” she said. “I don’t think gazing at the Koran for hours and hours can help that.”

And she, added, “The emancipation of the Muslim woman is the key to reforming Islam.”
AND: The Badger Herald embedded the video of the entire lecture, which you can watch here.

ALSO: The Badger Herald has a pretty detailed report.

How much is the Obama adminstration doing to change Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

I'm following the news stories, but, I realize, I've been resisting blogging about this because I can't figure out what is being changed. This whole we'll get back to you in a year business strikes me as a political feint. And there's:
The Senate, which invited Gates and Mullen to testify Tuesday, is moving cautiously. Worried that they lack the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, Senate leaders said they might try to add a temporary moratorium on discharges of gay service members to a defense spending bill, whose passage would require only majority approval.
It's Congress that must act to change the policy, so the Obama administration can get out whatever message it thinks sounds best without dealing with any real change. (Ah, change. That word! It's so wonderful as an abstract idea.)

If, marrying, you decline to forsake all others, does that limit what your spouse is allowed to feel when you have an other?

Glenn Reynolds notes that Governor Sanford's wife says he insisted on taking the vow to be faithful out of their wedding ceremony:
Okay, I remember going to a wedding back in the ’70s where a couple read vows they’d written themselves, making clear that they weren’t sexually exclusive. And yet, not too many years later, she was royally unhappy with his philandering. Was that unfair?
I don't know the precise scope of the understanding that this couple had when they got married. It wasn't a vow to gladly accept your partner's outside relationships, was it? It was the absence — or rejection — of a vow. But why? Perhaps it was some hippie-style amorphous philosophical belief that one person can't really own the other or that no one at a given time can honestly say for sure where they will be for the rest of their lives.

Maybe, if he never agreed to that particular rule, there's some argument against saying that Mark Sanford cheated. But what can it mean to say that it's "unfair" for her to feel "unhappy"? You feel what you feel, and your actions based on that feeling might be unfair, but if he chose a marriage that did not bind him, why was she bound to anything? She had her feelings, and like him, she gets to go where her emotions lead.

February 2, 2010

At the Truth-or-Kid Hotel...


... do you want to tell the truth this time... or kid?

Do not befriend...

... a goose.

Rare games.

Sarah Palin wants Rahm Emanuel fired...

... for calling someone "retarded" — actually, "fucking retarded."
Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking. 
This is a good place for Palin to posture, but, seriously, I think that anyone who takes this trumped-up offense seriously is... pretty silly.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali comes to Wisconsin.

She'll speak on campus tonight as part of our Distinguished Lecturer Series... and it hasn't been uncontroversial.

A Drudgtaposition about streetfighting and a disquisition about "Disney Eyes."

Let's analyze Drudge's photos and headline juxtaposition for the Oscars:

I think he thinks it's funny to picture these 4 characters in a street fight. I'm saying 4, because I'm not counting the secondary figures in the bottom photographs, especially that female "Avatar" character, whom we don't enjoy picturing in a street fight, for reasons hilariously well-stated here:

(More of that sort of movie analysis at the RedLetterMedia YouTube page.)

The terrible things those "self-identifed" Republicans think...

... according to a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll. Yes, we have to stop first and wonder how good are the Daily Kos/Research 2000 pollsters. I picked up this story at Talking Points Memo, where there's no information about why I should trust this poll. How did they locate their 2,000 "self-identified" Republicans, who, TPM tells us represent "the psyche of the minority party's base"?

And I know that plenty of conservatives won't call themselves "Republicans." I'd like to see a poll that delves into the reasons people who call themselves "Republicans" choose to call themselves "Republicans" and why others reject the label, despite being conservative.

Also, I wonder if some people who aren't conservative at all lie to pollsters — especially a poll with a lefty name like "Daily Kos" — so they can skew the results and give those folks the results they imagine the poll is designed to produce: that non-liberals are evil/stupid.

Nevertheless, let's read the results of this poll:
• 39% of Republicans want President Obama to be impeached.

• 63% think Obama is a socialist.

• Only 42% believe Obama was born in the United States.

• 21% think ACORN stole the 2008 election -- that is, that Obama didn't actually win it, and isn't legitimately the president, with 55% saying they are "not sure."...

• 53% think Sarah Palin is more qualified than Obama to be president.

• 23% want to secede from the United States.

• 73% think gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools....

• 31% want contraception to be outlawed.
Wonderful anti-Republican PR results. They justify the fears people who are not Republicans have about the Republican Party. I don't like thinking people are this extreme, and I wish I could see how the questions were worded. The full survey (and the questions) were not out at the time TPM put up this post, and releasing the results in this form reinforces my suspicion that the motivation of the poll is to generate anti-Republican PR.

How would you word questions to ask "self-identified" Democrats if it were your goal to generate anti-Democrat PR? How would you smoke out all the flaky and stupid suggestions they'd go along with if a pollster offered it in a rational-sounding form and didn't interject amazement at the answers? Then how would you reword the questions to publish the results to make the best propaganda for your side?

(I once submitted to a poll where I was asked various questions about abortion rights, and the pollster started coming back with "Really?" and "Are you sure?" in a shaming way that made it obvious they were trying to get people to say they supported laws restricting abortion so they could attack some politician — probably Russ Feingold. It was really unprofessional!)

ADDED: Here's the Kos post announcing the results of the poll. It begins with this mind-boggling sentence: "As I've mentioned before, I'm putting the finishing touches on my new book, American Taliban, which catalogues the ways in which modern-day conservatives share the same agenda as radical Jihadists in the Islamic  world." It turns out this poll was designed to help him with that theory.

How independent and reliable is Research 2000?

Sir Ian McKellan explains what acting is.

A brilliant bit from the Ricky Gervais sitcom — not to be confused with a "shitcom" — "Extras," the first 2 seasons of which we've been watching/rewatching on HBO Video on Demand.

ADDED: The source for that coinage:
Darren: It’s shit. It’s a shit sitcom.
Andy: It’s a shitcom.

They're about to announce the Oscar nominations!

Let's watch together.

ADDED: Very interesting having 10 Best Picture nominees. I cheered when they said "A Serious Man." I loved that one. "The Blind Side" is considered a surprise nomination for picture. (The Best Actress nomination for Sandra Bullock was expected.) Here's the trailer. And here's the "Serious Man" trailer.

Since there are only 5 nominees in the director category, it makes it kind of obvious what the 5 Best Picture nominees would be if there were only 5. The upstarts are conspicuous. By the way, there are 2 "up" movies in the Picture category: "Up" and "Up in the Air." "Up" is the upstart. It's also nominated in the separate best animated movie category. "Up" needs to get down and stop being such a category hog.

February 1, 2010

At the Fading Light Inn...


... we can spend the waning moments of the day together.

"Cognitive fluency."

People like to think about things that are easy to think about.
Because it shapes our thinking in so many ways, fluency is implicated in decisions about everything from the products we buy to the people we find attractive to the candidates we vote for - in short, in any situation where we weigh information. It’s a key part of the puzzle of how feelings like attraction and belief and suspicion work....
Interesting. Now, how do you want to use this?

It made me think of this song:

O'Keefe on Hannity.

Explaining the Landrieu incident.

The link goes to Gawker, which strains to make every little thing sound awful, but the video is there. I thought Jim O'Keefe did a good job justifying himself while showing some remorse related to security issues. He admitted that he needed to think more carefully in the future about how he does his exposés, but he defended the practice of tricking people to do an investigation. I note that the government tricks people when it does undercover investigations, so how wrong is it to pretend to be someone you are not to try to find out something valuable?

ADDED: This seems important:
O'Keefe... was "framed" by the media and the U.S. attorney's office, Andrew Breitbart, publisher of BigGovernment.com, told Fox News Monday.

Hours later, Jim Letten, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, recused himself from the case....

"James O'Keefe sat in jail for 28 hours without access to an attorney, while the U.S. attorney leaked the information about his arrest, helping the media frame it as 'Watergate Junior,'" Breitbart said.
The charge against O'Keefe is entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony. What felony does the government say they intended to commit?

"Jon [Stewart] has always been a crypto-neocon."

"Could he be coming out of the closet? ... A neoconservative is a liberal mugged by reality."

Bill Kristol comments to Howard Kurtz who's trying to figure out what it means that Jon Stewart is making fun of Barack Obama.

I'd say it mainly means that Barack Obama is President of the United States. "The Daily Show" isn't going to work unless it makes fun of the powerful.

On not getting married.

"I don't see the point. We are married for all intents and purposes, everything's shared, and actually our fake marriage has lasted longer than a real one... but there's no point in us having an actual ceremony before the eyes of God because there is no God."

"Upon entering the theatre, two understudies/ushers arbitrarily chose audience members to be 'frisked.'"

"This theatrical choice is meant to prepare the audience for the show, but its use in 'Fat Men in Skirts' ends up making many of the audience members scared and uncomfortable."

At the Irony Café...

... you can search for new wrinkles of incongruity.

"If you thought those were ironic smiles and hoots of approval in the Congressional audience, you were right."

Ah! So now irony may be hooted. In Congress.


I'd love to witness a hooting Senator wearing an acid-washed denim suit and affecting the stylish air of JFK.

"Acid-washed is an 'ironic' fashion, never meant to flatter."

"... I am guessing that your boyfriend is one of the many people in the world who believes that irony is an attitude that is best expressed orally, not sartorially."

"Ironically, the part of driving that people fear the most turns out to be the safest part."

"... And here’s an even more striking irony: one of the major things that makes highways scary is also a major thing that makes them safe."

"If you believe that history is all about irony, paradox and unforeseen consequences, Howard Zinn is not your man."

"If you believe that history is the eternal struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and you like to cheer for the underdog, Zinn should be your hero."

Joseph J. Ellis, one of 6 historians opining on the value of the newly dead author's "People's History of the United States.

"We have had stylish presidents, none more so than JFK. But Kennedy was an ironist and never fell for his own mystique."

"Mr. Obama's self-regard comes without irony—he himself now owns up to the 'remoteness and detachment' of his governing style. We don't have in this republic the technocratic model of the European states, where a bureaucratic elite disposes of public policy with scant regard for the popular will. Mr. Obama was smitten with his own specialness."

Fouad Ajami analyzes the rise and fall of Obama. Are we ready to say the Obama has fallen? Is lack of irony the problem? Was it our unEuropeanness that defeated him?

January 31, 2010

At the Orchid Club...


... we could tell the truth. Or kid.


[Click for video.]

"There're some who say, 'Yes, banks are skanky'..."

"But we must stick with Ben Bernanke."

Don Surber recounts the 2008 electoral college using Obama's current state-by-state approval numbers...

... and figures Obama would lose if the election were held today.

But approval numbers don't answer the question whether Obama would win when pitted against a particular candidate. Even if a poll asked people whether they'd vote for Obama over an unnamed Republican candidate, those imaginary opponents tend to do better than real candidates. You've got to account for all the voters who disapprove of both candidates but still have to vote for someone.

Just how unscientific was that U.N. climate panel?


Once airline security uses its machines to see us all naked...

...the terrorists will have compensated by having their bombs surgically implanted.

"[M]ale bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants. Experts said the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) would be placed in a plastic sachet inside the bomber’s body before the wound was stitched up like a normal operation incision and allowed to heal. A shaped charge of 8oz of PETN can penetrate five inches of armour and would easily blow a large hole in an airliner. Security sources said the explosives would be detonated by the bomber using a hypodermic syringe to inject TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) through their skin into the explosives sachet."

So all we passengers need to do is keep an eye out for other passengers aiming hypodermic needles at their big breasts (or asses), and everything will be just fine. Unless you care that the authorities saw you naked. Better get used to it! This is war.

"Obama is always at his best when his back is against the wall, and he is perversely content when he has the challenge of the lion’s den."

Just purely on the level of analogies: back against the wall in the lion's den is not going to work out well for anybody.

Wielding that analogy is Maureen Dowd, whose next line is "He may lapse back into his Camus coma at any moment."

That's her first (and only) mention of Camus in her column (which also has "Camus" in the title, "Camus Fired Up"). It's anyone's guess what Camus— presumably the existentialist Albert Camus — and comas have to do with entering lions' dens, except to say that the lion would have an easy time with a comatose intruder. (The lion's den in question is that Republican retreat Obama favored with this presence. )

I'm thinking Camus was dredged up for the sake of alliteration. (Dowd downfall?) First the coma, then the Camus. Note that Frank Rich's NYT column today is "The State of the Union Is Comatose." That coma is contagious.

Now, Albert Camus has appeared in Maureen Dowd's column before, but not because he was a synonym for existentialism/ennui/whatever that begins with the letter C. In "Camus Comes to Crawford," she wrote about Camus because George Bush was reading "The Stranger."
It takes a while to adjust to the idea of W., who has created chaos trying to impose moral order on the globe, perusing Camus, who wrote about the eternal frustration of moral order in human affairs. What does W., the archenemy of absurdity as a view of life, kindle to in C., the apostle of absurdity as a view of life? What can W., the born-again monogamist, spark to in C., the amorous atheist? In some ways, Mr. Bush is supremely not a Camus man. Camus hated the blindness caused by ideology, and Mr. Bush wallows in it. Camus celebrated lucidity while the president keeps seeing only what he wants to see.
With that insight into what Camus means to Maureen, perhaps you are in a better position to delve into the significance of Camus to Obama's "coma." Perhaps not!


Back in 2006, Bush's reading of "The Stranger" inspired me to read it. My summary of the book:
An ordinary man receives the jolt: his mother has died. His response is ordinary but also extraordinary. He smokes, drinks coffee, and seeks new love, real sensation in his ordinary world. He seems numb and inexpressive, and he follows various characters who lead him into their more fully formed lives. Marie offers love and marriage. He follows without seeing the importance of it. Raymond draws him into jealousy and revenge, and he goes there too, and doesn't see a reason not to. Killing a man or not killing a man seem like equal chances on a coin flip, and, seeing life that way, he kills a man. On trial, his emptiness and his search for sensation, for some feeling of living, become the argument for the prosecution, the reason why he is guilty. Condemned, he thinks it through. He sees the significance of life, even a short life, even a hated life, and finally recognizes that he exists, which is enough, which is everything.
If a President of the United States were anything like that.... we'd be up against the wall in the lion's den.

"I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use."

"And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense....  I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may."

From the cover letter of Leonardo da Vinci, age 30.

Is President Obama the victim of "the stubborn complexity of his national security inheritance"?

That's Scott Shane's angle in the NYT:
For much of President Obama’s first year in office, his national security team worked to devise a secure plan to send dozens of Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the largest single group at the prison camp — home to Yemen, perhaps to a rehabilitation program....

Since November, the administration had been preparing to move the highest-profile Guantánamo prisoners — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accomplices accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — to Manhattan for a federal criminal trial.
It seems to me that the President is the victim of his own ideas about how to do things differently. If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn't have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value!

Bush — despite his reputation for simplicity — did understand the complexity of the problem, and he had a solution. There was stability. After posturing about "change" in his political campaign, Barack Obama seemed to think that he could apply the immense power he had won to changing things in the real world. And there is no blaming Bush for failing to know the difference between what sounds good and what works well.

George Bush — the extreme contrast to Barack Obama — knew that he was doing a lot of things that didn't sound good and left him open to harsh criticism, but he made a decision early on to accept that and to do what he thought was right. He didn't get enough credit for that. Maybe he will some day. But he also avoided the torrent of justified criticism that would have fallen on him if there had been further terrorist attacks.

Fortunately, there is a limit to how far Obama will go in his dream world of "hope and change." I voted for Obama, but the Obama I voted for was Obama the Pragmatist. I'm glad to see OTP finally emerging, even if part of his pragmatism is blaming Bush. But he will throw that aside if it doesn't work, which it shouldn't. For now, I'm glad he's making some better decisions... even as those freed detainees roam around Yemen.

ADDED: Click and scroll here for all my "Obama the Pragmatist" posts. Like, remember in August 2008 when Joe Biden assured us that Obama "is a clear-eyed pragmatist who will get the job done"? And then there was the time I said:
Forced to choose between Clinton and Obama [in the Wisconsin primary], I voted for Obama — even though he stated positions that were farther from what I want than Clinton's — because I thought he had more mental flexibility and pragmatism, that he was more likely absorb and process evidence and advice and exercise sound judgment.

"Come the revolution, we'll own that place."

A union dream achieved... and turned to ashes.

Is the Tea Party movement "showing better political judgment than either of the two major political parties"?

Glenn Reynolds seems to think so. Of course, the Tea Party movement doesn't have to do all the things the Republicans and Democrats need to do. It's a lot easier to be appealing when you aren't sitting in any positions of power. It's all free speech and reaction to what other people are doing.

By the way, I wonder how many people think "the Tea Party" is the name of a political party. Right now, you have to refer to "the Tea Party movement" if you want to talk about something more than an individual rally. (I think!) If it actually became a party, would it be the Tea Party Party?

WiFi networks names are trying to scare you "Imunder-yourbed," "normanbates," "bedroomspy"...

... or tell you something "Turndownyourmusic,""stopsmokingweed"....
"We had a neighbor who my roommate John had a crush on, so I changed our Wi-Fi name to 'JohnwantsSarah'"...