March 20, 2010

President Obama's lackluster speech to the Democratic caucus.

I watched this live, and I was struck by the dullness of the crowd as they listened to words that were supposed to stir them up. This part, especially:
Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn’t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college.... I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now....

And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn’t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn’t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who’d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn’t have health care and you said something should change.

Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat....
That really should have brought a big cheer. Obama seemed to expect something there. But he had to go on....
... instead of running as a Republican. 
Still no response.
Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community -- (applause)....
Finally some applause. It's as if they'd forgotten what being a Democrat was supposed to mean, and he had to define it for them.

And then there was the "don't do it for me" part:
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don't do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling....
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now....
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.
This is what's known as protesting too much. You know damned well he needs them to do it for him and for the Party.

"Controversial propositions."

With health care politics raging, it's refreshing to debate over something — anything — else, and here, John Hinderaker has just listed a bunch of controversial things he feels like asserting are true. (Via Instapundit.) I'm going to respond to the items that it amuses me to respond to.
* Much as Bob Dylan was the most authentic spokesman for his generation, Taylor Swift is the most authentic spokesman for hers.
Well, that's a trick assertion, since Bob Dylan was never about authenticity:
During the first half of the concert, after singing "Gates of Eden," Dylan got into a little riff about how the song shouldn't scare anybody, that it was only Halloween, and that he had his Bob Dylan mask on. "I'm masquerading!" he joked, elongating the second word into a laugh. The joke was serious. Bob Dylan, né Zimmerman, brilliantly cultivated his celebrity, but he was really an artist and entertainer, a man behind a mask, a great entertainer, maybe, but basically just that—someone who threw words together, astounding as they were. The burden of being something else — a guru, a political theorist, "the voice of a generation," as he facetiously put it in an interview a few years ago — was too much to ask of anyone.
But no, it's not a trick assertion because he said "most authentic." Or is it that we Baby Boomers were raging phonies, and the biggest phony would thus be the most authentic. As for Taylor Swift, she seems like a nice person. Is she bland or am I jaded to find her too bland to care about? Is one more or less authentic when nice and bland?

So, my proposition is: Authenticity is bogus.

Back to Hinderaker:
* The three most desirable actresses in movie history are Paulette Goddard, Anna Karina and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"Desirability" isn't a good abstraction. Hinderaker likes the brunette gamine. 
* London is the world's greatest city, and Israel is the world's most exciting place.
I can live without that kind of excitement. Have you noticed Indiana?
* America's youth have never been the same since Saturday morning television went from real programming (Fury, Sky King, the Cisco Kid, etc.) to cartoons.
I can't even remember that those shows were on in the morning. When I think about "Sky King," I remember this from Bill Bryson's "Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid": "Even at six years old, and even in an age as intellectually undemanding as the 1950s, you didn't have to be hugely astute to see that a flying cowboy was a fairly flimsy premise for an action series. Sky could only capture villains who lingered at the edge of grassy landing strips and to whom it didn't occur to run for it until Sky had landed, taxied to a safe halt, climbed down from the cockpit, assumed an authoritative stance, and shouted 'Okay, boys, freeze!' — a process that took a minute or two, for Kirby Grant was not, it must be said, in the first flush of youth." Now, I have to admit, I didn't think about that at the time. What I thought about was how it seemed that there was a competition between "Sky King" and "Whirlybirds" and that everyone had an opinion about whether they preferred airplanes or helicopters. I was adamantly helicopterist.

So my controversial proposition will be: The best people prefer helicopters to airplanes. 
* The only good lawyer show in the history of television was Perry Mason.
False. "The Defenders." That was the good one. 
* The smartest person whom most Americans see on a regular basis is Simon Cowell.
Ha. Maybe. I'm going with a corollary: Americans are better able to enjoy displays of intelligence that come with a British accent. And: What seems especially smart about Cowell is that he's willing to come right out and say — quite directly — things that are true. He gets away with doing that on television because he's got a British accent. An American panelist with the same amount of time to express an opinion will need to blow at least half of it on blather intended to make us feel that he is a nice (and normal) person.

That's all I've got to say. Sorry I didn't take the bait on any of Hinderaker's historical propositions — the best and worst characters in history and so forth. Or, no, I can make one very grand assertion: The best and the worst human beings who ever lived were undoubtedly shunned by most people and forgotten soon after they died.

Megan McArdle was just trying to explain the nefarious "doc fix," and now she's stuck fending off a wave of stupid with the dreaded rhetorical device "um."

The post — "Politico's 'Doc Fix' Memo: Fake, But Accurate?" — now begins with a sadly urgent "update":
Update:  Please READ THE POST before launching into your attacks.  Hint:  the headline is name checking a famous quote, not suggesting that this was a valid idea.  Had you read the post before beginning your cringe-inducing denunciations of my "hypocrisy", you would have, um, known that.
The life of a blogger is tough. It's not easy, as some people seem to think. You work hard crafting snark, and nobody understands it! You write updates beating readers over the head with your point, and other bloggers needle you for being pissy and obvious....

"Can the House vote to amend something that isn't the law, as the Senate bill will not be law before the president's signature?"

"The Rules Committee meeting turned into mass confusion":
Democratic Rep. Sander Levin [said] "We're going to be amending the law"...

[Democratic Rep. Henry] Waxman added, "We change current law, and the current law will be the Senate bill once it's voted on in the House."

But it won't be law until the president signs it.
This is different from the problem discussed in the Michael McConnell post. McConnell's argument was based on the necessity of seeing the 2 bills as one. This new problem arises when you assume there are 2 bills. If a separate bill is just a package of amendments, and if it must be aimed at "current law," then you can't merge the vote, because even if the Senate bill is "deemed" passed, putting it first in time before the passing of the package of amendments, there's no procedural trickery that can get the President's signature into that time sequence. Even if you can fiddle with time somewhat, you can't do that.

UPDATE: "Democratic lawmakers and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., say they've dropped plans for an indirect vote that would have relied on a legislative maneuver to give their OK to the Senate's version of health care legislation." Good. So, now, once it is undeniable that the House is passing the Senate bill, will the votes be there?

Meade goes to Washington: Pictures from the Capitol, from just a few minutes ago.

I just spoke to Meade, who arrived in Washington, D.C., after a 22-hour bus ride, in time for the protest at the Capitol. He's taking pictures and video, but what I have right now is from the iPhone:


I think the yellow flags say "Don't Tread on Me" (or as we say around here: Don't Tread on Meade).


Nice soviet-style graphics in this one:


This shows the crowd-size:


Consider that the weather is absolutely beautiful — and either discount the crowd-size or get over there and make it bigger.

I love this guy:


He had a whole traffic-sign theme going:


Meade got his name as David Rothwell — from the eastern shore of Maryland.

And I really love this guy:


Citizen Meade!

I spoke to him from the scene, where the phone battery is close to dying. I'll put up the video of the phone call in a minute, but basically he's having a great time amongst the right-wingers who, he assures me, are not crazy.

ADDED: Here's the video of the phone call:

And Meade texts that he'd like you to see this:

Michael McConnell states the constitutional problem with the "deem and pass" more clearly and concisely than anyone can explain what the "deem and pass" is.

Is that a clue that something really devious is going on?
Article I, Section 7 clearly states that bills cannot be presented to the president for signature unless they have been approved by both houses of Congress in the same form. If the House approves the Senate bill in the same legislation by which it approves changes to the Senate bill, it will fail that requirement.
The actual constitutional text is: "Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States."
No one doubts that the House can consolidate two bills in a single measure; the question is whether, having done so, it may then hive the resulting bill into two parts, treating one part as an enrolled bill ready for presidential signature and the other part as a House bill ready for senatorial consideration. That seems inconsistent with the principle that the president may sign only bills in the exact form that they have passed both houses. A combination of two bills is not in "the same form" as either bill separately.
McConnell is fending off the argument that the House, under Article I, §5 ("Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings"), has the authority to bundle 2 bills together and vote on them at the same time. He also must contend with the argument — which has some case law in support — that the House makes the final call on the meaning of the Constitution in this area.

Read lawprof Jack Balkin's response to McConnell:
As I understand the rule in question, it does not actually "consolidate two bills into a single measure." Rather, it says that once the House votes on the reconciliation measure, it also votes on the Senate Bill....
McConnell's objection is formalist: He concedes that the House could have separate votes on both bills, and send one to the President and the other to the Senate. His sole objection is that the House leadership has decided to vote on them together using a single procedural rule.

But if he wants to make that kind of formalist argument, the House has an equally formalist rejoinder: The use of this particular procedural rule does not consolidate the two measures into a single measure. It just consolidates a vote on the two measures. In fact, the language of the rule actually preserves their separate character; it refers to the language of the reconciliation measure and the Senate bill separately.

What the leaders of the House would say is that McConnell has made a basic mistake: He has confused a bill with an internal rule for voting on a bill....
... The Constitution leaves to Congress to decide how to authenticate bills, and the Court won't second-guess the evidence....
What I've observed is that the Supreme Court employs formalistic-sounding arguments as a convention of opinion-writing when it is confronting Congress over matters like this and finding something unconstitutional. But, I think, a judicial intuition that something is amiss precedes the opinion-writing, and that intuition has to do with much more than a parsing of the text. As Balkin shows, you can go either way with the text if you want. The deeper question is whether the procedure deprives us — the people — of a structural safeguard that would protect us from the abuse of power. Is this something that matters, something we should care about, something that operates to preserve the accountability of our representatives?  And the answer to that question must be disaggregated from the question whether we like the substance of the bill/bills. If you go with Balkin because you want the health care reform, or with McConnell because you don't, then you are not talking about the Constitution.

McConnell's main aim is to create doubt about the "deem and pass" and thereby affect the vote in the House. He ends his op-ed:
Will wavering House members want to use this procedure when there is a nontrivial probability that the courts will render their political sacrifice wasted effort? To hazard that risk, the House leadership must have a powerful motive to avoid a straightforward vote.
Whether you want to think about the Constitution or not, you may ask: If this reform really is desirable, why are they doing it in such a bizarre way? The constitutional questions add heft to that question. If McConnell's interpretation is good, the procedure is all the more bizarre, and the doubts that arise are aggravated. If Balkin's right, then everything's fine, calm down, let it go. They are talking about law, but they are talking to Congress, trying to affect the vote. Predictions about what courts will and will not do play into the present debate.

What seems most important to me, both politically and in answering the constitutional question (if it, ultimately, becomes necessary), is whether the members of the House of Representatives understand and make it absolutely transparent that what they are doing is voting on 2 bills and that the Senate bill, if approved, will go independently and directly to the President for signature, and that, upon the President's signature, that bill will become law on its own, without any regard to whether that other bill ever makes it through the Senate and into law later on.

If the members of the House of Representatives are going to deny that they voted for the Senate bill that became law (on its own) or if they will say that they were somehow caught unaware or betrayed by the Senate or tricked, then I think the rule is unconstitutional. But if they cannot use the rule that way — as political cover — why use it at all?

It's the first day of spring.

Yesterday, the last day of winter, I was barefoot when I walked to the end of the driveway to kiss you goodbye. You slept on the bus, and I slept without you for the first time in our marriage and woke to a first day of spring that looked like this....


The table is set up for warm breakfasts for 2, but I'm cooking oatmeal for one, sitting elsewhere, and awaiting your missives from the Tea Party.

March 19, 2010

At the Last-Year's-Sandwich Nightclub...


... I'm thinking about how much fun we had exactly one year ago. But you can talk about anything.

"Here's the famous banned butcher cover. You can sell it for $11m dollars."

So wrote John Lennon. And now, the item is offered for sale, at $11 million, naturally.

(If John Lennon really wrote "$11m dollars," he made a common redundancy error.)

The photograph — which, btw, is offal — may top the list of the most expensive Beatles memorabilia, which currently looks like this:
#5, John Lennon's talisman necklace...

#4, Gibson SG guitar played by George Harrison and John Lennon...

#3, A hand painted Beatles Sgt. Pepper's drum skin...

#2, John Lennon's Steinway piano...

#1, John Lennon's hand painted Rolls Royce Phantom V...
Heavy on the John Lennon. Light on the Paul McCartney.

With the entire C-SPAN archive up on-line, what was the first thing I wanted to re-live?


ADDED: Check out the memorable moments page, which includes:
Al Gore concession in 2000 election Bill Clinton 1987 press conference where he says he will not be a candidate in 1988 Barack Obama 2004 convention speech George W. Bush announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev summit in late 1987. Clarence Thomas testifying that he did not watch Anita Hill testifying. Bill Clinton grand jury testimony Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown Medal of Freedom Award to Margaret Thatcher George H.W. Bush inviting Dana Carvey to the White House where he impersonates Bush 1992

"Caterpillar Inc. said the health-care overhaul legislation being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives would increase the company's health-care costs by more than $100 million in the first year alone."

"In a letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, Caterpillar urged lawmakers to vote against the plan 'because of the substantial cost burdens it would place on our shareholders, employees and retirees.' Caterpillar, the world's largest construction machinery manufacturer by sales, said it's particularly opposed to provisions in the bill that would expand Medicare taxes and mandate insurance coverage. The legislation would require nearly all companies to provide health insurance for their employees or face large fines."

Oh, but after the health care bill is passed, Congress and the President are going to focus on jobs.

"On the road to Demon Pass, our leader encounters a Baier."


"I am calling to all of you freedom-loving Americans to come once again to Washington D.C. to gather on the Capitol steps on Saturday, at 12 o’clock noon."

Writes Jon Voight. Are you going? Are you getting on that Greyhound bus around now and traveling overnight to arrive in D.C. in the morning? Ah! You are! Send me messages and photographs... and then get on the bus Saturday night and sleep your way back home to me.

The last part of that applies only to Meade. As for everyone else, yeah, go ahead and get on that bus/plane or in that car if that's what you think you should do.

People who have deep meaningful conversations are happier.

Assuming this is true...
“We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ — as long as you surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy,” [said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona].
... is it because deep meaningful conversations cause happiness or happiness causes deep meaning conversations?
[Mehl said that] substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

“By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world,” Dr. Mehl said. “And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness.”...

“...Can we make people happier by asking them, for the next five days, to have one extra substantive conversation every day?”
I don't know if conversations in blog comments sections count, but go deep and report back in 5 days.

March 18, 2010

Fess Parker, King of the Wild Frontier.

The hero of our childhood has died. Fess Parker was 85.

"I must say that I find the phrase 'Final March' a bit ominous..."

"... sort of a combination of the more common phrases 'Death March' and 'Final Solution.'"

Obama's press conference.

Just an item from a list of things that don't happen.

WTF Georgetown!

Read it out loud. It's funny!

"We want a society where your birth certificate is your passport, and everything is free."

That's a quote from Abbie Hoffman, from a 1971 article in The New York Times called "Ripping Off, The New Lifestyle." I ran across it this morning as I was preparing to teach United States Department of Agriculture v. Moreno (1973), a case about a 1971 amendment to the food stamp program that kept unrelated persons from qualifying as a household. The Supreme Court saw it as "a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group" — that is, hippies — which is not a legitimate governmental interest.

If you want to get a feeling for why Congress freaked out about hippies, go read that article. It's hilarious and disturbing. There's the commune called The Orphanage that has a sign on the wall reading: "The Best Things in Life Are Free — If You Steal Them From the Bourgeoisie." They collected unemployment, welfare, and food stamps (which they sold). The preferred method of getting food was shoplifting.
Ripping off — stealing to the uninitiated — is rapidly become as much a part of the counterculture as drugs and rock music.... [H]undreds of young people live solely off goods they are able to liberate from private enterprise and funds they manage to extract from the Government. Thousands more supplement conventional income with frequent forays, as often for the sheer joy of bilking hated institutions as for the plunder itself.

... College graduates who once might have dreamed of, say, a law partnership, now fantasize knocking over a Brink's truck....

Behind the new morality of theft without guilt is a radical ideology — some would call it a rationalization — which sees America as a society based on the rip off, its most respected citizens businessmen who have most successfully held up the most people... "The dictionary of law is written by the bosses of order," writes [Abbie] Hoffman. "Our moral dictionary says no heisting from each other. To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral."...

Youths line up at unemployment insurance offices, happily explaining they can't find work because potential employers object to long hair, and at supermarket checkout counters where the signs say, "We Accept Food Stamps."

"Programs intended to help deserving poor folks are perverted to subsidize hippie communes," charges California Gov. Ronald Reagan. "Poverty-stricken mothers stand in line at the market to buy meager amounts of beans and dried milk, and watch shaggy dropouts use food stamps to pay for steaks and butter." ...
Here, the NYT notes the amendment to the food stamp law that was held unconstitutional in Moreno.
Is ripping off piecemeal revolution, an unorganized conspiracy of hit-and-run assaults on capitalism, or is it simply criminality without the extenuating circumstances of forced poverty?
The NYT had to ask! They consulted a sociology professor, Irving Louis Horowitz, who gave them this incredible quote:
"There's no longer any distinction between political dissent and deviant behavior.... The two are becoming one, and obviously the merger is going to lead to strategies that are traditionally considered criminal."

"But when blacks riot in the ghettos, is it a crime or a political act?... When young radicals steal from corporations that are involved in price-fixing, tax evasion and false advertising, is it a crime or a political statement? Ripping off is essentially a moral outcry. The ambiguity is where morality ends and petty thievery begins."
Ah! Sociology professors. What would we do without them?

Meanwhile, Gov. Ronald Reagan went on to become President of the United States in 1981. And that was the same year the fantasy of "knocking over a Brink's truck" came true. A friend of a friend of the Brink's robber-murderers is now President of the United States, and people who don't like him like to ascribe radical ideas to him, but in fact he's a little younger than the Baby Boomers like me who, en masse, warmed to the ideology of Abbie Hoffman, et al., back in 1971. The radicalism of today is tame stuff compared to what was freely spouted and admired back then.

The erstwhile novelist David Shields says that fiction "has never seemed less central to the culture’s sense of itself."

He's "bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters."

So begins an article by Michiko Kakutani that immediately veers off into another subject (the way the internet is changing us). I'm especially interested in the shift away from fiction. It's happened to me personally over the last couple decades, and I wonder why it is. It's not just about the internet, I think: It's also a loss of faith in what fiction-writers have to say, and it goes along with our rejection of Freudian analysis.

"I would never have hooked up with him if I thought he was a married man. He gave me the impression they were separated."

If the word is "separated" and not "divorced" the man is married. What an excellent example of being condemned by one's own words.

Bret Baier can't get Barack Obama to take a position on the "deem and pass."

Let's read the transcript:
BAIER: You have said at least four times in the past two weeks: "the United States Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care." So do you support the use of this Slaughter rule? The deem and pass rule, so that Democrats avoid a straight up or down vote on the Senate bill?

OBAMA: Here's what I think is going to happen and what should happen. You now have a proposal from me that will be in legislation, that has the toughest insurance reforms in history, makes sure that people are able to get insurance even if they've got preexisting conditions, makes sure that we are reducing costs for families and small businesses, by allowing them to buy into a pool, the same kind of pool that members of Congress have.
So far, nothing but nonresponsive filler.
We know that this is going to reduce the deficit by over a trillion dollars. So you've got a good package, in terms of substance. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.
I don't care how much time he spends on it or whether the time he spends is spent worrying (or dithering or fretting or musing or calmly analyzing). The question is: Does he support it? If he means to say I have no position on the proposed procedural moves, then that's the answer. Say it!

OBAMA: What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don't think we should pretend otherwise.


OBAMA: Bret, let me finish. 
Let you finish obfuscating? This is all very Anne Elk ("Well, you may well ask what is my theory... you may well ask what it is, this theory of mine, well, this theory, that I have, that is to say, which is mine,... is mine.") So there will be a vote, but what kind of vote? Obama falls back on assertions that the bill will pass. Based on the current whip count, it looks like it won't, but he boldly characterizes those who are predicting failure as the pretenders. (He is The Great Pretender.)
If they don't, if they vote against, then they're going to be voting against health care reform and they're going to be voting in favor of the status quo. So Washington gets very concerned about these procedural issues in Congress. This is always an issue that's — whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats in charge — when Republicans are in charge, Democrats constantly complain that the majority was not giving them an opportunity, et cetera.
Yeah. Et cetera, indeed. As if procedure is a frivolous sidetrack that only trivial or devious people care about. Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor. Much of constitutional law is about procedural rights and structural safeguards that check power. Justice Felix Frankfurter famously wrote: "The history of American freedom is, in no small measure, the history of procedure." Law professors are seriously engaging with the constitutionality of the "deem and pass," and our erstwhile law professor Barack Obama would imperiously wave procedure aside as a distraction not worthy of his time. Let's concentrate on the end and pay no attention to the means. When the most powerful man in the world says that, we should feel revulsion and alarm.
BAIER: Let me insert this. We asked our viewers to e-mail in suggested questions. More than 18,000 people took time to e-mail us questions. These are regular people from all over the country. Lee Johnson, from Spring Valley, California: "If the bill is so good for all of us, why all the intimidation, arm twisting, seedy deals, and parliamentary trickery necessary to pass a bill, when you have an overwhelming majority in both houses and the presidency?"

Sandy Moody in Chesterfield, Missouri: "If the health care bill is so wonderful, why do you have to bribe Congress to pass it?"

OBAMA: Bret, I get 40,000 letters or e-mails a day.
Ha! He won't answer the people's questions, because there are just so darned many people, and the questions they ask are so annoying. And Bret got 18,000 emails but Obama got 40,000 pieces of mail a day, so Obama's male mail is bigger than Bret's.
BAIER: I know.

OBAMA: I could read the exact same e-mail —

BAIER: These are people. It's not just Washington punditry.
Good short jab by Baier.
OBAMA: I've got the exact same e-mails, that I could show you, that talk about why haven't we done something to make sure that I, a small business person, am getting as good a deal as members of Congress are getting, and don't have my insurance rates jacked up 40 percent? Why is it that I, a mother with a child with a preexisting condition, still can't get insurance?

So the issue that I'm concerned about is whether not we're fixing a broken system.

BAIER: OK, back to the original question.
Yes, the question is the procedural device (and why you need it if the bill is as good as you say).
OBAMA: The key is to make sure that we vote — we have a vote on whether or not we're going to maintain the status quo, or whether we're going to reform the system.
Why not a straight vote — a normal vote — a transparent vote — a vote people can understand? Why make it seem that you are pulling a fast one? And right now, in this interview, you seem to be pulling a fast one about pulling a fast one.
BAIER: So you support the deem and pass rule?

OBAMA: I am not —

BAIER: You're saying that's that vote.

OBAMA: What I'm saying is whatever they end up voting on — and I hope it's going to be sometime this week — that it is going to be a vote for or against my health care proposal. That's what matters. That's what ultimately people are going to judge this on.
And so Bret Baier never gets an answer to that question. Barack Obama — who acted like he didn't want to waste his time on the deem and pass — wasted our time evading the questions about the deem and pass. His aim is to put us to sleep. We may be asking questions about the procedure now, but eventually we'll let it go and ultimately we will look at the substance what we got and decide whether we like it. So quiet down and wait, the most powerful man in the world tells us. He knows what's good for us. Don't look while he prepares the medicine that will make you very very happy.

March 17, 2010

A teach-in. Are you going to this 60s flashback?

Here in Madison.

I went to a big teach-in at the University of Michigan circa 1969. What I remember most vividly is one speaker lobbing the vivid insight that it wouldn't be so bad if North Vietnam won the war. The crowd cheered. I can't picture a present-day crowd of students cheering at the idea of the Taliban winning in Afghanistan. I can't even picture much of a crowd attending a teach-in on Afghanistan. Especially, now that Obama is President.

Photographs of a baby girl dressed up as Hitler, Idi Amin, Mussolini, Mao, Stalin, and Pinochet.

It's the work of Norwegian-Danish artist Nina Maria Kleivan:
Kleivan said she was inspired to begin sewing infant-sized costumes soon after the birth of her daughter, who is now 11 years old. She said complications from her pregnancy had left her and the baby sitting at home. Looking at her daughter, she recalled, she considered that each human life begins as a blank slate, with opportunity to do good or evil....

Her husband was supportive -- until he spotted a tiny swastika armband.

"'I'm aware that you're an artist, but this is wrong,' he told me," Kleivan recalled him saying. "I've pondered that a lot myself: Could I really do this? I agree it's on the verge, especially Hitler, whom I and most others view as the incarnation of evil. He and Stalin were the hardest to do. It hurt."
Yeah, Hitler. That's when you went to far. Or does the problem go back to that time when you were home, postpartum, and gazing at the infant set off ideation about evil.

The baby's name is Faustina — the feminine version of Faust (who sold his soul to the devil).

"Ann -- I wanted to take a moment to thank you directly for the outstanding work you've been doing for health reform."

It's email from Barack Obama! I call him Barack. We're on a first-name basis, you know. Me and the President of the United States! Sigh.
I can tell you that your voice is heard in Washington every day. 
Thanks for hearing so well.
I see how your efforts are moving us toward victory.
Thanks for seeing so well.
But I also know that with just days remaining the final vote is shaping up to be extremely close. 
"Extremely close"? As in you're 19 votes short? That's the current whip count. [CORRECTION: I've misstated the info at that link. Here's another count: "192 Yes, 208 No (205-210 with leaners)." That would be 16 votes short.]
Everything we've worked for is on the line, and your voice is needed now more than ever before.
Are you sure you know what you're asking for? You want more from me?
Raise your voice today: We must all speak out together to finish the job.
Together? You're into cacophony then, eh?
In these final, crucial days, much more will be asked of us. Our resolve will be tested.

During moments like this, I believe it's important to remember why we have worked so hard for so long. That's why I spoke to the country Monday at a gathering in Ohio and said it plainly: I'm here for Natoma. 
I don't want to be a lout, but when I hit the anecdote cue, I skim. Skim. Skim. Skim....
Thank you for making it possible,

President Barack Obama
No problem! I do what I can. Thanks for appreciating my contribution.

UPDATE: I hope Barack appreciates my new contribution.

Feel like buying a Toyota?

Yesterday, Pogo said:
This weekend I went out and bought a Toyota.

I told the salesman part of the reason was this whole story and the govt. involvement in it; that it pissed me off and this was a way to tell them to go to hell.
Ha ha. A few hours before I read that, Meade and I had gone over to the Toyota dealership to look at an FJ Cruiser. (Is that also a way of telling Al Gore to go to hell?)

The crime of "coercion to commit sin."

In Dubai, foreigners are getting jail time for this crime — for things like sexy text messaging.

"In this brave new world, accumulation of personal wealth is dressed up in militarism..."

"... as if capitalism is the continuation of the guerrilla warfare that was fought during apartheid."

"Expecting kucinich to bodily ascend to heaven any second now."

Babbling in the Church of Health Care, Ezra Klein-style.

"There was always an air of smugness about the way Kate Winslet portrayed her life and relationship that rankled slightly."

"She paraded her happiness and her marriage was routinely held up as a paradigm of perfection. Now the truth is out, it’s hard for ordinary people not to feel a tinge of schadenfreude."

Drugs and violence.

The drug: medical marijuana.
In the past week, a man in Orting, Wash., near Tacoma, died after he reportedly was beaten while confronting people trying to steal marijuana plants from his property. On Monday, a prominent medical-marijuana activist shot an armed man who is accused of breaking into his home in a suburban area near Seattle where he grows and distributes marijuana plants....

In both cases... the victims appear to have been chosen because they were known to have relatively large amounts of marijuana in their homes....

Eric Holder would like you to think he's a tougher fighter than George Bush.

Recall what George W. Bush said a week after the 9/11 attacks:
"I want justice," he said after a meeting at the Pentagon, where 188 people were killed last Tuesday when an airliner crashed into the building. "And there's an old poster out West that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.' "

He then seemed to temper his remarks by adding: "All I want and America wants is to see them brought to justice. That's what we want."

The blunt, Texas-style rhetoric, delivered off the cuff, came a day after Vice-President Dick Cheney said he would willingly accept bin Laden's "head on a platter". Some advisers said that although the comments might be popular in America, they would not be welcomed by European or Arab allies.

Mr Bush had just received a briefing on the call-up of military reservists and plans for Operation Noble Eagle, the name given to the "war on terrorism" that the president has vowed to prosecute.

Striking a sombre tone, he told Americans they should expect further casualties. "The United States military is ready to defend freedom at any cost," he said. "We will win the war and there will be costs."
Bush was criticized harshly over the years for saying "Wanted: Dead or Alive." At the end of his term, Bush expressed regret about talking like that:
"I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said," Bush told CNN's Heidi Collins when asked to reflect on his regrets over his two terms as president. "Like 'dead or alive' and 'bring 'em on.' My wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, be careful what you say."
Now, here's Attorney General Eric Holder, at a House hearing yesterday:
"The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama Bin Laden - he will never appear in an American courtroom," the nation's chief enforcement officer told a stunned House hearing....

GOP congressmen tried to pummel the nation's top law enforcement official over giving terrorists the same constitutional rights in civilian courts as American defendants, such as the now-unlikely lower Manhattan trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Holder said terrorists are treated like the murderers they are in federal courts - or, more specifically, "like Charles Manson."

When Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.) said that if Bin Laden himself were arrested, it would be absurd to give him the same due process afforded Manson, Holder erupted.

Charges he coddles terrorists get his "blood boiling," the attorney general conceded....

Holder repeated - slowly - to the Texas congressman that "the possibility simply does not exist" that Bin Laden will ever be arraigned in any court....

"The possibility of capturing him alive is infinitesimal - he will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people," Holder said.
So, Bush, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, called for the capture of bin Laden "Dead or Alive," but Holder, with 9 years to meditate on the right way to deal with the situation, assures us that bin Laden will not be taken alive. What has brought Holder to this heated state of mind? Not the death of thousands of Americans. The threat to his political prestige. It gets his "blood boiling" that he is attacked. The fact that we were attacked did not loom large when he decided to try KSM in federal court New York City. But when that decision was savaged, he changed his tone.

He needed to show how tough he was, and now he's resorting to saying that bin Laden won't be taken alive. Oh, he concedes an "infinitesimal" possibility. What does that mean? If bin Laden openly surrendered or he was trapped and utterly defenseless, we couldn't gun him down. And then what would Holder do? Read Miranda rights to bin Laden's not-yet-a-corpse? Try him like a Manson? Ah, but Holder doesn't want you to think about that. He suddenly wants to strike the Dick Cheney bring-me-his-head-on-a-platter pose... until we stop calling him weak, his blood cools down, and he can get back to lecturing us about America's abstract ideals.

It's St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means around here.

Happy Birthday, John!

March 16, 2010

The vote that is no vote, the "deem and pass."

Is this what it all comes down to in the end, something that we must struggle even to comprehend, let alone swallow? If it does, how will the members of Congress, when they go home to their constituents, even begin to explain what they have done? Citizens are already angry and resistant to the health care bill. Can you imagine the shouts of derision and outrage that will drown out any attempt to describe what the hell it means to deem and pass?

ADDED: Think of the legislative process as a long drive through the mountains and... Oh, no! Up ahead! It's Demon Pass!

AND: Let's start pronouncing the word "Democrats" with a long "e": Deemocrats. Alternatively: Demoncrats or DemonPassCrats.

Why did Newsweek put the face of Karl Marx on Michelle Obama's apple?


Here's a closeup of the apple with some iPhoto'd sharpening (no lines redrawn or retouching, just contrast, sharpening, and increasing the "highlights" and "shadows):

For comparison, here's the standard image of Karl Marx:

Now, the Anchoress — first link, above — has become "convinced that it’s simply a matter of the apples’ shading and the lighting." Absurd! It can't be just the lighting and the pattern of the apple peel. A magazine cover is carefully constructed and attention would have to be paid to any accidental imagery. The apple was chosen to be exactly the intended apple and subject to Photoshop tweaking and strategic placement of the lights to attain just the right level of perception and deniability. A good subliminal image must be seen and not seen. It must slide past the average person's conscious defenses and make anyone who insists it is there seem delusional. The Anchoress has retreated.

And so I say: To Newsweek! A toast!

IN THE COMMENTS: Irene says the image that might or might not be there was intentionally put there as "Tea Party bait":
I hear Chris Matthews now. "Marx? They see Marx? Wow, see how crazy they are?? They see socialists EVERYWHERE."

"He'd yell from the other room: 'Press your hand into her back more! And when you take her face, really grab it!'"

It's a dangerous thing when your husband is the movie director ordering the beautiful naked actor to sex up that scene with you, the beautiful naked actress.
That movie "put a lot of stress on their marriage," the friend said. "Kate [Winslet] came to regret making ["Revolutionary Road"] with Sam [Mendes].

"They've been pretty much living separate lives since the end of the summer," the friend said. "They realized some time ago that they were not a good fit. They were more like brother and sister."
Movies are art, and they can affect us profoundly. They can jar us into realizing things about our lives — things we would otherwise exclude from our conscious mind. Then, consider what it is like when  you are inside of a work of art as an actress, summoning feelings to create a performance, and the feeling you need to display is deep in the sexual realm of your body and the feeling needs to extend to the gorgeous, naked Leonardo DiCaprio. And there in the other room is your husband, a man who no longer excites you in bed, and he is telling you — urging you — to transfer all the passion that is inside you onto that ravishing man.

She is Kate Winslet, the most brilliant actress of her era — renowned for her ability to manifest sexual desire on screen — and she needs to go on and on pulling performances out of the core of her being. Her once-husband, now-brother Sam Mendes is an artist too, and, one assumes, he understands all this and is able to let go of his beautiful love and go on...

"It's such an important issue in America right now - the sex addiction outbreak."

We're all really concerned about him and hope he gets better."

"Just look at what has been happening for the last three days," Al Gore said.

"The so-called skeptics haven’t noted it because it’s not snow. But the downpours and heavy winds are consistent with what the scientists have long warned about."

Now, what's the rule on whether we can observe the weather and say something about climate change? I'm just trying to get this straight. I think the rule is: Weather can be used as evidence of climate when it supports the theory of global warming anthropogenic climate change. There's also a corollary: Whatever happens is evidence global warming anthropogenic climate change. Another way of putting this is: You may only make statements of belief in global warming anthropogenic climate change.

See how easy it is to be a member of the Church of Gore?

Go. And sin no more.

"Toyota dismisses James Sikes' account of runaway Prius, claims tests prove car was running fine."

Now, this is just really hard to believe:
The automaker stopped short of saying James Sikes had staged a hoax last week but said his account did not square with a series of tests it conducted on the gas-electric hybrid.
But it was James Sikes, a man who bought a Prius — a Prius....

Surely, the man who bought a Prius is virtuous.

March 15, 2010

At the Lake Melt Café...


... draw near.



"I feel comfortable talking now, because Johnny went public and made a statement admitting paternity."

"I didn't feel like I could ever speak until he did that. Because had I spoken, I would have emasculated him. And I could not emasculate him. Also, it is not my desire to teach my daughter that when Mommy's upset with Daddy, you take matters into your own hands and fix Daddy's mistakes. Which I view as one of the biggest problems in all female-and-male relationships."

Rielle Hunter will not emasculate John Edwards. And she will not fix his mistakes. Because daughter Quinn must learn about the problems of the female-and-male relationship. So never never never no no no do not emasculate your little Johnnikins.

The New Republic illustrates a serious piece about the Tea Party movement with a gross photograph that's meant to evoke the pejorative "teabagger."

Here's the article. Quite apart from the childishness of evoking the term "teabagger" and creating a image to convey the term (to those in the know), it's quite an offense to Mark Skoda, whose name appears next to the image. Since there is no caption, it creates the impression that that is a picture of Mark Skoda! I'm surprised TNR isn't more careful about provoking lawsuits. Basically, TNR is flaunting its stupidity here.

Maybe they don't want us to take the serious article seriously.

Ironically, that's a reason to read it.
... I couldn’t help but watch Skoda as he sat in a huge ballroom on the convention’s second night, listening to Joseph Farah, the mustachioed editor of the far-right-wing website WorldNetDaily, work the crowd of 600 into a frenzy. “If Barack Obama even seeks reelection as president in 2012, he won’t be able to go to any city, any hamlet in America without seeing signs that ask, ‘Where’s the birth certificate?’” Farah crowed from the podium.
Mustachioed? Now, we're left wondering if that's Farah in the photograph.
[Skoda] couldn’t have been pleased. Skoda and convention mastermind Judson Phillips have ambitious goals for the Tea Party movement. They aim to build their respective groups (Skoda is founding a Tea Party PAC; Phillips heads an organization called Tea Party Nation) into political players that can influence votes and tug candidates in their direction. But their quandary is as plain as the expression on Skoda’s face during Farah’s paranoid Friday night monologue: How can a movement whose base detests mainstream politics--not to mention, has a few screws loose--possibly build political clout?...
Skoda rationalizes some of the Tea Party’s rough edges as a necessity of movement-building. “I think it’s always useful to get people excited,” he says. “Part of this movement is visceral. It’s perfectly okay.” But he is much more interested in practical politics than in bombast....

Political realism, however, isn’t what the Tea Party base wants to hear....

To the sidelined activists, Skoda’s approach and the Nashville convention are the antithesis of what the movement should be about....

Whether the tea partiers will prove too busy fighting among themselves to fight the Republicans, the Democrats, and the system writ large is anyone’s guess. But Skoda is pragmatic enough to know that he can’t cut the non-pragmatists out of the coalition altogether. 
Ironically, the author of this article — Lydia DePillis — is a Mark Skoda type, sensible, moderate, and analytical. And whoever put that photograph on the article is a Joseph Farah, stirring up the readers, getting people excited and visceral.

UPDATE: TNR has swapped in a different photograph, so it's good that I got the screen capture. The "teabagger" picture also went out in TNR's email alert titled "The New Republic Politics Weekly Newsletter: The Tea Party's frustrated moderates."

ADDED: Ace links here and says: "They only do that one story, eh? The 'moderates' are always so close to ditching the party over the wignuts; we're almost in a state of civil war. It's always that way in the GOP. Now it's that way in the Tea Party, too. Meanwhile, no wingnuttery or frustrated moderates in the Democratic Party, eh?"

"RESURRECTION: NYT runs Obama 'cross' photo..."

Says Drudge, pointing to this "Illustration by Nola Lopez, photograph by Damon Winter." I'm not sure where the photograph ends and the illustration begins, but, either way it's quite a bizarre accompaniment to an article called "As Health Vote Awaits, Future of a Presidency Waits, Too." I don't think there's anything in the article even touching on religion... except to the extent that Obama is some kind of religion.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some of you think that the cross in this context should be understood as representing health care and not Christianity at all. (Sea Urchin said: "Well, it is a square cross, which I associate first with the picture on my first aid kit.") I hope that if you think that, you also agree — and many don't — with what Justice Scalia said at oral argument in Salazar v. Buono, the case about the cross that the Veterans of Foreign Wars built in the Mojave National Preserve, which is supposed to honor the soldiers who died in WWI:
"It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead... What would you have them erect?...Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?"

Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case, explained that the cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and commonly used at Christian grave sites, not that the devoutly Catholic Scalia needed to be told that.

"I have been in Jewish cemeteries," Eliasberg continued. "There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."

There was mild laughter in the packed courtroom, but not from Scalia.

"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion," Scalia said, clearly irritated by the exchange.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian said:
There's a theory that the symbol of the red cross was painted on the baseboards of corridors in the great palaces and castles of England during the middle ages and Renaissance to deter people from urinating in those places, a common problem in those times. It was supposed that a person would not want to micturate upon the symbols of Albion and of his saviour Christ. These effluence-protected spots thereby became associated with cleanness, which led to the later use of the cross to connote sanitation and hygiene. This association eventually led to the use of the red cross as a symbol for medical practitioners, once the connection between hygiene and disease prevention was made, that is.

"College students are adults. They have every single right to choose the person they feel most comfortable living with."

Consider that statement in the abstract before clicking through to see the particular context.

"The fact that Obama doesn't get a kick out of adoring throngs is one of the qualities that made him so appealing in the first place."

"Unlike with Clinton, we never felt as though he needed us; he's a secure, self-confident adult."

From a column by Fred Hiatt about the fact that Obama doesn't seem happy as President and why and whether we should want him to be.

"Despite claims of transparency and calls for a 'simple up-or-down vote,' there is nothing simple about this process."

Paul Ryan on the House "reconciliation" bill.

If a judge's spouse is politically active, does it "test" his "impartiality"?

Surely, the answer can't be, only if the judge is conservative.

March 14, 2010

Beautiful home.

It's 53° and sunny here in Madison, Wisconsin, on the first long afternoon of daylight saving. It's great to be back from New York City, where the rain made nearly everything an ordeal. At least the hotel was a good retreat — the SoHo Grand has a pretty nice lounge, where you can hole up on cushy sofas, get enough to eat and drink — and WiFi — and pretend there is no outdoors.

From the room, New York looked like this:


Spacious, but bleak and traffic-y. Laguardia was an absolute hellhole — though there was a ray of light when the West Virginia basketball team — celebrating its Big East championship — came through at our gate.

Note the trophy and the sign (which said something like Big East Champions 2010). That video would have been way better if they were still singing — as they were when I dug out my camera — "We Are the Champions."

At the Absence of Photographs Café...


... I hope you can satisfy your expressive urges. We came to New York City for the weekend, and I had visions of traipsing around taking lots of interesting photographs, but it's been pouring rain here:
A combination of driving winds and intense rains left nearly half a million customers without power, was blamed for three deaths, and created serious obstacles to traveling distances both short and long around the New York metropolitan area on Saturday.

Gusts of more than 60 miles per hour also fanned a severe fire that destroyed historic homes on the Jersey Shore and knocked buildings to the ground.

The drenching came after a period of temperate relief from a winter marked by several blizzards dubbed “snowmaggedons.” But a different type of biblical reckoning came to mind as the National Weather Service predicted that at least two to four inches of rain would fall before the end of Sunday and had the area on a flood watch.
Ah, well. Back to Madison.