July 30, 2011

At the Auditorium Café...

... we'll listen to anything.

El Bulli — reputedly the best restaurant in the world — is closing.

"Dinner consisted of a set menu comprising some 40 small dishes costing about 250 euros (£220)."

I've never been there — or even to Spain — but I love that format for a meal: lots and lots of tiny dishes, predetermined by the chef. It's a paradox of choice and no choice that's quite delightful.

Eugene Volokh finds evidence that Asians are now white.

On the occasion of Gov. Nikki Haley identifying herself as white (when her ancestors come from India), he says:
"I first noticed this effect 10 years ago, at a party where a friend of mine commented that the guests were all white. I responded by mentioning about a dozen Asians; oh, she said, that’s right, but you know what I mean. At a recent UCLA conference I attended, two speakers complained that everyone on the panel was white, without even realizing that one of the speakers was ethnically Chinese, and another was an Asian Indian with skin darker than that of many American blacks."
It's an old question, who's white? Did you know that back in 1879, the Supreme Court seriously considered an argument that a black man was a "white person"? There was a federal statute that granted Indians a remedy against the United States when a "white person" committed a crime in Indian territory.
It is contended... that the term "white person," as here used, means no more then "not an Indian"...
The Court rejected that interpretation, however, because the terminology dated back to slavery times and...
It was, no doubt, thought if the United States made themselves liable only for such depredations as were committed by the whites,... Indians would be less likely to tolerate fugitive blacks in their country. Hence, as a means of preventing the escape of slaves, the change in the law was made.
The case is United States v. Perryman.

"Lessons From Wisconsin: What happens when you take on the public sector unions and win? You get a better state."

An interview with Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who's impressively articulate. I was watching this video with Meade, and he said: "That's the next Governor of Wisconsin."

Why should Obama think in terms of what the Supreme Court might say about his power to single-handedly raise the debt ceiling?

Jeffrey Rosen wonders, noting that the Supreme Court would probably not hear the case.
And even if the justices did agree to hear it, the conservative justices would be torn between their dislike of Obama and their commitment to expanding executive power at all costs. If all the justices are true to their constitutional philosophies, the Court would rule for Obama by a lopsided margin.
In fact, it makes plenty of sense for Obama to refer to what the Court would say even if he doesn't believe the question will end up in court. Why shouldn't he act deferential to judicial interpretation when it's not obstructing anything he presently wants to do? It's exactly the right time to strike that pose if he thinks it's flattering.

Anyway, Obama left himself plenty of room to shake off the deference if and when he wants. All he said was: "I’ve talked to my lawyers... They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument." Not only could the lawyers later become persuaded, Obama could make his own decision disagreeing with his lawyers, and he could decide to rely on a reading of the Constitution that he believes is correct even if he's not persuaded it's a "winning argument."

Now, is it true that the Supreme Court would say the President can, on his own raise the debt ceiling? The constitutional hook for this power is "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned." Rosen says:
All four liberal Justices are committed to a vision of “living constitutionalism” that interprets the historical evidence broadly...
He says a bit more than that, but not much to find 4 votes for presidential power. Only one more needed.
What about the conservative justices? Here the divisions in the conservative ranks might become relevant. There are three distinct strains of legal conservatives on the Court: the tea party conservative, Clarence Thomas, the libertarian conservative, Anthony Kennedy, and the pro-executive power conservatives, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia.
The tea party conservative, eh?
Of these five justices, Thomas is the only one whose judicial philosophy might lead him to side with Congress over Obama. As someone who believes that Congressional power over the purse should be construed strictly, Thomas might conclude that Article I gives Congress, and not the president, the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States”—a power that it has exercised by establishing a debt ceiling. The debt ceiling doesn’t repudiate the debt or question its validity, Thomas might hold; it simply threatens default by prohibiting the president from assuming extra debt beyond what Congress has authorized. According to this argument, Obama’s unilateral decision to take on additional debt to avoid a government default would not represent debt “authorized by law,” as the Fourteenth Amendment requires, and therefore wouldn’t be justified by the Amendment.
Isn't it funny how this "tea party" philosophy just sounds like a fair reading of the text? But only Clarence Thomas is crackpot enough to do that! I added the boldface to highlight what to me seems like the obvious interpretation: No one is talking about questioning the validity of the debt! When you fail to pay debts, you're not claiming they aren't valid. Why wouldn't all the Justices say that? Why would that inapt clause take precedence over the specific and clear clause in Article I, listing among Congress's powers the power "To borrow Money on the credit of the United States"?

Pelosi: Boehner "chose to go to the dark side."

"It’s time for us to end this theater of the absurd... It’s time for us to get real."

That doesn't sound very civil. Or compromise-y.

And what is this "dark side"? Apparently, it's conservatism!

"Walker approached the site in his usual sinister looking Yukon XL SUV with black tinted windows along with a few look-alike vehicles."

"It was surreal: 3 black SUVs speeding by [perhaps 45 mph], tires ka-thumping over railroad tracks one after the other. Protesters begin to yell as they get a glimpse of the vehicles in their peripheral vision, all turning to the road. They run after the vehicles, their signs flailing. Some want to run but decide to stay rooted by the railroad tracks that run behind the building where we’ve been assembling – maybe in hopes he’d double back or in realization that they won’t run fast enough to catch him. The chanting and yelling intensifies to a dull roar around the other side of the building and I listen to the state troopers get questioned by a couple of angry men: 'Do you honestly think that was under the speed limit?'"

Remind me why you think it was the 3 black SUVs that looked "sinister"? The Governor is hounded by people who call themselves "stalkers" ("Walker Stalkers"), and you fault him for taking security measures?

Rush Limbaugh: "The Tea Party is putting country before party."

"They can't be bought off with committee assignments or with campaign re-election funds. They can't be bought, and Washington can't understand this. They admit that it's refreshing but it's not as refreshing as compromise would be, speaking of which: Dingy Harry just came out and said that Boehner 3.0 is worse -- is even more unacceptable -- than the original. How is that for the spirit of compromise? We have the President of the United States, the real loser in all of this, the man who is in real trouble -- and we need to start acting that way, and we need to start believing it."

From the opening monologue of yesterday's show.  He was on fire, providing what felt, to me, like the  counterweight to the mainstream media meme (which is: the Tea Party people in Congress are reckless and insane).

"Whom will the public blame for debtageddon?"

Asks Ezra Klein, with prissily correct grammar and a neologism that reminds us of the recent Armageddon that wasn't: Carmageddon.

I'll tell you who I'll blame. I'll blame everyone who thought about the debt-ceiling crisis in that form, which reveals that it's all been jockeying for position in the next election. Interestingly, asking that question now is part of the jockeying.

Klein, ever biased in favor of Democrats, accordingly says:
In a 2010 paper presented at the American Political Science Association’s annual conference, Asger Lau Andersen, David Dreyer Lassen and Lasse Holbøll Westh Nielsen tried to take a systematic look at....
Oh! Good Lord! I'm crushed under the weight of the appearance of scholarship. Those names! Lasse Holbøll Westh Nielsen? A sketch comedy writer could not concoct a better name to exude the aura of pretentious loftiness.

But, hell! It's systematic.  No way it's ammunition for the partisan Klein to use to urge the GOP to... as they say... compromise.
... Voters don’t like budgetary breakdowns. More interesting was how voters apportion blame. “While governors are punished only when part of a unified government, legislatures are (almost) always punished.”
This suggests that when one party controls the government, voters blame them for budgetary breakdowns. But when the two parties split control, the executive is able to float above the squabbling in the legislature, or at least heavily influence the way the public assigns fault. “Governors may be more adept at the blame game that sometimes follows failures to finish a budget on time,” the authors speculate.
Got that?  The executive, Obama, may be able to "float above" the divided legislature, which is "(almost) always punished."

Got that, Republicans? You will be punished if you don't cave compromise.

Why Gov. Scott Walker isn't talking about the Milwaukee streetcar project.

You need to understand the history of Milwaukee urban transit and the role Walker played in it before he became Governor.
That story started 20 years ago, when Congress appropriated $289 million for a Milwaukee-area transit project. It was first slated for a bus-only highway between Milwaukee and Waukesha, but then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson vetoed that idea in response to neighborhood opposition.

Congress then took away $48 million, and state and local officials started a major study of how to use the remaining $241 million. The study recommended building a light rail system, adding bus-and-car-pool lanes to I-94 and expanding bus service.

Walker, then a state representative from Wauwatosa, was among the suburban Republicans who helped kill that plan, persuading fellow Republican Thompson to rule out using any state or federal money to study light rail.

In frustration, Milwaukee community activists filed two civil rights complaints against the state with the U.S. Department of Transportation in late 1998.

The complaints noted that many of the central city's African-American residents didn't have cars, but nearly all white suburbanites did. Therefore, activists argued, the state was discriminating against minorities by favoring freeways over public transit.
Read the whole thing to see how this played out in Milwaukee politics, with Walker favoring buses over trains and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett favoring rail. Barrett was the Democratic candidate for Governor last fall, and now he's got his rail project approved. He's not seeking state money, and the the settlement in the lawsuit supposedly "prohibits the state from blocking the streetcar project."

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers are pointing out that the proposed route for the streetcar does not extend into Milwaukee's minority neighborhoods.

The real goal of a lawsuit often fails to match up with the legal ground that is used to invoke judicial power. Similarly, political rhetoric often exploits values that don't square with what politicians are really doing. There are many reasons to play the race card, and only one is that you actually intend to serve the individuals you are leveraging your argument on.

Wisconsin recall elections are overwhelmed by so-called "outside" spending.

Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) complained about it:
"For the first time in the history of Wisconsin politics - and you can print this - candidates are now almost irrelevant to campaigns... They have hijacked these elections - both sides. And the candidates have nothing to do with it."
But note that he's complaining about it in the context of the Republican National Committee announcing its support long after all the heavy spending by groups — e.g., unions — supporting the Democratic candidates.
"Maybe the cavalry should have gotten here before they stormed the fort, plundered the arsenal, poisoned the well and put us in the stockade," Ellis said.

"President Barack Obama takes debt battle to Twitter, loses more than 40,000 followers in one day."

Obama spammed us.

"Apple has more cash on hand than the US government."

"The Treasury reported a total operating cash balance of $73.768 billion, while Apple is reported to be holding $75.876 billion according to Apple Insider."

"Cambodians... refused to believe anything bad about the United States."

Writes Terry McCoy, in the new issue of Isthmus...
I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.

"No, America is beautiful," he replied.
McCoy was in the Peace Corps, where, he complains, he felt "a deep sense of isolation" and "failed time and again to integrate into a culture different from my own." Eventually, he realized he would always be "an outsider," because "I wasn't Khmer and never would be."

Isthmus exploits this alienated young man's musings for a cover story titled "Not my Madison/Political unrest has changed the city's character." You see, when the alienated young man returned from the place where he felt alienated, he found that he was still alienated, because his city had changed. It used to be so harmonious, but somehow these people who were not the Madisonians he grew up with had taken over political power.

Well, Mr. McCoy, I hate to bring you down, but the city of Madison is the capital of an entire state, and, sometimes, an election gives the majority and the governorship to — gasp! — that other party, the one the people of Madison would like to discipline its citizens never to mention any positive feeling for. That discipline was the harmony of Madison that you remember, pre-Cambodia. When the Republicans from the hinterlands came to town and began to enact their policies, Madisonians had a collective nervous breakdown in public.

Post-protests, McCoy is bummed out to find Madisonians in a bad mood. They failed, despite strenuous efforts, to deny Republicans the power that had been legitimately and democratically won in a thoroughly fair election.  America is beautiful, as the Cambodian boy said. But you like to think of him as a fool.

I would love to link to this article, but — alas! — I cannot, not until — what is it? a week? — Isthmus deems it time to put the text on line. Ironically, despite all the left-wing politics and heavy-handed attacks on corporate greed and pressure on us to subordinate our needs to environmentalism, Isthmus wants the people of Madison to pick up the newsprint paper. There are stacks and stacks of this rag all over town. I can't think of any reason for this other than... corporate greed: they want to maximize ad revenue.

So, I'd love to give my readers more of the context of this article, but you can't read the whole thing unless you can get your hands on the inky, pulpy object that I have right here. There's a limit to how many quotes I'm willing to type out to be fair to this young man, who comes across as a brooding introvert. I wonder what the first draft of this article was. I can't help speculating that he had his introspective Cambodian journals, and then he got the idea — or somebody insisted — that he shoehorn all this Wisconsin protest material into it — quotes from UW sociology professors and whatnot.
"When people have been decisively crushed, they get demoralized." — UW Prof. Pam Oliver
That's one of the pull quotes. The other pull quote is:
There's a new sense that normal citizens can't change anything.
Normal citizens! Because — in the Madison hive mind — the people who vote for Republicans are not normal.

UPDATE: The text is up.

July 29, 2011

Democrats criticize Gov. Nikki Haley for identifying herself as "white" on her voter application form.

Her choices were: ""white, black/African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other."
The [State Election Commission] doesn't attempt to verify a person's race, but that data is used by U.S. Department of Justice to enforce fair voting practices. Collecting the information is a requirement of state law....

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines "Caucasian" as the "characteristic of a race of humankind native to Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia and classified according to physical features -- used especially in referring to persons of European descent having usually light skin pigmentation."
It's bad enough that people are forced to make this choice. Criticizing them for how they puzzle it out when they are in a difficult category is just disgusting.

At the Tall Corn Café...

... you can aspire to anything.

The chant in Tahrir Square today: "Islamic, Islamic. Neither secular nor liberal."

The NYT reports:
Tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists poured into Tahrir Square on Friday calling for a state bound by strict religious law and delivering a persuasive show of force in a turbulent country showing deep divisions and growing signs of polarization.

The shape of Egypt five months into its revolution remains distinctly undecided, and Islamists have long been the best organized political force in this religiously conservative country. Some activists speculated that their show of strength would serve as a jolt to the secular forces who helped to start the revolution but who remain divided, largely ineffectual and woefully unprepared for coming elections....

In terms of turnout, one of the largest since the revolution, the demonstration on Friday evoked past scenes in Tahrir Square. But many of the similarities stopped there. Cries for national unity and coexistence between Christians and Muslims made way for familiar religious chants and demands that Egypt adhere to Islamic law, known as Shariah.

“Islamic law is above the Constitution,” one banner read....

“If democracy is the voice of the majority and we as Islamists are the majority, why do they want to impose on us the views of minorities — the liberals and the secularists?” asked Mahmoud Nadi, 26, a student. “That’s all I want to know."

"After all the wind and storm, what’s going on with the high-speed train?"

"It’s crawling slower than a snail. I hope nothing happens to it."

"The house on Friday passed a debt-limit bill after it was recrafted to appease tea party-allied conservatives..."

"... but President Obama said the plan has 'no chance of becoming law' and instead urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to reach a 'bipartisan compromise.'"

Hey! Why won't he compromise?

On the Capital City Trail today...

... I stopped to photograph the Queen Anne's lace and (especially) the gayfeather:

Enlarge to see the gayfeather, the spiky purple wildflower. And here I was, just about exactly a year ago, stopping in the same place, for the same flowers.

Kody Brown lawsuit challenging Utah's anti-polygamy law "is a nightmare for liberals and conservatives alike."

Says Monica Potts in The American Prospect (a liberal publication):
[The lawsuit is based on Lawrence v. Texas, which] was a groundbreaking decision that established gay rights and provided momentum for the campaign to legalize gay marriage. Liberals fear that by basing his case on Lawrence, Brown gives fodder to conservatives who argued that gay marriage would open the door to polygamy. Conservatives fear that striking down criminal laws against calling someone a spiritual wife would not only lead to recognition of polygamy but would also endanger anti-gay statutes that limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Remember, the lawsuit is not trying to force the state to recognize Brown's extra "marriages." He is only trying to get the state to leave him alone and not prosecute him criminally for calling those extra things he's got "marriages."

Who's having a nightmare here?
Liberals who won't defend their values and social conservatives who are strong values defenders.
Liberals who won't defend their values. Period.
Conservatives. Except the most libertarian ones.
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"Old Mr. Brown, a man I knew in Oakland, Calif., never ate anything but sandwiches."

"Ask him to a meal, pass the breadbasket. He put everything, from soup to nuts, between two slices. Evidently it was a lifelong obsession."

May I recommend a panini press? I ordered this one after Meade knocked the old one off the counter and down the staircase to concrete-floored studio. After using the new one, I said, "Thanks for breaking the old panini grill."

"Obama Approval Drops to New Low of 40%..."

Obama's job approval rating among Democrats is 72%, compared with 34% among independents and 13% among Republicans. In the prior three weeks, his average approval rating was 79% among Democrats, 41% among independents, and 12% among Republicans.
Well, at least the Republicans are liking him a tad more.

Divers' faces photographed mid-dive...

...  fascinating!

What Obama is "getting absolutely no sleep" — and he has a secret plan.

Morsels of info... from Valerie Jarrett and William Daley.
BLITZER:  So what you're saying is the president did present a plan to the speaker, John Boehner.

DALEY:  Yes.

BLITZER:  But - but he didn't...

DALEY:  Right.

BLITZER:  - make it public.

"Pregnant Woman Takes Bar Exam While in Labor, Delivers Baby Right After!"

David Lat writes:
Before the start of the afternoon session on day two of the Illinois bar exam (Wednesday), the very pregnant [“Mother Bar Exam,” AKA “MBE"] mentioned to the proctors the possibility that she might give birth during the test. She asked if she could leave early in the event that she went into labor; they agreed.

So Mother Bar Exam sat down for the afternoon session of the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”). Not long after, she started going into labor — not a little discomfort, but full-on labor....

She continued to answer MBE questions, while in labor. She then finished the exam early, at 4 p.m....

Upon completing the exam, Mother Bar Exam notified the proctors that she was done and needed to leave, seeing as she was, you know, in the middle of giving birth and all. Normally candidates are not allowed to leave the room early, but in this case the proctors accommodated her (especially since she had mentioned the issue to them beforehand).
Impressive! But I can understand the determination to finish the exam. After all the preparation and getting through the first day, to have to wait and take the exam months later would be a huge setback. And in the months ahead, she'll be dealing with an out-of-the-womb baby, keeping her up at night, making all sorts of babyish demands. Better to get it done while you can, especially since the hospital was right across the street.

By the way, what about the other test takers in the room? Were they unaware of what was going on? Were they distracted?

IN THE COMMENTS: Joan, who is a doctor, says:
I think taking an exam would be a great way to get through labor. The thing about contractions is that they hurt while they're happening, but when the contraction stops, so does the pain -- completely. It's like a light switch: off, on. It amazed me all 3 times I was in labor (anesthesia-free, too). It's terrific to have something to occupy your mind during this time. If you're distracted your body can just do its thing, whereas if you're stressed, you'll interfere with those things happening.

This woman does not sound like the type to make a disturbance to those around her. I was furious during my last state licensing exam when the guy in front of me had a chronic, severe cough. Every 30, 45, 60 seconds or so he'd cough hard enough to shake my desk. I spoke to the proctor about it but there wasn't anything he could do. But the 30 or so of us in that room (a high school classroom) were definitely disadvantaged. (One thing that made it so bad was knowing he was going to cough again but not knowing when it was going to happen -- I was distracted by anticipating the next cough. At least with labor contractions, they come at regular intervals.)

"Where is the 9,000-foot cow?"/"What do you think about Satan?"/"What did James Madison think about video games?"

Justice Ginsburg lists the strangest questions asked last term at oral argument.
"From the foregoing samples, you may better understand why the court does not plan to permit televising oral arguments any time soon."
Are you kidding? This is why it should be on television?

You know, the fabulous 7th Circuit judge Richard A. Posner wrote a great chapter titled "What Am I? A Potted Plant?"

And I just saw a potted plant on television.

Now, the potted plant was scintillating compared to the live — that is, barely animated — speech by President Obama that preceded it. But the point is: We want the Supreme Court on TV!

Bring on the 9,000 cows! We're dying out here in TV-land!

"If it wasn't for race, if it wasn't for class, do you think [Nafissatou Diallo] would be treated this way?"

Actually, I don't. But not in the way that Diallo's lawyer thinks we shouldn't.

Isthmus picks up Meade's confrontation with the state worker arrested in the balloon-popping incident.

Hmmm. It will be interesting to see how the comments play out over there (where Meade has been a long-time gadfly and I am pretty much hated).

"Recall campaigns aren't focusing on collective bargaining."

Reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The plan to eliminate most collective bargaining for public employees may be the issue that sparked this year's recall campaigns against six Republican state senators, but neither side is talking much about that issue now as the elections approach.

Instead, Democrats are telling voters Republicans have gone the wrong way with the state budget by cutting schools by nearly $800 million and providing tax breaks to businesses and investors. Republicans are touting their ability to honestly balance the state budget and keep a lid on taxes.

"Both parties have decided that (collective bargaining) doesn't have any traction," said Michael Kraft, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
So the shocking outrages the touched of the protests don't move the voters, and the recall elections are like normal elections, asking voters whether they'd like their next helping of legislation to be conservative or liberal. In which case, let's relive what was, I think, the most trenchant commentary about the recall elections: "Isn't that a crime?"

ADDED: David Blaska says:
The national Weekly Standard finds that only Milwaukee and Kenosha laid off teachers because they rushed to do contracts before the Walker collective bargaining reforms became law....

Maybe that is why Democrats in the nine recall districts aren't talking about collective bargaining....

It's just not a winning issue for them. Keep in mind that only 14 percent of Wisconsin's workforce is unionized. The 7.6 percent who are unemployed are even less sympathetic to a public employee with enviable job security paying a little something for a pension that enables them to retire in their 50s.
Blaska links to Deke Rivers at Caffeinated Politics, who initially supported recalling Republicans and now says:
I can be as partisan as anyone, but I also like the game of politics to be played with some reasonableness.  Had I known that not a word would seemingly appear about the collective bargaining issue in the Democratic campaigns this summer I never would have supported a recall effort.

All of the concerns that Democrats seem intent on talking about these past weeks are ones that should have been left for the 2012 elections....
Exactly. Recall elections should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances.

Blaska also points to Arnold Shober, professor of political science at Appleton's Lawrence University:
"For the Republicans, they do not want to remind people that public school teachers are unhappy, because most people have (a) good feeling about teachers," Shober explained in an email exchange. "For the Democrats, they don't want people to be reminded that public employees can retire in their 50s and enjoy a second lifetime supported in part by taxes. Thus, collective bargaining is not really a winning issue for either party."
If they don't want to talk about it, that means there shouldn't have been a recall campaign in the first place. We're back to ordinary party politics and... isn't that a crime?

Is kindness really this extraordinary?

"We couldn't believe what we were seeing?"

LIVE now on FoxNews: The latest on the debt ceiling crisis.

Note the time stamp: 9:44 CT.

To be fair to Fox News, they did carry the President's latest speech before they went to the potted plant. And to be fair to the potted plant, it was perfectly articulate. It said everything I needed to hear. 

"This is the size I wanted them to look at 19!"

There should be more stories like this about regretting breast implants. A very young woman is making a decision that binds the much older version of herself. Eh! I guess that's the way life is about all sorts of things. Time only goes in one direction. (Although I did once read a very cool book where the amazing realization in the end was that time actually goes in the other direction. I'd name the book, but the spoiler would ruin it.)

Anyway, the implant-regretter in the linked news item is mostly sad about breast feeding. I'm wondering what these implanted breasts look like 20 or 30 or 40 years later. I imagine young women thinking they won't care what their breasts look like when they are 40 or 50 or 60. But as the voice of the future, let me say: You will!

"The entire two-income trap... is actually a two-income tax trap..."

Explains Todd Zywicki, correcting Christopher Caldwell, who was explaining Elizabeth Warren.
... Caldwell’s interpretation of what Warren and Tyagi wrote is an eminently reasonable mistake – the distinct impression left by the discussion in the book is that households are paying 25% more in taxes. And virtually everyone who has read the book has interpreted that central point the way Caldwell does. So I do not fault him. The problem is the way that particular piece of data is presented in the book. What begs explanation, of course, is why that piece of data – and that piece alone – is presented differently from all of the other data, especially when Warren and Tyagi seemingly had to go out of their way to present that data in a distinct, non-intuitive, and somewhat obfuscatory manner that virtually invites the misimpression that Caldwell and most readers have drawn as the central conclusion of the book.
In fact, based on their data once the math is done the real conclusions of Warren and Tyagi are inescapable and in fact (as Caldwell will be pleased to know) extremely conservative: the financial problems of the middle class are caused by an astonishing rise in the tax burden on middle class families over the past three decades.  Nowhere, however, will one read Professor Warren advocating income and property tax cuts as the obvious policy implication of their book–although that is unambiguously the logical inference.
Via Instapundit.

The 2-income family gives a shocking amount of the extra money they scramble to earn to the government. I'm no tax expert, but my suspicion is that this happens because liberals like more taxes and conservatives like subsidizing the traditional family with a stay-at-home parent. Put those 2 forces together and we get the (perverse?) burdening of the 2-earner family.

Why don't more couples do the math and figure out that they should not do all that extra work for the government? Life is so much simpler with the 1-earner family, and the spouse who doesn't bring in the dollars can provide great economic benefits by directly performing work that would otherwise have to be paid for, most notably child care. Since this economic benefit isn't taxed, it's a double benefit. Instead of buying inferior childcare (or other services) with after-tax dollars, you perform the work that is worth that much money, and you're not paid, so you don't pay taxes on the value it represents.

When I went to junior high school, we girls were required to take a course called "Home Economics," but it was just learning to cook and sew. I think young people should be taught a course called "Home Economics," which teaches a sophisticated analysis of the economics of living together and sharing money and work. But perhaps the government, through its schools, does not want to reveal the amazing secrets of legal tax avoidance. How much better to indoctrinate kids to seek the highest incomes they possibly can achieve! That is the government's strategy for raking in the most taxes. And it works so well. The liberal teachers support the ideology of women working and don't want to tip off young people that the traditional 1-earner family is an excellent approach to personal wealth. And the liberal legislatures don't want to alleviate the tax-burden on the 2-income families, because they love raking in the tax money. 

I'm just riffing on a theory here. I'm no expert. I'm just setting up a debate here.

July 28, 2011

At the Copse Café...

... lean back and let your hair down.

"And if atheists could put a symbol in the museum, what would it be?"

"Perhaps an atom, Mr. Silverman suggested, 'because we’re all made out of atoms,' or maybe a depiction of a firefighter carrying a victim. 'It would be about helping,” he said. 'It would not be derogatory against any religion or anybody.'"

Or maybe a legal complaint, because they're always filing lawsuits like this.

The global warming "consensus" is cracking up.

2 stories on Drudge right now:

Does this Wisconsin recall ad sound like it's narrated by Morgan Freeman?

There's a big controversy about whether this is a deceptive ad.

Morgan Freeman's representative confirmed to The Huffington Post that the narrator of the ad is not Freeman: "While the ad in Wisconsin attempts to sound like Morgan Freeman, it clearly is an attempt to deceive. Morgan Freeman did not narrate that ad."
This is a deliberate Morgan Freeman imitation:

And here's the real Morgan Freeman, talking like Morgan Freeman:

Is the recall ad deceptive?
No. It doesn't sound that much like Freeman.
Yes. It sounds like Freeman and it was deliberate.
No. It sounds a little like Freeman, but I don't think it was intentional.
Yes. Even if they weren't trying to sound like Freeman, it will fool some people and that's wrong.

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"A state employee was arrested on suspicion of endangering safety with a dangerous weapon Thursday in relation to an argument over a balloon in the Capitol."

"Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne could not be reached to say how long it would take to decide whether to charge the employee. The charge the Capitol Police are recommending is a misdemeanor."

Blogger's back!

Things hadn't been working here since early this afternoon, but I wrote an email and it seems to have resulted in a restoration of all the malfunctioning functions within 15 minutes.

Thanks, Blogger!

"When I was lonely, I hid my emotional reality and lied outright."

"I fudged facts and did everything necessary to make my isolated life look full. I hinted that I hadn’t been single for as long as I had. I worked as a lawyer, and if someone at the office suggested I looked tired, I pretended that a busy social life was leaving me drained. I thought I was alone in doing this, but other lonely people I spoke to did the same thing."

At the Café Café...

... let's settle in for some good conversation about anything you like.

"The heart-shaped balloon community must have heard about the loss of one of its own because it was out in force Tuesday at the Capitol."

"I counted a dozen trapped at the top of the dome and dozens more held fast by some of the 150 or so participating in the 'Solidarity Singalong' in the rotunda."
A day after a Department of Administration employee allegedly stabbed the balloon, shoved its owner, and somehow received a minor injury that scattered his own blood on the Capitol floor, attendance for the daily a cappella airing of grievances was running about twice what it had been, about 150 people, according to organizer Chris Reeder.

"We'll continue to be here every day," Reeder told singers, "even if they attack our heart balloons — or us."
See what happens when you give them a martyr?

UPDATE: The worker who popped the balloon has been arrested.

"Conceding that a culturally diverse society raises knotty and complex social and political questions is one thing."

"It is quite another to state that a multicultural society is impossible, or that Islam is incompatible with democracy. Yet the blogosphere to which Mr. Breivik belonged took these views as a basic premise."

"Smoke juice."

A Wisconsin-made product.
"Traditional cigarettes don't actually taste like anything... They taste like cigarettes. What we hear over and over again from our customers is, 'I've been a smoker for over 30 years, and this is the first time I've actually experienced flavor.'"

Johnson Creek's smoke juice comes in a variety of flavors, including original, spiced apple cider, black cherry, French vanilla, espresso, mint chocolate, summer peach, chocolate truffle, Arctic menthol and Tennessee cured, a concoction with hints of vanilla and caramel.
Make something people want and...
"I really want people to understand what is possible in an environment like this. I know the economy is in the toilet, but it does not mean that a company such as Johnson Creek can't make something incredible like we used to."

American Atheists sue to keep the WTC cross out of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

The cross, you may remember, is not something human beings constructed intentionally. It is steel that remained standing after the buildings collapsed. But it was noticed, honored, and preserved because of the Christian symbolism:
"This cross is now a part of the official WTC memorial. No other religions or philosophies will be honored. It will just be a Christian icon, in the middle of OUR memorial,” Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, said in a release.

Silverman added that the memorial must allow atheists and other belief groups to include their own displays of equal size. For the past several years the cross has been housed at St. Peter's church. On Saturday it was permanently moved to the 9/11 Memorial Museum after a ceremonial blessing at Zuccotti Park. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which will officially open next year, said its mission is to tell the history of the attacks through artifacts like the cross.

"This steel remnant became a symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero, as well as for people around the world," said 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels. "In the historical exhibition, the cross is part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can.”
I think the historic significance of the cross justifies its inclusion in the museum. Human beings cannot construct equivalent monuments for other religions, even if it were, in fact, legally required. Silverman's argument assumes that a historical museum is a free-speech forum that must be open to the speech of all groups, but that's not what a museum is.

Sometimes organizations file lawsuits not because they think they will win but to gain publicity for their cause. This is a case, however, of an organization drawing bad publicity, though, isn't it? I suppose this group seeks favor among a fairly small percentage of the population. If that is the goal, outraging the majority could feel like a good thing.

What really happens to your clothes at the dry cleaners?

It's really quite awful. Your clothes are dumped — along with everyone else's dirty things — into a giant machine full of perchloroethylene, which should be banned and will be banned within the next decade.

The real solution, in my opinion, is to move beyond clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Wouldn't it be funny, if — all these years after we baby boomers decided we had to hate polyester suits — we embraced them — and for just about the same reason we hated them: devotion to the natural?

Do you know the movie "The Man in the White Suit"?
Sidney Stratton, a brilliant young research chemist and former Cambridge scholarship recipient, has been dismissed from jobs at several textile mills because of his demands for expensive facilities and his obsession to invent a long-lasting fibre. Whilst working as a labourer at the Birnley mill, he accidentally becomes an unpaid researcher and invents an incredibly strong fibre which repels dirt and never wears out...

Stratton is lauded as a genius until both management and the trade unions realise the consequence of his invention—once consumers have purchased enough cloth, demand will drop precipitously and put the textile industry out of business.....
The evil business owners want to suppress this invention, of course. Anyway. I remember watching this movie in the 1970s — when polyester suit hatred reached its height among us natural-fiber-loving post-hippies.  The movie was made in 1951, and we were amused by the way the film-makers did not anticipate the horror of polyester.

We experienced our enlightened perceptions 2 decades after the movie came out, and now, here we are, after 4 more decades. Perhaps we should get back on the track we retreated from so we can find our way out of the bondage of dry cleaning.

"It’s All Over but the Face-Saving?"

Says Nate Silver?
The only real difference, instead, is that Mr. Boehner’s bill would require Congress to approve another increase in the debt limit early next year if it fails to approve the fiscal commission’s recommendations, while Mr. Reid’s would extend the deadline beyond the end of President Obama’s first term in one fell swoop. The bills differ, in other words, in whether there will be another vote on the debt ceiling before next year’s elections.

"Detailed Paper-Cut False Eyelashes Depict Entire Scenes On Your Eyelids."

See? It is possible to think of something new.

July 27, 2011

"I think I've answered the question. I mean, I know you're creating a thing here for Fox..."

Jay Carney gets testy (as he's asked again about the specifics of Obama's plan on the debt ceiling).

Who gets into an exclusive NY club? "Christians are our favorite."

Great quote, referring to a shoe brand. (Christian Louboutin.)

The linked NYT article brings up what was a big issue here in Madison a few years ago: Whether clubs with dress standards — excluding, for example, baggy jeans — are practicing racial discrimination.

"You're so far away. Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?"

This is the song chosen to end the funeral for Amy Winehouse.

At the Red Chair Café...

... you're not alone here.

"I mean, sorry to bring something so stupid into your courtroom."

Said the defendant.

"This has to be the most phenomenally stupid case that I have seen. It's unbelievable what happened here," said the D.A.

And all because of a girl...
Wezyk stood 7 to 8 feet from Cardella and asked if he was sure he wanted to be shot.

"Cardella said he was and asked Wezyk to shoot him in the back three times," the complaint says....

The complaint says, "Wezyk then shot Cardella in the arm, and Cardella immediately slumped over. He asked to be shot again, but Wezyk stated, 'I'm done.' "

"Dow Jones plunges 74 pts on news that @ChuckTodd wanted to see Obama's plan in writing."


Via Legal Insurrection. Details on the Todd-Carney confrontation here.

"Being rich changes surprisingly little... You still have to have an absorbing interest in life, something to do to make you feel alive."

Said G.D. Spradlin, who "made a fortune, retired in 1960 and spent a year and a half sailing in the Bahamas with his family," before deciding to become an actor. After a 30-year career playing many roles in movies and on TV, he has died at the age of 90. 

On TV, he played, on different occasions, 2 Presidents: Andrew Jackson and Lyndon Johnson:
Newsweek lauded his “sheer orneriness” in portraying Johnson, especially when putting down Kennedy. “That boy,” he growls to an aide, “is all hat and no cattle.”
In real life, he ran Senator John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in Oklahoma.

A big NYT Magazine article about James O'Keefe — written by Zev Chafets.

Zev Chafets is that NYT contributor who wrote that book about Rush Limbaugh that Limbaugh was so pleased with. So let's read the new article.
He seems to be styling himself as the organizer and commander in chief of a vast guerrilla army of young conservatives trained in his methods and inspired by his example. “There are already dozens of teams out there working,” he told me. “And there are thousands more who want to learn and get involved. The more they restrict me, the more they inspire me.”....
O'Keefe — on probation for 3 years after he pleaded guilty to entering federal property under false pretenses —  can't leave New Jersey without court approval. (Hey, don't plead guilty if you can't do the time.)
His takedown of Acorn was... devastating, although Bertha Lewis, Acorn’s former chief executive, contends that the videos were dishonest. “He is demon, a liar and a cheat,” she says. “What he did was despicable. He created a fiction.” Bertha Lewis still insists that Acorn did not offer advice on how to break the law. Clark Hoyt, a former public editor for The New York Times, reviewed O’Keefe’s raw footage and edited tapes and concluded that “the most damning words match the transcripts and the audio, and do not seem out of context.”

There is no doubt that O’Keefe disseminated only the material that supported his thesis about Acorn, but this kind of selectivity is the norm in advocacy journalism. “I put James O’Keefe in the same category as Michael Moore,” says Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri’s school of journalism. “Some ethicists say it is never right for a journalist to deceive for any reason, but there are wrongs in the world that will never be exposed without some kind of subterfuge.”

“People can’t control me,” O’Keefe says. “No one tells me what to investigate.” But that freedom from oversight means he has no one to offer a second opinion. Andrew Breitbart, summing it up after the fact, called the Landrieu sting a “high risk, low reward” mistake. O’Keefe himself acknowledges that he used bad judgment in that operation. “If I had it to do over again, I’d do it outside a federal building.”
Hundreds of people contact James O’Keefe with suggestions for investigations and stings. He looks for situations that illustrate what he sees as larger injustices. He also recruits activists. “It takes a lot of what you could call courage to go into the opposition’s presence and tell a story under a false name,” he says. “People ready to improvise and maybe get caught.”

"SlutWalk Toronto... has come and gone and spawned imitators. Already though, some feminists are questioning it's efficacy and impact on both men and women."

A Metafilter post linking to:

"SlutWalk march planned for London."
The movement started after police constable Michael Sanguinetti, who had been giving a talk to a group of students in Toronto, [said] "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."
"The 2011 Seattle SlutWalk."
Predators with compromised brain function are out there on the streets. They are there right now as I type this, waiting for you or I [sic] to do something risky. There is nothing that you or I can do to cure them. Nothing. Not marches, not crying, not rallies. The only thing we can do is jail these people when they commit crimes, and much more importantly, reduce our chances of being a target.

Telling these people to allow you to dress like a slut and not react is irrational. It ignores science and it ignores biology.
"Ladies, We Have a Problem."
I understand that SlutWalkers want to drain the s-word of its misogynistic venom and correct the idea it conveys: that a woman who takes a variety of sexual partners or who presents herself in an alluring way is somehow morally bankrupt and asking to be hit on, assaulted or raped....

To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women...
"We’re Sluts, Not Feminists. Wherein my relationship with Slutwalk gets rocky."
Rejecting the word feminist but embracing the word slut sounds, to me, a lot like we’ve all drank [sic] the systematic kool-aid. I feel a little bit like all those patriarchal powers-that-be are snickering, witnessing the success of their hard work, having scared women away from labeling themselves feminist and instead taking on the oppressive language used to keep us down, to insult us, to objectify us, and to rape us. Hoping that they’ll stop. That maybe they’ll like us, respect us, and join us, so long as we don’t make them feel too uncomfortable. So long as we look sexy while we march.
And from the first link, a comment that got "favorited" 104 times (responding to an comment):
A question for the Metafilter hivemind before I post my usual awesome comment: A drunken woman walks alone thru an unfamiliar neighbourhood with a headband for a skirt. If she gets sexually assaulted, this is still completely 110% NOT her fault?

Responsibility for rape rests with rapists. Not with victims. Period.

Is there a cholangiocarcinoma researcher out there....

... looking for an object of study?

Paul Krugman denounces "the cult of balance, of centrism."

It's "a true moral failure," he says:
We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent...
Etc. etc. You know the argument. It's quite familiar really. I remember it from 1964:

"SwiftVets revenge."

Ben Smith reports:
The Navy Times (no link) reported last week that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stripped the Silver Star from a Vietnam swift boat veteran, Capt. Wade Sanders:
"Had the subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself been known to the Secretary of the Navy in 1992, those facts would have prevented the award of the Silver Star," [Mabus spokeswoman Pamela] Kunze said.
Sanders is now in jail on child pornography charges. But he's best known as the man who introduced John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and, ironically, vouched for the authenticity of Kerry's service.

Mickey Kaus thinks it's "odd" that people aren't connecting “Obama” and “Boehner Plan” and “briar patch.”

He's got an argument that he thinks is so good, he's surprised no one has made it using the term "briar patch":
[I]sn’t the Boehner Plan the President’s most promising route to the “grand bargain” (including revenue increases) he says he wants? It would set up a commission to propose $1.6-1.8 trillion in deficit closing measures–which could include tax increases and entitlement reforms. Then it would force an up or down vote under threat of default if Congress votes “no.” It almost seems like Obama’s dream bill, if you take what he says seriously. If you were cynical you would say that this is why he has semi-threatened to veto it.
So the threat of veto is like Brer Rabbit saying "don't fling me in dat brier-patch" in the old Uncle Remus story "How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox."
"'Skin me, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'snatch out my eyeballs, t'ar out my yeras by de roots, en cut off my legs,' sezee, 'but do please, Brer Fox, don't fling me in dat brier-patch,' sezee.

"Co'se Brer Fox wnater hurt Brer Rabbit bad ez he kin, so he cotch 'im by de behime legs en slung 'im right in de middle er de brierpatch. dar wuz a considerbul flutter whar Brer Rabbit struck de bushes, en Brer Fox sorter hang 'roun' fer ter see w'at wuz gwinter happen. Bimeby he hear somebody call im, en way up de hill he see Brer Rabbit settin' crosslegged on a chinkapin log koamin' de pitch outen his har wid a chip. Den Brer Fox know dat he bin swop off mighty bad. Brer Rabbit wuz bleedzed fer ter fling back some er his sass, en he holler out:

"'Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox--bred en bawn in a brier-patch!' en wid dat he skip out des ez lively as a cricket in de embers."
Brer Rabbit's problem, of course, was that he'd gotten stuck on the Tar Baby (in "The Wonderful Tar Baby Story"). I think no one's talking about the briar patch because everybody learned to stay away from the Tar Baby after John McCain caught hell for using the metaphor back in 2007:

You have to be forgetful or naive to deploy the old Brer Rabbit/Tar Baby/Briar Patch image these days. Whether it's actually inappropriately racial or not, mainstream political speakers have protected themselves from criticism by staying away from the Tar Baby. Maybe saying "briar patch" is different, but I suspect that, especially when you're talking about this President, it's getting too close to the Tar Baby.

ADDED: Animation.

July 26, 2011

Another creepy elevator guy, another feminist.

We've seen the Rebecca Watson incident — with the elevator guy who asked her (at 4 a.m.) if she'd like to have coffee and her response, coming days later, in the form of a vlog dinging him for sexualizing her.

Now, for something completely different. A really creepy guy and a really kick-ass feminist:

Little Woman Owns Creepy Elevator Guy - Watch more Funny Videos

"Fire From the Heartland" — a movie about the "reawakened fierceness" of American women.

It's by Steve Bannon, who made "The Undefeated" (that Sarah Palin) movie. It came out last September, but it's being pushed now in Iowa in an ad campaign designed to help Michele Bachmann.

Harry Reid's office is "inundated" with 600 phone calls.

600 phone calls is an amazing number of phone calls?

IN THE COMMENTS: Chip S. said:
Here's a reference point: In March of 2010, the Congress received "close to 100,000 calls an hour" about the pending Obamacare legislation.

"Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

The winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a University of Wisconsin professor — Sue Fondrie (Oshkosh).

(Discussed here.)


... through.

The Democrats can't have this tiger-suit-wearing target of accusatory phone messages attracting attention in the midst of all their woes.

"Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished?"

That's not from someone who hates trains. It's a British person complaining about "Americanism" that are infecting the speech of British folk. From a list of 50, some of which amuse me no end:
11. Transportation. What's wrong with transport? Greg Porter, Hercules, CA, US...

13. Does nobody celebrate a birthday anymore, must we all "turn" 12 or 21 or 40? Even the Duke of Edinburgh was universally described as "turning" 90 last month. When did this begin? I quite like the phrase in itself, but it seems to have obliterated all other ways of speaking about birthdays. Michael McAndrew, Swindon

14. I caught myself saying "shopping cart" instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I've never lived nor been to the US either. Graham Nicholson, Glasgow...

23. To put a list into alphabetical order is to "alphabetize it" - horrid! Chris Fackrell, York...

31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington...

36. Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London...

44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series. Hideous. D Henderson, Edinburgh...

46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London
To add to the hilarious language sufferings of the Brits, it turns out that most of the examples of irksome Americanisms are "neither particularly American nor original to American English."

"Wisc. Assembly Democrats Would Have Added $1.7 Billion in Spending, Created $1.4 Billion Deficit."

"A comprehensive analysis of Assembly Democrats’ proposed amendments to the recently passed state budget shows that had their amendments been adopted, spending would have increased by $1.7 billion."

According to the MacIver Institute. If you think they got it wrong, please post in the comments or email me.

"Wisconsin weird: Cops probe balloon popping."

The balloon story — which we talked about yesterday — hits Politico.
Pro-union activists have taken to releasing red heart-shaped balloons into the rotunda as a silent protest against Gov. Scott Walker, and [Leslie] Petersen told the paper she was posing for a photograph with her balloon when a state worker approached her with a knife and began “stabbing the balloon.”

Petersen said she went to retrieve the “balloon carcass” and was then shoved into a door by the state employee, who during the incident cut himself, leaving a trail of blood on the rotunda floor....

About 50 balloons were released into the rotunda after the skirmish Monday.
Sounds like a photo op for Althouse + Meade. And speaking of Althouse + Meade photo ops, that state worker is identified by Peterson (the balloon owner) as Ron Blair, an assistant facilities director at the Capitol, and — as I noted in yesterday's post — Meade got shoved by Blair last March, caught on video here:
At 0:58, the supervisor pushes Meade. At 2:20, the supervisor expresses the theory that Meade "want[s] a confrontation" then admits that he put his hands on Meade, which might have been "a sin." Meade says, "I'm not talking about a sin. I'm talking about a tort." The supervisor tells Meade to "go away."...

9:34: Meade asks, "When did [the protesters] catch on to the idea that they should use blue painter's tape?" Worker: "I'm not sure." Supervisor: "Just don't give him any comments... probably not the press, because he's no credentials, but just another one of the bloggers."
I'm just one of the bloggers, pointing out that we saw Blair get pushy last March.

And let me add that I think protesters releasing helium-filled balloons inside the Capitol is a serious problem that the building managers need to control. Now that you don't have to go through a security check to get into the building, it can be a terrible problem. A thousand protesters holding balloons could march into the rotunda at any moment and release a thousand balloons that float up into the space under the dome, which is 280 feet in the air. I'm sure they'd think that was amusing/heart-lifting/justified, but it cannot be tolerated. It damages the building, and it will cost a lot of money and effort to undo. If it is not undone, it creates a free-speech forum, and the state will need to tolerate future balloons representing the full spectrum of messages, and the dome will become the world's most ridiculous gigantic, inverted pile of litter.

How to comment at Instapundit.

Vote in (or view) one of his polls. You can comment at the poll results page.

That link goes to today's GOP 2012 nominee poll. Yesterday, he had this poll, with fewer options. And tons of comments at the results page. 136 pages of comments! I was going to copy and paste Meade's comment... but it's too hard to find. He tells me he wrote "Jeb Bush/Rob Portman" with a link to this article by Juan Williams ("The Perfect GOP Ticket In 2012 Would Have Jeb Bush and Rob Portman's Names On It"):
Bush and Portman can’t be marginalized as Tea Party extremists but they can spout enough hot rhetoric to stir the base. They are also perfectly acceptable to the social, economic and foreign policy conservatives in the Republican camp. The Bush-Portman ticket would satisfy the William F. Buckley rule for Republican Primary voters — pick the most conservative candidate who can win.

"The White House is now on the sidelines."

I haven't felt like linking to David Brooks in a long time, but this column about Obama's negotiating on the debt is pretty useful:
[T]he White House negotiating process was inadequate. Neither the president nor the House speaker ever wrote down and released their negotiating positions. Everything was mysterious, shifting and slippery. One day the president was agreeing to an $800 billion revenue increase; the next day he was asking for $400 billion more. Spending cuts that seemed to be part of the package suddenly seemed hollow. Negotiating partners disappeared.

It was phenomenally hard to figure out exactly who was offering what. Democrats in Congress were kept in the dark and were understandably suspicious. It was all a recipe for misunderstandings, hurt feelings and collapse.

... [T]he president lost his cool. Obama never should have gone in front of the cameras just minutes after the talks faltered Friday evening. His appearance was suffused with that “I’m the only mature person in Washington” condescension that drives everybody else crazy. Obama lectured the leaders of the House and Senate in the sort of patronizing tone that a junior high principal might use with immature delinquents. He talked about unreturned phone calls and being left at the altar, personalizing the issue like a spurned prom date.

Obama’s Friday appearance had a gigantic unintended consequence. It brought members of Congress together. They decided to take control.
And isn't that how it should be? Let Congress write the legislation. The President has a veto power to be exercised or not... after he is presented with the product of Congress's complicated work. Why should he be in charge at the front end, trapping legislators trapped in the territory of the White House — or Camp David! — using his power and prestige to humble them?

In fact, now — as Brooks notes — Boehner and Reid are presenting written proposals that we the people can look at and judge.
Boehner released a plan that involved statutory spending caps with an enforcement mechanism to make sure the cuts are real. Reid released a plan involving bigger long-term spending cuts, with much of the heavy lifting done by a bipartisan select committee. These two carefully coordinated plans are different, but they naturally fit together....

This should be a humbling moment for the White House, and maybe a learning experience. 
It shouldn't have to be called humbling. I think the President was trying to humble Congress. That shouldn't work and it didn't work.

A toast to separation of powers!

"A toddler was found wandering alone in Battery Park City yesterday -- hours after his troubled mother was taken to a hospital, cops said."

"It took nine hours before police realized Trevon Frazier, 3, was on his own, officials said. The tot was discovered at 9:30 a.m. inside Teardrop Park, a 2-acre green space between Warren and Murray streets by North End Avenue, officials said."

First, some numbers are missing from this NY Post story. It took 9 hours for the police to realize they taken the mother away from a toddler, but how many more hours passed before they found the child?

So, a 3-year-old was wandering around in this busy part of Manhattan for (presumably) far longer than 9 hours, and in all that time, no one helped him. I mean, it's great that no one hurt him, but why didn't anyone help him?

Perhaps he was skilled at hiding. (The mother is "emotionally disturbed," we're told.) I anticipate that some of you will say that people these days are afraid to go up to a child, because they imagine that they might be accused of child molestation or kidnapping. But think about how you would help a child in the situation. I look around when I'm in public. I notice children. When I see a child that seems to have a problem, I look around to see if he is attended. You don't go right up to a child, but you can start talking to the adults in the area about whether this child is alone. If you are male and feel especially vulnerable to accusations, see if there is a woman nearby, talk to her, and enlist her help. Or bring other men into the rescue effort. If there are no other adults anywhere around, you have a moral responsibility to approach the child somehow and try to help — especially in the city, especially at night. What is wrong with people?

Anders Behring Breivik says "the rest of the world doesn’t understand his point of view, but in 60 years time, they’ll understand him."

"He believes that he is in a war and in a war you can do things like that... He has a view of reality that is very difficult to explain... I cannot describe him because he is not like anyone... This was an attack on the Labor Party.”

Says the Norwegian terrorist's lawyer.

But speaking of views of reality that are very difficult to explain, for murdering 86 human beings, Breivik faces a prison sentence of merely 21 years. According to the linked article, prosecutors are considering charging Breivik with "crimes against humanity," and that would push the maximum sentence up to a big 30 years.

"Why would a tiny woman with no criminal record, who worked 10 years on Wall Street..."

"... randomly hold up people at gunpoint at night dressed as a policewoman?"

(This story is the perfect antidote to all the recent stories about women falsely accusing men of rape. Assuming the NYT is getting the facts straight, a woman who has truthfully accused a man of rape is falsely and successfully accused of going on an armed robbery spree.)

CORRECTION: Somehow I managed to write "anecdote" for "antidote."

At the Capitol Café...

... we can gaze off into the distance.

July 25, 2011

Obama spoke on the debt crisis again tonight, and Boehner spoke too.

I'd say Boehner won. Here are the President's remarks. His favorite word was compromise:
... I’ve told leaders of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days that can pass both houses of Congress -– and a compromise that I can sign.  I’m confident we can reach this compromise.  Despite our disagreements, Republican leaders and I have found common ground before.  And I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress.
I don't believe he believes that. Is he putting politics aside?
... [D]o you know what people are fed up with most of all?

They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word....

The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.  So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard.  If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know.  If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.

America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise.  
I had to stop and think: Is America really about compromise? I thought of the Missouri Compromise. And the Three-Fifths Compromise. Maybe compromise is a dirty word for a good reason!

Here's Boehner's speech. Excerpt:
I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all.

Unfortunately, the president would not take yes for an answer. Even when we thought we might be close on an agreement, the president's demands changed.

The president has often said we need a "balanced" approach -- which in Washington means: we spend more... you pay more. Having run a small business, I know those tax increases will destroy jobs.
ADDED: "Obama refuses to sign short-term debt-ceiling hike, said DC raised 18 times under Reagan. How long-term were those?"

Rebecca Watson says she had "a weird time on Bloggingheads" with me.

I enjoyed the conversation and tried to keep it interesting and enjoyable, and I had the impression that she was enjoying talking too. We went 10 minutes over an hour, and afterwards we talked, and she said she enjoyed it. So it's weird for me to read this.
Things didn’t go as I planned, though. While Althouse agreed with me that Dawkins was out of line and my sentiments were fair, she kept saying things that required me to unpack a lot of stuff before moving on. 
Wow! That sounds like good conversation to me. I would love it if someone would talk to me in a way that invited me to go places where I hadn't planned.
For instance, she agreed that Dawkins was smug, but aren’t all atheists smug and that’s kind of the problem? 
Actually, the discussion of the smugness of atheists came long before there was anything about Dawkins. And I never said Dawkins was smug. I was interested in talking about the way Dawkins turned something relatively minor and light into an viral internet event. It was, in fact, Rebecca who introduced the idea that atheists are smug. It was in response to my question why atheists congregate:

See? I just laughed when she said it. A little later, when she's talking about wanting to teach the convention atheists about their sexism, I asked a somewhat elaborate question that includes a reference to the smugness she had mentioned. That was in the context of saying that maybe atheists feel particularly advanced intellectually and might imagine that they can be a little edgy on the subject of gender without deserving (like lesser folk) to be thought of as sexist:

Her response, as you can hear in that clip is to switch to attacking religious people as more smug. As she says at her blog post:
So I had to back up and explain that no, atheists are not all smug just because they think they know the truth. Religious people, I tried to explain, think they know the truth and further many think that others who don’t know the truth are going to burn in Hell when they die. I would have gone on to explain how these same people believe this entire Universe was created especially for them, and what’s more smug than that, but Althouse kept interrupting me.
Okay, I do cut in, but I think I do it gently, trying to bring her back to the question, which wasn't who's smugger, atheists or religious folk, but whether possibly atheists feel less constrained in talking about gender matters. I could have been much more forceful in pointing out that she changed the subject and ran away from looking deeply into the minds of the atheists, instead preferring to drag in a convenient punching bag: those terrible religionists who think other people are going to hell. But I thought I was serving up pretty rich opportunities for her to show her stuff as an excellent spontaneous thinker and speaker (which is what I'm always trying to find for Bloggingheads).

This reminds me. I forgot to ask her a question I wanted to ask about the atheist in the elevator — the man who asked her if she'd like to come to his room for coffee. I wanted to know what she said to him at the time. We know that later, she slammed him in a blog post. And now, here I am, slammed in a blog post of hers days after the encounter. So I'm kind of empathizing with the elevator guy.

Email me, elevator guy!

Only human brains shrink with age.

"We are very weird animals... Among neuroscientists, the assumption has been that species are all the same, but this shows there is something really unusual about the late-life biology of the human species."

Balloons and blood in the Wisconsin State Capitol.

"The incident allegedly involved a citizen, a state worker and a balloon..."
Protesters have been releasing red heart balloons throughout the months of demonstrations... More than a dozen balloons were released in the rotunda Friday, but all of those had been removed by Monday morning.

The protester involved in Monday's incident told a Capitol police officer that the worker came at her with a knife. She did not appear to be injured, but was holding a blood-smeared paper bag and what looked like popped red heart balloon.

Other protesters who had been attending the daily singalong in the rotunda told the State Journal that the worker said he was sick of removing balloons from the dome and attempted to pop it. They said he apparently stabbed or cut himself in the process....

More balloons were released in the rotunda Monday afternoon after the incident.
The words that jump off the page are "came at her with a knife," but if you settle down and read that carefully, it seems more likely that you have an exasperated state worker clumsily attacking a balloon. Obviously, an actual knife attack would be terrible, but it doesn't sound as though that's what happened. On the other hand, deliberately releasing balloons inside the rotunda is vandalism. It's not cute and fun-loving. Dealing with this new "protests" is wasting state money and, apparently, upsetting at least one state worker.

UPDATE: Here's the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"The citizen allegedly brought a balloon into the Capitol and the state employee allegedly broke the balloon. The state employee indicated that before the incident he slipped on the stairs and cut his hand," a statement released by the Department of Administration said. The statement made no mention of how the employee cut his hand or broke the balloon.

The citizen...  said... an assistant facilities director in the Capitol, approached her with a knife and slashed her balloon. She said that when the incident occurred [he] had a handkerchief over his hand, which was bleeding.
So the approach with the knife, it seems, was about popping balloons to prevent the troublesome release into the dome. No one was attacked or threatened, and the state worker carrying out the balloon-release prevention technique somehow managed to cut himself.

ADDED:  I have heard from an extremely trustworthy eyewitness that the police were talking to a weeping woman who claimed to have been assaulted.

AND: Blue Cheddar has some more detail:
Jenna says that she was standing with Leslie when Ron [Blair, the assistant facilities director,] approached “out of nowhere”. Leslie was holding a heart-shaped balloon that according to a @joevittie tweet, she had brought to give to a legislator. Jenna says Ron rushed at the balloon and popped it and then darted down a back stairway. In the course of the action Jenna says he did not say anything she could clearly hear, though he may have been mumbling.

Jenna says they were on the 2nd floor of the Capitol and he ran down to the 1st floor. She and Leslie followed close behind yelling at him and asking him why he popped the balloon. Jenna said he stopped at the 1st floor and turned. At this point they were very close, only “a couple of feet away” from Ron. Jenna says Ron lunged at Leslie grabbing her wrists and throwing her into a bathroom door. The force of the lunge was enough to push Leslie into the bathroom and he also came in the room with her. Jenna says that at this point Leslie started to scream and call “Help!”.
Interestingly, Ron Blair pushed Meade last March, as recorded in this video.

"Meddling in Other People's Diets Is 'Fun' and 'Inspiring.'"

Jacob Sullum has at Mark Bittman.
Who will determine what counts as "junk food" and what the appropriate tax rate is? How will the government make sure people are not evading the tax by making their own junk food at home or buying it in the black market? Is it fair or efficient to make lean, healthy people pay a premium for cookies, ice cream, and potato chips because other consumers do not exercise enough to burn off the calories they ingest? Don't worry, Bittman says: "We have experts who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be."

"My gay kids are more fun than my straight ones."

Says a woman with 4 sons, 2 of whom are gay, quoted in a NYT article about mothers who prod their gay kids to get married.

The woman is a 52-year-old California psychiatrist, and the gay sons are stepsons. The quote in the title above is prefaced by the statement "I don't have any girls." The hell! It's bad enough to go public comparing your kids to each other, saying who's "more fun." But the idea that gay sons are like daughters is too stupid to express. (And I am saying that as a person with 2 sons, one of whom is gay.)
To appease her, Mr. Breslow is willing to entertain the notion of a wedding-like celebration, which he sees as a party to celebrate his relationship.
Ugh! Don't appease her! And don't have parties to celebrate relationships! Either get married or don't. And if you do get married, don't assume you have to have a wedding event... even if your family will pay for it because you are the bride or — in your step-mother's twisted logic the bride-like man:
“But I don’t want a proper wedding,” [Breslow] added. “I want it to be really queer and outrageous and angry, with a punk-rock drag queen playing hardcore music and people being naked.”

Ms. Gray has a slightly different vision: “It would be very sophisticated and urban. And I would do the food, which would be very foodie California: maybe a mix of Jewish, which we are, and Dominican, which Dan is. Everything would be lovely and sophisticated and not tacky.”
Sophisticated, angry, naked, and untacky. Weddings!

Ezra Klein says the Republicans have won and now please can they stop?

Because "if they push it over the brink, they're likely to lose..."

There you have it. Ezra says you've won, now stop winning, or you'll lose.

Michelle Goldberg searches for a feminist theme in the Norwegian massacre.

Feminism is hard!

"The Undefeated" — that movie about Sarah Palin — unwittingly shows why she's not a good candidate for President.

As you know, I saw the movie last week and thought that as a movie, it was pretty bad. It's a separate question — though Palin fans have a hard time seeing it — whether the movie supplies us with material that is convincing on the subject of whether Palin should run for President.

The material — which impresses some people, even to the point of getting confused into thinking that the movie is good — shows Sarah Palin's rise to power in Alaska and her excellent achievements and immense popularity as governor. The problem is that all of this happened in the context of boldly and bravely challenging the corrupt Republican establishment. This made her very popular with Democrats in Alaska. She worked in a bipartisan way, mainly to extract money from oil and gas resources in Alaska, and that was popular with everyone, pushing her ratings above 80% in Alaska. She was raking in money for Alaskans and challenging the big corporations (and their inside dealings). What's not for Democrats to like?

But once McCain brought her in as the vice presidential nominee and she launched into ripping up Barack Obama, her ratings plummeted in Alaska. And non-Alaskans never got up to speed about the things that had made her popular in Alaska. Can the movie make up for that now? I don't see how.

Suppose Palin-haters or Palin-non-lovers went to see this movie and absorbed the information about what originally made her so popular in Alaska. They aren't going to start liking her. Even if they were fair enough to recognize her early achievements, those achievements don't translate into the presidential realm. Where are the big corporations with ties to corrupt Republicans that she's going to fight now?

More importantly, Governor Palin's greatness came through working with Democrats! How would President Palin work with congressional Republicans? It can't happen now. What made her great in Alaska is now lost. It was lost in Alaska, after the '08 election, which is why — the movie shows this — she had to resign as governor.

Democrats were central to Sarah Palin's greatness: That is the argument in the movie. If that is true, there is no greatness upon which to build a presidential bid.

"He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary."

"He wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution. He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”

Says the lawyer for Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered at least 93 persons in Norway last Friday.
The judge said Mr. Breivik had been charged under criminal law with “acts of terrorism,” including an attempt to “disturb or destroy the functions of society, such as the government” and to spread “serious fear” among the population.

Mr. Breivik was ordered to be held for the next eight weeks, the first four in solitary confinement. He told police what there were “two further cells in our organization,” reporters were told.
If a person acted alone but wanted to spread "serious fear," he'd have reason to say that there was an "organization" with various "cells."
In testimony, Mr. Heger said, Mr. Breivik had said he “believes that he needed to carry out these acts to save Norway” and western Europe from “cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.”...

The judge said Mr. Breivik had wished to “give a sharp signal” and inflict “the worst possible loss” on the Labor Party, accusing it of failing to prevent a “mass importing of Muslims” into Norway.