Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's The Matter With Harry?

Harry Reid continues to say the Senate will not seat anybody appointed by Illinois Rod Blagojevich. But it is not that simple. But I'm not sure the Reid and Senate could refuse to seat Burris. The Consitution gives the Senate the sole power as "Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members." Because this is an appointment and not an election, the first two parts do not apply - only Qualifications. And the Adam Clayton Powell case of 1969 seems to kill that idea. There the Supreme court said that the "Qualifications" mentioned in the Constitution are ONLY those qualifications found in the Consitution, such as age, citizenry, residency, etc. I guess the new Senator could take the oath and then be expelled by a 2/3 vote. The problem with all this is that Burris does not appear to have any taint of corruption. What reason would anyone have to say Burriss should not sit absent proof of his own corrupt activities?

Some argue that "qualifications" can include a judgment of whether the appointment was legal and valid. But the examples in the LA Times article to which I link regard elections, for which the Constituion give final judgment to the Senate. The appointment of Burris is not an election.

Upon Request

Someone has asked that I write a post about her. So here are two of my daughter's favorite Youtube videos:

And here is video that tells her what I think of her:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sometimes, They Blame the Victim

Andrew Sullivan links, with approval, to Rob Horning who says:

Shelter is something you consume; it’s not an investment. Bailing out homeowners is rewarding the people who treated housing as an investment and not a consumption good, a fulfillment of personal need. Preventing foreclosures is often a matter of rescuing people from their failure to properly assess risk, not from some unforeseen natural disaster. Let’s not pretend this is any different from bailing out imprudent or inept investment bankers.
Andrew agrees, saying:
Every time the government protects someone or some company from the consequences of their own economic profligacy, the chances of future profligacy increase. It's vital that the government let the Big Three automakers go down, and vital that only minimal help be given for those so greedy or so stupid that they took on loans they had no way to pay off.
In an e-mail to Andrew, I heartily disagreed:

I am sick of you and some of your readers lumping all those who cannot
pay their mortgages together. And I find it disturbing you suggest
they are stupid or greedy. Some people went to a mortgage broker (who
is supposedly an expert) and asked "How much can I afford?" The
mortgage broker, instead of abiding by any ethical or moral standard,
gave an unrealistic answer. The buyer believed the "expert" and is
now screwed. In a society increasingly complex financially, it should
be no surprise some people must rely on "experts" to advide them.
When you take your car to a mechanic, is it your fault if the mechanic
gives horrendous advice regarding the inner workigns of your car?
When you go to the doctor, is it your fault if he tells you you need a
chemotherapy when all you really needed was radiation therapy? I
admit that there a many people who tried to make a buck and are now
paying the piper. And I admit that it might be hard, even impossible,
to tell your greedy idiot from my reliant tyro. But I would expect
you to admit the existence of the latter, and perhaps suggest a
solution for them. Would you support lawsuits against incompetent
mortgage brokers for negligence? Or would you consider that another
example of our overly litigious society?

As for the big three, I would ask that you offer a solution for the
possibly milliions of innocent workers who were not the incompetent
managers and officers before you blithely say the government must let
them "go down." Your macroeconomic theories are cold comfort to those
living in their microeconomic worlds. Some say a tough-on-crime
conservative is a former soft-on-crime liberal who has been mugged.
Some might say a big-government liberal is a former small-government
conservative who has a hard time paying the bills. The change is
often the result of an action over which the individual most adversely
affected had no control. You and I, Andrew, can currently pay our
bills. Will you be so cavalier if, through no fault of your own, you
suddenly cannot?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How the Attorney General of Illinois Lost My Vote

Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General of Illinois has filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order with the Supreme Court of Illinois asking the Court to enjoin Governor Blagojevich "from acting as Governor of Illinois." In her brief, she is relying on the portion of the Illinois Constitution which holds that the Governor shall be replaced by a successor if he "is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability." Her entire case is based on her interpretation of the words "other disability." She claims, and I agree, that it is not limited to mental or physical disability. However, her argument is fundamentally flawed in that it applies to a Governor who is simply impaired in his ability to serve, no unable. Her brief even cites the dictionary definition of "to disable" as "to make unable, unfit, or disqualified." The examples listed in the Illinois Constitution clearly relate to cases where a Governor is literally unable to perform his duties. He is dead, or impeached, or has resigned, or is ineligible to serve. In none of these examples is the Governor simply "impaired" in his ability to serve.

Think of the result if Madigan's interpretation was found to be correct. Then, an accusation of corruption by anyone, or perhaps any accusation of unlawful acts, could lead to the overthrow of a Governor. If the Illinois Constitution wanted one branch of Government (the judiciary) to have such power over another (the Executive), it would be in the Constitution, as impeachment (the power of the legislative branch to have ultimate power over the executive) is.

What angers me is that Madigan must know she will lose. No Judge worth his or her salt is going to vote to remove a Governor based on an allegation, while the Governor is actually still able to fulfill his Constitutional duties. Blagojevich can still make nominations, sign laws, etc. A vast majority of the people might find it in bad taste that he continues to do these things, but that is what elections (and recall elections - if allowed by law) are for. If the legislature does not like an appointment (and if it has approval authority) it can reject it. If it does not like a Veto by the Governor, it can override it.

So Madigan has filed a very significant case she knows is without merit. Why? Politics. And that, while not as bad as Blagojevich's alleged actions, is an abuse of power.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gay Marriage

There is some talk over at The Atlantic about gay marriage and Mike Huckabee's appearance on Comedy Central. What no one talked about, and what pisses me off the most about the Right Wing opposition to gay marriage is the utter inconsistency with Right Wing arguments made in the 1980s about the perceived rampant sexual promiscuousness of gays. Now, when gays are saying they want the legal and social sexual limitations inherent in a marriage license, the Right Wing is saying no. So according to the Right, gays are too promiscuous, but when they want to put legal restrictions on the number of permissible sexual partners, they are trying to destroy our society. I say to the Right Wing - pick a side, dammit.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The National Review And "Milk"

I haven't seen Gus Van Sant's new movie "Milk" about the gay San Francisco City Councilor who was assassinated. But reading Mark Hemingway's review of the movie in the National Review demonstrates how some people can't let themselves enjoy a movie if it does not fit their political viewpoint, even if they actually did enjoy it. He says "the cast is uniformly excellent." Specifically, he describes Sean Penn's performance as "charismatic and disarming" and notes that Penn gives an "incredible performance." The one thing he does not like is the writing. He even complements the cinematography. So you would think that when he discusses the movie's Oscar chances Hemingway would argue that while it might merit acting and technical Oscars, it should get no kudos in the writing category. Instead, he gets snide, and writes "The March Oscar ceremony will doubtless be an insufferable parade of moral superiority, as the movie-industry lets America know that it voted for Milk as a statement against the rubes who voted for Proposition 8." Why can't he just admit that at Oscar time, the movie will justly receive a number of awards without a snippy comment? Because to do so would be committing the conservative heresy of admitting a liberal movie is, in some ways, worthy of praise. Maybe, the Academy will vote for Milk for the same reasons Hemingway, at least at first, seemed to enjoy the movie: it is very well acted and filmed.

I think I should have realized the review wasn't going to be artistically honest when Hemingway criticized Ann Hornaday's own review of Milk. She wrote, and Hemingway quotes, that "Once in a while, a movie arrives at such a perfect moment, its message and meaning so finely tuned to the current zeitgeist, that it seems less a cinematic event than a cosmic convergence, willed into being by a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars." I read this as a statement that the movie comes at the perfect cultural moment. But Hemingway can only think about whether the movie comes at the perfect political moment. In essence, he cannot review the movie as an artistic piece; he must inject his political biases.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mumbai or Bombay

Just last year, I found out that Bombay had become Mumbai - in 1995. Boy, am I out of touch with Indian politics. Anyway, Christopher Hitchens, who can be both entertaining and infuriating, was the latter in a recent column about Mumbai. He writes that "Hindu chauvinists . . . forcibly renamed" Bombay, "Mumbai." He then compares the name change to the change of Burma's name to "Myanmar" by a military junta. Andrew Sullivan then claims he will no longer use the name Mumbai based on Hitchens' column.

There is absolutely no reason anyone should not use the name "Mumbai."
According to the article to which Hitchens links, Mumbai (then Bombay)
held free and fair elections, and the winners chose to rename the city
because of their heritage and the perceived colonial reminders of
"Bombay." Hitchens unfairly states that they "forcibly renamed it." He
offers no evidence of any force other than majority rule. Under
Hitchens' theory, anytime a city changes its name, it has been the
victim of unreasonable "force." Moreover, according to Wikipedia and Hitchens' link, the name Mumbai is not new but has always been used by Marathi and

I noticed that one reason Hitchens gives for condemning the use of
"Mumbai" is that we should want "Bombay" to be a "cosmopolitan city
open to its own citizens and to the world - a city on the model of
Sarajevo or London or Beirut or Manhattan." I was struck by his use
of the name "Manhattan" and not "New York City." Perhaps he
recognizes that under his theory Hitchens will now refer only to the "New
Amsterdam Times," and the "New Amsterdam Yankees" as New York City was
renamed only after a war between England and the Netherlands, and not
by any vote, but by an arbitrary decision by the Duke of York. In
fact, this would seem to offer a better moral reason to use the old
"New Amsterdam" than the old "Bombay."

Furthermore, the comparison to the renaming of Burma is absurd. In
Burma, an overthrow of the government by a ruthless military junta led
to the name change. In Mumbai, a democratic process led to the name
change. The difference is self-evident.

I think a good rule of thumb would be that, without an extremely
compelling reason, if a city or country changes its name voluntarily
under democratic processes, we should use it. That would lead to the
continued the use of "Burma" but not the continued use of "Bombay."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just Let Us Enjoy The Damn Song, Will You!

Andrew links to a blogger named "Nige" who complains that Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" has "become all-purpose musical shorthand for any kind of vague spiritual yearning." He apparently thinks that a great song should only be appreciated by those who really "understand" it. What bunk! Hallelujah is a magnificent song. I posted about it over a year ago. I linked to a Rufus Wainwright version. John Cale's is also glorious. The song sets a mood perfectly. I fail to understand why Nige would have film makers, or singers, choose a song that is less able to set a mood just so he can feel that he is superior. It's like people who get angry that their favorite obscure singer hits the big time, because now they don't feel as special.

Another example of a song that sets a mood perfectly is the climax of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. Should artists stop using it because it is too good at setting a mood? Apparently Nige thinks so.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Maybe Obama Was Telling The Truth. Have You Considered That?

Fred Barnes tells us that Obama might be a "secret centrist." Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive is upset that Obama hasn't thrown a bone to the left - actually suggesting Obama should have appointed Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of State. You don't see the silly right and the ridiculous left agreeing very often, but they seem to on this issue. I'm most disappointed with the Left, however. When McCain/Palin were accusing Obama of being a Far-Left pacifist-socialist, I thought all of us on the Left knew it to be ridiculous. But, to my surprise, some bought what Palin was selling, with glee.

Guess what. McCain/Palin's accusations was absurd. If you were paying attention, you knew Obama was a pragmatic Center-Left politician. Finally we have a President whose words mean something. Obama said he would govern with help from all, and that is what he appears to be doing.