July 29th, 2015

Congress, Republicans, and conservatives: so now whatta we do?

In yesterday’s thread we talked about the problems in Congress between the GOP and conservatives. Today I want to highlight part of a comment by “Mark” that goes like this:

“McConnell’s gift is his brutally candid assessment of reality” and the flaw of conservatives is that our overwhelming desire for instant deployment of our principles overlooks the checks and balances that stand in our way. Ironically, those checks and balances are the part of a CONSERVATIVE framework laid out by our Founders. We conservatives act like petulant children who don’t like being told that major obstacles put what we want out of reach, or that smaller steps are the best we can do in the present.

For example in 2013 McConnell knew he couldn’t win the effort to block Obamacare funding. He didn’t want to fund Obamacare, but more importantly, he didn’t want the GOP to reinforce branding as the cruel party of government shutdown. Cruz was a fool to do the shutdown stunt, but it served his personal ambitions at the expense of the appeal of conservatism to the general electorate.

McConnell’s pragmatism needs to be comprehended and not derided in knee jerk declarations of “RINO.”

I’m fairly certain that a lot of readers here would disagree vehemently with Mark. But I think he is correct in his general point that conservatives’ “overwhelming desire for instant deployment of our principles overlooks the checks and balances that stand in our way.” That is something I’ve been writing about for years, although I never said it quite as elegantly and succinctly as Mark does right there.

For example, I keep seeing cries of “get rid of Boehner” and/or “get rid of McConnell.” But other than acting as a conservative pep rally firing up the base, the call to do this lacks some fairly important details such as how it could happen. When last I checked, both positions were elective offices voted on by colleagues, and unless there is widespread support for a challenge it has no chance of succeeding. Conservatives often accuse the establishment wing of the GOP of going for the empty gesture or kabuki theater (often a correct charge, by the way), but they themselves seem to be rather enthusiastic about their own empty gestures and kabuki theater.

For example, I happen to think highly of Ted Cruz: smart as a whip, articulate, bold, and a principled conservative with whom I agree on most issues. But I think his strategy is to appeal to the conservative base with gestures that are doomed to failure while at the same time offending most of his colleagues in the Senate (see this, for example). The reason is that Cruz lacks a power base, and the establishment is called “the establishment” for a reason: they have a power base, and they have the numbers.

That’s why I say that the way to combat the establishment in the Senate is to get more conservatives in there. If you can’t elect more conservatives right away, that means you have to work harder to convince people of the rightness of the conservative cause, raise more money, and expand conservative ideas into the forums of media, entertainment, and academia. If that’s not quick enough for you, that’s too bad, because the others have been playing this game for a long long time. And if you don’t care about winning control of Congress and think it’s a lost cause, then you have to have an alternate approach.

Then there’s what commenter “Jimmy J” wrote yesterday, which I think is right on the money and relevant to the whole question of what to do about Congress. Here’s an excerpt:

I once worked for a Naval Officer who thought like a politician. Whenever an issue or problem came up he would immediately go into this mode of thinking: What will the big brass think, what will SECDEF think, what will my sailors think, how will this be perceived in the civilian world, and the final piece of the puzzle – how can I address this and enhance my career?

It was a new experience for me. I had always been in operating units and our problems usually consisted of a mission and how we accomplished that mission. Except for directions or commands from higher authority, we never gave a second thought to how what we were doing to complete the mission would look to anyone else. That tour of duty (2 years) gave me an insight into how the Pentagon and Washington DC work…

IMO, that is why so much of what we see in our representatives seems so mystifying and horrifying. We see what appears to be a straightforward way to solve a problem, but we don’t see the checklists of donors, lobbyists, friends, other party members, journalists, personal preferences, career enhancement chances, etc., etc. that influence what actually happens.

The behavior is clearly endemic to politics. In that sense both parties are alike, and in fact ALL parties will always be alike, and nearly all politicians will be, as well. The problem is inherent, unavoidable, inevitable, baked in the cake, etc. Conservatives (or those who say they are conservative) are hardly immune, either, and anyone who goes into politics can (and probably will) end up this way even if the person doesn’t start out that way.

So what’s the solution? My attitude towards politics and politicians has long been a practical one. I’ll summarize it as this: don’t expect much, and vote for the ones least likely to do the worst damage. That means conservatives usually; next in line are Republicans. It’s really a rather simple decision most of the time. But it is a frustrating process because it doesn’t advance things very far, or at least it certainly hasn’t up to this point.

In terms of electoral politics, however, I see no alternative. Congress is never going to be composed of a majority—or anywhere near it—of principled people, much less principled conservatives.

What I don’t understand is why so many conservatives focus on rage at Republicans, as though they’re the biggest problem. They’re not. They’re just part of a much much bigger problem. Nor do I understand why so many conservatives say there’s no difference who you vote for, and that both parties are the same. They are not, and although they share many characteristics (as I’ve noted above), the Democrats and the left do more damage in the long run. So why enable them with your vote, or with your abstention from voting?

[NOTE: Also see commenter Eric’s response to Jimmy J.]

July 29th, 2015

How big is Africa?

Much bigger than you thought.

Or at least, it’s much bigger than I thought.

How big? This big:


I don’t know how well you can see what’s inside the map, but it’s the US, most of Europe, China, India, and Japan.

[ADDENDUM: More information on this can be found here.]

July 28th, 2015

Can he really feel your pain?

Here’s an article about Dr. Joel Salinas, a Boston neurologist with mirror touch synesthesia, which is the sensation, when watching other people, of perceiving that “whatever touches their body [is felt] on my own body as well and it’s kind of reflected as a mirror.”

Seems a little suspect; how do we know it’s not just having a lively imagination crossed with a great deal of empathy?—although in my experience, “a great deal of empathy” would be unusual among neurologists, who may self-select for lack of empathy due to the number of extraordinarily difficult and incurable progressive and debilitating diseases and conditions they almost inevitably see in their patients.

Here’s a more scientific definition of mirror-touch synesthesia:

Three conditions must be met in order to confirm the presence of mirror touch synesthesia. The first condition is that the synaesthetic response, which is defined as the sensation synesthetes feel after observing someone else being touched, should feel like conscious experiences. The second condition is that synesthetic responses are induced by a stimulus that normally does not induce that response. The third condition is that the synesthetic experiences must occur automatically, without conscious thought.

There is some experimental verification for the phenomenon. For example, subjects with the condition who watch someone else being touched on the cheek while also being touched on their own cheek experience a higher than chance number of errors as to which side it’s happening on, depending on what they’re watching.

It’s not really about pain, but more often about touch. Studies estimate its prevalence in the population as being around 1.5 to 2.5 percent. What’s more, the empathy thing I mentioned is not unrelated:

Mirror touch synesthetes have a higher ability to feel empathy than non-synesthetes, and can therefore feel the same emotions that someone else may be observed to feel.

The latter, however, is an intensification of what many or even most people experience when seeing someone who is crying, or anxious, or upset in some other way. To a certain extent we pick up on the feelings, both negative and positive, of people we counter all the time. Some of us are much less sensitive to it, some more. I’m usually (although not always) in that latter group, so much so that I sometimes have to purposely block it out in order to function in the world.

[NOTE: I was drawn to the headline because, back during the days of my neurological injuries and chronic pain, I used to go to a lot of orthopedists, neurologists, and neurosurgeons, and I used to fantasize about having some sort of machine I could put them in that would simulate the pain I felt so that they could feel it and understand, if only for a minute or so.]

July 28th, 2015

What’s going on with the Republican leadership in Congress?

There’s been so much news lately about intra-Republican wars in Congress between the GOP regulars and the conservatives (such as McConnell and Ted Cruz, respectively) that it’s hard to sort out. In fact, I spent several hours last night reading article after article about it and came out of the experience with a singular lack of clarity and a huge amount of frustration, not only with the situation itself but with the unclear and shallow way it’s being written about.

It’s almost impossible to untangle the massively knotted skein of what’s actually happening. I don’t mean what the right is saying is happening, or what the establishment is saying is happening, or what the left is saying is happening, or the MSM, or various blogs on the right. I mean trying to figure out the truth. What are the goals and motives of each side—particularly the decidedly unsympathetic McConnell—besides the givens of gaining power and money, that is?

This Politico article is one of the few pieces that tries to explain how McConnell got to the pinnacle of power that he’s reached. It’s a mystery to most of us way-outside-the-beltway folks, who look at him and see a guy who looks uncharismatic, unappealing, and doesn’t radiate Machiavellian power. He almost fades into the background; the nickname “turtle” seems fairly descriptive.

But of course it’s not:

…[McConnell] achieved his iron-fisted grip on the politics of his home state and his fractious party on Capitol Hill through discipline, cunning and, oftentimes, fear. Which is why, at the moments that have found him happiest—winning elections, blocking bills, denying the sheen of bipartisanship to President Barack Obama—he has radiated not joy but menace. Stepping to the microphones at a Capitol press conference some years ago, he announced with the slightest trace of a smile, “Darth Vader has arrived.”

Conservatives dislike him a great deal: he likes to bluster and then to compromise and cave. Not to cave to them, but to the Democrats. That’s seen as a series of unforced errors, and conservatives are angry about it (that includes me, by the way).

McConnell started out in politics as a moderate Republican in a blueish state, and as time went on he moved to the right. But that change has seemed to be less about ideology and principle and more about politics and power.

In a state that was predominately Democratic, being a moderate was the only way to get elected as a Republican. But over the years, as the national GOP moved rightward, McConnell, whose ideology was power, moved with it.

So, why did he become a Senate leader in the party?:

Although registered Democrats still outnumber registered Republicans, Kentucky’s eight-member congressional delegation contains only one Democrat, and Democrats have not had a federal statewide candidate win there since President Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996. “There are now three or four generations of Kentucky political leaders who count McConnell as their mentor,” says Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former Senate chief of staff, who is now a senior adviser to the minority leader’s embattled campaign.

When Senate Republicans elected McConnell as their leader in 2006, they did so very much because of his reputation as a party-builder with a killer instinct.

He did block Obama’s agenda when he was Minority Leader, enforcing party discipline. But now that he’s Majority Leader, the task is different and his clashes with the conservative wing expose the fact that ideologically he’s not really a conservative at all.

Here’s another description:

Even for a politician long hailed for his pragmatism—“McConnell’s gift is his brutally candid assessment of reality,” Dyche says—his rapprochement with Paul is remarkable, and in some respects risky. “It’s so transparently cynical that it feeds into the whole ‘he’ll do anything to keep power’ charge,” one McConnell loyalist told me. “And I think, given his lack of personality, that’s what makes him vulnerable.

Mike Lee and Ted Cruz have been fighting McConnell for quite some time, as the article shows. They’re still fighting

More here and here about the Senate infighting.

But the infighting between conservative Republicans and establishment Republicans isn’t limited to the Senate. The House has gotten into the act too on the highway bill and its amendments or lack thereof.

Some of this is a disagreement in political strategy. As best I can piece it together, one of McDonnell’s motives (besides the aforementioned power/money) is that he believes that in 2016 it will be beneficial to Republican candidates to be able to point to a record in this Congress of a modicum of cooperation rather than blocking Obama or introducing more extreme bills. I think that approach is wrong, both because people will still view Republicans-lite as evil Republicans, and because if McConnell angers the base any further he loses them, and without them he can’t win.

People sometimes compare politics to watching sausage being made. But watching sausage-making sounds like a walk in the park compared to what’s going on in Congress right now.

July 27th, 2015

Is Hillary in trouble?

Perhaps a better question would be: how much trouble is she in? And: what difference will it make?

The answer I would give right now to both questions is the same: not much (trouble, or difference). But perhaps some.

As Mark Halperin points out, Sanders is rattling Clinton, and will deplete more of her resources to fight him than she expected to have to expend at this point. What’s more, he’s pulling her to the left, which could hurt her with whatever remains of the middle.

That said, I continue to believe that she will be nominated (Halperin agrees), and that most Democrats would not even think of voting for a Republican in the general, whoever that Republican might be.

There are some lessons here, however. The first is that Clinton is a paradoxical candidate. On the one hand, she’s just not likeable, even with many Democrats. But as Obama famously put it (although he meant it to be a put-down), she may indeed be “likeable enough”—likeable enough, that is, to win the nomination and to win the presidency.

The second is that (and conservatives who are angry at the GOP, please take note) the way to win the fight is to pull a party to your side, not to form a third party. In the case of the Democrats, this meant that someone like Bernie Sanders, who is actually a socialist, is working within the mainstream Democratic Party right now rather than becoming the nominee of the Socialist Party or any other third party. Third parties in this country tend to act as spoilers in elections. But influencing a party within that party (as the left has done to the Democrats) can be very effective.

Whether or not the socialist Norman Thomas said in 1944 what he is commonly quoted as having said, it has been happening for many many decades:

The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of ‘liberalism,’ they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” [Thomas] went on to say: “I no longer need to run as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party. The Democratic Party has adopted our platform.”

As Upton Sinclair—who had run for office in California first as a Socialist and then as a Democrat—once wrote to Thomas:

The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to ‘End Poverty in California’ I got 879,000.

Nationally, Bernie Sanders would be next to nowhere as a Socialist—except in Vermont, where he ran as a third-party candidate initially and then as an Independent; see his Wiki bio for more of the scoop on his electoral history, and the arrangement he has with the Democratic leadership in the Senate. But as a Democrat he’s doing rather well on the national scene.

July 27th, 2015

True-blue Virginia. And then there’s Florida.

Right on schedule, Virginia is turning into a blue state as a result of immigration:

Each year the federal government prints millions of visas and distributes these admission tickets to the poorest and least-developed nations in the world…

A census study entitled “Immigrants in Virginia,” released by University of Virginia (UVA) researchers, documented the phenomenon: “Until 1970, only 1 in 100 Virginians was born outside of the United States; by 2012, 1 in every 9 Virginians is foreign-born.”…

UVA’s report explains that more than three out of four of Virginia immigrants (77 percent) are coming from either Latin America or Asia—immigration from Europe, the report writes, “lag[s] far behind” representing only 10 percent of Virginia’s immigrant population. This is consistent with trends nationwide. According to the 2013 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Yearbook, only 8.7 percent of green cards issued by the federal government went to immigrants born in Europe, a product of immigration changes pushed through by Ted Kennedy in 1965.

DHS’ yearbook, however, does not provide information on parental nativity– in other words, it doesn’t say whether an immigrant from the United Kingdom may be the child of Saudi parents.

Additionally, according to DHS, of those refugees issued admissions slips into the United States, 75 percent came from four countries– Iraq, Burma, Somalia and Bhutan– while another 15 percent came from Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Dominican Republic.

Large numbers of these settlers handpicked by the federal government have come to Virginia.

This has been done with little national fanfare (I have no idea whether it’s a big deal locally), and with no need for the locals to acquiesce at the change in their community and little opportunity for meaningful action against it. I strongly suspect that, if people there do protest, they are shouted down as racists.

It’s a brilliant approach by the left. It works, and by the time anyone is aware of what it means, the demographics and politics of a state have changed—perhaps forever, as seemingly happened in California.

Speaking of California, please refresh your memory on the history of Proposition 187 there. Some day I hope to write a longer post on the subject, although today isn’t that day. Today I’ll just mention that Proposition 187 was passed in California in 1994 and nicknamed “Save Our State.” It was designed to halt the benefits already flowing in California to illegal immigrants. Although it passed by the wide margin of approximately 59% to 41%, ultimately the will of the people didn’t stick, because of a concerted legal assault by the left in the federal court system, and the failure of a Democrat as governor, Gray Davis (who succeeded Republican Pete Wilson) to defend it there.

Sound familiar?

One more thing—there’s another article today about a somewhat different kind of immigration that might be influencing the political makeup of a very important swing state. This time we’re talking about Florida, which is experiencing an enormous influx of people fleeing economic problems in Puerto Rico. They are already citizens, and although when living in Puerto Rico they cannot vote in presidential elections, once they become residents of Florida they are like any other (non-felonious) citizen who resides there, and they can.

Interestingly enough, however, it’s not clear which party most of the new arrivals affiliate with. At least, that’s what the WaPo article says:

Puerto Rican voters tend to lean Democratic, but a great number of the newcomers do not identify with any party, making them appealing targets for politicians and recruiters on both sides.

And, according to the article, both parties are courting them with vigor.

July 26th, 2015

Cornhead on Carly

Here’s a Powerline post written by commenter “Cornhead,” about his visit to Iowa to see Carly Fiorina speak.

He was impressed.

July 25th, 2015

The Royal class

Let’s take a look at some beauty.

This is a video of company class at one of the best ballet companies in the world, Britain’s Royal Ballet. “Company class” means it’s a class that’s taken by the company members, who are professional ballet dancers. But the class itself is very much like most of the ballet classes I’ve taken in my life, a goodly portion of which were taught by British teachers.

I described the progression of a ballet class in this previous post. A class is carefully designed to warm up the body in a progression of exercises aimed to stretch, strengthen, protect, and build, and it is composed of equal parts hard hard work and enjoyable artistry. It goes from small movements at the barre to bigger ones, then to smaller (and slower) movements in the center to bigger ones, culminating in large jumps and movements across the room in a diagonal and in a circle.

The video is long, so I’m starting it at a point late in the class in order to show you some of the big jumps and the diagonals and circle movements.

A few comments. Note how very young the women look (and are, for the most part). Shorn of their stage makeup, costumes, and glamor, extremely slender but strong, with small sleek torsos and long strong legs, they have a purity and a dedication that lends them the air of acolytes in some secular artistic/athletic church. The men are likewise sleek and strong, and not especially big, but when they jump you can tell that ballet doesn’t consider the sexes the same. The men’s movements are large and bold, despite their grace, and many of them add special little fillips and tricks at the end of the combinations.

Each person is in his/her little world, a world in which, unlike with a stage performance, they don’t have to worry about projecting to an audience. The mirror is their audience–that, the other dancers and the teacher. But in a class it’s possible to dance for the sheer joy of it, and I think what comes through loud and clear is what a wonder it is to be able to soar through the air with such control, making your body a thing of beauty and line and echoing the music.

I was not as good a dancer as they are, of course. But I was good enough that I felt that feeling regularly, and there’s nothing in the world quite like it.

Note also the teacher, mirroring in a smaller way with his body and hands and facial expression the ebb and flow of the movement, coaxing more out of the students, watching them intently and lovingly. He choreographs a little dance for each exercise, over and over again, teaches it to them quickly, and then watches and moves on to the next.

Standouts: the guy at 1:14:52 is quite a turner, as is the girl in the light-colored leotard and dark skirt at 1:15:40 who executes a series of fouettes and does periodic doubles with her hands on hips. What a natural turner! What speed around a plumb-straight line!

July 25th, 2015

The problem of the problem of whiteness

Here’s a really long (I confess I stopped reading it about halfway through) article called, “White people have a race — but everyone flips out when we talk about it.”

The piece begins with a description of a course taught at Arizona State by a professor of English named Lee Bebout, who is white himself. The name of the course is “US Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness,” and this was his motivation in teaching it:

I can study Chicano studies, I can do critical race theory to some degree, but without understanding whiteness, it felt like there was this big gap that I wasn’t able to understand in the field.

Bebout was surprised at the intensity of the negative backlash (he even received some death threats from white supremacists, which is to be strongly condemned). But the Vox piece asserts that those who were incensed at him misunderstood the focus of his course:

The people campaigning against the course were incensed at what they understood to be an entire semester dedicated to slamming white people. But the Problem of Whiteness wasn’t designed to convince students that white people are a problem. The negative language in the course’s title was simply a nod to how tough it can be to talk (or even think) about what it means to be white, when white is so deeply etched in the minds of many Americans as a synonym for “raceless” or “neutral.” The reaction to the course seemed to prove this thesis.

And here I thought that Bebout was an English professor. If so, and if his intent was as stated, why not call the course “The problem of talking about whiteness”? Instead, it was called “The problem of whiteness,” and so I think it’s understandable that people thought it was about—you know—the problem of whiteness.

Or perhaps some of those who objected had read Bebout’s reading list:

Bebout’s assigned reading list included books that had been around for years: The Possessive Investment in Whiteness (1998), Critical Race Theory (1996), The Everyday Language of White Racism (2008), Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1993), and more.

I confess to not having read those works. But they certainly sound very negative about whiteness. And I suspect that “US Race Theory,” which did not come up when I Googled it, is actually what is known as “Critical race theory” (or CRT) which is defined thusly and also the title of one of Bebout’s reading list books:

The movement is loosely unified by two common themes. First, CRT proposes that white supremacy and racial power are maintained over time, and in particular, that the law may play a role in this process. Second, CRT work has investigated the possibility of transforming the relationship between law and racial power, and more broadly, pursues a project of achieving racial emancipation and anti-subordination.

Appearing in U.S. law schools in the mid- to late 1980s, critical race theory began as a reaction to critical legal studies.[4] Scholars such as Derrick Bell applauded the focus of civil rights scholarship on race, but were deeply critical of civil rights scholars’ commitment to colorblindness and their focus on intentional discrimination, rather than a broader focus on the conditions of racial inequality…

According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs:

“CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.”

Ah, but I’m sure that Bebout’s course was merely an attempt to have a neutral, non-judgmental dialogue about whiteness.

July 25th, 2015

Obstructionism and how it works (or doesn’t work)

In the impeachment thread, commenter “Matt_SE” had an idea that sounds good:

There are two types of victories to be had: legislative and political. If you can’t get the former, then go for the latter.
That USED to be the plan, before McConnell’s Senate proved to be so spineless. It was obvious from the beginning that we didn’t have 67 votes, and that Democratic lockstep wouldn’t usually allow crossover votes.
No matter.
The point was to pass popular bills that Obama hated, have him veto them, then put Senate Democrats on the record as opposing the will of the people.
It was the exact opposite of Reid’s stealth campaign of never allowing a vote on a bill Dems didn’t want.

Yes, but here’s the rub, as Hamlet would say. I’m well aware that the point was to pass popular bills and have Obama veto them. But there is an impediment to that plan of action: many such bills can’t get to the floor for a vote in the Senate because that would need 60 votes, and not enough Democrats would cross over to give the Republicans those 60. In that impeachment post I also explained what it would take to circumvent that problem, and why it may not be worth it; that’s why I discussed cloture at such great length. But I’ll repeat it, because it seems important:

And if McConnell were to change the Senate rules and say that suddenly they only needed a simple majority to pass bills there, it wouldn’t help to override a presidential veto anyway, which would still need to reach that nearly-impossible 2/3-vote threshold. All that would happen, therefore, is that the Republican Senate would have thrown away a rule and be subject to a huge amount of criticism in order to get more bills on Obama’s desk that he would then veto. Is it worth it? I don’t think so, and this is why.

Talk about kabuki theater! Yes, it would satisfy the angry conservative wing, but it would accomplish nothing other than paving the way for the Democrats. Why do I say that? Because in order for doing away with the 60-vote rule to actually accomplish anything in terms of legislation, a party has to have both a majority in the Senate (and House) and a president of the same party as that majority, so that bills won’t be vetoed. Historically speaking, the Democrats have been in that position since the FDR years far more often than the Republicans have.

In addition, there is little question in my mind that the vast majority of Americans are not following Obama’s vetoes with anything even remotely resembling the sort of attention we in the blogosphere give them. In fact, most people don’t pay any attention to that sort of thing. The publicity the Republicans would get from a series of Obama vetoes would be small, and it would mostly be noticed only by the news-junkie conservatives among us (I count myself as one of them). Most other people, if they noticed it at all, would take away from that entire exchange whatever it was that the MSM decided to impart to them, which would be something like this: “Republicans do away with time-honored Senate rule just to upset Obama, all to no avail.”

But, as I said, to most people it’s an arcane point of parliamentary procedure with little meaning. Maybe I’m wrong, but I challenge you to an experiment. Stop the next 100 people on the street, or your non-political-junkie friends, and ask them what happened to the Keystone bill. That was a very popular bill that Obama successfully vetoed because Congress couldn’t muster the votes for an override. How many will have a clue what happened to it?

Also, take a look at where those Keystone “nay” votes came from. It was almost entirely from true-blue states, with just an exception or two. There were very few senators from states where Keystone actually was popular who voted against it, and who would be at risk of disapproval if the people in their states were actually paying attention.

So as far as Matt_SE’s idea of the political approach of “put[ting] Senate Democrats on the record as opposing the will of the people” goes, it’s a good one except for one thing: lots of Senate Democrats can vote for these popular bills, as happened with Keystone (which was especially popular). The bill then goes to Obama’s desk. He vetoes it. Then it goes back to House and Senate, and probably all the Democratic senators where that bill is actually popular (those from red or purplish states, for example) can vote to override that veto. As long as just 36 Democratic senators hang tough against an override, the veto is not overridden and Obama wins. There are usually at least 18 states with 2 Democratic senators each where these bills are not so very popular and where Democratic senators voting against overriding a veto would not be at risk of being accused of opposing the people’s will.

That is the unpleasant reality Republicans face, even those who have a spine and want to do what it takes to undermine Obama’s agenda and to embarrass the Democrats as well.

[NOTE: By the way, if a Republican president were to be elected in 2016, and a Republican Senate is elected as well but is short of 60 Republican votes, the Republicans actually might end the cloture rule at that point because it would actually mean something. However, I strongly suspect that if the opposite were true, and a Democratic president and Democratic Senate short of 60 votes were to be elected, the Democrats would almost certainly end cloture themselves. But neither is the situation we find ourselves in at the moment.]

[ADDENDUM: Here’s a report on a plan by Mike Lee to jettison cloture for a vote in the Senate in order to pass a bill to abolish Obamacare that Obama will undoubtedly veto and will not be overriden.]

July 24th, 2015

Some interesting facts about Walt Whitman

I’m not a Whitman fan (no, that’s not one of the interesting facts), although I like some of his poems. But looking at his Wiki entry I noticed the following items, which somehow seemed worth mentioning:

When Whitman was 6 years old “he was lifted in the air and kissed on the cheek by the Marquis de Lafayette during a celebration in Brooklyn.”

Whitman’s formal schooling ended at the age of 11.

The first edition of Leaves of Grass was self-published, although it had this nifty engraving as the frontpiece:

Whitman was in his mid-thirties at the time, but he kept on revising Leaves of Grass as long as he lived.

Whitman worked at the US Attorney General’s office in DC right after the Civil War, where his job was “interviewing former Confederate soldiers for Presidential pardons.”

In 1871 “it was mistakenly reported that [Whitman had] died in a railroad accident.” He hadn’t.

In 1872 he gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth.

He lived at his brother’s house in Cambden, NJ, for about a decade after that, and it was there that he received a visit from Oscar Wilde.

People claim he was gay. People claim he was bisexual. He claimed he had 6 illegitimate children. No one really has a clue what his actual sexual history was, although I assume that he knew.

July 24th, 2015


In the Hillarywear thread I wrote that Carly Fiorina dresses with class and style, but I thought it might be a nice refresher to show, not tell (and yes, I must again add I’m well aware that this is a frivolous topic; big deal):





About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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