Musical interlude

I love Richard Rogers’ music. Slaughter on 10th Avenue comes from the musical On Your Toes, which opened in 1936, starring Ray Bolger and Tamara Geva.  Slaughter is a show within the show, telling the tale of a dance hall girl, a hoofer, and a fatal love triangle.  Gene Kelly and Vera Ellen did a rather overwrought version for the incredibly cheesy Lorenz Hart biopic Words and Music. I just like the music, though, and pass on to you this very good version, sans dancing:

Oh, to write like Mark Steyn

After noting Pelosi’s assurance that millions for STD treatment will help stimulate the economy (or, I might add, at least stimulate some libidos), Mark Steyn has this to say:

The more interviews Speaker Pelosi gives explaining how vital the STD industry is to restarting the U.S. economy, the more I find myself hearing “syphilis” every time she says “stimulus.” In late September, America was showing the first signs of “primary stimulus”—a few billion lesions popping up on the rarely glimpsed naughty bits of the economy: the subprime mortgage racket, the leverage kings. Now, the condition has metastasized in a mere four months into the advanced stages of “tertiary stimulus,” with trillions of hideous, ever more inflamed pustules sprouting in every nook and cranny as the central nervous system of the body politic crumbles into total insanity—until it seems entirely normal for the second-in-line of presidential succession to be on TV gibbering away about how vital the federalization of condom distribution is to economic recovery.

That is some mighty fine political writing.

What a cigarette will tell you about a man *UPDATED*

Are you getting the feeling that Obama, contrary to the hope hype, is a very grim, depressed man?   Since the precise moment of his inauguration, his every pronouncement has been redolent of hopelessness and anger.

My feeling is that, if Obama is going to style himself the second Roosevelt when it comes to American economics, he needs to focus not just on Roosevelt’s economic policies, but also on his style.  After all, the economic policies were a disaster, and almost certainly extended the Great Depression by years.  Rather than getting angered by Roosevelt’s perpetual failures to repair the economy, though, the American people were endlessly forgiving.  Why?  Because the public Roosevelt was perpetually jaunty and optimistic. Even as his policies dragged the economy down, down, down, his personality lifted the American people up.

Just think about one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Roosevelt presidency:

Roosevelt and his cigarette holder

Roosevelt and his cigarette holder

Could anything be more cheerful and energized than that uptilted chin and cheerful grin? The cigarette was an exclamation point to the happiness and energy he radiated.

Compare the ebullience of Roosevelt to the now famous picture of Obama smoking:

Obama and his cigarette

Obama and his cigarette

The two picture are like mirror images of each other. Everything about Obama droops — his eyes, the angle of his head, his shoulders. He looks grim, drab and depressed.

Now, I appreciate that these two photographs reflect milliseconds in time and that within milliseconds after the camera flashed, Roosevelt’s face could have turned down and Obama’s brightened up. But the fact is that those two pictures are of a piece with what we know about those men’s personalities.  In speech after speech, Roosevelt heartened the American people:

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

And then there are Obama’s statements, now that he’s no longer in hope-filled campaign mode and actually has to govern this messing, sprawling, vital country:

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

Wow.  That’s just from one speech (his inaugural), and came about 30 seconds into the speech.  Pardon me while I stick my head in the nearest gas oven.  Nor did it get better afterwards, as he wallowed in a muddle of cliches, wonkish proposals, slightly twisted historical references, and periodic strained attempts at uplift.

Nor have his speeches been better since then.  We’ve had threatening anger (as well as a stupid insistence on the end of business profitability):

There will be time for them [Wall Street Bankers] to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses,” Mr. Obama said during an appearance in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “Now’s not that time. And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them.

We’ve had unrelievedly grim economic forecasts:

President Barack Obama said the economy is “a continuing disaster” for families as he signed executive orders to strengthen unions and put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a task force on the middle class.

“The recession is deepening and the urgency of our economic crisis is growing,” Obama said at a White House ceremony, citing Commerce Department figures showing the economy shrank 3.8 percent at an annual pace in the last three months of 2008.

And we’ve had self-abasement and recrimination purportedly on behalf of all Americans:

And George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature. He is one of the few people who have international experience brokering peace deals.

And so what I told him is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating — in the past on some of these issues — and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved.

No wonder the Iranians are crowing about American weakness and passivity.  Obama embodies these failings, and promises to impose them on our nation.

In other words, everything that we see in that picture of Obama and his cigarette, we see in his speeches, predictions, threats and apologies.  He’s got all of Roosevelt’s vices (economic insanity) and none of his virtues (good cheer and optimism).  Americans like optimism, because they are essentially an optimistic people.  It is our national nature, and I do wonder how long it will be before they turn against this man, just as they turned against Carter, the last president to try to drag the American people into his own personal depression.

UPDATEBob Parks has yet another example of Obama’s grim rhetorical style.  Giving people reality checks is one thing.  Creating a sense of crisis to enhance the ability to carry out an agenda is also one thing.  But this unrelenting negativity is pathological and I think it transcends any agenda (although I don’t deny that the agenda is there).

UPDATE II:  I have learned since writing the above post that the picture of Obama was almost certainly photoshopped to add in a cigarette.  I don’t think that changes the substance of my post at all, which is about Obama’s negativity versus Roosevelt’s buoyancy, but it’s important to be accurate about things.

The Iranian government and I agree

I never thought I’d find myself in agreement with the Iranian government, but pigs are flying, and wisdom emanates from Tehran:

US President Barack Obama’s offer to talk to Iran shows that America’s policy of “domination” has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday.

“This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed,” Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

“Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change,” he added.

Actually, I don’t need to impute too much wisdom to the Iranian government. The slightly less than half of the nation that hadn’t let Obama worship rot its brain had figured this one out too.  I hope Israel still retains some cojones (and that the citizens elect Bibi), because Israel is all we’ve got left between us and a nuclear Iran.  Which reminds me of a bumpersticker I saw on a car a few months ago:  “Don’t worry, America.  Israel will protect you.”

Three things to read

First, read the Paragraph Farmer’s marvelous American Spectator essay about the way in which Obama, a lawyer and law professor, skillfully mangles the law to suit his political ideology.

Second, read Eric Cantor’s fact-filled statement about his no-vote on the power grab laboring under the name of a “stimulus bill.”

Third, think about getting yourself a copy of Threats in the Age of Obama, a collection of essays about the terrorism threats to the US that Obama will have to address, whether the Obamessiah wants to or not.  The Threats Watch guys are heavily involved in this book, and they explain a little bit about it here.

Oh, for a little cynicism *UPDATED*

James Taranto had a great deal of fun last year with Obama’s promise to do away with cynicism, even as he engaged in one of the most cynical campaigns ever.  But he was right in one way.  Cynicism is dead on the left, especially in the media.  Herewith a couple of rather striking examples.

Example number one is San Francisco magazine, which was prominently displayed at the liberal shopping shrine, Whole Foods.  (As an aside, while I think Whole Foods has some excellent products, I find creepy the air of reverence people bring to it.  Come on, guys.  You’re consumers, not worshipers.  But I digress….)  If you hurry over to the magazine’s website, you can see (in the lower right hand corner) a picture of this month’s cover.  The entire image is Obama’s smiling, big-eared head (and is it me, or does that picture look remarkably like this picture, big ears and all?).  Emblazoned over Obama’s headshot are these words:  “Democracy:  The Upgrade.”  Talk about “journalists” (a term I use advisedly) wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

You see the same juvenile infatuation in my second example, Maira Kalman’s picture/text love letter to Obama, published in the New York Times as a form of journalism.  In this blushing ode to the new era of wonderfulness, an ode Kalman entitles “Hallelujah,” she rhapsodizes about the exquisite pleasures of Washington, D.C. now that the pall of the Bush years has ended and the magic of Obama has begun.  Even the plastic flowers in the restroom have taken on a new glow.  D.C. — nay, the whole world, politics, everything — is once more “smart again.  And sexy again.  And optimistic again.”  After eight years of darkness, Kalman is can freely enjoy the little things in life:  ladies’ hats, pretty dresses, the aforementioned bathroom flowers.  The Messiah is here.

If you read the comments to this bizarre bit of art journalism, comments that at least have the virtue of coming from non-journalists, you see the same tone, with people waking from the endless nightmare of the Bush years.  Some examples:

You are so beautifully right about this–it was a day for angel song. In fact we had all become beautiful like angels, and had grown angel wings and could not, could not keep our feet from floating above the ground. Margaret

***

Watching on television, I felt a palpable lifting of a weight (yes, that’s a cliche, but I really felt it all day) that we now had an elected President. In your word: Hallelujah!

***

The Constitution is the hope of the United States and Obama is the hope of the Constitution.

***

Your images and words perfectly capture our rediscovery of hope and color. Thank you Maira.

***

the brillant [sic] colors and cool words give me a chance to relive and relive again this wonderful day – since i wasn’t there. hopefully this spirit of goodwill will be contagious thruout [sic] the world. the obamas [sic] have already wrought change!!

It’s one thing for ordinary, vapid newspaper readers to see in this goofy looking, cold-hearted guy a new Messiah who makes flowers bloom again, but it’s appalling that members of the media have voluntarily transformed themselves into quivering, bodice-heaving wenches drooling at the sight of the large-eared squire’s son, riding down the lane in his powerful, gas-guzzling SUV, as he races to his hot-house heated home, while they stand outside in the cold, gazing longingly at him through the glass.

No matter the president, no matter the policies, no matter the journalist’s personal political preferences, the only media that can function well is a cynical media, one that views with suspicion, at least on first pass, anything that emanates from the government.  As it is, just as with the rapturous virgin the media is now imitating, the media (and we Americans along with it) is going to find out that, once the wooing is over, we are all well and truly . . . plucked.

UPDATE:  Charles Martel is right.  “Skepticism” is a much better word than cynicism.  After the first paragraph, every time you see the word “cynical” or some variation, substitute “skeptical” or some variation.

There’s still life on the American frontier

It’s lovely to find that there are still stories about American self-sufficiency.  The following story comes from a community in the Sierra foothills, one that is becoming a bit more gentrified, but that is still solid America, especially if you hang out at Hog shops:

A Placer County inmate is back in custody after several people chased him and tackled him to the ground until police arrived.

Forty-nine-year-old David Todd had emerged from a field with his orange jumpsuit drenched in water, arousing the suspicion of customers and staff at a Harley-Davidson shop.

According to one of the people who pursued Todd, one man had a pair of handcuffs, which were used to restrain the inmate.

Please note, too, that there was no ugly vigilantism here.  Just citizens being aware and taking responsibility.

Are the experts ever right?

I still remember back in the 1970s when the news was filled with stories about a $50,000 study to prove the breast milk was good for babies.  For those of you too young to remember, back in those days, $50,000 was a lot of money.  Also, back in those days, there remained a few old-style media men who weren’t completely in thrall to the wonders of academics and experts and who could laugh at their excesses — and expect us to laugh as well.  As it was, though, I’m beginning to think that one of the great virtues of that study was that it was obvious from beginning, to middle, to end that the expert prediction was going to be right:  Mom’s milk was predicted to be good for babies and, by gum!, it was.

Maybe all these experts should stick to costly lactation studies because they seem to be wrong about every other damn thing they stick their noses into.  I won’t rehash global warming with you, but I will point out it came from the same expert line of thought that predicted global freezing in the 1970s.  I’ll also be polite enough to mention only in passing all those experts who assured us right up until the end of 1989 that the Soviet Union was monstrously strong and unlikely to collapse for any reason.  And we’ll just pretend it was a little mistake when foreign policy experts opined heavily that Iraq could not be won and that the Surge would be a disaster.

Today’s news again forces us to face just how inexpert those so-called experts are.  Given that the world is in a economic down-spiral because of the gloom-and-doom predictions emanating from experts, those same “experts” deserve to be slapped silly for overstating economic problems, thereby giving rise to even worse financial panic:

Steep slide in U.S. Economy, but Not as Dire as Forecast

The United States economy shrank at its fastest pace in a quarter century from October through December, the government reported on Friday, in the broadest accounting yet of the toll of the credit crisis. Consumer spending and business investment all but disappeared, and economists said the painful contraction was likely to continue at an alarming pace well into the summer.

The gross domestic product — a crucial measure of economic performance — shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline would have been much steeper — more than 5 percent — if shipments of goods had fallen as sharply as orders did.

What’s amusing is that at least one expert is spinning the story again (and I say this without any personal animus to the named expert, since I have no idea who he is, what he knows, or how prescient he has been):

“The difference between 3.8 and 5.1 percent is the inventory buildup,” Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, said. “My only explanation is that companies could not cut production fast enough.”

With inventory accumulation gone, the economy will contract in first quarter at more than a 5 percent annual rate, Mr. Gault predicted.

I know I’ll forget to do so in three months, but it would be interesting to see whether Mr. Gault’s prediction proves right this time around.

As I grow older, I become less enamored of Franklin D. Roosevelt, since I’ve come to understand how disastrous his financial policies were.  Nevertheless, he was a great leader, a true statesman, and he understood one of the key tenets of a stable society:  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Panic and despair are bad government

Barack’s letter to Mahmoud *UPDATED*

The comment Lulu1 left here is too good to be buried.  It deserves a post all its own, and this is that post.  Herewith, Lulu’s wonderful investigative research:

Through painstaking research I have managed to obtain a copy of Pres. Obama’s letter to Mahmoud.

Dear Mr. Ahmadinijad, or may I call you Mahmoud?,

I write to you as a very important man. I am, as we might say, the most important man. If I wanted, I could have your butt on a platter, but I am not a man of violence, Mr. A. I am a man of words. People swoon for me. Do they swoon for you, Mr. A? No, they do not.  You may think you bear a prophetic message. I AM a prophetic message. Soon I will heal the oceans. Hear me.

I say this. You’re gonna lay down that sword and shield- down by the riverside. Down by the riverside. Down by the riverside. You’re gonna lay down those nuclear aspirations, down by the riverside. Dowwwn by the ri-ver-side, and you aint gonna study war no more.  You’re gonna walk with that Prince of peace (that would be me) down by the riv-ver-side.  (I used aint to be folksy, Mr. A. As a Harvard grad, I certainly know  the correct grammar).

I know that I, as the leader of the free world, and you as the leader of the unfree world have much in common. We both dislike the US military. We both question Israel’s  legitimacy. But it is all a matter of nuance. Bakshi, Mr. A. Imsha Allah, Mr. A, we will unite our great peoples and work together to make the world a safer and better place ( I say “imsha Allah” not because I have any connection to Islam but because of respect for your culture and  traditions).

We here are a land of Christians and Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Confucionists, Atheists and Agnostics, Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian, 7th Day Adventist and Mormon, Sikh and Quaker, Catholic and Ba-hai, Nature worshiping and uh, Jewish- and we are stronger than you.

Let me warn you now, if you don’t immediately abandon your nuclear work and threats to wipe Israel off the map I’ll be forced to get tough. My ambassador at the UN will make sure that you become unpopular! We’ll make it unpleasant. You’ll see. But we won’t topple you like my pushy Texan, uncouth predecessor did with Saddam Hussein. So don’t worry about that. Even if the people of Iran want you out, we’ll support  your right to repress freedoms and imprison and torture your citizens but I really wish you’d stop building weapons of mass destruction.  Let’s work together to face a real threat. Let’s go tackle global warming together. Let’s talk. I can be verrry persuasive.

Yours,
Barack

Do I have the best readers, or what?

UPDATE:  In the comment line, you can see that I made a Freudian slip when I originally mis-named this post “Barack’s letter to Obama.”  In keeping with the concept of Freudian slips, here is the esteemed Obama, wordsmith extraordinaire, who never says a word that isn’t perfect and gem-like, urging American businesses to fail as part of their duty during the recession.

Cold, cold, cold, Part II

Last week, I blogged briefly about how cold I am all the time now that I’ve (finally) substituted muscle for some of the post-baby weight that was insulating me.  I’m also cold because I keep my house at 65 or below.  That’s not because I’m green crazy — you know I’m not — but because heating is expensive.

For that reason, it’s all the more galling to read about Obama’s despicable, but entirely unsurprising (given that he is, in his own mind, the Messiah) hypocrisy.  What a grotesque personality he is proving to be (although that’s again unsurprising to me, since I saw it coming a long time ago and from far away).

“Justice” run amok

Ironically enough, on the same day that I’m doing heavy duty statute of limitations research, Barack Obama signed his first law, one that changes in nightmarish ways the statute of limitations governing suits that women and minorities can bring against their employers for claimed inequities in pay.

This issue actually isn’t unfamiliar to readers of this blog.  Before I begin, I should explain to those of you unfamiliar with the term that a statute of limitations is a legislatively set time period within which to bring a claim.  Depending on the state and the claim, these time periods can vary from as little as six months to as much as 20 years.  The average time period to bring most claims clocks in at about 4 years from the plaintiff’s discovery of whatever the injury happens to be.

As for the statute at issue here, I blogged about it a couple of years ago in connection with a reprehensibly dishonest article Jeffrey Toobin wrote for the New Yorker, in which he lambasted the Supreme Court — or, at least, lambasted it from the point of view of the uninformed reader.  Here’s what I wrote about the Supreme Court decision regarding an employee’s right to sue for claimed pay inequities:

The first case Toobin goes after is Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 127 S.Ct. 2162 (2007). This following paragraph constitutes Toobin’s entire discussion of the case and its outcome:

Moving with great swiftness, by the stately standards of the Court, Roberts, Alito, and their allies have already made progress on that agenda. In Alito’s first major opinion as a justice, earlier this year, he sharply restricted the ability of victims of employment discrimination to file lawsuits. The Court said that plaintiffs in such cases must bring their suits within a hundred and eighty days of, say, an unfair raise. But, because it generally takes employees longer than that to establish that they have been cheated, the effect of the ruling will be to foreclose many lawsuits.

What any sensible reader will understand from this terse summary of the case is that the reactionary Supreme Court, lusting after a return to the 19th Century’s golden era of unfettered employer rights, has foreclosed forever the possibility that employees can claim wage discrimination more than 180 days after that discrimination occurs. In the minds of Toobin’s readers, the justices have placed a permanent wall between these hapless employees and legal redress. Except that this understanding, which is really the only reasonable understanding possible based on the limited information Toobin provides, is entirely untrue.

What the Supreme Court said was that a Federal law imposing a 180 day deadline within which to file a wage discrimination runs from the date the employer makes the decision to discriminate, not from the last paycheck written as a result of that discriminatory decision. That’s all.

Here’s the applicable law as summarized in Ledbetter:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an “unlawful employment practice” to discriminate “against any individual with respect to his compensation … because of such individual’s … sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). An individual wishing to challenge an employment practice under this provision must first file a charge with the EEOC. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Such a charge must be filed within a specified period (either 180 or 300 days, depending on the State) “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred,” ibid., and if the employee does not submit a timely EEOC charge, the employee may not challenge that practice in court, § 2000e-5(f)(1).

Ledbetter, 127 S.Ct. at 2166 -2167. In other words, Congress has mandated that if a person claims that her (or his) gender led her (or his) employer to pay her (or him) a discriminatory salary, then that person has either 180 or 300 days from the discriminatory act to file a claim with the EEOC.

Ms. Ledbetter argued that the legislatively vague phrase “alleged unlawful employment practice” should be understood to refer to her paycheck.  Her interpretation would mean that every single paycheck starts a new cause of action (and, presumably, reaches back to encompass prior paychecks). Her employer contended that the “alleged unlawful employment practice,” if any such act existed, would be the employer’s decision to pay its employee a discriminatory amount, as opposed to the fruit of that decision (i.e., the paycheck). The Supreme Court carefully analyzed myriad prior decisions and concluded that the employer had the better argument.

Speaking personally, I find Alito’s analysis clear and compelling.  As is always the case in the law (or at least mostly the case in the law), one can examine the precedential cases and draw different conclusions or find entirely different cases to act as precedent. The dissent contends that it’s unreasonable to ask people to investigate how their pay ranks against their peers’ pay, and that they should be allowed to wait years, perhaps, before they figure out that they’re getting the short end of the salary stick. By advocating a different standard of responsibility for the employee, the dissent can look to different cases so as to reach a different outcome. And that, from beginning to end, is what Ledbetter is all about.

Knowing what the case is about helps one appreciate what the case is not about: It is not a ruling holding that, henceforth, employees must forever be barred from bringing wage discrimination claims if they don’t figure the problem out within 180 days of their most recent pay raise (or pay raise refusal). The Supreme Court is not making law. It is simply interpreting the law as written in light of case precedent. If the Legislature feels there’s a problem, it can change the law. That last is a singularly important point, since it goes to the heart of the difference between strict constructionists, who limit themselves to interpreting law, and judicial activists, who feel impelled to correct perceived Legislative errors, omissions, and ambiguities.

As I pointed out initially, Toobin’s short, elliptical analysis of the case utterly fails to explain to his readers that the majority was not making a law barring employees forever from complaining about wage discrimination more than 180 days after the fact, but was instead merely interpreting the law as written, leaving the matter open for Legislative change. This serious omission about the impact of a Supreme Court decision forces Toobin’s less informed readers to believe that the Supreme Court has dealt a permanent policy blow to the rights of American workers.

Well, the Democratically controlled Congress took the Supreme Court up on its suggestion that, if people aren’t happy with the current limitations period, the legislature should extend the time within which employees can sue.  Who knew, though, that the legislature would enact a law, though, that can expose American businesses to unending damages?  From here on out, under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, a cause of action accrues with every single paycheck.   As the ABC news story I heard today pointed out, this means that any statute of limitations is effectively wiped out.

It is theoretically possible, of course, that the act will mean only that a plaintiff can sue to recover the pay differential for a limited number of paychecks preceding the lawsuit, rather than for the entire period of employment.  That, however, isn’t really what Ruth Bader Ginsburg envisioned when she dissented in the Ledbetter case:

Under the Court’s decision, the discrimination Ledbetter proved is not redressable under Title VII. Each and every pay decision she did not immediately challenge wiped the slate clean. Consideration may not be given to the cumulative effect of a series of decisions that, together, set her pay well below that of every male area manager.

As a defendant, once you hear the word “cumulative,” you’re in trouble.  With the right plaintiff’s attorney and the wrong judge, you’ve got an open door to damages reaching back decades.

It’s important to remember the reason for statutes of limitations:  aside from preventing stale claims (vanished documents, dead witnesses, vanished or warped memories), we also have a public policy that protects potential civil defendants from being on the hook forever for erroneous or even malevolent actions from years gone by.  If wronged parties cannot be zealous in protecting their own rights, the law used to say “tough luck.”  You’re not a baby, and we’re not going to keep people or businesses functioning in a paralyze of fear, wondering for years or even decades if the other shoe is going to drop.  This is especially true when the defendants were conforming to normative behavior at the time, even if the behavior was undergoing a paradigm shift — such as the concept of equal pay for equal work, or even equal pay for different, but theoretically equal work.

As a final aside before I leave work/blogging mode, and enter Mom mode, it’s also unnerving how Obama introduced this overarching piece of ostensibly procedural legislation:

It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act – we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

This is a procedural correction to existing law, yet it’s being presented as a grand civil rights gesture.  More than that, it’s clear that Obama, like Ginsburg before him, has visions of vast compensations, rather than adjustments upon discovery of inequities:

She was just a good hard worker who did her job – and did it well – for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits – losses she still feels today.  (Emphasis mine.)

A lot of businesses have to be very nervous right now as they realize that decisions they made, not just a few years ago, when they should have known better, but also in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, may come back to haunt them to the tune of millions of dollars.

P.S.  Apologies for typos.  I had the time to write, but not proofread.  If you find typos, let me know.  I’ll also go back and check later.

What I learned from HBO about the US Marines

My husband rented Generation Kill, an HBO production about the Iraq War based upon articles in Rolling Stones magazine.  I watched the first ten minutes and learned the following:  US Marines are exceptionally foul-mouthed (which I actually believe, ’cause they’re young and male).  They’re homophobes with subliminal homoerotic instincts.  They’re extremely racist, but in a friendly way.  They hate “Commies” although they don’t know what they are.  They are pedophiles who hate children.  And they want to kill, kill, kill — to hell with any moral underpinings regarding their actions.

The series is highly acclaimed, but I just got disgusted and quit watching.  If the Marines aren’t as they were presented in the show, it was a vile slander.  And if they are, frankly, I don’t want to know.  I need to be protected by Orwell’s “rough men” and I’d prefer to keep alive some illusions about my protectors.

The vultures circle

A couple of days ago, Obama was on rabidly Islamist, anti-American, antisemitic Al-Arabiya television tacitly conceding that it’s all America’s fault.  (And if you’re asking what is all America’s fault, the answer is everything.)  Is it any surprise, therefore, that Ahmadinejad instantly demanded that America apologize for various unspecified “crimes”?  Vultures are quick to spot a body that’s about to rot.  We can only hope that Hillary (Hillary!) stands strong — although even she seems to be victim to the same delusion that America can “reason” Iran into behaving reasonably.

We’ve seen this all before, of course.  As Dennis Prager pointed out, the current trope amongst the “intellectuals” is that “terror is the new Communism.”  By saying this, the college types are not saying that the Islamic drive for worldwide hegemony, like the Communist drive, is going to kill tens or hundreds of millions, and enslave infinitely more.  Nor are they saying that Islamism, like Communism, already has killed and enslaved people in the millions.  Nor are they saying the Islamism, like Communism, has as its fervent desire the goal of killing Americans and Jews.

Instead, these “educated” types are saying that, just as America got involved in a futile battle with Communism, turning it into a frightening bogeyman that led directly to the evil of McCarthy-ism, so too is America involved in a futile battle with the misunderstood Islamists, and destroying American liberties with the Patriot Act (although I defy a single college professor or student to cite an realistic example of average Americans having their liberties curtailed by the Patriot Act).

Lastly, what these educated types really mean, as you can see from the pronouncements emanating from the new administration, is that we should just talk to Islamists, just as they urged for decades that we should just talk to the Communists — presumably to make them see the error of their ways.  In this, they show a remarkable historical amnesia, because it wasn’t talk that brought down the Soviet Union, it was relentless external pressure from the Reagan administration.

Evil totalitarian regimes work through fear and intimidation, both external and internal.  Keeping the pressure on from outside forces these regimes to work double and triple time to maintain their control at home, let alone abroad.  And because they are non-productive societies (being statist), they start to collapse under the weight of that external pressure.  Talk, of course, is not pressure, and it gives these statist regimes room to gobble up new countries (new people, new industries, new arable fields) to compensate for their production failures on home turf.  Talk is the last thing we should be doing, unless its the kind of talk that makes them feel very, very worried.

What I expect to accomplish today

Today, the mandatory to-do list (no flexibility) include[d]s:  getting my kids out of thehouse, legal work, getting my teeth cleaned, getting the house cleaned preparatory to the cleaning ladies’ arrival, picking my daughter up from school to get her to her carpool, bringing my son to his rehearsal, grocery shopping, getting my son from his rehearsal, getting my daughter from her carpool, getting dinner on the table, and then, if I’m lucky, blogging.  Also, if I’m lucky, I can squeeze in some martial arts in the middle of the day, because I badly need to relax.

Written out, it all seems so banal, but in practical fact, it means non-stop doing, to-ing and fro-ing, from 6 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night.  No single task is herculean, or even that taxing.  It’s putting them all together, seriatim, that wears on me.

This is an open thread until I get a chance to throw in my own two cents.

AP serves as Hamas propaganda arm — again

Here’s a sickening AP story blaming Israel for the “trauma” inflicted on Gazan children.  The story’s only acknowledgment that Hamas itself placed the children in the line of fire is the following paragraph, one that is carefully crafted to make it seem as if it was Israel’s fault that the poor Hamas fighters had to crowd into those child-infested residential areas:

Facing the Israeli invasion, Hamas gunmen often operated from densely populated Gaza neighborhoods, drawing massive Israeli fire that killed and wounded large numbers of civilians, along with fighters. Tens of thousands fled their homes, seeking shelter in U.N. schools.

Even worse, the whole article fails even to mention that Hamas has been raining rockets on Israel for years, with schools as its favorite target, or that it is Hamas that has created a perpetual war culture that puts its children at risk.

The story is a gross piece of propaganda that is entirely consistent with AP’s manifest bias.  And I say all this with due sympathy for the poor children who are victimized, not by Israel — a nation that called in its attacks in advance to give the children time to escape — but by their own countrymen, who gleefully use them as intentional targets precisely so that they can garner this kind of maudlin, dishonest (but sadly far-reaching) press coverage.

Offensive “charm”

My mother always used to tell me stories about how incredibly charming her father was.  She couldn’t summon up any specific examples of that charm, however.  Instead, the factual stories she told me were replete with instances of his compulsive womanizing, his spendthrift habits, his thoughtlessness, and the way in which he used her as his hired help when her mother, fed up with his behavior, left the family.  The charm, which my mother remembered fondly, was ephemeral; the selfish behavior was lasting.

Whenever she’d start lauding her father, I, with all the self-righteousness of a teenager, would start quoting Shakespeare back at her:  “”The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  I was certainly obnoxious, and it was unkind of me to sully the memory of a man she clearly loved despite his myriad faults, but I think I had a point.  Charm is an intangible quality and vanishes with the person.  Acts live on.

I keep thinking of that every time I read an article or hear a video reporter opining about Obama’s charm.  I’m not inclined to like the man, so I seem to be immune to the tone of voice, the quirk of the smile, the glint of the eye, or whatever else it is that’s signaling to those enamored of him that this is a charming man.  Absent these subtle, almost subconscious cues, all I’m left with are his words and his actions — and those aren’t charming at all.

Instead, his recorded conduct, the part that doesn’t resonate with someone’s loving emotions, is often condescending, arrogant and downright crude.  I first noticed — and commented — about the fact when Hillary, in response to a remark about her “likability” problems on the campaign trail, made a rather charmingly self-deprecating remark about her likability.  Obama responded to that remark with the verbal equivalent of a slap on the face.  With a smirk, he glanced down at her and smugly remarked, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”  There was Obama, the all-high arbiter of what constitutes minimum standards for likability.  With his condescension on full display, it was a strikingly unkind, ungracious remark.  Here, see for yourself:

This could have been a one-off, a little personal interlude on a long, hard-fought campaign trail, but evidence is piling up that it wasn’t.  Instead, we’re seeing signs that, when Obama’s not engaged in a “charm offensive,” he tends to display an offensive “charm.”  Need more examples?  How about his simultaneous insult to Rush Limbaugh, a man adored, not by a small minority, but by millions of Americans, and his threat to Republicans to get with the Obama program — or else:  “”You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”  A mere eleven words, and he manages to pack into it a world of disdain.

Then, on the very same day, he did a little raw power flexing, something that would had the media screaming to the rafters had George Bush uttered the same words:

In an exchange with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about the proposal, the president shot back: “I won,” according to aides briefed on the meeting.

“I will trump you on that.”

The same article from which I quoted hastens to add that Obama wasn’t gloating, he was merely being pragmatic.  But it was a gloat.  There were a thousand different ways to make the same point, and Obama went for the most brutish and self-promoting.  “I will trump you” is a power statement.  It is not conciliatory, it is not charming.  It is what the victor says as he stands over his opponent’s body.

When my mother was growing up, she had the luxury of a few short years of tremendous wealth — which, European-fashion, included true, apron-wearing servants.  In this household, one of the rules her parents repeatedly drummed into her was never to yell at those servants.  Why not?  Because the servants, as subordinates, can’t answer back.  This, by the way, is the same principle that makes me loath judges who are abusive to the attorneys appearing before them.  Since all the power in the courtroom resides with the judge, including the power to imprison an attorney for contempt, such raw displays of brute force are unseemly, vulgar and bullying — yet that’s what precisely what Obama did in his little interaction with Rep. Cantor.

It’s true that Cantor isn’t Obama’s employee, but Obama is the president, which is the highest job in the land.  Our system demands that we respect him as the holder of that office, leaving anyone in conversation with him in the one-down status of a subordinate.

I suspect we’re going to see more and more of these high-and-mighty statements emanating from Obama.  And the media, because it is entangled with his elusive charm, will happily report those same statements, believing unreservedly that everyone will agree that they show Obama’s wit and wisdom.  I suspect, though, that many of those Americans who haven’t drunk too deeply of the Kool-Aid will begin to look at the Obama style and see, not a charming man of words, but an arrogant bully who uses his words to push around those he deems less worthy or powerful than himself.

Cold, cold, cold

Before children, I was very skinny — and cold a lot of the time.  Post children, I gained a few pounds, something I found hard to reconcile with my lifelong self image, but I did enjoy the unexpected benefit of being warm for the first time.

Now I’ve got the worst of both worlds.  With all the martial arts, I’ve traded padding for muscle so, though toned, I don’t look skinny, but I’ve still managed to lose my insulation, so I’m cold again.  Brrr….

On a different topic, I had a lovely get together with a group of conservative women today.  We’re looking at ways to organize locally and nationally, since we all perceive a leadership vacuum in the Republican party.  That was the big part.  The little part was the sheer pleasure of being in a room of intelligent, kind kindred spirits.  My body was cold, but it warmed my soul.  I also have a lot of ideas circulating in my brain for a couple of blog posts, but haven’t yet been able to consolidate them into coherent form.

Watch out, weasels!

The votes are in and counted over at the Watcher’s Council, and we thought everything submitted was so good that the Watcher was faced with a four way tie (not to mention myriad other ties).  Still, things sorted themselves out and the results are good.

Council Submissions

Non-Council Submissions

Civil disobedience, San Francisco style

Civil disobedience, San Francisco style:  The police are in on it too.  No surprise, of course.  Many of these are the same police who voluntarily, or under orders, turn a blind eye to the public nudity, sexual activity, and urination that accompanies, not only fetish festivals such as Up Your Alley or the Folsom Street Fair, but ostensibly “family-friendly” activities such as the 96 year old Bay to Breakers Run (which I posted about here, here and here).

Random thoughts about Obama *UPDATED*

Obama made much of the fact that his father was an African immigrant from a small village with goats (or something like that).  Few people have made anything of the flip side of that little bit of bio, which is the fact that the first black president has no connection to America’s slave culture.  This is consistent with the fact that the blacks who get ahead in America tend to be the children of recent immigrants from Africa and the Carribean (think:  Colin Powell), rather than from blacks who trace their American roots much further back than I can trace mine.  I draw no conclusions from this; I just observe.

Obama’s decision to close Gitmo (sort of, maybe) in a year is nicely symbolic, but creates more problems than it solves (and what it solves is merely symbolic too, in that it placates the nutroots).  Closing Gitmo means shutting down a physical site, but one is still left with the problem of the prisoners.  American prisons don’t want them, especially because they’re already struggling with the rise of Islam in prisons, a rise that does not make for docile prison populations, but rather, one that increases the sense of aggression and entitlement.  Releasing these prisoners who, in their own minds, continue to be at war with us, simply puts them back on the field.  The 18th Century concept of a parole (which saw released prisoners promise to refrain from fighting for 18 months) really isn’t a workable concept today.  The most logical option is to build a new facility that’s like Gitmo in all ways except that it’s not called Gitmo — which would be a perfect triumph of form over substance, something I suspect we’ll see with increasing frequency in the “image is everything” Obama presidency.

Also on the subject of Gitmo, this is precisely what John Kerry promised back in 2004 — we’ll turn this icky, politically incorrect war into a police action.  Releasing Gitmo detainees into the criminal justice system is just the first step.  But as many commented back in 2004, police actions are ex post facto.  The person commits the crime and then you catch him.  Bush’s system, mercifully for Americans for all these years, was pro active, stopping terror before it started.  You’re right, Bob, about the inevitable consequences of Obama’s instant back-down.

One more thing:  Suek is absolutely correct that this decision is going to give American troops a much greater incentive to “take no prisoners.”  The POW concept, which is a fairly recent and humane one, removed fighters from the battlefield without killing them.  If the battlefield is going to be turned into a revolving door, the only way American fighters can assure themselves that they won’t find themselves staring down the barrel of the same gun a second time is to disable that gun (and its operator) permanently.

Are any of you surprised the Obama is refusing to speak to the press?  I’m not.  He was able to leapfrog from being a nobody to being a president thanks to the gift the press gave him during the candidacy, which was their willingness not to make serious efforts to speak to him.  He still has nothing to say, but he’s now in a position to impose the cone of silence from above, without being dependent on their slavering good will.

I notice that Obama is urging Israel to create a permeable barrier between itself and Gaza. In the same spirit, I think Obama should do away with the Secret Service.  Indeed, to the extent no one has yet tried to kill Obama (and I pray that no one will), he’s actually in a better position security-wise than Israel, which actually has concrete proof that the people in Gaza mean to put their murderous threats into effect.  To date, I’ve been less impressed with Obama’s much vaunted intelligence than others have been.  I have absolutely no doubt that his is a feral, not a thoughtful, mental strength.  This kind of stupid statement proves me right.

And on a totally un-Obama note, are you as impressed a I am with the progress they’re making in plastics (or is it wax) in Cuba?

UPDATE:  I like Laer’s Gitmo solution, which is sort of the mirror image of my suggestion about Obama, Gaza and the Secret Service.

Open thread *UPDATED*

Sorry for the blog silence this morning.  The day got off to a horrific start when I received a politely-phrased “What the Hell happened?” email from a client.  What happened was partially my fault (big time) and partially not my fault at all.  Fortunately, the client (who happens to be an extreme liberal politically) is one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, either socially or professionally.  After he graciously accepted my groveling and heartfelt mea culpa for my own error, he and I worked out a system to prevent further problems in either arena.  I’m still shaken, since I find mistakes like this devastating both professionally and personally — and that despite the fact that the ultimate fallout here was mercifully limited.

So, this morning has left me without time or emotional energy to blog.  Indeed, this whole day promises to be limited when it come to blogging, so please consider this an open thread and have fun.

UPDATE:  I don’t drink (don’t like the taste and it affects me badly), so on days like this, I’m grateful that Valium is a controlled substance — otherwise I’d be tempted to abuse it something fierce.  The fact is, when you’re spinning as many plates as I do, some days are more frantic and fraught than others.

By the way, if you want some good reading, please check out the submissions at the Watcher’s Council.