Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lincoln's lessons

It really is well past time to make T-N Coates a full-time columnist.

Obama has been much praised for the magnanimity he shows his opposition. But such empathy, unburdened by actual expectations, comes easy. More challenging is the work of coping with those who have the disagreeable habit of taking the president, and his talk of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” seriously. In that business, Obama would do well to understand that while democracy depends on intelligent compromise, it also depends on the ill-tempered gripers and groaners out in the street.

The Party of Lincoln, whatever its present designs, has not forgotten this.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

The chart that should accompany any discussion of the debt ceiling

Fallows explains that these represent policy changes, not events forced on the president, such as a massive terrorist attack or a massive worldwide liquidity crisis.

Republicans own the debt. Never let them forget that.

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Vox populi

Heh heh

*What every [sic] pretends to not know is that any online political site that truly lets the internet dictate its agenda will end with a NORML-Ron Paul joint ticket. Not that it would necessarily be so bad at this point.


Blue Monday, Hot Tune edition

As an aside, Amy Winehouse was a terrifically talented singer. What a shame.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

No, it wasn't the airplanes. Twas beauty killed the beast


Thursday, July 21, 2011

They are as children, our elites

I'm sure the idea of sending a music critic to write about the aural experience of a game at The Yankee Stadium seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm sure I would have agreed that it could be "fun" and an "interesting angle. But could they have sent someone who was not recently sent here from another planet?

More rows at the new stadium are open to the sky, or so it seems. So from where we sat, in the first row of the grandstand on the first-base side, the gaggle of voices blended more organically. And individual shouts pierced the pervasive rumble of chatter. During one lull someone high up in the grandstand actually yelled, “Hip, Hip, Hooray!,” which struck me as an antiquated phrase. People all around me laughed, but I gather it’s also a name-bending cheer for the Yankees’ Jorge Posada.

But I could deal with that. I was, after all, at the game myself with a niece and nephew. You would never know, though, that the game was a taut, tight, 2-hour pitching duel decided only by one of the strangest run scored I'd ever seen: Cano scored because of two throwing errors.

But, yeah, okay. This, however, is as though I was reading a parody version of the NY Times.

Some people might consider it “obnoxious” for a child to have a playhouse that costs more and has more amenities than some real houses, she conceded. But she sees it as an extension of the family home. “My daughter loves it,” she said. “And it’s certainly a conversation piece.”

Even in a troubled economy, it seems, some parents of means are willing to spend significant (if not eye-popping) sums on playhouses for their children that also function as a kind of backyard installation art.

There are a number of companies and independent craftsmen that make high-end playhouses, which can cost as much as $200,000, and come in a variety of styles, including replicas of real houses, like the Schillers’, and more-fantastical creations like pirate ships, treetop hideouts and fairy tale cottages. And many of these manufacturers report that despite the economic downturn, they are as busy as ever.

Barbara Butler, an artist and playhouse builder in San Francisco, said her sales are up 40 percent this year, and she has twice as many future commissions lined up as she did this time last year. Not only that, but the average price of the structures she is being hired to build has more than doubled, from $26,000 to $54,000.

“Childhood is a precious and finite thing,” Ms. Butler said. “And a special playhouse is not the sort of thing you can put off until the economy gets better.”

Likewise, Glen Halliday, who has a playhouse business in Portland, Me., said he has seen profits increase 15 percent annually during the recession. “We’ve been helped by the growing concern about childhood obesity and the need for active play,” he said. Business has been so brisk, in fact, that his company, Kids Crooked House, recently expanded from a 1,200-square-foot barn into a 4,000-square-foot manufacturing building.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday obits

Jerry Ragovoy, song writer extraordinaire.

Mr. Ragovoy’s songs had a wrenching emotional quality that perfectly matched Joplin’s no-hold’s-barred approach to the blues. “Piece of My Heart,” a Berns collaboration originally recorded in 1967 by Erma Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s older sister, became the standout single from the 1968 album “Cheap Thrills,” which Joplin recorded with Big Brother & the Holding Company.

Joplin recorded “Try (Just a Little Harder),” a collaboration between Mr. Ragovoy and Chip Taylor, on her first solo album, “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” Her last album, “Pearl,” included three Ragovoy songs: “My Baby,” “Get It While You Can” and “Cry Baby.” But she died, in October 1970, before she could record a song that Mr. Ragovoy, with Jenny Dean, wrote specifically for her, “I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven.”

Travis Bean, the machinist whose guitars blew Jerry away.

From 1974 to 1979 Mr. Bean and his partners made unadorned electric guitars and basses that had an uncanny ability to sustain notes and a richness of tone that some likened to that of a piano or harp. The instruments — 3,650 in several models were made — have been used in virtually every genre of popular music.

But the guitar’s legend owes most to the rock star who owned four of them, Jerry Garcia, the leader of the Grateful Dead. A man who identified himself only as Paul on one of the many blogs that discussed Mr. Bean’s death told of being in a guitar store in Palo Alto, Calif., in the 1970s when Mr. Garcia came in. A clerk asked him to check out a newly arrived Travis Bean guitar.

“Jeez, another weird guitar,” Mr. Garcia marveled, proceeding to dig into his pocket for checks he had never cashed from past gigs to pay for the purchase.

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Friday, July 15, 2011


If they win and he exuberantly rips off his shirt, then he's certain to win re-election. But if they lose, it will certainly be the fault of him and, maybe, Rahm.

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Live for Today!

The shot of the audience at the end is priceless.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Letting the air out of the legal attack on the individual mandate

Appearing at the very end of Linda Greenhouse's thorough (and thoroughly enjoyable) scorecard of the latest Supremes' session she mentions a lower court decision I certainly either hadn't noticed or not paid all that much attention to. Which is odd, because if Greenhouse is correct -- and she generally is -- it's momentous.

Reading the Tea Leaves: Two days after the term ended, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the new health care law. It is hard to overstate the importance of Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton’s controlling opinion for the three-judge panel. It would be inaccurate to say that Judge Sutton is a rising star in the conservative legal firmament; the 50-year-old former law clerk to Justice Scalia and the late Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. is fully risen, on anyone’s short list for the next time a Republican president gets the chance to make a Supreme Court nomination.

His decision rejecting the constitutional attack on the Affordable Care Act did not simply make him the first Republican-appointed judge to uphold the statute. His opinion is an act of intellectual integrity. He treats the attack on the law as weighty and respect-worthy, and then demolishes it. At the heart of the attack on the individual mandate is the claim that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to regulate “inaction,” i.e. not buying health insurance. “Does the Commerce Clause contain an action/inaction dichotomy that limits congressional power?” Judge Sutton asks. His answer: “No – for several reasons.”

This is not the place to go into those reasons. But in any event, Judge Sutton then renders the “inaction” shibboleth irrelevant, first quoting Warren Buffett on the virtues of inactivity when evaluating financial risk and then declaring: “No one is inactive when deciding how to pay for health care, as self-insurance and private insurance are two forms of action for addressing the same risk.”

This air-tight opinion, I believe, has taken the air out of the effort to overturn the law and makes it measurably more likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold it. The opinion has not received the public attention it merits, but I can think of nine offices in a marble building on Capitol Hill where it is being scrutinized, actively.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Calling their bluff?

Did McConnell just offer to release the hostages?

This would be an astonishing turnaround and surely represents a combination of Obama's reminding the GOP that Social Security checks are a powerful thing and the business lobbyists' hair catching on fire.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Blue Monday, Johnny Cash edition

Friday, July 08, 2011

"What's going on," indeed


Monday, July 04, 2011

"With rebellion thus sugar-coated..."

Lincoln's July 4, 1861 address to Congress.

This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while in this the Government's hour of trial large numbers of those in the Army and Navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.

Lincoln's July 4th fireworks are discussed at the great Disunion site, and the full address is here.

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Blue Monday, Skip James edition

Friday, July 01, 2011


David, I strongly disagree with your analysis.

“What he said was obviously stupid and tasteless, and he exercised poor judgment,” Mr. Axelrod told The Washington Post. “I think he’d be the first to acknowledge that. I strongy disagree with his analysis. But I’ve known him for decades. He’s a decent person and a good journalist. I’m sure that no one regrets this more than he does.”
No, Mr. Axelrod, he's a dick (though, one benefit of this incident is that we now know that the pejorative "dick" is fit to print in the New York Times).

Halperin's a dick, not because he shouldn't be allowed to insult the president, as Jonathan Chait complains, but because he's a hack and an apologist for Republicans. He's a dick because, in the face of a reality that exposes Republicans as the extortionists and economic saboteurs they are, he called the president "a dick" because the president called his friends on it.

No, Halperin shouldn't have been suspended for using juvenile language on "Morning Joe." He shouldn't be suspended for not showing enough deference to the president. He should be suspended for demanding the president show more deference to Republicans. Or maybe to the WH press corps. Which, in Halperin's case, is pretty much the same thing.

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When the levee breaks

The quintessential Dylan/Young interaction occurred in June 1988. Dylan was on tour in California when Neil decided to sit in for a couple of shows. “Neil drove up in his Cadillac convertible, his Silvertone amp in the back,” recalls Fernandez. Was Young ever intimidated to be joining one of his heroes onstage? “I’ve never seen him be intimidated by anyone musically,” said David Briggs. “If Willie is playin’ with Neil, Willie follows Neil. If Neil is playin’ with Waylon, Waylon follows Neil. When he’s got his ax in hand, his aura becomes solid. He’s the gun.”

Even with Dylan, Young was the gun, and as much as Bob loves Neil, he quickly found himself in the line of fire. “Neil took over the whole show,” said Elliot Roberts, who was listening to Dylan’s postshow apprehension over Young playing the next night when Neil bounded over. “Great show! See ya tomorrow night, Bob?” “Yeah, Neil,” said Bob wearily. Even Dylan can’t say no.

--Jimmy McDonough, Shakey

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