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Daily Archives: March 12, 2010

Tom Hanks should stick with film making

I’m not going to go on a rant about Tom Hanks recent remarks about why we fought the Japanese during WWII, but I do have a comment or two to make.  He said:

Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?

It is easy to make ignorant statements like that when you decide you need to make a political point. We see it everyday in the three-ring circus we call politics. Bending history to fit your ideological point of view is nothing new and there’s certainly nothing so special about Tom Hanks that he’s above such nonsense. But he ought to know better, especially after making this new HBO miniseries about the Pacific war.

My dad served in the Army for 36 years and was on Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa. Unlike Hanks, he actually fought the Japanese in some very tough battles – especially the last one. He never talked about it much when I was a kid, although when old friends would stop by at the posts where we were assigned, I’d hear some of the stories by getting myself in an unobserved position in the next room and quietly listening.

I don’t remember he or any of his friends ever reflecting the sort of attitude Hanks would have us to believe was prevalent then.  Sure, they referred to them as “Japs”, but not because they thought it was derrogatory or because they believed them to be “different”, but because, well, that’s what they were.  The story I remember most concerned Saipan.  As he told it, you could tell the memory had an effect on him.  He told about Japanese families – women, kids – jumping off a cliff to avoid capture (“Suicide cliff” in Saipan). You could tell he thought it was awful and it was clear in the telling that the memory was vivid.  They’d brought in Japanese speakers to try to talk the families out of jumping, but the indoctrination and the culture were so strong that they jumped anyway. 

If you want to “annihilate” someone, you don’t make that sort of effort to save them.  If you consider them as “different” in the way Hanks intimates, such things wouldn’t shake you as it obviously did my father and those he was with.

He said that the only Japanese captives they ever took were those who’d been either knocked unconscious before capture or were so badly wounded they couldn’t avoid it.  Certainly they were “different” in the sense that their honor and culture called upon them to do things American culture would never call on its soldiers to do, but that didn’t make them less than human to my father. He certainly wasn’t at all pleased with the way the Japanese treated prisoners of war and held a hell of grudge about that. But I got the impression that he considered the Japanese barbaric because of that, not less than human.  He held them responsible for that conduct because they were human beings.  And after the war, we shocked them with the most humane occupation imaginable and the rebuilding of their nation.

The reason my dad and hundreds of thousands of other Americans fought the Japanese wasn’t because they were “different” racially or believed in a different god.  Nor did they do it with the aim of “annihilating” them.  It was because the had attacked the United States, were the enemy and that enemy had to be defeated.  Period.  My father and his comrades would have fought the Germans with the same ferocity they fought the Japanese had they been in Europe.

Tom Hanks is a fine actor and an excellent film maker.  But he should stick with what he knows.  Deciding how those fighting the Japanese thought of  their enemy isn’t one of them.  Making a film about them doesn’t suddenly make him some sort of expert in that regard either.  And, pretending to know what motivates those of us who fight our enemies of today is just as mistaken.


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“Nemesis” – the dark star

It sounds like something right out of a good SiFi book, but NASA believes it has identified the cause of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

AN invisible star responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs may be circling the Sun and causing comets to bombard the Earth, scientists said.

The brown dwarf – up to five times the size of Jupiter – could be to blame for mass extinctions that occur here every 26 million years.

The star – nicknamed Nemesis by NASA scientists – would be invisible as it only emits infrared light and is incredibly distant. Nemesis is believed to orbit our solar system at 25,000 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun.

As it spins through the galaxy, its gravitational pull drags icy bodies out of the Oort Cloud – a vast sphere of rock and dust twice as far away as Nemesis.

These “snowballs” are thrown towards Earth as comets, causing devastation similar to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Yes, that’s right, we have an brown dwarf throwing snowballs at us. You know, when you put it like that, it just doesn’t sound as threatening does it?

NASA hopes to find it using a new heat-seeking telescope. Apparently the first clue that Nemesis was out there was the discovery of another dwarf:

Scientists’ first clue to the existence of Nemesis was the bizarre orbit of a dwarf planet called Sedna. Scientists believe its unusual, 12,000-year-long oval orbit could be explained by a massive celestial body.

Mike Brown, who discovered Sedna in 2003, said: “Sedna is a very odd object – it shouldn’t be there.

“The only way to get on an eccentric orbit is to have some giant body kick you – so what is out there?”

Nemesis – the dark star, of course.

Yeah, much better.


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Reconciliation — It’s Alive? (UPDATED – Dead Again?)

Seems my skepticism yesterday was warranted. According to Politico sources, the Senate parliamentarian ruling announced by the GOP yesterday may have been “misinterpreted”:

Senate Republicans caused a major stir Thursday when they told reporters that the parliamentarian had informed them that the Senate bill needed to be signed into law before lawmakers took up a sidecar bill to fix it.


But according to reporting by POLITICO’s David Rogers, the accounts aren’t accurate and misconstrue what the Senate parliamentarians have said. That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.

For example, if the big bill itself amends some Social Security statute, reconciliation could be written to do the same –with changes sought by the House. Then if reconciliation is passed and signed by President Barack Obama after he signs the larger bill, the changes made in reconciliation would prevail.
This jives with what Pulse sources were saying soon after the first wave of stories hit – in essence, don’t take the reported parliamentarian’s declaration to the bank.

If this report is correct (and there are some issues with it explained below), then we are essentially in the “Yes, No” scenario:

Should the parliamentarians decide that the House must pass the Senate bill, but that the president does not have to sign prior to the reconciliation bill being considered, then the House can basically hold the Senate bill hostage while working on the fixes. It’s not entirely clear how long Pelosi could do this (how soon after voting does she have to enroll the bill? What about the ten-day limits re passage/”pocket veto”?). However, it would enable to the House to get a reconciliation bill through the Senate before sending the Senate bill to Obama, thus ensuring that whatever happens during reconciliation doesn’t undermine any Representative’s “yes” vote.

I always thought that this was the most likely scenario, but not being an expert in these matters I couldn’t, and still can’t, say for sure.

Yet, something from the Politico piece strikes me as a bit off, constitutionally speaking. Specifically, this quote (bolded below) doesn’t make any sense:

That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.

I am almost certain that this is not correct. The Constitution is pretty clear on this matter:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; …

Art. I, Sect. 7 (emphasis added)

Perhaps the anonymous source for Politico was just being careless in choice of words, and what he/she really meant was that a bill does not necessarily have to become law before it is subjected to the reconciliation process. That may be true, and that was part of what the parliamentarians were asked to rule upon. But there simply is no question that a bill, before it can become a “Law,” must be signed by the President.

In any event, provided that the Politico reporting is correct (and I think it may be), then there is still the possibility of reconciliation being used to pass ObamaCare. However, there are still a number of problems.

Bruce broke down the numbers for you this morning, which gives everyone a good sense of what the reconciliation bill, as passed by the Senate, must look like in order to get the Senate bill passed in the House. Again, whether or not the “fixes” required by House members to get their vote will actually survive the Byrd Rule part of the reconciliation process is a huge question. In addition, Republicans will have other means of attacking the bill, such as challenging its long-term budget effect which could scuttle the entire thing. So, not only do the wavering House members need to be assured that the Senate will vote for their fixes in the reconciliation bill, they also have to know that those fixes will survive the process, and that the reconciliation bill as a whole will be capable of being passed under the budgetary constraints peculiar to such legislation. That’s a whole lot of “if’s” that need to be answered before the Senate bill comes to the floor for a vote.

The only thing that is immediately clear in all of this is that Democrats have absolutely zero respect for the Constitution, democratic principles, or this republic. They sure as hell don’t give a damn about Americans. No matter what the parliamentarians rule, I still expect Pelosi and Reid to jam something down our gullets and indignantly demand that we thank them for it.

UPDATE: It seems as though the House leadership agrees with the GOP interpretation of the Senate parliamentarian:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) today acknowledged that the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling precludes the House from passing reconciliation fixes to health-care without first passing the Senate bill. Pelosi told reporters she will do just that:

“The bills that have passed, ours with 220 in the House, theirs with 60 in the Senate, we’ll be acting upon the Senate bill with changes that were in the House bill reflected in the reconciliation. So in order to have the Senate bill be the basis and build upon it with the reconciliation, you have to pass the Senate bill, or else you’re talking about starting from scratch. So we will pass the Senate bill. Once we pass it, the President signs it or doesn’t, it’s – people would rather he waited until the Senate acted, but the Senate Parliamentarian, as you have said, said in order for them to do a reconciliation based on the Senate bill, it must be signed by the President.”

Steny Hoyer offered a similar conclusion:

Separately, on the House floor today, Eric Cantor pressed Steny Hoyer on the issue, asking Hoyer whether it’s his position that the Senate bill “must be signed into law before the Senate can even take up the reconciliation package.”

“I think the gentleman correctly states the Senate parliamentarian’s position,” Hoyer replied.

For those keeping score, we went from “Yes, Yes” to “Yes, No” back to “Yes, Yes” and all the while Pelosi is insisting that ObamaCare will be passed. Soon. Very, very soon. Which probably means that the Slaughter Rule will brought into the game … and I just can’t even fathom how that sort of extra-constitutional procedure will play out. This is getting more confusing than wearing a mirror-suit in a house full of mirrors.

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Nannyism – the dangerous trend

One of the points of Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is that if some form of totalitarianism ever establishes itself here, it will have a happy, smiley face and all be done in the name of what is “good for us”. And it will also be a sort of creeping totalitarianism – not done in one fell swoop as in a revolution, but in bits and pieces with the best of intentions. Call it “Nannyism” if you’re uncomfortable with fascism or totalitarianism. But I find it difficult to describe the following as anything but smiley-faced totalitarianism:

“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” the bill, A. 10129 , states in part.

The legislation, which Assemblyman Felix Ortiz , D-Brooklyn, introduced on March 5, would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.

The first thing some are going to say is “well, this hasn’t a chance to pass”. That may be so, but it bespeaks a mindset that exists and is becoming more and more prevalent. The pending health care bill is another manifestation of this mentality which essentially says it is the job of government to ensure a certain style and quality of life which is best for you – whether you agree or not.

The problem of course is offering legislation like this isn’t that unusual. Trans fats. Soda taxes, etc. The nannies are constantly trying to decide for you what is best for you. Check out this story. Certainly the intent of the story isn’t to dictate what you can or can’t eat. But it takes a time when most people relax the rules a little and enjoy themselves and essentially tries to guilt them into “eating healthy”. It’s one of the more benign forms of nannyism, but it is still aimed at altering behavior based on the belief that they know better.

Of course the distinct possibility exists that if health care reform legislation passes and government takes control of the industry through direct or indirect means, such legislation won’t be confined to state legislatures. Already, with smiley faces, soda and snack machines are being taken out of schools for the ostensible reason “fighting childhood obesity” as if those particular machines are the reason children are fat and taking them out will somehow change a child’s eating habits outside of school and slim them up. Government controls the schools, so government dictates what will be available and what children should eat – not the parents.  As should be obvious, the government already believes you’re a failure – you have fat kids, don’t you?!

Given that precedent, why does anyone doubt that government wouldn’t extend such control to other areas it “pays” for (it pays for nothing, since it has no money – it is in the transfer business) with your tax dollars? Why wouldn’t Congress, on the advice of say the AMA (or some government research, etc), issue strict guidelines concerning salt in food? Sugar in food? Fatty content in food? Etc.?  Isn’t that something the FDA could end up doing?  Of course it is.  Look at what the EPA is trying to do now with “greenhouse gasses”.

If you buy into the government’s claim it can cut health care costs, and you give them the go ahead for passing legislation which will ostensibly do that, where do you draw the line on what is an isn’t unacceptable in pursuing those cost reductions? You don’t. By accepting their premise you give government the carte blanch authority to decide what is necessary to do what it says it can do. You’ve turned it over to them. If they decide that preventive care is the key, and critical to preventive care is healthy eating, what leg have you to stand on you claim they’ve gone too far and what you eat is none of their business? When the AMA says Americans need to cut their salt consumption and government acts on that, how do you say “none of your business?” When the First Lady claims sugary drinks should be taxed because they lead to unhealthy children and Congress agrees, what possible argument, given the fact you’ve abrogated your own personal responsibility to take care of yourself and your family and handed it over to government, can you make against that?

What seems to be almost laughable “nuisance” legislation right now is just a taste (no pun intended) of what will become routine legislation should this health care debacle pass. You have some marginal control over the way you live now. You still retain at least a modicum of control over your life. You still have the freedom to decide, at least for the moment, what you will or won’t eat. It is very possible that at some point in the near future, you could lose that freedom too.

Freedom means the freedom to fail, to eat what isn’t deemed healthy, to do as you please as long as you don’t violate the rights of others. Freedom isn’t always pretty and others may think you’re a raving dumb-ass for doing what you do to yourself. But freedom deems that to be your choice, again with the caveat you’re not violating the rights of others.

What we’re seeing with this creeping nannyism, this smiley-faced totalitarianism, is a change in philosophy driven by increasing government intrusion which in turn justifies even more intrusion. It is a paradigm shift of epic proportions from the founding principles of this country.  Freedom is a dying concept as we see more and more people buying into the preference that others should make decisions for them. They’re become increasingly comfortable with the control exercised over their lives by government. It’s “easier”. It’s “less of a hassle”. They don’t have to “worry about it”, whatever the specific “it” is.

But that sort of a life has a price that most don’t seem to understand – and that price is the pure essence of freedom: the ability to make choices. Salt bans, drink taxes, etc – all with the smiley-faced intention of doing what others believe is best for you and in every case, limiting or abolishing your freedom to choose.

Freedom isn’t always lost in big chunks like war or revolution. Sometimes it is lost a piece at a time. One of the things I think the Tea Party movement recognizes and is motivated by is this dawning realization that this creeping nannyism, the smiley-faced totalitarianism of “good intentions” forced on all, is very close to succeeding, or, if not fully succeeding, at least setting itself up for the final push in the near future. The convergence of the financial meltdown and the ambitious leftist agenda of this president served as a wake up call.  People realized that what was creeping nannyism has transitioned into nannyism at a full gallop. As it turns out, it may be the best thing that ever happened to this country – if its people successful in turning the nannyism back.

If not, then expect more things like salt bans to show up at much higher levels than state assemblies. And when you’re buying your salt on the black market from your local pusher, keep an eye out for “the salt police”. You wouldn’t want your government health care jeopardized by a salt abuse conviction, would you?


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House health care vote numbers

You can read any number of people about who is or isn’t leaning this way or that way on the House vote for the HCR bill, but what’s been fairly hard to find is anyone quoting numbers.

First a few important numbers to give the later numbers some context. At the moment there are 431 Representatives in Congress (due to some resignations and a death). That means to pass this bill Nancy Pelosi must have a simple majority – 216. Of the 431, 178 are Republicans none of which are planning on voting yes. 253 are Democrats. That means Pelosi can only lose 37 of the 253.

So where is she? According to David Dayen at Firedoglake the present “yes” vote is 189. So Pelosi is 27 votes short according to his count (much fewer votes than I thought she had). Here’s how they break down:

Definite YES:
189 Democrats.

Definite NO:
177 Republicans.

Definite NO:
25 Democrats.

18 Democrats who voted No in November:
Bobby Bright, Mike McIntyre, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Walt Minnick, Artur Davis, Chet Edwards, Frank Kratovil, Mike Ross, Dan Boren, Gene Taylor, Larry Kissell, Dennis Kucinich, Collin Peterson, Ike Skelton, Jim Marshall, Mike McMahon, Charlie Melancon, Tim Holden.

7 Democrats & Republicans who voted Yes in November (confirmed Stupak bloc):
Bart Stupak, Marion Berry, Dan Lipinski, Kathy Dahlkemper, Joe Donnelly, Joseph Cao (R), Steve Driehaus.

19 potential Democratic No-Yes flip votes:

14 possible:
Jason Altmire, Bart Gordon, Glenn Nye, Brian Baird, John Tanner, Rick Boucher, Allen Boyd, John Boccieri, Suzanne Kosmas, Betsy Markey, John Adler, Scott Murphy, Lincoln Davis, Jim Matheson.

6 less possible:
Travis Childers, Harry Teague, Heath Shuler (severe lean no), John Barrow, Tim Holden, Ben Chandler.

21 potential Yes-No flip votes:

4 additional Stupak bloc (rumored):
Charlie Wilson, Brad Ellsworth, Marcy Kaptur, Jerry Costello.

17 other wary Democrats:
Mike Arcuri, Zack Space, Chris Carney, Mike Doyle, Paul Kanjorski, Ann Kirkpatrick, Alan Mollohan, Nick Rahall, Dan Maffei, Bill Owens, John Spratt, Dennis Cardoza, James Oberstar, Baron Hill, Solomon Ortiz, Gabrielle Giffords, Earl Pomeroy.

Note that Republican Jospeh Cao is in the list. Cao has already stated categorically that he will vote against the bill thereby making the Republican count against 178.

Henry Waxman has said that the Democrats are going forward without worrying about the abortion language or the Stupak 12. That means the 27 votes have to come from 40 under the “19 potential Democratic No-Yes flip votes” and “21 potential Yes-No flip votes”. If what Waxmen said is true, then the “4 additional Stupak bloc” may or may not be targeted. If not, that leaves 36 of which 27 have to vote Pelosi’s way to make this happen.

At this point, the arm-twisting hasn’t begun in earnest. Pelosi has alreay shrugged off the March 18th date (which is an indicator that she hasn’t really begun trying to round up the votes but is aware she doesn’t have what she needs at this point – despite her knowingly disingenuous claims to the contrary.).

However, Pelosi knows that not being able to act before the Easter recess works against her agenda since it is during that recess that you can be assured Representatives are going to hear from their constituents via townhalls. And the message isn’t going to be pretty. It is also a time they’ll begin to gear up their campaign for re-election. So some pretty heavy political soul searching is going to be done prior to coming back and voting on HCR. So you can rest assured she is going to try to move heaven and earth to get this vote done before then.

With the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling yesterday, her job got even harder today. Watch for some intense pressure to be brought on those 40 I mentioned as well as the Stupak 12 (who, with yesterday’s Senate ruling, are even less likely to vote “yes” now) over the coming days and weeks. Pelosi is going to try to force a vote before the Easter recess. The question is will she be anywhere close enough to 216 by that point to do so?


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