Patterico's Pontifications

3/3/2011

Happy Twelfth Birthday to Elena

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 pm

Remember Dear Elena? It is the blog written by a father who had just lost his six year-old daughter to a sudden illness. I noted it in a 2006 post here, in which I wrote:

I was reading the blog tonight as my wife got our daughter Lauren ready for bed, and I realized all the similarities between our children. Lauren is a lively and cheerful six-year-old, like Elena was. Lauren recently lost a tooth, just like Elena. And Lauren spent Saturday evening throwing up, as Elena had been four days before. But on Sunday Lauren was fine.

I finished the last post, and then my wife called me upstairs and told me that Lauren was ready to say good night to me. We talked about our favorite and least favorite parts of the day, as we do every night. I told her that my favorite thing is that she has started to read to herself, without asking for our help. And — though I had just finished crying downstairs for another parent’s loss — I told her that I didn’t have any not-favorite parts today, because I was just so happy to be there with her, right then.

I think most people who saw the blog read a post or a few, and moved on. But it stuck with me. Over the years, I have checked back on the blog from time to time. The father is a very gifted writer, and he feels like a friend even though we have never met or even corresponded. His writing is that good.

Anyway. Today would have been her twelfth birthday. Her father writes about it in a post titled The Year of the Rabbit, taking as his theme the Chinese calendar, which repeats every twelve years:

If you’ve looked at your placemat in most neighborhood Chinese restaurants then you’ve probably looked up the year you were born to figure out your animal in the Chinese zodiac. Of course it can be used the other way around. Once you know someone is the year of the dog then they are either twenty-eight or some multiple of twelve older or younger.

Kim and Maggie are both the year of the rat. I’m the year of the boar.

Elena was a rabbit. Along with her Chinese name we have an image of a rabbit on her gravestone.

On the new year I was thinking of my little rabbit running across a field with her head tipped back so her hair flowed behind her. Most of my memories of Elena have her embracing life and doing something with abandon.

If you’re going to do the hokey-pokey you might as well skip to the part where you put your whole self in and you shake it all about. No need to be coy and just put an arm or a leg in.

With those memories of Elena, I headed off to the cemetery to spend some time at her grave. There was snow everywhere. Deep snow. The only footprints in her section were animals. I walked across the snow covered graves towards hers. There was a solid crust on top of the snow. I stomped down near where her headstone should be and my foot broke through and sunk way down. I was up to my knee in snow with no real chance of finding her stone.

I pulled my foot out of the hole I’d made and stood for a minute. If this were a movie, a rabbit would appear from behind a bush and wink at me. It wasn’t a movie. And it was getting a bit cold. I brushed off the snow and headed back to my car. It will be the year of the rabbit all year. I can come visit her another time.

I’d never thought about it but the Chinese New Year is yet another axis for memories. We have stories of friends and families that come up each year when we celebrate different holidays. Telling and retelling these stories become part of our tradition. We have stories we tell on Christmas Eve’s and Passover Seder’s and Fourth of July’s. We remember where we were for those holidays and people who are no longer with us by telling of the year that something happened..

For the Chinese New Year in addition to these memories of celebrating the holiday each year there are these extra leaps backwards of twelve years. We ring in the year of the rabbit — do you say “ring in” for Chinese New Year — and you remember. You remember other rabbits or you remember the last time it was the year of the rabbit. I also think ahead to next time.

Twelve years is too long. Who can predict where they’ll be twelve years from now or what they’ll be doing? What will the world be like the next time we celebrate the year of the rabbit?

Silly to ask.

On this, Elena’s twelfth birthday, please go leave her family a comment. And give your loved ones an extra hug.

Breaking: Judge Vinson Stays His Obamacare Ruling (Update: Analysis Added)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 11:18 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Update: Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey has the best quip: “The White House asked for a clarification.  They got a trip to the woodshed instead.”

I’ll write up an analysis shortly but he has given the Obama administration seven days to file an appeal of his ruling on Obamacare.  You can read it for yourself, here.

Update: And as promised, here is the analysis.

First, as a matter of pure opinion, the entire Order issued today seems to be dripping with irritation toward the Obama administration.  Of course their motion to “clarify” was granted and that only made sense, the judge writing:

While I believe that my order was as clear and unambiguous as it could be, it is possible that the defendants may have perhaps been confused or misunderstood its import. Accordingly, I will attempt to synopsize the 78-page order and clarify its intended effect. To that extent, the defendants’ motion to clarify is GRANTED.

And I believe, reading the whole thing, that the judge was at a loss to understand what they were having trouble understanding, to the point that he doubted the sincerity of the request.  But nonetheless, he did provide a pretty decent “cliff’s notes” version of his earlier decision, although I thought the original was clear enough.

And going to the sincerity issue, he acknowledges the claim by the plaintiffs that this was a motion for stay in disguise.  Then he says, without opining if the plaintiffs were right, that the defendants said in their motion that they planned to file for a stay, so he will treat this motion as a motion for stay on its own, and then proceeded to consider the issue.

Now it is fair to say that I was wrong previously about the chances of getting a stay.  I mean to say I should have known that the judge was pretty likely to grant one.  This is one of those instances that lawyers experience quite frequently when dealing with the federal bench, where the judge completely outclasses the advocates.  It’s humbling, but it takes out some of the sting when we lawyers notice how common it is.  Consider the factors involved here:

(1) whether the applicants have made a strong showing that they are likely to prevail; (2) whether the applicants will be irreparably injured if a stay is not granted; (3) whether granting the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) “where the public interest lies.”

I always thought the first one was a gimmie for the plaintiffs.  But I forgot about a basic reality of the situation.  There is an inherent bias involved in that question.  The district court judge has always ruled against the movant, so the judge already ruled on the merits and would be inclined to think they were wrong.  Which, perversely motivates him to give the losers a chance, because often when you have an obvious bias in favor of one side, you actually act biased in favor of the other side just to show how “unbiased” you are.

Of course that is my gloss on this and that can’t really be proven.  He also mentions that the standard for likely success on appeal is not simply a matter of predicting who is more likely to win.  It’s more like whether there is any realistic chance to win.  And there was that.

I also failed, I admit, to notice one very serious problem with number 3.  The plaintiff states were themselves split on whether to stop implementation of Obamacare.  Most of the states subject to that ruling were still going forward, to hedge their bets.  Others were not.  And of course the judge noted another problematic element of the third factor.  One of the parties to the suit was Michigan.  But another Federal District Court, in Michigan, upheld Obamacare’s mandate, raising a question of which decision should control.

And then on dealing with the public interest, the judge writes this:

Finally, for the last factor, I must consider “where the public interest lies.”  Although the defendants’ pleadings present a reasonably persuasive argument for why the “public interest lies” in having my declaratory judgment and de facto injunction stayed pending appeal, almost every argument that the defendants have advanced speaks much more persuasively to why the case should be immediately appealed and pursued in the most expeditious and accelerated manner allowable.

Judge Vinson goes on for quite a bit arguing that the appellate courts must take it on an expedited basis.  I would go as far as to say he felt this was ready for the Supreme Court.  This passage in particular seemed, in a subtextual way, to speak to that:

It should not be at all difficult or challenging to “fast-track” this case.  The briefing with respect to the general issues involved are mostly already done, as the federal government is currently defending several other similar challenges to the Act that are making their way through the appellate courts. Furthermore, the legal issues specific to this case have already been fully and very competently briefed. With a few additional modifications and edits (to comply with the appellate rules), the parties could probably just change the caption of the case, add colored covers, and be done with their briefing.

He even alludes to the special rule allowing appellants to skip directly to the Supreme Court as follows:

After careful consideration of the factors noted above, and all the arguments set forth in the defendants’ motion to clarify, I find that the motion, construed as a motion for stay, should be GRANTED. However, the stay will be conditioned upon the defendants filing their anticipated appeal within seven (7) calendar days of this order and seeking an expedited appellate review, either in the Court of Appeals or with the Supreme Court under Rule 11 of that Court.

So it is reasonable to think he is saying, “Come on, Supremes.  Why drag this out?  Let’s get this thing done this summer.”

Personally I very much like the idea of the Supreme Court taking it on now.  Besides the simple fact that otherwise we would be needlessly dragging out the uncertainty involved, consider this.  If it went to the Supreme Court now, they will have this written on the side opposed to Obamacare:

It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.

And they will have had this written in support of Obamacare:

As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress’s power….  However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance.

Just as I think Judge Vinson’s invocation of the Tea Tax controversy is a uniquely persuasive passage, I think Judge Kessler’s “mental activity” line is positively repellent.  Both Judges’ opinions will sway wavering justices into opposing Obamacare, with Vinson bringing people to his side, and Judge Kessler sending potential supporters fleeing from her argument.  If Obamacare is struck down, it might be hard to determine who did more to help this victory along.  Indeed, if Scalia writes the majority opinion, I am not sure who is more likely to be quoted.  Scalia is known to delight in mocking ridiculous arguments.

So in short a victory for the Obama administration, but maybe a pyrrhic one.  If the appellate courts agree to an expedited appeal, Judge Vinson’s and Judge Kessler’s words will be very prominent in the minds of the Supreme Court Justices.  That isn’t a good thing for Obamacare’s supporters.

Update (II): Scott Jacobs in the comments notices something I glossed over: a zing apparently aimed at Judge Kessler.

Although I strongly believe that expanding the commerce power to permit Congress to regulate and mandate mental decisions not to purchase health insurance (or any other product or service) would emasculate much of the rest of the Constitution and effectively remove all limitations on the power of the federal government, I recognize that others believe otherwise.

Indeed, in one of the footnotes he makes specific reference to that decision.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Life Imitates Monty Python (Example 10,521)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:29 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

There was truly a weird genius in the air when Monty Python did its best work given how applicable so much of their material has been over the years to multiple situations.  It is hard to think of too many bodies of work that was so easily citable and quotable as being relevant to so many diverse circumstances.  So for instance we have the NSFW Python skit based on sex education, which (ahem) climaxes with the teacher making love to his wife in front of his students in order to provide instruction.

So much for the claim that those who can’t, teach, eh?

But if you ever thought that this skit was too ridiculous to find a parallel in real life, well… just read below the fold.

(more…)

Charlie Sheen: Hero?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:01 am

So claims Brendan O’Neill:

Charlie Sheen is my hero. Not because he goes on five-day benders, takes binbags of drugs and cavorts with ladies of the night. That would be recklessly self-indulgent behaviour in anyone over the age of 21, never mind in a 45-year-old actor with a primetime TV job and a wife and children at home. No, he’s my hero because he refuses to allow his behaviour to be psychologised. He refuses to genuflect before the Oprahite altar of psychobabble and blame his antics on his “inner demons”. Instead he’s fighting like a terrier against experts’ attempts to brand him as “disordered” and in the process has made himself into a one-man army of resistance to the tyranny of therapy that has the twenty-first-century in its grip.

Easily the most shocking thing about the Charlie Sheen affair is not his recent debauched behaviour – Stop the press: Hollywood actor behaves hedonistically! – but rather the unstoppable march of a zombie-eyed army of therapists who want to diagnose Sheen from a distance as “mentally ill”. Every cod-psychologist in search of a headline, and increased business, is offering to write a prescription for Sheen. Under the headline “Addict or Bipolar? Examining the ‘Passion’ of Charlie Sheen”, Time magazine admits “it isn’t possible to diagnose patients at a distance”. And yet it proceeds to do precisely that, employing two experts to discuss whether Sheen is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar mania, depression, anxiety or addiction.

In a TV interview, ABC’s Andrea Canning asked Sheen if he was bipolar. When he said “no”, and hinted that some people claim to be bipolar simply to excuse their erratic behaviour, she looked at him as if he was – in that other favoured phrase of the therapeutic industry – in denial. Even the brain-invaders at Psychology Today magazine have got involved, claiming that “the life and times of Charlie Sheen are a serious issue for us all”. Why? Because apparently he is in the grip of a “Mood Disorder” (I think we used to call this “being moody”) and his failure to deal with it contains a lesson for everyone: “When you’re in the depths of a Mood Disorder, you swirl in an ocean of mental, physical and spiritual chaos, [and] it’s only when you reach the safety of the shore that you realise just how dangerously ill you were.” How do we reach the “safety of the shore”? Through the therapeutic intervention and guidance of psycho-experts, of course! On the back of their pseudo-diagnoses of Mr Sheen’s alleged various mental illnesses, psychologists are cynically seeking to boost their own professions.

There is a grain of wisdom in this. But, despite his amusing pushback against the therapy crowd, Charlie Sheen is not my hero. Charlie Sheen is what happens when an Arthur Kade actually achieves success somewhere other than in his fevered mind. There is admittedly something amusing about watchng a guy prattle on about how he is simply better than everyone else — better brain, better heart, better constitution! — but when a guy is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he starts to believe his own P.R. campaign. And indeed, measured by the shallowest criteria of success imaginable, Sheen is a raging success. Unimaginable wealth! Not one, but two porn stars, in house! All the 7-gram rocks of cocaine you can consume!

Measured by more sane standards, a guy whose children are carted away on Day 1, and starts a Twitter account proclaiming what a “winner” he is on Day 2, is the very definition of a miserable failure. Which is what makes the disconnect between reality and his self-perception so jarring, and yes, God help me, amusing. But it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. You’re always vaguely aware that, as he prattles on how he’s not bipolar, he’s a “bi-winner” — winning over here! winning over there! — that the person he’s trying to convince most is … himself.

Obama: My Opponents Are Racists

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:48 am

He didn’t put it quite like that, of course. But the smart leftists never do. They just insinuate that, you know, you have a problem with race:

But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.

Of course, it’s difficult to know what he said and how he said it from this report, as it is admittedly full of paraphrases, and lacks the clarifying aids of a recording or even direct quotes longer than two words. Depending on what he said, he may have been accurate — there clearly is a racial component to some of the opposition to Obama. The issue is how widespread he portrayed this aspect of his opposition to be. Because most of us really don’t care about the color of his skin. The color we’re worried about is red — all the red ink required to document the effects of his disastrous policies on our national balance sheet. (Look at it as a stimulus program: Obama will save or create thousands of jobs at the manufacturers of the red ink hues!)

Given how uncertain it is what he said, how’s about a journalist asks him at his next press conference? Let’s get some clarification on just how racist he thinks Tea Partiers really are.

Via Hot Air Headlines.

In the Annals of Really Bad Public Relations… (Update: Satire?)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:21 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Update: Via Ed Driscoll there is some evidence that this is just site is parody. I would say look over the site for yourself and, well, given what I know about the ridiculousness of radical Islam, it’s hard to know. For instance on this page they call off a proposed march. But on the other hand, on this page they discuss the Islamic punishment for pedophilia, which is death. But then they suggest they do it by impaling them on top of the Washington Monument. Which sounds crazy, but, um… have you ever watched Memri for a week? Have you ever seen respected Egyptian academics suggest that Mossad is controlling sharks? Its really hard to know satire from reality with them.

So, I think the right answer is to classify this as a dubious story. Certainly I cannot stand behind it any longer. And it proves you can’t satirize something that is already ridiculous.

Update (II): The Jawa Report has an excellent post on this, including on the issue of it possibly being a satire.

Here’s a friendly tip to those who plan to march on Washington in favor of Sharia.  It is pretty dumb to declare to the world that you would like to demolish the Statue of Liberty.  From the organizers’ website:

The Statue of Liberty, designed by Frederic Bartholdi, stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor; representing Libertas, the Roman (false) goddess of Freedom, it is symbolic of the rebellious nature of the US constitution that elevates the command of man over the command of God.

In Islam, the public veneration of idols and statues is strictly prohibited. This has forced sincere Muslims to develop realistic plans that will aid in the removal of the Statue of Liberty.

Post demolition, it is recommended that a minaret be built as a fitting replacement, allowing the glorification of God to be proclaimed daily as well as act as a powerful reminder of the superiority of Islam over all other ways of life.

But as dumb as that is, it is even dumber to suggest that in the interim that we put a burqa on this beautiful statue:

Due to the scale of the task at hand, it is highly likely that rigorous safety checks will need to be employed before the demolition of the Statue of Liberty can commence; thus as a temporary measure, it is proposed that a large burkha is used to cover the statue, thereby shielding this horrendous eye sore from public view as well as sending a strong message to its French creators.

And it is downright idiotic to accompany all of that with a photoshop of what Lady Liberty would look like in a Burqa:

Now, I know what you are thinking…  “Really, Aaron?  They really did that on their site?”  Yes, they really did.

It’s also worth noting that this rule against idol worship is the exact same rule that declares it blasphemy to depict Mohammed even in a respectful way.  For instance, this cartoon that appeared at my blog would be considered blasphemous and forbidden: (more…)


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