Ted Cruz Zinger Fail

Marco Rubio - Ted CruzThis is really great.

Ted Cruz is one of the Republicans who have been running around whining about the Gang of Eight immigration bill. According to him it is 844 pages and no one could read it in the 5 days he’s had to read it (it was actually 6). Of course, reading the bill isn’t critical. People have staff and they can be provided with the important information. Needless to say, the complaint is just a delay tactic. This is SOP in Congress. Senators are rarely against something. It is usually more like, “I’d love to vote to outlaw child rape, I’m just concerned about [some pathetic, minor issue].” And note, if that issue is removed, the Senator will just find another reasons he would loved to vote for the bill but just can’t.

In the following clip, Cruz tries to trap Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He asks her if she’s read the bill. Unfortunately for him, she has. So he has to talk about something else. It is wonderful to watch him because you can tell he’s pleased with himself for having come up with such a great zinger. Take a look:

Jerry Saltz Is an Asshole

Bush Self-PortraitI have a great fondness for serious art criticism. But I don’t think you get it by reading newspapers or magazines. What’s more, I tend to think that criticism takes time. You need to live with a piece of art for a long time. Otherwise, it is too easy to let your emotions distract you with flashy touches on a dull core.

I bring this up because I’m tired of hearing about George W. Bush’s paintings. There is a terrible tendency to look at this work and conclude that Bush is looking back on his presidency and telling us something. He isn’t. He is not a reflective man. He wasn’t at Yale, he wasn’t in the White House, and he isn’t in his new “weight room” studio. Just look at what he’s done now: a church, a dog, and two creepy self-portraits. The church and the dog are understandable: that’s who he is. The self-portraits I suspect represent the fact that he bought too much yellow and white paint and was looking for a way to get rid of it.

But I could deal with all the people stupidly hoping that Bush might reflect on his catastrophic legacy. I hope the same thing. What is far worst are the critics who have praised his work. The most prominent of these is Jerry Saltz, although there have been others. This is what he says of the painting at the top of this article:

The other picture is the strangest, and the strongest. From over his shoulder, we see Bush looking at himself in the bathtub. This means we’ve seen two images of him cleansing himself, in warm water. It’s already enough to set you off on fantasies of aloofness, aloneness, exile, and hiding.

Again with the psychologizing. And this from a big time art critic. Note that nothing is said about the technique. Could there be a reason for that?

I’m not an art critic. I think I have a decent eye, I’m open minded, and I have a good idea of what I know and don’t know. And what I can tell is that Bush’s art is not just amateur, it is bad amateur. This isn’t to say that he isn’t doing great for having painted for such a short period of time. And it isn’t to say that he won’t turn into a fine painter. But right now, his work really shouldn’t be shown outside the family. And art critics certainly shouldn’t be applauding such weak work.

Look: there are a lot of really great artists who have trouble getting any traction for their work. These are people who are far better than Bush will ever be. They would love it if someone like Jerry Saltz paid half the attention to their work that he has to Bush’s. And they need the attention. Bush does not. Bush will soon have his own one-man show, I’m sure. Why? Because he’s rich and well connected. No one will care that he paints very much like the beginning artist he is. And that’s fine. Let the rich fools have him.

But there is another even more important issue. Art critics trivialize what they do when they hold up subpar art as though it is good. It makes it look like the critics are just making things up. And sadly, that’s probably the case.

Conservatives Hate All Immigrants

Immigrant Rights

There has been much talk about how the Boston Marathon bombing changes the calculus of immigration reform. At first that surprised me. The Tsarnaev brothers were here legally. How does that have anything to do with illegal immigration. But then only last night it hit me: I’ve been dumb, naive, or both.

I’m very pro-immigration. I think diversity makes us better. With all the problems that our country has, I am proud that much of the world would like to come here. And that makes me highly sympathetic toward people who come to this country illegally. Many of them have risked death to come here. Many have died trying to come here. These are not criminals. Everyone should celebrate the fact that these people risk so much just to join us.

Just the same, I’ve often been confused by the arguments that immigrant rights opponents make. It seemed to me that they conflated legal and illegal immigration. Surely this was an error. The people who were complaining about immigration were only concerned about the illegal kind. Everyone was for legal immigration, right?

That’s where last night’s epiphany comes in. These conservatives who claim that the Tsarnaev brothers change the immigration debate mean that their concern is not just illegal immigration. These people have a problem with immigration itself. In fact, this is just a continuation of the centuries old problem of hatred and discrimination toward immigrants.

Most of my readers probably think that I’m fairly cynical. In fact, it is one of the better aspects of my writing. But I remain, deep down, optimistic and positive. I really do want to think the best of people. And sometimes that means I miss what people are really thinking unless they come right out and say, “I’m a bigot! I’m a bigot!”

Because let’s be clear: the Boston Marathon bombing and the Tsarnaev brothers have nothing to do with the underclass of undocumented residents who our system implicitly creates. And anyone who conflates them just doesn’t like immigrants. And frankly, unless you are 100% Native American, you’re on flimsy ground.

Is Bush Back?

George W. BushNow is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their last president. Yes, it is reevaluate George W. Bush time! And the pundits are out with their “Bush weren’t so bad” articles. (Yes, that was a little grammar humor with the subjunctive.) As you can probably guess, I don’t think much about this rethinking. The truth is that I have major problems with the current president and he is almost unimaginably better than the last.

Of course, the big thing now is for conservatives to come out in favor of Bush. Jennifer Rubin told us earlier today that Bush Is Back. And I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of that. Also today, Matt Yglesias tried to buff this iconoclast credentials with, Some Good Things George W. Bush Did. But sadly for Mr. Bush (but great for truth, justice, and the America way), he was not up to the task.

He mentions, as he said, some good things that Bush did. But they all come with negatives. Sure, Bush put more money into education; but he also enshrined our testing mania. He gave prescription drug coverage to seniors; but that was just a way to create one of the worst examples of corporate welfare ever. He created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; but he also limited sex education to abstinence only and spread disinformation about condoms. In the end, the best that Yglesias can say is, “Does this outweigh exceptional poor macroeconomic performance and well-known national security policy failures? Probably not.” That’s an understatement.

We’ve already read about Jeb Bush and others claiming that history will be kind to Bush. Yesterday, Jonathan Bernstein wrote an excellent article that destroys that claim, The Wrath of the Conquest of the Planet of the Bride of the Son of the Return of Cranky Blogging. He doesn’t look were most people have: at the disastrous outcomes of Bush’s policies. Instead, he looks at process and especially how disengaged Bush was. His conclusion:

Anyway, my guess is that Bush’s reputation will wind up if anything worse, not better, than his current reputation. Why? Because I suspect that when we get more information, we’ll see more instances where he was indifferent, uninvolved, unprepared, easily manipulated, and generally not up for the job and not particularly interested in doing anything about it. In other words, I’m guessing that the worst stereotypes of him as president will turn out to be true—and that his reputation, currently hurt by outcomes, will stay lousy or get worse as we learn more about process.

And it isn’t like Bernstein is some radical. Earlier today, he wrote a mostly positive discussion of Max Baucus’ career. Regardless, I think Bernstein is correct. Bush’s improved polling numbers are just due to the fact that most people have forgotten how Bush governed. Historians will not be fooled by that. Time will only sharpen the historical lens on both his processes and his outcomes. What’s more, his partisan apologists will eventually die off and there will be no one to replace them. Bush will be remembered as a bad president, but I wouldn’t necessarily say the worst; there is so much competition for that.

Marginally Bad That Baucus is Retiring

Max BaucusMax Baucus is retiring. I’m beginning to think that by the time 2014 rolls around that every Democratic senator will have decided to retire. Jamelle Bouie at the Plum Line blog says that even though Montana is a conservative state, the Democrats have a good chance of keeping the seat because former governor Brian Schweitzer will likely run for the seat. He also cautions liberals from freaking out about Baucus’ announcement. Why would they do that? Well, Baucus voted against the gun bill. So many will likely question why he didn’t vote for it if he wasn’t going to be facing re-election.

Bouie argues that Baucus was likely just doing what he thought his constituency wanted. I agree with him that we shouldn’t get any more upset at Baucus than we already are, but for a different reason. The problem with politicians who make it to the national level is that they have become so used to compromise that they no longer have the original ideals that got them to go into politics in the first place. I’ve argued that President Obama really wants to cut entitlements and that it isn’t just a political maneuver. Well, Baucus is almost certainly the same way. His A+ NRA rating isn’t from pandering; the pandering is who he is.

There is a more fundamental problem with Bouie’s contention that Baucus is just doing the work of his constituency: he doesn’t seem to care about his constituency when it comes to economic matters. For example, he repeatedly voted to make bankruptcy harder for individuals. He’s for the elimination of the estate tax. He was in favor of the Bush tax cuts which primarily benefited the rich. He’s against getting rid of tax incentives for companies that move jobs overseas. He was against single-payer healthcare reform. And his delaying tactics hurt the reform that we did get. All of these things have cost the poor and middle classes huge amounts of money. Baucus is not a man who cares about his constituency, unless you consider his constituency the very rich.

As I’ve noted in the past, it is unfair to complain when red state Democrats are conservative. Just the same, when it comes to issues like bankruptcy and corporate welfare, I don’t see a groundswell of resistance. But when proto-fascists like Dianne Feinstein from blue states are for the Bush tax cuts and the elimination of the estate tax, it is no wonder that red state Democrats feel no pull to vote for liberal economic policies.

Still Baucus has generally been a good team player for the Democratic Party. (It’s the Democratic Party that is the problem.) If his seat goes to a Republican, it will be a bad thing.

Update (23 April 2013 5:33 pm)

Chris Hayes on All In just said almost exactly what I did here.

Max Planck

Max PlanckYou may have heard that William Shakespeare was born on this day in 1564. But the truth is that we don’t know. The same goes for Christopher Marlowe and Miguel de Cervantes. What we know is when they were baptized. And the convention is to assume that babies were baptized on the third day. So really all we can say is that Shakespeare was born on or before 26 April 1564.

The painter J. M. W. Turner was born in 1775. The great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891. Director Ronald Neame was born in 1911. Roy Orbison was born in 1936. And American terrorist Timothy McVeigh was born in 1968.

Shirley Temple is 85 today. She is known for her political work in the Republican Party, which isn’t surprising given her marriage to businessman Charles Alden Black. Of course, that was when the Republicans weren’t quite so radical as they are now. Just the same, she was in favor of the Vietnam War after reasonable people had figured out it was bad for all involved. The great documentarian Michael Moore is 59. Judy Davis is 58. George Lopez is 52. And actor Dev Patel is 23.

But the day belongs to the father of quantum mechanics Max Planck who was born in 1858. He did a whole lot of stuff during his career but he is best remembered for solving the ultraviolet catastrophe. Of course, Planck wasn’t trying to solve the problem. Anyway, what he showed was that an object can only emit light in packets of particular energies. That energy is given by h (Planck’s constant 6.63e-34 J*s) multiplied by the frequency of the light. What I find fascinating is that Planck didn’t accept Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect, which is more or less an application of Planck’s theory. And it wasn’t because he didn’t like Einstein. In fact, he was a friend and champion of the younger scientist. We humans are complicated. Max Planck was a great man.

Happy birthday Max Planck!