Ingrid Michaelson Will Love Me When I’m Sixty-Four

Ingrid MichaelsonSomewhere in my Pandora listening, I came upon the Ingrid Michaelson song “The Way I Am.” I had never much paid attention to the lyrics. I think it shows up on my Jacques Brel station, and so most of the songs are in French, and I don’t know much French. I do, however, find some songs are so compelling that I stop and translate the lyrics. But most of time, I just enjoy the music and emotional impact of the songs. So it isn’t too surprising that I never really listened to the lyrics of this quiet, jazzy tune.

This morning, I was talking to my older sister about it. She doesn’t like the song because of the lyrics. She seemed to have a problem with the line, “I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.” So I decided to listen closely to the lyrics.

But before I get to them, let me explain something about myself: my personality is such that most of the outside world seems distant to me as though I were interacting with it through a bubble. I never remember faces or pretty much anything physical about an event. What I do remember is my subjective experience of the event. But that means that I am often completely clueless about things that are obvious to other people. So I am not exaggerating when I say that I can listen to a song many times without having more than the vaguest of ideas about the lyrics.

The song is shockingly simple:

All she is saying that she will love me forever, even as I start falling apart. What strikes me about the song is that it is a response to The Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four.” In that song, Paul McCartney asks if his girlfriend will still love him as he gets old and feeble:

So Paul McCartney asks the question and Ingrid Michaelson answers in the affirmative.

Drug War Martyr

Kathryn JohnstonOne this day in 1817, Branwell Bronte was born. He was the underachieving brother of the Bronte sisters. But he was accomplished in his way. He was apparently addicted to alcohol and opium at various times and had a bit of a gambling habit. All of that hard living is usually said to be responsible for his death at the age of 31. But there are a couple of things to think about. First, he outlived both Anne and Emily; Charlotte only beat him by 7 years, as did his mother. His father, for whatever reasons, lived to be 84 years old. As Charlotte might have said, “He was tenacious of life.”[1] The second thing to consider is that Bronte died of tuberculosis.

His painting is not at all bad for an amatuer; he clearly had the talent to become a fine artist if he had focused on it and lived longer. And I rather prefer his poetry to that of his sisters. It combines lyricism with great clarity that is not at all typical of the poetry of the period. It’s sad that he is now thought of as nothing more than the drug addicted brother of his famous sisters. He is much more than that.

The author of The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck was born in 1892. Peter Lorre was born in 1904. He is one of my favorite actors. He’s always interesting—regardless of what he does. Here he is in his breakout roll as Hans Beckert, the pediophile serial killer in the film M. This is his confession scene:

The Black Stallion author Walter Farley was born in 1915. Composer Jacob Druckman was born in 1928. Here is bassist Lisa Dowling performing Valentine. It is quite interesting, with a sound that owes a lot to prepared piano. I’m afraid that only more serious listeners and those with open minds will enjoy it:

Mick Jones of The Class is 58 today. Chris Isaak is 57. Basketball player I always reminded for his work ethic, Jerome Kersey is 51. Star of one of my very favorite films, My Best Friend, Dany Boon is 47. And dog fighter Michael Vick is 33.

The day, however, belongs to Kathryn Johnston who was born in 1914. Rather than explain myself, I’ll just provide the Wikipedia description:

Kathryn Johnston was an elderly Atlanta, Georgia woman who was shot by undercover police officers in her home on Neal Street in northwest Atlanta on November 21, 2006, where she had lived for 17 years. Three officers had entered her home in what was later described as a ‘botched’ drug raid. Officers cut off burglar bars and broke down her door using a no-knock warrant. Police said Johnston fired at them and they fired in response; she fired one shot out the door over the officers’ heads and they fired 39 shots, five or six of which hit her. None of the officers were injured by her gunfire, but Johnston was killed by the officers. Police injuries were later attributed to “friendly fire” from each other’s weapons.

One of the officers planted marijuana in Johnston’s house after the shooting. Later investigations found that the paperwork stating that drugs were present at Johnston’s house, which had been the basis for the raid, had been falsified. The officers later admitted to having lied when they submitted cocaine as evidence claiming that they had bought it at Johnston’s house. Three officers were tried for manslaughter and other charges surrounding falsification and were sentenced to ten, six, and five years.

She is a symbol for everything that is wrong in our Drug War. She is a martyr in the name of the philosophy that there really isn’t anything worse that consensual drug use. She could be alive today if it weren’t for the corruption, incompetence, and vilainy of our “justice” system.

Happy birthday, Kathryn Johnston!

[1] That is a quote from Jane Eyre. Rochester says:

Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.

That’s brilliant dialog because without being explicit he has said that he loves her.

Glenn Greenwald is a Pornographer!

Glenn GreenwaldIt looks like a couple of newspapers are interested in Glenn Greenwald’s past. In particular, they want to know about his history as a pornographer. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to say, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But that’s not true. This is exactly the kind of thing that I write: the intrepid journalist breaks a major story and all anyone cares about is the fact that he once was co-owner of a business that distributed adult movies. If I wrote it, I would set it in the future where pornography was illegal to set up the tragicomic ending where a prostitute is lionized for murdering him to get money for a fix.

Anyway, the whole thing is nonsense. I am an admirer of Glenn Greenwald and regardless of anything else, I am grateful to Edward Snowden for the revelations. But when did this story become about them? There is a real story that few in the media seem particularly interested in. Maybe it is just that it’s a lot easier to dig into Greenwald’s decades old business dealings or Snowden’s chatroom musings about the gold standard. Looking into the NSA is hard. Of course, that’s why people should be so grateful to Greenwald and Snowden.

In another Greenwald column, he discussed the Espionage Act. That law goes back to the bad days of World War I. It was what Oliver Wendell Holmes was defending when he said that one couldn’t shout “fire in a crowded theater.” That law was never about espionage and always about silencing critics of United States foreign policy.

I hadn’t given it too much thought, but it is remarkable that until Obama—over 91 years—the Espionage Act had only been used three times total and in the last 4+ years, Obama has used it 7 times. I’ve heard the stat before, of course. But given that I didn’t have much hope for Obama anyway, I didn’t think much about it. But it is important to put this into context. James Goodale recently said, “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.” Obama might want to think about that. In the long run, his great legacy may not be Obamacare but rather a major move backwards in government transparency and individual privacy.

It seems to me that the forces of darkness are winning. I’m sure that to some extent, this is just an indication of my frame of mind. But it does seem that Obama is winning in those areas where he is wrong and the conservatives are winning in all the other areas. I will not give up the fight, but it weighs heavily on me. And the consolation prizes like same sex marriage aren’t nearly enough.

TV Machine

Rachel MaddowI just saw an article over at Maddow Blog, Rachel Maddow on the TV Machine All Day. “TV machine”? I thought that was my phrase. I thought that I had come up with it independently. It is, after all, my kind of jokey philosophy. The Luddites, after all, were the Android programmers of their day. So I like to push the idea that devices are just clunky machines. It’s good to remember that nothing we do is really hard. Heart transplants are downright trivial, although we did have to kill a lot of people before we perfected them. But I’m sure that was true of the secret of fire too.

But “TV machine” also sounds very Rachel Maddow. So I guess I must admit that I just stole the phrase from her. But I doubt she has all the great Luddite and secret of fire subtext that I do. Yes, I was never a Rhodes Scholar, but that doesn’t mean I can’t out pretense her.

Environmentalism Good for Economy Right Now

ObamaI’m glad to see that Obama made his big speech and that he is now going to take executive action on climate change. I do, however, wonder why it took so long. The standard answer is that the president can only do so many things at once. While that is certainly true of me, I don’t think it applies to him. He has an enormous staff. He could hire more people if he needed. Why didn’t he, on day one, tell some people, “Put together a report on what we can do on climate change.” That would have taken 4 seconds. Or six if he had added, “Make it so.” But it’s all good and I am eager to see what actually gets done. A big part of it will depend upon the Senate getting past the Republican filibuster machine.

As I’ve been arguing for the last four years, now is the time to clean up the environment. Conservatives (and sadly, many liberals) claim that we can’t do that because it will hurt the economy. That seems like a logical complaint. But the situation is exactly the opposite. Right now, we have a huge amount of unused capacity. There are lots of people sitting around because they can’t find jobs. Corporations are sitting on piles of money they can’t find uses for. Now is the time to require companies to become energy efficient. If we wait until the economy is booming, then such regulations really will hurt the economy.

But you see, when conservatives claim that environmental regulations will hurt the economy, what they mean is that it will hurt corporate profits. And that’s true. But keeping corporate profits high is not the business of the government. That’s especially true when unemployment is high. Pollution is what economists call an externality. All of us pay part of the production costs of a polluting company through reduced quality of life (and often also quantity of life).

All economists agree that externalities are bad. They distort markets. Let me give you an example. Suppose you are making a dress at home. After you are done, there is a lot of trash: paper, thread, cloth. If you clean this up it will cost you time, thus increasing the cost of the dress. Or you could just throw it all on the floor. That wouldn’t cost you any time, but it would make your house messy, which would harm everyone in the house. By “polluting” the house with your trash, you’ve just made your housemates pay for part of the cost of your dress, even though they get none of the benefits.

We have lots of externalities in our economy and we should eliminate them as much as we can. So forcing companies to use less and cleaner energy is not depriving the company of freedom. Their actions are depriving all of us of freedom. As the companies get greener, they are taking responsibility for their actual costs of production. And now is the time for them to make the necessary changes. Not only can they afford it, it will act as a stimulus for the economy, putting unused capacity to work.

Environmental regulation during bad economic times is a win-win situation.

Update (26 June 2013 9:31 am)

Matt Yglesias reports on some of the details of regulatory stimulus. It’s good, although what he says about power plants is obviously the way that it would work.

Update (26 June 2013 9:36 am)

Paul Krugman provides a standard economics discussion of what I wrote above. He doesn’t mention dresses at all!

Stare Decisis My Ass

Let People VoteSteve Benen wrote an excellent article yesterday on the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling (which effectively struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act), In Need of a Constitutional Rationale. You see, the majority did something that is highly unusual, but telling I think: they provided no constitutional rationale for their ruling. Normally, the Court will say something like, “This is unconstitutional because it infringes on the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.” But there is nothing at all in Shelby.

Benen contacted David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center to get his take on the matter. Gans agreed. He said that Roberts claimed that the Voting Rights Act provision was inconsistent with the “letter and spirit of the Constitution.” But what that means is a mystery. Gans continued:

His majority opinion emphasized that the Voting Rights Act diminished the sovereignty of states, ignoring that [the] Fifteenth Amendment expressly gives to Congress broad power to prevent all forms of racial discrimination in voting by the states. As Justice Ginsburg’s powerful dissent demonstrates, the Court’s opinion cannot be squared with the text, history, and meaning of the Fifteenth Amendment.

But that hardly matters, right? Roberts is just calling the balls and strikes here. I could better accept these clear acts of judicial activism if it weren’t for the smug certainty of conservatives that it is only liberals who legislate from the bench. I fully accept that when the Court was in liberal hands, this went on. But it was nothing like this. Of course, since Bush v. Gore, no one could reasonably believe that conservatives on the Court were interpreting law so much as simply justifying how they wanted the world to function. Stare decisis, my ass.

And lest we think this is all an academic matter, Benen wrote this morning, It Is Open Season on Voting Rights Right Now In America. It didn’t take long either. In fact, it didn’t take any time at all. Republicans throughout the south were like amped up race horse in a starting gate, just waiting for the Supreme Court to give them the go ahead. “Just yesterday, Republican state lawmakers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas all moved forward, with great enthusiasm, on new election measures intended to make it harder for traditional Democratic voters to participate in their own democracy.”

But the Defense of Marriage Act was (barely) struck down, so liberals rool, right?


Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito continues to act like a middle school boy who hasn’t learned how to deal with all those changes going on in his body.