Sick Day

Frank MoraesHello all my fine and faithful readers. I just got back into town from a business trip. And as seems to happen more often than not, I’ve gotten very sick. This has resulted in my not having an article up at 4:05 this afternoon. And I’ve decided to take all of tomorrow off as well.

I do plan to get to comments tomorrow. I’m going to go back to bed now. Then we’ll start all this back up on Sunday. I’m sure I will have much to say on the issues of the day — or at least what a badly designed machine the human body is. Biblical literalists often claim that we couldn’t have been created randomly (this is not actually how evolution works, but leave that for now). I’m thinking random chance explains quite a lot about life.

Talk to you soon!

Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Desire for Constant Do-Overs

Antonin Scalia - Nazi OfficerThe other day, I was working for a hate radio fan and I got to listen to hours of conservative pundits go on and on and on about how it was totally unacceptable for Obama to nominate a replacement of Antonin Scalia. It’s amazing to listen to these guys, because they are amazingly angry — 100% of the time. I can see why Rush Limbaugh is such a star. Compared to these freaks, he is nuanced and smart. But all of them think that the next president should nominate a replacement and their reasons are all the same: there must always be conservative do-overs.

It isn’t a surprise. This is the way it is among the power elite. Look at George W Bush. He was useless at business. But given enough chances, he eventually made his fortune — just as anyone else would. I’ve always found it hilarious to hear conservatives talk about how people should be rewarded for “taking risks.” These people don’t take risks. There is no risk of failure if you will simply be given another chance. And so now it is just accepted among conservatives that they too should get do-overs.

Think back to George W Bush’s second turn. The only reason Sandra Day O’Connor retired from the bench was because she got assurance from William Rehnquist that he wouldn’t retire. And then he died. So Bush got the opportunity to replace two judges, when he would have only gotten one, had Rehnquist just died a few months earlier. But the Democrats didn’t demand that they get another bit of the apple — hoping they would win the next election. It doesn’t matter if Rehnquist had died at the end of his term. And it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died.

Scalia Did the Same Thing!

This isn’t new at all. Last year, I wrote an article, Conservatives Want Obamacare Do-Over. In that I discussed how Scalia and Alito were making points about King v Burwell that were effectively asking for a do-over. They were saying, in effect, “There are problems in the law and Congress can fix them.” So what they were really saying is that the Democrats should have to pass Obamacare twice. That the Republicans should get a do-over. But it wasn’t just any do-over. It was a do-over in an environment where Obamacare was doomed. It’s like half a team badly injuring itself to score a final goal, and giving the opposite team the opportunity to play the game over against the half a team.

I know that if things were reversed — a liberal had died and a Republican was in the White House, then conservatives would be making exactly the opposite argument.

The same reasoning has gone on with regards to the Voting Rights Act. In that case, the Supreme Court noted that all Congress had to do was effectively re-litigate the Voting Rights Act. This is because it is always right and proper that liberal policy should have to be defended again and again and again. Conservatives should get endless chances to stop any kind of legislation they don’t like. It just wouldn’t be fair not to give them a do-over. And another. And another.

When I write about procedural politics, I try not to be like Charles Krauthammer. As you may remember, he was totally in favor of getting rid of the filibuster when the Republicans were in the majority. But later when filibuster abuse was much worse and the Democrats were in the majority, then he was totally against it.

I know that if things were reversed — a liberal had died and a Republican was in the White House — then conservatives would be making exactly the opposite argument. I believe if things were reversed like this, Democrats would be in despair, but they wouldn’t be arguing that there was some kind of historical precedent. It’s just ridiculous. These people don’t even try to make sense. They just know that the Republicans should be given another bite at the apple — a do over. We should all just pretend that Scalia didn’t die.

At the same time, let’s assume that Clinton is the next president of the United States. Well, these people will have been given their do-over. But they will want another. They know they can’t argue that Clinton shouldn’t be allowed to replace Scalia. So they will argue two different things. First, some will argue that the Justice must be conservative, even though they had no problem when the moderate (by today’s standards) Sandra Day O’Connor was replaced by a radical. Second, others will argue that 8 members of the Supreme Court is just great. After all, it was 6 when it first started.

The main thing is that nothing will satisfy them. It was fine for Obama to replace liberal justices with moderates. But there is just no way that they will accept Scalia being replaced with another moderate. They want do-overs until they get another George W Bush in the White House to replace Scalia with someone even worse.

Moring Music: My Life Is Good by Randy Newman

Trouble in Paradise - My Life Is GoodI went to see Randy Newman live when I was in college. He was very good. He clearly enjoys performing and he played for a very long time. And he performed another of his prototypical offensive songs: “My Life Is Good.”

I had always liked the song. But he said something that kind of bothered me. He said, “Sadly, this song is autobiographical.” It involves him being taken to his son’s school, because the boy was bullying the other children. And Newman’s response was, “Do you know who who I am?! My life is good!”

I can well imagine how that would happen. People have bad days and it speaks well of him that he’s able to recognize when he’s being a jerk. So that’s good. And I assume that “My Life Is Good” is an exaggeration. But still, it’s pretty wild.

Anniversary Post: Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus CopernicusOn this day in 1473, the great Nicolaus Copernicus was born. He’s the guy who put together the first model of the solar system with the sun in the middle. That was a brilliant insight. I remember a story about a student talking to his teacher, “Those primitive people were so stupid to think the sun goes around the earth.” And the teacher replied, “Yes, just imagine how it would have looked if that were true!” The point is that it would look the same. There is nothing obvious about thinking the earth goes around the sun. Indeed, did you see this article, Poll: 26 Percent in US Do Not Know Earth Goes Around Sun? And the funny thing? “[Americans] did better than EU residents on the question about whether Earth moves around the sun.” Go figure.

There’s an interesting thing about Copernicus’ model, though. It wasn’t very successful. He had a brilliant insight, but it still wasn’t right. He had planets moving around the sun in circles. Well, they don’t move in circles. The world had to wait almost a hundred years for Johannes Kepler’s insight that the planets moved in ellipses. (Yes, I know that circles are ellipses!) So all those old models with the earth at the center of the universe might have been complicated, but they were still better at predicting where things would be in the sky. So old Copernicus made a necessary (And difficult!) contribution to knowledge, but all alone, it wasn’t sufficient to improve the practical science.

Also: Copernicus was old. And wise. He waited until he was dying to publish his book. No torture for him! That’s my kind of guy.

Happy birthday Nicolaus Copernicus!