Thursday, 18 March 2010

Deem creep! The noise from the right about the constitutionality of “deeming” beggars description. Consider Limbaugh: If [House Democrats] pass this using the Slaughter solution—in other words, literally shredding the Constitution. I decline to comment on his claim that passing this bill by “deeming” it passed will literally cause someone to walk into the National Archives and ribbon the Constitution, because the point of Limbaugh’s literal metaphor is plain enough: if the majority of the House votes to “deem” the Senate version of the bill passed, Democrats would have skirted the Constitutional requirement that, to become a law, a bill must “have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate” as “determined by Yeas and Nays,” i.e. a simple majority. How would the Democrats have accomplished this dastardly unconstitutional deed? By a House vote on November 7, 2009, in which 220 Yeas passed H.R. 3962 over the objection of 215 Nays, followed by a Senate vote on December 24, 2009, in which 60 Yeas passed H.R. 3590 over the objection of 39 Nays. These votes were both constitutionally kosher; however, the House now plans to undermine democracy by “deeming” H.R. 3590 passed not by a floor vote “determined by Yeas and Nays,” but by a floor vote “determined by Yeas and Nays.” The Democrats expect the American people to accept the unconstitutional results of a House vote in which members of the House vote to determine whether a bill should or should not be passed. The Democrats are determining the Rules of House proceedings, a practice the Constitution explicitly outlaws, in Article 1, Section 5: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” I understand why conservatives are outraged: In order to defeat a parliamentary procedure not mentioned in the Constitution—the threatened Senate filibuster—House Democrats are exercising a right granted to them by the Constitution—the right to self-determine the Rules of their Proceedings—by voting in the manner the Constitution demands—a simple majority. Moreover, they’re doing so without passing the bill, because even if more representatives vote to “deem” H.R. 3590 passed, that merely means that a simple majority voted “Yea” on the question of whether H.R. 3590 should be passed. A vote to pass H.R. 3590 is, as all loyal Americans know, not the same thing as a vote in favor of a bill that “ensur[es] an up or down vote” to pass H.R. 3590. Why? Because bypassing a direct vote on the bill allows Democrats to convince other Democrats to vote for health care reform now and claim a little distance from it in the midterm elections. Why do House Democrats need that distance? Because they know that Republicans are chomping at the bit to attack any and everyone who votes for health care reform, and they know that the tactics the Republicans will use will be dishonest. In the final tally, then: because they know that the next election will be all about death panels and the coming socialism, and because they know that Senate Republicans are determined to...
A list of people whose deaths I have permission to mourn. An annoying anonymous person writes: Why is it any time anyone hipsters or academics are supposed to like dies, they just so happen to be very important never-before-mentioned influences on your life? Are you really so needy that there's no death you won't use as an excuse to call attention to yourself? Although this comment belongs to the tedious category of "complaints about bloggers having blogs and writing about stuff on them," it nevertheless struck a chord: first, because the size of the community grieving for Alex Chilton surprised me; and second, it seems to be a dangerous time to be a living artist or academic who changed my life. That said, this annoying anonymous person is reading in bad faith: not everyone who influenced me did so greatly or uniquely, which is why I noted Kurt Vonnegut's passing in passing, as a "Vonnegut phase" is required to join the community of readers. The same cannot be said of those academics and artists with whom I shared an intimate relationship over many years, which is why I wrote individual remembrances of Octavia Butler, David Foster Wallace, Howard Zinn, or Alex Chilton. If I seem to be too familiar a type, blame central casting: academics play the part because that's the part they've been asked to play. That there seems to be a wider community of similarly interested intellectuals is, to my mind, a sign that while academic disciplines may be irrevocably balkanized, something resembling a larger intellectual culture still exists. Whether this cultural homogeneity is a good thing depends on what it actually contains, and given how surprising Chilton's inclusion image was to me, I probably should refrain from saying much more about it. However, in light of the recent proliferation of lists like this, I think I'll take a moment to silence future scolds by listing all living authors, musicians, and filmmakers with whose work I feel a deeply irrational kinship. They may not still move me as they once did, but they once did and when they die a little bit of me will too. Literature and Books Thomas Pynchon Gabriel García Márquez Susan Orlean Philip Roth Joan Didion Ishmael Reed Noam Chomsky Robertson Davies Neal Stephenson Iain M. Banks Steven Pinker Denis Johnson John McPhee China Mieville Colson Whitehead Walter Benn Michaels Bill James John Crowley Ursula K. Le Guin Mark Helprin George Saunders Film and Television Jim Jarmusch Joss Whedon David Simon David Milch Eddie Izzard Woody Allen Martin Scorsese Nicole Holofcener Atom Egoyan David Lynch Comics Dave Sim Alan Moore Alison Bechdel Scott McCloud Frank Miller Chris Claremont Warren Ellis Daniel Clowes Jeff Smith Ben Katchor Art Spiegelman Neil Gaiman Music Tom Waits Jeff Tweedy Leonard Cohen Sleater-Kinney Shane MacGowan Bruce Springsteen Paul Westerberg Tori Amos Pavement Michael Stipe The Indigo Girls Paul Simon Radiohead Grant Lee Philips Let me add: I stopped adding items to the list when I started having to think about what belonged on it. The only criterion for inclusion was...

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