Don't you just stand in awe of Hugh Hewitt's incredible courage? Or not?
I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
This from Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware, Time's Baghdad bureau chief...and presumably someone who is a bit more on the front lines than Hewitt. (Or at least farther away from the N train.)
Also, Hugh? The Empire State Building isn't in "downtown Manhattan." You're in Midtown, bub. But the "bravery" still stands.
This is hardly the worst unconstitutional thing the Republicans have done, but it's gotta be the most flagrant:
[T]he House and Senate passed a major budget bill by the narrowest of margins in both chambers, including a tie-breaking vote in the Senate case by Vice President Cheney, but it turned out that the bill passed the House and Senate in different forms.
This was not simply a transcription error, a misplaced comma or a misspelled word--something that would be plenty serious--but a $2 billion discrepancy that arose over a last-minute compromise between the two chambers over the time allowed for the rental of medical equipment for Medicare patients. After the House had passed its version and the discrepancy became known, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) unilaterally changed the House bill to match the Senate’s and then sent it on to President Bush, which he signed to great fanfare.
But a seventh-grade civics student who has done his or her homework would immediately know that what the president signed is not a law. Laws, as Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution makes clear, must pass both chambers of Congress in identical form and then be signed by the president.
Of course, when Congress makes an error such as this one, it easily can be resolved by having both chambers re-pass the bill in identical form and having the president sign the proper bill. But not in this Congress with these leaders.
Because the two versions are different by a cool $2 billion, and because the more generous House version would be difficult to pass muster with fiscal conservatives, neither Hastert nor Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) wants to go through another vote. So they have decided to ignore the plain letter and intent of the Constitution and declare, with the same sensitivity to the rule of law as the queen of hearts, that it is law, period, because we say so.
How typical. The bill never actually passed. Yet, the President signed it into law anyway, because he makes his own reality.
Let me say that again. The budget bill never actually passed. And the Administration and Congressional leadership say it doesn't matter.
The WaPo takes up the chorus:
For anyone who took fifth-grade social studies or sang "I'm Just a Bill," how legislation turns to law always seemed pretty simple: The House passes a bill, the Senate passes the same bill, the president signs it.
"He signed ya, Bill -- now you're a law," shouts the cartoon lawmaker on "Schoolhouse Rock" as Bill acknowledges the cheers.
But last month, Washington threw all that old-fashioned civics stuff into a tizzy, when President Bush signed into law a bill that actually never passed the House. Bill -- in this case, a major budget-cutting measure that will affect millions of Americans -- became a law because it was "certified" by the leaders of the House and Senate.
After stewing for weeks, Public Citizen, a legislative watchdog group, sued yesterday to block the budget-cutting law, charging that Bush and Republican leaders of Congress flagrantly violated the Constitution when the president signed it into law knowing that the version that cleared the House was substantively different from the Senate's version.
The issue is bizarre, with even constitutional scholars saying they could not think of any precedent for the journey the budget bill took to becoming a law. Opponents of the budget law point to elementary-school civics lessons to make their case, while Republicans are evoking an obscure Supreme Court ruling from the 1890s to suggest a bill does not actually have to pass both chambers of Congress to become law.
The argument, in behalf of the appellants, is that a bill, signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and by the President of the Senate, presented to and approved by the President of the United States, and delivered by the latter to the Secretary of State, as an act passed by Congress, does not become a law of the United States if it had not in fact been passed by Congress. In view of the express requirements of the Constitution, the correctness of this general principle cannot be doubted. There is no authority in the presiding officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate to attest by their signatures, not in the President to approve, nor in the Secretary of State to receive and cause to be published, as a legislative act, any bill not passed by Congress. [143 U.S. 649, 670] But this concession of the correctness of the general principle for which the appellants contend does not determine the precise question before the court; for it remains to inquire as to the nature of the evidence upon which a court may act when the issue is made as to whether a bill, originating in the House of Representatives or the Senate, and asserted to have become a law, was or was not passed by Congress. . .
We are of opinion, for the reasons stated, that it is not competent for the appellants to show, from the journals of either house, from the reports of committees, or from other documents printed by authority of Congress, that the enrolled bill, designated 'H. R. 9416,' as finally passed, contained a section that does not appear in the enrolled act in the custody of the State Department.
Now, I'm no lawyer, but how I read that in English would be something along the following lines: "The argument before us is that a bill certified by both houses as having passed, and signed by the President, does not become a law if it hasn't actually been passed by Congress. Because the Constitution says so. But this argument doesn't quite address what we're called to decide -- we need to figure out how we can decide the academic question of whether a given bill was or not passed. . .and we're deciding that we don't have standing to decide this question." (Again, I'm not a lawyer, so that admittedly rough paraphrase may be off the mark. But that's how I read it.)
This looks kinda like a legal slam-dunk here -- after all, a tangentially applicable Supreme Court decision shouldn't trump Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution itself, which reads in part (with my emphasis):
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it
Doesn't seem too difficult to me. It has to have passed the House and the Senate. Presumably, the same bill.
So this $2 billion mistake, why does it matter so much? Why is the White House, to say nothing of the Congressional leadership, digging in its heels? Why doesn't the conference committee make the bills identical, repass it, and send it down Pennsylvania Avenue to be made nice, tidy, and legal?
The WaPo again:
But that would mark the third time House members would have to cast their votes on a politically difficult bill, containing cuts in many popular programs, and it would be that much closer to the November election.
Go ahead and vote for us, they're saying. Just ignore the fact that we, your elected leaders, disregard the very Constitution that brought this body into existence and enumerates our powers and responsibilities. As I said above, this is far from the worst thing the Republican-controlled government has done to the document that provides a blueprint for our nation. But if they won't even follow the supreme law of the land for something as simple as this, and for such a transparent excuse of a reason justifying it, then what makes you think they'll even remember the Constitution when they're voting on more important, consequential matters?
Go to Slate right now and read this description of yesterday's Supreme Court arguments:
One of the most dramatic moments in today's oral argument in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld comes when an uncharacteristically agitated Justice David Souter presses Solicitor General Paul Clement about whether Congress last December effectively stripped the Supreme Court of the right to hear habeas corpus claims from any of the hundreds of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Clement says it's not necessary for Congress to have "consciously thought it was suspending the Writ." Perhaps the lawmakers just "stumbled on the suspension of the Writ," which would also be fine, Clement suggests.
Souter stops him, amazed. "The suspension of the Writ," the justice sputters, is the most "stupendously significant act" Congress can undertake. "Are you really saying Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently?" he asks. It's the morning's best example of the degree to which, for Souter as well as for Justice Stephen Breyer, today's argument is an agonizing exercise in Bush administration doublespeak. Clement's arguments are frequently drawn from the well of "because the president says so," or "because the president is the president," or "because it's wartime." They start to sound like Alberto Gonzales' testimony before Congress or the president's signing statements: legal analysis by assertion and justification by double standard. This war is like every other war except to the extent that it differs from those other wars. We follow the laws of war except to the extent that they do not apply to us. These prisoners have all the rights to which they are entitled by law, except to the extent that we have changed the law to limit their rights.
In other words, there is almost no question for which the government cannot find a circular answer. . .
Later Breyer will add: "You want to say that these are war crimes. But this is not a war. These are not war crimes. And this is not a war crimes tribunal. If the president can do this, he can set up a commission and go to Toledo and arrest an immigrant and try him." To which Clement's answer is the fail-safe: "This is a war." . . .
At some point, it must begin to insult the collective intelligence of the court, these tautological arguments that end where they begin: The existing laws do not apply because this is a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war because the president says so. The president gets to say so because he is president.
From Joyce Appleby and Gary Hart's new essay, "The Founders Never Imagined A Bush Administration":
The presidency possesses no power not granted to it under the Constitution. The powers the current administration seeks in its "war on terror" are not granted under the Constitution. Indeed, they are explicitly prohibited by acts of Congress.
The Founding Fathers, who always come to mind when the Constitution is in danger, anticipated just such a possibility. Writing in the Federalist Papers, James Madison defined tyranny as the concentration of powers in one branch of the government.
"The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department," Madison wrote in Federalist 51, "consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others."
Warming to his subject, Madison continued, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition;" the interest of the office holders must "be connected with the constitutional rights of the place". . .
Madison's solution to the concentration of powers that lead to tyranny relied upon either Congress or the Supreme Court to check the overreaching of a president. In our present crisis, Congress has been supine in the face of the president's grab for unconstitutional, unlimited power, and no case is working its way towards a Supreme Court judgment.
If Madison's reliance on the ambition of other office holders has failed us, we need to look elsewhere. Can what Thomas Jefferson called the "common sense and good judgment of the American people" help us now? In the past, they have been a critical last resort when our leaders endangered the constitutional checks and balances that have made us the world's oldest democracy. But first the public must wake up to this constitutional crisis.
So every day the cafeteria at work has, in addition to the usual pasta/pizza/stirfry/deli/salad bar stuff, an "International" line, which highlights a different cuisine each day.
Today was "California."
And...the first item in the chafing dish was? Rice-A-Roni.
In 1939, a thirty-year-old man named Solomon Linda walked into a recording studio in Johannesburg, South Africa -- the only studio in sub-Saharan Africa, actually -- and improvised "Mbube", a devastatingly simple a cappella song with two words, three chords, and some chants (supplied by his group, the Original Evening Birds.)
The song was catchy. Very catchy. Catchy enough that it lent its name to a style of choral Zulu music, which became known as "Mbube music." And catchy enough that it became the first African record to sell over 100,000 copies (not bad at all in the days of 78s) and to cross over into the American marketplace. It later was transformed into a massive worldwide hit that has earned tens of millions of dollars.
See, musicologist Alan Lomax ran across a copy of "Mbube" and gave it to his folksinger friend Pete Seeger, who led The Weavers. Seeger, mishearing the Zulu chorus of "uyembube" ("you're a lion"), retitled the song "Wimoweh" and recorded it in 1952. After that version came out, it was recorded by Jimmy Dorsey. By Yma Sumac. By the Weavers, again, in a live version at Carnegie Hall. By the Kingston Trio. And, after three producers wrote new lyrics for it in 1961, it became a smash for teenage doo-wop group the Tokens (after the departure of their original lead singer, Neil Sedaka), under its new title, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
It's been recorded countless times since, by artists ranging from Miriam Makeba to N'Sync to Glenn Campbell to They Might Be Giants to Chet Atkins. It's been featured in at least thirteen movies, and not incidentally the juggernaut Broadway musical "The Lion King." All of which means big money...none of which went to Solomon Linda, the original composer of the music that went around the world. He had signed his copyright over to the recording-studio owner for 10 shillings -- just 87 cents in today's money. He died in 1962, a year after the Tokens took his song to #1. His bank account at his death held just $22. His widow and children lived in a shack with a cow-dung floor in Soweto, subsisting on a diet of corn porridge and chicken feet, and the childrens' yearly reward for passing another grade in school was an egg.
In 2000, journalist Rian Malan wrote a great Rolling Stone article that traced the history of the song from "Mbube" to "Wimoweh" to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", estimating that the song had earned over $15 million in its use in "The Lion King" alone. That article led to a PBS documentary, and ultimately a lawsuit.
Under the 1911 copyright law in force in South Africa at the time of the song's 1939 recording, the copyright reverted to the Linda estate in 1987, 25 years after his death. Which means that Solomon Linda's children missed out on a whole pile of money that was due them. They filed suit in 2004 for $1.6 million in back royalties and other compensation. And yesterday, the Times reported that the lawsuit was settled in February. Abilene Music, the company controlled by George Weiss, one of the producers who wrote the English lyrics to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in 1961, has agreed to pay the Linda family royalties from 1987 onward.
So it's a happy ending for Solomon Linda's family, and they can finally move ahead. Go read that Rolling Stone article linked above -- it's fantastic. And check out the Times article linked in the above graf. They've got a neat feature which lets you hear significant versions of the song as it evolved.
You know that if I didn't have to work this afternoon, I'd try to help set the world record for "Largest Coconut Orchestra"...
One of the things that I love about a really good newspaper or magazine -- when you read about something you had never heard anything about, and it uncovers a whole new world that you've never even thought about. (Yes, Horatio, there are more things in heaven and earth, &c, &c).
This is why I subscribe to the New Yorker, for instance. And why I read good newspapers. I was especially tickled to read this article in today's Wall Street Journal, about the FAA's names for aircraft-navigation fixes:
To arrive in Nashville, it takes PICKN and GRNIN and often a pass through HEHAW. It's the same for guitar players -- and pilots.
PICKN, GRNIN and HEHAW are fixed points in the sky that pilots use when they are flying into Nashville International Airport in Tennessee. Throughout the world, aviation authorities establish set routes to guide planes. They label key navigational points with unique identifiers, usually five-letter codes, called fixes. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen to mark the skies with a sense of humor.
Airplanes approaching Newark International Airport in New Jersey toward the northeast will cross either HOWYA or DOOIN. Louisiana has RYTHM, Kentucky has BRBON and Massachusetts has BOSOX. Kansas City, Mo., has SPICY, BARBQ and RIBBS. . .
And if you fly the approach to runway 16 in Portsmouth, N.H., you might think you're in a Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoon. The route takes you from ITAWT to ITAWA to PUDYE to TTATT. If a pilot can't land, he is told to hold by way of IDEED. ("I thought I saw a pussy cat....I did!")
It's not all Looney Tunes. The FAA says it creates memorable fixes to improve safety by making it easier for pilots to remember instructions and avoid flying the wrong route. Who's going to forget HOLDM near Las Vegas?
ADDENDUM: A pilot friend writes that Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has SMOKN, and that Charlotte has NASCR. And apparently, there used to be one called DOOBY on the Florida coast, which was removed during the war on drugs. (So, I guess you could be cleared to "pass DOOBY on the left-hand-side"?)
ANOTHER ADDENDUM: Here's the complete list of fixes.
I took this photo out the window of our plane back from North Carolina last Friday. (The best part about flying into LGA is that if the arrival pattern is right, you get a fantastic aerial tour of New York City...far preferable to the routings that take you way over Long Island or circling over the Bronx.)
Sorry I've been AFK for so long. As alluded to below, I've had my hands full with getting ready for vacation and cleaning the apartment for houseguests, then going on vacation, then hanging out with the guests and a bunch of other people. Things are slowly returning to normal, though, and after a blog-reading binge tonight (I can't wait!) I should feel ready to start shooting my mouth off again pretty soon.
I know I've been neglecting the blog lately. We went off to NC for a week's vacation, then have had houseguests this week. We totally love the houseguests, but the normal routine is a tad thrown off. (Again -- the houseguests are cool and a blast to have around. Really.)
More blogging soon-like, I hope.