Some years ago, when my parents were downsizing from a three-bedroom house to an assisted-living apartment the size of a box stall, it was my job to dispose of my father’s vast wardrobe. He kept a nominal suit, handful of ties and a couple of dress shirts, and I had to get rid of everything else, which included all sorts of interesting treasures like Bally loafers and Irish wool trousers the thickness of a wetsuit. This was at the very dawn of eBay, so please spare me the “you could have made a FORTUNE” comments. Believe me, I know.

There were a lot of ties. Many, many ties, most of them first-quality. (My dad had friends in the rag trade, and he was a loyal customer.) I offered some to the men in my office, who were already into the casual-Fridayization of the newspaper business, so I didn’t get rid of many there. (In my time in newsrooms, I watched the default men’s turnout go from jacket and tie to shirt and tie to collared shirt with no tie to polo shirt to plain T-shirt to Mustard Plug T-shirt — worn with Teva sandals, the better to show off your grimy toenails.)

But there was one that I held onto. It was green with very small blue shamrocks, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day in a corner office. Silk, classy, nothing about Erin-go-braless or kiss-me-I’m-Irish. I gave it to the most Irish American I know, Dr. Frank Byrne. His mother was Italian, but all her genes were recessive — he has the mop of prematurely gray hair and the ruddy complexion, a sister on the New York City police force and a degree from Notre Dame. They don’t come any more Irish than Frank. He accepted the tie with far more gratitude than the small gesture was worth, and every year at the time it’s like 5,4,3,2,1 and my e-mail beeps, and whaddaya know, here it is. Subject line: Got your Dad’s tie out & ready to go for St Patrick’s Day! Text: Thanks again.

No problem. My dad’s been dead since 2003, but his ghost still walks every year on March 17. And he was no more Irish than Tony Soprano.


People tell me that after you live here for a while, you get used to stories like this, but I haven’t, yet: A Detroit city councilman — one of the good ones, one of the sane ones — has defaulted on his mortgage. Detroit is a city where everyone lives pretty close to one sort of edge or another, but it was this detail that dropped my jaw:

Kenyatta and his wife walked away from a monthly tax, insurance and mortgage payment of $2,600, one year before the interest would jump to 11.625 percent from 6.625 percent and the payment would hit $3,600. Kenyatta said that even though his monthly payment has remained the same for years, he felt it made no sense to remain in a house whose value had plummeted to $100,000.

The $100K figure is less than half the 2004 purchase price, but that wasn’t the jaw-dropper for me: The guy makes $81K as a councilman, a post he could, presumably, hold for life. But the bank wouldn’t let him renegotiate his ARM. Frankly, I don’t blame him. Now that bank owns a house that will likely stand empty for months or years, losing value with every passing day, because they wouldn’t give the guy a break on a 11.6 percent mortgage. Screw. Them.

This is a popular attitude today, of course: Contempt for our financial institutions. Elsewhere in the DetNews, a business columnist reminds us of a lesson about the sanctity of contracts:

Contracts? Sacred? Unbreakable? Tell that to autoworkers whose union cut a deal with Detroit’s automakers only to see the Bush administration, Team Obama and ranting members of Congress from both parties demand those contracts be torn up in exchange for a $17.4 billion federal lifeline.

Tell that to bondholders of General Motors Corp. under relentless pressure to swap two-thirds of their debt for shares in the automaker and risk bankruptcy. Tell that to CEOs at GM and Chrysler LLC now working for $1 a year and flying commercial. Or to employees whose bonuses are gone. Or to suppliers whose “contracts” aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Contracts matter in Bailout Nation or they don’t. And either the lenders of last resort — you and me, Congress and the Obama White House — can demand shared sacrifice from those who managed their firms into the ground or they can’t.

But, but…the UAW has good health insurance! How much can the American taxpayers be expected to endure?!

Eh, what do I know? It’s garbage day, everything’s at the curb, and I just saw the third scrapper cruise the block, looking for a little metal to scrounge. Because we live so high on the hog here in southeast Michigan.

Elsewhere? When Richard Cohen went wrong, he went wrong in a big way. Today: Sympathy for Jim Cramer. Because how could a man who tells everyone he knows everything be expected to know anything?

Once upon a time, the new NYT conservative columnist was a young man at Harvard. And, apparently, a real jerk. Michael Kinsley piles on, with stem cells.

A little disjointed today, I know. Sorry. I’m off to the gym, to take up the burden I dropped last week.

Posted at 9:42 am in Current events, Detroit life |

63 responses to “Green.”

  1. Gasman said on March 17, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Cohen’s premise seems to be that Cramer and a legion of others are blameless for not recognizing the present financial crisis because so many smart, good people – Cohen included – got caught with their pants down. Stewart is taken to task for mocking these people in their moment of genuine pain. Give me a break.

    There is a copious record of people in the business world that had been sounding the alarm on risky mortgages, credit default swaps, Bernie Madoff’s scam, and many of the other “creative” financial products that have been relied upon for the past few years.

    When Stewart was on Letterman, he said that the business press not recognizing the collapse of our economy was kind of like watching coverage of a hurricane on the Weather Channel and seeing the on air person standing in the wind and the rain asking, “Why am I wet? What is happening!? Who knew?” Cramer, et al., simply didn’t ever question anything that anyone on Wall Street ever said. They willingly accepted and believed it all.

    Cramer, Cohen, and many others simply wanted to believe that the glittering men and women of Wall Street found risk free ways to make money indefinitely.

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  2. moe99 said on March 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Cohen is a wanker of the first order. There are 138 posts on another site that I visit documenting his wanking for the past 4 years. He’s the kind of guy who was tut tutting Clinton’s vicissitudes with Monica while having his own affair with Kati Marton, wife of Peter Jennings, in ’87. It was discovered by Ben Bradlee who refused to lie for them. Jennings divorced her 5 months after learning of the affair.

    Here are some old samples:

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  3. coozledad said on March 17, 2009 at 10:43 am

    If Ross isn’t just lying his ass off to us, then he’s certainly been lying to himself lo these many years. I can only say that a plump girl trying to wrestle me on a bed in college did not happen nearly enough. That story reminds me of someone flushing a fifth of Jameson’s down the toilet, or boasting about refusing tickets to the premiere of The Rite of Spring.

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  4. Gasman said on March 17, 2009 at 10:49 am

    As for the NYT getting Ross Douthat to fill Bill Kristol’s odious shoes on the oped staff, who cares? What could it possibly matter what conservative they get? Conservatism is a moribund philosophy. It’s very premise is antithetical to intellect. The conservative commentators are interchangeable in their shrill, brain-dead, treasonous detachment from reality. Is having Douchehat on staff going to demonstrably better/worse than Kristol? I’m sure he will be more overtly offensive, but the content won’t be substantively different.

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  5. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Did you read the comments below the story about Ross in bed with the Reese Witherspoon lookalike? Lots of folks think Ross might be gay, which is what I thought. I’ve had a run of dealing with conservative, self loathing, gay men lately. Not in bed, but elsewhere. They claim the moral high ground rather than face their own proclivities. It’s so tiresome.

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  6. nancy said on March 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    That was, indeed, my first thought about Ross, too. When the spirit is unwilling and so is the flesh, it’s time to say hello to your inner interior decorator.

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  7. jeff borden said on March 17, 2009 at 11:23 am

    What Coozledad said.

    A college-age man reclining on a bed with a blonde resembling Reese Witherspoon nibbling on his ear while saying the secret words –“I’m on the pill”– and is offended is not a normal college-aged man, conservative or liberal. I certainly hope the young lady slapped the priggish Mr. Douthat silly before she exited his cold, cold bed.

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  8. beb said on March 17, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    This doesn’t bode well for Kwame Kenyatta’s plan to run for mayor in the November (as opposed to May) election. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. To me, a guy walking away from a mortgage leads me to think he’ll walk away from his job if elected mayor. I suppose, however, that there are a lot of people here in Detroit who see this as ‘sticking it to the man,’ and therefore regard Kenyatta as a bad-ass MFer deserving to be mayor of the city. God, help us.

    I’m a mix of Irish, Scots, German and English. I think I’ve invaded every country my ancesters have come from so St. Patrick’s day leaves me a little cool. I have discovered this week, though, that the Irish make cheese. A kind of cross between sharp cheddar and parmesiain. How long has this been imported into the county and I didn’t know about it.

    The best pub I’ll probably never get to again was Dublin in Dayton, Ohio. They sold a Guiness based Irish stew was was a delight. The convention that used to take me to Dayton has moved to Columbus, so I’ll have to find new eating-holes.

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  9. del said on March 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Um, maybe I’m in the minority on this but I believe that, in moments of passion, one who whispers something, anything, into a potential paramour’s ears does so at great risk. And therefore Ross’s words ring true. [“I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered–“You know, I’m on the pill…”]

    Please people, in honor of St. Patrick, respect the silence.

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  10. Catherine said on March 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Nice piece on NPR this morning about the collapse of the Irish miracle. Apparently, even in the midst of economic pain, the pubs are not at all empty. Irish priorities at their finest!

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  11. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    There have been Irish cheeses coming into the US for a good long time. Blarney is one, and it’s not a quaint local cheese. It’s sort of Jarlsberg with fewer holes. I’ve been buying a cheese called Dubliner from Costco. It’s very good just for munching and it melts well on pasta or bread.

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  12. Sue said on March 17, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    News reporters were stationed at various pubs in Milwaukee this morning. 6:00 a.m. – people were looking barely awake in front of their guinness and green eggs & ham. I’m assuming it’s livened up by now.

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  13. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I’m in the process of getting rid of my ex father in laws stuff. This is not easy, since he was a power shopper and a lover of very expensive things. We have four pairs of unused or barely used skis, the most over designed, overbuilt umbrella in the world, a custom made silk Nehru suit from Saks, a custom made Madras tuxedo, also from Saks, three never opened HP printers, about twenty sweaters, cashmere, Aran, alpaca, handmade looking, and three dozen silk dress shirts made to fit a guy who is about 5’8″ and chubby. Anyone intersted?

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  14. Jolene said on March 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Douthat is an aesthete–almost too fine for the things of this world, so his reaction to the Witherspoonesque young woman is of a piece with his reactions in other domains. Even so, I’m inclined to agree that ill-timed or ill-formed utterances can be passion-killers. Still, as DeLong said, he didn’t have to write about it in just this way.

    What I don’t understand about Douthat is why he is a conservative. He’s always finding fault w/ conservatism as is. Perhaps his ideological commitments are as rooted in ideals as his ideas about sexual interaction.

    He has had a blog on The Atlantic’s web site, so if you’re interested in more of his opus, you can find it there. Also, FWIW, he’s married. Not a guarantee of heterosexuality, but an indicator.

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  15. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Jolene, I don’t even consider it an indicator. Especially if you don’t want to deal with being gay. Just get married and hope for the best.

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  16. paddyo' said on March 17, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Even though my name gets me many “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”‘s from friends and acquaintances every year, I’ve never understood the adult interest — pardon me, the “grown-up” interest, there’s a big diff — in the green-Hallmark Hauliday.

    For us as kids, it was great fun: Pinch a classmate who wasn’t wearing green! In my 20s, 30s, 40s, OK, a little tippling or the occasional pub crawl, but no big deal.

    But now I gaze out upon the besotted throngs of Bozos in neon-green bowlers inhaling green beer and puking in the streets, and it’s just another empty tribute to stupid excess.

    Sorry to be PaddyO’Downer. So, for today, if I could I’d don the cardboard gold-painted bishop’s mitre, gold-painted crook-necked cane and bright-green chasuble my mom sewed me for the All Saints’ Day parade at St. Frances of Rome Elementary School and declare:

    I hereby drive the snakes out of this Internet site.
    Erin go blog!

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  17. brian stouder said on March 17, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    What I don’t understand about Douthat is why he is a conservative. He’s always finding fault w/ conservatism as is.

    For years, I said I was “a conservative”, and I was always finding fault with it, as is, too. My guess is that Jeff TMOO defends the ideal of conservatism rather than the ‘as is’ deal we have.

    There’s a sort of home-team effect, too, I think, wherein one defends a thing inertially rather than dynamically.

    edit – Mary – I’m 5′8″ and chubby!

    edit II – paddy – y’know, I was once told that wearing orange in the wrong neighborhood on St Paddy’s day will get you crowned (in the violent sense) – just as wearing green in the wrong neighborhood can be bad for your health.

    Something to do with William of Orange, et al

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  18. nancy said on March 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I could buy Douthat’s reaction if he were 45. But a college-age man is a thing of beauty, in that the body is engineered for one purpose, and performs that function admirably, under nearly all circumstances. He was quailing, recall, well before she said she was on the pill, but of course, being a good Cat’lick, that’s what struck the sails once and for all.

    I think Douchehat is going to be the nickname that sticks, because it fits.

    As for your father-in-law’s things, Mary… what is it about the umbrella that makes it so awful? Because I’m in the market for a new one, and was thinking maybe now’s the time to not always buy the $10 cheapie but an umbrella that really really holds up. And being about 5-8 and chubby myself, I may have to claim that madras tuxedo.

    OK, kidding. I’m sure an LA vintage shop would love that one, as well as the Nehru suit, which if you play your cards right could find itself in a movie. What about the cashmere sweaters? Isn’t it a sin to waste cashmere?

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  19. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    The cashmere won’t go to waste. It’s just not very flattering on me and my sons are already a lot taller than gramps. The umbrella is, let me see, it weighs a lot. It has a tip that isn’t just metal. It’s thicker than most and has a rubber tip on the metal. The ribs are heavier than usual, and seem to have more joints and springs than my other umbrellas. I suspect he ordered it from London or something. All the latches, springs, etc. are more engineered than your typical umbrella. And did I mention it’s heavy?

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  20. mark said on March 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Poor Kenyatta. I was nearly in tears until I read that he and his wife have been able to actually upgrade their housing arrangements during this horrible time. A small ray of well-deserved sunshine in the midst of their dark times.

    I can only imagine the predatory, Republican lender who took advantage of their inability to read and put them in an ARM with a 7 year teaser. And who would have ever thought that Detroit real estate might decline in the intervening years? Truly a world turned upside down!

    And no new bank will loan him the $215,000 needed to pay off his current mortgage? When he has a perfectly good $100,000 home as collateral? Screw them, indeed! How can we get back to the go-go economy if banks refuse to start making really stupid loans again?

    And it would be great if some “bank” was going to be stuck with this home, except the bank sold the loan years ago, and it got bundled with thousands of others, securitized, and sold in share interests to brokerage houses, who turned and resold it to pension funds, mutual funds, etc.

    The mortgage servicer, who is the only one left that knows anything about the loan but has no rights in it, has a contract that says it can’t just re-write loans or forgive indebtedness, because that violates the covenants that flow with the securities, and violates the terms of the “insurance” (credit default swap) that the issuer purchased from AIG to help market the security to the UAW pension plan or the California Teacher retirement fund.

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  21. jeff borden said on March 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm


    You hit the nail on the head. There aren’t many words that would dissuade a horny college guy from canoodling (channeling Page Six today) with a pretty young woman except, maybe, “My husband will be here any minute” or “This is my first time since getting out on parole” or “I can’t wait to have kids!”

    Otherwise, particularly in the scenario described by Douchehat, it’s going to be all systems go. Unless you’re Ross and a Catholic priest has found his way into the control room of your libido, which was the scenario in Woody Allen’s version of “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.”

    On an unrelated note, the crowning of political pundits with little or no background in journalism or political coverage bugs me. Whenever I read a “legacy hire” like Jonah Goldberg, who never covered a two-car fatal, or Bill Kristol, who never had to boil a three-hour council meeting into a tight little 15-inch story, it ticks me off. I understand Douchehat wrote for “The Atlantic,” but did he opine or did he actually go out and expend a little shoe leather by reporting and researching stories?

    Sheesh, at least the old-school political writers had actually gone out and gathered news before ascending to their op-ed perches.

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  22. nancy said on March 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I think Kenyatta would have stayed in his house if he could have kept his payments level. But what in the world can a bank expect with a doubling interest rate in a down market, particularly a sharply down market? So they “win” this one, and I hope they made a lot on all those fees that came down like rain, because oops, their collateral isn’t much to write home about.

    I don’t blame people for assuming real estate would keep rising, especially in 2004. Because that is what we were told, from every direction, from every source. A bad year was a 3 percent gain. A disaster was a flat year. But a 50 percent drop? That clears the table, and my sympathy for the lenders is encompassed in this music played by the world’s tiniest violin. They, presumably, had economists on staff. My guess is Kenyatta’s credit was also crap, which is why he got a 7-year ARM. More fees for the bank on that one.

    I repeat: Screw. Them.

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  23. mark said on March 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    No banks are getting screwed. They took their money years ago and they are out.

    The taxpayers are getting screwed. AIG gets a bailout every month so it can pay its obligations on the CDS. Why in the world would a mortgage servicer want to do a workout with Kenyatta when doing so violates the terms of his contract with the investors and jeopardizes the insurance against losses? The taxpayers are making good on the insurance so government has made it make sense for the servicer to ignore Kenyatta and let another house go into foreclosure.

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  24. Gasman said on March 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I’m not sure if I am the originator of ‘Douchehat’ or not; my use of the moniker certainly did appear first in this thread, however. I grant that you are all free and clear to use it with my blessings.

    brian, you stated, “My guess is that Jeff TMOO defends the ideal of conservatism rather than the ‘as is’ deal we have.”

    Tell me, when was this time of “Ideal Conservatism,” this time of unicorns and leprechauns? I am unaware of its chronology. Could you place it to a specific day, month, year, or even a decade when this noble philosophy ruled o’er our fair land?

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  25. brian stouder said on March 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    gasman – lately I’ve been working with our 13 year old on the concept of “when to quit”.

    Has there ever been an “Ideal Liberalism,” this time of unicorns and leprechauns?


    FDR comes close, if you overlook his racist concentration camps for innocent Americans of Japanese descent…etc etc

    The concept here, ‘gasman’, is that reasonable people can disagree reasonably, yes?

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Well, i was thinking Disraeli, or maybe Chesterton, but you probably mean this country.

    There’s a long-standing tradition that acknowledges there are liberals and conservatives, and there is correlation but not absolute correspondence with Democrats and Republicans (then there’s New York State, where you actually have all four on the ballot, even if there’s still – but not always! – just the two candidates). So to call someone, within my living memory, a “liberal” did not overwhelmingly mean you were not a Republican, and vice versa.

    The map has changed in the post-68 convention, post-Watergate world many of us ’round this Guinness honoring (if not actually serving) public house grew up in. Liberal became anti-war and conservative became anti-tax and abortion complicated both camps by over-simplifying them. Precinct captains in the Chicago of my yout’ would easily understand what you meant by a conservative Democrat, and even in rural Indiana where i grew up a liberal Republican would not be named Earl Landgrebe, but Earl would shake his hand and let him sit at the table when the low number license plates were handed out by the county committee.

    I’m told that it’s all the fault of some conservative cabal that lib’url became a naughty word that even many Democrats run from, and that conservative talk radio, or rather conservativetalkradio is the creature of vast, ominous Post-Gazette trust funds, but i think the reality is a bit more complicated than that. I live in a world where people would like there to be less abortion, but the government should butt out in the earliest stages (weeks? months? we don’t know, just early), where taxes are starting to make people of good will towards their fellow citizens in need a bit nervous because “just how far up can they go, anyhow?”, and want a few things like flags and courthouses and cemeteries to be honored and children to get a good basic education, whatever the heck it is basic means today (but see clause on taxes above).

    Is that center-right? I’m not even sure anymore if that hypenate means anything. There is a creative willingness to change among most engaged citizens that is neatly balanced by a solid skepticism about dramatic change that is drastic and unfamiliar founded in a purely intellectual basis, while the weeds around that tidy edifice sprout an unsightly handful of anti-intellectual and racially biased blossoms, stunted and rank with decay.

    That house needs a bigger, more welcoming front porch, but i’d paint it before i pulled off all the clapboards and covered it with nano-technology solar generating vinyl siding. That’s the conservatism that i affirm and uphold, and it leads me often to vote for Republicans, but even then not because their party platform pleases. It’s a conservatism that has had me actually work for Dem campaigns on occasion (Stan Jones in Indiana being one), and certainly vote for a few.

    And it’s the sort of conservatism that makes me wince for anyone who thinks “Douchehat” is the beginning or end of any kind of useful conversation about plans and policy for the larger house, or House and Senate, that we live with.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Oh, and that nano-tech solar panel stuff i’d try with a few square yards on the roof that i could test out, and if it really worked and held up for a couple years, i’d probably invest in the company, and then put it on the sides of the house that face away from the street — but then i don’t live in an architectural review overlay area, where i have to go through three review panels after filling out 70 pages of forms and pay a $110 fee before i can even start bidding the project. All of which is what keeps even liberals in my village feeling a wee bit conservative from time to time.

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  28. Gasman said on March 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I would not contend that there is, or ever was an ideal liberalism. I think that is precisely the point of liberalism. It points out how we fail to live up to our ideals and aspirations. Conservatism is constantly reminding us that it alone has all the answers.

    Absolutely, reasonable people can disagree. In your experience, how often do people that strongly identify themselves as conservatives disagree civilly? How are the national level conservatives doing so now?

    Liberalism does not have, and never has had a monopoly on the truth. But our present day conservatives on the national level would have us believe that only they have access to THE TRUTH.

    Still no date or decade cited.

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I think Brian answered the point well enough for the both of us (thank you, sirrah).

    Although i think rather well of Teddy Roosevelt, W.H. Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover, while not endorsing all their specific proposals. So if i were to play this game, i’d be placing my chips on 1901 to 1933, with a Wilsonian interregnum excepted. And the letters of WFB and Whittaker Chambers are meaningful to me (as is “Witness,” which lays out in detail the truth of the aphorism “No one with a heart isn’t liberal in their youth” — i’ll let you fill in your favorite of the five or six possible subordinate clauses that follow). But which party is really proud of the 1950s? Bright spots, much darkness, but after Harry desegregated the Army in ’48 and until Ike pushed open Little Rock’s schools in ’57, it was strange days indeed.

    Don’t even talk about the ’60s.

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  30. Danny said on March 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Brian/Jeff, you’re a better men than I today.

    Gas, what an odd fantasy life you must have. Does a DNC donkey blow-up doll figure into the mix somewhere?

    But seriously, your posts reveal something bizarre and extremely immature in the way you relate to the real world. Take for instance your oft repeated canard that Dems would never, ever, ever hope for failure of any of the opposing party? Only Republicans would do this. That sort of logic is okay for a “B” on a middle school civics class paper, but it really doesn’t belong in the mind of an adult.

    Failure of the “other side” is always fodder for the narrative of “change” that swings the pendulum to and fro. Unfortunately, that’s just the way things are in this two-party system. A reasonable person would see this.

    And to be fair, you’re not the only violator in this regard. Plenty of others here participate in this immature, liberal fantasy-life think. And perhaps it is difficult for you to resist the Sirens’ call of these like-“minded” meanderings, but don’t mistake consensus from a small, vocal group for actually being right.[/rant]

    Back to the regularly scheduled program.

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  31. brian stouder said on March 17, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Still no date or decade cited.

    Abraham Lincoln was a definitive conservative – conserving the imperfect Constitution and the imperfect union.

    ‘Course, he was also the definitive pragmatist, tweaking policy, rethinking questions, facing new challenges, and finally (and magnificently) affecting huge change.

    In the end, modern-day conservatives are about as similar to Lincoln as a chestnut horse is to a horse chestnut…and modern day liberals are much quicker on the trigger than our 16th president was.

    Our 44th president lionizes Lincoln, rightly I think. President Obama expresses in his books – and in his recent speeches – an earnest devotion to ideas and programs “that work”, and not some one-stop dogma shop.

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  32. Jolene said on March 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    So, are you all really outraged by the AIG bonuses? I must be experiencing “outrage fatigue”, as I just haven’t been able to work myself into a frenzy about it. I mean, it stinks, but is it bad enough to justify the ranting on cable TV and in Congress?

    Just last week, we were told not to worry about the earmarks in the omnibus budget bill because they were such a small proportion of the whole–$8B in a $410B bill. The bonuses are also a small proportion–$165M of the $170B in bailout funds that AIG has gotten . . . so far.

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  33. Danny said on March 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Though these bonuses are “outrageous,” I can only muster mild bemusement.

    And I’m wondering how effective Sen. Dodd can be in going into this mess when he received over 100k from AIG in political contributions.

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  34. del said on March 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I think that the bonuses should be withheld if plausible legal arguments could be made to do so — then, let the execs sue — and let the defendant request a jury trial. What would a jury conclude? No pain and suffering/emotional distress damages are available in contract cases so it’s not like they’d have to pay more than the bonus amount.

    Hell, the City of Detroit adopted a similar strategy with regard to building contractors and would routinely withhold payment forcing litigation by which it could then compromise its obligation amount. Of course construction contracts allow some wiggle room naturally over issues of performance.

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  35. Jolene said on March 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    And I’m sure Dodd is not alone. It’s also interesting that the people receiving the bonuses are based in London. If it turns out that most of them aren’t American, we’ll have something new to rant about.

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  36. Danny said on March 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    ..dang furriners!

    Yeah, maybe Mary could harangue her in-house Brit about it.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Well, right up there with the bonuses awfulness (Grassley managing to actually make them seem defensible by his outre-critique), is the fact that such a huge amount of the AIG bailout is going directly to central banks in European countries, where they’re cackling that we’re going socialist by bailing out banks, but they aren’t gonna do it for there’s — right, we’re bailing out their banks.

    The whole deal reeks. No doubt i’m missing some mitigating factor that Larry Summers will explain to me when he has a moment.

    Off to bowl, hoping Jesus isn’t on the adjoining lane. It’s a scout troop outing, after all.

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  38. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I could, Danny, but he would think I’m crazy. I’ll tell him I’m haranguing on your behalf.

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  39. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    On another note, I can’t decide which statement is more offensive. Grassley’s suicide suggestion or the Pope discouraging condom use to prevent AIDS in Africa.

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  40. LA Mary said on March 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Just read the news about Natasha Richardson. I remember the first time I saw her. It was in the PBS Sherlock Holmes series, in “Copper Beeches.” It was very memorable. She was so young and beautiful and her performance was so good. After 24 years I still recall how impressed I was.

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  41. kayak woman said on March 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I’m laughing about the Teva sandals. I was dumped rather unceremoniously into a *real* job about a year ago. After 15 years off. I love it. But. Business casual? I don’t even know what eez that (to quote a Spanish friend of mine). Turns out I can do business casual if I have to, except for my feet. After a few months of suffering in beautiful shoes that I hated, I put them in a drawer in my cube for emergency use and started wearing my Chacos *every* day. I do wear hose with them so no one can see my grimy toenails.

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  42. caliban said on March 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I love ties. I’ve saved an astonishing silk tie with large red white and blue peace symbols that was a Christmas present from my mom and dadnearly forty years ago. Wore it for my first passport portrait and every new one since.

    I’m probably biased (but that’s why I’m saying it instead of anybody else), but the thing about Irish exports is a serious commitment to quality that I believe springs from Irish myth. I mean real myth surviving in modern culture. American myth is the alleged saintliehood in the face of discernable and provable facts: Ronald Reagan charmed the Evil Empire into dissolution with grandfatherly benificence manifest destiny raised all boats; Starwars works,; the stock market isn’t some rich assholes game of baccarat and they don”t keep score and preen over the demise of the less fortunate.

    So Irish. Well, there’s the best poet (And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?) and jaysus, how did hee see Bushco coming. There’s a playwright (G. B. Shaw) that saw the blasted heath and the necessity of choosing peace. The novelist that set fire to the rules and begat Thomas Pynchon, and Pynchon begat Thomas Gibson.* You’re great flaming queer with such spectacular talent he could epigrammatisize Romans like Juvenal and Ovid intttto oblivion, like NWA vs. everybody butt Chuck D and Run DMC.

    Aactually, the idea of producing only the best resides in WB Yeats, you know, Irish poets learn your craft. It’s soomething that goes way back. Connamera men, and Fiach O’Byrne Brits have treated Ireland like land to grow fodder for imperialistic wars for severaal Centuries. They implanted religiouss hatred as a time-honored wedge issue to keep tthe Irish under their boot.

    Of course the finest Irish export is music. When mass marketers tell everyboody it get’s to be everybody’s Irish time. I have to laugh. Tthere’s a Pogues’ song that says, “this land was always ours, was the proud land of our fathers, it belongs to us and them, not tto aany of the others.” Sso when you listen to Shane McGowan at Christmastime,
    in the drunktank. Think about several hundred years of mindless and brutal oppression

    Theere’s another Pogue’s song, called ‘The Galway Races’. Rather ecumenical idea:

    There was half a million people there
    Of all denominations
    The Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Presbyterian
    Yet there was no animosity
    Yet there was no animosity
    No matter what persuasion.

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  43. alex said on March 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Danny, that was an especially petty swipe at gasman. And what’s this?

    … don’t mistake consensus from a small, vocal group for actually being right.

    Take your own advice and quit being a slave to the Republican “base.” Let your hair down a little bit. Become a RINO. Please.

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  44. Linda said on March 17, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I know this goes back to an old part of the thread, but when Richard Cohen goes wrong, it is usually in the same way. If you read his columns, he tends to be sympathetic/empathetic for folks he imagines to be just like himself–connected big shots in the government or media, who have some failing he can imagine himself having. For instance, that was his main sympathy with Clinton when he was caught catting around, because any guy could/would have done that and fibbed about it. I think he sees Cramer as a big media figure, who pals around with financial big shots. They all drink the shared Kool Aid, the belief that our government and business elite got to where they are because they know what they are doing. He feels that it was natural for Cramer not to question that assumption, because on some level, he doesn’t either.

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  45. Deborah said on March 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Earlier in the thread there was talk about “are we really that outraged?” and I have to say YES, YES, YES, I am livid. I wish I weren’t, it’s almost embarrassing how mad this AIG bonus situation makes me. I am also interested in how both sides of the aisle find this so disgusting. Or am I wrong about that? I think it is extremely healthy that ordinary Americans are up in arms, finally, finally, about the stink of it that has permeated this country for a couple of decades. When will this end? What a bunch of turds (the AIG guys taking/giving their flunky bonuses).

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  46. Gasman said on March 17, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    If I’m wrong about the Dems not hoping for W’s failure, all you need do is find the quote that buttresses your contention. I note that you have not done so. I welcome your arguments which might prove me wrong. So far, your best argument is “because I say so!” This is intellectually lazy and untenable.

    No way in hell is Lincoln a conservative in the context of his political time. Citing his “conservation” of the Union is merely a play on words. He was accused by the conservatives of his day as being an abolitionist, which was about the most liberal moniker in the context of the 1850s and 1860s. He certainly did not start out as an abolitionist, but he did pragmatically become one. The conservatives of the day were pro-slavery and overwhelmingly Democrats.

    I’ve always said that the party affiliation of conservatism/liberalism is chronologically dependent. At times, such as now, there is a fairly sharp divide between liberalism and conservatism along party lines. At other times both factions might reside in one or both parties. The former was the case in the Democratic Party from the early 20th Century to the 1960s.

    Actually, the time in our history during which conservatives were nearly exclusively identified with a single party and as polarized and strident in their message to me is that of the Democratic Party of 1850-1861. Today’s Republicans sound about as likely to reach out across the aisle as were those Democrats.

    In the context of our colonies being part of a monarchy, an armed rebellion to force the change to a representative democracy was an exceedingly liberal notion. The conservative side of that argument was the pro-monarchy Tory status quo.

    From its Tory birth, conservatism in our nation has always favored authoritarian rule and a hierarchical aristocracy. Thus, it was social in its conception. The economic side of conservatism largely was in support of its two primary goals. The later social causes have varied with the times, but the advocacy of authoritarian rule and the aristocracy have remained constant themes in conservatism throughout our history. The nonsensical make-the-rich-richer economic argument of today’s conservatism fits right in historically.

    Liberalism, by contrast, has consistently been about expanding civil liberties for all. That’s it. The bit about liberals wanting bigger government is a conservative canard that never made any damned sense at all. I am liberal. I hang out with liberals. In my entire life I have never heard a liberal say, “let’s see how we can make government bigger.” True, we will not shy away from using the government to help expand liberties, but that is an end to a means, not the means itself.

    When was the last time a conservative actively worked to expand anyone’s civil rights? However, they do have a proven track record of trying to deny, limit, or even take back the civil rights of our citizens.

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  47. whitebeard said on March 17, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I agree with you, Deborah, the AIG taking/giving they flunky bonuses rates them the pond scum award of the year.
    But I worry about the not-so-bright idea of my newspaper to print a photograph showing the exact location and address in Wilton, Connecticut. where the AIG Financial Products crooks and scoundrels are counting their retention bonus loot?
    There are enough gun-toting wingnuts hereabouts to think of expressing their anger in more violent ways.
    Some AIG employees are afraid to go in the building to work and AIG has had to hire extra guards.
    I have a bad feeling in my bones and it was a warm day today.

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  48. MichaelG said on March 17, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Best bunch of comments on NN.C in a long time. Some fun and some humor and maybe a little break here and there from the ernest. Thanks, y’all. Me? I was up in the high country today at one job and tomorrow (Wed). I’m on the 6:00 AM flight to Barstow for another. Well, Ontario, actually. You do ground transportation to Barstow. Lovely town. You can stand on a street corner and amuse yourself watching the sand blow by on the sidewalk. Last trip to Barstow the rental car company “upgraded” me to a Lincoln Town Car. You don’t drive a car like that, you herd it. Cajon Pass is not for the faint of heart. Sweet smelling mountain evergreens to desert in one day. I’ve had worse jobs.

    As far as this douthbag guy goes, I’d love to hear the young lady’s account of the evening.

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  49. Deborah said on March 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    When I say I think it’s healthy that ordinary Americans are “up in arms” about the AIG shitheads, I in no way mean arms as in firearms. I just mean that they should be incensed and finally want something done about it (but a non-violent something, of course).

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  50. brian stouder said on March 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Say – a slightly troubling little story, which the librarians in the crowd might be able to help me with.

    Our 4 year old, who will be 5 in June, goes to the library at her pre-K once a week (on Tuesday). She really, really, really DOESN’T LIKE going to the library! She cried and cried beginning at 6:30 this morning, and all through getting dressed and breakfast and getting in the car and going to the bus stop.

    She was equal parts adamant and disconsolate in her insistance that “I don’t want to go to the library” and “I don’t like it”; much sound and drama continued right up ’til she saw the school bus at 7:20, at which time she brightened, and charged off to start her day.

    This all got my attention(!), and I was composing an email to her librarian, to see what the hell is so terrible there, because afterall we go to the big downtown library all the time and she LOVES that place….and then I thought again.

    It struck me that I was no help at all; trips to the downtown library are, for her, mostly about playing in the new children’s area, and looking at the big fish tanks, and fooling with the story-reading computer; and only secondarily about coming out with a book or two.

    Anyway – I’ve got ’til next Tuesday to work on the matter

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  51. Gasman said on March 18, 2009 at 12:02 am

    The last bit of my second to last paragraph of the previous post should have read, “but that is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.”


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  52. Danny said on March 18, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Take your own advice and quit being a slave to the Republican “base.” Let your hair down a little bit. Become a RINO. Please.

    Oh for Pete’s sake, Alex. You know I’m pretty liberal in some ways. I mean, women-folk should definitely be able to vote … at PTA meetings.

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  53. caliban said on March 18, 2009 at 12:46 am

    W’s faiilure. Well he and his Mr. Interlocutors wanted the Constitution to fail. Most Americans would see a difference between wanting some obscene idea of Cheney promoting a lobotomized version of psychopathic Nixon versus governing sensibly and trying to get out of a greed-induced briar patch. Bushco not failing meant mindless wars of aggresssion and enrichment of Blackwater and Enron and nitwit nihilists like Grover Norquist, and rubbing it in by calling it Christian. Fail? Hell yes.

    Hoping for failure for somebody trying to find a way back out of the cave those assholes put the country in? That’s treason.

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  54. Dexter said on March 18, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I have always had the feeling that Cramer must have pulled all kinds of shenanigans to amass his hedge-fund mega-fortune, as he admitted on the video clips that Stewart clobbered him over the head with, but Stewart sounded like a little kid who had his piggy bank tampered with.
    I believe CNBC and Cramer’s show are just a touchstone to glance at and maybe get a stock quote or a laugh when Cramer is doing his schtick, but anyone who sits in front of a TV with a notebook in their lap, day-trading until the closing bell, trying to make a living based on the angles those goofy commentators provide, is just pitiful.
    I can’t ever remember agreeing with Cohen before, yesterday, 100%.

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  55. Linda said on March 18, 2009 at 5:59 am

    “…trips to the downtown library are, for her, mostly about playing in the new children’s area, and looking at the big fish tanks, and fooling with the story-reading computer; and only secondarily about coming out with a book or two.”

    As a librarian, I can testify that most kids like their library for the same reason, and not necessarily for a book or two. In fact, many of the grownups are only here to play with the computer, too. That’s o.k. with me–I work in a downtown library, and many in the central city don’t have their own computers at home. Maybe the pre-K library is boring, or the kids there aren’t nice. Don’t know. But “love of reading” does not happen for kids just as soon as parents would necessarily like.

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  56. Connie said on March 18, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Brian, this librarian spent her grade school years terrified of the old lady librarians at the local library, so who knows what or why is going on with your kid. When I speak to service clubs I talk a little about childhood library memories, and there are quite a few adults out there with memories of similar childhood fears.

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  57. basset said on March 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

    I don’t remember any problems with librarians… but dentists, now, that’s another story. Used to go to one who would put a forearm across kids’ collarbones, lean on it to hold them in place, and go to work… “come on, THAT doesn’t hurt…” Only in the last few years, and I’m 53, have I not had to get the nitrous for a simple cleaning… I still have to be drugged stupid for anything involving drills, picks, or pliers.

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  58. Connie said on March 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Brian, since my childhood dentist was my own father, I have only positive memories of the dental chair. But not of of the local librarians, and here I am one. Who knows?

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  59. brian stouder said on March 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I remember being afraid of my first grade teacher, who would grab the skin behind your chin and squeeze it to get your attention; but the dentist and the librarian never bothered me.

    But Chloe seems to genuinely loathe the ‘library day’.

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  60. alex said on March 18, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I used to dread the pediatrician who would squeeze my balls to check for hernias. It’s a wonder he didn’t cause any.

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  61. moe99 said on March 18, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Our dentist in Defiance was Dr. Krause. He did not use anesthetic, which was my first introduction to intense, focused pain. I still got my share of cavities though.

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  62. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Gasman, that was one of the most interesting posts i’ve read in months, and i fear i may agree with you in large part. I promise a further response when i have two moments to rub together and start a thought.

    But to double down on Deborah, i’m going to lazily just paste the start of a blogpost i laid down elsewhere, without the long tail of D & R names for the specific committees, but i absolutely mean what i say about the specific members of the Conference Committee that ain’t tellin’ who slipped the mickey into the Stimulosity Bill —

    Those of you who’ve read my stuff over time know i don’t say this kind of stuff often, or casually, but i really think that every last one of the members of the House-Senate Conference Committee for the Stimulosity Bill, who are all insisting now that NOT ONE of them had read even a large chunk of the bill, and all profess absolute ignorance of how a clause that specifically allowed in the AIG bonuses got into the final mark-up, should be impeached. (And Grassley’s trying to say “i was only a member in name only,” the weasel — impeach him for criminal negligence, then.)

    As for the House and Senate committees that gave primary input to this bill and have some responsibility for the form it took, they are all at the least “unindicted co-conspirators” in the massive fraud and manipulation that led to where the BILLIONS of Stimulosity dollars are going, which is overseas, into private pockets, and many of those bonus recipients are already heading overseas themselves. (And who will watch closely enough to figure out which parties, years from now, will quietly make their long deferred pay off or kickback or sinecure job offer to the Congressional malefactors who slid this all through? No envelopes will change hands, but the deals are clearly done — proven by the craven silence on “who wrote that line into the bill?” question.)

    A case could be made that all the “Yes” votes should be impeached as well for the longer list, but i’d settle for the Conference Committee perpetrators getting impeached. All ten, D & R. There are names i like and respect on the longer list, and given time i’ll figure out who voted yes and who no, so i can better allocate my respect in the future. But this is what i could paste together from the relevant House and Senate websites.


    Senate Democratic leadership has announced who will be serving on the conference committee to iron out differences in the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill.

    * Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
    * Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
    * Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii
    * Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
    * Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

    Both Finance and Appropriations were heavily involved in the creation of the Senate version, with each committee holding markups on their portions.

    And for the House:

    * Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis.
    * Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
    * Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
    * Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.
    * Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp, R-Mich.

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  63. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Brian — something to check: do they go off site to a local library, or is this just a walk down the hall to a school building library? The whole trip thing itself could be the scary part; you get used to the “wheels on the bus go round and round” thing in the morning and afternoon, but the leaving school and going somewhere without a parent at one end of the trip is a whole ‘nother proposition for younger kids.

    If it’s down the hall, it wouldn’t hurt to drop by and ask “what happens when they have library time.” Could just be a little less supervision and the roaming about in a big room in the maze of bookshelves is freaky to her.

    But you gotta teach her to love libraries wherever and however she finds them! Adios, y’all, looking forward to reading today’s discussions late tonight . . .

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