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Though Obama never submitted his own bill—which might have helped but he didn’t want to be seen losing on some of its provisions—he said again and again what he wanted the health care bill to be, or what it was, but the press didn’t think that was news. What good the bill would do, even what it would do, didn’t fit in with the story the press wanted to tell. The people who appeared most often as guests on television—to the point of aching tedium—were those who had objections to the bill, particularly those on the left such as Dean, and Anthony Weiner, a New York House member, who complained repeatedly about the absence of the public option, long after it was clear that the Senate wouldn’t accept it; and the Socialist-Independent Bernie Sanders, who clung to the fantasy of turning the whole thing into a single-payer system. One unfortunate upshot of Obama’s decision not to get very involved publicly until the final negotiations was that his presidency became too defined by the goings-on on Capitol Hill, the deal-making. The clear impression was that Obama was not leading. –“Is There Life in Health Care Reform?,” Elizabeth Drew, The New York Review of Books
Downstairs is Madison’s study, where he spent his final year, too crippled by arthritis to go up to his bedchamber. A life-cast of the elderly Madison, rendered as a bust in Roman garb, stands by the window, frowning over the room. When he was dying in the summer of 1836, the guide said, doctors offered to prolong things so he could die on a Fourth of July, as Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe had died. He declined the opportunity and stopped breathing on June 28, with a smile on his face. –“Presidents’ Weekend: Montpelier, Feb. 14,” Tom Scocca, TomScocca.com
Miller cites a speech Ibsen made to a working men’s club after a performance of An Enemy of the People in which he reassures them that, when speaking of an aristocracy, he meant an aristocracy of the intellect, character and will, rather than one of birth. But there are many recorded instances of remarks that indicate he was no friend to what Miller would, rightly, have insisted were the necessary conditions of democracy. He told his friend, Brandes, that “under no circumstances will I ever link myself with any party which has the majority behind it”. Another of his recorded obiter dicta runs: “What is the majority? The ignorant mass. Intelligence always belongs to the minority”. Arthur Miller’s stance in relation to this involves forgetting that, while great artists often put their best selves into their creations, the greatness of the work depends upon a continued contention with their less-than-best– or even worst– selves. Ibsen would have been horrified by what happened politically in the 20th century and also honest enough to acknowledge where his own feelings had tended. –“Ibsen revival: Why the playwright can still change our lives,” Paul Taylor, the Independent
Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner:
The bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, was being scrutinized in the hope of building a better airplane engine.
London Fire Brigade investigators blamed a building fire in South London on a bird that carried a lit cigarette to its rooftop nest. “Smokers,” said neighborhood baker Richard Scroggs. “What can you say?”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”