Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Democracy and Me: a Tale Told in Tweeds



The just-ended Washington State primary, which flip-flopped the results of the March Washington State Caucuses, triggered an old memory and sent me looking to find it in the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse in my head. Here's a report of my precinct meeting in Seattle, March 2000. I make a cameo appearance as the "tweedy" PCO:

Makin' Hay at the Republican Caucus by Grant Cogswell

I wear a blue Civil War infantryman's hat to my Republican caucus on the backside of Capitol Hill. I'm harkening back to the good ol' days of the GOP -- the good ol' days of 1862. Dubya is the worst presidential candidate in living memory, but unfortunately it looks like he'll be up against Gore in the general election. I show up early and bring along "The Mayor of Casterbridge," the story of a man who makes a stupid mistake that ruins his life. Just as I flip it open, I come across Anna, a 30-year old captain in the Army Reserve, who claims to be a lifelong Republican, but admits that she has never voted for a GOP candidate in a major election. She gives me some insider information: Staffers are on the alert, trying to ward off Democratic interlopers. Anna admits that she herself had to get directions to the caucus from the Democrats down the street.

Soon, our tweedy precinct officer arrives and the event gets under way. Though there are a handful of people in the room, it appears that the only real Republicans are a black couple -- he in his 60s, she in her 30s. As the man argues conservative policy with the more moderate Anna, I ask the man's wife if she's voting for McCain. "Certainly not!" she says.

A young, white, gay boy shows, whom I believe I've seen gothing out on Broadway. He's wearing a polo shirt tonight. Three hipsters come through the door, completely unfamiliar with the process, and it's obvious they plan to vote for McCain. On every unanimous vote of procedure, hipster #1 abstains -- just for the hell of it.

Anna complains that the GOP "survey" included in our voting packets has an anti-immigrant bias (she writes up a resolution to "stop the U.S. from being the world's 911," while I compose one challenging the GOP platform's attacks on transit). Each of us is the only person here from our precinct, so we have the packets all to ourselves. And what packets they are -- two more Tim Eyman initiatives and glossy pics of Dubya.

When we get to choosing delegates, the seven of us pick sides. It looks like this caucus will produce one delegate to the state convention for Bush, and six for McCain. I'm going to be a Republican delegate! My wonderful late Grandma Lucile would be so proud.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

But it will all be beautiful.



Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" plan is back: [NY Republican Congresscritter and Trump fanboy Chris] Collins, who has become one of the presumptive GOP nominee’s main media surrogates, also cast doubts on another central Trump campaign promise: the candidate’s vow to deport the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. “I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people,” Collins said. He then gestured toward a door in his Capitol Hill office. “They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they’ve got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States,” Collins said. “So there was a virtual deportation as they left that door for processing and came in this door.” Collins added: “We’re not going to put them on a bus, and we’re not going to drive them across the border.” Collins also says the emperor's walls may have no mortar: “I have called it a virtual wall,” Rep. Chris Collins said in an interview with The Buffalo News. “Maybe we will be building a wall over some aspects of it; I don’t know,” the Clarence Republican said of Trump’s proposed barrier to keep illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing the southern border.

http://politicsnow.buffalonews.com/2016/05/17/trumps-promise-of-wall-is-virtual-and-deportations-are-rhetorical-collins-says-in-news-interview/

Here's a reminder why, if you want to know what's going on in America's courts, you need to read SCOTUSblog

Thursday round-up

Yesterday’s coverage of the Court was dominated by the announcement, by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, of a list of potential Supreme Court nominees.  Coverage comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Jenna Johnson and Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, and Alan Rappeport and Charlie Savage of The New York Times.  Commentary comes from Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews at Vox, Kent Scheidegger at Crime and Consequences, and Ilya Shapiro at Cato at Liberty.
 There was still more coverage relating to the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.  First, as Dave Boyer of The Washington Times reports, “Senate Democrats held a mock confirmation hearing Wednesday” for Garland.  And at Empirical SCOTUS, Adam Feldman describes the database that he created of Garland’s opinions.
More commentary on Monday’s ruling in Zubik v. Burwell, the challenge to the Obama administration’s birth-control mandate and the accommodation offered to religious non-profits, comes from Michael McConnell at The Volokh Conspiracy, Leland Beck at Federal Regulations Advisor, and Steven Mazie in The Economist.
Commentary on Monday’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins, in which the Court sent a Virginia man’s lawsuit against the search engine Spokeo back to the Ninth Circuit, comes from David Gans at Casetext and Andrew Pincus at Mayer Brown’s Class Defense Blog.
And at the Knowledge Center, Lisa Soronen weighs in on Monday’s decision in Merrill Lynch v. Manning, describing it as “a victory for state courts” but adding that it is “just complicated to explain how.”
In The Huffington Post, I. Beverly Lake, Jr., urges the Court to grant review in the case of a Louisiana death-row inmate whose petition for review is slated for review at today’s Conference; Ronald Sullivan does the same at ACSblog.
Briefly:
  • A team at Vox outlines the Court’s seven most important decisions of the Term.

How does China use the QWERTY keyboard?



From the always interesting Tyler Cowen:

Chinese “input” uses the QWERTY keyboard in an entirely different manner. In China, the QWERTY keyboard is “smart,” in the sense that it makes full use of modern-day computer power to augment and accelerate the input process. First of all, the letters of the Latin alphabet are not used in the same limited way that we use them in the alphabetic world. In China, “Q” (the button) doesn’t necessarily equal “Q” (the letter). Instead, to press the buttons marked Q, W, E, R, T, Y (or otherwise) is, strictly speaking, a way to give instructions to a piece of software known as an “Input Method Editor” (IME), which runs quietly in the background on your computer, intercepts all your keystrokes, and uses them as guidelines to try and figure out which Chinese characters the user wants. Using the most popular IME around today — Sougou Pinyin — the moment I strike the letter Q, the system is off and running, trying to figure out what I want. With the first clue, the IME immediately starts showing me options or “candidates” in a pop-up menu that follows me along on screen — in this case, Chinese characters, names, or phrases whose phonetic value begins with Q, such as Qingdao or Qigong.

The moment I hit the second button — let’s say U — the IME immediately changes up its recommendations, now giving me only characters that have pronunciations starting with “Qu.” There is no set, standard way to manage this process, moreover. There are many IMEs on the market, and each IME has many customizable settings. Some IMEs don’t use phonetics at all, in fact, but instead use Latin letters to indicate certain shapes or structural properties of the Chinese characters you want. And on top of all of this, there are countless abbreviations and shortcuts you can use to speed up the process (e.g., typing “Beijing” will get you the capital of China, but so will “bjing,” “beij,” or simply “bj”). And then, of course, there is “predictive text,” which as I have shown elsewhere, was developed and popularized in China decades before it was in the West.

In other words, for the computer age the Chinese system of characters has worked out quite well, and in some ways may be superior to the Roman alphabet.  The piece is Jeffrey Wasserstrom interviewing Tom Mullaney, and is of interest more generally.

- See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/05/how-does-china-use-the-qwerty-keyboard.html#sthash.2Gii4pa4.dpuf

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fresh from its successful program to launch missiles to the bottom of the sea, North Korean demonstrates its new plan for extending their range.

The likeness is purely coincidental.


Phil Robertson on Wednesday said he was "forced onto the Trump train" but is willing to help steer the locomotive to victory in November.

“I was forced onto the Trump train, but I am happily volunteering my services for Mr. Trump, mainly because the Republican Party has spoken,” the “Duck Dynasty” star and former Ted Cruz supporter told Fox News. “The people have said we want Mr. Trump. So Mr. Cruz goes down — I love him — but now I’m on the Trump train and I’ll do everything I can to help him.”

Robertson said the party has to be loyal to its presumptive nominee and although he doesn’t know Trump’s record, he’s willing to choose the real estate mogul’s over Hillary Clinton’s or Bernie Sander’s.

“I know their record. With Donald, I’m not quite sure since he doesn’t have a record in the political arena,” he said. “However, I’m taking my chances not even knowing. I know the Clintons. I’m not sure about Trump. I’m with Trump.”

“I’ll make a valiant attempt behind the scenes, you understand, to sit down with Donald with a Bible in between us and I might can help him along with concepts like loving your enemies, loving your god, loving your neighbor. Even your enemies, forgive them and move on,” he said. “I may can help him in that area. I can see it now: Trump wins and the camera’s panning and his spiritual adviser is me. Is America ready for it?”

No one at Fox dared ask about the last time a head of state relied on the advice of a smelly, lunatic, religious fanatic goober from a swamp:

rasputin.jpg

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A bully's pulpit



Reading Franklin Graham's most recent peacock strut on Facebook- advanced by a cousin of mine- I saw afresh what a shameless poseur he is, trading on the good name his father built in a lifetime of ceaseless travel and preaching.

His is the art, perfected in these social media days, of getting people het up enough to- at minimum- click "Like" and "Share" on his daily diatribes, and then, ideally, to send him money. He makes over $800,000 a year, an eyebrow-lifting sum to most comparable organizations' heads.

"Like"- click. "Share- click." I feel so much better now.

So now I will add my Facebook Comment, at Graham's urging: Here is what I am willing to "take a bullet for..."

What a mockery of real courage- both in the Bible, and the present day. In my lifetime, dozens, if not hundreds, around the world have set themselves alight to draw attention to situations so dire that searing, hideous death is a more compelling future than continued life.

I found a 2011 article from Time that recalls the sad roster of who show up Graham's gasbaggery:
"When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight on Dec. 17, he sparked flames far greater than the ones that would ultimately kill him. The Tunisian man, an unemployed college graduate with children to feed, had tried finding work hawking vegetables, but was thwarted by police, who confiscated his cart. So in a grisly act of protest and anguish, Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. 
"The act of self-immolation not only triggered the current political crisis in Tunisia, which ousted the president Jan. 14 and has led to a complicated political impasse. It also inspired copycat self-immolations across North Africa, who attempted this very sensational form of suicide as statements of their own desperation and frustration with the authoritarian regimes in their countries. The latest count of protesters who have set themselves on fire in North Africa is up to eight, with four in Algeria, two in Egypt and one in Mauritania, as well as Bouazizi's act in Tunisia... 
"The first and most famous moment of self-immolation as agitprop was that of Thich Quang Duc in 1963. Under the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam largely advanced the agenda of the country's Catholic minority and discriminated against Buddhist monks. In one of the most dramatic instances of individual protest, Quang Duc doused himself in gasoline in the middle of a Saigon street and lit himself ablaze. 
"Journalist David Halberstam, who witnessed the monk's self-immolation and won a Pultizer Prize for his war stories, remembered the moment in one of his books, The Making of a Quagmire: "Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh. ... Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think." 
"Afterward, four more monks and a nun set themselves ablaze protesting Diem before his regime finally fell in 1963. Rather suddenly, setting oneself on fire became a political act. As the American presence increased in Vietnam in the mid- to- late 1960s, more and more monks committed self-immolation, including thirteen in one week. It even took place in the U.S., right outside the Pentagon, when Norman Morrison, an American Quaker burned himself to death while clinging onto his child as a mark of his rejection of the Vietnam War. (His child survived, and Morrison was revered in Vietnam for his purported martyrdom.) 
"The grim tactic has spread across the globe: Czechoslovaks did it to protest the Soviet invasion in 1968; five Indian students did it to protest job quotas in 1990; a Tibetan monk did it to protest the Indian police stopping an anti-Chinese hunger strike in 1998; Kurds did it to protest Turkey in 1999; outlawed Falun Gong practitioners did it in Tiananmen Square in 2009, at least according to authorities in Beijing. 
"Only within the last few weeks have such acts of self-immolation caught on in North Africa. They seem to all come out of moments of urgency and helplessness. And sometimes they light fires in the minds of countless others in their midst."
Vietnam was America's first television war, watched over dinner on the news. Now we have the Pharisees of televangelism, comfortable in their TV studios and in social media posts tapped out by staff members, re-enacting Luke 18:11 with no sense of irony whatever.

Last year it was one of Glenn Beck's tearful, Mentholatum-fueled rants:
“The number in the Black Robe Regiment is about 70,000 now,” Beck said. 
“The number that I think will walk through a wall of fire, you know, and possible death, is anywhere between 17,000 and 10,000. That is an extraordinary number of people that are willing to lay it all down on the table and willing to go to jail or go to death because they serve God and not man.” Garlow was in complete agreement, saying that the necessity of being willing to die is “honestly where we are.” “We’ve come to that moment,” he said. “People like you and me and, thank God, many others are digging in very deeply and laying the benchmark of where we’re going to stand on these issues.” “You’re going to see these 10,000 to 20,000 pastors begin to stand up,” Beck promised, “and say ‘it doesn’t matter if I lose my church, it doesn’t matter if I lose my building, it doesn’t matter if I lose my life, I will not sit down!'”
Last year, too, we saw another politicovangelist, Rick Scarborough, flicking his Bic:
"We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary we will burn."
Later, when he kept giving interviews day after day- none from hospital burn ward- Scarborough Emily Litella'd himself right out of that pledge before God:
"I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritual song, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” in which the three were given a choice — to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar or burn in a furnace. “We will burn” means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [last Friday’s] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm."
Now here's Franklin Graham, dusting the fake soot from Beck's and Scarborough's texts:
What would you take a bullet for? What are the principles and beliefs that you would not compromise under any circumstances? Even if it meant putting your life on the line? 
King Nebuchadnezzar who reigned over Babylon issued a decree that everyone worship the golden image he had made. Three men who knew the one true and living God, refused to worship the king’s idol—their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king told them, “But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Here is their bold reply: 
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18). 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm in obedience and faithfulness. They stood up for God’s truth. They stood up for their faith, and they didn’t waiver, even when it meant putting their very lives at risk. I want to call on every Christian and every pastor to stand firm like these patriarchs of old and not bow to the secular, increasingly godless culture in which we live—even when (not if) we’re criticized, mocked, and labeled intolerant. The God of the Old Testament that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from their fiery execution is the same God today—and He is still more than able to save. Will you stand against ungodliness? What are you willing to take a bullet for?
Winston Churchill summed up this sort of nonsense in his memoir of the Boer War:
"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Burr chafes with Trump under his saddle

Showing his growth in office

"Once we get into the general election campaign, I'll differentiate myself based upon how I voted in the past if that is different than what Donald Trump aspires to," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) who has publicly said he supports Trump for president.

Republicans just never learn a damned thing

CNN, May 16, 2106:
Shortly after taking office, Khan criticized Trump's views of Islam as ignorant -- remarks that Trump said had offended him. The new mayor had been responding to a suggestion from Trump that he would make an "exception" to his proposed "temporary Muslim ban" for Khan.
"I think they're very rude statements and frankly, tell him, I will remember those statements. They're very nasty statements."

Charleston City Paper, September 17, 2008:
Few politicians practiced the art of the political put-down as well as Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings. During a 1986 debate between Hollings and his Republican challenger, Henry McMaster, McMaster inexplicably challenged Hollings, then in his 70s, to take a drug test. "I'll take a drug test," Hollings snapped, "if you'll take an I.Q. test."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Voters, thrown under the Priebus


Phoning in to Fox News Sunday from the dark place he’s got his head stuck, Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus revealed today that he worries endlessly:


Well, you know, a lot of things bother me, Chris...And, yes, everything bothers me, Chris, but I don't know the truth of these things, I don't know other than reading an article whether or not these things are true...Well, I always take things like that seriously.


At the same time, he isn’t sure there is anything to worry about:


I’m the wrong person to be asking that particular question, but, look, we've been --
Now, whether it's going to be a race to the bottom or not, I’m not sure...You know, I’m not sure...But, you know, I’m not sure...whether this issue is going to apply to Donald Trump in a negative way or not I’m not sure of. I’m just saying I don't know if it's even going -- Well, listen, I don't speak for Paul Ryan…


Even if there was something to worry about, people aren’t gonna. Here’s some examples.


On The New York Times report on Donald Trump’s treatment of women:


What I would say is, you know, we've been working on this primary for over a year, Chris, and I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out and they come out every couple weeks, people just don't care.


...I don't think Donald Trump in his personal life is something that people are looking at and saying, well, I’m surprised that he has had girlfriends in the past.  That's not what people look at Donald Trump for.  
...And so, I get that this stuff is interesting, but, you know, we've been through this and it has not moved the dial one notch.  


On Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns:


Romney released his taxes very late and he paid a dear price for it by playing games -- footsie with releasing it or not.  You know, it turned out to be something that was not good for us in 2012.  

But, you know, I’m not sure whether Americans actually care or not whether Donald Trump releases his taxes or not.  


But again, not to be repetitive, but, you know, whether this issue is going to apply to Donald Trump in a negative way or not I’m not sure of.  But so far, most things have not because he represents something far different than these particular individual issues.  


On whether Donald Trump’s largely unknown private life is fair game for reporters:


I don't know if it's even going -- I don't think it's going to affect people's view of who and what Donald Trump represents to them, given this election and the electorate...these individual things that we're going to be talking about and reading about, I just don't think they're going -- I don't think they're going to hit him.  I think they're going to bounce off of him.  


Priebus also says today’s Republican Party has gone anarchist voters have gone anarchist:


I think people look at Donald Trump and say -- and Hillary Clinton and say, who is going to bring an earthquake to Washington, D.C.?  


So I think the traditional playbook and analysis really don't apply.  


Well, look, I’m not saying people don't care about it, I’m just saying I think the reason he's where he is at is that he represents something much different than the traditional analysis of individual candidates.  


All I am saying, though, is, is that after a year of different stories, you know, nothing applies.


I think that's what every American is going to be faced with, is that fundamental question as to which person is going to bring a seismic change to Washington, D.C. And the only playbook, Chris, the same old analysis isn't applying in this election.

It's a bigger question, which is who is going to blow up the system?
 

Nothing says "Amish values" like a thrice-married, serial adulterer former candidate for president fronting for a thrice-married, serial adulterer current candidate for president

 


Conservative Republicans with ties to Newt Gingrich and Ben Carson have launched an effort to drive Amish and Mennonite voters in Lancaster County and a Plain community in Ohio to the polls in record numbers this fall. 
The campaign is, in part, a move to build on a similar effort here in 2004 on behalf of George W. Bush. But the leaders of the new effort, who are raising money through a political-action committee called the Amish PAC, say they are not affiliated with a candidate. 
“The Amish and Mennonites are one of the most conservative blocs of potential votes you have in this country, and Republicans have done a very poor job over the years of doing that outreach,” said Ben Walters, the committee’s co-founder.

"Who do you think you are, pushing me around? What a fool I was to fall for a man like you."



Madeleine Lebeau, the luminous French actress who played Yvonne, the jilted lover of Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine who wells up during the patriotic singing of “La Marseillaise” in the immortal film Casablanca, has died. She was 92.

Lebeau, who later portrayed an actress named Madeleine in another classic, Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963), died May 1 in Estepona, Spain after breaking her thigh bone, her stepson, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist Carlo Alberto Pinelli, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Lebeau is widely believed to be the last surviving castmember from Casablanca. Not too long before making the film, she herself had escaped Nazi-occupied France with her then-husband, actor Marcel Dalio.

In the 1942 Warner Bros. drama, Yvonne and Rick had a one-night stand, and when she makes another pass at him while drowning her sorrows at his nightclub, he spurns her and has the bartender take her back to her apartment. Later, she returns to the nightclub arm in arm with a German soldier.

When a group of German soldiers begin belting out “Die Wacht am Rhein,” Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) leads Rick’s house band in response with a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise.” All the patriots in the club, including Yvonne, join in to sing the French national anthem, and they drown out the Germans in a memorable "duel."

Lebeau is teary-eyed in two full-screen close-ups and yells “Viva la France!” in her final, passionate line. Like her, many of the actors in the memorable scene were refugees from Europe, and they drew on real emotions.



Her husband Dalio played the croupier Emil in Casablanca after appearing in such films as Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game.

After Lebeau and Dalio eventually made their way to Hollywood, she scored a role in Paramount's Hold Back the Dawn (1941), starring Frenchman Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland, then appeared with Errol Flynn in the 1942 boxing biopic Gentleman Jim.

Following Casablanca and her divorce from Dalio, Lebeau had a prominent role in another film about the French resistance, Paris After Dark (1943), then appeared in Music for Millions (1944).

She returned to Europe after the war and worked in such films as The Royalists (1947), Cage of Gold (1950), Sins of Madeleine (1951) and La Parisienne (1957), opposite Boyer and Brigitte Bardot.

Lebeau also was married to Tullio Pinelli, a screenwriter who earned Oscar nominations for 8 1/2 and three others Fellini films: I vitelloni (1953), La Strada (1954) and La Dolce Vita (1960). They were married from 1988 until his death in March 2009 at age 100.

It's Sunday.


The way your smile just beams. The way you sing off-key. The way you haunt my dreams. No, no - you can't blame Donald Trump on me.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

In 20/20 foresight, he's running



“There’s time for recriminations and, you know, everyone who was responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, they will bear that responsibility going forward,” [Senator Ted] Cruz told a Texas talkshow host on Thursday. “But there were more than a few players that played a disproportionate role in that rise.”

#RememberinNovember: time to flip the switch on this lot

Charlie Pierce, at Esquire:
Do you need another reason to vote? After a decent interval, you might want to get in touch with the family of Vernon Madison, who is alive today probably because Justice Antonin Scalia isn't. A state court in Alabama blocked Madison's execution on the grounds that he was not mentally competent. (Madison has suffered several strokes since he was sentenced 31 years ago.) The Alabama courts have repeatedly ruled that Madison's trials were a mess and, because the Supreme Court is deadlocked at 4-4–Thanks, Mitch McConnell!–Madison's execution was stayed. Elections have consequences, it seems.

"Look at me, Big Brother! Let me send you videos!"


Today is Mark Zuckerberg's 32nd birthday.

It never ceases to amaze me that no one is mining the possible conspiracies inherent in the Facebook founder's birth year.




Friday, May 13, 2016

The Donald's Friday thought

“You don’t learn anything from a tax return. I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes. You can learn very little from a tax return.”


Lives of the Profits: How Aaron and Melissa Klein lost their "no-homo"-mentum in the pursuit of wealth and fame

saints timothy and maura.jpg
Husband and wife Greek Orthodox saints Timothy and Maura*

Among the preeminent martyrs of the unfolding  Apocalypse of the Mean Gays are the Oregon pastry artists, Aaron and Melissa Klein, they of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, a Portland suburb.


If you’ve forgotten them or never had much of an idea who they are/were, you are not alone. A post at Seth’s Blog- the daily musings of an American technology guru- I read today struck me as summing up the Aaron & Melissa Experience:


Roller coasters work because of momentum—the quantity of motion from the downhill allows the car to make it up the next rise. Without momentum, the car would merely stop. But few things in the world of ideas follow the same rules.

Ideas have no mass, they don't coast.

Authors fall into this trap over and over again. They believe that a big launch, the huge push upfront, the bending of the media in their favor (at any cost) is the way to ensure that weeks two and three and eleven will continue to show solid growth.

A decade ago, I wrote two different posts for friends who were launching books. The ideas still stand.

I'm betting that an analysis of the Billboard charts over the last fifty years would confirm that the speed a song makes it to the top has no correlation with how long it stays at the top.

Here's a look at the cumulative sales for Your Turn, the book I published in November 2014. And you'd find a similar curve for most successful books.

The launch is the launch. What happens after the launch, though, isn't the result of momentum. It's the result of a different kind of showing up, of word of mouth, of the book (or whatever tool you're using to cause change) being part of something else, something bigger.

Fast starts are never as important as a cultural hook, consistently showing up and committing to a process.


Here’s the arc of Comet Klein these last three years.


In January 2013, the Kleins rejected a lesbian customer’s order for a wedding cake in no uncertain terms: Aaron Klein told one of the two their children were an "abomination to the Lord". The Kleins pursued a high-profile media campaign that portrays themselves as the victims of the lesbians, who- avoiding publicity- were hounded by media and individuals so much that an Oregon administrative law judge awarded them $135,000 in damages.


The decision, which lays out the facts in remarkable detail, was upheld by the Bureau’s director, whom the Kleins tried to disqualify for not being antigay enough to be fair to them.


The agency found that since Respondents brought the case to the media’s attention and kept it there by repeatedly appearing in public to make statements deriding the couple, it was foreseeable that this attention would negatively impact them negatively. That made the Kleins liable for any resultant emotional suffering experienced by their victims. The Agency also found that the Kleins liable for negative third party social media directed at the victims because it was a foreseeable consequence of media attention the Kleins focused on them.


By September 2013, the Kleins were already appearing in national conservative publications. Red Dreher, a prominent columnist, reported,


“There’s a lot of close-minded people out there that would like to pretend to be very tolerant and just want equal rights,” Aaron said. “But on the other hand, they’ve been very, very mean-spirited. They’ve been militant. The best way I can describe it is they’ve used mafia tactics against the business. Basically, if you do business with Sweet Cakes, we will shut you down.”

The Kleins cited a break-in to their bakery truck as one example of what’s been happening to them. They said it was ransacked Sunday evening. We checked with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and learned there was a report filed, but no one has been apprehended.

They also said critics harassed their vendors to the point that vendors would no longer refer customers, which led to their income dropping off dramatically.


(Dreher suggested they relocate to Louisiana, or Texas).

At their appearance at the Values Voters Conference in Washington in September 2014 Aaron Klein led the narrative:


He said the couple, who has five kids, have already been forced to shut down their storefront because of boycotts and harassment. Melissa Klein now makes "limited cakes" out of their house, he said.

Melissa Klein choked up as she described the process of helping a couple design and select their wedding cake, saying she "'would just feel so honored to be able to be a part of such a amazing day."

In a complaint to the state, a Portland lesbian couple said they attempted to order from Sweet Cakes, but were called "abominations unto the lord" after they were asked for the groom's name.

At the summit, moderator Spriggs pointed out that the Kleins had gay and lesbian customers in the past.

"It's never been about sexual orientation," said Aaron Klein, who explained the couple who filed the complaint were actually return customers who had purchased a cake for a relative's wedding in the past.

"It's about marriage," Spriggs said.

"It's about marriage and the event," Aaron Klein said.


In early February 2015, a gofundme.com account was set up to aid the Kleins, who again said their business had been hampered and depressed- indeed, they later insisted, “shuttered”- by the mean gays. At month’s end, they appeared at the annual CPAC conference of conservatives in Washington, D.C.


The account sat, doing nothing much, from February 11, 2015, until the first of April. A second martyr of the mean gays, Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, set up a gofundme account February 23, aided by Dana Loesch, a Glenn Beck TV host who’d interviewed her.


Crowdfunding was in vogue then, and in March, Loesch got the idea to hitch her wagon to another mean gays martyr, a pizza joint in Walkerton, Indiana, whose hapless co-owner told a local TV news team that wandered in, no, she wouldn’t cater her pies to no gay weddings, at the beginning of April.


Fueled by national interest in Indiana’s new religious freedom to discriminate law, Memories Pizza’s gofundme account raised $842,442 in less than a month.


Stutzman’s fund piggybacked on the pizza beg, doubling her take in three weeks (she also got an undisclosed cut of the Memories Pizza pelf later in the spring, for a total upwards of $275,000). Those successes jumpstarted the Kleins’ then-lackluster cup-rattling.


All went well until April 24, 2015, when gofundme.com caved under pressure from Americans outraged that one could raise such vast sums from being accused of violating the law- as the Kleins, and Stutzman, and an accused killer cop- were (another  opportunist hater who ran a truck repair business where, he announced, gays were not welcome and men with guns were, rejected a gofundme.com account set up for him, and vanished from life’s reality show after a poorly-attended local rally and a failed call for churches to bring him to teach their children how to use high-powered weaponry). The accounts were shut down after a gofundme policy change last April 24. The Kleins were allowed to pocket the $109,000 their campaign raised. Stutzman collected just under $175,000, plus her slice of Indiana pizza dough.


Into the breach strode politicovangelical leader Franklin Graham, who announced the opening of a Son of Gofundme account on his Samaritan’s Purse relief organization's website. Opened with great ballyhoo, the venture has been shrouded in secrecy ever since- it now does business under the “Persecuted Christians U.S.A.” banner- and no financials have been made public. Some other, smaller funds were also launched through churches. The Kleins have never accounted for that money, either.


On April 27, 2015, The Heritage Foundation, which adopted the Kleins as a cause, issued a new video interview in which the narrator intoned,


Melissa now works from home, baking one or two cakes each month.

Her five kids—Samantha, 16; Ethan, 13; Elijah, 9; and the 2-year-old twins Everett and Michael—provide easy distractions.


In early May, the Kleins announced on the Facebook page the creation of yet another money beg, offered them by the Christian crowdfunder continuetogive.com.


The Kleins readily agreed, adding, "Of course, we don't expect anything.” Needing $126,000 to pay off their emotional distress judgment, they set their target at $150,000. Fully subscribed, the new campaign would leave them netting some $124,000.


The Bureau of Labor & Industries upheld the administrative law judge’s award against the Kleins last July 2. Two months after The Heritage Foundation reported Melissa Klein was down to making one or two cakes a month, Willamette Week, a Portland newspaper, launched a snarky little investigation to see just how coherent is die klein Weltanschauung: five reporters called up Sweet Cakes by Melissa (the Klein’s business) and another local bakery asking for cake for other celebratory events, and recorded the replies:


Baby Out of Wedlock

WW Asks - I’m shopping around for a nice baby shower cake for my friend. It’s her second baby with her boyfriend so I’m not looking for anything too big or fancy—probably enough to serve 15 to 20 people.

Sweet Cake says - “We have a sheet cake that will feed 30, or a 10-inch cake that would feed 30 people. The 10-inch cake is $50 and the sheet cake is $52. Or we have an 8-inch cake that would feed 15 for $40.”

Fleur says - Prices vary based on decoration and frosting, but a basic cake is $3 per serving.

Divorce Party

WW Asks - My friend is getting divorced and we’d like to throw her a little party to mark the start of her new life. Do you ever write messages on those—we’d want it to say “congratulations!”—and how much would it be for a cake that could serve about eight people?

Sweet Cake says - “A 10-inch is $29.99. That should probably do it....We can definitely do something like that.”

Fleur says - “The price for a 10-inch cheesecake is $36 and up. So it’ll be between $36 and $45, but you’re going to have to call in advance because my schedule for June and July is very busy.”

Stem-Cell Success

WW Asks - I was wondering if you could do two little cakes. My friend is a researcher at OHSU and she just got a grant for cloning human stem cells, so I thought I’d get her two identical cakes—basically, two little clone cakes. How much would they cost?

Sweet Cake says - “Ha. All right. When are you looking to do it? It’ll be $25.99 each, so about $50 to start.”

Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.

Non-Kosher Barbecue

WW Asks - I’m looking to get a special cake for a barbecue we’re having next week. Our cow just died of old age and we’re planning to grill some steaks along with lobster and pulled-pork sandwiches—what size would we need for 10 people and how much would it be?

Sweet Cake says - “A 6-inch cake serves about eight to 10 people at $25.99. The apple goes really good with pork, and the caramel will complement the lobster. For a barbecue, it’s all really good.”

Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.

Pagan Solstice Party

WW Asks - I was calling to get a quote on a cake for a midsummer solstice party. My coven is celebrating on Friday, June 21. The decoration would be very simple: just a green pentagram. We’d like to pick it up sometime that afternoon, before the bonfire. It’ll be for about 30 people.

Sweet Cake says - “For 30 people we have a couple options... We have two kind of cakes you could have. About the diagram you want on the cake, I’m not sure how much extra that would be.”

Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment. GO: Sweet Cakes by Melissa is at 44 NE Division St., Gresham. 674-5400,sweetcakesweb.com. Fleur Cakes is at 4359 Woodworth Road, Mount Hood, 541-490-4607, fleurcakes.com.


The Kleins went on their local conservative talk radio program to complain of entrapment, and continued hoovering up money.


On July 14, 2015, The Washington Times reported the Kleins were continuetogive’s most successful project ever, raising $352,000 from 7,261 donors in just two months. Continuetogive, which collects a fee for processing every donation, was delighted to announce it was carrying on the campaign, despite having oversubscribed the Kleins’ goal twice over. Interviewed by a Heritage Foundation-picked “reporter” for a Heritage Foundation video in July, Aaron Klein- asked if his business was closed- replied, “We are not actively doing business at this time.”


Apparently “at this time” meant “when we are giving interviews,” as one could order a cake on the Sweet Cakes website the day the video went online.


Over the summer and into fall and winter 2015, I repeatedly pressed the Kleins for the full total of the Kleins’ profits, and  for the reason they kept on raising money when they had so much more than they needed already, and was blocked from access to their Facebook page after one of their page prefects threatened to sic the FBI on me for harassment.


Jeremy Hooper, writing at the blog Good As You, noted that the haul by antigay crowdfunders had then reached nearly $1.5 million, but to what end?


First and foremost is the fact that it changes nothing. These pro-discrimination business owners can each raise a billion dollars, and it won't make one dent in any law or policy or ordinance that protects LGBT customers from unfair business practices. Not one deciding body or judge who put accuracy above activism would allow himself or herself to be swayed by the fact that the guilty parties can find enough like-minds to pay off their legal bills (and car loans and mortgage and...). Just like so much of what the anti-LGBT movement is doing these days, these crowdfunding efforts do little more than make themselves feel better about their cause. Which is fine, if that is the purpose. But if their aim is to change policies with which they disagree, then this is about as effective as setting the cash on fire and making s'mores. Far less delicious, too.


Which was apparent from the Kleins’ actions, too. They created a new Facebook page, abandoning the poky Sweet Cakes by Melissa in favor of Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweetcakes by Melissa, and dubbing themselves “public figures.”


They ran a short make-nice campaign, posting how they loved the mean gays and would do anything for them- take them in, feed them give them a ride to the doctor (that one was pretty quickly deleted).


Then they were giving cakes to ten LGBT advocacy groups- in Los Angeles, where the product was delivered by the producer of a new antigay movie with a DVD copy in every box ("The idea of sending cakes was suggested to me by a Los Angeles filmmaker, as a gesture of love for homosexuals," Melissa Klein said. "My husband and I have been vilified as being hateful, but we don't hate anyone, let alone gay people.”)


They started appearing in religious freedom rallies sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.


What no one noticed, as the Kleins moved into their new celebrity roles, was that- as Seth Godin would have predicted- they were stalling out as a brand. Naked self-enrichment is seldom a long-running success among the religious, even in prosperity gospel-obsessed America. Theirs is a classic Godin fast startup.
Using continuetogive’s posted data, I found that from May through July, 2015, the site took in 8,191 donations.


In August, that figure dropped 98%- to 110.


Forty donations were taken in September. 23 followed in October, and 20 in November. That month, the Kleins appeared at an Iowa conference organized by a preacher who called for the execution of LGBT Americans, along with presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal.


The judgment on appeal by Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro bono antigay legal nonprofit, the Kleins just sat on the money. While they sought a hearing before the Oregon Court of Appeals, they also requested two extensions of time to pay the judgment, claiming that having to do so would bring them “financial ruin.” (they continue to insist,as well, that the case forced the to close their business, when in fact they simply moved it from a storefront to their home).


The state, noting that by September the Kleins had raised over $500,000, offered to accept a bond or irrevocable letter of credit. The Kleins turned those down, too, on their way to their second annual appearance at the national Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.


Finally, in December 2015, Oregon garnished the Kleins’ bank accounts. “We had three accounts,” a tearful Melissa Klein told Fox News’ Todd Starnes.  “I have one account that’s labeled, ‘God’s money’ – our tithing. They just took it.”


The Kleins’ indignation knew no bounds. They were rentiers now, and Oregon was killing their unearned income multipliers, Willamette Week reported:


The bureau "was attempting to charge interest rates of 9 percent, equating to $35 a day, and seeking to garnish any assets of the Kleins so they couldn't earn interest on the money that had been donated to them," [the Kleins’ attorney] said. "The prudent thing to do, given the generosity of people who have contributed funds, was to take care of it and continue the fight."


The resulting publicity- Starnes claimed the Kleins’ were wiped out financially just before Christmas- failed to help. In December, 2015, donations, driven by  the need of taxpaying believes to render unto Caesar as little as possible, ticked up to 154.


On December 27, 2015, The Heritage Foundation issued a video in which the Kleins copied the “Mean Tweets” feature on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, laughing and smiling and reading over a background of comical music.

On December 28, 2015, Aaron Klein donned his sadz face, went to the Bureau of Labor and Industries office in Portland and handed over a check for $136,907.07.
2016 has been a trainwreck: 37 donations to continuetogive in January.


The Kleins got 14 donations via continuetogive in February.
On February 28, Melissa Klein testified before a committee of the Indiana State Senate, opposing adding LGBT protections to state law and urging retention of its 2015 religious freedom law:

Klein said the shop was “one way we tried to minister to and bless our community,” as evangelical Christians. Because of their faith, she and her husband declined to make a wedding cake for the couple.

Klein said her conscience wouldn’t allow her to do the wedding. She said she would be happy to serve the couple any other time except for their wedding because of her belief in traditional marriage.

“I want my wedding cakes to cheer for the couple and to shine a light on their love and bring them happiness and encouragement. It comes from a place deep in my heart,” she said.

The Kleins got 14 donations via continuetogive in February. Even the Kleins’ net profit of $400,000+ on the fundraising will eventually need replenishment, and something was seriously wrong. They dropped their free legal team, Alliance Defending Freedom, in favor of a new legal/public relations boutique headed by C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel to President George W. Bush, on February 23. At First Liberty’s clients page, you can read about the Kleins, then donate, sign a letter of support, publicize them on social media, and request an interview. According to the new team,


...the Kleins were bombarded with hate mail, harassment, and threats. Business declined, and in September 2013, their bakery storefront was forced to close its doors. As a result, in order to provide for his family, Aaron went to work as a garbage collector to make ends meet.

“For us to lose the bakery was really crushing,” said Melissa. “We worked so hard to build it up. We poured our heart into it. It was my passion. To have it taken away like that was really devastating.”


You can also watch Melissa Klein exercise her God-given artistry in a glossy video (the Peter Keating of cake design, she wouldn’t last a week on The Great English Baking Show, and photos of Aaron and Melissa holding cakes produced by their “shuttered” business in from of their branded delivery truck.


Continuetogive posted 23 donations in March. The second through the fifth, the Kleins were in Washington, D.C. for the CPAC conference.


On March 8, Aaron Klein posted- with no apparent sense of irony:


I was reading Matthew chapter 6 this morning and noticed how contrary the world's view of charity is to Christ's words. Not to mention how backwards society has become when it comes to views on wealth, the haves and have nots so to speak. And then of course the instruction for prayer, followed by these words," For if you do not forgive those who sin against you your Father in Heaven will not forgive you." We as Christians are too live separate from the ways of this world, the world says acquire money by any means necessary. Christ says you cannot serve both God and money. The world says give to the needy, and do it in broad daylight that everyone may see it and praise you. Jesus says do it in secret so that no one will know but God. The world says only if someone repents and says they are sorry are you to forgive them. Jesus says forgive them for you have been forgiven. I love how the Word of God can put the craziness of this world in to perspective.


Donations fell to four in April.


Their Facebook page likes have stalled- 10,646- and their posts have dwindled to a few: an endorsement of a Republican candidate for the Oregon legislature, sulky complaints about the Bureau of Labor & Industries’ run for Secretary of State; and ads for the May 2016 special:


Email melissa@sweetcakesweb.com to order your cakes in a jar.
Flavors this month: Raspberry fantasy, Chocolate heaven, and Strawberry lemonade.
Prices: 2 for $19.99
4 for $39.99
6 for $59.99
12 for $119.99
Shipping: anywhere in the US jars 2,4,6 ship for $10. A dozen ships for $15.


The Kleins’ case remains on appeal; their payment held in reserve.


Seth Godin says,


The launch is the launch. What happens after the launch, though, isn't the result of momentum. It's the result of a different kind of showing up, of word of mouth, of the book (or whatever tool you're using to cause change) being part of something else, something bigger.

Fast starts are never as important as a cultural hook, consistently showing up and committing to a process.


The Kleins lack a good cultural hook. Their efforts at self-promotion, all within the bubble of conservative political groups and media, will never break through to a larger audience whose attention has shifted to genital regulation and Donald Trump (the Kleins tried riding the Texas senator’s hard-right evangelical wave, with much the same result). All they can do is string out their story, adding new chapters to their tale of victimization by adding new affronts and more of Mrs Klein’s on-demand crying jags.


In short, the Kleins have met F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous dictum, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Successful martyrs die for their beliefs, at the top of their game. Frozen in time, they inspire others from the empyrean; they don’t hang about the living, clamoring for alms and attention.


The longer the Kleins stick with their one-note narrative, the more ludicrous they are: claiming to be out of business while peddling product on Facebook; jetting around the country for political events while pleading poverty. They have become fame addicts, like so many reality show stars once their season ends and there is nothing to distract from their overwhelming ordinariness.

For Aaron and Melissa Klein, it’s not so much, “Saints, Preserve Us” as “Preserve Us Saints!”


So far in May, they have received five donations at continuetogive.com.




_____________________


*From the website of The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All The Fast:

The holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura were husband and wife. Timothy was from Penapeis in the Thebaid, a reader in the Church, and had been married to Maura only twenty days when he was betrayed to Arian, the Governor of the Thebaid, as a teacher of the Christians. Arian commanded Timothy to surrender his sacred books, which he refused to do, comparing it to a father's giving up his children to death. For this answer, heated iron spits were thrust through his ears. As he was being put to other tortures, Arian summoned Maura, hoping that she would persuade her husband to worship the idols, but she confessed herself a Christian. The hair of her head was pulled out, her fingers were cut off, then she was lowered into a cauldron of boiling water, but remained unharmed. Finally husband and wife were crucified facing each other, and after nine days, received their martyric end, during the reign of Diocletian (284-305).