1. It’s time to get rid of your Real Book.

    July 6, 2014

    noreal

    Some exposition, briefly, for the uninitiated: The Real Book is a “fake book” compiled by anonymous college students in the mid 1970s. It contains lead sheets for over a thousand songs across three handwritten volumes that went through 5 bootleg revisions before being legitimized as the “Sixth Edition” by Hal Leonard in 2003. Despite being 40 years old – and having been underground most of its life – it’s the most common fake book used by jazz musicians. You can find it at gigs, in high schools and colleges, at jam sessions, and in people’s homes for their personal practice and reference. I do not know a jazz musician who doesn’t at have access to a copy. Every jazz musician reading this has had access to a copy at some point.

    A lot of people are against using fake books like The Real Book because they are cheap ways to learn tunes, and books like The Real Book are frequently unwelcome at jam sessions because Come On Dude, Learn The Tune. I agree. Don’t read from a book at a jam session. Learn The Tune. But I do appreciate the idea of having a reference on hand that could clarify the melodies and harmonies for tunes, especially older tunes that have been interpreted so many ways that their original melodies are lost to me. I also appreciate the lead sheet as a way to learn or teach a song on the quick, like on a gig or at a rehearsal. So I am not out to convince anyone not to use fake books or lead sheets.

    I am out to convince you to stop using The Real Book, specifically. The charts in the bootleg version – widely available on the internet and still very common in print form among musicians my age and older – are inconsistent, sloppy and frequently inaccurate. The legal Sixth Edition fixed many of these problems, but in doing so the new editors have made the Sixth Edition incompatible with older versions, and it still contains more than a few questionably transcribed chord changes and melodies. It also does not include the lyrics of any tunes, so if you are working with a singer who also wants to read the tune, you’re going to need a different book anyway.

    We’ll talk about the Sixth Edition in a little bit. But first we need to address those bootleg editions. They are still everywhere, and we need to be done with them. Done Done. Throw-them-in-the-bin done. The closest nonmusical analogy I can think of is if a poorly translated collection of poems became the standard versions of those poems in English, even though the original poems were also in English. And it’s not that The Real Book wanted to simplify songs for people to learn, like a Cliff’s Notes-type thing for musicians; in fact, The Real Book’s versions of tunes were typically more complicated than the original tunes, sometimes in ways that are completely arbitrary. 

    In some cases, a standard tune was presented in The Real Book with alternate chord changes in place of the original chord progression with no indication that they are alternate changes. This could pose a problem if someone was reading from the book while another person was playing or singing from memory, or if someone was using the book as a reference. Here is the chart for the Jimmy Van Heusen tune Like Someone In Love:

    Like Someone In Love

    These are great chord changes, but they’re not the original changes. They’re Coltrane’s changes. Assuming the key of Eb major, measure six should be Bb7 or Bb+7, and measure 7 should be Eb or Eb6 or Ebmaj7. Those are the original chords of the song, and they are the chords that are most commonly played, at least in the 1950s and 1960s recordings of the tune. This is not to say that the altered chords are “wrong.” I love them and think they sound wonderful. But if a book is going to be the standard book for all jazz musicians, the standard chords for a tune should be the chords included in the book, and any alternate chord changes should be indicated as such.

    In other cases, the melody for an old standard was written out as someone might freely interpret it instead of how it is generally thought to exist in its pure form. One example of this is Basin St. Blues, from the original Real Book Vol. 2:

    I think someone playing this chart note-for-note could probably sound pretty swinging, but that’s clearly not the melody for Basin Street Blues. It’s not even close. Whoever prepared this chart has done the interpreting for you, and it’s a very loose, boozy interpretation. And as a reference it is pretty much useless: the rhythm doesn’t match the unprinted lyrics (eg. the 4th measure of B) and there’s no indication that the A section is a call and response.

    Not every older tune was embellished like this; most older standards were transcribed with their original melodies and minimal deviation from their regular chord progressions. This doesn’t mean the charts were perfect. Take Rodgers and Hart’s I Could Write A Book, from Pal Joey:

    I Could Write A Book

    The tune is marked as a Ballad, but it was written as a medium-tempo bounce, and is almost always played as a medium- or up-tempo swing. And even though it says I Could Write A Book is a ballad, the Real Book didn’t recommend any of the great ballad recordings of the tune; Instead it recommended a single recording: Miles Davis’ recording from his Prestige years, which was recorded at a pretty fast tempo. This tune is a great ballad, and a great burner, and a great mid-tempo tune, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to call a tune a ballad and recommend an uptempo recording on the same page.

    It would be understandable that a book written by jazz musicians would have mistakes or inconsistencies when it comes to the old popular standards and showtunes. But The Real Book didn’t just get the old standards wrong. It got many jazz songs written by jazz musicians wrong, too. A perfect example of this Blue Train, or “Blue Trane,” as it was famously mis-titled in the Real Book. Blue Train is a classic tune, the title track of one of the most enduring LPs of its era. Here is its page from The Real Book:

    Blue Trane

    Here is the original recording:

    It shouldn’t take a seasoned musician more than a moment to notice several problems. For one, the title of this song should be Blue Train. Blue Train is the name of the song and the name of the album it appeared on. Also, the original recording song was performed in the key of Eb, not C, and even though the melody is minor, the solos happen over a standard jazz blues, which means the first chord of the solos should be notated  C7, not C-. Even if you accept C minor as the key of the tune, there are all sorts of invented harmonies in the Real Book’s Blue Trane that have no correlation to chords played on the original Blue Train recording, including the phantom F-7 Bb7 notated under the pickup measure and the completely arbitrary A-7 D7 in measure 8. Even the melody is incorrect: compare measure 8 of the original recording to measure 8 of “Blue Trane” in The Real Book. Assuming a tonality of C minor, that pickup riff should be notated G – Bb – Eb – C – Bb. Most importantly, The Real Book completely disregards the “dun — dun” response figure that defines this song, even though rhythmic figures like that are indicated for other songs (cf. Maiden Voyage) and  in some cases the arrangement of a tune is completely written out (cf. Peaches In Regalia.)

    The Sixth Edition fixes all of these problems, and dozens more, so in addition to being legal it’s a much, much better reference than the bootleg Real Books. But by fixing the biggest problems in the book, they made certain tunes (like Blue Train) incompatible with the earlier edition, so you can’t just bring your new book to an old book party. And the Sixth Edition doesn’t fix all the problems that were present in the original books; there are still a few head-scratchers and face-palmers in there. For an example, let’s consider the chart for Orbits, a Wayne Shorter tune written for the Miles Davis Quintet. Here is the original recording of the tune on the album Miles Smiles:

    Orbits is sort of a freeform tune where the harmony is implied by the relationship of the melody and the bass, and where the melody itself is sort of a freeform thing. There’s no definable harmonic progression, and on the original recording, Herbie Hancock doesn’t play a single chord. Wayne Shorter has recorded Orbits a few times since this original recording, and every recording is extremely different from the others. I have never spoken to Wayne Shorter about this tune, but I would bet anything I own that this is not what he wrote:

    newreal

    I have to say that whoever transcribed this chart for Orbits tried hard to make it fit into bar lines and chord notations. That half-note triplet? That quarter-note quintuplet? Those Dmaj7(#5)s near the end? Commendable! But there aren’t any chords being played during the melody on the recording, so where did The Real Book’s chords come from? Did the guy transcribing just make them up? On Shorter’s most recent recording of the tune (Wayne Shorter Quartet: Without a Net,) Danilo Perez plays the second half of the head alone on piano, with chords underneath, and it seems to be mostly quartal harmony. It’s hard to tell exactly what keys he’s pressing because of all the overtones on a grand piano, but here is a transcription of what I hear for the phrase correlating to measures 24 – 28 in The Real Book:

    orbits

    Notice that the chords from this transcription do not correlate to the ones in the Real Book. The biggest difference is with that second measure, notated in The Real Book as F-7. The chord played on the recording - A white-key quartal harmony with an A natural in the bass voice – is pretty much the opposite of F minor 7. The other chords don’t match The Real Book’s changes, either, but it’s possible to argue that they’re just hyper-sophisticated root-less inversions. But I would think that since this is is transcribed from a Wayne Shorter Quartet recording, the truth is probably that either the quartal chords played by Danilo Perez are the ones intended by the composer, or that the harmony is intended to be interpreted freely. Either way, this Sixth Edition Real Book chart is not a good reference or lead sheet for Orbits.

    You might say I am being too harsh with my criticism of The Real Book, and you might want to remind me that most of the tunes in it are mostly accurate, and that it was much better than what else was out there when it was first compiled in the 1970s. You would be right that it does get a lot of common tunes right, likeAll The Things You Are, Cherokee, and Footprints. And it sure beats a lot of other fake books from the era, such as The Jazz Fakebook, which includes this practically unrecognizable transcription of Airegin:

    But I don’t think I’m being too harsh. The Real Book is the single most common gig book for jazz musicians, yet way too many tunes in The Real Book are inaccurate or unnecessarily complicated. This is not to knock on the kids who put The Real Book together and the folks who continued to edit it through the years. It’s very impressive when you think about what they had to work with. It’s also the book I was given when I announced I wanted to learn to improvise on the trombone, so I’ve definitely spent a good amount of time with it. But it’s 2014, and The Real Book is not good enough anymore.

    You’re probably thinking: Okay, Mr. Smartso. You want me to ditch my Real Book? What do you recommend I replace it with? Well, like most things in life, it comes down to your individual needs. If you’re just looking for accurate lead sheets, and don’t care about the legality of what you’re doing, there’s a nice collection of accurate lead sheets at BigJazzBook.ru. They don’t all have lyrics but most of the tunes are there, and for some tunes there are lead sheets from multiple sources. If your main use for The Real Book is to learn tunes, I recommend you visit learnjazzstandards.com to explore the resources they have available for you. If you’re looking for a straight-out replacement for The Real Book for gigs, etc., I highly recommend getting a copy of The New Real Book, which has been around for a long while now. It’s widely available, is easy to use, contains lyrics, has tunes in their common keys with original and alternate changes, and is well edited and annotated. And if all you want is a quick chord chart to practice with or to read on a gig, there’s an app for that.

     


  2. Spotify? Not much better than piracy. Sorry.

    April 9, 2012

    Broken Penny

    If you are a frequent Spotify user, you’ve probably heard the ad that says “Piracy is so last year. Every time you listen to music on Spotify, you make money for the rightsholders and artists.” If you haven’t, you will;  it is aired about once every two hours.

    I am a frequent Spotify user, and I think it’s a fantastic service, offering free access to an ocean of recorded music, including recordings that are hard to find in record stores. It has revolutionized the way that people consume music and will likely be around for a long time.

    But Spotify is a young product and a young company, and Spotify’s claim that it generates revenue for artists deserves thorough scrutiny. Does listening to music on Spotify really help support your favorite artists? Is Spotify really a better distribution channel than the best illegal filesharing services?

    The short answer to both of these questions: Sort of, but only barely, at least right now.

    Until Spotify came around, the best digital music distribution service had been Napster,  the short-lived but rabidly popular filesharing service that let users share their entire digital music library – for free – with everyone who was logged in at the same time. This provided users with a virtually limitless music library. It was wild. At one point, I had 22 days worth of music downloaded to my college computer, including rare Beach Boys outtakes, out-of-print jazz records, and new music that was not available at the mainstream record stores. But Napster did not generate any revenue for rightsholders on its own, and was successfully sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and shut down in 2001.

    Napster’s longest-lasting impact on the music business is that it showed that online distribution of digital music was the future of the industry. Several online services came about in Napster’s wake, but it wasn’t until Apple introduced the iTunes Store that consumers had a stable, safe, industry-sanctioned online music distribution service that rivalled Napster in its ease of use and breadth of content. Like Napster, iTunes Store users had hundreds of thousands of individual tracks they could search for and download. But unlike Napster, a user had to pay about a buck for each download. The success of iTunes’ pay-per download model created a swamp of copycat services including Rhapsody, eMusic, and a pay-service run by Roxio that was given the Napster brand after Roxio aquired it in bankruptcy liquidation.

    Spotify operates as a bridge between the two models. Users can have free, ad-supported access to stream the entire Spotify catalogue, or they can pay about $10 a month to be able to download an unlimited number tracks from Spotify to their computer. Tracks downloaded through Spotify can’t leave the Spotify application, so there’s no risk of them being distributed any further, and rightsholders are paid a nominal rate every time someone plays one of their tracks using the Spotify service. This rate is exponentially less than what would be received for one iTunes download of the same track, but Spotify still has the full support of the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning it’s legal and it’s probably here to stay.

    To give you an idea of Spotify’s payout versus iTunes and similar services, here’s the initial revenue report for Don’t Punch Your Friend in the Head, a song I wrote for my band Ramforinkus that we quietly added to several internet music services last April.

    Since my band doesn’t have a record label or any other stakeholder taking a cut of the revenue, we receive the entire payout from each service:

    iTunes (UK/EU)     ~$1.22 / sale

    iTunes (US)               ~$.76 / sale

    eMusic                            $.40 / sale

    Rhapsody                      $.01 / stream

    Spotify                            $.00378 / stream

    So if you live in the US and purchased a copy of Friend in the Head on iTunes for 99 cents, we would receive about 77% of the sale. This could add up pretty quickly; if we end up selling 9,900 copies of our song on iTunes, we’ll receive about $7600.

    Spotify has a completely different business model than iTunes in that it is a streaming music service, not an online store. As such, it pays rightsholders based on individual plays, not downloads, and its current rate is a little less than four-tenths of one cent per stream. That means an individual user would have to stream our song two hundred times in order for my band to receive the same 76-cent payout that would come from a single purchase on iTunes. Although four-tenths of a cent may be a fair rate for a single online stream,  four-tenths of a cent won’t add up in any meaningful way until our song receives hundreds of thousands of streams, and my guess is it is unlikely that someone would listen to any individual track by any independent artist on Spotify enough times to match the revenue of a single iTunes purchase.

    For the record: Four-tenths of a cent per stream is a marked improvement over the way artists were initially compensated by Spotify; Lady Gaga famously received only $167 after her song “Poker Face” was the first track to hit 1 million streams on Spotify in 2009, which amounted to 1.67 thousandths of a cent per stream.

    This figure – .38 cents per stream – shocks a lot of people at first because Spotify’s entire business model rests on the fact that it’s supposed to generate revenue for rightsholders. Indeed, Spotify vigorously refutes the idea that they are anything other than the next great revenue source for artists. In a recent interview, a Spotify spokesperson said “Spotify is now generating serious revenues for rights holders; since our launch just three years ago, we have paid over $100 million to labels and publishers, who, in turn, pass this on to the artists, composers and authors they represent. Indeed, a top Swedish music executive was recently quoted as saying that Spotify is currently the biggest single revenue source for the music industry in Scandinavia.”

    That claim is certainly impressive, but there’s a serious disconnect here between what Spotify says and what artists end up receiving per-play on the service. Most major labels keep a considerable cut of that less-than-four-tenths-a-cent payout, and independent artists who release their own material generally don’t attract the number of listeners it would take to make Spotify a better revenue generator than iTunes.

    In fact, I might argue that fans who pirated Don’t Punch Your Friend in the Head could do more for us than had they used Spotify to listen to it. If 103 people had pirated Friend in the Head instead of streaming it through Spotify, those 103 people would possess a digital copy of the song, which means there are dozens of extra ways they could pass it along to others. They could burn it to CD and could email it to their friends; They could listen to it using any audio player, in any setting, and could easily transfer it between devices; They could convert it to any format, they could add it to a video, they could sample it, they could make it their ringtone, they could play it as house music at a theater or club, and they could broadcast it on their radio show. By listening to Friend in the Head in Spotify instead of pirating it, those 103 people could have shared the tune with other Spotify users and could have added it to their Spotify playlists, but there’s not much else they could have done that would help the song reach new people since music on Spotify can’t leave the Spotify application, and you can’t take the Spotify application with you without paying $10 a month for it. So as an artist in several independent bands, I don’t see how Spotify is really better for us than an equally accessible piracy channel would be.

    I don’t mean to complain about Spotify as a service. Spotify represents the future of music consumption. We are a culture of convenience, and nothing is more convenient than immediate, cost-free access to every song you’ve ever wanted to hear.  And I was always okay with small-scale music piracy, whether it meant taping songs off the radio, ripping a library CD to your computer, or making mix CDs for friends, so I am not writing this article to complain about music consumers who do not pay for all of the music they listen to. I am not only happy that Spotify is an option for my own music but I also use it several hours a day, both for fun and for work. The problem, as I see it, is that Spotify boasts that they have surpassed piracy and that you, the Spotify user, are supporting artists by using their service. I find this hard to swallow because they’ve released no data or projections to support these claims and their defense of their payout model is always presented in general terms. Spotify should not be advertising that their listeners generate revenue for artists; this could lead to someone choosing to listen to a song on Spotify instead of purchasing it on iTunes with the idea that they were supporting the artist either way. In reality, it takes nearly 300 Spotify streams for one member of an independent band to be able to buy a cup of coffee at a bodega, and probably many many more times if an artist has a record label.

    If Spotify wants to change my mind, they’ll need to publicly release their payout model, and I’ll need to see concrete, verifiable data that can confirm that Spotify users listen to individual songs at a rate that will eventually surpass iTunes revenue. Until that happens, I will continue to look at Spotify as a free music service, like Napster and Grooveshark before it, and it should be known that the best way to support your favorite artists is to purchase their music at full-price – especially their self-released material - and to go to their shows when they’re in town.

    Update (12/2012): In response to a few comments, I’ve expanded this article and have clarified some of the language. The underlying themes of the article are the same now as when it was first written. The original version of this article is available here. 


  3. Pro Wrestling and the Individual Mandate

    April 5, 2012

    Hogan Pre Post Heel

    Remember Hulk Hogan? In the 1980s he was the world’s most popular professional wrestler. At the height of his fame, he had his own TV show, his own cereal, his own record deal, and was cheered wildly by sold-out crowds everywhere he went. To pre-teen boys in the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was Oprah Winfrey, The Beatles and Batman in one package. His character was wholesome but strong. He wrestled with integrity and made the bad guys pay. For almost two decades, he was the most consistent good-guy wrestler, fighting for the fans and the forces of good even as other wrestlers changed allegances. But after taking a few years off to pursue a failed movie career, and having mounted a less-than-meteoric comeback in the mid 1990s, his character did something completely unexpected.

    You see, there was this pay-per-view wrestling match in 1996 between three “Good Guys” and two “Bad Guys.” On the surface that seems uneven, but the Bad Guys said they had a third man, and refused to say who he was. Despite being out-manned, the Bad Guys cheated their way to a stalemate, and all five wrestlers ended up knocked out on the ground. (Watch the video now if you want to avoid the spoiler.) Just as the referee began counting everyone out, Hulk Hogan entered the arena to thunderous applause. At first it looked like he was there to support his friends – the good guys – but to everyone’s surprise, instead of laying the thunder upon the bad guys, he delivered two crushing leg-drops on the Macho Man, a good-guy and his one-time friend. After high-fiving the “bad guys,” Hogan threw the referee out of the ring – a classic Bad Guy move – and delivered one final leg-drop upon the Macho Man before picking up the microphone and berating the audience (an even more classic Bad Guy move.) The announcers couldn’t believe it. No one could believe it. Hulk Hogan was supposed to be the ultimate good guy. Within a minute, he became the ultimate bad guy.

    In wrestling, this phenomenon is called a turn: a good-guy suddenly becomes a bad-guy, or a bad-guy inexplicably becomes a good-guy.  (Google “heel and face” if you want an in-depth analysis.) It’s a frequent occurrence, and most pro wrestling characters turn multiple times over the course of their careers. The best pro-wrestling turns are both instantaneous and absolute: once a good guy has turned heel, he immediately assumes all of the characteristics of his new persona. There is always a justification given for a heel turn – usually a wrestler is fed up with something backstage, or he feels the fans don’t respect him enough – but the reasons behind a face or heel turn are always flimsy and end up being dropped as soon as it’s convenient. If done well, by the next time he’s on TV, a turned heel should seem like he was never a good guy at all, and a turned face should be an instant fan favorite.

    Of course, Pro Wrestling is not a sport. It’s a scripted spectacle, one which thrives on sensationalism and immediacy. It doesn’t matter what each character did last week; the announcers will always let you know what the current storyline is, and each character’s back-story is constantly modified to fit whatever narrative is being pushed at the given moment. Heel turns and other sudden changes in a wrestler’s storyline are just part of the Pro Wrestling experience, and most people lose interest in Pro Wrestling once they realize how fake it is. Hulk Hogan’s heel turn was epic, but completely inconsequential.

    A similar phenomenon occurs in politics: the flip-flop. Like a pro-wrestling turn, a politician commits a flip-flop when he not only changes position on an issue, but does so brazenly, with little regard for his previous views. Like a “good guy” or a “bad guy” pro-wrestler who has just turned, a politician who has flip-flopped will usually assume his new position without sufficiently justifying his change of mind. When pressured for an explanation, he usually jumps through hoops to show that his new opinion doesn’t conflict with his old opinion, or he claims that he has “always” had his position, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

    The recent excitement over the individual health insurance mandate has created a wave of flip-flop allegations regarding the major 2012 presidential candidates. On the surface, these allegations appear correct; everyone involved, it seems, had the opposite opinion one election cycle ago. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were both strong advocates of an individual healthcare mandate until they each switched their position on the issue at the start of their current presidential campaigns, while President Obama was firmly against the individual mandate during his first presidential campaign, and was skeptical of its constitutionality even while the “Obamacare” legislation was being developed. Politicians and pundits love calling each other out for their flip flops; like pro wrestling announcers, they operate with the two-dimensional mindset of a playground bully. You are either one thing or you are something else, and if you change your mind you have clearly flip-flopped.

    But in the case of the individual mandate, there are stark differences between the way that Obama and his Republican challengers are handling their new positions on the issue. Obama’s position barely qualifies as a flip-flop, while Gingrich and Romney are in full-on Pro-Wrestling mode.

    Don’t believe me? I have the video to prove it.

    In President Obama’s case, his fundamental message has remained consistent despite having changed his mind regarding the individual mandate. His prior criticism of the individual mandate was that penalties would drive up costs to some uninsured citizens. His current support of the mandate is also within the framework of keeping costs down for the uninsured and underinsured, and he’s doing a great job of explaining why the mandate is a good idea.”There are only two ways to cover people with pre-existing conditions,” Obama said at an AP luncheon on Tuesday. “One way is a single payer plan, where everybody is under a single system, like Medicare. The other way is to set up a system in which you don’t have people who are healthy, but don’t bother to get health insurance, and then we all have to pay for them in the emergency room. We have to make sure those folks are taking their responsibilities seriously.” This is a change of policy, but is not a flip-flop, because he still embraces his previous position and clearly explains how the individual mandate is the next-best thing.

    But what of Romney and Gingrich? That last point made by Obama – that the individual mandate is needed to make sure that everyone is playing fairly in the healthcare market – is hauntingly similar to a speech given by Newt Gingrich in 2009 on behalf of The Center For Healthcare Transformation, a lobbying group he founded in 2003. “We believe that everybody should have health insurance,” he said. “We would not allow people to be ‘free riders’ failing to insure themselves and then showing up in the emergency room with no means of payment.” It also echoes Mitt Romney’s position during the 2008 presidential debates, in which he said “I like mandates. They work.” He continued: “If somebody can afford insurance and decides not to buy it, and then they get sick, they ought to pay their own way, as opposed to expect the government to pay their way.”

    Seeing that both Gingrich and Romney were fully in support of the individual mandate as recently as one election cycle ago, it is extremely noteworthy that they not only changed their position on the issue within a few months of becoming candidates; they strongly railed against it as soon as they faced political pressure from their party’s current base. “A mandate is clearly unconstitutional because it means that congress could require you to do anything with your money under any circumstance,” Gingrich said to ABC news this past December. When he pressed on why he supported it as recently as six months before the interview, Gingrich responded “there was a time, in opposition to Hillarycare, the Heritage foundation and lots of folks supported it [the individual mandate.] The more we looked at it, the clearer it became that it would lead the politicians to redesign the entire system to support the mandate.” This is completely counter to any sense of honesty. Throughout the entirety of the 2000s, and as recently as an appearance last May, 2011, on Meet the Press, Gingrich was an active advocate for the health insurance mandate. In fact, in that Meet the Press interview, he minced no words in his support of the mandate: “I am for people, individuals–exactly like automobile insurance–individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance.”

    So what happened to Newt Gingrich between May and December 2011? This video explains everything:

    In the clip, you can clearly see Newt Gingrich tried his best to resist the Tea Party, but was too overpowered by their insistence and finally gave in. Once he gave in, the Tea Party hoisted Gingrich in the air and he let out a primal scream of acceptance. It was a powerful and chilling moment. I’m glad they got it on video.

    And what of Romney, the man who was not only an advocate of the individual mandate, but made it the centerpiece of his own health care plan while he was Governor of Massachusetts? “There’s a big difference between what we did and what president Obama’s doing,” Romney said on Fox News last month. “We said people had to take responsibility for getting insurance if they can afford it, or paying their own way. No more free riders. And we solved this at the state level. Not a federal plan, but a state plan. This is a federalist nation. States should be able to solve their own problems.” Romney repeats this distinction every chance he gets: his Massachusetts plan is fundamentally different than Obama’s, and his was a state plan, and States have the right to determine their own health care. This is a pretty strong defense, until you consider that Romney strongly urged the president to model the national health care system on his Massachusetts system in a 2009 op-ed, and explicitly mentioned the individual mandate as one of the aspects of his plan that worked: “Getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank,” he said. “Using tax penalties encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”

    Romney now vows to “stop [Obamacare] in its tracks on day one” and attacks the president, saying “as I look at this administration I see Obamacare as one more example of a president pursuing his attack on economic and personal liberty.” Forget that Obamacare is basically Romney’s plan, and that he clearly would be in favor of this plan if it were proposed by a Republican. For Romney, this issue is no longer about affordability and covering the uninsured. It’s about freedom! It’s about resisting a government takeover! It’s about red-blooded, patriotic Americans fighting a clandestine Communist threat! As disingenuous and short-sighted as Romney is being, you have to at least admire his tenacity and his fire on the stump:

    What power and umbrage! Not to mention face-paint! If that’s how Candidate Mitt feels about Obama, think of how President Mitt would stick it to the Iranians and the Russians come Summerslam!

    Dan Reitz lives in Brooklyn, NY