17 February 2018

"All politicians are the same."  How many times have you heard this?

If you live in Colorado or Wisconsin, and you agree with this statement, Aaron Bycoffe of FiveThirtyEight has some data to drop on you.

The two senators from Colorado, Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D), have rather different attitudes about voting with Trump.  Gardner does it 92.4% of the time, while Bennet does it 27.3% of the time.  Curiously, though, they represent exactly the same voters.  Bennet was first elected to the Senate in 2010, and Gardner in 2014.  Now, I know there are those who would tell me that, in the intervening four years, Colorado experienced a massive Great Conservative Awakening, or perhaps the people of rural counties decided en masse that Obama was going to destroy their natural wonders with Kenyan witchcraft and so turned to the side of Gardner.  Unfortunately, they have no data to back this up.

The two senators from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D), also represent exactly the same voters -- though Mr. Johnson prefers never ever to interact with them in person.  Johnson votes with Trump 92.4% of the time (a familiar number ...) and Baldwin does it 21.5% of the time.  In this case, there is only a two-year gap between the years Johnson and Baldwin were first elected to the Senate.  The idea that Wisconsin could experience a 70.9% change in opinion on anything within two years (Brett Favre might be the exception that proves the rule) will, of course, be laughable to anyone who knows the state well.

If you choose not to vote because 'all politicians are the same,' your silence speaks very loudly in Washington, and not in the principled way you might think.  Ron Johnson and Cory Gardner do not care that none of the candidates on the ballot were virtuous enough to earn your support.  Not voting is a choice that enables extremists to triumph.

15 February 2018

It is time for all our elected officials to decide whom they will believe, Anthony Rizzo or NRA cardinal-archbishop Wayne LaPierre.  There is really no middle ground here.

That is all I have to say about the Parkland shooting.

14 February 2018

This column from Jonah Goldberg can hardly be topped for sheer cynical bullshit and denialism (a sport in which there are many lucrative Participation Trophies on offer these days).  The State Journal - Capital Times - Allgemeine Lutheranische Zeitung, yet again, seems to have no scruples about printing such lazy dreck, because [sad old liberal hand-wringing noise] all sides deserve to be heard, or at least all straight white male sides.

Goldberg claims that the 2007 Twin Cities bridge collapse was due to a mysterious "construction defect" and insinuates that stupid union construction workers may have been to blame.  Nothing about then-Governor Tim Pawlenty refusing to adequately fund bridge repairs because raising the gas tax was anathema to his party.  Of course, he also pretends ignorance of every single recent Amtrak disaster, because in this country trains don't move people.  (God ordained that we should be the exact opposite of Europe in matters of transportation!)

Just as there was a Baathist behind every bush for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, so it turns out there is a bloodsucking union cabal behind every less than perfect feature of America's transit system.

"... politicians and the unions that own them are to blame for the Big Apple’s deteriorating subway system. For years they’ve raided transportation funds for pet projects, such as failing upstate ski resorts."

I'm sure this will not stop Goldberg or his ideological ilk, in a future column, from blaming Barack Obama for not bringing the Winter Olympics back to Lake Placid, NY. 

Goldberg's implied solution to your increasingly regular holiday travel nightmares is clear:  kill all (knowledgeable) union workers.  Indeed, this is the logical endpoint of the Reaganist-Walkerist ideology, that magic-mirror twin of Marxism-Leninism.

12 February 2018

If the author of Fire and Fury is totally out of his depth, we might as well stick with established masters of fiction for our glimpses into the Trump administration.   In 1909, Thomas Mann's novel His Royal Highness, about palace intrigue and family drama in a fictional German kingdom (Germany was only unified under the Kaiser in 1871), was published.  This is Herr von Knobelsdorff (Minister of Internal and External Affairs and of the Grand-ducal Household) speaking to Herr von Schröder (Minister of Finance and Agriculture), and is taken from Chapter 2, "The Inhibition."

"Really?" he said.  "So it's your Excellency's perception that the Count's appointment has taken place for this end?  And I, I imagine the justified astonishment of this nobleman, when you lay out to him your conception of things.  No, no ... Your Excellency should not be fooled about it, shouldn't think that this appointment is a well-measured expression of His Royal Highness's will, that the appointed one had to be the first to pay attention to.  It's not just a matter of an I don't know, but also a matter of an I wish to know nothing.  One can have an exclusively decorative personality and nevertheless be capable of understanding this ... Furthermore ... honestly ... we all have understood it.  And for all of us, finally, just one mitigating circumstance applies:  it's that in this world there is no prince alive to whom it would be a more fatal matter to speak of his faults, than His Royal Highness ..."

08 February 2018

Today's Politico headlines rewritten for the reader who can handle reality:

Inside Trump's shift from Stolz der Nation to Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer

Meghan McCain believes War is Peace

How Obama Failed to Convince Every Last Sectarian Group in the Middle East to Become Secular Humanists

03 February 2018

The Denethor Democrat:  Bill Scher

It's truly wondrous to me how closely some political pundits resemble characters from Tolkien.  After years of trying to keep up with Mr. Scher's thoughts, I have concluded that it's really not that hard.  If at any time I am curious what he is saying, I don't actually have to listen to him; I need only open my copy of Return of the King to Chapter 7 ('The Pyre of Denethor') and read again (I've added just a few details for effect - in bold):

Then suddenly Denethor laughed.  He stood up tall and proud again, and stepping swiftly back to the table he lifted from it the pillow on which his head had lain.  Then coming to the doorway he drew aside the covering, and lo! he had between his hands a palantir from the Gore / Lieberman 2000 campaign.  And as he held it up, it seemed to those that looked on that the globe began to glow with an inner flame, so that the lean face of the Lord was lit as with a red fire, and it seemed cut out of hard stone, sharp with black shadows, noble, proud, and terrible.  His eyes glittered.  "Pride and despair!" he cried.  "Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind?  Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Leftist Fool.  For thy hope is but ignorance.  Go then and labour in healing!  Go forth and fight!  Vanity.  For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day.  But against the Power that now arises there is no victory ... The West and its Berniebots have failed.  It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves."  "Such counsels will make the Enemy's victory certain indeed," said Gandalf.  "Hope on then!" laughed Denethor.  "Do I not know thee, Mithrandir Justice Democrat?  Thy hope is to rule in my stead, to stand behind every throne, north, south or west.  I have read thy mind and its policies..."

23 January 2018

Exhibit A in the New York Times's competency at truth-telling hearing: 

Kentucky has a novel idea for regaining access to Medicaid:  Pass a health or financial literacy course.  Critics say the idea has uncomfortable historical echoes.

Critics say?  I didn't know historians of the Jim Crow South were "critics."  Maybe we can chalk this up to the general and endemic blurring of all distinctions between history, art criticism, philosophy, Catholic social teaching, and making angry YouTube videos.  But this is not the first time somebody at the Times has weasel'd out of telling us the straight truth about what Republicans are up to in states where they rule.  Mr. Sulzberger, Black History Month is nigh, and you need to be educated.
As literary critic William Hazlitt once said,

without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passions, of men. The white streak in our own fortunes is brightened (or just rendered visible) by making all around it as dark as possible; so the rainbow paints its form upon the cloud.
And just as Hazlitt found no reason to kill the spider that vexed him, but could not "part with the essence or principle of hostility" towards it, so too do I tremble at the thought of the Cubs acquiring a certain right fielder formerly of the Nationals.  You can cite all the testimonials of friends, family, and college buddies, and it will not change my mind.  Somehow I know that Harper would be a shaggy Lancelot come unto the Round Table that is the holy precinct of Wrigley, that he would destroy the morals of Chicago's youth  -- that the Chicago River would dry up, the Fourth Presbyterian Church turned over to round-the-clock baptisms of the dead.

I freely own my ridiculous irrational fear and loathing of Bryce Harper.  If it's imperative that they have somebody from Las Vegas on the team, my Cubs would be better off with Jimmy Kimmel, who I cannot but believe would be an excellent first base coach.

[edited to be a little nicer towards a certain sportswriter]