27 February 2018

A Few World Cup Predictions

I'm gonna look for a big glossy rainbow-colored sheet of paper to fill out my brackets on, but until then I do have a few predictions to hazard:

1.  When Russia & Germany face off, which I'm sure will happen at some stage, Germany to win by 2 points.

2.  Soon after, Putin will threaten to cut off all gas supplies to Germany next winter.

3.  [at]realdonaldtrump will tweet, "The GER-RUS game was RIGGED!  Did you know Planned Parenthood is to blame for forcing YOUR KIDS to play soccer in school.  I don't care what liberal elites say about it.    Thanks for the sweet deal Sepp"

4.  Within the week, George Will will write a Washington Post column denouncing Germany as a godless multicultural cesspool and bitching about loud black people and overly flamboyant gays ruining baseball.

5.  (83% chance) Within the same week, Bryce Harper will be arrested for assault.

26 February 2018

Adam Aron
CEO, AMC Cinemas

Dear Mr. Aron,

I still have $20 on a gift certificate to your business.  Movies these days that I know I will enjoy are few and far between (although one is coming up next month).  I wonder if your people can talk to Jimmy Kimmel's people and put together a three-part show (Part 1 found here,  Part 2 found here, Part 3 found here).

You can market it as "The True History of the Crying Cubs Fan" (or maybe "The Crying Game:  Annihilation of the Curse") and maybe have some live piano and/or vaudeville dances during the interludes.  It could be just the thing for struggling theaters in the greater Chicago region!  Do not be put off by the short duration of the video material (about 6 minutes 30 seconds).  Many movie-goers -- let's be honest -- have gone to see movies with less of a story in them.  Perhaps Bill Murray would like to get involved, as well.

Mr. Skye Winspur

These two paragraphs alone would have made a good opinion piece (with the one-word change I made), but POLITICO being POLITICO, a heavy dose of pure alternate reality is required before release to the reading masses.  (SO MUCH WIN.)

Then there’s the truly desperate notion lingering out there among the left [center]: Surely there must be someone in the GOP who will come to his or her senses and lead a stand against the president. Yes, maybe it will be Mitt Romney, who hates Trump so much he tried to be his secretary of state. Or maybe it’s Bob Corker, who quite incredibly seems to have gone from saying Trump was unstable and roaming around an adult day care center to becoming a telephone buddy trying to regain Trump’s favor.
Face it: The Republicans, most of them, are by now so accustomed to inertia and groupthink and political impotence that they seem willing to lose control of the House just to avoid getting a mean tweet from the president. Think the GOP will abandon Trump easily? They’ve all but given up.

24 February 2018

If Bertolt Brecht were alive today and writing tragedies, I have to think he would right now be working on Der Siebte Hügelchenbesuch (The Seventh Mound Visit).

22 February 2018

"I love the day."

I never had an American uncle, really, and I couldn't ask for a better surrogate, one with compassion and strategic intelligence, not to mention fashion sense, in these weeks than Joe Maddon.  God bless you, Joe.

21 February 2018

This was a wonderful and very intelligent discussion, but I must disagree with Prof. Lepore when she said "sorting people into pro- or anti-NRA is a ridiculous proposition" (19:11).

It is probably easy for a professor in Cambridge, Massachusetts to live out her life without thinking about this kind of sorting.  (It certainly was easy for me when I lived there as a grad student.)  But now that I live in Wisconsin, a state where six of the eight House representatives and one of the two senators have taken money from the NRA, and where it is now legal to carry concealed assault weapons on Madison city buses*, maybe it is not totally crazy to wonder about the feelings of people in my community towards the organization.

I do cop to feeling a certain kind of "religious zeal," which Lepore said is distorting our politics, about gun control.  How has any great improvement in living conditions for all Americans ever historically been made without religious zeal?  Certainly not the abolition of slavery.

Lepore was right to acknowledge that the gun debate "has not been a particularly free, and full, debate."  The tactics of the NRA -- issuing "orange cards" to lawmakers who get on their best side -- are strongly reminiscent of paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland.  If you have the stomach for it, look at their visual rhetoric.  What you'll find is often aggressive and jingoistic.  The roots of this ideology lie in the 1688-9 British civil war, which overthrew a Catholic king and solidly established the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland -- the irony is, now everybody (or at least "Judeo-Christians") can be an oppressed Protestant yeoman, including conservative Catholics.

I wish the best for the Parkland students who have chosen to speak out.  I just don't want them put off by an expert (and I'm not denying Jill Lepore is one) telling them it's wrong to know who your likeliest friends are.

*Thanks to a State Supreme Court decision last year.

20 February 2018

I really really want to mass-produce a mug that reads I JUST WANT TO DRINK CRAPPY BYWATER BEER AND LISTEN TO SARUMAN BLAME THE DWARVES AND ELVES FOR ALL MY PROBLEMS.  Should sell amazingly in parts of Pennsylvania.

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..."