Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Sports Ball Returns!

Time for some Baseball Predictions. I haven't posted one of these in a couple years - they were a staple on this humble blog for a long time, but things have been fucked up and bullshit for the last couple years... This year it looked like baseball was oging to be fucked up and bullshit, but somehow they unfucked it at the last minute. It is - well, it is a relief, my friends. Enough so that I will not spend half this post whining about the stupid rules they are foisting on us, from that runner on second in extras to - whatever other stupid rules I was going to vent about. I will stick to predicting! Though honestly, I have almost no idea what is going on in baseball anymore, so these predictions will be somewhere between rolling dice and parroting ESPN. Hey - can't let that stop me! 

AL EAST:

1. Tampa Bay - I don't really know who to pick, to tell the truth. This is widely regarded as an extraordinarily deep division - yeah, it is. I should probably just pick Boston to win, but instead I;ll go with Tampa to repeat. Largely because the game has evolved into a short innings pitching game and no one has mastered the art of openers and middle relief more than the Rays. 

2. Boston - because I am not picking the Yankees, and am not sure about Toronto. But yeah. this is pretty arbitrary. I do think the Sox are going to do well - obviously some of the pitching health is key - but they should hit, and I think they are going to get more pitching than they let on. If Sale ever comes back? Why not dream big?

3. Toronto - they have got a lot of talent on there don't they. They have Kevin Gausman? Was last year real? etc. At least beat the Yankees, all right boys?

4. NY - probably not bad at all, but it's the Yankees! I have to hope they lose.

5. Baltimore - poor Baltimore.

AL CENTRAL:

1. Everyone's picking Chicago - I suppose they should, shouldn't they? They look like they should do all right, though - will they?

2. Minnesota - they went from world beaters to awful last year and - now they have CArlos Correa - they have Gary Sanchez, and will they have the sense to let him bat without donning the tools of ignorance? They should be back in the thick of it, though do they have pitching?

3. Cleveland Guardians - Tito's back, Ramirez and Bieber are there - I am reaching the limits of my knowledge. They should have a shot, right?

4. Detroit - I am shocked to discover that Detroit wasn't terrible last year. Not good, but not terrible. They have Javier Baez now, and Austin Meadows - they have E-Rod! I love E-Rod, and wish him well. I hope the cats exceed expectations and win something this year. They might not be all that bad.

5. KC Royals - I can't name a single player on this team in 2022. I will now go look them up: holy crap! Zach Greinke is back! And I forgot about Andrew Benintendi and young Mondesi. They were not awful last year. who knows, perhaps they won't be awful this year. 

AL West:

1. Houston - I mean, they are supposed to win it.

2. Seattle - they were pretty good last year, look like they could be decent this year. No harm in it.

3. Angels - can they be any good? who cares - I hope to god they are good. a team with Tr9out and Ohtani together better win something, just once - win something! 

4. Oakland - I think they are planning for the future again. I'm sure they will get back into things. Tampa west kind of right?

5. Texas - can I name anyone on this team? They have Martin Perez back! and though I could not have named them - I see they have Corey Seager and Marcus Sieman - maybe there's life in the middle of Texas too. 

Champs? Odds are still good on Houston, I think. Though sure - any of the east teams, the White Sox all have a real shot, and a couple fo the dark horses might get in on the fun.

NL East:

1. Atlanta - don't have Freddie Freeman, should get Ronald Acuna back - no reason to pick against them.

2. Philadelphia - I don't know if there's any reason to pick them, but I am going to. I like a bunch of these guys. Go get em!

3. Mets - I see their luck is holding up, with de Grom and Scherzer hurt. I like de Grom and Scherzer, and Lindor, but I don't like the Mets. They can lose.

4. Washington - Soto deserves better. Though he has his ring.

5. Miami - I have heard of some of the guys on their roster, though I wouldn't have guessed they were in Miami. Yep. Nope.

NL Central:

1. Milwaukee ot repeat - works for me.

2. St Louis - seems about right. They have what they had, right, more or less? no major changes?

3. Chicago - no good reason to pick them ahead of the Reds is there? No good reason not to, right?

4. Reds - ditto, reversed? I don't know. ˜either of these teams look like contenders, but they aren't the Pirates either.

5. The Pirates appear to be the Pirates, though.

NL West:

1. LA Dodgers - it is a force of nature out there. Fine - prove it! Win another one for Mookie!

2. San Diego - this may not be justified, but they looked ready last year, went completely to shit in the second half - I think things will get better. 

3. SF Giants - they won far more than they had any right to last year, and things are likely to correct - but it's still a good team, and a team that plays as a team, so - yeah, they will be in on the action.

4. Colorado - I mean, they don't look awful, on paper, do they? they aren't challenging fo9r anything.

5. Arizona - it's my favorite refraibn - until I looked them up, I could not have named any of them. Now - I did sort of remember that Madison Bumgarner was there, and Ketel Marte existed - that's about it. I don't see a lot of wins there.

Champs? Gotta pick the Dodgers, obviously. There are a few teams that could do it, with any luck, though.

World Series? I know what I want - Boston vs Atlanta. I don't think I can stand to watch Boston take on Mookie, though. I have not forgiven them for trading him, and will not. So Dodgers it is, and no complaint.




Sunday, February 27, 2022

Ukraine

What interesting times we live in. I would rather not live in interesting times.

I need to write something about Russia and Ukraine. I don't know if I have anything special to contribute, but it feels like I should be on record. The situation has the advantage of being pretty morally unambiguous: one of the word's worst actors, Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine for nakedly imperialist purposes, and Ukraine has more than risen to the occasion. They continue to hold out; president Zelensky has been positively heroic, leading from the front, and the country has been united and strong behind him; the rest of the world has responded with almost universal condemnation of Russia, and with quick and powerful sanctions against them, and support for Ukraine. The Ukrainians have been winning the propaganda war, for certain, not so much by demonizing the Russians as by holding out, and demonstrating up and down the line, how united and brave and sometimes downright cool Ukrainians can be. Sunflower seeds in your pockets for sure!

That said - it is early days in the war, and Russia is a very big country and can bring its might to bear. And they have nukes and Putin seems almost desperate enough to use them. It is, frankly, still a terrifying situation, even if things now look they could work out. 

I don't have much wisdom to offer. I think, so far, Ukraine itself has been completely admirable in its resistance, in its courage, in its ability to remind the rest of the world that they are a more or less democratic country that deserves to be supported. I think the response of the rest of the world has been admirable: no one is talking about actually getting involved in the war on the ground, but they are supplying Ukraine, they are looking for ways to punish Russia, and the sanctions put on might actually work. There is a fine line here - you want to convince the Russians that this is going to ruin them, without convincing them they have to escalate to survive. That's the scary part. But so far, the world seems to be threading the needle as well as you could hope. And almost everyone is saying the right things.

Almost. The American right did not rise to the occasion. Dear old disgraced former president Donald Trump chimed in first by proclaiming Putin a genius for this - reminding everyone that he was impeached the first time by trying to blackmail Zerensky, and that he has always been Putin's lapdog. Well. And the lesser demons of the right, from Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon down to Candace Owens and random office seekers have come out to praise Russia and Putin and try to wedge some reference to the culture wars they love to wage into the issue. Most of this has aged poorly, and they have tried to walk it back - but it's out there. Lots of noise about pronouns, lots of references to woke millennials and the like, all of which serves, mainly, to remind us how much the American right admires Putin and his repression, authoritarianism, and two-bit tough guy act. They like Putin - they want to be like him. They might have to pretend otherwise for a week or so, but they can't really hide it. 

But truthfully, they don't matter all that much. They have been left behind. Most of Europe, the US, the rest of the world, has rallied around Ukraine, seeing this invasion for what it is. They've done it without, so far, really attacking the Russians as such - though Russia is a country that, throughout its history, has had as big a gap between how Russians as people are perceived and how their leaders are perceived as you will find. The people of Russia have been as badly served and used as a people anywhere - they deserve, someday, someone worthy of them. In the meanwhile, Putin deserves a particularly corner of hell, as long as he doesn't turn the whole world into hell.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Hall of Infamy

I should be happy - David Ortiz is in the Hall of Fame. But I am not going to beat around the bush: this might be the moment that delegitimizes it completely. As everyone who cares must know - Ortiz is in; the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not in. (There are others - Curt Schilling, say - who are also not in, but the reasons are different; and the reasons are the point here.) This is not justifiable. Now we all know - Bonds and Clemens are out because they are accused of steroid use. Pretty creditably, as well. But so is David Ortiz. And that is where the thing breaks down. It's where I have to concede Dan Shaughnessy's point (and I am not one to concede much to Dan Shaughnessy.) If you can't vote for Bonds or Clemens, you can't vote for Big Papi. If you are going to vote for Ortiz, you damned sure better vote for Bonds and Clemens who are obvious and indisputable Great Players in the game.

Complete assholes of course.

Personally, I do not think steroid use should be an automatic disqualifier. I have written about it before - specifically about Ortiz, when he was on the 2003 list. I was, back in 09, far less cynical than I should have been, thinking that Ortiz' presence on the list would make at least Boston fans realize that steroids were simply a Fact of the Game in those days, and let at least Roger back into their hearts. Oh ye of too much faith! Still: I don't think steroid use should disqualify anyone, any more than using uppers would kick Mickey Mantle out, or throwing spitballs disqualified Gaylord Perry, or every white player before Jacky Robinson should be removed. It was, in that era, part of the game. 

Manny Ramirez? that might be a different story - getting caught after the testing regimes went in and were enforced - that might be different. And I am still inclined to try to parse out how steroid era players would have faired in other times. You know how Clemens and Bonds would have fared, because they had made a better than average hall of fame case before they even started using - but Sosa and McGwire? That might involve some calculation. A Rod and Manny - ah - well - A Rod especially might have cheated his whole career - but wasn't he enough better than all the other cheaters that you have to consider him still one fo the best in the game? Ah, such calculations.

And there might be some fun to be had in trying to figure out whether Ortiz belongs in on the merits. It's an interesting case: being a DH, his advanced value isn't great - he's just a bat. But how much credit should you give to specialists? Closers and power hitters and defensive whizzes, who don't get the across the board WAR numbers of a great short stop or starting pitcher or outfielder? Ortiz looked the part - he raked from the time he got to Boston to the end, and even his off years offered some gaudy counting stats. And he did it under pressure, whatever that is worth. Can't deny that. Would it be enough?

But those are just thought games. In fact, the writers vote people into the hall of fame, and they are voting in a way that cannot be taken seriously. If Ortiz is in and Bonds is not, the hall is not about the best players the game has seen. If Ortiz were clean, maybe you could make some kind of weird moral argument about cheating - but he wasn't. He was caught at least once, and - you know - you watch his career and it's hard not to believe it. He went from being a promising slugger to a world beater the year he joined a team with Manny Ramirez and a Giambi. Circumstantial evidence is not entirely useless. 

So there it is. A shame, really, because I don't like kvetching about Ortiz. I would vote for him - the WAR numbers might not be great, but I saw what he did for a team. And while he didn't really win those three world series all alone (though he came close in 2013) - in 2004 and 2013 he certainly got hits that got them there, as directly as you can ask. (Those two extra inning winners against the Yankees; the grand slam against the Tigers in 13.) He also helped me win three straight fantasy leagues, in the mid 10s - though Barry Bonds won me three or four fantasy championships over the years too. What can I say? Spare me the moralism, and especially, space me the hypocrisy. 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Infamy

Today is another day to live in infamy. A year ago, a mob invaded the capitol building, urged on by, of all people, the sitting president. It is hard to fathom. It is hard to fathom how that former president is still a free man - it speaks poorly of us, as a country that he is not in prison.

This is an infamous day. It is comparable to December 7 or September 11 - or April 12, which doesn't always get the same attention the others do. It might be easier to focus on attacks from outside the country - attacks from inside? It's harder, sometimes, to see them for what they are. But this is an attack, as surely as any of those. Indeed, more of an attack, in some ways - it was (like April 12, 1861) an attack on the principal of the United States as such, on democracy as such, on the Republic as such. 

The fact that the people doing it were ridiculous nincompoops, with their QANON conspiracies and their imaginary voter fraud and their red hats and blue flags and whatnot, might hide some fo the seriousness of it. Were they going to overthrow the government? it is hard to see it. If they didm what would they do with it? But they were still attacking the country. And their leaders - while Trump himself is a clown, an incompetent boob, a failure at every single thing he ever did (including this) - he is still as explicitly anti-American as any American figure in an awful long while. He is a fascist, he wanted to overthrow the government, make himself dictator for life - he failed, and surely will fail again if he is still breaking in three years - but he meant it. And bot everyone around him is as stupid as he is, though - by god, there are some stupid people around him. But they are also evil. There is no stupid or evil problem with Trump and his followers - they are both. And the evil is real.

So: they need to be held accountable. Trump needs to be held accountable.s long as he walks around free, we are failing the country, we are encouraging him and worse people to try it again. And even if they fail again - a lot of people will suffer for it. The Confederates failed - but they caused unimaginable suffering before they did. I fear for the nation...

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Me I'm All Smiles... Welcome 2022

And here we are. Happy New Year! No one is going to miss 2021 - the only thing it had going for it was not being 2020. But it rivals 2020. People kept dying, they kept dying unnecessarily, as vaccines came out and big chunks of the country refused to get them, and prominent political and media figures urged people not to get them, and people kept dying because of it, the disease hangs around and everything remains shitty. 

Speaking of things hanging around making the world shitty, Donald Trump, having gotten stomped in the election, tried to overthrow the government. He failed, but he's still walking the world free, to our national shame. He still talks like he is going to try it again, the Republicans are doing all they can to stop enough people from voting to make it so he can win without a coup, though they are all pretty much fine with a coup at this point. The supreme court, a completely illegitimate institution at this point, works on undoing the twentieth century and the Reconstruction amendments. Republicans, in general, have basically adopted Trump's fascism wholesale, running on a constant attack on intellectual freedom and truth. All of which is mostly aimed at running on a platform of putting Black people back in their place. And women, foreigners, gays and anyone else they can find to hate and abuse. 

In other words, we suck. 

I suppose I can take solace from the economy recovering, though who knows how long that will last with COVID still going strong. I would take more solace if the Democrats were all Democrats. Joe Manchin has decided to singlehandedly betray more or less everything he is supposed to represent - Build Back Better is good for the country, will be good for West Viginia, and is good for the Democratic party - isn't that what a Democratic Senator is supposed to care about? immediate constituents, the country as a whole, and his party? In his case, there is also himself and his donors - he has decided to represent them. Now true - I single out Manchin when the entire Republican party is acting the same way - but they are openly seditious and fascist - they are openly working against the country and their voters. Though to their credit (for what it's worth) they do work for the good (short term anyway) of the Republican Party, which now, is all about power, looting the country, and oppressing Blacks, women, gays, foreigners and so on.

Alas. 

Well, I will not belabor politics anymore. How goes it with me? Not great. I suppose things are going along well enough in the general sense - gainful employment that doesn't drive me too crazy, I'm healthy, smart enough to be vaccinated (though not lucky enough to get a booster - I was scheduled for this very day, but the local pharmacy is down a person so closed up at the last minute. Bloody hell.) That all could be worse. 

But I have become unspeakably lazy in the last couple years. Just look at the output on this blog! And that reflects general lack of motivation for anything. I don't watch movies anymore, not much anyway. I don't write much, not much of anything. I did Nanowrimo, as usual, and produced almost 70,000 words - though with almost nothing I could imagine being part of an actual novel, in the end. Weird stuff. I used to hope to finally finish something - these days, I hope not to go backwards. And outside of that? I mentioned a couple years ago surfing on YouTube - that's still a thing, but these days, I spend most fo that time scrolling through YouTube looking for something to watch. Sad. 

I did knock off a few books last year - most notably autobiographies of Richard Thompson and Will Sergeant - both very fine books by very fine guitar players. I have been worshipping Thompson for 30 odd years; I was reminded this year how much I liked Echo and the Bunnymen back in the 80s, and spent a lot of time this year listening to them. This happened with the Gang of Four a while back - I heard them, remembered how much I liked them for a while, and went back and dove in and have worshipped them since. The bunnymen have gotten the same treatment this year. Don't ask me why it took so long.

All of which does bring up one thing that went a bit better this year: I did listen to a lot more music than I have in a while. I tend to latch on to things - art forms - movies or music or books, or other things, like different sports or games or what have you - and ride them hard for a few years, then - stop. I stopped obsessing about music a while back, after obsessing about it hard for a long time. Strange. This year? I didn't pay m,uch attention to anything contemporary - but I paid attention to some old stuff. The last couple years, really. I will have to write about that some day. This year? Echo and the Bunnymen, the Kinks and Brian Jonestown Massacre got the weight of my attention. A lot of it from YouTube, though I bought records, and listened to them. Interesting. Maybe I will write about it again.

Anyway - there you have it. Something to mark the change of the calendar. I will even end with a resolution of sorts: I want to post once in a while on here. Something. Something besides obituaries and laments about the end of the republic, I hope. Maybe music.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11 Memorial

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I should say something about that. I have not posted anything about it since 2013 - this is strange, but I suppose I haven't posted much of anything here since 2013. I used to post every year about it - at least since 2006, fifth anniversary - but over time, there seemed to be less and less point. I said what I had to say - back in 2006, in fact, a long rant that, well - sounds right to this day... I could repeat it every year or - remember it, and let it go. Which is about what happened.

But 20 years: I have to say something. What? The event itself was horrifying, created a sense of fear and dread that lingered for quite a while. (A more concrete version of what it was like to grow up in the 70s and 80s under the fear of nuclear annihilation.) As for the day itself - I don't think I have written about my memories fo the day, here. Reading articles about false memories of 9/11 makes you think - how much do I remember wrong? The truth is, most of what I remember of the experience was banal. I was at work - I went to a meeting at 9AM. I think I remember someone saying that a plane hit the Trade Center tower before the meeting, but I don't think anyone seemed all that concerned. When I came out of the meeting, everything was different. Two planes hit - there was no doubt it was an attack - no one knew what was going to happen. I remember people watching news on their computers, a new trick in those days. And that's how we saw the towers fall: on a tiny QuickTime window.

They sent us home. I think I went into AOL when I got home and checked on a couple people I knew in NYC and the DC area - they were all right - so I turned off the news and watched Beavis and Butthead Do America. It seemed like a good time to watch it.

The next day I went back to work, though everyone was on edge. Sometime in the morning, the cops raided the Westin Hotel in Boston, a couple blocks from where I worked. People got paranoid and wanted to leave and I thought, where are we supposed to go? But I think later, most of the office just packed up and went home, not waiting for the company to close or the city to close or anything - we just weren't going to hang around. 

Not very interesting, in the end. But the day lived on in my head. Though I think it was the anthrax scare later that September that really set me off. But that might be a false memory. Walking home one day, beautiful perfect blue sky, thinking, holy shit we're all going to die! 

After that? Nostalgia about 9/12 doesn't impress me - partly because of the way we all abandoned our posts the next day, on a rumor; partly because it didn't take very long for everything to go to shit. Arguing over who was to blame, then what to do about it, ignorant things like "Freedom Fries", attacks on Moslems and anyone who looked like they might be middle eastern, increased surveillance across the board, the Patriot Act. We were divided immediately by 9/11, aAll right. Here we are, 20 years along. We have finally gotten out of Afghanistan - that's amazing ed the divisions were deeper and more aggressive, and are still there. 

We got into wars, which we could not win. We have just gotten out of Afghanistan after 20 years - a war that, at the time, made some sense (getting Al Qaeda and all) - but we didn't get Bin Laden, then we gimped that war to fight a very wrong war in Iraq and - well, we aren't the first Empire to fall apart over Afghanistan. 

And 9/11 has ruined us, politically. I mean, imagine a world where someone could say (however stupidly) that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties - imagine that! It sounded shallowed and spoiled then - now, it's flat out mad. (Or flat out a lie; people still say it, but they are mad liars.) Whatever side you're on now, the political scene is much more fractured and dangerous than it was then. Conflicts are open and explicit, and more likely to be violent. Fascism is open and explicit and dreams of violence. We are disintegrating. And the world as a whole is just as bad: far less stable than in 2000 (when things were not ideal, don't get me wrong), but open fascism is on the rise all around the world, conflict and disintegration are taking place in areas that were basically stable in 2000. It has been a logn disaster for the world.

Which brings me to something strange to say about those times: the weird sense (but maybe not so weird) that that time - 2000-2001 - might have been the high point of human existence. How strange! But remember life as you lived it in 2000: there were bookstores! Records stores! video stores! more movie theaters! There were records to buy, movies to watch! It's easy to think that technology has been on an endless upward climb in those years - but wonderful as it can be, losing book stores, record stores, even video rental joints, is a cost. They make life more pleasant - there is no replacement for the joy of going into a bookstore or record store, browsing the shelves, looking at the objects as you decide what to buy.

But more than that - the technology was there in 2000. This choice between book stores and Amazon - in 2000, you had both. Amazon existed; Netflix existed. You could have everything - you could buy things cheap online if you wanted; you could rent movies through the mail, on a fantastic new medium, the DVD. At the same time, mind you, as you could go into a bookstore or record store or a video store and root through their stock. You could even watch movies and listen to music on your computer, even watch TV on your computer - even if the quality was not great, you could do it. All those things existed at the same time for a while. Could they have lasted forever? Is there a way to have Amazon and lots of bookstores? Streaming movies and Blockbusters? iPods and their descendents and HMV and TOwer records? I don't know. But we had them all in 2000-2001.

It's weird to think about, but that might have been it - as good as it was going to get. Maybe the end was coming one way or the other - even without 9/11, climate change was already well on its way, and that might end up swallowing all these other considerations - but things were still better than. For a middle class urban white guy, maybe - but go back to politics - it was better for a lot of people who weren't watching QuickTime videos and renting foreign DVDs and spending hundreds of dollars at a pop at Tower or HMV or Newbury Comix. 

And now? Every two days, as many people die in this country of COVID as died in the 9/11 attacks. This is months after a free, safe and effective vaccine was distributed, which stops most of those deaths. I wonder if we would have been smarter before 9/11 about something like that. We wouldn't have had people like Donald Trump who threw his political capital behind making the pandemic worse. I don't know.

We live in a very bad time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Charlie Watts

 Time for this blog to come back to life at least long enough to mark the passing of one of the great figures of rock music, Mr. Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. The Stones, one has to say, have been lucky - Watts is the first to go since Brian Jones in 1969, and most of them have been pretty active and lively most of that time. And the band, of course, has stayed active all that time, still touring - or intending to tour - to the present. They seem immortal - especially, I suppose, Keith Richards, who should be dead half a dozen times over, but there he is, still at it. But they are not immortal, and now the sanest of the crew is gone.

And so. I am, I admit, too much of a fan of flashy drummers. Keith Moon and John Bonham and Jaki Liebezeit give me shivers, every time. But I know just how vital Charlie Watts was (or Ringo, for that matter.) They make the songs, hold the whole thing where it needs to be, they are near perfect. They are a big reason the Stones and the Beatles are what they are - the best whole package, the bands that got pop music dead right. The recordings, the songs as songs, everything - and the drumming is at the center of it.

So goodbye Mr. Watts. You made the world a better place.

Here they are last year, locked down - Charlie dapper and amusing, miming along to the rest:

And way back when, just grooving it:


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Sweet Tolling of the Bell

I think I shall post today in honor of the passing of Rush Limbaugh, a man who single handedly refutes John Donne: no one is diminished by his passing. He lived a rotten life, Rush Limbaugh. There was a time when it was hard to tell if he meant a word he said - he was a showman, always, and had the air of a charlatan about him, a salesman, someone who could, with a twist in the road here or there, have been announcing football games or selling used cars. Instead he played a right wing demagogue, but was any of it real? 

There was a time. But there comes a time when who cares? You can mean it or not, but if you are willing to say the things he said, push the positions and politics he pushed, sincerity is beside the point. You are evil, and playing evil is no different than being evil. And he was evil. He grounded right wing resentment and viciousness, for a long time, he promoted it, he shaped it, he kept it going. He was central in creating the fascism that has infested the right in this country for 30 odd years - voicing it, pushing it, making it worse and worse. He hurt the country, and consequently the world, immeasurably. 

He was also a loathsome character as a human being. A drug addict and sex tourist who raved about other people's drug use and sexual behavior. A money grubbing worm. A hateful, abusive creep. 

All right: if you can's say something nice about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all. Well - if you can say something nice about Rush Limbaugh, what the hell is wrong with you? I suppose one should feel sympathy for his family and loved ones - but who the hell would that be? No - he won't be missed, except by his fellow fascists. Fuck them all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Good Day

And so we are finally free of the worst man to ever hold the office of president of the United States. One of the worst men ever to run for the office, a man who earned his place next to Andrew Johnson and John Breckinridge, though unlike them, a man who never did anything else in his life worth noting. All the old villains and failures in American history - most of them did something to get there. Maybe a few of them were just born to money and power, like this one - but hell, little George Bush at least made a show of trying to be worth something, he joined the guard at least! He ran a sports team that didn't go bankrupt, unlike some people who bankrupted whole sports leagues. Even Ronald Reagan, mid-level actor - was a mid-level actor. This one? went bankrupt running a casino; pissed away his daddy's money; revived by a reality show and the Russian mob! his uselessness is almost unprecedented in American National politics.

He's gone now. I imagine he will have a few sleepless nights, as now his creditors and many an ambitious DA can cast their eyes his way. Once the Senate gets through with him. Yes indeed. I am grateful that he didn't decide to double down on his coup from a couple weeks back - though it's not surprising. He was always in it for the grift - he never seemed to take anything seriously except the grift. There is a strange surreal quality to the insane right in this country - they are LARPers, they are playing a game - they claim things that are so obviously false it is hard to imagine they take them seriously. The coup attempt - seems to have been dead serious, with people certainly talking about killing politicians and the like - but they still somehow come off as though they were always just playing a game. And - I can't say I am surprise they dissolved on the first touch. The whole affair felt like a Coen brothers movie. Their ranting and raving had a very Walter Sobchak vibe to it - but I couldn't help hearing Walter condemning them too. "These men are cowards, Donnie..." 

All right. I don't have to think about the former president any more! That is a great joy. I can think about Joe Biden. A strange sensation, right, to have Joe Biden as president. It is a massive relief, and he gives off an air of calm, reassurance, but also strength and resolve. He will undo the damage that's been done by 4 years of undemocratic and un-American rule. I take great pleasure in seeing him take office - that in spite of the fact that he might have been my 9th choice among last years Democrats. (Especially in retrospect, which might let me take people like Julian Castro more seriously than I would have at the time.) But then again - there might have been a dozen Democrats running for president last year who were better choices than anyone the Republicans put forward in 2016, and that's even trying to filter out political preferences. And that again who didn't run who I would like to see as president. The Democrats simply are the serious political party in this country. The serious political debate in this country is al within the Democratic party. I just hope they manage to agree on enough to make some real changes.

Still: the cautious parts of the Democratic party will massively improve the country, just as they did in Obama's day. I hope they have learned the lessons of those days: that the Republicans are not worth working with. Do what you want to do, and do not give them an inch. Use every advantage you have, pass what you think will do the most good, do not try to work around their propaganda machine. The Democrats will be accused of socialism whatever they do - so do what you can get through congress, do everything you can do. They have the congress at least - taking over the senate today as well. I hope they use it. 

All right. It is a good day. A good week, from MLK day to Biden's inauguration, to Ossoff and Warnock being sworn into the senate - it is good. We are going to make it after all, maybe.


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Salvation and Sedition

What a time to be alive. Should I be thrilled that Georgia's senatorial races both went to the Democrats, giving the Democrats a majority in the Senate? (That's 51 votes, representing an extra 40 millions people.) We have a functioning government again. We might save the old republic yet!

Or be "concerned" (that's the word) that a sitting president incited a coup to overthrow the government? invading the capital, proudly waving their confederate flags? 

What a time to be alive.

There is not much to do or say about all of this. This is not a coup that can succeed. It is hard to see what Trump thinks he is doing at this point. I know Trump himself is a spoiled child, an ignorant, destructive, incompetent grifter who simply doesn't care what happens to anything else. He never has - obviously. He has never cared a fig about the United States. I find it hard to think he even cares about the power or winning or anything else - I don't know what he is doing. He is pissing on everything to piss on it. It's mind-blowing.

The people around him - his family, everyone in the White House, Mike Pence on down - are as shameful a lot of hooligans as this country has ever produced. Cowardly, weak, sycophantic, to someone who clearly cannot and will not help them in any way - why are they doing it? Why didn't some of them stop this shit months ago? They could have: he is not a dictator, he is a weak old man who can be easily controlled by anyone willing. Stories about Trump tearing into Mike Pence - why doesn't Pence just recite the 25th amendment (section 4) to him and tell him to sit down and shut up? But you should not have to go that far. Why are these people all so afraid of Donald Trump?

There is, and has been a great divide in this country - people who somehow think Trump is formidable, good or bad, a great businessman or an evil genius, something - and defer to him. And people who think he is a clown, a buffoon, a bully, who should be mocked and ignored. That he is someone who has no power - just daddy's money (or Putin's now, I guess) and daddy's lawyers (or maybe Mitch McConnell) to do things with. If anything, he has more power now, having stoked the mobs and sent them out to break stuff - they can do real harm. But they have no real power. 

But here we are. On one hand, the bullshit will end - Trump will be gone in two weeks, his mobs are not likely to have a lot of staying power. But they can break a lot of stuff before they go. It is crucial, in the aftermath of this - and this has been true since November of 2016, since nothing Trump has done is really surprising, it was obvious in 2016 he was a crook and would be a crook in office and might well sell out the country to anyone who'd pay him - when it is done, he has to pay. Trump needs to be arrested, he needs to be tried, he should be convicted, since he has done it all in public. And the people who helped him should be held accountable - the leaders. It is important to arrest the ones breaking into the capital, making sure none of them go unpunished - but it is more crucial to get the ringleaders.  

Trump should be arrested, now. He's a traitor. The senators and representatives who encouraged this by protesting the certification should be punished - it is one thing to dick around with symbolic protests and the like, but they had to know what would happen here. They participated in this sedition. They need to be held responsible. The criminals and traitors int he Trump white house have to pay for their crimes. If we sweep this under the rug, we will be putting ourselves on the road to destruction. 

There's nothing else to say.

Friday, January 01, 2021

2021 Is Here at Last!

And good riddance to 2020! 

Here we are, 2021, a new year, and one that is very welcome. 2020 has got a very strong claim to being the worst year in American history. 350,000 dead of Covid, over 3 million total deaths, a 15% increase from 2019, the largest increase in deaths since 1918. That is very bad. And around this, we can watch the government collapsing, one of our parties openly embracing treason - it's not a pretty picture. Now clearly, there have been bad times in the past - 1918, say! War, the flu and all; the Depression, WWII; the 60s had some horrible times as well. But this one - especially as so much of it feels like a self-inflicted wound. And the way there seems to be so little to take as compensation. Sure sure, 1968 was horrible - but you got the White Album! This year - this was so bad I somehow managed to miss the fact that Tommy Heinsohn died. A couple months ago. Somewhere between Sean Connery and Alex Trebek. That bad.

So here we are. The virus is still wreaking havoc (we keep hitting new daily highs in deaths, 3900 odd a couple days ago); there are vaccines, but they are slow to get implemented, so we are a long ways from normal life again. There's a new strain out there, more contagious than the last. Not good. Meanwhile, the economy is in a dangerous place. Maybe it's still functioning, but it feels like it could crash at any time. And though $600 checks will help a bit, you need more than that, especially if we were able to take the necessary step of closing things down again until the virus subsides and vaccines are common. There is hope, I suppose, if the Democrats win two senate seats in Georgia - otherwise, we remain at the mercy of Mitch McConnell, and that is not a good place to be.

There is no escaping the utter depravity of the modern Republican party. Donald Trump - he's less than three weeks from being out fo the white house, but is doing all he can to ruin the country while he is still there. He bears personal responsibility for a lot fo those COVID deaths - half of them? Probably about right. He had an easy job when this pandemic hit - nod along with the doctors, tell everyone to stay at home and wear their masks and wash their hands - but he did not do that. He did the opposite, He politicized the disease - he politicized the obvious measures one takes to battle infectious diseases. He did worse than that - he fostered conspiracy theories, he acted the fool, he inspired his followers to act the fool. If he had hit the bare minimum, doing what the doctors said, the Republicans likely would have gone along with it. You always have nuts - but Trump encouraged mainstream Republicans to defy obvious health measures. I don't think they would have done this without his lead. There is almost no one else he could have been in his place who would have acted the way Trump did on this. Mike Pence, bad as he is (and bad as he's been as Trump's VP) is very unlikely to have acted like Trump in the face of this disaster. And that little might have made it possible to keep the disease under some control. Not complete (unless you live in New Zealand) - but we are way worse than anyone else.

But Donald Trump is a pretty uniquely bad human being. He has managed to fulfill all the expectations for villainy and incompetence in the wake of the election. It's interesting to note that the election went more or less exactly as everyone expected it to go: Biden won the popular vote easily; a half dozen states were close enough to make the Electoral College outcome iffy, though there never seemed to be much chance of Trump repeating his 2016 luck. Because of absentee voting, and the politicizations of absentee voting, most observers thought that Trump would seem to be ahead on election day, but the lead would disappear as soon as the votes were counted. It's obvious that's what Trump expected to happen - thus his relentless campaign against absentee voting, his attempts to sabotage the post office, to stop counting votes after election day and so on. 

And that is how it happened. Trump was ahead at the end of November 3, and started clamoring to stop counting votes. People counted the votes. Trump's lead disappeared fast, and a day or so later, it was obvious Biden had won, and would win big. Here, a normal villain would back down, whine about whatever there was to whine about, and pout as the country prepared to change presidents. Not Trump! he kept doubling down on his fascism, challenging votes, trying to intimidate officials, raising up his followers for violence, and when everything else failed, speculating about a military coup. They are still at it! Weird notions still circulating about straight up rejecting the results when congress certifies them, with grandstanding morons in congress still carrying on. Astonishing. Well - not for Trump. More or less par for the course. For the other Republicans - somehow they seem to have missed that the rest of the party sort of made gains in this election - Trump is the only one who got smoked, regularly. 

And so. 2021 is here, Joe Biden will be president in a couple weeks, with luck, the Democrats will have the senate, and might pass some fo the lawws the house has been passing all year. Might make it possible to get through the next 3-6 months it will take to get vaccines to people - we might survive as a nation. For a while anyway.

I will not dwell on the bad, though. 2020 will represent the low point in the Republic, even if worse times come, as long as we do start to get back to something resembling respectability. It's hard to get too optimistic, though, even there - with several others countries slipping into fascism and stupidity at the same time. (Brexit anyone?) But - it feels good to get out of it. There could be light at the end of this tunnel; there hasn't been anything to be optimistic about in a while. So take what you can get.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Armistice Day 2020

 I haven't updated on November 11 in a couple years. The last time was the end of the war itself, ion fact, two years ago. I know I have not been blogging much lately. And the war is over.

I have been watching The Great War on youtube lately - a neat historical channel, hosted by Indie Neidell originally, that followed the war week by week, 100 years after the fact. I wish I had found that sooner, though I was doing a lot of reading, and taking actual classes, back when it started. Still - good stuff, and so is the World War Two channel Neidell hosts now.

Meanwhile, the word we live in is interesting enough. 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu was winding down, having killed millions, more than the whole war did. In 2020, COVID 19 is in full force still, killing 230,000 or more Americans already, many many more throughout the world, and still going strong. And the fool in the White house who has made this worse is still there - 

We did, in fact, vote his sorry ass out last week. Everything went about according to expectations - lots of votes cast, lots of absentee votes cast, Democrats much more likely to vote by mail than Republicans, so the election night results looked grim. But the places counting absentee ballots after the in person ballots saw Biden's numbers just rise and rise and rise, and by the time they were done, he had taken most co the contested states - Pennsylvania, Georgia, as well as Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nebraska, by fairly healthy margins. Biden took the popular vote by a very healthy margin. Basically, it was a butt kicking. 

But weepy Donnie is still hanging on, raving about election fraud, promising to fight it in the courts, and sabotaging everything he can reach rather than admit the obvious. This is what you get when someone fails at everything they touch and no one calls them on it. It is also what you get when you have a fascist in the white house, supported by a party that knows it can't win elections if people vote. They have to steal the election, they sure as hell can't win it. The Republicans have won one National election since 1988. They have to commit to minority rule.

So here we are. Self-imposed chaos here in the USA. Trump doing his best John Breckinridge - if he can't win the vote, he'll commit treason. I don't know how this gets that far, of course. Trump is terrible at it, his allies are terrible at it - there is no way for him to actually win the election, and I doubt anyone will have the stomach to turn to arms to overturn it. But it's ugly, none the less.

All right. End with the Great War again. This time, Metallica's One, a song, from a book and movie about the war, about all wars - and about the blacklist, while we're at it. Dalton Trumbo writing as much about his own time being silence as about the results of the war, I think. A good way to remember this remembrance day.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dread

 Hello again, world. Not sure how much longer we are going to be here - but might as well check in.

I voted this week. It seems wise to have that done and dusted, not have to worry about anything interfering. Too much can go wrong. Well. If you are wondering how I voted - you have not read this blog before.

We are less than two weeks to the election. This is a pretty terrifying moment. If Trump wins - we are done, the USA. Strange to say. But that is the end. Partly because the only way he can win would be to cheat - which he's made no secret that he's going to try to steal the election. He's not real subtle about his intentions. Lately, I suppose, he's been trying to gin up some kind of scandal against Biden - it's not very effective. It seems to have something to do with Joe Biden not disowning his ne'er-do-well son, and some kind of ties to foreign countries. How that flies when Trump's ties to foreign countries - China, this week - are being revealed all the time is an open question.

I don't know. Going through Trump's sins is a hopeless proposition. They are legion. They are overwhelming. It is bad.

So: I dread election night. The anxiety, the fear that the Republicans will simply overthrow the government - it's terrifying. It's a strange feeling. It was fun to bandy about notions that Little Bush might call off elections or something like that - but he never did anything like that. Voter suppression, sure, like al Republicans (and plenty of Democrats), general dirty tricks - but the system chugged along. Now? The system is not chugging along. 

It is new: there is a sense about Trump that he does not care what happens to the country. That he has no interest in the US as the US. This is new. Bush, Cheney - I never felt they were fundamentally against the USA. They wanted to control it, make it what they wanted - but they were invested in the idea of the country. I don't see that in Trump. He's never cared about the US, never cared about anything in it. He cares about himself. His power, his ego. It's strange and horrible. Combine that with the ideologues around him, the fascist tendencies in the Republican party, its authoritarianism, racism, xenophobia - you get the recipe for the real thing. It is scary.

Still: this is Donald Trump we are talking about. A man who has failed at every single thing he has ever done. He's had such a strange career. In the 80s, he looked like he was genuinely rich - maybe he was, thanks to daddy's money and Roy Cohn - in the 90s, of course, they were gone and he lost most of it. He was saved in the 2000s by reality television and 80s nostalgia, the same kind of cynicism that brought back Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielsen. He was on the Apprentice because he was the image of the 80s mogul, and pretty explicitly because he was washed up - if he was running an actual company, he would not have been a game show host. That got him on TV again, and when that ran its course, he went to the next step down on the ladder of infamy, and started turning up on right wing TV and radio. And - so on.

Still: it's all failure. Failure in business, failure in all his personal life with all those ruined marriages and awful kids and affairs and utterly putrid behavior, in the end, he failed on television, he ran for president and failed, really, getting beaten fairly badly, though he was saved on a technicality. And as president, he has been an unbelievable failure, culminating in 230,000 Americans dead - about half of whom can be pretty convincingly blamed on Donald Trump personally. He could have supported the doctors - he could have said, wear a mask - he could have kept this from being a political football. Christ, if he had, he might have gotten re-elected (without stealing the election). What can you say? 

All right. Two more weeks. Vote, please, and vote for Democrats. What else is there to say?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Staying Alive

Well, the world is still here, two months after my last post. That almost counts as an upset these days. Things have gotten worse, somehow, thanks to the police doing what the police do, murdering Black men and women. I'm a few weeks late to say anything profound about that. The situation has changed, though - it's been strange, the way the protests have gone from looking like an plagueexcuse for Trump and company to impose martial law on the country, to - well, success, sort of. Minneapolis is willing to change their police department completely. Lots of talk about reform, from modest and obvious measures to defunding police to abolishing police - and a lot of it talk by people in position to do it. Will they? Early days, we are in...

The protests have spread, from directed at police villainy to directed as the long history of racism and evil in this country in the world. More talk about bringing down Confederate statues and purging Confederate names from the military and the like. Statues of Columbus and other nasty racists coming down. All getting complicated, I suppose, though it's hard to see a downside. We should not be celebrating the people who created the colonial system, fought to protect it - as well as those who fought to protect the racists societies it created. Not celebrating them is not the same as forgetting them. Granted - things like Columbus statues get complicated - Columbus himself was a nasty piece of work; but the statues are there more to push the idea that Italians deserve respect. Though I suppose turning Columbus into a symbol of Italian pride in the United States is a pretty blatant erasure of history itself. And so on.

All of this, by the way, is going on in the middle of the same pandemic we suffered through in the spring. COVID-19 isn't going anywhere. Cases are starting to go up again, predictably, as states ease restrictions on what people can do, and people go do them. I don't know where this is going to go, but it's hard to see how it can go anywhere but badly. There's no sign the pandemic is over; only that quarantines and regulations have slowed it. Lifting those restrictions lets it start up. The question is, how much restriction do you really need? If people wear their masks and don't go to obvious danger spots and stay apart and all the rest - will that keep the rates low enough that it is controllable? Maybe - though given the number of people who even now seem to resist wearing masks - I don't know.

So I won't speculate. Only say, it is best if everyone wears a mask, at least any time they are around other people. And stay out of crowded places and wash your hands and all the rest. Though if things start spiking again - well - I hope people are willing to do what they can to stop it. I suspect this is going to break on political lines, which is one fo the saddest things about this whole affair. The Republicans politicize it - attacking anything that treats this deadly disease as a deadly disease, making refusing to take it seriously almost a point of political identity. Great. The death cult in action. The alternative - that the Democrats are making taking the pandemic seriously, taking racism and evil police seriously, accounting for the past seriously into something of their political identity is encouraging. Even if it's symbolic - saying the right words. Saying the right words are more likely to get you to do the right actions than saying the wrong words.

There might be a post there, about the relationship between symbolic politics and real politics, though I doubt I will get around to writing it. But teaching yourself to see things - like racism and colonialism and all that means - is a part of changing it.

All right. That's all for now. See you in October or November, at the rate I'm posting (though I see I will match last year's output with this post.) Campaign for Democrats, vote for Democrats, and hope the world survives. And listen to the Kinks. Always good advice.