Friday Links, 2/3/2017

It’s Friday Links.  Preambles are for prevaricators, so let’s get started.

Awwwww, Part 2.

Evan Narcisse continues to use comics to teach his young daughter about the world, and scientific and science fiction concepts.

Fish Pee on Each Other to Show Dominance.

That is all.

Oh, Batman.

Bruce Wayne shows us how not to eat a burger.

Rise Up, Atlantaaaaaaa!

The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl.  Mike Vick thinks we’ll win.  He also writes a very nice tribute piece to the city.  I know there are a lot of animal lovers who will never forgive Vick, and I don’t blame you.  But I give him props for trying here, and I appreciate that we gave him a good reception at the last game at The Dome.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks we’ll lose.  Not because he thinks the Falcons are a bad team, but because he thinks the Patriots match up well against us.  I link to Barnwell solely because I think he works harder at analysis than most sportswriters, and I appreciate his attention to detail; even if I ultimately question his conclusion.

What Came Before?

Physicist discuss theories as to what the universe was like before it was the universe.  Obviously, scientists can’t rationally discuss God without objective evidence of His existence, but I always find it amusing when they get tongue-tied over the fact that the universe works better than something allegedly constructed at random naturally should work.  A normal explosion would cause a bag of sand to spread everywhere in clumps.  The Big Bang caused the bag of sand to spread out into sandcastles?  Hmmmmm…

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Nice try, clowns.

City Mice versus Country Mice.

My first memories are of living in metro-Atlanta.  When I was almost six we moved to the country, where I lived for 13 years, stomping my feet with impatience to leave for the last half of that.  Before the ink was dry on my high school diploma, I moved to Philadelphia, the biggest city where a college accepted me.  After a short turn in a college town for grad school, I moved back to Atlanta.

I am unequivocally a city mouse.  Not because I have anything against the country or country mice, but because I like concrete and glass and interstates and anonymity.  I like restaurant choice, grocery store choice, school choice, professional sports, and not knowing my neighbors or having to worry about being cornered for small talk in the grocery store.  I don’t mind traffic because traffic means population density.

At the same time, I would never try and force my way of life on country mice.  I don’t live there.  Their business is not my business.  Their problems are not my problems.  And vice versa.  So this new trend of country legislators coming to town and trying to force regulations on city mice that city mice don’t want is pretty galling.  Republicans need to remember that they’re the party of local government and STFU.  If city mice want to pay their employees higher wages, they can.  City employers have the money.  If city mice want to grant more civil rights than the state does, they can.  Cities have more diverse communities, more business entities to placate and lure to the region, and the freedom to protect their citizens as they see fit.

City autonomy is especially important when considering that if you removed the tax money that major cities provide for most red states, those states would fall into ruin.  Here’s an example of a pretty significant give/take disparity.  Quite simply, cities understand how cities should run, and the legislature should let those cities run and accept the tax benefits that a major city provides for the entire state.  Killing, or even shooting at, the golden goose does nothing good for anyone.

These issues are not as front and center in Georgia as they are in other states like North Carolina, but it’s coming.  If and when that happens, the proper thing to do would be for the rest of the state to live and let live.

Words Mean Things.

I say it all the time, if you just oppose abortion, you’re not “pro-life.”  You’re just anti-abortion.  And anybody can be anti-abortion.  It’s effortless, like picking chicken over fish.

Long, But Worth It.

The Atlantic’s David Frum is NOT a liberal.  Google/Wiki him, and you will see that he has strong conservative credentials.  But he is concerned about what a Trump Administration could do to our country.  This is a must read even for Trump fans.  Know what you’re buying.

And Don’t Count of the State Department for Help Anytime Soon.

Bummer.

But Maybe There’s Hope (and Change)?

Barak Obama is way too above it, and too respectful of the Office and the country’s democratic norms, to just wade into the fray against another President.  And yet, if you poke the bear with a stick, the bear is going to eat you.  Trump and his stooges would do better to not keep poking the bear with a stick.  Obama can’t run for President again, but he can mobilize the troops.  And he’s way more popular than Trump will ever be.

This Week in Trumpville.

(1)  I will always try to applaud when Trump does something good.  Kudos to him for keeping LGBT protections in place for employees of federal contractors.  For now.

(2)  He did something else nice too, with respect to lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Psych!  No he didn’t!

(3)  Has any Administration ever complained about their press coverage as much as these babies do?  I get that “media is bad” is a plank of the Trump platform, but listen to them.  If your dad complained this much about the referees when his team lost, you’d stop taking him seriously.  If your kid blamed his brother for every mess, you’d start to distrust him.  If your co-worker blamed traffic every time he showed up late for work, you’d start to wonder if maybe he’s just a drunk.  There comes a point where the party of personal responsibility has to actually start taking responsibility.  Either communicate better, execute better, or stop complaining.

(4)  The White House released a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that didn’t reference Jews.  You know, the targets and victims of the Holocaust?  When the media pressed them on this, the White House essentially said, “Well, the Nazis killed lots of people.”  When the media, mouths agape in horror, pressed them again, they doubled down on it.  That’s the kind of stuff that Holocaust deniers say.*  Point of fact, the intent of the Holocaust was to end Jewish people.  It was designed for, directed at, and implemented against Jewish people.  It was not a broad campaign of mass murder that just happened to sweep up 6 million Jewish victims.  To deny that, or to even refuse to address it, is an affirmative effort to minimize the Holocaust, and it’s the kind of crap that those National Front idiots in France, or anti-semitic, semi-totalitarian dumps like Hungary and Russia, pull.  You don’t look at the Holocaust and say, “#AllLivesMatter.”  That’s trailer trash talk.  We are better than that.

*(“But some of Trump’s best sons-in-law are Jewish!” his defenders bleat).

(5)  I talked at length about the Sally Yates firing here (thanks for the views).  Come to find out that Trump officially fired her by sending her a note on White House stationery that said, “You’re Fired!”  Get it?  Because Trump was on that game show where he….?  Ah, forget it.  What a troll.  I hope Yates frames it and puts it in her next office.  Hopefully, Trump will get impeached and she can send him a similar note.

(6)  Trump put noted crazy person Steve Bannon on the National Security Council.  Bannon, the former Breitbart head, is chock full of bad ideas including thinking war with either Islam or in South Asia is a good thing.  Indeed, he thinks that war is a way to usher in a new world order where his counter-productive nationalist brand of politics dominates.  He’s a fan of giving good jobs to less qualified people by keeping skilled visa quotas low.  He is almost certainly the mastermind behind Trump’s completely pointless (and likely illegal) immigration Executive Order.  And the aforementioned Holocaust faux pas sounds just like something you’d see on Breitbart, so I bet Bannon did that too.  Bannon is bad news, but fortunately, there may be a way to keep him off the NSC.

(7)  Good grief.  Every time Trump talks to an ally, he pisses them off.  This is neither Presidential nor wise.  Here’s the deal:  marketing principles apply to international relations too.  And we’re not the only game in town; we just happen to be the best game for most countries.  It’s not impossible to change that.  And do we really want to live in a world where all of our allies take the hint and partner up with China, thus making us China?  I promise you we don’t.  As Conor Friedersdorf notes:

The mix of Trump’s incompetence and Bannon’s casual bellicosity endangers America. It strains its alliances. It squanders goodwill, making allies like Australia marginally less inclined to help the United States. It causes the citizens of allied nations to regard America as a laughingstock.

The leader of every allied nation on earth is now wondering whether they can trust Trump to have candid conversations, keep sensitive secrets, follow through on American commitments, or simply control himself for longer than a day. And so am I.

This man has proved repeatedly that he cannot master himself.

As a safeguard against a break in judgment or sanity more severe than any we’ve yet seen, Republicans should plan for what exactly happens if Trump loses the faculty to govern. We’re only a week in and he is failing the easiest of tests. Who among us couldn’t have handled a call with Australia better than the man sitting in the Oval Office?

Cities on Hills don’t pick fights with the Australians over stupid shit.  Fortunately, Senator John MCain gets that.  From Slate:

I called Australia’s Ambassador to the United States this morning to express my unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance. I asked Ambassador Hockey to convey to the people of Australia that their American brothers and sisters value our historic alliance, honor the sacrifice of the Australians who have served and are serving by our side, and remain committed to the safer, freer, and better world that Australia does far more than its fair share to protect and promote.

The statement doesn’t mention Trump by name, but it does include this line:

Those of us who took part in the conflict remember well the service of more than 50,000 Australians in the Vietnam War, including more than 500 that gave their lives.

You may recall that our commander in chief was able to avoid serving in Vietnam because he allegedly had bone spurs in his heels. He also later described the effort of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases as his own “personal Vietnam.”

John McCain may not be the America-uniting idealist that some people thought he was in 1999 and 2000, but he is too old to ever have to run for re-election again and he does think our president is a dumbass and that is, at the least, going to be entertaining.

(8) I see Judas got his 30 pieces of silver.  Welcome to a word where crappy, for-profit schools will continue to part fools and their money.  Only now in the name of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s twisted conception of “Jesus.”

(9) Russia continues to mess around in Ukraine.  Nikki Haley at least called them out for it, though.

(10)  Trump made a Supreme Court pick.  And it wasn’t terrible.  I was expecting a ninny like Ted Cruz, or a nepotism pick like Jared Kushner.  Neil Gorsuch, on the other hand, is a professional, well-liked, respectable Tenth Circuit Appellate Judge.  He is certainly a conservative, and has been compared doctrinally to dead Justice and conservative graven image Antonin Scalia.  My read is that he is not anywhere near so puerile and unprofessional as Scalia was at the end, so…upgrade?

Gorsuch does fail my fairly strict Merrick Garland test in that he is not Merrick Garland.  And I’m at a loss as to what the Democrats should do.  On the one hand, the Republicans stole that seat, and Mitch McConnell should be sentenced by a court to be tied to a post and whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails just like he stole an actual horse (unless that’s his personal briar patch- I could see him having some kink).  On the other hand, the Democrats playing equally dirty over a seat that doesn’t change the balance of the Court, and over a judge who seems highly qualified, isn’t going to yield benefits.  Especially since Gorsuch will then get confirmed anyway over the corpse of the filibuster.  This is not the fight to risk the filibuster. 

By all means, use the confirmation hearing to embarrass McConnell at every turn, and use the spotlight to cast Garland as a victim and the Republicans as thieves.  Make that argument is strongly as possible to the public (without being shrill, Tim Kaine).  And if they find something on Gorsuch, use that too.  And if they have good faith objections to Gorsuch, vote, “No.”  But, even though I don’t think being the adult in the room should necessarily lead to capitulation; and even though I don’t think you shake hands with a man while he stabs you, smart friends and smart pundits have convinced me that revenge can be served up another day.  Let’s handle this one according to Hoyle.

Also, Gorsuch may be an asset.  There’s an argument that he’s not exactly a big fan of Executive overreach.  We need that more than ever right now.

(11)  I’m starting to think Kellyanne Conway is from the Fringe Universe.  To her, alternative facts aren’t lies.  They’re history on the parallel world from which she hails.  Like in this story about a terrorist attack in Kentucky that never happened (way to make Friday Links at deadline, KC).  Maybe Kellyanne isn’t making up a terrorist attack from whole cloth.  Maybe one just like it happened on her Earth and she has traveled here to warn us.  To save us.

No?  Occam’s Razor demands she’s either a liar or a moron?

Okay.  I can live with that.

(12)  Trump continues to talk about his favorite topic: Trump.  And honestly, I’m at a crossroads as to how the media should cover his abject boorishness.  It’s a conundrum, because we’ve never had a President in the modern era who behaved like a Rodney Dangerfield character every single day.  This is new ground, and I have no doubt that multiple variations on the headline “Gigantic Bore Behaves Poorly.  Again.” get the clicks.

In over-focusing on the shenanigans, however, the media risks its credibility.  Here, for example, Trump’s remarks on Black History month are a disaster.  He’s uninformed, self-absorbed, clueless, and not even sort of sincere.  He starts out listing every black person he can name, talks about himself and how the media mistreats him, and ends by pointing out that he has black friends.  He probably should be called out for his flippancy and his disinterest.

On the other hand, the full text of his National Prayer Breakfast remarks include a vaguely tone-deaf (and probably opportunistic) jab at Arnold Schwarzenegger and the usual rambling superlatives about his Cabinet picks, but also has some decently Presidential language.  The Arnold jab was a short hit, and probably even a decent joke if made by someone with any timing or charm.  The fact that the Post turned it into a headline bothers me because it’s not a big enough deal to merit a headline.  When dealing with a President who assaults the media every day, credible newspapers need to make sure they’re aboveboard at all times.  Calling out Trump for off-kilter, poorly-delivered, but ultimately harmless irreverence at the National Prayer Breakfast doesn’t meet that standard.

(13)  Speaking of Black History Month, while I’m not sure Trump thinks Frederick Douglass is still alive, it seems pretty clear from the remarks that he has no clue who he is.  This has spawned #TrumpBlackHistory on Twitter, which is cracking me up.   Give it a search.

(14)  Two weeks in, the Resistance is going well.  But it’s going to be a long four years, so let’s pace ourselves.  Part of pacing ourselves means not resisting the wrong way, like Venezuela did.  As much as the White House longs to cast this as a fight between liberalism and conservatism, or city mice and country mice, or America and the media, it is really a fight between Americans and Executive overreach.  Or a fight between the American way of life and a darker vision of American life that history has shown will not end well.  To the extent we can, let’s make allies out of the people on the other side and keep the focus on the Administration, and not its citizen supporters.

Music I’m Listening to This Week

Springsteen.  Specifically, The Ghost of Tom Joad.  I worked out to Phish: A Live One.

TV I’m Watching This Week

We’ve killed cable and are using apps and casting to watch TV these days.  Some days it works better than others.  This week, I gave up and watched The Flash on my phone.  Other than that, it was mostly a couple of re-runs of How I Met Your Mother.  I need to finish Luke Cage, and people keep telling me to try The Expanse.

I did finally catch the episode of Black-ish that addressed the fallout from Trump’s election.  I liked it, although I found it interesting that Lucy, and not Mr. Stevens, served as the voice for Trump voters.  I get that the show wanted to explore the idea that women are not a monolithic bloc who would all vote for Hillary Clinton simply based on gender. But Stevens’s general unapologetic political incorrectness made him, in my eyes, the perfect Trump mouthpiece.  Maybe the actor refused to play that role.  They explained the disconnect by noting that the comfort of Stevens’s life depends on him continually oppressing the very low-wage immigrants that Trump wants to deport.  But it was still a little out-of-character, certainly enough to make me notice and wonder.

Books I’m Reading

The Gospel of Luke for my Bible Study.  I finished Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, and will tee up a mini-review eventually.  Everything else is mostly the same except that I picked up two graphic novels, The Goddamned by Jason Aaron, r.m. Guera, and Giulia Brusco (addressing the execrable and morally degraded state of the world right before the flood in Genesis); and The Black Money Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker.

The Aaron book is about as over the top as you would expect something like that to be.  It is filled with vileness, and brutal violence, blasphemy, and oh, the profanity.  It is bleak and disturbing, and yet it lives up to its mission statement in presenting a world that genuinely needs to be wiped out.  It’s not exactly a work for sensitive Christians, though; as Aaron does not appear to be interested in a dogmatic or deferential presentation of the name-brand characters.  Cain, unable to die, constantly blasphemes God; and Aaron depicts Noah not as a holy and pious man personally directed by God, but more as an angry brute on a crusade.  I’ve got a thick skin, but this is not a work for your Sunday School class book club.

Weekly Inspiration

My daughter recently turned four.  In her mind, Atlanta’s pro-football team, Captain America’s best friend, and Han Solo’s space ship are all named, “The Allennium Falcon(s).”

falcons

Riiiiise Up, Atlantaaaaaaaaa!

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