Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A bad trend

Have you noticed that comedians are no longer jesters, but rather enforcers of orthodoxy? We got a sense of that the other day:


Not sure who the creepy guy at the podium was with Silverman, but we'll leave that aside. The trend of comedians taking off the clown nose has gone on for a while now:


We used to have jesters who lampooned the silliness of the political class. Now our jesters want to tell us what to think. It's not a positive development. I prefer the earlier model:


This is a topic worth more time than I have this morning. I'll try to get back to it.

Epistemology

Let's start with a definition:

What do you know?

I saw about the last ten minutes of Bill Clinton's speech last night at the DNC convention in Philadelphia. Our protagonist had to undertake an epistemological task. His goal was to tell us that everything we've recently heard about Hillary is, well, a lie:
Now, how does this square? How did this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What’s the difference in what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can’t. One is real, the other is made up.

You just have to decide. You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.
So how do you decide? Well, you can certainly look at the veracity of the fellow asking the question:


And you can look at the veracity of the person he is vouching for:


I suppose you could believe the Clintons. If you do, I'd suggest another definition is in order:

It's a growth industry in Philadelphia these days
The Clintons have been on the stage for a quarter century. A recently departed moral philosopher explained them well:


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

il miglior fabbro

Reporting from exotic Wichita, our man Bud Norman provides a tidy summation:
Trump prevailed with such unprecedented tactics against a crowded field of better-funded and better-organized Republican challengers, who varied in quality but in every case were more appealing public figures than Clinton. What those pleading-for-calm pundits won’t tell their readers is that Clinton is such a thoroughly awful candidate in every way that her unfavorable ratings are now even higher than Trump’s, which is saying something that should provoke a widespread and bipartisan panic throughout the land. Her tenure as First Lady was mostly spent enabling her perv husband’s sexual assaults, which Democrats at the time applauded because at least he was pro-abortion, but these days the feminist wing that was supposed to go all sisterly solidarity for the First Woman President are carrying mattresses around campus to protest a mythical “culture of rape” with the Republican nominee praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and quite obviously insincere about his recently acquired anti-abortion principles nobody’s all that anxious about the looming theocracy these days. Her brief and inconsequential time in the Senate was mostly spent plotting her presidential run, which she lost to an even more junior and inconsequential Senator, and her run as Secretary of State was one disaster after another. She’s humorless, apparently in ill health, and every bit as mean and morally compromised as her more entertaining and robust opponent.
Emphasis mine. Yes, I know, entertainment shouldn't be a factor, which Sarah Silverman conclusively proved last night. Trump may have a bizarre orange glow, but he's otherwise healthy. I continue to think Clinton is not particularly healthy. Her moment was eight years ago, but unfortunately for her, she ran into Barack Obama. And now she strides on stage as a political Miss Havisham.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Can't make it up

Hillary Clinton said Republicans have created a “Hillary standard” that has contributed to the negative impression many people have of her, giving her first joint interview with her newly announced running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine.

"I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else," the presumptive Democratic nominee said in the interview on CBS News' "60 Minutes."

Clinton explained that there has been a "concerted effort" by Republicans to portray her in a negative light, and described the double standard she believes is set for her as “unfounded, inaccurate, mean-spirited attacks with no basis in truth, reality, which take on a life of their own."
James Comey had no comment.

Belly of the Beast

We spent a lot of time discussing about the People's Stadium back in the day. Now it is here and I went to the open house yesterday with the Benster and another blog correspondent. It's quite the structure, to be certain. As you approach the front of the building, you get a sense of the scope:

Gigantic
Along the enormous glass facade, you see the enormous doors to the stadium, which stand nearly 100 feet high. I am told those are among the largest doors in the world. Inside the stadium, you can see parts of the skyline quite clearly:

The halo building looms
It was a beautiful day yesterday and the light coming in from the windows and the ceiling does illuminate the field quite nicely:

The sun shines and people forget
If you look closely, you can see that the fans are in the end zones and not in the primo seats. And thereby hangs a tale. The open house we attended wasn't, well, that open. You cannot get to the primo seats without passing through a lobby/suite area and since those of us in the building hadn't ponied up the $20 or so for a tour, we didn't have access to the areas at all. Unless you have some coin, you don't apparently get access to the good seats, even on a day where nothing in particular is happening. As taxpayers, we do get to pay for the building, though. Maybe I should be more grateful.

The main concourse is wide and easy to navigate, but getting up to the bleeders may be a problem, as there aren't as many escalators as you might expect. We didn't check out the bathrooms or the concessions that closely, but there doesn't seem to be a lack of options. That's good.

We'll be back in the building in October for a marching band event; we may get more access then.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

RIP, Dennis Green

He arrived in Minnesota the same year that Mike Holmgren arrived in Green Bay. And he was the most consistent nemesis that Packers had in the Brett Favre era. Dennis Green is gone at the age of 67:
Dennis Green, whose 10-season tenure as Vikings coach was a remarkable mixture of regular-season success, distressing playoff losses and off-the-field controversy, has died of a heart attack. He was 67.

A statement from Green’s family to an NFL.com reporter said Green died Thursday night. Green had been living in the San Diego area but the statement did not indicate his place of death.

Green, who famously pronounced that there was “a new sheriff in town” when hired by the Vikings in 1992, won more games than any coach in franchise history except Bud Grant. His Vikings teams reached the playoffs eight times in his first nine seasons and advanced to NFC Championship Games after the 1998 and 2000 seasons, though never to the Super Bowl.
Talk about a complicated legacy. . . . He was a pioneering African American coach in the NFL, far more successful than the Art Shell. He was a mentor with a strong coaching tree that includes Tony Dungy and Brian Billick, who both won Super Bowls. He was a public-service minded fellow who started the trend of NFL players and teams using their off days during the season for community service. He won games with quarterbacks as varied as Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. He nurtured the careers of teams with personalities as disparate and difficult as Cris Carter, Randy Moss, McMahon, George and Corey Fuller.

And yet, he was clearly a sexual harasser. His teams were regularly among the most talented in the league, but he never got to a Super Bowl. His career in Minnesota included a bizarre episode in which he threatened to sue his employer and laid out the lawsuit in an autobiography. And while he was quite intentional in spewing cliches and doubletalk in his interactions with the media, which he largely held in contempt, at times he would drop the mask. After he moved on to Arizona, he let loose with one of the most memorable (and unintentionally hilarious) rants in the history of coaching:


As anyone who reads this feature knows, I'm a Packers fan. For me, Green is the reason the Packers/Vikings rivalry is now one of the best ones in the NFL. In the 1960s, the Packers owned the Vikings. In the 1970s, the Vikings owned the Packers. In the 1980s, things were even but rarely did the games matter very much. For the last quarter century, the Packers/Vikings series has usually been decisive in who wins the division. The Bears have had their moments, but they have not been a consistent factor. The Lions haven't mattered at all. More than any other team, the Vikings have been the team the Packers needed to beat and that's been the case, pretty much without interruption, since Dennis Green first arrived at Winter Park all those years ago. And with the possible exception of Mike Ditka, he's been the most entertaining coach in the NFC Central/North. Never dispute the importance of entertainment value.

RIP, Coach. Thank you for the memories.

As seen on the internet

Why jump the shark when you can dance with them?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump Day

I wasn't able to watch Donald Trump's speech last night. From what our roving correspondent Benster tells me, it was long -- over 70 minutes as delivered. I think there's a reason for that. The transcript is here. A few random thoughts:

One line from the speech caught my eye:
America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics.
Yes. We've had a solid 7+ years of Shut Up, He Explained. And it's a particular lazy group of freelance censors. Another speaker at the convention was Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who created PayPal. Thiel is gay, but coming out as gay isn't apparently as deleterious as coming out as a Republican, at least in certain precincts. Today, if my social media feed is any indication, Thiel is a modern-day Roy Cohn. That seems fair, right?

And yet, and yet... there was ample cynicism on display in Cleveland this week. We've reached Bizarro World when a call to vote your conscience gets catcalls. Somewhere, Barry Goldwater, who wrote "The Conscience of a Conservative," is shaking his head.

One factor to watch as the campaign unfolds -- how much will we actually see of Hillary Clinton? Both she and her opponent are pushing 70. Trump is healthy as a horse. Clinton seems to have a number of health problems. I'm not sure Hillary Clinton can give a 70+ minute speech. Trump hit Jeb Bush hard as being "low energy." I suspect he'll use a similar attack on Clinton and I expect it will be effective.

I don't have a horse in this race. The choices on offer are odious. I can't imagine voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But here we are.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Family Feud

I usually go to my local health club in the evening, generally arriving a little bit after 8. I'll spend time on the treadmill and I usually watch television while I'm there. Most nights, the easiest thing to watch is old episodes of "Family Feud" on the Game Show Network, which seems to run in a continuous loop most nights.

On Wednesday nights, GSN runs a different show that I don't particularly enjoy, so last night I left the television on the station where it was. And so I got to see Ted Cruz's speech at the Republican National Convention.

Cruz rolled the dice last night. Endorsing The Donald would have been the easy thing to do -- Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, two prominent rivals of Cruz, did so, although without evident enthusiasm. Cruz didn't endorse. Instead, he spoke for 22 minutes about freedom, and conscience. A taste:
America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.

For much of human history government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey, but not here. We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government.

Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, "I want to be free."

Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises, and that ignores the will of the people.

We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.
By the end of the speech, it became clear to the delegates in the hall that "better" didn't necessarily mean Donald Trump:
We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And, to those listening, please don't stay home in November.

If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.  
Is Donald Trump such a candidate? While Cruz didn't say so explicitly, the speech suggests he doesn't believe the GOP standard-bearer lives up to the standard.

Ted Cruz, in his own way and own style, is perhaps even more of a polarizing figure than Donald Trump. The GOP establishment may grumble about Trump's various apostasies, but they do believe they can do business with him. The Mitch McConnells of the world are, at bottom, transactional politicians and Trump made his bones as a dealmaker, so it's understandable that McConnell and his ilk can make common cause with The Donald.

The paradox of Ted Cruz is that while he speaks the language of conservatism, he is an apostate in the party that ostensibly carries the conservative banner in this country. The further paradox of Ted Cruz is that his ambition and his beliefs are at variance with one another. I suspect a lot of people can't get with him because of this second paradox. Cruz is either the real thing, or he's even a larger charlatan than Trump, who doesn't much bother to pretend he believes in much of anything other than himself. If you support Cruz, it's also a roll of the dice.

Donald Trump will either win or lose this election regardless of what Ted Cruz says, or doesn't say. If Trump wins, Cruz will be in the outer darkness. If Trump loses, Cruz will be in the mix in 2020. The interesting question for the GOP electorate would be this -- do you admire Cruz more, or do you admire the approach of Scott Walker, who did endorse Trump? Are you more loyal to principle, or to process? Or do you have to value both? The question may become relevant on or about November 9.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My social media feed this week

None of these people are in Cleveland, incidentally
I don't have to watch the GOP convention, because I've hired the work out.

Meanwhile, in the real world

A reminder of storms ahead:
California’s massive public pension fund has been severely underfunded and mismanaged for decades, but its accountants have managed to conceal the extent of the problem by assuming that the state-run asset manager would secure white-hot seven to eight percent returns over the long run. Independent analysts have estimated that at a more realistic rate of return of five percent, the fund would be over a trillion dollars in the hole. But the latest returns make even that figure sound like a pipe dream. 
CalPERS is hardly the only major pension fund that's going to come a cropper. A trillion dollars is a lotta money. To project 7-8% growth year-over-year is nuts, especially if your asset managers favor cronyism and politically correct investing strategies. It's going to get ugly when things go south, it might already be happening.

Trump is the nominee

Not my circus. We'll observe from a safe distance. As an aside, I am disappointed to learn that Wright State University in Dayton will no longer be hosting the first debate between the Donald and Hillary Clinton. It would have been wholly appropriate to hold the event at the Nutter Center.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stay close to the candles. The stairway can be... treacherous

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune 
Hillary Clinton was in Minneapolis yesterday. That faint sound you heard in the distance may have been the horses whinnying.

Song of the day


A man ain't supposed to cry.

Oh noes

I'm mostly going to ignore the Republican Convention this week; it's not my circus. One thing deserves mention, however.

I awoke this morning to see at least fifty of my lefty friends on social media (yeah, maybe I need better friends, but we'll leave that aside) gasping with a combination of anger and glee because it appears that The Donald's current spouse, Melania "Zsa Zsa" Trump, apparently plagiarized a section of her speech. Here's the offending section:
"Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go a university? Why is it that my wife... is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? ...Is it because they didn't work hard? My ancestors who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It's because they didn't have a platform on which to stand."
Oh, I'm sorry. That wasn't what Melania Trump said? I did think it odd that she was referring to herself as Joe Biden, but as I said, I didn't watch the convention so I may have been confused.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lightning Round -- 071816

The news hasn't been very good at all lately and it comes so fast that I'm finding it difficult to keep up. That's when you need a Lightning Round!

  • Three police officers murdered in Baton Rouge, which was the scene of a controversial police-involved incident in which a suspect named Alton Sterling was killed during a struggle with police. The guy who killed the cops seems to be ex-military and a self-styled Black Panther. Meanwhile, another cop was shot in Milwaukee, although he survived because of his bullet-proof vest. I have a feeling this is going to get worse.
  • The local Black Lives Matter was planning to protest at Rosedale Mall on Sunday, but the protest was canceled. Roseville is just south of us and our parish is there, so we were in the area after going to Mass. The police presence was, frankly, a little unnerving. I saw at least a half-dozen state patrol vehicles driving up and down Snelling Avenue, which borders Rosedale on the east and we even saw increased security at the neighboring HarMar Mall, which is down the road a half mile from Rosedale. According to the linked article, the planned protest was a diversion and that the real target is Falcon Heights, which is where Philando Castile was shot. I am glad that BLM stood down, especially in the wake of what's happening in Baton Rouge. Tensions are very high right now in our area.
  • Meanwhile, it's been essentially radio silence on the Castile matter. Investigations are underway, but there's been little news in the last week or so. I still would like to know more about the robbery incident that took place in Lauderdale two days before Castile was killed, especially since the St. Anthony police officer who shot Castile apparently stopped him because he resembled the perps in the Lauderdale case.
  • They've been building expensive new sporting venues all over the Twin Cities in recent years, but I'd not been to two of them before this weekend. Now I have. We were at a Drum Corps International show at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, and then we attended a Saints game at their tidy new ballpark in Lowertown on Sunday. TCF is an impressive facility and it was a good place to watch a competition. The sightlines in the stadium are terrific and the view of the skyline and the university itself are fantastic. The one problem was concession prices were ridiculous, but we enjoyed ourselves. The new ballpark in St. Paul is a great place to watch a game -- it's intimate and fits well into the existing neighborhood, which has a lot more bustle than it used to. I've lived in the Twin Cities for nearly a quarter century and we've never had much reason to spend time in the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul; most of the major attractions (Xcel Energy Center, the History Center, the Science Museum) are on the west side of downtown and until recently, unless you had business in the area, it wasn't a place worth visiting. Gentrification is ongoing in Lowertown now, however, and it's got the same vibe you get in the Warehouse District in Minneapolis. I'm a suburban guy and it's not my milieu, but it was fun to visit. We'll get to see the new monstrosity where the Vikings play later on in the year.
  • Meanwhile, I haven't even gotten to Turkey and Mike Pence. Maybe another time. Events are in the saddle.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nice

Horrible:
A terrorist who used a hired lorry to kill at least 84 people in a rampage during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice has been named as a convicted criminal well known to the police for armed attacks.

Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old delivery driver, was reported to be a French passport holder who lived in the Riviera city and was regularly in trouble with the law.

At least 10 children are among the dead following the "cowardly and barbaric" atrocity that left at least one British national among the many injured. Officials fear the death toll will rise.

As hundreds remained in hospital - including 18 fighting for their lives in intensive care - anti-terrorist judges opened an investigation into "mass murder" and investigators searched the home of the driver in the Abattoirs area of Nice.
Abattoir is a term for a slaughterhouse. Seems fitting. There is video out there of the carnage, but I'm not going to link to it -- we have altogether too many snuff videos out there now and I'd rather not traffic in such things.

France has a real problem on its hands. There are thousands, maybe millions, of people who are similar to Bouhlel, many seething with rage over their station in life and thereby susceptible to the siren of ISIS. Civilization is a fragile thing.

il miglior fabbro

Yet again, Walter Russell Mead gets to the heart of the matter:
We do not, as a nation, have a lot of experience with choices like this, and it may be that voting behavior will be harder than usual to predict. It’s likely, for one thing, that Trump’s shortcomings grate much harder on elite sensibilities than they do on those of ordinary Americans. The well-socialized, well-seasoned upper-middle class is scandalized by Trump’s bluster and contempt at such a deep level that it is hard for many in the political class to understand, much less assess, his appeal.

And there is a factor that needs to be taken into account as well: Given the manifest shortcomings of both candidates, it is likely that many voters will approach the choice this year with a bitter sense of betrayal and disdain—for the status quo and the political establishment that has presented them with such a terrible choice. In that case, voters might think that with two unacceptable candidates running, the only way to express their distaste for the process and anger at those whose leadership has brought the country to this point is to vote for the candidate the establishment most hates. That would clearly be Trump.
That's my sense, too -- after 7+ years of Hope and Change, things aren't really going very well for a lot of people, and it's difficult not to pick up the sense that people want to take a 5000 PSI pressure washer to Washington to blast away at the corruption. My opinion on Trump has not changed one iota, but there is no way in hell to deny that the "well-socialized, well-seasoned upper-middle class" has completely earned the contempt it gets from Trump and his followers. As is always the case with Mead, you should read the whole thing.