Thursday, August 17, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Three problems beneath the radar

As the Trump presidency turns from a dumpster fire into a dumpster fire  on an out-of-control train about to plunge into a lake of gasoline, it's hard to stay focused on anything for very long. One disaster is overtaken by the next with each news cycle, it seems. His remarks on Tuesday about the events in Charlottesville were breathtakingly awful. But, beneath all that, I want to talk about three problems that may have the most lasting impact.

1) The United States has had mediocre leaders in the past. Now, though, we are functionally leaderless. Donald Trump is so unliked, so disrespected, and so angry himself that he does not successfully perform even the rudimentary functions of a national leader.  The problem with that is that the United States does have enemies. And those enemies must recognize that America is incredibly vulnerable right now. We are perhaps at our lowest political readiness for a challenge in my lifetime. 

2) No one with talent and a conscience would go to work for this administration. It's not like he started with great talent, either. Now, as people leave (and they will) very few people with ability are going to step up to serve this president. Look what happened to decorated General John Kelly! There he was on Tuesday, gobsmacked by what an awful person he works for.  Even if you support the president (a shrinking pool), who wants to be that guy? And so, through a series of morally upright individual decisions, we will have a White House led by a despised, angry man who is served by a fourth-tier group of bureaucrats, sycophants, and family members. 

3)  Christianity is taking a hit. When people see ministers supporting the President at every turn, they don't necessarily distinguish between them and the rest of us, who are appalled. A generation of young people who are not exposed to church or to faith will carry this sad image with them, and it will be an amulet against religion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017



Yesterday, President Trump said that some of the White Supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville are "very fine" people. Really:

REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

He also said this:

“The night before people innocently protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said, in reference to the group of white supremacists who spent the evening carrying torches, shouting Nazi slogans, and delivering Nazi salutes. “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in — without a permit — and they were very, very violent.”

Here is an intriguing view of those "very fine people":

Trump acts like he is focusing on actions-- but he isn't, given that one side killed a woman and hurt many others. Worse, he is ignoring the difference in ideology: one side represents ideologies that this nation has decried and combated for centuries. That matters.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


My favorite scene from my favorite show

As some of you know, my favorite TV show ever is "Freaks and Geeks," the short-lived (one season-- 1999-2000) creation of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig that launched the careers of Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jason Siegel and others. Part of my affection is probably derived from the fact that the show is about going to high school in a Detroit suburb in 1980, which is exactly what I did.

But it is also a great show, even now. Yesterday, the New York Times surprised me by running a piece in the Arts section describing in detail my favorite scene in that show:

A little setup: Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) is having a terrible time of it. He's a latchkey kid. He’s horrible in phys-ed class. And he learns, in this episode, that his mom is seriously dating his gym teacher, whom he hates.

First, the music. “I’m One” by the Who, from the 1973 album “Quadrophenia.” It builds from mournfulness (“I’m a loser / No chance to win”) to a defiant chorus. And it's a great example of how “Freaks and Geeks” chose its soundtracks. The episode is set in 1981, but it avoids on-the-nose ’80s-song choices. Paul Feig, the show’s creator, once told me that the thing about the early ’80s in the Midwest was that they were really still the ’70s....

Bill turns on the tube just as Dinah Shore introduces the stand-up comic Garry Shandling. The “Freaks and Geeks” producer Judd Apatow — who once said this was the most personal scene he had ever made — had been a “comedy geek” as a kid and later worked with Shandling on “The Larry Sanders Show.”...
One thing I love about “Freaks and Geeks” is that it understands how much pop culture means to teenagers — whether they’re comedy geeks or sci-fi geeks or heavy-metal geeks or Dungeons and Dragons geeks. Pop culture is not just about entertainment; it’s also about identity and community, finding your people.

This scene may be the purest expression of that. It takes you from melancholy to sheer delight in 90 seconds.


Monday, August 14, 2017


Summer reading

We haiku-ed about summer reading this week, and no one brought up the sad reality-- that mostly we are reading horrifying news updates. Remember when 2016 seemed like the worst year ever? Ha!

Anyways, Desiree set me straight:

Called out on Razor!
No more Wives, guilty pleasure.
Springsteen's book it is!

Gavin was honest:

Many half-read books
Litter the floor near my chair
The summer sun called.

And the Medievalist went Brit:

I read Sherlock Holmes,
A Study in Scarlet is great!
Moriarty sucks!

While IPLawGuy (who is quite a reader) gave us this:

Mary Beard Rome Book
Fascinating history
Relevant today

Churchill Volume III
Last Lion-By Manchester
England was lucky

The Nest-NYC
Striving selfish New Yorkers
No one Likeable.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Is it really so hard to be against racial hatred?

White supremacists rallied in Charlottesville this weekend, and it was terrible.  They chanted neo-Nazi slogans, spread racial and anti-Semitic hatred, and there was violence-- including one of them plowing through a group of counter-demonstrators with his car.

In response, this is part of what Donald Trump had to say:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time. 

"Many sides?" What was he talking about? And where was the part where he condemned the white supremacists?

As, really, a baseline of contemporary morality, I would think a willingness to condemn white supremacists in a clear and straightforward way is beginner-level stuff.

And our president is not able to do that.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


A few thoughts on the search of Paul Manafort's home

Some people in DC have expressed outrage that Robert Mueller's investigators executed a search warrant at the home of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager.

Really? Is the theory that in a criminal investigation we are supposed to just ask for documents or other evidence, and trust that the target of the investigation will fork them over? Maybe we should do that in drug cases, too-- we could just ask politely for the narcotics and any records relating to them, and assume that they have been produced.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Haiku Friday: Summer reading

Over at the Green Momster yesterday, Desiree described her summer reading. It turns out she spent the whole time reading "Hollywood Wives" by Jackie Collins. Just kidding-- she actually read "A Hole in the Wind" by David Goodrich, which is about biking and stuff.

At any rate, I know that a lot of you have been reading; in fact, IPLawGuy has worked his way through a lot of the Wimpy Kid books, and sends them to me when he is done.

Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

Last week, read "Donna
Parker Goes to Hollywood."
Yelled "Don't pick Bruce!"

Now it is your turn... just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Ben Carson in Cairo


Ever since reading about it in Huck Finn, I have been a little obsessed with Cairo, Illinois, a town at the very bottom of Illinois, much closer to Mississippi that to Chicago. As a river town at the critical juncture of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, it played a significant role in American history. Lately, though, it has been fading away.  A British paper laments that it is being reclaimed by nature, and another report asserts that it suffered death by racism. Both seem true.

I drove through Cairo several years ago and was mesmerized. I'm used to decay; I was living in Detroit at the time and about to move to a fading Waco. Both Detroit and Waco reversed course, though; Cairo has not. From a peak population of over 15,000, it is down to about 2400 people and lacks even a grocery store or gas station. Of those remaining residents, about one-sixth live in two decrepit public housing projects.

And that's what brings us to Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate and current secretary of Housing and Urban Development. 

HUD announced earlier this year that it was going to demolish the two housing projects and not rebuild them. Because there is little housing left, residents will have to go elsewhere to live. 

Carson visited Cairo this week-- an admirable thing, given the grim situation. He seemed moved by the experience, and said he would do what he could. But if they are not going to build housing-- and HUD has said it is out of that business-- it seems unlikely the problem will be solved.

Also, President Trump said we would attack North Korea if they made any more threats. Hours later, North Korea threatened to attack our base in Guam. So... that, too.  Sigh.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Does anyone else kinda miss The Mooch?

The five days that Anthony Scaramucci was White House Communications Director were pretty eventful. His wife divorced him, he got Reince Preibus fired, Sean Spicer quit, he gave a spirited interview to the New Yorker,  and so much else.

It was kind of messy. But... he seemed to just blurt everything out, and that was pretty refreshing from a Communications Director. Yeah, he was profane about it, but DJ Tice is right that it would be hypocritical to get all upset about that and laugh along when Al Franken uses similar language (and I do).  

In the end, Scarmucci's downfall was giving out too much information-- relatively accurate information, I suspect-- rather than obfuscating or hiding facts. I kinda miss those few days of too much truth.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


I'm back! And I'm mad...

So I have returned from my annual sojourn to remote Osler Island refreshed and ready for a new school year. And yes, I have gotten rid of the French-- I'm not sure how they 'jacked the blog. I certainly did not sell it for a cheeseburger as they claimed.

And... I'm mad. To explain why, let me borrow from an excellent piece by Nathan J. Robinson over at Current Affairs (you can and should read the whole thing here): 

Former prisoners do not get much more “rehabilitated” than Reginald Dwayne Betts. In the time since his release in 2005, Betts has published two acclaimed books of poetry and a memoir, earned a college degree with a 4.0, earned an MFA, started a family, held a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard, earned a law degree from Yale, received an NAACP Image Award, given talks at schools, prisons, and conferences around the country, been accepted to a PhD program, worked for the New Haven Public Defender’s Office, and passed the Connecticut Bar Exam.

Yet on Thursday, Betts was told by the State of Connecticut that he may not have the requisite “character and fitness” to practice law. Having passed the bar​ exam​, Betts received a letter indicating that the state’s Bar Examining Committee “has not recommended you for admission to the bar at this time.” The Committee referred Betts to Article VI of its regulations, which provide that “for the protection of the public and the system of justice… a record manifesting a significant deficiency in the honesty, trustworthiness, diligence or reliability of an applicant may constitute a basis for denial of admission.” Betts’ felony conviction, from when he was 16 years old nearly 20 years ago, continued to haunt him. The endless list of accomplishments had not been enough. Nothing, apparently, could ever be.

I've known Dwayne Betts for a while, and talk about it some in my last book. In the Spring of 2016, he came and gave a reading at St. Thomas, and it was wonderful.  

At some point, we have to allow for redemption. If not him, then who would ever be worthy?

Monday, August 07, 2017


Donc, le haïku était trop difficile?

Apparemment, le haiku est une forme trop difficile pour les Américains. Peut-être la semaine prochaine, nous aurons un concours plus adapté à vos talents, comme les gâteaux à manger, ou les farting, ou le rire d'un gros homme tombe.

Au moins Jill Scoggins a essayé! C'était son effort:

Tu plaisantes! Haiku est
assez difficile dans ma langue
maternelle, Osler!

Sunday, August 06, 2017


Réflexion du dimanche: la décadence de la croyance religieuse

Oui, nous savons que les grands Américains aiment prier avec leurs mains sur Donald Trump, et pour injurier les musulmans et les lesbiennes. Vous ravisons que le pape montre sa faveur sur le Phanique de Philadelphie, et douchez les églises avec de l'argent.

Pourtant, l'idée de Dieu ne devrait-elle pas être sacrée aussi, les affichages publics marqués par l'humilité et l'honneur?

Saturday, August 05, 2017


Discours politique le samedi!

Le ministre français du Travail, Muriel Pénicaud, a été accusé d'avoir gagné plus d'un million d'euros grâce à un programme de redondance qu'elle a surveillé en travaillant pour le géant des produits laitiers Danone. Les accusations apparaissent alors que le Parlement débat les efforts visant à nettoyer l'éthique politique et à réformer le droit du travail.

Qu'est-ce qui devrait être fait? La violation de l'éthique est sérieuse, et son bénéfice était assez important. Certes, aux États-Unis, ce genre de chose est facilement résolu par le gouvernement en faisant ce que les Russes vous disent de faire, mais en France, les choses ne sont pas si facilement résolues.

Friday, August 04, 2017


Haiku vendredi: Relations sexuelles!

Il existe une langue internationale - les relations sexuelles! Et la forme de poésie française traditionnelle du haiku est le moyen idéal pour discuter de ce sujet important.

Ici, nous allons d'abord:

Humidité et touche
Des ingrédients simples, pourtant
Tellement de plaisir!


Thursday, August 03, 2017


Maintenant, vous pouvez profiter d'une bonne musique

L'année dernière, lors d'un voyage aux États-Unis, nous avons constaté que les Américains ont écouté une seule chanson, par un homme nommé Rick Astley. C'était une chanson très terrible!

Si vous êtes intéressé par une autre chanson à écouter, nous vous recommandons cette merveilleuse mélodie de la meilleure chanson française Indila. Prendre plaisir!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


Adrien Dipanda!

Bonjour, les gros gras américains! Nous apprécions beaucoup votre site web. Aujourd'hui, nous aimerions discuter d'un véritable athlète, pas comme vos joueurs de football et des lanceurs de baseball toxicomanes dépendants de la méthamphétamine.

En France, les sports mettent l'accent sur la grâce et la force, pas le crachat et le racisme. Nos héros illustrent la valeur d'une grande société. Par exemple, considérez le joueur de l'équipe nationale Adrien Dipanda. Il n'est pas seulement un héros pour tous les Français, mais un champion de toute l'Europe! Et pourtant, il s'occupe des enfants, de ceux qui produisent de l'art et de tous ceux qui aiment la musique et le théâtre. Ses coéquipiers se tournent vers lui pour le leadership, bien sûr, mais aussi ceux qui recherchent du succès dans le sport du handball.

Viva Adrien Dipanda! Viva Saint-Raphael Var HB!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


Bonjour, des Amis américains en surpoids!

C'est bon de te revoir! Encore une fois, nous avons repris la Razor. Cette fois, nous l'avons acheté chez Osler. En fait, c'était plus un troc: nous lui avons donné un grand sandwich au bœuf, quatre sortes de fromage, de bacon et de jambon. Il aime vraiment le fromage.

Au cours des prochaines années, nous vous apporterons de la culture et des nouvelles au-delà de ce que vous recevez de vos «Fox News» et des animaux de bande dessinée. C'est un monde riche et large!

À l'avenir, le lundi, le mercredi et le vendredi seront consacrés au sexe et à la musique, et les mardis réviseront les choses que vous voudrez au lieu d'un «chien de maïs». Nous sommes ouverts aux suggestions pour les autres jours de la semaine!


Monday, July 31, 2017


IPLawGuy for the win!

He's a baseball guy. He's from DC. So if you ask about Senators, you get this, which is totally perfect:

The Big Train, Fastball
Walter Johnson, Senator
Hall of Famer

Hondo, Frank Howard
My Favorite Senator
at old RFK.

Meanwhile, Texan CTL (not surprisingly) had this:

Reed's and McConnell's
Will never hold a candle
To LBJ's tricks.

And Minnesotan Medievalist offered up in kind:

Hubert H Humphrey,
Could have been a president,
Minnesota tough!

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Sunday Reflection: On Personal Responsibility

Today I have a piece in the Waco Tribune-Herald (you can read it here). This is the gist of it:

Donald Trump threatens to provide too many excuses for those who struggle and suggests that the government can fix things. Unable to find the kind of job your father had? Not making enough money? The problem is immigration policy, we are told, or free trade. And who will fix that? The government, of course. There is no suggestion that the better outcome for an individual might come about by adapting to the new economy.

In his inaugural address, Trump made clear that government was going to save the day: “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.” In other words, you will not get a better job because you went back to school or took a risk — you will get a better job because the government will change policies to make things the way they used to be. The government will save you.

My argument is that the Republican Party is in danger of losing one of its principled values, which is an unyielding expectation of personal responsibility. I have always admired that ethic.

But doesn't that make me sound like a Republican?

Maybe. But my faith impacts the way that I think about all of this, too. And that faith says that what we must do is be responsible personally-- that is, be responsible and take the log out of our own eye-- rather than insist that other people be more responsible. Christ taught that we must address our own shortcomings, and be compassionate towards others. Unfortunately, political policies too often are about compassion for self and addressing the shortcomings of others. That's the reverse of the priorities that my faith lays out for me. So when I emphasize personal accountability, that means I need to set a high standard for myself rather than others.

Perhaps that doesn't make sense, but Christianity can come off that way in a self-centered and selfish society. I'm often not a very good Christian, actually, and one of my frequent faults is being self-centered and selfish-- so I suppose that personal accountability project has a long way to go. And if I focus on that, I may not have so much time to lay into others for their supposed failings.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Haim does it simple

... and I like it. Do you?

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