Carry On Wayward Renegade, All Along The Watchtower

It’s not something I think about that much, but I do from time to time — why do Classic Rock stations sound the same, year after year? I wrote about this on my moribund blog a number of years ago and, based on recent listening to market-dominant KQRS, this list of faves hasn’t changed a bit:

In thinking about this list, a few things are worth noting:

  • The majority of the songs on this list are written in a minor key. If rock and roll is supposed to be uplifting, this group of songs isn’t it.
  • Of the bands listed here, the happiest band appears to be ZZ Top, who made their name initially as a bare-bones Texas blues trio, until they made their fortune hawking classic cars and leggy models. Make of that what you will.
  • Think back to any of the years listed here. Would you have had any interest in listening to songs that were recorded as long ago from that moment as these songs are from today? I didn’t hear much of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys or the Andrews Sisters in 1983, for example, nor do I recall seeking such things out. In fact, I’m more likely to seek out Bob Wills today than most of the songs listed here, right or wrong.
  • In my youth I was reliably informed that rock and roll was supposed to be about rebellious youth and revolution. While their politics were dodgy at best, the Clash was right about this much — you grow up and you calm down; you start wearing blue and brown. And so has the music of our youth.

Gil Scott-Heron, who doesn’t get much airplay these days, argued back then that the revolution will not be televised. But rest assured it will be monetized.

Happy Days Are Here Again

So how to stop Dobbs? Declare a sex strike:

Some on the left have come up with creative ways they think will encourage people to save Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this week on The View, co-host Joy Behar floated the idea of a sex strike.

“Women in the world have conducted sex strikes in history,” Behar explained. “In 2003, a sex strike helped to end Liberia’s brutal civil war and the woman who started it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2009, Kenyan women enforced a sex ban until police political infighting ceased. Within one week, there was a stable government.”

“We have more power than we think we do and some of it could be in the bedroom,” Behar insisted.

As a general rule, restricting the supply of something that generates little to no demand doesn’t change much. And for Behar and her colleagues, their greatest output is not sex appeal, but rather self-regard. So go ahead, get on the picket line!  And rest assured, we won’t cross picket lines on this one.

Roe No Mo

So we have a leak and it appears the Supremos are sending Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood to the dustbin of history. A few very brief thoughts:

  • Justice Alito is right: Roe was always built on a foundation of nothing. Justice White was also correct when Roe was decided. Roe was an exercise of raw judicial power. And raw power is always used eventually.
  • And if we’re in housekeeping season, now do Wickard v. Filburn.
  • The Dobbs ruling, assuming it goes through, changes nothing in Minnesota. Abortion is legal by statute here.
  • The leak itself is awful for the Court, but it was also inevitable. There was always an incentive to break this particular taboo and the leaker will be celebrated, not punished. MSNBC will have a corner office prepared by EOB today.
  • I don’t know what Chief Justice John Roberts will do, but it’s going to be another opportunity for him to go peak weasel.
  • One unanswered question — does Dobbs apply to pregnant men?

The usual caveats about interesting times are in full effect.

Signal To Noise

I’ve spent the majority of my career in the employ of Fortune 500 corporations, including my current employer. In the early years, those companies would sometimes make a show of their social goodness but they weren’t particularly wedded to a lefty agenda. That’s changed in the last 10-15 years, but recent events have some C-suite grandees thinking twice

The fallout from the recent political spat between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has alarmed leaders across the corporate sphere, according to executives and their advisers, and heightened the challenges for chief executive officers navigating charged topics.
At many companies, vocal employees have in recent years pushed bosses to take public stands on social and political issues. Florida’s pushback against Disney has raised the stakes.

Yeah, it certainly has. You have to wonder why a company would choose to make their appeal, ahem, more selective, but the instinct is strong:

“The No. 1 concern CEOs have is, ‘When should I speak out on public issues?’ ” said Bill George, former chairman and CEO of Medtronic PLC and now a senior fellow at Harvard Business School. “As one CEO said to me, ‘I want to speak out on social issues, but I don’t want to get involved in politics.’ Which I said under my breath, ‘That’s not possible.’ ”

It’s not possible. Put more simply, it’s dumb. A CEO who spends more than a passing moment thinking about social issues isn’t paying attention to what really matters. Younger employees, who have gone from participation trophies to believing their opinions are probative without much active contradiction, are difficult to manage, so the urge to mollify them is strong.

My current company has a full range of employee groups that cater to the constellation of grievances of the modern Left. These groups regularly get a moment to hold forth in the latest Zoom Town Hall or on the company intranet page. There’s not a lot of evidence these groups actually improve the conditions they decry, but never mind that. It’s a chance to wave the freak flag, and as an overall strategy it makes sense:

Some executives say they have learned to monitor issues that could consume public attention and increase pressure for some response. Some use employee affinity groups to help flag potentially troublesome issues. “You make it a safe forum where people feel comfortable talking about concerns or whatever, and out of that, there’s really a kind of responsibility on our part to pick up on things that really do demand some attention,” said Nancy Langer, CEO of Transact Campus Inc., a financial- technology company based near Phoenix. “I look at that as a feedback loop for us.”

The challenge, as always, is to ensure the loop doesn’t become a noose.

Gotta Have A Joe For This, A Joe For That

But this runnin’ with the Bidens, boy, just ain’t where it’s at:

Hunter Biden’s closest business partner made at least 19 visits to the White House and other official locations between 2009 and 2015, including a sitdown with then-Vice President Joe Biden in the West Wing.

Visitor logs from the White House of former President Barack Obama reviewed by The Post cast further doubt over Joe Biden’s claims that he knew nothing of his son’s dealings.

If Biden claims he knows nothing about such things now, I tend to believe him. He doesn’t appear to know much of anything. That ol’ historical record is an issue, though:

Eric Schwerin met with Vice President Biden on November 17, 2010 in the West Wing, when he was the president of the since-dissolved investment fund Rosemont Seneca Partners.

The logs also reveal that Schwerin met with various close aides of both Joe and Jill Biden at key moments in Hunter’s life when he was striking multi-million dollar deals in foreign countries, including China. Yet President Biden has long insisted he had no involvement in his son’s foreign affairs. “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings,” he said in 2019.

Does Biden’s denial beggar belief? Of course. If Hunter Biden’s surname had been, I dunno, Doakes, a guy like Schwerin would have been as welcome roaming the halls of power as the guy with the facepaint and the Buffalo headgear was on Jan. 6. But as an associate of Biden the younger, he had the golden ticket. 

”Not everyone gets to meet the Vice President of the United States in the White House. The press should be asking why Hunter Biden’s business associates — like Eric Schwerin — had that privilege and were given access to the Obama White House,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin). “This is additional evidence that Joe Biden lied when he said he never discussed Hunter’s foreign business dealings. It’s well past time for the corporate media to demand the truth from Joe Biden. The corruption of Biden Inc. must be exposed.”

Strictly speaking, the logs don’t prove Biden lied, but it’s certainly the way to bet. And while Senator Johnson is correct in asserting the press ought to be asking questions, I would not count on any investigative reporting happening any time soon. There’s a lot more at the link, including this reminder of how incestuous the power structure is in Washington:

In October 2009, just months after Hunter co-founded Rosemont Seneca, Schwerin met with Evan Ryan, Vice President Biden’s assistant for intergovernmental affairs and public liaison, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where the vice president’s office is based, according to the visitor logs.

While working in the halls of power Ryan acted as a conduit for Hunter Biden and his cronies, hard drive emails show.

Ms. Ryan is now the Cabinet Secretary for Biden. And speaking of Biden’s cabinet. . .

Ryan went on to marry Antony Blinken, who now serves as President Biden’s Secretary of State, while she herself was appointed to a plum gig as White House Cabinet Secretary in January 2021.

It’s all in the family.

 

 

Musk In The Wind

An Inigo Montoya moment:

Democracy. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

Of course, what frightens Max Boot is having anything he says face a challenge. Content moderation is especially cool if it means you don’t have to face any discontent. Boot’s preferred usage is a Boot on the throat.

I am not sure what I think about Elon Musk generally. One could argue he’s built his fortune by using government subsidies and cronyism, as he clearly has, but it’s also undeniable he’s building useful things. And it’s absolutely undeniable that he has all the right enemies. And the cognitive dissonance is off the damned charts:

Does Musk want to take over Twitter? I don’t think so. The company’s financials aren’t great, and running social media companies is hard. The car crash that is former President Donald Trump’s social media experiment, Truth Social, is a cautionary tale for Musk. Does Musk want to name some people to Twitter’s board of directors? Maybe. That would allow him to have some say over its affairs without spending too much time or money.

That’s worrisome, because it’s not ideal to have a free speech absolutist who isn’t absolutely in favor of free speech at the helm of — or even close to — a media company.

So where is Timothy O’Brien making this argument? Bloomberg. Who runs Bloomberg? A billionaire who happened to be a presidential candidate in the last cycle. We live in an unserious world.

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Let’s start with a little music:

The facts we hate
We’ll never meet
Walking down the road
Everybody yelling, “Hurry up, hurry up!”
But I’m waiting for you
I must go slow
I must not think bad thoughts
When is this world coming to?

Can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s tough avoiding bad thoughts these days. The larger question isn’t having bad thoughts, but whether you can express them. John Hayward, a/k/a Doc Zero, notices something important — the calls are coming from inside the house:

There is a part of the conservative sphere that has always felt populism is the ultimate sin, only the Left should be allowed to fight culture wars, and genuine conservative grassroots movements should be immediately run down with rhetorical lawn mowers.

There are different reasons why some conservatives gravitate to this way of thinking. Some are paid grifters. Some live deep inside the left-wing information sphere and inherit its prejudices, such as the notion cultural combat is toxic for conservatives but OK for lefties.

It’s always about the rice bowls. But there’s more:

For these timid elements of conservatism, the worst offense of the Right is questioning the motives of the Left. Nothing makes them spring into action against other conservatives faster than insinuations of bad faith or sinister motives against the Left.

Bad faith has been a growth industry on the port side since, I dunno, Rousseau maybe. It’s certainly not a recent development. Continuing on:

Run through the list of top issues: if you want border security, you must be a xenophobe. If you oppose abortion, you must be a blind religious fanatic or misogynist. If you want smaller government, you’re cruel and greedy. Question global warming? You’re a tool of Big Oil.

We are rat bastards, aren’t we? I must not think bad thoughts. But there’s more:

But as soon as any head of steam builds among grassroots conservatives for questioning the motives of the Left on similar grounds, the timid conservatives leap into action. Tut tut! That language is out of bounds! How dare you imply Lefty’s agenda is deliberately destructive!

They’ll tell you it’s paranoia and slander to talk about the destructive agenda of the Left even as hyperventilating lefties are busy laying out their agenda with hundreds of social media videos and vowing to destroy anyone who gets in their way.

I believe Mel Brooks had a number in Blazing Saddles about this, calling it the French Mistake. In modern parlance, that would be David French. But we’re not done:

Too much of the conservative commentariat is exactly that: commentators. They were comfortable remarking on the passing scene, not changing it. “Activism” was a dirty word, something the OTHER guys did. Tossing harmless Nerf footballs of theory around op-ed pages was good enough.

Change is hard and things are pretty cozy in the covens along the Potomac. And most of all, dudes wearing tricorner MAGA hats are not our kind, dear. We must not think bad thoughts. I’ve pulled a lot out of Hayward’s thread, but there’s even more. You should read it in full. But while his cri de coeur is compelling, it is clear our betters remain in their sinecures. And we’ll come back to that topic in the coming days.

 

Suss This

Given the glacial pace of John Durham’s investigation, it’s easy to assume that nothing is really going to come of his efforts; it’s a drill we’ve all seen before. Before Lucy pulls the football away yet again, let’s note that Durham did establish something long suspected:

John Durham released a potential smoking gun in the case against Michael Sussmann on Monday night, as he published documents showing the Democratic cybersecurity lawyer messaged the FBI general counsel that he was not working on behalf of any client, when in fact he was working for the Clinton campaign.

So what did Sussman say?

On Monday evening, however, Durham revealed Sussmann conveyed that lie in a text message to [FBI general counsel James] Baker on Sept. 18, 2016 — the night before their meeting at the bureau.

“Jim – it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss,” Sussmann wrote to the FBI top lawyer. “Do you have availibilty [sic] for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau. Thanks.”

Except he wasn’t. He was indeed representing the Clinton campaign. As the linked article from the Washington Examiner explains:

Sussmann’s lawyers have said Sussmann met with the FBI in September 2016 “to pass along information that raised national security concerns” and characterized this as simply “to provide a tip.” The lawyers contended that Sussmann was “charged with making a false statement about an entirely ancillary matter — about who his client may have been when he met with the FBI — which is a fact that even the Special Counsel’s own indictment fails to allege had any effect on the FBI’s decision to open an investigation.”

Durham countered that “the defendant made his false statement directly to the FBI General Counsel on a matter that was anything but ancillary: namely, the existence … of attorney-client relationships that would have shed critical light on the origins of the allegations at issue.”

“The defendant’s false statement to the FBI General Counsel was plainly material because it misled the General Counsel about, among other things, the critical fact that the defendant was disseminating highly explosive allegations about a then-Presidential candidate on behalf of two specific clients, one of which was the opposing Presidential campaign,” Durham wrote.

Do I have any reasonable expectation that Sussmann will ultimately be brought to justice, let alone his clients? Forget it D, it’s Chinatown. And as Sussmann’s client famously said in yet another context:

What difference does it make? We know. And while stories are soft pedaled or buried entirely, they are out there to know. And in the case of the Clintons, it means they won’t be coming back.

Panic in Donkville

It’s almost impossible to put enough lipstick on the porcine Biden administration. All the polls are in the crapper and the only numbers that are going up are in the grocery aisles. Meanwhile, as Joel Kotkin notes, Biden and the rest of the party are doing their best Thelma and Louise imitation, especially where the environment is concerned: 

The cave-in to the greens has increased the Democrats’ economic vulnerability, particularly in the wake of Russian aggression and the continued role of China as the world’s dominant greenhouse-gas emitter. The well-funded American environmental elite lack the grudging sense of realism of their German counterparts, who have been forced to reconsider some of their energy policies in light of the invasion. But in resource-rich America, the green grandees still oppose boosting fossil-fuel energy supplies, despite 80 per cent of voters, and an equal percentage of Democrats, favouring the use of both fossil fuels and renewables. Public support for Net Zero / the Green New Deal hovers around 20 per cent.

You don’t want to get crosswise of the ol’ 80/20 rule, but somehow the Donks have pulled it off. And it’s got the old Clinton hands up in arms. Back to Kotkin:

Cultural issues represent another fault line between the bulk of the electorate and the tin-eared elites of the party. Democrats’ have embraced what former Bill Clinton strategist James Carville scathingly labels ‘the politics of the faculty lounge’, such as support for the increasingly discredited Black Lives Matter movement and its calls to ‘defund the police’. This idea may be beloved at places like Harvard, but among the less elevated mortals it is widely unpopular, even among minorities, including two of the nation’s Democratic African-American mayors, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and New York City’s Eric Adams.

Voters view crime as the second-most pressing issue, after the economy and inflation. Here again the survey results are equally distressing for the progressive agenda. Voters, according to one recent survey, blame the Democrats for the current crime wave by a margin of two to one. Moderate Democrats, like retiring Florida congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, herself a refugee from Vietnam, found her support for legislation that would penalise undocumented criminals got her labeled as ‘anti-immigrant’ by the party’s dominant progressive mob.

Now it may surprise those of us in Minnesota that Black Lives Matter is increasingly discredited; Esme Murphy and the KARE Bears haven’t mentioned it much. But it should surprise no one that someone like Stephanie Murphy would lose support of the party apparat; on the bright side, she has thus far avoided being called a Russian operative, but it’s early and she might still get the full Tulsi if she’s not careful. Closer to home, it will be interesting to see how self-styled moderates like Dean “Everyone’s Invited” Phillips navigate the electorate.

There’s a long time between now and November, but it’s difficult to envision a reversal of the trends. One should never underestimate the ability of the Republican Party to blow it. Still, the Donks find events in the saddle and all the narrative engineers at their disposal can’t change the prices at Hy-Vee or Holiday. For nearly half a century, Joe Biden has wanted to be president in the worst way. And he’s getting his wish.

Rules Of The Game

Most readers of this feature knew the truth in 2020 — Hunter Biden, the uber-prodigal son of the now Leader of the Free World, abandoned a laptop computer at a repair shop in Delaware. The laptop was filled to the brim with embarrassing and yes, incriminating evidence of financial malfeasance and videotaped debauchery. It was real and yes, it was spectacular. And the New York Post was on the case.

But you weren’t allowed to know any of it, and if you tried to tell anyone what you weren’t allowed to know, you were in for a banning:

Twitter went so far as to lock users out of their accounts if they shared this piece of journalism that was clearly in the public interest. It locked the Twitter accounts of the actual White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, and the New York Post itself. Here we had the spokesperson for the democratically elected president of the United States and the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in America being cast out of social media for the crime of sharing a story that was true. This was surely the most egregious, arrogant interference in democratic politics and press freedom carried out by corporate elites in recent times.

Recent times? I think the term we’re looking for here is ever. And as Brendan O’Neill discusses in the piece linked above, the implications are chilling:

This was a truly extraordinary moment in the political life of the United States of America. A free-thinking daily newspaper published a fascinating report on the emails and behaviour of the then vice-president’s son and it found itself shamed, blocked and defamed for doing so. Californian oligarchs, former members of the American deep state and virtually the entire opinion-forming set of the East Coast clubbed together to denounce the Post, ban it from Twitter, and rubbish its reporting as the handiwork of evil Ruskies. Yet some of them now admit the story was actually true, a fact that has been clear since at least December 2020, when federal authorities started investigating Hunter. What took place following the Post’s breaking of the laptop story was a terrifying assault on media freedom, the right to dissent and truth itself.

We are free, theoretically, to express our views. From the founding of the republic, we have been able to drag a soapbox to the public square and hold forth. Twitter isn’t the only public square available; in form and in fact, it’s an upholstered cesspool. But it is the realm where our betters and minders, coextensive as they are, disgorge the received wisdom of our age. And it’s where the game is played. And the game is rigged. Back to O’Neill:

But it was the elites’ brutal stomping on this story that should worry us more. It confirmed that the new woke elites will do whatever it takes to crush inconvenient facts, to bury stories and ideas and beliefs that pose a threat to their power or their interests. And it confirmed that Big Tech billionaires will happily engage in explicit political censorship to protect their allies and sponsors from scrutiny. If an established newspaper like the New York Post can be forcefully locked out of the 21st-century public square, just imagine what could be done to you or me if we ever happened upon some facts the elites would prefer to keep hidden.

There’s a chilling line in the 1939 French film La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game). The character Octave (played by Jean Renoir, the film’s director) says:

You see, in this world, there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons.

Those who control the game and the general discourse in the country have their reasons as well. The reason is power, nothing more and nothing less. If we are to play the game, we’d better understand that.

Vlad All Over, Or The Fog of War

The Soviet Union, as formidable as it once appeared, has been a dead letter for over 30 years. While Vladimir Putin may have one reliable client state in Belarus, the rest of the former Soviet republics and the entirety of the Eastern Bloc have little interest in getting the band back together, so while the endgame remains in doubt, it’s highly unlikely Putin’s latest gambit will redound to his benefit. 

If your day is gone, and you want to ride on, Ukraine
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back, Ukraine

Apologies to J. J. Cale. But have you noticed the near lockstep unanimity on social media about Ukraine? Something about it seems, I dunno, off. Victor Davis Hanson offers a few thoughts about the narrative:

On cue, an embarrassed Left now offers some surreal takes on why Putin went into Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 and again into all of Ukraine in 2022—while mysteriously bookending the four invasion-free Trump years. We are told that hiatus was because Putin got all he wanted from Trump and rewarded him by not invading any of his neighbors.

Really?

And Hanson is just getting started:

Were Vladimir Putin and his advisors more or less delighted that their poodle Trump thankfully flooded the world with price-crashing oil? They were thankful Trump at least had killed Russian mercenaries in Syria?

Putin himself was content that the United States got out of his own advantageous missile deal? Was he thrilled that Trump sold once-taboo U.S. offensive weapons to Ukraine? Did the Kremlin grow ecstatic when Trump upped the U.S. defense budget? And was Russia especially thankful that Trump jawboned NATO into spending another $100 billion on defense? Did Putin clap when Trump killed Soleimani and Baghdadi, and bombed ISIS out of existence?

About that oil. . . 

It’s not a coincidence that Russia, an oil-producing country, was pretty flush in 2014, which made Putin’s adventurism at that time cost-effective. Things changed after the Light Bringer left office; while the price of oil fluctuated in the first two years of the Bad Orange Man administration, prices dropped thereafter, before the huge drop in 2020 which was entirely related to the world economy grinding to a halt. Since 2021, the trajectory has been back toward the price levels of the Obama years. We all see the impact at the pump and energy costs are a huge factor in inflation generally, even beyond the Fed making the money printers go brrrrrr. So if the money is flowing into Russia and the current administration has shut down the pipelines and the frackers, are we particularly surprised that ol’ Putin has gauged this moment as the time to make a move?

There’s more, of course. Back to Hanson:

Joe threatened the toughest sanctions in history that on Wednesday would deter an invasion and by Saturday were never meant to at all. But Biden promises someday a “conversation” to decide whether at some time he still will issue the toughest sanctions in history. Until then, he invites Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy safe passage out of Kyiv—the quickest way to destroy the dogged Ukrainian resistance.

Left unsaid are the years of rapacious Biden family profiteering in Ukraine, a decade of leftist passive-aggressive love and hate of Russia, from obsequious reset to greedy Uranium One to pathetic “tell Vladimir . . .” to unhinged vetoing of sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Oh, there’s more to be said, a lot more. But for this moment one thing seems to be clear — the fog of war is less from the battlefield and more from the fog machines all around us.

P. J. O’Rourke, RIP

P. J. O’Rourke died yesterday at the age of 74. He was one of the best conservative pundits of the last 50 years and certainly the funniest. He also had a keen eye. In his 1990 classic Parliament of Whores, he provided a spot-on synopsis of the people you meet at a protest rally. Tell me if these descriptions from 30+ years ago still don’t ring true:

World Council of Churches sensible-shoe types who have self-righteousness the way some people have bad breath

Angry black poverty pests making a life and a living off the misfortunes of others

Even angrier feminists doing their best to feminize poverty before the blacks use it all up

Earnest neophyte Marxists, eyes glazed from dialectical epiphanies and hands grubby from littering the Mall with ill-Xeroxed tracts

College bohos dressed in black to show how gloomy the world is when you’re a nineteen-year-old rich kid

Young would-be hippies dressed exactly like old hippies used to dress (remarkable how behind the times the avant-garde has gotten)

And some of those old hippies themselves, faded jeans straining beneath increasing paunches, hair still tied into a ponytail in the back but gone forever from the top

His powers of observation set him apart from other writers, especially those who tried their hand at satire. He understood his targets better than the targets understood themselves.

As O’Rourke grew older, he softened the sharp edges and some of his thinking got a bit pear-shaped. He drew the ire of conservatives everywhere when he endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. I was not a fan of Donald Trump either, but O’Rourke’s powers of observation betrayed him that time:

Dorothy and Toto’s house fell on Hillary. I endorse her.

Munchkins endorse her.

Donald Trump is a flying monkey.

Except what the flying monkeys have to say, “oreoreoreo,” makes more sense than Trump’s policy statements.

Not that Hillary makes much sense either.

Hillary is wrong about everything. She is to politics and statecraft what Pope Urban VIII and the Inquisition were to Galileo. She thinks the sun revolves around herself.

But Trump Earth™ is flat. We’ll sail over the edge. Here be monsters.

O’Rourke was wrong about that. Hillary is more of a monster in real life than anything O’Rourke could imagine over the edge. We’ll leave that aside. Where O’Rourke made his mark, and where his legacy will reside, is in being a proto-Mencken for our age. And let’s say it — his bon mots were pretty bon:

There are probably more fact-finding tours of Nicaragua right now than there are facts— the country has shortages of practically everything.

Or this:

The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors— psychology, sociology, women’s studies— to prove that nothing is anybody’s fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you’d have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.

Or this:

Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner’s Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes.

But above all, this:

The American political system is like a gigantic Mexican Christmas fiesta. Each political party is a huge piñata — a papier-mâché donkey, for example. The donkey is filled with full employment, low interest rates, affordable housing, comprehensive medical benefits, a balanced budget and other goodies. The American voter is blindfolded and given a stick. The voter then swings the stick wildly in every direction, trying to hit a political candidate on the head and knock some sense into the silly bastard.

We all need our sticks and few wielded a more elegant brickbat than the Irish kid from Toledo. RIP,

Dudley Do-Fus

The backpedaling has begun. Politicians throughout the U.S. are winding it all down and hoping (against hope) that the blowback won’t be anything approaching what is happening in Ottawa.

Mind you, it’s been peaceful thus far, despite the increasingly manic sputterings of Justin Trudeau, who didn’t think much of those who would suggest a course correction:

“Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy and our fellow citizens’ daily lives, it has to stop,” Trudeau said in a speech to Canada’s parliament on Monday evening. “People of Ottawa don’t deserve to be harassed in their own neighborhoods. They don’t deserve to be confronted with the inherent violence of a swastika flying on a street corner or Confederate flag.”

Are there actually swastikas flying in the streets of Ottawa? Here’s a recent photo:

Updates: Officials condemn 'desecration' of monuments, hateful signs on  display at trucker convoy protest - The Globe and Mail

Looks like a maple leaf to me, but one never knows.

Trudeau, like many other politicians, senses a reckoning is nigh. And perhaps there will be violence. But don’t count on it coming from the maple-flavored C.W. McCalls currently deployed in the streets of Ottawa. 

Mene Mene Tekel Polling-in

While it’s always worth casting a cold eye on polling numbers, it’s striking how poorly the Leader of the Free World is doing these days across the board. Real Clear Politics has the numbers and they aren’t pretty:

RCP Average                            12/17 – 1/11 —           41.9               53.1               -11.2
Quinnipiac                                 1/7 – 1/10 1178 RV    35                  54                  -19
Politico/Morning Consult           1/8 – 1/9 2000 RV      44                  53                  -9
Rasmussen Reports                 1/9 – 1/11 1500 LV     40                  58                  -18
Economist/YouGov                   1/8 – 1/11 1258 RV     45                 51                   -6
IBD/TIPP                                   1/5 – 1/8 1308 A         44                 45                   -1
Reuters/Ipsos                            1/5 – 1/6 1000 A         45                 51                   -6
Economist/YouGov                    1/2 – 1/4 1201 RV      43                 51                   -8

It’s one thing if Rasmussen, a pollster generally favorable to the GOP, posts ugly numbers for Joe Biden. What’s truly eye-opening are the results from Quinnipiac, a poll historically gentle with the portsiders. If their numbers are accurate, Biden’s disapproval rating is a whopping -19, and that’s from a poll conducted after the recent Pelosi-produced passion play of 1/6.

So what are the larger implications? A few thoughts:

  • If you’re Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema, do you fear the political wrath of the leader of your party? Apostasy has rarely been safer.
  • If you’re Xi or Putin, do you concern yourself with anything Joe Biden says? Or, for that matter, with anything he does? I doubt the citizenry of Ukraine or Taiwan is particularly sanguine at the moment.
  • If you’re Mitch McConnell, do you sleep well? Never better, I would guess, and certainly better than your average Ukranian.
  • If you’re Stacey Abrams, do you see any value in hanging with Grandpa Joe?

While there’s certainly entertainment value in watching Uncle Joe moving kinda slow, we’re not headed for Petticoat Junction at the moment.

Tony O and Kitty

Congratulations to Tony Oliva and Jim “Kitty” Kaat, who were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will induct at least six new members in 2022. Sunday evening the Hall of Fame’s Early Baseball Era Committee announced Negro League legends Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil have been voted into Cooperstown. Also voted in were Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, and Tony Oliva by the Golden Days Era Committee.

Few things are more contentious (or more pedantic) than the arguments concerning the merits of those who are on the outside of the Hall. The statistical devotees crank out the metrics in every conceivable way to argue their points, while the old timers often use the same approach to Hall worthiness as Potter Stewart used to define pornography — they can’t define it, but they know it when they see it.

Since the arguments are indeed contentious and pedantic, I’ll try to avoid them here. But I will say this: I am old enough to have seen both Oliva and Kaat play, mostly in the 1970s. Oliva was a shadow of what he once was by then, just as Willie Mays was in his final, awful season as a New York Met. Oliva’s knees were shot and he couldn’t play in the field any more, but his swing was still sweet and he would flash occasional power. I was living in Wisconsin and didn’t see the Twins much, but when they would appear on the Game of the Week you could tell Oliva was a figure meriting great respect — the Curt Gowdys and Tony Kubeks of the world described him in almost reverent tones. In some ways, Tony Oliva and Kirby Puckett had similar careers; great stars cut down by injuries. And both were lifelong Twins.

Kaat was a good, perhaps not great, pitcher for a very long time. He was a contemporary of other pitchers who had comparable careers — Don Sutton, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, and the Perry brothers, Gaylord and Jim. Of these pitchers, Sutton and Gaylord Perry are in the Hall because they were 300-game winners, usually a surefire ticket to the Hall as long as you’re not Roger Clemens. Blyleven was next to make the Hall, primarily because the statistical devotees championed his cause. Blyleven won 287 games, John won 288, and Kaat won 283. Jim Perry trailed the rest with 215.

As it happens, Kaat, Blyleven and Jim Perry were all Twins for long stretches of their careers. All three were among the best pitchers in the American League. What separates them? I don’t know the answer. But I do know this — Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are both worthy, whether you use metrics or the Potter Stewart test.

 

Game On

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals says — no mandate for you:

A federal appeals court has upheld its stay on President Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees.

In a 22-page ruling on Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the mandate was “fatally flawed,” and barred the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing the mandate “pending adequate judicial review” of a motion for permanent injunction.

OSHA shall “take no steps to implement or enforce the mandate until further court order,” the ruling stated.

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The mandate, which was supposed to take effect Jan. 4, requires business with at least 100 employees to mandate their workers get vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.

Two predictions:

  • Biden and co. will ignore the court ruling; and
  • The chorus of MSM scolds will try to justify whatever Biden does. Constitutional crises are so 2020, doncha know.

 

Customer Service

 A recent experience (last night, actually) in the northern suburbs, but repeated elsewhere with alarming frequency.

My family traveled to our friendly local neighborhood Culver’s for dinner. We arrived at 6 p.m. We could see people sitting in the dining room and customers at the counter, so we assumed the restaurant was open for dine-in.

We got to the door and saw a sign mentioning that the restaurant would be closing at 8. This is a typical scenario — we are all getting used to labor shortages causing a variety of businesses to curtail their hours or even close on certain days. But as we attempted to enter the restaurant, the door was locked.

At the time of our arrival, four other groups were converging on the location. I knocked on the door, hoping one of the workers would hear it. They didn’t, but a customer did and came to the door to talk with us. “I think they’re closing the dining room,” the customer said.

A woman on the outside said, “but the sign on the door says they are closing at 8. It’s 6. Why are they closing?”

Another potential customer said, “this is ridiculous. It’s not 8. They should change the sign.”

“Perhaps they think they’re in Nova Scotia. It’s 8 there,” I offered. That got a chuckle out of yet another customer.

After a moment, a manager who appeared to be a year out of high school appeared at the door. “We’re very short staffed so we’re closing the dining room because we can’t provide the expected level of customer service.”

The woman who had noted the sign on the door said, “well, if you aren’t open, you should have a sign on the door.”

“I’ll go get a sign for the door,” the manager said. Then, reading the faces of the customers he was turning away, said “do you want me to get the general manager? I’ll go get the general manager.” He walked back in to the restaurant, but by then all of us decided to take our business elsewhere.

A few observations:

  • As a rule, it’s never optimal to maintain a level of service by providing no service at all. I would guess the people who departed without a meal last night would have spent between $150-200 at the restaurant. Turning away customers is always a bad idea.
  • At the same time, what could the manager do? He was trying to protect his workers, who were clearly getting swamped. If the workers who are willing to show up get abused, they will quit. The poor kid was caught between Scylla and Charybdis. 
  • I have never worked in a restaurant — a desultory semester of work-study in the college cafeteria is my closest experience to that. I have family members who have spent many years in the hospitality industry and they have many, many stories to tell.
  • Many restaurant jobs are entry-level work and the pay is generally not great. I see plenty of signs around town with fast fooders offering $15/hour or more, but most locations find themselves short-staffed anyway. People respond to incentives, and most of the incentives are pointing away from the hospitality industry. That could be changed, but the folks who could drive that change are responding to different incentives.
  • Our MSM supremos are trying to spray paint the turd. A WaPo columnist tells us to lower our expectations. It’s just this pandemic and that lying son of a bitch, Trump! They would never hurt you. You know that.

Heroes Are So Hard To Find

It wasn’t that long ago, really. We had heroes among us. Now they are so hard to find:

These days, the men and women who worked through the whole pandemic are being shamed and patronized by the very people whose cushy existences they facilitated for a year and a half. The liberal elites who holed up in the Hamptons and didn’t have contact with the outside world for a year are ready to get back to their SoulCycle classes, even if it means firing a few people they once called “frontline heroes.” The irony of the same people who screamed in the faces of policemen at the height of a pandemic turning around to demand that these cops now shut up, stop asking questions, and get vaccinated is almost too much to bear.

Hamptons, Bryn Mawr, North Oaks — wherever. As Bridget Phetasy notes in Tablet, it’s the same dynamic we’ve known for decades now: limousine liberals, parlor pinks, trust fund Trotskyites, living their Best Lives and dancing among the ruins:

While normal people tried to figure out how to juggle work, child care, and living under the same roof for 24 hours a day, celebrities were having a ball. Locked up with only their phones and without their handlers, the public was treated to an unfiltered parade of narcissism on fire. Distraught about the postponement of Coachella, Vanessa Hudgens took to Instagram Live to lament that “like, yeah, people are gonna die.” Gal Gadot talked about how “we’re all in this together” and gathered a celebrity cast to sing a horrifying version of “Imagine” from their sprawling mansions.

Nearly any version of “Imagine” is horrifying by definition, of course, but we’ll leave that aside. Now that we’re in our 19th month of two weeks to flatten the curve, the gyre is widening:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats wrote that over 100 year ago. I don’t recall attending any innocence ceremonies recently, but his point stands. We may not have mere anarchy any time soon, either: most self-identified anarchists are totally cool with the State, as long as it does their bidding. But I sense the agents of the State may not be able to make it stick. Back to Phetasy:

In L.A. County, only 54% of the Black population and 62% of the “Latinx” population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Despite all the resources the city ostensibly devotes to equity and inclusion, it’s clear that these minority populations will be most affected by the mandates. If Black lives matter to you so much, shouldn’t you care that Black people will be excluded from restaurants and movie theaters and nail salons?

Caring is overrated, especially among the best. I don’t know what’s next, but in a world where self-regard has more cachet than self-awareness the center will not hold.

Not Our Kind, Dear

Victor Davis Hanson, in an interview with Tucker Carlson, explains why he longer works for the magazine of William F. Buckley:

I think there were certain people in the Republican movement, or establishment, who felt it is their duty to internally police their own, and that’s kind of a virtue signal to the left.

We are just part of your class, we share the same values as you do, and we keep our crazies. And they are not empirical.

Empiricism is hardly a growth industry, but clinging to tradition has its charms, especially if doing so allows you to strike down your rivals. There’s a long history of keeping crazies at National Review. During his long reign at NR, Buckley famously put paid to the Birchers and anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard, casting them to the outer darkness. Later on, Buckley cast out writers he had championed, including Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan, both for anti-Semitism. My father subscribed to NR and I would read it cover to cover in my youth. Once I set up my own household, I subscribed for over a decade, but after a while the value proposition wasn’t there.  

Buckley has been gone for over a decade now, and while his beloved NR is still in operation, it hasn’t been a serious enterprise for a long time. Back in 2016, NR tried to cast the Bad Orange Man to the outer darkness, marshaling dozens of arguments against the Dread Pirate Drumpf, but all their sound and fury signified, well, nothing. Why was that? No one really took NR seriously any more.

While Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t need a particular platform to be heard, his departure from NR means the cupboard is bare. It’s not surprising, truth be told — Republicanism generally signifies nothing. Hanson knows why:

I think there’s an image that a lot of Republicans have, both in politics and they sort of represent a sober and judicious way of looking at the world, and we are the adults in the room.

And it’s more about a culture than it is an ideology.

I’m not convinced it’s even a culture. From our perch in flyoverland, the conservative movement NR embodies is a pose rather than an attempt at understanding, let alone defending, a culture. Back to Hanson:

The original Republican conservative movement, I thought, was going to go back and look at the Constitution, when Jefferson said it won’t work if you pile up everybody in the cities because they will be subject to mass hysteria. Or de Tocqueville, and you look at certain ideas, I thought that’s what we were.

I thought they would be champions of the middle class, but I don’t think they were. I don’t think they wanted to be.

Hanson is clearly disillusioned, but he had to know the truth — any classicist of his erudition understands that grandeur and the trappings of the elite are powerful intoxicants. And currying favor with our betters is lucrative. 

What The In Crowd Knows

A tale as old as time:

Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. 

While I appreciate the willingness of Glenn Greenwald, a man of the Left, to call out the hypocrisy of our Ruling Class, this observation isn’t quite right, actually. Dominant liberal culture is all about rule promulgation, not necessarily personally abiding by rules. As time goes on, the pretense fades, and why wouldn’t it? Nothing ever happens to the Ruling Class.

Dobie Gray, a more perceptive social critic than our man Greenwald, was all over this way back in ’65:

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows
Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

Back in ’65, the term “out of sight” roughly meant cool, fashionable, au courant, like that. Some 56 years later, out of sight has a more conventional meaning: in the shadows, behind the curtain, holed up in nondescript office buildings in and around the Beltway. Our in crowd is an industrious lot, and they keep coming up with more rules at all times, whether our Congresscritters weigh in or not.

Any time of the year, don’t you hear? Mocking fools, making rules

But many of our fellow citizens don’t hear, nor are they listening. Instead, we all hear our animatronic Leader of the Free World as he is sent out to joust with the Teleprompter.

We make every minute count
Our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us
But the original’s still the greatest

Just ask them. If you can identify them.

 

 

 

Adventures In Variantland

I haven’t written here recently (sorry, Mitch!), mostly because I did a fair amount of traveling in August. I attended my high school reunion in the wilds of Wisconsin, then a week later headed east to a family wedding in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio (highly recommended, by the way).

In the course of my travels, I spent time in six different states — Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Given that the howling over the dread Delta Variant has been in full effect for much of the summer, I was particularly interested in what I would see in my travels. Were people paying attention to the renewed demands for masking and social distancing? Were the entreaties of the Powers That Be having any effect?

Not a chance.

My high school reunion had over 100 attendees, a good result for a class with 144 surviving members. Classmates returned to my Wisconsin home town from California, Washington state, Colorado, Maryland, and New York, among other places. One classmate arrived masked, but took his mask off about 15 minutes into the festivities. The venue was a local brewery with a beer hall and the entire event was indoors. My masked classmate was the only person I saw wearing a mask all weekend, outside of some of the staff at the hotel. Social distancing? Not much of that, either — as you would expect at a high school reunion, it was hugs galore.

The following week was the family wedding; we took a convoluted path so we could pick up our college-age daughter, who attends school in Missouri. We stopped in Waterloo, Iowa, for lunch — not a mask in sight. We got gas in Hannibal, Missouri — no masks at all. Our overnight hotel was in downstate Illinois — again, no masks or social distancing in sight, and a full buffet breakfast available. We stopped for lunch in Indiana — again, no masks anywhere. We gassed up again on the Indiana/Ohio border, in a town that looked like nothing had changed since 1978. No masks. We reached our destination — no masks at the hotel. We had an out-of-town guest reception — saw every face in the place.

The wedding the following day was wonderful — joyous, raucous, with an open bar and food trucks from Columbus for the meal. There were probably 250 people in attendance; not a soul was wearing a mask. It was an outdoor event, but if social distancing was a factor, no one seemed to realize it. Nothing changed on the return trip. No mask? No problem!

Over this past weekend, we attended the Great Minnesota Grease Together. Everyone had to mask up on the shuttle buses, but once we were at the fair, mask wearing was about 1%, even in the queues for a Sweet Martha bucket before leaving the fairgrounds.

We are reminded daily the Delta Variant is still in full swing, an implacable foe, with future variants lined up like planes in a holding pattern at O’Hare; Mu is coming next, and all the other letters of the Greek alphabet are getting ready to ravage the countryside, so many that we’re likely to run out of letters eventually. Presumably another naming convention waits in the wings — perhaps future variants can be named after Kentucky Derby winners (the “Seattle Slew Variant” perhaps), assuming we can independently verify that neither the horses nor their jockeys ever used Ivermectin. As anyone with a television or a smart phone knows, the hectoring and self-congratulatory moral tutelage continue unabated, all of it fact-checked, verified, or otherwise given the J.D. Power award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

But you know what? Even after a summer of harangues and a phalanx of Tik-Tok Cassandras, people are doing as they please, at least here in flyover land. 

Yes, yes, everything I’m presenting here is anecdotal, but current behaviors are easy to observe and if a skeptic made a similar sojourn, the skeptic would see the same things. There will remain a cohort of those who follow every word and every directive from Drs. Fauci, Osterholm and their colleagues. Most readers of this feature likely see social media posts featuring our bien pensant  betters dutifully wearing their masks and keeping a yardstick or two between them as they struggle to take a selfie. And that’s fine — let your freak flags fly!

In the end, though, it’s highly likely the Safety Dance is over, unless our betters are willing to force compliance. What’s been happening in Australia has given me pause, but mandates and lockdowns will be difficult to enforce. And our betters know it.

Storytellers

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I would tune in out-of-town baseball broadcasts on my trusty AM transistor radio. From our home in eastern Wisconsin, it was easy to catch Merle Harmon and Bob Uecker covering the hapless Brewers on WTMJ in Milwaukee, but when the Brewers fell behind the Orioles 7-2 in the 4th inning, my mind would wander.

I found the alternatives; I also listened to Vince Lloyd covering the Cubs on WGN in Chicago, but only if the Cubs were on the road, and on other nights I might catch the White Sox with Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall on WMAQ. If I were feeling more ambitious, I could catch the gentlemanly Ernie Harwell on WJR in Detroit, or feisty Jack Buck on KMOX out of St. Louis. Sometimes, but not always, I could catch Herb Carneal on WCCO.

It’s difficult to explain to younger people, but on weeknights you couldn’t watch a game unless you lived in a big city. Writing for the Athletic (paywall, unfortunately), Jon Greenberg and Stephen J. Nesbitt detail what’s been a pastime for 100 years now:

The beauty of baseball on the radio is in its simplicity. It’s theatre of the mind. Even younger broadcasters, who were raised in the TV age, say radio was the sound of their summers, conjuring images of car rides, sifting through static, and listening from a fishing boat in the middle of a lake.

It was the sound of discovery, in the same way that postwar Brits looking for the new sounds would tune in Radio Luxembourg. Those faraway voices suggested there was something more out there, beyond the city limits of wherever you happened to be. If you have an IP today, you can see the world and hear every voice imaginable. While I appreciate the choices arrayed before me, I do miss the thrill of listening to Ernie Harwell through the static on a still August evening. 

Looks Like We Got Us A Convoy

Let those truckers roll:

President Joe Biden claimed on Wednesday that he once drove an 18-wheeler truck, but his remark—made during a visit to a Mack Truck factory in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania—quickly garnered a skeptical reaction.

In audio recorded by local news channel WFMZ-TV, Biden can be heard off camera telling workers at Mack Truck Lehigh Valley Operations: “I used to drive an 18-wheeler, man […] I got to.”

This claim is, like many of the Leader of the Free World’s observations, unmoored from reality. Apparently back in 1973, Biden took a long ride with a truck driver, but there’s no evidence he ever drove the rig:

Zach Parkinson, director of RNC Research, also questioned the president’s claim, sharing a 1973 opinion piece written by Biden, who was then a first-term senator.

In that article, Biden talked about how he had ridden in a “47,000-pound cargo truck” on a 500-mile-plus trip from Delaware to Ohio.

“There is zero evidence that Biden ‘used to drive an 18 wheeler,'” Parkinson tweeted.

“The extent of Biden’s trucking experience is that he **rode in** a truck once, for one night in 1973 (he made sure to return home by plane though).”

Truck drivers and CB radios were a thing back in the 1970s and an advertising guy from Omaha named Bill Fries had a big hit single under the name C.W. McCall. The song “Convoy” made it to #1 on the country and the pop charts in the early part of 1976 and it led to a huge rise in sales for CB radios, which had been, up to that time, primarily a tool for truck drivers and other people in the transportation industry. The song was catchy and the trucker jargon lyrics were entertaining to hear coming through on the AM radio of your ’75 Cutlass:

Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket sled on rails
We tore up all of our swindle sheets
And left ’em settin’ on the scales

By the time we hit that Chi-town
Them bears was a-gettin’ smart
They’d brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinois National Guard

The amusing thing about Fries/ C.W. McCall is he was never a truck driver, either:

“I was never a truck driver, even though people think I must have been,” Fries says. “I wanted to sound authentic. I wanted to talk like people talk. If you want to talk to truckers, you have to sound like a trucker.”

Biden has been straining for authenticity for 50 years now. He’s truck driver, a tough guy from Scranton, friends with Corn Pop and God only knows what else. And he has access to the nuclear codes. 

Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
‘Cross the USA

Sleep tight, everyone.

A Big Ol’ Slug From The Poisoned Chalice

Kareem and the Big O in 1971

On April 30, 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Baltimore Bullets 118-106 to win their first NBA championship. The team had won the equivalent of a Powerball jackpot the previous year, when a coin flip gave the team the first pick in the 1969 draft. The Bucks drafted Lou Alcindor, the dominating center from UCLA, then added the great Oscar Robertson, an equally dominating guard who had played for terrible teams for a decade. The early good fortune lead to glory as the Bucks franchise won its first title in only the third year of its existence. 

At the time, I was a second grader at St. Therese School in Appleton, Wisconsin. While I didn’t follow the NBA that closely at first, I knew this championship was a big deal. Shortly after the Bucks won the championship, Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which confused me a bit, but second graders are easily confused. As we grew older, we would try to imitate Abdul-Jabbar’s famous sky hook on the school playground, ineffectively of course. We would cheer our Bucks and curse the mighty Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, who would stand in the way of our team’s glory. The Bucks made it back to the finals in 1974, but lost to the Celtics in 7 games, including the finale on the floor of the Milwaukee Arena.

As time went on, Abdul-Jabbar decided that he no longer wanted to live in Milwaukee, which did not fit his cultural needs. The Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar and the players the team received in return formed the nucleus of a consistent contender for the league championship, but a team that never could get past the hated Celtics and the equally despised Philadelphia 76ers. This went on for over a decade, but by the early 90s Michael Jordan ruled the league and the Bucks became a footwipe. I continued to follow the Bucks throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, but there wasn’t much joy in it. 

In 2013, the Bucks finally found the man who would replace Abdul-Jabbar, a Greek citizen of Nigerian descent named Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was 18 years old and while his talent was recognized, he was not invited to hang out in the green room with the other top prospects of that year. When his name was called, he came up on stage from the stands at Barclays Center, a face in the crowd. Over the following eight seasons, he transformed himself from a skinny refugee kid into the most imposing and relentless basketball player on the planet, earning the nickname “The Greek Freak.”  On Tuesday evening, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, scoring 50 points in a 105-98 clincher against the Phoenix Suns. For his part, Antetokounmpo is a thoroughly likable young man with a big smile and a spectacular game, and his teammates are equally talented and amiable. And after a 50-year wait, my childhood team had finally returned to the summit.

It’s a great story, but only if you accept the narrative that the NBA still means something. In the 50 years between championships, much has changed. The games in 1971 were played in darkened arenas with less than 13,000 people in attendance. The owners were local businessmen and the coachers were guys like Red Auerbach, the curmudgeonly cigar chomping leader of the Celtics. Over the course of 50 years, the NBA engaged in relentless marketing, leveraging the genuine star power of Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan to transform the league into an international entertainment. The money flowed and the movie stars and beautiful people were sitting courtside, especially in Los Angeles.

This went on for a long time, but in recent years the dominant player and personality has been LeBron James, immensely talented but a man with a perpetual scowl on his face. His preferred nickname is “King James,” and he has been an imperious monarch for nearly 20 seasons. He indulges in woke social commentary and turns a blind eye to the NBA’s sordid relationship with the Chinese government, claiming that critics of the tyrannical regime are not sufficiently informed. James is a tremendous talent, but he’s utterly detestable.

So after 50 years, how much joy is there in winning a championship of a league full of vipers and hypocrites? For me, more than is justified. The fan in me wants to get a championship cap that matches those the Bucks wore as they accepted the trophy in Milwaukee, but let’s face it, it’s likely that hat probably comes from a crappy Chinese factory and the profits would land in the coffers of some woke conglomerate.

But still, but still, I want to believe the Bucks have accomplished something noble and that my years of fandom are now being rewarded. My head says it’s a lie, but my heart says something else.

 

 

What’s A Cubit?

Bill Cosby is out of jail:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the indecent assault conviction of Bill Cosby on Wednesday and ordered his release from prison after finding that he was denied protection against self-incrimination.

The court said that a prosecutor’s decision not to charge Cosby, 83, in an earlier case opened the door for him to speak freely in a lawsuit against him, thinking he would not incriminate himself criminally. A second prosecutor later used the lawsuit testimony in a criminal trial, and that testimony was key in his conviction years later.

Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, and was serving a three- to 10-year sentence. He has served nearly three years of the sentence.

The state Supreme Court said Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.

Let’s be clear from the outset — I hold no brief for Bill Cosby. Based on the available evidence, he’s a flat-out monster and richly deserved punishment for his misdeeds. I do hold a brief for due process, however, and there’s no question his prosecution was a violation of his rights. The right against self-incrimination is of paramount importance. All things being equal, I would rather not see Bill Cosby’s face in the future, once we get past this round of media attention.

So yeah, Bill Cosby as he is now carries little value, but what about Bill Cosby as he once was? He was one of the best comedians of the previous century, arriving on the scene around 1960, the same time as Bob Newhart (beloved), Jonathan Winters (much missed), Don Rickles (“problematic”), and Woody Allen (reviled, mostly on merit). Cosby first became famous for his “Noah” bit, which is still hilarious nearly 60 years on:

God: (standing on a chair behind Noah, he rings a bell once) NOAH.

Noah: (Looks up) Is someone calling me? (Shrugs and goes back to his work)

God: (Ding) NOAH!!

Noah: Who is that?

God: It’s the Lord, Noah.

Noah: Right … Where are ya? What do ya want? I’ve been good.

God: I want you to build an ark.

Noah: Right … What’s an ark?

God: Get some wood and build it 300 cubits by 80 cubits by 40 cubits.

Noah: Right … What’s a cubit?

I wouldn’t want to see Noah’s Menard’s bill — that much is certain.

Between the Noah bit, his Fat Albert routines, and the decade-long kids show based on those routines that was a staple of my childhood, Cosby was ubiquitous even before his 1980s era sitcom ruled the airwaves. He was America’s Dad. It was all a lie, yes — he is also a sexual predator and a hypocrite of the first order, but he was a wonderful interpreter of the human condition. What do we do with useful monsters? It’s a conversation worth having.