Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Potpourri

We had a wonderful day here on the farm yesterday enjoying the first snowfall of the year. We had expected it to start overnight Friday, but it really didn't begin until late in the morning Saturday. Weekend snow--in manageable amounts--is the best snow of all. If you aren't planning on going anywhere to begin with, you don't have to worry about driving in it, and all things considered, it is likely to not be an issue anymore on Monday morning. And so, I just enjoyed watching it all day, except of course when I laid down to nap through a chunk of it.

The Kitten had a stroke of genius and suggested we have one of her specialties for dinner, a concoction that essentially mixes instant rice, fresh mushrooms, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup, and chicken thighs into a large pan. One dish, easy-peasy. I consider this approach to chicken to be among the best "comfort food" approaches known to man, although the carbs bound up in the rice is definitely a drawback. Sacrifices must be made however.

Hero status was attained Friday when the Kitten asked me to join her at a local antiques purveyor to look at a table for our combination library/dining room. We've had a small round table in it for a few years, but special occasion dinners around it are invariably crowded affairs. She showed me photos the table on Thursday night and I basically said, "you have the style and taste of this partnership, if you think it is right, get it." But she wanted me to be in on the deal, so I met her Friday afternoon. It was instantly apparent that the table was perfect for the space, and I told her so. She asked, "should we get it?" and I said yes. So she looked at the guy running the place and said, "we'll take it"--and I said "Merry Christmas" and paid for it. She was ecstatic, as was I. My present buying for her year in and year out is lame, so getting something she was really excited about caused me a great deal of happiness.

It is a working Sunday (save of course, for the fooling around I do like writing blog posts), and I'm in the ManCave banging away on a lot of important stuff. Unlike many people, my December and January are always jam-packed, and the pace quickens considerably. There are a stack of as-yet unwritten Christmas cards staring me in the face, but I hope to have them on the way by the end of the week.

I see in the news this morning that Secretary Tillerson is saying that the US Embassy in Israel will not move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. Shocking, huh? Although I am a big fan of the President's full throated endorsement of the move, we've seen this kind of bait and switch from him before--where he attempts to leverage the goodness of a policy move without actually making the policy move. We'll have to wait and see whether this promise goes into the file with "the Wall" and DACA. There are important reasons that the actual Embassy could take a while to move, but the Embassy maintains consular offices in Jerusalem into which the Ambassador and several staff could move easily if this were really a priority.

Interesting kerfuffle in the news yesterday, in which Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel posted a Tweet reported to show crowd scenes at President Trump's rally on Friday night, making the point that they were a good bit less than the President had been crowing about. Weigel's Tweet however, used photos from earlier in the evening, when the crowd had not yet fully entered the venue. Trump called him on it, Weigel then deleted the Tweet and apologized. This of course, was not enough for the President who then called for Weigel's firing.

Weigel and Trump fighting is a lot like the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980's. It's too bad both can't lose. Weigel is a reliable lefty whose true leanings were outed in the "Journolist" pro-Obama throne-sniffing story of 2010,  And of course, Trump is the pathological liar we elected President. It is clear to me that much of the press has it out for the President, and they are ready to move more quickly than usual with stories or opinions if they make the President look bad. When they make mistakes, it not only makes the press look bad, but it feeds into the President's "fake news" narrative that nourishes the habits of his followers like the oxycontin on their nightstands.

It boggles my mind that the press isn't more careful--the Weigel story coming quickly on the heels of the Brian Ross fiasco of earlier in the week--but what REALLY boggles my mind is the notion that the Press is held to a standard of truth-telling perfection (which as a standard, I am fine with), but that the President of the United States and his band of taxpayer compensated sycophants--can lie with impunity night in and night out. In other words, our elected President--who we all know is a serial liar--gets a pass. But the press? They must be perfect. This is insanity. Both must be held to the highest standards, but high standards and consistency in their application isn't a big strength of Republicans these days.

On a lighter note, here is "Good King Wenceslas"

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Kudos, hosannas, and praise be unto President Trump for his announcement today that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. It is long past time that this recognition occurs.

For the moment, the American Embassy remains in Tel Aviv. The President has directed "...the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem", which could in actuality, mean a slow roll with respect to actually implementing this change. Which would of course, be quite Trumpian.

It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I have a feeling it is going to be a bloody Christmas in the Holy Land. I don't think this will (in the short run) be a good thing for the Middle East. But in the long run, buttressing support for our closest ally in the region (Israel) could have the impact of convincing recalcitrant parties in regional peace talks that they won't be able to run out the clock on the US/Israel relationship, and that the Jews are in Jerusalem for the distance.

Trump, Moore, Bannon, Romney and the Death of the GOP

The eventual destruction of the GOP was set in motion on the day Donald Trump locked up the nomination. Had he lost the general election, there would have been an all-out political civil war in the party. But he did not lose, and so the death of the GOP is now an inside job, perpetrated by a man nominally at its head (Trump), who has never had any loyalty to it and who unabashedly threatened to destroy it himself. 

This political suicide is on display everywhere, but no more so than in the State of Alabama, where yet another creature from under a rock (Roy Moore)  is rising to political prominence on the strength of immoral evangelicals for whom child molestation is now a trifle, and Trumpists who revel in the agitation of their political enemies. Alabama voters may elect a man to the Senate who may more properly be denied the vote, had his felonious behavior been unearthed earlier, in order to support "the President's agenda" which included a tax cut that will benefit those voters very little if at all, while offering great bennies to those fat-cats they claim to disdain.

Homeless man in Alabama 

No stranger to sexual assault and moral turpitude, the President has come out in full-throated support of the Dirty Old Man of Alabama, and he has loosed the Grima Wormtongue of the Alt-Right (Steve Bannon) to whip the Trumpenproletariat into a solid frenzy before next week's election. Bannon delivered what the masses wanted, a stemwinder in favor of Moore that had the doubly illogical (and so therefore perfect for Trump Nation) effect of favorably comparing the "honor and integrity" of a child molester to Mitt F*****G Romney, while attacking Romney on religious grounds, saying "You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity."  Apparently, the low-information voters cheering Bannon on were unaware of Bannon's liege-lord's four Vietnam deferments for "bone spurs in the foot", but never mind that, we're Making America Great Again.

The Trump Fan Club President from Ticbite, N.C. writes in, asking "Why? Why is this happening? Why is lawlessness being tolerated? The obvious answer is Trump, but has he been that bad? Forget the Tweets for a second (I like the Tweets myself, direct pipeline to America don't you know). What policies can a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Trumper, that claims to be a REAL conservative, what policies can one point to that suggests Trump is unfit? What has he done that any good Bushy Republican finds so egregious?" 

It is unclear which lawlessness this reader references--is it the child molestation of the GOP senatorial candidate from Alabama? Or the admission of sexual assault by the GOP presidential candidate from New York? Or is it the admissions of guilt by several officials of the Trump Campaign and Administration? Oh wait--it is the lawlessness of a broken and dispatched has-been politician who lost the Presidential election. Never mind that there is an active investigation into the unprecedented degree of coziness between the Trump team and Russia, including figures from Russian organized crime and Russian intelligence (but I repeat myself). No, we should forget about that and spend our time worrying about prosecuting a private citizen who is no longer a political threat to anyone.

The GOP was once a party that stood for something. It was once a conservative party. Conservatism--properly understood, has no place for the moral and ethical flexibility of this bunch. Have a read here from a column Jonah Goldberg wrote a couple of years ago, if you want to understand what being a conservative means--or at least means to me.

What my correspondent from Ticbite doesn't get, is that to the extent that Trump has had ANYTHING even remotely resembling policy victories, they were on straight stick greatest hits of the conservative movement, delivered to him by the very "cucks" that they excoriate. If he or any Trumpkin believe that Donald Trump is uniquely about conservative judges, deregulation, or tax cuts--they are even lower information than I thought. I have no argument with these things, and I repeat this fact here and elsewhere for all to hear. It is the man, his behavior, his immaturity, his lack of character, the damage he is doing to our country--that I argue with and for which I find him unfit. We could have had these policy victories without the embarrassing daily shitshow of the Trump Administration, and we could have had these policy victories without the destruction of the Republican Party. But America wanted its temper tantrum, and we now will reap the whirlwind.

Virginia Basketball Screed

Last night left me boiling mad. The #15 UVA Men's Basketball team went to Morgantown to play the #18 WVU Mountaineers. Virginia lost 68-61. I broke my Twitter blackout and monitored the game while watching it on television. I did not Tweet any of my own thoughts, as that violates the spirit of the blackout--and so I have a thousand things I need to get off my chest.

First, UVA has had remarkable success under Coach Tony Bennett, and I am glad that he is there. But man, does he make me sometimes. Mad you say? How can the most mild-mannered coach in college basketball make you mad, Bryan? Is this a personal issue?

He makes me mad because everyone in the known universe knew that West Virginia was going to full-court press us last night. Everyone. Why? Because that's what West Virginia does. To everyone. And Virginia simply wasn't ready for it. UVA's guards -- Kyle Guy and especially Ty Jerome -- simply could not handle the pressure. But this is not out of the ordinary--the most effective way to beat a Tony Bennett coached team historically -- even the very good ones -- is to press them. The unbelievable fold in the Elite 8 a few years ago to Syracuse is the bleeding sore of this type of game, but last night was right up there. As was last year's loss to WVU in Charlottesville. And two losses in the tournament to Michigan State.

Ty Jerome is not a point guard. He is a spot up shooter, just not as good of one as Kyle Guy. Jerome's ball handling is sloppy, and his passing is lazy. Maybe he'll improve, but he's simply not a floor general.

I'm not at all sure what Jack Salt is doing on the floor. I keep hearing that his defense justifies his utter lack of any offensive output, but I just don't buy it. Diakate should be starting, and Jay Huff needs to get some minutes--especially when offense is needed. The word on Huff is that his defense is suspect, but my God, we need some scoring.

But here's the thing that has me maddest. I follow a lot of folks interested in UVA Basketball in my Twitter feed, and an overwhelming majority of them seem to treat the team and its players like they are a bunch of adolescents who must be coddled. Many hide behind a veil of anonymity, yet STILL comment like they are part of the obsequious press corps that covers the team. Listen to a UVA post-game someday, and you'll hear little in the way of tough questions for the Coach, mostly it seems out of a fear that he'll cut off access if they get too uppity. That this applies to FANS boggles my mind. There is this silly code of Omerta among the UVA followers that you can't criticize the team or the coach, that these are "kids", that all will always work out fine, that every loss is a learning experience, yada, yada, yada. Bullshit. This is pro-basketball's farm system, and pointing out obvious criticisms is not disloyal.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ode to Joy

I have recovered from the grievous lip wound suffered before Thanksgiving and express my joy here accordingly.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Potpourri

It is Sunday morning in beautiful Southern California and I am to spend my day in airborne metal tubes. This was a poorly planned trip, as I should have booked a redeye last night, and instead, I paid for another night's lodging a will burn all day in the air.

Readership of the blog has plummeted since I dropped off Twitter and Facebook for the second half of the Christmas Season (Thanksgiving through Christmas). I use those two platforms to point people here, and without them, a small band of dedicated readers soldier on. I thank you for it.  When I eventually return to social media, I think it will be on a more limited basis, but definitely will use it to flack this site.

I've discovered something much of America has already known about, and that is the Netflix series "Stranger Things".  I took in season 1 over the past few days, and began season 2 last night. Set in the early 80's, the series is centered around the activities of four 11 or 12 year old boys. Not that this is a kid's series--it's just that the kids are the discovery vehicles used to enter this incredible world of horror and the paranormal. Additionally, the kids are damn likable. I recommend adding it to your holiday binge watching plans.

I attended the Reagan National Defense Forum yesterday, and came away more convinced than ever that the great military buildup promised by candidate Trump was then a fiction, and remains one today. Essentially a wallow of the right of center national security community, there was the constant refrain that the sequester was evil and that more needs to be spent on defense. A dose of reality was added by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) who essentially put it this way---there is broad consensus that we (Americans) want lower taxes, a stronger military and no cuts to programs we like. This is simply an unworkable situation, and without leadership, nothing will get done. Now that tax reform is done, you're going to start to see a lot more about the coming government shut-down. And it is coming--the question will be how long it goes for. The Trumpenproletariat assures us their Lord and Master was elected to make great deals AND that he won't give in to the Democrats. In our system of government, pulling something like this off is a neat trick, and virtually impossible.

Speaking of tax reform, the Senate passed its version late Friday night and now the two bills will go to conference. It seems almost certain that there will be tax reform/cuts before the year's end, and I am pleased with it. I am also pleased with the fact that once again, Donald Trump has to bow to globalist, cuck, eGOP, establishment RINOs like Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan for any credit he gets here. Both have come under withering criticism from the Staatsmedien including Fox News and Breitbart, and collectively were put forward as the poster boys for the failure of the GOP to deliver on promises in the past. Never mind that there was a Democrat President for 8 years--civics not being a particular interest of TrumpNation--but there is an uncomfortable truth to the fact that the only two things Trump has accomplished of lasting note were directly attributable to the skill of Mitch McConnell (judges and taxes). But go ahead, tell me again how Trump is the answer to all our problems.

Perhaps a little more later, but for now, I have to get myself off to the airport. Be well. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

On the Road Again

It is 0625 in the morning here in Westlake Village, CA, and despite my best efforts, my body clings to Eastern time. When I woke with a start two hours ago, I tried to roll over and carry on, but ten thousand thoughts crept into my mind ("hey, you've really fallen behind on the blogging") and so I've been up and working.

I am here as I have been three years previously around this time to attend the Reagan National Defense Forum held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. It is worth it to click the link and check out the agenda to get a sense of how interesting this event promises to be. At tonight's reception and tomorrow's event, the glittering stars of wonky defense Washington come here and drink each other's bath water. Last year I attended--like most others--in somewhat of a state of shock at what had happened in the election, and this (generally) right of center group met without a clue in the world at what lay ahead for the country. Trump administration folks litter the attendee and speaker list for this event, and it will be nice to finally put faces with names of people who I had generally never heard of before their nominations to office.

I flew out here on Southwest through Phoenix, with both flights on time, and full. I continue to believe there is rampant abuse of wheelchair-conveyed early boarding privileges, but of course, exposing it would be worse than the crime. And so on a flight of less than 130 seats, I watched 9 people pushed down the runway and early seated. What I found interesting was that when I exited the plane, their immobility had generally not impeded their early EXIT from the therefrom. Astonishing.

My self-imposed exile from Twitter and Facebook between Thanksgiving and Christmas continues. When I read my feed on Twitter-fed Nuzzel (which delivers to me the things people I follow link to--so I get the news/features I want without all the opinion/silliness--and when multiple people link to the same thing, they are simply aggregated under the same link--rather than a new story being posted) I often find myself impulsively thinking about a snarky or clever response, but then realize I am prohibited from doing so.

This new method of getting news created interesting fallout the other day. As I read my Nuzzel feed, I saw a story (with lots of people having tweeted about it) that said at a White House event honoring the Navajo Code-Talkers, the President had referred again to Senator Warren as "Pocahontas" . I read the story and thought to myself two things. First, that this man is such a tool. Second, that it is still pretty funny. That's it. I heard and processed the news. I rendered an internal opinion, and then I moved on to the next story. Had I been active on Twitter that day, I would have read hundreds of tweets echoing and magnifying and amplifying every side of this event. I would have read those who mocked the mocking. I would have read those who thought Warren deserves it. I would have read those who believe the President is an idiot. I would have read those who think he is a genius. But essentially--I would have gained zero additional useful information or news. I had an epiphany at that moment. This is how normal people (those not Twitter addicted) live their lives. They watch the news on TV or they read content on the web, they form an opinion on it, and then they go walk the dog. I need to be more of a normal person. This Twitter exile is helping with that.

Republicans Inch Closer to a Tax Deal

As a conservative and a former Republican, tax reform and tax cuts are close to my heart, and the sight of the GOP "Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight" inching their way toward a bill that cuts taxes and (modestly) reforms them is a good thing. Let's be honest--if a GOP Congress couldn't get a tax cut done, it might as well fold. Reforming the tax code is harder than cutting taxes, but there is a little of that here too.

There is a lot to like in this bill. Lowering corporate rates is a pro-growth initiative. Eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes appeals to me as a limited government man (although it will likely hurt my bottom line); perhaps because the true costs of lavish government spending in blue states will now be known to the taxpayer, there will be some downward pressure on them.

Limiting/restricting the mortgage interest deduction also strikes me as common sense. I am however, not sure there has been sufficient attention paid to what the double whammy of eliminating property tax deductions and limiting the mortgage deduction will have on the real estate market. The financial crisis of 2008 was mainly a crisis caused in the housing market--and one wonders what will happen to a market like the one in California as a result of these changes.

What is this tax reform NOT? It is not aimed in any way, shape, or form at making the lives of the famous "Trump Voters" better. Are we really to believe that the temper tantrum voters of PA/OH/MI/WI peering at the news over their Millers are rising in praise of the corporate tax cut from 35% to 20%? When those with a few children realize that the doubling of the standard deduction is essentially zeroed out by the elimination of personal exemptions--and their taxes rise as a result--who will they then turn to?

Globalist cuck Marco Rubio tried to address the pro-business/anti-family nature of the bill with an amendment that reorders priorities in this bill be cutting the corporate tax rate to 22% (from 35% instead of down to 20%), and then doubling the child credit to $2000.  "Rubio's amendment(s) makes the credit more defensibly refundable by tying it to the payroll tax, removing the marriage penalty in the credit's phaseout, and indexing the credit to inflation".   The previous quote comes from a Forbes hit piece on the amendment that looks like it was written by the two rich brothers in "Trading Places". The President is apparently fixated on the 20% number and is unwilling to budge, creating a situation in which an already gigantic decrease in corporate taxes rises as a priority over a REAL tax cut for middle class working families.

Finally--the GOP has been in power in both political branches for nearly a year--and their signature achievement if it comes to pass--will be to add $1.5T to the national debt. Where is ANY talk of cutting spending in this White House and this Congress?  No one should be surprised that a guy who milked the credit markets through four bankruptcies as a private citizen is unconcerned with running up the credit card bill in office.

Bottom line here: these initiatives are better than nothing, and good in some places. But for this bill to be in any way worthy of the disruption, chaos, and embarrassment of the election of Donald Trump as President, it should have at the very least addressed the dinner table issues of the people whose uncontrolled anger put him in office. It does not do this.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What Ornament Got Left Off the Tree This Year?

Why this one, of course.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Dip of the Toe in the Black Friday Phenomenon

There has been little more worthy of scorn than the disgusting phenomenon of Black Friday shopping. The scenes of riotous flatscreen hopefuls grabbing at each other's entrails in hopes of an additional 30% off have served to inoculate me from the madness. Additionally, I tend to view those who do join these mobs with circumspection, even beloved family members. As of today, I have joined their ranks. Here is my story.

I woke early today, about 0645, wide awake and jonesing for a cup of coffee. I  fed the beasts and sat down with my smartphone by the fire, a device newly shorn of the Twitter and Facebook apps in support of my plan to back away from them for the rest of the Christmas season. The problem in doing so, is that my main source of news--Twitter--is now not available. Now I know, Twitter is a forum for showing off, but it is also an incredibly efficient source of news. I follow a ton of news organizations and political commentators, and they link to numerous interesting news stories and analysis. Without Twitter, I have to use other ways to get news--major news websites (NYT, WaPost), commentary sites (NR, Weekly Standard, commentary) and headlines (AP)--all of which do a good job, but a hell of a lot less efficiently than Twitter.

Enter "Nuzzel". Nuzzel is a fascinating app that links to your Twitter account, and then mines the feeds of everyone you follow, pulling out what THEY have linked to, and then supplying only the linked to stories to you (me) prioritized by how many of them have tweeted about the story or linked to it. Essentially, you get a curated news service courtesy of the people you follow on Twitter. Said another way, you get the good, non-addictive part of twitter (News) without the showing off and the bullshit.

So there I was this morning in front of the fire at 0745, having thoroughly updated myself on the news of the world overnight, with everyone else in my house asleep, for hours at least. I determined yesterday that I would not do any "real" work today, I have prohibited myself from social media (which I could then spend hours wasting time on), and I wasn't all that thrilled to go read the book I'm halfway through on.

I opened an email from Joseph A. Banks telling me about their Black Friday Sale. And then I saw that Joe opened at 0800. And there is a Joe Banks here in Easton. And I want a new suit (Blue windowpane, flat-front trousers, cuffed). And this is how I joined the Black Friday madness.

Driving there, I steeled myself for the experience. Insufficient staff. Lines. Rudeness. Lines. Maybe bait and switch. Lines.

I arrived at 0815, and there was a single employee in the store. I was the sole customer. I left in less than thirty minutes with two pairs of pants and a suit (ordered). 

How bout that?

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