Sunday, March 18, 2018

In Which I Confront UVA's Latest Epic Collapse

I'm not sure I'm completely ready to do this yet, the agony having only occurred a day and a half ago. Avoiding most media yesterday was helpful, as was spending the day with a good book. The Kitten and I had a wonderful dinner in St. Michaels last night, and then a quiet evening watching Netflix re-runs of "Cheers", a show that coincided with my college years and the first four in the Navy, a time where TV watching wasn't high on my list. I have not watched a single second of basketball since the loss, and I suppose that might be the case for the remainder of the tournament.

The loss to UMBC the other night was devastating. Putting aside the fact that #1 seeds had been 135-0 before the game, the character of the loss should be remembered. We were horsewhipped. And worse, the UVA tournament choking narrative received a colossal shot of energy, just when it looked as if there were finally a group of players who could put it to bed.

I have been a UVA basketball fan for 37 years; Ralph Sampson's 3rd and 4th years there mapped with my junior and senior years in high school, and exposure to that phenomenon brought UVA onto my radar screen which led to my application. These earlier salad days of UVA hoops--it must be remembered--included 0 ACC titles and 0 NCAA titles. Riding on the back of the three-time college player of the year, the best UVA could do was one Final Four appearance. My first year there (Ralph's first in the NBA) brought a Cinderella performance in the tournament leading to the Final Four. But most of the 37 years have been frustrating. Solid, but frustrating.

Then came Coach Tony Bennett in 2009, and since the 2011 season, UVA has steadily emerged as an ACC powerhouse, with six NCAA appearances and 3 ACC regular season titles, two of which also included ACC tournament victories.  But success in the NCAA tournament has proven elusive for Bennett's teams. Actually, that's not a comprehensive way to describe it. Bennett's teams have under-performed in the NCAA Tournament, so much so that a narrative has emerged in the college basketball world. And that narrative is that UVA simply cannot get it done in the Tournament. Worse--they choke there. I won't recount the past wounds, the present one occupying such a prominent place in the pit of my stomach. But Google it.

This narrative would be bad enough to deal with if Virginia played like other teams. But it doesn't. It plays a unique style of basketball that thrills its adherents (including me, mostly), frustrates its opponents, and for much of the Bennett era--bores the basketball writers to the extent that many openly criticize UVA's approach as "bad for bastketball". When UVA has lost in the NCAA's, these writers cluck and tut in a "we told you so manner" while teams UVA beat earlier in the season (UNC, Duke, Villanova) go on to win national titles. Am I painting a picture yet of the frustration?

This year seemed different. First of all, no one expected UVA to be very good. We lost our leading scorer, three guys transferred, and not one of the starting five scored in double figures last year. Writers picked us to finish 6th in the ACC, and based on what the five in front of them were bringing back from last year, I couldn't argue with them.

But then the games began, and Virginia began to build momentum. The first big win was over Carolina at home, and then we went to Duke and beat them there. As time went on, writers began to publicly acknowledge their mistake in overlooking UVA, and the team earned greater respect. But always....always....there was the narrative. They'll choke at the big dance. They can't score fast enough to beat a hot shooting team. Everyone plays high-level defense during the tournament. Perhaps worst of all--this narrative was my own head.

When they became the #1 team in the country after terrible, flat loss to Virginia Tech (game film of which surely was consumed by the UMBC coaching staff who essentially mimicked the gameplan), I scratched my head--but then again, the other possible #1's had bad weekends too. They stayed there for a month and then dominated the ACC tournament. This team looked like it was the one to finally break the narrative. And then began the unraveling, in a manner familiar to UVA fans who've seen late season injury and illness (Justin Anderson, Isiah Wilkins) before.

ACC Sixth Man of the Year and likely someday NBA first rounder De'Andre Hunter broke his wrist in the ACC Tournament, and the announcement was received by UVA fans with a collective gasp of horror. The narrative....the curse.....was alive. At least it felt that way. Sure, some did a good job of trying to mathematically prove how we could still score and defend enough to make a deep run....but I think deep in the heart of all but the most over-the-top Homers--there it was. We were snakebit.

Not that this meant what happened Friday night. I suppose many of us thought that were we to lose, it would be in the round of 16 or the round of 8--a game effort without the "glue guy" who really helped us to the 31-2 record. But Friday night. Friday night was different. It is a nasty gaping wound in the collective psyche of UVA basketball fans. Not getting to the Final Four in 2018 can fairly be attributed to the loss of a key part of the team. Losing to a 16 seed in the first round cannot. So then--what can it be attributed to? What can account for this team's recent gaudy runs through league play only to lose frustratingly in the NCAA's?

Coaching. I'm sorry, but there it is. Coaching. Preparation. "The System".

Let's get a few things out of the way. I love Coach Tony Bennett. I think he is a very, very good basketball coach. He is also--from all accounts--a superb human being. UVA fans are fortunate to have him, and I wouldn't trade him for any other coach in the country. We are consistently winning in the best league in the country with a clean program and guys who graduate.

But--and here is the big finish--you cannot logically and coherently attribute UVA's regular season and ACC tournament success since 2011 to the creation and sustainment of a "system" and then look the other way when the team consistently under-performs in the NCAA tournament. Pointing this out DOES NOT MEAN THAT TONY BENNETT ISN'T A GREAT COACH OF THAT I WANT ANYONE ELSE TO BE OUR COACH. It simply means that for this program to reach the next level, the coach and the system are going to have to improve, to change. Do I know what that means in implementation? No. Of course not. I'm a fan, not a coach. After the game, Bennett said of UMBC that they ran an offense against which UVA has been susceptible this year. Ok--then don't be susceptible.

Writer John Feinstein had two Tweets this morning that speak directly to what I am writing here, so I'll include both so that I can respond.

And then,

My point here is that if anyone believes Coaches Smith, K, and Wooden DID NOT MAKE CHANGES or improve as system architects over those years--they are kidding themselves. We can--as fans--simultaneously hold in our minds the two separate ideas: that we are fortunate to have Bennett as our coach AND that there is some serious work to be done by the coach for the team to reach the next level and for him to be considered in the class of the coaches just named. 


Monday, March 12, 2018

My Trip to the ACC Tournament

As some of you know, I attended the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn last week, arriving home yesterday afternoon after a triumphant performance by my beloved Wahoos, who capped off a 17-1 romp through the league schedule (9-0 away from home) with a victory over the UNC Tar Heels in the tournament final. This was the first time I attended the ACC Tournament since I was in college (1983-87) and to be honest, while the location was convenient (I had driven up to Newport RI for business, and so I had to drive south to get home), I had some trepidation about holding the tournament there. My trepidation was unwarranted.

I stayed at a fantastic little hotel about a fifteen minute walk from Barclay's Center in Park Slope called Hotel Le Bleu. I was joined by my homie Jeff Stewart, the fellow who wore the Cavalier mascot suit when we were in college. Jeff was there as part of an extended group of other folks--mostly from Savannah GA--who were associated with another friend of ours--Tad Sanders. This Savannah group of about 20 was comprised of a bunch of folks who attended the ACC tournament every year, following their various favorites. There were Tar Heels, Demon Deacons, Wahoos, Tigers, members of the Wolfpack, and others in the group, but thankfully no Blue Devils.

The expansion of the ACC over the years to bring in teams from North of the Mason/Dixon line was something I did not care for. Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, and Notre Dame belong in other conferences, but my vote was not counted and so we have this monstrously geographically dispersed group of schools from Miami to Boston to near the southern border of Michigan. This larger group of schools appears to have driven league Brahmin to sign a contract to bring the ACC Basketball Tournament to Brooklyn last year and this year (it is in Charlotte next year, which makes sense to me). What interested me the most about the location was how utterly it swallowed up the event. When the tourney is held in Greensboro, NC, the whole city pretty much stops for it. Not so in New York. In fact, while the ACC held their tournament in Brooklyn, the Big East was holding theirs at the Garden. You could walk around Brooklyn and not know there was an ACC tournament going on, save for the old white people in their college hats and sweatshirts.

Park Slope is Ground Zero for Hipsterism, at least that is what I have read for a few years. When I realized that my hotel was in this neighborhood, the Jane Goodall in me was excited at the prospect of observing Hipsters in their natural habitat. Images of ridiculous beards, craft beers, and flannel shirts danced in my mind. The truth was--perhaps predictably--somewhat different. I found the area delightful, full of awesome little restaurants and bars. It was young--there's no doubt about that--but there were a ton of young families out walking around, kids playing in the parks I saw as I walked here and there, and tiny little two-wheeled bicycles stored on tight balconies everywhere. I got a superb Italian meal, great Bar-B-Q, and the best Chinese dumplings I've ever tasted. The people I met were unfailingly polite, and if it weren't so damn cold, I'd have spent more time outdoors.

Barclay's Center is a great place to watch basketball. UVA's first game was the first of four games played on Thursday; Jeffrey and I watched us beat Louisville, then watched Clemson beat BC and Duke beat ND. The final game of the day (UNC v Miami) started after nine, and as I had gotten up at 0400 to make my way to Brooklyn, I decided to go to my hotel to watch it (or at least half of it) in bed.

The semi's on Friday night had UVA v. Clemson and the classic UNC v. Duke matchup. We dispatched Clemson with a workman like effort leading almost the whole game, and then UNC took Duke out in the nightcap. I was hoping UNC would win--I'm a longtime UNC fan, I hate Duke with the heat of 10,000 Suns, and I think UVA matches up with them less well than they do with UNC. The final on Saturday night validated my suspicions, as the Wahoos held off UNC in a good game to watch.

So now I find myself following a team that won the toughest league in America that finished the season with half the number of losses of the next best teams (351 teams in D1 ball, 350 of them had four or more losses. UVA had 2). They are the #1 seed in the South Regional, the #1 seed overall, and are being mentioned as a Final Four team, although it seems that most analysts continue to resist making them the favorite to win. I understand their reticence--it is hard for me to process that they are this good, but the bottom line is the bottom line. They have been dominant this year, they play stifling defense and are a very efficient offensive team.

I won't be able to attend the first and second rounds in Charlotte, but if the Hoos win their first two, I'll be in Atlanta for the Regionals and if they get to the final four in San Antonio--I'll be there too. This has been a magical year thus far, and I'm gonna try to be a tiny little part of as much of it as I can.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Conservative Wahoo Bracket Challenge 2018

Hey folks--  go over to:

And join my bracket challenge. First prize? Adulation and esteem.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

I am not a fan of the month of March, outside of the greatness of college basketball. There are no good holidays (St. Patricks Day is not a holiday), the weather absolutely blows, and I spend a good deal of time thinking about sitting down to do my taxes. Did I mention the weather absolutely blows? I've had enough of winter by now, and March likes to finish things off with (as my friend Kurt Schick wrote in college) "A Case of the Winds". A big blow has lurked off the coast for days now, and it finally seems to be abating. Cold plus wind equals misery. Additionally, my travel schedule this week takes me North (Newport RI, Brooklyn NY), which only compounds the weather misery. As a younger man, I prattled on about defined seasons and crisp winter air. Now I just want a condo in Boca.

Returning to the month of March, a few words about college basketball, specifically, my beloved Wahoos.  There is a lot of talk this year about there being no "great teams" in the game, mostly because Duke, UNC, Kansas, Arizona, Michigan State, and Villanova--have dropped games during the season that those in know think they should have won. Yet my Hoos just finished a 28-2 regular season with a 17-1 record in the ACC, which is generally considered to be a very talented group of basketball teams. They've been #1 for (what tomorrow will be) four straight polls. They have 10 wins over KenPom Top 50 Teams. Their average margin of victory is nearly 15 pts per game, while scoring only 67.5 ppg.

At the start of the season, they were not ranked in the Top 25 and they were picked by ACC sports writers to finish 6 or 7 in the ACC, a league they won by 4 games.

As I said, I have some travel this week, and one of the places I'll be is in Brooklyn NY at noon Thursday to watch the Hoos in their first ACC tournament game. And each game in the tournament after that. I'm trying to adjust my March/April schedule in a manner that leaves me the option of GOING TO as many NCAA Tournament games as I can. I'm gonna roll with this team as long as they'll have me this year. Enough hoops.

I'm enjoying watching America spin up over the President's plan to raise tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, especially those "Trump Whisperers" within the Republican Party whose self-appointed job is to translate Trumpian glandularism for the rest of us--and who for two years now have tried to tell us that he is a free-trader and not a protectionist. This has of course, been bullshit all along, and now we have irrefutable evidence of it. You can't be a "free-trader" and then impose blanket tariffs on an import IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT COUNTRY PRODUCES IT.  I keep waiting for the "this is the last straw" moment to hit Republican apologists who used to know better--and perhaps this is the moment.

I've begun reading again. I mean serious, habitual reading. I've become concerned about the loss of long-term focus that comes from smartphone addiction/use, and so I've banned the phone from my bedroom and kitchen (where important people I should be communicating with seem to be) and I've made a point of sitting down and reading again. I remember twenty years ago being able to veg on the couch for 12 hours reading a book without much other than an occasional break. I fear that skill has declined, and so I'm trying to recapture it. I've dispatched American Warlords and Leonardo da Vinci in the past week, and I think I'll turn my attention on another biography of US Grant later today.

Have a good week.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Guns and Trade: My Trump Schadenfreude Runneth Over

It has been a while since I last posted here at the Wahoo, a time in which I've been devoting a good bit of personal energy to breaking up with my phone and reducing social media. Yesterday dealt an epic blow to those efforts--mostly due to a UVA basketball created Twitter activity associated with last-night's epic comeback against Louisville (in Louisville). Truth be told--I lost faith in my Hoos and I am ashamed of myself, especially after the gutsy comeback. But that is grist for another piece. And while I'm here to engage in self aggrandizing schadenfreude, it is not about UVA Basketball, but about our ridiculous President.

There has been an incredible amount of on the fly revisionism within the Republican Party as President Trump has lurched from one glandular impulse to another in office. We are told not to worry about what he says, but to watch what he does--an interesting line from a Party for whom prudence, judgment, and morality once made a difference. We are advised to be happy because of inspired judicial picks and because of (necessary) deregulation. We are told to admire the strength of the men he has surrounded himself with on national security matters without a hint of irony at the threats to our national security from this man's impulses that make their service essential. Mostly, we are assured by self-appointed Trump Whisperers that this is actually just a very bland middle of the road Republican Administration -- when one chooses to ignore the Clockwork Orange circus that has pitched its tent on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many us who lived our lives as bland, middle of the road Republicans viewed the candidacy of Donald Trump with great suspicion. He wasn't one of us. He had the impulses of a Queens social climber attempting to curry favor with his betters on the Upper West Side. He spent most of his life as an urbanist, anti-gun, pro-choice, isolationist, protectionist, big government Democrat who thought that because he waded through construction site lunch gatherings now and then, he was a man attuned to the "little guy". And to the extent that these little guys were the foot soldiers of  organized crime influenced construction unions with whom he was cozy, I suppose he could make such a claim.

But--our country--in a generalized snit of self-pity--elected this man at the head of one of its great (and formerly conservative) political parties, President of the United States. There was no mystery as to who he was--some loved it, and some hated his opponent so much that they felt they had to vote for him. But to the extent that he actually believed in anything, those beliefs were of a man of the center left. And so--we come to the events of this last week.

We are presented with a man who has no respect for the Constitution--whether one ponders its amendment protecting the right to bear arms or its protections of due process. His preference for restrictions on speech already well-known, we are left with a man un-dedicated to the document he swore to defend.

Moving on now to trade policy, he has the instincts of George Meany, or any other socialist/labor union organizer of fifty years ago--and his grandstanding ridiculosity on steel and aluminum tariffs reinforce this. Free trading people on the right must reject this, as they must reject the stupidity of the "he's a free trader, but it has to be fair trade" crowd.  Ben Shapiro has had a few tweets today that I find worth reviewing:

I sit here this morning typing this post two years to the day after which Eliot Cohen and I published our "Open Letter on Trump from GOP National Security Leaders" in which we sought to point out to anyone interested the utter unfitness for office of Donald Trump. As I read through it again, I find myself utterly satisfied that we measured the man appropriately. Sleep well, America.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Hoax That Wasn't

News yesterday of indictments handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against 13 Russians involved in various crimes against our republic serve as a not-so-gentle-reminder of the serial dishonesty, moral turpitude, and lack of fitness of the current occupant of the White House. 

Having declared dozens of times since his election that charges of Russian meddling were a "hoax" and along the way, trashing the reputations of several patriotic Americans, his own appointees, and the entire intelligence community of the United States, the President is revealed once again to simply have no ability to process and distribute information reasonable people can consider to be true. He long ago surrendered the high ground on this issue, one that would have allowed him to state that while Hillary Clinton's flawed campaign was the reason she lost the election, Russia's interference was both obvious and unacceptable, and that he was determined to see that it never happens again. Lending further evidence to his utter inability to see the threat from Russia,  a remarkable series of statements before a Senate panel last week, the six heads of America's various intelligence agencies ALL testified that they had not received any explicit direction from the President to guard against Russian meddling in the 2018 election.

I don't know where the Mueller investigation will ultimately lead. Were these indictments part of a grander roll-up that will ultimately lead to evidence of conspiracy? Or were they the end of the line, evidence only of Russian-sponsored mayhem without any connection to the candidate? Neither conclusion can be reached from the information in the 37 page indictment . I urge you to read the indictment, and then look back in time to your social media activities during the election and consider how similar some of the statements and activities were to things people you know were passing along.

I continue to believe that if the President is nicked for anything out of this investigation, it will be for financial reasons (tax evasion being the most likely). Even if it were to be proved that say--for instance--his digital operation provided "targets" to the Russians for their information operation--the likelihood that it could or will be proven to have occurred with his knowledge or permission is low. The country could ultimately be confronted with the truth that his campaign engaged in conspiracy without the same level of certainty that he was part of it. Removal of the President is of course, a political act, and it is doubtful that he would be removed in that situation. The other way of removing a President is to defeat him, and if the foregoing evidence were presented to the electorate, perhaps a better decision will be made in 2020.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thoughts on Yet Another School Shooting

The occasion of (yet another) mass murder/school shooting has the usual suspects mounting the ramparts in defense of whatever silliness it is they adhere to in moments like this. Gun rights types point at the legal nature of the weapon used, the legal purchase of the weapon, and the Constitutional rights of the purchaser to do so---seemingly without acknowledgement that the very right and the very ease in which it is exercised are among the contributing elements to this disease in our society. The anti-gun folks will prattle on and on about "sensible gun control" as if that has a consensus meaning, they will ignore the existence of an actual, considered, and codified Constitutional right , and they will (mostly) avoid saying what it is that they really want to say--or really need to say--and that is that the Second Amendment should be altered or repealed. They realize that half the country very much disagrees with them and their politicians--save for those who represent compact, urban clusters--must appeal to constituencies as divided on gun issues as the country is.

Add to this witches brew of Constitutionally shielded discussion other elements wherein the Bill of Rights plays--such as the rise of a movement in the US based on the individual rights of those suspected to be cognitively deficient to treat mental illness within the general population rather than institutionalizing them, and the concomitant virtual elimination of such institutions.

We have a problem, folks. A big one. But there is no easy solution--though one may appeal to you. We are divided on the issue of guns in an important way, and one of those sides makes (legitimate) recourse to the Bill of Rights. This is no small thing. We must as a people be very careful about how we approach tinkering with these rights considered so fundamental by our Founders as to warrant inclusion. But we must also remember that the genius of the Founders is that they gave us means (two of them, in fact) to challenge their wisdom through the amendment process.

And while some may consider this next to last paragraph rank "whataboutism", I write it not to justify a point of view but to ensure sufficient context. Every single day--in the minds of a significant number of voters--107* Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School mass murders happen--aided by taxpayer money--in the nation's abortion clinics. Those who would see this end are as morally justified in holding their view as those who look upon yesterday's violence with revulsion. Those who justify the destruction of life wield the Constitution in their own defense too, even though doing so relies not upon the actual text of the document, but upon its "shadows" and "penumbras".

There are no easy answers here. But that is no excuse for doing nothing. I'd like to see the President call for panel of prominent citizens to discuss the issue of mass murder holistically. Nothing can be off the table--arming teachers would be as viable as confiscating guns under an altered Constitutional arrangement. This panel should hold public hearings around the country--in urban, suburban, and rural towns. And at the end of its deliberations, it should make a series of recommendations designed to spur legislation at the federal and state level as appropriate, that tackle small bites of this large and diseased elephant.

*CDC stats report (for 2013, last year available) 664,000 abortions in the US every year, which devolves to 1800+ a day, and with 17 killed yesterday, approximately equivalent to 107

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Potpourri 2/11

I'm sorry folks. I'm in a really, really foul mood. My Wahoos lost a basketball game last night. It wasn't just a "basketball game" though--it was more than that.

If UVA had won, the team would have likely risen from #2 to #1. But that isn't important.

If UVA had won, they would have delighted a rabid HOME crowd. But that isn't important.

If UVA had won, they would have capped off a wonderful day hosting the ESPN College Game Day crew, showcasing the world's most wonderful center of learning. But that isn't important.

What IS important, is that UVA lost to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, our dread rivals, our instate nemesis, a team we beat on THEIR home floor a month ago by 26 points.

It was embarrassing. We shot the ball terribly from outside, which (to me) means you need to work the ball inside. But we don't have much of an inside game, or at least we don't with our starting lineup. And when we had the right people to challenge Tech's defense, we didn't challenge. It was like we said, "look, there are three guys there clogging the lane so we can't go there". Yes you can. You just have to be smart about it, and we weren't. It doesn't happen often, but UVA was outcoached.  Plain and simple.

To top off my intemperate reaction to the game, was this comment from one of our players:

No Ty--it wasn't about #1, it was about Tech. Beating Tech. It wasn't UCLA we were playing. It wasn't St. Bonaventure. It wasn't even some other ACC foe. It was Tech. The quicker you understand that, the quicker you'll find the reserve to beat them in close games, something we failed to do once last year and then again this year. Losing to tech is simply not the same as losing to anyone else.

Enough kvetching about this. On to other matters.

I have to head into DC tomorrow to be interviewed for a Smithsonian Channel film project called "Carriers at War:  USS FORD". They've set aside three hours for it, which means they'll probably harvest about 3 minutes to go into the piece. But I'm excited to once again have the opportunity to talk about the single most flexible and powerful thing we buy in our military, and its continuing importance to the national security of the United States.

The Kitten has decided to capitalize on her investment of 10 years of understanding and patience to dragoon me into getting qualified as a "belayer", or the dude who stands on the ground at a rock climbing gym working the safety mechanism that enables the climber to move safely up and down. We had a class yesterday morning at the local YMCA (big plug: Easton MD YMCA is the bomb), but I need to go back today and practice a bit--before taking the "test" sometime this week. She is already qualified for this position, so she belayed me on a trip up the bunny slope yesterday, one in which my nearly immobile hips barked at me in anger but which was definitely fun.

I'm having a good deal of fun watching the White House work its way through the Junior Varsity that was available to them for staffing after those with scruples absented themselves from service (or were absented through their statements and actions--like me). The plain truth of the matter is that a tremendous number of solid citizens decided not to take on the virtually certain reputational diminishment that comes from serving Trump--and also, that those who were attracted to service with the President did so in many cases because their characters were as flawed as his and felt kinship with him. Birds of a feather flock together. Not everyone who went in is morally and ethically compromised; saying so would be unfair. But plenty are, and many who weren't will become that way in further service to this charlatan.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

It has been a while since I last did a Sunday Potpourri, and I apologize to readers who expect better of me.

Let's talk about the Super Bowl (am I allowed to type that, or do I need to pay a royalty?). My interest in the Big Game generally, and in pro-football generally, has waned in the past few years. I suppose it is a bit Druidical for me to not be too concerned about the concussion issues (grown men are hurling themselves at or near the heads of other grown men for great sums of money--what did we think would happen); my growing disinterest in the pro game is entirely due to the on-field celebrations (yes, I'm a curmudgeon. Haven't we been over that?), the ridiculous rules (what exactly is a catch?) and overall poor quarterback play even though the game has sought to put an electric fence around them.

But I am a tad bit interested in this year's game, and it is due to an awakening of -- dare I say it -- pride in where I grew up. You see, I don't have a favorite pro team. But I do always hope the Eagles do well because so many people I know from South Jersey are so invested in their success. My Facebook timeline is awash in Eagles boostering, and I suppose I'm getting a little swept up in it. And so I will watch the game and pull for the Eagles.

But back to really important matters--college basketball. My Wahoos (#2 in the country--root for Seton Hall today at Villanova--please!) went up to Syracuse yesterday and beat them soundly before the largest college basketball crowd of the year. From the sounds I heard when UVA's defense drove Syracuse in to a shot-clock violation, it sounded to me like the Hoo's traveled pretty well. I've begun to arrange my schedule in a manner that provides the time and space for me to attend post-regular season games. I've got a room at a hotel in Brooklyn for the ACC tournament, and I've blocked out (for planning purposes, of course) time later in March for possible attendance at NCAA tournament games. This has been a very fun season--don't know how far they can go, but I know that no one wants to play them.

The big MEMO was released this week, and while it was obviously a partisan, political hack job designed to cast the FBI and Justice Department in the worst possible light to discredit ongoing investigations into the President's shady past, it also raised for me some concern about the degree to which arguments against it were wrapped in "national security" language. Don't get me wrong--the political impact of the memo--targeting as it does the credibility of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies--is threatening to national security. But the information contained in it -- originally classified as "TOP SECRET" reflects the troubling tendency in the US to dramatically over-classify things. Even so, the MEMO stupendously undercut the goal that it was intended to carry out, in that it clearly established the chronology of events which indicated that Trump campaign officials were under investigation (in some cases for years) long before the FISA warrant was pursued. And so, the GOP happily continues with its slash and burn attacks on the institutions that guide civil society in order to prop up a man who is presiding over the diminishing of the party's reach.  Nice trade.

It was interesting to watch the coverage of the Grammy Awards recently--wherein the music industry came together for a night to virtue signal as one in its condemnation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination against women, dating, flirting, saying hello, and casting a quick glance (which are increasingly confusing acts, apparently) --all the while celebrating "rap" and "hip-hop" for several hours -- musical traditions that aren't exactly the purview of "woke" feminism. Hypocrisy marches on.

Enough for now. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Virginia vs. Duke Preview

There are about five and a half hours until tip-off of the UVA vs. Duke game, and I can legitimately say that I haven't been this excited about a UVA sporting event since the tragic UVA/Syracuse game in the elite 8 a few years ago. I still lose sleep over that.

In Durham, the Hoos (#2 in the country) will take on Duke (#4 in the country). Their rankings alone make this a must watch game, but there is far more to it than that.

We have today, photographic negatives of each other. Duke is a high powered, fast moving offense--the #2 ranked offense in the country according to the wizard of college hoops metrics--with a so-so defense (#69). Virginia on the other hand, has the nation's top defense (#1) and a so-so offense (#42). Duke has firmly embraced the "one and done" philosophy", and Virginia has a spread of talent on the floor.

The game is at Duke--where UVA hasn't won in the last 17 trips (since 1995).

I have a ton of trepidation about this game--I can't wait to watch it, and I can't wait for it to be over.

On the White House Immigration Proposal

Earlier this week, word out of the White House/Congressional Republican negotiators was that they had arrived at an immigration proposal that "deals with the DACA" folks--DACA folks being those here illegally as the result of illegal immigration decisions made by their parents , who as adults, had registered to work here under a clearly unconstitutional program set up by President Obama. The program under which they were here is expiring, and their status (illegal) once again manifests itself unless something is done. They are particularly "vulnerable" as their registration for DACA status essentially outed them as being here illegally in the first place. There is a second, considerably larger group of illegals -- known as "Dreamers" -- who are-- like DACA--here illegally through no choice of their own, but who chose NOT to register under DACA.

Early in his term, President Trump did something I thought was wonderful. As DACA was expiring, he essentially said, "go figure this out Congress." For those of us who believe that the previous two Administrations had expanded Presidential power too far--with Congress' complicity--this move to motivate Congress to do its job was welcomed.

Congress has done its job, or at least part of its job, and between the GOP and the White House a proposal has emerged, which you can read about here.   The broad outlines include:  a path to citizenship for what is conservatively estimated to be 1.8 million people here illegally (DACA plus DREAMER--though this could inevitably rise), $25B for border security/wall (the 2013 plan included $30B), an end to the "diversity lottery" and a dramatic scale back of chain migration. I think this is a superb plan, the kind of plan that a sensible GOP puts forward to help solve a tough problem (DACA) by giving the other side something (DACA plus Dreamer) in order to get what it wants (wall, legal immigration reform). Of note--"E-verify" is not in the plan--which while I believe is terribly necessary--serves as a disincentive to Democrat votes because it could actually have an impact on a ton of future Democrats illegal immigrants here already.

Again--I really, really like this proposal. This is the way things are supposed to work--compromise and recognition that one side rarely gets everything it wants, and if it does, what it gets is probably not worth having (see "Obamacare" and perhaps in the future--the GOP tax cut--which I liked).

So--those who are still reading to this are waiting for the other shoe to drop, aren't you. I couldn't possibly come forward with unadorned praise for something that the Administration was part of, could I?  You know me too well.

First, I don't care how wonderful and reasonable this plan is, IT IS NOTHING LIKE WHAT HE CAMPAIGNED ON.  What this plan represents is the considered wisdom of virtually every other person in the GOP race, except for Ted Cruz who has already put himself on the path to pick up those Trump Immigration voters who must now reconcile the fact that their man could be responsible for the legalization/citizenship of nearly 2 million illegals.

We could have had this plan with virtually any of the other GOP candidates, along with the tax bill and Gorsuch--without the goddamn daily carnival we get from the White House and the progressive diminishment of the office by the ethically and morally flawed man occupying it. We got stuck with this chump because a whole slice of Americana wanted to blame immigrants for their lot in life, and he promised them the moon.  What do I mean by that?

"I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."  This line was always delivered to roars of approval by his crowds--and it is a lie.

"Within ICE I'm going to create a new special deportation task force."  No deportation force here--thank goodness--but this whole thing is about granting a path to citizenship to millions of people. Trumpkins used to call this "AMNESTY".

"there will be no amnesty," Whoops.

Folks--keep in mind--I never, ever wanted the insanity of the Trump Campaign immigration approach--I wanted something MUCH like what we're getting with this proposal. My task here is to point out to the suckers who stuck us with him is (first) that they have been lied to and (second) that they are getting EXACTLY the kind of GOP policy approach that the cucks and GOPe have been talking about for years.

So yes--I am perfectly capable of being incredibly positive on a policy basis for something the Trump Administration has proposed, while simultaneously doing an end-zone dance of joy that his vaunted base is taking it in the backside--all the while lamenting the destruction of a once great Party that this Presidency is creating.

Friday, January 19, 2018

National Defense Strategy Quicklook--Two Cheers for the Department of Defense

This morning, Secretary of Defense Mattis announced the promulgation of a new National Defense Strategy. The strategy is classified, but an unclassified companion document has been released. I urge you to read it, because it is important and because it represents a significant but insufficient resetting of America's military sails.

The most important take-aways for me from this unclassified companion are the clear and unimpeachable messages that 1) we are again embroiled in great power competition with a significant military component and 2) our readiness to compete military has eroded markedly. This document minces no words on these two subjects, and I could not be happier with its focus. Taking its clues from the recently released National Security Strategy, this document (like its parent) represents a solid, rational, unemotional approach to national defense that is in some elements, undercut by repeated statements of the President whose approach it purports to represent.  Because this document is an unclassified companion, what will be done to reverse this erosion is not particularly well explained, and that is generally acceptable. But at the meta-level, because this document is directing a clearly different emphasis than its predecessors, there is some responsibility to specify what hard, strategic choices are being made to enable it. The public document does not do this, aside from a de-emphasis on Middle East operations and the always predictable economy of force approach to AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM. My background discussions with responsible officials indicate that these tough choices -- the kinds of choices that alter the proportional allocation of resources within the Departments of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Defense Agencies--are deferred for later.

Additionally, there is little or nothing in this document that reinforces the importance of the defense buildup promised by candidate Trump. My personal interest is in a 350 ship Navy (which is also in my view, a key tool in this approach to great power competition), but Secretary Matttis' statement this morning sent another clear message that the buildup if it ever comes, is priority two behind improving the capability of the existing force.  Of note is a Tweet this morning from Breitbart's Defense Reporter Kristina Wong. 

This capability vs. capacity debate continues to dominate defense strategy and resources discussions, largely because we have not made a solid argument to the taxpayers that the buildup Trump promised is required. It is--but it has been lost in the noise of the past year, and the narrative behind this strategy essentially says to me, "we have little or no hope of actually and substantially building the force capacity, and so we'll concentrate on making what we have now better." This is an entirely rational approach to the subject, and the one that rational people made all through the Obama Administration too. The primary difference between the Obama and the Trump approaches is naming the targets (China and Russia) and ponying up to the problem (erosion of military strength).

A few selections from the document with my comments:

Page 1:
"...we must make difficult choices and prioritize what is most important to field a lethal,
resilient, and rapidly adapting Joint Force."  It remains to be seen what this actually means in implementation and resource allocation. 

"A more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force, combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners, will sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order." This is wonderful rhetoric, and I utterly believe Secretary Mattis believes it. But I also believe his boss does great injury to the convening authority of U.S. leadership by his intemperate conduct in office.

"The costs of not implementing this strategy are clear."  In the abstract meaning of the word, yes. In the particular meaning of "costs", and the manner in which those costs are allocated, clarity is in short supply.

Page 2:
"Another change to the strategic environment is a resilient, but weakening, post-WWII international order. In the decades after fascism’s defeat in World War II, the United States and its allies and partners constructed a free and open international order to better safeguard their liberty and people from aggression and coercion." Again--this is something I believe Mattis gets in his bones--but I'm not as convinced it animates his boss.

Page 3:
"It is now undeniable that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary." It occurs to me that thousands of ICBM's pointed at us during the Cold War also rendered the homeland a sanctuary.

Page 4:
"In support of the National Security Strategy, the Department of Defense will be prepared to defend the homeland, remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity."  This is excellent and clear.

"A long-term strategic competition requires the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military." Indeed, and given the degree to which the nation is utterly unprepared to consider--let along prepare for--great power competition, the difficulty of this coordination is manifest.

Page 6:
"Nuclear forces. The Department will modernize the nuclear triad—including nuclear command,control, and communications, and supporting infrastructure. Modernization of the nuclear force includes developing options to counter competitors’ coercive strategies, predicated on the threatened use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear attacks." There is no question as to the importance of the subjects raised here; that they come as the first in a series seems to indicate priority--and I believe that buttressing CONVENTIONAL deterrence forces is more important than the priority afforded strategic deterrence here.

"Forward force maneuver and posture resilience. Investments will prioritize ground, air, sea, and space forces that can deploy, survive, operate, maneuver, and regenerate in all domains while under attack."  Kinda hard to read any real prioritization from this. Kitchen sink approach.

Page 8:
"Strengthen Alliances and Attract New Partners".  This entire section raises my eyebrows. Of course this is critical. Of course Secretary Mattis believes this. But the behavior of the President and the statements he makes about friends, allies, and humanity in general--severely undercut the seriousness of this goal. 

Page 10:
"Deliver performance at the speed of relevance".  I'm gonna need some time to consider this one. This, as opposed to what? Delivering performance at the speed of irrelevance? Delivering failure at the speed of relevance?

Clearly I have a few nitpicks here--but overall, this unclassified companion hints at some very positive developments. I remain skeptical as to the prospects for achieving its ends given the vacuum of Presidential leadership on National Security matters and the seeming deferral of choices about where we should do more or less---but I'm very pleased with the general direction this document lays out.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Cruel Sea and Navy Accountability

Many readers are aware that I spent much of my adult life in the Navy, and that I eventually had the great joy and honor to command a destroyer. I left that command nearly twelve years ago, but the sweet taste of it remains to this day. There simply is no other job on the face of this earth like commanding a warship; grab a multi-starred admiral some day and chat him or her up, and if they came up through the surface warfare community, they'll almost certainly tell you that command of their first ship was their favorite tour. 

One prepares for the job over the course of some eighteen years or so, and part of that preparation is watching other officers in command. You pick and choose elements of their approach and style as you form your own idea of how you'll do the job. I kept a little green standard Navy log-book with the words "How I'll Do It Better" on it for several years, a place where I could jot down spurious thoughts that came to me. 

Part of what you learn on the way up is that the commanding officer of a Navy ship is a singular individual, even within the pantheon of leadership positions in the U.S. military. There simply is no other place where responsibility, authority, and accountability are so tightly combined. Additionally, everyone on the ship knows it. Including the Captain. It is deeply woven into the culture of the Navy, and it is something that I have been proud of since I could understand the concept. I remain proud of it today--and consider it the great binding strength upon which all else good about the Navy rests.

We have before us now a tests of that great strength, as last summer's tragic collisions in the Western Pacific have produced criminal charges against the captains of the two destroyers involved, in addition to several other crewmembers. Social media was alive yesterday with reaction to the announcement of these charges (or actually, the seeking of these charges--an Article 32 hearing will determine which charges they will actually be tried for), and it was universally one of shock. Granted, the shock of the collisions themselves last summer was greater--as it should have been--but the shock yesterday was nevertheless interesting to me. There was utter surprise at the possibility that honorable men and women who voluntarily decided to serve their country might wind up in military prison as a result of accidents six months ago,  about which many commenters then asked, "how can this happen?"  

What few people seemed to grasp is that their wonder about how the collisions could happen is in no small measure the product of a system in which otherwise honorable men and women face prison for causing them. Collisions at sea are NOT common both because of the physics involved AND because of the fact that mariners are supposed to know "the law" and follow it. The law of the sea is older than our Constitution or any other law we know in this country, and its perceived cruelty is at the heart of its effectiveness.

I feel horrible for the men and women who may someday face courts martial. None of them woke up that day and decided to be complicit in a collision. Ultimately, the charges they face may not be what have been preferred. And ultimately, they may be found guilty of lesser crimes, or innocent altogether. 

But they must face the military justice system, and that system must assign culpability. The strength of the system depends on it, and it is a system that has served this Navy and this nation well. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

For Those Who Think I Am All Anti-Trump, All the Time

People I Love

The recent death of a friend has been an opportunity for me to reflect on the people I love. I didn't love Shawn Brimley, but I admired him a great deal and liked him immensely. I wish I had told him these things before he died, and I think it is a good late addition to my 2018 Resolutions to be more expressive of my affection for the people in my life.

This morning I had my monthly massage (don't judge me). I usually am able to clear my mind for this hour and concentrate pretty much on the massage itself, but today was different. I found myself thinking about who I love--and by that, I mean the people in my life whose health, contentedness, and safety are of great importance to me. I did this because I resolved to be more forthcoming with these people in the year ahead. And to start this process, I list them here today. If you are not on the list, it is because 1) I don't love you (I may still like you a whole lot)  2) I love you, but I am a forgetful and addled curmudgeon and I hope to rectify leaving you off the list or 3) I already tell you a great deal that I love you. The list is chronologically ordered by decade, using the names under which I came to know these people. Some I see every day. Some I rarely see. Some--I am pretty sure think far less of me than I do of them. But I love them nevertheless, and if by some happenstance they see this, I want them this very minute to know that I love them.

Jim McGrath, Tom McGrath, Sean McGrath, Patrick McGrath

Kelly McGrath, Mark Sanders, Bill O'Keefe, Dave Ottignon,

Art Sharon, Sam Evangelista, Jennie Gillies, Chris Wutzer, Kathy Zeaser, Jack Ewing, Paul Garvin, Toni Cudney, Stephanie Wilson, Alyson Buchney, John Shea, Tom Coulter, Rob Ganus, Mark Senell, Scott Waskey, Dan Sweeney, George Davidson, Caroline Cobb, Julie Greer, Art Greer, Marti Greer, Adam Greer, Craig Devlin, Gordon Ballard, Fred Sheehy, Robert Duran, Nevin Carr, Bernie Carter, Debbie Borelli, Sue Beck

Alan Eschbach, Eric Sweigard, Dave Britt, Hank Giffin, Steve Hampton, Brad Cooper, Pat Piercey, Dan Sunvold, Eric Watkins, Bruce Curry, Hans Gulick, Con Xefteris, Chris Peterschmidt, Jim Kilby, Kristin Schmidt, Joe Harrington, Dave Deutermann, Julie Williams, Tim Long, Fred Kacher, Jake Ross, Joe Corsi, Jill Serrano, Kevin Mooney, Mark Gorenflo, Stephanie McGrath, David Odoherty, Meaghan McGrath, Kevin McGrath, Lauren McGrath, Morgan McGrath

Skaidra Blanford, Jimmy Blanford, Jim Blanford, Sally Blanford, Phil Waggoner, Dan Karbler, Bob Barwis, Nate Kring, John Ennis, Peter Swartz, Bryan Clark, Jeff Wilson, Todd Leavitt, Ann White, Tiny White, Hope Murphy, Hannah Murphy, Colin McGrath, Liam McGrath, Emma McGrath, Conor O'Doherty, Rory O'Doherty

Sandy Clark, Tim Walton

I may have forgotten people. Some readers may think my bar is low, and that what I believe is love for another human being is insufficiently differentiated from "like" or "care about". So be it. I have my standard, these people meet it, I want them to know it, and I am utterly grateful to have the love in my heart for them that I do.

For those with a discerning eye, neither my parents nor the Kitten are on this list. I felt they fall under #3 above. But it goes without saying that I love them very much.

Shawn Brimley was a Man

Man at Work
Masculinity, manliness, manhood--I'm using them interchangeably here although I suspect incorrectly--have been on the ropes for a few years. By masculinity, I mean the display of virtues not exclusively identified with biological men, but virtues generally and socially understood to be associated with biological men. Among these I would suggest are strength, honor, protectiveness, compassion, resilience, responsibility, leadership, stewardship, and decisiveness. I won't be drawn into a debate as to the inclusiveness of this list or its applicability to the feminine--I'll only say that I think a modestly sentient reader will be able to understand what I'm getting at.

This traditional concept of masculinity has been radically distorted of late, both by those who seek to undercut it and those who seek to wield it as a weapon. Our media is replete with tales of what has come to be known as "toxic masculinity", the cumulative effect of which is to pervert any real understanding of the traditional meaning of the unadorned noun while advancing a political agenda comfortable to those using the malformed term. Equally distorting has been the rise of amped-up roid-ragers who peddle their supplements and their misogynistic conquest philosophies alongside master-race political rhetoric. This crowd is cheered on by a President who has urged crowds to physically assault hecklers, and whose past admitted history of sexual assault is passed off as "locker-room" banter. Nearly lost in these dueling "house of mirrors" concepts of manhood are the exemplars of the traditional view. And Wednesday, the group of exemplars was reduced by one.

Shawn Brimley, about whom I wrote in this blog on Monday, died on Wednesday. He has been wonderfully eulogized elsewhere; I particularly recommend Andrew Exum's piece in The Atlantic. He will be buried on Saturday, and I will attend his funeral in company with hundreds of others who loved him. The young Brimley family has lost its Dad, and its husband, and their loss is irreconcilable. Mentioning my loss in the same paragraph as theirs is perhaps a conceit, but more to the point, it restates the entire purpose of this elegy: I have lost a living model for the kind of man I have always wanted to be; the kind of man every man should want to be.

Shawn Brimley loved his wife and children with a singularity and a quiet ferocity. As another friend Jerry Hendrix and I agreed yesterday in a chat, they were everything to him. Shawn loved his country--America--as much as any natural born citizen, and served to make it better and stronger. Shawn cared deeply about the people he worked with, and he extended himself to promote their fortunes. Shawn cared about those in need, those left behind, those in pain, and those in doubt. He walked the walk, while most others talk the talk, if even that. He was the most complete man I have ever met, and were one to attempt to define the manly virtues, one could do no better than to consider him. I know this sounds like hagiography, that I am puffing him up to speak well of the dead or in an effort to comfort myself. It is neither of these things. I am stating a simple truth--that this country and this world would be a much better place if more men thought and acted like Shawn Brimley--and if they did, masculinity, manhood, manliness--whatever you wish to call it--would be prized and sought after rather than lampooned and attacked.

Someone very wise once told me when I took on the role of fatherhood to two fatherless daughters that my job would be to provide them with a model for that which to accept no less than. That the best thing I could do for them was to love their mother, so that they would one day know how to recognize real love without confusing it with other, sometimes damaging emotions. I think about Shawn's daughter as I write this, and while I am heartbroken for her and her brothers, I am glad that she got a chance to form a view of manhood during very impressionable years that may someday sustain her.

Shawn Brimley was a man. And a magnificent one at that. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

The email informing me that he was dying came yesterday from his wife. She has been assiduous in keeping his considerable group of concerned friends informed as to the progress of the cancer--which if memory serves, was only diagnosed in the days before Thanksgiving. Weeks later, doctors are preparing her (and us) for the worst. If he does die, his loss at such a young age will be inexplicable and cosmically unjust. He is -- as I put it in a message to another friend this morning -- a lovely man. Brilliant, handsome, compassionate, friendly, collegial.

He and I have never been aligned politically. There have been times where I have judged him for his misguided domestic policy preferences. There is a bit of a social justice warrior in him, but I suppose if we must have them, I prefer that they be him. But a warrior he is, nevertheless, and while we are divided on many domestic issues, we are of a like mind with regard to American strength and the importance of American leadership in this troubled world. After the election in November, we met several times to discuss how we might collaborate in order to see that our common principles would not perish. I hope and pray that we will be able to move forward on those discussions.

I follow him on Facebook and delight in the beauty of his young family and their activities. There is a very small boy who seems always to be smiling. There is a daughter who seems to luxuriate in the love of her father, with the two of them providing me with a sense of just how much I missed in meeting my daughters later in their lives.

My last thought before sleep last night was of this best of men, and of his family. I long ago ceased to argue with God about His decisions, as the realization that I cannot know His mind finally won out against my own ego. But like a good Executive Officer, my job is to make sure He knows my views before that decision comes. And so I made them plain. Let this man live, God, please let him live.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tips for Prospective Commenters

From the earliest days of this blog, I have had policies guiding how I wish for it to operate. They are found in the three paragraphs to the right of the main page, and they are repeated here:

The Blog: A compendium of thoughts on politics, world affairs, economics, pop culture and social issues, from the center right perspective of me--Bryan McGrath--a University of Virginia graduate who spent a career in the world's greatest Navy keeping my mouth shut about politics and social issues (ok, publicly keeping it shut). Those days are over! Pull up a chair and chime in where you will. Keep it clean, civil, concise and relevant.

The Fish: The fish is a "coat of arms" for the blog, symbolizing three formative influences in the life of the blog founder. The first is his experience at the University of Virginia--symbolized most importantly by the fish itself, or a caricature of a "Wahoo", the fish we have acquired as an informal nickname. Additionally, there is the sword, the sword of a Cavalier. It is not wielded in a threatening manner, as this is a civil blog. But it is there, should it be needed. Thirdly, there is the influence of 21 years in the Navy--symbolized by the anchor on the Wahoo's fin (and again, the sword) . Finally, there is the bowler, tuxedo, and monocle, symbols of a refined, intellectual conservatism, or what I seek to encourage here.

The Policy: I take FULL responsibility for what I write. I will not be held responsible for the content of my comments section--as long as it is civil and passes my own inscrutable sniff tests, it will appear. If the comment offends you, that is on you.

At times, this blog has had unmediated comments, and I would periodically go in and excise those that I felt were not up to snuff. The current policy is mediated comments. If you attempt to comment here, a notification will come to me. I can post it, I can delete it, or I can mark it as spam -- and then if you (using a handle) comment again, it will go directly to spam and I'll never see it.

Since I restarted this blog after my hiatus, the comment section has been lightly populated. First, my absence from social media between Thanksgiving and Christmas dropped readership dramatically. Second, from the restart--I was avoiding putting links to posts directly on Facebook (which drives readership), instead only alerting readers that there was new content. All of this drove readership down, which I'm trying to reverse. However, there have continued to be comments even in this time of low interest, but many of them haven't been published. Here are a few tips on why.

1. Don't insult me. This is my blog, your views have no place here except if I say so--you have no First Amendment right here. If you think that you do, you need more civics education.

2. Don't ask me to cater to your desires or informational needs. You can request that I write about subjects if you like, and if I wish to, I will. But you have no claim on my time or my efforts.

3.  Don't expect me to allow you to spout your MAGA, Trumpkin, crap -- especially if it is loaded with violations of #1. If you have coherent arguments to make, make them. I may or may not respond. I make no apologies for being anti-Trump, and I dramatically limited participation from former co-bloggers who have a different view, urging them to start or resume their own blogs. This is --for me--a megaphone, not a telephone.

4. If I print your comment I have no obligation to comment on it. See #2. I say what I think. You say what you think. If it passes my process, I post it. Game over. Sometimes I'll respond, sometimes I won't. 

Sunday Potpourri

The only thing better than quietly sitting by the fire on a chilly Sunday morning with a hot cup of coffee reading North Carolina sports media ponder the dismantling of their precious Tar Heels yesterday by my Wahoos, is doing so on a morning in which Duke also lost, which they did courtesy of Hammer's North Carolina State University Wolfpack. Yesterday was a spectacular day for college hoops, and from what I can see things are only going to get better. There are essentially two real powerful teams this year--Michigan State and Villanova; everyone else appears to me to be playing for #3--and all of those contestants are relatively well-matched. Even #1 and #2 aren't invincible--so this is going to be a tremendous season of college hoops. Have a look at this wonderful dunk by a UVA freshman yesterday on UNC's top player. 

Also this morning, I am reading coverage of our taxpayer funded royal flatterer Stephen Miller taking to the talkshow circuit to remind us how much of a genius his boss is, and how "...exaggerated..." Stephen Bannon's role was in both the campaign and the administration. This is the cycle of use in TrumpWorld--you join the team and work hard--not because you have belief in the agenda of the Man but for personal gain. As long as you are useful, you are retained. Then, when you aren't useful--you are disposed of, and your previous significance is then derided (see Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, Flynn, Papadopoulous, etc).

It is also interesting to remember the boasts of the Trumpkin class in the campaign, that because their man was such a successful businessman (four bankruptcies notwithstanding), he would surround himself with "...the best men...".  If his first year has proven anything, it is that there are a lot of really substandard people working close to the President. Birds of a feather, one supposes.

I was asked the other day why this circus is happening within this Administration, but hasn't in previous ones (this was in response to what I called the very human trait of looking out for oneself which is hyper-evident in this group). I answered that while it is human to look out for oneself, it is not the ONLY human trait. Another strong one is the desire to be part of something bigger than oneself, to be part of an agenda for change and a top-notch team to create it. This is what happens within a campaign staff--where a huge group of people who believe in the candidate come together to give of their time and energy because they want to advance his/her agenda. Trump never had this. His policy staff was in his head. The free media he got allowed him to run a lean operation. There was no real governing agenda to believe in, and so those people who did sign on were largely there to advance their personal agendas--seeing none provided by the President. And so without a common sense of mission, there is an "every man for himself" mentality--which is of course exacerbated by the conduct and behavior of the Chief Executive, the ongoing Justice Department investigation into his campaign, and a media which is involved in a hostile takedown effort. Welcome to the Thunder Dome.

The annual gathering of your Navy's Surface Warfare Community occurs this week in Arlington VA, and front/center are the two collisions last summer that resulted in the deaths of 17 Sailors. I look forward to hearing Navy leadership talk about what they're doing to internalize the lessons of those tragedies, but I sincerely hope this is not a garment rending exhibition designed to palliate those who would rather focus on blame and recrimination than the business of killing people and wrecking things from the ocean's surface. It is high time that we begin to prepare for this new age of great power competition, and contemplating our navels regarding last year's accidents is not the way to go.

Today's goals include not going outside, 500 calories on the treadmill, and much football and college hoops watching. The Kitten is having the Ladies over for an afternoon bridge game, and so making myself scarce to watch sports will be penalty free.  Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Our President is Unstable

I wrote Thursday of the Michael Wolff tell-all that is adding texture to what we already knew--that the President is unfit for the job and his senior advisers know it. An entire nation whistles past the grave-yard as this amazing time plays out before us. For those readers with the good judgment not to be on Twitter, I will reproduce a few of our Chief Executive's Twitter offerings from earlier today.

Which was followed by:

And then: 

This series of Tweets elicited the following from me:

Let's face it folks, very few if any people reading this blog are capable of making clinical diagnoses of DSM-V cataloged personality disorders. Even those qualified to make such diagnoses often get it wrong. What we are all (or most of us) capable of doing is judging the character, morals, and ethics of another human being based on the things he or she says or writes. We don't need degrees, we don't need advanced education, we don't need the DSM-V. "That boy ain't right" is not the utterance of a clinical psychologist--but an assessment most of us have made about someone else simply based on a common understanding of humanity. And by that standard, Donald Trump just ain't right.

Friends--this is the most powerful man in the world. There is NOTHING above this. In the annals of what can be achieved within an American life, Donald Trump has unquestionably succeeded wildly. So why must he continually seek validation? Why is the approval of the mainstream media so critically important to him (and don't kid yourselves, it is)?  

There is another dysfunction at work here. In the great contest between anti-Trump former Republicans/faithful conservatives and the Trumpenproletariat, the former (like me) have no problem granting that this man we consider vile has had a handful of laudable accomplishments (which are incidentally, the kind of GOPe stuff they railed against); the latter however, are simply unable to grant that their man's character and demeanor are the least bit troubling. Noted. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Trump v. Bannon: Can't They Both Lose?

During the Iran/Iraq War of the 1980's, there was a nifty bon mot dropped in the international relations community...."Can't they both lose?"  This is the perfect way to think about the Trump v. Bannon battle.  Both men are detestable human beings with no more noble goal than their own aggrandizement. That they came together in the summer of 2016 is a tragedy of happenstance, one the country will pay for in the years to come. That their partnership is now utterly unraveling should surprise no one. Bannon is one of the " men..." that Trump claimed would surround him. Now that the relationship has soured, Trump would have us believe that Bannon was just a staffer and a clerk and a man of low character who lost his mind after being fired. Yet these men and women of low character seem omnipresent in Trumpworld. It is because the President prefers them.

There is no end to the irony of this situation. Much of what is coming out in Michael Wolff's new book is already known--that Trump's subordinates (and family) thought they'd lose the election, that Trump is held in low esteem by his staff, and that our President has the attention span of a gnat. That ANY of it though appears in this book (and the additional salacious stuff--like Ivanka's rendering of her father's hair-do and Bannon's blunt depiction of the famous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower as "...treasonous...") is entirely due to the unimpeded access that the author was granted to simply hang around the White House. There was never any doubt but that he was preparing to write a book. The terms of his invitation were well known.  Ex post facto claims that of "...I thought it was off the record..." are ridiculous in this day and age. This is--like virtually all of Trump's previous injuries--self-inflicted.

And now, we'll hear from the Trumpenproletariat. They'll tell us that this is fake news. They'll tell us that the press is out to get their man. They'll tell us that Bannon was never a key part of things, and he's just settling scores (which he is). When Trump said that he could commit murder on Fifth Ave and his supporters would stay with him, he was right. They are no longer sentient, or perhaps never were so, at least in an ethical sense. They will stay with him. Those who voted for him out of a sense of Party duty, or because they could not abide by a Hillary Clinton presidency and believed that their vote would tip the balance--perhaps these people retain enough vestigial morality to create room for a  Republican with ethics and morals to primary the President in 2020. Or perhaps they'll make it so clear to him that he will not be re-elected, that he pulls a Lyndon Johnson and bails. Only time will tell. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

For the few years I've maintained this blog, the week before New Years brought a standard couple of posts. One was resolutions, and the other was predictions. In each, I reviewed the success of the previous year's version and then made ten new ones. With this new and improved version of the blog, a new New Year's tradition. No more predictions--I sucked at them anyway. And I won't labor to get ten resolutions out. Just a few.

Resolution Number 1: Focus. If I'm watching a basketball game, watch the game. If I'm talking with Catherine, talk with Catherine. Put the phone or the laptop down and do one thing at a time.

Resolution Number 2: Under-react. More poise, self-control. Less huffing and puffing.

Resolution Number 3: Be more social. I do plenty on the Western Shore--mostly related to my job. I (and Catherine) need to do more socially here in Easton. It's too easy to hunker down on the farm by the fire--need to get out more.

Got up early today and spent the morning in a goose blind with superb company. I didn't shoot anything, but I walked away with two fat geese as my buddy was more successful and has a freezer full of goose already. It was 16 degrees when the hunt started, and 21 when it was over--but the wind was non-existent and I was dressed warmly.

The view from the blind, with decoys deployed

The Kitten put me to work when I got home on making my famous roasted cauliflower and roasted brussels sprouts. She's resolving to eat more healthy, and we now have a refer full of these delicacies. A long nap followed, before committing to watching college football. As I write this, Georgia and Oklahoma are headed to overtime in what has been a superb game. Moving these semi-final games to New Year's Day makes a lot of sense. NCAA was stupid for having them previously on New Year's Eve.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and a superb 2018.
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