Friday, November 30, 2018

The Day of Reckoning is Nigh

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Americans who support Donald Trump--whether they consider themselves Republicans, conservatives, or simply people grateful for certain policies he has put forward--are soon to face a reckoning point.  That is, given what is certain to be shown as serial, reflexive dishonesty wrapped around utter disdain for anything but personal gain, the outcome of which has been an invigorated American left and a smoking wreckage of a GOP--how can one continue to support Donald Trump as President.

Notice I did not mention anything here impeachable. I do not think Donald Trump will be removed from office (though the House may impeach him). Not because I do not think he should be removed, but because as of yet, I have seen nothing to convince me that a sufficient number of Republicans in the Senate would vote to do so. That said, armchair Constitutional scholars will point to "...treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors..." without processing the larger point that what is impeachable ultimately boils down to what a majority of the members of the House of Representatives say it is.

Putting impeachment aside for the moment, we will soon be treated to findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has conducted his affairs in the highest of standards in stark contrast to the serial obfuscaters and sycophants who publicly slander him and his team, including the President himself. Mueller will deliver a report that will ultimately reveal several things which are simply beyond dispute:

--Candidate Trump's inner circle was deeply enmeshed in routine interactions with Russian government figures, Russian intelligence officers, and Russian organized crime figures, interactions that were routinely denied by both Trump and his circle.
--Candidate Trump and members of his inner circle were aware of in advance and supported the activities of Julian Assange and Wiki-leaks to reveal embarrassing emails from major Democratic figures in order to impact the Hillary Clinton campaign.
--Mr. Assange's and Wiki-leaks reputation as a front for Russian Intelligence was an open secret at the time. 
--Candidate Trump continued to pursue lucrative real estate deals in Russia that included solicitation of support from Vladimir Putin until the summer of 2016, six months after the Iowa caucuses. During this time, Candidate Trump made a number of "Putin-friendly" statements that were not aligned with prevailing Republican attitudes. 
--Candidate Trump and his inner circle actively sought to suppress potential embarrassment caused by revelations from former sex partners, to include financial payoffs. These revelations were vehemently denied by Candidate Trump, President Trump, and his inner circle. 

The points above represent what I consider to be irrefutable assertions based on what we know in court filings thus far in the Mueller investigation and that of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Behind these indisputable assertions of fact lie some interesting inferences that not only raise the specter of impeachable offenses, but which make the point of reckoning mentioned above that much more real.

--Reports of the surprise of Candidate Trump and his inner circle that he prevailed in the election lead to the conclusion that he believed he would likely lose. What then, are the links (if any) between his business objectives and his campaign statements, especially those that were at best--soft on Putin, and at worst--admiring of him? Was the future President of the United States setting the course of US foreign policy in a pro-Russian direction simply as a hedging strategy for his own business? Just yesterday, he admitted as much. 
--Further to this point, there remain open questions about the suppression (by Paul Manafort) of a plank in the GOP platform in the summer of 2016 that advocated arming Ukranians in their conflict with Russia. Could this have been yet another instance in which Trump sought to curry favor with Russia in furtherance of his business goals?

Please notice--neither of the previous two inferences--serious though they may be--involve "collusion". Dead-ender supporters of Trump (the "I could commit a murder on fifth avenue and they'd still support me" types) have created a construct in which only a video of Trump and Putin strategizing in shirtsleeves would represent collusive behavior--so I'm not addressing these people. I'm writing for the rest of us, who--while we may be unable to believe that there was collusion (coordination, strategizing) between the Trump Campaign and the Russians at this point, are perfectly willing to entertain the possibility, presented with sufficient evidence. To that end:

--Was there any information passed from the Trump campaign--either directly or through intermediaries--as to where (geographically--remember, 80,000 votes in three key states tipped this election) "friendly" online activity ("fake new", targeted emails, etc) should be concentrated?
--Was there any coordination between the Trump campaign as to the timing of release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, such as the release of DNC emails in close proximity to the "Access Hollywood" tape becoming public 2 days before the  second Presidential Debate?

Again---this post is not for the MAGA- hat wearing, dead-ender who simply wants to drink "liberal tears". This post is for thoughtful, patriotic Americans who have for one reason or another, continued to support President Trump in the face of serial dishonesty, churlish behavior, and disreputable dealing with friends and allies. The GOP just lost 40 seats in the house and squandered the most favorable Senatorial map in a generation, even as it gave back a third of the seats it won in state legislatures in the age of Obama. Things will not get better while this man is supported.

Cut this anchor loose; regroup, move on, and live to fight another day.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2018

It is quiet, and I am sitting in the kitchen next to a gas fire with two lovable Labradors nestled about me. Soon this place will be a bustle of activity as Catherine and I bring off another Thanksgiving together. For now though, she and the Kittens slumber while I write to you.

Calm before the storm
 This year's feast brings the first real change in players, as Catherine's uncle and family patriarch Tiny died earlier this year. We'll miss Tiny. Eleven years ago I was invited to Thanksgiving in his house, just a few months after beginning to date his niece. His brother John having died the year before, he took the role of giving me the business seriously, but by the end of the evening, I felt that I had passed.

We have a new person joining us today, and that is my brother Tom. Tom is driving up from Richmond and will be spending the night. He and his wife split earlier in the year, amicably it would seem, and I jumped the gun on inviting him early on in fear of someone else obtaining his wit and presence at their table.

Both girls are home, and they've been busy helping Cat with pies and setup. It is good to have the whole team together, even if just for a few days.

I get a lot of grief for how early I begin to celebrate Christmas. People think I give Thanksgiving short shrift in the process, but nothing can be farther (further?) from the truth. I love this day--and I see it as part of a joyous season. This day serves almost as a ritualistic cleansing, a day for gratitude for all of the blessings we enjoy. I have read that "gratitude is the parent of all other virtues". I surely see it that way. Here are some things for which I am grateful.

--The health and love of my parents
--A supportive and loving partner
--Two accomplished daughters growing to honorable womanhood
--A large and loving family of siblings and their families
--Acceptance into Cat's family
--Meaningful work
--Close friends
--Citizenship in this great country
--Shelter and sustenance beyond what I merit
--The love and companionship of two cats and two dogs
--Four years at the University of Virginia followed by every day since

From Catherine, Hope, Hannah, and Bryan--Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

Last week on Saturday Night Live, on of the stars did a terrible bit about a Republican running for Congress who lost an eye in combat (Dan Crenshaw, who won his race), and so wears an eye patch. It was stupid. It wasn't very funny. It was pretty much panned by everyone who watched. Last night, this guy (Pete Davidson) made things right by asking the target of his ill-humor to join him as he publicly apologized. Watch below:

A couple of things. First, Dan Crenshaw handled this thing pitch perfectly from the very start--it was a pitch in the dirt and he didn't swing at it. Secondly, I thought Davidson did the right thing and he did it pretty well. Bottom line--I've said and written a lot of dumb and regrettable things in my life--and it is tough to judge Davidson too harshly given the stupidity I've engaged in.

About the election last week--I guess I got it about right, but the D's did a bit better than I thought they would. That didn't stop the President from claiming a great victory, but he's obviously full of shit. His firing of Jeff Sessions -- that is what it is called when you ask for someone's undated resignation letter and then release it when it suits you-- is all about the stew he's in with Mueller, which is only going to get hotter here in the very near future. Bottom line prediction: they won't get to Trump--but they are going to get to people who mean a great deal to Trump.

Speaking of our President--his performance in France was once again a shitshow. I can't even imagine the uproar from sanctimonious Republicans had Obama skipped a ceremony honoring war-dead because of a little rain. I am sure they'll come up with some lame rationale--but it will be just one more step into the abyss of relativism that the GOP has been undergoing since 2015.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

As I look out my window at the newly harvested fields on the west side of our farm on a glorious fall day, I am filled with gratitude. To my teachers and professors for shaping my mind, to the Navy for shaping my character, to Catherine and the girls for shaping my compassion and to my parents for virtually everything else. I bitch a lot about the world we live in these days, but sitting here--in the present--I am embarrassed by my good fortune but thankful for it.

Tuesday will be a big day for the country, and no, not because your 2019 NCAA Men's College Basketball Champion Virginia Cavaliers kick off their season, though that is not unimportant. It will be a big day because we'll have a chance to collectively register our thoughts about where we are and where we are going as a country. My sense though, is that all we have a right to expect as a people is for our respective priors to be confirmed. It appears that the Senate will either stay Republican or get a little more so, and that the House will flip. Both sides will claim great victories, and neither will have a right to do so. We will find ourselves in a worse version of where we are now, and we have no right to expect better. We HAVE the government we deserve. Anyone who thinks we deserve better should show their work.

The trip to Charlottesville this past Friday for the game vs. Pitt was a mixed event. The game itself sucked. For the first twelve minutes of the first quarter I sat in a torrential downpour. Then the weather actually got pretty nice, but the team Virginia had on the field was pretty inept. Additionally, four starters were injured during the game, not a good sign for the future. I was worried about this one all week, I thought we were overrated, that we are a decent team in a terrible conference. I suspected Virginia fans were getting ahead of themselves, and I think I was right. We're not bad, we're just good. Barely.

I saw some of my best friends in the world the other night, guys I've had laughs with since the fall of 1983. At one point during the game, late, when it was clear we were going to lose, I just stood up and looked at them, and thought about how much time we'd spent together and how dear they are to me. This is the kind of thing I need to do more of, I think. Just being in the moment, not worrying about past injuries or future schemes. Totally present. It was sublime.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

Well, well, well, would you look at what's happening with my beloved Wahoos football team. They beat UNC yesterday (covered the spread) in Charlottesville and are likely to crack the Top 25 in voting later today. I'm a little dubious about their being ranked, this week--I'd prefer to wait until next week after we play Pitt on Friday night in Charlottesville, but the turnaround in this team the past two seasons is becoming undeniable. Really happy to see competent football return to UVA. If the football team does get ranked, it would be the first time since November 2011 that both the football and basketball teams were ranked at the same time. By the way, wanna know who has been a believer in the Hoos since the early season? The Hammer!

Speaking of basketball, the Hoo's had a "secret" scrimmage with Villanova yesterday.They do a good job of keeping the news from these games on the down-low. That said, I look at Villanova as the team the Wahoos are emulating, just a few years behind. Jay Wright had some real disappointments before finally getting his team to the Final Four, and now it is a machine. I'm hoping for the same with Tony Bennett. The boys (Rob, Tom) and I are heading to C'ville December 9th for the VCU game, which has me very excited.

Missed the football game yesterday because it was Kitten #2's final "parents weekend" at her school, and was supposed to be the final home field hockey game (rained out). Kitten #2 is a fierce field hockey player, with serious speed to burn. It is sort of a slow game, but she adds a little speed to it. We had a team/family party in the afternoon, and some of her younger teammates had wonderful things to say about her, her leadership (co-captain this year) and her kindness. It was too bad the room was so dusty, as I had a hard time watching without my eyes watering. I remember when she was a freshman watching this event and thinking how far away senior year looked. Those were the days.

While enjoying the festivities at Parents Weekend, I chanced to see the horrific news of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh yesterday. Coming as it did on the heels of the (you can't call it anything but) mass assassination attempt on leading Democrats and Liberals, I found myself wondering deeply about the state of our country. We are sick, very sick. I'm not interested in whatever your comment section justification is, so save it. Actual ideas about how we might move forward in a more civil and rational way are welcome.

Someday, I may understand anti-Semitism. But this is not that day. Has there been a group of people more unfairly treated in modern history? I'm often surprised by the descriptions of those who attack the Jews in this country, specifically by what appears to be a significant lack of any real contact with Jews in a way that might contribute to the demented hatred. But no. Just looney-tunes.

The election is just around the corner, and it looks like we'll get just what we deserve...mixed results that everyone will be able to claim victory from. The D's are likely to take the House back, and the R's look to increase their margin in the Senate. No one learns anything, no one is taught anything, everyone will fall back on their familiar talking points and venom, and our collective descent into madness will continue.

Back to good news? Hunting season is just around the corner. I'm hearing more and more geese in the cove, taunting me whilst fattening up for my table. I haven't renewed my licence yet--need to get on it.

In the previous sentence, I misspelled licence. I always misspell licence. And initiative, which I just misspelled again.

Now through mid January is "silly season" in my line of work. Every year, same thing. More speaking engagements, more client meetings, more travel, more personal stuff (UVA football games), more stuff in general. Good problems to have, but problems nonetheless.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

My women have abandoned me this weekend, leaving me free to pursue various methods of time wasting and reputational self-destruction which include both my Twitter habit and this blog on occasion. Fall and winter clothes in the attic are not going to bring themselves down to our closets, and the electric dog fence is not going to self-heal. There are things to do, but first, a few words.

I made a quick trip to New Jersey earlier this week to finalize preparations for my 35th high school reunion. We're essentially re-doing #30, but there are still details to be micro-managed. Having a bit of time before my meeting, I drove around some of the haunts of my youth, and I was amazed at how everything has shrunk. What I mean is that how I experience distance at 53 seems markedly different from how I experienced it at 17. My high school (Lenape, go Indians) is on Hartford Road in Medford, New Jersey. 

Driving to school each morning, either as passenger to an older brother or as driver, the distance between Elbo Lane and Lenape High School along Hartford Road seemed considerable. I also remember running to lose weight for wrestling, thinking that getting to Elbo Lane was a drudge. Driving this on Wednesday evening, I covered the distance in what seemed to be an instant. No, I was not exceeding the speed limit. And yes, my mind may have been elsewhere. But this phenomenon--the shrinking of familiar drives--repeated itself throughout the visit. Have any of you ever experienced this? Oh, and if you're Class of '83, don't forget about our reunion on October 20th at Ott's in Medford.

So much Kavanaugh in the past few days. I'd like to say I'm glad that's over, but I can't because it isn't. This is going to go on, and on, and on. We are a divided country and we see nothing but malevolence in the views of "the other". I am no angel--my problem is that I see malevolence on both sides these days, although I at least THINK that my ideology is based in principle. Others may not see it so. Former Republican national security guy Max Boot -- who has gone 180 degrees the other way and now identifies utterly with the Democrats-- and I had an exchange on Twitter this morning that raised a ruckus among others who rolled in on me from both sides. Trumpies don't care for me because I have no love for their man who I believe is doing long-term damage to our country. Liberals seem also set against me because my disdain for Trump is insufficient, I must go full Boot and declare my loyalty to their party.  I am comfortable where I am.

We are in the midst of college hunting for Kitten #2, which accounts for 2/3 of my women being gone this weekend, headed south to North and South Carolina on college visits. The college admissions game is much changed from the early '80's, and not for the better. First of all, the complete diminishment of any career not requiring a bachelor's degree has created a "demand" for undergraduate slots that is a distortion. Secondly, this demand has created (in my view) a situation in which the bachelor's degree is not worth very much, even as its cost explodes. Put another way, a degree from one of the top 50 universities in the country MAY matter, depending on what it is in. But outside of that group--unless you're in hard STEM stuff--the BA prepared you for little. The final piece of this pie is "the common app(lication)", which for those of us who hand-crafted four or five applications in the 80's without any similarity--sounds like a benefit. But it isn't. What it has become is a delivery vehicle for applications from unqualified--or worse--uninterested students who don't have as much work to do in order to apply to a school. And while universities are now able to point at how exclusive they've gotten (as their class sizes haven't increased as fast as their super-charged applicant pools), high school seniors work themselves into a lather when they see schools with what were (and are) middling reputations turning down 60% of their applicants. One hears from the next generation many tales of how much harder it is for them (likely every next generation has and will), but in this case, I think they have the facts on their side.

The geese have returned to the cove. Each season has its wonders here, and among those fall brings is the cacophonous arrival of geese. As I wrote this, a group descended noisily and distracted me from this post. And so I'll now pay them heed and wish you a good day.

Geese in the distance

Friday, October 5, 2018

Some More Thoughts on Kavanaugh

I look forward to the Kavanaugh vote, and I will accept the vote of the Senate however it turns out. This has been an entirely unsatisfactory period in our nation's history, and I look forward to its diminishment.

As I think about this whole sad and sordid affair, a number of things kept coming to mind, and I'll lay them out in no particular order. But the sum total of them has led me to be far more sympathetic to Kavanaugh than I would normally have been.

--This has never been about Kavanaugh, sexual assault, or teenage buffoonery. It has always been about Roe v. Wade and any attempt to make it about anything else is disingenuous. The left sees Kavanaugh as a potential fifth vote to whittle away at abortion rights, and they went to the mattresses in order to stop him. This includes willful manipulation of Professor Ford and her narrative and evidence.

--The degree to which the press has served as an advocacy arm of the Democratic Party in this sad affair cannot be overstated. There simply was no equality of effort in questioning the narrative of Professor Ford and the narrative of Judge Kavanaugh. Ford was believed, Kavanaugh was not, and it was open season on Kavanaugh. Ford's many, many, many inconsistencies, her failure to share even the evidence she had, and the indisputable lack of any corroborating witnesses--were never as interesting or salacious as the drinking habits of entitled young white men.

--The President's actions -- especially his performance at a rally the other night -- has been predictably gutter and utterly representative of this immoral and unethical man. That more Republicans did not vocally chastise the President is unfortunate, and unfortunately also predictable.

--The plain truth is that if the White House had pulled Kavanaugh's nomination, or if Kavanaugh had dropped out under this onslaught, a terrible precedent would have been set, one that would be more injurious to our Republic than the lifetime tenure on the court of a man who had been accused without evidence. The effort to get him to derail him guaranteed that a vote would occur.

I received a note the other day from a fellow Field Marshall in the #antiTrump movement who was dismayed at the degree to which I was not repudiating the GOP on its conduct in this matter. I reminded him of my lifetime disdain for the Democratic party and its tactics, and I pointed out that one of the things that he and I had been so vocally protesting--the destruction of political norms-- by Donald Trump, was EXACTLY what the D's were doing now with a wrecking ball (the media) at their control. I don't think the D's calculated the degree to which their efforts would cause a re-forming of the pre-Trump coalition on the Right. Don't get me wrong. I will not and can not every vote for Trump again, and I will not be a Republican while he and his ilk are ascendant. But they have the better of this argument and that's where I am on this.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trump's Troubadour Wonders Where the Virtuous Politicians Are

Before the 2016 election, I did not know who Salena Zito was. Through the primary and since, I have come to know her as a sort-of "Jane Goodall" of TrumpAmerica, only in this case, the anthropological case study not only catalogs the society under review but acts as its truth-teller and advocate. Ms. Zito has a new column up at the Washington Examiner entitled "The Politicians We Deserve", and it caught my attention on a quiet Sunday in the late stages of our Republic.

Ms. Zito begins the piece with a paean to former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who virtually every squishy, RINO, establishment, GOPe kind of person (like me) had hoped would someday run from President. The man was as Reagany and George W. Bushy as you could get, and those are great qualifications in my book.  In 2011, he ultimately decided not to, citing among other things, family concerns including the ups and downs of his marriage. Zito recently interviewed him, and he indicated that were he faced with the same decision today, not only would he not run, but the decision would be a no-brainer, the intimation being that the changed political climate including personal destruction was to blame. Zito sums it up thusly: "Daniels’ decision as a possible presidential candidate was a very high-profile example of when good men and women decide not to run for office, not because they aren’t capable, not because they lack leadership qualities, but because of the personal cost to their lives, reputations, and their family’s stability."

Zito's piece continues: "One of the most common complaints heard on the campaign trail in 2016 was this: Of all the inspiring, hardworking, bright men and women in this country, how did it come down to a choice between two people who were not exactly the paragons of virtue?" She goes on to answer her own question: "The answer two years ago was that people in this country had such a low viewpoint of government and institutions, it was hard to get good people to be willing to be involved because they lacked faith to get involved. In retrospect, two years ago may seem like a kinder, gentler time. Today, given that character assassination comes first, and facts come later, why would any good person jump in?" And "But in this age of vicious politics, good people will step back and refuse to upend their personal lives because the other side politically is set on winning at any cost"

I don't even know where to begin to unpack this. This woman who has spent a good part of the past two years attempting to normalize and legitimize not only the vicious and vindictive statements of the President-- but also in soft-pedaling the degree to which his supporters lap it up and internalize it--is all of a sudden lamenting the lack of good people willing to get into politics? Forgive me, but maybe I'm having a memory lapse. Did a former two-term governor of Florida not run in 2016? Did a former tech CEO not run? Did a brain surgeon not run? Did Senators from Florida and Texas not run? Were the sixteen others who ran somehow not virtuous enough? And was not every single one of these others (and at least one wife thereof) not savaged in personal ways by the man who eventually won? Remember-this wasn't "the other side". This was Donald Trump, running as a Republican, burning the crops in the fields as he roamed to the cheering and applause of the people Zito lionizes.

Does Zito REALLY think that if Mitch Daniels threw his hat in the ring in 2016 things would have turned out any differently? I mean--there was no more establishment guy around than Mitch Daniels--and I mean that with esteem and admiration. "Mitch the Knife" was the King of Cutting Entitlements and budget discipline. Trump and his followers want nothing to do with cutting entitlements, and they would have cheered and applauded while Trump turned his carnival act on Daniels, who is I think two or three inches shorter than "Little Marco" Rubio. My problem with Zito here is not that she is wrong in citing this as a problem, it's just that she is the absolute wrong person to point it out, as closely identified as she is with the defense of Trumpism and its adherents. Trump and Trumpkins did not invent the politics of personal destruction, but the degree to which they participate in its practice and defense is fundamental to the movement and its narrative.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Big Fat Friday Free For All

We live in troubled times, and I fear our nation is sick and broken. My day was a busy one yesterday, and I tried to use the busy-ness as a means to foist off the ubiquitous images coming from Capitol Hill, in which a group of people utterly certain of their priors preened for the cameras while a woman told a horrible story implicating a man who says it didn't happen. I was not totally successful in avoiding the horror, but I did manage to limit its impact on my already diminished capacity to watch the country devour itself in tribal displays. I have generally been optimistic about the future of our country, but the last two years have taken their toll on that optimism. What is most depressing about where we are is the degree to which people now question personal motives behind political ideas, while ignorant of their own horrible, tribal biases. I don't know how this ends, but I am not hopeful.

I have another busy day today, one capping off in a drive to Kitten #2's school to watch her play field hockey. She plays lacrosse in the spring, a sport I prefer. That said, as field hockey games tend to be low scoring affairs, there is often a good bit of tension as to the outcome. Afterward, she and I will drive back to Easton, an hour or so of me doing my best not to poke knitting needles into my eardrums to end the pain of the music she likes to play. I am that guy, but only on internal monologue (I have been told that voicing these objections is not welcomed by one's children). Every single damn song sounds like the one before it; monotonous, folksy, earnest. Blech. 

The Kitten and I have been solo for a couple of weeks, with Kitten #1 off on a gap-year Outward Bound course in the wilds of North Carolina and Kitten #2 off at school. I have to say that I've enjoyed it and am looking forward to more of it. The passage of the seasons was marked last night in our kitchen as the two candlesticks/white candles that sit atop our kitchen table during the fall and winter returned to their positions. No friend of fall and winter, the Kitten rages against the dying of the light by eating dinner aided by these candles. I like candlelight, and so look forward to the change. It won't be long until the gas fireplaces we installed during the renovation six years ago will be fired up, and I'll have my favorite little spot back by the fire in the kitchen for the mornings that I am at home, with two slumbering black labs nearby and occasional intrepid visits by the cats.

Every five years I am charged with rallying the Lenape High School Class of 1983 for our reunions, and this being one of those five years, I have been at this. Thirty-five seems like an odd number (not just mathematically) to celebrate, but we'll gather nonetheless. The event is a virtual copy of #30 which makes everything much easier. October 20th is the date if you are hoping to attend, reach out to me for details.

The big news in my life is that I am considering ending my 25 year relationship with America Online (AOL). That's right, I still have an AOL account (email only). The Kitten and I were chatting last night about the list of automatic payments that so effortlessly fly from our treasure each month, and after her list I laid out mine, which included AOL. She brutally brow-beat me on this, and my only defense was that of clinging to something old, familiar, and comfortable. This morning, I've begun the process of getting a new personal email (gmail) account and will take a hard look at these auto payments that desperately need pruning.

My beloved Cavaliers venture into my ancestral homeland of central North Carolina tomorrow at a gaudy 3-1 to face the undefeated Wolfpack of North Carolina State. It looks like something positive is happening with the Hoos this year, and I'll search the various forms of connection I have with the world to see which might bring me this game. Further to my previous paragraph, we have DirecTV, and pay an enormous fee each month for a thousand channels I do not watch. But when the Hoos are on Big Ten TV--well, I get to watch! The Kitten suggests that we might have a more restrictive (and cost effective) plan, but I have been unable to bring myself to shed the giant menu of unwatched fare.

A good weekend to you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On a Weekend in France

Readers may remember way back to last week when I wrote about an upcoming weekend visit to Paris with the Kitten. That travel is complete, and I can say with confidence that Paris is a do again.

We flew from Dulles to Vienna to Paris, a route necessitated by my having cashed in miles. Our plane was a 2-4-2 configuration, and we had a 2 on the starboard side. While not roomy, we were fine, as neither of us is all that tall. We landed in Vienna, had to clear customs and then go back through security. In the meantime, we had a nice fat breakfast before our 2.5 hour flight back the way we came.

Landing in Paris, we moved quickly through immigration and found our way to the train station, where the RER train would whisk us to St. Michel station a ten minute walk from our hotel in St. Germaine. But just as we approached the terminal, security cleared everyone out as there was a suspicious bag left unattended. Without any real sense how long this would last, I checked Uber and everything looked good-so we caught an Uber to Paris. Our driver was a jazz buff (not the first Uber driver who would be listening to jazz), and drove like a maniac.

Our hotel was a nice little spot, probably 25 rooms or so, with a bar and a breakfast room. We set our stuff down and began a walkabout--probably around 3:30 PM. On the way out of the hotel about ten yards down was a bistro that I suggested should be our place to eat that night, as my next meal is generally one of the three top things on my mind at any one time.

The Kitten is an old Paris hand, and she had a determined agenda of gardens and churches for the first day. Around 6:30 or so, I'd had enough and suggested that we needed to get moving toward the hotel to get some dinner. I'd gotten maybe three hours sleep on the red-eye overnight and was beginning to fade. She was somewhat disappointed in me, as she had researched the Louvre and saw that it was open until ten on Fridays and that Friday evenings were the least well-attended. I delayed answering her, but reminded her that before we left I had predicted that Friday evening would be a groggy one for me.

We made our way to the little bistro and had a nice dinner. Turns out they call French Onion Soup  "Onion Soup" in France. Who'dathunk it? At the end of our dinner, I let the Kitten down gently and told her I was headed directly to bed. She--independent woman that she is--said, fine, I'm going to the Louvre. She did, and I did. Actually I didn't. I read for a little while but was unconscious by nine pm.

Eleven hours later I was awakened by a fully dressed woman holding a cup of Nescafe for me, telling me I had to get up because we had a lot to do. In fact, over the next two days we did do a lot. Museums, sites, palaces, meals, etc. Having a limited time in a city the size of Paris means you either do little or do lots for short period of time. She chose the latter, and I followed along. On Sunday after a long day at Versailles and a romantic dinner in a spot at the base of the Eiffel Tower, I decided to see if I had enough mile to upgrade us to business for the long flight home (we were going Paris to Franfurt to Dulles--I know, again in the wrong direction). The wonderful gent at United said "how'd you like to get on the non-stop from Paris to Dulles leaving at 1230?" and then cited the miles I'd have to cash in. This was a no brainer.

We woke Monday, made our way to the airport, and then traveled home uneventfully.

I have a few observations to make from the trip:

1) Paris is a beautiful city. Rome is my favorite, but Paris comes close to displacing #2 (Florence). A few more days in Paris and it would likely be #2.
2) Parisians were wonderful, helpful, and kind. Parisian waiters were...rude. Except the one at our final dinner, who was great.
3) Because we did a good bit of close quarters travel (planes, Metro, trains) I was able to enjoy the wafts of BO from a great many people. I don't have a great sense of smell, so if you smell bad enough for me to notice, you smell really bad. And there were a lot of foul smelling people in France.
4) I could live in Paris for a while, in fact I may someday. The Kitten and I are thinking about a one month a year plan in which we live somewhere else when we're retired. I'll let you know how that shakes out.
5) The walk Monday morning from the hotel to the train station was brisk and wonderful. We left the hotel around 8:15, and there was a school about halfway between us and the train station; from the age of the kids we saw walking hand and hand with their parents, it was likely a kindergarten. What a scene. Businesses slowly opening up, street sweepers and cleaners out, and little kids chattering like swallows to their parents as they walked. A great scene.
6) I do not recommend intercontinental weekend trips. Too much flying for too little hanging out.

On Kavanaugh

There is nothing good about what is going on with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy. I have been actively trying to shield myself from the constant clatter of opposing social media volleys, unsuccessfully mostly, not because I have any particular dog in this fight, but because I find the whole situation emblematic of our nation's decline. That decline is increasingly depressing.

I will assume the reader is familiar with all the history. Bork. Thomas. Garland. Nuclear options.

How we got here is interesting but far less important that the fact that we ARE here. We are in a place where a woman accuses a man of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago when both were teenagers. The accused went on to a successful career and is currently a federal judge. The President nominated him to the Supreme Court, and the accuser (Professor Christine Blasey Ford) came forward with her accusations, breaking the lid off of an already runaway process. Virtually every other aspect of this situation is tainted by politics, score settling, or team divisions (sex-based and again, political).

I simply do not know who to believe in this matter, but I do know that I will not believe either of them (or the second accuser whose story seems somewhat problematic) without some evidence. During a long and emotional conversation recently, I took pains to point out that I see both sides of this tragedy. I see a young woman, attacked and alone, who feels she cannot tell anyone what has happened to her. I see a 53 year old man who has lived what appears to be an exemplary life, without means to address an unfalsifiable claim. My interlocutor was more than willing to grant me the horrible situation Kavanaugh is in, without means to prove that he did not do something. But when pressed for how we resolve this, my friend said, "we just have to believe the woman". No can do.

There is stray voltage from both sides here. I am unimpressed with the "this isn't a trial, it is a job interview and so the rules of evidence are demonstrably less" argument. I am also not impressed with the "she must be telling the truth because why else would she come forward" argument. The former ignores the importance of truth as truth, and the latter ignores the many motivations people have for their actions.

On the other side, Kavanaugh's virginity (or not) is unrelated to the charge. I am also not convinced that calendars -- even kept by a precocious teen -- would mention sexual assault.

So here we are, a nation tearing itself up. I saw someone today on Twitter make a comparison of our divisions to that which existed in the 1850's. He was loathe to say would might be our 1860's.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Random Thoughts Before a Long Weekend

Later this afternoon, a jet will carry the Kitten and me to Vienna on an overnight flight. We'll land, have a few hours to catch our connection, and then head a few hours back west to Paris where we'll land early Friday afternoon. This is an inefficient route, but when one cashes in airline points to travel, one's options are few.

The occasion for this trip is a comment of the Kitten's from several months ago, when she for the ten-thousandth time in the past eleven years said "I love surprises". Having listened now for nearing a dozen years to this comment, I decided it was high time to act upon it, if for no other reason than to see if perhaps doing so will make it go away. Monthly trips to the West Coast having contributed mightily to my airline status/miles account, I decided to whisk my best girl off for a long weekend in a city that she loves and which I had never visited.

Oh, I've been to France. Several times, as a matter of fact, courtesy of the U.S. Navy. I've had wonderful visits to a number of places along the Mediterranean coast, but I've never had the time or the inclination to visit Paris. I once carried on a conversation with a French woman in Cannes at a formal luncheon wherein the city's grandees feted a group of officers from my ship. She was seated next to me, an attractive woman of about 40 (I was 30ish), while her husband was seated across the round table. He was older than she, jowly and sullen. He was French and spoke no other foreign languages. She was French and also spoke German but no English. I speak English and German, but no French. Once we discovered that we could communicate -- I was treated to a tale of tired boredom as her midday wine intake increased, and eventually slipped a telephone number which I declined to exploit.

This was the same trip in which I enticed a number of my shipmates to unknowingly (we were young-ish) commit horrible relationship fouls. I had a few months earlier, come to know the charms of a young woman who wore a perfume (Boucheron) that was unusually attractive, if you know what I mean. And you do. She did not last, but the memory of her perfume did. There we were, seven or so Lieutenants and below, strolling along the main drag of Cannes--when we happened upon a Boucheron store. That's right. An entire store. So I convinced my (unknowing, soon to be troubled) shipmates to come in and "smell this stuff", which they did, and several of them reached the same conclusion that I had. This led to the brilliant conclusion that they would purchase some of it for their own sweeties. Which they did.

It was after we got home a few months later that the first inklings of dismay began to arise when one of the guys came by my stateroom to tell me about the big fight he had with his girl, and why he bought her perfume that reminded him of another woman. Apparently, "no honey, that wasn't it, the Operations Officer introduced it to me" was not an answer that held water. He was apparently not the only one to be so persecuted, and I learned a solid lesson from all of it. Interestingly, my inamorata at the time was a good sport and tried to wear the perfume "for me"-- but she was astoundingly allergic to it (and other perfumes, apparently) and so died my Boucheron fascination. Although I did keep a little perfume tester strip bearing the whiff of it in my wallet for some time thereafter...

This trip is a quick one, we'll return Monday. The surprise element of the master plan failed a few weeks ago when The Kitten consulted her own miles account and saw that there was a reservation to Paris. A calculated error in adding her number, I know. But once the cat was out of the bag, it relieved me of any other planning responsibilities, as she has gleefully ran with how to spend 72 hours there. Further evidence of my good fortune in having convinced this woman to accept me into her life is that we are sharing a single carry-on bag (don't hate, Tom).

First things first though. Our two black labs need to be transported to their luxury spa experience at our favorite "pet resort". The dogs (Baloo-7, Zuzu-5) lose their minds whenever they get into an automobile of any type, but when they realize that they are at the pet resort they are beside themselves with joy. This place is great--in the woods, lots of dogs, big play yard, the kind of joint I would want to be shunted of to were I a dog.

My only regret this weekend is that the trip coincides with a UVA home game (v. Louisville) in which we are favored. I would not bet this game, were I a gambler, but it is nice to think Vegas sees something in my team that I don't yet see.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Silver Lining in the Darkest of Clouds

I have watched the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh with a mixture of revulsion and amusement, as Democrats and activists (but I repeat myself) beclown themselves in earnest desire to show themselves to be the wokest of woke for their increasingly leftist voter base. This is the equivalent of Trump campaign rallies, which really were performative theater based at a specific brand of voter who then delivered big time for him. It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will be able to catch lightning in a bottle, but they are certainly trying.

I believe the Trump Presidency to be an absolute calamity, and I actively desire its termination, either through the ballot or some other Constitutional means. As it decays, the true nature of its incompetence and chaos will become further known, although why anyone of sound judgement would need additional evidence of the rot is unknown to me. The assaults on norms, civility, international relationships, free trade, and free speech have been damaging, and will continue to be damaging to the civic life and national security of this country.

But what comes next is going to be equally damaging. The lurch to the left that follows this dumpster fire is going to be an assault on every political virtue conservatives hold dear, and they will accomplish it through political processes. They will have the votes. They will have convinced enough Americans that their way is best, because the fat, apolitical middle will have had enough of the ghoul-show that is the Trump Administration.

And what will be there to stand up to the assaults on freedom and liberty sure to follow? The judiciary. A judiciary whose absences will have been filled for at least two years and perhaps four, by a Senate run by a nominally conservative party whose leader was positively excoriated by the Trumpkin "burn it all down" set for being a RINO and GOPe, from lists compiled by the GOPe'est of GOPe organizations--the Federalist Society--lists that were compiled during the campaign as a direct consequence of the desire to box a wildly inconsistent President in with respect to judicial appointments (remember the President ruminating on the fitness of his sister for the bench? I do).

When I think about the storms to come, I think about the bulwark being constructed around the Constitution by Mitch McConnell and the incredible importance it will have when the shiny objects of Trumpism have dimmed and his voters return to their dulled rage states and Infowars consumption, as the hungry leftists gain power and engage in their version of norm breaking (ok, re-engage, as Barack Obama/Harry Reid were masters of this). When this happens, and I am as politically isolated as I am today in the Age of Trump--the judiciary will be there to stand in the way of leftward madness.

So on this Friday, I give thanks for Leader McConnell and the wisdom of our Founders. Because winter is coming. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mutiny, Treason, or Patriotism: The NYT Op-Ed, Considered

We are in the midst of one of those tsunamis that would once have seemed unthinkable, but which in the current circus atmosphere have become routine. It seems a "senior administration official" has written an op-ed in which he or she assures us of hard work on the inside trying to move forward the tenets of movement conservatism against the glandular lurches of an unfit President who not only hasn't a conservative bone in his body, but who would not understand the reasons behind a conservative idea if served in a Happy Meal. We are further assured that this person is not alone, and in one stroke, the "resistance" has its mole(s) on the inside publicly proclaiming their work. Forgive me if I don't cheer out loud.

Don't get me wrong. When I read the op-ed yesterday, there was a part of me that said "ah, at long last. Signs of hope" as if I were in the NASA control room waiting for communication from a distant satellite orbiting a far-away body. The word that came to mind was "remarkable", which the Google tells me means "worthy of attention; striking" without further value judgment. This was indeed a remarkable letter, if only because the New York Times does not regularly print anonymous op-eds. Adding to the the perception though, was the content and purported provenance of the essay. A "senior administration official" was sending signals in the clear to the "resistance" to the effect of "never fear, we are here and we are helping to restrain this monster." Those opposed to the President (me) are presumably to take great comfort from this person's activities and those of others of like mind. 

Some important thoughts up front. First, I have to assume that this person is either senior White House staff or a cabinet officer. The risk to the New York Times by printing this is so immense (reputationally) that to offer the space to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of Commerce would be illogical. Second, I believe that this person exists and that he or she wrote this essay. This is not "fake news" or any of the other ridiculous mutterings emanating from the sausagey fingers of our unfortunate President. No--I truly believe this person exists and that they chose this moment to send their bat signal to the resistance. What I can't quite figure out is WHY? 

I've seen some elsewhere characterize this person's actions as "mutiny"; one person--familiar with my chosen career earlier in life--was incredulous that I did not see this action as mutinous. Putting aside for the moment that I had not rendered any opinion to that moment other than that it was "remarkable" (see above), and furthermore that mutiny is an actual charge and crime under the Uniform Code (which unless this person is uniformed, they would not come under), I do not see this as mutinous for a very important reason. This person's boss or bosses have not seen his or her actions and job performance as such. If this person were considered unloyal or mutinous, would there not be actual--you know--actions that would rise to this level? Actions that would be noted and questioned? Were there such actions--and having first hand knowledge of the depth of animus this crowd holds for those who oppose the President--do we really think this person would still be around to write such an essay? Of course not. 

So then, is this treason? No, at least not under any definition of the word with which I am familiar. Conveniently, we have such a definition close at hand, as the crime is defined in the U.S. Constitution, Article III Section 3 as "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." I am no Obama-like Constitutional scholar, but writing this op-ed does not seem to rise to this.

Was what we read yesterday patriotic? This one is a little more difficult to arbitrate, as patriotism is a matter or personal taste. I am sure that the author of the piece thinks they are being patriotic. Many readers will see this as a patriotic act, as there is within both the resistance AND the lukewarm Trump supporter community this notion of men and women of good character and sound conservative principles toiling day by day to restrain the President's "...most reckless impulses..." (as Brit Hume put it). Calling it "God's work", Hume goes on to suggest that while the quiet, subversive activities carried out by this person are fine--laudable even--anonymously crowing about it in the New York Times is considerably less praiseworthy. Again--we must willfully suspend the disbelief of just why it is a President's reckless impulses must be restrained and whether that person remains fit for the office in order for this role to be meaningful. But I digress.

So, where exactly do I come down on all of this? After having a night to sleep on it, I come down thusly. The author of this op-ed is guilty of neither mutiny nor treason. That said, what the author has done is not in the least bit patriotic, nor is it worthy of praise or honor. It is self-serving. It is an attempt to get on the record a sterilized version of whatever impulses led this person to serve, and then remain serving in spite of the accumulating evidence that the President is unfit and should be removed from office. This is because this person's identity will one day be known to us, to all of us. Probably sooner, rather than later--as the value of having written something like this diminished greatly over time. No--this was not an honorable act. It was an act of great dishonor.

Which brings me to my final main point. The continuing hope and desire of the anti-Trump crowd and the lukewarm Trump crowd that men like Chief of Staff Kelly and Secretary Mattis are serving as great superhuman patriots constraining the President is a fiction and ought to be dispensed with. There was a time when this was an attractive notion, one from which many likely found comfort. But that time is long over, they are now complicit in the perfidy. That Bob Woodward's book recounts for us exactly the same kind of exasperated views of the President made by these men that others have reported makes their continuing and active denials not only ring hollow, but rise to the level of dishonesty. 

If Mattis and Kelly and Pompeo and the author of this op-ed truly believe that their roles are to constrain/restrain this President, in light of what we have seen now over 18 plus months in office, it seems that they are only being minimally successful. Whatever patriotic stirrings led them to accept these offices must now turn to the realistic understanding of the situation, and that is that whatever grand powers they believe they have, the President's are grander, and he is always a Tweet away from statements that have considerable consequences. Respect for the Republic and a desire to serve it require these people to "walk and talk". Resign en masse with letters addressed to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Explain publicly the extent to which your efforts were required to restrain the "reckless impulses of the President". Then let the political process of impeachment--or not--play out.

I stand ready to accept the charge that I am advocating "undoing" the results of the last election. I'm happy to do so as I have the Constitutional process of impeachment to fall back upon to support my view that the Framers gave us the means so to undo, and specifically placed those means within the legislative branch rather than the judicial, recognizing the overtly political nature of the act. It is time for men and women of honor to stop the leaking and the anonymous bullshit. Act now, or forever be tarred with the dishonor of having aided and abetted this dark period in our history. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Weekly Wrap Up

It is 0545 on a Saturday morning, and I have been awake for over two hours. Normally I am a great sleeper, and last night was a solid night's effort (six hours). But when I woke this morning, it was wide awake, and so I decided to press through. My mind was quite full upon startup, and I suppose that's why I was unable to get back to sleep. Here are a few of the things that I pondered.

Kitten #1 is headed off to a seven week Outward Bound program in the wilds of North Kakalaky. She and The Kitten had a 0500 wake up to get to the airport, and I imagine their impending departure and the thought of anyone in my house not waking to their alarm both conspired to create the early wakeup. Her departure and the fact that Kitten #2 is off at school creates (at least for a time) an "empty nest" here, and that was also something I was pondering. I concluded that clean(er) counters and fewer dishes in the sink are unlikely to compensate for the lack of giggles and smiles and girly conspiracies.

I also thought about the weather in Charlottesville for today's game, with reports of scattered thunderstorms moving in just about the time Rob and I sit down for our pre-game meal at The Virginian. I've sat through a number of rainy games, and being prepared really does make a difference in how enjoyable the experience is.

The drive to Charlottesville also popped into my head. I thought about how many times I've made the trip, how godawful I-95 is (gotta go this way to pick up Rob in Richmond), how I need to bring my 9mm along on one of these trips so I can stop off at Clark Brothers in Warrenton, how I need to download a few podcasts for the road, how I need to buy some bourbon, etc.

My Friday activities popped in. I made the trip in to DC and stood in line for a bit to pay my last respects to John McCain. I thought about how great the Capitol Dome looks since its multi-year renovation. I thought about how the dome looked from the inside gazing upward. I thought about the flag-draped coffin and the slice of Americana who joined me in the hot sun for hours in order to spend 90 seconds with John McCain for one last time. I thought about the protests in DC over the past year, and my social media pondering about just what would bring me to actually protest (me being a conservative and all and not prone to public displays of political theater). I realized that what I did yesterday was--in fact--a form of protest, a form of public display. It was me, standing in the sun in a dark suit and black tie sweating straight through an undershirt, dress shirt, and tie--resolved to be part of a crowd gathered to remember duty, virtue, honesty, bravery, and civility-- in contrast to the immaturity, incivility, bombast, irresponsibility, and incoherence emanating from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

I thought a little about upcoming travel. The Kitten and I are going to Paris in a couple of weeks for a long weekend, a city I've never seen. I've been to France quite a bit (thanks Navy!) but never to the City of Lights. I pondered the carb induced gluttony that awaits me. I wondered if we could pack a single carry-on between us (of course). I quietly bitched about not yet being able to select seats for the flights.

The blog popped into my head. I wondered why I keep it live, and why I decided to contribute to it again this week after months of idling. How the book I keep meaning to write derived of the best of the blog's offerings remains only partially written. How the things I like to write about most--politics and policy--are the least popular things I write about here. I get more feedback from my thoughts about everyday life than I do about the things I agonize over. Maybe a lesson here.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

UVA Football--Hope Springs Eternal

Because it has been a while, I feel the need to reacquaint readers with the central place the University of Virginia and its sports teams play in this blog. Huge. Humongous. Out-sized. Perhaps obsessively large. But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

For most of the past 31 years I've attended at least one football game a year, and for many of those years I've been season ticket holder. Two of my best friends in the world and I each have two tickets in a block of six in the upper deck behind the goalpost opposite the jumbotron/hill at Scott Stadium. As we aged and gained economically, I suppose we could have gotten better seats, but we like these just fine.

My "in-person" obsession with UVA sports until the last few years was restricted to football. Some of you know that UVA has had a few lean years, but there were some glimmers of hope last year with a team that won six games (only to be keelhauled by Navy in a regrettable bowl appearance). The rise of UVA men's basketball as a national powerhouse has added to my in person watching, though I've only seen two or three regular season games in person since leaving school. At this point, it is fair to say that I am a big UVA Football fan, and an obsessive UVA Basketball fan.

Rob, Tom, and me with young fans. 
The football gameday ritual has been refined over the years, but generally follows this pattern. I drive 3-3 1/2 hours from Easton MD to Richmond VA to pick up Rob, one of my two fellow season ticket holder friends. We'll visit for a bit at his house and exchange comments about the propriety of whatever obnoxious bit of "Hoo-Wear" one or the other of us have on. We'll make fun of the third member of the triad (Tom) for whatever it is Tom should be made fun of, and we'll wonder aloud how much of the game will have passed before he finally shows up.

Rob and I drive to Charlottesville together, usually timed to arrive 2.5 hours or so before the game--for our "Pre-Game Meal" at The Virginian. I like to park down on the Corner because it gives us the chance to walk the Lawn on the way to the stadium and back. It is hard for me to walk the Lawn without getting a little misty, even today. We try to get an outside table at The Virginian for a couple of reasons. First, it's just damn pleasant if the weather is nice. Second, we will almost always have some old friend happen by and stop to talk with us for a bit, something we miss if we're inside. Third--there is the "scenery", but I'll keep my lechery to myself.

The UVA Fraternity man in his natural environs
As I am Rob's designated driver for these events, he generally has a beer or a bloody (for the midday games) or two, which help lubricate his already winning mien. We are somewhat pathetic, Rob and me. We repeat the SAME DAMN things year after year--most of which were enshrined in our patois during college ("Chicks dig John Shea", "Fall....that's all!" etc.) and we loll about taking up prime tables that others eye wantingly.

Then we head over to the stadium to join a tailgate. This has become increasingly more difficult over the years, as our friends have pulled up lame when it comes to providing us with tailgates we deserve (I'm looking at you Mark Senell, Fred Helm, Hunter Woods, etc). One hopes that last year's campaign brings these fair-weather tailgaters back this year. We usually show up for the first game with a bottle of some ridiculously named, overpriced bourbon to thrust upon the tailgatemeister, with the expectation that this grants us continuing access to the tailgate for the remainder of the season. This unspoken arrangement suits us fine. We are unaware of how it is viewed by others.

About twenty minutes before gametime, we head up to our seats. Of late this has been a quick walk, as the "crowds" at the gate are somewhat less than they were when we were a better team. Security measures have also changed over the years, so it is a crapshoot whether or not you'll get held up at the gate. On the way to our seats, I espy the various concessions, and am moved to great emotion when the "funnel cake" purveyor is on the scene. Not that I am hungry at this point, mind you, after a pre-game meal at The Virginian, and some fried chicken/ham biscuits at the tailgate (when at full-strength). No, the funnel cake is consumed second half, when a bit of room is cleared in the upper part of my digestive system.

Tom usually shows up sometime in the first quarter with some portion of his family with him. Rob and I generally go solo and then pass our extra tickets to Tom. Various women in my life have over the years made noise about wanting to come to a game with me, but this noise generally ceases after I bring them. It is a long day, but also one filled with odd practices and boolah-boolah, and often featuring Rob or my descent into immaturity as a result of team performance.

After the game Rob and I make the long walk back to the corner to grab the car and head back to his place in Richmond. It is never easy getting out of C'ville after a game, but compared to getting out of Annapolis after a Naval Academy game it is positively SPEEDY. Depending on the time of day, we sometime stop and buy Chinese food to ensure our tummies are filled for bedtime. I mostly always bunk in Rob's basement crypt  bedroom for the night and then wake quietly and steal away without waking him or Jen.

One great recent addition to my game watching has been the re-emergence of old friends into my life whose children attend UVA (the littlest kitten is in the mix....but my influence campaign is on the downlow. Except for the fact that I buy her UVA swag every time I come to C'ville). I love meeting up with them and their kids.

So--hope springs eternal. No one is expecting much from this team this year, but I'm predicting six wins again. We'll see how it goes. On Saturday morning I'll wake up and start the whole ritual over again. In the meantime, WAHOOWA!

Monday, August 27, 2018

On the Death of John McCain


When I left the Navy in 2008 and began to be a bit more...well, vocal about my politics, Senator John McCain was not my favorite person. You see, in those days, I was a Republican first, and a conservative second. Because my party was sufficiently conservative, I concerned myself largely with the business of winning....elections, policy matters, etc. Senator McCain seemed then only nominally concerned with such matters, preferring (in my view) to stake his own claim and to be the "Maverick" his supporters. Because he so often questioned his own party, he was celebrated as what I called "every Democrat's favorite Republican". This of course, lasted only until McCain became the 2008 Republican nominee, at which point he became what all Republicans are painted as, racist and unconcerned with the plight of the downtrodden. I also did not like McCain's jihad against "pork" in the budget--not because I loved pork (ok, I loved some of it) but because the institution of Congress needed ways to lubricate the system, a system that now (without pork) has ground to a halt. It always bothered me that someone with such institutional regard could not see this. Finally, there was campaign finance. McCain and I could not have been farther apart, and I am glad to see the Supreme Court came to agree with me.

I left the Navy in April of 2008 and started this (sometimes interrupted) blog in late June of that year. McCain was in the midst of a heated battle with Barack Obama, who would of course go on to win the election and cool the earth/restrain the rising waters etc. I was supportive of Senator McCain, but not overwhelmingly so. Of course I would rather have poked my eyes out than vote for Obama. I was on vacation with my (then new) family at a dude ranch in Wyoming when McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. I thought it an inspired choice for about a month, and then realized the error of my ways.

I guess what all this rambling adds up to is that I was not a huge fan of Senator John McCain.

But John McCain? My God, I idolized the man. And I am deeply, deeply saddened by his death.

I was probably too tough on Senator McCain because of how deeply I admired John McCain. It all began in the mid-90's when I read the great Robert Timberg's "The Nightingale's Song", a book that traced the lives of a series of prominent Naval Academy graduates, including McCain. It was here that I learned about McCain--the wise cracker, the trouble maker, the average pilot, narrow escapes from death, prison and torture, return, divorce, rise, renewal. Hie thee to Amazon as soon as you can and order this book if you have not already read it. I watched him as a candidate in 2000 (where I supported Bush, quietly, on active duty) and like everyone else, was transfixed by his ease and honesty, and the way he absolutely OWNED the press. I remember watching his young family by his side on the campaign trail, obviously with no idea that I would later in life befriend one of them--Jack--whose own young life brought great joy to his father. My heart aches for my friend.

Even when I disagreed with Senator McCain--which was often--I continued to admire John McCain. I admired how dogged he was. I admired how honorable he was. I admired how funny he was. I admired how uncompromising he could be where principle was concerned, and how compromising he could be where practicality was possible. I admired his character, which shone brightest during his 2008 campaign when he defended his opponent's patriotism against early signs of ugliness in the GOP that would grow to full (im)maturity eight years later. And I admired how much he loved his family.

The last two years have been among John McCain's finest. His distance from a divisive and damaging presidency, and his willingness to criticize it and the President--even though of the same party--has served as a beacon of political bravery in an atmosphere of rampant and ruinous cowardice. As I write this, a President who publicly questioned McCain's status as a hero is hunkered down in a White House that this morning raised the flag to full mast after an announcement on McCain's death that was beneath even the miscreant in the Oval Office. The contrast in character between John McCain and Donald Trump could not be more clear, and it is my fervent hope that the solemn activities this week and the reflection they cause bring more Americans to once again value political virtues from which we have become distanced. Honesty. Clarity. Honor. Bravery.

McCain will lie in State at the Capitol on Friday. I will join him there.

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.

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