A Day of Exits

It’s a day of exits.

The UK is exiting the European Union and, in the U.S., John Delaney has exited the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Delaney, who has spent the last three years of his life running for President (he was actually the first Democrat to declare), probably deserved better.  He was one of the few moderates running this year and, unlike Joe Biden, he was capable of putting sentences together without turning into a raving lunatic or threatening voters.  Unfortunately, Delaney also had all the charisma of a hard-working accountant and he never got above the fabled 1-2% mark in the polls.

With Delaney leaving the race, Maryland continues to come up short when it comes to producing successful presidential candidates.  Hopefully, Larry Hogan will have more luck in 2024.

Happy Brexit Eve!

It’s actually happening.

I saw this picture floating around twitter.  I don’t who took it originally.  If it was you, let me know and I’ll credit you.

My family members in the UK are excited.  I’m hoping for the best.  I’ll be in the UK at the end of February so I look forward to seeing if it’s a whole new world.

When Leave first won, a lot of people said that the sky was falling.  As of right now, the sky is where it has always been.  I suspect it will still be there tomorrow.

No Front Runner?

On one of the cable news channels, I saw a headline that read: “No Democratic Front Runner?”  Apparently, that’s what Cook Political Report is currently says about the state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.  With Iowa and New Hampshire rapidly approaching, it’s still anyone’s race.

I don’t know if I agree with that.  I think the race right now is Bernie vs. Biden and none of the other candidates really seem to have a realistic chance at getting the nomination (or, at the very least, winning the nomination through the primaries.  A brokered convention would be another story).  It’s true that the media still loves Elizabeth Warren but her campaign peaked a while ago and has been struggling ever since.  Much like Michele Bachman in 2012 and Ben Carson in 2016, Pete Buttigieg had a moment but that moment seems to have ended.  He’s strong in Iowa and New Hampshire but his campaign seems to be destined to flounder after those two states.  Amy Klobuchar could pick up some momentum if she finishes well in Iowa but it’s again hard to imagine it lasting for too long.  Bloomberg and Steyer have proven the power of money in politics but both seem destined, at best, to play spoiler roles at the convention.

Right now, it’s a Bernie vs. Biden game.  It’s hard to believe that, with Trump as their opponent, the Democrats can’t seem to do better than the grumpy old men but that’s the way it looks.  Maybe it’s not so much that there isn’t a clear front runner as it’s just that nobody wants to believe that, in 2020, we’re going to have to choose between Trump, Biden, and Bernie.  Surely, we can do better than that, can’t we?

About that CNN clip

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

Believe me, I absolutely hate that I’m starting today by quoting Nietzsche.  Making it even worse is that I’m use the same Nietzsche quote that everyone else uses whenever they talk about people becoming the thing that they claim to despise.  So much for originality.  Still, it’s an appropriate quote for today’s “outrage.”

There’s a clip floating around social media this morning.  It’s from CNN and it features Rick Wilson and, to a lesser extent, Wajahat Ali mocking Trump voters as being (to quote Wilson) “boomer rubes” who don’t know how to read a map or anything else.  While Wilson and Ali speak in mock hillbilly accents, Don Lemon giggles like a schoolgirl and then ends the segment by saying, “I needed that.”

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pissed off Trump supporters on twitter right now.  There’s also a lot of pissed off people who don’t necessarily support Trump but who know that the clip is basically a dream come true for the Trump campaign.  Not surprisingly, Donald Trump retweeted the clip this morning.  (Wajahat Ali responded by tweeting that his “friends fear for my safety.”)

Here’s the clip in question:

Personally, I think a lot of the outrage about the clip is performative.  Ali is an outspoken Trump critic and Rick Wilson has been doing his “anyone who disagrees with me is a rube” act for so long that I find it hard to believe that anyone was shocked by what they said or even by how they said it.  Don Lemon is another matter, in that he at least pretends to be a journalist.  But again, this is nothing that people haven’t seen in the past from Lemon.

Instead, what I find interesting about the clip is just how much those who claim to oppose Trump will act like Trump in order to make their point.   I guess the argument would be, “Trump acts like a jerk so we’re justified in acting like jerks too.”  I understand the argument but I think it misses an important point.  I have not met a single Trump voter who doesn’t think that Trump can be a jerk.  I’m sure there’s a few who worship him as blindly as Rick Wilson seems to think but the majority of Trump voters know that Donald Trump is hardly a perfect person.  Trump’s campaign has even cut ads praising Trump for willing to be a jerk.  To many people, it’s a part of his appeal.  They consider it to be a sign of his authenticity.  It also helps that Trump is someone who can say, “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who is presiding over the strongest economy in recent memory.”  That’s an accomplishment that, for many people, will make it easier to justify voting for someone who they may not like personally.

But then you have the people in this clip.  What are they going to say if someone accuses them of being a jerk?

Don Lemon: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who is currently in last place in the cable news ratings.”

Rick Wilson: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who helped run Evan McMullin’s  unsuccessful presidential campaign.”

Wajahat Ali: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk that most people have never heard of.”

Which brings us back to the Nietzsche quote.  To oppose Donald Trump, it’s not necessary to become Donald Trump.  In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t because Donald Trump seems to be the only one who can pull that off.

As for the clip, there will be something new to be outraged about tomorrow.

The Coronavirus Is Scary As Hell

There’s no use in downplaying how serious this could be or denying that it’s preying on everyone’s mind.  The Coronavirus is frightening.

What makes it especially scary is that, right now, we’re largely dependent on news coming out of China.  Much like the Soviet Union during the Chernobyl crisis, the Chinese government has often shown that it’s willing to cover-up the truth if it means protecting it’s own infallible self-image.  When your governing philosophy is based on the idea that the State being infallible, it means that not only can you not acknowledge your mistakes but also that you can’t really correct them.

Speaking of Chernobyl, the entry for the miniseries that it inspired has apparently been removed from China’s version of the imdb.  It’s said that people were using the message boards to criticize their government’s lack of transparency about the Coronavirus and the Wahun quarantine and they were comparing China’s handling of the outbreak to the way the Kremlin tried to cover up the Chernobyl disaster.  That’s what happens when you place maintaining your own power over the health of your citizens.

Finally, I saw this on twitter.  This is from the World Health Organization:

Pete Stark Has Died

Pete Stark would be the same former congressman who blamed the first Persian Gulf War on his “Jewish colleagues” and who then referred to Rep. Stephen Solarz (who was Jewish) as being “Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces.”  Solarz was also known for physically threatening people who disagreed with him, using homophobic slurs when challenged, and demanding that a veteran tell him why “you’re such a great goddamn hero.”  Eric Swalwell is fairly obnoxious himself but we all owe him a debt of gratitude for getting Pete Stark out of congress.

Terry Jones, RIP

I just heard the incredibly sad news that Terry Jones has died.  Jones, who was one of the founders of Monty Python and a respected medieval scholar, was 77 years old.  It was announced three years ago that Jones was suffering from a rare form of dementia so his death was not unexpected but it still hurts.

When I was a kid and I was watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus for the first time, I initially did not fully appreciated Terry Jones.  I liked him because I liked every member of Monty Python and every British comedy fan grows up wishing that they could have been a member of the group.  (My favorite was Eric Idle.)  But it was sometimes easy to overlook  Terry Jones’s performance on the show because his characters were rarely as flamboyant as some of the other ones.  He was never as grumpy as John Cleese nor was he as sarcastic as Eric Idle.  Michael Palin (who was Jones’s writing partner long before the two of them become members of Monty Python) cornered the market on both unctuous hosts and passive aggressive countermen.  Meanwhile, Graham Chapman played most of the upright authority figures and Terry Gilliam provided animation.  Terry Jones, meanwhile, often played screeching women and bobbies who said, “What’s all this then?”

It was only as I got older and I came to better appreciate the hard work that goes into being funny that I came to appreciate Terry Jones and his ability to always nail the perfect reaction to whatever lunacy was occurring around him.  It was also as I got older that I started to learn about the origins of Monty Python and what went on behind the scenes.  I learned that Terry Jones was a key player.  Along with writing some of Monty Python‘s most memorable material, he also directed or co-directed their films.  On the sets of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life, Jones provided the structure that kept those films from just devolving into a collection of skits.

Unlike the other members of Monty Python, Terry Jones never really went out of his way to establish an acting career outside of the group.  Instead, he wrote screenplays and serious books on both medieval history and Geoffrey Chaucer.  Appropriately, for a member of the troupe that changed the face of comedy, Jones often challenged the conventional views of history.  Terry Jones was the only man in Britain brave enough to defend the Barbarians.

On the last day of the ninth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Davis, rewarded us for our hard work by showing us what he said was the funniest scene in film history.  The scene that he showed us came from the Terry Jones-directed Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and it featured Jones giving a literally explosive performance as Mr. Creosote.

With thanks to both Mr. Davis and Terry Jones:

Terry Jones, Rest in Peace.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Last night, I watched Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.

The case of Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots tight end who was accused of murdering multiple people when he was off the field and ultimately convicted of one murder, has always interested me.  If you believe what prosecutors charged (and, after watching the documentary, I do), Hernandez went from signing a 40 million dollar contract with the Patriots to killing people for the slightest of reasons.

After Hernandez committed suicide in 2017, his brain was examined and it was said that he was suffering from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which could have been a factor in his lack of self-control.  I was always skeptical of the argument that Hernandez’s crimes could be explained away by CTE.  I don’t doubt that Hernandez had it but I’ve always understood that CTE usually didn’t start to really effect people until they were middle-aged.  Hernandez was only 22 when he was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  To me, especially after watching the documentary, it’s more probable that Hernandez was just a sociopathic punk who was desperate to prove his manhood.  In his mind, that meant going after anyone who had gotten under his skin or who he viewed as being a threat.  In the documentary, one of Odin Lloyd’s friends says that Aaron Hernandez was trying to be a gangster and I think that’s right.  The documentary also revealed that Hernandez was gay and deeply closeted and suggests that his own self-hatred was one of the main causes of Hernandez’s emotional instability.

The documentary features the audio of several phone calls between the jailed Hernandez and his mother and girlfriend.  What really got to me was how content Hernandez often sounded in those recordings.  It was as if being in prison and only having to deal with a small cell provided him with the structure that he had never had before.

The film reveals that Hernandez was not a smart criminal.  He murdered Lloyd just a few miles away from his house and he left behind hundreds of clues that revealed he was the murderer.  If Hernandez had been a smarter criminal, would be still be playing in the NFL today?  Would he be making millions off of endorsements and looking forward to a future as an ESPN commentator?  I doubt it.  Aaron Hernandez was so self-destructive that his downfall was going to come one way or the other.

Another good thing about the documentary is that it spent almost as much time exploring Odin Lloyd’s life as it did Aaron Hernandez’s.  With all the publicity surrounding Hernandez’s trial, it was often overlooked that Odin Lloyd left behind friends and family and loves ones.  Everyone in the documentary describes Odin Lloyd as being a good person and it’s obvious that, when interviewed, all of them were still feeling the pain of losing him.  The documentary remembers that this story is about more than just Aaron Hernandez’s fall from grace.  It’s also about the tragedy of Odin Lloyd’s death.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is currently streaming on Netflix.



A New Day With A Double Endorsement

Last week was a busy one and I feel like I missed a lot.  When last I checked in with the news, Cory Booker was suspending his campaign and Elizabeth Warren was refusing to shake Bernie Sanders’s hand at the end of the Democratic debate.  That seems like a month ago.

Today, on the other hand, feels like an entirely new news cycle.  The 49ers and the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl and The New York Times turned their presidential endorsement process into a reality show.  Last night, people stayed up late to discover that the New York Times can’t even do an endorsement right.  That they endorsed Elizabeth Warren is not a surprise as Warren has always been the media’s favorite Democrat.  That they also endorsed Amy Klobuchar is a head scratcher.  I get the feeling that they secretly know Warren’s campaign is doomed so they tossed in a second endorsement to cover their bases.  Since Tulsi Gabbard is hated by the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party and all of the other major candidates are white males, tossing a second endorsement to Amy Klobuchar was a safe way to be woke without tossing all in behind a campaign that is obviously self-destructing.

I think the real winner of the New York Times endorsement show was probably Donald Trump because the whole affair just made the NYT look like the collection of out of touch elitists that the majority of MAGA people already assume that it is.  (The New York Times seems to suffer any time that it tries to turn its top people into TV stars.)  As for the Democrats, the big winner was probably Michael Bloomberg because he wisely refused to degrade himself by begging the Times for their endorsement.  The Times‘s petulant response to Bloomberg’s refusal to kiss their ring probably did more to help Bloomberg than any endorsement ever would.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the media needs to do to regain the credibility that they’ve lost over the past few years.  It’s an important question because, as easy as it is to dismiss the media’s self-regard, they does have a very important role to play in America society.  It’s hard to know what the media has to do to repair the damage that’s been done to its reputation but turning their presidential endorsement process into a reality show was probably not the right direction to go.

Cory Booker’s Out

Cory Booker has suspended his presidential campaign, announcing that he doesn’t believe he has a realistic path to the Democratic nomination.

People started promoting Cory Booker as a potential president back when he was just mayor of Newark and, after he was elected to the Senate, the Booker hype went into overdrive.  Unfortunately, while Mayor Booker was an inspiring reformer, Senator Booker often seemed to be a pompous ass.  Booker did have his moments.  I thought he handled himself well in the debates that he qualified for.  But, whenever Booker seemed like he was on the verge of convincing voters that he could be a strong national leader, he would do something like saying that he was having a “real Spartacus moment,” and he would remind us that he was just another politician after all.

Booker’s gone and it’s hard to know where he can go from here.  He’s had the misfortune to have been elected from a solidly blue state, which means he can have his Senate seat for life but it’ll be a struggle for him to make a case that he should be Biden’s or any other Democrat’s running mate.  (New Jersey is never going to be in play.)  Personally, I think Booker’s best bet would be to eventually run to succeed Phil Murphy as governor.  Being a legislator brings out Booker’s worst instincts.  Being a governor would actually give him a chance to put together a record of accomplishment for when he makes his next presidential run.

Booker’s gone.  John Delaney remains.