Pop Quiz - Fight Harder or Smarter?

    I was at a pub quiz last night, answering questions with an impromptu team sitting around a table.

    At one point, there was a question about which of 3 early 60's events happened first. I quickly gave an answer that I was pretty sure was correct, and gave me reasons for it. But over the course of the next couple of minutes, my teammates talked me out of it and chose another.

    When we scored the paper a couple minutes later, my answer would have been right. One of the guys who was largely leading the group looked at me and said, "But you didn't fight for your answer hard enough".

    Michael Maiello's picture

    David Brooks Does Not Understand How Wages Work

    Today, David Brooks made the absurd claim that the construction industry is experiencing a labor shortage because Americans won't take construction jobs:

    "Construction is hard, many families demean physical labor and construction is highly cyclical. Hundreds of thousands of people lost construction jobs during the financial crisis and don’t want to come back. They want steadier work even at a lower salary."

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    Ramona's picture

    Wherein I'm forced To Admit Only The GOP Can Save Us

    So here we are, a month into Donald Trump's wacky version of an American presidency and every day it's something new and nutty. If the actor in this saga weren't actually the president of the United States, this whole thing would be highly entertaining.  A daily heart-pounding serial, picking up where the cliff-hanger from the day before left off--confusing, terrifying, laugh-out-loud--what's going to happen next?

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    Доброе утро, Америка - Notes from Underground

    As the "Spy who Came in from the Cold" starts to unfold or unravel, these are some of my notes - there will be more, many more, flying at a furious pace I expect. What else is happening? Feel free to pile on, like a Moscow snowdrift.

    Was Trump the "Casino" behind Russian Spies Arrested 2014?

    Little Moscow: More Trump-Russia real estate corruption.

    Plus: how Russian money powered Trump's comeback:

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    One-State, Two-State, Blue-State, Jew-State

    Donald Trump is an easy-going guy. Just yesterday, he shrugged off the United States' longstanding position on the Israel-Palestine dispute and announced that he's totally open to a "one-state" solution. 

    "So I'm looking at two-state, and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one," he burbled to the press with his friend "Bibi" Netanyahu beaming by his side. "I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two," he continued, "but honestly if Bibi and if the Palestinians--if Israel and the Palestinians--are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best."

    One state, two state, whatever the kids are into these days.

    But what is this one-state solution to which Trump so cheerfully consented? He didn't say. Neither did Bibi. But Yishai Fleisher, a radical settler who presents himself as a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, is not so circumspect. In a New York Times op-ed, he matter-of-factly rattled off five "credible" plans for appropriating Palestinian land and eviscerating the dream of Palestinian statehood.

    Bibi: Putin's inspiration?

    Reading Michael Crowley's piece on Bibi's long-term strategy towards Obama, I'm struck by this absurdity in American politics. As Netanyahu comes waltzing into Washington to place demands on the White House, receiving policy concessions served up like John the Baptist's head on a plate, he must be thinking the transformation is complete. But be careful, Bibi - sea changes can be wild, with the occasional tsunami.

    See, as we focus on foreign intervention into domestic politics, it won't be long until someone notices (me?) that we have a codified litmus test in Washington, if not largely accepted across the US, of allegiance to Israel and its needs/wants. For guilt reasons? Fear of the rapture and all things biblical? Sincere belief that these are Israel's and thus our needs? Who knows. For a nation that still largely practices the weird & painful circumcision procedure on all male babies for no actual religious or medical reason, we'll just have to accept we're a bit challenged on certain matters. But back to the story....

    Congress regularly is evaluated for support  on all matters Israel - AIPAC's "who's been naughty or nice" especially resulting in near lock-step adherence to Israeli predilections. Hillary took to this obligation with a flourish in her time as Senator, clinging almost as close to the Jewish state as she did to Obama during the last campaign. Bernie being Jewish got a little bit of breathing room, but even he mailed in his criticisms from an undisclosed remote location, knowing better than to deliver in person lest he be found in the East River with the fishes (a joke, son, it's a joke...)

    BrightBarf Spews -Who will Listen?

    Picking up a reference to a (Not-so-)BrightBarf header on Flynn's resignation at RCP, I was intrigued - while Pat Buchanan was telling those damn Negroes and Hippies to Behave, the Prez's virtual news rag of record was declaring Flynn's resignation was a bad sign - for everyone else. 

    How do they start this - oh, the sanctions on Russia were: " to substantiate the Democratic Party’s sore-loser conspiracy theory" - nothing to do with annexing Crimea, apparently.

    Then, "there is no evidence (yet) that Flynn did anything but discuss sanctions in the most general terms" - oops, guess they didn't read last night's papers. (Maybe Steve Bannon can provide a phone transcript if you guys need - he is in the NSC chain of command, right?).

    But Flynn was caught "because the Department of Justice had been eavesdropping on the conversation" - uh, he was a suspicious character making international calls to Russian leaders - those calls are monitored by NSA, not the DoJ. Info *might* be shared with others, however. [Perhaps they know not to intercept North Korean mobile calls on the Prez's unsecured phone, but I'd guess it's got more taps than a Hollywood jacuzzi.]

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    Pat on the Back: Trump takes 51st Super Bowl

    In a last minute surprise, Trump's untraditional campaign team upset the over-confident Falcons last night to win the 51st Super Bowl held in Trump-friendly Texas.

    Neglecting to revisit key strategic border sections of the field more amenable to their game play, the Falcons relied on an over-cautious strategy from their early lead going into halftime, giving the Patriots the opportunity to microtarget an unnoticed but increasingly receptive field of key white receivers. The Nation's Team relied on the more exceptional game play of true stolid conservative players steeped deep in the field's vast, largely empty heartland rather than the Falcs' preferred focus around the crowded edges of the sidelines, often resting on slick and fancy footwork rather than core fundamentals.

    While the final score seemed close and tenuous, Trump noted he could have won by much more but the line refs and scorekeepers had rigged the contest, costing his team at least 20 points, and especially faulted the Falcons for relying on undependable non-white players, and the media for reporting pre-game events.

    Dissipating Power

    I remember it well, the heated 2008 campaign, and one of the vaunted risers in the party - scratch that, *conscience* of the party - Samantha Power - had just called Hillary a "monster". In this case it was for "deceit", saying anything to win, but it might as well have been for Powers' forte, foreign policy - poking holes in US reactions in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere.

    9 years later, Powers goes out like a vanquished lion - braying in futility in her last moments as UN rep against Russia's transgressions in Syria. But what happened in-between? Where did these outspoken values go in the Obama years with a largely reactive, not pro-active stance on human rights and threading our way through more Mideast engagements and muddied mushy responses? Seth Mandel provides a comprehensive summary of this transition from Lion Queen to largely defanged kitten.

    This is not a post of schadenfreude - I'm saddened and confused and disheartened. It's symbolic of the real world as we know it, the demise of optimism and righteous fury, and where we get tripped up time and time again. The other side's busy ignoring that world, running red lights, hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk - but still, careful driving doesn't make you a good driver. But it's a helluva lot easier to tell if someone's a good driver than whether they're doing the right thing in foreign politics.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Take Action on the Muslim Ban: Stop Sessions

    The Administration has handcuffed legal American residents and detained them without charges as part of the President's pointless, lawless Muslim ban. It's a great moment to protest, an even better moment to donate to the ACLU and CAIR. But also be sure to call both your senators on Monday and demand that they make Jeff Sessions explain his position on this. If the President will not follow the Constitution or the law then we need an Attorney General who will.

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    A Lot of Rice

    Once I was taking a bus tour in China, and the tour guide kept pointing out a bunch of boring obvious stuff, "China grows a lot of rice. We have a lot of rice in China..."

    After a while, I noticed that when he said, "look out on your right", there was something unsightly and run-down on the left, and vice-versa.

    As we get all hot & bothered by what's going on, stop a bit and consider what else is happening that might not bother us, might have escaped our notice.

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    The 15%, pack mentality & unrolling stupidity

    Smoking still accounts for a half million deaths a year  in the US, 1 of every 5 deaths.1 out of every 650 Americans dies from cigarettes yearly.

    This isn't news. MAD Magazine used to run iron lung parodies in the 60's. We know smoking kills, a lot faster than global warming.

    Driving has 1/15th the number of fatalities, and we make Google self-driving cars take precautions.

    15% of adults - 36.5 million Americans - smoke. More than 16 million have a smoking-related disease - slow suicide.

    You might think it's looking better, only 15% compared to 21% 12 years ago - but that's still an awful lot of stupid. *MORE* people smoke in the 25-44 range than over 65.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Identity Politics is Actually Important

    Since the election numerous critics of the left, some from the left and some not, have identified "identity politics" as a culprit in Democratic political failure and the election of Donald Trump.  Identity politics is a great term for this because it, ironically, covers up more than it reveals.

    Best I can tell, identity politics just means that religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, largely through the Democratic party or left of center political movements, make the case for equal and dignified treatment in society.  This should not be controversial, but it apparently is.

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    Play Ball (Better Luck Next Year)

    1) Focus on things that make a difference - ignore the chatter and buzz, the click-bait and easy gotchas - they just chip away at time. Baseball announcers have to fill a lot of dead air, so can talk about anything from root canals and outboard motors and somehow connect it to the game. My mother called it "diarrhea of the mouth", but in baseball circles they call it "a good living" or "Harry Carey", depending.

    2) Time is money, money is time, and we don't have enough of either. Stop the class warfare over money - money largely wins elections and ball games. Everyone says the players are overpaid, but they still buy tickets and fill the stadium. Care about values, cultivate rich ethical friends, fast track the road to wins.

    (Jesus corollary: as the poor will be with us always, so will the rich and glamorous and obnoxious. Deal with it).

    3) Watch Moneyball, take away key points: a) adapt or die, b) you're not out to replace a player - you're out to buy scores and wins, c) the competition will copy your successful techniques if allowed, d) don't trust the polls - do your own analytics.

    PS - argue about candidate values and flaws and street-cred *after* you win the pennant - until then, make lemonade: get up earlier, hustle after grounders, and don't confuse being a player with being a commentator.

    Did we give up? (when the Germans attacked Pearl Harbor)

    An old yogi asked me once, "is the purpose of suffering to suffer?", presumably to mean it's to learn, as a way to avoid suffering. He continued, "the baby poops its diaper - do you put a flower in it? No, of course you don't put a flower in it - you clean the diaper".

    Yes, to stay on this road is to kill ourselves, spiritually, psychically, maybe if lucky even physically. Gurdjieff talked about a man enthralled with this most beautiful fruit he'd discovered, so much he couldn't put it down, even though the red peppers were killing him. Yes, we as a party and a people do love to hear ourselves talk.

    28 years ago, the Berlin wall came down, freeing millions behind the Iron Curtain soon followed by apartheid crumbling in South Africa and then the Soviet Union itself. The US responded as it usually does, put on its suit, grabbed its briefcase, went out to try to sell these people something - computers, fertilizer, cars, deodorant, stuff. Plenty of stuff.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Donald J. Trump: Beyond the Thunderdome

    I guess I missed it, somehow... the ruination of America, the collapse of society, the onset of post-history.  I thought Donald Trump didn't read much and was not a reflective man, but he does seem have to a taste for Cormac McCarthy:

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    Danny Cardwell's picture

    No Negotiations Without Preconditions

    No Black person with a prominent platform should meet with Donald Trump or representatives from the Trump administration without preconditions. The United States government has a long-standing policy of setting preconditions for negotiating with hostile state actors. This is a policy Black America should employ as we move into the age of Trumpism. The duplicitous nature of Donald Trump’s rhetoric has damaged any credibility his words have. If he’s serious about his outreach efforts (something I doubt) his next move needs to be his best move. The CDC and Pfizer couldn’t make a panacea capable of eradicating his past racial transgressions, or the racially insensitive attacks on Barack Obama, but taking some bold steps in the right direction would be a good start to open the space for future negotiations.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Barack Obama, American Stoic

    If the Founding Fathers had a chance to meet Barack Obama, they would of course be shocked. Even the most enlightened of them were not prepared to imagine an African-American President. And what they would think about his policies is anyone's guess: the Founders' political philosophies were shaped by their political environments, and they wouldn't fit easily into today's debates.

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    Fuck Da Noize

    Yesterday a female CEO/glorified saleswoman "broke LinkedIn"** with a potty-mouth post to blatantly flog her not-so-in-demand and rather niche/regional product. Predictably it got a lot of reads, attention, comments, and a predictable followup post - basically, "so I said fuck, get over it".

    LinkedIn will undoubtedly not "get over it", but *will* absorb the change and suffer another hit to its already waning fortunes as professional-network-turned-Facebook, anticipating the day where it becomes MySpace (read: past tense).

    But the noise is instructive. She did what many insurrectionists will do - drive the bus straight into the wall and laugh about it. The famed article "The Tragedy of the Commons" was based more on shared markets being damaged by neglect, less cared for than private spaces - Adam Smith's non-benign one-handed twin.

    Here the noise is not just the uproar - it's also the cognitive dissonance - the "you can't do that" feeling that destroys our confidence and basic precepts, violates our now (epi-?)genetically encoded values system - taking the last cookie without asking, crossing the street on red, etc., etc.

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