Mar
02
2021
0

My Latest Favorite Song #23: Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around

Who doesn’t like a little Johnny Cash? I’m particular to his later career. This is a simple song done well. Crazy catchy, and the the mix of pop sensibility and sincere spirituality is a winner.

Written by in: Default |
Feb
28
2021
0

Trumps End-of-term Final Report Card

This is the 3rd Trump Report Card. I did it once before he took office, and once at the end of year one. I’ll stick to the same categories. (Also at the end of year two, I tried to list 10 good things about Trump.)

Global Warming: F. From Day One, Trump did everything he could to roll back and sabotage any efforts to address climate change. Pulling out of the Paris Accord, changing the cost of a ton of carbon, removing all mentions of global warming from federal websites, etc. History will not treat Trump of the GOP kindly. Fortunately the trends already in motion minimized the damage done. The private sector stepped up, and technology trends (many goosed under Obama’s stimulus package) accelerated. Renewable energies are now economically competitive with fossil fuels.

Nuclear Weaponry: C. He threw away NATO and buddied up to Russia. He used unnecessarily harsh language, and escalated tensions in Korea. But in the large picture, not so bad.

Pandemic: D. A new category! First, ere are some positive things the Trump administration did:

  • Shut down China travel early (even if done poorly).
  • Operation Warp Speed.
  • Not overly politicizing first round of stimulus relief.
  • Buying 100 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna. This was done when it wasn’t at all certain either company could successfully develop a vaccine. Buying enough for 100 million Americans was a pretty good gamble.
  • The pressure he put on the FDA was good. They were overly conservative, never properly balanced the urgency of the situation against their normal process.
  • …and many of the countries that had much better leadership had lots of problems, the connection between bad policy and outcome isn’t quite so black and white.

But here we are a full year later, and there was never a federal plan. There was never any federal plan. Even the most diehard libertarian understands this is where big government is needed. It takes the vast powers and scope of the federal government to deal with a problem that crosses borders — but Trump wouldn’t. He constantly undercut scientific advice. Not only didn’t he rally the country around mask wearing and social distancing, he did everything he could to undercut it. Even after getting the actual disease, he didn’t change his tune. History tested Donald Trump, and he failed. Hundreds of thousands of deaths are directly attributable to him.

Threats to American Democracy. Fail

He is the biggest threat to American Democracy since The Civil War. He gets a zero.

  • Trump believes he is above the law. He believes the law is there to serve him. That’s what we call a king, it’s what we got rid of. One of many examples, firing his handpicked Attorney General for refusing to corruptly stop the Mueller investigation.
  • Trump implicitly and explicitly refused to help and be the President for states that didn’t vote for him.
  • Trump lies constantly. Ignorant and venal, he further drove the discourse of the country into the gutter. Democracy doesn’t work without shared facts, and Trump refused to truck in facts.
  • The undermining of basic facts is incredible. Right now, the majority of the GOP honestly believes the election was stolen. Think about that. They don’t believe the mass media, the many non-partisan groups, the experts in the federal government, fact checkers, or the unending string of court losses. The credibility of every neutral group has been attacked steadily so Trump can simply assert lies and his followers will believe it.
  • Remember Russia? Maybe you’ve forgotten their stated goal: To make Western Democracy unable to function productively. Can anyone doubt their success? And while Trump may not have actively sought out Russian help, he was eager to accept what they gave. Treason.

The rest: Some other things happened, but anything else is chicken feed compared to these four.

Written by in: Default |
Feb
23
2021
0

The Celtics should dump Semi Ojeleye

The Celtics need to make some moves. Things aren’t going so well this year. Instead of competing with Philly and the Nets, they are barely ahead of the Knicks.

For the last several years, Boston has had too many decent players. We’ve gotten a million draft picks, and so we’ve had lots of players that require minutes and time to see if they’re any good. It’s time to start make those tough decisions and thinning the herd.

Semi Ojeleye is a decent player. He plays strong defense, hits some 3s, and doesn’t mess up much. But he also has no real upside. After four seasons with the Celtics, he isn’t going to show you anything new. Standing around the perimeter and making a good pass or shot is not enough. Can’t or won’t drive, can’t or won’t dribble towards the basket.

When you’re thinking about trade pieces, you should be thinking about upside. Not just who is good (Taytum Brown Smart are untouchable), but who might get better. When you think about it this way, Semi is done.

Trade pieces (in vague order of ‘dump him’ to ‘well, if we have to’):

  • Semi Ojeleye: Will never be better for the Celtics.
  • Jeff Teague: I love Jeff Teague, but it turns out I love the Jeff Teague of several years ago. He’s toast. Only problem is, who would take him?
  • Carsen Edwards: He got his chances, never showed much. Sorry Carsen, it’s just not working out.
  • Romeo Langford: He got his chances, never showed much. Sorry Romeo, time to move on.
  • Tristan Thompson: I love the guy, but like Teague, my impressions are of the Tristan Thompson of past years. Especially because Robert Williams is suddenly realizing his potential, we can afford to lose Thompson. Thompson is a great complementary piece, but I’d be willing to see him go, and we can get a good price.
  • Kemba Walker: I love the guy. And he’s a very good player. But a couple seasons in, I don’t think he’ll every be the great player we need for a point guard. He is still highly valued around the league and we can get a good price for him. Of note, Kemba didn’t lead the team in assists per game last year (that was Marcus Smart) or this year (Smart and Taytum). I want a point guard who make other players better with assists. I want a point guard who doesn’t set up endless plays of Brown and Taytum isolations (even though that mostly works). I want a point guard who doesn’t have to be hidden on defense.  (By the way, can you believe that James Harden is leading the league in assists right now? By a healthy margin, at 11.1 a game.)
Written by in: Default |
Jan
30
2021
2

On the Kia Soul

If you drive a Soul, you have no soul.

Written by in: Default |
Jan
23
2021
1

A Few Thoughts on the Pardon Power

“The President… shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

For the most part, the pardon power is a wonderful thing. How nice to give an ‘out’, where injustices can be corrected? But there are bad pardons also. How could we make Pardons better?

The worst kinds of pardons are self-serving and corrupt. Giving friends and allies a pardon simply because they are your friends and allies is a perversion of justice. We will have to continue living with that perversion. There is no way to define these situations, and it’s better to preserve the breadth of the power. I spent the last four years listening to Preet Bharara complaining that Trump ignored the Pardon Office as if that was so incredibly horrible. I think Pretty is wrong here, it is not such an obviously bad thing. The point of the power is to be outside normal processes, and each President should be free to deploy it as they see fit. It’s easy to imagine situations where the Pardon Office is a barrier against getting justice. If there is any solution to corrupt pardons, it is not to elect corrupt Presidents, not re-elect them, and hold it against the political party they come from.

No one gets a blank check.  President Ford erred here. He pardoned Nixon for “all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.” By making it so broad, he set a bad precedent.

If someone gets a pardon, they get it for specific offenses. It can say “and other offenses related to the same incidents”, but not a blanket pardon for everything. If it’s not spelled out it’s not a pardon, it’s a magical cloak of immunity.

No pardoning yourself. It’s hard to believe this needs to said out loud. This was quickly addressed during the Nixon impeachment, under the theory that no man can serve as his own judge. My simple justification is that no one is above the law. If the Executive can pardon themselves, they are above the law, so it can’t happen.

Written by in: Default |
Jan
22
2021
0

Trumps Final Pardons

Like so much with Trumps presidency, it could have been much worse. It was terrible, but.

The worst ones are the pardoning of other high officials who used their office to enrich themselves, also known as corruption. Some of these Trump didn’t even both to defend. (Interestingly, I can no longer access the actual text of the pardons. The links now go to a dead 404 page at whitehouse.gov.) It’s striking that the most corrupt president in our times pardoned other corrupt officials. Like so much with Trump, he can barely muster any empathy unless you are like him.

(By the way, Steve Brannon’s may not matter so much. He can be charged from anywhere; the prosecutors can just ship the evidence to another jurisdiction.)

The rest are not so bad. Many are good. Let’s remember that Bill Clintons were pretty bad also. He too sent out a raft of pardons just at the end of the presidency, and he too had some bad ones. That doesn’t make Trumps pardons okay, it’s points against Clinton.

What didn’t Trump do? He didn’t pardon himself. That was not a given at all, it was assumed he would try. He also didn’t pardon anyone in his family. He didn’t pardon anyone in his cabinet. At the last second, he walked back the pardon of Sheldon Silver. He didn’t pardon Rudy Giuliani. He didn’t pardon any of the Jan 6th insurrectionists. All of these were possible or expected.

That’s the Trump presidency. Investigate and talk about doing the worse thing possible, then do something that is merely very awful.

Written by in: Default |
Jan
16
2021
0

Top Priorities for the Biden Adminstration

As Joe Biden takes office, his three biggest priorities should be:

COVID-19: Biden is lucky here. It is actionable – simply having federal policy and coordinated focus will go a long way, above and beyond what the particular policies and spending are. Additionally, the timing of the vaccines is perfect. Biden shouldn’t get credit for the vaccine, but thanks to quirks of human psychology, he will.

Climate Change / Global Warming: An actual existential threat to the human species. The good news is that, like COVID-19, the actions are easy. Just reverse everything from the Trump administration, and you’re back on track. Biden is also fortunate to be on the right side of ongoing trends. In 2009, global warming was understood as urgent, but a political problem. Twelve years later, the majority of the country is behind him. The rest of the world, private industry, and the populace are already taking action, he just needs to keep pushing that boulder.

Promote American Democracy: For Democrats to get their policies in place over the long term, they need their officials in power, they need the votes. Fortunately, they have those votes. The Democratic party has gotten more votes in five of the last six presidential elections, and the House and Senate, and Supreme Court would all be Democratic if we simply counted votes and went with the will of the people. We don’t. Biden should focus on voting rights, voting reform, same-day voting, remote/advance voting, anti-gerrymandering, the national popular vote, and possibly statehood for DC and Puerto Rico. All these have a great advantage: They not only favor Democrats, they are morally correct. All you have to do to get a permanent Democratic majority is allow the will of the people to be heard. That’s a lot easier than fighting uphill all the time.

Save American Democracy: Maybe there is a fourth one. We can’t ignore the recent storming of the Capitol Building and pretend there won’t be more going forward. Sadly, there is a significant swath of the country that has abandoned factual evidence, undermined liberal democracy, and believes that Biden is illegitimate. The forces that led to this need to be actively fought. Besides the political, social, and law-enforcement arms (which are probably more important, but I don’t have strong views here yet), we can go a long way to addressing concerns about election validity. There are many ways to reduce concerns about voting and elections. And unless the GOP is a bunch of hypocritical bombthrowers, they should be fully on-board with a rejuvenated FEC, vastly increased election funding, transparency, embracing technological improvements, actively fighting Russian (and others) interference, etc.

Good luck Joe!

Written by in: Default |

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