Football on Mars!

Did you know we play football on Mars? Yes, true fact. I know, you think it’s “barren” up here, but that’s because we mess with your data. All the time. You send these probes through space and we have lots of fun thinking up ways to throw you off. My friend Bob dumped his famous chip dip on one of your spectrometers during halftime (“Let’s see what they think of that! ha ha!”), and I probably should not admit this but I’ve got your Curiosity rover parked in my driveway (use it for shopping). But let’s skip all that, I’m a big football fan (because I hate those little footballs!) and my team is the Alba Mons Spiders. They are championship caliber, I have season tickets, and I never miss a game.

Sometimes I try to watch broadcasts of your games but, man, what the heck have you done to football? Let me give you some friendly Martian advice. Just a few things:

Taunting.  I almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this—the “Taunting” penalty. Are you kidding me? A 15 yard penalty for “Taunting”? What next? Loss of down for “Harsh Language”? “Picking Your Nose”?

Up here on Mars, we require taunting after a play. In fact, we penalize teams for “Failure To Taunt”—15 yards and loss of down! Yeah baby!

“Instant” Replays. What’s instant about them? More to the point, though, why even have them? You’ll have a wide receiver make an acrobatic catch in the end zone with a cornerback wrapped around his legs, the ref signals Touchdown! and the crowd wants to go crazy, but wait. Wait. Was he juggling the ball? Was his left foot in bounds? Let’s have some league geniuses in a booth a thousand miles away take a look at the replay. Let’s have a little huddle of refs on the field scratching their heads for 10 minutes. Finally the result comes in, yes, touchdown confirmed. Yay.

See, on Mars, we ensure that our refs are properly trained to position themselves every play so that they have a good shot at making the correct call. They are expected to do their best, to be unbiased, and when they make the call, that is the end of the matter. “Touchdown!” really means “Touchdown!”

They are only Martian, and they will make mistakes, but here’s the thing: those mistakes are part of the game. Bad calls are the stuff of legend, and they make for pretty spirited debate down at the Pink Monkey Bird Sports Bar.

You on Earth turn every big play into a court case (“Your Honor, what is a ‘catch’ really?”), with the outcome decided well after the excitement of the moment has passed. Is that what you want to do? It’s unwatchable.

Politics. Oh brother, I hate to go here, but why-oh-why do you allow your games to become platforms for political theater? On Mars, we watch football to get away from politics!

People are always going to crab about something. Life is not perfect on Mars either, and we don’t all get along all the time, even though we are all part of the same great country, which we call “Tharsis.” We’ve got a lot of Tempe Terrans who have migrated to Alba Mons, and they are real assholes, but still, they played a part in the fight for Tharsis independence so we try to remember our common bonds when we get to Bowie Stadium. It’s a beautiful moment as we all rise up together, hands on our hearts, and sing the opening strains of the Tharsis national anthem:

“I’m an alligator…”

A beautiful moment. But I notice that on Earth, in “America” I think you call the place, you mix politics and football. I don’t get that. Why should you care what political point your football players want to make? They are abusing the celebrity you have given them, and playing you for fools. “Hey, I’m famous because I play a game, so I want to talk to you about my take on social justice.” How about doing that on your day off, dufus? How about discussing why it is that you are a millionaire when school teachers are just getting by? How does that scan, social justice-wise? How about right now showing some respect for the sacrifices made by those who founded your country and fought to keep it? How about recognizing the opportunity you have been given to bring people together, and rising to the occasion? How about getting off your butt for a few minutes before the game to stand up, hand on your heart, and sing?

“Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe…”

Or if your national anthem is not Moonage Daydream, then sing however yours goes. Ok, enough of that. Game’s about to start. I’ve got to jump in the rover and get some supplies. Bob’s bringing his “unidentified geologic anomaly” chip dip. Yum!


Veto the Sanctions

Forget about “optics” or whatever. During your campaign you suggested we would have better relations with Russia if you were elected. Now is a great time to start delivering on that, Donald.

Let me ask—who is running this show: You, or the press? I, for one, did not elect “The Press.” They were not on the ballot. I did not check a box for “Washington Post.” As my mentor might say, “Wag the dog, the tail must not.” (Yes, my mentor is Yoda. So what?)

In all seriousness I advise you to (a) refuse to sign the sanctions bill against Russia passed by the congress, and (b) definitely invite Putin to the White House for a beer. Let the usual suspects rant and rave all they want. Let Maxine scream “impeachment” from the highest rooftop in Inglewood. Dude, you are the President! No one said it would be easy, right? You will be criticized, sure, but what else is new? You can take it, and further, it’s your job to take it.

As my mentor might say, “If heat you cannot take, out of kitchen you must get, hmmm?”

Good luck.

Response to David Brooks

Response to the June 2 NYT opinion piece titled “Donald Trump Poisons the World,” by David Brooks. Certain not to be read by David Brooks.

I used to admire your writing, David. You wrote well and your political commentary was insightful. Then something happened to you: President Trump.

The problem is that you are not recognizing the revolution happening now, in real-time, nor understanding the need for it. When Gil Scott rapped that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, he was more or less correct. Talking heads on CNN, voices on NPR, the New York Times, none will tell you about the revolution though you may see it in reflections of their panic. I see it in your panic, in your opinion piece “Donald Trump Poisons the World.” Are you hiding under your bed right now?

Our elected so-called representatives had become a bloated, slothful, self-interested monstrosity of elites, out of touch with the people they were ostensibly representing. And when those of us who had been living in quiet disagreement with the way things were being done around here found someone who seemed ready to shake things up, we said go for it, man!

This freaks you out no end, and I guess pulling out of the Paris climate accord finally pushed you over the edge. But President Trump sees the world as it is, not as you pretend it is. He’s a good person, and Americans are good people, your whining notwithstanding.

You have lost sight of who we are, blinded as you are by your disdain for the President. We are charitable and peace-loving, but that’s our business. Trump’s job is to keep the hounds at bay, to keep a watchful eye over this country, and to lead us forward. He’s doing fine, and would do even better with a little help. You should take a break.

Fake News: A Textbook Example

Anybody who doubts the existence of Fake News should read the May 15 Washington Post article, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” In the text that follows that damning headline, we read in the first sentence that the source is “current and former U.S. officials.”

But you’ll search in vain for the names and positions of these “officials,” who were evidently not at the meeting themselves, in which case what we have is cheap gossip. Read waaaay down and you’ll see that sources who are able to be identified by name and position (national security adviser HR McMaster and deputy national security adviser for strategy Dina Powell), and who were actually at the meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, call the accusation false.

I’m not saying I know what was, or was not, said in the meeting; but good journalism would require the Post to get some kind of attributable corroboration before publishing an inflammatory accusation that is clearly denied by people who were present. So, those people (if they exist) who are making the claim that the President made dangerous statements to his Russian guests need to step forward, or there is no story.

The Post doesn’t care. The headline stands, and the smear marches on as other “news” outlets report on the Post’s report. Thus the story, based on nothing, becomes the story: “According to a Washington Post report…”

Classic Fake News.

President Trump’s First 106 Days

As we review President Trump’s first 106 days, let’s be honest: he is facing intense domestic political headwinds. The Left has gone off their rockers to the point where even when they stop rioting and try to use their words, they are incoherent. The mainstream press has all but given up any pretense of fairness, and even members of the President’s own party keep messing with him. So even though I have a couple areas of disappointment about his nascent Presidency, my instinct now, my responsibility even, is to first say lets be supportive of our President. We are a democracy, we elected him. If you have a policy issue, then fine, state your case in a civilized, constructive way.

The high level of interference we are seeing is to be expected, though, given what he is trying to accomplish. And I don’t mean repealing this, or building that. I mean establishing a new paradigm for how we do things in Washington. As the President has said, he is not just leading a change from one party to the other one; he is prying the country away from the political machinery and giving it back to the people. I call that populism, and I like it. Of course there are those who will, uh, “resist” him; those who (a) like it best the way it was because they were doing quite well, and (b) those who are manipulated by (a).

But as it becomes increasingly clear how unscrupulous was the previous administration, we should appreciate that the bad behavior is only being revealed because, thanks to President Trump, those who were in power are losing their power, and with it, the ability to conceal their mischief. Oh, they will say they only meant to protect their lovable little sheep, who would never understand the High Concepts that motivate the elites who must bear the burden of leadership. But good grief—what a bunch of hosers we had running this place for the previous eight years! Holder, Lynch, Rice, oh, and Hillary, are like those outlaw gang members in the old westerns—they weren’t the stars, but they backed up their the boss when he got in a tough spot. Obama: “You want to take me in, sheriff? My boys here might have something to say about that.” Ah, but the sheriff is a new guy, with strange ways. He distracts them, confuses them, and they flee.

No, no one else was going to run that gang out of town, not Jeb, not Marco, nothing except the weirdness that is The Donald. Some crazy-sounding tweet about getting wiretapped, and the next thing you know—uh oh, some truth to that. Huh. Sure, Obama is articulate and intelligent, and a lot of people miss him, but he did a lot of damage, and I’m thinking that in time more will be uncovered about the wreckage wrought by his arrogance, his ineptitude, his lack of appreciation for American accomplishments, and his failure to understand who we are as a country. And if you think I’m being unduly harsh, see what you think after a few more months of revelations.

Regarding my disappointments with President Trump during his first 106 days, I have just two. One is his fixation on repealing Obamacare. I wish he’d just find a way to let that one go, and in any event, it’s too late to repeal Obamacare unless you want to go to single payer or socialized medicine (which we might as well do). And, from what I’ve heard, this bill the House just passed with all the hoopla only pretends to repeal Obamacare. (Wait just a minute…maybe he did find a way to let that one go.)

The other disappointment is our current strained relations with Russia. The moment when candidate Trump won me over was when he asked during his campaign, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be friends with Russia?” Yes! So what happened? Is he spooked by all the yammering about Russia meddling in our election (“meddling” = providing the American people with information) or inferences of some kind of collusion between his campaign team and Russia (which, if there is any kind of actual evidence of a crime, let’s see it)? Mr. President, if you’re reading this—and you should be!—do what you know is right, and let the Left, the warmongering neocons, and the idiots in the press sort it out later. Russia is not our natural enemy. Invite Putin over for a beer. You are the President!

All in all, I’d say President Trump has had a pretty good 106 days, but it’s just a start. If everyone will just give him a break, and maybe turn down the volume a tad, we’ll all be better off. This is a very interesting moment in our country, and for me, it’s exciting to witness it.

Calm Down about the Syrian Airbase Attack

I admit to having mixed feelings about President Trump’s decision to bomb the Syrian airbase in response to Assad’s chemical attack. It is certainly worth a moment’s pause to wonder if we are now Team America World Police. Time will tell, and I make no prediction, but in itself, sending cruise missiles into Syria did not necessarily represent any change in the President’s stated non-interventionist policy. Let’s see what happens before we get all hysterical and start jumping off the Trump Train. I love Laura Ingraham, but she was freaked out about it. I guess my man Michael Savage was too. Okay, let’s think this through together.

First of all, President Trump did not just out-of-the-blue decide that chemical weapons are a different kind of bad. Chemical weapons have a special place historically in the arsenal of hideous things humanity has dreamed up to torture itself with, and to our credit, we at least have tried to stifle the impulse to use them. Look up the 1899 Hague Convention, and the Declaration which sought to ban the use of projectiles to release “asphyxiating or deleterious gases,” which unfortunately did not hold up during WWI, so we tried again with the “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare,” signed  in Geneva in 1925, again not completely successful so,  still trying, we have the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, to which most of the world today belongs (including, by the way, Syria since 2013). Notwithstanding the spotty effectiveness of these agreements, the point is that chemical weaponry has a longstanding reputation as something that is especially awful, and deserving of at least some attempt to stop nations from using it.

By the way, what’s wrong with us, as people, that we would think up something like using poison gas to kill each other in the first place? Conventional weapons are not nasty enough? I remember a time in science class back in…probably the 6th grade, when the teacher was discussing the atomic bomb, and how, ideally, it would not hit the earth, but explode higher up in order to, his words: “kill more people.” So me and Tom Murphy, sitting in the back of the room, started to whisper to each other “kill more people, kill more people” in a lobotomized, deranged manner. We thought it was hilarious (6th grade), the idea that someone would seriously want to figure out the optimal height for an atom bomb to go off for maximum death toll, an idea that is itself couched in the absurdity of someone thinking up such a weapon to begin with. Or a weapon like sarin gas. Hey boss, I’ve been messing around with this stuff in the lab, and I think if we were to put it in bombs we could not only blow shit up, but also spread a deadly neurological poison that would kill more people, kill more people.

That’s crazy; we’re crazy. So, if we come to our senses from time to time and agree that, as a civilized world, if we must fight, we will at least use some restraint and not use chemical weapons, that’s good. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the line on April 4 when one or more of his warplanes dropped sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, and innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Of those facts, there is little doubt, and if anybody anywhere was going to do anything meaningful about it, it was going to be the United States or absolutely nobody.

The Left will, of course, either not understand or pretend not to understand the rationale for bombing the Syrian airbase from which the attack was launched, and will find a way to slime President Trump over it. A case in point, Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes, “…what we know of the decision-making process is anything but reassuring. Just days before the strike, the Trump administration seemed to be signaling lack of interest in Syrian regime change.” Which is like saying I don’t understand why he ate that banana when he just said yesterday he was not interested in spaghetti. (Choose your own examples.)

So, it is possible that, unprompted by any additional instance of chemical weapons use, President Trump will send troops into Damascus tomorrow and I’ll feel like the idiot here. But so far so good. And I do understand that there is no shortage of horrible things going on in the world today—Laura mentioned Africa—but the choice is not a binary, Respond to Everything, or Respond to Nothing. We need to start somewhere. We need to pick our spots, and this was a good one.

ObamaCare: Our Choices

So President Trump attempted to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, and pundits were tripping all over each other to tell us how miserably he had failed when the plan he championed did not even come up for a vote. What does this mean for his agenda? they wondered.

It means Trump may have placed too much faith in the House politicians who voted repeatedly to repeal all or part of Obamacare, safe in the knowledge, apparently, that they could not over-ride a Presidential veto and therefore did not need to worry about passing an actual alternative. Voting as political theater, in other words. It means Ryan and the House Republicans are inept, but that is not exactly a news flash at this point. It means they need to get their act together.

Trump’s speech after the three ring repeal/replace fiasco should have been, “Ok, I gave it a shot. All of you who think Obamacare is so wonderful, make it work. If you haven’t signed up for it, do that immediately and get all your friends to sign up too.” That would have been very Un-Donald, but it would have been a genius move. Cheerleading, as he did, for the system to collapse was not a good look.

Maybe I’m an outlier in the Trump Supporter population, but Obamacare repeal was never an issue for me personally. I’ve written about this before. Obamacare is a hairball that should never have been passed, but it was passed, and it has been in effect for seven years now, meaning we are well past the point where free-market reforms will fix it. That ship has sailed, my conservative brothers and sisters, because despite it’s flaws, too many people are enrolled—even my daughter has benefited from it. I can’t imagine saying to her yes, Obamacare was there for you, but here’s an even better idea: we’ll take it away! Yay!

So I was relieved when Ryan’s plan went down the tubes without a vote, because it would have replaced a cluster owned by the Democrats, with one owned by the Republicans. Now what? I will tell you, but you won’t like it. When Obamacare collapses to the point where people will be grateful for a real solution, it should be replaced with either (a) single-payer, such as Medicare for everyone or (b) socialized medicine. That’s it. No, allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines is not going to fix anything. Not health savings accounts either. Just stop. Our choices will be (a) or (b).