Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Games That People Play

Garry Kasparov-a man who knows a thing or two about strategy and Putin-takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to detail how the Russian leader is playing for keeps in the real world while President Obama is playing make believe in a fantasy land where everyone actually plays by the rules.

The continued slaughter of Sunnis in the region will draw in more support from the Saudis and more foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia. The situation will metastasize like a cancer, which suits Mr. Putin fine. War and chaos create more enemies and more opportunities for him to look like a tough guy on Russian state TV. Iran’s regime needs conflict for similar reasons, which is why it can never give up “Death to America.” A growing war will also drive up the price of oil, a benefit that isn’t lost on Tehran or Moscow.

These consequences may be acceptable to Mr. Obama, but he cannot pretend to be ignorant of his role in creating them. I, too, would like to live in the world of diplomacy and law that Mr. Obama seems to believe we inhabit. But unfortunately we do not. Power and action still matter, and in places like Syria and Iraq you cannot have power without action.

Mr. Putin didn’t say anything new at the U.N., because he didn’t need to. He knows that he has concrete assets that are more effective than mere words. He has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House.

The cliche that some invoke is that Putin is playing chess while Obama is playing checkers, but for that to be true the President would actually have to moving pieces on the board. We would be lucky if he were even that engaged. The reality is that while Putin is outmaneuvering the United States on almost every front our leader is not even in the game.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gooning It Up

For the last few months, many conservatives have struggled to understand and explain the appeal and popularity of Donald Trump among Republicans. While many theories have been thrown out there, I think this analysis by Leon H. Wolf might be the best I’ve come across yet. Glenn Beck is Right:

Let me draw an analogy that will be familiar to people who are even casual fans of hockey. Every hockey team at pretty much every level of play has a guy who is commonly referred to as an “enforcer.” I can recall that for many years, my favorite team (the Nashville Predators) had a guy on the team named Jordin Tootoo. Year after year, Tootoo was voted the most hated player in hockey. He was dirty, he started fights, he drew penalties, he got under the other team’s skin on purpose, and he had few appreciable hockey skills.

All these things made Tootoo a natural target for every opposing team in the league and their fans. But in Nashville, Tootoo was far and away one of the most popular guys on the ice because he played for us. We loved the way he got to the other teams. But every other team had a guy that we loved to hate, and when you asked any of us why we hated that person, it would read like a list of things that we loved about Tootoo – e.g., he doesn’t do anything but start fights, he’s a goon, he’s just out there to try to draw penalties against more skilled players or goad them into a fight.

Wolf goes on to explain that Trump is serving the goon role for many on the right. It doesn’t matter what his positions are, it just matters that he’s wearing the right jersey (with a big R on the front) and he’s willing to take cheap shots at the other side. So when they say they like him because “he fights” what they really mean is he fights the way they want to with no punches pulled and no holds barred.

To be fair, I think there is some logic in this. After seven years of President Obama insulting his opponents at every turn and using every available lever of power to advance his agenda (some ultimately determined to be extra Constitutional) it’s understandable that conservatives would be clamoring for a candidate willing to win at any cost. But if that’s the case, they should make no pretense otherwise. They want a goon. They want Trump.

Friday, September 11, 2015

On Loss and Losers

Acknowledgement to MPR Classical for a full day of mourning and tribute songs in honor of 9/11.   Glorious.  None more so than this from the Henry V sound track, Non Nobis Domine.

Nothing mourns and consoles like Latin.  Although Donald Trump would probably call it "music for losers,"

And what a scene from Henry V in that video, from the 1989 version direct by the star, Kenneth Branagh.  In one continuous tracking shot (incorporating layers, with the foreground and background adding different details in different scale), depicting the entire story of the Battle of Agincourt, how it was fought, by whom (each primary character making an appearance), and the results of the battle.   Masterful.

Branagh did get Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Actor, but didn't win either.  Yep, he's a loser. Which may have facilitated his ability to appreciate this song.

Note, Oliver Stone beat him out for Best Director with Born on the Fourth of July (my tribute to which is here).

Daniel Day Lewis beat him out for Best Actor in My Left Foot.

MY SHOULDER TRUMP:  This guy Branagh?  He couldn't beat a guy who was acting with one foot.  You call him masterful?  Gimme a break.  I've seen better acting in foot powder commercials.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Breaking the Ball Barrier

At U.S. Open, the Ball Boys and Girls Are Grown-Ups:

Before Steven Slater, a 47-year-old stay-at-home dad, tried out for a part-time job this summer, he had to get ready. He added miles to his runs. He started doing yoga three times a week. Then he went to a park near his apartment in Manhattan and threw tennis balls against a wall.

At this year’s U.S. Open, Mr. Slater is a rookie ball person, a job that requires a rocket arm. The Open is the only one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments where the people who fetch balls between points also throw them to each other, rather than roll them.

From the Seinfeld episode The Lip Reader:

Kramer: You got it. Hey Jerry, do me a favor. The next time you see that lineswoman ask her how those ball boys get those jobs. I would love to be able to do that.

Jerry: Kramer, I think perhaps you've overlooked one of the key aspects of this activity. It's ball *boys*, not ball men. There are no ball men.

Elaine: Yeah I think he's right. I've never seen a ball man.

Kramer: Well there ought to be ball men.

Jerry: All right I'll talk to her. If you want to be a ball man go ahead, break the ball barrier.