News from Lake Wobegon
It was a quiet week. The Berger boy joins a band called The Brass Monkeys, Earl and Ruby Dickmeier create the World's Largest Ball of Baggies after the World's Largest Pile of Burlap Bags catches fire, and Maureen gets the hiccups in the middle of Pastor Liz's sermon.
Okay, I have to admit, I got a little carried away this morning. But it was all very natural and in a good cause. And in the end, I think understandable.
So, you see, I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I came across a Tweet that was sent by "the Real Donald J. Trump," and I thought it deserved a quip reply. And then, as these things happen, another occurred to me. And than another and...
Hey, I mean honestly when you're going to go out of your way provide a set-up, you have to be prepared to get the punch line. Act like an old-time Borscht Belt comic, and all that's missing from initial Tweet by The Real Donald J. Trump (R-Trump Towers) is a rim shot and some seltzer down the clown's pants.
First, then, we'll start out with the TrumpTweet (tm) that started it all --
And so, that lead to the following --
On this latest edition of the 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Brian Sipe, writer of the upcoming Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He's interviewed by Craig Borten, writer of Dallas Buyers Club. And for those interested in such things, there is also a recap of the "Creating Your Webseries" event held by the Guild..
Salon Goes Off The Rails
Yesterday, after Salon published what she believed was an irresponsible hit piece on Hilary Clinton, the publication's former long-time, highly-admired editor Joan Walsh sent out a few funny but very pointed Tweets about how she might take editing Salon off her resume, quipping that she wondered how a 12-year break in one's work experience would look, adding "Asking for a friend."
I suspect we'll see some more from the good lady today -- except that they might not be as funny.
This morning, I read a Tweet that Salon itself seemingly put out to promote an article, and thought that maybe it was actually The Onion, writing a satire. Or perhaps it was the kind of sizzling promotions for an article that are meant to look controversial in order to get attention, but when you actually read the piece it tears down every fake-controversy.
Then, I read the full article. It wasn't The Onion. And it supported the premise. It was serious. And that's not all it was -- it was naive, ghastly and irresponsible.
The article, which you can read here, takes as its premise that "sizzle" line which asked the question "What if Donald Trump really is the lesser of two evils in this election" against Hillary Clinton -- and then goes on to somehow, inexplicably try to make a case that he is. And not just any old general case, but a case from a supposedly liberal point of view. No, honest. The article is titled, "A liberal case for Donald Trump: The lesser evil is not all clear in 2016."
And yes, you read that title right.
The thing is, the big problem here isn't that that it makes a case for supporting Donald Trump. Or that it's supposedly a liberal case to supporting Donald Trump. Yes, those are problems, but they're also personal opinions and fair enough to make, no matter how much one might think they are woefully misguided, the "big problem" is that the case it makes is so...well, naive, ghastly and irresponsible.
I'm not going to dissect the full article written by Walker Bragman (which I’ll assume is not a pseudonym), but will just note a few points. After all, when you build a wall and just one of the main supporting buttresses collapses, the whole structure risks crumbling. So, a few supporting buttress will suffice.
Indeed, the very first argument he makes -- in fact, the very first sentences of the very first argument -- are: "Perhaps the best thing I can say about Trump is that he speaks his mind. This sometimes leads to some pretty outlandish things, but not always."
Okay, let's stop there a moment and look at that, closely. Hmmm, no, it doesn't even have to be all that close. But I stared at it and immediately wondered just how many "sometimes outlandish things" it's okay Mr. Bragman and Salon think it's okay for a freaking President of the United States to do???!! I can't speak to their standard, but my limit is ZERO. Presidents do make mistakes and do things that many disagree with, and some have awful results. But even that is worlds different from going out and doing something outlandish. And we're not just talking once here, a single "outlandish thing," but rather "sometimes," which means...ongoing. And to defend his point, Mr. Bragman adds, "but not always." Not always? He doesn't even say, "not usually." Or, "almost never." No, he says, "not always." Which means, a lot. And much of the time. Or even, God help us, most of the time.
Okay, here's a question. How many of you reading this would hire a plumber who a friend recommended by saying, "Sometimes his work leads to some pretty outlandish results, but not always"?? I'm guessing almost none of you. Even if it was cheap. Even if it was free. Well, if we wouldn't tolerate that level of incompetence in a plumber -- or bus driver -- or dog walker -- how in the world, then, are we supposed to even dream of accepting it in the President of the United States??!! The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Military??!! The most powerful man in the world???!!!
Mr. Bragman and Salon also make the case, in the second point (yes, we're only at the second point, and that's will leaving out a lot more in the first point...), that we don't have anything to worry about with Donald Trump because he won't be able to get his worst policies through Congress. Swell, that's certainly deep thinking. After all, if Donald Trump actually got enough support to win the presidency, doesn't it follow that it's at least possible that the Republican Party would not only sweep in to majorities, but even win veto-proof majorities? But even more to the point, the thoughtlessly naive "argument" about dealing with Congress misses the reality that presidents can make executive signing statements that avoid dealing with Congress entirely.
When it comes to foreign affairs, Walker Bragman even gets bizarrely dismissive there, as well. He notes that Donald Trump has "alienated some of our allies" (something the author says we shouldn't take lightly, but then does, because it's all he says about the global problems such alienation can cause) -- but he suggests that that's okay because, after all, "it has also earned praise from Vladmir Putin." No, really. He wrote that. His one big defense of Donald Trump's foreign policy is that he's alienated our friends, but our nation's biggest adversary likes it!!!! Dear heavens above. In fairness, I think it's a good thing when we can reach accommodation with others who we usually have disagreements. But when those closest to us and most supportive to us are horrified, and those with whom we tend to have contentious discord give us a thumbs up and a wink, usually it's good to step back for at least a moment to reflect.
Beyond naive and thoughtless, the article is even inaccurate in some of its statements. "She voted for the Iraq War, he opposed it," the author writes. In fact, no, Donald Trump supported the Iraq War. Alas, it appears that Walker Bragman has spent much too much time believing what Donald Trump says and dismissing it as "sometimes" unimportant, but that's the problem with not recognizing that Mr. Trump doesn't just "speak his mind," but actually lies a lot. It doesn't take a lot of effort though to do a quick, 15-second search and find the truth and reality. But you do have to at least look. Or try.
There's a lot more -- A LOT -- that's horrifyingly empty in the article, but I'll leave it at that. You can check it out yourself in the link above. In the end, it appears that the basic premise is, don't worry, for all we know, maybe Donald Trump might possibly not be as disastrous as we think, and even if he is, then that'll be good for Democrats and liberals in four years.
Forgetting for a moment whether that is merely wishful thinking and a pretty massive gamble to make, more to the point it's a pretty thoughtless and galling position to take for what will be good for the country.
Donald Trump is not the lesser of two evils with Hillary Clinton. One can like Hillary Clinton's policies and personality or detest them. Fair enough, and understandable. That's what opinions are about. But to put her on a level of "evil" standing with Donald Trump -- a man with literally zero experience in politics, the military and international statesmanship; who wants to build a wall with Mexico and ludicrously suggests that they will pay for it; who has demeaned Mexicans, who has demeaned all people of the Muslim faith and wants to ban the world religion from entering the United States; who has supported bullying and violence at his rallies; who has quipped he'd like to kill some reporters; who has said he could shoot someone and get away with it; who has demeaned and mocked the disabled, who has regularly demeaned women; who has supported torture; who leaves open the use of nuclear weapons; who has promoted racism: who has on and on and on and on, fill in the blank -- for Walker Bragman and Salon to put that on the same platform of "evil" (whether the word is meant hyperbolically or metaphorically or however) shows a level of political insight that isn't remotely as substantive as they think it is.
Joan Walsh, we can't even begin to feel your pain...
Maddon to a T
The wonderful, unique manager of the Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon always comes up with offbeat slogans, for which the team generally make up t-shirts. My favorite is his from last year, “Do Simple Better.” This season he had a new one that really caught on. The slogan is “Try Not to Suck.” (I wrote about this during during Spring Training.) The team sells the t-shirts for Maddon's charity foundation.
(Maddon is notable for how he deals with t-shirts. As I also wrote about him last year, he often wears t-shirts for other peoples' charities when he meets the press for his post-game press conference. That way, the shirt and charity gets on camera, and I believe the team hands out information about the charity. He started doing this when he was manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.)
Anyway, a week or so ago the Cubs just finished playing an away series again their big rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. It turns out that the genteel ushers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis wouldn’t let Cubs fans in who were wearing the shirt, or made them turn the shirt inside-out.
By the way, to be clear, the word most-certainly once had base origins. And those origins remain real. But its usage is vastly different today. (Language changes drastically over time. Growing up, you would never dream of saying "schmuck" in our household, or anywhere. It was a terrible, absolutely filthy word. But now we have a light-hearted comedy that made it past the highly-protective MPAA censors, Dinner with Scmucks.). And while, "You suck" or "Cardinals suck" still has a very real bite to it, today it's rude at most.
As evidence of this, I should note that fans wear the t-shirt at the family-amenable "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field in Chicago, where all its day games brings a menagerie of little kids to the park, especially on the weekends, with not a blink from ushers. And there have been no stories at other ballpark around the country where Cubs fans proliferate of there being an issue. In fairness, St. Louis is different. Yet even there, it's clear that they themselves understand there's a sense of over-reaction, since the adverse public reaction has even made the tender-hearted ballpark officials reconsider their position, though there’s no definitive change in policy yet.
Here's a story about it from the Cubs website by Carrie Muskat. I love Joe Maddon’s quote in the very last line. Pure Maddon.
Maddon surprised by T-shirt controversy in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- Joe Maddon met a Cubs fan at a downtown restaurant earlier this week who was denied access to Busch Stadium because he was wearing one of the manager's "Try Not to Suck" T-shirts. Maddon heard from other fans who were told by ushers that the shirts were offensive.
The Cardinals apparently are reconsidering their policy because of that, and Maddon complimented the team.
"I give them credit for stepping back and saying, 'Maybe we made a mistake with this thing,'" Maddon said after Wednesday's 5-3 loss. "It's not offensive to anyone -- it's a self-deprecating slogan, so why would you be upset with it?"
Maddon couldn't understand why the Cardinals ushers found the shirts offensive and said the feedback from fans surprised him. Sales of the T-shirts go to his Respect 90 Foundation and Cubs Charities. The message on the shirt is one Maddon would say to players as they went up to hit.
"I'd love a full explanation as to why [the ushers] find it offensive," Maddon said. "I'd love to know why they find it dirty. If you look it up in the dictionary, I think it's very appropriate to utilize that word in a lot of daily adventures."
Maddon was debating how to respond, but decided not to do anything.
"I think it's much better if the fans make a big deal out of it," he said. "Let someone else blow your horn and the sound travels twice as far."
Conan Takes a Trip
I don't watch the Conan show all that much, but then I don't watch any late-night talk show all that much. When the spirit moves me or when there's a guest I especially want to see. But when I do absolutely watch Conan O'Brien is when they do one of their shows that travels to a foreign country. They're quite wonderful, and helped greatly by the hosts impressively quick wit and self-deprecating style.
For my taste, the best has been the show's trip to Havana, though there was a wonderful one to the ancestral homeland in Armenia of his assistant, Sona. The other week the show packed up and went to South Korea, where it was a joy.
The trip came about for an odd reason. Conan is not seen in South Korea, but clips are available on YouTube. And one young woman is a major fan and wrote him a very funny fan letter that included gifts of Korean snacks, as well as an invitation. And so the show went, met at the airport by a loud and boisterous crowd.
This is an early segment for the show, where Conan asks to be taught the language. It does not go in a way that one would suspect...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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