Quirk of Nature
I haven't posted anything from Richard Wiseman for a while with his wonderful "Quirkology" videos. Wiseman is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, and his videos (and books and lectures) for how he deals with magic are what's got him the most attention -- what he talks about is really closer to parlor bets and optical illusions Among his many offbeat videos, I particularly like his "Bets you can always win series." Here's another --
Going to the Sinema
Over the past couple of months, whenever I get into a political discussion with a friend of mine, he’d go into a rant about Joe Manchin. And every time he did, I’d stop him and say that the issue is not Joe Manchin, but Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. He’d dismiss that and say that whenever Manchin settles, so will she, that she’ll follow his lead. I’d reply that I didn’t think he had any basis on which to think that.
And I felt the same whenever I saw news stories during the past months about Joe Manchin holding things up. And people posting on social media. It was always, only Joe Manchin. That Joe Manchin was holding things up. When is Joe Manchin going to come around? And every time, I’d wonder why on earth are people letting Kyrsten Sinema off the hook, because her vote was 100% as necessary as Manchin’s – and he seemed a more understandable and reasonable voice, especially given that he’s a Democrat in the state that voted more heavily from Trump than any other. She, however, kept saying silly things and having press conferences with Sen. Jon Cornyn, the very conservative Republican from Texas.
At least, when I wrote about it, I made sure to always mention her prominently, like here (where I put both in the title) and here, where I singled her out alone.
At least now, within the past couple weeks, the news media has finally come around and realized that Kyrsten Sinema is as big an issue as Joe Manchin, and almost more of a loose cannon. And also, sort of irresponsible, which came to a head yesterday, when NBC News reporter Frank Thorp posted an excerpt from his exchange with her, where she though it would be cute to be flippant over issues that are essential to President Joe Biden’s agenda and critical in many ways to democracy --
Q: What do you say to progressives who are frustrated they don’t know where you are?
SINEMA: “I’m in the Senate.”
Q: There are progressives in the Senate that are also frustrated they don’t know where your are either.
SINEMA: “I’m clearly right in front of the elevator.”
Obviously, I have no idea where things stand, or what she wants (and the same with Joe Manchin) and if an agreement is possible with them, I think one is, because they’re still both Democrats, even if moderate-to-conservative, and likely (I assume…) know their own political futures are at stake. But what I think doesn’t matter. We’ll see.
Still, though, frustrated and deeply annoyed as I do get with them, there’s one thing I always acknowledge and pass along when anger is directed their way. And it’s not even that they do vote with President Biden on most other issues (and voted with him on the massive jobs bill early in his presidency.) It’s that because they’re both Democrats, however one feels about them, however they voted, be grateful that that they are Democrats – because their being Democrats, however they vote, is why Chuck Schumer is Majority Leader and not Mitch McConnell, and why Democrats are in charge of every committee in the Senate.
And in the end, I’m glad that people are now, at last, focusing attention on Krysten Sinema as much as Joe Manchin.
Tales of the City
I've posted a lot of versions of Steve Goodman's great song "City of New Orleans," including several from Arlo Guthrie. I like this particular version by Arlo because he precedes it by telling the story about how the song came to him. And from all the tales I've read about this, it seems to be pretty close how it happened, with only a little embellishment -- even as he turns some of the story into jokes. This was recorded in 2017.
The Eyes Have It
This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, covering works from screenplays to novels to non-fiction books to stageplays to songs and all manner of things in between. It is also one of the oddest, which I have to admit is a large part of the reason I have such affection for it. Maybe 15-20 years ago, on a newsgroup BBS for Writers Guild members, someone posted the following challenge --
Okay, here's the deal. A well known and very good eye doctor (MD) -- needs a little help. So I suggested a contest. The winner get a great lunch or an eye exam. Here's the contest: write a poem or song with the following words:
Always up for an offbeat challenge like that, I wrote the following in a couple hours, hoping to get in first and perhaps put off any other comers. After I posted it, all the other WGA writers posted messages that they were waving the white flag and would not even try to top it. While I know that's a bit much to say about one's work, keep in mind that this was a stupid contest with a very small prize on a topic of idiotic meaning -- so others not wanting to jump in is as high a bar to reach as might seem otherwise.
That said, I'm also pleased that my own eye doctor aske for a copy and has it up in his office. Here it is --
What compels the organelles
To be the way they are?
The mighty mitochondria
Are happier by far.
And to cite the cytoplasm,
They never do complain.
So why in hell do organelles
Just drive themselves insane?
You can tell that every cell
Is happy as a clam.
And endoplasmic reticulum
Is thrilled the way it am.
A cell membrane would never deign
To scream or cry or pout.
So someone tell the organelles
To kindly cut it out.
A vesicle's a messicle
But accepts its weary lot.
And the cheery nucleolus smiles
Though it's clearly gone to pot.
The golgi apparatus works
Just one time in a thousand.
Yet the whining shell of organelles
Will kvetch until the cows come.
They're RNA, they're your NA;
They accept that they'll have strife.
And chromosomes feel right at home
With DNA and life.
A nucleus is centered,
With its feet firm on the ground.
But toll the bell for the organelle,
That insists it's lost and frowned.
We haven't gone Out and About with Jiminy Glick for far, far too long -- inexcusably long, almost -- so, let's rectify that. Here he is in La La Wood interviewing Steve Martin. Two things stand out -- the first, how low-key and almost straight Steve Martin plays it, almost wanting to see where Martin Short is going to run with it, something that likely comes from their friendship. And the other, once again, how wildly fast Martin Short is.
By the way, a few weeks ago -- when promoting their new limited series on Hulu, Only Murders in the Building -- Steve Martin and Martin Short were on Stephen Colbert's show and talked about the first time the two had met. It was before making The Three Amigos, and Martin Short had come over to Steve Martin's home to get together and also pick up the script.
Short said that when he walked in, he looked around and the first thing he said was, "How did you get such a nice house? I've seen your act." To which Steve Martin walked over, handed him the script and said, "Please get this to Martin Short."
Owing a Debt of Ingratitude
And so it came to pass that yesterday the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate voted not to raise the debt limit.
Whenever the Republicans threaten to do this – which they have been doing in recent years, but only when Democrats hold the White House, not when the GOP does – it seems pretty clear that much, if not most of the country (leaning heavily on the Republican side) has no idea what “raising the debt limit” means. The sense seems to be that so many people (leaning heavily on the Republican side) thinks it has to do with spending and creating a bigger debt.
It doesn’t at all – though oddly, Republicans never seem to mind actually creating a bigger debt, since they tend to do so when holding the White House (Trump, for instance, raised the national debt to $7.8 trillion and increased the federal deficit to around $3 trillion), but say you want to raise the debt limit (rather than actually raising the debt)…well, oh my, Republicans wheel out the barrels of outrage. The reality, though, is that raising the debt limit merely means that Congress authorizes the additional money to be spent to pay for the debts that the United States already owes. It’s agreeing to pay for what we’ve already spent. It’s like getting your credit card bill, seeing you don’t have enough money in your checkbook and so transferring money over into it from your savings account, so that you…can…pay…your…credit card…bill… for…the…money…you’ve…already…spent…and…therefore…owe.
Imagine getting your credit card bill – or any bill – looking at it, and then saying, “Oh, ptish, I’m not paying that” and throwing it in the trash. Imagine what your creditors would say. Imagine what they’d say, too, the next time you want to charge something or borrow money.
As Sen. Chris Murphy wrote yesterday, "One of America’s greatest assets is the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency. If Republicans refuse to let the government pay its bills, it jeopardizes this status, and the impact on the U.S. could be catastrophic. Gamesmanship over the debt limit is so irresponsible."
For several decades now, the Republican Party has disdainfully called Democrats the “Tax and spend" Party. I’ve never quite followed the logic of why this is a bad thing, since the alternative is being the “Don’t tax and spend” Party – and that’s precisely what keeps raising America’s debts higher and higher whenever Republicans are in the White House.
The government always spends, and it always will because it must. Republicans may want to spend less than Democrats (or not), or spend on different things, but they do spend. A great deal. They just like to cut taxes at the same time. That's why, as I noted, I’ve referred to the GOP as the "Don't tax but spend" Party. The thing is, though, now that may have to change. Because with the GOP voting against raising the debt ceiling, they've become the "Don't tax but spend and then don't even pay for what you spent" Party.
I’m not quite sure of their “thinking” on this, but my guess is twofold. First, that it likely has something to do with assuming that their base not only doesn’t know what raising the debit limit is, but also incorrectly thinks that they do. And second, that the country will blame any problems that come from all this, whether a government shutdown or the country’s credit rating dropping which will cause some prices to rise, on the Democrats in power.
There are two problems with this “thinking.”
The first is that the country probably will have a really good idea who is at fault here, when it’s only the Republican Party that voted unanimously against it. The Democrats may get some blame, too, since the party in generally does – but the party in power generally gets all the blame. Not here. The Republicans kindly jumped in to claim their massive part of the credit.
And the second problem with this “thinking” is that it’s reprehensible and only serves to harm the country.
But that’s today’s Republican Party. “Only serves to harm the country” seems to be their brand and what they’re selling. Enabling Trump, voting down funding for computer security measures against foreign attacks, placating white supremacist groups, supporting the January 6 insurrection, claiming non-existent voter fraud to create mistrust of election, passing voter suppression bills, ignoring health safety measures to keep from spreading the coronavirus which has so far killed 706,338 Americans, becoming quite literally more fascist by the day, and more and more and more. So, voting down raising the debt ceiling just seems a natural progression.
And this can’t be blamed on Trump. This is about the Republican Party, which enables it all and is complicit.
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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