Presty the DJ for Oct. 20

Today in 1960, Roy Orbison had his first number one single:

Today in 1962, the number one single in the U.S. was a song banned by the BBC:

The number one single today in 1973:

Today in 1977, four members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and two others were killed when their plane crashed near McComb, Miss.:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Oct. 20”


Season (about to be) over

Either tonight or Saturday night, the Brewers’ season will end, once again short of getting to the World Series, let alone winning the World Series.

It is not because a 3-games-to-2 lead is insurmountable; it isn’t. But the last two games of the National League Championship Series have exposed the Brewers’ weaknesses that are not going to be fixed before the Brewers’ season ends. Almost no one is hitting right now, and this is a bad time for a team-wide power outage. The Brewers deserve points for, shall we say, imaginative use of pitching, but imagination only gets you so far. The bullpen is predictably worn out, and as I have said here before there is no starting pitcher who can go even seven innings and keep the Brewers in the game.

Sadly, the Dodgers and the now-likely American League champion Boston Red Sox demonstrate that all you have to do to win in baseball is whip out your checkbook to acquire the right players. (Which is not the same thing as whipping out your checkbook to acquire players.) So the highest (Red Sox) and third highest (Dodgers) payrolls are playing each other next week. That will be another World Series I won’t, and you shouldn’t, be watching.

Speaking of money, the NLCS has served as a nationwide audition for Dodgers third baseman Manny Machado, for whom the Brewers tried to trade with Baltimore before the Dodgers picked him up. (Which is somewhat ironic since there were questions about where Machado would have played given the surplus of Brewers infielders. And then the Brewers picked up Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop.)

Machado started his week by admitting he loafs his way through games, which could be this year’s example of “Manny being Manny,” a term originally used for former outfielder Manny Ramirez.

And then came Tuesday, when, as the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke reports …

You know who should have been booed Tuesday? That would be Machado, who caused the oddest of all sights, a bench-clearing incident in the 10th inning. It happened when Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar objected to the way Machado seemingly intentionally clipped his leg while running out a groundout. It wasn’t the first time Machado has taken a physical shot at the Brewers this series — in Game 3 he was called for runner interference when he slid out of the baseline hard into shortstop Orlando Arcia. This time, benches briefly cleared before the incident ended with no punches thrown.

Yet afterward, the Brewers Christian Yelich said, ‘’It’s a dirty play by a dirty player’’ — but Machado just shrugged.

“I was trying to get over him and hit his foot…if that’s dirty, that’s dirty, I don’t know, call it what you want,’’ Machado said.

The Dodgers are better than that, and should probably keep Machado’s erratic postseason behavior in mind when considering whether to keep him when he becomes an expensive free agent this winter. Remember in Game 2 when he stopped running hard to first base on a ground out?

“I don’t think he’s playing all that hard,’’ said Brewers Manager Craig Counsell Tuesday night in a fairly stunning rebuke,

The Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker adds:

The playoffs maximize everything, so the world is just now learning that Manny Machado is not the modern-day Hal McRae.

Shortly after Machado came to L..A. on July 18, Dodger Stadium fans learned that he not only has a Home Run Trot, he also has an Almost Home Run Trot, in which he adores his long drives until he has to scramble to make sure they’re doubles.

He has a Double Play Trot, which was in evidence at Milwaukee on Saturday in front of Fox’s cameras, and the dwindling number of people who are watching this postseason.

Joe Buck picked up on it. From Baltimore, Jim Palmer tweeted, “Once again Manny doesn’t run hard. Down 0-1 in series, 0-0 game in 4th. Too tired to run hard for 90 feet. But wants the big $$. #pathetic.”

Palmer, of course, had broadcast almost all of Machado’s game in Baltimore.

But the Dodgers broadcasters, who are not exactly known for hunting for the negatives, cited Machado at least twice this season.

Then, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series Tuesday night, Machado inflamed things by stepping on the front of first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar objected, the benches emptied, and Christian Yelich and other Brewers termed Machado a dirty player. Told that Machado said he was just playing hard, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell even questioned that.

Since Machado is an upcoming free agent, it’s important to put this to bed before the bidding starts. Machado tried to do that with Ken Rosenthal, of Fox and The Athletic. Whether he succeeded depends on which quote you hear.

“There’s no excuse for it, honestly,” Machado said. “I’ve never given excuses for not running. Obviously, I’m not going to change. It does look bad, it looks terrible. I look back and I’m like, ‘What was I doing?’

“I’m not the type of player that’s going to be Johnny Hustle. … That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am. There are things you learn, things you gotta change. I’ve tried changing it for eight years and I still can’t figure it out, but one of these days I will.”

It resonates with the Dodgers because of what happened in San Francisco on April 30.

Cody Bellinger swung hard enough to fall to a knee as he sent a shot into the right-center alley. He only got to second base and said later that he wasn’t going to risk anything, four runs down. Manager Dave Roberts thought Bellinger “cruised into second base.” He benched him forthwith.

That story went national and planted a false seed. Nobody in blue goes down the line as furiously as Bellinger, and he keeps surprising infielders with his speed. Now Roberts sees Machado play at 33 rpm just like you do, but says the good outweighs the bad. One imagines that Bellinger and quite a few other Dodgers notice this.

It also reinforces the feeling that Machado will play elsewhere next year. The Dodgers don’t do big free-agent contracts, and Corey Seager is expected to reclaim shortstop, at some point in 2019.

It’s not as if Machado isn’t known for being a jackass:

But, to show how life is unfair, Machado will be playing in the World Series next week — because MLB didn’t suspend Machado for the rest of the playoffs — and the high-character Brewers will not be. MLB’s failure to penalize Machado is a sign that MLB wanted the Dodgers and not the Brewers to win. So is MLB’s failure to act on this, from the Sporting News:

The Brewers suspect the Dodgers are attempting to steal their signs in the National League Championship Series. And, according to the Athletic, who cited unidentified league sources, Milwaukee is suspicious Los Angeles is using video cameras to do it.

“They use video people to get sequences,” an unidentified source told the Athletic. “It’s known throughout the league. MLB knows it’s an issue.”

Milwaukee catcher Erik Kratz pointed to a specific instance in the sixth inning of Game 5 when he saw Manny Machado motioning toward Chris Taylor, who was at the plate in what he thought was an attempt to inform him of the upcoming pitch. That was just an allegation of stealing signs in general, but the suspicion goes deeper.

The Brewers reportedly suspect the Dodgers of sending an employee around the stadium to relay stolen signals.

“There is concern amongst some Brewers that the Dodgers are using video to pick up their signs, multiple sources tell The Athletic,” the report says. “One person inside the organization said that on videos of the games, a coach could be seen running from the hallway into the Dodgers’ dugout whenever a runner reached second base, possibly a sign that L.A. was relaying a pitchers’ sequences to the runner during those at-bats.”

Other sources from around the league have pointed out the Brewers are clearly trying all they can to keep the Dodgers from stealing signals, as Milwaukee is using multiple signs even with no runners on base.

“That’s a dead giveaway they think something is up,” one rival executive told the Athletic.

You may think the Brewers still have a few years of being a contender. History shows that is not necessarily the case. The only extended period in franchise history where the Brewers were a contender was from 1978 to 1983, including one American League pennant and 1½ division titles. The Brewers made the playoffs in 2008, but not in 2009 and 2010, and got to the NLCS in 2011, but not since then until this year. Unexpectedly good seasons in 1987 and 1992 led to nothing.

Consider how many moves the Brewers made this year to get to this point — signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich in the offseason, and during the season acquiring Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, Curtis Granderson, Joakim Soria and Gio Gonzales. And all for naught, and not likely to be repeated in future seasons.

The playoffs also show how stupid baseball is being run these days. None of the NLCS or ALCS games have been shown on over-the-air TV, which means that roughly one-fourth of Americans haven’t been able to watch, nor have they been able to stream the games without paying for them. It’s as if MLB doesn’t want the country to see the highlight of its season.


National (NBA) Review

While we (We? Who’s we, sucker?) try to avoid politics on Fridays, David French has an amusing look at the National Basketball Association’s upcoming season tied to various politicians:

It’s a common misconception that the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was written in reference to Christmas. Clearly not. There is no time more wonderful than late October, when the leaves turn in the South, the college football playoff picture starts to come into focus, and the greatest sport in the history of the known universe — NBA basketball — begins its glorious regular season.

And so, it is my solemn duty to serve as the NBA’s ambassador to conservative America. Yes, it’s a progressive league. Yes, its fan base is concentrated in blue cities. But talent is talent, and excellence is excellence. And it’s time for red America to embrace the greatness.

Here is the only preseason guide you need to read. Per tradition, it divides the league by familiar political categories.

The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Division. Cheerfully inept.
The Atlanta Hawks
. I thought hard about putting the Hawks all alone in the division that defines joyful incompetence. After all, what’s crazier than sending your number-three pick to the Dallas Mavericks — effectively trading away Luka Doncic, a possible rookie of the year and potentially the next Dirk Nowitzki — for Trae Young? It’s a silly thing to do, but gosh darn it, the Hawks will play with a smile on their face. They might win 19 games, but Young is going to launch jumpers from every corner of the offensive side of the court. Look for nights when he’ll go 9–20 from deep, followed by a 2–21 nightmare. Either way, it will be entertaining. Either way, the Hawks will lose.

The Sacramento Kings. Okay, maybe this is unfair. The team does have an exciting core. De’Aaron Fox is blazing fast, and they’ve drafted well (for a change). They’re less inept than they used to be, but they’re still going to lose. They’ll miss the playoffs again. But there’s something about the Kings that makes them worth watching. From the front office to the court, this is a cast of characters. There’s always drama around the Kings. Watch and enjoy.

The Brooklyn Nets. In honor of AOC herself, we had to get a New York City team in her division, and the Nets fit the bill. Years after trades that robbed the team of its future while granting it a mediocre past, the Nets are finally ready to . . . Be not terrible. As for the eccentricity, never forget that guard D’Angelo Russell literally Snapchatted his way out of L.A. (No, really, look it up.)

The Hillary Clinton Division. Losing, grimly.
The New York Knicks
. Has any franchise squandered more advantages and disappointed its fans more thoroughly than the Knicks? And yet it starts another season without hope. Kristaps Porzingis, its star of the future — a man that the departed Phil Jackson almost ran out of town — is out with a knee injury, and not even a better coach (David Fizdale) and a good draft pick (Kevin Knox) will make the Garden rock. I would say that the future looks a tiny bit bright, but this is the Knicks we’re talking about. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

The Orlando Magic. The less said, the better. Years of top draft picks have yielded . . . this. Unless they’re playing my favorite team, I may not watch a single second of Magic basketball this year.

The Phoenix Suns. I had hope for them last year. I really did. Devin Booker is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA, and he’s the player in the league most likely to drop 60 on any given night. But something about the team just seems off. I don’t mind seeing a bad young team if the bad young team plays with hope and joy. The Suns did not. Will they this year? I say no. I hope I’m wrong.

The Chicago Bulls. Yes, they have some good athletes. Yes, they have some young talent. But Bulls fans have to face facts. It’s a long slog — and some lucky draft picks — before the team’s relevant again.

The Cleveland Cavaliers. I hate to do this. I really do. But recent history shows us that when LeBron leaves, watching the team remains about as entertaining as watching an alcoholic struggle through recovery. LeBron’s teams are about LeBron, and when they have to go cold turkey, the results aren’t pleasant. It was a good run, Cleveland, but your future is not bright.

The Cory Booker Division. Posing as relevant.
The Detroit Pistons
. They’ve got Blake Griffin, a one-time superstar. They’ve got Andre Drummond, a rebounding machine. They’ve got Reggie Jackson, a guard who could well average 20 points and six assists. And they’ve got a good new coach, Dwayne Casey, the man who made Toronto a contender. They look great on paper, right? They’re ready for their heroic stand, right?

Wrong. Griffin and Jackson are too fragile. The mix isn’t quite right. Not every Casey can lead this team to the playoffs.

The Charlotte Hornets. They have actual playoff buzz. But how much of that is based on the roster and how much is based on the irrational exuberance that follows when you survive the “Dwightbola virus”? Dwight Howard is gone, and that’s addition by subtraction, but the subtraction isn’t enough to carry Charlotte into the top 16.

The Denver Nuggets. They almost made the playoffs last year. They’ll almost make the playoffs again.

The Portland Trailblazers. Damian Lillard can and will make an actual Spartacus stand. It won’t be enough. The West is better, again. The Blazers are not.

The Beto O’Rourke Division. Expensive busts.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
. In theory they have a Big Three. In theory. Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins bring an enormous amount of talent to the hardwood. Collectively, however, the results are bad. Very bad. Butler wants out. He had an already-famous meltdown at practice just before the regular season, and it seems like coach Tom Thibodeau has lost a step. Perhaps the NBA is passing him by. Just last year, the ’Wolves were the team of the future. Now it looks like their glory day will never come, and by the end of the season, Thibs may skateboard straight to the unemployment line.

The Los Angeles Clippers. The “expensive” in the phrase “expensive busts” applies less to the Clippers roster than to the Clippers franchise. I may be slightly off in my math, but owner Steve Ballmer dumped about eleventy billion dollars in Microsoft bucks to purchase a team on the decline. It was a nice (though short) run for the Clippers as the premiere Los Angeles NBA team. That run is now over.

The Elizabeth Warren Division. They have a 1/1024 chance to be good.
The Dallas Mavericks
. Mark Cuban does not like to lose. He’s going to. Probably. But I’m going to keep an eye on those Mavs. They committed grand larceny securing Luka Doncic in the draft, and there’s a chance that he’s good, immediately. They’ve got a promising point guard in Dennis Smith, and there’s a chance that he’s much better than last year. I’m not saying “chance” in the Dumb and Dumber one-in-a-millions sense. No, the odds here are better than 1/1024. We’ll go with Warren six generations removed. There’s a solid 1/64 chance that the Mavericks are not terrible at all.

The Washington Wizards. I’m out. I’m out on the Wizards. Mostly. It’s a team with talent — including one of the best backcourts in basketball — but the chemistry is off, and they’ve never quite broken through. Adding Dwight Howard isn’t the solution, and the rest of the conference has gotten better. But it’s premature to write them off entirely. John Wall and Bradley Beal are just too good for that. Let’s go with Warren eight generations removed. There’s a solid 1/256 chance that the Wizards will be a top-four team in the East.

The Miami Heat. They’re here only because coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league, and there’s always a chance that Pat Riley can import talent. Let’s go with Warren nine generations removed. There’s a solid 1/512 chance that the Miami Heat will make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Rocky Balboa Division. Was Rocky conservative? Liberal? Don’t know. Don’t care. He’s the comeback king.
The Memphis Grizzlies
. Last year was a miserable year in Memphis. Mike Conley got hurt early, and a seven-season playoff streak ended with a 22-wing campaign that turned the Grindhouse into a morgue. I didn’t even have the heart to go to a game, and I live, eat, and breathe Grizzlies basketball. But it is a new day, people. I can hear the Rocky music stirring in the background. Mike Conley is back, Marc Gasol is still one of the best centers in the NBA, and Chandler Parsons might be almost healthy. Add a spectacular draft pick in Jaren Jackson Jr. and you have a recipe for a return of the Grit and Grind of Grizzly teams past. I can’t wait.

The Nikki Haley Division. The future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades.
The Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell is really, really good. Really good. He’s one of the most Nikki Haley players on the most Nikki Haley team. Watch the Jazz. They may be in the Western Conference finals.

The Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been working on his shot. Giannis has been in the gym, getting strong. Giannis has a new coach who’s going to space the floor, giving him room to roam. The Bucks are the Jazz of the East.

The New Orleans Pelicans. Don’t @ me, haters. Anthony Davis is an extraordinary basketball player, Julius Randle is a perfect, high-energy, bruising complement to Davis inside, and Jrue Holiday had a breakout year. Aside from the lethargic home crowd, the Pelicans are one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA. No one knows if Davis will stay in New Orleans, but for now he’s there, and so long as he stays, the Pelicans are ready to rise.

The Indiana Pacers. They’re the Lazarus of the NBA — a resurrected franchise led by a resurrected player. The Pacers were left for dead after they traded Paul George. Victor Oladipo was left for dead after a frustrating year in Oklahoma City. Larry Bird, basketball Jesus, wept. But then Oladipo came forth, and now the Pacers are set to be good for a long time to come.

Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC had arguably the best offseason in basketball. They kept Paul George. They added the defensive pieces the team needs. They added Dennis Schröder, a scorer who can sustain the offense when one or both of OKC’s stars are on the bench. And — critically — they subtracted Carmelo Anthony. Oh, and Russell Westbrook is still the most explosive athlete in the NBA. The Thunder are one lucky break from the Western Conference finals.

The Donald Trump Division. Fragile powers. The title beckons, yet misery is possible.
The Philadelphia 76ers
. Can a team be young, talented, and fragile all at the same time? Welcome to the Sixers experience. If this team can stay healthy and together, we may well watch Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Joel Embiid dominate the league for a decade. But Simmons has already missed a full season to injury, Fultz has missed most of a season to one of the most bizarre shoulder/shooting problems in recent memory, and Embiid has not only missed two seasons, he’s yet to prove that he can make it through a single regular season without a significant injury. This team could be a dynasty. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Toronto Raptors. I have one question and one question only. Is Kawhi Leonard still Kawhi Leonard? If he’s healthy and motivated, then the Raptors will contend with the Celtics for the Eastern Conference crown. And with no LeBron to contend with, they just might win. But Kawhi allegedly hates to be cold, and Toronto — rumor has it — is way up north. Will he have one eye on sunny L.A.? If so, look for a year of frustration for one of the best home crowds in the NBA.

The San Antonio Spurs. Because they’re the Spurs, they were able to trade a possible one-year rental of a very disgruntled Kawhi to Toronto for an all-NBA guard. DeMar DeRozan was furious at the trade, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder. That’s a recipe for a great individual season, but the Spurs are weak at point guard, some of their key pieces are old, and the team just might decline.

The Houston Rockets. How can we call a team that was one decent shooting night from dethroning the Warriors a “fragile” power? Easy. Chris Paul is a key piece of their puzzle, and he got hurt at the worst possible time. No one knows if he can stay healthy enough to endure a title run. They added chemistry-killer Carmelo Anthony. It could work. I hope it works (because the Rockets were really fun to watch last year), but they’re just fragile enough that we might look back on the last year’s thrilling Western Conference Finals as the best this team could do.

The LeBron Division. The team with the GOAT.
The Los Angeles Lakers
. LeBron has been to eight straight finals. LeBron is the best player in the history of basketball, and he’s (incredibly) still at his peak or near-peak. I refuse to believe the Lakers won’t be a very, very good basketball team.

The William F. Buckley Jr. Division. Intellectual juggernauts.
The Boston Celtics
. This team was built from the ground up by basketball geniuses to contend for a decade. It could win now. Even without all-NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, it made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Jason Tatum is set to make his own leap to all-NBA greatness. Put this crew all together, keep it healthy, and you have one of the deepest teams in the league. Oh, and they’ve got one of the top three coaches in the NBA. I’m praying for a Lakers–Celtics final, but I’m afraid I won’t get it because of . . .

The Sauron Division. Only Frodo can save us now.
The Golden State Warriors
. They’ve won three titles in four years. They’ve won eight of their last nine finals games. They have Steph, KD, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They have an outstanding coach. So, what do they do?

They add DeMarcus Cousins, one of the top two or three centers in the NBA. The Eye of Sauron is strong indeed. The forces of darkness are pouring from Minas Morgul, the walls Barad-dur are high and strong, and all hope flees the land.

The Warriors’ starting five could serve as the U.S. Olympic basketball team, and the rest of the world would tremble in terror. There is no logical, practical basketball reason why they won’t win again.

But that’s why we play the game. In the words of Al Michaels, calling the game when the underdog U.S. hockey team beat the omnipotent Soviets, “Do you believe in miracles?”

Ask me next June.

Presty the DJ for Oct. 19

We begin with one of the stranger episodes of live radio, Arthur Godfrey’s on-air firing of one of his singers today in 1953:

The number one song today in 1959 was customized for sales in 28 markets, including BuffaloChicagoClevelandDenverDetroitNew OrleansNew YorkPittsburgh and San Francisco:

The number one British album today in 1967 was not the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; it was the soundtrack to “The Sound of Music,” two years after the movie was released, on the soundtracks’ 137th week on the charts:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Oct. 19”

The next step before people die from politics

Bill McMorris:

The Minnesota Democratic Party has suspended a spokesman for calling for violence against Republicans even as two GOP candidates have been assaulted in suspected politically motivated attacks.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has suspended communications staffer William Davis for one week without pay after making a Facebook post joking that Democrats would “bring [Republicans] to the guillotine” on Nov. 7, the day after the midterm elections. Minnesota Republican Party chairman Jennifer Carnahan said the suspension was not enough, calling for his immediate firing in the aftermath of separate attacks against Republican candidates. She said she has been subjected to numerous death threats during her tenure as the state party leader and that death threats are no laughing matter.

“The overt hatred and violence that has become prevalent from many Democrats towards Republicans in recent times is unlawful, unacceptable, and downright scary,” she said in an email. “Yes, we have free speech and the right to peacefully assemble, but these words and actions by the left have gone too far. … He should have been terminated immediately.”

DFL officials did not respond to request for comment.

The suspension came days after Minnesota state representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm after spotting a man destroying Republican yard signs. She said the attack left her scared, and her attacker only desisted when she fled to her car and threw it in reverse.

“It was just insane. He was charging at me, saying, ‘Why don’t you go kill yourself?'” Anderson told the Washington Free Beacon. “To have someone physically coming after you and attacking you is just disheartening.”

The Plymouth Police Department investigation into Rep. Anderson’s alleged assault remains ongoing. A spokeswoman confirmed the department had identified a suspect, but declined further comment.

Anderson was not the only GOP candidate attacked. First-time state representative candidate Shane Mekeland suffered a concussion after getting sucker punched while speaking with constituents at a restaurant in Benton County. Mekeland told the Free Beacon he has suffered memory loss—forgetting Rep. Anderson’s name at one point in the interview—and doctors tell him he will have a four-to-six week recovery time ahead of him. He said he was cold cocked while sitting at a high top table at a local eatery and hit his head on the floor.

“I was so overtaken by surprise and shock and if this is the new norm, this is not what I signed up for,” he said.

Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck told the Free Beacon that his department has interviewed the alleged assailant. Investigators are awaiting medical records about the extent of Mekeland’s injuries before referring the case to the local district attorney’s office. He expects those results to come in the next week.

Mekeland said he was disappointed that he had not seen Democrats condemn the attack against him, but was floored to see the party take such a light approach to Davis’s comments.

“He’s a political staffer so you’d think if anybody should know boundaries, I think that’d be it,” he said.

Anderson was equally harsh about the DFL’s response, calling it “incredibly irresponsible.”

“This is exactly what incites people to violence. … It’s why you have somebody who goes and attacks me on Sunday just because we have different political beliefs,” she said.

The alleged assaults have both candidates weighing changes in their approach to campaigning in closing days of the race. Mekeland was unable to leave the house to knock on doors due to his sensitivity to sunlight on Tuesday. He said he and his volunteers will only travel in pairs for the rest of the campaign to ensure they are not alone during such visits, which will limit the ground they cover. Anderson said she has gotten offers from her husband and other volunteers to escort her around the district. She pledged to keep knocking on doors until Election Day.

“I refuse to be bullied and intimidated,” she said. “You can’t let this stop you from reaching out and talking to voters.”

Not only are Republicans subject to physical violence. The Bangor Daily News reports:

A threatening letter sent to the home of Republican Sen. Susan Collins that claimed to contain deadly ricin specifically mentioned her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, her husband said.

Thomas Daffron, who opened the letter Monday, said the writer claimed the letter was tainted with ricin residue.

Collins, who was in Washington at the time, told WABI-TV that she learned of the letter in photos sent from her husband. Daffron and the couple’s Labrador retriever, Pepper, were both quarantined for a time. …

Collins and her staff have been subjected to threats over her decision to back Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

“I will not live in fear. I will not be intimidated. I’m going to continue to do what I think is right for the people of the state whom I work very hard for, and for our nation,” she said.

Earlier this month, Kelley Paul, wife of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R–Kentucky), wrote for CNN …

An open letter to Senator Cory Booker:

It’s nine o’clock at night, and as I watch out the window, a sheriff’s car slowly drives past my home. I am grateful that they have offered to do extra patrols, as someone just posted our home address, and Rand’s cell number, on the internet — all part of a broader effort to intimidate and threaten Republican members of Congress and their families. I now keep a loaded gun by my bed. Our security systems have had to be expanded. I have never felt this way in my life

In the last 18 months, our family has experienced violence and threats of violence at a horrifying level. I will never forget the morning of the shooting at the congressional baseball practice, the pure relief and gratitude that flooded me when I realized that Rand was okay.

He was not okay last November, when a violent and unstable man attacked him from behind while he was working in our yard, breaking six ribs and leaving him with lung damage and multiple bouts of pneumonia. Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, recently joked about it in a speech. MSNBC commentator Kasie Hunt laughingly said on air that Rand’s assault was one of her “favorite stories.” Cher, Bette Midler, and others have lauded his attacker on Twitter. I hope that these women never have to watch someone they love struggle to move or even breathe for months on end.

Earlier this week, Rand was besieged in the airport by activists “getting up in his face,” as you, Senator Booker, encouraged them to do a few months ago. Preventing someone from moving forward, thrusting your middle finger in their face, screaming vitriol — is this the way to express concern or enact change? Or does it only incite unstable people to violence, making them feel that assaulting a person is somehow politically justifiable?

Senator Booker, Rand has worked with you to co-sponsor criminal justice reform bills. He respects you, and so do I. I would call on you to retract your statement. I would call on you to condemn violence, the leaking of elected officials’ personal addresses (our address was leaked from a Senate directory given only to senators), and the intimidation and threats that are being hurled at them and their families.

Donald Trump will naturally be blamed for this. But how many Democrats have been assaulted or threatened by Republicans based on Trump’s words or any other motivation? Were any Democrats shot by a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter last year? Were any Minnesota Democrats punched in the head?

So where does this go next? Someone — a candidate, a volunteer for a candidate, a supporter or an opponent of any of the three — is going to get killed next. Election Day is in 19 days.


Presty the DJ for Oct. 18

The number one song today in 1969:

Britain’s number one single today in 1979 probably would have gotten no American notice had it not been for the beginning of MTV a year later:

The number one album today in 1986 was Huey Lewis and the News’ “Fore”:

The City of Los Angeles declared today in 1990 “Rocky Horror Picture Show Day” in honor of the movie’s 15th anniversary, so …

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Oct. 18”

A Democrat considers his party

Giancarlo Sopo writes in USA Today:

Cuba’s socialist revolution was supposed to work for workers — like my grandparents who lived in Miami during Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. In January 1959, just two weeks after Fidel Castro seized power, they returned to the island to care for my grandmother’s ailing mother. For the next 20 years, they remained prisoners in their own country.

As Cuba’s political and economic situation worsened, my grandfather told a friend he wanted to return to the United States. Someone overheard the conversation and reported him to the authorities. For this, the Castro regime threw him in jail. He was later stripped of his job and salary as an accountant and assigned to feed zoo animals. In addition to the emotional distress it caused, this made my family’s financial circumstances even more precarious.

To understand my grandparents’ desperation to flee socialism, imagine leaving everything behind and starting anew at almost 60 years old.

I was born in Miami a little after my family was able to return to America — when President Jimmy Carter allowed travel restrictions to lapse. Growing up, a framed photo of my parents with President Ronald Reagan was a mainstay in the living room of our modest duplex. Yet, during the first election I was able to vote, I served as a precinct captain for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Four years later, I knocked on doors in New Hampshire for then-Sen. Barack Obama. In 2016, my wife and I drove 14 hours to volunteer for Hillary Clinton and this June, we marched in support of immigrant families.

The popularity of ‘democratic socialism’

Despite my working-class immigrant roots, I am concerned by the popularity of socialism within my party. On the night of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York, I thought her use of the term was a misnomer. Then I began studying the views of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the rapidly growing national organization she belongs to, and was disturbed by what I learned.

Like those of yesteryear, today’s socialists believe the government should nationalize major industries, propose eliminating private ownership of companies, and reject profits. In other words, democratic socialism is a lot like the system my family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business.

When I confronted some progressive friends about this, they initially dismissed my concerns. After sharing some articles with them, the conversation shifted to “they just want us to be more like the Nordic countries” and “they’re not like real socialists!” Both are reductionist, self-delusions to avoid confronting difficult truths.

The latter is a particularly absurd fallacy because it requires one to believe that adults who willfully join socialist organizations, sound like socialists and call themselves socialists are not what they claim to be.

Claims of “Nordic socialism” are also largely exaggerated. As Jostein Skaar, of Oslo Economics, told me, “I would stress that the Norwegian economic system is capitalistic, heavily influenced by the U.S. and U.K.”

This is probably why DSA argues that the Nordic model is not good enough.

The ideological counterparts of America’s democratic socialists are likelier to be found to our south than in northern Europe. For instance, Cuba — where the state controls three-fourths of the economy, limits private-sector activity, and employs the majority of workers — is clearly more representative of DSA’s economic vision than Denmark, where 89 percent of the wealth is privately owned and seven out of 10 Danes work in the private sector.

Moreover, as an investigation by Transparency International revealed, the Venezuelan government owns at least 511 companies — resulting in a state-owned enterprises per-capita ratio that is more than three times greater than all of Scandinavia’s combined.

As someone who spent years defending Democrats from “socialista” charges, I understand why people roll their eyes when Cuba and Venezuela are mentioned alongside democratic socialism, but to reject the comparison simply because we don’t like those countries’ outcomes misses the point of why they turned out the way they did. I’m under no illusion that increased access to health care and education will turn us into the Venezuelan capital Caracas, but it’s foolish to believe that democratic socialists — who promise to end capitalism — would be satisfied with Medicare for all, if given the reins of power.

This must never happen. The descendants of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels should have no place in the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Given its horrific record of human suffering, it would be a moral disgrace for Democrats to embrace socialism just to win elections, as some suggest. Those who use the blitheful ignorance of many for the political gain of a few deserve to lose. Indeed, if socialism represents the future of the Democratic Party, that’s a dystopia no American should want to be a part of.

Jon Gabriel adds:

A Gallup poll has discovered that, for the first time, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners support the state-run economic system, while just 47 percent support free enterprise.

Did these people fall asleep in history class during the lectures about the Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge? Miss the past few years of Venezuelans unable to find medicine, milk or toilet paper? Forget that just last month, Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega shot up a bunch of university students in a church?


A Democrat considers Trump

Devin Stewart:

Like most Democrats, I reacted to the stunning 2016 election of Donald Trump with a combination of confusion and dread. After all, Hillary Clinton was the favorite and, to Democrats like me, a Trump victory seemed to portend certain economic disasternuclear war, and pretty much the end of America as we knew it.

But now nearly two years into his administration, Trump has presided over a “winning streak” that includes a booming economy and stock market, an unemployment level at a nearly 50-year low, two Supreme Court appointments, no new foreign wars or domestic terrorist attacks emanating from abroad, a significant degree of progress on trade relations with Canada and Mexico, a “needed reset” on the China relationship, and the prospect of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Perhaps it is time that even his opponents reconsider Trump. Does Trump have a strategy that we can describe? Is Trump a return of Richard Nixon, of Ronald Reagan, or of something else entirely? After several months of watching the news without gaining any answers, I finally canceled my cable subscription and sought out other sources. I found some insights in unexpected places.

Trump’s presidency marks a return to realpolitik and great power politics. No one knows what goes on in Trump’s mind or if even he believes he has a strategy. What matters is what Trump does, so this essay looks at his actions, considers the bias of his critics, and seeks a new way to understand his policies. It considers the possibility that Trump has a method to his madness.

The first clue toward understanding this new era was the way in which American media covered Trump’s approach toward North Korea, a country I have watched closely for 20 years as an Asia specialist.  North Korea is an urgent nuclear threat to the United States, as President Barack Obama warned Trump during their famous meeting after the election. Kim Jong Un subsequently accelerated his missile development and demonstrated weapons that could reach the U.S. mainland. During the fall of 2017, my colleagues and I laughed nervously about the prospect of nuclear war — given Trump’s threats earlier that summer to meet North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” and at the U.N. General Assembly to “totally destroy” Kim’s regime.

A year after those hyperbolic threats, Trump has just finished bragging at the U.N. General Assembly about how he had made significant progress in diplomacy with North Korea — even some “skeptics” agree. Overall, however, the press remains skeptical about Trump’s efforts with North Korea. It blames Trump for recklessly escalating the rhetoric and then blames him for meeting Kim in Singapore for diplomatic talks and getting “played.” After that meeting, the press predictably slammed Trump for not getting North Korea to immediately denuclearize, an unrealistic goal.

Of course, every president experiences fierce and sometimes unfair press criticism. They all feel quite persecuted by the press and frequently complain about their treatment. But Trump’s adversarial relationship with the press seems of a different type. He has challenged the press directly, even labeled them the enemy of the people. In response, much of the mainstream press seems to have adopted a certain smugness in the way that they consistently denigrate not just the president’s policies, but also his competence and fitness to be president. In contrast to the tone of press criticism of Obama, the mainstream media seems absolutely certain that they are smarter than Trump. In other words, they are smug. So, despite a radical change in U.S.-North Korea relations, the tone of the press coverage remains highly negative.

But the president’s approach has a clear logic. Trump shattered “decades of orthodoxy” by starting the North Korea negotiations with a summit directly between himself and Kim and offering the concession of pausing U.S.-South Korea military drills on the Peninsula. In contrast, previous administrations had dispatched diplomats to lay the groundwork for nuclear disarmament first, with the prospect of meeting the president as a reward. The recent isolation of North Korea with sanctions and limited diplomatic engagement had only persuaded it to build up its nuclear weapons capability and strengthened mutual suspicions. Trump’s instincts on North Korea may even be better than that of his advisors, accordingto former officials like Morton Halperin, a longtime arms control expert who served in the Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, and Obama administrations. Trump’s approach of engaging North Korea personally and directly makes much more sense than simply demanding immediate denuclearization.

Of course, the verdict on Trump’s effort with North Korea is not yet in.  But much of the press has not paid sufficient attention to the progress Trump has already made. His approach has secured the remains of some American troops lost during the Korean War, contributed to successful inter-Korean talks, and promised a follow up U.S.-North Korea summit. He is trying an unorthodox approach, but it is too soon to render conclusions about them because we are right in the middle of it. Experiencing the discrepancy between mainstream coverage of North Korea and my own analysis was eye-opening.

The second came from a project I was running at the Carnegie Council. The first was on Trump’s approach toward Asia. In 2017, I hosted a podcast with George Friedman, who described the post-World War II system as a “freak” and predicted that the world is returning to “a more normal structure in which the nation-state is dominant, international trade is intense but managed by states for their own benefit, and where this idea that the nation-state is obsolete goes away.” A similar theme came up during my podcast with scholar Raymond Kuo, who hopefully described Trump’s transactional approach as possibly like that of “master statesman” Otto Von Bismarck during his rule over Germany in the late 19thcentury. Maybe Trump is just a return to the norm of what Ian Bremmer calls our “G-Zero World.”

A third insight was from the unlikeliest place: the critically acclaimed animated show, “Rick and Morty.” During Trump’s campaign, his supporters frequently talked about how funny the candidate was. This humor was lost on most of my left-leaning peers. But “Rick and Morty” showed me what I have may been missing. Here is a popular TV show about a mad scientist Rick, an amoral, sociopathic man who considers himself the smartest man in the universe and tells dirty jokes in front of his grandson Morty. The slapstick, low-brow, and nihilistic insults and dirty humor of “Rick and Morty” — much like Trump — resemble some of the comedic greats from the decades  prior to the 1990s: “The Honeymooners,” “Benny Hill,” “Abbott and Costello,” “The Three Stooges,” and “I Love Lucy.” These comedic devices can be traced back hundreds of years to Asian and European theater, which used slapstick, puns, insults, and innuendo.

Compare that oeuvre to the 1990s-2000s, during which comedy was more satirical, knowing, self-referential, meta, and smug. This idea is far from perfect, but examples of satire that use slapstick as well include “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “South Park,” “Team America: World Police”, and Sacha Baron Cohen’s parodies. American society today seems to be witnessing a return of what columnist Noah Smith calls “goofy” humor and a decline of “knowingly sarcastic” humor. Even The New Yorker complained that the 2018 Emmys were too smug and later described Trump’s rallies unfavorably as a “vaudeville routine.” Perhaps our shift toward a reversion in history also means we are seeing a cultural reversion as well.  Smugness has become politically tone deaf.

It’s possible that his opponents simply do not get Trump’s humor. The famous comment Trump made in 2016 about hoping that Russia would find Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails was delivered amid the Republican candidate’s riff about the Jon Lovitz character Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar, from Saturday Night Live. Another source of media consternation was Trump’s remark that he preferred soldiers who were not captured, in contrast to John McCain, who was captured in the Vietnam War. Al Franken made the same joke about 20 years ago and Chris Rock delivered it in his 2008 HBO special to huge laughs. Rock’s hilarious punchline: “I don’t wanna vote for the guy that got captured. I wanna vote for the mother f—er that got away!” But when Trump made the same comment, much of the media portrayed these jokes as evidence that Trump was a treasonous, insensitive monster. Of course, there are different standards of propriety for politicians and for comedians, but one can’t help but sense that there is an entirely different standard for Trump.

The same dynamic played out after Trump called the gang MS-13 “animals” (which he later clarified) and also when he said that people disputing the confederate statues in Charlottesville had “very fine people on both sides” of the debate. In these two episodes, the U.S. media twisted the president’s statements to make him sound like he was calling all immigrants animals and that he was calling neo-Nazis fine people. But that’s not what he said. Slanted media coverage of politicians is nothing new, but fellow Democrats must be aware of it even when it confirms their views.

Of course, Trump, like all presidents, is trying to have it both ways. He is trying to encourage his base, while seeking to avoid alienating the mushy middle. It is a bit unseemly and at times hypocritical, but it is politics, not bean bag. Trump’s opponents like to call out his hypocrisy in hyperbolic terms, but in so doing they simply stoke outrage while failing to provide any sort of objective analysis about what he is really accomplishing.

Such an analysis would require a difficult reckoning with some missteps that long predate Trump. Backing for Trump stems in part from mistakes made by his predecessors. Bill Clinton’s famous 1996 “bridge to the 21st century” speech depicted a world in which the United States could “maintain our world leadership for peace and freedom” while also protecting the environment and training its citizens to compete in a globalized world. Americans could have it all.

During the 1990s, that phrase “bridge to the 21st century” became — sometimes sarcastic — shorthand for a set of policies that the United States would promote to foster globalization, technology, and open trade. It was a trusting aspiration that if only the United States would follow its liberal principles, other countries would follow along. That mentality led to welcoming China into the World Trade Organization, the flawed efforts to invade and nation-build Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by the Bush administration, and then the 2008 financial crisis.

Like many Gen-Xers who studied politics or international relations in the 1990s and 2000s, I absorbed this gospel of liberal internationalism almost completely. But Trump’s early successes have already caused me to question those tenets of my education.

The Trump Doctrine takes previous policy assumptions and turns them on their head. Trump’s “America First” approach is a reversion to the idea of realpolitik and great power competition. It is better suited to a moment in which American power is much less dominant. The president takes each state-to-state relationship on its own terms. That’s why he’s often antagonistic with allies and friendly with threatening dictators. The consequences of insultingfriendly countries, such as Canada, might be hurt feelings in exchange for better trade terms, while souring relations with an antagonistic one, such as North Korea, could result in serious security threats. He pursues the optimal outcome in a utilitarian sense rather than follow previous rules about diplomatic etiquette. Trump keeps his enemies even closer than his friends, while previous presidents did the opposite. Niccolo Machiavelli might have been familiar with these tactics.

Trump’s diplomatic method can be reduced to the four “B’s”:  bullying, bargaining, burden-sharing, and bragging. He starts an interaction by bullying the subject — usually on Twitter, seeks a chance to sit down with the target to bargain as hard as possible toward what Trump may see as a more reciprocal relationship of burden-sharing, and then finally brags about whatever the results are. Trump treats all relationships as transactional, deploying tit-for-tat tactics toward achieving his goal of “reciprocity.” His message is that he wants to make America great again but does not spend much time lecturing or moralizing to foreigners. Finally, his use of insults, jokes, and slapstick, physical humor creates an image of honesty and authenticity with his supporters. Overall, these techniques and worldviews are becoming increasingly common around the world, including with the leaders of countries as diverse as Turkey, the Philippines, Russia, Israel, Mexico — and potentially Brazil.

Trump described his realpolitik-with-no-sacred-cows approach during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September: “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again. This is true not only in matters of peace, but in matters of prosperity.”

Overall, Trump’s approach represents a reversion to a style of statecraft that flips previous approaches. Technocracy, meritocracy, and bureaucratic approaches are giving way to establishing top-level personal rapport, trust, and loyalty. Free trade ideology is giving way to trade as a means to enrichment. Building institutions gives way to questioning the utility of each institution. Moral diplomacy gives way to talking to anyone who will bargain. Careful speeches give way to saying anything that gets results. Saving sacred cows gives way to killing them or threatening to do so. Open markets give way to using U.S. markets, military, and migration as bargaining chips. Every relationship is subject to maximum leverage of what is possible.

To be sure, the Trump Doctrine has critics. A common attack on Trump is that his policies risk “a slippery slope” toward something much more extreme. But the slippery slope is a logical fallacy. Just because Trump advocates trade wars to address unfair trade practices does not mean Trump will put tariffs on everything or simply cut off trade with the world. Another attack is “the ends don’t justify the means.” So if Trump decides to flatter Kim Jong Un in order to establish personal rapport, it is not justified even if it means peace on the Korean Peninsula? The belief that the United States should protect its moral high ground is anachronistic. It’s doubtful anyone will be talking about Trump’s flattery a decade from now, and it can be seen as pretty harmless if it results in reducing the threat of nuclear Armageddon.

Of course, this new world has risks. World politics is returning to a realist doctrine of “self-help” in an anarchical world. The system has returned to a web of relations and is therefore potentially more unstable. But as any realist will tell you, we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we want it. For Trump’s opponents to reach a broader perspective and truly understand the Trump phenomenon, they need to pop their cognitive bubbles and challenge their assumptions by, for example, testing out alternative views and sources of information.

This essay was an attempt to put concepts to Trump’s actions, to describe Trump in a new way. Critics may argue that in fact Trump is a narcissistic megalomaniac who likes strongmen, but no one can actually know what he is thinking. They should give up on the efforts at amateur psychoanalysis. If the political opposition wants to gain any ground, it needs to look for patterns in Trump’s actions and understand what it’s up against. Most of all, Trump’s opponents should stop their condescending attitude. Put up against Trump’s growing string of successes, such an attitude will ring increasingly hollow. For now at least, the era of smugness is over.