Monthly Archives

June 2016

Photography Travel

New York on a nice day

June 8, 2016

We have been knocking around the Apple the last few days, mostly doing bidness and otherwise adding to American greatness but also having a little fun. This morning’s meeting took us to the 48th floor of a mid-town building with a great view north:


Those damn one-percenters, hogging all the awesome views.

Yesterday evening we walked down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square and the Comedy Cellar, one of our favorite ways to burn an uncommitted evening in New York. We snapped what would have been an awesome shot of the Flatiron Building (the Wikipedia entry is worth your time, especially for its account of soaring New York real estate prices), but some clown bombed it:


Waddya gonna do?

Freedom ain't free Ugliness

Gender identity’s crucible

June 6, 2016

We have found ourselves in a couple of touchy conversations about bathroom rules lately, specifically with regard to the sturm und drang over the apparently widely feared presence of trans women in the ladies room, especially in schools. We have been called upon by cis-normative conservatives (yeah, we wrote that just to misbehave) in our circle to defend the honor of our women — don’t we fear for our daughters? — but when we polled our women they were quite clear they needed no defense and agreed with the substance of President Obama’s intervention, cranky federalism qualifications to one side. The prevailing view in the hep ‘n’ cool circles in which our wife and daughters run is that trans people are far more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators, so diminishing that risk is a good thing even at the cost of some discomfort (or even the occasional assault by a trans person).

Anyway, our purpose is not to litigate the bathroom issue, which does not much interest us personally, but to put this story in to context. It seems that a former young man now identifying as a young woman has qualified for the 100 and 200 meter events in the Alaska state track and field finals. The competitor — yes, a dodge, but we’re trying not to go down a rabbit hole here — who rejoices in the name Nattaphon Wangyot, is no muscle-bound sprinter looking for an easy gold. wangyot

Wangyot may, however, have an advantage that girls who are born girls do not have. Who really knows in any given case? But who can prove otherwise? (We should say that this question of gender identity in sports is not entirely new to your Editor. Fifteen years ago he played on a company softball team that rounded out its required number of females with a trans woman who was not nearly so, er, lithe as Ms. Wangyot. It being New Jersey, the other teams were not entirely silent on the question of fairness, but justice prevailed basically because nobody gave a rat’s ass about the local corporate softball league.)

And therein lies the rub. While Americans can and will get comfortable with revisions to public restroom admission protocols (and we think Republicans are again shooting themselves in the foot on the issue), high school sports are freaking sacred. Reflect, if you will, on the many times you have witnessed the faintest shadow of a hint of “unfairness” in the sport of children leveraged in to a foam-speckled shouting match, figuratively or even literally. The chattering classes, who mostly got that way by sucking at high school sports, have literally no idea how big this issue will become, and what pressure it will put on the position of trans athletes, even in the otherwise forgiving hearts of northeastern suburban soccer moms and Little League dads. OK, there are very few forgiving Little League dads, but you get our point.

The only saving grace here is that this issue will not affect Texas high school football, at least as a question of fairness. But girls basketball in Iowa? Hmm…

Beyond Austin


June 5, 2016

Muhammad Ali was of a time, and remembering that time is required to understand the reaction to his departure from this Earthly vale. Few people have told Ali’s story better than David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, who wrote a whole book on Ali some years back. If you want to know more about Ali, this long form obituary from Remnick is a good use of your time. Appetizer:

What a loss to suffer, even if for years you knew it was coming. Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, in Phoenix, at the age of seventy-four, was the most fantastical American figure of his era, a self-invented character of such physical wit, political defiance, global fame, and sheer originality that no novelist you might name would dare conceive him. Born Cassius Clay in Jim Crow-era Louisville, Kentucky, he was a skinny, quick-witted kid, the son of a sign painter and a house cleaner, who learned to box at the age of twelve to avenge the indignity of a stolen bicycle, a sixty-dollar red Schwinn that he could not bear to lose. Eventually, Ali became arguably the most famous person on the planet, known as a supreme athlete, an uncanny blend of power, improvisation, and velocity; a master of rhyming prediction and derision; an exemplar and symbol of racial pride; a fighter, a draft resister, an acolyte, a preacher, a separatist, an integrationist, a comedian, an actor, a dancer, a butterfly, a bee, a figure of immense courage.

But do read the whole thing.

Freedom ain't free

The great GOP hostage crisis of 2016

June 5, 2016

We are not ready to endorse a presidential candidate — the year is yet young! — but we have no regard for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and expect to spend the better part of the next five months hammering on both of them. Since we vote in Texas, our influence on the Electoral College is non-existent, so we will in all likelihood take the opportunity to cop out and #FeelTheJohnson at the end of it all.

This will not be easy for us, because we cannot abide Hillary Clinton, of whom we expect to write much more in the coming months (we commend you to Christopher Hitchens’ 1999 classic “No One Left To Lie To” if you would prefer your indictment of the Clintons from the left). But voting for Donald Trump is more than we can bear, and not for all the usual sanctimonious virtue-signalling reasons. Trump is a bad guy, but Hillary is a bad gal, and weighing the moral deficiencies in their respective characters requires precision instruments not yet invented. For us it comes down to this: All evidence and our own instincts suggest that Trump is impulsive to an almost incalculable extent, and we cannot have an impulsive person at the top during a national security crisis. Or catalyzing one with a midnight tweet.

Hillary Clinton’s recent and otherwise silly speech on foreign policy actually framed the issue well:

Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different — they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas — just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.

He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.

This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes — because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

We can agree with that notwithstanding our view that Hillary Clinton will probably extend the endless war of the Bush/Obama years, further weaken the geopolitical advantage of the United States, and remorselessly lie about anything that either does not go well or that does not perfectly reflect the transnational progressive party line. We do believe, however, that Clinton will be deliberative and calculating in a crisis, and is highly unlikely to bring us into armed conflict with a great power. We have no such confidence in Donald Trump, and since impulsiveness is a trait that we believe is disqualifying in a president of the United States, we cannot hope that Trump wins.

This is also true for the vast majority of Republican leaders who actually understand the demands of the presidency, or at least have an inkling. But they are in a difficult spot, because they are partisans in the literal meaning of the word. If they do not support the party’s nominee, however dangerous that nominee may be, their careers are over. And since politicians are not fit to do much else — well, other than lobbying other politicians on behalf of rent-seeking clients — most of the GOP brass are cracking under the pressure and issuing tepid endorsements of Trump. This article neatly captures the “hostage video” endorsements from the Republican elite and is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few choice nuggets:

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry

July 22, 2015: “Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

May 5, 2016: “He’s not a perfect man, but what I do believe is that he loves this country and that he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and that he will listen to them.” …

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

March 4, 2016: “Donald Trump has been perhaps the most vulgar — no I don’t think perhaps — the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency in terms of how he’s carried out his candidacy.”

May 10, 2016: “”I signed a pledge, put my name on it, and said I would support the Republican nominee and that’s what I intend to do.”

Paul Ryan’s precisely tuned announcement that he would “vote for” Trump was the most painful to watch. He might have preferred a long night in the prison showers.

This much is clear. We are watching the destruction of the Republican Party. Whether it survives in name remains to be seen — the legal entrenchment of the party duopoly will be very tough to dislodge — but a realignment is unfolding that will completely remake not only the GOP, but ineluctably also the Democrats. Because one cannot change the yin without also changing the yang.

Beyond Austin

A couple of pictures of Chicago

June 3, 2016

We are in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the huge gathering of everybody who is anybody in oncology. In fact, we are nobody and yet we are here. Anyway, we took a few pictures during the day.

A selfie:


And an artistic Trump shot, if you can believe it.


Freedom ain't free

Clinton stands up for the loan sharks

June 3, 2016

Payday loans are in the news. The editors of the New York Times and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff are occasionally regularly in lockstep, and yesterday was no different:

Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren’s pet agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proposed new regulations that would essentially put out of business most storefront “payday” lenders. So naturally the editors of the Times and Hillary Clinton would be all excited and stuff (although the former does not believe that the proposed regs go far enough).

Now, we can hear you saying, “Blueberry Town isn’t going to defend payday lenders, is he?” Well, no, but we are going to attack the people attacking them!

Our first questions for the anti-payday loan crowd are these: Do they believe that the borrowers they seek to protect are too stupid to understand the very high interest rates that they pay? Or, alternatively, do they believe that these borrowers have no other lawful alternative? What would be a third possibility?

If Hillary Clinton believes that these borrowers are too stupid to be given the choice of borrowing money at these rates, can she suggest a public agency charged with educating people that might provide a solution? You know, public schools, maybe. Or do we have to impose these regulations because the government has utterly failed at teaching the most basic requirements of modern life?

If Hillary Clinton believes that there are alternative lenders for these loans who are not the Mafia, who are these generous lenders and can she please connect them with the people who she thinks are too stupid to make their own decisions?

Anyway, icky as the payday loan business is — and it is icky — what will happen to the customers if we regulate it out of business? One doubts they will be getting loans from JP Morgan — even if Jamie Dimon were so inclined to do, federal bank examiners would lose their minds. My guess is that a lot more poor people will get evicted or have their cars repossessed (and lose the jobs they can not longer commute to) because they cannot get a bridge loan to their next pay check.

Unless, of course, they go to their local loan shark.

If Elizabeth Warren’s favorite agency had a sense of humor — that alone is a hilarious idea, come to think of it — it would call its proposed regs the “Tony Soprano Full Employment Act.” Of course, that would not be truthful, because no legislator will ever have a chance to vote on the proposal so it can’t be an Act, but you get our point. The CFPB will act, as it were, entirely on its own, and when violent loansharking makes a big comeback the “progressives” will claim that this obvious consequence is “unintended.”


We hait to complain about typos, but…

June 2, 2016

From the web site of the Austin Independent School District, a self-beclowning typo…

AISD spelling

We flirted with clicking through the link to complain about it — sort of a meta complaint — but then thought better of entangling with school cops, who as a class are not known for their happy-go-lucky approach to sarcasm. Who knows what crazy zero tolerance policy we might run afoul of?

Beyond Austin

With friends like these (Bernie edition)

June 2, 2016

We’re going to go out on a limb and say that the chattering classes will mock this endorsement less than, say, North Korea’s endorsement of Donald Trump. Regardless, Venezuela has misery, and therefore wants company. What other motivation could it have?

Austin controversies Austin politics Freedom ain't free

Austin “exports poverty”. Thank God.

June 2, 2016

Austin’s mayor, Stephen Adler, who had the best undergraduate education obtainable by man, is alleged to have said this:

We are not sure what it means to “export” poverty, but we are certain of this: It is better for a city to export poverty than to import it, all the more so if the city’s government spends money as if rapid growth will continue forever.

We rather like Mayor Adler notwithstanding our frequent policy disagreements, so we’re going to hope that he was taken out of context. Regardless, we will vote for politicians who vow to export poverty rather than import it, and you are nuts if you do otherwise.

Freedom ain't free

Robert Morrow and the Travis County GOP

June 2, 2016

Travis County Republicans are, in the words of your Editor’s beloved father, “a couple of nice cats.” The actual voters, however, have elected one Robert Morrow to the chairmanship of the Travis County GOP. This is not helping the party’s cause locally — or wouldn’t if it had one — as this rather hilarious and decidedly NSFW round up of “the 18 craziest tweets of Robert Morrow” will confirm for all but the most decompensated of the anti-PC crowd.

All of this is apropos of nothing important, other than it led to this little gem of an opening paragraph on the front page of the morning’s Statesman:

With the exquisite care of a bomb squad, the Travis County Republican Party is seeking to defuse its Robert Morrow problem by crafting rules that will enable the party to function as normally as possible under a duly elected chairman who has described himself, with considerable understatement, as “Donald Trump on steroids.”

Bomb squad indeed. And, it must be said, a micro version of the drama slow-motion train wreck unfolding in front of the national Republican Party.