Don’t Piss Off Joe Manchin

Before this year, the last time our country had an evenly-divided Senate was in 2001. George W. Bush had won the presidency after an election so close it required the intervention of the Supreme Court to stop the recounts, and he would need to rely on Vice President Dick Cheney’s tiebreaking power to exercise one-party control over Congress.

His one-party control lasted just over four months.

Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, a longtime Republican and moderate, opposed many of the new administration’s more extreme policies, such as the size and scope of the Bush tax cuts. According to the Washington Post’s 2014 obituary of Jeffords, the Democratic Party had been trying since the start of that Congress to turn a Republican Senator, and saw an opportunity in Jeffords, who also felt stymied by lack of Republican support for special education funding, one of his priorities. Democratic Senate leaders Chris Dodd and Harry Reid worked with Jeffords on his priorities and let him know that “if Democrats were in charge, more funds would flow to his favored programs.” He turned, was awarded with a committee chairmanship, and never looked back, saying “I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

Democrats should heed the lessons learned by the Republican party if they want to maintain control of the Senate past Memorial Day, as Republicans surely remember these lessons and will take any opportunity to regain control. They can not afford to ostracize their most moderate senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, but have been doing exactly that over the last few weeks. Of the two, Sinema is unlikely to turn. While she values bipartisanship and moderation (especially in economic/fiscal matters) the mainline Republican stances on social issues like abortion, religion, LGBT rights, and gun control seem anathema to her personal and political values. Manchin is another story, and three recent developments should alarm Democrats who would like to preserve their hard-fought, razor-thin Democratic majority.

On January 31st, Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on West Virginia (and Arizona) television to pressure senators to support the COVID-19 relief bill, after Manchin and Sinema expressed concerns over the size of the relief package. Manchin called the White House to “convey his displeasure” after the appearance that occurred without his prior knowledge, and where Harris showed general ignorance of West Virginia by flubbing several facts/issues.

The following week, Senator Manchin announced his displeasure with Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, asking President Biden to reconsider his decision. Manchin has loudly and constantly urged the new administration to take a bipartisan approach to issues around fossil fuels, energy, and climate change.

Yesterday (February 19) Manchin announced he will oppose Biden’s OMB director nominee, Neera Tanden. Tanden has been raked over the coals for numerous mean tweets about Senators and other partisan statements. Last night, Biden confirmed he will keep her nomination active, meaning he intends to either (a) try to find a Republican senator to support her, or (b) put more pressure on Manchin.

Manchin is already chair of the Senate Energy Committee, so (unlike Jeffords) a chairmanship (one of the most valuable things Senate leadership can offer) is little motivation for Manchin to leave the Democratic party, become an independent, and caucus with the Republicans. But, given the right situation, his own political future could become motivation enough. His state is overwhelmingly Republican–becoming a Republican may help his Senate chances. In a 2024 presidential field filled with ideologues, there are no competent moderates or pragmatists except Larry Hogan (if he shows interest). Manchin was a successful bipartisan governor, looks presidential, and will be part of the dealmaking of any important legislation over the next four years. And running against Biden (or Harris) in 2024 is not feasible as long as he is a Democrat.

But right now, Manchin’s primary motivation is promoting moderate solutions (even if they don’t find much Republican support) instead of bowing to the progressive wings of the party. He won’t win every battle; the Biden administration remembers its own lessons learned from Obama about the risks of too much bipartisan effort. Reconsidering Keystone XL, in particular, is probably a non-starter. But a moderate approach is not the same thing as ‘bipartisanship’, especially with today’s Republican party. Progressive nominees and administration members will offend moderates less if they are not publicly toxic or divisive. If the Biden administration wants to keep and expand their Democratic majority, they should take care not to alienate Manchin, whether by future unforced errors or by unnecessarily pushing divisiveness over moderation.

On ‘Dr.’

(Note: I’m trying this new thing where when I start a writing project I finish and publish it, even if it’s half-baked or doesn’t seem very necessary or deep. Just trying to get in the habit, for bigger and better things.)

People with doctoral degrees frequently refer to themselves as ‘Dr.’ when the situation doesn’t call for it, which can be obnoxious, condescending, or even dishonest depending on the situation. Beyond social settings, imagine someone with a PhD in finance signing a letter attacking climate science, or a demand to a landlord from “Dr. John Smith”. (IMO even more obnoxious is when people sign such letters “Jane Smith, Ph.D.” or “John Smith, M.A.”) So when I saw this:

My first thought was, “Well absent the context, he’s not wrong.” It’s insufferable when people sneak their credentials into social conversations or implicitly claim authority they don’t have.

But that’s absent the context, which isn’t about either of those. Setting aside the gross sexism and general condescension of Mr. (not Dr.) Joseph Epstein’s op-ed, it is wholly appropriate and important to refer to the First Lady in her professional capacity as “Dr. Jill Biden”. Her scholastic title is directly relevant both to her role as First Lady (which includes advocating for education especially community college, the topic of her dissertation) and the day job she will continue while in the White House (community college writing instructor).

Lawyers (juris doctors) like Mr. Shapiro:

are not referred to as ‘Doctor’ either professionally or socially, they may go by ‘Esquire’. (A holder of an LL.D. degree may go by ‘Doctor’.) Doctorates, including Ph.D. and Ed.D. (and LL.D.) degrees, represent novel contributions to the respective scholastic field; a J.D does not. Even a Ph.D. in Musicology can go by doctor (though yes they are being an ass if they call themselves that in a social or professional setting not related to musicology).

More importantly, after four years of an administration defined by incompetence and antagonism towards expertise, a First Lady with an Ed.D. is such an important powerful symbol that education and specialized training are a force for good.

Ranking the Remaining 2020 Dems

1. Warren — I preferred Klobuchar to Warren because I think her plan for health care and the wealth tax are not 100% realistic, and her storytelling is prone to exaggeration which will make her an easy target for Trump in the general. But she can handle that, and has been proven to get results in what she sets out to do. The NYT endorsement is spot on.

2. Biden — As Klobuchar would say, he “has the receipts.” He will mop the floor with Trump in a general election. He wasn’t the most compelling candidate and he honestly isn’t the smartest of the ones left. But he’s smart enough to put together a good team, and none of the negative things about him are really that unexpected for someone with over 40 years on the national political stage. He’ll do a fine job.

3. Bloomberg — If Bloomberg had declared earlier, participated in the process before voting started, I could see myself supporting him. His record in NYC was mixed, but his platform is strong and he is the proven competent executive that Trump is not (and, for that matter, none of the other Dems either.) For all I know he’d be a great president. But we know little about him from due to his late entry, and so much about him is problematic, from his record of harassment to his failure to share his taxes before voting to his attempt to straight-up buy the presidency with massive low-information ad buys. It’s still not clear to me if the late entry was intentional to hide his weaknesses until the general election when they won’t matter as much because they pale in comparison to Trump. Whether or not it was intentional, it’s disqualifying.

4. Sanders — I like his honesty, integrity, and concern for the working class. The claim that a radical candidate will drive huge voter turnout in swing states is a foolish and failed one (McGovern, Goldwater). A Bernie Sanders presidency will fail to get anything done, even if he manages to get elected. Odds are poor he would flip the Senate, and even half the Democrats in the Senate don’t support his platform. And he has no track record of bipartisan results. This all adds up to a guaranteed waste of four years–if I thought he had any realistic chance of implementing M4A or anything like it with the 2021 Senate, I would have ranked him higher. If you like Bernie’s platform but you would like to see some of it actually implemented, you should vote for Warren. If the DNC had any faith at all in his ability to win, they wouldn’t be out to get him. His problems with the DNC are on him and his inability over THIRTY YEARS to get buy-in from people on his side of the aisle.

5. Not Voting

6. Gabbard — I mean come on.

What I Learned From Last Night’s Debate

For the final question of last night’s debate, Anderson Cooper mentioned Ellen’s friendship with George W. Bush and asked the candidates to describe a friendship they had with somebody who had different views and how it had influenced them. The candidate’s responses are pretty reflective of my broader opinions of them.

Castro straight-up rejected the premise of the question. Sanders mentioned two colleagues who had helped him accomplish something in a bipartisan manner, but nothing resembling a personal friendship; so did Harris. Biden and Booker stressed their bipartisan credentials. Beto and Gabbard named Republican colleagues where an actual friendship developed. Steyer talked about a little old lady. Yang bragged about turning a Trump supporter.

Amy Klobuchar offered a glowing personal tribute to John McCain, whom she considered a close personal friend. Pete Buttegieg told of the personal connections he made with his unit. And Elizabeth Warren talked about her brothers, with whom she shares common purpose even though they disagree politically. These three responses really separate themselves from the rest in terms of authentic connection (not to mention actually answering the question.)

I think most of the Democratic candidates understand the need to work with Republicans and hopefully bring a more bipartisan manner to Washington. However, for most of them, this seems to mean finding a Republican who agrees with you on something you care about, getting a bill passed, and moving on to the next thing. It doesn’t encompass listening to someone who disagrees with you and recognizing the legitimacy of their point of view.

Klobuchar and Warren

Amy Klobuchar is my favorite candidate right now and has been for almost four months. Recently, I’ve also grown to like Elizabeth Warren. These two candidates are very far apart on health care, which was the most contentious issue of the night, and their conflict was one of the most visible of the debate. The horse-race articles are calling Klobuchar (and Buttegieg) Winners–and Warren a Loser–for this exchange, since Warren got ganged-up on and Klobuchar got much-needed exposure in her quest to qualify for the next debate. However, these shallow judgments don’t do justice to a conflict that was issue-centered and didn’t resort to stupid political tricks on the part of either Senator. I thought it was a good conflict to have, and reflected well on both of them.

Klobuchar makes a very good point that Warren’s approach, Medicare for All, is not the only valid one, that Warren is overreaching by saying that, and that she has not been straightforward during press appearances about whether middle-class taxes will go up.

On the other hand, while Warren accuses Klobuchar of not supporting ‘big ideas,’ this is also a fair distinction to make and really isn’t a personal attack. ‘Medicare for All’ is a more drastic change than a public option, and it *may* be better, but only pending several as-yet-unanswered questions (can it get public support and get past Congress, how will quality of care be affected for people moving off of strong health plans, can costs be reduced like they are in Canada, are the cost/revenue projections accurate, etc.) Furthermore, Warren has not been hiding the fact that taxes on middle-class families will go up. She’s been quite clear at her own events and in her literature that net costs will go down because health care costs will decrease more than taxes will increase. But it takes a nuanced conversation to explain that and why it’s important, since people are allergic to hearing about tax increases no matter the reason. ‘Yes taxes will go up’ does not do her plan justice, and though it’s true that she doesn’t answer those questions clearly, it’s also true that the question does not help with understanding the issue.

This ‘attack’ was more informative and productive than other conflicts we saw, like: Castro mocking Biden’s age at the last debate, Kamala Harris trying to strongarm Warren into saying Trump be banned from Twitter (which is ludicrous), Gabbard attempting to ask a ‘gotcha’ question to all the other candidates right at a cut to commercial, or Sanders painting mainstream Democrats as corrupt.

I’m still undecided as to which approach to health care is best–a public option or a governmental system–and how I make up my mind will likely determine whether I prefer Klobuchar or Warren in the end. But this is not an easy difference to evaluate, since there are lots of moving parts and what-ifs. The plans need deeper evaluation that a debate won’t provide at this point.

How They Did

The last time I blogged about a debate I graded all the candidates. This time I’ll give one-line synopses instead.

Warren — got attacked a lot because she’s the frontrunner now; handled it fine

Biden — handled the Hunter/Ukraine issues fine but didn’t offer anything new and got unnecessarily combative a few times

Sanders — Getting a big shot of energy from his new stent and today’s AOC endorsement.

Buttegieg — similar to Klobuchar–when he attacked, he attacked bad ideas and attitudes. I liked what I heard from him. 

Yang — I think UBI misses the point but that’s a post for another day. It’s fantastic that so much time was spent on job automation.

Harris — Treated the debate as a chance to score talking points against Trump, instead of to advance her ideas.

Booker — Also focused on comparisons to Trump, with an emphasis on party unity. It looks as if both of them are auditioning for VP nominee.

Castro — Spoke truth on ISIS and falsehoods on Midwest jobs.

Klobuchar — This was a do-or-die debate for Amy, she went on the offensive, without being offensive, and got a lot of camera time.

O’Rourke — Got into it with Buttegieg about guns, weapon of choice was virtue signaling. He did not come off looking good.

Steyer — I wish we’d seen him in the first two debates; I still don’t know what he stands for and don’t think we’ll see him again.

Gabbard — her support of the Syria withdrawal was disqualifying in and of itself.

Overall

Candidates I like the most: Klobuchar, Warren.

Candidates I like: Buttegieg. He needs to perform and succeed in a senator or governor role first. I would like if he ran for Indiana governor in 2020.

Your Window Has Closed, Please Sit Down: Biden, Sanders. Not strictly because of age, and either would be an acceptable nominee…but Klobuchar offers everything Biden does except the Vice Presidency, and Warren is superior to Sanders in every way. Biden is running on his past accomplishments. Sanders has big ideas but can’t work together with people of opposing views.

Big Idea Candidates: Yang, Sanders. The pending catastrophe of large-scale displacement due to automation is only getting talked about at the debates because of Yang. Sanders deserves a lot of credit for opening the discourse on wealth inequality, health care, and stronger regulation.

Little to Offer: Booker, Steyer, O’Rourke. Booker used to be my favorite candidate and I don’t see much wrong with him, but he doesn’t offer anything that at least two other candidates don’t offer more of. Maybe we will see more out of Steyer, who knows. Every time Beto says something smart, he says something dumb soon after, and he defends the dumb stuff vigorously when provoked.

Harmful if Swallowed: Harris, Castro, Gabbard. I would literally vote for Trump over Harris or Castro (calm down, I don’t live in a swing state). They are both toxic in their discourse and have nothing to offer in terms of policy. Gabbard has also made very little positive contribution. 

June 26-27 Democratic Primary Debate

I’m watching the second part of the debate right now. Who else is watching?

I’ll try to go into more detail on this later, but before watching the debates my three favorite candidates have been 1) Klobuchar, 2) Booker, and 3) Biden. As a centrist and pragmatist, I am interested in a candidate with

  • accomplishment in previous leadership, especially
  • a proven track record of working through political opposition by finding common ground
  • sound policies and common sense instead of unrealistic sweeping promises
  • energy and ability to defend themselves under fire, while being respectful to other Democratic candidates and not picking fights over petty stuff

My impressions so far:

General

Worst interrupter award: de Blasio. (Runners-up: Gillibrand, Swalwell)

Worst enabler award: Chuck Todd (“thank you, Ms. Williamsen…thank you…your time is up…thank you…”) They need to start shutting off mics or have a buzzer or gong or something.

Drama: I’m not very interested in the squabbles, beauty contest, demographics, and other horse race aspects of the debate. At least not right now. I’m most interested in deciding which of the candidates would be a competent President. (I’d much rather have John Kasich try to primary Trump but that’s not happening.)

Production Values: Poor. The questions are usually pretty good but the moderators are doing a terrible job getting the candidates to shut up and both nights have had technical issues. (Last night the first set of moderators didn’t get their mics shut off, and tonight many of the candidates did not understand that a certain question was addressed to them.) Hopefully CNN’s debates are better, and NBC gets their act together before their next one.

20 Candidates over Two Nights: I mean, they did what they had to. I would have liked to see Tester on stage but this two-night setup is about as good as NBC could have done without a third night. (I would have preferred three nights with seven candidates each, personally.) But the random draw is better than a top card/undercard.

I personally think the first night was much better than the second night, but that’s just the luck of the draw I guess. Hopefully the next debate is a different random draw, then after that some of the dead weight drops out and the field goes to 18 or 16.

The Candidates

Swalwell: I just want, so badly, to slap this guy across the face. He adds nothing new, interrupts constantly, and much more importantly, doesn’t seem to have accomplished a single thing in elected office, other than get other people elected. Drop out and start getting Democrats to run for Senate in swing states. Grade: D-

Williamsen: Not competent to be running for Congress. Every answer she gives is a distraction from actual questions and answers. Grade: F

Bennet: A lot of what he said just wasn’t very coherent. He tried to make a point against single-payer by bringing up Canada, but the point (you can cover the equivalent of Canada by adding 10% of Americans to Medicare) was awkward, inartful, and not very helpful. He punted on the details of a very good question about China to go back to an immigration question that wasn’t his to answer. Grade: C-

Gillibrand: Senator Gillibrand sounds like she gets a fair amount done in the Senate, but she spends a lot of time grandstanding, taking way more than her share of the credit for team legislative accomplishments, and oh she hasn’t ever run anything. I couldn’t help but compare her answers and manner to Senator Klobuchar, another Senator with about the same tenure, but who had a lot more insight in her debate answers, interrupted a lot less, didn’t throw personal attacks, and has actually run something. Her highlight: railing passionately against corrupt money in politics. Lowlight: declaring “It’s mindboggling that we are [on this stage] debating whether women should have access to abortion” when the question asked of the candidates was not that at all. Grade: C

Hickenlooper: I’m gonna be honest I didn’t take a lot of notes for Hickenlooper because his name is long and a pain to type. (Double ‘o’s followed by a ‘p’ hurts my hand.) The one question I remember was a grilling about his soft spot for oil companies (he worked for one as a geologist) and saying they could help fight climate change. His point may have been fair but his answer wasn’t making any sense. Which is a bummer because he was a governor of a swing state which I think automatically makes a great candidate. Oh well, maybe next time. Grade: C-

Yang: I am very skeptical of Universal Basic Income, but he has his eye on the ball in general with the issues. I am looking forward to learning more about Andrew Yang in the next few months, though I really don’t think he has the experience or chops to be president, I am mainly curious about his other ideas. Grade: B+

Harris: I don’t like her (will address this in a future post) but she seems to have mainly delivered in this debate. My main problem with her is she seems to think she can just steamroll through the entire Republican party as president just by being very sincere and determined. This would lead to a disastrous and one-term presidency. Her ‘busing’ attack on Biden was a low blow. Grade: B

Buttegieg: I really like Mayor Pete’s methodical approach to the issues. But that’s easy to do when you don’t have a record to defend–until literally this week he had no reason to ever play defense. I really liked his ownership of the situation of the recent shooting, his response, and his refusal to jump into the mud with Swalwell (who is a jackass). Grade: A-

Sanders: Old Man Shouts at Cloud. He doesn’t yet seem to have a coherent response to the claim that Medicare for All will take away health insurance from tens of millions of people who actually like it. Grade: B-

Biden: Biden would have been the ideal Democratic candidate four years ago. Hillary had so much baggage and none of the candidates were even a little competent except for maybe Sanders. But this time around there are multiple candidates that are highly qualified and well-prepared. And he is, of course, four years older–he would be 78 years old at his first inauguration. This isn’t a horse-race issue, a president’s health is a legitimate concern. (Sanders, who is even older, seemed a little more spry tonight, and for some reason I’m a little less worried about him lasting four years as president.) Grade: B

Ryan: Ryan didn’t have a ton to contribute. But at least he wasn’t an ass about it like some candidates I could mention. He spent most of his comments talking about the need to take care of the working class, as if the other candidates didn’t agree with him. He had one really interesting exchange with Gabbard about the need to stay in Afghanistan, his defense against her chest beating (“I served the country because of 9/11!”) was pretty impressive. Grade: C

Inslee: Gov. Inslee (my future governor!) is a one-issue guy. To be fair, he makes a very reasonable argument that that one issue, climate change, is more important and urgent than any of the other ones. His plan to overcome Senate gridlock by “taking the filibuster away from McConnell” implies a poor understanding of how the Senate works. His best line: “Trump says wind turbines cause cancer, we know they cause jobs.” But he leaned on his “I’m a governor” schtick a little too much. Grade: B-

Delaney: I don’t think building two companies necessarily qualifies somebody to be president, but it’s interesting to see one of those guys on the Democrat stage. He really shone at shooting down de Blasio’s railroading of Beto on private health insurance early on. I hope to hear more ideas from him and I like his approach though I think he lacks experience. Grade: A-

de Blasio: Somebody get this douchebag off the stage. His entire contribution was shouting angrily from the side of the stage about how liberal he is and why can’t everybody be as liberal as New Yorkers and that he’s their mayor so obviously he should be president. Oh and it was great when he said that having a black son “sets me apart from all my colleagues” when it comes to racial disparities in policing, when Cory Booker was standing RIGHT THERE. Dumbass. Grade: F

Gabbard: Her main accomplishments last night were (a) bragging about her military service everywhere it was relevant and several places where it wasn’t, and (b) ignoring the questions asked of her to go to her stump speech. But I guess a lot of people liked her? I’m not sure why exactly. Grade: C+

Castro: Secretary/Mayor Castro seems to have good ideas, and he spoke very strongly on immigration (though he didn’t answer the direct question.) He mentioned needs for change in immigration law and how we deal with Central America. He then interrupted out of turn and rode everybody hard (especially Beto) on whether they agreed with him on a related, minor point. That was bad form, he’d already had a chance to bring it up. And honestly, he was kinda weak the rest of the debate. Grade: B-

Booker: I expected more from Cory…he had some really good moments (immigration, opioids, criminal justice reform) but nothing really stuck out–except his unnecessary Spanish, which was even worse than Beto’s. Grade: B

Klobuchar: Amy Klobuchar is so great. Where Gillibrand or Harris would have interrupted with an unnecessary personal attack, she responded with a measured response and moved on to more important issues. I can’t think of a single point she made that I strongly disagreed with. Grade: A

O’Rourke: I am baffled and amazed he polled high enough to get one of the two center spots on Wednesday. Beto was in rare form last night, responding to his first question about tax rates with unnecessary Spanish and completely failing to answer the yes/no question, even after given a follow-up chance. And it was mostly downhill from there, with two exceptions. He had a good explanation of his support of keeping private insurance, until he was shouted down by de Blasio, who sucks. He also had one seeming moment of lucidity halfway through a discussion about intervention in countries with genocidal conflicts. He was actually pretty astute in explaining his minimal-interventionist views. Grade: D+

Warren: Senator Warren performed admirably. I really liked her until about a month ago (will address in another post), a lot of what she advocates is unrealistic. But she is sincere, and as drastic as her proposals are they are very well-supported by evidence. Much more so than, for example, Bernie. I particularly love her focus on treating gun violence as a research problem. People don’t discuss this enough–most common gun control proposals are no evidence to support whether they will be effective. But that is because we do not have any funded scientific research on gun violence and this needs to change.  Grade: A-

Candidate Performance, Ranked:

  1. Klobuchar
  2. Delaney
  3. Buttegieg
  4. Warren
  5. Yang
  6. Booker
  7. Biden
  8. Harris
  9. Sanders
  10. Castro
  11. Inslee
  12. Gabbard
  13. Ryan
  14. Gillibrand
  15. Bennet
  16. Hickenlooper
  17. O’Rourke
  18. Swalwell
  19. Williamsen
  20. de Blasio

My 2019 Oscar Picks

This is the first year I’ve ever seen all the Best Picture nominees, so in honor of my cinematic expertise I’m making Oscar predictions. It’s the night before the Oscars, so don’t be that impressed, but maybe be a little impressed because I’ve never taken a film class in my life but my assessments are spot on. Predictions and votes are at the end if you want to skip to them.

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Of the nominees, Roma and BlacKkKlansman are far and away the best two. It’s not even close. I’ve tried for the most part to avoid other reviews and predictions to not cloud my judgment, but I haven’t been able to cut it out completely, and it sounds like Netflix had a huge ($25m) FYC campaign for Roma, and that it might have backfired. I saw Roma in a movie theater like it should be seen, but I think it came out on Netflix like a day after that. Like any industry group that loves handing out trophies celebrating itself (Birdman, Argo, The Artist,…) and like any good clique or cartel, it doesn’t like outsiders upsetting the status quo. So that’s probably going to cost Roma some of its deserved votes.

Necessary Interlude

Before I go on, can we talk about how all the good movies come out in November and December? It’s awful. What am I supposed to watch the rest of the year–Transformers? Go to hell. I have two holiday weekends to see all my friends and half my family, only half of them like going to the movies, and half of those want to see Spiderman or Star Wars–so I only have so much film-as-art bandwidth in my life, especially the years that I already went to Sundance. (It’s not really bragging, I’m from Utah, shut up.) In a typical year I will see maybe one Best Picture candidate in a theatre during the first ten months of the year, one on an airplane, one on DVD in October because I missed it in theaters and don’t want to go out this Halloween, two in a mad rush of holiday movie meetups with friends I haven’t seen (plus two movies I thought would be nominated but weren’t, definitely because of politics and not my aptitude for recognizing true art), and apparently four or five the week before the Oscars–two on DVD because they just came out, and two in one day at the movie theatre because they won’t be out on DVD until like APRIL. Here’s the count of films released in each quarter that were nominated for one of the top ~8 awards (Picture, Director, Acting, Original+Adapted Screenplay):

  • Jan-Mar: 1
  • Apr-Jun: 1
  • Jul-Sep: 2
  • Oct-Dec: 11

This cannot stand. I propose new rules for the Best Picture category: The nominees are:

  • the top two movies (vote-getter, whatever, I don’t care) released in each quarter (Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec)
  • between zero and two at-large bids
  • the top-ranked movie not from a ‘Power 5’ studio
  • the top-ranked independent film, or Notre Dame

This will let normal people with college degrees go to the movies once in a while during the summer to watch a fresh film that’s in English.

Continue reading

Utah Law Enforcement to Crack Down on Speeders, Impeders

Local police agencies, the Utah Department of Transportation, and the Utah Highway Patrol are teaming up for a month-long sweep of lawbreaking drivers on Utah freeways, both to clamp down on speeders and to inform drivers of Utah’s ill-understood ‘impedance’ law.

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In the state of Utah, it is a violation to drive slowly in the left-hand lane of a multi-lane highway if it impedes faster traffic—even if driving at or above the speed limit. Impeding traffic reduces traffic flow and can lead to traffic jams and road rage.

According to a joint press release early Monday, troopers will be on the lookout throughout the month for both speeders and impeders. “Officers will be deployed throughout the month to educate and inform Utah’s drivers that road laws are just that, the law, and that they make the roads safer for everybody.”

“Basically, we just ding everybody we catch driving in the left lane,” said Sgt. Duane Ontiveros of the Utah Highway Patrol. “If you’re not going 15 over, you’re probably impeding the guy tailgating you, and we are going to pull you over and cite you. But if you are going 15 over, now we’re definitely pulling you over for that.”

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According to Sgt. Ontiveros, troopers can’t possibly pull over every violating car, so will be focusing on certain groups such as ‘hot chicks’, cars with out-of-state plates, and ‘hippie granola types’ driving Priuses or other hybrids.

“Those tree-huggers are the absolute worst. They all drive down the highway either at 55 or 95—there’s no in-between with them. And when you pull them over, especially if they’re impeding, they complain about the rule and then they complain about getting a ticket. I wasn’t even going to give them one, but hey buddy your bellyaching is paying for our UHP Christmas party this year.”

“One time though I saw a Tesla flying past Point of the Mountain. I clocked it at 102 but it was just so amazing looking that I couldn’t bring myself to pull the guy over. It was like almost a religious experience.”

Drivers have mixed feelings about the ‘impeding’ law. While some support the new rule, others prefer the state stick to enforcing speed limits.

“I’ve always felt it my right and my duty as a sovereign citizen to encourage others to follow the posted speed limit”, says Carl Christiansen of Provo. “It just give me such a sense of pride and well-doing when I keep some maniac from barreling down the highway at a hundred miles an hour because I’m taking up the left lane and going 65. The only other time in my life I’ve felt such a sense of satisfaction was when I worked at the BYU Honor Code Office.”

“It’s the first I ever heard of this new impeding law”, as he polished the rear bumper of his 2010 Impala, which had recently been damaged in a freeway collision, and had been replaced a month before that because of another freeway collision.

“It just seems stupid that because I am helping to enforce a law, they say I’m breaking another one. I’m just doing my part to keep the streets safe!”

The Highway Patrol encourages drivers to stop speeders not by driving slowly in the fast lane, but by texting 1-800-SPEED-NO with a very detailed description of the offending vehicle. A spokesman for UHP also said that in February officers will be focusing on enforcement of the “Hands Free Driving” law.

7 Reasons Bronco Mendenhall Should Not Be Fired

Bronco’s been dealt a bad hand, people. Yeah, this season was a bust, but this offseason we’re not rebuilding, we’re reloading. Anyone will drop the ball if you hit them hard enough, but the BYU football team is a Band of Brothers and Bronco will lead them back to the Promised Land. I’d like to take one minute to celebrate the tradition, spirit, and honor that Coach Mendenhall has brought to BYU football.

1. Bronco Mendenhall has a deep and thorough knowledge of the tactics of college football–what works, and what doesn’t.

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2. Bronco is a coach who respects his players, involving them at all steps in his decision making…

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…and never unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way.

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3. He consistently trains his athletes to execute at a higher level.

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4. His teams are magnanimous in victory…

Soak it in, boys, this is what 8-4 feels like.

5. …and gracious in defeat.

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6. Even after graduation, his players stay true to what they learned under him and become pillars of their communities.

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(Especially compared to the classless football players at that university up north.)

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7. No matter the struggle, we know Bronco is in it for the long haul.

 

 

In Ferguson, Dellwood, and surrounding towns, nameless, faceless cowards pillage and rage under the protection of the crowd as they torch businesses, destroy livelihoods, and stone innocents.

Meanwhile, in bedrooms, freshman dorms, and mother’s basements across middle-class America, nameless, faceless cowards mock and exult under the protection of aliases and avatars as they deride the confusion and hurt of a community. These damages are not easily tangible in dollars and cents, but are just as depraved and destructive.

The First Amendment never guaranteed the right to force a platform to provide a cloak of anonymity for cowardly invective. A speaker can refuse to own their words, but a forum has no obligation, moral or otherwise, to publish those words detached from the true identity of their speaker. Anonymity can be an enabler for the weak speaking truth to power, but is far more often used to bully and degrade.

What follows is about thirty seconds of comments on the YouTube livestream for yesterday’s grand jury announcement in St. Louis County and subsequent cut to the then-fermenting protests in Ferguson.

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OK YouTube. I Still Don’t Get Israel-Palestine but At Least I Get Your Version Of It

Apparently Israel and Palestine are fighting, a lot, because people are posting videos on social media to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict to us. If you look up ‘Israel Palestine’ on Youtube you will see thousands of well-edited videos with authoritative titles like ‘Explaining the Israel-Palestinian Conflict in Seven Minutes.’ I’ve seen three in particular making the rounds on my News Feed:

This one, about six minutes, basically says, “The Israel-Palestine conflict is this: The Arabs want the Jews dead or out of Palestine. And they won’t stop attacking Israel until they get it which is why Israel fights back…to defend itself.”

This one is also six minutes and says, “The Israel-Palestine conflict is this: The Jews occupied Palestinians’ land and are oppressing the Arabs who live there now. They took the good land and natural resources and make it impossible for a Palestine to thrive. And instead of helping Israel and Palestine negotiate peace, the US is causing more war by funding the Israeli military and letting them build settlements in Palestine.”

 

Oh, and then there’s…

I guess you could say it says “People kill each other in the name of their gods and that’s just how it is and how it’s always been.” Probably implicitly it says that the killing is bad. … I know you can’t always reduce the reasons for a war into five-minute YouTube videos but it seems like each video makes points the other side ignores instead of answers. And these points are important and I wished I understood both sides of them better.

 

1) You think Israel should stop attacking the Gaza Strip? OK. If they stop, will Hamas keep attacking? If not, what will it take for Hamas to stop? Under what conditions will Hamas (and most Arab states) recognize Israel as a nation instead of saying it should be wiped off the map? If none of these answers lead to peace, what would lead Palestinians to remove Hamas from power?

 

2) You think Palestinians should stop attacking Israel, form a Palestine state and live in peace? OK. Why is Israel in the West Bank that belongs to the Palestinians? Why are they building settlements there? Will they leave the settlements if Palestine organizes a ‘state’? Will they cede control of Palestine’s share of water, farmland, and the rest?

 

3) You think peace will come through ‘divesting’ or ‘boycotting’? Great. Explain to me how, economically, that will make any difference in the Israel-Palestine conflict that might lead to peace.

 

Thanks YouTube opinionators! Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!