Happy Mother's Day 2024

A bit of wisdom from James Lileks' Friday Bleat:

Every day we’re alive is Mother’s Day, really.

Pun Salad fact check: true. So very true.

But Sunday is also our day to poke fun at the horserace, and Mr. Ramirez helps out with that:

Continuing our phony pony analysis, let's look at the current odds:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 46.4% +0.8%
Joe Biden 43.8% -0.6%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.2% -0.1%
Michelle Obama 2.7% +0.1%
Other 3.9% -0.2%

For some reason, Google is not showing me the "phony" hit counts this week. The usefulness of that was dubious, of course.

Our featured link today is from George F. Will, rightly disappointed in the choices likely appearing on the ballot in November, and therefore writing In defense of not voting

This year, many millions of voters so intensely dislike one or the other of the two major candidates, fury will propel them to the polls. But suppose bipartisan disappointment propelled millions to boycott the election? Imagine a dramatic upsurge in nonvoting that was explainable as a principled protest.

This could not be measured in exit polls because nonvoters do not enter the polls. But talented psephologists should be able to find a way to measure, from the mass of eligible voters, the size of a cohort that abstained because of thoughtful disgust.

In 1948, the first presidential election after World War II and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four elections, with the Cold War beginning, turnout might have soared. Actually, at 52.2 percent of eligible voters, it was the second-lowest in the past 80 years. (The lowest was 51.7 percent in the 1996 contest between President Bill Clinton and Sen. Robert Dole.) The highest turnout since World War II was 66.6 percent in 2020, the highest since 1904. It was 6.5 points above 2016, a result of pro- and anti-Trump passions. High turnout is a more reliable indicator of national dyspepsia than of civic health.

It might be a constructive signal to both parties if, for the first time in a century, more than half the electorate would not vote. (Only 48.9 percent voted in 1924.) Voters’ eloquent abstention would say that they will return to the political marketplace when offered something better than a choice between two Edsels.

I hope some combination of browser shenanigans will allow you to Read The Whole Thing and find out why GFW is talking about Edsels.

Also of note:

  • It helps to be selectively blind. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes for the Wall Street Journal, which (in a saner world) would be the very definition of "mainstream media". He notices: Trump’s Best Lies Weren’t Trump’s.

    Knowing when you lied and why you lied is psychologically healthy. Do I think Leon Panetta, the longtime respected congressman and Obama CIA chief, is of healthy mind? Yes. He and colleagues saw that it would help Joe Biden to associate Hunter’s laptop with Russia and left unspoken between them that it was a lie.

    The Economist, in contrast, gives us a blaring, billboard-like exhibition of the psychological disorder known as splitting. See if you recognize the pattern:

    Splitting means claims and assertions hostile to Mr. Trump should be repeated and emphasized; any that aren’t should be suppressed.

    The Steele dossier should be trumpeted until it stops being useful for discrediting Mr. Trump and starts to discredit his enemies—in which case it should never be mentioned again.

    If a statement is true and favorable to Mr. Trump, the only motive for voicing it is pro-Trumpism. (This will create problems for weather reporters if Mr. Trump says it’s raining and it’s actually raining.)

    Russian meddling can’t both have happened and have been trivial—because the first part sounds anti-Trump but the second doesn’t. This is unacceptable to the splitting mind.

    Nina Jankowicz declined comment, saying she had a splitting headache.

  • But I can always vote Libertarian, right? Well… Virginia Postrel looks at that option, and doesn't see much to like: The Libertarian Crack-Up and Conflicting American Ideas of Liberty.

    News that Donald Trump will address the Libertarian Party convention has some people saying, Huh? (Official LP press release here.) In a column titled “Are Libertarians MAGA-Adjacent Now?” centrist Democrat Ed Kilgore writes:

    how much common ground can there exist between libertarian opponents of government power at home and abroad and a former president who oozes authoritarianism from his pores? We’re talking about a man who once famously said that Article II of the U.S. Constitution gave him as president the right “to do whatever I want,” and who is openly and regularly threatening to use every agency of federal power to smite his many enemies if he’s returned to the White House. After observing his initial performance in office, the Libertarian Party put out a statement in 2018 that said, “Whatever libertarian impulses Trump the candidate seemed to have, his actual performance as president stands in stark contrast. Donald Trump is the opposite of a Libertarian.” That sounds about right.

    What’s going on? How could people who supposedly believe in liberty and limited government cozy up to someone as instinctively authoritarian (and pro-tariff!) Donald Trump? This goes way beyond deeming him the lesser of two evils. Besides, isn’t the LP in the business of denying voting on that basis?

    The George Will option above looks pretty good, I think.

  • My Lutheran upbringing made me link to this. How Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Brain Became the Diet of Worms.

    Apparently, in 2010 Kennedy was experiencing symptoms of cognitive decline. His memory was becoming hazy and he was walking around in a state of confusion. Brain scans revealed a mysterious patch—possibly a tumor. At first, doctors feared that he, like his uncle Edward Kennedy, was suffering from brain cancer. But then a doctor at New York Presbyterian offered another diagnosis, that the blotch on the scans was, in Kennedy’s words, “caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died.”

    Kennedy said these words as part of a deposition made in 2012 during divorce proceedings with his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. In that deposition, Kennedy gave great salience to his poor health and diminished cognitive capacity, which he claimed resulted in a lower income—hence justification for a smaller alimony payment.

    Aside from the dead parasite nestled inside his brain, Kennedy claimed that as a result of mercury poisoning (which he blamed on his love of eating fish), “I have cognitive problems, clearly. I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.” The presidential hopeful ruefully acknowledged, “I loved tuna fish sandwiches. I ate them all the time.” To find someone else as in love with tuna as Kennedy, you have to turn to a movie: In the 2002 black comedy Matchstick Men, the addled and creepy Roy Waller (played by Nicholas Cage) is a tuna junkie on par with Kennedy.

    If you can stand the occasional lefty cliché, it's a pretty good article.

    Debates, Shmebates. I say Sony should arrange an episode of Presidential Jeopardy!, pitting Trump vs. Biden vs. RFKJr vs. … whoever else has a theoretical shot at winning.

    And if you need an explanation of my "Lutheran" comment above, here you go.

Recently on the movie blog:

Last Modified 2024-05-13 3:38 AM EDT

The Manchurian Candidate

[4 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A couple weeks ago, I twitter-snarked at my ex-CongressCritter with a modified quote from a movie which I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen since I was 14 years old in 1965, on a black&white TV in Omaha. I remember being thrilled, heartbroken, confused, shocked, scared (spoiler: by Angela Lansbury), … It really put me through the wringer.

Nearly 60 years later, I can see why.

The movie begins in 1952, with Sergeant Raymond Shaw rousting his US Army unit out of a Korean whorehouse. (Pretty explicit for a movie made in 1962.) It's clear the GIs despise him, and he them. Shortly after that, the unit, betrayed by Henry Silva, gets captured, helicoptered to a brainwashing facility in Manchuria, where Shaw displays his newly-acquired murderous skills.

Miraculously, the survivors are returned with an implausible cover story and a hero's welcome for Shaw. And we're introduced to Shaw's only-irritating-at-first mom (Ms. Lansbury) and his buffoonish stepdad, US Senator Johnny Iselin. Who, even as a 14-year-old, I recognized as a stand-in for Joe McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is having real bad nightmares that are leaking through his brainwashed amnesia. And he meets Janet Leigh on a train. And… well, they fit a lot of stuff into a two-hour movie.

Being older and wiser, I now noticed a number of "why didn't they just…" points in the movie. (Acceptable answer: "Because that would have made the movie a lot shorter, and less interesting.")