Friday, October 7, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Special Edition

Slowly decomboobalating...
5 Things on a Friday is back this week because I got frustrated with the NFL, and in particular, with the New York Giants.  I just can’t dump two hours into thinking about professional football in a week where my own team is in the midst of tearing itself apart for reasons that are entirely self-inflicted.
I quit.  I’m just not going to do it.
I have to note, too, that I’ve spent most of this week working on the first rewrite of my memoir, tentatively titled Swim, Bike, Run, Live, Love, Repeat.  This is the story of the interaction of my family and my swimming career, with my daughter Hannah and my good buddy Chris serving as my primary test readers.  This particular rewrite has been particularly satisfying not only because Hannah has been hanging on every word, but also because she’s been a very helpful source of feedback as well.  Her insights into the book’s second chapter, detailing my family’s move to New Bern, North Carolina, helped me reframe that part of the narrative and, as Chris later said, make my parents into “real characters”.  Of course, my parents *were* real people, but that doesn’t mean that writing about them in a way that authentically captures their personalities has necessarily been an easy thing to do.
5 Things takes much less time than does Friday Follies, which is why I’m running it this week.  Fact is, I’m loathe to take a day off from rewriting when I feel like I’m doing good work.
I know we’re all tired of politics, and I apologize for dipping my toes back into those waters.  Thankfully, the election is almost over.  Perhaps afterwards we can start trying to rebuild a cohesive society.
Trump and Christie wouldn’t hesitate to politicize the federal bureaucracy, turning agencies into his personal fiefdoms. Newt Gingrich confirmed this when he said that stripping civil service protections from tens of thousands of federal workers would be a Trump priority.
Yikes!  Ending the professionalism of America’s bureaucracy sounds like an unbelievably stupid move.  And then there’s thing:
Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he’d like to appoint former UN ambassador John Bolton as secretary of state. Bolton, who lied about Hillary Clinton in 2012 by saying she faked a concussion to get out of testifying on Benghazi, makes Trump look diplomatic by comparison. With their taunts and abusive rhetoric, the two of them would likely get the United States into some kind of military confrontation within months, if not sooner.
The war would be managed by retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who leads Trump’s short-list for secretary of defense. Flynn is a semi-regular analyst on RT, an English-language Russian TV network that offers thinly-veiled propaganda. Last year, Flynn attended RT’s gala in Moscow and sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, worked as an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, who was Putin’s puppet president of Ukraine, among other criminals and oligarchs. Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, is under federal investigation for using his close financial ties to the Kremlin to weaken sanctions against Russia and undermine U.S. foreign policy. A sign of the influence of these pro-Putin advisers came in the Hofstra debate when Trump claimed—contrary to the FBI—that Russia had not been implicated in hacking into U.S. systems.
Save for Pence, all these Trump guys seem to love the Russians.
Also worth a read: Trump Isn’t Entirely Republicans’ Fault (Slate).  
I like that one because it’s written from the orthodox Republican view, i.e. the least popular view nationally but one which nevertheless most closely aligns with my own personal politics.  If you’re wondering, it’s not news to me that almost no one sees the world the same way I do.  
You’re all just wrong.  I’m learning to live with it.
From this second article:
“[S]weeping victories of the kind that social liberalism has clearly enjoyed in our culture in the last five or six years tend to lead to forms of political backlash, in part because people feel culturally isolated or marginalized and voting for the conservative party becomes a way to register cultural dissent. That's always true, even on the left. It should not be surprising that this might happen in the late Obama years, and I was suggesting it might be one of the reasons why liberals and Democrats have struggled to win midterm elections and why they are struggling to win the nonpresidential races this year and why they haven't been able to put Trump away like they assumed they'd be able to.
“We've gone from same-sex marriage being a contested issue five or six years ago, to transgender rights being a piece of the culture that nobody can question without being called a howling bigot. That's a huge shift in a short amount of time, and you can support that shift wholeheartedly and still recognize that you're going to have people who are made uncomfortable by it, that don't feel that their voice is being heard, that feel sort of squeezed out in arenas that they considered apolitical just a few years ago, and that they're going to react against it.”
There’s a lot more, and it’s quite well-considered.  Alas, it’s also a kind of truth that no one wants to hear.
A friend of mine whose family emigrated from Argentina to the United States when he was a kid recently told me he could never have built his small business back home because he wasn’t born to the right class. No one in the United States cares about his background, he said. They cared about what he could do.
My friend isn’t rich, but he is comfortable, with a full-time job and a robust furniture resale business. It’s a tale worth telling as Forbes Magazine on Tuesday released its annual list of the 400 richest Americans, a record 42 of whom are immigrants from 21 countries.
Pretty interesting.  Not surprisingly, willingness to become an immigrant tracks neatly with willingness to take substantial business risk.  Plus:
The era of low interest rates has boosted the stock market and the booming technology industry along with it. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is worth $55.5 billion, surpassing Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who fell to No. 5 at $49.3 billion.
This plays out for more than just the billionaires.  If you have enough resources to own stock, you ought to be enjoying the current economy quite a bit.
3.  Lady Gaga - Million Reasons (YouTube)

I love Lady Gaga.  I don’t love all of her music, but I like a good bit of it, and I think the way that she constantly reinvents herself is absolute genius.
This song is a new favorite.
I’m running this one mostly because of the impact it’s going to have on Army’s game at Duke tomorrow.  As of this writing, kickoff is scheduled for 3:30.
via Weather.Com
Official Durham, NC, weather forecast for Saturday:
Watching the tropics. Rain likely. High 69F. Winds NNE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall may reach one inch.
To be clear, while Luke Cage the man is railing against a word he deems unworthy of black lips, Luke Cage the show isn’t. Instead, it embraces that word’s place in our lexicon as a means of understanding suffering, reclamation, identity, and where power lies in the black experience. (Even more notable: Marvel Entertainment is a Disney subsidiary. When was the last time that word was uttered on a Disney series?) The show, taking place in a modern-day Harlem deeply concerned with gentrification, violence, and the neighborhood’s historical character, is telling a story about what it means to be black… in America. It’s a lofty aim. The show examines black culture through its music, literature, television, and film, while never forgetting that it’s a superhero series. It isn’t easy to encapsulate all these themes and influences, and the show sometimes strains visibly to pull off its ambitions. But when it works, it excels, making the series more than another excellent Marvel series. It’s must-see TV.
I love Luke Cage.  It is easily the best thing I’ve seen on television this year, not least because it gives me the only glimpse I’m ever going to get into a part of America’s psyche that I only ever see from the outside.  I ride through Harlem every day on my bike commute through New York City, but I don’t experience it as a neighborhood, and even if I did, my view would be from the far side of gentrification.  This is why voices matter.  It’s why we need to share our experiences.
More importantly, Luke Cage is a terrific show.  It’s not the message that makes it work.  The show works; it just also happens to have something to say.  I admire that so much.
That’s all I’ve got.
Go Army!  Beat Duke!!!

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