Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: Vain Hopes & False Prophecies

Happy Friday, folks.  I hope everybody out this is doing fine this week.

Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka...
"The base will ensure China's performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia," [a press release] said.
This move is notable mainly because it’s probably not the last one we’re going to see in the near-term.  Assuming that peacekeeping is rarely about altruism, then this must be about securing access to Africa’s natural resources and perhaps to its emerging consumer markets as well.  No?
For much of this week's All-Star schedule in Miami, the focus was on young players, trendy players and a running debate over which player will ultimately emerge and lay claim to the designation of "Face of the Game." Commissioner Rob Manfred didn't quite bestow New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge with that distinction when asked for his opinion Tuesday. But he had to admit, the kid has lots of potential…
[But i]f there was a predominant theme to Tuesday's game -- other than home runs, strikeouts and fans leaving Marlins Park early -- it might have been "the old guys strike back."
This year’s Yankees were supposed to be the start of a two to three year rebuild, but then they jumped out into first place before collapsing maybe three weeks ago.  Still, they remain just three games out, and if they can return to form, they could yet contend for a division title.
The issue here is that although this Yankees team is indeed brimming with young potential, that potential remains locked somewhere in the future.  You could see this clearly during the All-Star game.  The Yankees sent five, and though rookie phenom Aaron Judge won the home run derby, he went 0-for-4 at the plate in the actual game, and his teammates looked little better.  
Judge is a great hitter, but he isn’t yet a clutch hitter, nor are the Yanks overburdened with clutch pitching, either.  This is why their record is what it is.  They either blow people out with overpowering offense, or they lose close games late.  They have the talent, they just don’t quite have the experience.  They don’t have somebody in that Derek Jeter role, a guy who can lead the team when they need legitimate leadership on the field.
The Yankees could perhaps fix at least part of this before the trade deadline, but if we assume they they do not have a championship caliber team just yet--and they probably don’t--it’s unclear what the point of that would be.  Which means that, like it or not, the Bronx Bombers probably need to continue doing what they’re doing and rebuild their team correctly, though this is decidedly not what history tells us to expect.
3. Friday Hair Metal: Straight to Hell
I became an inadvertent fan favorite of the Georgia Southern football team this week on Twitter, following a tweet I posted about my favorite football teams in each conference.  I listed Georgia Southern as my favorite from the Sun Belt (in order, second to last) and was more than a little surprised when half the football team either liked or re-tweeted my post.

Georgia Southern is in Statesville, Georgia, just outside of Savannah and Fort Stewart, where I was stationed as a young lieutenant.  I really enjoyed living there, which is why I like Georgia Southern.  It reminds me of that time in my life.
As does this song, which is by local band Drivin’ and Cryin’better known for their national-level late-80s hit “Fly Me Courageous”.

4. The Trump Dump (Slate)
[A]mbitious Republicans should start laying the groundwork for a 2020 campaign right now. The obvious counterargument is that even contemplating a primary challenge against Trump is hilariously premature, as he continues to enjoy the support of the vast majority of Republican voters. That’s certainly true, and it remains a decent reason to hang back.
As the events of the past few days remind us, however, it’s not clear the president is all that deft when it comes to handling a bona fide political crisis, and tying yourself too closely to Trump’s political fortunes is looking less and less like a safe bet. And besides, could anyone blame a politician for setting himself or herself up as a Plan B for Republicans in the event of presidential self-immolation? The challenge is that if you’re going to run for the GOP presidential nomination, you’ll need to win over people who at one point or another supported Trump. That means there might be such a thing as being too eager to abandon the president outright. The decision to throw Trump under the bus will have to be made more in sorrow than in anger.
I read this yesterday with something like excitement.  I’ve been a lifelong Republican, but I despise our current president.  This is not a secret.  There are a lot of folks out there like me.  However, there are a lot of folks out there who are not like me, too, who continue to believe in the Trump phenomenon.  Moreover, I don’t think I’m telling any tales when I say that “the liberal media” has been overeager to predict this president’s downfall for quite some time.  
It’s easiest to believe the lie that you want to believe.  
We may disagree about whether the NY Times is a liberal rag, but Slate definitely is one, to the point where they’re actually predicting a 60% chance of Impeachment even now.  That is clear self-delusion.  However, this article above struck me as well-argued, though again, I’m becoming a little leary of deluding myself with unrealistic predictions of the rise of guys like Ben Sasse.
I therefore took this to some of my pro-Trump classmate on Facebook and discovered that, no, no one thinks that Trump is about to fall, or that Congressional Republicans are “about to abandon” the president.  Most, in fact, thought that Congress had already abandoned the president for their refusal to support his legislative specific agenda, and that for this he hasn’t actually punished his ostensible allies hardly enough.
I got a lot of thoughtful responses, but the best was from my friend Alyssa, in response to my prodding on potential impeachment scenarios:
Why in the world would Ryan do that? Piss off the majority of Americans already annoyed with Republican failures. President Trump was voted in by people tired of the shenanigans. Impeachment would be shenanigans. There are no grounds for impeachment. It would be an establishment elite thwarting the will of the American People. Popular vote is pointless because those votes came out of California. That state might be the only majority of happy people. Without Trump, there will be zero action on the ACA. They have no intention of listening to their constituents.
All shiny & chrome
It's been months since Ben Affleck stunned DCEU fans by stepping down as the director for The Batman. The film was left hanging for sometime before Matt Reeves could step in. The director is now starting to think about The Batman since his commitment on War for the Planet of The Apes is done, so that means he needs to think up a whole new story...
“No,” Reeves explained. “It’s a new story. It’s just starting again. I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be really cool."
The original script was apparently a combined effort from Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns.  I don’t love Johns’s work myself, and though I think Affleck has done some better-than-decent writing, I’ll take Reeves and the sensibilities that he brought to the Planet of the Apes trilogy any day.  
Planet of the Apes seemed like a gigantic mistake of a reboot, but here we are, about to get the third film, and it’s--amazingly--one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the summer and definitely the best-reviewed.

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Thanks everyone!  Have a good weekend.

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