Reparations

At the end of the Great War, the victorious allies wanted to really punish Germany for everything they had to endure in their victory. In addition to the loss of territory, the Treaty of Versailles contained a statement where Germany apologized and took all the blame for the war, and they were forced to pay some 132 billion gold marks (about $33 billion in 1919 dollars; over $500 billion today) in reparations. After a lot of refinancing (and another war sparked – in no small part – by the perceived humiliation of the reparations), the last payment was made in 2010.

In that next war, Finland wound up on the losing side due an alliance of convenience with Germany after Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union. Finland not only had to let the Soviets keep the territory they grabbed, but give them even more land and some serious cash payments. After the payments were made, a new bit of Finnish currency featured some nude figures (seen from the back) gazing at a sunset over an ocean. The joke was that it represented the Finns watching their last reparations payment going off to the Soviets.

Now there’s some serious talk – again – about reparations payments to African-Americans to atone in some fashion for slavery.

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Cancelling Characters

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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IOKIYAR

I don’t know how you’d pronounce it – perhaps “Eye-OWE-kay-arr” – but it’s an acronym for “It’s OK, If You’re A Republican”, and it seems to be the guiding ethical principle for today’s GOP. Any perceived offense or violation of ethics by a Democrat calls for immediate condemnation – at a minimum. But a similar or even greater offense by a Republican is of no consequence as long as the alleged offender is in good standing with the party.

A Democrat is found to have made a tasteless joke years before he entered politics? Sorry; he’ll have to resign. A Republican has many credible accusations of sexual assault in his history? Nothing to see here; he won’t do it again. The Democrat president’s son has just released a book? Even though the publisher bought the manuscript before Dad became president, that’s still nepotism! We must investigate! The Republican president puts several family members in high level positions, bypassing normal background security checks, and his son publishes a book? Meh, no big deal.

The best instance of this hypocrisy can be seen by comparing the responses to a pair of deadly attacks on government facilities.

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Nobody

So the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election have been announced, and we do not have a winner.

The leading candidates were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, each of whom has problems when it comes to the “Character Clause” that voters are asked to consider. They all fell short by a handful of votes; for obvious reasons.

I do not have a problem with the clause itself; what does irk me is how much people publicly agonize over their decision. “Oh, we can’t allow people who cheated in the Hall! What about players who, when they were active, were known to have or at least were widely suspected to have cheated and are already enshrined? What about the known racists in the Hall? What about the players who will appear on the next ballot?” I can understand why one might ask these questions, but do we really need to read about all your hair-pulling and kvetching?

Then there are those few who have said they aren’t going to vote in any future elections, because the Hall hasn’t given them any guidance on how to deal with this matter. Why are you telling us? If you have a problem, take it up with the BBWAA. You know, that organization of which you are a member and sends you a ballot every year? By the way, can you not trust your own judgment?

The “electorate” consists of nearly three hundred people. And an election does not have to be unanimous. One individual vote is rarely going to make a difference. We’re going for a consensus here.

So you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone who, on the basis of their record, clearly belongs, but has been a real schmuck off the field. OK, that’s fine. Don’t vote for them.

And by the way, it is also fine to change your mind about someone. Every year, once the results are announced, we read about players who increased or decreased their vote totals. You know what that means? People changed their minds! If no one ever did, no one would ever go “up” or “down” in the polling, and we’d only have to have people on the ballot once when they became eligible – instead of keeping them on for up to ten years.

I get that you want to treat the matter – and your vote – with seriousness. Good, you’re supposed to take it seriously (and not consult a Magic 8 Ball to help you decide). But this isn’t like partitioning India. Fill out your ballot, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

After Impeachment

Let’s face it; it’s going to take more than a basic impeachment hearing to properly clean up after the insurrection attempt earlier this month. Punishing El Presidente by permanently barring him from holding federal office ever again won’t be enough. We’re going to need hearings on a scale we’ve never seen before.

We need something like the 9/11 Commission to identify the security failures that let the mob get as far into the Capitol as they did – and propose valid fixes to those failures.

We’ll need something on the order of the Kefauver Crime Committee that will treat the Q-Anon people, “Proud Boys”, and other such groups as organized crime so we can find them and root them out. Political disagreements are fine – but not turning to violence to get your way.

And, given that there are still people in Congress who still refuse to acknowledge reality, and that there are reports that the mob had help on the inside, we need a version of the Watergate hearings to clear the rot out of the federal government. If members of Congress need to be censured or even expelled for their role in the insurrection, so be it. They broke their oath of office; they should suffer the consequences.

Those Election Maps

Pretty much every news website has one of those maps of the United States for the presidential election on their main page. You know, the ones that color a state red if they went for the Republican candidate, and blue if they went for the Democrat.

Those maps have so many problems. They don’t give you any idea of how many actual votes – electoral or popular – a state contributes to the total, or the margins of victory in each state. I get it; all the ‘good’ maps that show that extra information are clunky or require special explanations. The basic Red – Blue Map is understandable at a glance. Leave the fancy stuff for after the election is really over.

But in a protracted election like we have now, the maps have been really terrible.

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After Election Day

Here’s something that troubles and angers me.

Yes, we’re seeing record turnount this time around.

But there’s still several millions of voter registrations that do not correspond to a ballot being cast.

It is conceivable that more than a few of those belong to dead people that have yet to be removed from the rolls. Others can belong to people who have moved to another state and haven’t updated their registration (or are duplicates because an old, invalid registration hasn’t been removed). It is also within the realm of possibility that some belong to people who, do to illness or some other mitigating factor, are physically or mentally unable to vote. For example, I can see the many residents of senior centers, hospices, etc. being too mentally “out of it” to be even aware that there’s an election – but they are still registered to vote.

But there’s no way all those perfectly valid reasons can account for the millions upon millions of eligible voters that we are talking about.

So, to those who had the opportunity but just couldn’t be bothered:

WHAT
IS
WRONG
WITH
YOU
?

In a typical year, one could understand if it was too difficult for someone to get to their polling place. But this year was unbelievably exceptional. Communities had plenty of in-person early voting. Many states offered “No excuse needed” absentee ballots; some even sent ballots to every single registered voter. And you could mail them in or drop them off in person.

There’s no excuse this year for not voting when you had the opportunity.

Halloween in the Time of COVID

So the latest word that I’m hearing from the CDC is that kids should not be allowed to Trick-or-Treat this year. Apparently, the concern is that groups of kids going from house to house is an ideal way to spread the virus.

I am afraid I must differ with them. Not that I am one of those nutcases who thinks the disease is a hoax or not as bad as it is, but for other reasons.

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Options

With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.

What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.

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Mailing It In

Voting by mail is all over the news these days. Rightfully seen as both a way to counter Republican efforts at vote suppression and the problems involved in conducting an election during a pandemic, it’s coming under fire recently, from people challenging its security to the president’s undermining of the Postal Service.

While nice if you need to do it, I don’t think it’s really the panacea that it’s made out to be. There are still issues of ballots being intercepted and delayed or lost, or damaged to the point of illegibility. And that assumes that people follow the instructions properly when filling them out and sending them back. I am aware that several states have been voting entirely by mail with no significant problems, but they’ve had years of practice. And they haven’t had chicanery at the scale we’re facing.

Yes, there are problems with the normal voting in person at a designated polling place, too. Machines can be hacked, and all that. But those flaws are known and anticipated, and any decent Election Commission is taking steps to be prepared.

One key advantage that in-person voting has is that the results are known extremely quickly, almost always the same day. With mailed ballots, you have to give time for them to be delivered and collected, and then counted. In any election that’s expected to be close, the longer you wait for results, the more opportunities there are for the prospective losing candidate to challenge them.

We can’t afford that this time around; the “worst case scenario” is Double Plus Ungood. It could be 1876 all over again, but, given the rabidity of the president’s “cultists”, with more violence.

The best option for the individual voter?

If you have the day off, go to your designated polling place and vote in person. Wear a mask and shower before and after with sanitizer if you have to.

If you don’t, but your designated polling place is close enough so that you can stop by before or after work, go there and vote in person. Wear a mask and use sanitizer.

If those aren’t possible, but you have “early voting” and can cast a vote at your Board of Elections a few days before Election Day, do that.

The fewer chances you give people to screw around with your vote, the better for everyone.