I didn’t make it to the Chicago Cubs fan convention this year. It was only the second Convention I have missed since 1990 (the other was 2005). We’re leaving on a trip tomorrow morning, and I couldn’t justify the scalper prices for a ticket for just a day. Plus, I needed to get ready. I have, however, been following things as closely as I can on Twitter and the Cubs website, etc. So are a few comments from afar:
Three of the better tweets I saw were these:
Carrie Muskat: Fan asked #Cubs Ricketts about getting a job in baseball. Tom: "Are you left handed?"
Jesse Rogers: Then Hendricks:"I'm w Carl. The food." RT @ESPNChiCubs: What's the best thing about being a major leaguer? Carl Edwards: "Free food.
Carrie Muskat: Fan says wife was mad when he said winning World Series was best day of his life. Theo said next time, he should renew his vows same time.
No, this isn’t the title of a country music song.1 It’s a comment people have made about President Obama’s decision to stay in Washington after he leaves office. The President has said that he will stay in Washington so that Sasha, who is a sophomore at Sidwell Friends high school, doesn’t have to change schools.
Most past presidents have followed the tradition of George Washington and left town after their presidency. (Woodrow Wilson was the last president to stay in Washington, but he was too sick for it to matter.) But with today’s media, et al, leaving town is less a physical thing than mental. Today, it doesn’t matter where an ex-president is. If he wants to say something, the media will be there, one way or the other. Especially, I would imagine, in the case of Barack Obama.
But you have to wonder how much Barack Obama will be leaving, regardless of where he is living. He has already said:
In December of 2014, President Obama declared the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban didn’t agree, and they escalated their attacks against the Afghan government in 2015. It is one of the problems of fighting a war based on a calendar, instead of what is actually happening on the ground.
Eventually, President Obama agreed to slow the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan and, in January of last year, to allow our troops to do more. The fact that ISIS was showing up in Afghanistan gave the President an excuse for his action. By June, President Obama was allowing our forces to attack the Taliban and help Afghan forces keep control of provincial capitals.
“Confronted by Mr Assad’s atrocities, the West has done no more than rehearse diplomatic phrases. By failing to stand up for what it is supposed to believe in [including, inter alia, international law], it has shown that its values are just words – and that they can be ignored with impunity. …
President Obama is leaving the White House much as he entered it. An article in the Harvard Law Review. A big speech in Chicago next week (setting forth his vision for the United States, once again, I suppose). A major foreign policy speech on Israel between Christmas and New Year's day (with Secretary of State John Kerry playing Charlie McCarthy to President Obama’s Edgar Bergen). But mostly, President Obama seems to be leaving the White House with the same views that he came in with.
Some presidents change in office. The presidency and events change them – and change their views of the world. George W. Bush is a recent example. People see George W. Bush as the bumbler who got us into Iraq. But David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP Group, sees a different George W. Bush:
As the new Congress is sworn in, and Donald Trump awaits his inauguration later this month, The New York Times reports on the Democrats’ plan:
“But as Republicans plan to reserve the first 100 days of Congress for their more partisan goals, Democrats are preparing roadblocks. …
[O]n many issues, Senate Democrats — including their new leader, Chuck Schumer of New York — are expected to pivot from postelection carping to active thwarting, using complex Senate procedures and political messaging to slow or perhaps block elements of Mr. Trump’s agenda.”
Last week, the Chicago Tribunereported that McDonald’s (more accurately, a McDonald’s franchisee in the Chicago area) is getting sued for deceptive trade practices. The complaint is that the price of some Extra Value Meals is actually more than the price of the items bought separately. In particular, the suit alleges that a Sausage Burrito Extra Value Meal costs $5.08, while the items individually cost $4.97 (in other words, 11 cents more). The suit claims that this violates Illinois law on consumer fraud and deceptive practices.
It also means Illinois has some pretty stupid consumers. If you buy an Extra Value Meal for more than the price of the items purchased separately, when all of the prices are right up there on the board in front of you, that is your own fault. The state should protect you from fraud. But they don’t need to protect you from your inability, or unwillingness, to compare prices that are right in front of you.
On Friday and Saturday of last week, Donald Trump was accused of starting a new nuclear arms race when he tweeted on Thursday:
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Much of the MSM (i.e., mainstream media) went ballistic.1 The Chicago Tribune’s headline read “‘Arms race’ rings alarms; Trump’s words on nukes, a shift in policy, shakes [sic] globe”.2 The headline in The Wall Street Journal said “Trump Supports Strengthening of Nuclear Arsenal”.2 The articles in both newspapers, as well as The New York Times, included quotes from anti-nuclear weapons groups, accusing Mr. Trump of threatening to start a new nuclear arms race. (The Tribune story called the group it quoted “non-partisan”. Yeah, right.)
Several things came up in the last couple of days before Christmas that I wanted to blog about – but I decided to wait because some things (most things?) are more important than politics. Here’s my first:
President Obama is obviously a big supporter of the United Nations. That makes me think he made a mistake, even from his own point of view, with his decision to abstain, and not veto, the UN Security Council resolution last Friday censuring Israel for its expansion of settlements in the West Bank.1 I understand that President Obama agrees with the substance of the resolution. Many countries do. (For example, see here.) On the other hand, others feel the resolution wasn’t balanced and may wind up making it even harder to reach a peace agreement. (See this Washington Post editorial.)
Talks to end the civil war in Syria are being conducted in Moscow among Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Foreign ministers of the three countries are meeting in one place of the Russian capital, while defense ministers meet in another. Meanwhile, while it really doesn’t matter, the United Nations Security Council adopted a French-drafted resolution on the Syrian civil war, calling for UN observers to play a role in supervising the evacuation of refugees from eastern Aleppo.
Missing in action in all of these efforts is the United States. I assume President Obama is okay with this because, if he wasn’t, he could do something to change it. But he hasn’t, so this must be fine with him. It certainly is a good summary of eight years of Obama administration foreign policy: backing off and doing less, while the world becomes a more dangerous place.1
Just before the election, I wrote a post entitled “On Election Day, I’ll Be Voting for Estonia.”1 As I noted in that post, and others before that, Donald Trump has threatened to abandon our NATO allies.2 According to Mr. Trump, NATO is obsolete, and the United States is being taken advantage of. If a country isn’t spending NATO’s target of 2% of its GDP on defense, Mr. Trump threatened to ignore our commitment under Article 5 of the NATO agreement to defend them if they are attacked. I don’t know if President Trump would really do that (I hope not), but letting Vladimir Putin think he might is dangerous. It could encourage Mr. Putin to try things he would not otherwise do.
The other thing you have to worry is how much Mr. Trump would stick up for Estonia, and other NATO members, if our commitment to them came up in negotiations with Russia. Mr. Trump sees himself as a dealmaker. The problem is, if Vladimir Putin said that a deal with Russia had to include weakening support for Estonia, etc., what would Mr. Trump do? I know what other presidents would have done. I don’t know what Donald Trump would do.
President Obama held a press conference on Friday before leaving for Hawaii for Christmas.1 The big topic, of course, was the intelligence reports of Russian election hacking and the CIA conclusion that the Russian hacking was designed to help elect Donald Trump. As for foreign hacking that could interfere with actual vote counting, I’ve already talked about how we can deal with that.
“There have been folks out there who suggest somehow if we went out there and made big announcements and thumped our chests about a bunch of stuff, that somehow it would potentially spook the Russians. I think it doesn’t read the thought process in Russia very well.”
Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders. Occupy Everywhere. The Cubs winning the World Series. So many things have happened that nobody ever expected that the Tea Party has become a distant memory. An even more distant memory is what started the Tea Party. It wasn’t Obamacare or the bailout of the Wall Street bankers, though both of those added to the Tea Party’s fury. Rather, the Tea Party started on February 19, 2009 on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange when CNBC reporter Rick Santelli unleashed a rant, on air, against an Obama administration plan to bailout homeowners facing foreclosure and help them refinance their mortgages”:
“Do we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages? This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?”
The politically correct and terminally sensitive have put out a revision of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” According to the concerned, the 1944 song “sounds hopelessly dated … in an age of informed consent and egalitarian relationships.” One of the writers of the updated version of the song explained, “It was important to us to open a conversation about consent and make sure people's stories get told and the rhetoric gets changed.”
Apparently, when the current generation hears “say, what’s in this drink”, they think date rape drugs. And the constant pleading in the song removes the necessary element of mutual constant from the sexual relationship.1