What they're saying about Jim's provocative blog:
--"The one thing I didn't delete from my private server."--Hillary Clinton
--"He's from this country, Mexicans don't read him, so that's good enough for me."--Donald Trump --"Jim is obviously making a name for himself--Mr. Irrelevant!"--Don Rickles
--"Jimaschizzle!"--Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)
--"The one thing I DO read!"--Sarah Palin
--"The most fun you can have with your clothes on (but DO take a shower afterwards)."--Dick Cavett
Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations
about the absurdities of contemporary life
Not sure what to make of this cockamamie adult coloring-book craze. All I know is that my sandbox is on back order from Amazon.
The Trump nonstop nonsense, the debate debacles, the Sound Bite Insult of the Day derby--when did politics become more infotainment than serious national discourse? And behind it all is a still largely uninformed, easily misled and distracted electorate, getting, as de Tocqueville once said, the kind of government it deserves. God help us all.
Speaking of . . . : I had a nightmare about the recent Powerball megajackpot--the winner was Donald Trump . . . on a ticket he didn't even buy. He found it on the floor as he was leaving a rally site.
jimjustsaying's lottery logic: I didn't mind not winning the massive Power Ball prize; I'm content with my occasional but puny $2-$5 "jackpots." But consider the upsides to my lot in lottery land: No press conferences, no media camped out on my property, no sob-storytellers following me down the street, no special advisors to hire and pay. . . .
Besides, as we've often heard, "God doesn't send us any more than we can handle." And He, in His infinite wisdom and compassion, knows I can handle chump change! So that's what I get. Thank you, Lord!
I see by the public prints that McDonald's had a big jump in 4th quarter sales due to their new breakfast-anytime rollout. I wonder if the International House of Pancakes is going start selling Happy Meals?
I can't pick up a newspaper or a magazine or overhear a conversation without someone admitting to "binge-watching" something or other. ("Bilge-watching" may be more accurate.)
To hear people talk, they're too busy to (a) answer your e-mails (b) keep up with current events, or (c) do anything else except breathe . . . yet they have enough time to "binge-watch" this or that TV series. I don't get it.
Cold snaps are confusing for me. Every two minutes someone somewhere is telling me to "Stay warm!" But two minutes later someone will say to me, "Hey, Jim--be cool!" What am I supposed to do?
Newspaper Correction of the Year (an early entry but one that promises to have staying power), from the Jan. 19 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A caption accompanying a photo Sunday in Travel about reservations to make for the summer and fall incorrectly stated the HMS Bounty ship will appear at the Tall Ships Festival in Green Bay. The ship will not appear at the festival as it sank during Hurricane Sandy in 2012."
Bitcoin of the realm? Apparently not. It might finally be time to write bitcoin’s obituary, according to Paul Vigna in the Wall Street Journal. Last month, one of the most prominent developers of the bitcoin project announced that he was selling all of his bitcoins and leaving the effort entirely, declaring the digital currency a “failed” experiment. (Who didn't see that one coming?)
jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week: "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that in computer architecture, Amdahl's law gives the theoretical speedup in latency of the execution of a task at fixed workload that can be expected of a system whose resources are improved"?
The instructive power of pain? A new study, reported in The Week magazine, revealed that college football players who practiced without wearing helmets were 30 percent less likely to suffer potentially dangerous head impacts during games because they learned to stop using their heads as weapons while tackling. (And here we thought all those overgrown brutes were airheads!)
"I'm not superstitious, I"m just 'stitious.' "--Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Speaking of superstitions, if you are superstitious, don't let a hotel put you on the 14th floor. Because that's really the 13th floor--it's just not called that.
Car rear-window defrosters are the greatest invention since sliced bread.
For men only: How many of you have ever seen someone changing a baby's diaper on one of those changing tables that started appearing in men's rooms a few years ago? I'm not saying it has never happened, but I doubt many guys have ever seen one in use.
Speaking of men's rooms, it amuses me no end that I don't remember lower-height urinals when I was a kid. But now they're everywhere, so what was the problem before? Obviously the "technology" was there. Was there an ordinance forbidding it?
Privacy concerns, anyone? Brigham Young University researchers revealed a new method for reading computer users’ emotions by tracking how users move the mouse. "Using this technology, websites can go beyond just presenting information," a researcher told The Week magazine. "They can understand what you’re feeling."
jimjustsaying's nomination for Word That Should Exist But Doesn't of the Month: "Shuzma." The portion of window cleaner that the spray tube can no longer reach.--"More Sniglets," Rich Hall & Friends
Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: Pudge. As in Rodney "Pudge" Van Lanen, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Nov. 11, 2015. R.I.P., Mr. Van Lanen.
Sixty-eighth Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary: Spruce, Wis.. (R.I.P., Edward S. "Ed" Yashinsky, Green Bay PRess-Gazette obituary, Nov. 2, 2015). Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose. Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville, Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek, Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow, Pella, Townsend, Vandenbroek and Coleman.
Strictly Classified . . . or Breeds of Dogs I Never Knew Existed Until I Saw Them Mentioned in a Newspaper Ad: Newfypoos (!) and Vizslas (hunting dogs of Hungarian origin). You can become the proud owner of a Newfypoo pup for a mere $1,000. (Must be pretty spiffy Newfies!)
More Classified Information (ad in the same paper): "Wanting to purchase Bear costume, full body length, will pay good $$ [and] will consider other costumes like rabbit or gorilla etc. Call Greg at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Today's Latin Lesson: Tunc annus totus amplitudo liberi ero vetus satis futurus exertus ut adultus! ("Next year all the grandchildren will be old enough to be tried as adults!")
A congressman's 'lament'
I’ll be leaving Congress at the end of this term--sentimental about many things, but liberated from a fundraising regime that’s never been more dangerous to our democracy. I’ve spent roughly 4,200 hours in call time, attended more than 1,600 fund-raisers just for my own campaign and raised nearly $20 million, in increments of $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000, per election cycle. And things have only become worse in the five years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. I’ll miss Congress: the history, colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the ability to help my constituents. But I won’t miss leaving phone messages asking PACs to "max out before the end of the quarter.”
--U.S. Rep. Steve Israel in The New York Times
The Framers' farcical failure
When Ted Cruz recently insulted "New York values," he wrote off a state with 11 million registered voters. But Cruz doesn’t care because of a curious artifact known as the Electoral College. Under the system set up by our Constitution, we don’t have a national election for president--we have 50 state elections, all but two winner-take-all. So if Cruz becomes the Republican nominee, it won’t matter if he gets 2.5 million votes in New York, as Mitt Romney did, or zero, since in the Electoral College, the effect is the same. Democrats turned against this crazy system in 2000, when their nominee, Al Gore, lost the election despite winning the popular vote. But the Electoral College presents just as much of a danger to Republicans. In 2004, John Kerry would have won the presidency had 60,000 votes in Ohio shifted his way, despite losing the popular election by 3 million votes. The framers were fallible humans, and they made a big mistake in creating the Electoral College. We put up with this undemocratic process only because it almost always yields the same result as the popular vote. But why run the risk every four years?
--Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune
The Oscars: Between a Rock and a hard place
Movie, television, and theater critics--I was once among them--have to take awards seriously, or at least try to. Readers care about them; they’re fun; they prompt debates. But really: They are completely arbitrary or capricious for the most part, and most people in show business know (and privately acknowledge) as much--even if they play to win. As one much-Tony-awarded theater giant has joked to friends, "As long as they’re giving them out, I’ll take one." So to painstakingly decode this year’s Oscars as some larger indicator about race in America is ridiculous, particularly in what everyone recognizes was a less-than-vintage year for American movies. Look at Chicago, or Baltimore, or Cleveland, or the state-enabled poisoning of the majority-black populace of Flint, Michigan, not at a Hollywood ceremony, to see what’s going on. It’s the Oscars, for heaven’s sake--where many voters eject a screener after ten minutes--not the Council of Trent.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, meanwhile, will have to either reform or die. An old white male electorate is as damaging to it in the entertainment marketplace as that same demographic is to the GOP in the political marketplace. If the Academy intransigently refuses to reflect the audience that votes with its eyeballs--the ever-more-diverse America whose Nielsen ratings and box-office dollars the industry craves--it will soon go the way of the nickelodeon.
--Frank Rich, New York magazine
Why 2015 was the best year yet
In many ways, 2015 was "an annus mirabilis---a year of wonders and blessings. Doomsayers can point to "ghastly terror attacks and devastating civil wars, floods of refugees and acts of unspeakable cruelty." But the world has always been full of pain and tears, and 2015 saw remarkable progress for humanity as a whole. Just 12 months ago, history’s worst Ebola epidemic was killing thousands of West Africans and causing worldwide panic; today, only a handful of cases remain, and a new vaccine appears to be 100 percent effective. Global female literacy has passed 93 percent--up from 40 percent in the 1970s. Despite the chaos in Syria and Iraq, free elections and peaceful transfers of power took place in countries ranging from Nigeria to Argentina to Myanmar to Burkina Faso.
In the U.S., mass shootings dominated headlines, yet the latest FBI report shows that "violent crime was down, not up" over 2014. On the whole, economist Charles Kenny argues, it was "the best year in history for the average human being to be alive." Our species is "hardwired for pessimism," with a penchant for romanticizing the past, but "these really are the good old days. Next year will be even better."
--Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe
A Supreme deadlock
Conventional wisdom holds that whoever wins this year’s presidential election could set the U.S. Supreme Court’s path for a generation. On Inauguration Day in 2017, justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy will be in their 80s, while Stephen Breyer will be 78. But the partisan divide in Washington is now so deep that under the next president, it may be impossible to get Supreme Court nominees confirmed. New appointments could transform the often divided court into one that’s predominantly liberal or predominantly conservative. That will make the partisan stakes so great that either the Senate majority or minority may permanently filibuster the president’s nominations, no matter who they are. That could leave the court with eight justices (or even fewer) for years. In the case of 4-4 tie decisions, the rulings of circuit courts would stand; since nine of the 13 circuit courts are now dominated by Democratic appointments, a deadlocked court could favor liberals. But if Republicans are fighting a Democratic president, they may still view lower-court rule as preferable to a more liberal Supreme Court. We could be headed for nomination deadlock.
--Linda Hirshman, Washington Post
'Obamacare' repeal? 3 views
--When it comes to repealing Obamacare, the 62nd time is the charm. After 61 failed attempts, congressional Republicans finally managed to pass a bill undoing the Affordable Care Act, using a legislative trick called "reconciliation" to circumvent the Democrats’ blocking tactics. President Obama wasted no time in vetoing the repeal, of course. But it was the first time he had to do so, and proof that his signature health-care legislation could easily be undone by a Republican president. --James Arkin, RealClearPolitics.com
--Liberal spin can’t disguise that the law is failing. While the legislation has reduced the uninsured rate by turning health care into an entitlement, it has also resulted in higher premiums and a major disruption of health-care markets. With this repeal bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan has shown that the 2016 election is all that stands between Obamacare and history’s dustbin.--Wall St. Journal editorial
--Don’t believe it. Obamacare has been a success, and repealing it would be a political disaster of unimaginable proportions for the GOP. It would instantly strip about 9 million people of the insurance they receive through Medicaid; cause chaos for the 11 million others with private coverage through the ACA’s exchanges; and threaten the half of all Americans who have a pre-existing condition with the possible loss of their insurance.--Paul Waldman in Prospect.org Single-payer health care is a pipe dream
The Affordable Care Act is what engineers would call a kludge. It’s an awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts yet it has largely succeeded in what it was designed to do: make health insurance available to all Americans and reduce the number of uninsured by 20 million. But because it’s messy and imperfect, should Democrats try for something better--a single-payer, Medicare-type program covering everyone, as presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders suggests? No, because there is zero chance of enacting such a proposal. A single-payer scheme would require large tax increases on not just the wealthy but also the middle class; even if these taxes were offset by eliminating premiums, as Sanders suggests, they’d be hugely unpopular, and a furious backlash would ensue.
Doctors and the insurance industry would also rebel, and so would the millions of Americans who would lose the good health insurance they currently get through their jobs. Let’s not forget that Obamacare barely passed, and didn’t get a single Republican vote. It makes no sense for Democrats to spend political capital on a quixotic attempt at a do-over, not of a political failure, but of health reform--their biggest victory in many years.
--Paul Krugman, New York Times
David Bowie: Wall Street pioneer
David Bowie will go down in history as a rock legend, but did you know he also left his mark on the world of asset-backed securities? In 1997, Bowie became the first recording artist to sell bonds tied to the future royalties earned on his catalog of hit songs, pioneering today’s market of exotic securities backed by everything from movie revenues to racehorse stud rights. Prudential Insurance bought the 10-year "Bowie bonds" for $55 million, allowing the musician to get a big upfront payment while still retaining rights to the music. Acts like James Brown, the Isley Brothers, and Iron Maiden soon followed suit with their own bond issues. Today, thanks to Bowie’s example, the market for intellectual property bonds includes drug patents, future box-office receipts, restaurant franchises and even comic strips.
--Jordan Weissmann, Slate.com
Obama's cancer 'moon shot' not likely
Sorry, but curing cancer will be a lot harder than putting a man on the moon. Now that cancer isn’t one disease--there are more than 100 different types, each requiring different approaches. Moreover, each individual cancer is unique, with its own genetic mutations, which is why people with the same type of cancer can have radically different outcomes. To properly “cure” cancer, we’d need personalized care, tailored to every single patient. Who’s going to pay for that?
Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations
about the absurdities of contemporary life
jimjustsaying's First Prediction of the Year: History will be made on Inauguration Day in January 2017 when None of the Above is sworn in as president! Unprecedented but understandable.
Speaking of the presidency, the Electoral College makes about as much sense to me as the tax code, which it rivals in logic and fairness.
Consider: Al Gore would have been president if the so-called "popular vote" had held sway in 2000 and the Iraq War, and the ISIS-related chaos it spawned, would never have happened. And our population would be about 5,000 larger because of all the Americans who wouldn't have died (not to mention the 1.5 million Iraqis who perished, plus the legion of wounded). But then again, we wouldn't have been able to say "Mission Accomplished."
Speaking of death tolls: "Terrorism is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; war is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it."--Sydney J. Harris (former widely syndicated newspaper columnist)
jimjustsaying's Law of Political Poll Participation: If queried by a pollster, ask whom the pollster is voting for. And if he or she won’t tell you (which they won’t), return the favor.
Revising my own recent jimjustsaying coinage--"Cameramaritan"--to denote the stranger you draft to take a picture of your group so everyone in the group will be in the picture--my alternate (and now preferred) coinage is "Shutterbud."
Amazingly, we're apparently on the verge of becoming a crime-free society, as we proceed to decriminalize everything from marijuana possession to you-name-it.
Of course, this comes in an era when no one is "manic-depressive" but "bipolar." So it's not much of a stretch to reclassify "serial killers" as "prolific-demise facilitators." And a "hit man" as an "Eternal Reward concierge." You get the picture. Rapists could be said to have a "sex addiction" and/or "flawed impulse control." Murderers would be said to have "anger-management challenges." Thieves? They're merely "over-acquisitive," aren't they? And no one is defective in any way--they just have "special needs."
"Hillary [Clinton] is a specialist at lying. And that’s a problem for her. Her husband was--and is-- a prodigy at deceit, a renaissance man of lying. If football were a game of lies, he could play every position on offense and defense."--Jonah Goldberg, Chicago Tribune
jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week: "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that London cab drivers must learn 320 separate routes including 25,000 streets, to get a license?
You're an old-timer if you can remember taking soda pop and beer bottles back to the store for the deposit money.
Speaking of nostalgia, remember when a phone rang . . . and there was no doubt that a phone was ringing. Now you don't know whose phone it is--or even if it is a phone or a radio or some random noise. Enough already!
jimjustsaying's Historical Reminder of the New Year: Social Security was started in 1935 to serve as a safety net for those in need of one--to keep people from starving to death--not intended to help subsidize Country Club Lifestyles for those who can buy and sell the the lower 99 percent.
App of the Week: Seateroo, a mobile phone marketplace that will allow airline passengers to pay other passengers to swap seats after boarding the plane. (How far behind is Line-a-roo, the app that helps you find someone to stand in line and get screened for you?)
My search engine gets 22,000 words to the megabyte, but your wordage may vary.
All-Overrated Team (all-Al Division): Alec Baldwin, Al Roker and Al Sharpton.
Newspaper Obituary Nickname of the Month: Prairie Dog. As in James "Prairie Dog" Sievert, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Oct. 20, 2015. R.I.P., Mr. Sievert.
Sixty-seventh Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary: Coleman, Wis.. (R.I.P., Patricia Ann Rivet, Green Bay PRess-Gazette obituary, Oct. 20, 2015). Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose. Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville, Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek, Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow, Pella, Townsend and Vandenbroek.
"Nature doesn't owe us perfection. Novelists don't either. Who among us would even recognize perfection if we saw it?"--Literary critic Sam Tanenhaus in the New York Times Review of Books
I don't think I'm that much out of touch, but when I saw the participants listed for a "Comedy Central Roast" on the TV schedule recently, I didn't recognize either the roastee (James Franco) or any of the roasters (too obscure to mention much less recall)! You could say I have a beef about roasts!
jimjustsaying's Word That Should Exist But Doesn't of the Month: "Spudrubble." Unclaimed french fries at the bottom of a fast food bag.--"More Sniglets," Rich Hall & Friends
Is there a warning to trespassers on the side of the Surgeon General’s house?
Today's Latin Lesson: Es vos iens compleo ut? ("Are you gonna finish that?")
Jim Szantor was managing editor of Down Beat magazine for three years and a Chicago Tribune editor-writer for 27 years. He is the author of "A Portrait of Bill Chase" (Great-Music, 2007) and "Lol-i-Gags: One-Liners, Irreverent Opinions, Fun Factoids and Astute Observations About Our Wild and Wacky World" (MavenMark Books, 2015).