2016 New Hampshire Primary Stuff

What follows is a hodgepodge of random spindle-clearing primary-related crap. I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading here.

  • I attended a gathering of political junkies at the Manchester NH Radisson last Saturday night sponsored by National Review. I had previously attended in 2008 and 2012. This event is great fun, and recommended to anyone in the area who's interested.

    This year's event was run by publisher Jack Fowler, and scheduled to wrap around the GOP debate being held down the road a bit at St. Anselm's. It led off with a general discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, Tim Alberta, and "Indispensable" Jim Geraghty. (Mr. Geraghty is not only indispensable, he's also quite funny on his feet.) Those three gave way to an NR/Ricochet-sponsored panel composed of Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, and John Podhoretz for pre- and post-debate analysis and commentary. (Mr. Podhoretz is editor of Commentary magazine, so he's good at that.)

    I got my fanboy on by speaking briefly with Charles C. W. Cooke (I was able to tell him I liked his book very much), and Jack Fowler (who I hope I was able to impress by telling him I've been an NR reader for nearly 50 years.)

    As in previous years, I did not stay for the whole thing. (My ass flattens easily, I wouldn't have watched the debate had I been home, and the road back to Pun Salad Manor was long and dark.)

    Thanks much to National Review, and also to Skip Murphy and the other Granite Grok denizens I got to meet and sit next to.

  • Speaking of John Podhoretz, I thought his New York Post column on the NH results was insightful. After summarizing the key messaging of the winners, Trump and Sanders:

    Simple, straightforward and catchy — that’s the key. And none of it is your fault. Everything bad that’s happening, everything that makes you nervous and worried and uncertain about the future, is the result of a great wrong that is being done to you.

    JPod sees this election cycle as "the payback election — America at its worst."

    I hope he's wrong, fear he's correct.

  • Also insightful are Nick Gillespie and Joshua Swain writing at Reason, leading with this bit of trivia:

    The winners aren't even real members of the parties for whose nominations they are running.

    Nick and Joshua try to put a nice libertarian ("socially liberal and fiscally conservative") spin on this, but it's not very convincing. (Insightful, but unconvincing, is an unusual combination, but Nick and Joshua hit it.)

  • If you're feeling depressed about the results: here's (my close personal friend) Dave Barry’s 8 funniest lines from the New Hampshire primaries.

  • A little self-deprecation is in order. I took a free online course from the University Near Here on the New Hampshire primary. It was fun. Part of it involved participating on online discussions, one of which requested us to prognosticate.

    My predictions, made on November 27, 2015:

    1. Trump and Clinton will win New Hampshire. Rubio will come in a strong second.
    2. Sanders and O'Malley will win nowhere, and drop out before March 31.
    3. On the strength of his NH showing, Rubio will become the default non-Trump candidate, and other candidates will fade. Since Trump has such high negatives, he won't have a shot at the nomination, and Rubio gets it.
    4. The Rubio/Fiorina ticket ekes out a narrow win in November against Clinton/Castro.

    Practically couldn't have been more wrong! In my (slight) defense, predicting a Hillary win, in late November, was not as stupid as it sounds now. (See the Real Clear Politics polling history.) And who could have guessed that Rubio would self-immolate in the St. Anselm's debate?

    Still, I think the lesson is clear: I am not the guy you want to go to for accurate political predictions.

  • I remain mystified by Kasich's second-place showing. My best guess was in a twitter reply I made to Matt Welch last month:
  • And for another vaguely-primary related UNH connection, we had a famous campus visitor:


The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another movie that I liked more than I thought I would. That's always a nice thing to say. Back as a young 'un, I used to watch the TV show of the same name. Since I was an idiot (more accurately: a bigger idiot than I am now) I thought that was how the spy game actually worked. Learning otherwise was like finding out about Santa.

It is an origin story, set in the deep Cold War days. Dapper spy (and ex-thief) Napoleon Solo is sent into East Berlin to extract the beautiful auto mechanic Gaby into the West. Hoping to stop him is the KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin. Kuryakin is (of course) a formidable foe, but Solo barely escapes with Gaby.

There's a motive for Gaby's extraction: her father is a genius scientist who's worked out a new design for a nuclear bomb. And, unfortunately, he's developing it for a gang of criminals who want to sell it to everyone's favorite villains, the Nazis. Of course, Kuryakin gets roped back in as the CIA and KGB decide to collaborate in order to thwart this outcome.

Solo and Kuryakin initially loathe and distrust each other, and their relationship is a series of verbal barbs and one-upmanship. Of course, this feud develops quickly into a bromance. This works better than it has any right to. Also appearing is a dapper Brit, Waverly: anyone remembering the TV show knows that he'll eventually work things out.

There's some fancy cinematography, which I was indifferent toward.


The Phony Campaign

2016-02-07 Update

Our PredictWise-based 2% probability criterion demands no lineup changes this week. And (once again) the only change to our ordering is the Bush/Rubio swap of fifth/sixth place. Yawn.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-01-31
"Donald Trump" phony 108,000 -252,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 98,100 -103,900
"Ted Cruz" phony 66,600 -91,400
"Bernie Sanders" phony 66,500 -31,400
"Marco Rubio" phony 53,300 -5,800
"Jeb Bush" phony 38,800 -28,900

But there's always fresh phony news to report:

  • Rubio might get a phony bump soon based on his debate performance last night; specifically his back-and-forth with Chris Christie (detailed at the NR Corner by David French) was inauthentic in a bizarre way.

    Marco Rubio’s already-famous exchange with Chris Christie was indeed a brutal moment. I still can’t believe that Rubio went back to the same talking point right after Christie called him on it. Watching it real-time, I honestly wondered if Rubio forgot what he just said. When he started to do the same thing a third time, I couldn’t believe my ears. Christie wasn’t masterful — not by any means — Rubio just served him the worst kind of hanging curve.

    Video at link. I swear, Rubio's responses seemed like they were generated by a buggy AI program that mistakenly worked itself into a tight loop.

  • To my ears, Donald Trump had a bad debate. When Mary Katherine Ham challenged him to distinguish his health care reform ideas from single-payer advocate Bernie Sanders … as Peter Suderman notes, "Trump claims he’s for common sense, and the proceeds to not make much sense at all." Trump's answer is quoted in full at the link.

    The obvious takeaway from this response is that Trump not only has no plan to replace Obamacare, he has idea what he’s talking what he’s talking about when it comes to health care policy, and doesn’t care that he’s clueless. It tells us nothing at all about health care, but it does tell us about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign.

  • In the debate, Trump also maintained his advocacy of eminent domain, trying very hard to blur the distinction between (a) Constitution-based takings (with just compensation, for public use), and (b) grabbing an elderly widow's house and land in order to build a casino's limousine parking lot. (Jeb Bush, of all people, was good on this.)

    A RedState contributor quotes Trump's response and begins commentary with

    Here Trump shows that he is either totally unaware of what eminent domain entails or he’s a duplicitous f*** who thinks you are stupid.

    [Frog? Face? Fowl? Fawn? Feeb? Fern? Fink? Fish? Fake? Oh, yeah, I guess it's "fake".]

  • Speaking of AI, some DOD whiz kids should figure out how to program Kevin D. Williamson's writing style into terrorist-hunting drones. When Kevin picks a target, he is deadly accurate and merciless. Today's example keys off this tweet from Terry Shumaker, New Hampshire lawyer, longtime Clinton sycophant:

    Kevin:

    Hillary Rodham Clinton is not qualified to be president of the United States of America, because she doesn’t know what the United States of America are.

    Terry Shumaker, former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad (I wonder what that gig cost him) and current abject minion in the service of Mrs. Clinton, quotes Herself telling an audience in New Hampshire: “Service is the rent we pay for living in this great country.”

    There is a very old English word for people who are required to perform service as a rent for their existence, and that word is serf. Serfdom is a form of bondage.

    It gets better from there, so please RTWT.

    I was reluctant to put this in a phony campaign post, because this seems to be one of those rare times when Hillary reveals how she really thinks. But… <voice imitation="Doc Brown"> well, I figured, what the hell? </voice>

  • And I don't want to turn this into an too-National Review-based post, but Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week was pretty perceptive on the "authentic" Bernie Sanders. It's titled "Hillary’s Sincerity Problem", and it's about that too, but that's fish-in-barrel stuff. Jonah notes that in all Bernie's railing against the "rigged system", he's mystifyingly reluctant to make some obvious points:

    Bernie Sanders has to believe Hillary Clinton is part of the problem. But he won’t say so, save to prattle on about Clinton’s super PACs and speaking fees. That’s amateur-hour stuff. It’s academic-seminar-level griping, not revolution-fomenting. He wants to talk about the system, but he won’t do what is minimally required to change it. And right now, the first step on that long road is steamrolling Hillary Clinton. It’s like saying you want to do whatever it takes to fight malaria, but refusing to say much about the huge, sprawling, and fetid marshlands in the middle of downtown. The Clintons are swamp creatures, taking what they need and leaving in their retromingent wake the stench of corruption.

    Definition of "retromingent" here. You're welcome.

  • Does Trump have a couple of things right about the phony Cruz? Find out the shocking answer in Jennifer Rubin's Trump has a couple of things right about the phony Cruz.

    Donald Trump may not know Russian President Vladimir Putin is implicated in a killing or that “paying for everyone’s health care” is essentially single-payer, universal health care. Nevertheless, he does know something about dealing with other people, and in that regard is the perfect combatant to take on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who knows virtually nothing about that.

    Ms. Rubin doesn't care for Trump, but she flat-out despises Ted Cruz.


Director's Cut

[Amazon Link]

I've been reading Roger L. Simon's Moses Wine novels since The Big Fix back in the 1970s. I'm glad to (finally) read his latest.

You could make the case I've been procrastinating: Amazon helpfully reminds me: "You purchased this item on February 5, 2010.". Yes, about 6 years ago. And it was written back in 2003. This is how up-to-date I am with my reading. Fortunately, my to-be-read pile never forgets, unless I want it to.

Moses has settled into domesticated Hollywood tranquility (and professional partnership) with his new wife Samantha. His connections with the film community land him a new gig: figuring out who is menacing the production of Prague Autumn, an "arty" film about the Holocaust and its echoes into the present day. And Moses jets off to—guess where—Prague, where the production is filming on location. Pretty soon, murder and kidnapping. Also some explosions. Unexpected events catapult Moses into an unexpected role.

We get a lot of information about the sausage-making involved in creating a movie and bringing it to the masses. Roger L. Simon is also involved in the film industry, so I assume he's leveraging some of his own experiences.

Moses has (sort of) followed Roger L. Simon's own political pilgrimage: from 70's radical to semi-moderate. (I don't think Moses has gone as far as Roger, who I think of as on "our side".)

Frankly, Moses seems outwitted and passive through most of the book; I usually prefer a different sort of private-eye protagonist. The book is also marred by sloppy proofreading. I noticed four mistakes, and I wasn't looking for them, so I assume there are more.


Match

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A decent little movie, with Patrick Stewart playing someone who isn't a starship captain or heroic mutant leader.

Instead, he plays Tobi Powell, famous ex-dancer, currently a ballet instructor at Julliard. He's seemingly flamboyant and extroverted in public, but in private he's an odd duck. He saves his nail clippings in a jar on his mantle; his hobby is knitting.

Tobi, by the way, allegedly grew up on a pig farm in Maine, but that Maine accent is nowhere to be seen. (Patrick Stewart didn't try to do a French accent when he was Jean-Luc in Star Trek either. Maybe he doesn't do accents.)

Anyway, he agrees to an interview request from Lisa (Carla Gugino), (ostensibly) a graduate student from Oregon, assisted by her husband Mike (Matthew Lillard). Things go smoothly at first: they meet in a local diner, have some booze and party mix, then move to Tobi's apartment, have more booze, some hash, and more party mix. And it becomes apparent that Lisa and Mike have ulterior motives, as they start asking some increasingly nosy questions. And before you can say "Well, I thought something like that was going on", revelations occur, souls are bared, and cheeks are forcibly swabbed.

IMDB bills this as a comedy/drama, and there are some funny bits. I thought it felt like an adapted play while I was watching, and (sure enough) it was.

All three primary actors do a fantastic job in their roles. I'm not sure the plot stands up to scrutiny, but that's OK.


Back in Time

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I loved the Back to the Future movies, so I was kind of eager to watch this documentary about it. I was disappointed, as it turns out.

It is about 90 minutes, but seems longer. There are many talking-head segments with both filmmakers and fans.

Michael J. Fox is, of course, interviewed; he does an impressively brave job telling some stories about the film, negotiating with his own body, which is in the cruel grip of Parkinson's Disease. Other actors interviewed include Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Claudia Wells (Jennifer in the first movie), James Tolkan (Principal Strickland), and Donald Fullilove (Goldie Wilson). (No Crispin Glover or Thomas F. Wilson, unfortunately.) Also showing up: producer Steven Spielberg, writer Bob Gale, and director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis. And good old Huey Lewis, who has wrinkled impressively.

Only about 30% of what these people have to say isn't that insightful or interesting, sorry. There's a lot of inside-baseball studio-politics talk about how the movie got made. Maybe fascinating for denizens of Hollywood, but for those of us in the sticks… eh.

But the documentary also covers the devoted fans. And… wow. Just wow. These folks are devoted.

There are, first and foremost, the DeLorean restorers, spending piles of money to bring back the look and feel of the fabled time machine. One guy owned two. But also: the bitchin' Toyota truck Marty winds up with at the end of the first movie. (Sorry, spoiler alert.) And—this was amazing too—also had a VW bus that was a dead ringer for the vehicle driven by the homicidal Libyan terrorists, for maybe two or three minutes of screen time in the first movie.

As I said: devotion.

Particularly inspiring: these guys, who have driven their restored DeLorean to all fifty states "to raise awareness and funding for Parkinson's Research." Good for them.


Grand Piano

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. She need not reveal her reasons.

Frodo himself, Elijah Wood, plays famed concert pianist Tom Selznick, returning to the stage after a long hiatus; he went into seclusion after an embarrassing freeze-up while attempting to perform a piece widely considered impossible to play. His beautiful, dutiful wife, who is a famous actress, supports and encourages his return.

Unfortunately, he is menaced during his performance by a sniper. Who is in touch with him via earpiece, demanding that he attempt to play the impossible piece once more, perfectly this time, or he will be shot dead. And his pretty wife too!

Also in the audience are Tom's good buddies, Wayne and Ashley. When I saw Wayne, I was sure the actor playing him was Sean Astin. Giving us the long-awaited Frodo/Samwise reunion! But no, it was that guy who plays the nice guy from Downton Abbey. Boy, he and Sean Astin look alike.

John Cusack and Alex Winter play the bad guys. Disappointingly, Mr. Winter neither exclaims "Excellent!" nor "Bogus!".

The motivation behind the whole thing turns out to be ludicrous. We are left wondering: how was that supposed to work exactly?


The Phony Campaign

2016-01-31 Update

According to PredictWise, the President Bloomberg boomlet is over. At least for this week. So it's a good thing we bashed him last week when we had the chance.

And, for what seems like the 47th week in a row: the first four places are unchanged, while Bush/Rubio swap fifth/sixth place:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-01-24
"Donald Trump" phony 360,000 +163,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 202,000 +105,500
"Ted Cruz" phony 158,000 +80,900
"Bernie Sanders" phony 97,900 +31,100
"Jeb Bush" phony 67,700 +36,200
"Marco Rubio" phony 59,100 +23,000

Note the increase in phoniness across the board. Should have expected that.

  • Intrepid pundits are in Iowa, of course. Roger L. Simon reports from a Des Moines hotel room, apparently unwilling to spring for pay-per-view:

    I was anxious to get back to my hotel because I had an eight a.m. interview with Carly Fiorina, a woman who is alway good for a soundbite. But being on L.A. time, I was unable to sleep and watched television for a couple of hours -- which means I viewed a non-stop orgy of political ads, some 96% of which were of the attack variety with some 96% of those completely phony nonsense. There wasn't even time for one measly Cialis ad. The amount of money spent on this swill -- $30 million against Marco Rubio alone, according to a press release from his campaign (and I tend to believe it) -- is mind-boggling and tests the limits of your belief in free speech. Mine survived, but barely.

    Roger, Roger. I can report that things are about the same here in New Hampshire. I think I would vote for any candidate whose commercials showed the slightest bit of humor, but that hasn't happened yet. TiVo and Netflix are saving my sanity.

  • My close personal friend Dave Barry is also in Iowa, and providing fresh content for the Miami Herald. You should check out his observations on Iowa restaurant cuisine, the curse of low-flow toilets, fringe candidate Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente, and the "Manure Applicator Training Session" at the annual Iowa Pork Congress. (And, yes, Dave does make the obvious "manure" connection to presidential politics.)

    Sample Iowa mythbusting from Dave:

    MYTH: Iowa lacks diversity.

    FACT: According to the 2010 Census, only 143 percent of Iowa’s nearly 8,000 residents are white, down from 156 percent in 2000.

    Dave's not running for President this year, which is a damn shame, because I would totally vote for him before voting for Trump. I may write him in.

  • You probably heard that Trump skipped a recent GOP debate due to his feud with Megyn Kelly. Instead, he held a "veterans event" at the same time. (Dave Barry: "a tribute to veterans, in the same sense that an Elvis concert was a tribute to Elvis’ backup band.")

    Trump also set up a website to solicit donations to help veterans! Yay! But as the Federalist reports: donations made at that site go "directly to Donald Trump’s personal non-profit foundation".

    And Trump's concern with vets seems, at best, newly-minted:

    Between 2009 and 2013, Trump’s non-profit donated between $100,001 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Over the same period of time, Trump’s group gave only $57,000 to veterans groups. A 2015 analysis by Forbes noted that barely 1 percent of the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s $5.5 million worth of donations betwen 2009 and 2013 went to organizations that support military veterans[.]

    If voters can't see through this guy, we're in trouble.

  • Did Hillary Clinton send top secret emails on her homebrew server? Find out the shocking answer from Peter Suderman's article, headlined "Despite What Her Campaign Wants You to Believe, Hillary Clinton Did Send Top Secret Emails on Her Homebrew Server". Suderman's well-documented conclusion:

    At virtually every turn, she and her campaign staffers have misled and dissembled, repeatedly making statements that later turn out to be false. In general, her attitude is one of disdain and dismissiveness, as if transparency and truthfulness about her unorthodox decision to conduct her State Department email business exclusively on a homebrew email server was unnecessary, or beneath her. She has displayed both a willful disregard for the truth and as a generalized resistance to public scrutiny and oversight. And that may tell us more about her, and what kind of president she might be, than any email she’s sent.

  • Back to the Republican side: you can't beat those Huckabee fans for phony-spotting:

    Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee put out a new television ad attacking fellow candidate Ted Cruz's Christian faith, accusing him of being a "phony" Christian for giving far less than 10 percent of his income to his church.

    This is the sort of thing that happens when you try to out-God your opponents.

  • I usually <abbr type="stupid">LOL</abbr> at the prank-signage worked up by Obvious Plant. He ventured into politics recently, with a comparison of Hillary vs. Bernie on the issues. Sample:

    [Obvious Plant]


Bloodline

[Amazon Link]

Note that, judging by the book's cover, the title here could be Dick Francis's Bloodline. And Felix Francis, being his son, certainly would fit that bill.

Yes, it's another shake of the money tree, invoking the name of a beloved-but-deceased author to sell some books. This is Felix's second solo effort, although he and his dad co-wrote four previous.

Plot: Mark Shillingford is a TV sportscaster, narrating horse races at various British venues. At one fateful race, he notices what nobody else seems to: his jockey twin sister, Clare, holds her horse back just enough to come in second. This is a huge no-no, and Mark confronts her later. That goes unsatisfactorily, and before you know it, Clare has met her end in an apparent grisly suicide.

Unlike your normal Dick Francis protagonist, Mark doesn't handle this stoically. (His first-person narration tells us about his frequent weeping.) Still, he's determined to figure out Clare's bizarre behavior, if only to assuage his own guilty conscience. He must deal with his fractious family, a rumor-mongering gutter journalist, a lackadaisical police investigation, an irate husband he's been cuckolding, and—of course—a villain who's turned to murder most foul.

I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did Felix's previous effort, Gamble. The tone is uneven, I didn't find the protagonist particularly interesting or likeable, and the eventual revelation of the bad guy seems kind of arbitrary. (There are a bunch of likely suspects and it turns out to be … that one. Oh.)


The Devil's Pleasure Palace

The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West

[Amazon Link]

Encouraged by glowing reviews at numerous websites, I wangled the sainted Library staff of University Near Here to borrow me a copy of The Devil's Pleasure Palace by Michael Walsh, through the magic of the Boston Library Consortium.

Walsh's thesis (to the extent that I can understand it) is that the Left is not just full of bad ideas. It's fully of unholy ideas, their goal being to further the work of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Walsh doesn't (quite) mean this in the sense that Bernie Sanders literally shuffles off to a top-secret Black Mass every so often. (That would be neat, though, kind of the flip-side of the Republican gatherings portrayed on The Simpsons.)

Instead, the Left has (mostly semi-consciously) bought into Satan's side in his argument with God, succumbing to his false promises and temptations. Walsh frames this mostly as a takedown of the so-called "Frankfurt School" of criticism and philosophy, which sought refuge in America after fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930's. Their baneful influence goes from strongholds in Academia into various niches of pop culture, politics, music, and art, whence they wage war on tradition, morality, family, and freedom.

Walsh writes from the standpoint of a devout Catholic, and he doesn't make a lot of effort to phrase his arguments to appeal to those of us less-than-devout folk. Still, if you buy that Christian theology is speaking (at least) a metaphorically true story about good/evil human nature, and its relationship to the real world, you can find quite a bit of insight in the work.

On the other hand, as Walsh points out, one of the Left's heroes, Saul Alinsky, really did write about "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom -- Lucifer." Your enemies can sometimes make your case for you.

It's also kind of a fun read. Walsh bases his argument not just on the Good Book, but also the epic works spun out thereof: Marlowe, Goethe, Milton, et. al.. If those are a little heavy for your tastes, don't worry: Walsh also throws in references to Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, and High Noon.

It's short, just slightly over 200 pages. If I had to quibble, it seems like a stitched-together book of independent essays rather than a coherent work with a sustained argument. People with a deeper grounding in classical literature and music than I will probably get more out of it than I did.