That Was a Superb Owl

Well, at least what I saw of it. I fell asleep at the end of the first half, missing the halftime show entirely (sorry, Usher) and most of the third quarter. But then it was a pretty interesting nailbiter.

Ads? They had some good ones. In fact, I'm usually a Sam Adams guy, but the Budweiser ad made me forgive their past sins:

The closed captioners claim the driver says "You gotta be kidding me" in response to what he's hearing on the radio, but it didn't sound like "kidding" to me.

I also noticed the RFKJr political ad, substance-free, except for trading in on his uncle JFK's >60-year-old charisma. If you missed it, Ann Althouse has an embed, and also notes that RFKJr has already publicly apologized to whatever members of his family got pissed off at the ad.

As a one-time midwesterner, and a full-time Friscophobe, I was kinda pulling for the Chiefs. I don't have any grand conspiracy theories about Taylor Swift psyops, and in fact I thought this was pretty cool of her:

Well, to the extent that a 34-year-old lady acting like she's 17 can be said to be "cool".

Also of note:

  • In the "Me Too" Department… Jeff Jacoby relates his political odyssey: I was a young Republican. Now I want nothing to do with either party.

    Like millions of Americans, I find myself politically homeless today. Neither major party offers a vision I can relate to. I am as turned off by the Democrats' toxic obsession with race and gender as I am by the Republicans' shrillness on immigration. I fear the threat posed by the Democratic left to freedom of speech and conscience and am alarmed by the Republican right's antipathy to maintaining US leadership in world affairs.

    In 2016, I thought the Republican Party was headed for a crack-up, much as the Whig Party collapsed in the 1850s. I am alienated from both of America's two major parties. In the last two presidential elections, I voted for the Libertarian ticket and imagine I will vote for a third-party ticket again this year. In state elections, I am usually stymied. The Massachusetts Republican Party occasionally nominates challengers to the Democrats who hold nearly every public office, but with very rare exceptions, all of them now are lockstep Trumpian loyalists.

    Back in the day, I admittedly did fling the "RINO" slur on occasion, but only at pols like Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe. My first hint that something was going wrong came in 2011 when I noted a GraniteGrok contributor attacking Mitch Daniels as one.

  • The AP says… NATO leader says Trump puts allies at risk with Russia comments.

    The head of the NATO military alliance warned Sunday that Donald Trump was putting the safety of U.S. troops and their allies at risk after the Republican presidential front-runner said Russia should be able to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet their defense spending targets.

    “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

    Speaking Saturday at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, Trump recalled how as president he told an unidentified NATO member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in cases of NATO allies who are “delinquent.”

    Okay, that does sound dangerously unhinged, even for Trump. But…

  • Matt Margolis says… The Media Is Lying About Trump’s NATO Comments.

    Before making the comments about NATO, Trump was discussing the substantial financial commitment the United States had made to Ukraine, surpassing $200 billion, and the disparity between the U.S. contribution and that of European nations, which collectively stands at $25 billion. He said wasn't fair because the war in Ukraine affects them more directly, and the economy of the United States is roughly equivalent to the size of the collective economy of the European nations.

    "I did the same thing with NATO. I got them to pay up. NATO was busted until I came along. I said, 'Everybody's gonna pay.' They said, 'What if we don't pay, are you still going to protect us?' I said, 'Absolutely not.' They couldn't believe the answer. And everybody—you never saw a more money pour in."

    I think Margolis is making the point that AP was wrong to say Trump would encourage Russia to invade low-paying NATO countries if he were elected; Trump said he already did that in the past.

    Yeah, like that's better? Okay.

  • Meanwhile, the best take on Trump's recent comments… comes from Jim Geraghty:

    He is a rampaging narcissist, a black hole of desperate need for approval and adulation who explodes in blistering rage when he doesn’t get it. And that’s the most likely alternative to Biden, America.

    And speaking of Biden…

  • When you've lost Maureen Dowd… Her advice: Mr. President, Ditch the Stealth About Health.

    Jill Biden and his other advisers come up with ways to obscure signs of senescence — from shorter news conferences to almost zero print interviews to TV interviews mainly with fawning MSNBC anchors.

    But many Americans are quite concerned about the 81-year-old president’s crepuscular mien. It’s the elephant in the room — except that elephants never forget.

    So what should Joe do?

    Biden is not just in a bubble — he’s in bubble wrap. Cosseting and closeting Uncle Joe all the way to the end — eschewing town halls and the Super Bowl interview — are just not going to work. Going on defense, when Trump is on offense, is not going to work. Counting on Trump’s vileness to secure the win, as Hillary did, is not going to work.

    Um. She's actually pretty good at saying what Biden should not do: more of the same "stealth" strategy. But she never gets around to saying what he should do instead. I think maybe because abandoning "stealth" would only make his decrepitude even more painfully obvious.

  • The NR editorialists Go There. And it's not much of a surprise. They think President Biden Should Withdraw from 2024 Race.

    Joe Biden is a crisis in the making. The last president to run for reelection who was so obviously incapable of serving another four years was FDR in 1944. But Roosevelt was in the midst of ably managing a world war and, as it turned out, chose his vice president wisely.

    Biden’s mental and physical diminishment has been clear for some time and has been even more alarming the last several weeks. The Robert Hur report on his mishandling of classified documents underlined his reduced state. In an instantly famous sentence, Hur said his team concluded that a jury would consider Biden “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” The report, of course, included damning details of Biden not being able to place the years of his vice presidency nor — and this is what precipitated Biden’s angry press conference in response — the year of his son Beau Biden’s death.

    We have two "leading" candidates who care more about their personal political fortunes than what's best for the country. It's hard to imagine this will work out well.

  • I rarely quote myself, but‥ I recently finished reading a biography of Milton Friedman (link to my report below). But it got me reviewing my past comments about the guy. Here's a blast from the past for ya, on the occasion of his passing::

    As one of the foremost champions of liberty and capitalism, Dr. Friedman undoubtedly made life better for you, me, and posterity.

    Specifically, I recall reading this passage near the beginning of his classic Capitalism and Freedom:

    In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.

    The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.

    To a mushy-headed kid in the early sixties, it was more than a little jarring to see someone with the utter gall to talk back to one of the Holy Quotations of Saint JFK. And some would say I've never recovered from the shock. I'll always remember Dr. Friedman with admiration and gratitude.

    Mister, we could use a man like Milton Friedman again.

Recently on the book blog:

Milton Friedman

The Last Conservative

(paid link)

Near the end of this book, the biographer, Jennifer Burns, mentions a couple of quotes from our current President. One from 2020:

"Milton Friedman isn’t running the show anymore."

No fooling. And one from 2019:

"When did Milton Friedman die and become king?"
Milton Friedman died in 2006, Joe. (Even back then, Biden sounded like one of the geezers in the Saturday Night Live parody ad for the Amazon Echo Silver.)

So Friedman has been haunting Joe's brain ("rent free" as they say), probably for a long time. In contrast, I've been a fan ever since I read his Capitalism and Freedom as an impressionable youngster back in the 1960s. I honored his passing in my blog here and here. Key quote from the former link: "As one of the foremost champions of liberty and capitalism, Dr. Friedman undoubtedly made life better for you, me, and posterity." (Caveat lector: Unfortunately, many of the links I gathered from 2006 no longer work.)

This book garnered many laudatory reviews when it came out last year, so I snagged it from the New Books table at Portsmouth Public Library. (Yes, even in a socialist library in one of the state's wokest cities, you can still get fair-minded books about conservative/libertarian subjects.) And, yes, I agree: it's quite good. Burns is (it says on the back flap) a Stanford history professor, but she's clearly absorbed a lot of economics along the way: her discussion shows a deep understanding of the concepts and controversies associated with Friedman's work. The book seems to be almost as much about US economic history from 1930 to the present day as it is about Milton. (With side trips to Chile and Great Britain.)

I smiled at an anecdote about Friedman's undergrad days at Rutgers: "In his first year, he found a job waiting tables, which came with a supposedly free lunch. Even then, he was enough of a budding economist to understand there was no such thing-the free lunch came at the expense of a higher wage."

And there's a romantic-comedy-for-econ-geeks anecdote about Milton's meet-cute with his wife-to-be, Rose: she was a classmate in a University of Chicago course taught by a tyrannical professor. One day the prof botched differentiating a function, and Milton bravely pointed out the error. The prof blustered, Milton held his ground, and Rose was impressed enough to invite Milton to a Frank Knight lecture.

Burns does an excellent job charting Friedman's odyssey from the lonely days when his free-market monetarist views were dismissed by "serious" economists to his gradual ascension to respectability (including, of course, the Nobel).

About the only irritation I found was Burns' criticism of Friedman for his opposition to some of the more coercive features of 1960s civil rights legislation. She shows little patience for Friedman's devotion to classical liberal principle: people should feel free to engage (or not to engage) in voluntary, mutually beneficial economic transactions. Burns, to my eye, gets a little vitriolic when attacking that view.