Friday, June 26, 2015


Thank Quetzalquatl It's Friday!

"Party like it's 900 A.D.!"

To My Former Students: My Bad

As it turns out, I misled you all of those years. I taught you to respect the language, to use words with precision and, if possible, elegance, and to trust that logic and reasoning would prevail in the marketplace of ideas versus emotion and partisanship. I was wrong. Words and their established meanings don't matter. Logic and reasoning don't matter. Cogent arguments don't matter. All that matters is whether the elites who rule over us get the outcome they desire. We mere citizens are completely naked before them, at the mercy of the whims and caprices of political fashion. None of us are safe any longer. No law can protect us, because laws are composed of words, and we've just been informed by no less august an authority than the Supreme Court of the United States that words mean what the political elites say they mean, no more and no less. If that means some of us must suffer injustice because the outcome desired by the elites demands it...well, that's just too damned bad, I guess.

I wonder if the justices who voted to ignore the plain language of the statute in King v. Burwell have read their Dostoyevsky:

The answer to that question is supposed to be "No," Mr. Chief Justice. Not "Yes, because we mean well."

Justice Roberts and the rest of the majority apparently concluded that so long as the desired outcome (which they divined by interpreting goat entrails to determine the "intent" of Congress) is achieved, whatever linguistic legerdemain is required to get us there must be countenanced. Put more simply, the court majority chose its preferred outcome and "reasoned" backward toward the statutory language. When that approach proved insufficient to justify ruling in favor of the sovereign, they chose to simply replace the established meanings of key words with "meanings" of their own devising. Orwell would not be surprised...

On the final day of deliberations at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked as he left Independence Hall whether the delegates had chosen to create a monarchy, or a republic. Franklin famously replied "A republic, if you can keep it." Unfortunately, keeping it proved to be too difficult a task. For all intents and purposes, we live in a monarchy now. The law is whatever the sovereign tells us it is, on any given day. The legislature is impotent, and the courts defer to the sovereign. Never mind George III, Henry VIII would feel right at home in modern Washington.

It is not unusual for someone of my age to sometimes think he has misspent his life.
This is hardly the first time I have had such thoughts. But it is the first time I am having them because the principles and ideals I tried to teach my students have been ruled obsolete.

I apologize for wasting your time all of those years, and for selling you false hope...

"Why is everybody so pissed? It's not like it's the first time I've pulled this shit."

Suddenly, It All Makes Sense

Yes, we absolutely need to get this guy off of our $10 bill. What an idiot...

How I Used to Spend My Friday Nights

I was on the debate team, the newspaper staff, and the chess club when I was in high school. If that suggests to you that I often didn't have a date on Friday nights, you are mistaken. I never had a date on Friday nights...

Like most Kansas City kids with no social life back then, I spent Friday nights listening to radio station WHB's countdown of the week's top 40 songs. The early part of the countdown was fun because there'd always be a few songs making their first appearance. The last hour of the countdown, when the top 10 were played, was also fun, because you got to see whether your favorites went up or down, or even made No. 1 (or held that spot for another week).

Check out the eclectic nature of popular music at that time, too. You had pop acts like The Partridge Family and The Carpenters mixed in with heavy acts like Led Zeppelin and Santana. Singers like Barbra Streisand and Tom Jones sharing space with Canned Heat and Rare Earth. Music didn't care as much about categories in those days.

On Saturday mornings, printed copies of that week's countdown were available at various retail stores around town. I'd have hung on to my collection if I had known there would be any interest in them more than 40 years later...

Things That Make Me Happy: Strong Finish Edition

The Norway Chess 2015 tournament, which I have been following in real time on the internet for a couple of weeks, concluded yesterday. American Grandmaster (GM) Hikaru Nakamura tied for second place with former world champion GM Viswanathan Anand of India. The tournament was won in excellent fashion by former world champion GM Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. With his fine victory, GM Topalov moves up to No. 3 in the current world standings. GM Anand is back at No. 2, while GM Nakamura holds steady at No. 4. GM Nakamura's current Elo rating of 2814.1 is the highest ever achieved by an American player, and the 8th-highest ever achieved by any player regardless of nationality.

GM Nakamura started out with wins in two of his first three games to share 1st place, but then a series of draws in rounds 4-8 dropped him back a bit. In the final round, GM Nakamura had black against GM Levon Aronian. It is to his credit that he was able to prevail in an exciting game. Well done, sir!

If you'd like to play over GM Nakamura's win in the last round, you can do so here...

"It's always sweet to win with the black pieces against a quality opponent."

My Friend Ari Says...

"In other words, you bipeds are up shit creek without a paddle, now?"
Pretty much, yeah...

Until Next Time...

The week I turned 17 years old in 1970, the song that finished No. 2 on the WHB Top 40 list was the latest hit from one of my favorite groups, Simon & Garfunkel (like any true fan, I prefer the ampersand). "Bridge Over Troubled Water," from the album of the same name, is bittersweet for fans because by the time it topped the charts rumors that the two singers had decided to break up the group had been confirmed. It seemed sad that a song about friendship could be performed so beautifully by two guys who (at that time) hated each others' guts, but there it was.

About a year later, my hero Maynard Ferguson released an album called simply Maynard Ferguson (on some pressings the album was renamed Alive and Well in London). Typical of Maynard's efforts at that point in his career, the album was mostly arrangements of pop hits, including George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," James Taylor's "Fire and Rain," and "Aquarius," from the musical Hair.  Our send-off today is his version of the Simon & Garfunkel hit. I've probably listened to Maynard's version more often than I have the original. But even without hearing the lyrics, the expressiveness of Maynard's trumpet is enough to bring a lump to my throat. Enjoy...

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