What They Said

Smart commentary and analysis by writers much smarter and more thoughtful than yours truly…

Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science. (Those didn’t used to be liberal values, but that’s what they are in America 2021.)

Unfortunately, identity politics can do a lot of harm when it gets in the way of dealing with real problems. I don’t know how many people will die unnecessarily because the governor of Texas has decided that ignoring the science and ending the mask requirement is a good way to own the libs. But the number won’t be zero.

Unmasked: When Identity Politics Turns Deadly Paul Krugman New York Times

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The Pew Research Center found that the number of nones in the population as a whole increased nine percentage points from 2009 to 2019. The main reasons that nones are unaffiliated are that they question religious teachings, or they don’t like the church’s stance on social issues.

There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can possibly provide. We’re looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?

Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life. It’s time to search for meaning beyond the electric church that keeps us addicted to our phones and alienated from our closest kin.

Influencers Are the New Televangelists Leigh Stein New York Times

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Evangelicalism in America, however, has come to be defined by its anti-intellectualism. The style of the most popular and influential pastors tend to correlate with shallowness: charisma trumps expertise; scientific authority is often viewed with suspicion. So it is of little surprise that American evangelicals have become vulnerable to demagoguery and misinformation….. In 1994, Mark Noll, a historian who was then a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, the preëminent evangelical liberal-arts institution, published “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” In the opening sentence of the book’s first chapter, he writes, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Recently, some pastors and other evangelical leaders have begun to express alarm at how unmoored some members of their congregations have become. More leaders in the American church need to recognize the emergency, but, in order for evangelicals to rescue the life of the mind in their midst, they need to acknowledge that the church is missing a vital aspect of worshipping God: understanding the world He made.

The Wasting of the Evangelical Mind The New Yorker · by Michael Luo · March 4, 2021

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The Republican Party has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s.

I can already hear the howls about invidious comparisons. I do not mean that modern American Republicans are communists. Rather, I mean that the Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes.

A GOP that once prided itself on its intellectual debates is now ruled by the turgid formulations of what the Soviets would have called their “leading cadres,” including ideological watchdogs such as Tucker Carlson and Mark Levin. Like their Soviet predecessors, a host of dull and dogmatic cable outlets, screechy radio talkers, and poorly written magazines crank out the same kind of fill-in-the-blanks screeds full of delusional accusations, replacing “NATO” and “revanchism” with “antifa” and “radicalism.”

The Republican Party is, for now, more of a danger to the United States than to the world. But like the last Soviet-era holdouts in the Kremlin, its cadres are growing more aggressive and paranoid. They blame spies and provocateurs for the Capitol riot, and they are obsessed with last summer’s protests (indeed, they are fixated on all criminals and rioters other than their own) to a point that now echoes the old Soviet lingo about “antisocial elements” and “hooligans.” They blame their failures at the ballot box not on their own shortcomings, but on fraud and sabotage as the justification for a redoubled crackdown on democracy.

The Republican Party Is Now in Its End Stages The Atlantic · by Tom Nichols · February 25, 2021

Muses on a Cold Winter Morning

My writing efforts resemble my pickleball game performances. Brief flashes of brilliance mixed with plenty of unforced errors and faults.

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The experience of watching televised college and pro sports during Covid is like viewing a sitcom without a laugh track.

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Parler: politics = Pornhub: love

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So who stands “in the dock” for the various atrocities and abuses to our democracy and laws committed in the past four years? A number of Trump sycophants, enablers and officials, in a bid to salvage their reputations and careers, finally bailed out from the “Herrenvolk.” Nikki Haley, Bill O’Reilly, Betty DeVos, Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, John Bolton, Mike Pence and many other Trump supporters are fleeing from Trump like Melania avoids child refugee camps.

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Rush Limbaugh’s receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is as appropriate as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarding Bonzo its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Professional sports championships are generally decided off-season and by General Managers and less by players. College championships are generally decided in recruiting, less on the field or court. 

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How Trumpism mimics the coronavirus: (1) Can damage or kill the host (U.S.)  if untreated or unopposed. (2) Moves quickly through the populace through spreader (campaign) events. (3) Spurs denials by naysayers as to its existence and dangers. (4) Adverse after effects continue for many months (years) after initial contagion. (4) Mutates frequently posing additional dangers.  (5) Remedied by inoculation (election results).

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The biggest editors when many write are psychological, concerns for acceptance and approval plus the fear of speaking one’s mind and upsetting a career and reputation. How freeing to be retired and of advanced age when those editors are not as binding! While I still value the opinions of others, it’s more important that I move ideas and thoughts from my brain to screen, while I can.

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Tell me how many books and what you you read on a topic  and I can tell you how seriously I value your opinions on that topic.

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As I get older what has tragically declined faster than my physical and mental capabilities has been my decline in trust for most people to simply do the right things, especially when it comes to acting in the best interests of the nation, community or fellow man. 

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Thought Leaders

I find that many of the disagreements that I have with people on politics and current events has to do with our respective sources of information. Many of my Facebook friends rely upon memes (that I consider social media graffiti) Fox News ideologues and political blogs with dubious reporting and analysis when they attempt to muster up an opinion or viewpoint.

I’d like to offer these friends some other alternatives for information. My list includes thought leaders, people with genuine credibility and expertise in their fields. Most have written books (not memes), are articulate and have a track record of achievement. These are people whose opinions and viewpoints I follow. I may not agree with all their opinions but I respect their ideas and arguments.

Politics:

Maureen Dowd

Tom Friedman

Fareed Zakaria

Pete Buttigieg

Tom Nichols

Ian Bremmer

Paul Krugman

Dave Pell

Gary Trudeau

Maggie Haberman

Mike Murphy

Historians

Jill Lepore

Jon Meacham

Doris Kearns Goodman

Kurt Andersen

Michael Beschloss

Religion

Karen Armstrong

Bart Ehrman

Sam Harris

Michelle Boorstein

Comedy/Satire

Chris Rock

Bill Maher

Stephen Colbert

Michelle Wolf

Jimmy Kimmel

Business/Tech

Scott Galloway

Kara Swisher

Malcolm Gladwell

Mark Cuban

Elon Musk

Emily Chang

Daniel Pink

Seth Godin

Economics/Finance

Robert Shiller

Nomi Prins

Andrew Ross Sorkin

Adam Tooze

Naseem Nicholas Taleb

Warren Buffett

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

RIP The “Process” 2013-2020

Some thoughts on the 76ers and what’s next:

The 76ers are a high priced street pick up team. There were so many mistakes on personnel decisions. Not sure why they did not move heaven and earth at the end of last season to keep Jimmy Butler. This season, there was no “go to guy” when you needed a critical basket at the end of a game.

This year’s NBA draft offers little relief. Even with high draft picks, the 76ers have really mucked it up. Remember Michael Carter Williams, Nerlins Noel, Jahil Okafor, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, Landry Shamet and Markelle Fultz (instead of Jayson Tatum)???

The NBA East has four of the best coaches in basketball. Brad Stevens (Celtics), Nick Nurse (Toronto), Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Mike Budenholzer (Bucks) are far superior coaches than Brett Brown. Good coaching usually manifests itself after halftime and particularly in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. Sounds like the 76ers never bought in to Brown’s substitutions patterns or to his strategies when games were on the line.

Did anyone watch the Clippers-Mavs game that followed the 76ers-Celtics today? Is there anyone who would rather have either Embid or Simmons than Luke Doncic?

I am not interested in any “retreads” to coach the 76ers if they release Brett Brown. So I’m not interested in Jason Kidd, Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson or Luke Walton. I might be interested in a certain local college coach who has demonstrated the ability to win the big game (twice) and might be looking for a new challenge. It also helps that his players do well in the NBA draft and in competition.

The right of first refusal to the 76ers job if Brett Brown is released is Jay Wright.

Third Shot Jots

Check out recent YouTube video where Ben Johns and Simone Jardin play Dekel Bar and Adam Stone. Great example of how men and women can compete effectively in mixed doubles, as a partnership. Johns and Jardin play to their strengths. Their movement and strategy were like a dance. Sorry for the dated reference, but think of the balance between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Johns and Jardin beat two top flight pickleball players. Jardin is the best women’s player in pickleball right now.

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I watch a lot of pickleball tournaments and events on social media and YouTube. In all the events I have watched, I don’t recall seeing a player cited for an illegal serve. Maybe the pros and advanced players are that good that they do not violate the rules on serving. But even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been called on foot faults at times. Seems to me that many of the fast servers in the men’s game come very close to a sidearm motion when they serve.

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One of the hardest disciplines (maybe the hardest) is the ability to not swing at “out” balls. At the advanced and pro levels, players rarely give up free points if a ball is going out. 

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Growing concern about the availability of indoor pickleball when the weather changes in late fall and winter. Given the current health circumstances, I don’t envision government (particularly in NJ)) allowing indoor pickleball facilities to open and if they do, may impose restrictions on how many people can be in the facility.  Facilities may also have to be concerned with any liabilities if COVID 19 infections occur among players. They will also need to be more vigilant about cleaning benches and equipment as well as replacing pickleballs between sessions. Players would need to be more cognizant of social distancing as that becomes a premium when moving from outside to inside to play.

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Just my observation…There is a fine line between offering advice and sounding critical while playing a game, especially when teaming with beginners. I think that beginning players need to hear encouragement first and know what they are doing right. I have seen beginning players inundated with tips and criticisms while they are in the midst of a game. They start to overthink what they are doing and they don’t respond naturally to playing. Better to offer most suggestions to a player after a game, not during it and only when they request help.

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I’d like to see all pickleball games go to 15 points, instead of the customary 11, especially in recreation play…

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The commercialization of pickleball is increasing, as it should, given the popularity of the sport and the discretionary income of many of its players. There is a new paddle from Selkirk (Vanguard) that costs $200. More companies are selling pickleball paddles, clothing and shoes. There are increasing opportunities to promote seminars and training sessions. More towns are building pickleball courts (some at the dismay of tennis players). Hopefully pickleball will receive more media coverage from the sports networks and given the current lack of live sports, this might be the best opportunity to showcase the sport.

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A good friend of mine had the pleasure of watching Frank Anthony Davis at Atkinson Park recently. He was blown away at the level of game FAD displayed but he was also impressed how approachable FAD was to talk with spectators. It seems that way with just about all high level performance men and women pickleball players and that will help promote the sport. I have seen FAD playing singles and doubles on YouTube videos – – very happy that he is representing the South Jersey area.

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Covid 19 has impacted my participation in pickleball this summer. I don’t play as much and when I play, it is with smaller groups. That being said, I do miss many friends I have played with from DeCou, Hainesport and Marlton over the years. For me, I play pickleball 75% for the social aspect, 25% for the competitive aspect. Hopefully things will turn around in the next few months and life and pickleball can return to normal, or close to it.

Stay safe!!

Eric Vill jpg

 

 

Clearing Mental Cache II

My Top 12 SNL skits:

  1. Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
  2. Celebrity Jeopardy with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds
  3. Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood with Eddie Murphy
  4. Close Encounters/Paranormal skits with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong
  5. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  6. Word Association (1975) with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase
  7. Meet your Second Wife with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  8. Taran Killam as Jebediah Atkinson (cultural and political critic)
  9. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin Point/counterpoint (“Jane, you ignorant slut”)
  10. More Cowbell (Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
  11. Toonces the Cat with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson
  12. The Continental (Christopher Walken)

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I would not be shocked if the winner of the next Presidential election is not determined by voters but by the military.

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Why does the re-opening of MLB, NBA and NHL along with the proposed start of NFL football seem like the start of an extended exhibition season for all sports? Does Las Vegas have an over/under of how many games each sport will have before they are forced to close down?

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Donald Trump may not have airports, government buildings or ships named after him as he leaves office but there will be wings of libraries stocked with shelves of books written about him and his presidency. Forget books written by those who worked with Trump or are historians, teachers and news analysts. The most incisive and reveling book will come from his third and recently divorced wife, Melania.

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Pornography is now better regulated on the internet than political propaganda and is often less obscene. (So I hear)

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What is more dangerous? Not wearing a mask in a crowded bar or being an attractive female working at Fox News?

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Capitalism-an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Can someone explain to me how we are a capitalist economy when the Federal Reserve is propping up the stock market with zero interest rates, while billionaires, large corporations and certain “churches” are receiving financial handouts even though many do not need the money?

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There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump’s presidency relative to his standing with that of his predecessors. Trump, himself feels a kinship to Abraham Lincoln. I decided to take a historical scenario and based on how Trump has handled current crises and project how he would have handled a crisis in the past. I am comparing how FDR actually handled events in WWII to how Trump may have handled them. (Depending on your point of view, you may think my comparison an amusing parody or you may think, “Yeah, you got it right.”)

FDR vs Trump

 

Denial

With the possible exceptions of various historical inquisitions, I’m not sure there has been another time when so many well reasoned and well evidenced arguments have been so thoroughly discarded and trashed by so many.

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Out of favor: Epidemiologists , journalists, college professors, MLB, Police unions, Fox News (for Trumpsters), wearing masks while in public, responsibility

In favor: Drs, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, political bloggers, online college courses, Korean baseball, BLM, OAN (for Trumpsters) tantrums when asked to wear masks in public, irresponsibility

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Speaking of out of favor, I’m noticing a bit of a pushback against Trump supporters. Not just the Republican politicians running with him this November but also against anyone with a MAGA hat or Trump campaign signs on the lawn. Even in The Villages Florida (a Trump stronghold), there was a counter protest by angry residents to a Trump rally. Now this is not 1944 France where collaborators were jailed or women had their heads shaved for cozying up with the Nazis but there are a lot of angry anti Trumpsters who probably make up the majority in the present cultural war.

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It would be a better use of time to remove the current relics of our country including Trump, Republican Congress etc. who still can wreak damage today than to remove past relics of the confederacy which cannot do damage.

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Trump 2020 presidential campaign strategy equals Roberto Duran’s strategy against Sugar Ray Leonard in their second fight. Will Trump like Duran go to his corner mid bout (election) and cry “No Mas?”

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The essential difference between investing and gambling today is where you place your order (bet).

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Does anyone miss major league baseball? Anyone?

7.23 Trillion Reasons Why Trump Should Not Be Re-Elected

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The Covod 19 deaths and infections continue to rise. I am not blaming Trump 100% for these numbers but he is not being given a pass. He reacted slowly to the spread of the virus to the United States and he has been cavalier about the latest rise in covid cases across many states.

Hopefully unemployment rate will drop but will still stay high for the next few years.

Not sure if or how much of Trump’s campaign rallies or golf outings are reimbursed by RNC or Trump.

Doanld Trump Jr’s secret service expenses and charges to taxpayers for use of Trump properties have recently been reported in the media.

The Trump Slump

2020 poll

A few observations about the CNN and other political polls:

1.  It’s way too early for the Democrats to celebrate. We still have close to five months before election day (hopefully). I don’t think that these polls represent a pro – Biden sentiment as much as it does an anti-Trump revulsion. There are ways that Biden could lose this lead and it’s not impossible that Trump could regain additional standings in the polls. As an incumbent, Trump can cause all sorts of mayhem and  boost up his base.

2. There are arguments that Biden should be more vocal and that his campaign should be more aggressive given Trump’s latest difficulties. However Trump is his own worst enemy and the more he tweets and the more he preens, the less support he gets. He’s worn out the American public.

3. It’s hard to believe that Trump still has the support of 40% of Americans. He has horribly mismanaged the coronavirus and his (to put it charitably) clumsy statements and behavior after the George Floyd killing has embarrassed most of the country, even some of his Republican supporters.

4. What does surprise me is that there is not more talk about removing Trump from the top of the Republican ticket. What are they waiting for? The convention is still a few months away and there should be more consideration to dumping Trump and going in a different direction.