Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2022

It’s Okay to Feel Guilty About the World Cup

My wife Peggy, who is wonderfully indulgent of my fondness for European soccer, did not know the face on the TV screen. It was a face instantly recognizable to as many as two billion people all over the world. There are even several million Americans who could pick Pep Guardiola out of a crowd, but there are many more millions who’d mistake him for a distinguished professor, or maybe a hedge fund guru. Head coach of Manchester City, the best soccer team money can buy, Guardiola is a brilliant and charismatic figure, widely regarded as the best mind in the game. He is also, through no fault of his own, a pawn in the much larger game that Amnesty International calls ‘sportswashing.’ Sportswashing can be defined as the cynical use of sport to prettify the image of otherwise odious regimes. It’s practiced by dictatorships the world over — by Russia and China, to be sure, but also by the petro-kingdoms of the Middle East — all of whom have much to prettify. They make massive inves

If Jan 6 Was 'Practice,' It Didn’t Make Perfect

As it becomes clearer every day that the depravity of Donald Trump runs even deeper than we ever imagined, there is much conjecture about his ability to incite the violence he somehow thinks will extricate him from his legal problems. With heavy-duty criminal indictments now likely on at least five major fronts, in three major jurisdictions, we can’t help but wonder if his predictions of widespread violence are indeed credible. He did, after all, manage to summon a rather large swarm of armed miscreants for the Jan 6 capitol invasion, an event which now carries enormous symbolic value among his deluded supporters. On the other hand, Trump no longer controls the levers of power he enjoyed that day, while the organizers — and many of their followers — are now under indictment, on trial, in prison, or singing to the FBI. Is that reassuring to the reality-based community? Will one or more Trump indictments trigger widespread insurgency? Should we worry? I, for one, don’t think so

Democrats Get Feisty in a Deep Purple State

Michigan, as we know, is perhaps the ultimate purple state. Our executive branch, for now, seems firmly in the hands of Democrats, even as both houses of the legislature stay depressingly red. The state had, until this year, been obscenely gerrymandered, but thanks to a statewide referendum in 2020, all redistricting is now in the hands of a nonpartisan committee. So the electoral map has been redrawn, presumably more fairly, but we’ll see. Statewide referendums will be an especially big deal this year. Two of the proposals on the ballot would amend the state constitution — one to enshrine voting rights, the other to codify reproductive rights, especially abortion. These proposals are huge crowd-pleasers, and Democrats are hoping for long coat-tails. Democratic candidates are also blessed with an astonishing array of  opponents  who are over-the-top crazy. When Mitch McConnell whines about “candidate quality” on the GOP side, these are the clowns he’s talking about. But even so,

Putin May, or May Not, be in the Mood to Go Nuclear

I’ve been asked to weigh in on whether Putin might resort to nuclear weapons against Ukraine, and if so, what happens then? First let me restate that my record of predictions regarding Putin’s behavior is abysmal. I thought he was bluffing right up to the day of the Ukraine invasion, and he has since crossed every line I was sure he’d never cross. I was right, however, that he had nothing to gain from any of it. This has been abundantly demonstrated, beyond my — or anyone’s — imagination. He has committed blunders of Shakespearean proportions. Which is why his petulant nuke-rattling is so unnerving to any rational human, especially those of us who remember the “air-raid drills” of our youth. It was in the fifties and sixties, at the height of the Cold War. We’d hear the famous siren, the cue for our whole class to walk, not run, down to the school basement, where we’d face the wall and throw spitballs while awaiting nuclear annihilation. Which, I’m pleased to s