To Die For

FC Barcelona has fired Ernesto Valverde and hired Quique Setien.  Barcelona is among the most successful soccer teams in the world.  It fired Ernesto and hired Quique when Ernesto had won the last two Spanish league titles and was leading this year.  Quique’s teams have won 187 out of 500 while Ernesto has won 97 of 145 at Barcelona. From what we have heard Quique was somewhere around Barcelona’s fifth choice for the job. This reminds us of the movie To Die For.  We understand why Joaquin Phoenix’s character would do stuff for Nicole Kidman’s character that leads to his death.  If we were a loser with limited skills then getting to play house with Nicole for a short period is as good as we could hope for.  If you had other choices then Nicole Kidman for a few months or a normal life would be a tough choice for us.  For Joaquin’s character it should have been an easy choice.

Quique had a similar choice but with significantly different outcomes.  He is 61.  He is a good coach but there is no reason for Barcelona to hire him.  He gets a short term opportunity to coach Lionel Messi, perhaps the best soccer player on the planet, and the rest of the Barcelona team for a few months.  It is possible, although unlikely, that he will get to keep the job for a few years.  More likely, the Barcelona stars are getting old and the next coach will revamp the team.  Quique will get to tell his grandchildren that he coached Lionel.  Unlike Joaquin’s character he won’t get killed.  Instead, when they fire him he will get a big check.  We hope Quique enjoys his stay at Barcelona.

Electability

Jim Geraghty at the Morning Jolt and Neo have some thoughts on “electable”.  The Jolt comes as an email so I don’t have a link but Jim says:

A Trump rival — in either party, really — could make a completely different argument. The argument would focus upon promising to deliver the same results that people like from this presidency without all of the endless circus, controversy, erratic decision-making, chaotic staff turnover and gleeful antagonism that comes with this president.

We are with Jim that we would love such a person.  But Neo reminds us that we don’t know what electable really is.  She discusses some previous candidates and then goes to 2016 and The Donald:

I can’t even characterize where he seemed to stand politically prior to the 2016 election, but I don’t think there’s anything especially “moderate” about him as a personality, and his presidency has played out in a way that’s further to the right than most people expected. [Emphasis added]

We are not convinced on the bold statement.  He ran on tax reform, tariffs, and serious judges.  Perhaps he has been more effective than people expected but he has not veered to the right like his predecessor veered to the left.  The Donald had a mixture of left (no entitlement reform) and right in his campaign and has stuck to it.

So are we looking for a moderate personality or a moderate candidate?  We think The Donald is a moderate candidate but not, as both Jim and Neo say, a moderate personality.  We think that given The Donald and the 44th president that the electorate is looking for a moderate candidate without a moderate personality.  We wish it were otherwise but that is how we see it.

Yrsa Flirts With Conservatives

We are continuing our binge reading of  Yrsa Sigurdardottir with Someone To Watch Over Me.  It is the fifth book in the Thora Gudsmundsdottir [symbols and accents omitted] series.  We always note that the author’s Icelandic name means that you might find her as Yrsa or Sigurdardottir.  It is a step worth taking in the Thora series.

Of course, you should really read the first four first.  It is not absolutely critical because the big relationships are explained but you can understand all the players better by starting at the beginning.  There are many characters in Someone and keeping track of all the Icelandic names and nicknames is a challenge.  It is like reading The Deerslayer.  The names have lots of accents and some non-English characters.  In another book a character had a name we couldn’t figure out so we called him a character from Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore.  We have three reasons why we like Yrsa and Thora in their fifth outing.

First, Yrsa has an interesting way of piquing your interest in the mystery.  We always get part of it before Thora but there is another piece to add.  This book has a great example with bla-blaO2.  We are yelling at Thora, “It is oxygen you dummy” but it isn’t clear why oxygen is important.  The oxygen is important but there is much to do in order to connect it to the mystery.

Second, there are interesting characters.  There are even some you like.  Most entertainment is about characters you don’t like.  Yrsa has some of those from Thora’s secretary Bella to the really evil guy, Josteinn [accent omitted].  One of the characters is Iceland and we learn about the crash.

Third, Someone has a conservative soul that is different from Yrsa’s earlier books and different from almost any piece of entertainment.  Thora is not a conservative but the story often is.  Iceland has all but eliminated Down syndrome through abortion.  Thora’s client, Jakob, has Down syndrome.  Thora thinks that she would have aborted him but his mother loves Jakob and he loves her.

The typical story is bad businessmen these days but Someone contains an astonishing number of errors and dirty deeds by the government or government employees.  For example, the home for impaired adults that Jokob is charged with burning down is probably a bad idea but it is even more poorly implemented as the fire suppression system is never implemented leading to needless deaths.  As the government continues to fail or government employees behave improperly Thora’s extended family faces challenges but often succeeds.  It they wanted to make a movie of the book they would make it a bad businessman story.

Yrsa has a good mystery with good characters and atypical heroes and villains.  It is a really different from what we see in our culture and that makes it an excellent read.  And there might be some supernatural too.

Ricky’s Confusion

We are no fan of Ricky Gervais.  We didn’t like either version of The Office (British or American).  But he was hilarious at the Golden Globe Award show.  Conservatives liked it because he took on the rich, beautiful, and powerful.  Madeline Kearns in the NRO Corner notes correctly that:

The British comedian Ricky Gervais can hardly be called a conservative. He voted for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. He also hates religion,…

To be fair to Ricky, there is a difference between British and American conservatism but when he says on Twitter:

“how the f*** can teasing huge corporations, and the richest, most privileged people in the world be considered right wing? [laugh emoji]?”

He really doesn’t understand conservatism.

 

Fixing Things

It has been a boring time.  Has there ever been anything more boring than impeaching The Donald?  Yes, the House is going to do it.  No, the Senate is not going to convict.  Now it has become even sillier, if that is possible, where the House might or might not send it to the Senate.  Killing Soleimani has been more partisan bickering.  Instead of worry about that you should read VDH to get updated on the Middle East.  Jay Ambrose has the right idea:It is 2020 and let’s start fixing things.  We agree with his list of no action things:

  1. Green New Deal
  2. Electoral College
  3. Fascism in the US

We are not as impressed by his action list

  1. Longevity
  2. Public Schools

He is right that longevity in the US has gone down but we are unconvinced that Big Pharma is the cause or that government can do much about it.  The solution to public schools is simple.  There needs to be competition.  Of course, the left is very much against that. So it is another partisan logjam.   Jay identifies an additional problem at public schools and universities:

Our public schools, meanwhile, also don’t teach patriotism the way they used to; I live near a school, for instance, at which teachers were telling students not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner at ball games.

It’s true, too, that too many professors at too many universities bend too many student minds to their leftist ways of thinking in which Western Civilization is the source of all evil and America’s exceptionalism is a grotesque sham.

We would be equally worried if the right were to require, as Jay seems to want, the teaching of patriotism in public schools and universities.

Instead let’s look at the five biggest problems facing the US:

  1. The deficit
  2. Medicare and Medicaid
  3. Social Security
  4. International relations (yes we could divide this several times)
  5. Immigration

There is one problem that sticks out as we could fix it in 2020: Social Security.  And there is one action that could improve all of them: support fracking and related infrastructure like pipelines.

Means testing is the key to fixing Social Security.  Unfortunately, any congress critter that votes to stop payments to millionaires will be portrayed as throwing granny over the cliff.  That means that a solution will probably need to include higher payments to low earners.  We are OK with that.  Let’s do it.

Fracking is great.  It fuels economic growth in the US which means more revenue for governments that will help reduce the deficit and pay for entitlements.  As VDH says:

The United States does not need Middle East natural gas or oil. Europe does. China does even more.

Certainly, it may be in the larger economic interests of America to keep moderately priced oil flowing from the Middle East. But disruptions, cartels, and embargoes do not matter to the United States in the degree they did during the last half-century.

Fracking is the primary cause of this joyous set of relationships.  It is a great help to the US in resisting the oil powers from Iran to Venezuela.  It might even help with immigration in the unlikely event the US can convince Mexico and elsewhere to allow this technology to enrich them.  We may not be able to convince our congress critters to have the gumption to fix Social Security but can surely stop them from restricting fracking.  The new decade really starts in 2021.  Perhaps we will be more ready to start fixing things after the election.

 

American Football And English Soccer

A few weeks ago Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine asked the question, “What’s the Difference between American Football and English [Soccer]?  Paul concluded that language was the difference.  The English fans were much more vile:

[T]he Everton fanatics in the Gwladys Street End were cursing at their team within 15 minutes after the opening whistle. When Everton fell behind, it got truly nasty.

We’re not convinced.  We went to a 49er’s game and heard a female fan screaming vitriol at the top for at least the first half.  Of course, she was screaming at Tom Brady rather than the home team.  The obvious difference is that the English fans chant or sing while the most complicated thing the American fans do is Dee-Fence.  The only chant we remember from our visit to Arsenal was, “The ref’s a wanker,” but we remember that some of the chants were much longer.  And there are the songs.  We have been to a Liverpool game and it will not start until the fans have finished You’ll Never Walk Alone.  If you see a red shirt with YNWA it is a Liverpool fan.

Double Sidebar: First, we always thought it was written by Gerry and the Pacemakers until we checked on Wikipedia.  Second, we wonder what happens when Liverpool plays Borussia Dortmund?  Do they both sing it?  Wikipedia (scowl down) tells us that many soccer teams have adopted YNWA.  End Double Sidebar.

So chants and songs are one difference between football and English soccer.  Another difference is the possible accomplishments.  In American sports, and football in particular, everything is about the Super Bowl.  Did you make the playoffs and how did you do in them?  In soccer you can win the league but there are no playoffs.  It is rare that the league race goes down to the last week of the season.  Typically, the relegation race (who gets sent to a lower league) goes longer than the race to win the Premiership.

There are several other prizes besides the the league including the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League or Europa League (you can only be in one of those two).  So it is possible to win four different championships.  The Carabao Cup is for Premiership teams only and the least prestigious of the four.  The top four Premiership teams compete in the Champions League against other European teams while the Europa League is a similar competition for a few less accomplished teams.  The Champions League final is the biggest game in club soccer so it is probably a bigger accomplishment than the Premiership title.

We want you to be interested in the FA Cup.  It is an English (actually England and Wales) competition for all comers.  The Premiership teams get a bye for the the first two rounds but otherwise it is unseeded.  So in the third round when there are 32 teams Paul’s Everton was unlucky to play the best team on the planet, fellow Premiership Liverpool.  Everton is out.

Sidebar Two: One other strange thing is that ties lead to replays at the visitor place.  So Wolverhamton hosted Manchester United on January 4 and tied zero-zero.  They will play again on January 14 in Manchester to settle things.  End Sidebar Two.

It is exciting because it is a playoff format- win or go home.  It is exciting because there are big upsets, often because a big team will name a weaker starting line-up versus lesser competition.  An upset or a lucky draw can help a weaker team go far in the FA Cup competition.  In 2013, Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup but was relegated from the Premiership.  Watch the FA Cup.  It is one of the big differences between American football and English soccer.

 

 

Our Books Of 2019

We were checking out Powerline and John Hinderaker’s books of 2019.  Near the end he said:

I’m sure I missed a few, but those are most of the books I read this year.

We are glad we kept a spreadsheet so we have a complete list.  This year it is a meagre 26 volumes and less than 10,000 pages.  Like John we get to pick what we read so the quality is almost always high and exceptionally high in 2019.  We rate them zero to ten and gave out five tens of 26 books this year.  We don’t think that we have become an easier grader.  Our tens were:

  1. The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally
  2. Dark Star by Alan Furst
  3. The Conservative Sensibility by George Will
  4. Mission To Paris by Alan Furst
  5. The Second World Wars by Victor Davis Hanson

We don’t read many non-fiction books.  We only read four this year.  George and VDH were exceptional.  Kevin D. Williamson’s The Smallest Minority was well worth our time but suffered in comparison to the other two.  Bill Nowlin’s Tom Yawkey was a tough subject and we have sympathy for Bill but it is not a great book.

One of our luckiest days in the library was early this year when we were attracted to the cover of an Alan Furst book.  The promise of spies in Europe, and often Eastern Europe before and during WWII was right in our wheelhouse.  Alan accounted for almost half (twelve) of our 26 books.  They were all terrific and only two tens might be harsh.  It is disappointing that there are only a few left to read in 2020.

Thomas rivals Alan but he jumps genres so we are less intense about reading everything he writes.  Despite the changes, nothing we have read by him has been less than outstanding.

That leaves us with horses, Iceland, game wardens, and conservative authors.  There is some overlap among the groups.  We are big fans of the late Dick Francis.  We have been adjusting to his son, Felix Francis.  We thought Crisis is his best to date.  We have Guilty Not Guilty as one of our Christmas gifts for early 2020.  CJ Box’s Wolf Pack starring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett met his usual high standards.  Our other game warden on the other side of the country, Maine’s Mike Bowdich written by Paul Dorion is fun but not quite as good.  We just finished the ninth in the series, Stay Hidden.  His tenth, see the link, is out.

We hate to have a year without reading about Iceland so have started Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s series with Thora Gudmunsdottir.  We missed the first because the library filed it under Yrsa and the rest under Sigurdardottir.  We enjoy them.  We want to read the first before saying more than My Soul To Take, see link, is the best so far.

Our other conservative authors besides CJ are Nelson DeMille and his son Alex in The Deserter and Jim Geraghty with Between Two Scorpions.  Jim’s book is a fun first thriller but he could learn from Nelson.  Nelson is the king of the fine art of building suspense in a novel.

It was a very good year for reading.  The high quality means that the lower quantity wasn’t a worry.  As much as we enjoy them great books are one of the few times when we are green with envy.