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Rookie mistakes

When you walk through that gate to check on the herd, don’t think Oh I won’t need to latch it after me. I’m just going out for a quick look. Because you might see that white steer has gotten out into the winter wheat, and is not grazing it, but just sunning himself, and feeling proud of finding his own space. And you might walk across the wire into the wheat, and try to get outside of him to coax him back under the wire, but instead he sees you, and gets spooked, and starts a quick trot, and then a full gallop away from you. You keep walking after him, and you’re relieved he’s keeping to the perimeter of the wire, but he goes all the way around to the road fence, and finally ducks under and back with his momma.

You, slightly dazed, make your way back to where you had entered the pasture, and realize the gate you’d walked through is now wide open, and there are four grown cows banging the mineral buckets around right in front of the gate, and all that unmown grass on the house side of the fence. You got lucky. They’re good cows. But you keep making the same mistakes.

The “stuttering prick” messaging strategy

Every day comes more confirmation of my sinking feeling that–as horrifyingly stupid and inept and arrogant and mean-spirited as Trump has been–the Democrats seem uninterested or incapable of taking advantage of the many opportunities he’s giving them.

Think of the first few weeks of the clown car that is the Trump administration, the disorganization (lest we forget, they could not, literally, figure how to turn on the lights in the cabinet room, so they met in the dark!), the myriad gaffes, the misstatements and not remotely credible clarifications. Think of that and see how much ground the Democrats have gained in the wake of this ongoing disaster. NONE. They are in fact losing ground.

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Chart from March 8 shows….

It’s been noted all over the place that the leadership and HRC campaign folks (too often the same hacks) continue to point fingers at everyone but themselves for their diabolical failure, not just in the presidential debacle in November, but in letting the GOP take control of everything else–House, Senate, governorship, state houses. In a just world HRC, her husband, her top campaign people, the DNC leadership, and maybe for good measure assorted surrogates such as Neera Tanden and Peter Daou, should have been placed on an ice floe and shoved into Arctic waters somewhere. I’m speaking figuratively OF COURSE. But some contrition, some introspection, some walk of shame seems pretty clearly called for.

Instead, these people (well, not Hillary, last seen in … the woods somewhere?) are everywhere, being asked for their wisdom on the television, and generally–incredibly–acting like they’ve done nothing wrong, or that they fell victim to an act of God, or … a shadowy conspiracy. Well, we ALMOST won. In fact, we won the popular vote. And have you heard the latest Putin dots we’ve connected (LOOK at this chart)?

As Matt Taibbi points out in his excellent Rolling Stone piece this week, the entire Putin paranoia machine is fueled by things that have not been proven, and “that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.”

No introspection necessary. Change? Moi? It’s Comey’s/Putin’s/Bernie’s/Susan Sarandon’s fault. Can I interest you in an “I’m With Her 2020” t-shirt?

I recently was turned on to Jimmy Dore, who I enjoy quite a bit. I see traces of the angry, later George Carlin in his schtick, and he’s a welcome change of pace from the disappointing, often cringe-worthy political comedy we see from SNL and the various Comedy Central talking heads.

The other day Dore ranted on this remarkable San Diego town hall appearance by Democratic reps Scott Peters and Susan Davis, in which the US Congresspeople cannot even say what it is they stand for. Peters and Davis appear never to have considered condensing their message into something easily understood and concrete, the 30-second self-promoting “elevator pitch” every young job seeker is meant to have committed to memory.

Instead, they mumble uncertainly, platitudes like “everyone should be treated fairly” and oh, uh, “opportunity….”

Dore has a lot of fun with this performance, which for me called to mind “Goodfellas”–that immortal “I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown?” scene where Tommy breaks Henry’s balls, to use the terminology of the film.

After Henry realizes the joke’s on him, everyone laughs and Tommy shouts:

Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

Maybe I just needed an excuse to share this clip, but I stand by this: The Democrats, circa 2017, have become the party of stuttering pricks.

***

Since I wrote a draft of this, Shaun King had a good column addressing this very frustration. In The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular, King writes of asking crowds on his speaking tour this question:

The first question is, “If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?”

“The response that I get is always the same – mass laughter or audible frustration,” King writes.

So is this inarticulate stuttering a feature or a bug of Democrat messaging?

Yesterday, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino tweeted about Bernie Sanders’ assertion that “our ultimate goal is not just playing defense. Our goal is a Medicare-for-all, single payer system”:

I’d personally like to see how many Democratic politicians actually support Medicare-for-All/Single Payer. I don’t know the percentage breakdown, but it’s certainly not “every single Democrat politician.” The potentially good news is that I imagine more Democrats are inching towards the RIGHT to health care, not just ACCESS to a health care PRODUCT, a fuzzy conflation the Dems have taken pains to maintain.

***

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Bernie Sanders has a pretty good answer to the question in question:

The year Merle Haggard died and we had kittens

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On the home front….

My better and more talented half wrote another beautiful book.


The eldest turned 16, In Every Way. The twins turned twelve.  Lila is becoming quite the equestrian, and both boys continue to be obsessive ballers–Daniel’s the star of the rec team I’m coaching, and Theo plays on the Middle School team. I never have to worry about having something to talk about with them. It’s hoops chatter 24-7. (I should mention Theo ran cross-country and made the all-region team!)

Also, the boys have really excelled  at that bottle-flipping thing.

An undetermined critter got at what was left of our chicken brood, on two successive midsummer nights, and the coop, devoid of avian life, has become the home of a huge woodchuck who tore the floor out and burrowed a home beneath.

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on


A stray cat wandered up to the house, and withstood the combined efforts of our two dogs and four established felines to run her off. Then she had four kittens.

The cowherd got bigger, again, and the count is up to 46, far too many for the pasture I have. Got a good price on hay in the fall, though. I bought enough to last through winter, and will lighten my load when (I hope) the market firms a bit in spring.

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The bees looked to be going great guns for the first part of the season, which was awfully wet. I got a fair bit of honey from all of my hives in June, but starting in mid-July it stopped raining. I really don’t know what the bees had to forage from August through October, but they were in just OK shape when I left them to ball up and face the winter. There are five hives going right now. I hope there will be that many in April…

For the third year running, 2016 was the hottest on record in, basically, the world. Locally, and more critical to my needs, it was also dry. Ordinary folks thought that made for pleasant weather (it did), but farmers thought it was weird. I had to pump spendy city water for five months. Thanks to winter rains, the spring  in the cave field only just started to flow again.

I got to go to Nashville, again, solo, to hang with my peripatetic scholar friend John, and Atlanta, with the entire family, to see the other John, his wife Nuria, and boy Pau.

All smiles at the Carter center

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

Had visits: from dear sister Caroline and her dog Emma, and the annual return of my old Great Plainsman comrade Charly. The MacNeal clan, now based in Taiwan, honored us with a very fun visit. A pleasant surprise was the arrival of Anna, my old Australian friend, with whom I traveled to a good few countries, including hers (for half a year!), in the mid-eighties.

From what I could gather, Anna had somewhere in the range of six to twelve international trips in the last year alone. Me? Me, I have a passport I renewed in 2003, which has never once been stamped. She brought a big canvas sack of my old letters to her, which I have yet to dig into. I’m a bit afraid they will seem to have written by another person….

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

I had to be reminded of it, but I had not one but two aces in  2016. I accept I may never have another. I’m fine with that.

Neither ace had a witness (so go ahead and append the asterisk). In any case, I was far more impressed with myself when I pured a 7-iron to inside a foot on a back pin on #13. I was playing through a foursome of well-lubricated Louisvillians on the tee, and we all became good friends for a brief moment.

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