The Status Quo Time Loop

The one unifying characteristic of both Donald Trump’s campaign and those who have mobilized to stop him is the concept of change. This is not piercing insight. Trump promises to remake how America relates to both itself and the rest of the world. Most of “the resistance” talks about unprecedented organization, a new type of activism. This rhetoric remains the same, whether the speaker is a loyal Democrat or an ardent revolutionary.

But one must always be wary of false promises. The opposition linked to the Democratic Party may march alongside radicals, but at the end of the day their participation is linked to getting people and money to win the 2018 midterms. Policy is not a major part of the pitch. Stop Trump, priorities #1, #2, and #3.

This focus on becoming the opposition to a person, rather than an ideology, is dangerous. Fortunately, we have lessons from history. In David Broder’s piece in Jacobin, “Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough”, he takes the example of Italy, whose politics have been dominated for over twenty years by Trump-esque populist Silvio Berlusconi. In a short time, the former Communist Party had shifted so far to the right that they mirrored the Democrats, both in their party name and outlook. They upheld neoliberalism and austerity, and focused on Berlusconi’s scandals and outrageous statements, attempting to win disaffected conservatives. The Left atrophied, no longer being seen as a way to power. And all this concerted campaign against one man did was reinforce the status quo and produce weak, unstable governments.

The election of Tom Perez as DNC chair, along with subsequent events, shows that the Democratic establishment wants to roll into 2018 with the same outlook and message that lost them the 2016 election (well, and the 2010, 2012, and 2014 ones too, minus Obama’s re-election). The energy created by Trump’s election among progressives is fuel for an attempt to reintroduce the status quo. And if the Democratic Party gets its wish, the time loop restarts- the status quo doesn’t work for many people, right-wing populist seizes on this disaffection, gains power, creates opposition, opposition funneled to Democratic Party.

Whatever your opinion on Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign, he was offering a possible way out of this time loop. Fixing the major social and economic problems in the country, or at least trying to, helps prevent another Trump down the line. With the current strategy, the Democrats aim to fight the same divisive election every two years, with climate change and a hundred other serious problems charging through unfixed.

The case for Marleau in the Hall of Fame

Very soon we will see something very rare, especially in an age where older NHL players spent their early years in the Dead Puck era- a player get 500 career goals, also with the same team. Patrick Marleau hit 1,000 points early last season, so this is the last big individual milestone of his career. It’s a testament to his durability and speed, even as he enters his late thirties.

Whenever anyone hits these kinds of milestones, the question emerges: will they one day enter the Hockey Hall of Fame? It’s tough to tell, because the standards for admission change over time. But we can do a rough pro/con for Marleau:

Con

  • No end year hardware. No Hart, Art Ross, Selke. He came extremely close to being a 2nd team all-star in 2010, with 151 votes to Daniel Sedin’s 153. In fact, he got kinda screwed: while 151 votes were for him as a left wing (his actual position that season), three votes for right wing. But hey, that doesn’t count as official.
  • Low points-per-game and goals-per-game: his 0.73 PPG and 0.34 GPG are pretty unimpressive. All time his PPG is 255th, though that includes some players with low career points, who also only played in their prime.
  • No Stanley Cup. His playoff performance is actually pretty good (that’ll be in the Pro section), but no Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe. This may change, and making the Cup Finals last season does give his playoff career some shine, even though he wasn’t that great last playoffs.
  • Never elite. Was never the best at his position.
  • Thornton effectMarleau had two above point-per-game seasons. In 2009-2010, when he scored 44 goals and 83 points, he was Thornton’s left wing. In 2005-2006, after Thornton was traded to the team in late November, Marleau played second-line center in easier minutes, ending up with 86 points.

Pro

  • Hits important career milestones for his position. 500 goals and 1,000 points are mandatory unless you were an Eric Lindros or Pavel Bure type. He will end up a fair bit higher, as he has shown the ability to score 20-25 goals and has not lost much of his speed. If he ends up with 550, say, which is believable given his durability, that would put him around 30th career wise. 1,150 to 1,200 points would put him in the top 50.
  • His adjusted stats are much better than his raw stats. Marleau played in the height of the trap, interference, no foot in the crease, and huge goalie equipment. By the end of the lockout he was already 26. This is regrettable because he has always been the speedy, skilled forward that was most hampered by Dead Puck Era rules and strategies. His career totals also have to deal with the fact that most other eras of hockey were higher scoring, especially the 1980s to mid-1990s. Marleau was drafted in 1997.

    But if we use adjusted points, an advanced stat that controls for era, he gains points and many above him lose. He is 26th in adjusted goals with 575, and 41st in adjusted points with 1,197. Marleau could probably crack the top 20 in goals and top 30 in points, which puts him above many Hall of Famers, and in company with other players with high totals but low per-game stats. He will probably end up above several players that are not in the Hall but are thought of being eventual inductees, like Dave Andreychuk and Jeremy Roenick.

  • High game-winning goals. Marleau has 97, 6th all time. Some may not find this stat important, but it looks good and gives Marleau a case for being a big game player, at least in the regular season.
  • Good playoff numbers. His playoff GPG is pretty good, similar to elite contemporary players. His 65 career playoff goals is 20th all-time. His stats are very similar to Joe Nieuwendyk and Mark Recchi, the former in the Hall and the latter a sure-fire inductee at some point in the next five years. Both players have a bunch of hardware, but can we blame Marleau for not putting up 34 points on the stacked early 90s Penguins, as Recchi did? Frequently, before and after the lockout, Marleau was the best player on his team in the post-season.
  • Two Olympic gold medals. Marleau was a very good member of both rosters, making the 2014 roster especially because he is such a complete player- can kill penalties, take face-offs, play wing or center. As is, they are a key part of Marleau’s case. If a Stanley Cup was added, the narrative about his career would flip almost instantly. The jury is still out.
  • History of sportsmanship. Marleau is a two-time Lady Byng finalist, and almost constantly in the top five-top ten each year. His low PIM totals and humble personality are not insignificant, given the conservative mores of the voters. Jeremy Roenick, who does not have a Stanley Cup, and will end up with fewer goals, is a huge jerk. If he had Marleau’s personality, he might already be in.

Is Marleau in the Hall of Fame, or will he be Hall of Very Good material. I think his adjusted points, game-winning goals, and gold medals are all things that put him with or above current or future Hall of Famers. Eventually the Hall starts inducting the second tier of players in an era- excellent stats, consistency, milestones, but lack the awards or year-end all-star honors because the superstars always had it. They wait, but eventually in a slow year one gets the nod. I doubt Marleau will be inducted in his first five years of eligibility, but ten, fifteen years?

Who knows.

The centre cannot hold: Yeats and 2017 disintegration

William Butler Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” the year after World War I. It’s better known for the line “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” which definitely captures 20th century war and progress. I was re-reading it, and felt that parts of it, in particular the first stanza, hit way too close to home in 2017.

Here is the full poem:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

Resistance: if not now, when?

CNN reported a few hours ago the following:

Senate Democrats are weighing whether to avoid an all-out war to block President Donald Trump’s upcoming Supreme Court pick, instead considering delaying that battle for a future nomination that could shift the ideological balance of the court, sources say.

Democrats privately discussed their tactics during a closed-door retreat in West Virginia last week. And a number of Democrats are trying to persuade liberal firebrands to essentially let Republicans confirm Trump’s pick after a vigorous confirmation process — since Trump is likely to name a conservative to replace the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

After a full year of Republicans blocking any Supreme Court nominee, the Democratic minority is considering doing none of that, in order to preserve the filibuster for some fight down the line.

This is all deeply troubling whether you are moderate, liberal, or leftist. The idea that this is different because Scalia is a conservative justice is absurd, considering that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg are well over 75 at this point. Deciding to cement the 5-4 split for an indefinite amount of time (years? decades?) while mass protests are already far beyond small concessions certainly shows the side of the Democratic Party that explains their inability to defeat the most unelectable person in living memory last November.

It’s the underlying sentiment, though, that bothers me. Politician or protester, it is a dangerous assumption to think that there are further opportunities down the road. A few uncomfortable truths establishment liberals aren’t going to tell you, but are on the table:

  • Republicans control all of Congress, the Presidency, and a large majority of state legislatures and governorships.
State legislature party control, post-2016 elections (NCSL)
  • This includes almost all the key swing states that Clinton lost (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida). These states also had competitive Senate elections, which are also state-wide and have the same voting infrastructure as presidential elections.
  • It is clear that voter suppression was a huge factor in races at all levels in 2016, and states that wish to increase such efforts are not going to face Justice Department scrutiny anymore.
  • Thus, 2018 and especially 2020 could very well be, in the absence of strong resistance, basically unwinnable for anyone not right-wing- independent, Democratic, or otherwise.

The idea that everyone should wait out Trump’s first term, which was a big idea on Jan. 20, is pretty much dead by now. It’s clear that nobody really knows what the US political structure will be in Nov. 2020.

So we reach the familiar Hillel quote:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

The resistance has already begun. Don’t assume the future will be what you want or need it to be. Fascism of any type and degree has never respected democracy, and used it as a weapon to silence opposition. If you don’t like what’s being implemented now, stopping its enactment is a far better idea than waiting for some point down the line when it can all be repealed.

Steve Bannon and the green card smokescreen

We know about two things Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon has done in the past few days:

  1. Overruled a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interpretation of the travel/refugee ban executive order that, saying that green card holders were also subject.

2. Get a seat on the National Security Council (NSC) while removing the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

#2 is unprecedented, a power grab by an advisor with no relevant experience. It’s a clear signal that Trump would rather displaced senior leadership than learn from it.

I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I think the two are linked. The travel ban has been such a media focus that the NSC issue has mostly been noticed by watchdogs tracking post-9/11 changes to homeland security. The insistence by Bannon that the ban apply to permanent residents has made this issue so explosive. If only refugees or temporary visa holders were targeted, these protests would not be nearly as large. But the EO seemed primed for maximum chaos- it was both broad and vague.

It remains to be seen how long the rest of the executive branch will stand by while a half dozen rookie advisors take their authority away.