BILL OF GOODS

Posted in Rants on June 7th, 2016 by Ed

Since 1990 municipal and state governments have devoted a positively embarrassing amount of money to publicly financing sports stadiums in the United States. The first of the new wave – Comiskey / US Cellular Field in Chicago – in 1991 is now one of the oldest stadiums in Major League Baseball (only Dodgers Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field are older). It is also a rare example of a stadium built with borrowed funds (the State of Illinois did a bond issue) that were actually – hold your breath – paid back by the team. As far as public stadium deals go, that's about as good as it's going to get. Most of them are so much worse, and the new Atlanta Braves stadium swindle is perhaps the worst yet.

Almost every publicly financed stadium is approved by local governments (and sometimes, but not always, by referendum or ballot measure) based on the twin fallacies of promises of massive economic benefits and zero tax increases for local residents. The economic benefits tend to be either short-term (the city hosts one Super Bowl, and then what?), accrued entirely to a handful of people (team owners, concessionaires, and whoever got the parking rights), or greatly exaggerated (turns out that demand to buy expensive tickets to see a mediocre or bad team is insufficient to fill a stadium). As for the zero tax impact argument, it depends on a very specific and, shockingly, deceptive definition of that concept.

Municipal budgets are close to a zero sum game. There are ways to generate new revenue but they are politically unpopular and tend to be measures of last resort for elected officials. So, in the Braves current situation, it is true that the county is not raising taxes to pay for the stadium. What they will have to do is raise taxes to pay for everything else in the budget that they can no longer afford since they devoted all of their resources to the stadium. It's like someone blowing their entire paycheck on the casino and then asking to borrow rent money; the lender isn't really paying the rent, it's paying the person's gambling habit that precludes them from paying their own rent.

No matter how many times this trick is played, local governments seem to keep falling for it because WOO SPORTS! and a dozen local real estate and construction companies stand to benefit tremendously from the arrangement. Those same business interests tend to have a loud voice in government at the state, county, and municipal level. The fact that Cobb County had to monkey with the rules to prevent the public from having any input on the stadium decision suggests that voters have begun to figure out what a boondoggle these deals are. The fact that the public was not allowed to vote or have input suggests that the people behind the deal knew, or strongly suspected, that voters would never willingly swallow the costs involved. We might learn our lessons slowly, incompletely, and at times incorrectly, but there are enough examples in the last two decades to convince even the most enthusiastic sports fan to think twice before supporting free handouts to help people who are already obscenely rich make even more money.

DOOMED TO REPEAT

Posted in Rants on June 5th, 2016 by Ed

Given the chance to read for pleasure, about every five or six books I go through ends up being at least tangentially about the Cold War. Not the military or political aspects of it necessarily, but about some aspect of society, life, and the state of the world during that time period. It's not something I do intentionally; it's just an endlessly fascinating time period to me and if something half-decent is written about it there's a better than average chance it'll end up in the queue.

One thing that strikes me every time I read about the collapse of the Cold War paradigm and the Eastern Bloc is the oddly familiar language with which the Soviet system is described in its final stages of decline. Whenever I read someone's take on the flaws that led to its ultimate demise it sounds an awful lot like someone moderately cynical describing the United States today. When someone describes the USSR as little more than a massively expensive military and a lavish pension system for the aged I can't help thinking, hmm. And the America of 2016 is different how?

Every characteristic that knowledgeable people identify as a contributor to the ultimate "victory" of free market capitalism over Soviet-style planned economies has slowly come to be a prominent characteristic of Western societies, particularly in the U.S. The public lost faith in the system and saw its leaders as increasingly inept. The economy produced what vested interests wanted, not what was actually needed. The resources of the society and the state were diverted to an unsustainable degree to wildly expensive and ill advised military adventures and martial infrastructure. Unemployment, underemployment, idleness, and laziness were epidemic in a workforce that saw little to gain from working hard and almost inevitably saw innovation punished. Constant appeals to patriotism, nationalism, and the enemy within and without produced diminishing returns as people grew tired of hearing the same propaganda lines repeatedly. The media system was consolidated into a small number of hands and did not offer the general public a full and factual accounting of issues of importance. Increasingly heavy-handed police state tactics were employed to deal with public demonstrations and protests (which grew in frequency). The list goes on.

The point is not that the United States is on the brink of collapsing into the Dustbin of History alongside Marxist-Leninist systems of the type seen in the post-War period. It's instead an interesting intellectual exercise to try to figure out what aspects of our system allow it to survive (so far) that which the USSR and its kind could not – and how far we can push it before we suffer the same fate.

POWER PLAYER

Posted in Quick Hits on June 1st, 2016 by Ed

It's fair to say that whatever clout Bill Kristol mysteriously had within the conservative movement is gone. I say "mysteriously" inasmuch as even by the standards of modern conservatism this guy is beyond inept; seriously, try to find something he has been right about. Anything. Try to find one of his protégés who has been anything other than a political Hindenburg. Remember when he touted Sarah Palin as the next star of the movement? Remember when he started rumors a few weeks ago about some absolute nobody named James Mattis running for president as an independent to save the GOP? Remember, well, basically everything he said during the George W. Bush years?

For years – decades, really – he has held his inherited position as a conservative icon despite having been wrong about everything, often to the bemusement and wonder of those of us outside the movement. It appears that his star might finally be fading, though, if the "big announcement" he teased last week is any indication.

Without further ado, let's hear the big news, Bill!

Kristol wanted a national contender, but Mitt Romney said no. He would have settled for an experienced presidential candidate, but Rick Perry said no. He turned his attention to sitting senators, but Ben Sasse said no. He looked at former senators, but Tom Coburn said no. He eventually moved past elected officials and sought out a military leader, but retired Gen. James Mattis said no.

And so, Kristol lowered his sights just a little more – and found a political blogger who appears to have said yes.

Oh. So, uh, despite already having missed the deadline for ballot access in a few key conservative states, the big anti-Trump savior is…D-list National Review blogger David French. Not even the right-wing anti-Trump media can take this seriously.

How the perplexingly mighty have fallen, Billy. From kingmaking to begging loser ex-candidates and anonymous bloggers to run kamikaze campaigns to derail the nominee you assured everyone would never win.

DRIED UP AND TIED UP

Posted in Rants on May 30th, 2016 by Ed

The horrifying realization that the election is just beginning is brought into high relief every time Trump talks about an actual issue. The GOP nomination process was so utterly devoid of substance that up to this point we've mostly been talking in circles about his sanity and his sincerity. Where he actually stands on issues is only now and in the near future going to become apparent, and if you think he's an asshole now you're going to have to invent some new insults by November.

He appears to be going from state to state telling the local population of reactionaries whatever they most want to hear. He told Iowans that ethanol (a certified boondoggle and massively expensive welfare program for agricultural interests) is the key to his ideas about energy independence before flying to California to tell the state's substantial population of complete assholes that there is no drought, only a lack of will to stand up to The Environmentalists who won't let water be diverted from wild rivers for economic activity. This literally is an argument straight from online comment sections. Your dumbest uncle and friend from high school have posted it on Facebook at least once, guaranteed.

The argument ("argument") is as follows. All urban water consumption in California adds up to about 9 million acre-feet annually, and the state's enormous agricultural industry uses about 34 million. Wild rivers in the state handle about 25 million per year, none of which is dammed or diverted for economic use. So, if those pussy libtard tree huggers would just let agribusinesses build dams and diversion channels on all the wild rivers, problem solved.

This is precisely the kind of logic that appeals to people who have no real understanding of a public policy problem. They glance at some numbers on a chart and anoint themselves Fully Informed on the subject, insisting that it's "really simple" and "not hard" and the solution is "obvious." These are people who think the Federal budget could be balanced if someone would just take a pen and cross some things out. It's Common Sense! Unfortunately these oversimplified ideas from simpletons ignore all reality, context, and consequences in whatever mental calculus underlies them, if any. In this case the logic ignores the location of the wild rivers (generally nowhere near population centers) and the consequences of damming them. I'm not talking about the consequences to some endangered fish that Trump types clearly do not care about under any circumstances, but the long-term consequences to the climate and landscape of the state. Southern California, in case anyone has forgotten, is a desert. That is the root of the problem – not environmentalists hugging trees in Berkeley.

Listening to that California speech (if you can stomach it) makes it perfectly clear that Trump has thought about this issue for all of about ten minutes in his life but, as usual, is now 1000% convinced that he has the solution. What leadership! Like a college student trying to bullshit his way through a speech by browsing the internet five minutes before it is due, Trump's ideology (if it can be so called) is starting to look like an overarching ultra-short sighted, scorched earth approach to any issue that he thinks a crowd of yokels might be mad about. There is no future, there is no reality, there are no considerations that need to enter into the decision-making calculus. The answer to everything is whatever some guy who is furious about an issue he fundamentally does not understand thinks is the Common Sense answer.

Someone joked a long time ago that Trump is like a comment section running for president. That is going to prove more accurate a prediction than anyone realized.

NPF: THAT TIME THE BRITISH TRIED TO BLOW UP AN ENTIRE ISLAND

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 26th, 2016 by Ed

Perhaps it is just the American ignorance of the minutiae of European geography talking, but Germany is not a country I think of as having islands. I'm aware that it is not landlocked (The Hanseatic League, a powerful economic and political entity of associated guilds during much of the Middle Ages, was based in what is now Germany along the North Sea. It also serves as the root word of the national airline Lufthansa, literally "Air Guild," which is almost too awesome to be true. Almost.) but no islands along its coasts are large enough for a non-German and non-resident of the area to notice. "Europe" and "Islands" make one think of Greece, Sicily, the UK and Ireland, Malta…but apparently Germany does possess a handful of small islands. I know this only because in 1947, in the wake of World War II, the British tried to blow one of them up. Literally. They tried to remove an island from the map and rid themselves of surplus war ordnance in one swoop. Two birds, one stone.

The German island of Heligoland is and always has been lightly populated. Today it is home to fewer than 1500 souls – some of whom, as long as we're on a roll with tangential Fun Facts today, speak Frisian, which is obscure but notable for being more similar linguistically to English than any other tongue. During WWII the Germans used its strategic location in the North Sea and its composition of hard sedimentary rock (another oddity, as the only such island in the North Sea) to build it up as a mini-fortress. Of particular importance were hardened submarine pens. These German U-boat fortifications were and remain some of the most singularly massive concrete structures ever built and they proved all but impossible to destroy (extant French pens are now a tourist attraction, and the British developed the ludicrous Grand Slam bomb specifically to destroy them).

German soldiers on Heligoland were among the last holdouts to surrender after the war, and the submarine pens represented a part of the Nazi war machine that the Allies, Britain and its pride-filled Naval tradition in particular, wanted to see destroyed. At the same time the UK had to do something with thousands upon thousands of tons of explosives that were manufactured but went unused during the war. So they piled nearly seven thousand tons – tons! – of explosives onto, around, and under tiny Heligoland with the intention of destroying the submarine pens but with the destruction of the island considered both likely and, to the British command, acceptable. The fact that the island was laced with underground tunnels that were packed with explosives led many engineers to believe that the entire island would collapse and sink into the sea.

The resulting blast, dubbed the "British Bang", is considered by some sources the largest non-nuclear explosion in history.

Heligoland survived, although with a new geographical feature; unterland and oberland, the high and low opposite ends of the island, were joined by mittleland, the lowland blasted between in 1947. Both the population and the island itself have returned slowly over time. Today, a wealthy German developer is pursuing a plan to use landfill to replace parts of the island blown away by the Brits and to expand the island by filling in the space between Heligoland and several nearby small bits of land. What value this reclaimed land could have is not clear to me, but certainly rich developers have their reasons.

Lot of tangents here, but you know how I get when the topics are as enthralling as geography, the mid-20th Century, and blowin' shit up.

THE NEW NORMAL

Posted in Rants on May 25th, 2016 by Ed

This is the kind of data release sure to go viral and put the internet into a frenzy, so let me be the first of many to tell you that Pew has done an analysis concluding that "at home with parents" is now the most common living arrangement for 18-34 year olds. It is the plurality winner at 32.1%, edging out the long-time leader "with spouse or partner." The trend is not unique to America but is affecting Europe and the rest of the industrialized world as well.

It's hard to tell where sociopolitical attitudes begin and where one's defensiveness and projection end, but I've been involved in a lot of conversations lately with older adults observing that The Youths aren't buying homes, getting married, or pumping out grandkids like they used to (or are expected to). As a childless, single 37 year old male living alone in a rental unit, it's hard not to engage in such conversations with a broad perspective rather than just making my own excuses. The Pew report predictably – not to say unwisely – includes a discussion of the job market. Logically, young people who can't find decently paid work are likely to be living with someone who can at least partially subsidize their basic costs. This is obvious enough not to merit any in-depth discussion.

What is under-appreciated, in my view, is that the relationship between the economy and the life choices of young adults goes beyond how hard it is to find a job or what said jobs pay. Finding a job is not easy and finding one that pays well is even less so, but the real culprit behind the trend Pew highlights is the lack of stability that young adults have had beaten into them over the past three decades. Everyone is aware that lots of young adults aren't "settling down" because they can't find good jobs. I'd argue that at least as many have a good job but have no job security beyond day-to-day. We've heard all our lives how the days of spending 40 years at one company/employer are over, and that much is obvious. Despite the fact that some of us (OK, I'm 3 years over the limit but I'll lump myself in there nonetheless) are doing somewhere between "OK I guess" and "pretty well." Without anything to rely on for the future, though, who's going to take out a 30-year mortgage and have kids?

The sea change in our economy has not been one of wages and salaries (although those are stagnant since the 1970s outside of the top 1%) but of job security. We've been told that in order to compete in the Global Economy we have to work cheap and hard; to work anything less than 50 hours per week for the good of our employer is a moral failing, a shirking of economic and patriotic responsibility, yet they owe us nothing whatsoever in return. There is no trade-off in terms of stability. If they can find someone to do our jobs for less tomorrow, even halfway around the world, Third Wave capitalism demands that they fire us in the name of Efficiency and Shareholder Value. And that new reality – the knowledge that no matter how hard or well one works, the financial rug could be yanked out from under us at any minute – is one that actively discourages young adults from doing the very things (investing, saving, home-buying, and consuming) that this new economy needs us to do in order to grow. This system doesn't work unless we spend; we don't spend when we're insecure about the future; we have to be kept in fear so we're too afraid to demand better compensation and treatment; we spend less to compensate for stagnant compensation.

And that is why this whole Rube Goldberg machine of cheap credit, disposable labor, and a consumption-based American Dream is irredeemably goddamn broken.

IT QUACKS

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies, Rants on May 23rd, 2016 by Ed

So let's talk about die-hard Bernie fans, without engaging in a subjective debate about which candidate is Better or whether he "should" drop out. My answers for those two questions, on the off chance anyone wants to bias their reading of the following with it (foreshadowing!) are Sanders and after California, respectively.

The problem that has developed for the most strident Sanders enthusiasts boils down to a question that I ask a lot when people make implausible claims with extreme conviction – "Tax cuts create jobs" or "Obesity isn't unhealthy" for example: If this argument isn't bullshit, why does it have all of the characteristics of an argument that is bullshit? If this is true, why does the argument employ all of the rhetorical techniques of claims that are not true? Read enough of the post-May 1 arguments coming from the Sanders fanatics and with the exception of the proper nouns, the structure of the rhetoric is becoming indistinguishable from 9/11 Was an Inside Job arguments.

A few things in particular have become the foundations of all of the pro-Sanders / anti-Clinton rhetoric, at least the rhetoric from anti-Clinton people left of center. Republicans use entirely different "logic" to come to the same conclusions. Pay close attention to the arguments from your most fervent Bernie Friends and you will notice eerie similarities to the "Reverse Scientific Method" favored by conspiracy theorists everywhere.

1. Cherry picking – This is Conspiracy 101: Take all of the available data, pick out the parts that support your argument and throw out all the rest. Go through a list of 250 polls, choose three of them, and pretend the rest don't exist. Complain about Superdelegate counts, ignore that Sanders trails by a healthy margin in pledged delegates too.

2. Appeal to Skepticism / Authority – Alternately praise and deride Experts. One minute, academics and experts don't know what they're talking about and are by definition unreliable. The next minute tout the credentials and authoritative opinion of someone who agrees with you. Denialists love this. "Scientists are full of shit. Also, look at this paper a scientist wrote proving that CO2 emissions aren't real!"

3. Arrogance / Ad Hominem – We are the enlightened seekers of truth, you are the sheeplike masses. We have a monopoly on truth and reality.

4. Moving goalposts – One minute it's about X, the next it's about Y, the next it's really all about Z. Sanders' candidacy at this point has been given any number of purposes without much discrimination. Keeping young voters engaged, helping down-ballot, moving Hillary to the left, serving as a counterweight to Trump, he's actually winning, it's a matter of principle…there is a real grab bag of options out there. When one argument is disproven (assuming the person making the argument is interested enough in facts and evidence to concede that) another is produced quickly to take its place.

5. Sudden Expertise – Like the kid who watched some 9/11 videos on YouTube and suddenly has a Ph.D. in structural engineering, lots of people who haven't paid much attention to politics until recently are able to tell the rest of us in excruciating detail how politics and elections really work. Future events are predicted with great certainty; millions of independents will guarantee a Trump victory if Clinton wins. Sanders will defeat Trump, Clinton cannot. This group of voters will do _____. This other group of voters will do ______. Mind reading is rampant.

6. Straw Man / Impossible Standards – Here is a list of flaws about Clinton, therefore Clinton is unacceptable or cannot win. You think the nomination race is over, therefore you're a Clinton-worshiping moron. The following things about Clinton are terrible, therefore there is no difference between her and Trump. On and on it goes.

7. Rotating, contradictory arguments – We must not nominate Clinton because she will lose to Trump and that will be a disaster. Also, it doesn't matter if my refusal to vote for Clinton helps Trump win because the presidency isn't really all that important or Congress will stop Trump from doing anything nuts.

8. Sinister Forces – Like any sinking ship, the Sanders campaign is developing a rich corpus of Dolchstosslegende to explain how it was cheated. The Democratic Party certainly does exert control over the nomination process in a manner that some candidates can better exploit than others. But citing these factors makes little sense. The primary calendar was established well before Bernie Sanders decided to run, not manipulated in real time to screw him. "The media is against us" is what Republicans say when they lose. Trying to turn the recent events in Nevada – which involved four delegates and is almost entirely bullshit anyway (but Politifact is not to be trusted anymore!) – reads like a textbook chapter on how persecution complexes develop in groups.

The problem is these issues aren't isolated to The Rabble in internet comment sections, a group not usually associated with making high quality arguments based on facts. This rhetoric is coming from high-ranking staffers and the candidate himself lately. After California's primary any scenarios in which Sanders wins the nomination will be so far out there that, were the campaign interested in my advice (note: it certainly is not) it might be more productive at this point to start thinking of ways to make a dignified exit that maintains and consolidates some of the positive accomplishments of the campaign. It seems like there is more to gain from coming out of this with one's credibility in tact than from adopting a down-in-the-bunker mentality. I used this exact same analogy with Clinton when she lost to Obama in 2008: In the short- and long-term, the guys who said "Oh well, we tried, let's go surrender to some Americans" did vastly better than the ones who fought until the Soviets were within earshot and then killed themselves.

I WANT TO GROW UP TO BE MILL GRIST

Posted in Quick Hits on May 23rd, 2016 by Ed

Charles Pierce found some interesting readings from the Koch Brothers' never-ending efforts to buy their way into education, in this case a passage on the hard realities of the Free Market aimed at high school students.

The charge that sways juries and offends public sensitivities … is that greedy corporations sacrifice human lives to increase their profits. Is this charge true? Of course it is. But this isn't a criticism of corporations; rather it is a reflection of the proper functioning of a market economy. Corporations routinely sacrifice the lives of some of their customers to increase profits, and we are all better off because they do. That's right, we are lucky to live in an economy that allows corporations to increase profits by intentionally selling products less safe than could be produced. The desirability of sacrificing lives for profits may not be as comforting as milk, cookies and a bedtime story, but it follows directly from a reality we cannot wish away.

Gotta give 'em one thing: at least they're honest.

Also, as any educator can tell you, today's K-12 students aren't getting enough pro-capitalism propaganda in their lives. Something must be done about it, and fast.

NPF: BLINDED

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 19th, 2016 by Ed

Ever wonder why outward visibility is so terrible in modern cars? It's not your imagination. It also is not a coincidence that features like "blind spot warning system" and "rear view backup camera" have become standard even on compact cars near the bottom of the new car price ladder. They're putting those things on everything from the Mercedes S-Class to the Kia Soul because visibility, especially behind and to the side (the classic "blind spot") is almost nonexistent in some modern vehicles.

Here's why.

Around 1990 when the SUV boom began in the U.S., auto manufacturers generally tried to economize by building big SUVs on existing platforms from cars and (pickup) trucks. In broad strokes, 1990s SUVs are some of the most unsafe vehicles you can drive today. They were almost uniformly top-heavy, poorly proportioned, and practically designed to flip and roll over during sharp handling. Something darts in front and you need to swerve to avoid it? Well your 1994 Ford Explorer is going to go full Michael Bay. Then of course there was the infamous Ford/Firestone rollover fiasco that was all over the news for the better part of three years and practically brought both companies to their knees. Firestone was making (and still makes) shitty tires that were exploding and causing Ford's tall, heavy, poorly balanced SUVs to do cartwheels. The public became sufficiently exercised for Congress to act.

In the early 2000s Congress and the NTSB mandated new measures to make vehicles either better at avoiding accidents or able to make accidents more survivable. Making cars better at avoiding accidents involves complicated and generally quite pricey technology like electronic stability control, torque distribution / all-wheel drive, and a whole lot of other electric nannies to bail out poor drivers doing dumb things like braking while cornering fast. The other option was to increase your odds of living through an accident, even a rollover. And that's much cheaper.

Your car's pillars (A, B, C, and in some vehicles like station wagons, D) have exploded since then. Some of them are so wide now that outward visibility is near zero. Why? Two reasons. One is that they are now stuffed full of airbags. The other is that they have been thickened to strengthen them so that the roof (per NTSB rules) can support the entire weight of the vehicle during a rollover. Here's the C-pillar in America's most popular family car, the Camry. Twenty years ago that would have been three or four inches wide, tops, to maximize driver visibility and exterior aesthetics. Now it has enough steel in it to support a 4000-pound load during a high speed impact.

Anyone knowledgeable about the industry over the years can confirm that the single biggest change in cars since, say, the 1960s and 1970s is weight. Cars today weigh twice as much or more as comparable vehicles did Back in the Day. The curb weight of a 1967 Ford Mustang was 2970 pounds. The curb weight of this year's model is over 3800…and the Mustang is a sports car with great pains taken to keep weight down. All that weight is about safety, period. "Classic" cars were and are death traps. If you got in an accident at highway speed you were probably dead. Today cars are full of airbags, safety cages, crush zones, reinforced everything, load-bearing A-B-C pillars – you name it. All that weight increases occupants' odds of surviving an accident.

If you happen to have a pre-2000 car as well as, say, a post-2010 car to compare it to, grab a ruler and measure the three main pillars. Or just sit inside and admire how much better your visibility is from behind the wheel of the older vehicle. Modern cars are engineering marvels for the most part, but unfortunately we are now relying on gadgets to allow us to see what's going on around us. Anyone who has survived a serious accident will no doubt argue that the tradeoff is worth it.

BREAKING POINT

Posted in Rants on May 18th, 2016 by Ed

I can't handle much cable TV news these days, and I rarely see any outside of a public setting. Walking past one of the many flat panels in the gym last evening I caught about three minutes of CNN, bringing my total number of CNN-watching minutes in 2016 to approximately five, plus or minus three.

The network was doing what it and every other network have been doing and will continue to do all year: "analyzing" the election. You know the drill. Very Serious People giving the Beltway Consensus take on why this or that happened, who said what, what it all means, and a bunch of nonsense pronouncements about non-events that will be forgotten as soon as others crop up tomorrow to replace them. The pro-Trump pundit was unknown to me, some D-list Howard Kurtz wannabe who bore an uncanny resemblance to a younger, less physically fit Paul Blart. Everyone played their parts well. He said some stuff. The CNN anchor nodded, listening intently. The other pundits waited their turn to say something insipid. The exchange got "spirited," culminating in that throbbing pulse of healthy political discourse that is Crosstalk.

It looked and felt…strained. Everything about it was familiar, both to me as the viewer and to everyone involved directly. Hell, the script hardly changes except for the candidates' names from election to election. This time, however, it really feels like someone is going to snap. One of these people will go full Howard Beale. It's only May and their professional demeanor as a group is already strained to breaking with the thought, "Are we really going to sit here and pretend that we're taking Donald Trump seriously?" That flower of suppressed rage might not bloom until later this year, but – perhaps this is only wishful thinking on my part – it seems ready to happen eventually.

We got close in 2008 when CNN's Jack Cafferty had a moment of brutal honesty about Sarah Palin while seated directly next to Wolf Blitzer, who played the Very Serious Person role to the hilt and got a withering "Don't make excuses for her" for his efforts. "I'm 65 and this is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I have ever seen" is about as honest as you're likely to hear anyone get in mainstream TV news.

The Trump people are right about one thing: despite the media's ratings-driven infatuation with Trump, not a single news outlet including Fox News is pulling for him. Murdoch & Co. may come around in the long run, but regardless we can already see the strain this is putting on the veneer of Both Sides Do It mainstream Beltway journalism. This unspoken sense of, "Really? We have to pretend this isn't totally idiotic and insane? Are you serious, people?" is the undercurrent to the transition from primary to general election storylines. Nobody wants to say it. Maybe nobody will say it. Plenty will rush to heap insults on him after he loses. Hopefully someone has the courage to do it before that. The odds may not be great, but they're greater now than at any point in my lifetime that somebody is going to lose it on camera when the thought of furrowing their brow and pensively discussing the merits of an asshole reality TV mannequin who once wrestled Vince McMahon and has no issue positions of any kind overwhelms them. Everyone has a breaking point, even the blow-dried careerists who pass for journalists these days.