R.I.P.

Sorry to report that Joan Hurdle, a former legislator and longtime community activist in Billings, has died. She was 81 and suffering from abdominal cancer.

Her obituary contains this quotation from her: “The whole purpose of life is to learn how to make the world a better place, to have justice and democracy, to have everyone fed and housed, to have every child a wanted, educated and loved child, to have things, especially our planet, be truly beautiful.”

That says it better than I could. I hate losing her.

Add snark here

Every week I see commentary like this on how awful HBO’s “The Newsroom” is. Most of the commentary runs in the vein mined here: The show doesn’t get women, and it is unrealistic.

I never watched an HBO series until “Game of Thrones” came along (still have never seen an episode of “The Sopranos” and I gave up on “The Veep” and “Boardwalk Empire” after a couple of weeks each), but now I have watched two HBO series — “Game of Thrones” and “The Newsroom” — and enjoyed them both.

Since I’m not too sure how well I get women, I guess I am more or less agnostic on the first complaint about the show. And the second complaint is certainly accurate, which is exactly why I like the show. No way do I want to sit through a show about what it’s actually like in an actual newsroom. I get way more reality than I can stand in real life.

But I like the inflated sense of self-righteousness (although the scene where three reporters get kicked off the Romney bus was too much even for me), the telescoped chronology, the lurching from crisis to crisis, the fantasy about how the news of the last 10 years ought to have been covered.

Plus, all of that fast talking: It’s like “The Front Page” all over again.

Let umps ump

Here’s another piece about how expanding the use of instant replay to check the work of umpires will improve accuracy in calling baseball games. To which my reaction is, as always, so what?

No doubt machines could do a better job of calling baseball games than actual human beings can. We already have machines that can throw fastballs harder and straighter than big league pitchers can, and the machines never get tired or injured. Machines that can hit the ball farther than Mickey Mantle could can’t be far away. Building a machine that can turn the pivot on a double play may be a ways off, but somebody’s probably working on it.

And what would all of that accomplish? Pitchers who can’t throw a strike when a strike is worth a million bucks, and hitters who swing wildly at ball four are what baseball is all about. Umpires — imperfect, temperamental, inattentive — are just part of a very human, very demanding game. Who wants to watch Earl Weaver kick dirt on a camera?

I hate the use of instant replay in football, but I get it. As George Carlin famously observed, baseball is a 19th century pastoral game. Football is a 20th [now 21st] century technological struggle. Complaining about instant replay in football is like complaining that cavalry horses were replaced by tanks because horses are more romantic.

There isn’t much room for romance in modern warfare, but romance is a big part of baseball (see Bull Durham or Moneyball). Having a perfectly umpired baseball game would be no more satisfying than knowing that every grounder to third would be perfectly fielded or every foul popup perfectly played. Somewhere along the way, perhaps before the seventh-inning stretch, it’s time to ask: What the hell’s the point?

UPDATE: An article in today’s Gazette makes the case for instant replay, and of course it brings up Don Denkinger’s famous missed call in the 1985 World Series. I remember that call, and I’m pretty sure I remember what Denkinger said afterward, although I haven’t found the quote on line: “In my heart, I called it the way I saw it.”

What more could one possibly want?

Talk radio update

The Huckabee clone did a whole hour on Obamacare. If anybody had a nice thing to say about Obamacare, I missed it. It was the usual blah, blah, blah — hideously tiresome stuff. I really don’t get why conservatives refuse to have a real discussion about this issue; perhaps they fear they might learn something.

But there was one lie worth repeating. The Obama administration claims there is no credible evidence that Obamacare would lead to more employees being forced to work fewer than 30 hours a week so employers wouldn’t have to provide health insurance, the clone said.

This showed an administration in denial or flat-out lying, he said. Of course, he offered no evidence that the administration is wrong, just a few anecdotes and a report from NBC (evil parent of MSNBC!) that 20 businesses had or at least said they would cut back hours for workers. He didn’t make it clear whether the businesses were a randomly selected scientific sample or whether they were sought out precisely because they were cutting hours. If one were looking for, you know, actual evidence, that would be a relevant detail to include.

Actually, there is evidence that workers’ hours under Obamacare haven’t changed much. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but it makes claims that they already have rather dubious. And, as Kevin Drum notes, if this turns out to be a real problem, Congress could easily fix it. But Congress won’t because Republicans aren’t interested in fixing Obamacare. They are interested in destroying it.

Never take candy from strangers

The title above heads a column in last week’s Laurel Outlook by state Rep. Krayton Kerns, who makes the case that higher education is a liberal plot to brainwash our children. No, seriously.

Highlight: The place where Kerns dismisses as “indoctrination” Al Gore’s “undocumented documentary,” “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s lovely because it embraces the very odd notion that because there was some speculation about global cooling in the 1970s, then global warming in the 21st century can’t possibly be true. To understand that kind of thinking, higher education should definitely be avoided.

I can only give my standard response: Would you prefer to get cancer treatment based on our understanding of medical science in the 1970s or based on our understanding in 2013? If you choose 2013, please explain why you prefer 40-year-old climate science.

No more Mischke

James Fallows reports that Tommy Mischke, who has hosted a radio show in the Twin Cities, is going off the air.

Why should you care? For no particular reason, except that Mischke has visited Ed Kemmick here in Billings a few times, which is how I got to know him slightly. They got to know each other during Kemmick’s own Twin City days.

Pretty interesting stuff in the links. I listened yesterday to every one of his extended phone calls from collection agencies. Wild stuff, and some of it is hilarious.

Lots of other links at Fallow’s place, too. Have fun.