Unforced Errors

I don’t follow any sports.

I don’t follow any sports. My field of play is lodged firmly between my ears and the sports I enjoy therein are a bunch of fun. For proof, sample a few posts.

Somehow, and in spite of this lack of enthusiasm for competitive sports, I know that a variety of sports contain a rule for determining whether an error in play has been committed. In baseball, an error is when a fielder misplays a ball and this allows a runner to advance one or more bases or a batter to continue after they should have been called “out.” Both kinds of error are noted by the officials scoring the game after the error has been committed and are listed in the statistics for that game.

The idea of unforced errors (UE) crept into tennis in about 1982 as a by-product of a statistician creating some software for evaluating players. Apparently, the UE is not particularly loved by players or fans as it is interpreted differently by different observers. Errors of the forced, unforced, or simple type also occur in other sports but I no longer care enough to write about what they mean in those athletic amusements.

Nonetheless, the idea of a UE is now part of the vernacular. Now if it could just be translocated from the realm of sport to that most unsporting profession—that of the politician.

In the United States, it used to be that our population could watch video clips from other parliaments around the world and shake our heads, knowing that this kind of thing would never happen here. I submit for your amusement a series of videos of this type:

Here we have the Turkish parliament engaging in some fisticuffs:

This one from South Korea starts with an amicable parade of future warriors parading down their shared aisle… and then:

Here are Taiwanese lawmakers going at it:

Ukranians engage in some collaborative wardrobe malfunctions:

If any of you are feeling that I am choosing brawls to highlight mischief in other cultures, let me put those concerns aside with this Alabama State Senate tape:

These various acts of shameful behavior pale in comparison to the nonsense the United States has had to endure during this election period. We can put aside the nomination part of the escapade, shameful though it was in its own right. It is behind us. I doubt that it matters what your party affiliation has been, your faith in their ability to behave has been tested. Please continue to believe whatever it is you believe and hope for a better crop in upcoming years.

On the other hand, there is one fellow that continues to try the patience of people from around the world. As I wish this to remain a generally politically neutral site, I will call this person Mr. Naked Id. The id, as you erstwhile Freudians will recall, is the portion of the human mind that is present from birth and is about unfiltered instinct. I’ll quote from Simply Psychology:

“The id remains infantile in it’s function throughout a persons life, and does not change with time or experience, as it is not in touch with the external world. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind.” Simply Psychology


“The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.” Simply Psychology

For a more learned digression on the id, I suggest resorting to a search engine of your choosing.

Is there any better description for what we have witnessed? We can only go a couple of days, it seems, between unfiltered, id-infused data dumps onto the bathroom floor of American politics. Many of these episodes of sharing are unforced errors of the most egregious kind. No one “made” him say it, tweet (I honestly prefer “twit” as the verb here) it, blab it on innumerable call-in sessions to “news” programs, blather on about “it” in campaign stops as his followers cheer Mr. Naked Id on, as they take up his id-iotic slogans and chant them back as if they represented insights into the problems that beset our nation and our world. He just says them and repeats them and makes them up as he goes along, unrestrained by the super-ego’s sense of restraint, unapologetic and unmediated. If our politicians were neonates, I could appreciate this and pass it off as expected immaturity of a new-born.

We have another case of unforced errors, one that is excessively driven by the super-ego, driven by second-guessing decisions until they have been decided into the ground. Much of the appropriate skepticism surrounding this candidate has to do with (1) a decision to use a private email server instead of the government’s system (to be fair, their information technologies are woefully out of date with existing technologies), (2) to use this private email server for more than one kind of correspondence (e.g. governmental vs. personal, potentially confidential vs. no one cares), and (3) to provide a series of incremental non-responses to questions regarding the practices stated in (1) and (2). This is all super-ego-mediated behavior, unfortunate and unforced as they are. It would have been clearly wise to use whatever outmoded technology the Department of State provided. Having failed that, it would have been better to use the private email server for only one type of correspondence (let’s go with personal). Having failed both of these it would have been smart to be proactive and divulge everything that might be questioned right away instead of incrementally.

There are various other issues with both of these candidates. Mr. N. Id has a range of well-documented poor behavior in his businesses (e.g. not paying contracted employees, six bankruptcies). There is a pattern of unforced errors in the way he has chosen to speak about a variety of people (e.g. immigrants, women, coworkers). There has emerged in recent weeks a pattern of completely id-driven behaviors in his “locker room talk” and in the accusations from various women he has come in contact with over the years.

On the other hand, the errors for the other candidate seem more forced-upon than unforced or otherwise. During a previous administration, an estimated $70 million was spent attempting to indict her family for an obscure set of real estate deals. All of that money and a lot of willpower did not result in any indictment related to the basis of the investigation. Additionally, The Fiscal Times (published by government debt hawk Peter G. Peterson) estimated in July that another $30 million has been spent investigating allegations attempting to tie the candidate to a death-inducing blunder in North African politics. It’s a rather small death-inducing blunder in comparison to some others (e.g. invasion of Iraq, death of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, failure to follow C.I.A. intelligence on Osama bin Laden during administration transition in January 2001) but the concerted efforts of numerous partisan committees to hang this around her neck have failed. There are two possible interpretations of this: (1) there was nothing there to warrant such prolonged investigations and they should not have been attempted in the first place or (2) the investigators were so uniformly incompetent that they completely failed in their duties to the American people, thus spending over $100 million (total) of the taxpayers’ funds in violation of the principles they spend so much time whining about.

So. You. Have. A. Choice. It. Is. Binary.




What will it be?



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