December 31, 2018

Hey, happy New Year, everybody!

Thanks for hanging out — or just stopping by— here, tonight and any other night.

A toast to 2019! What a fantastic year.

And a toast to you, fantastic readers, fantastic commenters!

I hope to spend many fine 2019 moments with you, but for now, it’s the last sweet drops of 2018. Goodbye to a beautiful year. Enjoy every last lovely second.

Speaking of white men not "reflecting the gender and racial diversity" we've come to expect in liberal America — see previous post — look at what just came in the email from CNN?

No Kathy?! I knew that was happening, but they're not replacing her with a woman? There was a rumor that the replacement was going to be Leslie Jones (a black woman):
Griffin says she heard from a few different people a hosting rumor. “The hilarious @Lesdoggg (Leslie Jones) was in talks to co-host CNN’s New Year’s telecast with Anderson Cooper this year,” Griffin wrote. “I was elated when I heard this news. If I can’t get the gig, I will cheer for Leslie.”... But then Griffin says Jones was iced out of the hosting position...
So we have Andy Cohen, gleefully smiling as he grips his phallic-symbol bottle of popping champagne. I actually don't even know who Andy Cohen is, but that laughing face just makes me feel really bad about the ousting of Kathy. That picture looks like something from the days of Rowan and Martin. Smirking, self-pleased white men in tuxedos.

I've been seeing the simultaneous crushing of the white male triad — Bernie, Beto, Biden — and I get it, but what's with "Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke"?

That's the headline for this Jonathan Chait piece (in NY Magazine).

2 days ago, I was strongly impressed by the NYT article that promoted the Senate Foursome (Harris, Gillibrand, Warren, and Booker) and, on their behalf, gave the BBB triad a shove:
For the Senate foursome, moving quickly into the race is also a pre-emptive effort to undercut the early advantages of a duo of universally known contenders, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who may enter the race in the coming months. Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders would start off with important advantages....

But as white men, Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Rourke do not reflect the gender and racial diversity of many Democratic candidates and swaths of the electorate that dominated the 2018 midterms. Ms. Harris, Ms. Warren, Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Booker, by contrast, would instantly make the 2020 Democratic field the most diverse array of presidential candidates in history. And they might well scramble the early polling leads held by Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, who benefit from strong name recognition but would be in their late 70s by Election Day 2020, at a moment when some in the party are agitating for generational change....
So let's take a closer look at Chait's plan to get Bernie — or is it just his "movement"? — to crush Beto. (Maybe get the BBB triad to fight itself and leave The Foursome free to perform more appealing feats?)
[O'Rourke] has replicated aspects of Sanders’s appeal — his positivity and refusal to accept PAC money — while exceeding it in some ways. Sanders is charismatic in an unconventional way, the slovenly and cranky but somewhat lovable old uncle, while O’Rourke projects a classic handsome, toothy, Kennedy-esque charm that reliably makes Democrats swoon. Hard-core loyalists find the contrast irksome....

The frequently invoked comparisons between O’Rourke and [Obama] explain both O’Rourke’s wide appeal within the party ranks and the mistrust he has inspired on the far left. Socialists generally regard Obama as a failure....

Baffled liberals, many still nursing wounds from 2016, see the passionate intensity of the Bernie movement as a personality cult, propelled by unthinking devotion to him (or spite at the party that they believe rigged the primary against him). It is anything but. The socialist left belongs to Sanders simply because there is no other presidential candidate who meets their exacting ideological criteria. They see O’Rourke as a threat to their project because, in important ways, he is.
So, about that headline — "Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke." I don't think it's Chait saying this is what he wants to happen. I think it expresses the point of view of "the Bernie Movement" (i.e., real socialists). The idea is that Beto (like Obama) isn't a real socialist and he's a threat to the socialist agenda, therefore those who care about socialism must get Beto defeated.

The NYT was trying to crush the BBB triad in one fell swoop, for the sake of The Foursome. Chait is talking about socialists getting a good footing as the race goes forward, and opining that it won't happen at all unless Bernie has that niche. Beto is blocking Bernie's access to the niche.

By the way, beginning with this post, I'm using Beto to refer to Beto O'Rourke. I generally use last names, but there are some exceptions, and one of them is Bernie, and I like grouping the 3 B's together —  Bernie, Beto, Biden. I made a new tag: the Bernie-Beto-Biden triad.

2018 was a great year for men's hair.

According to New York Magazine, with lots of pictures to make the point about what they are calling "heartthrob hair."

Elizabeth Warren is running for President.

Here's the announcement:

I haven't watched that yet. Will update to give my reactions.

ADDED: My second-by-second reactions:

0:06 — EW begins in a dreary, ordinary kitchen. Dark cupboards. I'm just going to guess this is her actual kitchen. She intones the middle-class code words, "work hard and play by the rules."

0:09 — She's momming about with a baby and a birthday cake.

0:14 — The cake says "Atticus" on it. Does EW have a grandchild named Atticus? Yes!

0:49 — EW's family were able to make it economically, but things are much more difficult for families today. Is that true? We're shown a chart that shows horrible decline, but it's a depiction of the share of wealth, not real income. There are dismal chords playing on a piano, and EW's voice conveys controlled anger.

1:15 — "America's middle class is under attack." Closeup of EW's face saying this line. She seems very intense. She's telling us we are threatened. Who is attacking us?

1:19 —  Answer to my question: "Billionaires and big corporations."

3:01 — "An atmosphere of fear and hate designed to divide us" — with images of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Steve Bannon.

3:19 — But "we can make our democracy work for all of us" — she says as the music becomes more soothing and we're shown the Statue of Liberty.

3:44 — Many images of EW in the sunshine, encountering people of color, hugging.

3:51 — She loves the America where people "play by the same set of rules." Images with rainbow paraphernalia (presumably representing gay people).

4:01 — She's announcing her exploratory committee, she says, followed by protesters chanting a chant that is very evocative here in Wisconsin: "This is what democracy looks like."

4:22 — "If we persist together, we can win, we can, and we will."

"'It isn’t safe for you at the house anymore, at least not on your own, and this concerns me. I need you to live long enough to see Donald Trump impeached.'"

"We’d fought bitterly after the election, and I knew it would be just my luck: my father would die, and the very next day the President would go down, denying me a well-deserved opportunity to gloat."

From the new David Sedaris story in The New Yorker, "Father Time/I can’t predict what’s waiting for us, lurking on the other side of our late middle age, but I know it can’t be good."

"Trump's Top 10 Achievements of 2018."

At Real Clear Politics.
1. Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court...

2. Confronting China... America now embraces its strong bargaining position and demands reciprocity in trade and an end to rampant industrial theft and piracy.

3. Middle-Class Wages Rise – Incomes in general soared in 2018...

4. U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal...

5. Ending the Iran Nuclear Deal...

6. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem...

7. Smashing the ISIS Caliphate and Exiting Syria...

8 Increasing Minority Jobs...

9. Holding the Line with Migrant Caravans...

10. Record American Oil Production – In 2018, the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil....

"It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era."

"Today's snarky young anti-hero instead looks like Norris, the black French Canadian boy who moves to Texas in Ben Philippe's forthcoming young-adult novel, 'The Field Guide to the North American Teenager.'"

From "Is 'Catcher in the Rye' still relevant on Salinger's 100th birthday?" (SF Gate). The 100th birthday is tomorrow, New Year's Day.

"I threw the ball 100 metres towards the Swiss border and told the children to run and get the ball. They ran after the ball and this is how they crossed."

"After that, the Italians left France and the German came in. It became too dangerous to play ball with the children like this. With the Germans we didn’t play these games.”

From "French Resistance hero who saved hundreds of Jewish children dies aged 108/Georges Loinger escaped from German camp and spent rest of the war helping children cross Swiss border" (The Guardian).

Is it news that Trump's wall is not a wall made out of concrete?

I'm trying to read "Kelly, on His Way Out, Says Administration Long Ago Abandoned Idea of Concrete Wall" by Maggie Haberman in the NYT.
The concrete border wall that President Trump has repeatedly called for as a signature campaign promise...
What? Trump has been repeatedly calling for a "concrete" wall? I thought he'd been saying all along that it needs to be see-through and couldn't be a solidly opaque wall. The word "concrete" is ambiguous. Is the NYT using it to mean the opposite of "abstract" or does it mean (as I assume) the building material, the stuff poured from cement trucks?

Let me start again. I reject the premise of this story, that Trumpsters have been picturing a certain type of wall, with a particular material.
The concrete border wall that President Trump has repeatedly called for as a signature campaign promise is not actually a wall...
Not actually a wall? What does that mean? What is "a wall"? What does it mean to be "actually a wall"?
... and has not been since “early on in the administration,” the outgoing White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said in an interview published on Sunday....

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Mr. Kelly told The Los Angeles Times.
Well, in the negotiations over funding the barrier at the border, the terminology matters, because everyone wants to win. If you can get the thing built by stopping saying "wall" and by declaring that Trump didn't get the "wall" he promised, then which side won?
Mr. Kelly, whose last day in his role is Monday, said he had sought advice from Customs and Border Protection officials early in 2017, when he was the homeland security secretary. Mr. Kelly said he was told that “we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people.”

He went on: “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”
See what I mean? Kelly isn't telling me something I didn't already know, and I think Trump supporters who have been paying attention will not be surprised. Is Kelly hurting Trump by talking like that? I don't think so, because he's giving Democrats cover. I think Trump is trying to offer that cover. Can we all get on the same page and say there needs to be a barrier across the whole southern border, with the nature of that barrier based on good design attuned to the conditions at every point?

UPDATE: Here's Trump himself, tweeting:
An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media. Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!

Louis C.K. is back and he's insulting young people for not acting crazy like he did when he was young.

And — oh, no! — it sounds right wing!

The headline at TMZ is "GOES AFTER PARKLAND VICTIMS... In Leaked Audio of New Stand-Up."

Does he "go after Parkland victims"? Well, I think he's saying the ones who are testifying before Congress are not victims, since they didn't get shot to death (because they "pushed some fat kid in the way"). His main point is that they should be out there enjoying their youth (mainly, it seems, through substance abuse) and not drearily lecturing the rest of us about what we should be doing.

ADDED: What is Louis C.K.'s path back into a career? It can't be by getting in good with the left-leaning people who banished him. He can never do enough, and if he tried, how could it be funny? I hear the audience laughing, and I assume there are plenty of people ready to laugh at a great comedian who pokes at the places were we feel anxious and we've been repressing ourselves. Laughter is a release, so there's plenty of laughter to be made out of things the mainstream culture has been so serious about. It is like Trump. It's a way to be transgressive, a way to have fun.

CORRECTION: I had "pushed some fat kid out of the way."

"We — the people who worked on Bernie 2016... request a meeting... to discuss the issue of sexual violence and harasmment on the 2016 campaign...."

Oh, no! It's a letter from "more than two dozen women and men who worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign" — obtained by Politico and reprinted under the headline, "Bernie alumni seek meeting to address 'sexual violence' on ‘16 campaign/The signees are looking to change what they call a pervasive culture of toxic masculinity in the campaign world."
The signees did not describe specific instances of “sexual violence and harassment” that occurred on the campaign....

Several people who signed the letter... stressed that they hoped their letter would not be reduced to reinforcing the “Bernie Bro” caricature...

People involved in the effort said they signed the letter before Sanders (I-Vt.) officially launched a 2020 presidential bid in the hopes that it would lead to real action if and when the senator begins assembling his team....

The signees range from field organizers to some of the top officials on the 2016 campaign, according to multiple people involved in the effort. Some of the signees do not expect to join any 2020 campaign while others are open to joining a potential Sanders 2020 bid....
I don't know these people but if I were researching the story, I'd be skeptical about their motives. Other potential candidates — notably Senators who are not white males — are looking to hire people to work on their campaigns, and I think there's an effort — I see it in the NYT — to get the Bernie Sanders (and Joe Biden and Beto O'Rourke) to realize this is not their time. To my ear, that letter says, Bernie, get out of the way — you see how difficult we can make this for you (and for any white man)?

December 30, 2018

I'm tracking what I believe is the NYT's obvious selection for the 2020 Democratic Party nominee for President — Kamala Harris.

I started yesterday, blogged here, with my new tag "NYT pushes Kamala."

Today, at the top right corner of the home page:

There's no particular reason for that op-ed to appear now other than to give KH some substance within our political emotions. Here's an excerpt:
I remember that I had just entered the race for California attorney general and she asked me how it was going.

“Mommy, these guys are saying they’re going to kick my ass,” I told her.
She called her mother "Mommy."
She rolled over and looked at me and unveiled the biggest smile. She knew who she’d raised. She knew her fighting spirit was alive and well inside me.

My mother died on Feb. 11, 2009, two months after her 70th birthday.... And though I miss her every day, I carry her with me wherever I go. I think of the battles she fought, the values she taught me, her commitment to improve health care for us all.... As I continue the battle for a better health care system, I do so in her name.
Remember Hillary launching her 2016 campaign by talking about her mother? Is this a woman-running-for-President cliché? I imagine advisers telling women candidates that they must associate themselves with motherliness, but without causing us to picture them in the motherhood role.

Kamala Harris's mother was a breast cancer scientist (and her father is a Stanford University economics professor).

At the Noble Rat Café...

Version 3

... have some coffee-based conviviality.

"In the flickering light of the campfire, you can’t do much that requires keen eyesight like sewing or making tools, but you can chat away across the flickering flames."

"This is nicely illustrated by what South African San Bushmen talk about around their campfires. When anthropologist Polly Wiesner listened in on their conversations, she found that daytime conversations typically consisted of boring factual topics and discussions of trading agreements with neighbours, but evening conversations were invariably about social topics or involved storytelling and jokes.... So, if you want to know the secret of a long and happy life... the important thing is to take time out with people you know and talk to them over a beer or two, even that bottle of Prosecco if you really must. There’s nothing quite like a convivial evening wrapped around a pint to give you health, happiness and a sense of wellbeing."

From "Why drink is the secret to humanity’s success/Alcohol has been more valuable to our species’ survival than we might imagine" from last August in The Financial Times. I'm reading that this morning because my son John put it up on Facebook.

I like the article because it fits well with how I've been thinking about the use of disinhibiting substances ever since I read this passage in Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals":
There was one aspect of Ibsen’s vanity which verged on the ludicrous... He had a lifelong passion for medals and orders. In fact, he went to embarrassing lengths to get them...

[T]here is ample evidence for Ibsen’s passion since he insisted on displaying his growing galaxy of stars on every possible occasion. As early as 1878 he is reported to have worn all of them, including one like a dog-collar round his neck, at a club dinner. The Swedish painter Georg Pauli came across Ibsen sporting his medals (not the ribbons alone but the actual stars) in a Rome street. At times he seems to have put them on virtually every evening. He defended his practice by saying that, in the presence of ‘younger friends’, it ‘reminds me that I need to keep within certain limits.’ All the same, people who had invited him to dinner were always relieved when he arrived without them, as they attracted smiles and even open laughter as the wine circulated....
And, later, repeating that quote, I said: "Freedom and democracy depend on our disinhibition; we need to be able to laugh at authority."

That's "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano" by Georg Pauli (the Swedish painter who encountered Ibsen wearing his medals as he walked around in Rome).

"Mens sana in corpore sano is a Latin phrase, usually translated as 'a healthy mind in a healthy body," Wikipedia tells us. The idea is that "physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being."

Speaking of Rome... the phrase traces back to the Roman poet Juvenal:
You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts
that can endure any kind of toil,
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.

"I pretend to be a Democrat because I feel like people assume Democrats are 'good' and Republicans are 'bad.'"

"I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-hate, but Democrats to me are even bigger hypocrites than Republicans. I always vote for the most socially liberal Republican and I lie about it."

Says an anonymous 30-year-old New Yorker, quoted in "13 Political Secrets People Kept From Family and Friends. What’s Yours?/We asked readers to share a political secret they’d never told a soul. Hundreds responded," from 2 months ago, just before the elections, but I'm reading it this morning in the NYT because the illustrations were featured in something new, "The Year in Illustration 2018."

Another one, from a 23-year-old Utahan, "I know my husband would divorce me if he knew I voted for Trump. Some secrets save marriages." It would be funny if the truth was he'd divorce her if he knew she thought of him that way.

Can we all just get along?

Dogs and cats together: The dog pets the cat and, in response, the cat stands up and hugs the dog:

"The press reports he watches television for hours, is inattentive to briefings, doesn't read, rants, rages, nurses petty resentments..."

"... doesn't listen to those with expertise, doesn't understand the constitutional limits on his office, is increasingly alone and paranoid. Are these things true? What else is true?... Why do those who have worked with Mr. Trump so rarely if ever speak in any depth, in public, of their experience?... Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a great deal in his resignation letter... But one letter isn't enough. The Trump supporters I know are motivated by patriotism, not spleen, bigotry or bitterness. They are so loyal to their man in part because they see all the forces arrayed against him, especially in the media. They believe, legitimately, that he gets only grudging credit for his accomplishments. And they have told themselves a story about the brave if unlikely outsider who sacrificed his own comfort to upend a corrupt system and protect the interests of the common man.... They won't believe someone like Omarosa... They won't believe the words of 'Anonymous,' author of the September New York Times op-ed that became a sensation.... They will believe only the testimony of serious people who are obviously patriots.... We need some noble rats. May they come forward, speak softly, and make their motives clear."

Writes Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. I added the boldface.
We need some noble rats.
And — since I'm thinking about illustrations this morning, having just perused "The Year in Illustration 2018" (NYT) — I'll add my illustration:

Version 2
The Noble Rat ("Pop").

December 29, 2018

The NYT makes its 2020 presidential choice obvious.

On the front page:

Inside, the text is clear. There's Kamala Harris and there are 3 other decent choices... and those 3 other guys need to step back and get out of the way:
Senator Kamala Harris of California.... Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator... Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey... And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.... These four high-profile Democratic senators are poised to enter the 2020 presidential race in the next several weeks...

The speed of the senators’ efforts reflects intense political pressure to establish themselves as leading candidates in a Democratic field that could get crowded, fast.... and they don’t want to lose a step to a rival fresh face, such as Representative Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas Senate candidate who has been the focus of intense speculation in recent weeks as a potential presidential candidate....

For the Senate foursome, moving quickly into the race is also a pre-emptive effort to undercut the early advantages of a duo of universally known contenders, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who may enter the race in the coming months. Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders would start off with important advantages, including existing networks of support among early-state activists and party donors, and the stature to generate impressive displays of support at early rallies.

But as white men, Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Rourke do not reflect the gender and racial diversity of many Democratic candidates and swaths of the electorate that dominated the 2018 midterms. Ms. Harris, Ms. Warren, Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Booker, by contrast, would instantly make the 2020 Democratic field the most diverse array of presidential candidates in history. And they might well scramble the early polling leads held by Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, who benefit from strong name recognition but would be in their late 70s by Election Day 2020, at a moment when some in the party are agitating for generational change....

The number of male operatives under consideration for campaign manager posts has raised concerns among some female Democratic strategists who hoped the diversity of the 2020 field would prompt more hiring of female and minority staffers for senior roles.... The focus on staff diversity reflects not only the influence of the #MeToo movement on Democratic politics but the demands of a party that has shifted to the left during the Trump era....

What does "you do you" really mean?

That's a question I had to google after reading "The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018/Their diapers runneth over" (HuffPo). The first entry on the list is "Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops." And this exchange is presented as evidence:

See the relevant line, in the middle? "I'm not mad. You misquoted me, I pointed it out, and instead of correcting yourself you reacted like a child. You do you."

My Google search turned up "How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture" (NYT, March 2015). Excerpt:
Haters hate; that’s them doing them. No matter how saintly you are, the kittens rescued and orphanages saved from demolition, people yearn to bring you down. Classify your antagonists as haters, however, and your flaws are absolved by their greater sin of envy. Obviously, the haters have other qualities apart from their hatred, but such thinking goes against the very nature of the hermetic tautophrase, which refuses intrusion into the bubble of its logic. The hated-­upon must resist lines of inquiry, like “Haters are inclined to hate, but perhaps I have contributed to this situation somehow by frustrating that natural impulse in all human beings, that of empathy, however submerged that impulse is in this deadened, modern world.” To do otherwise would be to acknowledge your own monstrosity....
And if you're wondering why the thin-skinned media people are depicted as corn in that HuffPo article, the answer is here, at Know Your Meme. The meme goes back to some tweet in 2011, but:
Discourse around the term grew popular again in the beginning of August of 2017. On August 2nd, journalist Yashar Ali tweeted an image of Kamala Harris, a rumored democratic candidate for the 2020 Presidential Election, that called her the "Centrist Corncob" candidate. Ali noted how it was remarkable how the "Bernie Sanders Crew" had mobilized against Harris.... Centrist pundit Al Giordano quoted the tweet stated that the term had homophobic and rape culture origins.... The same day, Neera Tanden, a chief strategist on the Hillary Clinton campaign in the 2016 United States Presidential Election did the same. Both were mocked for misunderstanding the term.
References were different in the old days. If you didn't get them, you had to wonder if you weren't in the know... and how badly out of the know you were. Today, you can instantly become in the know and form a judgment about how out of the know you were. In the case of corncob, it's mindbogglingly insubstantial, but I'm glad to be forewarned against making any precipitous rape-culture allegations.

"TSA to deploy more floppy-ear dogs because they're less scary than pointy-ear dogs."

The LA Times reports.
But TSA Administrator David Pekoske said... “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better,” he said. “It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”
Had you ever noticed the floppy-ears/pointy-ears difference in scariness? I don't know about the ears per se — clearly a German Shepherd is scarier than a Labrador Retriever. But...

Come on!

AND: Consider the lop-eared cat...

Less scary than an up-eared cat? I think not!

"Now do : large female doctor pushing a stroller with a cat in it."

Link to tweet.

Beto O'Rourke's anti-Wall ad reframes the question around upscale American interests.

It's not about the longings of poverty-stricken outsiders anymore. Look!

It's about the aesthetics of the environment, Big Bend National Park-type vistas of the Rio Grande, the seizing of property from Americans through eminent domain, the "exile" of American land on the Mexican side, and the sealing off of corridors used by animals.

It's like that ad were made precisely for me. Here's what I blogged in February 2016:
Why aren't we talking about the environmental impact of the wall Trump says he will build?

I raised the subject in the comments to the earlier post about the wall. I said: "Am I the only one who worries about the wall as aesthetically and ecologically troubling?" John Henry said:
Why aesthetically troubling? You have no idea yet what it will look like, do you? I suspect that in some placed it may be a wall, in others a fence, in others natural barriers. No wall is needed when the border is at the base of a 100' cliff, for example.

Ecologically troubling? You are the first person I have ever heard ask that. Could you elaborate?

I think you are the first person I've seen have trouble with the what the wall looks like, too.
I said that I was concerned about "a wall slicing through such a long huge length of" of America, "imping[ing] on nature so brutally" and that I worried about "the plants and animals that flow back and forth within those areas." I didn't remember hearing anyone else bring this up, but I had no trouble finding this Newsweek article from a few days ago: "THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER WALL." There's a photograph with the caption: "Javelina (Pecari tajacu) turn away after looking for 100 yards for a place to cross the U.S.-Mexico border fence near the San Pedro river corridor in Arizona in July 2008."...
ADDED: This is the greatest American presidential ad ever made:

Here's some of the competition. Beto O'Rourke is in the game, and you are a fool if you underestimate what he is doing with this ad. Right now is the time to take him seriously. I can see the impulse in the comments section is to deny the seriousness of the power of this message. You are losing right now.

One man's ceiling is another man's floor.

Twitter visibility.

"People are tired of having their compassion weaponized and used against them."

Says Glenn Reynolds (quoting something I wrote yesterday).

ADDED: The soundness of what I wrote yesterday is evidenced by Beto O'Rourke's brilliant shift to a new approach to attacking the the wall.

December 28, 2018

At the Friday Night Café...

... talk about whatever you like.

"Just in case everyone is getting too carried away with the apparent wonders of the computer age..."

"... Clifford Stoll is here with a warning in 'Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway.' There may be roadblocks up ahead," cautions Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in a 1995 NYT book review, "Feeling Hornswoggled By the Computer Age," which I stumbled into — I kid you not — because I was searching for the word "hornswoggle" in the NYT archive. Hey, you have your research projects, and I have mine.

Anyway, I was up for reading and blogging the review because — 1995! I want to see how people were casting doubt on the internet in 1995. I remember the dubiousness about the internet in the early-to-mid 90s. (I even had a letter to the editor on the subject published in the NYT in 1993 — here.)

Back to Mr. Lehmann-Haupt:
As [Stoll] tells it, his misgivings began on a vacation, when he found himself on a Connecticut farm, "bathed in the cold glow of my cathode-ray tube, answering E-mail." A sense of disorientation set in, a disconnection from the physical world. He felt virtually unreal.

So he begins his book by deploring the lack of physical sensation in cyberspace. The game of Adventure is no substitute for actual spelunking, he reminds us. People won't shop by computer; they prefer real money and flesh-and-blood salespeople.
Ha ha ha.
Children need human teachers, not video screens. E-mail's all right when you've just got something to say, but E-mail's not right when you're trying to get people's attention; the Postal Service is more reliable, he insists, and far more forgiving of mistaken addresses. Besides, real letters have stamps on them, and unique handwriting, which has declined because of computers, like everyone's prose style despite the belief that computers would inspire better writing. And a compact disk is no substitute for a book. 
A compact disc? I think he's talking about music.
Goaded by this enmity toward the abstractness of computing, Mr. Stoll proceeds to a general attack on hardware, software and their various interfaces....  In the electronic library of the future, you won't be able to browse through the stacks, although, he adds, given the immensity of the task, the prospect of digitizing all books is probably beyond realization. The flow of bits can be surprisingly slow under certain circumstances. Even the dream of video on demand is unrealizable, he writes. "It's a surprisingly tough engineering job, keeping a thousand movies ready for instant retrieval."...
Look out for The Past's Future. It's terrible!

I'm surprised by the readers of The Washington Post — they're so Trumpian on illegal immigration.

I'm reading "Father whose son died in custody knew bringing him would ease entry into U.S." in The Washington Post.
Agustin Gomez Perez was 47 and in debt, and that path would only deepen his obligations.... He and his wife chose 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo for the journey because he was one of three sons, and the couple had only one daughter together....

Federal officials say they must screen migrants before releasing them, and have been overwhelmed by a record surge of adults crossing with children....

Smugglers often charge less than half the price if a child goes along, knowing that migrants can turn themselves in to border agents and will soon be released....

Gomez Perez was in debt from a long-unpaid electric bill and other expenses. Add in the smuggler’s fee, and he owed more than $6,500. He expected that he’d pay it off after working in the United States....

[The sister] said her father told her Felipe suddenly worsened. His “stomach hurt, that he couldn’t breathe.” “My father started to cry,” she said, recalling his words. “It can’t be. Don’t abandon me here. We have a dream to fulfill.”...

She said the family would ask the U.S. government for two things: Return Felipe’s body so that they can bury him in Guatemala, and let his father work in the United States so that “my brother’s death won’t be in vain.”
I've excerpted the parts of the article that might make a reader want to blame the father. Was the boy exploited? Was he regarded as expendable? There's plenty else in the article that might make you want to blame the U.S. government (mainly for not giving quicker medical treatments). I would also think many readers would mostly feel sad that a boy died and bemoan poverty generally. So I was surprised at how harsh the comments were against the father. I didn't expect this at The Washington Post. This is the most liked comment:
This child's siblings in Guatemala are alive and well. The child was dragged to the US using money that could have paid the father's overdue electric bill, which is not a reason to grant asylum.
That is responded to by another well-liked comment:
Thank you. I am liberal myself but I get tired of people who shut off their critical thinking when it comes to brown people. This guy made a spectacularly risky decision, and his child paid the price. It's on his head. This is, of course, on the assumption that the U.S. wasn't negligent in the kid's care - which is certainly possible. Nonetheless it's his father who endangered him.
The second most well liked comment is:
This is human trafficking with children being used as pawns. Our charity is being abused. We're being scammed.
A well-liked response to that is:
The father refused medical treatment. And dragging that kid all those miles is child abuse. I blame the father and the smugglers.
The third most well-liked comment is:
As much as I disagree with Trump on pretty much everything, you can not pin that on the US government. It is the parents who endanger their children bringing them on a hazardous trip. Just as you cannot hold Europe responsible for the drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. That's confusing cause and effect.
If we are responsible for the child's death it is because past administrations created the expectation that children are the golden ticket at the border.
So there was no asylum claim. The kid was literally a human shield.
Reading these comments, I believe the American culture has changed radically since the fall of 2016, when Trump was painted as a racist for saying the situation at the border had to change. I think, for all the press resistance to Trump's fight against illegal immigration, minds have changed. It seems that Democrats are no longer using the idea that it's racist and hateful to want to control immigration. I feel there's been much less talk about the suffering of the children, but when a child dies, like this poor boy, it will be reported, and it gives us an opportunity to see how Americans are reacting to a sad story about a child. I'm amazed at the reaction in The Washington Post. It's so Trumpian!

Strange blue light.

"A transformer fire in Queens sent an eerie blue light flooding the nighttime sky Thursday night as electricity flickered in homes and an airport was plunged into darkness."

Finishing this post I thought I might have a tag for "strangeness." Here are the suggestions I saw as I started to type the word:

So I could see that I don't have a "strangeness" tag (or "label" as Blogger calls it), but I do have 2 tags for "Dr. Strangelove" (the second one created after the software started blocking apostrophes in the tags). And I see the old "written strangely early in the morning" tag. I don't think of using that anymore, because I'm often up and posting before 5.

"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall..."

"...  & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!"

Tweets Trump this morning.

And here's a related tweet I'm noticing this morning:

December 27, 2018

"[S]uch gratuitously negative reporting undermines the credibility of the press without Mr. Trump having to say a word."

Writes the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal.

They are talking about the first 2 paragraphs of the Washington Post's report on Trump's trip to Iraq:
President Trump touched down Wednesday in Iraq in his first visit to a conflict zone as commander in chief, a week after announcing a victory over the Islamic State that his own Pentagon and State Department days earlier said remained incomplete.

The president’s visit to Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, which was shrouded in secrecy, follows months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and punctuates the biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency.
In the words of the WSJ: "[C]an anyone reading those opening two sentences wonder why millions of Americans believe Donald Trump when he tells them that he can’t get a fair shake from the press?"

I'll just add that I can barely read the news these days (and I absolutely cannot watch it on TV). The negativity toward Trump is so relentless, cluttering up everything. It's crying wolf times a thousand. If anything is worth taking seriously, I'm afraid I won't be able to notice.

Must everything be about Trump?

Here's a story in The Washington Post, "2018 will be the first year with no violent tornadoes in the United States." A "violent tornado" is at the EF4 or EF5 level, and the modern record-keeping began in 1950, so this is interesting good news. There's nothing in the article about global warming or climate change to make the good news seem more like bad news. We're told there are "many causes" for the lack of violent tornados, but the only one mentioned is the unusually high pressure last spring.

Trump arrived first from someone who was trying to mock the way other people always bring in Trump:

Global warming is destroying our violent tornados! Oh the humanity!

(Maybe it's Trump's fault, too.)
That guy gets a grim talking-to:
I see from this comment that you are as dull and childish as I thought from a different series of comments. Again you demonstrate the regressive's inability to tell make believe from reality. Child, you cannot criticize others for something that does not exist (duh!). The only reference here to climate change or your savior is in your imagination. Intellectually, you are still in diapers.
The first commenter replied:
Sorry. I'm just trying to fit in at Post-land, where everything is the fault of global warming, Donald Trump, or both.
Speaking of childish and on the anti-Trump front, CadetBoneSpurs wrote:
There has been a F-5 (highest level on the Fart scale) in DC all year.
ADDED: Here's another example from The Washington Post: "More science than you think is retracted. Even more should be." It is what the headline suggests, an article about published scientific papers that have to be retracted. It's not about Trump in any way. But in the comments, we get:
Can you imagine Fox News or Trump ever retracting anything? I can't.

I've seen the Post do it but Trump say he was wrong? No way...

God, Donny, can never be wrong for he is the second coming. I do not know however what sewer he is coming from.

A commenter gets a NYT obituary — because he commented in limerick form in the NYT 13,000 times...

... and as you might guess, many of the comments on the obituary — "Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read" — are in limerick form.

Here's one of the limericks Eisenberg wrote. This is from 2016, after the election:
A mauler, a grabber, abuser,
A do whatever you chooser
Non-thinker, non-reader,
A spoiled-children breeder
An every trick-in-the-book user.

December 26, 2018

"This is why Trump won (re-election)."

A good day.

Urban Dictionary has made "marginal" its front-paged word of the day, but none of the definitions have anything to do with Trump's saying that at age 7, belief in Santa is "marginal."

The top-rated definition is "Word describing a friend that is a taker and not a giver - someone that never shows up or pays for a tab or helps in any way. Not a true friend."

That's the only marginally accepted Urban Dictionary definition. There are 2 other definitions, but they are massively down-voted: 1. "Another word for an insecure, psychotic, nerd who has problems distinuishing real life from the internet," and 2. "A synonym for a woman's genitalia." The second definition is especially bad because it defines the word as a noun and then, to make it worse, uses it in a sentence as a verb — as if you could "marginal" someone. It should at least be "marginalize."

ADDED: Obviously, Urban Dictionary is trying to prompt people to get in there and make some Trump jokes. I don't know if you participate in writing Urban Dictionary definitions, but feel free to write your "marginal" definition in the comments here.

Racial politics — 2 quick links.

1. "10 reasons to celebrate the First Step Act" by Van Jones and Jessica Jackson, CNN: "For some, it's hard to imagine anything good happening in the middle of the Trump era -- especially for black, brown and low-income people. But believe it or not, something truly beautiful is happening in Washington, DC, on the least likely of issues -- criminal justice reform...."

2. "Black Voters, a Force in Democratic Politics, Are Ready to Make Themselves Heard" by Astead W. Herndon, NYT: "In 2016, Mr. Sanders’s 'political revolution' flamed out with black voters, and Hillary Clinton fell short of the robust black turnout she needed to defeat Donald J. Trump. This time around, Democrats are weighing how to reach out to the black community in the primary without losing the ability to appeal to the suburban and working class whites who propelled Mr. Trump to victory...."

"Augustine’s ally Saint Jerome abused Pelagius intemperately as a 'huge, bloated Alpine dog, weighed down with Scottish oats.'"

"In 418, after Emperor Honorius demanded action when people calling themselves Pelagians rioted in Rome, Pope Zosimus declared Pelagianism heretical. For those in power, a doctrine that persuaded the mass of ordinary Christians that they were unworthy, powerless supplicants, both temporally and spiritually, was useful.... But Pelagius has had the last laugh, in the liberal, humanist culture of western Europe today. Generally, we believe in free will, in the perfectibility of mankind, in the ability of people to make the right choices, do good, and to make things better ...  Many contemporary clerics in Christian churches in the West could fairly be called Pelagians...."

From "How Pelagius’s philosophy of free will shaped European culture/Like the rebel theologian, we believe in the perfectibility of mankind, the ability of people to make the right choices, do good and make things better" (New Statesman America).

ADDED: The question of free will is important, but I'm interested in the form of fat-shaming in the 5th century. Here's a picture of the "huge, bloated Alpine dog, weighed down with Scottish oats":

Moderating expectations.

"What can Tony Evers really do?" (Cap Times).
While Republicans have deprived [Wisconsin Governor-elect] Evers of his ability to do some things, he still has plenty of power.... He and his appointees will enact rules and policies that will be at odds with those of his predecessor, and with the GOP majorities in the state Legislature....

Republicans on the legislative budget committee will no doubt deep-six much of his agenda. But Evers gets the last say with one of the most powerful veto pens in the nation. And Republicans don’t have the votes to override a veto. “The governor does have a strong veto in Wisconsin,” said Burden. “So bills that come to him, he’ll have some ability to carve up and tailor to his interest.”

Republicans have signaled that they see divided government as hardball. But here are a few areas where Evers might be able to find common ground, and others where he can enact change whether Republicans like it or not....

"With support from Steve Bannon, a medieval monastery could become a populist training ground."

WaPo reports:
[Benjamin Harnwell] a 43-year-old Briton who is one of Stephen K. Bannon’s closest associates in Europe...  hopes to transform [Trisulti] monastery into a “gladiator school for culture warriors.”... The halls with centuries-old oil paintings would serve as classrooms where students could learn “the facts” — the worldview espoused by Bannon...

“Nothing we’re doing is just in the moment,” said Bannon, who has personally helped to fund the academy while also offering consulting to nationalist parties through his new Brussels-based group, The Movement. “It’s deeper — to be passed down.”

The site became available because the resident monks were thinning in number and couldn’t manage the upkeep.... Harnwell acknowledged that the local reaction to his winning bid, announced by the Italian government last year, was “largely negative.” The backlash has diminished, he said, as Italy has formed a populist government whose far-right League party has drawn close to Bannon...

The academy ["Academy for the Judeo-Christian West"] is scheduled to open next year in a temporary spot in Rome, then in 2020 at the Trisulti site. But before its students can revolt against modernity, the monastery needs its share of modernization. It needs plumbing, wiring, roofing and sewage treatment. It needs bathrooms in the dormitories. It needs Internet access...
Hypocrisy is almost always funny, but has WaPo establish that this is a "revolt against modernity"? Is the "Judeo-Christian West" not modernity?

Anyway, I love the photo with the caption "Harnwell dotes on his cat while planning for the school" (showing Harnwell looking at a cat).

"Are you still a believer in Santa?... Because at 7, that’s marginal, right?”

Until this morning, I'd only seen Trump's end of the Santa-is-marginal conversation:

I did find that very funny... for a cluster of reasons:

1. I didn't think a 7-year-old, especially a 7-year-old who still believed in Santa, would understand the word "marginal."

2.  The question "Do you believe in X?" doesn't imply that X is not real. People who ask "Do you believe in God?" are not implying that there is no God. The word "still" has some hint that you need to get smart and abandon that false belief, but it could just as well mean that I knew that you used to believe and I wonder if you've maintained your faith. You could ask someone "Are you still a Christian?" without expressing doubt in Christianity. Trump didn't lay that hard on the word "still."

3. I could see that the people who are always looking to attack Trump were jumping on what was at most a tiny glitch is a nice Christmas thing he was doing, and I think those people are so tedious. I have expressed sympathy for them, because they are missing so much humor, humor that I am really enjoying. But then I had to admit to myself that part of why it's funny to me is that I know a whole lot of people will just be steamed and outraged. Thanks, Trump haters. Thanks for honing the edge of Trump's transgression. Your grim that's-not-funnyism is making it funnier.

4. When all we have is Trump's side of the conversation we have to imagine what he's reacting to. I'd thought, based on his warm smile, that after he said "Are you still a believer in Santa?" he got a somewhat hedging answer from a knowing child, and he formed a bond with the child by saying, I get you, you still say you believe but you don't believe believe like a little kid. I thought Trump had a genuine moment with a specific 7-year-old individual.

But now I have to give up on #4, because the press seems to have found the 7-year-old, complete with video from her end, and she doesn't seem to be a knowing child getting into a charmingly confidential confession of marginal belief with Trump. She seems perfectly childish and she simply says "Yes, sir" to everything he says. But I am confirmed in point #1. She didn't understand the word "marginal." The main problem with Trump was that he was talking to her on too high of a level. Maybe his own children were a little more sophisticated at age 7. Whatever. I think it's funny. Still! Even though one of my reasons for enjoying it is shot to hell.

Bonus: I've been watching the box set of the entire series "Friends," and just by chance this is something I watched the other day. Joey's in the Trump position here, unwittingly blowing the child-woman's belief in Santa (which, at 27, is really marginal, right?):

December 25, 2018

Twitter's trends for me today are mostly Christmas-y.

But what's up with Isaac Newton? Ah:

The Russian National Guard would like to sing for you — "Last Christmas" (the George Michael song).

Well, that's nice. Can we all get along for Christ's sake?

I especially enjoyed seeing everyone skating without breaking into a massive fight with everyone hitting each other.

"I'm gonna tick tick tickle him on the tummy."

I'm listening to "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus" by Brenda Lee...

"Lee's second single featured two novelty Christmas tunes: 'I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus', and 'Christy Christmas'. Though she turned 12 on December 11, 1956, both of the first two Decca singles credit her as 'Little Brenda Lee (9 Years Old).'"

I don't think I've ever heard that song before, but I'm reading about Brenda Lee this morning a propos of blogging about Trump's "I am all alone" which got me thinking about (and embedding) the Brenda Lee song that I know very well, "All Alone Am I."

From the fascinating Wikipedia article:
Lee's father was a farmer's son in Georgia's red-clay belt. Standing 5 ft 7 inches [his daughter was 4'9"] he was an excellent left-handed pitcher and spent 11 years in the United States Army playing baseball.... Though her family did not have indoor plumbing until after her father's death, they had a battery-powered table radio that fascinated Brenda as a baby. Both her mother and sister remembered taking her repeatedly to a local candy store before she turned three. One of them would stand her on the counter and she would earn candy or coins for singing....

Trump's Christmas meme: "I am all alone."

As I see it in the press...

... it seems to mean that Trump is isolated, friendless, and self-pitying. His words are characterized as a "ranting" and "complaining." He stews, un-self-aware, in chaos of his own making.

Let's look at the tweet that set off this anti-Trump ideation:

First of all, he's not self-pitying, because the "(poor me)" — to anyone who hasn't descended into willfull humor-deafness — is a sarcastic way to say that he's not feeling sorry for himself. He has chosen to stay in Washington, and he's refraining from bragging and gloating (which his haters would have hated even more than self-pity). "I am all alone" stands in for the implicit boast: I stayed on the job, when nobody else did. They all skittered home, putting their self-interest first, and I put the country first. He's "waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal." His emotionalism is not about his personal needs but on the "desperate" need of the country's.

ADDED: "Poor me" has a bit of a "Sopranos" vibe:

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade rewrites the words to that Brenda Lee song:
All alone am I ever since the Dems’ goodbye
All alone with just the thought of my Wall
Congress not around; not a Democrat in town
Just the lonely vision of my Wall

No use holding GOP hands
For I'd be holding only emptiness
No use in kissing up to Mitch
Only Chuck Schumer can scratch this itch

My party gives me great support
If only Dem’s now would come around
Give up their open border dream
Their votes can end this vile Shutdown

All alone am I; Chuck and Nancy said goodbye
All alone (poor me) with no government
I just mope around, efforts fail to redound
Just a lonely pleading for my Wall

"The song wasn’t identified, but 'gang signs soon led to 95 percent of the room' hitting each other...."

From "Song prompts 200 teens to explode into massive fight at skating rink, witnesses say."

IN THE COMMENTS: You can tell I want to know what the song is. Fortunately, Ignorance Is Bliss helped me out — "I'm guessing this was the song":

AND: If you can skate the hell out of that hitting-everyone-in-the-rink scene, here's music to skate on home by:

It's a white Christmas — by a pinch...


... and the magic of Christmas is here. I know that at age 67, it's marginal — right? — to believe in the Christmas lizard. But there he is...

Version 2

I have seen him with my own eyes!

December 24, 2018

Kevin Spacey puts out a strange video.

He's defending himself somehow, in a puzzling way. The title "Let Me Be Frank" refers to his "House of Cards" character who is named Frank. I didn't watch that show, but I assume he's adopting the persona. The lines, as I heard them, are challenging us to give him a fair process and indicating that he intends to rise from what has been social death.

Here's an article about it in Vox, giving some important context:
News broke on December 24, 2018, that the two-time Oscar winner would be arraigned on a felony sexual assault charge in Nantucket District Court on January 7. Spacey faces charges of indecent assault and battery connected to an alleged incident in a bar in July 2016, involving the then-18-year-old son of former Boston-area news anchor Heather Unruh. Allegedly, Spacey put his hands down the man’s pants and grabbed his genitals....

Frank Underwood is House of Cards’ antihero. He lies, cheats, and literally murders his way to the top, making his way over the course of the series from frustrated House majority whip to president. Unscrupulous to the end, Underwood is not a character anyone can trust — he never speaks the truth to anyone, except sometimes his wife Claire, if it doesn’t benefit him....

“I know what you want,” [Spacey says in the video]. “Oh, sure, they may have tried to separate us. But what we have is too strong, too powerful. After all, we shared everything, you and I. I told you my deepest, darkest secrets. I showed you exactly what people are capable of. I shocked you with my honesty. But mostly I challenged you, and made you think. And you trusted me, even though you knew you shouldn’t. So we’re not done, no matter what anyone says. And besides, I know what you want. You want me back.... They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true, and that I got what I deserved. Only you and I both know it’s never that simple — not in politics and not in life... I can promise you this... If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do.... Wait a minute, now that I think of it, you never actually saw me die, did you? Conclusions can be so deceiving."
So what do you think of this choice to take on such a negative persona in a video presumably intended to advance his interests in response to the news that he faces criminal charges? If you had to argue this is brilliant, what would you say?

Wishing you some Christmas calm...


... and even cheer if you can find it. And joy.

It's a brighter day today than yesterday, when I took that snapshot of Lake Mendota from Picnic Point. If that photo had audio it would sound like this (trumpeter swans).

CORRECTION: Those are tundra swans.

December 23, 2018

At the Christmas Eve Eve Cafe...

... say what you like.

"How about you just admit you hate the President, love war and have been wrong for the last twenty years on every part of foreign policy?"

Rand Paul put in a strong performance on "Face the Nation" this morning. Here's the full transcript. Excerpt:
MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been on a tweet storm this morning saying, President's decision to pull out of Syria and cut our troop presence in Afghanistan in half, you said "the entire foreign policy establishment of Washington, DC, who two years ago were swearing Trump was going to start multiple nuclear wars. Now they're mad because he is stopping two wars. How about you just admit you hate the President, love war and have been wrong for the last twenty years on every part of foreign policy?" Who are you referring to because the defense secretary and the top diplomat handling ISIS both resigned over these decisions?

SENATOR RAND PAUL: You know, I think that we should look at some of the statements of the people who are advocating that we stay in Afghanistan forever and that we also stay now in Syria with no sort of determined end. General Mattis, even General Mattis said that there's no military solution to Syria, and he's also said there's no military solution to Afghanistan. How do you think our young soldiers feel? I have members of my family that are going over there soon, how do you think they feel being sent to Afghanistan when your generals are saying there's no military solution? So I think the burden is really on Mattis and others who want perpetual war to explain why if there is no military solution we're sending more troops.... 

Life in black.

You don't treat Trump like that.

"Trump, Angry Over Mattis’s Rebuke, Removes Him 2 Months Early" (NYT).
When Mr. Trump first announced that Mr. Mattis was leaving, effective Feb. 28, he praised the defense secretary on Twitter, saying he was retiring “with distinction.” One aide said that although Mr. Trump had already seen the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, the president did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued. The president has grown increasingly angry as the days have passed....

"But to this very day I keep thinking whether we had the right to make the decision to start the uprising and by the same token to shorten the lives of many people by a week, a day or two."

"At the first moment when I saw the great German force entering the Ghetto, my first reaction, and I’m sure not just mine — I felt we were nothing. What could we do with our pathetic, almost non-existent weaponry, when faced with the tremendous German firepower, with light canons and tanks and armored personnel carriers and a huge infantry force numbering hundreds, hundreds if not thousands… I felt utterly helpless."

Said Simcha Rotem (in 2013), quoted in "Simcha Rotem, last surviving fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, dies at 94/Rotem fought Nazis in city streets, later helped rebels flee through sewers; Netanyahu says, ‘His story will forever be with our people.’"

Something else he said: "We are all animals on two legs. That’s how I feel. And among those animals on two legs there are some who are deserving of that description — humans."

How to eat like a medieval peasant.

It's pretty great:

And I learned that "potage" originally meant whatever you're cooking in a pot.

"I felt very awkward and uncomfortable. Being in between general anesthesia and awake and hearing the sounds of a blow torch inside your brain... it’s very difficult to concentrate."

Said the jazz musician who played guitar during brain surgery (not because he wanted the musical diversion but so the surgeons could see and preserve the music-playing parts of his brain).

IN THE COMMENTS: John Henry say: "A couple years ago banjoist Eddie Adcock had brain surgery while playing a banjo. I believe you blogged it...." Ah, yes. Here. In 2008. Let's watch that again:

"Krakatoa volcano erupts in Indonesia before 'causing tsunami'. Scientists believe the full moon strengthened the rush of water sent crashing into land after the eruption."

Caption to one of the many photographs at "More than 220 dead as tsunami strikes Indonesia: Giant wave wipes out pop concert killing two band members as hundreds are injured and villages destroyed after Krakatoa volcano erupts" (Daily Mail).

"Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

Key phrase.

I'm thinking: Because the people I want blamed won't get blamed.

I'm reading "Why the blame game over the government shutdown is pointless" by Dylan Scott (at Vox). Let's see what he actually says:
So Trump, despite seeming eager just a few days earlier to take credit for a shutdown and precipitating the crisis by threatening to veto a spending bill, is pointing his finger at the Democrats.... It sure sounds like the president is shutting down the government, and let’s not forget he just got done saying that was what he wanted to do....

Under President Barack Obama, every spending deadline seemed to require at least a momentary crisis.... This is just the way Washington works. Impending deadlines are the best motivators to compel Congress to act....

[T]he government, as most Americans understand and experience it, will still be running tomorrow, whatever the headlines might say. So you’re free, as Trump and Democrats in Congress surely will, to point fingers. But at this point, most Americans don’t have much reason to take notice. 

I'm watching the setting of the Full Cold Moon.


Seen just now from the window next to my desk.

From the Farmer's Almanac:
In Native American cultures which tracked the calendar by the Moons, December’s full Moon was known as the Full Cold Moon. It is fittingly associated with the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes because it occurs near the winter solstice—the day with the least amount of daylight. This year, the Full Cold Moon reaches its peak just a day after the winter solstice, meaning it will appear full to the naked eye on the night of solstice. The last time the full Moon occurred exactly on the winter solstice was in 2010, but it won’t happen again until 2094!...

"Althouse approaches all of this with a childlike demeanor, a perpetual sense of wonder as if she were discovering something fascinating for the first time."

"In a child - and sometimes even in adults - that's not a bad thing. But you'd expect more from a 67-year-old woman masquerading as a political pundit."

I'm reading comments about me over at Instapundit.

Now that he's pulling the military out of Syria, is there some way we can frame Trump as the "war" president?

Yes! Here's how it looks at the NYT (click to enlarge and clarify):

That's the top left corner of the home page right now: "For Trump, 'A War Every Day,' Waged Increasingly Alone." I guess that means he is beleaguered — by things like this very article — and he has to struggle with it, alone. "War" is just a metaphor. Is it a good metaphor? For something a person does alone? I think "war" is the chosen metaphor because the idea is to blot out Trump's efforts at ending war.

Is the underlying article worth reading — "For Trump, ‘a War Every Day,’ Waged Increasingly Alone/At the midpoint of his term, the president has grown more sure of his own judgment and more isolated from anyone else’s than at any point since he took office" — by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman? I'll read it for you and emphasize the "war" metaphor, which I hypothesize is strained:
For two years, Mr. Trump has waged war against his own government, convinced that people around him are fools....
See? Strained. Trump's criticism of people around him isn't much like a war.
The swirl of recent days.... has left the impression of a presidency at risk of spinning out of control. At the midpoint of his term, Mr. Trump has grown more sure of his own judgment and more cut off from anyone else’s than at any point since taking office.... He rails against enemies, who often were once friends, nursing a deep sense of betrayal and grievance as they turn on him.

“Can you believe this?” he has said as he scanned the torrent of headlines. “I’m doing great, but it’s a war every day.”...
So he said "war" — and it was in the context of feeling that the press is waging war against him. And now here is the NYT doing the thing he characterized as war, but saying that Trump is waging it, because the headline, using Trump's quote, is "For Trump, 'A War Every Day,' Waged Increasingly Alone." That is, Trump is waging war, some sort of one-man war. But what Trump said is that he's beleaguered by a very negative press. The NYT took that and used it to throw even more negativity at him.
Yet even with a 38 percent approval rating in Gallup polling, Mr. Trump has dominated the national conversation as no other modern president has, and his base thrills at his fights with the establishment, seeing him as a warrior against self-satisfied elites who look down on many Americans....
His supporters see him "as a warrior."
[A] partisan war may be just what he wants.... The days are filled with conflict, much of it of his own making. More advisers are heading for the door. The divisions are widening, not closing. If it is a “war every day,” there are no signs of peace.
Certainly, the New York Times will give him no peace.

AND: Let's talk about that photograph — the face receded into darkness, the window in the shape of a coffin....

December 22, 2018

The figurative and literal rabbit hole.

Inside the wonderful apartment of Amy Sedaris:

"You couldn’t create a creepier Yuletide scene if you tried" — says The Guardian about Trump and Melania's Christmas portrait.

Here's the photograph:

This, from Jonathan Jones seems ludicrously subjective. He just hates Trump. I get that.
Multiple Christmas trees are currently a status symbol for the wealthy, but this picture shows the risks. Instead of a homely symbol of midwinter cheer, these disciplined arboreal ranks with their uniform decorations are arrayed like massed soldiers or colossal columns designed by Albert Speer.... Everything here communicates cold, empty magnificence. Tree lights that are as frigid as icicles are mirrored in a cold polished floor.
The reflections of light on the floor are bothering him? Having more than one tree is a Nazi-ish thing? Aren't there always multiple trees in the White House at Christmas?
Equally frosty illuminations are projected on the ceiling. Instead of twinkling fairy magic, this lifeless lighting creates a sterile, inhuman atmosphere.... It suggests the micromanaged, corporate Christmas of a Citizen Kane who has long since lost touch with the ordinary, warm pleasures of real life.

In the centre of this disturbing piece of conceptual art stand Donald and Melania Trump. He’s in a tuxedo, she’s wearing white – and not a woolly hat in sight. Their formal smartness adds to the emotional numbness of the scene.

Trump’s shark-like grin has nothing generous or friendly about it. He seems to want to show off his beautiful wife and his fantastic home rather than any of the cuddly holiday spirit a conventional politician might strive to share at this time....
Are we to believe Jones would be calmed and cheered by Trump as "a conventional politician" in a woolly hat striving for cuddliness and using colored rather than white lights on the trees and projecting "twinkling fairy magic" on the ceiling?

"Unlike my colleagues, I’ve been a bemused spectator during this week’s Syria follies."

Writes Andrew C. McCarthy at The National Review.
When ISIS arose and gobbled up territory, beheading some inhabitants and enslaving the rest, Obama began sending in small increments of troops to help our “moderate” allies fend them off. But the moderates are mostly impotent; they need the jihadists, whether they are fighting rival jihadists or Assad. Syria remains a multi-front conflict in which one “axis” of America’s enemies, Assad-Iran-Russia, is pitted against another cabal of America’s enemies, the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda factions; both sides flit between fighting against and attempting to co-opt ISIS, another U.S. enemy. The fighting may go on for years; the prize the winner gets is . . . Syria (if it’s the Russians, they’ll wish they were back in Afghanistan)....

If we stayed out of the way, America’s enemies would continue killing each other. That’s fine by me. I am not indifferent to collateral human suffering, but it is a staple of sharia-supremacist societies.... We should hit terrorist sanctuaries wherever we find them, but it is not necessary to have thousands of American troops on the ground everyplace such sanctuaries might take root....

When we look a little deeper, though, we see why Americans will no longer support Washington’s incoherent Middle East adventurism. When we made our arrangements with the Kurds, we knew the backbone of their fighting forces was the PKK, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization....

I hold no brief for Trump on Syria... But I find it remarkable that... congressional critics never paused, ever so slightly, over the fact that the troops they want the president to keep in Syria were never authorized by Congress to be in Syria....  Obama did not seek congressional authorization for combat operations in Syria because Congress would have refused. And Congress does not want any president to ask for authorization because members do not want to be accountable — they want to go on cable TV and whine that whoever is president has been heedless, whether for going in or for pulling out....
ADDED: Here's "Good Riddance to America’s Syria Policy/As usual, Donald Trump has done the right thing in the wrong way" by Harvard international relations professor Stephen M. Walt (in Foreign Policy).
Instead of obsessing about who is supposedly “winning” and who is supposedly “losing,” the United States should start by identifying its core strategic interests....

What if the remnants of the Islamic State manage to reconstitute themselves, regain some territory, and sponsor new terrorist attacks abroad? Such a development is obviously undesirable, but the danger does not justify keeping U.S. troops in Syria for another one, two, or five years. The ideology of a group like the Islamic State is not eradicated by bombs, drones, artillery shells, or bullets, and the idea of violent resistance can live on even if every member alive today is killed or captured. The ultimate protection against such groups is not an open-ended American commitment but rather the creation of effective local governments and institutions. Legitimate and effective local authority is not something the United States can provide, however; its presence in such places may even be counterproductive. After all, the Islamic State’s ideological message rests in part on opposition to foreign interference, and it has long used the U.S. presence in the region as a recruiting tool. Getting out of Syria won’t neutralize that message right away, but it could make the group less persuasive over time.

Moreover, despite its fearsome image and the hype its brutal tactics have received, the Islamic State was never an existential threat to the United States....