January 11, 2020

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Trump won because he was willing to say loudly what his supporters believed deeply; because, in his disdain for what politicians are supposed to be and do, he exuded authenticity; because he was hated..."

"... by the people his base found hateful; because he had an opponent who, in the minds of his supporters, epitomized corruption and self-dealing; and because he offered radical cures for a country he diagnosed as desperately ill. Despite being the oldest man ever elected president, he seemed (to his voters) fresh, true, bold, and sorely needed. So it is, and would be, with Sanders. Depth of conviction? Check. Contempt for conventional norms? Check. Opposed by all the right people? Check. Running against a 'crooked' opponent? Check. Commitment to drastic change? Check. Like Trump, too, he isn’t so much campaigning for office as he is leading a movement. People who join movements aren’t persuaded. They’re converted. Their depth of belief is motivating and infectious."

From "Of Course Bernie Can Win/To say Sanders is unelectable is indefensible" by Bret Stephens (NYT).

I'm giving this post my "the Sanders and Trump phenomenon" tag, and now, I've got to remind myself what got me started with that. Oh! I see I used it once. It was March 14, 2016:
Trump and Sanders represent a single phenomenon, no? It's a phenomenon that Hillary and the GOP establishment have a motivation to minimize, and portraying Trump as toxic (and Sanders a nice, but unrealistic old man) is a minimization device.

"So while Biden’s in a reasonably strong and perhaps even slightly underrated position, it’s slightly more likely than not that Biden won’t be the nominee."

"Sen. Bernie Sanders has the next-best shot, with a 22 percent chance at a majority, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 12 percent and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10 percent. There’s also a 14 percent chance — about 1 in 7 — that no one will win a majority of pledged delegates by June 6, which could lead to a contested convention. The model works by simulating the nomination race thousands of times, accounting for the bounces that candidates may receive by winning or losing states, along with other contingencies — such as candidates dropping out and polls moving in response to debates and news events. Like all of our models, it’s empirically driven, built using data from the 15 competitive nomination races since 1980. Since the primaries themselves are fairly complex process, the model is fairly complex also — which we mean as a warning as much as a brag. Models with more complexity are easier to screw up and can be more sensitive to initial assumptions — so we’d encourage you to read more about how our model works."

Nate Silver explains, using his amazing science.

ADDED: I had to publish this post to click on my "over-complication" tag, which I probably could have used a few more times if I'd kept it in mind. It's the kind of tag I love, specific but abstract, so it collects things from scattered topics that resonate. Today's post is only the 6th time I've used it since I created it in 2009 to observe that I'd "crossed the over-complication line" with a post that had a strange set of tags ("abortion, Althouse + Meade, Beccah Beushausen, beer, blogging, dolls, fake, James Frey, Meade, Oprah, Orson Welles, prayer, writing"). It took me a year to use it again, with this great quote from Gertrude Stein: "She always says she dislikes the abnormal, it is so obvious. She says the normal is so much more simply complicated and interesting." Didn't use it again until 2011 — "A Very Simple Venn Diagram of Where the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street Agree" — and then once in 2017 (a labyrinthine sentence about feminism) and once in 2019 (a New Yorker critic bothered by the complexity of the movie "Joker").

"40 People Are Sharing True Stories About Themselves That Sound Completely Made Up."

Bored Panda collects stories.

Be sure to read #3!

ADDED: In the first post of the day, I complained about an AP headline that said Iran "acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner." "Acknowledged" is wrong in the same way that "True" in this Bored Panda headline is wrong.

It's one thing to blithely opine "Why America Needs a Royal Family/Yes, this is the conclusion I have drawn from Megxit."

I've seen that proposal a thousand times, and here we are again, this time with Jennifer Weiner in the NYT. But it's quite another matter to figure out who would be the royal family.

I'm not interested in reviewing the pro-royalty argument. You know what it is. I'm only interested in the question of how — if we were to restructure America with a royal family akin to Britain's — we would pick the actual hereditary family.

I can't find the old post, but I believe I once blogged about who would be king/queen of the U.S.A. now if George Washington had become king. Wherever that post is, I'm sure it included this video:



My archive search did turn up this video about George Washington (which I just watched twice)(warning: some questionable factual assertions):



Anyway, here's how Jennifer Weiner addresses the question who'd be king/queen of America:
We could keep it simple and give the gig to Miss America, who’s already been chosen and already has a tiara. Or we could have a televised reality contest (a roy-ality contest — see what I did there?) to elect our king and queen. We could recruit the glittering couples we think would be best suited for the job of representing America on the world stage (Beyoncé and Jay-Z! Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod! George and Amal Clooney! Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman! Ina Garten and Jeffrey!)...
Oh! She's utterly giving up the hereditary angle. No, you have to commit. You have to believe in royal blood. No elections. That would debase. You've got to have magic.

But isn't it funny that Weiner pictures an election, homes in on entertainment couples — all heterosexual, by the way (tsk tsk) — and doesn't think to offer up the most obvious entertainment couple: Donald and Melania Trump? Well, Donald is already President, and the point is to separate the head-of-state functions, but he'll have served his term(s) by the time the election for king/queen happens. And once you recognize that, you ought to see that the final nominees for the position could be Donald and Melania — or should it be Ivanka and Jared? — against Barack and Michelle. I'd watch those debates.

Barack and Michelle would win, of course, if for no other reason that that they're far more successful at getting top-level entertainers to perform in the White House (yes, under, Weiner's plan, the king and queen live in the White House, and the boring President of the United States is relocated "to more modest digs").

"Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturday acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner..."

"Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division, said his unit accepts 'full responsibility' for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state TV, he said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, 'I wished I was dead.' He said Guard forces ringing the capital had beefed up their air defenses and were at the 'highest level of readiness,' fearing that the U.S. would retaliate. He said an officer made the 'bad decision' to open fire on the plane after mistaking it for a cruise missile....  The majority of the plane crash victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians.... Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blamed the shootdown of the plane in part on 'threats and bullying' by the United States after the killing of Soleimani.... 'A sad day,' Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. 'Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster....' Iran’s acknowledgement of responsibility was likely to renew questions of why authorities did not shut down the country’s main international airport and its airspace after the ballistic missile attack, when they feared U.S. reprisals.... '"

AP reports.

ADDED: I object to the language "Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturday acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner...." The word "acknowledged" assumes that we know the truth and Iran is coming into alignment with that truth. But we don't know for certain. I understand the sloppiness of thinking that causes ordinary people to jump to "acknowledged" when they feel they know the truth, but journalism demands rigor. The New York Times headline for this story is properly done: "Iran Says It Unintentionally Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner."

BUT: I have to complain about the NYT headline. Iran does not deny that it intentionally shot at what it shot at. So there was intent. It needs to be reworded to isolate the part of the action that is claimed to have been unintentional. The NYT was better than AP, but if I were working on writing the headline, I would not stop where the NYT did. Iran's assertion is that it intentionally shot at something it wrongly believed was a cruise missile.

January 10, 2020

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can talk about anything you like.

"I said that we have to have 'Where's Hunter?' as a witness. They said what do you mean 'Where's Hunter?' I said that's his first name. I have now made his first name 'Where's?' Where's Hunter?"

Said Trump last night at his rally in Cleveland.

Marianne Williamson drops out because, she says, she "will not be able to garner enough votes in the election to elevate our conversation any more than it is now."

Full statement here.

She was a delightful presence in the race, and I have a special delight in her leaving, because she said that word, "garner."

Did her message also include the word "love"?... which, speaking of words, I associate with her because of this epic debate moment...



Answer: Yes. It's the last thing she says: "A politics of conscience is still yet possible. And yes….love will prevail."

"Tweaking out in Florida, she becomes fixated on abolishing the death penalty; she tweezes out all her leg hairs individually; she spends days online tracking the status of Mir, the Russian space station."

"In the clarity of recovery, she announces, 'I think I am ten times prettier than I actually am.' She wonders if maybe all the mess she’s made will be worth it—maybe she’ll have produced a work of genius. 'Trouble is, you never know,' she writes. 'You never know until it’s all done.'.... I was always terrified of the way she spoke about death, as if it were a joke she’d been telling to the devil for years.... 'I have always made choices without considering the consequences, because I know all I get is now,' she wrote, at the close of her essay for New York, seven years ago. 'Maybe I get later, too, but I will deal with that later. I choose pleasure over what is practical. I may be the only person who ever went to law school on a lark. And I wonder what I was thinking about with all those other larks, my beautiful larks, larks flying away.'"

From "The Chaotic, Beautiful Larks of Elizabeth Wurtzel" by Jia Tolentino (in The New Yorker).

I'm sure hundreds of thousands of Americans thought of this humor idea but refrained from actually listing, on the internet, the 52 American cultural sites that Iran could bomb.

I'm reading "College Professor Out After Joke Suggesting Iran List U.S. Cultural Targets/Asheen Phansey is no longer employed by Babson College after joking that Iran should target [deleted] and [deleted]" (Daily Beast).

I'm censoring the HuffPo headline. I don't like seeing any specific place named as a target, not in public, though I was doing the same thing in private conversation. What are the cultural sites of the United States? It's a rich topic, especially because our history is so short. I think of capitalism and pop art. I'd love to talk about what these sites are, but certainly not in the context of pointing them out to a foreign enemy that might want to blow them up!

"In Britain, royalty and politics are not supposed to mix. The monarchy has a defined constitutional role as the 'dignified' branch, symbolizing the state through ceremony and duty..."

"... the government as the 'efficient' branch, running the country by passing laws through Parliament, which is elected. The two cannot mix. One is apolitical and unifying, the other political and inherently divisive. The royal family’s website puts it succinctly: 'As Head of State The Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters.' Harry and Meghan’s popularity is, in part, tied to this unifying neutrality.... Once they start to behave like ordinary people, giving ordinary opinions, then people will treat them as ordinary.... He and his wife will be pilloried for their decision, for their hypocrisy or greed, sanctimony or privilege, depending on who is dishing out the criticism.... You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for [in China are] unbelievable,' said Gervais on Sunday night, tearing into the cream of Hollywood. He was right to say Hollywood is pro–having cake and pro–eating it. But so too, it seems, are Harry and Meghan."

From "The Hypocrisy of Harry and Meghan’s Decision/The couple have committed Britain’s greatest possible sin" in The Atlantic. The greatest sin (in Britain) is (we're told) hypocrisy.

"After a while... wearing shorts when it was cold out became something he had to keep doing simply because he was already known as the Boy Who Wears Shorts."

"'There were days that got below zero... but it wasn’t even really a choice at that point... It’s like, if you’re going to wear shorts when it’s 30 degrees out, you have to be ready when it’s -10. This is your time to shine!'"

From  "The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter/The kid who refuses to wear pants is a familiar sight to parents, students, and educators—and a mystifying one. What’s so great about being underdressed?" and quoting Tyler Wood, who is now 31, but wore shorts year-'round in Boulder, Colorado when he was a middle-schooler,

I'm linking to this because I don't want you to feel I've missed it and you have to tell me about it. I know I'm The Blogger Who Writes about Men in Shorts. But do you see the word "men" in that article title? The word is "boy."

I have no problem with boys in shorts, and my problem with men in shorts is that shorts are infantilizing. Especially when they are baggy and worn with a boxy T-shirt, they make men look like enlarged boys. I realize that self-presentation as an enlarged boy is a matter of personal choice, but I don't think most men in shorts are trying to say, through fashion, I am an enlarged boy. I think they're simply doing what is easy and comfortable for them, and at most, expressing the idea that they don't care how they look and don't care if anyone finds them attractive. I'm just providing information. Make your own choice.

Now, for parents who worry about their sons suffering from the cold: I would lean towards letting teenagers wear what they want, but if your kids are younger, you have to protect them from themselves and you have to protect yourself from the intervention of Child Protective Services.

The best way to campaign is "the face-to-face, handshake, a hug and being able to hold up the children so they can take pictures with you, to ask a question, to do a pinky promise."

Said Elizabeth Warren, quoted in "'Don't tell me it doesn’t matter': Impeachment trial hurts presidential campaigns/Democratic senators seeking the White House will be stuck in Washington rather than Iowa at a critical moment" (Politico).

The pinkie promise! So that's the secret!

Wikipedia:
To pinky swear, or to make a pinky promise, is the locking of the pinkies of two people to signify that a promise has been made.

In the United States, the pinky swear has existed since at least 1860, when Dictionary of Americanisms listed the following accompanying promise:
Pinky, pinky bow-bell,
Whoever tells a lie
Will sink down to the bad place
And never rise up again.
Pinky swearing presumably started in Japan, where it is called yubikiri (指切り, "finger cut-off") and often additionally confirmed with the vow "Finger cut-off, ten thousand fist-punchings, whoever lies has to swallow thousand needles." (指切拳万、嘘ついたら針千本呑ます, "Yubikiri genman, uso tsuitara hari senbon nomasu")....
That's rather harsh! Should Warren be doing this with children? I note the suggestion that promise-breakers go to Hell. Trump recently got raked over the embers for suggesting that a man had gone to Hell:



Are we taking Hell seriously today or not?

I don't have a tag "promises." I'm using "contracts." Warren taught the law school course "contracts," you know. Would you do a pinkie promise with a contracts professor? Better a contracts professor than a religionist. Whoever tells a lie will sink down to the bad place and never rise up again.

Contracts answer: It's not a contract.

Speak for yourself!

It's a too-easy comeback, but I'm saying it anyway... to David Brooks, for his "Trump Has Made Us All Stupid."

Anyway... that's the headline, the bait.

The column itself is about Trump and Iran and Brooks isn't saying — even on that topic — that everyone is being stupid. Some people did the un-stupid thing and judged the killing of Soleimani in terms of risk and potential benefits. Others — he names Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — "pontificated on the easy question not actually on the table: Should we have a massive invasion of Iran?"

"Some of the president’s critics will concede that Mr. Suleimani was an evil man, but many complain his killing was unlawful. Wrong...."

"He was a United States-designated terrorist commander. As I have been briefed, he was plotting further attacks against Americans at the time of his death. The authority granted to the president under Article II of the Constitution provides ample legal basis for this strike. Furthermore, those who accept the constitutionality of the War Powers Act should recall that Congress’s 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force very much remain in effect and clearly cover the Suleimani operation. This will be a relief to the Obama administration, which ordered hundreds of drone strikes using such a legal rationale. American forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and they have every right and authority to defend themselves. This legal act of self-defense was not only proportionate — it was targeted and brilliantly executed, causing essentially no collateral damage."

Writes Senator Tom Cotton in "The Case for Killing Qassim Suleimani/The strike was justified and legally sound" (NYT).

That phrase "targeted and brilliantly executed, causing essentially no collateral damage" made me think of the Iranians hitting the passenger plane, which seems to have been the exact opposite — completely mistargeted, idiotically executed, and causing nothing but collateral damage, extreme collateral damage.

"Despite a new imperative to be scrupulous about affirmative consent, young men are still subject to incessant messages that sexual conquest... remains the measure of a 'real' man..."

"... and a reliable path to social status. As one high school junior explained, 'Guys need to prove themselves to their guys. So to do that, you’re going to be dominating. You’re going to maybe push. Because, it’s like the girl is just there as a means for him to get off and a means for him to brag.' I never intended to write about boys. As a journalist, I have spent over a quarter of a century chronicling girls’ lives.... ...I found myself wishing, in my conversations with girls, that their early sexual experiences did not have to be, as they so often were, something they had to get over. That will require reducing the harm boys cause, whether out of monstrous venality, entitlement, heedlessness or even (maybe especially) ignorance. [Boys] need a counternarrative to the one that elevates the transactional over the connected, the sensual, the kind; boys need to value mutual gratification in their sexual encounters, whether with one-offs or long-term partners."

From "Will We Ever Figure Out How to Talk to Boys About Sex?/Teenagers and young men still don’t have the right vocabulary. Can we help them get there?" by Peggy Orenstein — author of "Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity."

From Orenstein's Wikipedia page:
Peggy Orenstein's ideas revolve around the discrepancy between men and women's sexuality. For example, in an interview with 70 women between 15 and 20, she found that the young women were expected to please their sexual partners but did not expect it to be reciprocated.... Orenstein... discusses how the idea of sexual promiscuity for women is a double edged sword... Orenstein... encourages them to walk a fine line between “slut” and “prude.”...
ADDED: Orenstein also has an article in The Atlantic, "The Miseducation of the American Boy/Why boys crack up at rape jokes, think having a girlfriend is 'gay,' and still can’t cry—and why we need to give them new and better models of masculinity." Excerpt:
According to Andrew Smiler, a psychologist who has studied the history of Western masculinity, the ideal late-19th-century man was compassionate, a caretaker, but such qualities lost favor as paid labor moved from homes to factories during industrialization. In fact, the Boy Scouts, whose creed urges its members to be loyal, friendly, courteous, and kind, was founded in 1910 in part to counter that dehumanizing trend. Smiler attributes further distortions in masculinity to a century-long backlash against women’s rights. During World War I, women proved that they could keep the economy humming on their own, and soon afterward they secured the vote. Instead of embracing gender equality, he says, the country’s leaders “doubled down” on the inalienable male right to power, emphasizing men’s supposedly more logical and less emotional nature as a prerequisite for leadership....

January 9, 2020

Sunrise type #2.

5CC1E454-CA53-49C3-8E7F-65708D1A04C9_1_201_a

This morning at 7:30. The "actual" sunrise time was 7:29.

Talk about anything you like in comments. Did you watch Trump's Toledo rally? The "Jeopardy!" "Greatest of All Time"?

Why is it so hard to relax?!

I'm reading "The Secret to a Relaxing Vacation: Meticulous, Detailed Plans" (in NY Magazine), and I happen to know that market research shows — over and over again — that the main thing people say they want from a vacation is relaxation.

But there's a huge paradox. Traveled-to vacations are not necessarily relaxing. I see 3 choices here, one of which is something the travel industry (and the press outlets that sell travel advertising) do not want you to think about (except in a very negative way): Don't travel. If you want to relax during your vacation time, you could do that most easily by doing slow, pleasant, unchallenging things around the house and in your neighborhood.

The other 2 choices are:

1. Think of travel in terms of excitement, challenging yourself, and packing experiences into your memory bank. Give up relaxation as the goal. Relax when you get home (and reflect on the good parts the trip and gaze at your photographs).

2. Figure out how to experience relaxation while traveling. That's what this article is pushing you to do.
Spontaneity on vacation is wildly overrated.... A good vacation starts with buying and reading a good guidebook.... Can you buy tickets on the internet or on your phone? Is there a multi-museum pass that will save you both time and money?... Plan your sightseeing around avoiding crowds.... Can you... pay [for trains] contactless credit card or Apple Pay?... Sometimes, I worry that I have prebooked too many of the meals on a trip; in the end, I usually wish I had reserved everything ahead of time.... If you’re traveling in a group, someone should be in charge.... A plan to do nothing is still a plan that should be made in advance.... Most of all, don’t forget to have fun. I am not proposing that a vacation should be a death march....
There's a paradox within this option. It assumes you're someone who's bent on relaxation but nevertheless up for pouring a lot of time and effort into your trip. You've just got to do it at the planning stage. This advice could route you back to the idea of not traveling, because if you only travel after you've done all the pre-travel work, you may never travel at all.

"CBS News has learned U.S. officials are confident that Iran shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed Wednesday in Tehran, killing all 176 on board."

"Facebook won't change its policies on fact-checking ads promoted by politicians or limit political campaigns' microtargeting abilities, the company said Wednesday."

"Instead, Facebook announced that it will expand transparency around political ads and give its users more control over the ads they see. The decision comes after the company endured more than three months of criticism from Democratic politicians and activists over its decision not to fact-check ads from political campaigns. In that time, Twitter banned political ads altogether, while Google announced changes to how ads can be microtargeted to users.... Facebook's decision to keep its microtargeting policy was in part a response to campaigns and other political groups that told Facebook that they rely on microtargeting to reach audiences they would not have access to without social media platforms like Facebook...."

NBC News reports.

Word that does not appear in the article: "Trump."

Let me go back to that WaPo article I skipped. It's heavy on the Trump: "Facebook executive says company was responsible for Trump’s victory but warns against policy changes":
Longtime Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth said in a blunt internal post that the company’s advertising tools were crucial to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and may help him win again but that executives must resist the temptation to make policy changes that would alter the course of legitimate political debate.....

Outrage of the day.

"Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era."

"Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience. As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colors that are honest and offer the promise of protection. Non-aggressive and easily relatable, the trusted PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue lends itself to relaxed interaction. Associated with the return of another day, this universal favorite is comfortably embraced."

Pantone's explanation of its "Color of the Year" for 2020.

Everything's so political nowadays that I can't help reading that as an anti-Trump message. Quite aside from blue's having become the color of the Democratic party, "relatable" seems like a word only Democrats use.

What am I thinking of? Was it all only about Hillary Clinton? See the NYT column from 2015, "Hillary’s Eternal Quest for Relatability." Excerpt:
The thing with “relatable” is that it has become an inside joke, or even a not-so-inside joke. The word was set in lights by “Saturday Night Live” a couple of weeks ago with a sendup in which the former first lady — played by Kate McKinnon.... “Tonight I am speaking to you not as secretary of state, or as a senator or as a first lady,” McKinnon said, “but as a relatable woman on a couch.”...

Late in the “S.N.L.” skit, McKinnon’s Clinton... cackled and added, for good measure, “what a relatable laugh!”... You can imagine Clinton seeing this and wondering whether she is in danger of being buried by a cartoon...
Anyway, I like the idea that a color can help us with "the promise of protection." And a promise — the feeling of a promise — can help us. Colors help us! Pantone is simply telling us what sort of help from colors most of us will be looking for this year. And, if Pantone is right, we don't want excitement. We want calm and reassurance.

I think Trump knows that. He famously tweeted "All is well" just as the more nervous among us were steeling themselves for World War III and the return of the military draft.

But the color most associated with Trump is orange. Orange man bad! And we know that orange is the complete opposite of blue.

"Megxit."

A nice coinage.

I'm reading "Megxit: Harry and Meghan are doomed/The only quick way out of a royal family is via the guillotine" by Dominic Green (in Spectator/USA).
The language of Wednesday’s announcement is that nauseating blend of self-affirmation and Hollywood PR that is Harry and Meghan’s equivalent of baby-talk: ‘After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution.’ They want to ‘work to become financially independent’, while also ‘continuing to fully support’ the brand formerly known as Queen Elizabeth II....

It’s possible for a people to ditch a royal family — revolutionary Americans did just that — but it’s not possible for a royal family to ditch the people.... [T]here is no progressive new role for monarchy, other than renouncing titles and hereditary privileges, returning the palaces and parks to the people to whom they once belonged, and then rejoining us...

What they mean is ‘We want to use our status to lecture you ignorant plebs on institutional racism, environmental paranoia and other pet causes of the righteous rich — and because we think we can use our status as a soapbox, we’re going to retain as much of it as we can, titles and freebies and security details and exotic foreign holidays on Elton John’s private jet.’...

We will rapidly tire of their patronizing petulance, and only then will they finally attain the meaningful life they think they seek — as human sacrifices on the altar of celebrity.
That was well-written! I'm going to follow Dominic Green on Twitter. A sample Dominic Green tweet:

"Comrades from everywhere are bringing more food to the dinner. The more we eat, the more food there is! The more you arrest, the more people will come out to cook for our comrades!"

A quote from "Tear-Gas Gelato, Foul-Mouthed Mooncakes and Other Foods Fit for a Revolution/How the Hong Kong democracy movement feeds on the city’s distinct identity" by Laurie Wen in the NYT. Wen is writing a book about the Hong Kong democracy movement. There are a lot of photographs — by Kiran Ridley — and I highly recommend them. If you withhold clicks to the NYT, now would be a time to overcome your resistance and go there for the photographs. I'm especially fond of the second one, which I will preview for you with a screen shot that shows about 20% of the image:

"It’s true that Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said that Iran’s response had 'concluded,' but Zarif is a moderate often outmaneuvered by hard-liners."

"I know this partly because back in 2004, after Zarif approved a visa for me, I was detained in Iran by security forces looking for information that could embarrass Zarif and get him fired. My best guess is that Iran will strike back hard in a way that leaves it some plausible deniability. Perhaps it’ll be a truck bomb at a diplomatic mission or Trump property, or perhaps rocket attacks on a military site by a proxy, or a cyberattack on an oil refinery or the power grid, or perhaps mines that damage oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has options, and let’s not celebrate prematurely."

Writes Nicholas Kristof in "Trump Has a Bizarre Idea of Winning/Let’s tally up the results of his efforts with Iran" (NYT).

That made me read Zarif's Wikipedia page. I see that he sojourned in the United States, beginning when he was 17, at a college-prep school in San Francisco. He stayed in San Francisco to get a BA and an MA at San Francisco State. Then he got a Ph.D. at the University of Denver (thesis: "Self-Defense in International Law and Policy").

ADDED: The Wikipedia page has this picture of John Kerry representing our interests in a discussion with Zarif in 2015:



Where did that take places? At the Castle of the Asparagus!

The feet-out-in-a-lounge-chair position is unfortunate. Kerry had broken his leg in May of 2015. Here's how that calamity was reported in The Guardian at the time:
Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg in bike crash near Scionzier in France on Sunday, apparently after hitting a curb. He then scrapped the rest of a four-nation trip that included an international conference on combating the Islamic State group....

Kerry’s cycling rides have become a regular occurrence on his trips. He often takes his bike with him on the plane and was riding that bicycle on Sunday.... During discussions in late March and early April between world powers and Iran, he took several bike trips during breaks. Those talks were in Lausanne, Switzerland, and led to a framework agreement....
ALSO: (From August 2015) "We have a deal that is so incompetent, so bad. Think of the deal. We make a deal, our chief negotiator goes into a bicycle race at 73 years old, he falls he breaks his leg. That was the good part of our deal. That was the only thing that happened.... I swear to you I will never ever ride a bicycle, at least in a race...."

"I didn't roast Hollywood for being a bunch of liberals. I myself am a liberal. Nothing wrong with that. I roasted them for wearing their liberalism like a medal."

"I'm such a snowflake, liberal, I can't even really hate them for it. But my job is to take the piss. I did that."

Tweeted Ricky Gervais (after some people criticized his comic performance as host of the Golden Globes).

On Fox News ("The Five"), Greg Gutfeld analyzed the politics and guessed at the structure of Gervais's emotions:
"He's [Gervais] is upset because he's so confident in his liberal ideas that the refusal to listen to other ideas, which is happening right now on the regressive left, enrages him.;.. It's a pathetic sign of weakness...and I think that's what's fueling his fire and why he's so disgusted and angry -- but do not mistake that for him becoming a conservative."
I don't know if that explains Gervais, but I understand the dynamic. What Gutfeld said would work as a key to explaining what I've been doing on this blog these past 16 years. Suddenly, I think Gutfeld is talking about himself. I read Gutfeld's Wikipedia page, which links to this 2009 interview in Reason, where he says:
As a teenager, I was a liberal. It helped me in school.... I started to re-examine myself when I went to Berkeley. It was a really bad idea. It was just walking around with a target on your back.

I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there's something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing. On the left, you have people who want to dictate your behavior under the guise of tolerance. Unless you disagree with them. Then the tolerance goes out the window. Which kind of negates the whole idea of tolerance. That's the politically correct moralizing. Then when you become a conservative, the other kind of moralizing comes from religion....

January 8, 2020

Signs of the midwest.

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Why Adderall is trending on Twitter.


ADDED: I just wanted to cross-reference my October 2019 post, "Are almost all journalists on Adderall?"
I like to know when someone I'm listening to is on drugs. If I don't know, and they are, they are stealing from me. That's how I see it. I'm not talking about people with a genuine mental disorder who take a prescribed drug that's supposed to get them to the medical profession's idea of normal. I respect their privacy. But somebody taking drugs to get a lot of writing done? I want a warning before I spend some of my life's precious time absorbing their addled — Adderalled — verbiage.
ALSO: I listened to the speech on the car radio, and from the beginning, I was exclaiming about the sound of his breathing, which, to me, seemed to be that he was out of breath and emotional. I wondered if something had happened, that there was more to the story than he was able to tell us. He was late coming out to speak, so I thought maybe he was just briefed about something — the plane crash? — or was engaged in some difficult problem or rushed to the room.

I remember Trump breathing noisily at debates in 2016. Here's a contemporaneous article in Forbes looking into the causes. It quotes a tweet from Howard Dean (who is a doctor), speculating that it might be cocaine. The Forbes writer lists possible reasons for the sniffing: allergies, sinisitis, irritants (such as perfume), medications (such as for high blood pressure), a tic (which could be caused by a disorder such as ADHD or by stress), crying, head trauma, nose picking, bleeding disorder, or an object in the nose (such as a peanut).

It makes absolutely no sense?

The Democrats set their criteria for qualifying for their debates, so it's absurd to criticize Mike Bloomberg for not participating.

I'm reading "Democrats attack Bloomberg for running imperial campaign/The billionaire businessman says he's sticking to his principle of not accepting donations, and therefore not participating in debates" (Politico).

I am getting the feeling that Politico is pro-Bloomberg, so I'm a bit skeptical about who, actually, is criticizing Bloomberg. But there are names attached to the criticism:
“He is skipping the democracy part of this,” Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday night.

Steyer, who raised small-dollar contributions to qualify for the debate but risks missing the January stage because of his low polling numbers, agreed.

"Any person who wants to be president should be willing to debate their ideas in front of the American people and participate in the grassroots work of meeting and listening to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina,” Steyer spokesman Benjamin Gerdes said....
Why doesn't Elizabeth Warren invite Bloomberg to debate her face-to-face? Is there some Democratic Party rule that blocks candidates from doing this? Put the 2 of them at a table with no moderator for 2 hours and stream it on YouTube (or wherever).

Headlines are really just a gentle invitation: What would you like to believe today?



Click the image to enlarge and clarify. When you have clarity, and know what you want to believe, go to Real Clear Politics and click on the headline you want to be true. Do you want Trump to be a great benefactor of humankind or a bumbling fool? Do you want it all to be Obama's fault? Do you want Joe Biden to be just what we need right now or a guy who needs to wake up and get outta here? Do you want the impeachment to be a bust or do you want Democrats to have a new trial strategy? Would you like Nikki Haley to be a monster or Bill Barr to be a fabulous hero?

Or does everything seem to be a dismal waste of time? I say view the headlines as a gentle invitation: What would you like to believe today? See the array of offers. Pick one or 2 to lift your spirits or confirm your identity, or — like party invitations — decline them all and stay home, embedded in your real life, where you have some hope of finding something genuine and worthy.

"Even before 'Prozac Nation' I knew about her because she was a focus of resentment in these kinds of pages, the too-pretty girl who got a job as a music critic..."

"... at New York magazine right out of college before jumping to the New Yorker. It was fashionable to dislike her, to doubt her talent or question the reasons for her success. I’m sure she was difficult; early fame makes people difficult.... If you looked past the hundreds who hated her, there were thousands, maybe millions, who loved her. They were in her Instagram captions, explaining how her books had changed their lives. Even before she died Tuesday, you would stumble across her bright-polished aphorisms about depression and mental health and recovery, shared over and over again on Facebook and Twitter. 'That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.' 'I need love. I need the thing that happens when your brain shuts off and your heart turns on.' 'Depression is so insidious and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.'"

From "Elizabeth Wurtzel was right all along" by Amy Argetsinger (WaPo). To explain the headline: What she was "right" about was the value of the personal memoir.

I love the category personal memoir and have for decades. But I skipped "Prozac Nation" because something about it was off-putting to me. Partly it was the cover:



It gets your attention like mad, but then — for me, anyway — it was more: Give me a break or Who the hell are they saying she's supposed to be?

And then it was the Prozac. Everyone was talking about Prozac. There was "Listening to Prozac" and related articles. I kept reading that Prozac would change all of human life, that we could finally become the human beings we were meant to be. And now Prozac was to be the name of a nation (kind of like "Woodstock nation")? That felt like bullshit to me. Back in the 90s. And it still does today.

But that's about a title and a cover for a book I didn't read. Now, Elizabeth Wurtzel has died, and the feeling of reading the book would be quite different.

And yet, I must say, "Young and Depressed in America" is still very unappealing to me. With what will you furnish the inside of your head?

How can the romance novel industry possibly face up to the problem of stereotypes?

I'm trying to read this Guardian article, "Romantic fiction awards cancelled after racism row prompts mass boycott/The 2019 Rita awards for romance writing have been pulled after more than 300 books were withdrawn from competition in protest."

And — in WaPo — "A romance writer called a novel racist. Now the industry is in chaos and its top awards have been cancelled."
As of Tuesday morning, more than 300 books had been withdrawn from the contest by authors who were critical of the RWA’s recent decision to discipline romance author Courtney Milan over her public criticism of passages in Kathryn Lynn Davis’s Somewhere Lies the Moon. Milan, a longtime critic of racism in the romance industry, had called Davis’s novel a “racist mess” for its depictions of Chinese women; Davis and her fellow romance novelist Suzan Tisdale responded by filing formal ethics complaints with the RWA, alleging Milan was a “bully” who had hurt their careers....
Maybe it's only a problem with awards. Stop giving awards, and let readers read what they like. But it might be a fundamental problem within romance novels. They're necessarily premised on stereotypes — can't be done without stereotypes. To see, condemn, and eschew stereotypes is to ruin the whole enterprise. It's an existential threat. I say might be because I am not a reader of this genre, and I don't really know what's in those pages or understand much of what psychological need they fulfill.

"... Gervais neatly illustrated exactly why so many people so resent the increasingly ritualized ceremonial sanctimony."

"Because it turns out that this may be exactly what makes people hate hypocrites so much: They fool us into giving them credit for holding potentially costly moral beliefs without actually paying those costs. A 2017 paper from the journal Psychological Science reported a series of experiments demonstrating that we give people moral credit for condemning bad behavior — more credit than we give them for just stating that they themselves behave morally. But by the same token, we resent people who condemn others while privately indulging the same vices even more than we resent those who falsely claim to do the right thing. In fact, the people they studied seemed willing to give people a pass on hypocrisy if they admitted they didn’t live up to their own ideals. What bothers us most, this suggests, is not the disconnect between values and behavior, something we’re all guilty of, but rather trying to gain social status by pretending to be more moral than you are."

From "Ricky Gervais teaches Hollywood what speaking truth to power really means" by Megan McArdle (in WaPo).

"Uptown has money to effect change. There are a lot of conservative people up there and limousine liberals, or ‘gauche caviar,’ as they say in Paris."

"I mean, I think it would be totally crazy to say I’m not [gauche caviar]; it would be completely bananas to look at my life and say I’m not gauche caviar. I will say I never feel like I’ve made it. I come from nowhere and come from nothing. I grew up shopping at T.J. Maxx in Lincoln, Nebraska. But I’ve learned to make fun of myself. The absurdity of this is a $380 sweater and it’s hand-embroidered and that’s what it is."'

Rachelle Hruska MacPherson, founder of Lingua Franca, a company that sells sweaters embroidered with messages, quoted in "The Ladies Who Launch Lingua Franca and the rise of the resistance socialite" (NY Magazine).
Now, along with CALIFORNIA LOVE and EVERYDAY I’M HUSTLIN’, you can get Lingua Franca sweaters embroidered with I DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIM, NASTY WOMAN, or THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TWEETED. Connie Britton wore one of its POVERTY IS SEXIST, $380 retail but gifted to her from Bono’s ONE foundation, to the Golden Globes the year after Me Too, when everyone was wearing black. “I just don’t think a $5,000 gown would have added to the conversation in the same way,” Britton tweeted. Reese Witherspoon bought a bunch that read TIME’S UP up for friends, including Meryl Streep, who wore it on Ellen.

Lingua Franca’s website calls the line “a subversive underground movement to counteract the forces of mass production, mindless consumerism, and the patriarchy. Just kidding (kind of).”....
I'm giving this post my "class politics" tag. I know it's not exactly right, but I really don't care. Do U?

"A flexible and enormous customer"/"What is a pliant giant client?"

That was some flashily fast thinking last night!

"Iran said on Wednesday it had 'concluded' its attacks on American forces in Iraq and did 'not seek escalation or war' after firing more than 20 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed."

The NYT reports.
Senior Iraqi defense officials who work with the United States command said no Americans or Iraqis had been killed in the attacks. American officials did not, however, confirm if there were any casualties....

“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” [said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif]. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he added.

In a tweet, President Trump [said]. “All is well!... Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”
So... we can have peace now?

ADDED: Here's Giuliani (from 2-minutes after I published this post):

AND: The peace plot thickens:

January 7, 2020

At the Decor Café...

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... your carefully phrased thoughts are sure to be aesthetically pleasing.

"If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law."

Said President Trump, seemingly rolling back what had been, apparently, a threat to hit cultural sites in Iran.

Quoted in the NYT.

This has been a confusing subject since Saturday, when Trump spoke of targeting 52 sites in Iran, some of which were "important to Iran & the Iranian culture." Later, officials said that none of these sites were "cultural sites," as if there were sites "important to... culture," that were not themselves "cultural sites."

What was this confusion about? I had the idea that it was a game of drawing out elitists — people who endure the usual death and mayhem but cry out in horror at the destruction of art. Did it serve Trump's interests to light a fire under these people and get them to lecture us legalistically about international law?

Now, I see his "If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law." Such a casual attitude about law. He'll follow the law, if he can, whatever it is. As usual, he doesn't seem too interested in the law, but he gets that some people have a fetish about it, and he's not above taunting them for a while, until it's uncomfortable for him, and then it's, oh, yeah, big deal, your law, yeah, I'll follow that thing.... and I'll do it because I like to.

What a strange man! I never believed that he really would blow up treasured art and architecture. The question for me was why did he go there? Why did he taunt people about that? I assume it's something deeper and craftier than sheer jackassery.

"[H]e cupped his hands around the vessel, lifted it to his lips, tilted his head back, and let the red pearl slide into his mouth."

"He instructed me to do the same. What followed was an explosion of light and water that I would later learn was cream cheese. Under my feet, a distant galaxy swirled. Were those stars? As they floated closer, the specks turned out to be broken forks, glasses, and plates. With my pixelated hands, I batted a broken wineglass into the darkest reaches of the universe. Soon, another pearl appeared, emitting a kind of radioactive glow. I dawdled around the starlight a bit more, then tilted the pearl into my mouth. I could feel needles poking and prodding my taste buds and what felt like a crisp pea rolling around, decimating everything in its path like a boulder down a hill. I’ll never know what the actual food I ate looked like, but within Casalegno’s VR world, the orbs are meant to mimic the sensation of eating the ingredients...."

From "What It’s Really Like to Eat a VR Dinner" (NY Magazine).

Elizabeth Wurtzel has died. The author of "Prozac Nation" was 52.

The iconic book was published when she was 27.

From the WaPo obituary:
“Elizabeth’s message was: Never sweep anything under the carpet,” [said Yale writing instructor Anne Fadiman]. “Good, bad, whatever — it’s you. Embrace it. Own it. No excuses. No apologies.”...

[Her] misadventures apparently ended for good in 1998, when Ms. Wurtzel said she stopped using drugs, aside from the antidepressants that she credited with keeping her alive. Within a decade, she also launched a new career, graduating from Yale Law School and joining the white-shoe firm of Boies, Schiller and Flexner in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which she said left her feeling “powerless” and unable to write.
From the NYT obituary:
The writer David Samuels, a friend since childhood, said the cause was metastatic breast cancer, a disease that resulted from the BRCA genetic mutation. Ms. Wurtzel had a double mastectomy in 2015. After her diagnosis, she became an advocate for BRCA testing — something she had not had — and wrote about her cancer experience in The New York Times.

“I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer,” she wrote. “I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so.”...

“We resented her for being such a famous and hot little mess,” [wrote Meghan Daum in The New Yorker in 2013], “yet we couldn’t help but begrudgingly admire her ability to parlay her neuroses into financial rewards and a place in the literary scene.”...

For a time she worked for the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, though she left in 2012, saying she wanted to devote more time to writing. “I choose pleasure over what is practical,” she wrote in 2013. “I may be the only person who ever went to law school on a lark.”...

"The very real scenario of a protracted, ‘bizarro world’ Democratic primary/The dynamics have changed so much that states voting after Super Tuesday are suddenly taking on new prominence."

I read that article — by David Siders (in Politico) — yesterday, and came away thinking — though Siders doesn't come out and say it — this is how Bloomberg can win.
The Iowa field is bunched together with little daylight between a handful of well-funded candidates. Each of the four early voting states continues to present the prospect of a different winner. And, at the end of that gauntlet on Super Tuesday, a free-spending billionaire — Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor — is waiting to challenge whichever candidate or candidates emerge....

[T]he candidates still standing after Super Tuesday will be forced to run a “fast play” as they scramble into March. ... Bloomberg has already put more than 200 staffers on the ground in states that vote in March and April. He traveled recently to Ohio and Michigan, where he has hired senior state-level staff and plans to open 9 offices and 12 offices, respectively.... [H]e plans to open five offices in Missouri, 17 in Florida and 12 in Illinois.
The non-Bloomberg candidates are fighting each other in earlier states and have little or nothing set up in these later states, and they will have to put so much of their energy into raising more money. Bloomberg is unique, with his billionaire money and his strategy of playing in the late states.

Today, Siders has "Sense of foreboding darkens Democratic primary/Many early-state Democrats are gripped by dread over recent headlines. The candidates are making it worse." Nothing jumped out as quotable in that article, so I guess it's a good example of click-bait headline writing, and in that light, it's interesting that the chosen words are words of doom: foreboding... dark... gripped... dread...

I don't think the dark side wins. This doom-and-gloom sounds like a commitment to losing.

"The Holy Spirit is helping you help me."

Overheard in a café.

"In a conventional trial, [Hunter] Biden would be a relevant defense witness."

"Biden’s testimony would have bearing on a key question in an abuse-of-power trial. Trump insists that he raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy firm to the Ukrainian president as part of an overall concern he had about ongoing corruption in that country. If that contract with the son of a former vice president could be shown to be a corrupt scheme to advance the interests of a foreign company or country, it might be Trump’s best defense. Trump’s position is that he did not arbitrarily ask a country to investigate a possible political rival. Had Trump called for an investigation into Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) husband, for example, without a scintilla of proof of corruption, it would be entirely indefensible.... Schumer knows that neither Biden nor his contract will show well under the glare of a public impeachment trial... The worse that Hunter Biden looks, the better Trump looks in raising the contract. That is the problem with asking for witnesses in a Senate trial...."

From "Chuck Schumer wants witnesses. Hunter Biden could be a disaster" by Jonathan Turley (WaPo).

Meanwhile:
President Trump highlighted objections Tuesday to the prospect of testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, as Bolton’s announcement that he is prepared to appear at a Senate impeachment trial continued to roil Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was facing increased scrutiny for the delay in transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The House will convene Tuesday night for its new session....
If the Democrats look like they are basing these decisions on what will help them in the elections, it dilutes the outrage we're supposed to feel about the idea that Trump may have taken into account what will be good for him politically. When it all looks political, we retreat to supporting the party whose politics we like best. And who has not yet retreated?

Rush Limbaugh is trying to get my attention.



The headlines and the choice of photograph are Drudge's. The links go to:

"Rush Limbaugh renews radio show contract in a 'long-term' deal" (CNN Business), with no picture of the man in shorts. And...

"America’s Anchorman Interviews President Trump," a transcript at Limbaugh's own site, with no photograph of Rush, but who knows? Maybe Rush would wear his Florida golf outfit to interview Trump if the men were going to golf together.

I'm going to read the interview and update this post.

UPDATE: Seems like a phone interview (so Rush can wear what he wants).
RUSH: They said they’ve got 21 targets they’re looking at, and you came back and said, “Fine. I’ve got 52 of yours.” I don’t think that they are accustomed to a president like you, sir. I mean, you just mentioned it. Obama basically appeased them. Obama worked with this guy on the Iranian nuclear deal.... What was the purpose of American policy with Iran prior to your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think they had a purpose.... When I first came into office, I went to the Pentagon, and they showed me 18 “sites of confliction,” meaning conflict, over there. And every one of them was started by Iran, either their soldiers or they paid for soldiers, soldiers for hire. I have no idea what they tried to do with appeasement....
... I think John Kerry was… Personally, I think he was advising them.... And, you know, right after they made the deal, it wasn’t like they were respected. They treated the United States worse than ever before. In fact, I said, “At least give him a little respect,” because they treated… They got worse. They actually got more hostile. They took the $150 billion and they took the $1.8 billion in cash, and they got worse. And, if you remember, right before the payment was made, they took 10 sailors. And they humiliated those sailors, and they humiliated our country with the sailors down on their knees. And the only reason they released them was they wanted their first payment....
ADDED: I haven't read the whole interview yet, but I did search the page for "culture" and "cultural" — and came up with nothing. How can Rush not have asked about the "cultural sites" controversy? Collusion.

"I hereby nominate this article for a Pulitzer prize" is the top-rated comment...

... on the WaPo article "People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds. These are their stories."
Hundreds of people told The Post their stories about seeing “Cats” while high — some on marijuana, others on psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and other mind-altering substances....
I like when the whole rating system for comments goes sarcastic.

January 6, 2020

Sunrise type #5.

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This morning at 7:31. "Actual" sunrise time: 7:30. Tomorrow, at long last, the sun will rise earlier.

"The defense’s grilling of the alleged victims is likely to create some of the most dramatic moments of the trial."

"Former prosecutors say that cross-examination will be long, painful for the women, and require deftness from [Harvey Weinstein's lawyer Donna] Rotunno, whose natural forcefulness could backfire. 'If your claim is that someone is lying then you’ve got to act like they’re lying,' said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and former prosecutor...."

From "Weinstein Heads to Trial 2 Years After Claims Against Him Fueled #MeToo" (NYT). The trial begins today.

"A bit like the AOC endorsement of Bernie..."

So busy.

It's the Monday after the Christmas-and-New-Year's weeks...

... it's time to get back to your regularly scheduled news events.

That Soleimani killing shook up the regularly scheduled break from the news, but the break provided a space within which to be unpredictable, and I read it in Bloomberg News: "U.S. Killing of Soleimani Leaves Trump 'Totally Unpredictable.'"

That is, I observe, a prediction. That gives Trump the power to be unpredictable by being predictable. If he does the most obvious thing now, it should take people by surprise — if it's actually true that he's totally unpredictable.

The quote at Bloomberg is:
“The Americans are now totally unpredictable,” Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the U.S. and the United Nations, said in an interview. “There was no response to Iranian attacks against oil tankers, a U.S. drone and Saudi oil fields, but out of the blue comes this surprising hit on Soleimani. We are depending on the unpredictable reaction of one man.”
Is that bad in war? I can't even tell whether Araud thinks it's bad. I certainly hope that the threat to hit Iranian cultural sites is merely a bluff. At first, I wanted to think he didn't really say that, but here's Maggie Haberman at the NYT:
Aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters the spirit of a Twitter post on Saturday, when he said the United States government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance....

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” the president said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

"Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes Jokes, Ranked in Order of Dickishness/From the righteously provocative to the just plain mean."

At Slate.

I don't care enough about movies and TV shows and awards to watch the Golden Globes, but I almost did, just to watch Ricky, and I kind of regret missing it. And I missed it hard, because I was sitting with the remote control within reach when I knew it was on, and I knew I could record it and then just watch the Ricky parts, but I actively held back, because I didn't want to see the Hollywood faces in the audience, phonily howling at jokes (or otherwise making faces, if something crosses whatever line they're able to calculate has been crossed).

But NBC gives us the whole monologue on YouTube, so I have no regrets:



ADDED: The stars object to SO many of the jokes. Now, that's pretty funny. I like the grace with with Martin Scorsese takes the joke at his expense. Scroll to 4:29 to see that segment.

AND: Don Jr. loved it:

January 5, 2020

At the Sunday Sunrise Café...

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... you might want to continue the conversation here.

The photo was taken looking east at 7:35 — 5 minutes after the "actual" sunrise time.

Bonus pictures from mid-afternoon, showing the glasslike cracked ice along the beach:

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"It is impossible to overstate the importance... It is more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden or even the death of al-Baghdadi."

"Suleimani was the architect and operational commander of the Iranian effort to solidify control of the so-called Shia crescent, stretching from Iran to Iraq through Syria into southern Lebanon. He is responsible for providing explosives, projectiles, and arms and other munitions that killed well over 600 American soldiers and many more of our coalition and Iraqi partners just in Iraq, as well as in many other countries such as Syria.... [Trump's] reasoning seems to be to show in the most significant way possible that the U.S. is just not going to allow the continued violence—the rocketing of our bases, the killing of an American contractor, the attacks on shipping, on unarmed drones—without a very significant response.... Iran is in a very precarious economic situation, it is very fragile domestically.... It will be interesting now to see if there is a U.S. diplomatic initiative to reach out to Iran and to say, 'Okay, the next move could be strikes against your oil infrastructure and your forces in your country—where does that end?'... Obviously all sides will suffer if this becomes a wider war, but Iran has to be very worried that—in the state of its economy, the significant popular unrest and demonstrations against the regime—that this is a real threat to the regime in a way that we have not seen prior to this.... Yes, they can respond and they can retaliate, and that can lead to further retaliation—and that it is clear now that the administration is willing to take very substantial action. This is a pretty clarifying moment in that regard.... Given the state of their economy, I think they have to be very leery, very concerned that that could actually result in the first real challenge to the regime certainly since the Iran-Iraq War...."

Said David Petraeus in an interview with Foreign Policy.

"That Iran will retaliate is not in question, analysts say. Not to do so would be a sign of weakness..."

"... that could jeopardize the enormous influence Iran has gained in the region over the past four decades.... 'Iran has to retaliate, and it will be a retaliation to restore the deterrence lost by this assassination,' said [Kamel Wazne, a Beirut-based political analyst]. But he and other analysts also believe Iran also has no appetite for a full-scale war with the United States that would deplete its already precarious finances and leave it heavily outgunned. Iran, analysts say, has to calibrate its response — inflicting enough damage on the United States that it is seen to be avenging Soleimani’s death without precipitating an all-out war. The question is how?... In years gone by, Iranian allies have blown up American embassies and kidnapped American citizens with devastating effect, driving American troops and diplomats out of Lebanon in the 1980s and propelling the ascent of the Iranian-allied Hezbollah movement there.... Since May, Iran has been harassing ships and firing rockets at American troops in Iraq.... [W]hat more can Iran do that 'it has not already done?'... 'Iran cannot go to war in the region. In Iraq their options are becoming very limited for them because any escalation in Iraq exposes them to more attacks by the U.S.,' [said Hanin Ghaddar, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy]. 'In Lebanon it’s going to be difficult because of the financial crisis. They cannot fund a war in Lebanon or anywhere else.'... 'My sense is that we will see an escalation in Iraq,' said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. 'But I don't think the Iranians really want a war with the U.S. I don't think they are interested in an all-out regional conflict.'"

From "Iran has vowed revenge against the U.S. But it seems to be in no hurry" (WaPo).

When you got to the end of what I excerpted, did you look back to the beginning — "That Iran will retaliate is not in question" — and... question?

Does the Washington Post seem to be encouraging Americans to brainstorm about how Iran can hurt us? Whether that was the idea or not, the top-rated comment over there is: "Trump Hotels. Very soft targets, and if they are heavily protected, no one will stay in them. A threat to the hotel chain would work wonders."

Somebody else says: "If Iran really wants to harm America as a whole, they might help Russia hack the 2020 elections to help Trump get a second term. That is frightening, but I doubt they'd do it." Why would Iran want Trump to get a second term? Their brainstorming isn't just evil, it's stupid.

Big Structural Mom Energy.

I'm reading "My dream candidate exists – and her name is Elizabeth Warren/She’s overcome misogyny, billionaires’ wrath, and media smears to get to the front of the race, and she brings a special brand of Big Structural Mom Energy" by Rebecca Solnit (in The Guardian):
What I call Big Structural Mom Energy could also be called radical compassion. It lies in the homey delivery and quality of attention she brings to, for example, the young queer woman in Iowa she encouraged and hugged earlier this month. Warren, who has said more about trans rights than any other candidate, has made her credo clear, over and over: that everyone matters, and matters equally, and that the systems that shape our lives should value, defend and give everyone opportunity equally. She got a lot of attention for her comic answer to the question about what she’d say to someone opposed to marriage equality, but after the laughter was over, she said something she’s said in many forms in her campaign: “To me, that is the heart of it. That was the basis of the faith that I grew up in, and it truly is about the preciousness of each and every life.”
I thought a lot about that term "Big Structural Mom Energy," which Google convinces me Solnit invented. Is there even such a thing as a "structural mom"? I'm picturing a large sculpture — a colossus. Or maybe a high-energy, strict disciplinarian character who's got her kids' schedule packed with enriching activities. Google convinces me that whatever sorts of moms there might be out there, "structural mom" is not the idiom.  But oddly enough, I am finding "structural energy." It comes up on websites offering alternative medicine, notably Rolfing.
Rolf claimed to have found an association between emotions and the soft tissue, writing "although rolfing is not primarily a psychotherapeutic approach to the problems of humans", it does constitute an "approach to the personality through the myofascial collagen components of the physical body". She claimed Rolfing could balance the mental and emotional aspects of subjects, and that "the amazing psychological changes that appeared in Rolfed individuals were completely unexpected."
Get us a President who can do that to the country. Go after the soft tissue and restructure the emotions. Rolf the body politic.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ryan say "Big Structural Mom Energy" is "an obvious play on Big Dick Energy." That's a term I saw fit to write about in June 2018 (because The Guardian — the same place that published Solnit's piece — had an article, "Big dick energy: what is it, who has it and should we really care?/It is a phrase that is ‘a thing’, according to the collective wisdom of the internet – but do you have BDE?").

"Most New York bars seem to be using the same type of structure: plastic sheeting, zippered door, accommodates eight. It can be ordered online..."

"... and costs as little as $800. While the domes look simple, installing them, which requires hours of manual labor involving about 400 pieces, is tough, said Mark Briskin, the general manager of the Park Terrace Hotel, which has two fake igloos on its roof.... 'You are enclosed in this little bubble,' said Hannah Jentz, 28, who recently spent an evening during the holidays there. 'You can see the tree, you can people-watch, but you get to escape from the cold, and you don’t have people bumping into you.' In the first two weeks of the month, City Winery had more than 1,000 reservations for the domes."

From "Inside the Fake Igloo Rooftop Wars/Ahh, winter in New York City" (NYT).

It's worth clicking through to see the photographs. It's pretty obvious that the NYT and the photographer think these contraptions and the decor within are laughably shoddy.

I'm especially amused by the third photograph, which shows an ordinary-looking couple sitting at a table that has a fake-fur tablecloth, which seems rather gross. On the table is a strange wooden contraption that seems to be a little clothesline — complete with clothespins! — for some sort of dark, dried fish or meat. These people can't be escaping from the cold, because the man is only wearing a thin shirt —so thin his smart phone is weighing the pocket down quite unattractively. Everyone in the photograph, including a lady in the background has a glass tipped up into the same position. It's synchronized sipping.

I looked up "igloo" at Amazon to see if a plastic dome would come up — my idea of an igloo is something made of snow — and it did: Garden Dome Igloo - 12 Ft Stylish Conservatory, Play Area, Greenhouse or Gazebo. It looks much more elegant in the photograph there than in the comical pictures at the New York Times. Note: I am not recommending this thing! 55% of the comments at Amazon are 1-star reviews. I'll collect just those comments — here — for the comedy.

Here's a question for these New York "igloo" users: Are you not committing the political sin of cultural appropriation? You are not Inuit:

"When you classify yourself as vegan, you’re now being watched. In my DMs, I’d get all these messages from activists for protests. I’m just not that guy..."

"... I did this for the purpose of eating better," said the food blogger, Reynolde Jordan, quoted in "It’s Called ‘Plant-Based,’ Look It Up/There’s a difference between disavowing all animal byproducts and simply trying to eat less meat" (NYT).
Thomas Colin Campbell, the Cornell University biochemist who claims responsibility for coining the term plant-based [said,] “I wanted to emphasize that my work and ideas were coming totally from science and not any sort of ethical or philosophical consideration”....
I'm giving this my "euphemisms" tag, even though I don't think that's exactly right. I considered "propaganda" and "rhetoric." There are 2 intertwined subjects here. At least 2.

One is that "vegan" feels like it means more than just not eating animal products. To say you're a vegan seems to be adopting an identity that has been defined and is being defined by other people and you don't want all those stereotypes sticking to you.

Another is that you seem to be committing to absolutely no animal products, and maybe all you want to do is to build you diet around plant products and minimize the consumption of meat. Personally, I know I need to eat some meat, but I don't eat very much.

Is "plant-based" a euphemism? I'm thinking yes, in the case of someone who follows a vegan diet but doesn't want to be seen as the stereotype vegan, with all morality baggage. But it's not a euphemism — though it seems like a bit of a misnomer — if what you're trying to say is I actually do eat some meat (and dairy and eggs).

"But the bespectacled Qaani — whose portfolio as deputy included Quds Force operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian republics — boasts few notable military victories."

"Instead, experts say, he is believed to have focused on the organization’s day-to-day administrative affairs.... Arash Azizi, a New York-based writer who is researching a forthcoming book on Iran’s external military operations, said: 'Qaani was presumed to be the heir apparent for a long time. But he’s very bureaucratic — he does not have Soleimani’s charisma. As someone who works in Iran’s national security apparatus, he hasn’t really distinguished himself'....  In 1998, when Taliban forces attacked Iran’s consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, killing nine diplomats, Qaani was instrumental in dissuading Tehran’s leadership from responding militarily, Azizi said. 'Many people were eager for Iran to take action,' Azizi said. 'It was an act of maturity on Qaani’s part in deciding not do anything rash.... I don’t think that he speaks Arabic, and he doesn’t have the same understanding of the Arab world or of Israel that Soleimani had'...."

From a Washington Post article with a headline that stresses not the difference but the sameness: "Iran’s new Quds Force commander brings continuity to the post held by his slain predecessor."

My excerpt stresses the differences, and I concede that I am hoping things will be better for us and not worse. With that attitude, I liked what I heard from Azizi. But WaPo's headline is supported by quotes from 2 other scholars — "Under Qaani’s leadership, there is likely to be greater continuity than change in the Quds Force" and "I suspect he’ll have little difficulty filling Soleimani’s shoes when it comes to operations and strategy."

ADDED: The question shouldn't be whether this man is or can be the same as Soleimani, but what does it mean that a man like this was chosen to replace Soleimani. Again, I confess to optimism.

What's the point of all this equipment if we don't at least threaten to use it?


ADDED: This tweet reminds me of another Trump tweet, from just about exactly a year ago: "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

Replacing the high school gym class with outside-of-school exercise monitored with a fitness tracker.

This is a great idea! I'm reading "Gym class without the gym? With technology, it’s catching on" in The Boston Globe (where I'd gone to check out what Boston people were thinking not about participatory sports, but that spectator sport where "It’s the end for the Patriots, and perhaps, for Tom Brady").

When I read the headline "Gym class without the gym," I thought maybe it was about the school facilities. Is a gym really needed? But no. It's about students who want to fill up their schedules with substantive courses — such as extra languages and music and art — and would like another slot to fill. That was me in high school, forced to take gym, but dropping the highest level math and science courses, because it was important to me to learn Spanish as well as French, to have an art class, and to not to miss the excellent Speech and Theater course. They let me avoid Calculus and Physics, but I had to go down to the gym, put on a gym suit, and get into the crab position to kick a cage ball or wait my turn to hit a softball and scamper to first base.

I would have loved the opportunity to take another substantive course — including the math and science I skipped — and I would have had a much more positive attitude toward athletics if I controlled my physical activities (which, unlike cage ball and basketball, could have become part of my life after high school).
Though a physical education instructor isn’t shouting from the sidelines, teachers do guide assignments by setting goals such as fat burn, cardio, or peak, relying on the technology to be their eyes and ears..... Teenagers who play soccer, swim, or dance all year may satisfy the workout requirements without doing anything extra.....

It’s not clear how many schools are embracing the trend, which comes with some cautions. Technology and the collection of any student data always raises the specter of student privacy concerns. And some worry that students exercising on their own may miss out on important social concepts such as teamwork....
They can teach the social concept of teamwork in the academic courses. Just have more group projects! Nothing like teamwork to make high school sing. Anyway... I don't remember any teamwork in high school gym class. Maybe for the girls who chose to do after-school sports, but not the class. I do remember being lined up and interrogated about whether we had our periods, which was important information in case we were to take a shower, though we were never once told to take a shower, and it was never clear why a girl on her period couldn't take a shower. But that was 50 years ago. As a person who, after 50 years, is still irked over gym class, I love the new after-school Fitbit-monitored alternative.
“They work with their PE instructor to set a fitness goal and then they get their workout however they want to,” [said Nichole Lemmon, the creator of the program, called Launch. "]It really does promote lifelong fitness because it’s about working out the way they want to, not they’re required to do a particular activity in gym. . . . We have a lot of kids — a locker room is their worst nightmare. It’s not where they want to be.”
I'll just gesture at the next step: You could argue that students have a right to substitute outside-of-school monitored exercise for the traditional gym class. It's about physical autonomy and the power to resist demands that you do something with your body that you don't want to do, including taking off your clothes.