Terror Attack in Manchester

 

Immediately following a concert in Manchester, England, an explosion tore through the venue. As of 10:40 pm ET, 19 people have died and about 50 are injured in the suspected terror attack.

Pop singer Ariana Grande was appearing at the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena. After the show, about 10:35 local time, there was a blast in the foyer. The cause is unknown but Prime Minister Theresa May said it “is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack.”

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The Downside to Winning War

 

If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined. — Pyrrhus of Epirus

There are many versions of this quote — first noted in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Most are specific in addressing the Battle of Asculum — in stating that another such victory with similar losses will be his undoing. But I prefer this one as it smacks more of Pyrrhus — second cousin of Alexander the Great and one of antiquity’s last great generals. An ignoble and mercurial ruler yet immense and brilliant military tactician; Pyrrhus was imbued with the ancient and lost skill to speak poetically about pragmatism and destiny — rendering thought that echoes on as equal parts prophecy and eternal truth. Outside of Alexander’s Macedonia — the Greeks weren’t much of an empire — more a conglomeration of cultures that fused language and custom through the syncretism of trade and occasional war. Not till Alexander pushed into Thrace, Persia, and India can one truly speak of a Seleucid and Macedonian empires rather than scattered populations that traced their lineage to the city-states of Athens and Sparta.

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Silence Is the Order of the Day

 

The longer the internecine Trump Wars go on, the more and more exhausted I feel. The divide on the right is more cultural than it is policy based — a divide that it is now clear can’t be bridged in the short term. This is not helped by the President’s apparent need to shoot himself in the foot on a weekly basis. With each new political crisis, whether deserved or not, each side only seems to dig itself deeper into the trenches which sprung up during the election.

There is a lot in the last four months for all of us to be happy about, from the good, to the great, to the unbelievably spectacular, but this post isn’t about that.

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Quote of the Day: Outrage

 

Outrage is a substitute for religion: It convinces us that our existence has some kind of meaning or significance beyond itself, that is to say beyond the paltry flux of day-to-day existence, especially when that existence is a securely comfortable one. Therefore we go looking for things to be outraged about as anteaters look for ants. Of all emotions, outrage is not only one of the most pleasurable but also one of the most reliable.
— Theodore Dalrymple on outrage.

Filter the news through this quote.

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From an Anonymous Source

 

With the news breaking of the execution of several Chinese nationals who worked for the CIA, I wanted to find out a bit more. Just how badly compromised was our intelligence network? Yes, it has been a few years since the executions that occurred between 2010 and 2012, but a roll up of a spy network like that can hurt intelligence gathering and operations for decades. It can lead to some very bad surprises for a country like the United States.

I made contact with some of my sources in the intelligence community. Most agreed that it was both bad and embarrassing. The predictions and damage assessments I was hearing had a very wide range, and I decided that it was worth the risk of contacting a source who is a bit higher up and in the know on these things.

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China Seems Less Freaked Out by the Rise of the Robots than America

 

A Robot Revolution, This Time in China” by New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher pretty much gives a modern economic lesson every sentence. It also presents a picture of a modernizing China that was completely missing from the 2016 presidential campaign. From the piece:

Robots are critical to China’s economic ambitions, as Chinese companies look to move up the manufacturing chain. The Ford assembly plant is across the street from a robot-producing factory owned by Kuka, the big German manufacturer of industrial robots that a Chinese company bought last summer. For carmakers, the reliance on robots is driven partly by cost. Blue-collar wages have soared because multinational companies have moved much of their production to China even as its labor force is rapidly changing. The combination of the one-child policy, which cut the birth rate through the 1980s and ’90s, and an eightfold increase in college enrollments has cut by more than half the number of people entering the work force each year who have less than a high school degree and may be willing to consider factory work. Blue-collar wages are now $4 to $6 an hour in large, prosperous cities, though still far lower than in the United States.

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In Which a Scalia Corrects Me

 

From my inbox:

I wanted to comment on something you said during this week’s Ricochet podcast. (A great one, by the way – I’m just glad no punches were thrown.) During the discussion of Mueller’s role as special counsel, you mentioned that my father (the late justice) had disapproved of special counsels. I assume you’re referring to his dissent in Morrison v. Olson, but that was actually about the independent counsel. The difference, as I understand it, is that the special counsel is appointed by the DOJ, whereas the independent counsel was named by a three-judge court. My father’s point was that this made the IC an obvious threat to the separation of powers.

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The Cavalry Isn’t Coming from DC – States Need to Save Themselves

 

Obama brought us Obamacare, the Stimulus, and doubled the debt to $20 trillion. George W. Bush brought us the Wall Street bailout and interminable middle-eastern wars. Congress, alternately run by Democrats and Republicans over the past 16 years, approved all of these messes. And seeing how everyone in DC — politicians, press, lobbyists, and probably Uber drivers — have spent the past five months in an endless slap fight, we shouldn’t expect the Beltway to produce much of consequence for the foreseeable future.

How do we enact conservative change in this environment? The best option is to build a doorless wall around DC; Washingtonians of every stripe can give each other swirlies while the rest of America gets about fixing the nation. But since that effort might be frowned upon, let’s just ignore the lot of them the best we can and focus closer to home.

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Kimmy Schmidt, Still Unbreakable

 

One of the great things about the overlap between the Golden Era of Television and the Streaming Era is that when a new season of something gets released by a streaming service, you can watch an entire season in one sitting. (Except Hulu, who continues to inexplicably release things week-to-week.) The bad thing is that you have to wait a whole year to get new episodes. (Or in this case, 13 agonizing months.)

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On Trump’s Saudi Arabia Speech

 

I’ve got about half a dozen posts sitting unfinished in my draft folder, because here’s what keeps happening to me. The day begins with news of Episode X of the Trump Presidency. I spend hours reading about it, trying to understand what really happen, trying to figure out who really said or did what and why, trying to separate fact from rumor. When finally I think I understand, I spend an afternoon writing a post about it, and in the end, I’m quite proud: I’ve got Episode X all sorted out!

Right before I press “publish,” though, I check the news to see if there have been any further developments in the story, just to be sure it’s up to date, and  Oh, no! Episode X is ancient history! The world has moved on to Episode Y! I missed Episode Y completely, I was too busy thinking about Episode X. So I end up feeling like Rip van Winkle, stunned and blinking in the sunlight, and can’t bring myself to press “publish,” because it will look as if I’ve been sleeping under a rock.

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Body Shaming, Dress Shaming, and Snail Shaming

 

As one often is, I found myself inspired by @peterrobinson‘s latest post – in this case, a post on beauty products which may or may not have been shed by cows. Specifically, I was inspired to look up beauty products shed by other animals, such as snail slime and nightingale droppings. Well, it is difficult for a gal to look these things up without being bombarded by other supposedly female-friendly stories, on love and fashion and the like. To go in reverse order, let me start with the snail shaming:

Love is tough. Even tougher if you’re a snail born with the wrong chirality. Poor Jeremy was a left-swirling snail. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, for a snail. But he was a left-swirling snail born into a right-swirling snail’s world. Snails are hermaphrodites, which sounds pretty flexible, but they can’t mate with themselves and a pair of them do have to both swirl the same way in order to mate. Scientists wanting to breed Jeremy to study his (zir?) kind found Jeremy another left-swirler, Lefty, to mate with. The two had only begun flirting when they were forced to hibernate together in the fridge, which sounds like a big step – imagine being forced to move in with someone just because the two of you had been caught kissing! After this first scientific violation of gastropod sexual autonomy, stuff just kinda snowballed from there, leading to what’s certainly the most adorable use of “cucked” I’ve ever seen:

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A Shift of Perspective on Trump

 

This past week I was passionately critiqued by Trump supporters and Trump critics—and it was a significant learning experience. It wasn’t easy to read some of the comments: the Trump supporters told me I was being ruled by my fears and emotions and piling on with the hysterical media; the Trump critics, except for a few people, empathized with my reactions to Trump, but indicated that unless a disaster actually occurred, my complaints and worries were about a potential and to-date unrealized future. (Almost everyone, especially in the latter group, understood my detesting Trump’s tweeting, his misstatements and his boorish behavior.) I also appreciated @iWe‘s post on our reactions to Trump, and his reasoning made sense.

I found myself carefully considering all this input, because I was experiencing a dissonance between the values I hold dear, such as cherishing truth and rational analysis, and the pieces I was writing. So my analysis is still limited, and conclusions are few, but I wanted to share them.

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Winning the Parental Lottery

 

May is filled with sweet moments for me: Marian devotions, blooming lilacs, and both my parents’ birthdays. [Dad P. on 5/5; Mom P. on 5/15.] (What follows is a slightly-reworked tribute published some years ago in this space; reprised because I can’t improve on it. Thanks for your kind indulgence of a loving daughter.)

For those who’ve asked to know more about the folks who brought this particular Panjandrum into the world – almost 60 years ago – I offer this sketch: They were both children of the Depression. Mom (youngest of seven) was born in 1932. Dad (third of four with lots of space between all of them) was born in 1935. Mom’s hometown was about an hour away from Dad’s. She grew up in a tight-knit neighborhood. He lived in a more rural setting.

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Tragic Kingdom

 

I took my family to Orlando last weekend for a much-deserved family vacation. My wife and I were relaxing on a park bench inside on of Orlando’s many themes parks, enjoying a brief moment of rest while our sons had another go-round on a log flume ride. As we were relaxing, I looked up, and ten yards away, I watched a young woman slap a man in the face.

A loud argument then ensued between them that appeared to be centered on who was going to do what with the small child they had in a stroller. The arguing continued, quite heated, until the man wrenched the stroller away from the women and stormed off, away from the woman and my wife and I.

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Runaways

 

I live in the sort of place you run away to.

It’s a safe place, mountains in each direction, providing nooks and crannies into which you could disappear and never be found. People come here to escape the cities, the traffic, the pollution, the crime. The little valley isn’t without it’s problems, but I know it’s worse outside, because people keep coming here to seek refuge, and if they can survive a winter or two, they stay.

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Prepare to Be Thagomized!

 

A friend of mine passed along this Mental Floss article on Gary Larson’s Far Side. Many of us here are probably Far Side fans. I know I am. It was normal, growing up, to see Far Side clips taped up in practice rooms, on lab doors, and in teachers’ offices. I didn’t know, though, that Larson’s nickname for the spikes on a stegasaurus’s tail, “thagomizer”, is now an acceptable paleontology term. I had heard of “shmooing” before, a process named after cartoonist Al Capp‘s shmoos excuse me, shmoon:

[T]he cellular bulge that is produced by a haploid yeast cell as a response to a pheromone from the opposite mating type (either a or α) is referred to as a “shmoo,” because cells that are undergoing mating and present this particular structure resemble the cartoon character.[12] The whole process is known to biologists as “shmooing.” Shmoo[n] are essential; without them, we would have neither bread nor beer.

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The End Game for NeverTrumpers: A Response

 

This is a response to @polyphemus‘s post entitled “What is the End Game for NeverTrumpers.” It started out as a comment, but I decided to make it its own post because despite several servers full of Trump commentary on this site, I honestly don’t feel like my perspective has been well represented all that often. So here we go.

What I want, first and foremost, is a commander in chief who I trust to do everything humanly possible to ensure the security of the country. That requires a certain amount of knowledge and a certain amount of judgment. I find Trump terrifyingly lacking in those departments and genuinely fear that something terrible will happen because of the combination of his ignorance and his impulsiveness. I’d just feel much better with a steadier finger on the trigger. (Mike Pence would do nicely.)

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No Contributor Has Been Treated More Unfairly

 

Being named a Ricochet contributor is an honor and a privilege, therefore I want to get out in front of the story being reported that I used my sizeable influence with the President of the United States to fire James Comey and stop the investigation into whether or not my 12-year old son was paid by the Russians to do a lousy job mowing the lawn.

Yes, the neighbors are saying that if I had an ounce of integrity and real management ability my lawn would look better than it does. I promised to make a deal on the lawn and I have. Yes, I have a relative in charge of the lawn but counsel assures me that we have not broken either nepotism or child labor laws. That fence along the southern property line is awaiting funding. And it will be a beautiful fence. By the way, James Clapper assured me last summer that there are no “moles” in the lawn. I know they say that my lawn is the laughingstock of the neighborhood. But hey, I was elected president of this house, not president of the neighborhood. And the fact that I didn’t hire an immigrant to mow the grass is not a sure fire indication that it was me that turned in the family on the next block to ICE.

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“Cowshed” and Cow Sheds

 

Have you noticed the new brand of toiletries called “Cowshed?” I saw it advertised in one magazine or another a few days ago, and then, in the little lavatory on an airplane just, I came across the item itself: next to the sink stood two bottles, one of soap and the other of cream, both labeled “Cowshed.”

As it happens, I have some experience of cow sheds — or, rather, of one particular cow shed, which stood a few paces from the tiny cottage I rented for a year on the outskirts of Oxford. That cow shed housed an enormous bull and a couple of cows, who every day produced gallons of manure and urine from one end and, from the other, of mucous, which streamed from their noses unendingly.

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American Cinema Foundation, Podcast #1

 

Hello, Ricochet! Here’s the first of my projects through the American Cinema Foundation. I’m planning a weekly podcast talking about movies new and old, as they come into the news. What I want out this series of half-hour discussions is to give people a sense of the depth of thought involved in movies, even in popular movies that do not pretend to be sophisticated. It’s probably going to take me a while to figure out a format that works for an American audience, but I can guarantee that you’ll hear things that make sense as soon as you hear them, but which you haven’t heard before, as well as things that make no sense or seem very obscure.

I’m all about showing what’s serious about the movies I talk about, and so are my friends and guests. I’m hoping to make a bit of a splash, not least so that I find it easier to invite directors and writers on the podcast to talk about what’s worthwhile in American cinema. So please share this wherever you can! I’m grateful for whatever suggestions you can make, if you think they might help me improve the podcast and spread the word about my work here. Ultimately, I want to help people think about movies. Our leisure to a large extent is about movies and series. I’m all about giving people ways to get as much as possible out of the movies they love or even are merely curious about.

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The Trump Doctrine

 

About one thing John Maynard Keynes was right. “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”

Leaders are driven by worldviews, whether they know it or not.

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