Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore (Nicholas Kristof-NYT)

It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.
Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.
Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.
In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.
“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.

The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didn’t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.
Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this. For now Trump has much less to show than past negotiators who hammered out deals with North Korea like the 1994 Agreed Framework, which completely froze the country’s plutonium program with a rigorous monitoring system.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Smartest Things I Read About Rosenanne Firing Today

  1. What makes this moment unique is Roseanne’s occupation, fame, and employer. Authoring racist and/or otherwise offensive material, personally attacking political opponents, and believing in a collection of wildly false narratives puts her in lockstep with what seems to be America’s fastest growing and most vocal political party. With all due respect to baseball, Roseanne was participating in America’s favorite pastime. If you see her as an outlier, you’re missing the point.
  2. While the bough-breaking Tweet stands alone, the bigger issue here is that Roseanne’s whole twitter feed is a cesspool of conspiracy theories and lies that are believed by tens of millions of ill-informed Americans. The racism and ignorance are widespread — and there is an entire media industry that has been fueling this fire for years. Roseanne isn’t the big problem here. It’s the millions of others who see her, and those like her (including the Troll in Chief), as truth-tellers.
  3. The Roseanne firing is a reminder of America’s modern truism. Everyone pays but Trump. He’s said much worse things than Roseanne … today.
  4. David Pell Medium

Friday, May 25, 2018

Analysis of Cancellation of North Korea Summit

“Kim baited Trump into pulling out of the summit, and Trump took the bait,” said Vipin Narang, a professor of international relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“They clearly don’t have the personnel in place and the mindset to accomplish much in these delicate sorts of exchanges,” said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “We can’t even reach and stick to trade agreements with close partners.”

I felt that as things drew closer and Trump realized like he wasn’t going to get the grand submission with Kim on his knees, that things were not going to go well.Stephen Schwartz, nuclear policy consultant
“Kim also wanted to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, the U.S. and China, and he’s done that,” Schwartz said. “Donald Trump fell right into it, and he has no one to blame but himself.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Opinion No wonder there’s an exodus from religion By E.J. Dionne Jr. (5-7-2018 Washington Post)

Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades?

This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40  percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.”

To understand how so many now prefer nothing to something when it comes to religion, ponder the news over the past few days.

The same newspapers and broadcasts that were reporting on how President Trump finally admitted that he had indirectly paid a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair also offered accounts of what we’ll call Jesuitgate, the controversy over who should be the chaplain of the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan backed down from his effective dismissal of the Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest, as chaplain. Ryan had said he asked the cleric to quit because he had provided inadequate “pastoral services,” but denied that Conroy was ousted because of a mild prayer for justice he delivered during the debate over the GOP tax cut.

Speaker Ryan says House chaplain can stay in job
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) reversed course on May 3, and agreed to keep the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy on as House chaplain. (Reuters)

That phrase “pastoral services” must inspire a chuckle from your typical millennial agnostic. It makes the work of holy men and women sound like the this-worldly tasks of the accountant, the mechanic or the dentist. (As the grateful son of a dentist, I speak with respect for these extremely useful professions.)

Conroy had initially agreed to Ryan’s request to step aside but withdrew his resignation in a quietly stinging letter. The priest noted that he had never been informed of the shortcomings of his “pastoral services.” If he had, he would “have attempted to correct such ‘faults.’ ”

Conroy also quoted Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, as telling him “something like ‘maybe it’s time we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’ ” Ryan’s office vehemently denied this (the Catholic vote is substantial), but the speaker announced he didn’t want to have a “protracted fight” and that Conroy could stay.

Many of us could have told the speaker that it’s a mistake to mess with a Jesuit. But think about it: The House Republican leadership was more inclined to push out a chaplain than to impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day.

This degree of partisan irresponsibility only aggravates the already powerful skepticism among the young about what it means to be religious. In their landmark 2010 book, “American Grace,” the scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell found that the rise of the nones was driven by the increasing association of organized religion with conservative politics and a lean toward the right in the culture wars.

Revealingly, Putnam and Campbell found that millennials with tolerant and open views on homosexuality were more than twice as likely to be religious nones as their statistically similar peers with conservative or traditionalist views on homosexuality. Many young people came to regard religion, in Putnam and Campbell’s words, as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.”

If you want a particularly exquisite hypocritical moment, consider that on Thursday, the very day when Trump had to admit his lies on the Stormy Daniels payoff, the president held a White House commemoration of the National Day of Prayer. “Prayer is the key that opens [to] us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings,” he proclaimed, quoting Billy Graham. He tweeted this out as part of a pious 42-second video set to a sentimental soundtrack of peaceful strings. I guess Trump can use some peace and a lot of mercy right now.

What’s maddening about all of this is that religion has a strong case to make for itself — to the young and to everyone else — given its historical role as a prod to personal and social change and the ways in which movements for justice have been inspired through the centuries by the words of Exodus, Micah, Isaiah, Amos and Jesus.

Conroy was getting at this in the most uncontroversial way possible when he spoke in his now-contested prayer of how “our great nation” has created “opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle.” If a chaplain could be rebuked for voicing that simple and undeniable truth, what’s the point of the “religious liberty” that Trump and his GOP allies celebrate?

And when will those who advertise themselves as religion’s friends realize they can do far more damage to faith than all the atheists and agnostics put together?

Notes from Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich

The immune system actually abets the growth and spread of tumors, which is like saying that the fire department is indeed staffed by arsonists. We all know that the function of the immune system is to protect us, most commonly from bacteria and viruses, so it's expected response to cancer should be a concerted and militant defense. 

You can think of death bed early or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of and eternity of personal nonexistent do, and sees it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever surprising rolled around us. 

I had a different reaction to aging: I gradually came to realize that I was old enough to die, by which I am not suggesting that each of us bears and expiration date. Where is the course no fix stage at which a person ceases to be worthy of further medical investment, whether aimed at prevention or cure

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. As for medical care: I will see help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in problems that remain undetectable to me. Page 3

It was my dentist, oddly enough, Who suggested, during an ordinary filling, that I'd be tested for sleep apnea.

What repelled me even more than this kinky procedure (colonoscopy) was the day of fasting and laxatives that was supposed to proceed it, in order to ensure that the little camera and cat encounter something other than feces. I put the saw from year-to-year, until I finally felt safe in the knowledge that since colon cancer is usually slow growing, any cancerous polyps or like insane aren't likely to flourish until I am already close to death from other causes. Page )7

Rather than being fearful of not detecting disease, both patients and doctors should fear healthcare. The best way to avoid medical errors is to avoid medical care. The default should be: I am well. Good way to stay that way is to keep making good choices – – not to have my doctor look for problems. Page 9

An estimated 70 to 80% of thyroid cancer surgeries performed on US, French and Italian women in the first decade of the 21st-century are now judge to of been unnecessary. Page 11

Not only do I rejected format of a medical lies death, but I refuse to except a medical wise life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to be shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the Koehl screwed me up machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating. Page 13

I continue to elude unnecessary medical attention and still doggedly push myself in the gym, where if I am no longer a star, I am at least the fixture. In addition, I retain a daily regimen of stretching, sunroof which might qualify as yoga. Other than that, I pretty much eat what I want and indulge my vices, from butter to wine. Life is too short to forget these pleasures, and would be for too long without them. Page 207

The US Census Bureau reports that nearly 40% of people age 65 and older suffer from at least one disability, with 2/3 of them saying they have difficulty walking or climbing.

As for colonoscopies, they made the tech potentially cancerous polyps, but they are excessively costed costly in the United States – – up to $10,000 – – and have been found to be no more accurate than much cheaper, noninvasive test such as examination of the feces for traces of blood. Page 37

One recent study found that almost half the man over 65 being treated for prostate cancer or unlikely to live long enough to get the disease anyway. They will, however, live long enough to suffer from the adverse consequences of their treatment.

An article and the Harvard business review review entitled Executive Physicals: what's the ROI answers it sound question with what amounts the way from "not much" – and for all the reasons I have given here: the frequency of false positive's, the danger of the test themselves (such as radiation) , And the unlikelihood of finding a problem and they still treatable stage. Page 41 

There is one time honored salve for the anxiety of approaching self dissolution, and that is to submerge oneself into something "larger than oneself," some imagined super being that will live on without us. Page 191

The Hallmark disorders of aging – – such as atherosclerosis arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis – – are all inflammatory diseases, characterized by a local build up of macrophages. Page 173

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Smartest Things I Read from Today's NY Times

Electing Mr. (Doug) Jones, who is admired nationally for prosecuting racial crimes, would be a cultural watershed for Alabama voters and a sign that the Trump base will fracture with unexpected ease. Deep in their bones, Alabamians know that it Roy Moore goes to Washington, the wardrobe department at "Saturday Night Live" will surely accommodate them by finding a cowboy vest, a tiny pistol and a Girl Scout dress, and they're prepared to feel very put upon.

Howell Raines

 I consider Mr. Trump's Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I've concluded that the term evangelical – despite its rich history of proclaiming the "good news" of Christ to a broken world – has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.

 Assume that you are a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect man then Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

 So Franken, who is good on women's rights, resigns for wet kisses and random squeezes while Pres. Trump, who is awful on women's rights, skips right past his braggadocio on groping. Meanwhile the accused pervert and pedophile Roy Moore, who is  a Neanderthal on women's rights, leads once more in the Senate race in Alabama, led by the president – who believes in nothing but winning – and the souless RNC.

Maureen Dowd

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Thomas Nichols

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It MattersThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Thomas M. Nichols
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe that we live in a "dumbed down" country. So Nichols's book just reinforces my current thinking. Politicians, business executives and just about every facet of our culture are steeped in ignorance, exaggerations, spins and lies. There was a period of time were most people would be shocked by lies or exaggerations spouted publicly. Not anymore! If one reads the comments sections from news blogs or social media sites, one questions the rationality of many of the writers. It seems that many Americans have lost the ability to filter truth from bull shit. There are some good insights in this book – – not sure people will find them surprising--- definitely worth a read.

Listed below are some insights from the book that attracted my attention:

"Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self evident, we hold all truths to be self evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every
opinion on any subject is as good as any other."

"Not only do increasing numbers of laypeople lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument. In doing so, they risk throwing away centuries of accumulated knowledge and undermining the practices and habits that allow us to develop new knowledge."

"The most important of these intellectual capabilities, and the one most under attack in American universities, is critical thinking: the ability to examine new information and competing ideas dispassionately, logically, and without emotional or personal preconceptions."

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