Weekend Links

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Vacuum packed fish tofu snack! This is in my backlog of photos of gifts from students and something about the Republican debate reminded me of it.

I didn’t watch last night’s Republican debate (was teaching when it aired) or read enough about it to do another “The Agony of Debate” post (previous posts here and   here). The Guardian has somewhat evenhanded coverage so if you missed the debate as well, I suggest this link for a good summary of how the candidates interacted and this link goes to the liveblog with good discussion of the substance. I think I’ll stick with my horse race predictions about the Republican race from earlier in the week. Also, I should acknowledge that I made a mistake in that post when I overlooked John Kasich’s standing in the New Hampshire polls that warranted an invitation to the big stage. Oh, and one more debate-related link: it’s always fun to point out that the “great company” Trump loves to boast about building with his inheritance is worth less than the fortune he could have had if he’d just invested the money in an index fund.

More links for the weekend:

  • Tough but good read about assisted suicide by Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones.
  • Matt Taibbi, writing about the militia standoff in Oregon, tries to strike the right balance between outrage and mocking laughter. If this weren’t mainly a story about armed white men flouting federal authority and intimidating local officials and citizens, it would be tempting to focus on the unintentional comedy these domestic terrorists have been producing at an astounding rate.
  • Robert Farley, a writer at one of my favorite blogs called Lawyers, Guns & Money, explains to Zack Beauchamp over at Vox why Iran’s detention of 10 American sailors for entering Iranian territorial waters and subsequent release of the sailors a day later is fairly standard procedure. Farley also explains why the incident is not necessarily a sign of Iran taking advantage of American weakness. In fact, the idea that states can effectively signal strength or weakness in international relations is not credible.
  • Scott Lemieux flags this piece by Michael Grunwald about all of Obama’s achievements. There are a lot of people, some even on the Left, who bemoan Obama’s perceived lack of accomplishments, and they need to face facts. This is what the 2016 election is about. Obama and the Democratic Party did indeed change the status quo for the better. Preserving those changes, strengthening them, and making even more progress all start with electing a Democrat to the White House this year.
  • Bernie Sanders will have to do well or even win in Iowa and win in New Hampshire before we consider Hillary Clinton’s strong leads elsewhere fragile, but I’m starting to feel a little nervous about my Clinton prediction from a few weeks ago. In any case, here’s your semi-regular reminder that in the American political system we should prioritize party over personality. I have no particular dog in the Clinton-Sanders race, but we should all have a real big dog come November.
  • For fun but maybe NSFW, click here to see the right reaction to Ted Cruz’s smear of New Yorkers.

A football fan’s favorite weekend is here. I wish I were home already! Enjoy the games and the weekend!

Weekend Links

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Snow on Cangshan in the morning.
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Snow on Cangshan in the evening.

Snow will likely remain on the mountains here in Dali, Yunnan Province, China for the rest of the winter. It’s beautiful in the morning and evening lights. The above pictures taken during my walks to and from work yesterday don’t really do the scenes justice.

While the views are lovely in winter, the season comes with a major downside. As written previously, in this part of China there are no central heating systems installed. This makes life and work indoors really uncomfortable and difficult, even if it’s sunny and temperatures are relatively mild. My wife and I have been using our little space heater at select times for a few days now, and most horrifying of all, we put the electric blanket on the bed last night.

It’s usually sunny and beautiful here in the winter, making outdoor activities like hiking and biking really nice. Visit here in the winter, but I don’t recommend living here through it!

Some links for the weekend:

  • For background, I’ve been saying since August (here and here) that Donald Trump has at least as good a chance as any of the other candidates, if not a better chance, to win the Republican nomination. Now that Marco Rubio seems to be the apple of the Republican establishment’s eye, it’s reasonable to ask how, exactly, Rubio is supposed to win the nomination. Ed Kilgore and Michael Tomasky explain how Rubio’s path to the nomination is extremely difficult, if not impossible. To summarize, how is Rubio supposed to win the nomination if he can’t win a single primary? Things could change, but right now he isn’t looking strong in any state.
  • In the wake of a terrorist attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding (which had already been prohibited from going towards abortion services anyway). So now Republicans have put their money where their mouths have been on this issue, and they’ve been using their mouths to spew anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric that helped incite the attack in Colorado Springs. Nice pro-life movement you’ve got there.
  • On a related note, Republican candidate Carly Fiorina’s lies and rhetoric about Planned Parenthood back in a September debate propelled her into the mainstream and found their paraphrased way into the Colorado Springs terrorist’s mouth. Asked for comment about the attack, Fiorina chose to drag Black Lives Matter protestors into it for some unknown reason. This is the Republican Party.

I’ll leave with a link to one of my almost-daily reads. Run by John Cole, a self-professed right wing nut until various Bush-the-younger-era Republican debacles cured him of the disease, Balloon Juice is a liberal (in the American political sense) blog bringing together an assortment of writers with different expertise, passions, and insights. I link to the site’s homepage because I have to get back to work and don’t have time to find the particular post that got me thinking about the following.

I wonder if dealing with guns in our society through gun control legislation is mostly a lost cause. I wonder if this is an issue, similar in some ways to LGBT rights, where it has to be a battle for hearts and minds. The LGBT rights movement included many legislative and judicial victories to be sure, but the sea change that happened in public opinion was also very important. When people can be made to feel shame and embarrassment about owning any kind of gun other than a hunting rifle, maybe we’ll start getting somewhere. I think this is part of what went on with LGBT rights; a lot of people who did not come to a positive embrace of LGBT rights at least ended up feeling a bit ashamed of their retrograde stances and slunk into the shadows, leaving a minority of bigots powerless to stop the movement.

Of course, we still have homophobes assert themselves from time to time but usually at worst they eat a bunch of chicken or make fools of themselves by proudly refusing to serve pizza at gay weddings. These people will probably never completely go away, but it’s a good thing that there aren’t so many of them anymore and they have less and less influence. The same needs to happen with gun people.

Here’s where I admit that this isn’t apples-to-apples. Whether in the minority or not, gun rights absolutists are still people armed with convenient machinery of death. Homophobes are now too small a minority to really do much except whine impotently. In contrast, well-armed gun rights dead-enders are uniquely positioned to defend their values in ways that are very scary.

Bottom line: a society and culture in which people, including terrorists of any stripe, can legally buy weapons designed to kill people, almost as easily as if they were going out for milk, is a disgrace. Decent people should be repulsed by such a society. If you own these guns or opine about how people should be able to own these guns and that’s just the price we pay for freedom, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Weekend Links

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Duck, wraps in the vacuum pack, and sauce in the yellow package.
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The treasures: a large cubic zirconia, some kind of Christmas thing that broke, a 2+1 Nescafe instant coffee, and a homemade bookmark, I think.

I had no idea just how powerful this blog could be until yesterday. Recently, I wrote about how we used to have Beijing-style roast duck for Thanksgiving. On Saturday, a student who had just come back from Beijing brought me a duck from the very restaurant about which I had written. No way that kid reads this blog. It must be magic! I guess I need to write a post about how nice it would be to have, oh, let’s say 10 million dollars. No need to be greedy.

One of the perks of being a teacher is getting gifts from students. Another student gave me a gift later that day. You can see it wrapped in one of the pictures above. Since the wrapping was see-through, I just assumed it was a small cake. A bit busy all weekend, I forgot about it until after lunch this afternoon. I noticed it when I was about to head back to work, and noting its existence to my wife, she said I should put it in the fridge. I did, though I’m not really sure why she suggested that or why I obeyed.

I always want to thank students for their gifts because it’s the right thing to do and I’d hate for them to think they aren’t appreciated. So this afternoon I made a point of thanking the student, a 9-year old who goes by the English name Gloria, for her gift, saying it was really tasty. Then she cried out in Chinese that it wasn’t something to eat! I told her I knew that (I didn’t) and that I was just joking (I wasn’t). That’ll teach me to lie to little kids!

I opened the gift after dinner tonight and you can see its contents in the above pictures. Such a sweet collection of little treasures. The kids all know I like drinking coffee as I often use that as a language example. Same goes for reading as one of my hobbies. Christmas is coming soon, I guess. But I’m really not sure what about me says cubic zirconia. It slays me that she gave me such a big one with a nice chip broken off it.

Anyway, I will thank her for the specific contents next week. It’s nice to end the day with such a warm feeling.

So much for the warm feeling. Links for the weekend:

  • Just awful news out of Colorado Springs. If only there was a word that begins with the letter “t” to describe incidents like this one when white men use violence in the pursuit of political aims. Though he didn’t use the word that apparently cannot be used when white men use violence in the pursuit of political aims, good on Obama for not otherwise mincing words.
  • I see already that gun rights absolutists are trotting out different versions of “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” in response to the shootings. Stop, please. Cars don’t get people to work; people get people to work. Forks and knives don’t cut up food and put it in people’s mouths; people cut up food and put in their mouths. This is asinine. You’re not children. We’re not children. Time to put away childish rhetoric and think about what’s happening out in the real world.
  • Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone wonders what it means that Donald Trump can lie with impunity and concludes that the media itself is largely to blame. TPM‘s Josh Marshall reminds us why lies, insults, and refusing to apologize for one’s lies and insults works with the Right.
  • I share Marshall’s exasperation with much of the media for belatedly and grudgingly coming to realize that the Trump phenomenon is a thing that is real and that he has a real constituency. The inmates are close to complete control of the asylum and many of us have seen this coming since at least 2010. Even if Trump loses, which Marshall thinks is still likely, the Republican Party is beholden to the people fueling his rise. These would be the people who give us deposed Speakers of the House and government shutdowns.
  • This piece about the stupid pieces about arguing with your racist uncle during Thanksgiving made me laugh a few times. The author, Jeb Lund, says we shouldn’t argue politics at Thanksgiving; instead, save the energy for arguing against deep-fried turkey. Is Lund right? I’ve never actually had deep-fried turkey.
  • Not exactly the kind of positive note with which I want to end these links posts, but a good friend of mine passed on this article about “coywolves.” I want one.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Links Concerning Paris and Its Aftermath

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Map of the Middle East. By Central Intelligence Agency [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m better informed after reading the following pieces. I have no value to add to them. I’m still trying to sort out why I was dead set against invading Iraq in 2003, skeptical at best about invading Afghanistan in 2001, yet am ambivalent about what France, the US, or other interested parties should do now.

If readers want to recommend any other articles or essays, please leave them in comments. Thanks!

Weekend Links

By Benh LIEU SONG (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0- 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Such awful news out of Paris. I never understand what these attacks are meant to demonstrate or accomplish. The world is always worse off. Apparently ISIS is claiming responsibility and some preliminary evidence points in its direction. So France will have a target, and a lot of allies, and we’ll see what happens. Nothing good will come of this, I fear. Violence will beget violence, ad infinitum, though I hope I’m wrong. I’m not saying France shouldn’t retaliate; I’m just saying that nothing but bad solutions seem to present themselves every time something like this happens.

For now, the best one can hope for is that the survivors and the families and friends of the murdered heal. We Americans understand the grief.

Some links for the weekend:

  • Amazingly, the guy I called out earlier this week for saying there’s basically no difference between Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates has doubled down on the claim. Read Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money for an entertaining version of why this is stupid and dangerous. The author in question, H.A. Goodman, is either a master troll or an idiot who somehow gets paid real money to write dumb stuff on the internet. I suspect it’s the latter, but boy will my face be red if it’s the former.
  • Why does Goodman’s argument get me so worked up? Well, I WAS the idiot I’m accusing Goodman of being. If you read my post linked above, you’ll see how I talked myself into voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 and why that was, um, a poor decision. Here’s the short of it: the structure of the American political system itself explains why we have only two major parties; those parties happen to be called the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have very different agendas; candidates running for a given party’s nomination have to adopt most of that party’s agenda in order to gain its support; therefore, the Democratic candidate for president will differ greatly from the Republican candidate for president; if you vote for a candidate from a non-major party or sit out an election, you threaten to hand the election to the major party candidate you least prefer; therefore, you should figure out which major party you prefer and vote for its candidates.
  • Speaking of trolls, I recommend this piece about master troll Ken M. His trolling is brilliant and mostly harmless. He won’t talk you into thinking there’s no difference between America’s two main political parties, but he may leave you wondering whether or not there are real people who feed Snausages to their grandsons.
  • I have a continuing series of posts explaining why the Republican Party cannot be trusted to govern herehere, here and here. Tierney Sneed at Talking Points Memo brings us up to speed on the Republican Party’s latest demonstration of incompetence and bad faith. This one involves Senate Republicans disagreeing with each other over how to get an Obamacare repeal bill on President Obama’s desk that they know he would veto anyway and they know they wouldn’t have the votes in the Senate or the House to override such a veto. I know this is going to sound harsh, but what kind of a party spends five-plus years trying to overturn a law that helps people not die preventable deaths and ensures they don’t go bankrupt if they get a serious diagnosis?
  • Going to make this tomorrow night. We’ll see how it turns out.

Enjoy the weekend!