Thursday, January 31, 2019

Precipitous Withdrawal

Statement of Purpose: To express the sense of the Senate that the United States faces continuing threats from terrorist groups operating in Syria and Afghanistan and that the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.

-- Amendment to Senate Bill 1, Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, written by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and passed cloture with 68 votes, in a rebuke by Republicans of President Trump's announced US troop withdrawals from both conflicts, 31 January 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Where I live in central Illinois, the high temperature today was 4 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit.  As USA Today points out, that's considerably colder than today's 17-degree high at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as well as the average 2-degree high today in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Last night it was 13 below, and tonight it's expected to be 10 below.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

An Opportunity

We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.  We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other's experiences and efforts.

-- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, 29 January 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

Timepiece Of The Mind

Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man.  The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time.  An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second.  This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation.

-- Virginia Woolf (1882 - 1941), British writer, Orlando: A Biography, Chapter 2 (1928)

Friday, January 25, 2019

End The Shutdown

My fellow Americans, I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and re-open the federal government.  As everyone knows, I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time.  Hopefully it will be unnecessary.  I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers, and their amazing families, who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship.

-- President Donald J. Trump in a statement announcing the end of the 35-day government shutdown, 25 January 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

No Next Step

I was made to feel the loneliness of life, which is that decisions aren’t made for you.  You get swallowed up by whatever the thing that you're a part of.  You get out of that ... and you're about to have a kid, and you're an adult now.  And you go, "Holy shit, I am in charge of my life.  I am making choices.  There's no next step."

-- Former Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun, on his realization of the nature of adult life, 5 October 2018

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

North Carolina 9

I think both sides agree that it's important that the people of North Carolina have a voice in Washington.

-- Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, ruling against Republican candidate Mark Harris and refusing to certify Harris's election to North Carolina's 9th District seat in the House of Representatives, and allowing an investigation by the state board of elections to proceed, Charlotte Observer, 22 January 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019

Five Sentences

There is a reason that I require all new agents and analysts to study the FBI's interaction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to visit his memorial in Washington as part of their training.  And there is a reason I keep on my desk a copy of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's approval of J. Edgar Hoover's request to wiretap Dr. King.  It is a single page.  The entire application is five sentences long, it is without fact or substance, and is predicated on the naked assertion that there is "communist influence in the racial situation."  The reason I do those things is to ensure that we remember our mistakes and that we learn from them.

-- Then-FBI Director James Comey, "Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Racism" (12 February 2015), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C

Friday, January 18, 2019


Experience to be experience must be reality; truth to be true must be true of reality. Experience, truth, and reality are inseparable.

-- Michael Joseph Oakeshott (1901 - 1990), English philosopher and political theorist, Experience and Its Modes (1933)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Collusion Confusion

I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign ... I have not.  I said the president of the United States.

-- President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani in an interview on CNN, 16 January 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


The Attorney General has very special obligations, unique obligations.  He holds in trust the fair and impartial administration of justice.  It is the Attorney General's responsibility to enforce the law evenhandedly and with integrity.  The Attorney general must ensure that the administration of justice -- the enforcement of the law -- is above and away from politics.  Nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law, or the Department of Justice as an institution, than any toleration of political interference with the enforcement of the law.

-- US Attorney General nominee William P. Barr, in his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, quoting himself from his 1992 confirmation hearing to the same post, 15 January 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019


Whatever the source of the leader's ideas, he cannot inspire his people unless he expresses vivid goals which in some sense they want.  Of course, the more closely he meets their needs, the less "persuasive" he has to be, but in no case does it make sense to speak as if his role is force submission.  Rather it is to strengthen and uplift, to make people feel that they are the origins, not the pawns, of the socio-political system.

-- David Clarence McClelland (1917 - 1998), American psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, noted for his work on motivation need theory, in Robert A. Portnoy (1986), Leadership: what every leader should know about people. p. 16

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Macbeth's self-justifications were feeble -- and his conscience devoured him.  Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too.  The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare's evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses.  Ideology -- that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.  That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.

-- Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1918 - 2008), Russian novelist, and 1970 Nobel laureate in Literature, exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974, The Gulag Archipelago (1973)

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

RIP George

The last known Achatinella apexfulva in the Hawaiian Islands, "George," died on New Year's Day, 2019.  George was approximately 14 years old and his name was derived from the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise, "Lonesome George," also the last of its species.

The Achatinella apexfulva was the first of over 750 species of land snails from the Hawaiian Islands described in western science.  The first mention dates back to at least 1787 when Captain George Dixon was docked on O'ahu and was given a shell on a lei.

In 1997, the last ten known Achatinella apexfulva were brought to a laboratory at the University of Hawaii for captive rearing.  Some additional offspring were produced but later all the Achatinella apexfulva died, except for George.

-- News release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, 4 January 2019

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

All The Bulls Are Hard

For the past 15 years or so, bucking bulls have been intensively bred like racehorses to make them harder to ride.  Breeders use high-tech reproductive techniques and a detailed, computerized registry of 180,000 bulls and cows.  Cowboys have continued to be bred the old-fashioned way.

The end result of all this effort, unsurprisingly, is that the bulls are becoming harder to ride. In earlier times, a rider had a chance to draw an easy bull. Now, all the bulls are hard, as both the riders and breeders will attest. In 1995, cowboys finished their rides 46 percent of the time; in 2012 they managed just 26 percent. Since then, the cowboys seem to have caught on a bit: their success rate has hovered around 29 percent for the past two years. Still, getting thrown 71 percent of the time means absorbing a lot of pain.

-- James Gorman, How to Make a Bucking Bull: Good Breeding and, Just Maybe, a Cow's Love, New York Times, 5 January 2019

Monday, January 07, 2019

Merely Tenacity

The most difficult thing is the decision to act.  The rest is merely tenacity.  The fears are paper tigers.  You can do anything you decide to do.  You can act to change and control your life and the procedure.  The process is its own reward.

-- Amelia Mary Earhart (born 24 July 1897 - missing in western Pacific Ocean from 2 July 1937), American aviator and noted early female pilot, The Official Website of Amelia Earhart - Quotes

Friday, January 04, 2019

Right To Be There

Russia used to be the Soviet Union.  Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.  The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.  They were right to be there.  The problem is, it was a tough fight.  And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union.  You know, a lot of these places you're reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.

-- President Donald Trump, at a cabinet meeting, 2 January 2019; The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board responded that it could not "recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American president"

Thursday, January 03, 2019

You Are What You Do

You are what you do.  If you do boring, stupid monotonous work, chances are you'll end up boring, stupid and monotonous.  Work is a much better explanation for the creeping cretinization all around us than even such significant moronizing mechanisms as television and education.  People who are regimented all their lives, handed off to work from school and bracketed by the family in the beginning and the nursing home at the end, are habituated to hierarchy and psychologically enslaved.  Their aptitude for autonomy is so atrophied that their fear of freedom is among their few rationally grounded phobias.

-- Robert Charles "Bob" Black, Jr. (4 January 1951 -), American anarchist and author, The Abolition of Work (1985)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Ultima Thule

New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system.  We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time.

-- Mission Geology Manager Jeff Moore, discussing the visit by the New Horizons spacecraft to Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored by mankind, 4 billion miles away, AFP, 2 January 2019