Sunday, September 21, 2014

Styling Saakashvili

I read the NYT's uber-fluffy profile of Mikheil Saakashvili yesterday and just assumed it was due to the newspaper's home city bias. That is, I thought the Times is more likely to be interested in running a almost content-less piece about what neighborhood and trendy restaurants a controversial former national leader likes to hang out in, if those neighborhoods and restaurants happen to be in New York. But Amanda Taub had a more provocative theory1:
Newspapers are often criticized for running profiles of female leaders in the style section rather than the business or politics sections. If a recent profile of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili's adventures in Williamsburg is anything to go on, the New York Times has heard those critiques, and decided to address the issue by giving all leaders the full "style section" treatment.
I doubt she is right. I mean, first off, the piece ran in the International News portion of Section A (i.e. real news, not the Style Section). And second, I would need a few more examples before I conclude that the NYT was going to go style section on male leaders from now on. But it is still a funny idea.

1-At least it seems more provocative to me. I realize in the broad scheme of things it isn't tremendously thought-provoking.

Chocolution 38: The Grenada Chocolate Co, Organic Dark 71%

The label says the bar has soy lecithin, so it's not quite so simple as most simplicity bars. But it had that distinctive single origin/simplicity taste I complained about last week, particularly the lingering bitterness. But for some reason, this bar really worked for me more than most of the others. Maybe that "some reason" is my otherwise chocolate-free existence in this caffeine free month. Or maybe soy lecithin is the one additive you should put in your simplicity bar to make me happy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This is credible

You say that our bullshit Crimea referendum didn't meet international standards? Well, your referendum doesn't meet international standards either! I mean, look at those big rooms!!!

(via Memeorandum)

1 way to be annoyed without being embarrassed about it

I saw the headline on Vox: "9 questions about Detroit's bankruptcy you were too embarrassed to ask." Why is that form of headline so popular right now? I know it is designed to be click-bait. But does it actually work to bait the clicks? I find it really annoying how it presumes to know stuff about me, like what I don't already know or what I might be embarrassed about. That annoyance doesn't get me to click the link. Well, in this case I guess it did. When I got annoyed I realized it was a good example of the kind of thing that has been annoying me lately, so I clicked to get the link for this post. But most of the time when I see that kind of headline I don't click. I just get annoyed and move on.

As it happens, while there are plenty of things I do not know about the Detroit bankruptcy, I am not embarrassed at all to ask about it. In fact, I am struggling to come up with a Detroit bankruptcy-related question that might be the least bit embarrassing for me to ask. Why would that be embarrassing to anyone?


I think the West African Ebola outbreak poses a much more serious and plausible threat to this country than ISIS does. So why is has the political discussion been so much more about the threat of ISIS instead of the threat of the disease that is currently ravaging out of control in three countries that are much closer to the U.S. than Iraq and Syria are?

I was wrong

I wouldn't call 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent "narrow." In an election, ten percentage points is a lot.

On the other hand, by spooking the UK establishment, the Scots did get a promise for even more autonomy, the very thing that the British government did not want even a referendum vote on. So if this was all a super-secret plan to wrest more local control from London through a sophisticated political jujitsu, then it was a remarkable success.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Scotland

I probably said this somewhere already but I predict that the Scots will narrowly vote to stay in the U.K.

I also think that if I am wrong and they vote to leave, they will take a big economic hit for it (that is, the various naysayers who predict economic problems for Scotland if it becomes independent are basically right).

And I think if Scotland becomes independent it will end up out of the EU for at least a few years. Scottish EU membership would have to be approved by all current EU members. Several EU members have every reason to veto Scottish membership because that would show their own succession-prone regions the economic costs of independence. Places like Catalonia are already watching Scotland closely. By blocking Scotland from the EU, Spain strengthens the argument to keep its own country together.

And finally, if Scotland becomes independent, it will end up using the Pound Sterling, at least for the first few years, notwithstanding English objections.

Attacking ISIS

I'm not necessarily advocating this, but if the U.S. wants to seriously attack ISIS, the best way to do it would be to team up with Assad. Maybe the price of a U.S.-Syrian alliance could be some kind of amnesty for the Free Syrian Army. Only through dealing with Assad would the U.S. get permission to attack ISIS in Syria. Which means that if attacking ISIS is the top priority, that would have to trump all the reasons that Obama does not want to cooperate with Assad.

To be clear, I am not advocating that strategy. I don't think that going after ISIS should be the U.S.'s top priority. And even with promises of an amnesty, the strategy is going to seriously screw over the Syrian rebels who are not allied with ISIS--that is, the side in the Syrian civil war that the U.S. has favored for the past 3 years--not to mention the ordinary people who have thrown their support behind the rebels in places like Aleppo and Homs.

It's just that there seem to be a lot of American politicians who do think that "destroying ISIS" should be priority #1. But none of them are facing the reality that the best way to do that would be to buddy up with Assad.

Referendum Day

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fame is going to Silver's head

This is stupid. Election forecast models are just models. None of them are "wrong", you especially can't call it that before the election occurs. We will eventually find out which one was more accurate. But until then they are just models that differ from one another.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Look out, John Kline!

I'm not the biggest fan of Bill Maher, but I am curious to see if this effort works.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Anti-terrorism is a Schtick and Democrats are worse at it

It doesn't really matter that the GOP has had a horrible record in fighting terrorism, from having the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil occur on their watch, to the disastrous foreign policies that effectively created a terrorist incubation system in Iraq, to its trashing of the U.S. judicial system (in favor of its made-up-on-the-spot military commissions system) which has hampered the ability of the U.S. to adjudicate terrorism cases for more than a decade. Despite all that the American people are under the impression that Republicans are better at dealing with the problem because they have a history talk tougher about the problem even as they are doing stuff to make things worse. So, as Weigel points out, jumping on the "ISIS is an imminent threat!!!" bandwagon doesn't help the Obama administration at all politically. In fact, it hurts them.

I'm not a fan of foreign policy by poll watching. But to the extent this new anti-ISIS campaign is driven by domestic politics (and I think it clearly is), last week's announcement was a major political mistake. I mean, Obama is pursuing a new possible foreign debacle without getting any political bounce from it. How senseless is that?

UANI is illegal

There is no explanation for this unless United Against Nuclear Iran is an American intelligence front group. Because the group advertises to the American people and lobbies for legislation in the United States, stuff that American intelligence agencies can't legally do. Which means that the organization is just a conduit for American intelligence services' illegal activity against the American people.

Chocolution 37: Pacari, Single Origin: Piura Quemazon

As I mentioned before, I am now in my annual caffeine-free month. While that usually means I can't have chocolate (because of the small amount of caffeine in chocolate and because I'm such a hard-ass about my no-caffeine month), this year when I came up with the rules for my fancy chocolate tasting new year's resolution, I include a caffeine-free month exception which allows me to continue my taste this month.

But because I am chocolate deprived right now, I was wondering if that would affect my ratings of the various bars I taste. Will they taste extra good if it is all the chocolate I can eat? Or will the fact that I am continuing to sample these fine chocolates while abstaining from the cheap stuff make me lose the contrast effect to the benefit of the fancy stuff? I'll have to wait until next week to find out. Because just a few hours before I tasted this bar last night, I screwed up and accidentally ate some chocolate custard with chunks of Reece's Peanut Butter Cups. Oops.

Anyway, this bar was okay. It has become increasingly easy to recognize the single origin/simplicity style bars. The one I tasted falls solidly into that camp, with the same lingering bitter aftertaste that they all have. Don't get me wrong, this is a really good chocolate--far better than the regular stuff. All the ones I am tasting are. But if I'm going to go fancy, I would just rather have others over this kind.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Yesterday was Cold Turkey Day. Today is very sleepy day. Actually Cold Turkey Day tends to be pretty sleepy too. But it is hitting me hardest right now, mid-afternoon, CTD + 1.

What the hell am I talking about? Why it's my annual decaffeination ritual! I'm too sleepy to explain right now, but luckily, I complain about this every freaking year (except for 2010, the year I didn't do it because Kazakhstan). So go do your own research. The answers are all there:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.

I guess there is one thing that is different about this year. When I made my New Year's resolution to sample one fancy chocolate bar per week, I decided to make that tasting exempt from my annual caffeine-free ritual. So this year's cold turkey is not 100% turkey. But right now it still feels pretty cold.